- 2019Dec 11
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedicalXpress.
A new Northwestern University study shows that, in the absence of injury, athletes across a variety of sports—including football, soccer, and hockey—have healthier brains than non-athletes.
"No one would argue against the fact that sports lead to better physical fitness, but we don't always think of brain fitness and sports," said senior author Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Communication Sciences and Neurobiology and director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory (Brainvolts). "We're saying that playing sports can tune the brain to better understand one's sensory environment."
Athletes have an enhanced ability to tamp down background electrical noise in their brain to better process external sounds, such as a teammate yelling a play or a coach calling to them from the sidelines, according to the study of nearly 1,000 participants, including approximately 500 Northwestern Division I athletes.
The study examined the brain health of 495 female and male Northwestern student athletes and 493 age- and sex-matched control subjects.
Kraus and her collaborators delivered speech syllables to study participants through earbuds and recorded the brain's activity with scalp electrodes. The team analyzed the ratio of background noise to the response to the speech sounds by looking at how big the response to sound was relative to the background noise. Athletes had larger responses to sound than non-athletes, the study showed.
Like athletes, musicians and those who can speak more than one language also have an enhanced ability to hear incoming sound signals, Kraus said. However, musicians' and multilinguals' brains do so by turning up the sound in their brains versus turning down the background noise in their brains.
The study was published in the journal Sports Health.
"A serious commitment to physical activity seems to track with a quieter nervous system," Kraus said. "And perhaps, if you have a healthier nervous system, you may be able to better handle injury or other health problems."
- 2019Dec 10
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
An epidemic of vaping by American teenagers shows no signs of stopping, with 2019 data finding more than a quarter (27.5%) of high school students using e-cigarettes.
The rate was somewhat lower, but still troubling, among middle school kids -- about 1 in every 10 vaped, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And just as happens with traditional cigarettes, the nicotine found in e-cigarettes can hook teens for a lifetime, with uncertain results for their health.
"Our nation's youth are becoming increasingly exposed to nicotine, a drug that is highly addictive and can harm brain development," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an agency news release.
There was a small bit of good news from the new 2019 data: Only 5.8% of high school kids and 2.3% of middle school students smoke traditional cigarettes.
But when all sources of nicotine -- vaping, cigarettes, pipes, cigars, hookah and smokeless tobacco -- are added up, about 1 in every 3 high school students (4.7 million) and about 1 in 8 middle school students (1.5 million) use some kind of tobacco-derived product, the CDC said.
For the sixth year in a row, e-cigarettes were the most widely used tobacco product among high school and middle school students, the report found.
But there was one glimmer of hope: The new report found that almost 58% of current middle and high school students who use tobacco products said they were seriously thinking about quitting all tobacco products, and 57.5% said they'd stopped using all tobacco products for one or more days because they were trying to quit.
The new data was published Dec. 5, 2019, in the CDC's journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
- 2019Dec 09
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on ScienceDaily.
Sleep problems, fatigue and attention difficulties in the weeks after a child's concussion injury could be a sign of reduced brain function and decreased grey matter.
Researchers from The University of Queensland have studied persistent concussion symptoms and their link to poorer recovery outcomes in children.
UQ Child Health Research Centre Research Fellow Dr. Kartik Iyer said information from the study could help parents and doctors assess the risk of long-term disability.
"In the MRI scans of children with persistent concussion symptoms, poor sleep was linked to decreases in brain grey matter and reduced brain function," Dr. Iyer said.
"Identifying decreases in brain function can allow us to predict if a child will recover properly.
"This knowledge can help clinicians ensure a child receives targeted rehabilitation such as cognitive behavior therapy, medication to improve sleep, or safe and new emerging therapies such as non-invasive brain stimulation to potentially reduce symptoms."
Researchers were able to predict with 86 percent accuracy how decreases in brain function impacted recovery two months post-concussion.
"Generally, children with persistent concussion symptoms will have alterations to their visual, motor and cognitive brain regions but we don't have a clear understanding of how this develops and how it relates to future recovery," Dr. Iyer said.
"It can have a serious impact on their return to normal activities, including time away from school, difficulties with memory and attentiveness, disturbances to sleeping habits and changes to mood -- all of which affect healthy brain development."
Most children recover fully after a concussion, but one in 10 has persistent symptoms.
"It is critical that children who receive a head injury see a doctor and get professional medical advice soon after their injury has occurred," he said.