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November 24, 2017

Neuroscience – SciPol Weekly, November 18 – November 24

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Bloomberg – Purdue Approaches States in Bid to Settle Opioid Claims

Opioid makers are accused of creating a public-health crisis through their marketing of the painkillers. More than a dozen states and about 100 counties and cities have already sued Purdue, other opioid makers and drug distributors, in a strategy echoing the litigation that led to the 1998 $246 billion settlement with Big Tobacco. “This sounds like the opening bid in settlement talks,’’ said Anthony Sabino, who teaches law at St. John’s University in New York. “It also sounds like they are trying to convince some of these state AG’s that they don’t need to bring their own suits.’’

NPR – U.S. Surgeon General Says Working Together Is Key To Combating Opioid Crisis

About a month ago, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. He's spent a lot of time talking about the severity of the drug crisis. But he's spent less time outlining the specific steps he'll take to fight it. Today, a White House analysis declared that the true cost of the opioid epidemic in 2015 was more than half a trillion dollars. As Trump formulates his plan, All Things Considered's Elise Hu spoke with Dr. Jerome Adams, the president's surgeon general, about what's next. Excerpts of the interview follow, edited for length and clarity.

Faribault – Opioid limits proposed for Minnesota prescribers to fight painkiller abuse

The rule, adopted Thursday by the state’s Opioid Prescribing Work Group, says that doctors who exceed a new state dosage limit for more than half their patients would receive warnings and training. If they don’t bring their dosage amounts down, they would eventually face removal from the Medicaid program, which covers roughly 20 percent of Minnesota’s population and has broad influence on providers. The recommendation comes a day after Rice County officials told three of U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s staff that opioid use is having a disturbing effect on residents of all ages, Social Services, law enforcement and the court system.


Forbes – Concussion Epidemic Is Existential Threat To Football

Football dominates American culture and is an economic bonanza. The NFL will pull in $14 billion this year. Television contracts have exploded, new stadiums produce multiple revenue streams, marketing and memorabilia sales are soaring, and estimates are that more than 40 million people play some form of fantasy football. Big-time college football is flourishing. High school football is an obsession for many fans. Yet there is a lurking threat at the root of all this largesse — the specter of long-term damage from concussions.

Forbes – This Device Is The First Marketed To Treat Opioid Withdrawal, But Evidence It Works Is Lacking

The Food and Drug Administration this week authorized an Indianapolis company to market the first device to help reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms, even though it has never been tested in a randomized controlled trial, considered the standard for demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of medical treatments. “The only way that you can determine the extent by which this device has potential clinical effects is by doing a randomized controlled trial,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The NY Times – As Concussion Worries Rise, Girls' Lacrosse Turns to Headgear

The debate over whether headgear should be mandatory in girls' lacrosse has been contentious for decades, fueled by fears that such equipment would turn their temperate game into a rugged version of hard-hitting boys' lacrosse, where helmets have been required for years. By rule, headgear remains optional in girls' lacrosse.


Quartzy – Neuroscientists have identified how exactly a deep breath changes your mind

New and unique research, involving recordings made directly from within the brains of humans undergoing neurosurgery, shows that breathing can also change your brain. Simply put, changes in breathing—for example, breathing at different paces or paying careful attention to the breaths—were shown to engage different parts of the brain. Humans’ ability to control and regulate their brain is unique: e.g., controlling emotions, deciding to stay awake despite being tired, or suppressing thoughts. These abilities are not trivial, nor do humans share them with many animals. 

ScienceDaily – MRI uncovers brain abnormalities in people with depression, anxiety

Both MDD and SAD conditions share some clinical symptoms, suggesting the two disorders may have similar brain mechanisms. However, few studies have directly compared the brain structural effects of the two disorders, said the author of the new study, Youjin Zhao M.D., Ph.D., from Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. Dr. Zhao and co-author Su Lui, M.D., used MRI to assess alterations in the brain's gray matter among MDD and SAD patients. They focused on the thickness of the cortex, which is the outer layer of the cerebrum, or principal part of the brain.

Seeker – Virtual Reality Training Can Aid in Stroke Recovery

Research found that a basic VR system can be just as good as in-person therapy for certain kinds of recovery programs. The technology could be used to allow people to use commercial VR systems remotely, from their homes, saving time and money. Iris Brunner, author of the new study and associate professor with the University of Aarhus, Denmark, said the VR system is fundamentally different from previous remote training systems, in which patients might work with a therapist on a live feed or videotape.

STAT – 1 in 5 shows PTSD symptoms after cancer diagnosis, study finds

Cancer patients and psychologists have long known a cancer diagnosis can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, even when patients manage to drive their disease into remission. A new study, published Monday in the journal Cancer, underlined the pervasiveness — and in some cases, the persistence — of that emotional trauma. “This underscores the importance of building better programs for longer-term support for cancer patients, said Dr. Fremonta Meyer, a psychiatrist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and co-author of the study. Otherwise, she said, “we’ll miss people who are really continuing to suffer emotionally.”

YaleNews – Small but distinct differences among species mark evolution of human brain

All regions of the human brain have molecular signatures very similar to those of our primate relatives, yet some regions contain distinctly human patterns of gene activity that mark the brain’s evolution and may contribute to our cognitive abilities, a new Yale-led study has found. “Our brains are three times larger, have many more cells and therefore more processing power than chimpanzee or monkey,” said Andre Sousa, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of neuroscientist Nenad Sestan and co-lead author of the study. “Yet there are also distinct small differences between the species in how individual cells function and form connections.”


Bloomberg – Millions of Patients Face Pain and Withdrawal as Opioid Prescriptions Plummet

Six months after surgery to repair a damaged urinary tract in 1998, computer technician Doug Hale woke one morning with excruciating, burning pain. Hale’s suffering persisted for years, despite all sorts of treatments. Finally, in 2006, he was prescribed strong doses of opioids. Fast-forward 10 years. Still on his pain killers, Hale was popping so many of the highly addictive pills that he regularly ran out of his prescription early. His doctor cut off his supply and urged Hale to enter a detox program. That didn’t work. Hale, still in agonizing pain and now suffering from intense withdrawal symptoms, returned to his doctor and pleaded to get back on his opioid regime. 

NPR – The Many Forms, Faces And Causes Of PTSD

Michael Coleman says he faced stress on a daily basis as a social worker in North Carolina. He worked for the government investigating foster care in the state for 13 years. "When you knock on someone's door, they're not happy to see you," he tells NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro. "There's physical abuse or sexual abuse," he says. "There's pretty severe neglect in cases." He's shown up to houses with kids bleeding; he's interviewed kids with bruises at school. He had to visit "known drug houses," where his knees would start shaking before he even got out of his car.

STAT – Football-related injuries extend far beyond concussions

If and when you think about football injuries, you probably think about concussions. Brain trauma is an important part of the story of the risks of the sport. But so are torn ligaments, ruptured spleens, dislocated joints, and broken vertebrae. These injuries disable, lead to long-term chronic conditions, and cost tons of money to treat. How bad is the toll of injuries? 

The Conversation – What if consciousness is not what drives the human mind?

It’s easy to assume that these contents of consciousness are somehow chosen, caused or controlled by our personal awareness – after all, thoughts don’t exist until until we think them. But in a new research paper in Frontiers of Psychology, we argue that this is a mistake. We suggest that our personal awareness does not create, cause or choose our beliefs, feelings or perceptions.

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