Sep 21, 2009 | 14
The ethics of enhanced interrogation techniques, detailed in a series of White House memos earlier this year, have come under growing fire in Washington and around the world. And the effectiveness of these practices—including sleep deprivation and waterboarding—have drawn increasing scrutiny in the scientific community.
A new review paper, published online today in Trends in Cognitive Science, investigates whether such intense approaches, labeled as torture by some, might be counterproductive to obtaining accurate information from suspects.
The use of coercive interrogation "is based on the assumption that subjects will be motivated to reveal veridical information to end interrogation, and that extreme stress, shock and anxiety do not impact memory," Shane O'Mara, a professor at the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience in Dublin and the paper's lead author, said in a prepared statement. "However, this model of the impact of extreme stress on memory and the brain is utterly unsupported by scientific evidence."
Feb 16, 2009 | 4
In the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a character played by Jim Carrey visits an eccentric scientist who wipes out the bad memories of his relationship with Kate Winslet's character using a machine that maps their location in his brain and systematically deletes them. The concept might have seemed preposterous, but today scientists are reporting that a common blood pressure drug can produce a similar effect – not by destroying a memory itself, but by wiping out your fearful reaction to it.
Dutch scientists taught a group of 60 people to fear a spider by mildly shocking their wrists when they showed them a picture of the arachnid. Then, the next time the group were shown the spider, half were given propranolol (a beta-blocker prescribed to lower blood pressure and treat migraines in children), and half a placebo. Those who got the drug didn’t show any strong startle response to the spider, while those who got the placebo continued to have a significant one, according to the research in today’s Nature Neuroscience.
Feb 3, 2009 | 10
A new study in mice suggests that a mother's childhood experiences may affect the brain function of her offspring. Researchers found that mouse moms who were physically active, stimulated and changed their living arrangements frequently as youngsters gave birth to babies with better memory than those born to mothers raised in dull environments.
"How well mice remember when they are young is influenced by exposures to stimuli of their mothers when they were young," says Larry Feig, a biochemist at Tufts University Medical School in Boston and senior author of the study that will published tomorrow in The Journal of Neuroscience.
Dec 30, 2008 | 8
A new study shows that sugar may not be so sweet for the brain – and may lead to memory problems.
Researchers from four universities report in the Annals of Neurology that people who absorb glucose more slowly than those who metabolize it quickly are more forgetful and are more likely to have a faulty dentate gyrus, a pocket in the hippocampus section of the brain. The hippocampus is involved with learning and memory formation.
The findings were based on glucose testing, memory evaluations and fMRI scans of the brains of 240 healthy people ages 65 and older without dementia, and applied even in those without diabetes, which is characterized by an inability to readily convert sugar into energy.
Nov 18, 2008 | 3
Complaints of memory and concentration problems, headaches, pain and fatigue among Gulf War vets have often fallen on deaf ears – until now. A Department of Veterans Affairs advisory panel has concluded that Gulf War syndrome is a real illness affecting at least 174,000 soldiers, a quarter of those who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict.
“The extensive body of scientific research now available consistently indicates that Gulf War illness is real, that it is the result of neurotoxic exposures during Gulf War deployment, and that few veterans [suffering from it] have recovered or substantially improved with time,” says a report by the Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses released yesterday.
Nov 4, 2008 | 1
Voters know a little bit more about Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s health as they head to the polls today. According to a two-page letter released by her physician last night, Palin, 44, is in "excellent health and has no known health problems that would interfere with her ability to carry out the duties and obligations of vice president of the United States."
Until now, Americans knew next to nothing about Palin’s health, other than that she gave birth to five children, the youngest of whom was born with Down Syndrome in April. (People with Down Syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, and have mental and sometimes physical deficits, including heart abnormalities.) According to Palin's doctor, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, the births were the only time the veep wannabe has been hospitalized.
Oct 20, 2008
How much do voters need to know about a presidential candidate's health, and what information should politicians be obligated to share?
The New York Times takes an in-depth look at those questions today, concluding that candidates are sharing less medical information now than in some recent elections, despite candidates' previous health concerns. According to the article, the presidential and vice presidential candidates have only released limited and, in the case of GOP veep pick Sarah Palin, no medical records to date.
We know from a May review of some of John McCain's medical records and from previous reports that the Arizona senator has battled the most deadly form of skin cancer melanoma. His physician says McCain, who at 72 would be the oldest man ever sworn into a first term as president, has not displayed any memory problems, but she has not said whether her patient has undergone cognitive tests.
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