Tag Archives: Brain

Italian court rules mobile phone use caused brain tumour

An Italian court has ruled that excessive, work-related use of a mobile phone caused an executive to develop a benign brain tumour.

In what could become a landmark ruling, the court in the northern town of Ivrea awarded the plaintiff a state-funded pension.

The judgment, which was handed own on 11 April but only made public on Thursday, is subject to a possible appeal.

Roberto Romeo, 57, had testified that his work duties obliged him to use his mobile for three to four hours of each working day for 15 years.

“For the first time in the world, a court has recognised a causal link between inappropriate use of a mobile phone and a brain tumour,” his lawyers, Stefano Bertone and Renato Ambrosio said in a statement.

Romeo said he did not want to demonise mobiles, “but I believe we have to be more aware about how to use them.

“I had no choice but to use my mobile to talk to colleagues and organise work – for 15 years I was calling all the time, from home, in the car.

“I started to have the feeling of my right ear being blocked all the time and the tumour was diagnosed in 2010. Happily, it was benign but I can no longer hear anything because they had to remove my acoustic nerve.”

A medical expert estimated the damage to Romeo at 23% of his bodily function, prompting the judge to make a compensation award of €500 per month to be paid by INAIL, a national insurance scheme covering workplace accidents.

Scientific studies of the potential health risks of mobile phones have mostly concluded that they pose no serious risk to human health at the level of most people’s use.

Heavier use may pose some risk, other studies have found, and many experts say it is too early to do a proper assessment of what is a relatively new technology.

How the brain keeps track of time | Daniel Glaser

Why isn’t Easter the same date each year? Unlike Christmas, it relies on different religious calenders and astronomy tricks, in particular the Spring Equinox and the full moon, meaning it is complex to co-ordinate. The most we achieve are close matches: a lunar month is just over four weeks of earth days; a solar year is near to 12 lunar months. But if you make that rule absolute, things gradually get out of sync.

Our own bodies share similar issues when it comes to circadian rhythms. Although individual cells isolated in a dish display a roughly 24-hour cycle, they need to be synchronised for a whole organism to work effectively. In studies where respondents ‘free-run’, ie where they are shielded from time cues – light, sound or action – the internal body clock shifts to a cycle of a little more than 24 hours, gradually losing sync with the day.

There are pathways to transmit light from the retina to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a tiny bit of brain above the crossing of the optic nerves: the central timekeeper. Complex feedback mechanisms keep the whole thing running. For religious dates and biology, controlling cycles is a tricky business.

Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London

How the brain makes body parts move | Daniel Glaser

In a recent groundbreaking operation, a man paralysed from the neck down is now, after eight years, able to eat and drink without assistance – all thanks to the power of thought.

The story has captured everyone’s imagination because it seems miraculous that paralysis can be reversed simply by our thoughts. But neuroscientists have always known the information is there, it’s just a question of how you read it out.

In this instance scientists did not tap into the spinal cord. Instead, they used an implant in the patient’s head to read out his intentions from the motor cortex. In this part of the brain, which plans and controls movements, the various parts of the body are laid out like a map. This means that the intended actions can be read out by a sensor, like a message on a mobile. The scientists can then ‘spy’ on the signals and work out the neural trace of his movements. They are then relayed directly to the muscles, allowing the patient to move his arm.

It turns out that in neuroscience as in life, it’s often worth cutting out the middle man and tracing a story directly to its source.

Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London

Why dissecting the brain only gives us half its story | Daniel Glaser

News that a man captured and killed the UK’s rarest butterfly reminds us how much biology relies on Wordsworth’s famous line, ‘murdering to dissect’.

The obsessive collector appreciates the butterfly’s beauty by killing it and pinning it to a board. In neurobiology, historically, researchers relied on slicing up the brain to understand more about its structure. But ‘murdering to dissect’ hasn’t always given us the best picture. When Renaissance physicians examined the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain that runs to the spinal cord, they assumed – wrongly – that this liquid transmitted impulses. And when Aristotle noticed the fine network of blood vessels in the folded surface of the brain, he believed its function was as a radiator. Neither error could have persisted if they had been able to conduct live experiments.

Dissection alone led to all sorts of mistaken conclusions, which is why modern neuroscience tries as far as possible to study the brain in action. If you want to truly understand and appreciate something, be it a brain or a butterfly, better to observe it in the wild and not just pinned to a board.

Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London

How self-employment affects the brain | Daniel Glaser

The current debate about the rights of the self-employed raises the question of how much control we have over our work. Is an Uber driver really their own boss if they are controlled by a corporation? And how much does it affect work performance?

A great deal, from a neuroscientific perspective. There is a crucial difference between movements you control and movements you make when you slavishly follow external direction. The cerebellum predicts what these movements will be depending on how planned they are. If, for example, you move your arm to follow a dot on the screen, rather than tracing your own path, the brain activations will be different.

When you have no idea what you’re doing in advance, your movements are inherently more clumsy – the body works better when you are in charge. Being able to predict them enables you to regulate, flexibly and gracefully, and adapt in response to changing circumstances.

Similarly, self-employment, where you actually make your own plans and decide what you want to do, could benefit everyone, but the gig economy doesn’t allow for this degree of autonomy.

Dr Daniel Glaser is director of Science Gallery at King’s College London

Portable brain-scanning helmet could be future for rapid brain injury assessments

A transportable brain-scanning helmet that could be used for rapid brain injury assessments of stroke victims and those felled on the sports pitch or battlefield is being tested by US scientists.

The wearable device, known as the PET helmet, is a miniaturised version of the hospital positron emission tomography (PET) scanner, a doughnut-shaped machine which occupies the volume of a small room.

Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, the neuroscientist leading the project at West Virginia University, said that the new helmet could dramatically speed up diagnosis and make the difference between a positive outcome and devastating brain damage or death for some patients.

“You could roll it right to their bedside and put it on their head,” she said ahead of a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston. “Time is brain for stroke.”

Despite being only the size of a motorbike helmet, the new device produces remarkably detailed images that could be used to identify regions of trauma to the brain in the ambulance on the way to hospital or at a person’s bedside. The device is currently being tested on healthy volunteers, but could be used clinically within two years, the team predicted.

Despite being only the size of a motorbike helmet, the new device produces detailed images that could be used to identify regions of trauma to the brain in the ambulance on the way to hospital or at a person’s bedside.

Despite being only the size of a motorbike helmet, the new device produces detailed images that could be used to identify regions of trauma to the brain in the ambulance on the way to hospital or at a person’s bedside. Photograph: Stan Majewski

Rapidly diagnosing stroke patients, who often wake up unaware of what has happened, is crucial as every passing minute without treatment can result in more extensive and permanent brain damage.

In the hours after a stroke, the brain tissue surrounding the main injury hangs in the balance as it is starved of oxygen due to blockages in the brain’s blood vessels. A rapid surgical intervention, within two to four hours of a stroke, can salvage neurons in the so-called “penumbra” area. After that the risks of brain surgery tend to outweigh any potential benefits to the patient.

“The more you wait, the more that penumbra area gasps and dies,” said Brefczynski-Lewis. “If you can see there’s a bit of activity you might say let’s do an intervention.”

Depending on the brain region affected by stroke, a patient’s speech and language abilities could be saved or paralysis prevented.

In the future, the team said it may be possible to diagnose sports concussion “within minutes”.

“If one can determine quickly whether a head injury is a concussion, then one might be better able to assess if the player, or the soldier, should continue or take time to heal,” said Brefczynski-Lewis.

The device, which can be worn while walking around could also enable scientists to study people’s mental patterns as they walk aroundmove about, socialise and respond to threats in their day-to-day environment.

The device, which can be worn while walking around could also enable scientists to study people’s mental patterns as they move about, socialise and respond to threats in their day-to-day environment. Photograph: Stan Majewski

The helmet was developed in the lab and Brefczynski-Lewis describes it as the equivalent of “going from a big computer to a smartphone”.

The wearable scanner works on the same basic principle as a conventional PET scan. The patient is injected with glucose that has been tagged with a radioactive tracer. Radiation emitted by the tracer is captured by sensors on the helmet, allowing scientists to pinpoint which brain regions are metabolising glucose most rapidly, providing a heatmap of brain activity.

The team were able to miniaturise the scanner by using much smaller detectors fitted with crystal arrays designed to turn PET radiation into measurable electrical signals with a high degree of efficiency.

The device, which can be worn while walking around could also enable scientists to study people’s mental patterns as they move about, socialise and respond to threats in their day-to-day environment. Brefczynski-Lewis said it could also be useful for understanding addiction, where people can respond very differently in a lab setting to in their day-to-day lives where environmental triggers suddenly set off cravings.

“You could put [addicts] in a room similar to where they’ve used drugs before and ask what allows you to have the willpower to walk away,” she said.

A potential limitation is that the helmet is cumbersome, weighing nearly 3kg (6.6lbs) in its current form and up to 9kg (20lb) in an upgraded version designed to give full-brain coverage. The scientists have developed a counterweight system that is pushed along on a stand or carried in a rucksack to avoid the patient being crushed, but Brefczynski-Lewis acknowledges: “you’re probably not walking down the street in Manhattan wearing it”.

Tips For People Who Have Trouble Shutting Their Brain Off to Go to Sleep

Do you seem to be one of those people who lay awake in bed, tossing and turning trying to rest but you just have trouble shutting your brain off to sleep?  Here are some suggestions that may help you get rid of those distractions that keep you awake at night and help you learn to unwind, shutting your brain off to sleep when you need to (1, 2).

  1. Do not tackle anything new at least one hour before bed.  When you open a new email, look at the bills, or start a new project just before you try to turn in you get your mind going and dwelling on whatever issue or project it is that you were dealing with.  This is especially problematic for creative people and those who seem to be naturally prone to worrying.   So instead, make sure that you finish all business of the day at least one hour before bedtime; leaving that hour for you to follow the next tip in creating a bedtime routine.
  1. Establish a steady bedtime routine.  As young children, we know that a routine helps to train our brain that it is time to sleep, but as adults we seem to forget how useful this can be.  But by creating a regular routine for yourself, your body, and your brain, get into the habit of taking cues that it is time to sleep.  Good suggestions for creating your routine can be shutting down your computer, taking a bath, reading a short simple text, such as a magazine or collection of short essays, poems, or short stories.  Other ways to help you unwind and create a routine is to use that time before bed for various ways of pampering yourself; give yourself a manicure, use a massage pillow or soak your feet in a refreshing, vibrating foot bath to help you relax and shift your focus off of the day events so you do not have so much trouble shutting your brain off to sleep.
  1.  Meditate.  Learning to meditate is a great way to focus your mind and relax your body. Meditating can help you in shutting your brain off to sleep as well and relieve the stress and tension of the day helping you to relax especially if you meditation with visualization techniques that can carry you away from all the hustle and bustle of the day.
  1. Try aromatherapy.  Aromatherapy is another great way to help you calm your mind and get some sleep.  You can try candles, oil diffuser, aromatherapy pillows, or night time sprays that you can use to lightly mist your bed sheets with the great soothing scent of lavender and other essential oils blended to promote relaxation and help in shutting your brain off to sleep.
  1. Get rid of the environmental noise that can distract you and keep you awake.  Having the television or radio on is often a distraction from sleeping and can not only keep you awake but remind you of the issues that are the reasons that you are having trouble shutting your brain off to sleep in the first place.  For noise that you can not eliminate, such as street noise, mask it with natural sounds of the ocean or similar types of soothing sounds that can help you sleep.

So, if you are having trouble shutting your brain off to sleep, try these great suggestions to help you get a better night’s sleep.

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/08/bedtime-routine_n_5659183.html
  2. http://www.nosleeplessnights.com/sleep-hygiene/bedtime-routine-for-adults/

Oolong tea is good for brain health

The everyday beverages like coffee and tea are well-known mind stimulants- improve the mental alertness, wakefulness and help you feel energized.

What does the trick here?

For coffee, it is the caffeine. For tea, it is the synergistic effect of caffeine, polyphenolic antioxidants, and theanine. That’s why tea performs better than coffee when it comes to brain and cognitive health.

A review published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Ageing, June 2010 observed that regular consumption of tea, irrespective of the tea variety (black, green and oolong tea) reduces the risk of cognitive impairment in older Chinese adults. Coffee consumption didn’t bring any improvement in cognitive performance.

If all the tea varieties are good for your brain, then what is so special about oolong tea? Well, it has a perfect blend of decent health benefits with better taste. In simple terms, it is a hybrid of green tea and black tea.

Let us know Oolong tea

Oolong tea is a low-caffeine, traditional Chinese tea which is manufactured mainly in parts of China and Taiwan.All kinds of teas (black, green and oolong) are manufactured from the leaves of a common plant- Camellia Sinensis. The degree of oxidation (fermentation) varies during the tea manufacturing procedure. The black tea is highly oxidized whereas the green tea goes unoxidized. The oolong tea lies in between- it is partially (semi) oxidized. That’s why it holds the health benefits related to green tea, but, with a mild, earthy taste. Unlike the green tea, it doesn’t taste grassy or bitter.

The oolong tea contributes only 2% of the total tea production whereas green tea is 20%. But, it is catching up very fast because of the taste advantage.In recent times, there has been a steep rise in its popularity. The habitual coffee and black tea drinkers find its taste more appreciable and easy to adapt to in comparison to green tea.

Oolong tea is good for Brain health

Let us discuss how the various nutrients in oolong tea make your brain work better

  • Theanine (L-theanine)

It is a natural amino acid with potent psycho-protective properties. It relaxes the mind by inhibiting the overproduction of cortisol (stress hormone) without inducing drowsiness.

Stress and anxiety can spike the blood pressure levels by stimulating the central nervous system to release vasoconstricting hormones in excess. In a case study reported in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology, Oct 2012- it was observed that theanine and caffeine, both can help reduce stress and ensure a small increase in blood pressure level while dealing with physical and psychological stressful conditions. However, theanine performed better than caffeine.

  • Antioxidants

The phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in oolong tea act as antioxidants. They neutralize the free radicals in your body to prevent oxidative damage. As the brain utilizes around 20% of all the oxygen that you breathe in it is most susceptible to be damaged by the oxidative stress caused by free radicals. The polyphenolic antioxidants, particularly ECGCs and catechins can help halt this process.

Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound in leaves and seeds of various plants. The various food sources of caffeine are coffee, tea, soda, soft drinks, energy drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine, within the safety limit, is good for your health. It stimulates the central nervous system to lift the mood, improve concentration and alertness and reduces fatigue.

Caffeine content in Oolong tea

As noted above, overconsumption of caffeine can be troublesome. The possible damaging effects of excessive caffeine intake are:

  • Body dehydration
  • Acidic body pH
  • Gut irritation and worsening of gut issues like acid reflux, bowel inflammation, and leaky gut
  • Insomnia

According to the latest guidelines of the European Food Safety Authority, the safety limit of daily caffeine intake is 400 mg for normal, healthy adults. One cup of brewed coffee contains around 100-120 mg of caffeine. Hence, 2-3 cups of brewed coffee everyday are quite a safe bet.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute, caffeine content in oolong tea is almost one-fourth that of brewed coffee, when consumed in the same amount. Also, various commercially available brands of oolong tea and green tea contain similar amounts of caffeine.

How much to drink

Consume 3 cups of oolong tea everyday for optimum results, preferably one hour after the meals. Do not drink it empty stomach in the morning or before the breakfast because it can cause stomach upset. Also, avoid drinking it late at night to avoid sleep disturbance.

How to make oolong tea

Take a teaspoonful (2 grams) of oolong tea in a cup and pour 6-8 ounces of boiled water over it. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes, strain the tea and your refreshing oolong tea is ready. For convenience, some people refer tea bags instead of loose tea leaves.

Take away message

The unique brain boosters like theanine and ECGC team up with caffeine for improved brain functioning. It is a low-caffeine elixir with health benefits similar to green tea. Despite the widespread health benefits of green tea, many habitual coffee (and black tea) drinkers find it hard to switch over to it because of its taste. For them, oolong tea seems a perfect alternative.

Author bio

This post is submitted by Ashish Agarwal. Check his blog- Health Melody to know more about the health benefits of Oolong tea.