research

Supplement or Superfluous?

Whether you’re watching TV, listening to the radio or surfing the internet, it’s almost impossible to escape multiple ads for dietary supplements that claim to make you feel healthier, be stronger and have more energy.   90s kids are sure to remember this vitamins jingle Video: Source   But how do you know if they work? And what exactly is a supplement anyway? According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, a supplement is “a product intended to supplement the diet that contains one of the following ingredients: vitamins, minerals, herb or botanical, and/or amino acid.”  However, dietary supplements are not intended to “treat, diagnose, mitigate, prevent or cure disease.” The FTC has ruled that advertising for supplements that claim health benefits must be “truthful, not misleading and substantiated.”   Why does it matter? Recent data estimates that Americans spend over $21 billion a year on supplements, with an estimated 1 in 5 Americans taking some sort of supplement. The makers of supplements must abide by the FDA’s good manufacturing guidelines and accurately identify what their products contain – but that doesn’t always happen. Manufacturers are supposed to report serious adverse effects, and the FDA can pull products found to be unsafe.   What’s the evidence? Daily Multivitamins – If you have a healthy, well balanced diet, there is little evidence that a multivitamin can prevent...

Treatment Devices for Migraines

This month the FDA updated their consumer information on migraines to include 2 devices approved for the treatment of migraines:   – the Cefaly transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device, and – the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator.   Those who suffer from migraines know the intense throbbing or pulsing pain that can last up to 72 hours, and is often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and/or vomiting. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 37 million Americans suffer from migraines, and women are three times more likely than men to have migraines.     These devices are great news for migraine suffers because the currently approved migraine medications can often have serious side effects that vary from patient to patient. “Although these migraine drugs are quite effective, they are not for everyone. Some can make you tired, drowsy or dizzy. Some can affect your thinking. And some migraine drugs can cause birth defects, so pregnant women can’t use them,” says Eric Bastings, M.D., an FDA neurologist.   Although TENS treatment for pain has been around for a while, Cefaly was the first TENS device to be approved for use as a preventative measure, before the onset of a migraine. It can be used daily and studies have shown that it reduces the number of days that patients have experienced migraines.   Video: Source   According to...

Medical Advancements To Look Forward To This Year #5: Telemedicine

5. Telemedicine The medical field is always at the heels of innovation. There is rarely a dull moment. Some new discovery or invention always grips our imagination and intrigue as passionate followers of this developing art. However, every advancement undoubtedly carries with it a risk of taking away something else. After all, this is human beings we are talking about – the most complex creatures in the world that excel in their ability to think, feel, and rationalize their existence amidst the every-growing complexity around them. Most recently, the concept of telemedicine has invited significant discussion as well as skepticism from the medical community and the world as a whole.     In essence, telemedicine can be simply described as an effort to remove the physical boundaries of medicine and equip healthcare providers with the capacity to deliver care in any corner of the world with the use of communication technologies. While the practice has already been applied in its initial stages in some sectors of medicine (such as dermatology), it is still in its infancy. The benefits are obviously numerous. The immediate access to an advanced level of care has the unique potential to improve outcomes. For instance, if a patient has stroke-like symptoms, a family member can get in touch with a stroke neurologist through a video call. He/she may be able to help determine the emergent...

A Research Manifesto: How to Make the Most of Your Pre-Med Research Position

A ‘manifesto’ is a published declaration of someone’s intentions, motives, or views. Although often associated with radical politics and revolution, manifestos can be written to capture the spirit of any group or movement.   Why does research need a manifesto? We’ve worked with hundreds of pre-meds, and many struggle to write about their research in meaningful ways. What’s the problem? Usually, it’s their approach to their work in the lab. Too often, they’ve taken on research as a way to check off one of their pre-med boxes, rather than a means for exploration, growth, and discovery.   Our manifesto is designed to help you avoid these obligatory feelings by inspiring a deeper commitment to the research. Hopefully, you read our manifesto early on in your research career. But regardless of how far along you are in the process, our principles will help you maintain the right mindset in the lab.   Karl Marx called the subpoints of his manifesto ‘planks,’ but for our purposes, ‘theses’ seemed more appropriate.   Thesis #1 – Get Involved in Research Early and Often in Your Pre-Med Career You will not make the same mistake as most pre-meds. You will look for research opportunities as early as possible, because you’ll recognize how long it can take to secure a spot. You will remain open-minded towards different projects, even if they seem outside of your...

Video Game Therapy

It’s crazy to think that almost 91% of kids in the U.S. play video games, but today video games are an important part of our culture and lifestyle. Shared gaming experiences like Pokémon Go bring together people from all around the globe. Game developers work hard to make their games appealing and accessible to as broad an audience as possible, but what about kids with a medical condition that prevents them from playing most games? And what if accessible games could include a learning and therapeutic component?   Researchers at Flinders University in Adelaide are working on video games specifically for children with cerebral palsy and limited hand function. Cerebral palsy affects more than 17 million people around the world. There is no cure for CP and it is the most common childhood disability. Targeted interventions for children often involve therapeutic exercises aimed at improving or maintaining function with the goal of helping children achieve independence in daily activities. However, just as with adult physical therapy, compliance can be a struggle as the exercises are seen as work and not play. David Hobbs and his team set out to change that by making an accessible video game system that may also help children with CP improve sensory function, bilateral hand functionality and coordination.   Image: Source   Known as “serious games,” their work is part of a growing sector...

Fighting Allergies Without Injections?

Where I live in Texas it’s cedar season, which means it’s allergy season. Texas is notorious for its large number of pollen-producing plants including ash, mountain cedar, ragweed, grass and oak… the list goes on and on. When pollination comes around each year, it seems like everyone is coughing, sneezing and congested, with an itchy throat and watery eyes.   Image: Source   To cope with allergies, I’ve heard some pretty creative (though NOT doctor recommended nor evidence-based) solutions including sleeping with a wet washcloth over the face, eating “local” honey to expose the body to pollens or drinking apple cider vinegar. With my friends going to such extremes to fight allergies, you can imagine how excited I was to see a new paper in JAMA reporting on a 3-year study of sublingual immunotherapy for grass pollen allergy sufferers.   Image: Source   Sublingual immunotherapy is being explored as an alternative to injection therapies (or subcutaneous immunotherapy), where small amounts of allergens are injected into patients over the course of months and years to build immunity and prevent the allergic reaction. Allergy shots have been used for nearly 100 years and evidence shows that they are highly effective, especially against many pollen species. It is also more cost-effective than simply treating allergic symptoms. With sublingual immunotherapy, instead of injections, the patient takes either a drop solution or tablet under...

The Love Competition

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of V-day, we wanted to get nerdy with the subject of love. Is it possible for one person to love more than another person can?   On yours marks, get set, LOVE. This short documentary explores the 1st Annual Love Competition that took place at the Stanford Center for Cognitive and Neurological Imaging. Scientists asked 7 participants to “love” as hard as they could for 5 minutes while measuring brain activity via fMRI. The participants ranged in age, love experiences, and general “hipster-ness.” The researchers looked closely at the brain activity  with special focus on the Nucleus Accumbens, an area which has been shown to be an epicenter for various neural pathways signaling love.   Video: Source   While the skeptic science student in me questions such bold claims of quantifiable love based off of barely understood neural pathways (I mean, no control group…really?), the normal human in me can’t help but go ‘awww, how cute.’ Some questions that lingered on after watching the documentary included:   1. Could brain activity be supplemented with other physiological variables to give a more accurate reading of love experiences?   2. Could brain plasticity at a young age affect love’s neurobiological activity?   3. Can Hipsters really even fall in love?   4. Where can I sign up for next years???   Watch the full video on vimeo.   Click here to read more about...