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The Morning Report provides a quick look at today’s medical news, research and features.  









Supposed Cost of Meds Helps Placebo Effect in Parkinson’s Patients
Results of a small study suggest that Parkinson’s patients seem to improve if they think they’re taking a costly medication. The findings have been published online Jan. 28 in Neurology.

In the study, 12 patients had their movement symptoms evaluated hourly, for about four hours after receiving each of the placebos. On average, patients had bigger short-term improvements in symptoms like tremor and muscle stiffness when they were told they were getting the costlier of two drugs. In reality, both “drugs” were nothing more than saline, given by injection. But the study patients were told that one drug was a new medication priced at $1,500 a dose, while the other cost just $100 – though, the researchers assured them, the medications were expected to have similar effects.

Yet, the researchers found that when patients’ movement symptoms were evaluated in the hours after receiving the fake drugs, they showed greater improvements with the pricey placebo. What’s more, magnetic resonance imaging scans showed differences in the patients’ brain activity, depending on which placebo they’d received. The patients in the study didn’t get as much relief from the two placebos as they did from their regular medication, levodopa. But the magnitude of the expensive placebo’s benefit was about halfway between that of the cheap placebo and levodopa. What’s more, patients’ brain activity on the pricey placebo was similar to what was seen with levodopa. (PND)

Playing Youth Football Earlier Leads to Brain Damage
At what age is it safest for kids to begin playing tackle football?  The current culture of parents obsessed with travel sports would have their child begin full contact as early as 5 years old.  But a new study of retired NFL players says you might want to hold off until at least age 12.

The National Football League recently agreed to pay $765 million for improved medical care and neurological testing to former players who claimed the league was aware, and ignored risks, of concussion injuries to players.  However, the damage may have been done long before the players reached the pros.

Researchers from Boston University found that former NFL players who began playing tackle football before age 12 showed greater decline in memory and cognitive function compared to former pros who began playing in their teens. ”It makes common sense that children, at a time of important brain development, should not be exposed to hundreds of hits to their heads,” Robert Stern, study author and a professor of neurology at the BU School of Medicine, told NBC News.

The researchers focused on age 12 as the significant cut off point because that’s the point of significant brain development, specifically for boys.  According to Stern, “blood flow to the brain increases, and brain structures such as the hippocampus, which is critical for memory, reach their highest volume.” Because of these changes, age 12 represents a “window of vulnerability when the brain may be especially sensitive to repeated trauma,” according to the BU researchers. (Continued at PND)

Binge-Watching TV May Be Sign of Depression
Binge-watching television is linked with feeling lonely and depressed, a new study suggests. ”Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way,” study author Yoon Hi Sung said in a news release from the International Communication Association.

The study included more than 300 people. They were between the ages of 18 and 29. The researchers asked about their TV viewing habits and their moods. The more lonely and depressed people were, the more likely they were to binge-watch TV.And, people binge-watched in an attempt to distract themselves from their negative feelings, according to the University of Texas at Austin researchers. The researchers also found that people who lacked self-control were more likely to binge-watch TV. They were unable to stop even when they knew they had other tasks to complete. (More at PND)



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