Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New method for treating stress

Drug companies have traditionally sought to design new drugs that are as potent and as long-lasting in the body as possible.
However, a new analysis of the way the body responds to stress suggests that administering constant high levels of drugs is not the best way to treat this condition. A better way might be to design drugs that follow the body’s own naturally-occurring rhythms.
Writing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers from the University of Bristol report this week that the body has its own built-in processes which ensure the body regulates the way it responds to stress.
The team found that hormonal oscillations occur in the HPA axis (hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal) which controls the body’s reaction to stress, trauma and injury. The oscillating network of signals between these glands results in rapid rhythmic changes in hormone levels throughout the day.
Regulation of these rhythms is vital for protecting the individual from damage caused by stressful situations, so drugs designed to treat stress should take these rhythmic changes into account.
This finding – that rhythms can be generated by interactions between peripheral glands – is in stark contrast to the concept that all hormonal rhythms originate in the brain. The author’s hope this work will stimulate pharmaceutical companies to consider not only the structure of new drugs but also their optimal patterns of release.
The researchers took a non-linear mathematical approach to examining data from the HPA axis. They found that delays inherent in regulating signals sent between the pituitary and adrenal glands is all that is necessary to ensure the body has oscillating levels of the potent hormone, cortisol. Oscillations of cortisol are necessary for the body to respond effectively to stress.
Dr John Terry, who did the mathematical modelling, explained: “Think about taking a shower – you turn the tap on to hot, but the water stays cold for a while. Then it gets too hot, so you turn it down. The temperature oscillates due to the delay between you adjusting the tap and the feedback you receive from the water temperature. It is the same principle at work in this complicated hormone system!”
Stafford Lightman, Professor of Medicine at Bristol University, added: “The oscillation of these hormones is very important as it maintains the body in a state of permanent flux and allows the unexpected – such as a lorry hurtling towards you – to result in a very rapid response, providing maximum opportunity for you to react and hopefully get out of the way”.
Many of the systems in the body – from the central nervous system to intracellular control systems – depend on feed-forward and feed-back regulatory systems, such as those found in the HPA axis.  
The new use of mathematical modelling to explain the rhythmic activities that have been described here could also be used to look at many other activities in the body – from brain rhythms to pulsatile activity of individual genes.

Low Serotonin levels cause infant deaths

Going by the findings of a recent autopsy study by US researchers, the key reason behind the sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, possibly is a fairly low level of message-carrying brain chemical called 'serotonin' - which basically helps the brainstem in regulating automatic functions, including breathing, waking, and sleeping.
According to the researchers, abnormal levels of serotonin may impede the breathing of an infant, particularly in the so-called challenging situations, like breathing in excessive amounts of exhaled carbon dioxide while sleeping with their face down.
With the research corroborating earlier studies which suggest that making infants to sleep on their backs is the one of the most effective ways to diminish the SIDS risk, Dr. Hannah Kinney of Harvard and Children's Hospital said: "When the infant is breathing in the face-down position, he or she may not get enough oxygen. An infant with a normal brain stem would turn his or her head and wake up in response. But a baby with an intrinsic abnormality is unable to respond to the stressor."
Published in the Tuesday edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study, which examined brain tissue from babies dying of SIDS, can potentially play a notable role in identifying babies who face the risk of SIDS, due to which at least 2,300 babies die within a year of their birth

“Baby brain” is a myth

Neither pregnancy nor motherhood make women more prone to memory lapses, say experts, hoping to dispel the myth of “baby brain.” In a study of 1,241 women both before and after having babies, Australian researchers gave women memory tests at four-year intervals, and found the test scores remained unchanged before and after pregnancy. They also didn’t differ greatly between the group of women who became mothers, and those who did not (more than half the women became pregnant over the course of the study). “Our results challenge the view that mothers are anything other than the intellectual peers of their contemporaries,” the researchers told the BBC. “Women and their partners need to be less automatic in their willingness to attribute common memory lapses to a growing or new baby. And obstetricians, family doctors and midwives may need to use the findings from this study to promote the fact that ‘placenta brain’ is not inevitable.”

Your brain on football

PICAYUNE It is being proven that football players are getting dumber.

Yes, I said it. Jocks that play the game of football are mentally challenged. That is, if they play years and years of hard hitting and violent games and never take any precautions to protect their most vulnerable part of their anatomy—their brain—insert your own joke.

Kyle Turley would agree with me. Our wild man former Saint offensive linebacker is experiencing post concussion symptoms from playing violent NFL football. He was an aggressive tyrant on the field. He was a manly man. If he is lucky, he will not slip into dementia in his fifties due to a debilitating disease associated with NFL injuries called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.

Should parents be worried? Should the NFL protect its own?

One of my crusades is to get the word out about head injuries that can deceive you into thinking everything is okay, but secretly, your body is going through intense dramatic changes. It’s complicated and yet so simple.

My friend, Maria Benton showed me the light. Her battle with Traumatic Brain Injury destroyed her successful life as a car dealership owner in New Orleans and for many years she has been spiraling into a dark place. Tragic. Sad. Not a happy ending.

Her main agenda was to get the word out, especially to parents whose children play sports. It’s more dangerous than you think.

A bump on the head is evidence of trauma to the brain, but the violent shaking of your brain is the unseen danger. You should be very afraid of things you can’t see.

The NFL has been coming around to agree with Maria. Now, Time magazine has an article pulling back the curtains of NFL’s secrets to reveal the serious result of playing football affecting the player’s brain long after they hang up their helmet. Sean Gregory is the author of this piece and if you have little football player in your house then you might want to be informed.

Should we ban football? No way! It is not about getting rid of the game, but playing it with more information, more safety precautions and changing the mentality of the athlete. It’s okay to be brave and manly when you break your leg and you drag the limb back onto the field to keep playing, but the quiet damage of a brain injury is way too deceptive. Most guys haven’t a clue what is happening. They don’t know what to be afraid of.

Players need education on the subject. They need to talk to veteran football players like the one I saw on a special report about this subject when the former football player in his forties could not recite the order of the months, “January, February, June, May.” Seriously, I have memory loss, but nothing like that.

Our soldiers face the same issue of damage due to brain injuries. Their stories are riveting in “Hidden Battles on Unseen Fronts” by Patricia B. Driscoll and Celia Strauss. They use one of my quotes in the introduction from an article I wrote about soldiers and brain injury. It is story after story of our brave soldiers’ battle with the demons of this generation’s war injury.

The word is getting out.

As a player ages, he may face the demons of too many hits. Studies are showing, it’s not just the big hits causing concussions, but the repetition of many mini-hits over a long period of time. One football game is the same as a kid being in many car wrecks, his brain is floating and banging into his skull although we can’t see it.

Now granted, Cosby was right that all kids have brain damage. The twins have a severe hearing loss problem. I tell them to put their shoes on at least four times every morning. I can’t even imagine them after a few head bangings.

The answer is more protection, less purposeful head hitting, and rules to protect manly football players who lie to their medical staff and coaches. It’s not a wimp who keeps playing, but an idiot already made. Can’t imagine dumb getting dumber, but it can happen if you ignore the body’s warning signs.

It is okay to sit out. The mentality is changing, but stupid is still a character flaw of some professional athletes. When Pittsburgh Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethilisberger sat out a game this season because of a concussion, his teammates criticized it. They said he should man up and not tell the doctors. They had been hit and they could still play. Those are the attitudes that have to change.

As the Pee Wee football suits up, make sure as a parent you know the danger. It will take the collective to change the game.

Saying all of that, the rules are in place to protect. Gregg Williams was criticized for urging his defensive players to hit the quarterback, in which he states he is not trying to hurt Peyton Manning. He just wants him to be uncomfortable. So, nothing wrong with that.

If you can’t take the hits in football, then don’t play.

Just refrain from using your head when you play the game, to hit with that is.

So, this week let’s not hurt, but hit. Let’s play the game and if someone is injured, protect their future by being up front about the injury. There is more to life than football.

Yet, what would life be without it? Yikes! May the Who Dats finish strong!

Who needs to work crossword puzzles when you are old any way!

Tracy Williams is a guest columnist and can be reached at her website: