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July 15, 2011 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times/For the Booster Shots Blog
Four in 10 kids who get a diagnosis of either depression or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) end up getting both diagnoses sometime in their young lives. That means a lot will spend some part of their adolescence taking two psychiatric medications: methylphenidate (better known by its commercial name, Ritalin) and fluoxetine (better known as Prozac, the only of the new-generation antidepressants approved for kids as young as 8 years old). A new study conducted on rats suggests that taking that combination of drugs may change the adults they will become in ways that are distinctly troubling.
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NEWS
June 8, 2011 | By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
Salmonella causes food poisoning in about a million Americans each year, and it shows no signs of going away. A new CDC report this week found that the number of salmonella-related illnesses has been virtually unchanged in the last 15 years. Apparently, we're going to have to learn how to avoid it as best we can on our own  --  and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs is just the beginning. The bacterium, which is shaped like a rod, makes its home in the intestinal tract of humans and animals.
NEWS
May 20, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
Researchers have taken a big step forward in studying depression in humans because they have succeeded in improving a mouse model of the disease. Major depression is a common, debilitating illnesses. The causes of depression are many, but studies show a strong genetic component, probably accounting for 40% to 70% of the risk for developing a major depressive disorder, said the author of a new study, Dr. George Zubenko, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
NEWS
May 13, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
The mind and the gut are tightly connected. Anyone who's had a stomach ache accompany a bout of nervousness can testify to the phenomenon. A study in rodents now suggests that digestive troubles early in life may even predispose people to developing anxiety and depression. Previous studies have shown that people who have chronic stomach aches are more likely than other people to be anxious or depressed. In the new study, researchers at Stanford, UC San Francisco and the University of Kansas looked at whether the stomach ailments could causes mood disorders instead of what is presumed: that emotions cause stomach problems.
NEWS
May 6, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
People who exercise are less likely to have a heart attack, studies show. Moreover, physically active people who do have a heart attack may not sustain as much heart damage compared to sedentary heart-attack patients. Now researchers have a better understanding of why exercise is so protective. In a recent study, scientists found that the heart is able to produce and store a natural substance called nitric oxide that helps strengthen the heart muscle. Nitric oxide is produced during exercise.
NEWS
April 29, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
We've all had them, and scientists now know what brain glitches look like. Certain parts of the brain can briefly shut down while the rest of the brain is functioning, a new study shows. These micro naps may help explain why people sometimes do mindless things, like leaving the key in the front door. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin conducted an experiment with rats to explore the phenomenon of micro sleep. The longstanding theory has been that any momentary loss of consciousness affects the entire brain.
NEWS
April 15, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
One of the mysteries of autism is why an infant who seems to be developing normally suddenly regresses after his or her first birthday. This phenomenon, which affects about 25% of children diagnosed with autism, gave rise to the now-discredited hypothesis that immunizations given around the first birthday can cause the disease. A study published Thursday in mice provides a potential explanation of what happens in the brains of these children. Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston conducted experiments with mice with a mutation in the Mecp2 gene.
NEWS
April 8, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
Drinking at a young age is simply bad for the brain, according to a growing number of studies. The latest study looks at the relationship between alcohol and the brain in mice. And the results are not pretty. Researchers gave mice alcohol daily for 10 days and later examined their brains with MRI. The mice who were drinkers in youth had smaller forebrain volume and size as adults. The study also found reduced activity in some genes that govern brain chemicals called neurotransmitters 24 hours after an alcohol binge in adolescent mice.
NEWS
April 1, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
An experimental drug appears to decrease tumor size in mice with cancer without causing serious side effects, researchers from the University of Michigan reported this week. The compound, called AT-406, affects apoptosis, which governs the normal cell turnover process. When apoptosis is disrupted, cells don't die on the correct timetable but, instead, keep reproducing uncontrollably. That gives rise to cancer. The drug removes the barriers to apoptosis in tumor cells, said the lead author of the study, Shaomeng Wang, whose lab has been working on AT-406 for five years.
NEWS
March 25, 2011 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
The synapses are areas in the brain that permit messages to travel from cell to cell through chemicals called neurotransmitters. A study published this week suggests that autism may caused by faulty synapses. The new study was launched with the knowledge that some genes seem to contribute to autism, including a gene called shank3 that is found in the synapses. Researchers led by Guoping Feng, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, decided to test the concept that autism may be caused by dysfunctional synapses.
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