Women’s desire for sex far more complex than thought, study says


Hormones play less of a role than previously thought, researchers found
  • Relationship satisfaction and psychosocial factors outweigh hormones
  • Researchers studied over 3,000 women going through menopause

Women’s desire for sex is far more complex that researchers had thought.

A new study has found that hormones do not drive desire.

Instead, a woman’s relationship satisfaction and other psychosocial factors may outweigh any hormonal effects, they say.

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HOW THEY DID IT

Researchers examined data from 3,302 women who participated in the ongoing Study of Women’s Health across the Nation (SWAN) to analyze the relationship between reproductive hormones and sexual function during the menopausal transition.

Participants were asked about their desire for sex and sexual activity.

The women also had their blood drawn to measure levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormones including dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), which the body can convert into testosterone or a form of estrogen called estradiol, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

The new study conducted in Michigan and six other clinical sites across the country found levels of testosterone and other naturally-occurring reproductive hormones play a limited role in driving menopausal women’s sexual function.

While testosterone is the main sex hormone in men, women also have small amounts of it, as ovaries naturally produce testosterone.

Researchers wanted to find out exactly what effect is had on sexual function as women go through menopause.

‘While levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormones were linked to women’s feelings of sexual desire, our large-scale study suggests psychosocial factors influence many aspects of sexual function,’ said John Randolph of the University of Michigan Medical School, who led the study in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

‘A woman’s emotional well-being and quality of her intimate relationship are tremendously important contributors to sexual health.’

Researchers examined data from 3,302 women who participated in the ongoing Study of Women’s Health across the Nation (SWAN) to analyze the relationship between reproductive hormones and sexual function during the menopausal transition.

Participants were asked about their desire for sex and sexual activity.

The women also had their blood drawn to measure levels of testosterone and other reproductive hormones including dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), which the body can convert into testosterone or a form of estrogen called estradiol, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

The body’s levels of FSH naturally rise when a women experiences menopause.

Researchers found women who naturally had higher levels of testosterone reported feeling sexual desire more frequently than women with low levels.

Researchers set out to examine the role testosterone and other hormones play in sexual function as women go through menopause.

Researchers set out to examine the role testosterone and other hormones play in sexual function as women go through menopause.

Women who had high levels of DHEAS – a precursor to testosterone – also tended to feel desire more often than women with low levels.

The associations between hormone levels and sexual function remained fairly subtle, Randolph said.

He noted that women who reported having fewer sad moods and higher levels of satisfaction in their relationships also reported better sexual function.

‘Women’s relationships and day-to-day reality are intricately linked to sexual function,’ Randolph says.

‘Our findings suggest menopausal women who are dissatisfied with their sexual function should consider whether these non-hormonal factors are playing a role when discussing treatment with a qualified health care provider.’

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Obesity epidemic sees children as young as seven with diabetes


  • Doctors are reporting a surge in cases of type 2 diabetes in the under 18s
  • More than 83 children below the age of nine diagnosed with condition
  • Academics said there has been a ‘frightening’ increase due to poor diets
  • A fifth of 11-year-olds are classified as obese alongside a quarter of adults 

Children as young as seven are developing diabetes caused by obesity with more than 83 children below the age of nine diagnosed with the condition

Children as young as seven are developing diabetes caused by obesity.

Doctors are reporting a surge in cases of type 2 diabetes – triggered by poor diet and sedentary lifestyle – in the under 18s, whereas 15 years ago it was unheard of.

Alarmingly, the illness appears to be far more aggressive in children than in adults, causing serious complications much earlier.

By the time they have reached their early teens, a number have suffered damage to their eyes and kidneys and are expected to have heart attacks in their 20s.

According to NHS figures, 1,295 children under 18 have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, including 83 below the age of nine.

The illness most commonly occurs in the over 40s, and prior to the year 2000 no case had ever been recorded in the under-18s.

But academics and doctors say there has been a ‘frightening’ increase due to obesity, sugar-laden diets and a lack of exercise.

And they say these figures are an underestimate as many children may have been wrongly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which is more common in the young and linked to genetic factors.

As many as a fifth of 11-year-olds are classified as obese alongside a quarter of adults – rates which have doubled in 25 years.

Next week the NHS watchdog NICE will publish guidelines which are expected to recommend free weight-loss surgery for obese adults with type 2 diabetes. Up to 900,000 patients meet the criteria, and if all wanted the operations it would cost the health service £4.5billion.

Professor Tim Barrett, a consultant in paediatric diabetes at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: ‘We think [childhood type 2 diabetes] is almost certainly related to their diet and lack of exercise. If you get it when you’re 15 or 12, you get heart attacks in your 20s, and that’s why we’re all really scared about it.’

There is no cure for type 2 diabetes, and patients have to try to control their blood sugar by taking daily pills or insulin injections.

But over time, the blood sugar levels damage the nerves in the feet, which may require amputation, as well as harming the kidneys and the retina, leading to sight loss. It also causes cholesterol levels to rise, which can trigger heart attacks and strokes.

 

Complex jobs ‘may protect memory’


Lawyer
People with mentally taxing jobs, including lawyers and graphic designers, may end up having better memory in old age, research suggests.

A study of more than 1,000 Scottish 70-year-olds found that those who had had complex jobs scored better on memory and thinking tests.

One theory is a more stimulating environment helps build up a “cognitive reserve” to help buffer the brain against age-related decline,

The research was reported in Neurology.

The team, from Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, is now planning more work to look at how lifestyle and work interact to affect memory loss.

Those taking part in the study took tests designed to assess memory, processing speed and general thinking ability, as well as filling in a questionnaire about their working life.

The analysis showed that those whose jobs had required complex skills in dealing with data or people, such as management and teaching, had better scores on memory and thinking tests than those who had done less mentally intense jobs such as factory workers, bookbinders, or carpet layers.

Protective effect

To rule out that those with more complex jobs may have had higher thinking abilities in the first place, the researchers looked at scores they had achieved in the Scottish Mental Survey in 1947, when they were 11.

They found that the benefit was reduced, but there was still an association between having a mentally stimulating job, such as those including negotiation, mentoring or synthesis of data, and better cognitive ability years after retirement.

Study leader Dr Alan Gow said: “Our findings have helped to identify the kinds of job demands that preserve memory and thinking later on.”

He added it was rare for these sorts of studies to be able to account for prior ability.

“Factoring in people’s IQ at age 11 explained about 50% of the variance in thinking abilities in later life, but it did not account for all of the difference.

“That is, while it is true that people who have higher cognitive abilities are more likely to get more complex jobs, there still seems to be a small advantage gained from these complex jobs for later thinking skills.”

Brain changes

While the study did not look at biological reasons for the protective effect of certain jobs, potential explanations include that structural changes within the brain mean less damage is accumulated over time.

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the study added to the growing evidence about factors that affect brain health as we aged.

“Keeping the brain active throughout life could be helpful and different types of work may play a role.

“However, it’s important to note that this study points to a small and subtle association between occupation and later-life cognition rather than offering proof that people’s occupation has a direct influence.”

Female bosses ‘more depressed’


Depressed woman
Scientists said women bosses were more likely to experience prejudice and social isolation at work

Women are more likely than men to display symptoms of depression when in a position of authority at work, according to US scientists.

In men, authority, such as the ability to hire and fire people, decreases depressive symptoms, the study said.

The study, published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, looked at 2,800 middle-aged men and women.

One expert said the study showed the need for more women in authority and more varied female role models.

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin interviewed 1,300 male and 1,500 female graduates from Wisconsin high schools over the phone in 1993 and 2004, when they were aged about 54 and 64.

Flexibility for men

Researchers asked participants about job authority and about the number of days in the past week they felt depressive symptoms, such as feeling sad and thinking one’s life is a failure.

When the job included hiring, firing and influencing pay, women were predicted to have a 9% increased rate of depressive symptoms than women without authority.

Meanwhile, men had a 10% decreased rate of depressive symptoms.

The study said it controlled for other factors that could cause depression, such as hours worked per week, whether people had flexible hours and how often workers were checked by a supervisor.

Scientists also said men were more likely to decide when to start and finish work than women and were less frequently monitored by their advisers.

Lead researcher Tetyana Pudrovska said: “These women have more education, higher incomes, more prestigious occupations, and higher levels of job satisfaction and autonomy than women without job authority.

Office bullying by men to women at workWhen women adopted masculine behaviours as leaders they were criticised for being unfeminine, said one scientist

“Yet they have worse mental health than lower status women.”

Natural female leadership

Ms Pudrovska said female bosses had to deal with interpersonal tension, negative social interactions and stereotypes, prejudice, social isolation, as well as resistance from subordinates, colleagues and superiors.

Dr Ruth Sealy at City University in London said women were often “trapped” by the gendered notion of a good leader.

When women adopted traditionally masculine behaviours as leaders they were criticised for being unfeminine, yet colleagues would not believe the women were good leaders if they saw only their feminine characteristics, she added.

Dr Sealy said: “Because we assume men’s ‘natural’ competence as leaders, women often have had to work much harder to get to those positions, only to find that even when they get there, their ‘right’ to that status is continuously questioned.”

She said female leadership needed to be made as natural as male leadership.

Dr Gijsbert Stoet at the University of Glasgow said the study was strong from a psychological and social science perspective.

He said: “The scientists have used the data from a large longitudinal study and it is very valuable to answer these sorts of questions.”

Companies should question what they can do to help their workers manage stress, such as providing a staff counsellor, he said.

Robots face new creativity test


A robot
The new test requires robots to be creative by writing a story or painting a picture

A US professor is proposing a new way to test whether artificial intelligence (AI) is on a par with that of humans.

Currently scientists use the Turing test – named after computer scientist Alan Turing – which evaluates whether an AI can convince a judge that it is human in a conversation.

Prof Mark Riedl, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, is proposing a new test.

It would ask a machine to create a convincing poem, story or painting.

Dubbed Lovelace 2.0 it is an iteration of a previous Lovelace Test, proposed in 2001.

Named after one of the first computer programmers, the original test required an AI to create something that it would be incapable of explaining how it was created.

Lovelace 2.0 develops that idea.

“For the test, the artificial agent passes if it develops a creative artefact from a subset of artistic genres deemed to require human-level intelligence and the artefact meets certain creative constraints given by a human evaluator,” explained Prof Riedl.

The artefact could be painting, poetry, architectural design or a fictional story.

“Creativity is not unique to human intelligence, but it is one of the hallmarks of human intelligence,” said Prof Riedl.

Algorithms have already created stories and paintings although according to Prof Riedl “no existing story generation system can pass the Lovelace 2.0 test”.

Inspiring music

Experts had mixed feelings about how good such a test would be.

Prof Alan Woodward, a computer expert from the University of Surrey thinks it could help make a key distinction.

“I think this new test shows that we all now recognise that humans are more than just very advanced machines, and that creativity is one of those features that separates us from computers – for now.”

But David Wood, chairman of the London Futurists, is not convinced.

“It’s a popular view that humans differ fundamentally from AIs because humans possess creativity whereas AIs only follow paths of strict rationality,” he said.

“This is a comforting view, but I think it’s wrong. There are already robots that manifest rudimentary emotional intelligence and computers can already write inspiring music.”

The 65-year-old Turing test is successfully passed if a computer is mistaken for a human more than 30% of the time during a series of five-minute keyboard conversations.

Back in June a computer program called Eugene Goostman, which simulates a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, was said to have passed the Turing test although some experts disputed the claims.

BICEP2 all over again? Researchers place Higgs boson discovery in doubt


At the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Europe, faster is better. Faster means more powerful particle collisions and looking deeper into the makeup of matter. However, other researchers are proclaiming not so fast. LHC may not have discovered the Higgs Boson, the boson that imparts mass to everything, the god particle as some have called it. While the Higgs Boson discovery in 2012 culminated with the awarding in December 2013 of the Nobel Prize to Peter Higgs and François Englert, a team of researchers has raised these doubts about the Higgs Boson in their paper published in the journal Physical Review D.

The discourse is similar to what unfolded in the last year with the detection of light from the beginning of time that signified the Inflation epoch of the Universe. Researchers looking into the depths of the Universe and the inner depths of subatomic particles are searching for signals at the edge of detectability, just above the noise level and in proximity to the signals from other sources. For the BICEP2 telescope observations, its pretty much back to the drawing board but the Higgs Boson doubts are definitely challenging but needing more solid evidence. In human affairs, if the Higgs Boson was not detected by the LHC, what does one do with an awarded Nobel Prize?

The present challenge to the Higgs Boson is not new and is not just a problem of detectability and acuity of the sensors as is the case with BICEP2 data. The Planck space telescope revealed that light radiated from dust combined with the magnetic field in our Milky Way galaxy could explain the signal detected by BICEP2 that researchers proclaimed as the primordial signature of the Inflation period. The Higgs Boson particle is actually a prediction of the theory proposed by Peter Higgs and several others beginning in the early 1960s. It is a predicted particle from gauge theory developed by Higgs, Englert and others, at the heart of the Standard Model.

This recent paper is from a team of researchers from Denmark, Belgium and the United Kingdom led by Dr. Mads Toudal Frandsen. Their study entitled, “Technicolor Higgs in the light of LHC data” discusses how their supported theory predicts Technicolor quarks through a range of energies detectable at LHC and that one in particular is within the uncertainty level of the data point declared to be the Higgs Boson. There are variants of Technicolor Theory (TC) and the research paper compares in detail the field theory behind the Standard Model Higgs and the TC Higgs (their version of the Higgs boson). Their conclusion is that a TC Higgs is predicted by Technicolor Theory that is consistent with expected physical properties, is low mass and has an energy level – 125 GeV – indistinguishable from the resonance now considered to be the Standard Model Higgs. Theirs is a composite particle and it does not impart mass upon everything.

So you say – hold on! What is a Technicolor in jargon of particle physics? To answer this you would want to talk to a plumber from South Bronx, New York – Dr. Leonard Susskind. Though no longer a plumber, Susskind first proposed Technicolor to describe the breaking of symmetry in gauge theories that are part of the Standard Model. Susskind and other physicists from the 1970s considered it unsatisfactory that many arbitrary parameters were needed to complete the Gauge theory used in the Standard Model (involving the Higgs Scalar and Higgs Field). The parameters consequently defined the mass of elementary particles and other properties. These parameters were being assigned and not calculated and that was not acceptable to Susskind, ‘t Hooft, Veltmann and others. The solution involved the concept of Technicolor which provided a “natural” means of describing the breakdown of symmetry in the gauge theories that makeup the Standard Model.

Cross-section of the Large Hadron Collider where its detectors are placed and collisions occur. LHC is as much as 175 meters (574 ft) below ground on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland. The accelerator ring is 27 km (17 miles) in circumference. Credit: CERN

Technicolor in particle physics shares one simple thing in common with Technicolor that dominated the early color film industry – the term composite in creating color or particles.

If the theory surrounding Technicolor is correct, then there should be many techni-quark and techni-Higgs particles to be found with the LHC or a more powerful next generation accelerator; a veritable zoo of particles besides just the Higgs Boson. The theory also means that these ‘elementary’ particles are composites of smaller particles and that another force of nature would be needed to bind them. And this new paper by Belyaev, Brown, Froadi and Frandsen claims that one specific techni-quark particle has a resonance (detection point) that is within the uncertainty of measurements for the Higgs Boson. In other words, the Higgs Boson might not be “the ” but rather a Technicolor Quark particle comprised of smaller more fundamental particles and another force binding them.

This paper by Belyaev, Brown, Froadi and Frandsen is a clear reminder that the Standard Model is unsettled and that even the discovery of the Higgs Boson is not 100% certain. In the last year, more sensitive sensors have been integrated into CERN’s LHC which will help refute this challenge to Higgs theory – Higgs Scalar and Field, the Higgs Boson or may reveal the signatures of Technicolor particles. Better detectors may resolve the difference between the energy level of the Technicolor quark and the Higgs Boson. LHC researchers were quick to state that their work moves on beyond discovery of the Higgs Boson. Also, their work could actually disprove that they found the Higgs Boson.

Contacting the co-investigator Dr. Alexander Belyaev, the question was raised – will the recent upgrades to CERN accelerator provide the precision needed to differentiate a technie-Quark from the Higg’s particle?

“There is no guarantee of course” Dr. Belyaev responded to Universe Today, “but upgrade of LHC will definitely provide much better potential to discover other particles associated with theory of Technicolor, such as heavy Techni-mesons or Techni-baryons.”

Resolving the doubts and choosing the right additions to the Standard Model does depend on better detectors, more observations and collisions at higher energies. Presently, the LHC is down to increase collision energies from 8 TeV to 13 TeV. Among the observations at the LHC, Super-symmetry has not fared well and the observations including the Higgs Boson discovery has supported the Standard Model. The weakness of the Standard Model of particle physics is that it does not explain the gravitational force of nature whereas Super-symmetry can. The theory of Technicolor maintains strong supporters as this latest paper shows and it leaves some doubt that the Higgs Boson was actually detected. Ultimately another more powerful next-generation particle accelerator may be needed.

For Higgs and Englert, the reversal of the discovery is by no means the ruination of a life’s work or would be the dismissal of a Nobel Prize. The theoretical work of the physicists have long been recognized by previous awards. The Standard Model as, at least, a partial solution of the theory of everything is like a jig-saw puzzle. Piece by piece is how it is being developed but not without missteps. Furthermore, the pieces added to the Standard Model can be like a house of cards and require replacing a larger solution with a wholly other one. This could be the case of Higgs and Technicolor.

At times like children somewhat determined, physicists thrust a solution into the unfolding puzzle that seems to fit but ultimately has to be retracted. The present discourse does not yet warrant a retraction. Elegance and simplicity is the ultimate characteristics sought in theoretical solutions. Particle physicists also use the term Naturalness when describing the concerns with gauge theory parameters. The solutions – the pieces – of the puzzle created by Peter Higgs and François Englert have spearheaded and encouraged further work which will achieve a sounder Standard Model but few if any claim that it will emerge as the theory of everything.

More information: “The Technicolor Higgs in the Light of LHC Data.” http://arxiv.org/abs/1309.2097

Why some people may be immune to HIV-1


Doctors have long been mystified as to why HIV-1 rapidly sickens some individuals, while in others the virus has difficulties gaining a foothold. Now, a study of genetic variation in HIV-1 and in the cells it infects has uncovered a chink in HIV-1’s armor that may, at least in part, explain the puzzling difference — and potentially open the door to new treatments.
A study of genetic variation in HIV-1 and in the cells it infects reported by University of Minnesota researchers in this week’s issue of PLOS Genetics has uncovered a chink in HIV-1’s armor that may, at least in part, explain the puzzling difference — and potentially open the door to new treatments.

Doctors have long been mystified as to why HIV-1 rapidly sickens some individuals, while in others the virus has difficulties gaining a foothold. Now, a study of genetic variation in HIV-1 and in the cells it infects reported by University of Minnesota researchers in this week’s issue of PLOS Genetics has uncovered a chink in HIV-1’s armor that may, at least in part, explain the puzzling difference — and potentially open the door to new treatments.

HIV-1 harms people by invading immune system cells known as T lymphocytes, hijacking their molecular machinery to make more of themselves, then destroying the host cells — leaving the infected person more susceptible to other deadly diseases. T lymphocytes are not complete sitting ducks, however. Among their anti-virus defense mechanisms is a class of proteins known as APOBEC3s that have the ability to block the HIV-1’s ability to replicate. Not surprisingly, however, HIV-1 has a counter-defense mechanism — a protein called Vif that cons the T lymphocytes into destroying their own APOBEC3.

Suspecting differential susceptibility to HIV-1 might be related to genetic variations in this system, a research team led by doctoral student Eric Refsland and Reuben Harris of the University’s College of Biological Sciences and Medical School took a closer look. First, the researchers found that HIV-1 infection boosts the production of one kind of APOBEC3, APOBEC3H — suggesting it’s a key player in fighting back. Then, using an experimental technique known as separation of function mutagenesis, they discovered that different people have different strengths/potencies of APOBEC3H, with some proteins expressed stably and others inherently unstable. The stable variations, the researchers found, were able to successfully limit HIV-1’s ability to replicate if the infecting virus had a weak version of Vif — but not for HIV-1 viruses that had strong Vif.

“This work shows that the competition between the virus and the host is still ongoing,” Refsland says. “The virus hasn’t completely perfected its ability to replicate in humans.”

Armed with this clearer picture of the multifaceted interactions between Vif and APOBEC3, Harris says, the next step is to figure out how to stop Vif from disabling the APOBEC3 enzymes. “One could imagine drugs that stop Vif from binding with APOBEC,” he said. “This is a bonafide HIV killing pathway, and we just have to devise clever ways to activate it in infected persons. Such an approach could indefinitely suppress virus replication, and even result in curing it.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Minnesota. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Eric W. Refsland, Judd F. Hultquist, Elizabeth M. Luengas, Terumasa Ikeda, Nadine M. Shaban, Emily K. Law, William L. Brown, Cavan Reilly, Michael Emerman, Reuben S. Harris. Natural Polymorphisms in Human APOBEC3H and HIV-1 Vif Combine in Primary T Lymphocytes to Affect Viral G-to-A Mutation Levels and Infectivity. PLoS Genetics, 2014; 10 (11): e1004761 DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1004761

Why You Should Make Time for a Long Walk This Week


In recent years, walking has gone from a generally healthful mode of transport to a public health crusade. Why? Lately, science has shown sitting all day to be the newest public health menace, right behind Big Macs and cigarettes on the list of things that will shorten your life and damage your body. The silver lining to this evolving line of research is that fighting back seems to be as simple as getting up and wandering around for a few minutes every hour or so (standing desksare another option).

long walk

An occasional stroll, therefore, has become akin to a morning vitamin or regular cancer screening–something you know you really ought to do. There’s no denying the truth of the necessity of adding a bare minimum of movement to our days, but there’s another side to walking that may be getting lost in the rush to remind people of its salutary effects.

Walking might save your life, but that’s far from all a good wander has to offer.

Traveling by foot isn’t just medicinal. It’s also a meditative pursuit with a long and storied pedigree that can lift your mood, improve your creativity, and give you the space you need for life-changing self-reflection.

Less Anxious, More Creative

The first couple of items on this list are the simplest to prove. Again we can turn to recent studies that reveal being outside in natural settings is powerful anti-anxiety medicine. Blog Wise Bread summed up the new findings this way: “The sounds of birds chirping, rain falling, and bees buzzing are proven to lower stress and evoke a feeling of calm.”

Similarly, science attests that getting out for a walk can spur creative thinking. Stanford News, for example, reports on studies out of the university showing that “the overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting … creative output i

Asteroid impacts on Earth make structurally bizarre diamonds


Scientists have argued for half a century about the existence of a form of diamond called lonsdaleite, which is associated with impacts by meteorites and asteroids. A group of scientists based mostly at Arizona State University now show that what has been called lonsdaleite is in fact a structurally disordered form of ordinary diamond.

The scientists’ report is published in Nature Communications, Nov. 20, by Péter Németh, a former ASU visiting researcher (now with the Research Centre of Natural Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), together with ASU’s Laurence Garvie, Toshihiro Aoki and Peter Buseck, plus Natalia Dubrovinskaia and Leonid Dubrovinsky from the University of Bayreuth in Germany. Buseck and Garvie are with ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, while Aoki is with ASU’s LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science.

“So-called lonsdaleite is actually the long-familiar cubic form of diamond, but it’s full of defects,” says Péter Németh. These can occur, he explains, due to shock metamorphism, plastic deformation or unequilibrated crystal growth.

The lonsdaleite story began almost 50 years ago. Scientists reported that a large meteorite, called Canyon Diablo after the crater it formed on impact in northern Arizona, contained a new form of diamond with a hexagonal structure. They described it as an impact-related mineral and called it lonsdaleite, after Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, a famous crystallographer.

Since then, “lonsdaleite” has been widely used by scientists as an indicator of ancient asteroidal impacts on Earth, including those linked to mass extinctions. In addition, it has been thought to have mechanical properties superior to ordinary diamond, giving it high potential industrial significance. All this focused much interest on the mineral, although pure crystals of it, even tiny ones, have never been found or synthesized. That posed a long-standing puzzle.

Structure diagrams of diamond and so-called lonsdaleite show their difference. Both consist of tetrahedrally coordinated carbon atoms (black balls) that form layers. For Credit: Péter Németh

The ASU scientists approached the question by re-examining Canyon Diablo and investigating laboratory samples prepared under conditions in which lonsdaleite has been reported.

Using the advanced electron microscopes in ASU’s Center for Solid State Science, the team discovered, both in the Canyon Diablo and the synthetic samples, new types of diamond twins and nanometer-scale structural complexity. These give rise to features attributed to lonsdaleite.

“Most crystals have regular repeating structures, much like the bricks in a well-built wall,” says Peter Buseck. However, interruptions can occur in the regularity, and these are called defects. “Defects are intermixed with the normal diamond structure, just as if the wall had an occasional half-brick or longer brick or row of bricks that’s slightly displaced to one side or another.”

The outcome of the new work is that so-called lonsdaleite is the same as the regular cubic form of diamond, but it has been subjected to shock or pressure that caused defects within the crystal structure.

One consequence of the new work is that many scientific studies based on the presumption that lonsdaleite is a separate type of diamond need to be re-examined. The study implies that both shock and static compression can produce an intensely defective diamond structure.

The new discovery also suggests that the observed structural complexity of the Canyon Diablo diamond results in interesting mechanical properties. It could be a candidate for a product with exceptional hardness.

12 Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease .


Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

By Michael S. Okun, MD, Medical Director of the National Parkinson Foundation

This year, more than 50,000 people worldwide will hear four simple words: “You have Parkinson’s disease.”

Once the shock subsides, four new words will dominate their thoughts: “Is there a cure?” Today, the answer is no; however, with advancements in early detection and expert care, treatments are helping many people live long and happy lives with Parkinson’s. Research has shown that seeing a neurologist improves outcomes, and seeing a movement disorders specialist can speed improvement in symptoms.

What Is – and Isn’t – Parkinson’s Disease?

I am often asked if Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a form of Alzheimer’s. Parkinson’s is not Alzheimer’s, ALS or a brain tumor, and the prognosis for Parkinson’s, though not a perfect scenario, leaves room to live a productive life.

PD is a progressive and chronic neurological disease that often begins with mild symptoms that advance gradually over time. Symptoms can be so subtle in the early stages that they go unnoticed, leaving the disease undiagnosed for years. For patients with Parkinson’s, there is a reduction in the body chemical dopamine, which controls movement and mood – so simple activities like walking, talking and writing can be impacted.

Due to the complexity of PD, diagnosis is based on a variety of factors. The best diagnosis is made by an expert doing a careful history and exam followed by tracking responses to therapy. There is no blood or laboratory test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease.

While Parkinson’s reaches all demographics, the majority of people with PD are age 60 or older. Men and people with a family history of the disease have an increased risk.

12 Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s Disease

Early Warning Signs of Parkinson’s DiseaseThere is no one defining symptom or sign of Parkinson’s, but rather a combination of warning signs and symptoms. Not all of the signs and symptoms are present in every patient with PD, and this sometimes leads to confusion in diagnosis. Talk to your doctor if you or someone you know experiences more than one of the symptoms outlined below. Family and friends may be the first to spot the signs.

Tremor or shaking: An incessant or intermittent shaking in your finger, thumb, hand, chin, body, leg, lips or tongue could indicate Parkinson’s. The tremor usually happens at rest, and when you move the extremity it may disappear. One in five patients with PD may not have a tremor, which is an important reason the diagnosis may be missed.

Changes in handwriting: You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, and particularly that your letter sizes are smaller and the words may be crowded together.

Loss of smell: Some research suggests that loss of smell is one of the earliest warning signs of Parkinson’s and other cognitive disorders, appearing years before the onset of the motor and cognitive symptoms.

Trouble sleeping: Sudden and extreme movements during sleep – kicking and punching – or falling out of bed can be indicate PD. Patients with Parkinson’s often report vivid dreaming or acting out their dreams; in many cases these symptoms may predate the diagnosis.

Muscle tension: Some people with Parkinson’s may notice tightness in a wrist, elbow, hip or knee (rigidity). This uncontrolled tightness may cause mild to severe aches or pains and make it difficult to move around.

Changes in walking: Parkinson’s affects the area of your brain that controls movement. If you walk with short, shuffling steps, don’t swing your arms or have trouble starting, stopping and turning, talk to your doctor about PD.

Constipation: Constipation is a sign that may predate the other motor symptoms like tremor and rigidity in people with Parkinson’s.

A quiet voice: If friends and family are always asking you to speak up even though you feel like you are talking in a normal voice, you may be experiencing the Parkinson’s disease symptom of a muffled or soft voice – called hypophonia. PD patients are often unaware they are speaking softly.

Masked face: Masking is a term we use to describe facial expressions that appear muted and flat even though the person may be content. Many patients don’t realize masking is happening until someone points it out. If people say you often look unhappy, have a blank stare, or do not blink your eyes, talk to your doctor.

Dizziness or fainting: Feeling dizzy or fainting on a regular basis can be signs of low blood pressure linked to Parkinson’s or to PD medications.

Stooping or hunching over: Stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand can all be symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Depression or anxiety: Depression is the biggest unmet Parkinson’s disease need. With PD, depressive symptoms can be mild and missed easily.

What If You Have Parkinson’s?

After Parkinson’s is diagnosed, your doctor will help you develop an individualized plan to address the symptoms that have the biggest impact on your everyday life and help slow down the progression of the disease. The first step is getting a referral to a neurologist for expert care – especially one who is trained in movement disorders.

Why Is Expert Care Important?

Early expert care can help reduce PD complications. Findings show that 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s fall short of getting the expert care they need. The National Parkinson Foundation has estimated that about 6,400 people with Parkinson’s die unnecessarily each year due to poor care.

Trained neurologists will help you recognize, treat and manage the disease. Common approaches include medication, surgical treatment, lifestyle modifications (such as rest and exercise), physical therapy, support groups, occupational therapy and speech therapy. The best approach is interdisciplinary care, where you are seen by multiple specialists on a regular basis and all of the specialists talk and arrange the best possible coordinated care. This is what is referred to as a patient-centric approach to Parkinson’s care.

The National Parkinson Foundation has easy-to-access communications options, including a toll-free helpline  1-800-4PD-INFO ( 1-800-473-4636) and a free “Ask the Doctor” online forum on Parkinson.org.

Arming yourself with knowledge and expert care are the best methods of facing Parkinson’s disease.

Michael S. Okun, MD, is the National Medical Director of the National Parkinson Foundation and co-director of the Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration, part of the McKnight Brain Institute and the University of Florida College of Medicine. He is the author of Amazon’s No. 1 Parkinson’s Best Seller 10 Secrets to a Happier Life. As NPF’s medical director, he has worked with NPF Centers to help foster the best possible environments for care, research and outreach in Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Okun has published more than 300 articles and is considered a world’s expert on Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders and deep brain stimulation.