Health Bites

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 9:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 January, 2014, 9:42am

Small size in early pregnancy linked to poor heart health

Poor growth in the first three months of pregnancy is associated with a range of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood, according to a study published on today. The findings, by a team of researchers in the Netherlands, add to a growing body of evidence and suggest that the first trimester of pregnancy may be a critical period for cardiovascular health in later life.

Older brains slow due to greater experience

Traditionally it is thought that age leads to a steady deterioration of brain function, but new research in Topics in Cognitive Science argues that older brains may take longer to process ever increasing amounts of knowledge, and this has often been misidentified as declining capacity.

The study, led by Dr Michael Ramscar of the University of Tübingen, takes a critical look at the measures that are usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood.

Ramscar's team used computers, programmed to act as though they were human, to read a certain amount each day, learning new things along the way. When the researchers let a computer "read" a limited amount, its performance on cognitive tests resembled that of a young adult.

But if the same computer was exposed to data which represented a lifetime of experiences, its performance looked like that of an older adult. Often it was slower, not because its processing capacity had declined, but because "experience" had caused the computer's database to grow, giving it more data to process, and that processing takes time.

Probability of blindness from glaucoma has nearly halved

The probability of blindness due to the serious eye disease glaucoma has decreased by nearly half since 1980, according to a study published this month in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The researchers speculate that advances in diagnosis and therapy are likely causes for the decrease, but caution that a significant proportion of patients still progress to blindness. Glaucoma affects 60.5 million people globally.