research

PODCAST: How Do We Treat Psychiatric Disorders?

From the days of Freud, psychotherapy had been a dominant form of treating psychiatric disorders. But more recently, psychotherapy use has declined in favor of medications. In fact, according to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the number of patients in outpatient mental health facilities receiving only psychotherapy fell from 15.9 percent to 10.5 percent from 1998 to 2007, while the number of patients receiving only medication rose from 44.1 percent to 57.4 percent. Now, there are a number of reasons behind this shift. On the one hand, many in the science community look down to psychotherapy as an unstandardized mode of treatment. Meanwhile, to these critics, medications have proven to be safe and efficacious after numerous clinical trials. These criticisms seem sound, but is a decline in psychotherapy use for the better? Does the use of medication alone ignore the social and cultural components unique to psychiatric disorders? In the first episode of The Void Podcast, I talk to psychiatrist Dr. Loren Sobel to answer these questions. Dr. Sobel practices psychodynamic therapy—a form of psychotherapy that seeks to uncover the psychological roots of patient’s mental illness. In addition to discussing the effects of the shift from psychotherapy to medication, Dr. Sobel and I speak at-length about the causes—including the scientific community’s greater dependence a biological model of disease. Have a...

The 5 Second Rule – A Scientific Examination

It’s a lazy Saturday and you’re at home having a leisurely lunch, watching YouTube on your phone while you eat a delicious bologna sandwich. The next thing you know, those crazy YouTube cats have made you laugh so hard that you drop your sandwich – what do you do? Do you throw the contaminated sandwich away? Or do you think to yourself “five second rule,” pick it up and continue eating? Everyone knows the 5 Second Rule: if you drop food on the floor, it’s okay to eat, as long as you pick it up within five seconds. A researcher at the University of Illinois found that 56% of men and 70% of women surveyed had heard of this rule (or its alternative version, the 3 Second Rule), qualifying it as a legit Western Cultural Phenomenon. So, is this real or what? Surprisingly, studies have given conflicting views as to what exactly the 5 Second Rule means for our health and welfare. Jillian Clarke, the researcher from U of Illinois found that food was contaminated within five seconds of being dropped onto ceramic tile inoculated with E. coli. She had some trials and tribulations in the course of her research – at first she was simply going to drop the food on the lab floor, but the lab floors turned out to be *too* clean. She also found that women tended...

These Are The Weirdest Sleep Experiments Ever Conducted

The very nature of being human means that we strive to understand the world around us. Scientists have long considered experiments the best way to test a hypothesis and draw a conclusion. Over the last century, scientists have begun to study sleep more and more. We know it’s necessary yet we don’t fully understand it.  Such a vital function could contain so many important discoveries that we haven’t yet come across. In this infographic we look at some of the most bizarre sleep experiments. What were they, who ran them and why? Did we learn anything from them or did they go horribly wrong? Weird Sleep Experiments infographic by Mattress Online. On an article on Polyphasic Sleep, Yash Pandya also explores the benefits of this new research: As students, we all experience a lack of time at one point or another. There are just so many things on our plate that we must achieve in a short lifespan! Our decisions regarding priorities eventually boil down to a balancing act of the three-legged stool – education, social life, and sleep – with the last one ending up usually being cut. But what if I were to say that there is an alternative to the recommended 8 hours of sleep? Would you go for it? Looking around the world, people usually engage in monophasic sleep, which describes a pattern where one...

Your Next Box of Mac & Cheese Could Be Your Last

Most of us enjoyed mac and cheese from the box as children and we loved it! All the non-nutritious goodness that was filled inside that little box was what we wanted daily. Looking back on my mac and cheese filled childhood, I get a feeling of regret and that is because a new study has revealed that mac and cheese from the box has a toxic chemical called phthalate. Phthalates are chemicals of high concern. They are used in the plastics industry and are found in rubber coatings, adhesives, sealants, and printing ink, but they are not directly added into food. However, through the food packaging process, phthalates can find their way into food products indirectly when they leave from food contact materials. This is a serious problem. Phthalates are dangerous to pregnant women and children because many studies have linked prenatal exposure to phthalates with birth defects in children. They are hormone-disrupting chemicals that have been shown to threaten the health development of babies’ endocrine and reproductive systems. In order to protect people’s health, the EU has banned most phthalates for plastics in contact with fatty foods. However, the US has not taken this type of action yet. Per a new study by The Coalition for Safer Food Processing & Packaging, the average phthalate levels found in macaroni and cheese powder were more than four times higher than in...

How Much Your Health Affects Your Wallet

Smoking, fast food, and lack of exercise can both affect your wellness and your money. Learn how much bad health affects your wallet.  Creating positive health changes in patients can be a difficult task. Once habits are ingrained, they become harder to break. Exposing more pain points for these habits can change a person’s viewpoint and lead them to change. Physical inactivity and poor diet choices continue to surge, and a new motive is needed to help people improve their health. Smoking has been one of the biggest health concerns for decades now, but did you know smoking can cost a person between $6,500 and $13,500 a year? The average cost of a cigarette averages out to be around 31 cents, which comes out to $1,358 a year. The hidden costs come in the form of higher insurance premiums and loss of insurance credits. The total cost of smoking with these factors adds up to a much greater financial sacrifice. The increase in fast food consumption has also made for a costlier lifestyle. Consumers spend an average of $1,200 a year on fast food which can lead up to an additional $5,500 a year in healthcare costs. The caloric increase not only leads to weight gain, but is generally coupled with an inactive lifestyle as well. Physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization, is the 4th leading risk factor...

How Exactly Does Gene Transfer via AAV Work?

Properly functioning genes within our DNA provide the blueprint for the production of proteins. Mutations affecting those genes can result in proteins with altered or zero function. Using gene transfer techniques might be an effective way to restore function of proteins within cells. Gene transfer can occur via adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors because they can target both dividing and non-dividing cells to correct disease-causing improper protein function. Therapeutic genes loaded inside an AAV can correct defective or missing protein function by injecting the AAV’s therapeutic genetic material to restore function of the proteins. A capsid encases the genetic material of the vector and helps target delivery to specific cells. Once inside the targeted cells, an episome is formed from the vector genome which allows for long-term expression of the therapeutic molecule. AAVs are nonpathogenic and can be administered by intravenous drip or direct injection to target tissues. The unique life cycle of adeno-associated virus (AAV) and its ability to infect both nondividing and dividing cells with persistent expression have made it an attractive vector. An additional attractive feature of the wild-type virus is the lack of apparent pathogenicity. Gene transfer studies using AAV have shown significant progress at the level of animal models; clinical trials have been noteworthy with respect to the safety of AAV vectors. No proven efficacy has been observed, although in some instances, there have been promising observations. In this review, topics in AAV biology are supplemented with...

How Do We Help Patients Reduce their Risk of Dementia?

Here’s something to note when helping patients reduce their risk of dementia: each year in the US, doctors diagnose around 3 million cases. However, dementia isn’t a disease, but a grouping of conditions that impair brain functions. These functions can include: Memory Communication and language Ability to focus and pay attention Reasoning and judgment Visual perception Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells, with different types of damage causing different types of dementia. For example, vascular dementia is  caused by conditions that deprive brain cells of oxygen, such as a stroke. Alzheimer’s disease is associated with brain cell damage that prevents communication between the cells.  Dementia associated with aging largely affects those over the age of 60, and although there is no cure, various treatments can help with symptoms or slow progression. However, new research is suggesting that certain lifestyle changes could help decrease the risk of developing dementia in old age. New research published in JAMA shows that there may be a link between chronic or persistent pain and an increased risk for accelerated dementia. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco published results on a longitudinal study that followed patients for up to 12 years, and found that those who reported pain in the first two years of interviews were more likely to have a faster decline in memory performance as they aged and also had an...

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