Never before have we experienced social isolation on a massive scale as we have during the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. A new paper explores the wide-ranging, negative consequences that social isolation has on our psychological well-being and physical health, including decreased life span. Loneliness directly impairs the immune system, making us less resistant to diseases and infections. Indeed, feeling lonely and having few friends can result in a particularly poor immune defence.
The brain uses a mathematical system to organize visual objects according to their principal components, researchers at Caltech have found. The work shows that the brain contains a two-dimensional map of cells representing different objects. The location of each cell in this map is determined by the principal components (or features) of its preferred objects; for example, cells that respond to round, curvy objects like faces and apples are grouped together, while cells that respond to spiky objects like helicopters or chairs form another group.
Scientists from the University of Nottingham developed an initial prototype of a new generation of brain scanner in 2018 which is a lightweight device that can be worn on the head like a hat, and can scan the brain even whilst a patient moves. Their latest research has now expanded this to a fully functional 49 channel device that can be used to scan the whole brain and track electrophysiological processes that are implicated in a number of mental health problems.
Persistently engaging in negative thinking patterns may raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, research led by University College London reports. In the study of people aged over 55, researchers found that repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is linked to subsequent cognitive decline as well as the deposition of harmful brain proteins linked to Alzheimer’s. “Depression and anxiety in mid-life and old age are already known to be risk factors for dementia.
Hundreds of published studies over the last decade have claimed it’s possible to predict an individual’s patterns of thoughts and feelings by scanning their brain in an MRI machine as they perform some mental tasks. But a new analysis by some of the researchers who have done the most work in this area finds that those measurements are highly suspect when it comes to drawing conclusions about any individual person’s brain.
A small, phase II, randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled study to evaluate the impact of low doses of nilotinib in Alzheimer’s disease finds that it is safe and well-tolerated. The researchers, from Georgetown University Medical Center, say the drug should be tested in a larger study to further determine its safety and efficacy as a potential disease-modifying strategy. Nilotinib is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia.
Clinical trials are under way around the world, including in Australia, testing COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. These clinical trials largely fall into two groups. With observational studies, researchers follow a group of people to see what happens to them. With experimental studies, people are assigned to treatments, then followed. These study designs have come about from centuries of people trying out different ways of treating people. Here are some of the key moments in the history of clinical trials that led to the type of trials we see today for COVID-19.
New insights into how excitement, anticipation and dread factor into people’s decision-making are reported on in research from the University of British Columbia. When it’s time to schedule a vacation, most people will do it right away. But when it comes to booking a root canal, some people will procrastinate while others will put it at the top of their to-do list. “This stems from the phenomenon known as ‘the sign effect’.