laurie-breen

Laurie Breen

Laurie Breen is a freelance writer well-versed in research communications and grant writing. She received her Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Smith College and has worked previously at the University of Queensland's Centre for Clinical Research in Brisbane, Australia. Her favorite conversational topic is "antibiotic-resistant bacteria," making her a big hit at parties.

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...

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...

Warm Up for your Workout Using Science

Go to any gym and you’re bound to hear “locker room talk” on the age-old issue facing men and women alike – what’s the best way to warm up before you exercise? Static stretching, dynamic stretching, dynamic warm-ups, re-warm-ups, at what intervals… everyone has an opinion. However, Hammami et al have published a review in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness attempting to answer just this question.   The authors searched for peer-reviewed studies from 1995-2015 in PubMed, ScienceDirect and Google Scholar and found 27 relevant articles. Twenty-two of the articles looked at warm-up effects on soccer performance and 5 articles examined performance with or without re-warm-ups during play. In the review, dynamic warm-ups were found to increase many factors such as “strength, jump, speed and explosive performances.” The review found additional performance benefits from re-warm-ups among soccer players at halftime in order to reduce postactivation potentiation, no matter how much or how little the players were on the field.   Image: Source   Moreover, the authors found that static stretching reduced subsequent performance. Other studies, such as Amiri-Khorasani et al., in the Journal of Human Kinetics, found significant increases in speed after dynamic stretching when compared to static stretching, while Behm et al., in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, found a similar though smaller effect. These studies and others like it add more data to a...

Can Computers Diagnose Melanoma?

With so many advances in technology and computer learning, is it possible that one day computers could replace doctors? Robots already assist in surgeries and 3D bio-printers can create synthetic body parts. But can computers reliably make a medical diagnosis?   Medical researchers in California think so – in a collaboration between Stanford’s Department of Electrical Engineering, the Department of Dermatology and the Department of Pathology, among others, scientists have developed a computer algorithm that can diagnose melanoma from a typical photo of a mole taken by any smartphone.   Image: Source   The researchers programmed a computer learning algorithm called a “convolutional neural network” or “CNN,” by using 129,450 clinical images showing 2,032 different diseases to “teach” the CNN what a specific carcinoma looks like. The authors then put the CNN to the test against 21 board-certified dermatologists in a challenge to accurately diagnose the most common and most deadly skin cancers. The authors of the study report that their method performs with a similar success rate as the board-certified dermatologists when it comes to distinguishing malignant melanoma and keratinocyte carcinoma from benign lesions.   Current apps in the U.S. provide information and education about skin cancer and allow users to save pictures of any skin abnormalities, but do not suggest a diagnosis. However, in countries like Australia, Canada and the U.K, you can already download an app...

Essential Apps for Med Students

Admit it: you’re always on your phone. Instead of spending another hour trying to catch that elusive Pokémon, check out these essential apps for med school students. These apps are specifically designed to help you increase your productivity, stay organized and survive.   Image: Source   Anatomy Apps These anatomy apps will give you quick access to all the anatomy you need and help you learn along the way –   1. Muscle & Bone Anatomy 3D iOS Android With a 3D view of the body, this app can isolate muscle groups by actions with animations and commentary. When you’re ready, use one of the built-in quizzes to put your skills to the test.   Image: Source   2. Radiology 2.0: One Night in the ED iOS In a series of case studies, this app walks you through everything you need to know when reviewing CT scans.   3. 3D Brain iOS Android Study all parts of the brain with zoom and rotation features on 29 interactive structures. Learn how different brain regions function, how they are involved in mental illness and what happens if they’re injured.   Clinical Practice Apps These tools are particularly convenient for clinical practice –   4. EBMcalc Complete iOS Android Perform complicated medical calculations on the go with EBMcalc Complete.   5. Epocrates iOS, Android This comprehensive reference tool covers almost everything and includes...

ACA Repeal – Good or Bad for Doctors?

As Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States, the Republican-led Congress is making strategic moves to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a. “Obamacare.” Despite their promises to immediately replace the ACA with a new plan, no solid details have been given out by Trump or Republicans.   The effects of the ACA on the lives and practice of doctors has been complex, and opinions as to whether the law has been good or bad for doctors are clearly divided along party lines. There is high anxiety surrounding the proposed repeal from patients and doctors alike. Without a clear plan in place, it’s hard to know how a repeal would affect doctors and the future careers of current med school students.   Image: Source   Here are some concerns when considering the repeal:   Fewer patients in a smaller insurance pool – The ACA has enabled roughly 22 million previously-uninsured Americans to purchase health insurance or obtain it through expanded Medicaid programs. The ACA also has rules in place that end pre-existing condition exclusions for children, allow young adults under the age of 26 to be covered under their parents’ insurance and prohibit arbitrary withdrawals of insurance coverage. If repealed with no immediate replacement, millions of people could be dropped from their plans and left unable to purchase new plans. Fewer people with insurance equals...