Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
A new study by British researchers will be the largest-ever to examine whether chronic use of mobile phones and other wireless devices affects kids’ and teenagers’ brain development. Reuters has more:
The Study of Cognition, Adolescents and Mobile Phones, or SCAMP, project will focus on cognitive functions such as memory and attention, which continue to develop into adolescence – just the age when teenagers start to own and use personal phones.
While there is no convincing evidence that radio waves from mobile phones affect health, to date most scientific research has focused on adults and the potential risk of brain cancers.
Because of that, scientists are uncertain as to whether children’s developing brains may be more vulnerable than adults’ brains – partly because their nervous systems are still developing, and partly because they are likely to have a higher cumulative exposure over their lifetimes.
“Scientific evidence available to date is reassuring and shows no association between exposure to radiofrequency waves from mobile phone use and brain cancer in adults in the short term – i.e. less than 10 years of use,” said Paul Elliott, director of the Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, who will co-lead the research.
“But the evidence available regarding long term heavy use and children’s use is limited and less clear.”
Mobile phone use is ubiquitous, with the World Health Organisation estimating 4.6 billion subscriptions globally. In Britain, some 70 percent of 11 to 12 year-olds now own a mobile phone, and that figure rises to 90 percent by age 14.
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Image: Teen on cell phones, via Shutterstock
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Friday, May 2nd, 2014
A group of churches in Memphis have organized their first-ever prom for teenagers who live with disabilities like Down syndrome. More from ABC News on the “Memphis Joy Prom:”
[The prom was] complete with a red carpet, a makeup station, limos and tiaras for everyone. They had a prom dress donation drive in March, and a church member offered to cover tuxedo rentals from Men’s Warehouse, so the 110 attendees didn’t have to spend a dime.
“This was our first one, and it was unbelievable,” organizer Ashley Parks told ABCNews.com.
Parks said one parent sent a heartfelt note thanking her for loving her children “as much as God loves them.”
“We all cried over it,” she said. “It was one of many.”
But what made the Joy Prom different was that it allowed people 16 and up to attend. She said a couple with disabilities in their 60s went to Joy Prom because they never got to go to one when they were in high school.
Image: Prom corsage, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 1st, 2014
An Argentine girl has died after an apparent attack by bullies who allegedly inflicted severe violence on the 17-year-old. CNN has more:
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Naira Cofreces died Sunday of multiple injuries, including bruising to the left side of her brain, officials said.
“First there was a verbal altercation and then she was kicked, punched and Naira’s head was smashed against a wall,” Judge Maria Laura Durante told Telam, the Argentine state news agency. The judge also said this is a case of “aggravated homicide because there might’ve been premeditation.”
Officials say the teen was attacked last Wednesday at about 10 p.m., after leaving the night school she attended in the city of Junín, about 260 kilometers (161 miles) west of Buenos Aires. Her attackers, ages 17, 22 and 29, were waiting for her after school. The two younger ones were her classmates. All three have been arrested and charged with aggravated homicide, authorities said.
“There’s no clear motive. We have testimony that suggests the motive could’ve been another girl or because they (the victim and her friends) acted as if they were more beautiful than the rest and dressed better than them,” Durante told Telam.
A close friend of Cofreces told CNN affiliate Channel 9 the dispute started over differences that the victim and her alleged attackers had over looks and demeanor.
“She (one of the attackers) would tell her that she had a snobby face, an old woman’s face, that she thought she was more beautiful than her and that she walked as if she were a model. That’s how the whole problem started,” said the friend, who was not identified because she’s a minor.
Cofreces went home after the attack, but was taken to Agudos General Hospital the following morning. “She came the day after she was beaten up, we did a tomography and discovered a big hematoma on the left side of her brain, so we decided to operate,” Dr. Carlos Garbe told Telam.
A new tomography revealed more bruising of the brain. leading to a second surgery. “After the second surgery, she continued to show complications which worsened until she died,” Garbe said.
Friday, March 7th, 2014
Young people who start smoking by using e-cigarettes, which contain nicotine but no tobacco tar or smoke, are more likely to eventually smoke real cigarettes–and less likely to quit smoking altogether than those who do not use e-cigarettes, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The New York Times has more on the study, which is getting a divided response from experts:
The study’s lead author, Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who has been critical of the devices, said the results suggested that e-cigarettes, whose use is growing rapidly among youth and adults, were leading to less quitting, not more.
“The use of e-cigarettes does not discourage, and may encourage, conventional cigarette use among U.S. adolescents,” the study concluded. It was published online in JAMA Pediatrics on Thursday.
But other experts said the data did not support that interpretation. . They said that just because e-cigarettes are being used by youths who smoke more and have a harder time quitting does not mean that the devices themselves are the cause of those problems. It is just as possible, they said, that youths who use the devices were heavier smokers to begin with or would have become heavy smokers.
“The data in this study do not allow many of the broad conclusions that it draws,” said Thomas J. Glynn, a researcher at the American Cancer Society.
The study is likely to further stir the debate over what electronic cigarettes mean for the nation’s 45 million smokers, three million of whom are adolescents. Some experts worry that e-cigarettes is a gateway to smoking real cigarettes for young people, though most say the data is too skimpy to settle the issue. Others hope the devices could be a path to quitting.
So far, the overwhelming majority of young people who use e-cigarettes also smoke real cigarettes, a large federal survey published last year found.
Still, while e-cigarette use among youth doubled from 2011 to 2012, cigarette smoking for youth has continued to decline. The smoking rate hit a record low in 2013 of 9.6 percent, down by two-thirds from its peak in 1997.
The new study drew on broad federal survey data from more than 17,000 middle school and high school students in 2011 and more than 22,000 in 2012. But instead of following the same students over time – which many experts say is crucial to determine whether there has been a progression from e-cigarettes to actual smoking — the study examined two different groups of students, essentially creating two snapshots.
Image: Teen smoking e-cigarette, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
Teens who smoke cigarettes–even those who don’t smoke “heavily,” can quickly alter their brain structure in ways that were previously thought to be reserved for long-time smokers. These are the findings of a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, which found that smoking one pack of cigarettes or less each day can lead to brain patterns that lock people into dependence on nicotine. More from Time.com:
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[Edythe] London and her colleagues focused on a brain region called the insula, since previous studies in animal and adults showed that its size and volume were affected by smoking. Of the regions in the cortical, or memory, awareness and language parts of the brain, the insula contains the most receptors for nicotine. The region is responsible for decision-making and helping to establish a person’s conscious awareness of his internal state. In studies of stroke patients, smokers who lost function of the right insula in the stroke quit smoking, and reported feeling no cravings for nicotine. And in earlier studies London’s team conducted, they found a strong relationship between how much smokers who watched videos of people smoking experienced cravings for cigarettes and the activity of the insula, which lit up on PET scans.
When London’s team looked at the brains of the 18 smoking teens and 24 non-smoking adolescents, aged 16 to 21 years, using structural MRI, they found no differences overall in the insula region. But a closer examination revealed that the right insula of the smokers was thinner than those of the nonsmokers.
“The brain is still undergoing development when someone is in their late teens,” she says. “It’s possible that smoking during this period could have effects that could alter tobacco dependence later in life, and that the insult could alter the trajectory of brain development.”
While the study doesn’t establish whether the differences in the insula can lead to smoking, or is the result of smoking, London says it highlights the role that the brain region may play in how people respond to nicotine and cigarettes. “I think this is very exciting because it points to a vulnerability, a potential vulnerability factor either to become nicotine dependent or for the effects of smoking to ultimately alter the trajectory of brain development,” she says. That trajectory could affect not only smoking behavior but decision-making in general, since the insula is important in such assessments.