Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Brain Imaging Shows Overlap Between Emotional Pain And Physical Pain

Heart-ache can be a literal thing, as well as a metaphor for all those weepy, jilted-lover torch songs.

Consensus thinking in the peer-review literature is that the parts of one’s brain responsible for physical pain, the dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insula, also underlie emotional pain.

Researchers at Columbia University in New York recruited 40 people who’d recently ended a romantic relationship, put them in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, and recorded their reactions to physical and then emotional pain.

Physical pain was created by heating the person’s left forearm, compared to having the arm merely warmed. Emotional pain was created by looking at pictures of the former partner and remembering the breakup, compared to when looking at a photo of a friend.

The fMRI scans showed physical and emotional pain overlapped in the dorsal anterior cingulate and anterior insula, with overlapping increases in thalamus and right parietal opercular/insular cortex in the right side of the brain (opposite to the left arm).

The theory is that Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Kids With Dyslexia: Predicting Their Reading Skills With MRI

An international team of researchers has developed a rather reliable test that predicts the future improvement of reading abilities in kids with dyslexia. The method uses functional MRI (fMRI) and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) to scan the brain, and data crunching software to interpret the data. The researchers hope that the finding will help parents and therapists uniquely identify which learning tools are best for each child.

From the announcement by Vanderbilt University :

The 45 children who took part in the study ranged in age from 11 to 14 years old. Each child first took a battery of tests to determine their reading abilities. Based on these tests, the researchers classified 25 children as having dyslexia, which means that they exhibited significant difficulty learning to read despite having typical intelligence, vision and hearing and access to typical reading instruction.

During the fMRI scan, the youths were shown pairs of printed words and asked to identify pairs that rhymed, even though they might be spelled differently. The researchers investigated activity patterns in a brain area on the right side of the head, near the temple, known as the right inferior frontal gyrus, noting that some of the children with dyslexia activated this area much more than others. DTI scans of these same children revealed stronger connections in the right superior longitudinal fasciculus, a network of brain fibers linking the front and rear of brain. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

The Musician’s Brain On MRI

Dr. Charles Limb is an otolaryngologist, and he’s also on the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. Wanting to study creativity on the neurological level, he used fMRI to scan the brains of musicians while improvising along with them. Here he describes the experiment, including the building of an MRI-compatible electronic keyboard:

Link @ TED…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

“I Smell (Health) Trouble”

I was surfing around the Net one day and I found this article about scientists who are creating a machine that will detect acetone in someone’s breath. Acetone can be a sign that someone suffers from diabetes, so in theory this machine could use scent to diagnose this disease.

That story brought to mind other stories I’ve heard about people using dogs to sniff out cancer in people. According to this article:

“The results of the study showed that dogs can detect breast and lung cancer with sensitivity and specificity between 88% and 97%. The high accuracy persisted even after results were adjusted to take into account whether the lung cancer patients were currently smokers. Moreover, the study also confirmed that the trained dogs could even detect the early stages of lung cancer, as well as early breast cancer.”

People have even tried “smelling” schizophrenia. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

MRI Of The Female Orgasm

6774nnd.jpgScientists at Rutgers University are studying the female orgasm using functional MRI (fMRI).

During the experiment, women masturbate with the help of a dildo inside the fMRI machine so the team can study which areas of the brain are activated by arousal.

First they map the cervix, uterus, and clitoris to regions of the brain to create a sort of sexual homunculus. Then the women get ten minutes to stimulate to an orgasm, which is signaled to the researchers by raising a hand. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »