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Stimulating the brain with a very small electrical current through the forehead could boost a student's ability to learn and remember basic mathematics, a provocative experiment suggests.

The work, published online Thursday by the journal Current Biology, could help those who struggle with mental arithmetic. But the study was small and the long-term effect wasn't profound.

Americans are repeatedly told to cut back on salt to reduce the risk of heart disease. But there are new questions being raised about the possible risks of reducing sodium too much.

So, how low should we go? Currently, the government recommends that Americans should aim for 2,300 milligrams per day. And people older than 50, as well as those with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease are advised to reduce sodium even further, down to 1,500 mg per day.

Angelina Jolie just became part of a medical trend: More women are deciding to have their breasts removed to reduce the risk of cancer.

Over the past decade, doctors have noticed a big increase in the number of women choosing prophylactic, or preventive, mastectomies.

Some, like Jolie, have a genetic mutation that makes it much more likely that they will have breast cancer. Her mother died of the disease at age 56. Jolie is 37. She wrote about her decision in The New York Times.

When she was just 6, Emily Gorospe became very tired and sick. The spunky girl, now 8, developed a fever that wouldn't go away, and red blotches appeared across her body.

"She's got so much energy usually," says Emily's mother, Valerie Gorospe. "Just walking from one part of the house ... she was drained." The little girl was also very pale. "She just didn't look like herself," Valerie recalls.

Any gardener will tell you that compost is "black gold," essential to cultivating vigorous, flavorful crops. But it always feels like there's never enough, and its weight and bulk make it tough stuff to cart around.

I belong to a community garden in Washington, D.C., that can't get its hands on enough compost. So you can imagine my delight when I learned that the U.S. Composting Council was connecting community gardeners with free material from local facilities through its Million Tomato Compost Campaign.

Kids With Autism Quick To Detect Motion

May 10, 2013

Children with autism see simple movements twice as fast as other children their age, a new study finds.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Rochester were looking to test a common theory about autism which holds that overwhelming sensory stimulation inhibits other brain functions. The researchers figured they could check that by studying how kids with autism process moving images.

A study of genetically identical mice is providing some hints about humans. How can one identical twin be a wallflower while the other is the life of the party?

The study of 40 young mice found that their behavior grew increasingly different over three months, even though the mice shared the same genes and lived in the same five-level cage, researchers report Thursday in the journal Science.

Less than two weeks after launching its Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, the Wrigley Company decided that maybe the world wasn't ready for amped-up chewing gum after all.

On April 30, the day after Alert Energy launched, the Food and Drug Administration said it was going to take a "fresh look" at caffeinated foods, particularly their effect on children and teenagers.

Being out front on caffeinated confections evidently wasn't a comfortable place to be.

When it comes to health care, the biggest of the big data are all about Medicare.

So, it's kind of a BIG deal when the government releases what individual hospitals charge Medicare — and what they actually get paid — for the most common diagnoses and treatments.

In a first, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made those figures from more than 3,000 hospitals public Wednesday.

In the developing world, a baby's first day of life is often the most perilous.

Roughly 3 million newborns die each year, the nonprofit Save the Children reported Tuesday. Most of these deaths occur in the first week of life, and more than 1 million babies pass away within 24 hours of being born.

Although the report calls for some big changes in health care systems to prevent newborn deaths, it also says that some simple, inexpensive things could save many lives.

So you know all that talk about how the boatload of money going to health care will bankrupt the nation if something isn't done soon?

Well, it turns out that while politicians were bickering, the problem started taking care of itself. Well, a little bit.

That word "microbiome" — describing the collection of bacteria that live in and on our bodies — keeps popping up. This time, researchers say that children whose parents clean their pacifiers by sucking them might be less likely to develop allergic conditions because of how their parents' saliva changes their microbiomes.

For some years now, teachers and parents have noted something about boys and girls. Starting in elementary school, young girls often score better on reading and math tests than young boys do.

The differences are uneven on different tests and do not describe the experience of every child, but empirical studies do document a difference.

Now, two economists are proposing a partial explanation for the disparity that might give some parents heartburn.

The administration's actions this week on emergency contraception have left many women's health groups sputtering with anger.

But what really has some of the President Obama's usual allies irritated is the fact that the moves are in direct contrast to speeches he made in just the past week.

President Obama affirmed Tuesday that there's evidence Syrians have been attacked with chemical weapons — in particular, nerve gas.

But that's not the same as proof positive.

"We don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them," Obama said. "We don't have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened."

All parents are bound to disagree, argue or even raise their voices with each other.

But psychologists say parents can minimize the negative impact of their arguments on their children. It's just a matter of using a few simple techniques to turn down the heat and repair the damage after it's over.

Psychologist Suzanne Phillips at Long Island University says one of the most important things for parents to remember when they're on the verge of a big argument is not to involve the child.

For years now, psychologists have been telling couples who yell at one another to stop for the sake of the kids. Such conflict in the home — even when no violence is involved — is associated with a host of negative behavioral and life outcomes for children.

If you went to Coachella last weekend, you probably had a ball. But will your ears pay the price?

While short-term hearing loss caused by loud noise can be unnerving, it may not be an automatic sign of permanent damage.

Temporary hearing loss may actually be the ear's way of protecting itself from lasting damage, suggests a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Well, if you're a mouse, at any rate.

From the first explosion in Boston on Monday to the second, just 15 seconds elapsed. And in those 15 seconds, three people were mortally wounded, including an 8-year-old boy. The number of injured topped 100, and for those of us watching, it was a profound reminder of a reality we'd prefer to ignore.

The numbers are pretty grim: More than half of all 85-year-olds suffer some form of dementia.

But here's the good news: Brain researchers say there are ways to boost brain power and stave off problems in memory and thinking.

What do animals do when they get sick? They can't go to the doctor's office. They can't go to the pharmacy. Heck, they can't even go online.

Nevertheless, a surprising number of wild creatures have figured out ways to use herbs, resins, and even alcohol and nicotine for health's sake.

Scientists review the ranks of animal pharmacists in the latest issue of Science.

Health care types have spent years trying to make the point that seniors are being prescribed medications that are unnecessary and dangerous. But the message hasn't really sunk in.

More than 20 percent of people with Medicare Advantage coverage are taking at least one high-risk medication, a new study finds.

It may cost less to do business in places where there's what some people call a culture of health. And that's put Colorado, which has the lowest rates of adult obesity in the country, on the map for companies looking to relocate or expand.

Kelly Brough is making the most of it. She runs the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, and she's creative about luring businesses to relocate to Colorado. She runs a "Colorado loves California" campaign, for instance.

A rat with some human genes could provide a better way to test Alzheimer's drugs.

The genetically modified rat is the first rodent model to exhibit the full range of brain changes found in Alzheimer's, researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience.

A federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., has ruled that the morning-after pill for emergency contraception must be made available over the counter to girls 16 and under.

The ruling could end a more than decade-long battle over how easy or difficult it should be for teenage girls to obtain emergency contraception. The ruling would also make it easier for older women to obtain the drug because it wouldn't have to be kept behind drugstore counters anymore.

Camden, N.J., has serious health problems, with too many people going to local emergency rooms unnecessarily. But progress is being made, albeit slowly.

John Pike, 53, is a Camden resident who used to be a frequent flier at the ER.

Pike has a smoker's cough, and when that cough or pain in his bad hip flared up, he'd go to the ER — maybe eight or nine times a year. But when he did, ER staffers didn't really remember him or his medical history.

President Obama has announced an ambitious plan to explore the mysteries of the human brain.

In a speech Tuesday, Obama said he will ask Congress for $100 million in 2014 to "better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember." Other goals include finding new treatments for Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury.

As employers try to nudge employees toward healthy behaviors, a growing number are taking aim at the medical expense accounts linked to the health plans they offer their workers.

Last week, scientists announced they had sequenced the full genome of the most widely used human cell line in biology, the "HeLa" cells, and published the results on the web. But the descendents of the woman from whom the cells originated were never consulted before the genetic information was made public, and thus never gave their consent to its release.

In Colorado, more people die from gunshots than car crashes. And that has a profound effect on the people on the front lines who treat gunshot victims.

Chris Colwell is an emergency room doctor in Denver, and says he sees gun violence victims on a weekly basis. When those cases are fatal, they are hard for him to forget.

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