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PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 May, 2008, 12:00am

Implant to ease the mind

Implanting the equivalent of a pacemaker in the brain can cut symptoms of long-term, severe depression by as much as 50 per cent, say US researchers, based on a small study. So-called deep-brain stimulation, entailing the insertion of tiny electrodes, has been used on Parkinson's sufferers for about two decades. Researchers at the Centre for Neurological Restoration in Cleveland say the technique shows promise for depressives, with half the patients reporting a marked easing of symptoms up to a year afterwards, reports.

Researchers make HIV breakthrough

US researchers have found that deactivating a key protein that HIV needs to infect cells can significantly slow the virus' progress. Turning off the ITK protein in immune-system cells makes it hard for the virus to enter the cells and replicate and may be useful as a complement to drugs used to treat HIV that typically tackle the rapidly mutating virus, Reuters reports.

Enzyme could help trim the fat

An Australian team has found a way to lose weight without eating less - in mice, anyway. The breakthrough by researchers at the Howard Florey Institute in Melbourne may lead to the development of fat-burning drugs for people, AFP reports. Manipulating an enzyme in the fat cells of the mice boosted their metabolism so they burnt more calories than untreated mice that ate the same amount of food.

Don't be so self-absorbed

High self-esteem isn't always such a good thing, according to University of Georgia researchers, who say that it's sometimes little more than a mask for low self-esteem, Web MD reports. Based on a study of 100 university students, the team identified some of the signs of what they call fragile high self-esteem: verbal defensiveness; aggression when challenged, and self-promotion.

Taking the kick away from smokers

Sweden and other Nordic countries plan to test an anti-nicotine vaccine on 400 people next year. The vaccine - which has taken 10 years to develop - helps the immune system build antibodies that stop nicotine reaching and activating the reward system in the brain - in effect, preventing a smoker from getting the kick that makes cigarettes addictive, AFP reports. The one-year trial is being conducted by Sweden's Independent Pharmaceutica.

Marijuana hits a new low

Meanwhile, US researchers say they have developed a form of 'no buzz' marijuana that contains its medicinal powers but not its memory-loss properties. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can relieve pain and anxiety, but also results in cognitive problems such as memory loss, reports. University of California, Berkeley, researchers say that mice treated with organophosphorus compounds enjoyed the therapeutic effects of THC without the cognitive drawbacks.

Netherlands to ban magic mushrooms

The Dutch government plans to ban so-called magic mushrooms after a series of accidents, mostly involving tourists. The ban will apply to the cultivation, sale and use of hallucinogenic mushrooms, AFP reports. According to the Dutch health ministry, the number of incidents linked to the use of magic mushrooms rose from 55 in 2004 to more than 100 last year.