Tuesday, May 4, 2010

News Briefs: May 4, 2010

Survey Reveals Increased Chocolate Consumption among the Depressed
Priya Larson

A new study supports the notion that clinically depressed people eat more chocolate than those who are not clinically depressed. The conclusions were based on a survey that assigned individuals with a score on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, where a score above 15 indicated clinical depression. Participants were also asked to report how often they consumed chocolate. On average, individuals with depression consumed 8.4 servings of chocolate per month, and individuals with scores above 21, or probable major depression, consumed 11.8 servings. People who screened negative for depression consumed only 5.4 servings per month.

Because the study is based on survey results and not a controlled experiment, the study’s authors could assume no causal relationship between depression and chocolate consumption. However, the association between depression scores and consumption was statistically significant for both genders. The authors suggested several reasons for this association, including motives to self-medicate using chocolate, chocolate cravings for non-depression-related reasons, and other physiological factors that could instigate cravings or depression.

Reference: Bankhead, Charles. (2010, April 26). Depression and Chocolate: Self-Medication or Perpetuation. MedPage Today. Retrieved May 1, 2010 from http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/Depression/19765.

Image: Available here.

Auditory Processing Disorder can Lead to Decreased Academic Performance
Yang (Karen) Chen

A disorder known as auditory processing disorder (APD) is recently getting some overdue attention, thanks to talk-show host Rosie O’Donnell and her 10-year-old son, Blake, who has APD. Symptoms of auditory processing disorder include trouble paying attention and following directions, low academic performance, behavior problems and poor reading and vocabulary. It is a poorly understood syndrome that interferes with the brain’s ability to recognize and interpret sounds. Gail Chermak, an expert on speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University, says it’s been estimated that 2 to 5 percent of children have the disorder and likely that many cases have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Children with APD can hear perfectly well but have trouble distinguishing between sounds. Words such as “tangerine” and “tambourine,” “bed” and “dead,” may sound the same. They often have trouble filtering out other sounds. For example, the teacher’s voice, a chair scraping the floor and crinkling paper are all heard at the same sound level. Blake’s brain struggled to retain the words he heard, leading to a limited vocabulary and trouble with reading and spelling. Abstract language, metaphors like “cover third base,” even “knock-knock” jokes, were confusing and frustrating. Lois Kam Heymann, the speech pathologist and auditory therapist, suggests that the solution is often a comprehensive approach, at school and at home. Dampening unwanted noise can be accomplished by placing strips of felt or tennis balls on the legs of chairs and desks. Parents can work to simplify language and avoid metaphors and abstract references.

APD disorder can affect a child’s world, as it cuts them off from society and interactions with others. O’Donnell emphasizes it is most important to diagnose the disorder early on in order to treat it.

Reference: Parker-Pope, Tara. (2010, April 26). Little-Known Disorder Can Take a Toll on Learning. The New York Times. Retrieved April 29, 2010 from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/26/little-known-disorder-can-take-a-toll-on-learning/?ref=health.

Addition to Chemotherapy Helps Survival Rate of Pancreatic Cancer
Virginia Saurman

Data from a small phase I clinical trial shows that pancreatic cancer patients given an insulin growth factor (IGF) inhibitor combined with chemotherapy resulted in durable responses beyond one year. According to Rachna Schoff, MD of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center of Houston, this data shows that “for a subset of patients, IGF-1 receptor is integral to pancreatic cancer.” IGF type 1 receptor (IGF-1R) initiates signaling pathways involved in the pathogenesis and pathophysiology of pancreatic and other cancers: MEK/Erk and PI-3Kinase/Akt. MK-0646 is a human antibody against IGF-R1 that leads to the receptor’s internalization and subsequent degradation. Preclinical studies have shown that IGF-1R signaling increases the efficiency of chemotherapeutic drug. For this study, of the six patients who had partial responses, the shortest that was 14 weeks. The remaining five patients had response durations of 32 to more than 59 weeks.

Reference: Bankhead, Charles. (2010, April 26). AACR: Durable Responses Seen In Pancreatic Cancer. MedPage Today. Retrieved May 1, 2010 from http://www.medpagetoday.com/HematologyOncology/OtherCancers/19758

Eriene-Heidi Sidhom is the 2009-2010 News and Analysis Editor.
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