Thursday, December 8th, 2011
A new study of the brains of experienced soccer players–adults who have played the game since childhood–has concluded that repeated heading of the ball has pronounced effects on brain functions including memory and attention. The New York Times reports:
The researchers found, according to data they presented at a Radiological Society of North America meeting last month, that the players who had headed the ball more than about 1,100 times in the previous 12 months showed significant loss of white matter in parts of their brains involved with memory, attention and the processing of visual information, compared with players who had headed the ball fewer times. (White matter is the brain’s communication wiring, the axons and other structures that relay messages between neurons.)
This pattern of white matter loss is “similar to those seen in traumatic brain injury,” like after a serious concussion, the researchers reported, even though only one of these players reported having ever experienced a concussion.
The players who had headed the ball about 1,100 times or more in the past year were also substantially worse at recalling lists of words read to them, forgetting or fumbling the words far more often than players who had headed the ball less often.
“Based on these results, it does look like there is a potential for significant effects on the brain from frequent heading,” says Dr. Michael L. Lipton, associate director of the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Einstein and senior author of the study.
Image: Boy with a soccer ball, via Shutterstock
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Monday, October 17th, 2011
The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new guidelines for diagnosing and treating children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Included in the guidelines are diagnostic workups for children as young as four, as well as recommendations on the use of ADHD medications in high school-age teenagers.
The Boston Globe’s Daily Dose blog reports:
The previous guidelines issued a decade ago only applied to children aged 6 through 12 since at that time, there a was a lack of research in preschoolers and teens, according to Dr. Mark Wolraich, chair of the guideline committee.
Besides expanding the age range, “we wanted to strongly remind physicians that this is a chronic illness,” said Wolraich, “and if anything we’ve fallen down in the care of children” who, once they reach high school, stop taking their medications only to see a return of symptoms.
(Wolraich, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, has served as a consultant to several pharmaceutical firms that manufacture drugs for the treatment of ADHD. Most of the 15 members of the guideline writing committee had no conflicts.)
An estimated 5 percent of American school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD or its cousin, attention deficit disorder, and questions have been raised concerning the overdiagnosis and overtreatment of the disorders in those with mild behavioral problems that fall into the normal range of behavior. Two studies last year found that the youngest kids in the class — who are more likely be less mature than their peers — were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
(image via: http://wsau.com/)
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Monday, September 12th, 2011
A new study of 4-year-old children found that just nine minutes spent watching fast-paced shows like the Nickelodeon television program SpongeBob SquarePants can cause short-term learning and attention problems, The Associated Press reports.
The study, which was published online in the journal Pediatrics, was small, researchers caution (only 60 children were involved), so the results should be taken with a grain of salt. But the findings did show that children who watched SpongeBob scored measurably worse on mental function and impulse control tests than children who either watched the slower-paced PBS program Caillou or drew pictures for nine minutes.
SpongeBob, researchers said, is not the problem per se, but it is an example of a type of fast-paced programming that has a short-term impact on children’s attention:
University of Virginia psychology professor Angeline Lillard, the lead author, said Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” shouldn’t be singled out. She found similar problems in kids who watched other fast-paced cartoon programming.
She said parents should realize that young children are compromised in their ability to learn and use self-control immediately after watching such shows. “I wouldn’t advise watching such shows on the way to school or any time they’re expected to pay attention and learn,” she said.
A Nickelodeon spokesperson told the AP that the study was unfair because SpongeBob is made for older kids, 6-11 years old.
(image via: http://spongebob-squarepants.otavo.tv)
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