Keeping On The Sunny Side for 04/28/2017

The concept of light and darkness as opposing forces of nature has been infused in human text since our earliest beginnings. The Bible's divine proclamation of "Let there be light" is one example that comes immediately to mind. Such imagery is often utilized in literature to contrast good and evil, knowledge and ignorance, love and hate or happiness and despair. Medical science might soon start to call upon such literary reference points as the role of light and darkness as its relation to human health takes on new meaning.

A recent example of this is found in a small study conducted by the Laboratory for Sleep & Consciousness Research at the University of Salzburg in Austria. It was found that shining bright lights on patients could have served to help some to awaken from a coma. In this study, scientists discovered they could induce increased levels of consciousness in comatose patients after a treatment with carefully timed bright lights. This therapy was intended to trigger circadian rhythm activity and natural daily body-temperature fluctuations. Circadian rhythms are found in most living things. These rhythms represent physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle that tell the body when to eat, sleep or wake. They are calibrated primarily by light and darkness in an organism's environment and essentially keep a person's internal clock aligned with the environment.

While the findings (published in the journal Neurology) are considered very preliminary, it is hoped that they may one day serve as a diagnostic tool to monitor a comatose patient's chance for recovery.

Updated: Fri Apr 28, 2017

Spring As A Prescription To What Ails Us for 04/21/2017

For some folks the sounds of spring is not that of a songbird, a babbling brook or the wind in the trees. For many, it is more closely aligned with a sneeze, a cough and a sniffle.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 20 million adults and 6.1 million children suffer with seasonal allergies. And, as news reports tell us, allergy season seems to begin earlier with each passing year and stretch out longer. And with this annual news comes the reminder of the usual remedies of over-the-counter medicines from antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays, eye drops and saline rinses.

There is no question that this is a newsworthy issue that affects the quality of life of a great number of people. It can be an especially troubling time for asthma sufferers whose condition is often worsened during the season. Yet there is another health message of spring that also needs be heard among the headlines — perhaps now more than ever. One that I believe is sadly missing.

Updated: Fri Apr 21, 2017

Does The Mind Rule The Body Or Vice Versa? for 04/14/2017

Bill Kochevar, 56, fed himself a pretzel and then took a drink of water. You may have heard about it. It made the news. As a result of an accident that occurred more than eight years ago, Kochevar has been unable to move any part of his body below his shoulders — until recently. As outlined in a video produced by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and through an experimental project the University has worked to perfect for more than a decade, Kochevar has gained some use of his hands and arms once again.

By implanting two electrode arrays in his brain as well as electrodes in the precise muscles that control his arm and hand movements, these muscles were once again able to decode his thoughts. He can now will his arms and hands to move.

Updated: Fri Apr 14, 2017