Archive for the ‘ New Research ’ Category

Study: Mom’s Fears Passed to Newborns Through Smell

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Mothers who have specific fears and anxieties may inadvertently pass them along to their days-old newborns through an unlikely method–smell.  A new study published in the journal Proceedings National Academy of Sciences tested the role of smell in fear transfer by exposing  rats to mild shocks while they were in an environment scented with peppermint oil.  Later, the same rats gave birth, and the pups’ fear responses were tested, measuring the activity of the part of the brain called the amygdala, when they were exposed to the same scent.  The pups, the study found, showed a fear reaction at the mere whiff of peppermint.

Newsweek has more:

“It was really surprising to us that…it could be so early and could be so lasting,” said [psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and lead researcher Jacek] Debiec, pointing out that infants generally do not form lasting memories unless experiences are repeated during the first few days of life, a concept called infantile amnesia. “Here it was a single exposure and it was enough for these newborn pups to create lasting memories,” added Debiec.

When researchers gave pups a substance that blocked activity in the amygdala, according to the study, the baby rats did not learn the fear of peppermint smell from their mothers. This could help mental health experts find ways to prevent children from learning certain fear responses from their mothers.

“Infants can learn from their mothers about potential environmental threats before their sensory and motor development allows them a comprehensive exploration of the surrounding environment,” says the six-page study.

Some mother rats tried to plug the tubing so that the smell wouldn’t come through, a behavior that Debiec found interesting and wants to study further.

Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities
Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities
Playing With Baby: Memory Building Activities

Image: Boy smells something bad, via Shutterstock

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In-Utero Surgeries More Common, Life-Changing

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

New methods of performing surgeries while babies are still inside their mothers’ wombs are becoming more common, in many cases greatly improving the quality of life of babies who are diagnosed with potentially serious conditions affecting the heart, bladder, larynx, and more.  One medical group in Mexico has successfully performed 200 such surgeries, and its doctors note that the new technologies and technique for what’s called “fetal medicine” are improving and becoming more widely available, parents need to be better educated about their medical options, especially if they are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy. More from ScienceDaily:

Although Mexico Fetal Medicine Group, located in Queretaro, has established itself as a cross reference for prenatal health in the country, Méndez González recognizes that there is a lack of prenatal drug culture among Mexican parents. “Generally the pregnancy situation is consulted to gynecologists, who are not necessarily specialists in fetal medicine. Lacking experience in this discipline, sometimes the detection of health problems is too late for the baby,” said the specialist at Fetal Medicine Mexico.

In the words of the medical specialist, consolidating a cross reference in fetal medicine in the country has positive effects such as the accumulation of knowledge and experience to practice and investigate medicine in unborn babies. Méndez González noted that the emergence of ultrasound changed the way people see pregnancy as the unborn baby began to be considered as a patient in need of its own care.

Last month, a new technology was announced that can perform in-utero surgeries, using a tiny robotic arm, on babies who are diagnosed with spina bifida, a condition which affects 1 in 2,500 babies worldwide.

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Moms: Your Fitness Level Will Impact Your Kids’

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Moms who lead active lifestyles and get regular physical exercise tend to have children who are also physically active, according to a new study conducted by British researchers.  Importantly, the study could not definitively conclude that the correlation only went into the mother-to-child direction–it was also possible that more active kids demanded more physical involvement (also known as baby-chasing) from their mothers.  Because of this possibility, the researchers urged both parents and children to be mindful of their activity levels, and increase them to a healthy level whenever possible.

More from NPR on the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics:

[Lead author Esther] van Sluijs says just small changes – walking to the park instead of driving or playing a good game of tag instead of a board game – can make a difference.

“Increasing your physical activity just by a little bit already helps, you don’t have to become an athlete.” she says. “If you look at [small increases in activity] over a month or a year, that can actually have quite large benefits.”

Fathers weren’t part of the study, but van Sluijs says that doesn’t mean the call for more exercise should single out mothers.

“We do recommend that interventions are not just targeted at mothers and their children,” she tells Shots. “They’re actually targeted at the family unit because we know that siblings as well play an important role for children’s physical activity.”

Exercise With Baby: Biceps
Exercise With Baby: Biceps
Exercise With Baby: Biceps

Image: Mother and son doing yoga, via Shutterstock

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Uh-Oh! Mild Concussions Can Have Lasting Effects

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

concussionA new long-term study published in the journal Neurology has revealed some sobering news for anyone who’s concerned about concussions. Researchers in the United Kingdom found that even mild concussions can have a lasting effect on thinking and memory. More from HealthDay News:

By comparing brain imaging studies and thinking tests between healthy people and those with relatively minor concussions, the researchers found that the recovery of thinking skills can take a long time. Minor concussions can be caused by events such as falling off a bike, being in a slow-speed car crash or being hit in a fist-fight.

Initially, those with concussions had thinking and memory test scores that were 25 percent lower than those in healthy people. One year after injury, however, while the scores for those with and without concussions were similar, those who had had brain injuries still had evidence of brain damage on imaging tests, with clear signs of continued disruption to key brain cells.

The study is one more piece of evidence that proves the need for increased awareness of—and study of—concussion injuries—especially because, as one of the study’s authors noted, almost all traumatic brain injuries fall in the “mild to moderate” category. And parents, especially, need to be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of concussion, which can include (but aren’t limited to) headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and changes in vision.

Read more about kids and concussions.

Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns
Kids and Chronic Health Concerns

Image: Shutterstock

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Good News! 3 Out of 4 Kids Eat Fruits, Veggies Daily

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Consider it an old wives’ tale that kids turn their noses up at fruits and veggies. The Centers for Disease Control just released the results of a health survey, that shows that more than 75 percent of kids eat fruit daily, while a whopping 92 percent got at least one helping of veggies every day.

While those results are a sign that kids at least get some plant-based nutrients in their diet, the study didn’t assess how many servings of each kids received (children should get at least a cup of each per day, and a variety), and also didn’t differentiate highly between veggies. (Meaning that it’s likely that at least some of that veggie consumption came in the form of the kid favorite, French fries.)

The study also found that younger kids (between ages 2 and 5) often ate more fruit than teens (only 6 of 10 teens ate fruit, compared to 90 percent of preschoolers). The numbers were closer for veggies (is it the fry factor?): 93 percent of kids ages 2 to 11 ate veggies, while 90 percent of teens did.

While more study needs to be done to determine if kids are reaching their recommended daily intake of fruits and veggies, doctors recommend upping kids’ portions by making all snacks fruits and veggies, and including produce at every meal.

Tell us: How do you do at giving you and your child the recommended daily allowances of fruits and veggies? Find out if you’re feeding your toddler right with our quiz.

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: girl with oranges by gorillaimages/Shutterstock.com

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