Medical News Today: Major study finds ‘no evidence’ that cannabis relieves chronic pain

A large study stretching over a 4-year period challenges popular beliefs, as it finds “no evidence” that cannabis use improves the symptoms of chronic pain.

cannabis leaf on wooden background
Rather than improving them, cannabis may worsen symptoms of chronic pain, suggests a new study.

More and more people are taking prescription opioids for pain management, making the phenomenon “an emerging public health concern globally.”

Of all the countries in the world, North America has the “proportionally highest” use of prescription opioids.

Due to opioids’ side effects and highly addictive nature, researchers and patients alike are now turning to medical marijuana, or cannabis, as a potentially safer alternative.

In particular, managing chronic pain that is not related to cancer is the most commonly reported reason for marijuana’s medical use — at least in the United States.

Also, among those prescribed opioids for chronic pain management, the hope is that cannabis would help them to reduce the prescription drugs.

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However, clinical evidence in support of cannabis’s benefits for managing chronic non-cancer pain has been scarce or controversial. There is a lack of long-term randomized clinical trials, and of studies testing if cannabis use indeed reduces the need for opioids.

But now, the Pain and Opioids IN Treatment study rectifies this by analyzing the effects of cannabis use over a period of 4 years in a sample of over 1,500 participants with chronic non-cancer pain.

The study — which is one of the largest of its kind — is now published in the journal Lancet Public Health.

Gabrielle Campbell, Ph.D. — from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia — is the lead author of the paper.

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Studying cannabis and chronic pain

Campbell and team analyzed the effect of cannabis use on the pain severity of people with chronic non-cancer pain who had been taking prescription opioids. The extent to which the pain continued to interfere with their daily lives was also assessed.

They examined the people’s reasons for cannabis use and how effective they perceived cannabis to be.

The scientists also looked at the links between cannabis dose and pain, as well as any associations between cannabis dose and the participants’ mental health. Finally, the “potential opioid-sparing effects of cannabis” were also examined.

The participants completed interviews at the beginning of the study and were followed up on with phone interviews or questionnaires every year until the end of the study.

Interviews included questions regarding the frequency of cannabis use in the past year and in the past month, as well as questions about feelings of depression and anxiety.

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‘No evidence’ that cannabis reduces pain

Although cannabis use was common in the study sample, the researchers found “no evidence that cannabis use improved patient outcomes.”

Campbell and team found “no evidence of a temporal relationship between cannabis use and pain severity,” nor did they find any link with the extent to which pain interfered with the participants’ daily lives.

In fact, the opposite was revealed. “People who used cannabis had greater pain and lower self-efficacy in managing pain.” Despite this, says the study’s lead author, the patients reported “perceived benefits from cannabis use.”

Finally, no evidence was found “that cannabis use reduced prescribed opioid use or increased rates of opioid discontinuation.” The study authors conclude:

As cannabis use for medicinal purposes increases globally, it is important that large well-designed clinical trials, which include people with complex comorbidities, are conducted to determine the efficacy of cannabis for chronic non-cancer pain.”

“Chronic non-cancer pain is a complex problem,” adds Campbell. “For most people, there is unlikely to be a single effective treatment,” she concludes.

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Medical News Today: Diabetes risk increased in women who work long hours

Women who work 45 hours or more each week may be upping their risk of diabetes, new research finds. Men who work the same number of hours, however, are not affected.
Woman working late
A new study uncovers the risks associated with long working hours.

While prior research has suggested a link between a long work week and an increased risk of diabetes, most of these studies focused on men.

Interestingly, this recent research seems to find the opposite effect in males: the longer the work week, the lower the incidence of diabetes.

For women who work 45 hours per week or more, though, their risk was considerably higher.

When compared with women who work 35–40 hours each week, they had a 63 percent higher risk of developing diabetes.

The authors of the new study, which was published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, looked at data from the 2003 Canadian Community Health survey, which included respondents aged 35–74.

They also looked at the Ontario Health Insurance Plan database for physician services, as well as the Canadian Institute for Health Information Discharge Abstract Database for hospital admissions.

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In all, over 7,000 Canadian employees were included in the research. As well as looking at hours worked, the researchers also included other factors in their analysis, such as: sex, marital status, parenthood, ethnicity, place of birth, place of residence, long-term health conditions, lifestyle, weight, and body mass index (BMI).

They also considered unique workplace factors, such as shift work and the type of job the respondents did — for instance, whether it was predominantly active or sedentary.

Overall, the risk of diabetes was “only slightly reduced” when factors such as smoking and alcohol levels were considered.

While the researchers could not establish a definitive cause and effect from these data, they note that encouraging women to work fewer hours may be a key component of reducing the number of diabetes cases.

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The shape of diabetes

Diabetes is a widespread issue around the world and impacts many lives. When someone has diabetes, their body does not utilize insulin properly; the pancreas increases production of the hormone until it can no longer keep up with the body’s demands.

This leads to higher-than-normal blood glucose levels and can eventually cause a wide range of problems throughout the body.

The American Diabetes Association say that over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 7 million of these individuals are unaware of it.

Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and, each year, doctors discover 1.5 million new cases. Worldwide, this number jumps to 425 million adults, with half remaining undiagnosed.

Diabetes prevention and management, then, are an essential facet of public health. Studies such as this one can help doctors to create guidelines that can positively impact the health of their patients and lead to fewer cases of diabetes down the road.

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Limitations and next steps

Although the records used in this study did not distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is estimated that type 1 diabetes accounts for around 5 percent of cases among those aged 18 or over, so most of these cases were likely to be type 2.

In the future, if further studies agree with these findings, healthcare providers may recommend that women work 40 hours per week or under.

The study authors write, “Considering the rapid and substantial increase of diabetes prevalence in Canada and worldwide, identifying modifiable risk factors such as long work hours is of major importance to improve prevention and orient policy making, as it could prevent numerous cases of diabetes and diabetes-related chronic diseases.”

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Medical News Today: Using cell metabolism to battle cancer

By focusing on how cancer stem cells metabolize, researchers may have uncovered a new way to defeat them: by attacking their energy supply.
Stem cell research laboratory
Tinkering with cell metabolism could help to stop cancer stem cells.

Drug resistance is a sizable problem for cancer treatment. Medications that might initially work will soon become ineffective.

Scientists from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center in Ann Arbor are focusing on how cancer stem cells fit into this problem.

Cancer stem cells are a small subpopulation of the cells in a tumor. Like standard stem cells, they are able to give rise to a range of cell types.

They are thought to play a vital role in cancer relapse and metastases because they are usually left untouched by standard chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

As lead study author Dr. Max S. Wicha claims, “When we use targeted therapies, they often only work for a certain period of time, and then the cancer becomes resistant. A lot of that resistance is from the cancer stem cells. They change form to evade the targeted therapy.”

Because of this shape-shifting ability, Dr. Wicha concludes that “we’re going to need multiple stem cell therapies to attack multiple forms of stem cells.”

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Cancer cell metabolism

In his latest experiment, Dr. Wicha analyzed how cancer stem cells metabolize, looking for chinks in their armor. The results were recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Researchers previously demonstrated that cancer stem cells are flexible and can switch between different states: one wherein they remain dormant and another in which they grow rapidly. This ability to switch helps cancer to thrive and spread.

Metabolism is particularly key when the stem cell transitions from one state to another, making it a potential target for cancer treatment. When the cells are in their dormant phase, they require glucose, but when they become active and start dividing, they rely on fuel provided by mitochondria, which are reliant on oxygen.

In order to disarm this metabolic switch, Dr. Wicha and team used a two-pronged approach. Firstly, they used an arthritis drug, which blocks mitochondria, and secondly, they manipulated glucose to block that pathway.

Rather than just try to use toxic chemicals to kill a cell, we use the metabolism of the cell itself to kill the cancer.”

Dr. Max S. Wicha

Using this double-headed attack, the scientists managed to knock out stem cells in a mouse model of breast cancer. Though this work is in its early stages, and there are lot of outstanding questions around cancer stem cells in general, these results are encouraging.

Because recent studies have found links between metabolism and the immune system, the authors of this study see a future where immunotherapies might be combined with a metabolic approach to improve outcomes even further.

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Medical News Today: Does a nut-rich diet lead to better sperm quality?

Sperm count is on the decline in Western societies, according to recent studies, which means that men’s reproductive health is suffering. How can it be improved? A healthful diet that is abounding in nuts might help, researchers suggest.
a handful of mixed nuts
Male reproductive health has been facing a steep decline. Will it help to simply…eat more nuts?

In 2017, a large meta-analysis focusing on men’s reproductive health in Western countries found that sperm concentration, as well as sperm count, have been steadily on the decline throughout the past 30 or so years.

This means that male fertility has been dropping at a worrying rate, and it is important to find solutions to counteract this situation.

Recently, research led by a team at the Human Nutrition Unit of the Universitat Rovira i Virgil in Reus, Spain, suggested that what men include — or fail to include — in their diets on a daily basis could significantly affect the quality of the sperm that they produce.

The investigators note that environmental factors such as “pollution, smoking, and trends toward a Western-style diet” may be partly to blame for the apparent male fertility crisis.

The recent project was a randomized controlled study that looked, specifically, at the effect of nut consumption on sperm health.

The results were presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology‘s annual meeting, held in Barcelona, Spain, by study author Dr. Albert Salas-Huetos.

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More nuts, better sperm?

Dr. Salas-Huertos and his colleagues worked with 119 healthy male participants, aged 18–35. For the purpose of this study, the volunteers were randomly split into two groups.

One group was asked to add a handful of nuts — 60 grams per day of a comination of hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts — to their regular Western-style diet. Those in the second group simply followed their usual Western-style diet, without worrying about consuming nuts.

To compare, sperm and blood samples were collected from all participants — both at the beginning and at the end of this experiment.

At the end of the trial period, the scientists noticed that the participants who had followed the nut-enriched diet had significantly improved sperm quality.

More specifically, these participants had a 16 percent higher sperm count, a 4 percent higher sperm vitality (that is, the amount of live, healthy sperm cells found in semen), a 6 percent improvement in sperm motility (or sperm cells’ ability to move), and a 1 percent improvement in sperm morphology (which is the cells’ normal, healthy, size and shape).

Importantly, the men who ate a handful of mixed nuts daily showed less sperm DNA fragmentation at the end of the trial, meaning that genetic integrity was better preserved in these participants’ semen samples.

When sperm DNA is too fragmented, fertility is reduced, or it could make a miscarriage more likely to occur.

These findings, note Dr. Salas-Huertos and colleagues, “support a beneficial role for chronic nut consumption in sperm quality.”

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‘A healthful diet may aid conception’

The researchers explain that these improvements could be thanks to the fact that nuts are rich in important nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and omega-3.

However, the investigators explain that it is hard to say that nuts alone are the answer to better male fertility.

We can’t yet say that, based solely on the results of this study. But evidence is accumulating in the literature that healthy lifestyle changes such as following a healthy dietary pattern might help conception — and of course, nuts are a key component of a Mediterranean healthy diet.”

Dr. Albert Salas-Huetos

Also, the researchers explain that the study was conducted in a young, healthy male cohort, so any generalizations should be avoided until further research is conducted in a more diverse population.

Finally, the study was funded by the International Nut and Dried Food Council, so it did not aim to assess the impact of other foods and nutrients on male reproductive health.

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Medical News Today: Strong link found between air pollution and diabetes

A new study, designed to estimate the harmful effects of poor air quality, revealed a significant correlation between diabetes and pollution levels. The conclusion, the authors hope, will help to shape future guidelines.
Factories air pollution
The link between diabetes and air pollution grows stronger.

Air pollution and diabetes are responsible for millions of death globally.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution can lead to lung cancer, respiratory infection, stroke, and even heart disease.

Air pollution is a global issue, but low-income cities are the most affected.

The air quality database — which was updated in 2018 — shows that more than 80 percent of people who live in urban areas breathe air that does not meet the WHO guidelines.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body’s ability to produce the hormone insulin is reduced, leading to high blood sugar levels. Diabetes can be treated, but complications can lead to kidney failure, heart disease, and stroke.

Data from the WHO show that in 2014, 8.5 percent of adults developed diabetes, and that in 2015, this health condition resulted in 1.6 million deaths.

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Diabetes and air pollution

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO — in collaboration with the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri — found a strong link between air pollution and diabetes.

This could help to bring new awareness of the harmful effects of poor air quality. The study was published recently in The Lancet Planetary Health.

For the study, the team of scientists analyzed the impact of pollution on a group of United States veterans with no previous history of diabetes.

They followed these participants for a median of 8.5 years. They used a variety of models, which they tested against other parameters, such as ambient air sodium concentrations and lower limb fractures.

The researchers used these additional variables — which are not associated with diabetes or air pollution — to eliminate the chances of measuring a false relationship.

Based on these analyses, they estimate that globally, air pollution contributed to around 3.2 million cases of diabetes and the loss of 8.2 million years of healthy life in 2016. This last figure represents about “14 percent of all years of healthy life lost due to diabetes” due to all causes.

Our research shows a significant link between air pollution and diabetes globally. We found an increased risk, even at low levels of air pollution currently considered safe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the WHO.”

Senior author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly

He goes on, “This is important because many industry lobbying groups argue that current levels are too stringent and should be relaxed. Evidence shows that current levels are still not sufficiently safe and need to be tightened.”

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How does pollution lead to diabetes?

The exact mechanism behind the relationship between air pollution and diabetes has not yet been proven. However, scientists know that some pollutants — once they have been breathed in — can enter the bloodstream and interact with tissues and organs.

These interactions ultimately disrupt the body, and, among other things, may alter insulin sensitivity and production.

It is important to note that the risk of pollution-related diabetes is higher in lower-income countries that lack clean air policies, such as India, China, and Indonesia, while more wealthy countries, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, have a lower risk.

The study findings suggest that the risk of diabetes rises dramatically between the lowest possible exposure levels and the EPA guidelines for air quality standards.

In other words, even at levels that are officially deemed “safe,” the risk is still significant. In October 2017, the Lancet Commission on pollution and health published a report highlighting the harmful effects of pollution.

This new study, which aimed to find new evidence, uncovered proof that pollution can have an even greater impact on health, possibly leading to the development of diabetes.

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Medical News Today: You may be partly conscious under general anesthesia

A new study explores the question, “Is consciousness fully lost during anesthesia, or is it preserved in a different state?” The answer may surprise anesthesiologists and patients alike.
image of person receiving anesthesia
New research suggests that our brains continue to process information under general anesthesia.

Consciousness appears to be more persistent than we think.

Not only is it present in near-death experiences, but recent studies suggest that it also survives our death — at least for 2–20 seconds.

Now, a new study conducted by an international research team suggests that general anesthesia may not be as…general as we might think.

In fact, the research suggests that parts of our consciousness stay “awake” during the procedure.

The team was jointly led by Dr. Harry Scheinin, docent of pharmacology and anesthesiologist at the University of Turku in Finland, and Antti Revonsuo, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Skövde in Sweden and a professor of psychology at the University of Turku.

The findings were published in the journal Anesthesiology.

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Studying the brain under anesthesia

Dr. Scheinin and colleagues randomly assigned 47 healthy volunteers to receive either propofol or dexmedetomidine.

The drugs were administered gradually until the participants were no longer responsive, achieving a “presumable loss of consciousness.”

At one point during this gradual process, “an attempt was made to arouse the participant to regain responsiveness while keeping the drug infusion constant.”

During the anesthesia, all of the participants were played “congruent and incongruent” sentences.

Congruent sentences ended as expected, whereas incongruent ones did not. For example, the sentence, “The night sky was filled with shimmering tomatoes” is incongruent.

Their brain activity was monitored using both electroencephalogram (EEG) and positron emission tomography.

Normally, during wakefulness, an EEG registers a spike in brain activity when a person hears an incongruent ending to a sentence. But, the researchers discovered that something interesting takes place in the brain when under general anesthesia.

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The brain processes sound under anesthesia

Study co-author Katja Valli, a senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Skövde, explains.

“When we used dexmedetomidine,” she notes, “also the expected words created a significant response, meaning that the brain was trying to interpret the meaning of the words.”

“However, after the participants woke from the anesthesia, they did not remember the sentences they had heard and the results were the same with both drugs.”

Additionally, the researchers tested whether or not the participants’ brains processed sounds that were not words. The volunteers were all played a range of unpleasant sounds while under, and they were played the same sounds again after they had regained consciousness.

EEG results showed that their brains reacted more quickly to the unpleasant sounds that they’d been played while under anesthesia than to new sounds that they’d never heard, suggesting familiarity with the sounds.

In other words, the brain can process sounds and words even though the subject did not recall it afterwards. Against common belief, anesthesia does not require full loss of consciousness, as it is sufficient to just disconnect the patient from the environment.”

Dr. Harry Scheinin

The findings echo those of previous studies, and the researchers explain what makes the protocol of this study particularly solid.

They say that using constant infusion both during semi-wakefulness and under anesthesia allowed the scientists to discern the effects of the drugs from other potentially confounding effects.

So far, this has been an obstacle to fully understanding whether anesthesia causes a complete loss of consciousness or not.

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Medical News Today: ‘Skinny fat’ linked to cognitive decline, study warns

Sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass, tends to happen naturally with age. So, in older people with sarcopenia, excess body fat may not be readily visible. But hidden fat, paired with muscle mass loss later in life, could predict Alzheimer’s risk, researchers warn.
mature woman looking out the window
Sarcopenic obesity may exacerbate the risk of cognitive decline later in life, warn researchers.

A recent study — the results of which have been published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging — has found that sarcopenia and obesity (independently, but especially when occurring together) can heighten the risk of cognitive function impairments later in life.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“Sarcopenia,” explains senior study author Dr. James Galvin, “has been linked to global cognitive impairment and dysfunction in specific cognitive skills including memory, speed, and executive functions.”

Understanding the mechanisms through which this syndrome may affect cognition is important as it may inform efforts to prevent cognitive decline in later life by targeting at-risk groups with an imbalance between lean and fat mass.”

Dr. James Galvin

“They may benefit from programs addressing loss of cognitive function by maintaining and improving strength and preventing obesity,” he adds.

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Beware sarcopenic obesity

The scientists analyzed health-related data collected from 353 participants — aged 69, on average — all of whom registered to take part in community-based studies on aging and memory.

To establish whether or not there was a link between sarcopenic obesity — that is, the presence of excess body fat in conjunction with muscle mass loss — and cognitive decline, the team assessed participants’ performance on tests evaluating cognitive function, including the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and animal-naming exercises.

Also, the participants’ muscle strength and mass were evaluated through grip strength tests and chair stands, and they also underwent body compositions assessments, which looked at muscle mass, body mass index (BMI), and the amount of body fat.

The researchers discovered that the participants with sarcopenic obesity had the poorest performance on cognition-related tests.

The next poorest performance on cognition tests was seen in people with sarcopenia alone, followed by participants who only had obesity.

Both when occurring independently and when occurring in concert, obesity and loss of muscle mass were linked with impaired working memory — which is the type of memory we use when making spontaneous decisions on a daily basis — as well as less mental flexibility, poorer orientation, and worse self-control.

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Keep changes in body composition in check

The scientists explain that obesity could exacerbate the risk of cognitive decline through biological mechanisms that influence vascular health, metabolism, and inflammation.

Moreover, they warn that in people who already face impaired executive functioning, obesity might also impact energy resources through poor self-control that affects nutrition.

As for sarcopenia, the researchers note that it could influence brain mechanisms related to conflict resolution skills and selective attention.

Based on the study’s findings, Dr. Galvin and his colleagues are particularly concerned that a mix of sarcopenia and excess body fat in older adults could become a serious public health issue, so they believe that any significant changes in body mass composition should be closely monitored to prevent negative health outcomes.

“Sarcopenia either alone or in the presence of obesity, can be used in clinical practice to estimate potential risk of cognitive impairment,” notes study co-author Magdalena Tolea.

But such health issues can be kept under control, and the risks associated with them averted, she suggests.

“Testing grip strength by dynamometry can be easily administered within the time constraints of a clinic visit, and body mass index is usually collected as part of annual wellness visits,” concludes Tolea.

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Medical News Today: Brain area that controls the pitch of human speech revealed

A new brain study locates the region of the brain responsible for our ability to change the pitch of our voice. The findings could help to create a more natural-sounding prosthetic voice box.
Speech brain illustration woman
Speech is a complex and uniquely human ability.

Humans have a voice box, or larynx, unlike any other primate.

As a species, we can produce fluid speech that can elicit an emotional response.

This is a godsend for the species in general, but it is a burden for individuals with problems with their larynx.

For those who are either born unable to talk or who lose their speech later in life, using a robotic device can only help so much.

Stephen Hawking and his voice synthesizer is one of the most notable cases of a human using a prosthetic voice box.

But though the physicist was able to speak any word in the dictionary, his machine could not place emphasis on certain words or give the impression that Hawking was asking a question rather than simply saying a statement.

A group of researchers has recognized the potential for a device that could give those without a functioning voice box a realistic-sounding voice.

The team — based at the University of California, San Francisco — has started the first steps toward such a discovery by determining which area of the brain is responsible for controlling pitch in human speech.

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The importance of pitch

Pitch allows us to convey mood or emphasis when speaking. High and low pitches are created by the vibration of vocal cords. These, in turn, are controlled by tension in the folds that comes from flexing muscles, causing a faster vibration.

The study, which was published in the journal Cell, aimed to see which brain areas were activated when different pitches were created. This could only be done by studying people’s brains as they speak in real time.

Luckily, senior author Dr. Edward F. Chang is a neurosurgeon who works with a number of epilepsy patients. Some of his patients’ brains are fitted with minuscule electrodes that can help to determine the origin of a seizure.

Using the same detection method, which is known as electrocorticography, the scientists recruited volunteers from this group of epilepsy patients.

They were all asked to repeat the following sentence: “I never said she stole my money.” Each time, participants were instructed to place emphasis on a different word in order to change the meaning of the sentence (and the pitch of their voice).

By closely studying brain activity, the team found that neurons in one particular brain area — the dorsal laryngeal motor cortex — were activated when pitch was altered. When the pitch became higher, the area showed more activity.

As well as examining activity, researchers also electrically stimulated neurons in this area. This caused the larynx muscles to flex and even prompted a vocal response in some patients.

Participants also experienced listening back to their own voices, which caused a response in the dorsal area.

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Developing prosthetics

The results could help scientists to figure out how the human brain manages to mimic the voices of others.

Of course, this will go some way toward explaining how the brains of impersonators work, but it has greater importance; it could help to engineer a prosthetic voice box that gives patients a natural voice, allowing them to speak in a more realistic and less monotonous way.

You’d really like a prosthetic to carry the emotional content of the speaker. It’s not enough to just capture the words because so much of what we communicate is how we say something.”

Lead author Benjamin Dichter

The researchers have not finished their work just yet. Along with studying how such a prosthesis could be developed, they are also looking into “reverse engineering” the brain’s pitch control.

This means attempting to predict which word is being emphasized just by studying the brain’s neural activity.

One thing is clear: there is a lot more to learn about the human voice.

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Medical News Today: What are the early symptoms of leukemia in children?

Many symptoms of leukemia in children are also symptoms of common, less serious childhood illnesses. Leukemia can be chronic, and the symptoms may develop slowly, or it can be acute, and the symptoms may appear very quickly.

Childhood leukemia also affects teens. It is the most common type of cancer in children under the age of 15, according to the National Cancer Institute in the United States. Around 4,000 children in the country are affected by leukemia each year.

Leukemia affects the blood cells. It causes white blood cells to develop in a person’s bone marrow. These then travel through the bloodstream and suppress the production of healthy blood cells.

A diagnosis of leukemia can be frightening, but survival rates continue to improve.

Common symptoms of childhood leukemia

If a child has any of the following symptoms, and a parent or caregiver suspects leukemia, it is essential to contact a doctor.

1. Anemia

Child in doctors office with parent.
A doctor should assess a child if they have symptoms of anemia.

Anemia occurs when the body has a shortage of red blood cells.

Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body, and if someone is not producing enough, they may experience:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • breathlessness
  • headaches
  • pale skin
  • feeling unusually cold

2. Frequent infections

Children with leukemia have a high white blood cell counts, but most of these cells are not functioning correctly. This is because abnormal cells are replacing healthy white blood cells.

White blood cells help to protect the body and fight off infections.

Recurrent and persistent infections can indicate that a child does not have enough healthy white blood cells.

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3. Bruising and bleeding

If a child bruises easily, experiences severe nosebleeds, or bleeds from the gums, this can point to leukemia.

A child with this type of cancer will have a lack of platelets that help to prevent bleeding.

4. Bone or joint pain

If a child seems to be in pain and complains that their bones or joints are sore or achy, this can indicate childhood leukemia.

When leukemia develops, the abnormal cells can collect inside joints or close to the surface of the bones.

5. Swelling

Child having arm inspected by doctor.
Swollen arms or lymph nodes might indicate leukemia.

In a child with leukemia, swelling can affect various parts of the body, including:

  • The abdomen, when abnormal cells collect in the liver and spleen
  • The face and arms, when pressure on a vein called the superior vena cava causes blood to pool in the area
  • The lymph nodes, when a person notices small lumps forming on the sides of the neck, in the underarms, or on the collarbone

It is important to note that a child with swollen lymph nodes and no additional symptoms is more likely to have an infection than leukemia.

Also, tumors from other types of cancer are more likely to put pressure on the superior vena cava and lead to facial swelling. The swelling will be worse when a child wakes up, and it will improve during the day.

This is called superior vena cava syndrome, and it rarely occurs in cases of leukemia. However, it can be life-threatening, and it requires emergency care.

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6. Lack of appetite, stomachache, and weight loss

If leukemia cells have caused swelling in the liver, kidneys, or spleen, these organs can press against the stomach.

The result may be a feeling of fullness or discomfort, a lack of appetite, and subsequent weight loss.

7. Coughing or breathing difficulties

Leukemia can affect parts of the body in and around the chest, such as some lymph nodes or the thymus, a gland located between the lungs.

If these parts of the body swell, they can put pressure on the trachea and make breathing difficult.

Breathing difficulties can also occur if leukemia cells build up in the lung’s small blood vessels.

If a child is experiencing difficulty breathing, seek emergency care.

8. Headaches, vomiting, and seizures

If leukemia is affecting the brain or spinal cord, a child may experience:

  • headaches
  • weakness
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • difficulty concentrating
  • issues with balance
  • blurred vision

9. Skin rashes

Leukemia cells that spread to the skin can lead to the appearance of small, dark, rash-like spots. This collection of cells is called a chloroma or a granulocytic sarcoma, and it is very rare.

The bruising and bleeding that characterize leukemia can also cause tiny spots called petechiae to appear. These may also look like a rash.

10. Extreme fatigue

In rare cases, leukemia leads to very severe weakness and exhaustion that can result in slurred speech.

This occurs when leukemia cells collect in the blood, causing the blood to thicken. The blood may be so thick that circulation slows through small vessels in the brain.

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11. Feeling generally unwell

A child may not be able to describe their symptoms in detail, but they may appear to be generally ill.

When the cause of a child’s illness is unclear, make an appointment with a doctor.

Early signs of leukemia in children

Young boy child in doctor's office with mum and doctor.
Assessing signs of leukemia as early as possible may allow for prompt diagnosis and treatment.

The earliest signs of leukemia can be hard to spot.

They can also vary from child to child, not all children with leukemia show the symptoms listed above.

Early symptoms also depend on whether a child has acute or chronic leukemia. The symptoms of acute leukemia often appear quickly, and they may be more noticeable. Those of chronic leukemia may be milder and develop gradually over time.

If a parent or caregiver notices any of the symptoms above, it is best to take the child to a doctor as soon as possible. A prompt diagnosis can ensure that the child receives the right treatment quickly.

However, many of these symptoms are common and can indicate a range of illnesses. The doctor will perform various tests and assessments before making a diagnosis.

Outlook and takeaway

There are different types of childhood leukemia. A child’s outlook will depend on the type and a range of other factors.

Regardless, catching and treating leukemia early can improve the outcome. It is important for a parent or caregiver to discuss any concerns about a child’s health with a doctor as soon as possible.

Doctors can now treat many cases of childhood leukemia successfully. Methods of treatment are advancing, and survival rates for some forms of the disease continue to improve.

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Medical News Today: Pseudomonas infections: What to know

Pseudomonas infections are illnesses that occur due to the bacteria Pseudomonas. For many people, a Pseudomonas infection will only cause mild symptoms.

However, if a person is in a hospital or has a weakened immune system, the threat becomes very severe. In these situations, a Pseudomonas infection can be life-threatening.

The good news is that these infections are treatable, especially with an early diagnosis.

In this article, we look at the causes, risk factors, and symptoms of Pseudomonas infections, as well as how people can prevent and treat them.


Pseudomonas bacteria 3D render
Pseudomonas is a type of bacteria that can cause infections.

Pseudomonas is a common genus of bacteria, which can create infections in the body under certain circumstances.

There are many different types of Pseudomonas bacteria. Only a few types can cause an infection.

Pseudomonas bacteria tend to live and breed in water, soil, and damp areas. The warmer and wetter it is, the better the conditions are for the bacteria to multiply.

People who are in the hospital for surgery or treatment for a major illness are most vulnerable to this kind of infection.

An incision from a surgical procedure or an open wound can increase the risk of infection. The bacteria can also invade pressure wounds, or bed sores.

People with weakened immune systems are also prone to more severe Pseudomonas infections.

Milder Pseudomonas infections can occur in otherwise healthy people. These include ear infections and skin rashes, especially after exposure to water.

Pseudomonas bacteria cause well-known conditions such as hot tub rash, a red and itchy skin rash resulting from contaminated water, and swimmer’s ear.

Risk factors

In addition to people who are staying in a hospital, have a weakened immune system, or both, there are specific groups who are more vulnerable to Pseudomonas infections.

These groups include people who:

  • have severe burns
  • have had surgery or another invasive procedure
  • are using a breathing machine or catheter
  • are undergoing chemotherapy
  • have diabetes
  • have cystic fibrosis
  • have HIV, which can damage the immune system
  • have any other medical condition that compromises the immune system

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Woman with pain in her ear caused by an infection
Itchiness and pain are potential symptoms.

Symptoms of Pseudomonas infections vary according to the infection’s severity and location.

The areas of the body that the infections are most likely to affect are the ears, skin, lungs, soft tissue, and blood.

A Pseudomonas infection that reaches the bloodstream tends to be more severe.

Common symptoms of the infections include:

  • Ears: Pain, itching, and liquid discharge.
  • Skin: Rashes, which may consist of pus-filled pimples.
  • Eyes: Pain and redness.
  • In the lungs: Pneumonia, coughing, and congestion.
  • Soft tissue: Discharge of green pus and a sweet, fruity smell.
  • In the blood: Joint pain and stiffness, fever, chills, and fatigue.
  • Other possible symptoms: A headache, diarrhea, or urinary tract infection.


To help diagnose a Pseudomonas infection, a doctor may ask about any recent activities that might be relevant, such as swimming or using a hot tub. They will also carry out a physical examination.

The doctor might take a sample of blood or fluid from the affected area to confirm a diagnosis.

As there are different types of Pseudomonas bacteria, laboratory tests may also be necessary to determine the best course of treatment.


Antibiotics are the best option to treat Pseudomonas or other bacterial infections.

Some Pseudomonas infections require an aggressive approach with powerful drugs. The earlier the treatment begins, the more effective it is in stopping the infection.

This is particularly true in the hospital environment. The bacteria in hospitals get regular exposure to antibiotics, and, over time, develop resistance to these drugs. This makes them more difficult to treat.

Once doctors know which type of Pseudomonas bacteria is responsible for the infection and whether or not this strain is resistant to any drugs, they can combine medications to make treatment more effective.

Most minor Pseudomonas infections resolve either without treatment or after minimal treatment.

If symptoms are mild or nonexistent, it is not necessary to treat the infection.

In the case of swimmer’s ear, rinsing the ear with vinegar can help. A doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic called polymyxin.

Doctors usually treat urinary tract infections with an oral antibiotic, such as levofloxacin or ciprofloxacin.

Eye infections from Pseudomonas bacteria are relatively rare. When they do arise, doctors can treat them with antibiotic drops.

In severe cases, doctors may use a particular procedure to inject antibiotics directly into the eye.

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Hot tub or Jacuzzi.
Keeping hot tubs and swimming pools clean may prevent infections from developing.

In many cases, Pseudomonas infections are preventable. Bacteria live and breed in moist places. The more dirty and moist those places become, the more bacteria live and breed there.

Therefore, whether it is in the intensive care unit or at the local swimming pool, cleanliness is vital.

It is essential for all doctors and nurses to practice good hand hygiene. Other hospital staff will keep equipment clean and ensure that patient rooms are as germ-free as possible.

People staying in the hospital and their families should follow instructions about frequent hand-washing.

Anyone with an infection, including the common cold, should avoid visiting patients in the hospital.

It is essential to change dressings regularly and monitor wounds for any early signs of infection.

Outside hospitals, people should be careful about using swimming pools or hot tubs that appear dirty or poorly maintained.

People should always shower after swimming and wash their swimsuits and towels in hot water.


Pseudomonas bacteria are generally harmless. When they do cause an infection, it is usually mild in people who are otherwise healthy.

However, Pseudomonas infections can be severe in people with a weakened immune system. It is essential for anyone at risk of complications to see a doctor as soon as possible.

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