Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game. The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.
It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.
The researchers behind the new system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.
But apart from opening up strange new methods of communication, BrainNet could actually teach us more about how the human brain functions on a deeper level.
“We present BrainNet which, to our knowledge, is the first multi-person non-invasive direct brain-to-brain interface for collaborative problem solving,” write the researchers.
“The interface allows three human subjects to collaborate and solve a task using direct brain-to-brain communication.”
In the experiment set up by the scientists, two ‘senders’ were connected to EEG electrodes and asked to play a Tetris-style game involving falling blocks. They had to decide whether each block needed rotating or not.
To do this, they were asked to stare at one of two flashing LEDs at either side of the screen – one flashing at 15 Hz and the other at 17 Hz – which produced different signals in the brain that the EEG could pick up on.
These choices were then relayed to a single ‘receiver’ through a TMS cap that could generate phantom flashes of light in the receiver’s mind, known as phosphenes. The receiver couldn’t see the whole game area, but had to rotate the falling block if a light flash signal was sent.
Across five different groups of three people, the researchers hit an average accuracy level of 81.25 percent, which is decent for a first try.
To add an extra layer of complexity to the game, the senders could add a second round of feedback indicating whether the receiver had made the right call.
Receivers were able to detect which of the senders was most reliable based on brain communications alone, which the researchers say shows promise for developing systems that deal with more real world scenarios where human unreliability would be a factor.
And while the current system can only transmit one ‘bit’ (or flash) of data at a time, the team from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University thinks the setup can be expanded in the future.
The same group of researchers has previously been able to link up two brains successfully, getting participants to play a game of 20 questions against each other. Again, phantom phosphene flashes were used to transmit information, in this case “yes” or “no”.
For now it’s very slow and not fully reliable, and this work has yet to be peer-reviewed by the neuroscience community, but it’s a glimpse at some fanciful ways we could be getting our thoughts across to each other in the future – maybe even pooling mental resources to try and tackle major problems.
“Our results raise the possibility of future brain-to-brain interfaces that enable cooperative problem solving by humans using a ‘social network’ of connected brains,” writes the team.
The pain clinic tucked into the corner of a low-slung suburban strip mall was an open secret.
At least one of Zielke’s patients died of an overdose, and prosecutors say others became so dependent on oxycodone and other opioids they would crowd his office, sometimes sleeping in the waiting room. Some peddled their pills near tumble-down storefronts and on blighted street corners in addiction-plagued parts of Allegheny County, where deaths by drug overdose reached record levels last year.
But Robert Cessar, a longtime federal prosecutor, was unaware of Zielke until Justice Department officials handed him a binder of data that, he said, confirmed what pill-seekers from as far away as Ohio and Virginia already knew. The doctor who offered ozone therapy and herbal pain remedies was also prescribing highly addictive narcotics to patients who didn’t need them, according to an indictment charging him with conspiracy and unlawfully distributing controlled substances.
His indictment in October was the first by a nationwide group of federal law enforcement officials that, armed with new access to a broader array of prescription drug databases, Medicaid and Medicare figures, coroners’ records and other numbers compiled by the Justice Department, aims to stop fraudulent doctors faster than before.
The department is providing a trove of data to the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which draws together authorities in 12 regions across the country, that shows which doctors are prescribing the most, how far patients will travel to see them and whether any have died within 60 days of receiving one of their prescriptions, among other information.
Authorities have been going after so-called “pill mills” for years, but the new approach brings additional federal resources to bear against the escalating epidemic. Where prosecutors would spend months or longer building a case by relying on erratic informants and only limited data, the number-crunching by analysts in Washington provides information they say lets them quickly zero in on a region’s top opioid prescribers.
“This data shines a light we’ve never had before,” Cessar said. “We don’t need to have confidential informants on the street to start a case. Now, we have someone behind a computer screen who is helping us. That has to put (doctors) on notice that we have new tools.”
And Rod Rosenstein, deputy attorney general, told AP the Justice Department will consider going after any law-breaker, even a pharmaceutical company, as it seeks to bring more cases and reduce the number of unwarranted prescriptions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been in lock-step with President Donald Trump about the need to combat the drug abuse problem that claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016, a priority that resonates with Trump’s working-class supporters who have seen the ravages of drug abuse first-hand. The president called it a public health emergency, a declaration that allows the government to redirect resources in various ways to fight opioid abuse.
But he directed no new federal money to deal with a scourge that kills nearly 100 people a day, and critics say his efforts fall short of what is needed. The Republican-controlled Congress doesn’t seem eager to put extra money toward the problem.
While the effectiveness of the Trump administration’s broader strategy remains to be seen, the Justice Department’s data-driven effort is one small area where federal prosecutors say they can have an impact.
The data analysis provides clues about who may be breaking the law that are then corroborated with old-fashioned detective work — tips from informants or undercover office visits, said Shawn A. Brokos, a supervisory special agent in the FBI’s Pittsburgh division. Investigators can also get a sense for where displaced patients will turn next.
Authorities acknowledge there are legitimate reasons for some doctors to prescribe large quantities of opioids, and high prescribing alone doesn’t necessarily trigger extra scrutiny. What raises red flags for investigators are the dentists, psychiatrists and gynecologists who are prescribing at surprisingly high rates.
The effort operates on the long-held perception that drug addiction often starts with prescriptions from doctors and leads to abuse of more dangerous black market drugs like fentanyl, which, for the first time last year, contributed to more overdose deaths than any other legal or illegal drug, surpassing pain pills and heroin.
But that focus can cause law-abiding physicians to abandon disabled patients who rely on prescriptions, for fear of being shut down, said University of Alabama addiction researcher Stefan Kertesz. Those patients will turn to harder street drugs or even kill themselves, he said.
“The professional risk for physicians is so high that the natural tendency is to get out of the business of prescription opioids at all,” he said.
Another addiction expert, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said prosecutors’ emphasis on “drug-dealing doctors” is appropriate but inadequate on its own.
“It’s just not really going to have that much of an impact on an epidemic,” he said. The bigger change will come from a stronger push for prevention and treatment, he said. And, he added, “They should go after the bigger fish…. the legal narcotics distributors and wholesalers who have literally been getting away with mass manslaughter.”
Investigators said Zielke charged $250 a visit and made patients pay in cash. But Zielke said prosecutors unfairly targeted him. Instead of more prosecutions, he said, the government “should promote more alternative therapies,” he said. “And they should find out why so many people have pain.”
A second indictment by the anti-fraud unit involved a cardiologist in Elko, Nevada, accused of routinely providing patients fentanyl and other painkillers they did not need. Justice officials hope to expand the data-driven work nationwide.
Will it work? As Soo Song, who watched addiction warp communities while serving as acting U.S. attorney in western Pennyslvania, put it: “The best measure of success will be if fewer people die.”
The next time you’re reaching for a tablet of Advil or Motrin for a quick cure to a headache or back pain or something, you might want to find another pain reliever of choice — especially if you’re a man with a family plan. A new studypublished Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found ibuprofen can harm testicles and lead to impaired fertility in men.
The study, led by a group of Danish researchers, is part of a broader investigation of the physiological side-effects of regular use of over-the-counter pain relievers. It’s a direct follow-up of studies on how aspirin, acetaminophen (better known by the brand name Tylenol) and ibuprofen (of which Advil and Motrin are the most well-known brand names) affect pregnant women, finding that each of these medications adversely affected testicles of male babies while inside the womb.
Ibuprofen use is particularly common among athletes who use over-the-counter pain relievers quite frequently. The research team found 31 male volunteers between the ages of 18 and 35, and gave 14 participants daily doses of ibuprofen of about 600 milligrams twice a day — a rate that’s fairly common for professional and amateur athletes alike. That’s the same maximum dosage recommended by drug makers and listed on the label of products like Advil and Motrin. The rest of the volunteers were put on a placebo.
After just 15 days, the researchers observed signs of dysfunction in the testicles for the men taking ibuprofen. The body’s pituitary glads secrete what are called luteinizing hormones that simulate testosterone production by the testicles. Regular ibuprofen use, it turns out, starts to modulate the rates and levels of luteinizing hormone secretion, as well as causing the ratio of testosterone and luteinizing hormones in the blood to decrease.
As a result, the participants started experiencing what’s called compensated hypogonadism, which can lead to decreased fertility, depression, and higher risk of experiencing heart failure or stroke.
The researchers followed up the trial with lab studies of human testicle samples provided by organized donors, verifying that the impact ibuprofen has on testicles and testosterone even outside the body.
There are two big things worth mentioning here. The first is that the sample size for the clinical side of the study is extremely small, so even with the lab experiments, the results as a whole really need to be taken with a grain of salt. The second thing is that with how quickly ibuprofen use affected testicular activity, the research team thinks the effects are pretty easily reversible.
Questions arise, however, whether those same effects are reversible even after long-term use. For athletes or patients with chronic pain, who have used ibuprofen for years, it’s unclear how permanent those hormone changes might be, or to what extent the negative impacts on fertility could be rectified.
Although the study is small, it’s bound to jumpstart greater investigations into how over-the-counter pain relievers affect fertility, given how popular the use of these drugs is. Men using ibuprofen might want to switch to a different drug of choice the next time they feel a headache coming on.
A drug developed for type 2 diabetes has “significantly reversed memory loss” in mice with Alzheimer’s disease, and researchers now want to test it on humans.
The treatment is exciting for scientists because it works by protecting the brain cells attacked by Alzheimer’s disease in three separate ways, rather than relying on a single approach.
And seeing as the drug has already been tested and approved for use in humans, it’s something that could hit the market a lot faster than other experimental treatment options.
The results have only been seen in mice so far, but the drug “holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior author Christian Hölscher of Lancaster University in the UK.
“With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer’s,” said Doug Brown from UK organisation, Alzheimer’s Society.
“It’s imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them.”
Previous research had already established a link between type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s – type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and it also appears to make the disease progress more rapidly.
This could be a result of insulin not getting to the cells properly – insulin is a growth factor which is known to protect brain cells, and insulin resistance has been observed in Alzheimer’s disease brains, as well as being the biological mechanism behind type 2 diabetes.
They’ve seen previous success in humans with an older diabetes drug known as liraglutide. But this is the first ‘triple agonist’ drug that’s been tested.
The drug, which is referred to only as ‘triple receptor agonist’, or TA, in the paper, acts in multiple ways to protect the brain from degeneration, by activating GIP-1, GIP, and glucagon receptors at the same time.
Seeing as growth factor signalling has been shown to be impaired in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, the idea was that the drug might help re-stimulate damaged brain cells and protect against further damage.
The researchers tested the drug in mice that had been genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s disease.
They used a maze to measure the animal’s learning and memory formation, and found that the drug “significantly reversed the memory deficit,” the researchers write.
The drug also:
- enhanced levels of a brain growth factor which protects nerve cell functioning
- reduced the amount of toxic amyloid plaques in the brain
- reduced both chronic inflammation and oxidative stress
- slowed down the rate of nerve cell loss
“These very promising outcomes demonstrate the efficacy of these novel multiple receptor drugs that originally were developed to treat type 2 diabetes but have shown consistent neuro- protective effects in several studies,” said Hölscher.
There’s still a long way to go before it’s clear whether or not this drug will have the same effect in humans, and whether it’s the best option to move forward with.
“Further dose-response tests and direct comparisons with other drugs have to be conducted in order to evaluate if this new [drug] is superior to previous ones,” Hölscher added.
But the fact that this multi-approach drug has shown such promising results so far is incredibly exciting, and is a great way to start 2018.
After all, more than 5 million Americans are already living with Alzheimer’s, and by 2050 that number could be as high as 16 million. So we definitely need new treatment options.
As a diabetes educator, I frequently get asked by patients, “Can I drink alcohol and, if so, how much?” A lot of people don’t know that alcohol can actually lower your blood glucose level. If you use insulin or certain diabetes medications you are at greater risk of having a low blood glucose reaction if you drink alcohol. It’s important to have this conversation with your doctor to see if it’s safe.
Keep in mind that alcohol should always be consumed in moderation; however, if you choose to have an alcoholic drink, here are some tips to help keep you safe:
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach or when your blood glucose is low. Drink alcohol with a meal or carbohydrate snack like pretzels or crackers.
- Don’t carb count your alcohol. If you count carbohydrates don’t add alcohol to the equation. Replacing alcohol with carbohydrate foods can be risky and lead to low blood glucose or hyperglycemia. Alcohol is considered empty calories. It provides no nutritional value, so drinking too much will add no benefit to you.
- Drink in moderation. The American Diabetes Association recommends drinking in moderation and people with diabetes should follow the same guidelines as those without diabetes. Women should have no more than 1 drink a day, and men, no more than 2 drinks a day. You might be wondering, “What is one drink?” To give you an idea, one drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1 ½ ounces of distilled spirits (American Diabetes Association).
- Sip on your drink and make it last. By drinking in small sips, you can savor the flavor and make that one drink feel like much more.
- Hydrate yourself by keeping water close by. It’s easy to forget to drink water especially when you’re in the midst of a conversation. Grab a glass of water when you grab your alcoholic beverage and keep it close by, so that you remember to stay hydrated.
- Wear a medical ID bracelet. Wearing an ID bracelet is a great way to let others know you have diabetes in case of an emergency.
- Beware of cocktails. Cocktails can use some very sugary mixers with high calories. This doesn’t mean you can never have a cocktail again, but find out the ingredients and make substitutions if necessary. Some examples of zero calorie mixers are diet soda, club soda, diet tonic water, or water.
- Be safe and smart when drinking alcohol. Always check your blood glucose levels and drink with someone who supports you and knows how to react when you have a low blood glucose level.
- American Diabetes Association. (2017). Making Healthy Food Choices: Alcohol. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/alcohol.html?loc=rfhl.
In recent years, many have protested to have industrial sodium fluoride removed from the water supply, as evidence states it is harmful from many scientific sources.
Author, Stefan Smyle, broke the news and explained by the Facebook page “Occupy Food,” which linked the published report from The Lancet Neurology, Volume 13, Issue 3, in March 2014, by authors Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and Dr. Phillippe Grandjean.
Industrial Chemicals Identified
In the report from The Lancet, the authors came up with a global prevention strategy stating, “Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity.”
Included in the report, it was noted that neurodevelopment disabilities, including dyslexia, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and many various cognitive impairments, are on the rise in millions of children around the world, in what is called a “pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity.” They further say: “To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse.”
Fluoride also linked to Cancers
Fluoride has been linked to various forms of cancer, and has been in our drinking water. It is different in comparison with the natural calcium fluoride, that is used in dental offices and in drinking water supplies.
Across all of North America, fluoride is in the water supply, but in Europe it is banned and is the case in many other countries.
People with lifestyle-related diabetes are at an increased risk of developing dementia and, with both conditions on the rise, scientists are scrambling to understand their connection in the hope of finding new treatments.
There are 54 million people in Europe living with lifestyle-related – or Type 2 – diabetes and the numbers are soaring, fuelled by the obesity epidemic. Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, affects around 10.5 million Europeans and this number is forecast to hit 18.7 million by 2050 as a result of population ageing.
People with Type 2 diabetes have higher levels of sugar in their blood because their cells have become resistant to insulin which normally regulates blood sugars. Insulin resistance in the brain has been linked to dementia in large, long-term studies but the exact mechanism behind the phenomenon is still being teased out.
‘There is growing evidence from epidemiological studies suggesting that Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease,’ said Dr Shreyasi Chatterjee at the University of Southampton, UK. ‘Therefore, we want to know more about the relationship between insulin resistance seen in diabetes and the protein build-up associated with Alzheimer’s.’
Key to solving these puzzles are two proteins associated with memory loss in Alzheimer’s – amyloid-beta, which accumulates in plaques that trigger brain cell death, and tau proteins, which cause tangles in the brain.
‘Insulin resistance in the brain can make it difficult for Alzheimer’s patients to process the sugar which is needed to fuel brain cells,’ said Dr Chatterjee. ‘It disrupts normal signalling pathways in the brain and can also hamper the brain’s natural mechanism for clearing misfolded proteins that trigger memory loss.’
As part of the EU-funded AlzDiabetes project, Dr Chatterjee is focusing on the role of tau proteins in fruit flies that have been genetically programmed to mimic the kind of neurodegeneration seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Fruits flies are often used in genetic research as they have around 75 % of the genes that cause human disease and they are easy to work with thanks to their short breeding times. Dr Chatterjee worked with a population of fruit flies bred to have excessive tau proteins, and experimented with adding insulin receptor substrate (IRS) – a key player in processing insulin.
‘We could reduce the likelihood that people with Type 2 diabetes will develop Alzheimer’s.’
Prof Yifat Miller, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel
She found that adding IRS gave the fruit flies better memories and longer lifespans, whereas knocking out the gene that produces it increased the level of tau proteins. This new observation is the most direct evidence to date of a direct connection between insulin resistance seen in diabetes and the tau tangles seen in Alzheimer’s disease.
Her team also observed that when the flies were insulin resistant their brains were unable to clear away the toxic tau proteins, providing an explanation of why people with Type 2 diabetes might develop Alzheimer’s.
Curbing dementia risk
As scientists learn more about how insulin resistance affects the brain, researchers hope that controlling blood sugar in diabetic patients will curb their dementia risk.
‘We already know that treating Alzheimer’s disease with inhaled insulin (a diabetes medication) reduces cognitive impairment,’ said Dr Chatterjee. ‘Other diabetes drugs are now in clinical trials to test whether they could slow the progression of dementia.’
In addition to having a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes patients are also more likely than the average person to develop Parkinson’s disease. Professor Yifat Miller at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel has explored the relationship between diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as part of the EU-funded AbetaAlphasynTau project.
Her team used computer simulations to model the interactions at the molecular level between the amyloid-beta protein, which is associated with Alzheimer’s, alpha-synuclein, which builds up in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, and amylin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. The project pinpointed crucial fragments of these proteins that make them stickier when they interact.
We are now developing molecules that would inhibit these interactions,’ Prof. Miller said. ‘The new molecules will prevent the interactions between these proteins so that they will not clump together. Consequently, we could reduce the likelihood that people with Type 2 diabetes will develop Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s later in life.’
Using their detailed molecular knowledge of these brain diseases, Prof. Miller’s team is designing molecules that could break the link between these three diseases. However, this is still in the early stages of drug design and several new medicines may be needed.
‘The inhibitor we are working on is not a single molecule but a cocktail of molecules,’ she said. ‘It’s very challenging but we are excited about laying the foundation for understanding how these diseases are connected.’
Contrary to what you’ve been taught, cheese is not the artery-clogging heart destroyer that it’s been set up to be, according to researchers at the University of Dublin, who studied 1,500 Irish who love their cheese. In fact, as reported by StudyFinds, researchers found that those who ate low-fat dairy products actually had higher cholesterol levels than those who didn’t.
If you’re confused about this study and cholesterol in general, it’s not your fault. Cholesterol has been a highly-publicized scapegoat for causing heart disease for decades, causing countless people not only to avoid healthy saturated fats, but to be talked into going on to cholesterol-lowering drugs — both of which are exactly opposite what you should be doing. The truth is, it’s a myth that cholesterol is bad for you.
Your body needs cholesterol. That’s why your liver makes it. In reality, cholesterol has many health benefits, including regulating protein pathways involved in cell signaling. It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e., the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things and form memories.
If you’re looking for a non-drug way to boost your heart health, start by reducing or eliminating grains and sugars from your diet and learn to burn fat for fuel, instead. Make sure you’re getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, which can improve your cholesterol levels.
Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter, avocado, pastured eggs and coconut oil. And, include fermented foods in your daily diet and optimize your vitamin D levels.
Statins are prescribed to patients who suffer from high levels of “bad” cholesterol, as it lowers the harmful levels, and reduces the risk of having heart issues.
Lately, statins have come under fire as a study concluded that they do more harm than good. A lot of people take statin drugs such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor. In the United States, prescription drug spending rose to $374 billion in the year 2014 (the highest level of spending since 2001). Statins make up for a huge portion of spending, and consumers who take these drugs are going to have a lot to worry over than the damage to their wallets.
Statins make cells unable to repair properly, create nerve problems and destroy memory
The site directs people’s attention to the advice of Amy G. Egan, M.D., M.P.H., who is the deputy director for safety in the FDA’s Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products (DMEP). She says, “This new information should not scare people off statins. Their benefit is indisputable, but they need to be taken with care and knowledge of their side effects.”