Human memory might be able to be altered in the future

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

In the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” people can request a medical procedure that targets memories pertaining to a specific subject or person and change or delete them.

Several characters choose to have their memories of unrequited love and failed relationships erased.

While the plot is purely fictional, new research does provide intriguing new details on how memories are stored and how they might be manipulated.

Memories are stored in the temporal lobe and the hippocampus of the brain. Experiences produce physical and chemical changes in specific brain cells.

Connections between brain cells that help with memory storage also can change. Scientists can identify the precise cells in a network involved with a specific experience. These are called memory traces or engrams.

Nobel Prize winner Susumu Tonegawa and his team wanted to explore how these memory traces are stored in cells. They used cells from the hippocampus that contained a light-sensitive protein called channelrhodopsin. Continue reading

Chores instill values, teach life skills to children

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

What are chores and why is it important for children to have to do chores?

Chores are simple tasks that help build planning skills and teach basic life skills.

These basic life skills will help your child for the rest of his or her life with such tasks as cleaning, cooking, doing laundry and household maintenance.

The better the parents are able to teach these skills while the child is young, the more capable the child will be able to do more complicated tasks later in life.

It is important for the parent to spend time teaching how to do a chore such as making a bed.

However, it also is important that the parent not spend too much time making the child do it perfectly.

It is more important that the child feel that he or she is part of the family and feels a sense of accomplishment. Continue reading

Organ Farming

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News
Imagine that a patient needs an organ, like an airway to the lungs called a trachea. A scientist harvests some of the patient’s cells and attaches them to a scaffold the proper shape and size for the tube. The cells and scaffolds are placed into a tissue reactor and — ta da! — in a week or two there is an organ ready for the surgeon to transplant into the patient. While it sounds like a chapter from “Brave New World,” this science fiction scenario is a growing reality.

Bladders and ears have been grown in the laboratory, and hearts, eyes and kidneys and other organs are in progress. These organs are close to the natural ones they’re copying — some even have their own immune system. In April 2013, surgeons at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois implanted a bioengineered trachea into a 2-year-old child. This was the first surgery of its kind in the United States and one of only six worldwide.

The patient receiving the transplant was a girl named Hannah Warren who was born without a trachea, commonly called a windpipe. Since birth, she’s had a plastic pipe inserted in her mouth that went down into her lungs, allowing her to breathe. She could not eat normally or even speak. With few options available, this type of congenital defect has always meant an early death; only a few children live past the age of 6. Continue reading

Add to value of your lives as a couple

Drs. Victor & Michelle Sierpina

Drs. Victor & Michelle Sierpina

Walking by a beautiful garden, you admire how lovely it looks. How did it get that way?

Of course, the neighbors tended it carefully over the seasons — pruning, weeding, planting, fertilizing and watering.

As a result, they created a wonderful space for themselves and all who pass by to appreciate.

Much the same can be said about a successful marriage. Good relationships, friendships, partnerships and especially marriages require that we — like that dedicated gardener — give the time, mindful effort and hard work to make the magic happen.

Since we married decades ago, Michelle and I have made it a practice to invest time daily in growing our little corner of the marriage world.

Our marriage commitment has involved a number of shared activities that, like that gardener, add to the value of our lives together.

These have included time each morning reading devotional and inspirational literature, journaling and meditating together. At the end of the day, we take time to debrief, listening mindfully to each others’ experiences — the joys, sorrows, challenges and blessings, along with the hopes and dreams. Continue reading

Help children learn how to deal with stress

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Stress is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you are worried, scared, angry, frustrated or overwhelmed.

Many adults think that stress is something that only adults have, but children also have stress.

Stress in childhood comes from many different sources. It may be from parents pushing their children to work harder on their schoolwork, sports activities or other extra curricular activities.

It may be from their friends exerting peer pressure to make them do things that they are uncomfortable doing. It may be from themselves with such pressures as “I need to lose weight, get better grades or make a better score.”

It also may be from watching parents argue, worrying about the neighborhood or world problems or feeling guilty.

The body reacts to stress by releasing a chemical (hormone) that sends a signal to the nervous system to turn on its emergency system.

This is a very important system that helps get us out of danger so that we can run faster, jump farther and climb trees faster. The same hormone is released with the “dangers” of exams, peer pressure, family problems or world calamities. Continue reading

Fight back against stress

Dr. Tristi Muir

Dr. Tristi Muir

Our Bodies, Our Lives

Just as I started writing this column on stress relief, I had an unexpected stressful event.

My mother had a subdural hematoma and emergency neurosurgery in California — with no other family around her.

I felt my adrenal glands squeeze and the stress hormones bathe my body as I sat by her intensive care bed.

What I realized at that moment was the thought of starting stress relieving measures at such a stressful time was overwhelming. The only way for stress relief to be there when we need it is if stress-relieving measures are part of our daily routine.

In a world where stress is a constant companion, what can we do to fight back?

  • Stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is a myth. That’s a difficult pill for women to swallow, because we are the queens of multi-tasking.

It seems that life demands that of us; however, we can truly only focus on one thing at a time. Continue reading

Turmeric is a dietary delight and health superfood

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

The warm, sunny, orange hue of turmeric is a common feature of Indian food, though it is underused as a culinary spice in the U.S.

According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal titled “Snow Day Superfood,” more chefs are discovering that the tangy “sour-bittery-lemony” flavor, fabulous color and health benefits makes it a rich addition to a large variety of foods.

It can add surprising notes to Italian food, beets, quinoa, veal, cauliflower, halibut and of, course rice, lentils, noodles, soups, stews and many more.

It may take a little experimentation to add it to your repertoire of herbs.

My usual favorite herbs include oregano, dill, rosemary, garlic, basil, thyme, red pepper and, of course, garlic, but not usually turmeric, except when an occasional recipe calls for it.

In my current annual quest to expand my cooking skills with new recipes every two weeks or so, I am looking to create more dishes with turmeric. Why? Continue reading

Silent Mad Cow

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Drs. Norbert Herzog & David Niesel

Medical Discovery News

Ten years after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow disease, was diagnosed in cattle in Britain, the British government admitted that it could be transferred to humans in a new form called variant Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (vCJD).

Cases of BSE spread to cattle in other countries, and more people in different countries were being diagnosed with vCJD. By 2004, the U.S. had passed various laws to eliminate BSE-infected cattle from the market. However, to this day, there are still sporadic reports of cows diagnosed with BSE both in the U.S. and abroad.

BSE and vCJD are neurological diseases that arise from prion plaques that form in the brain. Prions are simply misfolded proteins. This can be caused by a genetic mutation, spontaneous misfolding, or consuming infected beef. These misfolded proteins can convert healthy or normal proteins into misfolded ones. Once they appear, abnormal prion proteins aggregate, or clump together. Investigators think these protein aggregates may lead to loss of brain cells and other brain damage. Areas of the brain’s grey matter are slowly displaced and the brain develops holes or a spongy appearance, hence the name spongiform. There is no treatment or cure and eventually the damage is severe enough to lead to death. Continue reading

Do everything possible to avoid shaken baby syndrome

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Drs. Sally Robinson & Keith Bly

Keeping Kids Healthy

Recently, more than 2,000 infants and children were hospitalized as the result of being shaken by their caregivers.

Physicians suspect that the numbers are even higher since the syndrome often goes unreported.

Shaken baby syndrome refers to the violent and unnecessary repetitive shaking of an infant or young child.

A combination of a heavy head, weak neck muscles and a soft and rapidly growing brain can lead to severe bruising of the shaken child’s brain. Blindness, mental retardation or death can occur as a result.

Shaken baby syndrome can also occur when a child is bounced up and down on a person’s knee or tossed in the air. Playing games like “cracking the whip,” where a child is swung around by the ankles, or “skinning the cat,” where a child is flipped and somersaulted forward by the wrists, also have been known to cause shaken baby syndrome. Continue reading

In love with lentils

Dr. Victor Sierpina

Dr. Victor Sierpina

On our recent spiritual cruise aboard the Norwegian Jewel, I discovered an amazingly tasty and healthy food, dal.

Dal, a basic stew made with lentils, is common in the diet of India and other Asian countries. It was so rich and delectable that I ate it every day at least once. The cruise ship chefs prepared a tasty new version daily for the Asian food buffet island.

Dal is usually vegetarian. All the dals were aromatic preparations of lentils with spices like turmeric, cumin, mustard seeds and various vegetables.

While dal was a new and healthy taste thrill for me, it is a popular and widely eaten food, though not necessarily in the United States and certainly not something you’d find in your local Texas barbecue or steakhouse.

In fact, when I mentioned to some of my Asian and Indian physician colleagues about my latest culinary discovery, they looked at me with looks about as astonished as a goat looking at a new gate. Continue reading