Nightmare weekend? Don’t worry, removing bad memories is a step closer | Mo Costandi

21/08/2017 Mo Costandi 0

US scientific advances are making the premise of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind more of a reality – goodbye bad and sad times

New research shows that weakening the connections between specific groups of brain cells can prevent the recall of fear memories in mice. The study, published earlier this week in the journal Neuron, has led some – including the study authors themselves – to speculate that this will eventually lead to treatments for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and, inevitably, to news stories mentioning the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which an estranged couple undergo a procedure to erase memories of each other from their brains.

Related: Mind-control device lets people alter genes in mice through power of thought

Related: So forgetting is good for you. But why does it have to be my friends’ names? | Michele Hanson

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Why is ketchup so delicious? Science answers the big food questions

What’s good, what’s bad and why – five food questions answered by consultant cardiologist Ali Khavandi and science writer Dara Mohammadi

Whether you’re a dolloper or a Jackson Pollocker, a plate of chips just isn’t the same without a good squirt of ketchup. But why does it make chips taste so much better? It’s the same reason Iberico ham is more moreish than the boiled stuff and why a sprinkle of parmesan makes a bowl of pasta that much fresher. The answer is the Japanese word for “savoury” or “deliciousness”, the fifth and most elusive of tastes: umami.

It may not be a coincidence that our reduction in fibre consumption has coincided with the rise in many modern diseases

The F-word has such a bad image that even KFC rebranded itself to be free of its oil-splattered reputation

In the 60s, bread manufacturers aimed for a Superman bread but ended up with a Frankenstein one

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When surgery is just a stitch-up

20/08/2017 Dara Mohammadi 0

With evidence mounting that many minor operations owe their success to the placebo effect, is it time to call a halt to some routine procedures?

What’s the difference between a homeopath and a surgeon? It’s a question that sounds like a joke, and it won’t have many surgeons laughing. Homeopathy is the scientifically implausible idea that diluted substances can somehow treat disease: it has never been shown to work and any effect is, at very best, a placebo effect. It’s a world away from the glinting scalpels and cut-and-dried logic of surgery. See a problem, cut it out, sew it back up. Right?

Well, it is until you start looking for evidence of effectiveness for some operations, and then you’re left thinking that the line between the two is not as clear as you first thought.

You can no longer say, as a doctor, that homeopathy is rubbish because you’re doing the same thing

Risk to patients aside, it just means that we are wasting a hell of a lot of money

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How we feel about Freud: Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews debate his legacy

Crews, an academic, thinks psychoanalysis is an unscientific jumble of ideas, while psychoanalyst Orbach would prefer not to throw the baby out with the patriarchal bias

For a century or more, Sigmund Freud has cast a long shadow not just over the field of psychoanalysis but over the entire way we think of ourselves as human beings. His theory of the unconscious and his work on dreams, in particular, retain a firm grip on the western imagination, shaping the realms of literature and art, politics and everyday conversation, as well as the way patients are analysed in the consulting room. Since Freud’s death in 1939, however, a growing number of dissenting voices have questioned his legacy and distanced themselves from his ideas. Now Freud is viewed less as a great medical scientist than as a powerful storyteller of the human mind whose texts, though lacking in empirical evidence, should be celebrated for their literary value.

The following debate, conducted through emails, was prompted by the forthcoming publication of Frederick Crews’s book Freud: The Making of an Illusion, which draws on new research materials to raise fresh questions about Freud’s competence and integrity.

There is nothing formulaic about the conversation in the consulting room. It’s a space of exploration

Related: The astrologer and the astronomer

Freud was a sick man who tried to saddle the whole human race with his anxious fantasies

Related: Cold War Freud and Freud: An Intellectual Biography review – the politics of psychoanalysis

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How we feel about Freud: Susie Orbach and Frederick Crews debate his legacy

Crews, an academic, thinks psychoanalysis is an unscientific jumble of ideas, while psychoanalyst Orbach would prefer not to throw the baby out with the patriarchal bias

For a century or more, Sigmund Freud has cast a long shadow not just over the field of psychoanalysis but over the entire way we think of ourselves as human beings. His theory of the unconscious and his work on dreams, in particular, retain a firm grip on the western imagination, shaping the realms of literature and art, politics and everyday conversation, as well as the way patients are analysed in the consulting room. Since Freud’s death in 1939, however, a growing number of dissenting voices have questioned his legacy and distanced themselves from his ideas. Now Freud is viewed less as a great medical scientist than as a powerful storyteller of the human mind whose texts, though lacking in empirical evidence, should be celebrated for their literary value.

The following debate, conducted through emails, was prompted by the forthcoming publication of Frederick Crews’s book Freud: The Making of an Illusion, which draws on new research materials to raise fresh questions about Freud’s competence and integrity.

There is nothing formulaic about the conversation in the consulting room. It’s a space of exploration

Related: The astrologer and the astronomer

Freud was a sick man who tried to saddle the whole human race with his anxious fantasies

Related: Cold War Freud and Freud: An Intellectual Biography review – the politics of psychoanalysis

Continue reading…

How your brain tricks you to protect your skin | Daniel Glaser

20/08/2017 Daniel Glaser 0

The neuroscience connecting skin receptors to the brain is far from straightforward, says Daniel Glaser

Sunburn continues to colour many of our experiences of the summer. Even as it draws to a close we can still get caught out.

We are all familiar with the effects, and the warnings, but what’s going on in your nervous system is more interesting than you may think. The term itself is slightly misleading. When we feel our skin burning after we’ve been in the sun for too long, our brain is actually being fooled.

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Jeremy Hunt accuses Stephen Hawking of ‘pernicious falsehood’ in NHS row

19/08/2017 Nicola Slawson 0

Health secretary reacts to physicist’s claim that the Conservatives are trying to implement US-style health insurance system

Jeremy Hunt has accused Stephen Hawking of a “pernicious” lie after the physicist said it seemed the Tories were steering the UK towards a US-style health insurance system.

Hours after the health secretary was criticised for claiming Hawking was wrong in the row about the government’s seven-day NHS plan, he leapt back into the fray with two tweets defending the Conservative party’s record on the health service.

Most pernicious falsehood from Stephen Hawking is idea govt wants US-style insurance system.Is it 2 much to ask him to look at evidence? 1/2

NHS under Cons has seen more money,more docs and more nurses than ever in history.Those with private med insurance DOWN 9.4% since 2009! 2/2

Stephen Hawking is brilliant physicist but wrong on lack of evidence 4 weekend effect.2015 Fremantle study most comprehensive ever 1/2

And whatever entrenched opposition,no responsible health sec could ignore it if you want NHS 2 be safest health service in world as I do 2/2

Related: The NHS saved me. As a scientist, I must help to save it | Stephen Hawking

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Stephen Hawking blames Tory politicians for damaging NHS

Exclusive: Physicist criticises ministers over funding cuts, privatisation and pay caps before address revealing his reliance on health service

Stephen Hawking has accused ministers of damaging the NHS, blaming the Conservatives in a passionate and sustained attack for slashing funding, weakening the health service though privatisation, demoralising staff by curbing pay and cutting social care support.

The renowned 75-year-old physicist was speaking to promote an address he will give on Saturday outlining how he owes his long life and achievements to the NHS care he received, and setting out his fears for a service he believes is being turned into “a US-style insurance system”.

Related: The NHS saved me. As a scientist, I must help to save it | Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is brilliant physicist but wrong on lack of evidence 4 weekend effect.2015 Fremantle study most comprehensive ever 1/2

And whatever entrenched opposition,no responsible health sec could ignore it if you want NHS 2 be safest health service in world as I do 2/2

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Mother preferred Dr over Miss or Mrs | Brief letters

17/08/2017 Letters 0

Academic titles | Margarets as a dying breed | Big Ben | Girls’ and boys’ clothes | Dogs on escalators

Alison Hackett (Letters, 17 August) complains at the use of “Dr” and “Prof” titles. But they can prove useful. Our mother Anne McLaren (a single parent, and a biologist who, working with mice, created the world’s first IVF birth, and became the first woman officer of the Royal Society in their 300-year history, as foreign secretary and vice-president), was asked, “Is it ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’?”. We three kids watched and wondered how she would respond. “No,” she said firmly, “It’s ‘Dr’.”
Prof Jonathan Michie
President, Kellogg College, Oxford

• If the editor wants to fill the letters page with letters from Margarets (Letters, 17 August), she should act soon, as peak Margaret was in 1900 when it was third most popular name for baby girls. When I had come on the scene in the late 1930s it was eighth, and by the time politics became aware of Maggie Thatcher it lingered at 95th. We are a dying breed.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

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The Guardian view on vaginal mesh implants: trust data and patients | Editorial

16/08/2017 Editorial 0

The devices have benefited a large number of women – but thousands have suffered serious adverse effects

The numbers tell their own tale. Thousands of women have undergone surgery to have vaginal mesh implants removed after suffering complications. Around one in 15 of those fitted with the most common type of mesh have required operations, according to NHS data obtained by the Guardian. In short, the problems are much more widespread than previously acknowledged. The removal rate was previously estimated at less than 1%.

But numbers are not enough. Each case is a woman with a disturbing story; and listening is as important as tallying them. Carolyn Churchill had to give up work after she was left in agony, with persistent bleeding. Yet she said she was made to feel like a baby for complaining. Others describe being left unable to walk or have sex – and of being assured that the implant was not responsible. So even this data under-represents the problem. Women may not be referred for removal, or may decide against it given the risks.

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Wax on, wax ouch: pubic grooming has a high injury rate, survey reveals

16/08/2017 Nicola Davis 0

A quarter of those who groom their pubic hair have suffered mishaps from cuts to burns and rashes – some requiring medical help – researchers have found

Whether it’s shaving, waxing or laser hair removal, pubic grooming has become commonplace – but more than a quarter of those who remove hair have met with mishap in the process, research has revealed.

The study found that 76% of US adults quizzed said they removed some or all of their pubic hair, with almost 26% of those who groomed reporting that they had sustained at least one injury while doing so, ranging from cuts to burns and rashes.

Related: The disturbing truth about how we treat our pubic hair | Mona Chalabi

Related: We made a film to get women talking about their pubic hair. Here’s why

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UK needs 71,000 more care home places in eight years, study predicts

15/08/2017 Sarah Marsh 0

Britain faces a worsening social care crisis with people living longer but with substantial care needs, researchers say

An extra 71,000 care home spaces are needed in the next eight years to cope with Britain’s soaring demand as people living longer face more health problems, a study has found.

New research predicts there will be an additional 353,000 older people with complex needs by 2025, requiring tens of thousands more beds.

Related: What are your experiences of care homes in the UK?

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Vaginal mesh implants: ‘I really thought I was dying’

Carolyn Churchill was in agony after mesh surgery, but doctors were reluctant to blame her implant, even suggesting the pain might be a mental health issue

Six years ago, Carolyn Churchill, 57, from near Pontypridd in Wales, was in a long-term relationship, worked as a chef, and spent hours each week walking with her dogs and looking after her granddaughter’s pony. She was busy and content, but was bothered by stress incontinence, which affects roughly 10% of women.

“Never knowing when you’re going out if you’re going to wee yourself. It really got to the stage where it was embarrassing,” she recalls.

Related: ‘Scandal’ of vaginal mesh removal rates revealed by NHS records

Related: Vaginal mesh left me in agony. When will women’s health be taken seriously? | Kath Sansom

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Cancer treatment: sorting the good news from the hype

14/08/2017 Naomi Elster 0

The newspapers love a cancer research story, but many are misleading or won’t affect patients for many years. But there is plenty of progress worth reporting

Every news story about cancer research should come with a health warning: believe the hope, but not the hype. Good headlines are quick and catchy, good science is steady steps taken on a complicated issue over a long time. If a new treatment is still being researched, it could be metaphorical miles and actual years away from getting into the hands or bodies of patients. As blogger Kay Curtin, who has advanced melanoma, puts it: “The media tend to pick one line on a report and run with it, but they do not draw attention or highlight that it’s just a potential benefit, or the fact that many of these are just proven in a petri dish or a mouse and very often do not prove effective when tested on humans. It is cruel to existing patients to make claims with misleading headlines.”

One of the best ways to deal with cancer is to divide and conquer, based on as much knowledge as we can get of how individual tumours work. Treating all cancers from the same part of the body equally isn’t good enough – you must match the right patient with the right treatment.

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