Neuroscience – SciPol Weekly, November 25 – December 1


The Guardian – A tragic death and college football's reckoning over brain injuries amid a new class-action lawsuit

Zack Langston was hauled off the field on a stretcher and brought to the team’s medical room. His mother, who was watching the game, followed close behind – terrified. Langston was a linebacker for Pittsburg State University in Kansas. A remarkably strong kid, he was known as a “wedge-breaker” and a “workhorse”. In high school, he won a “hammer” award for being the team’s hardest hitter. More than 1 million boys play football in high school each year, but less than 2% make it to elite schools like Pittsburg State. Langston was one of them.

The Hill – GOP bill would limit opioid prescriptions for first-time users

A new bill introduced Wednesday by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) would limit a patient's first opioid prescription for acute pain to seven days, except in cases of traumatic injury, chronic conditions, cancer care, end-of-life care, palliative care, or based on a physician’s recommendation. "This is a bill that we believe will go a long way in helping our nation get on the road to recovery from the opioid devastation by placing common-sense parameters around prescription medication," the lawmakers wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. 

The Hill – House Dems introduce bill to provide $45B for opioid epidemic

Democratic lawmakers and many advocates have said additional funding is needed to combat the crisis for an emergency declaration to be effective. The bill is a companion to one nearly 20 Senate Democrats have signed on to in the upper chamber. The move was a nod to the amount of funding Republicans included in failed legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare in part to offset the legislation’s changes to Medicaid.

The New York Times – Veterans Are Key as Surge of States OK Medical Pot for PTSD

It was a telling setting for a decision on whether post-traumatic stress disorder patients could use medical marijuana. Against the backdrop of the nation's largest Veterans Day parade, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this month he'd sign legislation making New York the latest in a fast-rising tide of states to OK therapeutic pot as a PTSD treatment, though it's illegal under federal law and doesn't boast extensive, conclusive medical research.

The Washington Post – Former DEA officials call for repeal of law that weakened enforcement

The former officials said the authority to instantly freeze shipments of powerful painkillers was the DEA’s most effective tool against giant companies that ignored legal requirements to report suspicious orders of the pills by pharmacies, doctors and others who diverted them for illegal use. Those “immediate suspension orders” not only protected the public from the most egregious abuse but deterred other companies as well, they said at a session held by Senate Democrats. “It’s not just about stopping the individual [companies], it’s about showing that we’re out there doing that,” said Jonathan P. Novak, a former DEA lawyer now in private practice.


Bloomberg – Your Apple Watch Could Tell You When You’re Having a Stroke

The KardiaBand from AliveCor uses a neural network to predict and analyze the wearer’s heart rate based on his or her history and a trove of cardiovascular data from both sick and healthy people. The device measures the heart rate every five seconds and tells users when it’s out of their expected range. It doesn’t apply a generic range—instead, it determines what’s abnormal for you. The Apple Watch already uses machine learning to identify when the heart rate spikes abnormally, but this personalized approach goes a step further. 

Quartz – Everything we know about concussions is wrong

I’ve never had a concussion, at least not that I know of. There was this one time, when I was about seven, when my sister threw a rock at me and nailed me above my right eye, but I didn’t lose consciousness or forget who I was. My father, a doctor, responded to my screams by asking me to follow his finger and tell him what day it was. When I answered correctly, he handed me a bag of frozen peas to put on my eye and told me to let him know if I started to feel “weirdly tired.” That was three decades ago, when concussions weren’t a big deal.

The Washington Post – New, long-acting drugs cut frequency of migraine headaches

The drugs are the first preventive medicines developed specifically for migraines. They work by interfering with a substance involved in modifying nerve signaling and progression of pain and symptoms. “It’s a whole new direction” for treatment and an important advance for people who don’t want to take or aren’t helped by the daily pills sometimes used now to prevent recurrences, said Dr. Andrew Hershey, neurology chief at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.


MIT Technology Review – The Surgeon Who Wants to Connect You to the Internet with a Brain Implant

It’s the Monday morning following the opening weekend of the movie Blade Runner 2049, and Eric C. Leuthardt is standing in the center of a floodlit operating room clad in scrubs and a mask, hunched over an unconscious patient. “I thought he was human, but I wasn’t sure,” Leuthardt says to the surgical resident standing next to him, as he draws a line on the area of the patient’s shaved scalp where he intends to make his initial incisions for brain surgery. “They captured the dystopian component: they talk about biology, the replicants. But they missed big chunks of the future. Where were the neural prosthetics?”

PRI – To combat the spread of Zika, a nonprofit is using drones and sterile mosquitoes

“Not everybody lives next to a road. Even if roads do exist in some of these areas, they look very different when the rainy seasons hit. ... And of course when it rains ... you have pools of standing water and even more mosquitoes,” says Patrick Meier, executive director and co-founder of WeRobotics, a nonprofit with offices in the US and Switzerland. So Meier and his team are testing a unique delivery method, too: drones. “What we’re doing that nobody else has done is to make it such that we release these mosquitoes from the air, using affordable drones,” Meier says.

Scientific American – Nice Brains Finish Last

We all like to think that being kind, responsible, and fair will lead to a happy life. But what if we’re wrong? What if nice guys really do finish last? A new study published in Nature Human Behavior suggests that those who value economic equity, at their brain’s core, are more likely to be depressed. Those who prefer everything for themselves tend to be happier.

ScienceDaily – Brain impact of youth football: Brain changes after one season of play

"Over a season of football, players are exposed to numerous head impacts. The vast majority of these do not result in concussion," said Gowtham Krishnan Murugesan, a Ph.D. student in biomedical engineering and member of the ANSIR lab. "This work adds to a growing body of literature indicating that subconcussive head impacts can have an effect on the brain. This is a highly understudied area at the youth and high school level."

ScienceDaily – Dual virtual reality/treadmill exercises promote brain plasticity in Parkinson's patients

"In previous research, we showed that patients with Parkinson's disease use cognitive function, which is reflected in activation of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, to compensate for impaired motor function," Prof. Hausdorff says. "We also showed that a specific form of exercise targeting the cognitive control of gait -- combined treadmill training with a Virtual Reality representation of obstacles in a path -- leads to a significantly lower fall rate in Parkinson's patients. The Virtual Reality gait program, in which patients must avoid obstacles, enhances the patient's cognitive performance and thus reduces the requirement for prefrontal brain activity".


Futurity – Sorry, cat lovers: Dogs are smarter

As far as dogs and cats go, the study found that dogs have about 530 million cortical neurons while cats have about 250 million. (That compares to 16 billion in the human brain.) “I believe the absolute number of neurons an animal has, especially in the cerebral cortex, determines the richness of their internal mental state and their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on past experience,” Suzana Herculano-Houzel, an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences at Vanderbilt University explains.

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