Archive for the ‘brain’ Category

Mobile phones may distract drivers more than anything else

December 1, 2008

Mobile phone calls distract drivers far more than even the chattiest passenger, causing drivers to follow too closely and miss exits, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.

Using a hands-free device does not make things better and the researchers believe they know why — passengers act as a second set of eyes, shutting up or sometimes even helping when they see the driver needs to make a maneuver.

A woman talks on her cell phone while driving in Burbank, California ...

The research, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, adds to a growing body of evidence that mobile phones can make driving dangerous.

Lee Strayer of the University of Utah and colleagues have found in a series of experiments using driving simulators that hands-free mobile phones are just as distracting as handheld models.

They have demonstrated that chatting on a cell phone can slow the reaction times of young adult drivers to levels seen among senior citizens, and shown that drivers using mobile telephones are as impaired as drivers who are legally drunk.

For the latest study, also using a simulator, Strayer‘s team showed that drivers using a hands-free device drifted out of their lanes and missed exits more frequently than drivers talking to a passenger. They tested 96 adults aged 18 to 49.

“The passenger adds a second set of eyes, and helps the driver navigate and reminds them where to go,” Strayer said in a statement.

“When you take a look at the data, it turns out that a driver conversing with a passenger is not as impaired a driver talking on a cell phone,” he added.

Related:
Multitasking In The Car: Just Like Drunken Driving

Read the rest from Reuters:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081201/us_nm/us_
cellphones_drivers;_ylt=ApOm6RYRi
04QU_GTuuOAlB2s0NUE

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Adult Brains’ ‘Internal Chatter’ Limits Multitasking

October 30, 2008

It’s not every brain scientist who explains her research using Shakespeare. But University of Michigan psychology professor Cindy Lustig describes brain development over a lifetime as a correlation with Shakespeare’s “seven ages of man.”

From NPR

Using behavioral tests and brain scans, Lustig and her collaborators, Drs. Randy Buckner and Denise Head, study how age affects the brain’s ability to multitask. While the young child’s brain is only capable of focusing on one thing at a time, as the brain develops it is able to switch between tasks quite quickly, reaching a multitasking peak in the 20s or 30s, says Lustig. Beyond that, the brain experiences “internal chatter” and has to work a lot harder to suppress distractions and maintain focus.

Single-Track Minds

Early in life, Lustig says, we have a phenomenal ability to ignore everything except what’s right in front of us.

When children focus on a game or a puzzle, she says, they are not thinking about anything else. They are not thinking about their day or their grocery list. They focus solely on the one task, says Lustig, and don’t have any background noise.

Young children have trouble taking on more than one task at a time. Parents often exploit this weakness. When a toddler wants Big Brother’s favorite truck, they redirect him toward that cool race car in the corner.

Read the rest and listen to the broadcast:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96213400

Health, Fitness of Top Candidates: Too Many Unknowns

October 20, 2008

Senator Barack Obama, 47, the Democratic presidential nominee, released a one-page, undated letter from his personal physician in May stating that he was in “excellent” health. Senator John McCain, 72, is a cancer survivor, and Senator Joe Biden has had emergency surgery on a brain aneurysm.

By LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, M.D.
The New York Times

Fifteen days before the election, serious gaps remain in the public’s knowledge about the health of the presidential and vice-presidential nominees. The limited information provided by the candidates is a striking departure from recent campaigns, in which many candidates and their doctors were more forthcoming.

The scars on John McCain’s puffy left cheek are reminders of the extensive surgery he underwent in 2000 to remove a malignant melanoma.

Barack Obama, who started smoking at least two decades ago, has had trouble quitting. Mr. Obama says he quit last year but has “bummed” cigarettes.

In past elections….

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/20/us/
politics/20health.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

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Healthy Chief Executive? What Do We Know?

By Robert Dallek
The Washington Post
Sunday, October 19, 2008; Page B03

The American public seems pretty sure that it knows everything it needs to know about whether John McCain and Barack Obama are healthy enough to be president. I’m not. And whenever I think about whether both men are fit to serve, physically speaking, I think about the sinking feeling I had one lovely spring afternoon in 2002 when an archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library wheeled out the cartload of files showing how badly we had all been deceived about JFK’s health.

The secret details of Kennedy’s medical history were buried in 10 beat-up old cartons of records the library had held for 40 years. Past requests for access to these materials had all been refused by a committee of loyalists that included one of JFK’s closest advisers, speechwriter Ted Sorensen. To my surprise, the committee had given me the chance to read the files; I had to agree not to photocopy them but was free to take notes or read passages into a tape recorder. Now I — along with a physician friend, Jeffrey Kelman — felt as if I were breaching a wall of secrecy. Here were not the usual neat boxes of presidential records, preserved in red-blue-and-silver-trimmed containers, but musty cardboard cartons that seemed to have sat untouched in some corner of the library since Janet Travell, one of Kennedy’s physicians, had given them to the library after JFK’s assassination in November 1963.

Back pain forced President Kennedy to use an Air Force lift to board his plane.  Voters never knew the extent of his ailments.

The picture of health: Back pain forced President Kennedy to use an Air Force lift to board his plane. Voters never knew the extent of his ailments. (AP Photo/Harold Valentine)

Between May 1955 and October 1957, Kennedy had been hospitalized nine times for a total of 44 days, including one 19-day period and two week-long stretches. Despite his public image of “vigah,” as his accent rendered it, he suffered from bouts of colitis, accompanied by abdominal pain, diarrhea and dehydration; agony in his back triggered by osteoporosis of the lumbar spine; prostatitis, marked by severe pain and urinary infections; and Addison’s disease, a form of adrenal insufficiency. Some of his difficulties, such as his back pain and Addison’s, were open secrets among the press corps during his 1960 run for the White House, but the extent and severity of his problems — to say nothing of the promiscuous variety of medications and doctors he relied upon to maintain his health — had remained undisclosed. That’s largely because the Kennedy campaign made every effort to hide his health problems — obviously convinced that these disclosures, combined with his youth and Catholicism, would sink him.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/w
p-dyn/content/article/2008/10/1
7/AR2008101702058.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

Multitasking In The Car: Just Like Drunken Driving

October 16, 2008

If you are driving while using the cell phone, your performance is that of a drunk….even if yoiu are using hands free….

By Jon Hamilton
National Public Radio

Drivers seem pretty comfortable chatting on their cell phones while navigating the streets. But brain researchers say it’s a terrible idea, even with a hands-free device.

“If you’re driving while cell-phoning, then your performance is going to be as poor as if you were legally drunk,” says David Meyer, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan.

A man juggles his cell phone and a doughnut while driving

Above: “If you’re driving while cell-phoning, then your performance is going to be as poor as if you were legally drunk,” says professor David Meyer. iStockphoto.com

“If you test people while they’re texting or talking on the phone, they will actually miss a lot of things that are in their visual periphery,” says Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Driving requires a surprising amount of brain power. Out on the road, we have to process huge amounts of visual information, predict the actions of other drivers and coordinate precise movements of our hands and feet.

Even when using a hands-free device, scientists have found that talking on the phone distracts us to the point where we devote less brain power to focusing on the road.

Drivers’ Brains On Cell Phones

Marcel Just, a neuroscientist at Carnegie Mellon University, says that’s why people learning to drive don’t do anything else.

“Novice drivers turn off the radio, they ask you not to talk to them. They need all the brain participation they can get for the driving,” Just says.

But the level of focus required changes with experience. Over time, the brain rewires itself to do the tasks involved in driving. So when our eyes see a red light, our foot hits the brake, with no conscious thought involved. Just says driving becomes automatic.

“You find yourself arriving at some destination and not remembering much about the trip. I sometimes find myself passing a car without remembering that I decided to pass. So I don’t know much about my own (automatic) driving,” Just says.

Scientists call this phenomenon “automaticity.” It lets us do one thing while focusing on something else. In other words, learning to do one task automatically helps us to multitask.

If the brain is so good at this, why not chat on the cell phone while driving? To answer that question, we could have tested the limits of an actual driver in actual traffic. That seemed like a bad idea. So we came up with a demonstration that’s a bit more refined.

Pushing The Brain — Concerts And Conversation

We brought a professional pianist into the studios here at NPR. A musician like Jacob Frasch has a lot in common with an experienced driver. Both can do a complex task that has become automatic while carrying on a simple conversation.

For over an hour, we tasked Frasch with playing a range of pieces, some he knew and some he had to sight-read. While he was playing, we asked him to multitask. Sometimes the additional work was simple. For instance, Frasch has no trouble talking about his childhood while playing a Bach minuet. But when the challenges took more brain power, it was tougher for Frasch to answer questions and play the piano at the same time.

Read the rest and hear the radio broadcast…..
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95702512

Does drinking alcohol shrink your brain? Yup!

October 15, 2008

By Theresa Tamkins
CNN

What’s good for the heart may hurt the brain, according to a new study of the effects of alcohol.
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People who drink alcohol — even the moderate amounts that help prevent heart disease — have a smaller brain volume than those who do not, according to a study in the Archives of Neurology.

While a certain amount of brain shrinkage is normal with age, greater amounts in some parts of the brain have been linked to dementia.

“Decline in brain volume — estimated at 2 percent per decade — is a natural part of aging,” says Carol Ann Paul, who conducted the study when she was at the Boston University School of Public Health. She had hoped to find that alcohol might protect against such brain shrinkage.
Some typical alcoholic beverages. 

“However, we did not find the protective effect,” says Paul, who is now an instructor in the neuroscience program at Wellesley College. “In fact, any level of alcohol consumption resulted in a decline in brain volume.”

In the study, Paul and colleagues looked at 1,839 healthy people with an average age of about 61. The patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and reported how much they tippled.

Overall, the more alcohol consumed, the smaller the brain volume, with abstainers having a higher brain volume than former drinkers, light drinkers (one to seven drinks per week), moderate drinkers (eight to 14 drinks per week), and heavy drinkers (14 or more drinks per week).

Men were more likely to be heavy drinkers than women. But the link between brain volume and alcohol wasn’t as strong in men. For men, only those who were heavy drinkers had a smaller brain volume than those who consumed little or no alcohol.

In women, even moderate drinkers had a smaller brain volume than abstainers or former drinkers.

Read the rest:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/10/14/
healthmag.alcohol.brain.shrinkage/index.html

China Still Offers Unproven Medical Treatments

January 5, 2008
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN and ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press Writers

BEIJING – They’re paralyzed from diving accidents and car crashes, disabled by Parkinson’s, or blind. With few options available at home in America, they search the Internet for experimental treatments — and often land on Web sites promoting stem cell treatments in China.

They mortgage their houses and their hometowns hold fundraisers as they scrape together the tens of thousands of dollars needed for travel and the hope for a miracle cure.

A number of these medical tourists claim some success when they return home:

Jim Savage, a Houston man with paralysis from a spinal cord injury, says he can move his right arm. Penny Thomas of Hawaii says her Parkinson’s….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080105/ap_on_he_me/medical_tourism_china_1