Medi Watch

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am

Migraine link to brain damage

Migraines may cause brain damage as cells swell and are starved of oxygen - which could explain why sufferers have a higher risk of stroke. Studies on mice by University of Rochester researchers suggest that sufferers should not simply seek pain relief but should take drugs that prevent the migraine, Reuters reports. Although it's not clear if the effects of migraine are permanent, previous studies have found that sufferers are twice as likely to have a stroke, and women are much more likely to suffer the characteristic pain. Using micro-electrodes, the team found that brain cells become swollen and are starved of oxygen during an attack.

Drug study points to craving cure

Addictive drugs such as heroin and cocaine appear to remodel key parts of the brain associated with cravings, with the changes persisting long after the effects of the drug have worn off. 'Addiction is a form of pathological learning,' says Julie Kauer of her Brown University team's studies on mice. Although the relevant synapses that connect brain cells continue to work normally, they are 'remodelled in a maladaptive way', she says. The study points to the possibility of using other drugs to neutralise cravings to help former addicts avoid relapse, AFP reports.

Scans monitor reefer madness

There may be something to so-called reefer madness, after all: marijuana can trigger temporary psychotic symptoms in some people, including hallucinations and paranoia, according to a study at King's College, London. 'We've suspected that cannabis is linked to psychoses, but we've never had scans to show how the mechanism works,' says team leader Philip McGuire. Although cannabidiol, a compound in marijuana, keeps people relaxed, even small doses of another component, tetrahydro-cannabinol, interferes with the brain's inferior frontal cortex, in effect unleashing paranoia that is usually controlled, AP reports.

Iyengar 'assists immune system'

Iyengar yoga not only promotes well-being in breast cancer survivors but seems to offer immune-system benefits, according to a Washington State University study. 'Psycho-social variables indicated improved quality of life with Iyengar yoga,' says team leader Pamela Schultz. There was also decreased activation of a key protein, NF-kB, which is a marker of stress, among those in the study who undertook three sessions a week, Reuters reports. The women in the study had an average age of 61, had been diagnosed with breast cancer about four years earlier and were receiving hormone therapy.

Nap at a switch

The flick of a switch may one day be all that's needed to ensure a good night's sleep, in the wake of a University of Wisconsin-Madison study that triggered slow brain waves associated with restful deep sleep using a harmless magnetic signal. The experimental transcranial magnetic stimulation uses an electromagnetic coil held near the head to send pulses through the skull. It could help treat insomnia, AFP reports.

Jason Sankey is a tennis professional