News & Notes

Poor care for lower back pain - scans, painkillers and mismanagement leads to disability, low productivity and poor quality of life

Iron-deficiency anaemia, migraine and other musculo-skeletal conditions (that include everything other than osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) are the top three causes of disability in India, according to the Lancet series author and now, low back pain has become the fourth highest cause of disability. World wide Low back pain affects 540 million people and is the leading cause of disability and too many patients receive the wrong care. Evidence suggests that low back pain should be managed in primary care, with the first line of treatment being education and advice to keep active and at work. The Lancet series highlights “However, in reality, a high proportion of patients worldwide are treated in emergency departments, encouraged to rest and stop work, are commonly referred for scans or surgery or prescribed painkillers including opioids, which are discouraged for treating low back pain,” .

The series also reviewed evidence from high- and low-income countries that suggests that many of the mistakes of high-income countries are already well established in low-income and middle-income countries. Low back pain results in 2.6 million emergency visits in the US each year, with high rates of opioid prescription. In India, studies suggest that bed rest is frequently recommended, and a study in South Africa found that 90% of patients received pain medicine as their only form of treatment, the series has highlighted.

“India was no different from the rest of the world. Indian clinicians manage back pain just as poorly as the rest of the world. For instance a 2008 survey of all 186 registered physiotherapists in Maharashtra showed that 46% advised patients with low back pain to rest. 63% of Indians believe that bed rest is the mainstay of therapy. This is a misconception as bed rest delays recovery,”.

Imaging for low back pain also seems to be highly prevalent in several low-income and middle-income countries, including India. A study in 2008-10 showed that among 251 patients with chronic low back pain reviewed in an Indian orthopaedic clinic, all underwent imaging, with 76% diagnosed with non-specific low back pain and 10% with spondylosis. “Most people do not need imaging. It can be harmful including radiation, anxiety as well as risks increased use of unnecessary tests and treatments which might also be harmful,”. In terms of burden of low back and neck pain in India — it accounts for almost 7% of years lived with disability. This is the extent to which the condition is mistreated, often against best practice treatment guidelines.

The Global Burden of Disease study (2017) found that low back pain is the leading cause of disability in almost all high-income countries as well as in many regions. Globally, years lived with disability caused by low back pain increased by 54% between 1990 and 2015, mainly because of population increase and ageing, with the biggest increase seen in low-income and middle-income countries.

Dr Arvind Chopra, director of the Centre for Rheumatic Diseases, Pune, and senior research professor at SRM Medical College, Chennai, said that in the WHO community programme for control of rheumatic diseases, an India survey of 56,546 persons from 11 sites found the prevalence of back pain at 7%, and 13% among those aged over 65. “This would mean that millions of Indians suffer from back pain which leads to disability, low productivity and poor quality of life,” he said

Landmark Pune study on diabetes begins testing the third generation

Thin Indian babies ‘fatter’ than European babies and are at greater risk of diabetes: A study carried out by Chittaranjan Yajnik, head of the Diabetes Research Centre at KEM Hospital and followed up for long 25 years in three generations.

This landmark research led by Dr. Yajnik’s team to embark upon the Pune Maternal Nutrition Study launched in Twenty five years ago in the year 1993 and being last followed up in December, 2017 has helped in explaining why diabetes was so widely prevalent in India, even among malnourished populations, when, globally, the disease was very commonly associated with obesity. “We showed that the ‘small and thin’ Indian babies were ‘fatter’ than the Europid babies and the risk of future diabetes was present at birth itself. Evidence also showed that the role of maternal micronutrient nutrition for the baby’s growth was crucial,” Yajnik told. Twenty five years later, it has led to pioneering ideas in the field of fetal programming.

The first stage of the study that began in 1993 included 814 women from six villages in Pune district. Between 1994 and 1996, a total of 770 of these women delivered babies. The weight and size of these babies were monitored every six months. Their insulin resistance was observed at the age of six, 12 and 18 years. These children were followed up by social workers who ensured that they did not drop out of the study. The observations showed that children born to mothers with high homocysteine and low vitamin B12 levels had lower birth-weight and higher insulin resistance.

By 2012, the research team had been following up on 577 children born to the mothers of the 1993 cohort. They started providing them Vitamin B12 supplements in order to reduce the future diabetes risk in their own offspring. Till December 2017, 107 of this group of 577 had given birth to children, forming the third generation of subjects under observation. The newly born babies will now be studied for various metabolic parameters as the researchers have stored the babies’ cord blood, placenta and other samples at the unique bio-bank. The researchers are waiting for this third-generation sample size to grow up to 200 before doing data analysis.

The Yajnik’s Centre has been successful in monitoring three generations so far, retained the study participants, got consent from the in-laws after the girls got married to continue in the study and now their babies will be assessed. Dietary patterns are being analysed and other physical changes are being documented. Counselling is provided for each participant and after a total of 200 deliveries the data will be further analysed. There has been more than 90 per cent follow-up rates which documented the nutritional and socioeconomic transition in the society. The unique bio-bank has samples stored for measurements of DNA, RNA, metabolites, hormones, and so on. This will be a unique legacy for future investigators.

Yajnik’s centre now collaborates with researchers Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore.

These findings can have important implications in controlling diabetes and heart disease epidemic in the country.

In India, six per cent have diabetes, 20-25 per cent hypertension

A study led by researchers at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health has found hypertension more prevalent among young adults in India than previously thought, and rates of diabetes and hypertension among middle-aged and elderly people high across all geographical areas and socio demographic groups.

Described by the authors as the first nationally representative study of these conditions, it was published online in JAMA Internal Medicine. It looked at health data, which included plasma glucose and blood pressure measurements, from 1.32 million adults in 27 states (except Gujarat and J&K) and five UTs between 2012 and 2014.

Standardised for age, diabetes prevalence in India was 6.1% among women and 6.5% among men; for hypertension, it was 20% among women and 24.5% among men. For comparison, the paper cites corresponding estimates for prevalence in the US — for diabetes, 6.4% among women and 8.1% among men; for hypertension, 10.8% among women and 15.5% among men. The prevalence of both conditions among middle-aged adults in the poorest households in rural areas, too, was high (5.9% had diabetes and 30% had hypertension), contrary to the perception that these are conditions affecting the city wealthy.

Diabetes was most prevalent in Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and West Bengal. The hypertension prevalence tended to be highest in Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Sikkim and Nagaland. The prevalence of diabetes varied from 2.33% among women in Madhya Pradesh to 17.90% among men in Goa. Hypertension was higher among adults under 45 but common even among younger groups — for example, at 12.1% in age group 18-25.

Understanding how diabetes and hypertension prevalence varies within a country as large as India is essential for targeting of prevention, screening, and treatment services. This study is the latest reaffirmation of India’s dual burden of rising non communicable diseases and continuing communicable diseases. India has a window of opportunity to invest in its health system to effectively tackle hypertension and diabetes — both major killers. The potential for harnessing new technologies to reverse the course of these epidemics is real. However, because the epidemics are worsening rapidly, now is the time for immediate action.

The diagnosis of hypertension and diabetes is straightforward, but mostly gets untapped due lack of awareness and regular medical checkups. There is urgent need to focus on these two silent killers as well as other non communicable diseases to reduce the burden of preventable premature morbidity and mortality. If unchecked, we will see a lot more victims of these two diseases in next two decades.

India ranks 145th among 195 countries in healthcare, disparity among states

India ranks a lowly 145th among 195 countries in terms of healthcare access and quality in 2016, as assessed in a Global Burden of Disease study published in The Lancet. The study used an index based on 32 causes of death that should be preventable with effective medical care. Each country was given a healthcare access and quality (HAQ) score between 0-100. India’s HAQ score is 41.2, up from 24.7 in 1990.

For the first time, the study also analysed healthcare access and quality between regions of seven countries including India. China and India had the widest disparities of 43.5 and 30.8 points, respectively, while Japan had the narrowest of 4.8 points. In India, the 30.8-point difference marks an increase in disparity from 23.4 points in 1990. Goa and Kerala had the highest scores in 2016, both over 60, whereas Assam and Uttar Pradesh had the lowest, both below 40.

While India has seen improvements since 1990, its HAQ score was lower than 50 for 23 of the 32 causes of death. Particularly low were scores like 12 for skin cancer, 24 for neonatal deaths and adverse medical treatment, and 30 for tuberculosis and chronic kidney ailments which is really disappointing – well behind BRICS countries.

India’s low score in TB is because it is often missed by practitioners, and MDR-TB is diagnosed very late. In the public system, patients are lost along the entire care cascade, and this means only 1 in 2 TB patients make it to the finish line. With MDR-TB, only 1 in 5 patients cross the finish line and successfully complete therapy. All this makes for a poor HAQ score. The bottom line, simply focusing on coverage of TB services is not enough. We need to also improve quality of TB care, in both private and public sectors.

The reason for India’s poor show is also due to low density of health workers in the poorly performing states. For instance, the Janani Suraksha Yojana has registered a rise in the number of institutional deliveries, however there is no demonstrable correlation with lowering of maternal mortality in certain states.

This scorecard clearly shows that the health system is weak and while centrally funded schemes have provided health access in some areas, quality has not improved in certain states.

Why 77% of the elderly in Delhi don't report abuse

A survey on the abuse faced by the elderly in the capital highlighted that most victims do not report the matter to authorities concerned because of the taboo associated with the issue, often citing it as a “confidential family matter”. While at least 33% of 218 respondents in Delhi — which was among the top five cities with highest incidents of elderly abuse —have experienced some form of abuse. Only 0.5% of them said they had availed benefits available to them under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act that makes it legally binding for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens.

The most striking feature of the report was that the respondents had been facing abuse for the last six years but 77% of the participants did not report it, thinking of it as a “confidential family matter”. Other reasons included lack of awareness of the process of reporting the abuse, fear of “retaliation” or “lack of confidence” in themselves or agencies dealing with abuse, including police helplines and MWPSC tribunals. The study states that while verbal abuse (58%), disrespect (48%), neglect (34%), economic exploitation (11%) and even physical violence (10%) remained the top factors contributing to abuse, social media and technology have widened the generation gap between senior citizens and their children, leading to further alienation. The primary perpetrators of the abuse were sons (62%), followed by daughter-in-law (44%), spouse or partner (11%) and grandchildren (7%).

Delhi: AIIMS explores link between yoga and mental health

Since there is huge potential for yoga in preventive medicine, 20 different research projects at AIIMS are currently focusing on a yoga-based lifestyle, ranging from its effects on patients with migraine to those with chronic bronchitis to rehabilitation for those who have suffered a stroke.

One such recent study is a result of a five-year research project conducted by the lab for molecular reproduction and genetics at the department of anatomy. Published in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience in March 2018, the study found that meditation and a yoga-based lifestyle could result in a “decrease in depression severity” and improvement in “systemic biomarkers of neuroplasticity”, and, hence, could be “considered a therapeutic intervention” in the management of depression.

The study, which looked at 236 subjects, saw that the introduction of yoga into lifestyle resulted in a decrease in cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone; increased levels of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness; and balanced oxidative stress, a reflection of the body’s ability to detoxify. It also increased serotonin levels — a chemical that nerves produce, a deficiency of which can result in depression —and decreased DNA damage.

“While depression is a global pandemic, not everyone responds to drugs and there are a lot of side-effects. Our research found that after just 12 weeks, there was a reduction in symptoms of depression. This was a randomised controlled trial, where we had two groups — one that took the medicines, and the other which practiced yoga alongside it,” said Dr Rima Dada, author of the study.

Dr Gautam Sharma, professor in charge at the Centre for Integrated Medical Research at AIIMS, said they were conducting 27 clinical trials. “Of the 27, 16 are ongoing trials. For instance, we have a trial looking at the benefits of stress reduction in nurses who are in ICUs… The results from the trials have been encouraging,” said Dr Sharma.

300 Community Health Centres in UP’s 75 districts to get a psychologist each

The Centre has sanctioned 300 posts for appointment of psychologists in community health centres (CHCs) of Uttar Pradesh to tackle growing cases of mental illness. People living in the rural areas of the state at present have no access to psychologists as only district hospitals have such a facility besides three government mental hospitals in Bareilly, Agra and Varanasi. According to National Mental Health Survey report of 2015-16, families had to spend nearly Rs 1,000-1,500 a month mainly for treatment and travel to access care. The hidden and intangible costs are difficult to monetize and add to this burden, said the report.. It will be now easier to reach out to patients suffering from mental illnesses at the grassroots level and help them.

A community psychologist appointed for CHC will get a monthly honorarium of Rs 25,000 and he or she should hold a postgraduate degree in clinical psychology or psychology. Those with a masters degree in plain psychology will be first given training before they join any CHC. Community psychologists at CHCs will help in creating awareness and conducting basic diagnosis of mental disorders, including depression, mania, mood disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. They can prescribe treatment for mild depression, anxiety and provide counselling for drug and alcohol abuses, tobacco control and marital discord. Even psychiatrists will visit CHCs and psychologists can also refer patients to district hospitals.

Under National Mental Health Programme, UP has set up mental health cells in 45 districts. Each cell has psychiatrists, a clinical psychologist, a social worker and other staff. District mental health cell’s out-patient department (OPD) is functional for three days in a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) while the staff visits CHCs on Tuesday and Thursday on a rotational basis. On Saturdays, the staff visits schools to create awareness about mental illness among children. The Centre has now sanctioned mental health cells in remaining 30 districts of the state.

The country’s mental healthcare suffers from an acute shortage of staff. Minister of state for health and family welfare Anupriya Patel had recently informed Lok Sabha that there are only 898 psychologists against 20,250 required in the country and less than 900 psychiatric social workers against the 37,000 needed. Also, as of January 2015, there were 3,827 psychiatrists against the 13,500 required in the country. According to the 2011 Census, more than 7.22 lakh people across the country were suffering from “mental illness”, while over 15 lakh were “mentally retarted”. With 76,603 people suffering from some sort of mental illness, Uttar Pradesh has the highest number in the country followed by West Bengal at 71,515, Kerala at 66,915 & Maharashtra at 58,753.

New evidence for viruses’ role in Alzheimer’s disease

Herpes virus genes found in patients’ brains provide unprecedented evidence for a connection, but the viruses’ exact role remains unclear.

Results of a recent study breathe new life into an old hypothesis: that viruses, herpes viruses in particular, could play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Researchers analyzed DNA and RNA sequencing data from brain tissue donated by 622 people who had Alzheimer’s disease and 322 people who didn’t. They found that specific herpes viruses were more abundant in the brains of patients who had Alzheimer’s when they died. For two of the viruses, HHV-6A and HHV-7, the association with Alzheimer’s was particularly strong, even when compared to tissue samples of people with other neurodegenerative diseases. The idea that viruses could somehow be involved in Alzheimer’s isn’t new. Previous studies have examined HSV-1, the virus that causes cold sores, but this evidence was less compelling. “Earlier studies focused on the presence of anti-HSV-1 antibodies, which meant that those with antibodies had encountered HSV-1 at some time during their lives. This new study showed HHV-6 and HHV-7 viral genes in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients at the time they died,” explains Sam Gandy, an Alzheimer’s disease specialist at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and one of the study’s senior authors.

The researchers also modeled how the viruses’ genes interacted with human genes. “We were surprised to find that expression of a half dozen recognizable Alzheimer's genes was apparently modulated by HHV6/7,” said Gandy, “We tend to think of viral causes and genetic causes separately, but it is possible that viral proteins are acting as transcription factors that turn on Alzheimer’s disease genes.”

The study does not suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is contagious. HHV-6A and HHV-7 are extremely common viruses. Nearly everyone above the age of six has at least one of them circulating in their blood. In most cases, the viruses are latent. "There are still a lot of unanswered questions around how we go from being able to detect it circulating in someone's blood to knowing whether it's active in a state that might be relevant to Alzheimer's disease," said Readhead, one of the lead author of the study.

"While these findings do potentially open the door for new treatment options to explore in a disease where we've had hundreds of failed trials, they don't change anything that we know about the risk and susceptibility of Alzheimer's disease or our ability to treat it today," said Gandy.

Others in the Alzheimer’s research community are also cautious in their assessments of the study’s significance. David Reynolds, who was not involved in the study, is Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK. He points out that the part of the study involving actual human brain tissue does not provide any evidence for cause and effect. Still, Renyolds says the study is an important step forward: “This detailed analysis of human brain tissue takes this research further [than previous studies], indicating a relationship between the viruses and the activity of genes involved in Alzheimer’s, as well as brain changes, molecular signals, and symptoms associated with the disease. This was a well-conducted study, and the authors’ findings were supported by evidence drawn from three independent sources of donated brain tissue.”

More research will be needed to determine why people with Alzheimer’s have more of these herpes viruses in their brains, and what role (if any) they play in the onset and progression of the disease. If scientists can solve these puzzles, they may uncover new ways to treat Alzheimer’s with antiviral medicines. Based on previous studies looking at HSV-1, clinical trials with the antiviral medicine Valtrex are already underway.

Beyond highlighting HHV-6A and HHV-7 as viruses of interest, the new study also demonstrates a promising path to progress in Alzheimer’s research. The researchers drew not only on samples and data from multiple brain banks, but also from cohort studies and raw genetic data. Richard Hodes, Director of the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study, said: “This research highlights the importance of sharing data freely and widely with the research community."

Is Autism Linked To Food Allergies?

Could there be a link between autism and food allergies? A new study from the University of Iowa suggests one, but researchers are still trying to discover how and why.

The study, published in June 2018, found that children with autism are more than twice as likely to experience a food allergy than children who do not have ASD. Researchers analyzed the health information of nearly 200,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17 collected by the U.S. National Health Interview Survey, an annual Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey of American households. The data covered 1997 to 2016.

The study found that 11.25 percent of children reportedly diagnosed with ASD have a food allergy, compared with the 4.25 percent of children who are not diagnosed with ASD and have a food allergy. The findings, researchers said, add to a growing body of research that already suggests immunological problems as a possible risk factor for developing autism.

Because the study is observational, though, researchers couldn’t identify a cause-and-effect relationship between food allergies and autism, said Wei Bao, an author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology at the university. “We don’t know which comes first, food allergy or ASD,” Bao indicated. Previous studies about a possible link between autism and allergies focused mainly on respiratory and skin allergies, and yielded inconclusive results, Bao said.

The Iowa study found 18.73 percent of children with ASD also had respiratory allergies, compared with 12.08 percent of children without ASD who had them. It also found that 16.81 percent of children with ASD had skin allergies, compared with 9.84 percent of children without ASD. That suggested to researchers some type of mechanical link between the two. But more study will be needed to understand how allergies and autism, both on the rise, could be connected, pediatric allergist Scott H. Sicherer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, told the American Journal of Managed Care. “I wouldn’t want people to misinterpret this to say that a food allergy is causing autism,” nor should children with ASD be routinely screened for food allergies, Sicherer told the Journal.

One issue: Parents of children with autism might report their children have a food allergy, but it’s not always possible to know whether it’s really an allergy or simply a behavioral preference, Sicherer said. Still, Thomas Frazier, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, told HealthDay News that parents and physicians need to be aware “of the increased prevalence and ensure that individuals receive appropriate evaluation for allergies with subsequent treatment. “This is particularly true for very young children and nonverbal or minimally verbal children who may not be able to express to parents or providers the effects of allergies.” The findings suggest allergies could be a contributing factor to challenging behaviors, such as irritability and mood shifts, in people with autism.

The study, “Association of Food Allergy and Other Allergic Conditions with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children,” was published in JAMA Network Open.

Bill proposes affordable treatment to Autism-affected

The Autism Spectrum Disorders (Recognition and Treatment) Bill, 2017 proposes that treatment of ASD including counselling, therapeutic sessions and rehabilitative care shall be provided free of cost at public health centres.

Autism Spectrum Disorders refer to an umbrella group of developmental disorders, resulting from a delay in the maturation of the central nervous system. The Bill is aimed at recognising the rights of individuals suffering from autism spectrum disorders and making its treatment accessible and affordable.. At the same time, state governments shall recruit more mental health care professionals in public hospitals to maintain the doctor-patient ratio. i.e. at least a doctor for every 40 patients suffering from ASD, it says. The proposed legislation also says that the central government shall provide funds for medical research, which will ascertain the causes of ASD & other developmental disorders. In majority of the cases, ASDs manifest themselves in children below 1 year. "The government can mitigate the incidence of ASDs through many measures such as encouraging screening of pregnant women and ensuring that they get their vaccination and maintain their haemoglobin levels,".

AIIMS, RML doctors delve into effects of yoga on migraine and schizophrenia

Studies done by AIIMS and RML indicate that the ancient Indian discipline can improve cognitive functions in a person suffering from mental disorder and can be an add-on therapy to reduce migraine attacks.

Yoga can improve cognitive functions in a person suffering from mental disorder and can be an add-on therapy to reduce migraine attacks, two separate studies by top hospitals in the city indicate.

Research at RML Hospital suggests that mentally ill persons could benefit from simple yoga exercises if these are incorporated into their treatment regimens. This cognitive improvement may help them in their rehabilitation and adjustment in society.

The study has now been published in the Journal of Acta Neuropsychiatrica, was sponsored by National Institute of Health (NIH), United States. Researchers across the world have been trying to determine the effectiveness of the ancient Indian discipline as a complementary intervention for conditions such as cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease.

Dr Triptish Bhatia, principal investigator of Indo-US projects at the Department of Psychiatry, RML Hospital, told MAILTODAY, "This was a random study on 286 patients with schizophrenia admitted at RML. It was done to evaluate whether yoga training or any type of physical training enhance cognitive functions in schizophrenia."

Patients above 18 years who attended RML psychiatry clinics from 2010 to 2014 were included. "The results confirmed greater improvement in the speed index of 'attention cognitive domain' after yoga therapy in individuals with schizophrenia than physical exercise at six months followup," said Dr Bhatia.YOGA CAN BE CONSIDERED COGNITIVE ENHANCEMENT THERAPY'

Dr Smita Deshpande, head, psychiatry department, RML Hospital, added impaired cognition is a hallmark of schizophrenia. "Current pharmacologic treatments produce improvement in psychotic symptoms, but do not improve cognitive impairments substantially. As yoga includes mindfulness training and physical exercise, it can also be considered cognitive enhancement therapy (CET)."

While yoga therapy improved "attention domain" among patients with schizophrenia, it showed good improvement in cognitive domain such as abstraction and mental flexibility, face memory, spatial memory, spatial ability, working memory, sensorimotor, emotions among such patients.

These cognitive functions were assessed with the University of Pennsylvania's computerised neurocognitive battery (CNB). Patients were on mediation and also practising yoga every day. Firstly, cognitive parameters were evaluated on 21 days and they showed improvement. With the same figures accessed on CNB, doctors evaluated their cognitive domain at the third month, which again showed much improvement, and at the end of sixth month, there was greater improvement in yoga following patients.

Dr Randeep Guleria from AIIMS said yoga was found to be as effective as standard pulmonary rehabilitation in improving dyspnoea, inflammatory markers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. "We are studying 160 patients with migraine who are following yoga practice along with medicine. Right now, what we can hypothesise is that yoga can be an add-on therapy to reduce migraine attacks as the relaxation techniques are believed to have a positive impact on certain chemicals in the body and brain," Dr Rohit Bhatia, neurologist at AIIMS, told MAIL TODAY.

Over 300 Million People Suffer From Depression Globally: WHO

Depression is characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in everyday activities and work.

Depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide with more than 300 million people suffering from it, the World Health Organization (WHO) said ahead of World Health Day.
Rates of depression have risen by more than 18 per cent since 2005, but a lack of support for the mental health combined with a common fear of stigma means many don't get the treatment they need to live healthy, productive lives. "These new figures are a wake-up call for all countries to re-think their approaches to mental health and to treat it with the urgency it deserves," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said. The report further indicated that the declining mental health has been a major cause of suicides, especially in the low and middle-income countries.  The figures were far from being a relief even closer home, it stated that more than five crore Indians suffered from depression in 2015, and over three crore dealt with anxiety disorders. Latest estimates from WHO show that by 2030, depression will be the leading cause of disability worldwide, drawing attention to the fact that immediate measures must be taken by all countries to address depression and prevent it. The WHO is running a mental health campaign to tackle stigma and misconceptions. "For someone living with depression, talking to a person they trust is often the first step towards treatment and recovery," said Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO's mental health department.

Depression is a mental disorder where the person suffers from prolonged period of sadness, which disrupts not just their mood but daily activities as well. Patients find it even difficult to wake up and get out of bed in the morning. You can also notice visible changes in the person's behaviour, feelings and sense of well-being. We all feel low sometimes, but this negative state of being can trigger suicidal tendencies and various health problems like diabetes and heart disease, which are themselves among the world's biggest killers . As we go about with our day, we often fail to realise that some of our silly habits can be putting us at risk of depression. After all, our lifestyle choices play a big role for our overall health, and sedentary lifestyle or unhealthy habits can lead to the onset of various ailments in the long run.

The WHO expressed concern that in many countries there is little or no support for people with mental health disorders, and said only around half of people with depression get treatment in wealthier nations. On an average just three per cent of government health budget is spent on mental health, varying from less than one per cent in poor countries to five percent in affluent ones, according to the WHO. "A better understanding of depression and how it can be treated ... is just the beginning," said Mr Saxena. "What needs to follow is sustained scale-up of mental health services accessible to everyone, even the most remote populations."

Here are some habits we need to We Need to Cut Down Today

1. Binge Eating

When the hunger pangs kick in, some of us just lose control and go on a binge eating spree, savouring pizzas with extra cheese, king-size burgers and fries, sugar loaded beverages, etc. Binge eating doesn't just add extra kilos around your belly, but may put you at depression risk, says a study. Binge eating episodes lead to obesity which, in turn, causes depression owing to weight stigma, poor self-esteem and reduced mobility.
2. Taking Stress

The hectic lives we lead today, stress is almost inevitable. But is comes with severe health consequences. Serotonin is a chemical compound in the body, which is popularly referred to as the happiness hormone. It plays a significant role in a person's mental and psychological well-being. Due to stress, the level of serotonin secretion could reduce, contributing to the development of depression.

3. Internet Addiction

According to a study done by McMaster University in Canada, excessive use of internet may significantly increase the risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, especially among college-going students. The findings showed that individuals with internet addiction had more trouble dealing with their day-to-day activities, including life at home, at work/school and in social settings.

4. Daytime Sleepiness

We have all been found guilty of being drowsy in the middle of the day, despite a good night's sleep. While you may think it has much to do with your body's need for a caffeine boost, in reality it could also indicate obesity and depression. A common symptom of depression is improper sleep. Physiological sleep disturbances, including taking longer to fall asleep and waking up in the middle of the night, explains daytime drowsiness in people undergoing depression.

5. Fatty Foods

Let's admit it. We love fried and fatty foods knowing very well that they are harmful for health. The thought of biting into samosas, French fries, greasy burgers, and cheesy pizzas make our mouth water instantly, but let's not give into temptation. In a study done by researchers at the Louisiana State University, they found that a high-fat diet can alter behaviour and produce signs of brain inflammation. Further, it may also increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders.

6. Lack of Exercise

The importance of physical activities for our well-being is not a new thing. A few minutes of walking, jogging or dancing and other activities can charge you up instantly, releasing those happy hormones. The more tied up we get with our work, giving into stress and letting go of exercise, we put ourselves at risk of various health issues, including mental diseases.

Differently-abled category kids shine

As many as 3,335 students from the differently-abled category passed their CBSE Class X exam this year, bringing the pass percentage to 95.18%.

The category included visually impaired, hearing impaired, orthopaedic impaired, spastic, dyslexic and autistic students, among others. The number of orthopaedically impaired students was bigger compared to others with different disabilities.

Unnat Dave, who has cerebral palsy, did not let anything come in his way of success. The bright student of Rajhans Vidyalaya in Andheri scored 93.1%. "I never faced any problem while preparing for my board exams. I used to go for my physiotherapy sessions everyday. So after school hours, I wasn't left with much time to study. I tried to make full use of the time I got to study and my tuition teacher was also very dedicated. My school also cooperated and supported me throughout the year. I am planning to go for the engineering stream."

Nimilika Puppala, a differently-abled student from Rajhans Vidyalaya, has secured 8.8 CGPA in her CBSE examination. Her parents and teachers were very happy with her performance. Puppala has autism, which makes it difficult for her to have social interactions. She never took any tuition classes. "I like writing poems and stories in Marathi and English. Language is not an issue for me, though many people have this misconception about my disorder. I aspire to become a writer. My grandmother has always supported me and she helped me score this much."

Visually Impaired Girl Cracks UPSC in First Attempt. Will Become IAS Officer.

She could not see with her eyes but that did not stop her from visualizing a dream and working hard to make it come true.

Pranjal Patil, a 26-year-old visually-impaired Ulhasnagar resident, cleared the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams in 2016, getting an All-India ranking of 773.

Pranjal was just 6 years old when a student in her class hit one of her eyes with a pencil. After this, Pranjal lost vision in this eye. Doctors warned her parents that she might soon lose vision in the other eye too. And unfortunately, the warning proved to be right just after a year. But her parents never let her blindness come in the way of her education. They sent Pranjal to Smt. Kamla Mehta School for the Blind in Dadar, Mumbai. After passing Class 10 with flying colours, Pranjal also secured 85% in Class 12 and stood first in the Arts section of Chandibai College.

After this, she took admission in St. Xaviers College, Mumbai to do B.A. After finishing her graduation, Pranjal did her MA from JNU, Delhi. Pranjal started preparing for UPSC in 2015, along with pursuing her degree in MPhil. Technology played a big role here. She installed software called Job Access with Speech (JAWS), a computer screen reader program that allows blind and visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or with a Refreshable Braille display.

She used to get the books, get them scanned and then use JAWS to listen to them. She couldn’t use those hand-written notes which saves time as JAWS only reads printed documents. Her next challenge was to find a writer who could match her speed. And Vidushi was the perfect answer. The main exam paper is three hours long. People who have to write it with the help of a writer get four hours to finish. She had perfect tuning with Vidushi.

Although Pranjal does not know as yet where she will be posted, this brave lady is full of determination and wants to be an inspiring officer. She believes every single individual is important for the betterment of the nation. “Success doesn’t give inspiration; the struggle behind success gives you the inspiration. But success is important because only then people will be interested to know your struggle. The attitude and the approach to do something matters and each individual can become a building block for a beautiful society,” she concludes. We wish a great future for this brave girl.

Bukkaraya Samudram School (BKS) Uses Sports to Empower Speech & Hearing Impaired Students

In addition to regular academics, Bukkaraya Samudram School (BKS) uses sports and cultural activities to empower its hearing and speech impaired students and transform them into strong, independent individuals. All stakeholders are made to understand that these children are not a liability but are, in fact, an asset to society.

The school’s story began in 2008, when the Rural Development Trust (RDT) commissioned BKS to be a one-of-its-kind institution in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh. The school was established to support and guide children with hearing and speech impairments. In addition to delivering quality education, the school has also dedicated itself to ensuring the personality development and character building of its students through sports and other cultural activities.

While the influence of sports on personality development is undeniable, this non-academic focus has also had the added benefit of helping attract more children to attend school. BKS, unlike most schools in the region, boasts of a cricket ground, a tennis court, a volleyball court, a basketball court, a play area for younger children as well as indoor halls for badminton, chess and other games. For children who are more inclined towards the arts, BKS also offers activities centred around classical and non-classical dance, miming and handicrafts.

The values of RDT have been the driving inspiration for all activities and operations of the school since its inception. The school aims to create awareness about differently-abled individuals by educating parents and family members of its differently-abled students. Through sensitisation workshops during home visits, primary school teachers help families and friends understand the enormous potential of their students and all the things they are capable of achieving regardless of their handicap.

In addition to academic learning, BKS trains its students in all aspects of life. Students undergo sports training for every sport available on campus. They are also involved in cultural activities and basic handicraft training. After five to six years in primary school, the children become knowledgeable enough to choose an activity that they will continue participating in during their secondary school education. Their exposure to sports and personality development activities gives them an air of confidence that makes taking crucial decisions like this very easy.

BKS students also participate in Unified Sports, a sports initiative where differently-abled individuals and abled individuals compete against each other. It is here that BKS students realise their true potential as they compete neck-to-neck with their able-bodied counterparts, doing as well as, if not better than, them. The most famed achievement for BKS students has been in the area of cricket, where their team won the Rural Cricket Tournament thrice! Pranusha Rani, an alum of BKS, even represented India at the South Asian Championship for Chess in 2009.

As if their achievements in sports were not praiseworthy enough, BKS students have also outdone themselves in their quest for excellence in the fields of dance, drama and clay modelling. At least nine students have won the prestigious Navaras Bharath Rajahansa Award for classical dance. Countless students have proven to be a great inspiration to others, through their work in the national level competitions for visual arts and clay modelling.

This holistic approach to education, with its focus on sports and cultural activities, leads to the creation of confident young individuals. These students go on to pursue their education, often completing their graduation and post-graduation before taking up full-time jobs that allow them to become independent and self-sufficient.

RDT’s work does not end with ensuring that these students complete their schooling. Academically inclined students are given the opportunity to pursue their education with the support of RDT. Others are offered vocational training courses and training in skills such as handicrafts, carpentry, pottery, gardening and cooking.

Since its inception, the Bukkaraya Samudram High School has changed the lives of more than 300 students, 13 of whom are currently pursuing their post-graduation and seven of whom have successfully completed their education to lead fulfilling and rich lives.

BKS alumni have also brought laurels to the institute with their efforts. So far, as many as 49 of former students have participated at the National Level for various sports like chess, athletics and cricket.

Technology to the aid of autistic children
Recent research has shown that computer/digital technologies can help children with autism (and other disabilities) learn and communicate better. A computer training workshop for parents and children was held recently at Bangalore. 

Videogame addiction linked to ADHD, depression in men

Addiction to video games in young, single men may function as an escape mechanism for underlying psychiatric disorders such as ADHD and depression, a new study suggests.

"Video game addiction is more prevalent among younger men, and among those not being in a current relationship, than others," said Cecilie Schou Andreassen, from the University of Bergen in Norway. Schou Andreassen carried out the study with more than 20,000 participants who answered questions related to videogame addiction.

The study showed that video game addiction appears to be associated with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. "Excessively engaging in gaming may function as an escape mechanism for, or coping with, underlying psychiatric disorders in attempt to alleviate unpleasant feelings, and to calm restless bodies," said Schou Andreassen.

The study also showed that addiction related to videogames and computer activities exhibit sex differences. "Men seem generally more likely to become addicted to online gaming, gambling, and cyber-pornography, while women to social media, texting, and online shopping," Schou Andreassen said.

Walk in nature may not be good for anxiety prone people

People tend to do better in environments that fit with their personality. ‘Far from rejuvenating, a peaceful walk in the natural environment after a difficult day at work can make people prone to anxiety, and more stress’, new research suggests. ‘They should instead take a walk in a busy, urban environment’, the study said.

What should you do after a difficult day at work? Many people would take a peaceful walk in nature, but this may not be a wise choice for everyone. “Previous literature says that natural environments tend to restore cognitive abilities better than urban environments, but we questioned whether this one-sided perspective was accurate and found that people who are more prone to anxiety should instead take a walk in a busy, urban environment.,” said study lead author Kevin Newman, Assistant Professor at Providence College in Rhode Island, US.

Leprosy patients and doctors need better education: study

Better knowledge of the symptoms of leprosy will help reduce number of cases of the disease affecting nearly a quarter of a million people in the world with a majority of them reported from India. According to a study conducted by University of Birmingham in three Brazilian states, many patients appear to be still ignorant about the symptoms of leprosy, which is considered to be a disease affecting mainly poor people.

"This study highlights the need for further patient education on the diseases symptoms, as well as the reduction of stigma to encourage patients to seek earlier medical care. It also suggests the need for primary care clinicians to be better educated about the symptoms of leprosy," Henry said. Delays in diagnosis of more than 10 years have been reported in the study.

"Leprosy is curable, but early diagnosis is essential. Delays in identifying and treating the condition mean that the disease is more likely to spread and the patients in question may suffer more severe disabilities, It also found that reducing the social stigma attached to the infectious, but curable disease could encourage sufferers to go to their doctor and seek early treatment for the condition”.

The study found that stigma towards leprosy sufferers remains despite the availability of a cure. Fear of isolation was likely to lead to greater delay, with some patients concealing their symptoms and avoiding treatment for fear of social exclusion, it said. India, Myanmar and Nepal contribute 70 per cent of total leprosy cases in the world with over 50 per cent alone reported from India. The study recommends that national health programs should be used to inform the public that leprosy is curable and preventable. Nearly half of participants (45.1 per cent) waited before consulting a doctor because they did not believe their symptoms were serious, the study said.

AIDS control scheme gets Rs 300cr boost, to offer relief to 21 Lakh patients

Govt has taken a much needed initiative.. This will boost morals of patients who are suffering this deadly disease for a fight against the disease..

In a move likely to bring relief to over 21 lakh HIV patients across the country, the health ministry has ramped up the national AIDS control programme with an additional investment of over Rs 300 crore. The new plan includes introduction of third-line treat ment for over one lakh patients, increasing the bench mark for those eligible for free anti-retroviral therapy (ART) as well as ensuring more supplies of contraceptives. This assumes significance as the AIDS control programme, which is on the verge of maturing from receiving international funding, suffered a huge cut in budgetary allocation last year. This led to shortage of condoms, medicines and testing kits across the country . However, this year's budget has proposed an allocation of Rs 1615 crore for the programme, as compared to Rs 1300 crore in 2015-16.

Govt. has also raised the bar for CD4 count for those who will be eligible for free treatment. Currently , anyone who has a CD4 cell count of 350 is eligible for free ARTs. Under the new plan, which will be implemented from April, patients below 500 CD4 count will get free ARTs.

The increase in coverage of patients for free ARTs would entail an investment of around Rs 75-80 crore. Besides, the plan to introduce third-line treatment is estimated to involve around Rs 11crore. The government has also cleared a tender to procure 325 million pieces of condoms from the open market, a process which was pending for almost four years.

Self-harm causing most youth deaths in India

Self-harm is the top reason for adolescent or youth deaths in India causing close to 60,000 deaths annually in the age group of 15-24 years, a latest global study shows. It is also the biggest reason for disability among youths.

Suicide or self-harm caused a majority of adolescent and youth deaths in India in 2013, according to a study conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). Suicide/ self harm claimed 62,690 youngsters' lives in India, followed by road accidents that led to 41,168 deaths and tuberculosis (32,171 deaths), the Indian Express reported.

Suicides were particularly reported as a leading cause of death in the age group of 15-19 years and 20-24 years. According to the report, the number of suicides in 2013 in the age groups of 15-19 years and 20-24 years was 23,748 and 35,618, respectively.

In the age group of 10-14 years, intestinal infections emerged as a giant killer, claiming 11,668 lives, followed by diarrhoeal diseases, which led to 7,375 deaths. Self harm in this age group led to 3,594 deaths, the Indian Express quoted the report as saying. India's youth in the age group of 10-24 years, which constitutes 30.11 percent of the country's total population, is threatened by suicides, road accidents, tuberculosis and mental health disorders.

"Adolescents today face new challenges, including rising levels of obesity, mental health disorders and high unemployment," Vikram Patel, the professor of International Mental Health at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, U.K., and an expert researcher for the Lancet report was quoted by the Indian Express as saying.

According to the report, continuous neglect and lack of investments in the health sector is leading to loss of young lives globally. Two-thirds of young people are growing up in countries where preventable and treatable health problems, like HIV/AIDS, early pregnancy, unsafe sex, depression, injury and violence remain a daily threat to their health, well-being and life chances.

"This generation of young people can transform all our futures. There is no more pressing task in global health than ensuring they have the resources to do so. This means it will be crucial to invest urgently in their health, education, livelihoods, and participation," George Patton, a professor at the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the lead author of the study, said.

Adolescents aged 10-24 years (1.8 billion) represent over a quarter of the worldwide population, and 89 percent of them live in developing countries. Their number is slated to increase to nearly 2 billion by 2032, according to the statement.

The analysis further revealed that HIV/AIDS, road accidents and drowning led to one-quarter of deaths of 10-14 year olds globally in 2013. It also said road accidents, and self-harm and violence were the leading causes of death for 15-19 year olds and 20-24 years olds, respectively.

Depression caused maximum ill-health among youngsters worldwide in 2013, affecting more than 10 percent of the youth, followed by the rising burden of skin diseases, like acne and dermatitis.Unsafe sex, alcohol and drug use were found to be the fastest- growing health risk factors among the youth worldwide, according to the report.

In India, high percentage of kids with disabilities still out of school: UN
India has been able to decrease its number of out-of-school children by nearly 16 million between 2000 and 2012, driving the progress in South Asia, but it still has 1.4 million children not attending primary school, a United Nations report said. The majority, 31 million of the 58 million out-of-school children, were girls. India has 58.81 million girls and 63.71 million boys of primary school age. As of 2011, 1.4 million children of primary school age did not go to school in India, with 18 percent girls out of school and 14 percent boys. The report said that while India has made significant improvement in primary education enrolment, the figures for children with disabilities are staggering. Out of 2.9 million children with disabilities in India, 990,000 children aged 6 to 14 years (34 percent) are out of school. The percentages are even higher among children with intellectual disabilities (48 percent), speech impairments (36 percent) and multiple disabilities (59 percent). "India has made tremendous efforts to make its education system more inclusive. Under the Right to Education Act, all children have the right to go to school...To accommodate a greater number of children with disabilities, further progress is needed," it said.

Disability burden highest in diabetics
Across the world, India included, even as longevity has increased during the period 1990 to 2013, the number of years both men and women live with disease and disability has shot up. The major causes of disability in men and women in India are depression, anemia, low back pain, migraine, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, age-related and other hearing loss, neck pain (spondylitis), diabetes, anxiety disorders, and uncorrected refractive error.
These are the results of a Global Burden of Disease Study report published in The Lancet. Important findings emerged are : “Mortality is declining faster than disease prevalence due to treatment and faster than disability, which is also increasing due to ageing.” For both sexes combined in India, the leading causes of years lived with disability have remained largely the same during the period 1990-2013. However, the disability caused by disease has taken an increased toll on health due to population growth and ageing. “The major causes of death and disability are generally different, which has implications for planning of health services,” said Prof. Lalit Dandona, study co-author who is Professor at the Delhi-based Public Health Foundation of India and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. “While ischemic heart disease kills the most number of people in India, it is not a leading cause of disability. On the other hand, major depression is the leading cause of disability in India, but is not a direct cause of death,” he said.
Relative to the 44 per cent growth in India’s population during the period 1990-2013, diabetes has shown the greatest increase in the disability burden. “The number of years lived with disability from diabetes per million people in India is about 55 per cent higher in 2013 compared with 1990,” said Prof. Dandona. The total increase in the number of years lived with disability from diabetes in India during the period 1990 to 2013 is 123 per cent. In contrast, the number of years lived with disability from anaemia per million people in India has gone down by 45 per cent.
The number of years lived with disability per million people in India has gone up for many leading diseases from 1990 to 2013. For instance, it is 16 per cent higher in the case of major depression, 20 per cent higher in the case of low back pain, 26 per cent higher in the case of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 19 per cent higher in the case of neck pain. For Indian women, musculoskeletal disorders, including shoulder injuries and fractures from osteoporosis, and diabetes have replaced diarrhoeal diseases and uncorrected refractive error as leading causes of years lived with disability.
Between 1990 and 2013, YLDs from diabetes increased by 109%, and YLDs from other musculoskeletal disorders increased by 110%. Iron-deficiency anaemia YLDs decreased by 12%. For Indian men too, diabetes YLDs increased between 1990 and 2013, climbing 136%. YLDs from COPD increased by 76%, and iron-deficiency anaemia YLDs decreased by 32%. A relatively small number of diseases have a massive impact, researchers found. Just two caused more than 20 billion new cases globally in 2013: upper respiratory infections (18.8 billion) and diarrhoeal diseases (2.7 billion). And just eight causes of chronic diseases impacted more than 10 per cent of the world’s population.

Premature Baby Boys At Higher Risk Of Disability Than Girls
Boys are at a much higher risk for death or disability due to being born prematurely compared to girls. This finding is published in the journal Pediatric Research. “Baby boys have a higher likelihood of infections, jaundice, birth complications, and congenital conditions but the biggest risk for baby boys is due to preterm birth,” said Dr. Joy Lawn, a study author and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). “For two babies born at the same degree of prematurity, a boy will have a higher risk of death and disability compared to a girl. Even in the womb, girls mature more rapidly than boys, which provides an advantage, because the lungs and other organs are more developed.”
Funded through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the research papers focused on the over 15 million children that were born early. Outcomes for these babies are based largely on the wealth of the nation in which they were born, according to the study researchers. In wealthier nations, over 80 percent of babies born under 37 weeks survive and flourish. In middle-income countries, the risk of disability for babies born at 28-32 weeks is twice as high as for those in wealthier nations. In poor countries, preterm babies are up to 10 times more likely to die than those born in the wealthiest nations.
“Three quarters of the 1 million babies who die each year from complications associated with prematurity could have been saved with cost-effective interventions, even without intensive care facilities,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said about the research.
The new studies outlined several simple steps that could be taken regardless of where a preterm child is born. Women in preterm labor could be given injections of dexamethosone, a steroid used to treat asthma, which would accelerate the development of the child’s lungs and lower the risk of premature babies having respiratory problems when they are born.
The study researchers said a simple technique called “Kangaroo Mother Care,” where the preterm infant is held on the mother’s bare chest, helps to keep the baby warm and facilitates breastfeeding. The technique helps to heat preterm babies, whose tiny bodies lose heat quickly. The study researchers said their findings also show the need for more work on finding ways to avert preterm birth and increase the long-term outlook for children who are born early.

Special Benefits for Persons with Disabilities
Included here is a description of the help provided by statutory services for persons with disabilities. Watching Several ministries/departments of the Government of India provide various concessions and facilities that include:
Concession on railways
Railways allow persons with disability to travel at concession fares up to 75% in the first and second classes. Escorts accompanying blind, orthopedically and mentally handicapped persons are also eligible to 75% concession in the basic fare.
Air travel concessions
Indian Airlines allow 50% concession fares to blind persons on single journeys.
Payment of postage, both inland and foreign, for transmission by post of ‘Blind Literature’ packets is exempted if sent by surface route.
Braille paper has been exempted from excise and customs duty provided the paper is supplied direct to a school for the blind or to a Braille press against an indent placed by the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, Dehradun. All audio cassettes recorded with material from books, newspapers or magazines for the blind are exempt from custom duty. Several other items have also been exempted from customs duty if imported for the use of a persons with disability.
Conveyance allowance
All Central government employees who are blind or orthopedically handicapped are granted conveyance at 5% of basic pay subject to a maximum of INR 100 per month.
Educational Allowance
Reimbursement of tuition fee of physically and mentally handicapped children of the Central government employees has been enhanced to INR 50/–.
Income tax concession
The amount of deduction from total income of a person with blindness, mental retardation or permanent physical disability has been increased to INR 40,000/–.
Award of dealership by oil companies
The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has reserved 7.5% of all types of dealership agencies of the public sector companies, for the orthopedically handicapped and blind persons. However, persons with visual handicap are not eligible for LPG distribution. Similarly, the Ministry has also reserved 7.5% of such dealership/agencies for defense personnel, and those severely disabled either in war or while on duty in peacetime.
Candidates with Physical handicaps, appointed on a regional basis, be given as far as possible, appointments as close to their native place as possible.
Economic assistance by public sector banks
All orphanages, homes for women and persons with physical handicaps as well as institutions working for the welfare of the handicapped, are given loans and advances at very low rates of interest (4% under DRI) and a subsidy of 50% up to a maximum of INR 5,000/– is also admissible. State Governments/Union Territories also give concessions/facilities such as reservation in jobs, scholarships, old age pension, free travel in buses, etc.

It empowers people with visual impairment
The Delhi branch of the National Association for the Blind (NAB), in R K Puram has devised a software which allows students with visual impairment to work on papers, read their mail and even take print–outs. The program is the brainchild of Mr Dipender Monacha who is himself visually impaired. The “Talking computer” sounds out each command and word that has been keyed in. This enables the 300 visually impaired students at the center to have e–mail accounts of their own and browse the Net. It has also helped them to find jobs in organizations like Indian Oil and Punjab National Bank. This software which is both in English and Hindi and the Braille embosser helps students to take printouts in Braille. The facility has enabled NAB to transcribe books into Braille, giving the students better access to books they can read.

Training opportunities for blind students at the National Institute of Fashion Designing
The Blind Relief Association and the National Institute of Fashion Designing (NIFT) have implemented job opportunities for people with visual impairment in the field of garment manufacturing. The training by NIFT for blind students is for a period of 45 days. They are required to have passed class VIII as the minimum educational qualifications required. Their work involves folding, collar setting, tagging and packing. They are also involved in semi–automatic machine operations like pocket creasing, collar and cuff turning and blocking.

UTI Bank sponsors public booths for disabled people in Ahmedabad
The UTI bank has sponsored 25 public telephone booths for persons with some form of disability or the other in the city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. For the Blind People’s Association, Ahmedabad, it is a regular project. It is run with the support of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Ahmedabad, Urban Development Authority, Ahmedabad Telephones, the State Transport Corporation and local sponsors, and already has about 300 people in the waiting list. The UTI Bank, on its own initiative sanctioned the amount for 25 booths. The person with disability is provided a telephone booth near his house. All the income from the PCO goes to the person himself/herself. The PCO can also be used to sell other daily use items. About 170 such booths have already been established in and around Ahmedabad. For details, contact can be made with The UTI Bank, 131, Maker Towers, Cuffe Parade, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005, Maharashtra, India.

Parking facilities for disabled people
The Delhi Traffic Police issues a sticker for affixing on vehicles belonging to disabled drivers. The sticker is available free of cost from the office of the DCP/Traffic, VIP, Teen Murti Traffic Lines, New Delhi, on production of a disability certificate from a Government doctor. The sticker allows a person with disability to park his/her vehicle in areas prohibited for parking, in order to make places more accessible for disabled people. Public places like India Habitat Center, the domestic and international airports of New Delhi, now have specified parking areas for disabled people.

Waiting hall in the north
The Northern Railways has built a waiting hall for disabled people and senior citizens at the New Delhi railway station on the Ajmeri Gate side. The waiting hall is equipped with wheel chairs. Adapted furniture, a water cooler and toilets specially designed for disabled people are its main features. This is one small step on the part of the Indian Railways towards making journeys of disabled people a little more comfortable

Low awareness, stigma delay autism diagnosis
It took five years for Sushant Sharma to understand that what he considered poor learning abilities of his child were in reality the initial signs of a neurodevelopment disorder called autism. It affects nearly 10 million children in India and the numbers are increasing significantly.
Doctors say lack of awareness about the disorder is the primary cause for delayed diagnosis, which further leads to delay in picking up the abnormal behaviours and interventions to modify them. "There is no cure for autism but there are many therapies, for example behavioural intervention, structured teaching and sensory integration that can help improve the symptoms," said Dr Sheffali Gulati, professor and chief, division of child neurology at AIIMS. She said at present most cases are identified at the age when the child starts going to the school when ideally the disorder should be picked by time he or she is 18 months old.
"Till about a decade ago autism was considered a rare disorder, but recent trends indicate a dramatic increase in the number of such cases which cannot be explained by the increased availability of health facilities alone. Scientists are also looking into the role of genetic factors, pollution, toxins and increased age of the parents (particularly the father of the child)," said another senior doctor. The institute's autism clinic, doctors said, has over 600 children on regular follow-up and on an average 180 to 200 children are diagnosed every year with the disorder.
Help is just a phone call away for parents with autistic children. The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has launched a helpline to help parents cope with any medical emergency. Autism telephonic helpline (9868399037) is aimed at helping parents cope with any medical emergency. The department already has an online autism helpline ( functional since April 2013

An application to let you ‘donate’ your voice to speech-impaired
A new smart phone app may allow people to donate their voice to be customized into synthetic speech for those who are unable to speak.
A new smart phone app may allow people to donate their voice to be customized into synthetic speech for those who are unable to speak, scientists, including one of Indian-origin, say. The app is being developed under a program called VocaliD, which aims to give a voice to those with severe speech impediments because of a stroke, Parkinson's or cerebral palsy, for example. A surrogate who is similar in age and the same sex is selected to donate his or her voice. That person reads several thousand sample sentences, sourced from books like 'White Fang', 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' and 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. Then, using a software tool called Model Talker, the surrogate's voice is blended with the patient's and stripped down into the tiny units that make up speech. Using this method, the group has built a handful of personalized voices. But the process is slow, since surrogates must come to a studio to record for hours. It takes at least 800 sentences to create a usable voice.

First Braille Phone Goes On Sale In UK Technology is so amazing and friendly that it has made many things accessible - including phones! All smart phones today, with the help of native features and several apps, can help blind users perform several tasks very easily (including making phone calls, of course)!
A phone that only has a list of names and pretty much nothing else, OwnFone lets a blind user make phone calls to 4 to 12 of their loved ones with the touch of a button. The device has names of their loved ones listed in Braille which can also be listed in raised text if the user cannot read Braille. All they have to do is press a name and a call is immediately made to that person. This phone also receives phone calls from the same set of people. The size of a credit card, OwnFone can be used for both day to day conversations and emergency purposes. The price of the phone varies from £40.00 to £70.00 depending on how many names you want listed on the phone. In addition, OWnFone has monthly plans for talk time starting at £7.50 and going up to £15. The cost of the phone is kept low because it is 3D printed! This phone may also be a good option for people with multiple disabilities who would like their device to perform desired tasks with minimal interaction. This phone is currently available only in UK.

Braille Electronic Synthesizer For Visually Impaired
Most of the electronic synthesizers, for example, come with a lot of knobs, and it may be very difficult to figure out what those knobs do if you cannot see (or even if you can, in some cases!). To curtail this limitation, Moog, a leading manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, especially synthesizers, is going to start producing a new version of its Sub Phatty synthesizer that will have a Braille overlay so users with visual impairment could use it as well. The price would be the same as the regular synth ($899 at many online stores). This is a very simple design change but makes such a huge difference for blind consumers. Hopefully other music instrument manufacturers will follow suit!

CDesk EDGE: Tablet For People With Visual Impairment
We already know that CDesk is a wonderful suite of applications for people with visual and/or cognitive disabilities. The suite consists of, among other things, special filters for browsers that strip all images and links from the page to make reading easy, as well as simple to use word processor, and its own media and book section.
To make things easier for its users, Adaptive Voice has recently launched two tablets with "EDGE" capabilities that will allow users to use CDesk on the go. The tablets come in two sizes - 11 and 8 inches, and run full Windows 8.1, and come with 2 GB of RAM and a powerful processor. Besides CDesk, these tablets run all Windows programs as well.
The tablets come with a folio keyboard and a stand that provide three additional USB ports. The CDesk interface is designed to handle touch input very well - in fact, most of the CDesk applications can be accessed using just thumbs. As demonstrated in the video, the interface has different spots assigned to different functions which enables navigation and use much easier. Especially beneficial for people with low or no vision, the EDGE tablets are priced at $2,295 (11 inch) and $995 (8 inch) respectively. Both the products are shipped nationwide in the US without any extra cost, and come with excellent technical support.

Google Glass: For People With Parkinson's Disease
Wearable technology has gained a lot of momentum in the last year or so. The most popular, or should we say notorious, wearable tech that has come out is Google Glass, which has received both praise and backlash from different groups because of all the things that it can do. Taking pictures, making videos, sending emails, finding directions, setting reminders - everything can be done with just a few voice commands or gestures. A group of researchers is busy making Google Glass extremely useful for people with Parkinson's disease.
Since Parkinson's causes shaking/tremors, sudden stiffness of limbs , posture instability, "freezing" besides mood swings and cognitive changes, scientists at Newcastle University are exploring various ways to see how Google Glass can be used to help people with Parkinson's, thus providing workarounds to live a life that's not constantly hampered by symptoms that ultimately bring down confidence levels in the person dealing with them. One area that's being looked at is setting reminders. Since patients are required to take medication everyday and on time, Google Glass can easily send regular reminders to the patient reminding that they should take their medication. Reminders would not only tell them when to take their medication but how/ with what (water; food - different combinations at different times of day). Similar discrete reminders can be sent to the patient to remind them to swallow their drool - a common problem with people with Parkinson's disease because of lack of motor control.
Another common symptom is freezing, where the patient just gets stuck and is unable to walk. In such cases, the patient would want to call someone who could come get them, but calling on a phone with a touch screen can become a big hassle for someone with not so good motor skills. Google Glass can be helpful in such situations because someone can be easily called by just using voice commands. Since it is always connected to the Internet, friends and caretakers will be easily able to see where the patient is, and would come and get them.
Google glass also has maps and directions. If someone is out and about, chances of them getting lost are minimal because Glass displays turn by turn directions too, thus providing relief to not just the patient but also family and friends.
The research is still at its very early stages, but what the volunteers with Parkinson's, who helped test Google Glass, say is remarkable. They are happy with what they experienced, and they thought that Glass really helped them control symptoms and live a normal life.

Social stress takes a toll on chromosomes, affects aging
Humans experiencing high levels of social stress and deprivation have shorter telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps at the end of chromosomes which are the best indicators of biological age (cell age) as against chronological age.
Scientists say the length of telomeres is crucial in deciding biological age - long ones indicate healthy ageing, short ones indicate some form of irreparable damage. Several studies suggest that telomere shortening is accelerated by stress. There is extensive scientific evidence also showing the strong correlation between the percentage of short telomeres and the risk of developing diseases associated with ageing, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer's. In turn, lifestyle habits (nutrition, obesity and exercise) are increasingly being shown to impact telomere length.
Telomeres shorten with each cell division, and once a critical length is reached, cells are unable to divide further. Although cellular senescence is a useful mechanism to eliminate worn-out cells, it appears to contribute to aging and mortality.
Courtesy : The Times of India

Increased prevalence of GI symptoms among children with autism
A study conducted by researchers at Marcus Autism Center, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University School of Medicine indicates that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more than four times more likely to experience general gastrointestinal (GI) complaints compared with peers, are more than three times as prone to experience constipation and diarrhea than peers, and complain twice as much about abdominal pain compared to peers.
The process of detecting and studying possible GI concerns in children with ASD is complicated by the unique combination of behavioral, neurological and medical issues associated with the condition. Most notably, limitations in verbal communication in patients with ASD make it difficult for them to communicate information about GI symptoms, making it more challenging for physicians to detect possible underlying GI issues. In such cases, parents and medical professionals must rely on non-verbal signs that fall outside of the routine GI diagnostic evaluation.
In many cases, the only indication of a possible GI problem in autism may be the emergence or escalation of problem behaviors, such as self-injury, aggression, or irritability, that cannot be otherwise explained, and relying on these atypical signs to detect possible GI concerns can be difficult for practitioners because repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior occur so frequently in ASD and no guidelines exist to help parents and clinicians navigate the diagnostic process. Therefore, there is the need to develop a standardized screening instrument as well as clinical guidelines for conducting GI examinations among children with ASD, particularly non-verbal children. More detailed, standardized screening procedures would enhance detection, while also increasing awareness in the ASD community regarding what to look for among children suspected of possible GI disorders.
In addition to more standardized assessment, the authors recommend studying GI symptoms in ASD with consideration to the high rates of feeding problems and related dietary issues, such as food selectivity, in this population. "If food intake becomes highly restricted, a child is likely to experience issues like GI distress and constipation or diarrhea; but for children with autism, they often can’t communicate those issues in the same way, as such more research is needed to understand the best means of identifying and treating these special health needs of children with ASD
Courtsey : Emory Health Sciences

Children with autism benefit from peer solicitation
Peer solicitation – a child inviting another to play – can improve reciprocal social interaction among children with autism, according to a recent Vanderbilt University study. While the children with autism in the study initiated and engaged in less play overall than typically developing children, the researchers found that other children can facilitate and increase interactions by simple requests. These findings highlight the pivotal role that peers have in social interaction, noting that it only takes a single child to prompt other children – with or without autism – to interact.
Courtsey : Vanderbilt news

Theatre offers promise for youth with autism
A novel autism intervention program using theatre to teach reciprocal communication skills is improving social deficits in adolescents with the disorder that now affects an estimated one in 88 children, Vanderbilt University researchers released in the journal Autism Research. Camp participants ages 8 to 17 years join with typically developing peers who are specially trained to serve as models for social interaction and communication, skills that are difficult for children with autism. The camp uses techniques such as role-play and improvisation and culminates in public performances of a play.
Courtsey : Vanderbilt news

Atypical development in siblings of children with autism is detectable at 12 months
A study shows that one in three children who have an older sibling with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) fall into a group characterized by higher levels of autism-related behaviors or lower levels of developmental progress.
It is found that close to half of the younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) develop in an atypical fashion, with 17 percent developing ASD and another 28 percent showing delays in other areas of development or behavior. Among the 28 percent of children with older siblings with ASD who showed delays in other areas of development, differences were identified in their social, communication, cognitive or motor development by 12 months. The most common deficits were in the social-communication domain, such as extreme shyness with unfamiliar people, lower levels of eye contact and delayed pointing.
The research suggests that parents and clinicians should be vigilant for such symptoms early on among the siblings of children with autism, in order to take full advantage of opportunities for targeted early intervention to improve those children's outcomes. Having a child in the family with autism spectrum disorder means that subsequent infants born into that family should be regularly screened for developmental and behavioral problems by their pediatricians. This research gives parents and clinicians hope that clinical symptoms of atypical development can be picked up earlier, so that some of the difficulties can be reduced that these families often face by intervening earlier.

Study: Prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke on inhibition control
Individuals prenatally exposed to tobacco smoke exhibited weaker response in some regions of the brain while processing a task that measures inhibition control (the ability to control inappropriate responses). Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure is a risk factor for adverse physical and mental outcomes in children. Growing evidence suggests that smoking during pregnancy may increase the risk of psychopathology such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Research on ADHD has suggested that individuals with the disorder may exhibit poor inhibitory control.
Courtsey :The JAMA Network Journals

Smoking during pregnancy may increase risk of bipolar disorder in offspring
A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry suggests an association between smoking during pregnancy and increased risk for developing bipolar disorder (BD) in adult children. Researchers at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, in collaboration with scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, evaluated offspring from a large cohort of pregnant women who participated in the Child Health and Development Study (CHDS) from 1959-1966. The study was based on 79 cases and 654 comparison subjects. Maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with a twofold increased risk of bipolar disorder in their offspring.
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Tackling preventable blindness through screening in schools
A study conducted by the Advanced Eye Hospital and Institute in Mumbai shows one in every five students in India having some form of vision impairment and close to five per cent of students with vision nearing blindness. About 320,000 children in India are blind (comprising 19 per cent of the world's blind children) and 50 per cent of these cases are treatable or preventable. Eye-testing is the first point of intervention, and simple conditions such as refractive error, the second leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in the country, can be taken care of by correcting vision through spectacles. It is important, however, to detect this at a young age, since uncorrected vision in a child could lead to visual impairment at a later stage and develop into what medical practitioners term as 'lazy eye.'
Eye screening in schools is a very important part of India's official approach towards visual health and eye care - the National Program for Control of Blindness (NPCB) initiated by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the year 1976. Underscoring the importance of early detection, a new initiative has been taken by Nayonika Eye Care Charitable Trust to correct this through the combined efforts of a wider network.

How infants understand speech: New study sheds light
Six-month-old infants require more information from a cochlear implant than an adult or older child, a study has demonstrated. This may be due to the lack of experience infants have with speech and their inability to fill in the missing information from the cochlear implant. This research has important ramifications on the therapy infants with cochlear implants should receive.
Researchers through cochlear implant simulations have found that infants process speech differently than older children and adults. A new study from a UT Dallas researcher demonstrates the importance of considering developmental differences when creating programs for cochlear implants in infants. Dr. Andrea Warner-Czyz, assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, said this is the first study to show that infants process degraded speech that simulates a cochlear implant differently than older children and adults, which begs for new signal processing strategies to optimize the sound delivered to the cochlear implant for these young infants.
Cochlear implants , which are surgically placed in the inner ear, provide the ability to hear for some people with severe to profound hearing loss. Because of technological and biological limitations, people with cochlear implants hear differently than those with normal hearing. Two of the major components necessary
Two of the major components necessary for understanding speech are the rhythm and the frequencies of the sound. Timing remains fairly accurate in cochlear implants, but some frequencies disappear as they are grouped.
Infants pay greater attention to new sounds, so researchers compared how long a group of 6-month-olds focused on a speech sound they were familiarized with -"tea"' - to a new speech sound, "ta."
The infants spent more time paying attention to "ta," demonstrating they could hear the difference between the two. Researchers repeated the experiment with speech sounds that were altered to sound as if they had been processed by a 16- or 32-channel cochlear implant.
The infants responded to the sounds that imitated a 32-channel implant the same as when they heard the normal sounds. But the infants did not show a difference with the sounds that imitated a 16-channel implant.
The study has been published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.
Courtsey :ANI

Glasses help the hearing impaired 'see' sounds
Scientists have developed glasses that allow a deaf person to "see" when a loud sound such as the honk of a car is made and give an indication of where it came from.
Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon in South Korea made a pair of glasses for deaf people who lack access to such potentially life-saving cues.
An array of seven microphones, mounted on the frame of the glasses, pinpoints the location of such sounds and relays that directional information to the wearer through a set of LEDs embedded inside the frame, the New Scientist reported. The glasses will only flash alerts on sounds louder than a threshold level, which is defined by the wearer.
The prototype requires a user to carry a laptop around in a backpack to process the signal. However, lead researcher Yang-Hann Kim has stressed that the device is a first iteration that will be miniaturised over the next few years. The KAIST team presented the work at the Inter Noise conference in New York City.

Depression too can be contagious
A particular style of thinking that makes people vulnerable to depression can actually "rub off" on others, a new study has claimed. The study, by psychological scientists Gerald Haeffel and Jennifer Hames of the University of Notre Dame shows that people who respond negatively to stressful life events are more vulnerable to depression.
This "cognitive vulnerability" is such a potent risk factor for depression that it can be used to predict which individuals are likely to experience a depressive episode in the future, even if they have never had a depression before. They hypothesised that cognitive vulnerability might be "contagious" during major life transitions, when our social environments are in flux.
They tested their hypothesis using data from 103 randomly assigned roommate pairs. The results revealed that freshmen who were randomly assigned to a roommate with high levels of cognitive vulnerability were likely to "catch" their roommate's cognitive style and develop higher levels of vulnerability.

Genetic link among five mental disorders
In an important finding, US researchers have claimed a common genetic link between five mental health disorders — spectrum disorder, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and schizophrenia.
An article in The Lancet claimed all errant variations of the genes responsible for the disorders are associated with alterations in calcium channel activity of brain cells. Calcium channels play an important role in functions of emotions and "executive functions" like planning, thinking, which are impaired in these conditions.
During the study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, researchers analysed the genetic variations associated with the five disorders in 33,332 cases and 27,888 controls of European ancestry. They found significant overlapping of the genetic combination between the five disorders. The co-relation between presence of variant genes and disease symptoms was found to be the strongest for adult onset disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.
"This analysis provides the first genome-wide evidence that individual and aggregate genetic risk factors are shared between five childhood-onset or adult-onset psychiatric disorders treated as distinct categories in clinical practice. This could serve as evidence to move beyond descriptive syndromes in psychiatry towards classification based on underlying causes," says one of the lead researchers, Jordan Smoller. Experts here, however, point out that given the fact that genes rarely work in isolation and there are strong environmental determinants at work in their mutations, studies are required to confirm whether there is a racial or geographical variation in the location of the genes.
"The study is important because this is one of the biggest samples including family-based samples. If one can go to the origin of the cascading genetic variations contributing to a particular disease it would be extremely significant. The association of these genes with the calcium channels is also very interesting because these channels have a role to play in all the functions that are impaired in these conditions," said Dr Smita Deshpande, head of the department of psychiatry, RML Hospital.

A potential cause of Alzheimer's identified
n a breakthrough, scientists have identified a potential cause of Alzheimer's, based on a newly discovered signalling pathway in cellular models of the disease. Scientists so far have widely accepted that Alzheimer's disease is caused by the accumulation of a peptide called Amyloid beta. When Amyloid beta is applied to neurons, neuronal morphology becomes abnormal and synaptic function is impaired. However, how Amyloid beta causes dysfunction is unknown.
The new study by researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience indicates that the presence of Amyloid beta triggers increased levels of a signalling protein, called centaurin-1 (CentA1), which appears to cause neuronal dysfunction - a potentially groundbreaking discovery that uncovers an important intermediary step in the progression of the disease.
Scientists were able to identify CentA1 and measure its negative effects on neurons. They turned down the cellular production of CentA1, and showed that affected neurons, exposed to Amyloid beta and exhibiting Alzheimer's-related symptoms, returned to normal morphology and synaptic function, even with the continued presence of Amyloid beta.

Two ayurvedic drugs hold out hope for Alzheimer’s patients
It's a disease long associated with the elderly but is now diagnosed in younger people as well and with no permanent cure available till date. However, in what could give hope to thousands suffering from Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the pharmacology department in AIIMS has identified Ayurvedic drugs Shankpushapi or Evolvulus alsinoides and Aparajita or Clitoria ternatea which could have a role in preventing the onset of AD and also restricting its spread in affected patients.
AD is a degenerative neurological disorder leading to progressive loss of cognitive abilities, including the patient's memory due to a drop in chemicals — known as neurotransmitters — which transmits messages between brain cells. The latest of these studies has been published in international journal Neurochemistry International, where symptoms of Alzheimer's were induced in rats by injecting them with a chemical, streptozotocin, which replicates the clinical symptoms of the disease.
When these rats were treated with the herb Shankpushapi or Evolvulus alsinoides, the cognitive functions of rats improved. Joginder Mehla, who has been following therapeutic options for AD as part of his PhD project, said the rats showed functional improvement in areas like memory, aggression, mood swings, ability to think and take decisions, and lack of confusion. Last year, the institute was also able to establish similar therapeutic effects of another Ayurvedic drug — Aparajita or Clitoria ternatea.
In Alzheimer's patients, there is a cascade of biochemical changes in the brain triggered by the release of free radicals that destroy the neurons, by a vicious cycle of exciting amino acids and releasing calcium. Dr Y K Gupta, HoD of the pharmacology and the corresponding author of the articles, said, "We found that the herbal drugs control the symptoms of AD in two ways. First, their antioxidant properties are able to control the release of free radicals that damage the brain cells. Secondly, these drugs also inhibit the activity of an enzyme that destroys Acetylcholine — the chemical that acts as a neurotransmitter."
In normal people, the body naturally replenishes this neurotransmitter through a cyclic process, after the enzyme Acetylcholinesterase destroys it. In AD patients, this enzyme destroys the chemical much faster than it can be produced, leading to an unnatural loss of Acetylcholine. Conventional chemical drugs can only supplement the neurotransmitter, but have little role in restricting the activity of the enzyme.
Male Wistar rats, weighing 250-300 grams, were divided into seven groups, including the control and experimental arms, and injected with the chemical streptozotocin to induce AD-like symptoms. "While we were able to clinically replicate all symptoms of Alzheimer's, two changes which occur in the brain cannot be produced by this chemical. This includes the formation of plaques, or clusters of proteins, and Neurofibrillary Tangles — the twisted strands of another protein in nerve cells," Dr Gupta said. Doctors said in the long run, there was enough evidence to suggest that the herbal drugs, in isolation or as a supplement to conventional drugs, may help in managing AD as well as other memory disorders .

Coffee can help reduce Parkinson's symptoms
Two cups of coffee a day can help relieve the movement-related symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease, a new research has claimed. Researchers from McGill University in Montreal found patients given caffeine supplements averaged a five-point improvement in symptoms compared to those given a placebo, the Daily Mail reported.
"This is a modest improvement but may be enough to provide benefit to patients," professor Ronald Postuma from the university, said. "It may not be sufficient to explain the relationship between caffeine non-use and Parkinson's since studies of progression of Parkinson's symptoms early in the disease suggesting a five-point reduction would delay diagnosis by only six months," Postuma was quoted by the paper as saying.

99 percent special children like regular school
A nationwide study by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) to examine the enrolment, access and retention of children with disabilities (CWD) has revealed that while 99 per cent of these children liked attending regular schools, 57 per cent teachers were not trained to understand their special needs.
The study has found that special needs of children with mental illnesses were "neither being identified nor being addressed seriously". A vast majority of teachers (88.1%) could say nothing on how to meet the special educational needs of disabled children in their classrooms. Only 35.1% could identify the needs of students with disabilities. More than half of all teachers interviewed gave no response to questions on how they included disabled children in their day-to-day teaching.
The study evaluated the implementation of the centrally sponsored Inclusive Education of the Disabled at the Secondary Stage (IEDSS) scheme in 27 states and union territories at the secondary and senior secondary levels.
At the root of the problem is state apathy and the resultant lack of funds and training. Only 12 states have trained general teachers in special needs, and only three of these states have offered this training for five days or longer. Fifty-seven per cent of teachers have received no training. Ironically, children with disabilities expressed a strong desire for inclusive schooling with special attention. Nearly every student with disability (99%) liked going to school; nearly half (44.5%) said they needed teachers to give them special attention. Students also expressed the need for better adapted toilets and playgrounds, indoor sports rooms and better seating facilities. They wanted the teacher to speak louder and interact more with them.
IEDSS aims to help disabled students — especially girl students — to complete secondary school in an inclusive environment. Over the past few years, enrolment levels of girls with disabilities has fallen everywhere except in Manipur. Average enrolment in the surveyed states and UTs fell from 43.57% in 2009-10 to 40.21% in 2012-13. In Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Nagaland, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, the enrolment of disabled girls has been consistently under 40%.
Overall enrolment of children with disabilities has increased in 13 states and UTs; it has fallen in three. Five states tracking dropout rates have showed an increase in the rate. The study has recommended that enrolment of girls with special needs be accorded top priority; dropout rates of these students at the elementary level be arrested; awareness and availability of assistive aids be improved; service and pre-service teacher training be restructured, and recruitment policies be geared towards appointing special educators.
The study has also suggested a more flexible curriculum with space for creative arts and multimedia, and hostel facilities for children with severe physical disabilities. The issuing of disability certificates should be facilitated, and attempts made to ensure that most CWDs are enrolled in regular schools rather than being schooled at home.

Yoga asanas that chase away the blues
There is increasing evidence to show that yoga therapy works as an anti- depressant for unhappy minds. Malathy's father had symptoms of depression mimicking dementia. He did not want to take strong antidepressant medicines. Psychiatrists at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans ) offered a combination of yoga and meditative therapy along with mild doses of anti- depressants to him . After four weeks, he seemed a changed man; the acutely sad man became warm and sociable. What worked? While medicines played a role, yoga enhanced their effect, says Dr Gangadhar, programme director at Nimhans' Advanced Center for Yoga. "The effect of yoga on mental health is not anecdotal anymore. There is evidence that yogasanas impact electrical and chemical transmissions in the brain," he says.
Among the many clinical researches being conducted at Nimhans , one involved inmates of an old-age home who were exposed to six months of yoga therapy. MRI scans taken before and after showed an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain's memory index. "It was larger than before because the grey matter had increased. The results will be published in a scientific journal shortly ," adds Gangadhar. The hippocampus is vulnerable to stress and atrophy is seen in patients of schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe depression. "Yoga acts as an antidepressant ," he says.
Delhi-based Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences has also started offering yoga therapy to patients with mild to moderate schizophrenia and depression. "We've found the functioning of brain neurotransmitters becomes more synchronized with yoga therapy. It helps release chemicals like endorphins and controls release of stress hormones like cortisol ," says psychiatrist Dr Nimesh Desai, who heads IHBAS. But it may not be suitable for all mental illnesses. "We recommend against using it for obsessive compulsive disorder, early onset of schizophrenia, severe depression and severe anxiety. It can complicate their symptoms. It is best suited for mild to moderate depression, anxiety and schizophrenia under medical supervision ," says Desai.
A 2012 analysis on 'Yoga Therapy for Schizophrenia' by experts at Nimhans, published in the International Journal of Yoga, has some interesting inferences. Specific yoga packages for patients with psychosis based on the Panchakosha model were found useful. These include some asanas and pranayam but not meditative practices. Doctors have found meditation can worsen or provoke psychosis in schizophrenics. The analysis concluded that yoga therapy reduced psychotic symptoms and depression, improved cognition and quality of life, and produced neurobiological changes such as increased oxytocin levels, a powerful hormone associated with love and communication.

School for the blind achieves 100% results this year too
While conventional schools strive hard to produce 100% pass in state board examination, a special school for visually impaired children in Sundararajanpatti, Madurai district has produced centum results quite convincingly. This is not first time it has achieved this feat. It has been doing so for the last 18 years.
In the SSLC examination ,all the 23 visually impaired students who appeared for the examination secured more than 70% marks. In fact, 13 students secured more than 80% p and three got more than 90% marks. Talking about the success A Jinnah, founder and secretary of the school, said "All the required facilities for the visually impaired students are available in the school. The teachers have been working hard to maintain the success. The students also show keen interest in their study which results in success," he said.
However, Jinnah admitted that the same achievement could not be continued in plus two results. The scribes allocated by the government do not have any idea about accounts subject. Only those who know the basics of accountancy can write what the students say. The problem leads to the failure of the plus two students. Sadly, the students do not have any other option other than accounts and commerce group, he said.
Last year all the three top positions in SSLC exam were occupied by girls. But this year, boys managed to grab first two positions. A Karthick Raja, a visually impaired student by birth, scored 464 marks and emerged as the school topper. Son of a carpenter from Thacheri village near Tiruchuli in Virudhunagar district, he has fullfilled his parents' wishes. "My parents wanted me to score 450 marks in the tenth exam. Although I expected more than 480 marks I am still happy that I have scored 464 surpassing their expectation," he said adding that he wants to become a lawyer.
S Haribalakrishnan of Rajapalayam also expected more than 480 marks, but scored 454. He wants to become an English teacher. He owed his success to the school management and his parents who showed good support throughout the year. N Kausalya from Thirumangalam in Madurai district, an aspiring IAS officer, has secured 450 marks. A Narayanan, father of Kausalya, a daily wage labourer, said that his ambition is to make sure her daughter gets the education she wants.

On a limb, he’s eyeing Everest
Ashok Munne, 29, hails from Nagpur, a city in Maharashtra state in India. In 2008, he lost his right leg in a train accident but that has not dimmed his spirit even a wee bit, as is evident from the fact that, post accident, he has scaled several mountain peaks including those of Kugti Pass in the Himalayas (16,700 ft) and Mera Peak in Nepal (21,247 ft), becoming the first ever Indian with disability to do so.
Munne, an expert in martial arts and gymnastics, runs 3-4 km daily apart from swimming, cycling and doing other physical exercises to prepare for the Mt Everest expedition. Its a daunting task for even the most able bodied person but Munne has full faith in his artificial limb that has been a great enabler over the years. The leg ,known as Freedom Foot, uses carbon nano-technology. It is lightweight and user- adjustable. The cost of the prosthetic limb Munne uses is Rs 5.5 lakh because most of the components are imported.
Several innovations, now-a days have taken place in the field of Prosthetics and Orthotics over the past few decades to facilitate better rehabilitation of the physically challenged. Modern prosthetics are lighter because they use carbon fibre and other materials instead of raw plastic, making it easier for the user to run and not just walk. Munne is an example.
India is in the process of developing cost-effective artificial limbs that are lighter, stronger and more realistic. Electronic technologies can be used to make them more controllable, even capable of automatically adapting their function during certain tasks, such as gripping or walking. In India there are about 8.5 million physically challenged people but few are able to get the right prosthetics. For prosthetic feet, the model called Jaipur Foot is most popular as it is cheap and of good quality. New-age prosthetics are also being developed for other health problems, such as diabetic foot and back problems, among others.

She overcame a disability to ‘design’ a new life
She is a ‘superkid’ who works for various projects, participates in art exhibitions, submits creative assignments on time, is the subject of her professor’s research project and still manages to top her class. But what sets her apart from others is her will to defy all odds, be it a disability.
Radhika Mehra, a bachelor of design student at Ansal University, was born with a hearing loss. She is the only student in her batch of 27 with special needs. However, her professors are awestruck at her talent, and say she is more creative than any other student in the class. “She is profoundly hearing impaired but is also profoundly visual as she comes up with great design ideas”, says Mike Knowles, dean, Sushant School of Design, Ansal University.
While an impairment of 25 decibels amounts to deafness, Radhika has a hearing loss with 110 decibels since birth. Her only companions in childhood were a pen and sketchbook. She was always a reserved and quiet child and would make a sketch and express what she could not utter in words. Eventually, it became a passion for her.
Radhika’s father passed away last year, postponing her plans to apply to the University of Rochester, which has a special institute for the deaf. There were no colleges for such a course for special children in India. However, Ansal University agreed to admit her for an integrated course along with other students. Radhika has been a star performer ever since. An inspiration for her classmates and professors alike, Radhika is brilliant as she likes nothing short of perfection. Besides her sketch board, e-mails and text messages are the only modes through which Radhika communicates with people. Impressed by Radhika’s extraordinary work, her professor Promil Pande chose her research topic as design education for special needs in India. A country with 60 million hearing impaired children has no infrastructure for such courses.
We need to realise that there are children like Radhika who may have a physical impairment, but that does not make them intellectually less capable.

Wearable robots, lighter and faster
When Michael Gore stands, it's a triumph of science and engineering. Eleven years ago, Gore was paralysed from the waist down in a workplace accident, yet he rises from his wheelchair and walks across the room with help from a lightweight wearable robot.
The technology goes by many names. Besides "wearable robot," they are also called "electronic legs" or "powered exoskeletons." Gore's version, called Indego, is among several competing products being used and tested in US hospitals that hold promise not only for people such as Gore with spinal injuries, but also those recovering from strokes or afflicted with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.
Still at least a year away from being released in the market, the 12.25-kg Indego is the lightest of the powered exoskeletons. It snaps together from pieces that fit into a backpack. The goal is for the user to be able to carry it on a wheelchair, put it together, strap it on and walk independently.
Gore, 42, of Whiteville, North Carolina, demonstrated the device at the American Spinal Injury Association meeting in Chicago, successfully negotiating a noisy, crowded hallway of medical professionals and people with spinal injuries in wheelchairs. When he leans forward, the device takes a first step. When he tilts from side to side, it walks. When Gore wants to stop, he leans back and the robotic leg braces come to a halt. Gore uses forearm crutches for balance. A battery in the hip piece powers the motors in the robotic legs.
The devices won't replace wheelchairs, which are faster. None of the devices are speedy enough, for example, for a paralysed person to walk across a street before the light changes, says Arun Jayaraman of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, who is testing a number of similar devices.
"None of them have fall prevention technology," Jayaraman says. "If you fall down, how do you get off a robot that is strapped into you?" They need to be even lighter and have longer-lasting batteries, he adds. Still, Jayaraman says, the devices might help prevent pressure sores from sitting too long in a wheelchair, improve heart health, develop muscle strength, lift depression and ultimately bring down medical costs by keeping healthier patients out of the hospital.

IIT-D scholars patent prosthetic limb guided by good leg
Two young scientists from IIT-Delhi have received a provisional patent for the prototype of a prosthetic limb that will enable amputees to walk "without having to drag their leg".
Deepak Joshi and Ramandeep Singh, research scholars at the Centre for Biomedical Engineering in IIT- Delhi, have developed a control strategy for speed adaptive walking in an above-knee prosthesis. With the use of a transmitter, people who have received below-knee amputations will be able to walk with ease and without disturbing their gait as the prosthetic leg would mimic the action of the good leg.
"To control the prosthetic limb, two variables were measured, namely, knee angle and the walking speed. Knee angle (how much the knee bends) of the normal limb was measured by using a potentiometer fitted with the micro-controller," Singh said. A heel switch placed at the shoe of the normal limb identifies the walking speed, converts it to an algorithm and transmits it to through wireless module to the prosthetic limb. "The radio frequency (RF) wireless transmission is used to transfer the data from normal limb to prosthetic limb," Singh said.
He said the algorithm has been successfully implemented in a prototype. It consists of three parts: knee joint, leg and foot. A stepper motor is incorporated with the knee joint itself. As the stepper motor receives the signal from the circuit, it rotates the knee joint.
The patent has been filed by Foundation of Innovation and Technology Transfer (IIT-Delhi) and complete provisional specifications were received on February 13.The two research scholars have been mentored by Professor Sneh Anand from IIT-Delhi and Dr U Singh from the All India Institute for Medical Sciences. The Centre for Biomedical Engineering, set up in 1971, is a joint venture of the two institutes.
"The project is unique not only in its application, but also in its hardware and software design," Prof Anand, who heads the Centre for Biomedical Engineering, said. The USP of the project is the use of minimum number of sensors with maximum accuracy in prediction that will help increase a person's adaptability to the prosthetic limb.

Online Braille Library launched by National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH)
On January 4, the birthday of Louis Braille, who invented the six-dot language for the blind, the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) launched the Online Braille Library at the Ali Yawar Jung Institute for the Hearing Handicapped in Bandra. With over 12,000 titles in 14 different languages, it is dedicated to help visually-impaired post-graduate students with prescribed texts from numerous colleges across India without any charge. By offering reading formats in Braille as well as audio, the library will cater to students in subjects ranging from mathematics and IT to history and literature.
The initiative was taken on this very day in 2009 and it took close to 18 months to convert all the texts into a Unicode font, which can be read in Braille as well as audio. The Online Braille Library will thus be a resource that allows students to read in Braille using an add-on computer equipment called Refreshable Braille Display, and in audio using voice software such as JAWS.
NIVH will train the staff and visually-impaired students from over 100 universities and libraries to use the portal. The users can enroll through the local libraries that are affiliated with NIVH.

A prosthetic ‘eye’ may help blind see
Scientists have developed a new prosthetic device that sends images directly to the brain, a technology they say could be used to help blind humans in less than a decade. The device, which was developed by a team at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and tested on animals , takes information from the outside world and decodes it into a pattern that the brain can "read" as an image. Neuroscientist Sheila Nirenberg , who led the research, explained that the key was converting the data into patterns of electrical activity for the brain to process.
Patterns of pulses coming out of the eye tell the brain what is seen. With the blind person, the brain no longer gets the necessary visual information from the eye. Her prosthetic, with its encoder and transducer, can send out signals that the brain can understand. Fundamentally, Nirenberg is stirring up interest in the very idea that her image encoder transducer can bypass a damaged retina to send these codes to the brain. Prof Nirenberg explained that if a person has a retinal disease, there's very little that can be done for them, with drug treatments only effective on a small number of sufferers . There are prosthetic devices , but they only allow patients to see simple images, mainly just outlines. But the new device is something "that could make a difference" , Prof Nirenberg explained at a seminar in San Diego recently. She told the audience that the retina contains circuits that process images, but that these circuits can die from disease.The device she's pioneered "mimics the action of the front end circuitry of the retina" , enabling images to be fired to the brain once more.

Low vitamin D in mothers tied to language impairment
Mothers who had low vitamin D levels while they were pregnant are more likely to have a child with a language impairment than mothers who had higher levels of the vitamin, according to an Australian study. Twenty years ago, Whitehouse and his colleagues measured the vitamin D levels of more than 700 women who were about halfway through their pregnancy, seeking to determine whether levels of the vitamin might have anything to do with children’s later behavioral and language development. Five and 10 years later, they tested the children of these mothers to measure their behavioral and emotional development, and language skills.
The researchers split the mothers into four groups, from lowest to highest vitamin D levels, and found that the risk of having a child with emotional or behavioral issues was the same for each group. When they looked at language skills, though, the team found that mothers in the group with the lowest vitamin D levels were more likely to have a child with a language impairment, as determined from scores on a vocabulary test, than mothers in the highest vitamin D category.
For instance, about 18 percent of mothers in the lowest group had a child with a language issue at age 10, compared to roughly eight percent of mothers in the highest group. The logical thought is that maternal vitamin D insufficiency during pregnancy is affecting the normal course of brain development, Whitehouse said. If vitamin D insufficiency during prenatal life is a cause of childhood language difficulties — and this still needs to be determined conclusively — then vitamin D supplementation of pregnant women may be an important next step. He made clear, though, that the study does not show a cause-and-effect relationship between vitamin D and language problems. But it will be important for future studies to determine if vitamin D is in fact to blame for the language impairments, because it’s a simple problem to fix with supplements.

A tool to help hearing impaired talk
Scientists have developed a hi-tech glove capable of converting sign language into speech, a feat they say could improve the quality of life of millions in the world with speech and hearing impairments. The "super" glove by a Ukrainian team of inventors is fitted with a complex network of sensors that recognize hand movements and translate signs, which are then converted into spoken word by a smartphone app.
The glove, called EnableTalk, has already won an award for its inventors who hope their work will help improve the quality of life of millions of people around the world with speech and hearing impairments. The hi-tech glove comes complete with flex sensors, touch sensors, gyroscops and accelerometers, as well as solar cells that help keep it powered. It even allows users to create and programme their own signs, which the app will then recognize. EnableTalk is still in a prototype stage, but it's already winning admirers in high places. The project was a winner at the recent Microsoft Imagine Cup in Australia, a competition to promote technical innovations.
And the team behind it are confident they'll end up with a product that will change the lives of people with speech disabilities. "We were inspired to help our friends who are hearing - and speech-impaired to have the ability to communicate like everyone else," said a team member. Maxim Osika. The inventors claimed that the hardware for their prototype did cost them just 50, meaning they would be able to offer a finished product that doesn't break the banks.

Alzheimer's Could Be Detected 25 Years In Advance With New 'Timeline'
Scientists have created an ‘early signs timeline’ for Alzheimer’s disease that they believe could help experts detect the condition up to 25 years before it strikes.
Researchers focused on the age the participants’ parents and grandparents developed Alzheimer’s when putting together the dementia ‘timeline’, as well as blood and spinal fluid tests (the key test that detects the earliest change in brain patterns).
The study authors claim they were able to detect early changes in memory and cognitive decline via a drop of spinal fluid. The key protein linked to the onset of Alzheimer's, called amyloid, can be picked up as early as 25 years before the condition is expected to develop and rising levels of ‘tau’, a toxic, brain shrinking protein, also show up.
Scientists adds that the significant beta amyloid protein (APP gene) become visible in brain scans fifteen years before individuals show symptoms of the disease and changes in the brain’s sugar glucose levels, which can cause memory loss, can also be detected.
"It's really the first report that we have in living people of these changes," said study author Dr. Randall Bateman in a statement. Researchers noted the results had bigger implications for those who were more exposed to developing dementia at an early age (between 30 to 45), rather than the common late- onset (which is usually aged 65 plus).
“This important research highlights that key changes in the brain, linked to the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease, happen decades before symptoms show, which may have major implications for diagnosis and treatment in the future,” professor Clive Ballard from the Alzheimer’s Society said in a statement.

Disrupted Sleep Linked With Early Sign Of Alzheimer's: Study
Having trouble staying asleep at night could spell trouble for your memory in old age, a new study suggests. People who reported waking up more than five times in an hour also had an increased risk of having build up of amyloid plaques -- which are linked with Alzheimer's disease -- in their brains.
Researchers examined the sleep patterns of 100 people ages 45 to 80 who didn't have dementia by having them fill out sleep diaries and questionnaires, and placing a device on them as they slept for two weeks. Half of the study participants had a family history of Alzheimer's disease.
The scientists found after the study that 25 percent of people had evidence of amyloid plaques in their brains. The average night's sleep for the study participants was eight hours, and the average time actually spent sleeping (due to periods of wakefulness during the night) was 6.5 hours a night. Researchers found that the more "efficient" sleepers -- that is, the people who spent more than 85 percent of time in their beds actually sleeping -- were less likely to have the amyloid plaques than the "inefficient" sleepers -- defined as people who spent less than 85 percent of time in their beds actually sleeping.
Disturbed sleep is associated with preclinical signs of Alzheimer's disease, researchers found. Ju and colleagues cautioned that it's not clear if there's a cause-and-effect relationship or, if there is, which way it runs. "Further research is needed to determine why this is happening and whether sleep changes may predict cognitive decline," Ju said in a statement.

Autism signs can be detected in 6-month-old babies
The early signs of autism can be detected in babies as young as six months, a new study has found, suggesting future treatments could be given at this time to lessen the impact of the disorder on children.
Researchers at University of North Carolina who looked at how the brain develops in early life found that tracts of white matter that connect different regions of the brain did not form as quickly in children who later developed autism, compared with kids who didn't develop the disorder.
"The way the wiring was changing was dampened" in the children with autism, said study researcher Jason Wolff. "It was a more blunted change over time, in how the brain was being wired," Wolff said.
In contrast, in the brains of infants who did not later develop autism, white matter tracts were swiftly forming , he said. "Their brains were organizing themselves in a pretty rapid fashion."
The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that during a child's first year, "there is a potential to intervene, to disrupt autism before it becomes entrenched," Wolff said. "There are a lot of possibilities to improve outcomes for these children."

Mutation in sperm tied to autism, says gene study
Mutations in a parent's sperm or egg cells may increase a child's risk for autism , and fathers are more likely to pass these defects to their children than their mothers, researchers claim.
Three large-scale studies, published in journal Nature, have highlighted the importance of defects in the DNA of eggs and sperm to the development of autism, and one in seven cases of autism in families are caused this way. One study by a team from the University of Washington showed sperm to be a much bigger culprit than eggs. For every four such genetic alterations , known as "de novo" mutations, traced back to sperm, there was just one that began life in an egg, it found.
For their study, the researchers analysed the DNA of children with autism and their parents in 209 families where the child was the only autistic person, as well as 50 unaffected siblings. They found 248 "de novo" mutations, 60 of which they identified as the most likely to raise the risk of autism. Results revealed that three genes to be peppered by these de novo mutations. The scientists said it is likely that hundreds of genes are involved in autism and their study shows the picture to be even more complex than thought.

In iPad, autistic children find a rewarding, learning tool
Ten-year-old Deepak Ramesh loves a good puzzle. Having dragged a dozen jigsaw pieces — head, tail, neck, legs — into place, he squeals when a robotic voice spells out the name of the animal. “Giraffe,” he echoes, then starts to piece together an elephant on his latest gadget: the iPad.
For the last two months, Deepak and 14 other autistic children have been swiping, pinching and tapping their way to a better life. Five days a week, one-and-a-half hours each day, they come to Prayas, a computer and iPad training centre for such children on the campus of the Spastics Society of Karnataka in Bangalore. Parents and teachers associated with the project, launched in July 2011 by the Autism Society of India in collaboration with SAP Labs India, a software applications research company, say the iPad has already had a positive effect.
Kavita Sharma, herself the mother of an autistic child, manages Prayas and says such children have a penchant for technology. “There are dozens of visually striking and easy-to-follow iPad applications — ranging from voice-assisted writing for early learners to Wordsearch, which involves scanning a screen full of letters for words, to doodling apps — that help special children improve their cognitive skills while also enjoying the pleasure of a challenge,” says Sharma. “There is a free app called Talking Tom, for instance. It’s a cat that repeats whatever you say. A five-year-old here has learned to speak much better by exploring his voice through the app.”
The centre, with half a dozen computers and seven iPads loaded with handpicked applications, offers a five-month course.
“We have got requests for five or six more labs, but first, we want to see how this one goes,” says V R Ferose, MD, SAP Labs India. The idea began as a series of monthly iPad workshops for parents and teachers working with autistic children, conducted by SAP Labs volunteers from their Whitefield campus. “One out of every 250 children born in India is autistic. Technology can be an enabler in their learning and help make them independent. Since the points of action and reaction are the same in the iPad, unlike in a computer where you type on the keyboard and the output appears on the screen, it is a great platform for these children to learn,” says Ferose. SAP Labs plans to modify existing iPad apps and to build customised content for special educators and parents in India.
At Prayas, Preksha, 21, a cheerful woman who can sing all ABBA and Phil Collins numbers from memory, now has an iPad of her own. “We went to a SAP Labs workshop and I thought I should get her one. She loves reading epapers and abridged Shakespeare ebooks on her iPad and she has recently discovered photography,” says Vani Rajendran, her mother.
Shobha Ramesh, Deepak’s mother, says she is happy with his progress. “He draws better, his typing skills have improved. He doesn’t like it if I correct him. When he enters a wrong input on the iPad and it doesn’t accept it, he corrects himself,” she says. Deepak’s favourite apps are puzzles and Wordsearch, and he is good at both.
On a Monday morning, Sharma’s son, 15-year-old Ujjwal, is busy animating a butterfly on a desktop computer. The gadget-savvy teen prefers the PC for learning and uses his iPad to connect with friends on Facebook and to download music.
For some children, the iPad is like a walk in the garden — it destresses and entertains. Mayank Misra, a 10-year-old non-verbal child, counts strawberries and grapes on an iPad. “He is going through a low, he has been reticent of late,” says Sonal Joshi, staff member. Despite being good at typing, maths and pattern recognition, a moody Mayank refuses to go anywhere near a PC. “He likes to sit here on this bench and play games on the iPad,” Joshi says.
Priya Shah, a special educator who homeschools her 10-year-old son Tarun, says autistic children tend to fixate on things. “They like gadgets, so they may fixate on the iPad too. The challenge is to channel this enthusiasm and help them get better at dealing with life.”

Saliva test for HIV accurate, says study
A Saliva test used to diagnose HIV is comparable in accuracy to the traditional blood test, says a new study led by Indian origin medical scientist Dr Nitika Pant Pai. An assistant professor of medicine at McGill University Health Centre, Canada, she led the study published in this week’s issue of The Lancet and says it has major implications for countries that wish to adopt self testing strategies for HIV.
With an increased focus on prevention strategies aimed at curbing the HIV epidemic, screening for the virus has again taken centrestage. Our aim was to establish whether a convenient and non-invasive HIV test that uses oral fluid was accurate by comparison with the same test with blood-based specimens, Pai told The Indian Express from Canada.
The meta-analysis, which compared studies worldwide, showed that the saliva HIV test — OraQuick HIV1/2 — had the same accuracy as the blood test for high-risk populations. “Although previous studies have shown that the oral fluid-based OraQuick HIV1/2 test has great promise, ours is the first to evaluate its potential at a global level.” Pai and her colleagues analysed and synthesised real-life field research data from five worldwide databases. Their findings showed the saliva test is 99 per cent accurate for HIV in high risk populations, and about 97 per cent in low risk populations.
OraQuick is also being considered for potential use as an over-the-counter test in the US and in several sub-Saharan countries. This move might revolutionise HIV testing by offering a proactive option to people who, because of stigma, do not wish to attend public health centres. Hopefully, offering a confidential testing option will bring an end to the stigma associated with HIV testing, says Pai.

Dementia Patients May Fail To Recognize Negative Emotions
Dementia patients may not be able to recognise negative emotions, such as anger, fear and disgust. But happily they are not immune to positive emotions, new study shows.
"All patients continue to recognise happiness, at least in the initial stages of the disease, even when recognition of other emotions is heavily impaired," says Dr Olivier Piguet, one of the study's authors. "There is something about a happy face that is different from the way other emotions are expressed." The findings relate to frontotemporal dementia (FTD), one of the most common types of dementia in younger adults. The age of onset of FTD is typically in the 50s or 60s but can be as young as 30.
Along with various other symptoms affecting behaviour and language, all people with FTD experience difficulty in recognising emotions (facial expressions). Up until now, however, it was not known whether the three subtypes of FTD (semantic dementia, progressive non-fluent aphasia and behavioural-variant FTD) have the same emotion-recognition deficits, and whether certain techniques could help overcome these deficits. Dr Piguet's team tested the ability of 41 people with FTD to recognise six basic facial emotions (anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise). The team also performed a second test, using faces with exaggerated emotions, to determine whether more intensely expressed emotions would help with recognition. Of the three FTD subtypes, Dr Piguet's team found that those people with the semantic dementia subtype were the most impaired when it came to recognising emotions.

IPad opens world to the disabled
Since its debut in April, the iPad has become a popular therapeutic tool for people with disabilities of all kinds, though no one keeps track of how many are used this way, and studies are just getting under way to test its effectiveness, which varies widely depending on diagnosis.
Owen Cain depends on a respirator and struggles to make even the slightest movements — he has had a debilitating motor-neuron disease since infancy. Owen, 7, does not have the strength to maneuver a computer mouse, but when a nurse propped her boyfriend’s iPad within reach in June, he did something his mother had never seen before. He aimed his left pointer finger at an icon on the screen, touched it — just barely — and opened the application Gravitarium, which plays music as users create landscapes of stars on the screen. Over the years, Owen’s parents had tried several computerized communications contraptions to give him an escape from his disability, but the iPad was the first that worked on the first try.
A speech pathologist at Walter Reed Army Medical Center uses text-to-speech applications to give patients a voice. Christopher Bulger, a 16-year-old in Chicago who injured his spine in a car accident, used an iPad to surf the Internet during the early stages of his rehabilitation, when his hands were clenched into fists. “It was nice because you progressed from the knuckle to the finger to using more than one knuckle on the screen,” he said. Parents of autistic children are using applications to teach them basic skills, like brushing teeth and communicating better.
For a mainstream technological device like the iPad to have been instantly embraced by the disabled is unusual. It is far more common for items designed for disabled people to be adapted for general use, like... closed-captioning on televisions in gyms or GPS devices in cars that announce directions. Also, most mainstream devices do not come with built-ins like the iPad’s closed-captioning, magnification and audible readout functions, which were intended to keep it simple for all users, but also help disabled people.

Simple blood test now detects prenatal down syndrome
Researchers at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics have developed a test that analyzes maternal blood between 11 to 14 weeks of gestation for the presence of fetal trisomy 21, the occurrence of an extra chromosome primarily responsible for Down syndrome.
Not only is it an improvement on other methods, it is noninvasive, eliminates screening by amniocentesis, and is 100% accurate. If the results of an early trial can be replicated, a commercial test may be available in a couple of years.
Genetic disorders are a broad and complex set of abnormalities in an individual’s DNA that can be evident in the womb or lay hidden until a later point in life. Down syndrome is one of the former and is the most common chromosomal condition, affecting one in every 691 babies. While it is most commonly associated with a characteristic physical appearance, other aspects of the syndrome can vary significantly from one individual to another, such as developmental delays, impairments in physical growth, and a range of other health issues, some life threatening. Nowadays, expectant mothers are warned about the possibility of Down syndrome especially because the risk for Down syndrome rises abruptly with age. In fact, the incidence rate increases from 1 in 1,250 at age 25 to 1 in 106 at age 40, and by age 49, that risk is 1 in 11.
Clearly, Dr. Philippos Patsalis and his colleagues in Cyprus felt that there was a better way, so they started with a discovery 15 years ago that significant amounts of fetal DNA (3-6%) circulates within a pregnant woman’s blood. The presence of an extra 21st chromosome could be important if they could find signatures within it that could be contrasted against the mother’s DNA. Fortunately, the researchers found eight sites on the extra chromosome that have higher degrees of cytosine methylation. By amplifying the fetal DNA, screening for the higher methylation and running statistical analysis, they were able to detect trisomy 21 in maternal blood in two groups (one control and one blind) of 40 pregnant women with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity. Additionally, the blood was obtained between 11 and 14 weeks of gestation, which is up to a month earlier than a reliable amniocentesis can be performed. And here’s another cool thing: the methodology uses techniques that are common to many diagnostic laboratories, and that means a low implementation and a low cost. Admittedly, this was a small trial and Dr. Patsalis has stated that a larger clinical trial is needed, but clearly this is moving in the right direction.
The day is approaching when prenatal screening will answer all of an expectant mother's questions.. Ethics aside, this new test for Down syndrome will hopefully become part of the multitude of prenatal genetic conditions that are currently part of standard screens. Considering that 1 in 5 women have their first children after age 35, a new test can’t come soon enough.

Hearing impaired can drive now
Now the hearing impaired would be able to drive...!! This landmark judgment given by Delhi High Court, is expected to benefit 50 million people in our country.
Licenses would be given to the people with hearing impairment if they fulfill the given criteria and pass the test driving. Earlier deaf were not allowed to appear for driving tests as according to the archaic Motor Vehicles Act it was considered a source of danger to the public. But the deaf are allowed to drive all over the world except in 26 countries. Even if an applicant is totally deaf, he would be called for a test. If he applies for a learner’s license without a medical certificate and clears the test, then also he has to be granted a learner’s license.
World View about driving of deaf people : In UK, Australia, Germany, Thailand and Malaysia stress is laid on special kind of double rear-view mirrors. In Malaysia and Sri Lanka the deaf have to indicate their disability by sticking a sticker on the back of their car so that there is no hooting at driver

New technology will identify & transmit sign language over cellular networks
A revolution is in the offing for deaf and hearing–impaired people with scientists testing a new mobile device which they claim will transmit Sign Language over cellular networks. Developed by engineers at the University of Washington (UW), MobileASL uses motion detection technology to identify American Sign Language (ASL) and transmit video images over cell networks in the US. The tool, which can be integrated to any high–end mobile phone with a video camera, is undergoing field tests involving 11 participants. "This is the first study of how deaf people in the US use mobile video phones," said project leader Eve Riskin, a UW professor of electrical engineering.
According to the university, the engineers are now working to optimise compressed video signals for sign language, increasing the quality of the images around the face and hands to reduce the data rate to 30 kilobytes per second. To minimise the amount of battery power, the MobileASL phones employ motion sensors to determine whether sign language is being used, it said. Transmitting sign language as efficiently as possible increases affordability, improves reliability on slower networks and extends battery life, even on devices that might have the capacity to deliver higher quality video. And the field test is allowing the team to see how people use the tool in their daily lives and what obstacles they encounter.
Texting or email is currently the preferred method for distance communication of deaf and hearing– impaired people. But the participants’ experiences with the MobileASL phone are, in general, positive. The MobileASL system, the researches said, could be integrated with the iPhone 4, the HTC Evo, or any device that has a video camera on the same side as the screen.

Lack of Vitamin D in babies linked to schizophrenia
Researchers found that babies born with insufficient levels of vitamin D are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia later in life. This could mean that there is a possibility of lowering schizophrenia risk by increasing prenatal intake of the nutrient.
Long coined the “sunshine hormone,” vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to a host of medical issues including many forms of cancer, high blood pressure, depression, and immune system disorders such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes. McGrath, a psychiatrist who is the director of the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, noted that research has suggested for some time that there is also a link between sunlight, vitamin D absorption and brain development.

A little exercise in middle age 'could help beat memory loss'
A little exercise, just three times a week, in middle age could help improve memory and may ward off the start of dementia, says a new study carried out at four universities in the US.
In their study, those who took moderate exercise for one year, within a study group, increased the size of the brain's hippocampus, which eventually led to an improvement in spatial memory. The researchers recruited 120 sedentary older people without dementia and randomly put them in two groups. Half began walking around a track for some 40 minutes a day three times a week and half were limited to stretching and toning exercises. Magnetic resonance images and spatial memory tests were performed at the start, after six months and then after a year. The result was that the hippocampus volume increased by over two per cent in people who did regular aerobic exercise.

Vitamin B could delay onset of Alzheimer's
The study found that supplementing the diet with vitamin B could halve the rate of brain shrinkage in elderly people with warning signs of the disease. Shrinkage, a natural part of ageing, happens faster in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The team of British-led scientists behind the study believe the vitamin treatment could slow or possibly halt development of the disease but stressed more research was needed to test this theory.
In the research, published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE, brain atrophy was studied in 168 volunteers over the age of 70 diagnosed with MCI. Over a two-year period, half were given a daily tablet containing high doses of the B vitamins folate, B6 and B12. The rest received a placebo pill with no active ingredients.
The trial, led by researchers at Oxford University assisted by colleagues in Norway, yielded dramatic results. On average, taking B vitamins slowed the rate of brain atrophy by 30 percent. In some cases, there were reductions as high as 53 percent. "This is a very striking, dramatic result. It's much more than we could have predicted," said David Smith, one of the study leaders from the Department of Pharmacology at Oxford University.
"It is our hope that this simple and safe treatment will delay the development of Alzheimer's disease in many people who suffer from mild memory problems." An estimated 37 million people worldwide live with dementia, with Alzheimer's disease causing the majority of cases, according to the World Health Organisation.

Smoking doubles dementia risk in late life
Heavy smoking during middle age can double the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia two decades later, researchers said.. Smoking already causes millions of deaths each year from cancer and heart disease.
"Our study suggests that heavy smoking in middle age increases the risk of both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia for men and women across different race groups," Rachel Whitmer, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Whitmer's team analyzed data from 21,123 members of a health plan who took part in a survey when they were in their 50s and 60s. About 25 percent of the group, 5,367 volunteers, were diagnosed with some form of dementia in the more than 20 years of follow up, including 1,136 people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia, is a fatal brain disease in which people gradually lose their memories and their abilities to reason and care for themselves. It affects more than 26 million people globally. Smokers were compared with nonsmokers, those who smoked more than two packs a day had a 114 percent increased risk of dementia, a 157 percent increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and a 172 percent greater risk of vascular dementia.

Insulin resistance may cause Alzheimer plaques
People with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease, researchers in Japan reported.
The study involved 135 elderly participants in the town of Hisayama, Fukuoka prefecture, who had their blood sugar levels checked several times at the start of the study. They were then monitored for signs of Alzheimer's disease for 10 to 15 years. After they died, researchers conducted autopsies on their brains and found plaques, particularly in those who had high blood sugar levels while they were alive.
"It is possible that adequate control of diabetes in midlife may contribute to ... prevention of Alzheimer's disease," said lead researcher Kensuke Sasaki at Kyushu University in Fukuoka. Prevalence of type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease are soaring around the world due to growing obesity and people living longer lives, but most healthcare systems are ill equipped to handle such chronic illnesses.
Twenty-one participants, or 16 percent, developed Alzheimer's disease before they died and plaques were found in all of their brains. But the autopsies also found plaques in other participants who had abnormally high blood sugar levels. Plaques were found in 72 percent of people with insulin resistance and 62 percent of those with no indication of insulin resistance, the researchers wrote.
"The point is that insulin resistance may possibly accelerate plaque pathology (development)," Sasaki wrote. Insulin resistance is the stage before diabetes and it occurs when insulin, a hormone in the body, becomes less effective in lowering blood sugar.

Spinal-fluid test may help predict Alzheimer’s
Researchers report that a spinal fluid test can be 100 per cent accurate in identifying patients with significant memory loss who are on their way to developing Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s begins 10 years or more before memory loss and thinking and personality problems become prominent and currently, the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s with certainty is after death, with autopsy of the brain. Still, many people continue to be diagnosed with the disease based on memory tests, brain scans and other methods.
Detecting the disease at a very early stage, before the brain has suffered a lot of damage, may mean that treatments can be developed to stop the progression of disease. Current medications for Alzheimer’s, which are typically prescribed once memory impairment becomes obvious, may ease symptoms for a time but do nothing to stop the underlying disease. In the study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers looked at 102 older men and women who met clinical criteria for Alzheimer’s. They also studied 200 with mild cognitive impairment, a form of memory loss that sometimes progresses to Alzheimer’s, and 144 who were mentally alert and free of serious memory problems.
The researchers looked at a trio of three proteins, or biomarkers, that formed a “signature” pattern in the spinal fluid, the liquid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. The three proteins are known as cerebrospinal fluid beta-amyloid protein 1-42, total CSF tau protein, and CSF phosphorylated tau 181P. They found that the characteristic proteins were found in 90 percent of those with Alzheimer’s disease, and 72 percent of those with mild cognitive impairment. Even some of the seniors who were mentally sharp had the protein pattern: the proteins were found in 36 percent of the seniors who were still cognitively healthy. The spinal fluid test proved remarkably effectively in predicting who would progress to Alzheimer’s disease. When they followed 57 of the patients with mild cognitive impairment for five years, they found that 100 percent of those who had the characteristic protein markers went on to develop full-blown Alzheimer’s.
The researchers suspect that many of the “healthy” seniors with the proteins in their spinal fluid would eventually also develop signs of Alzheimer’s. “The unexpected presence of the Alzheimer’s disease signature in more than one-third of cognitively normal subjects suggests that Alzheimer’s disease pathology is active and detectable earlier than has heretofore been envisioned,” they wrote. In an editorial accompanying the study, doctors noted that, “To date, cerebrospinal fluid analyses have not been a routine component of assessment and care for patients with cognitive impairments and suspected Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. There is now ample evidence that these measurements have value; physicians need to formulate when and how to incorporate cerebrospinal fluid measurements into their practice,” they wrote.

5 more genes tied to Alzheimer's found
In a breakthrough which may pave the way for an effective treatment for Alzheimer's , scientists have identified five genes which they say raise risk of the disease. With the discovery of the five new genes , a total of 10 genes are now known to be linked with the most common form of dementia , says the international team of scientists from the US and Britain . Lead scientist Professor Julie Williams of Cardiff University said that with the breakthrough , it may soon be possible to identify patients most at risk from Alzheimer's disease , and offer them drugs to prevent it.

Early and late birth ups cerebral palsy risk
Full-term babies born a bit on the early or late side are at higher risk of cerebral palsy, according to a new study in nearly 1.7 million Norwegian children. According to Dr. Dag Moster of the University of Bergen in Norway, "It is important to emphasize that the absolute risk is still very low and the vast majority of children being born some weeks away from 40 weeks (full-term) will not develop cerebral palsy.”
Cerebral palsy is a collective term for several disorders that involve the brain and nervous system that first appear in early childhood. It is the most common reason for disability in childhood and is thought to occur because the brain has been damaged during fetal development or early infancy. Preterm birth is well known to increase cerebral palsy risk, but most children with the condition aren't born prematurely.
To investigate whether being born later might influence risk as well, nearly 1.7 million children born in Norway at 37 to 44 weeks' gestation between 1967 and 2001 were studied. A total of 1,938 of these children were known to have cerebral palsy. The lowest risk of cerebral palsy, the researchers say, was seen in children born at term (40 weeks), with about one in every 1,000 of these children having cerebral palsy.
The risk of having cerebral palsy was higher with earlier or later delivery. The risk for children born at 37 weeks was nearly 2 in 1,000; it was 1.25 in 1,000 for children born at 38 weeks; 1.36 in 1,000 for children born at 42 weeks; and 1.44 for children born after 44 weeks. The reason for these increased risks at 37 or 38 weeks' gestation, or at 42 weeks or beyond, are not clear, Moster said.
One possibility is that a newborn's brain may be more vulnerable if he or she is born shortly before or after the normal 40-week mark. "An alternative explanation may be that fetuses prone to develop cerebral palsy have a disturbance in timing of birth making them more prone to be delivered either early or late," Moster said. "Women having a normal delivery outside 40 weeks," Moster said, "still have a very small risk...that their child will develop cerebral palsy."

Prenatal Smoke Ups Risk for ADHD and Depression
A new finding associates prenatal smoking with psychiatric problems and increased need for psychotropic medications in childhood and young adulthood. Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy and who are exposed to the metal have more than twice the usual risk of attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Pediatricians have known that maternal smoking during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the physical health of the child, including increased risk for respiratory disease, ear infections and asthma. In the study, researchers found that adolescents who had been exposed to prenatal smoking were at increased risk for use of all psychiatric drugs, especially those used to treat depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction, compared to nonexposed youths.
“Recent studies show that maternal smoking during pregnancy may interfere with brain development of the growing fetus,” In a study of almost 2,600 children aged 8 to 15, it was found that the rate of ADHD in the whole group was about 9 percent (222 children). The rate of ADHD was about 17 percent in kids whose mothers smoked during pregnancy, and about 14 percent in kids who had blood lead levels in the top third. Almost 30 percent of kids who had both exposures had ADHD.
Although the study was not designed to prove that smoking and lead actually caused ADHD, the take home messages are still clear, Froehlich said: “Moms should make every effort to stop smoking before they become pregnant.” It’s also important to stop smoking by others in the home, she said. In the current study, children in the top third of household smoke exposure had ADHD rates of more than 12 percent - again, higher than the background rate of about 9 percent.

Antidepressants thicken arteries, raise heart risk
Men who take antidepressants are more likely to have thickening of the arteries and higher heart and stroke risks than those who do not, said a study of middle aged male twins. The study is the first to examine the link between vascular disease and antidepressant use, and looked at 513 twins from the Vietnam Era Twin Registry. The average age of the subjects was 55. Researchers found that the inner lining of the carotid artery , which supplies oxygen to the brain, was 5% thicker in men who took antidepressants compared to their twin brothers who did not. The study stated that antidepressant use was associated with a 37 micron increase in carotid IMT, or about 5%. Previous research has suggested each additional year of life is linked to a 10 micron increase in IMT, and each 10 micron jump is linked to a 1.8 increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Cure for Aids... Genes may hold key
An international team, which carried out a research funded by the Australian and Canadian governments, claims that they probably found a "genetic" method which would help the body cure itself of HIV. In fact, in a series of tantalizing experiments on rats, the scientists were able to harness the immune system to such an extent that it defeated the virus and completely removed it from the body , the Daily Mail reported . The breakthrough centers on a gene called 'SOCS-3'. When faced with an overwhelming infection such as the HIV, the gene becomes highly active and slams the brakes on the immune response, allowing the virus to persist . When the scientists boosted levels of a hormone called IL-7, the gene "switched off " and mice were able to gradually remove HIV from their bodies.

Chandigarh gets sensory park for visually impaired
Institute for Blind people has created a sensory park with the help of Chandigarh administration and Municipal Corporation for the use of visually impaired persons. This park has been built to provide a safe place for visually impaired to walk around in a fresh environment, away from traffic and pollution. The Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh has spent 23,000 dollars to create the 0.41–acre park replicated from similar parks in Osaka, Japan. Many aromatic herbs and medicinal plants like jasmine, lavlena, albertine, mint, neem, tulsi and bamboo have been planted here.
While creating the park, the corporation invited visually impaired children and noted their feedback and suggestions. "If one sense organ is defective, the other senses are more developed. Here we train the visually impaired kids to use rest of their organs to the fullest. Technically it is called compensatory mechanism," said Jagannath, headmaster of the Institute for the Blind. "In sensory garden, these kids can explore, smell and feel new things. They can share ideas and interact with the citizens of the society. In this way they will learn new things and also develop healthy relations with the community," he added.

Relaxed minds remember better
If you're serious about getting the most mileage from that brain of yours, a new study points out that people form stronger, more lasting memories when they're relaxed.
Synchronization in the brain is influenced by "theta waves" which are associated with relaxation, daydreaming and drowsiness, but also with learning and memory formation, the scientists explained in the study in the journal Nature. While scientists already know that relaxed minds are better at receiving new information, this study pinpoints a mechanism by which relaxation neurons work together to improve memory. So next time you're stressing about about cramming every last piece of information you can into that brain of yours, relax—it'll help.

Early detection of Parkinson’s through Voice Test
Normally Parkinson is detected when its symptoms have already reached at advance stage and during that course of time patient has already lost a significant amount of brain cells. But in new research a voice test could diagnose disease of Parkinson earlier. Researchers believe that by detecting the symptoms earlier doctors could treat the disease more effectively. The research could also prove helpful in curing neurological disorders.
Researchers at Haifa University developed a computer program that can identify voice of Parkinson’s and the program could also be used for screening those people who are at hereditary risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The speech is often affected by disorder because Parkinson’s causes degeneration in muscle of the neck and mouth that causes sufferer to produce a husky voice. Through this research by calculating small changes in speech pattern which is unobservable to human ears, now it could be detected that whether health looking person is a sufferer. There are other symptoms of disease such as rigidity in muscles, slow movement, tremor and loss of balance. In a voice test patients need to speak only a few sentences.
Early detection of disease could help doctors to diagnose the disease and prevent the loss of nerve cells in the area of brain which controls the movements of the body up to sixty percent. The speech method for early detection of Parkinson’s has already been taken by doctors around the globe. Researchers believe that this technique will prove crucial in field of diagnosing Parkinson’s. Dr Kieran Breen of Parkinson’s UK said, “Trying to find ways to diagnose Parkinson’s at an early stage is key to understanding how to develop better and more effective treatments.”

Insomnia ‘can shrink your brain’
Individuals battling insomnia are losing out on more than just sleep – they may be missing brain matter.
With the help of brain imaging, researchers have linked chronic insomnia to lower gray matter density in areas that regulate the brain’s ability to make decisions and to rest. "The findings predict that chronic insomnia sufferers may have compromised capacities to evaluate the affective value of stimuli," said Ellemarijie Altena, lead author of the study from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. "This could have consequences for other cognitive processes, notably decision-making." The study has been published in Biological Psychiatry.
To reach the conclusion, Boffins compared the white and gray matter volumes of 24 older, chronic insomnia patients to 13 normal sleepers, and controlled for physical and psychiatric disorders that could also alter brain densities. Severe insomniacs exhibited the most extensive density loss, regardless of how long they had suffered from the disorder. However, the researchers are not yet able to pin down whether sleeplessness precedes gray matter loss or the other way around.
"We can’t say what comes first: the lower gray matter density or the insomnia, but (the data) suggests that a low orbito frontal gray matter density may be a risk factor to develop insomnia," said Altena, now a research associate at the Cambridge University Department of Clinical Neurosciences. "We only investigated older people, so follow-up studies at different ages could hopefully in the future determine What comes first.”

Smoking can singe your IQ
If you thought a cigarette on your lips makes you look smart, think again as a study claims that smoking lowers one’s IQ. Researchers at the Tel Aviv University led by Mark Weiser have found that young men who smoke are likely to have lower IQ than their non-smoking peers. In the largest ever study of its kind, the researchers tracked 18 to 21 years old men enlisted in the israeli army and discovered this important connection between the number of cigarettes youngsters smoke and their IQ.
According to the study, “the average IQ for a non-smoker was about 101, while the smokers’ average was over seven IQ points lower at about 94. The IQs of youth who smoked more tha a pack a day were still lower.
An IQ score in a healthy population of such young men, with no mental disorders, fall within a range of 84 to 116. “In the health profession we have generally thought that smokers are most likely the kind of people to have grown up in difficult neighbourhoods or who have been given less education at good schools,” Weiser said.

Soon, Simple Blood Test to Detect Alzheimer's Disease
It may soon be possible to detect Alzheimer's disease with a simple blood test, say researchers. The team from the University of Georgia, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Centre in Augusta and the Medical College of Georgia have found a direct relationship between two specific antibodies and the severity of Alzheimer's disease symptoms. They found that concentration of two specific proteins that are involved in the immune response increases as the severity of dementia increases.
"We found a strong and consistent relationship between two particular antibodies and the level of impairment," said study co-author L. Stephen Miller, professor and director of clinical psychology training in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "The finding brings us closer to our ultimate goal of developing a blood test that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease or potentially identify if someone is at higher risk for the disease," he added.
During the study, the team focused on antibodies that the body creates in response to two proteins that are associated with Alzheimer's disease. One protein, known as amyloid-beta, forms the plaques that are evident in the brains of people with Alzheimer's upon autopsy. The other protein, known as RAGE, is involved in the normal aging process but is expressed at higher levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Brain scans show signs of early Alzheimer's
People with a family history of Alzheimer's disease often have clumps of a toxic protein in their brains even though they are perfectly healthy. Researchers said the findings could lead to new ways to identify people most likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, when there is still time to do something about it.
"The hope is to one day be able to diagnose very clearly the Alzheimer's disease process before any symptoms occur, when the brain is still healthy. Then the treatments would have the best chance of success," said Lisa Mosconi of New York University Langone Medical Center, whose study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team wants to continue to follow the people in the study to see whether they develop dementia, and they want to replicate the findings in a much larger study.
Several teams have been working on better ways to detect early-stage Alzheimer's disease in hopes of developing drugs that can fight it before it causes too much damage. Current treatments cannot reverse the course of Alzheimer's, a mind-robbing form of dementia that affects more than 26 million people globally.
Mosconi's team used an imaging technique called positron emission tomography or PET with a fluorescent dye called Pittsburgh Compound B that lights up clumps of a protein called beta amyloid that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The team imaged the brains of 42 people with an average age of 65, all with healthy brain function. Of these, 14 people had mothers who had Alzheimer's; 14 had fathers with the disease; and 14 had parents with healthy brain function. Brain scans of all 42 showed that those whose parents -- either fathers or mothers -- had Alzheimer's were more likely to have amyloid plaques in their brains. This was especially true of people whose mothers had Alzheimer's.
"They have pretty much 20 per cent more amyloid beta deposits in their brains. In other words, they had an almost four times greater risk for amyloid beta pathology," Mosconi said in a telephone interview. The finding confirms other studies that suggest having a mother with Alzheimer's may be a greater risk factor. "It looks like if you have maternal history of Alzheimer's disease, the risk of amyloid beta plaque and a reduction in brain activity is much greater as compared to having a father affected," Mosconi said. After advanced age, a family history of Alzheimer's is the single biggest risk factor for developing the disease. Not everyone who has beta amyloid plaques in their brain develops Alzheimer's disease, but Mosconi said having the plaques does increase the risk.

Some are wired to be introverts
Ever wondered why some people are very shy or introvert Well, scientists say this is because of their brains that process the world differently than their bold and extroverted counterparts. About 20% of all people are born with a trait called sensory perception sensitivity (SPS) that can manifest itself as the tendency to be inhibited, or even neuroticism a tendency to experience negative emotional states, the study said.
The trait can be seen in some children who are slow to warm up in a situation but eventually join in, need little punishment, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts. The research carried out at Stony Brook University in New York the Southwest University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, both in China showed that people with SPS trait prefer to take longer to make decisions, are more conscientious ,need more time to themselves in order to reflect and are more easily bored with small talk.
According to the scientists, the sensitivity trait is found in over 100 other species, from fruit flies and fish to canines and primates, indicating this personality type could sometimes provide an evolutionary advantage

Cracked: How AIDS virus infects women
In a medical breakthrough that may help prevent spread of HIV among women, scientists have claimed to have solved the mystery behind how HIV virus cross epithelial cells — that keeps out infection — and find its way into the female reproductive tract.
“What it (HIV virus) does is that it makes the electrical barrier resistance of epithelial cells decrease. By doing that, the virus can cross the barrier,” said lead researcher Charu Kaushic from McMaster University. The study that appears in the journal PLoS Pathogens reveals that HIV breaks down the protective mucosal barrier in the intestinal and female genital tract, allowing the virus to cross during intercourse.
The breakdown appears to be due to inflammatory factors produced by epithelial cells themselves, in response to HIV. This destroys the tight junctions between epithelial cells and gives HIV and other microbes access to inside the body, the researchers said.
For the study, the team grew purified primary epithelial cells in the laboratory from small pieces of tissues that were removed from women’s uterus during hysterectomies, with their consent. The team then studied how HIV actually interacts with these cells. The researchers noticed that every time they put HIV on epithelial cells their resistance went down significantly. Repeated tests confirmed the observation. According to Kaushic, the surface protein of the virus causes the epithelial barrier to break. “The surface protein signals to the inside of the epithelial cells by binding to it. The epithelial cells start making inflammatory proteins which cause these cells to go on their self-destructive pathway,” Kaushic said. Worldwide, half of the 40 million people infected with HIV are women. Among heterosexuals, women are the fastest growing group to be infected.

Now, a cheap blood test for Down's syndrome
Scientists have developed a new blood test to check unborn children for Down's syndrome, a genetic abnormality, and other disorders, which they claim would be available in the market in four years. A team in the Netherlands has come up with the cheap test which works by extracting the DNA of the foetus from the mother's blood and screening it for Down's syndrome and other abnormalities, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.
According to the scientists, the test will provide a better alternative to invasive tests, like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling, which give an accurate result, but raise the risk of mother suffering a miscarriage. The new test involves the same equipment needed for amniocentesis testing, but uses blood instead of amniotic fluid and is not invasive. But, so far, the scientists have been able to prove the technique works in principle and have described the results as "promising".
They now hope to use the same method to detect other abnormalities in an unborn child's DNA such as Edwards' syndrome, which causes structural malformations in the foetus, and Patau's syndrome, which results in mental impairment. It could also be used to screen for muscular dystrophy and haemophilia, the scientists say.

Two glasses of milk a day could prevent Alzheimer’s
A new study has suggested that the health drink can help protect against memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease in old age. An international team, led by Oxford University, has found that milk is actually one of the best sources of a key vitamin, B12, that is said to reduce the neurological damage to the brain which can lead to forms of dementia. Elderly patients with low levels of the vitamin known as B12, suffer twice as much shrinkage of the brain as those with higher levels of the substance in their bodies. According to lead researcher David Smith, downing just two glasses of milk every day would be enough to “increase levels of vitamin B12” to an adequate level and increasing the intake of B12 in the elderly could slow cognitive decline.

Long hours at work raise risk of dementia
Long working hours can raise the risk of dementia, a new study has warned. What’s more, extreme tiredness and tension could be as harmful for the brain as smoking, the study found. Researchers led by Marianna Virtanen from the Finish Institute of Occupational Health found that middle- aged workers clocking up more than 55 hours a week have poorer mental skills, including short-term memory and ability to recall words, than those working fewer than 41 hours.

Insulin may help treat Alzheimer’s
Insulin, which is used to keep diabetes under control, may help treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. Researchers at Northwestern University say that insulin, by shielding memory- forming synapses from harm, may slow or prevent the damage and memory loss caused by toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s. the finding provide additional new evidence that Alzheimer’s could be due to a novel third form of diabetes.

Sex-specific gene tied to Alzheimer’s
A gene found on the X chromosome harbors the first sex- specific genetic variant linked to a greater susceptibility to Alzheimer’s, according to a new study. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida and Rochester, Minnesota showed that women who inherited the same variant of the gene, known as PCDH11X , from both parents were far more likely to develop the disease. “ The odds an Alzheimer’s- afflicted women had two copies of the PCDH11X variant as opposed to no copies was twice high as for the control group,” lead researchers Steven Younkin said.

Diabetes linked to Alzheimer’s
Diabetes can hurt the heart, the eyes and the kidneys. New research indicates a more ominous link: That diabetes increases the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease and may speed dementia once it strikes. Doctors long suspected diabetes damaged blood vessels that supply the brain, it now seems even more insidious, that the damage may start before someone is diagnosed with full-blow diabetes, back when the body is gradually losing its ability to regulate blood sugar. In fact, the lines are blurring between what specialists at Columbia University Medical Centre call vascular dementia and scarier classic Alzheimer’s disease.

Study in mice Links fast food to Alzheimer’s
Mice fed junk food for nine months showed signs of developing the abnormal brain tangles strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a Swedish researcher found in his study.The finding, which come from a series of published papers by a researcher at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, show how a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia.
“On examining the brains of these mice we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer’s brain,” Susanne Akterin, a researcher at the Karolinska institute’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre, who led the study, said in a statement. “We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors .....can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer’s .”
While the most advanced drugs have focused on removing clumps of beta amyloid protein that forms plaques in the brain, experts are also now looking at therapies to address the toxic tangles caused by an abnormal build-up of the protein tau. In her research, Akterin focused on a gene variant called apoE4 found in 15 to 20% of people and which is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s. the gene is involved in the transport of cholesterol. She studied mice genetically engineered to mimic the effect of the variant gene in humans, and which were fed a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months- meals representing the nutritional content of fast food.
These mice showed chemical changes in their brains, indicating an abnormal build –up of the protein tau as well as signs that cholesterol in food reduced levels of another protein called Arc involved in memory storage, Akterin said .

Coffee drinkers show lower dementia risk
In more good news for coffee lovers, a study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s Disease, suggests that middle –aged adults who regularly drink a cup of coffee may have a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. The researchers from University of Kuopio state that coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and diabetes, in turn, is linked to a higher risk of dementia. Coffee also contains plant chemicals, such as chlorogenic acid, that act as antioxidants and may help protect body cells from damage over time.

With age, memories carry less emotion
Younger people take a dimmer view of the past than their elders and it may be because they process and retain memories differently, according to a research published in psychological Science. Researchers showed pictures to people in their 20s and those older than 65, asking them to rate the pictures as emotionally negative, positive or neutral. The MRI scan of their brains showed older people were processing negative pictures in different parts of the brain – regions used for rational thinking rather than feeling. Oder adult were able to remember fewer negative pictures, found researchers from University of Alberta, Canada.

Too much of TV can speed up memory loss in elderly
Watching TV for long duration may speed up memory loss, researchers have found. But engaging in a hobby like reading a book, making a patch work quilt or even playing computer games can delay the onset of dementia. Nearly 200 people aged 70 to 89 with mild memory problems were compared with a group who had no impairment. The experts from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota asked volunteers about their daily activities within the past year and how active they had been between the age of 50 to 65, reports BBC News website. Those who had been busy reading or engaging in craft hobbies or knitting in middle age were found to have 40% reduced risk of dementia. In later life those same activities reduced the risk by between 30and 50%. Those who watched TV for less than 7 hours a day were also 50 % less likely to develop dementia than those who spent longer than that staring at the screen.

Mid -life high cholesterol raise Alzheimer’s risk
High cholesterol levels in your 40s may raise the chance of developing Alzheimer ’s disease decades later. The study, involving 9,752 people in northern California, found that those with high cholesterol levels between ages 40 and 45 were about 50 per cent more likely than those with low cholesterol levels to later develop Alzheimer’s disease. The findings were presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago.

Stress diminishes judgment, brain scans show
A study from New York’s Weill Medical College at Cornell and Rockefeller University, published in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences says that stress affects the capacity to judge . The researchers compared brain function of a group of stressed students through MRI. While put to tasks that measured the ability to shift attention and then shift back, the subjects performed far worse than the control group, who were relaxed. Activity in their prefrontal cortices- seat of functions like attention, task planning and judgment was found to be very low. Connectivity between that area and other regions of brain which translates thought into action was diminished too.

Can blind peoples see images in their dreams
Recent research revealed that people raised in the age before color TV dream only in black and white. This raised another question –whether people who don’t see images during the day might see them when they shut their eyes at night. For people with normal vision, dreaming is intensively visual. Auditory stimulation plays a small role, senses, like taste and smell, are virtually absent. But studies led by a psychologist at the University of Hartford show that for the blind, depending on when in life they lost their sense of sight, the reverse seems to be true. People born without the ability to see report no visual imagery in their dreams, but they do experience a heightening of taste, touch and smell. They also report a higher percentage of dreams that involve mishaps related to traveling or transportation. Researchers say people who blind before age 5 rarely experience visual imagery in their dreams.

Music training helps people talk
Music hath charms to improve a person’s speech. Its effects on the nervous system’s ability to process sight and sound may do more to help enhance a person’s verbal skills than even phonics, explained researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois. They found that music training enhances the same communication skills needed for reading and speaking.

Early intervention helps infants born with hearing impairment
Infants with permanent hearing loss benefits in terms of language development from being enrolled very early –before 3 months of age-in intervention programs, according to a new study. Normally, children with moderate to profound hearing loss exhibit delayed language skills at 12 to 16 months of age, compared with children with mild to minimal hearing loss, the researchers explain in pediatrics. In the survey conducted, children with moderate to profound hearing loss had significantly lower scores for understanding of phrases, words, and gestures than children with mild to minimal hearing loss. Enrollment in early intervention was associated with significantly higher scores.

Writing disabilities common, especially in boys
Learning disorders related to writing are just as common as reading disabilities, and are especially likely to affect boys, suggest a study published in pediatrics. Written –language disorder, also known as dysgraphia, includes problems with handwriting, spelling and organizing thoughts on paper and it is diagnosed when a child’s writing skills fall substantially below the norm for his or her age and IQ. The researchers from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, found that among the more than 5,700 students they followed, between 7 per cent and 15 per cent developed a written –language disorder over their school career. Boys were two to three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with a writing disability.

Vitamins can prevent hearing loss
Scientists have edged closer to developing a pill to stave off noise – induced or age-related hearing loss in humans, after vitamin supplements given to lab animals protected hearing. These supplements comprise antioxidants like beta carotene, vitamins C and E and magnesium. Given before exposure to loud noise, the supplements prevented hearing loss in test animals, the University of Florida study found.

Babies sleep poorly when mothers are depressed
Sleep disturbances are more likely in babies born to mothers with depression. The finding come from a study of 18 healthy, full –term infants who had their sleep behavior evaluated with actigraphy, to monitor how much they moved about , for 24 weeks. Eleven of the infants were born to mothers with depression, reported researchers from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in the journal Sleep. The researchers found that infants of depressed mothers took about 80 minutes longer to fall asleep and had more awakenings (approximately 4). These differences persisted throughout the full 24- week study period.

Let the baby cry, but do not shake her
Although most parents have heard that shaking a baby is dangerous, few might realize the lifelong devastation that can result from only a few seconds of shaking to kill or disable a child for life. New studies show that it’s not enough to tell the mothers, fathers and caregivers, should also be told about this. Dr Nina Livingston, director for Hartford Regional Child Abuse Services, says “ shaken baby syndrome is becoming an area of great interest because this type of abuse is among the most devastating and we actually have some prevention tools... shaking or impacting a baby’s head is really a complex event biomechanically.”
With severe shaking, a baby’s head will snap back and forth with significant force that can jostle the brain within the cranial cavity, injuring or destroying brain tissue and shearing or tearing the blood vessels around the brain. One in four babies who suffer this brain injury die, and half will have serious, lifelong disabilities, which can include severe brain damage, blindness, hearing loss, learning problems, seizure disorders paralysis and others. One in four might appear to escape without long –term injury, but that child may suffer a subtler disability.
With research indicating that crying is the number one trigger for shaken –baby syndrome, the hope is that if more parents understand that babies might have long, uncontrollable bouts of crying, they will be better prepared to handle it. Doctors also advise that parents should learn that not every baby can be soothed. If necessary, parents should take a break. They should do something to calm themselves –like calling a friend or the doctor for advice, and do not return to the room until you are ready to deal with the baby’s crying.

Spirituality protects against depression
A person’s religiousness could offer insight into his or her risk for depression, a new research has suggested. Researchers at Temple University have based their finding on an analysis of nearly 1,000 people in terms of three domains of religiosity : religious service attendance; religious well-being which refers to a person’s sense of meaning and their purpose in life. They compared each domain of religiosity to their risk of depression and found that the group with higher levels of religious well-being were1.5 times more likely to have had depression than those with lower levels of religious well-being, the psychological Medicine journal reported. According to lead researchers Joanna Maselko, this is because people with depression tend to use religion as a copying mechanism. As a result, they’re more closely relating to God and praying more. The researchers also found that those who attended religious services were 30% less likely to have had depression in their lifetime, and those who had high levels of existential well- being were 70% less likely to have had depression than those who had low levels of existential well-being. People with high levels of existential well- being tend to have a good base, which makes them very centered emotionally. People who don’t have those things are at greater risk for depression, and those same people might also turn to religion to cope, Maselko said. However, the American researchers are yet to find out which comes first –depression or being religious.

How loud is too loud?
Loudness is measured in decibels (dB).Experts recommend that you use earplugs when exposed to 85 dB and above. The following list shows common sound and their approximate dB levels.
■ 20 dB: Ticking watch
■ 30 db: Quite whisper
■ 40dB: Refrigerators hum
■ 50 dB: Rainfall
■ 60 dB: Sewing machine
■ 70 dB: Washing machine
■ 80 dB: Alarm clock (two feet away)
■ 85 dB: Average Traffic
■ 95 dB: MRI
■ 100 dB: Blow dryer, subway train
■ 105 dB: Power mower, chain saw
■ 110 dB: Screaming child
■ 120dB: Rock concert thunderclap
■ 130 dB: Jackhammer, jet plane (100 feet away)
Exposure to once-only or continuous noise can cause hearing loss. If hearing recovers, this loss is called temporary threshold shift, which typically disappears after 160to 48 hours. Hearing loss can be permanent if loud sounds damage the cells cannot be repaired.

Watching cartoons can help spot autism
Watching how a tot reacts to cartoons could help spot autism according to a new study conducted by American researchers. It is know that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) tend to stare at people’s mouths rather than their eyes. Now, the new study of 2 years –olds with the social deficit disorder has suggested why they might find mouths so attractive : lip-sync-the exact match of lip motion and speech sound. The research’s crucial moment came when researches followed up on a club from kids’ response to audiovisual synchrony embedded in a nursery rhyme cartoon. The team, led by Ami Klin of the Yale Child Study Centre, tracked the eye movements of two -years- old with looked at cartoon animations on split –screen displays. These cartoons played normally – upright and forward –on one half of the screen, but upside –down and in reveres on the other half. The normal soundtrack of the actor’s voice, recorded when the animations were made, accompanied the presentation. The toddlers with ASD shifted their attention to the upright figure as it played a pat-a- cake game, where the figure claps his hands repeatedly. This synchrony –dots colliding to produce a clapping sound – only existed on the upright side of the screen, because the inverted figure played in reverse and its motions weren’t in sync with the soundtrack. The kids with ASD chose the upright figure 66% of the time, a strong preference. This clue led the experts to suspect that ASD toddlers prefer audiovisual synchronies that were less obvious than the clapping.

Devices aim to help children with autism speak
The solution to some of these problems could be the push of a button away. A set of aids-ranging from simple, notebook-size plastic boxes to more sophisticated devices that resemble a clunky Black Berry – has been developed to help children with autism express their needs. The devices range in price from about $100 to several thousand dollars. Many are designed to be portable and the simpler ones are also nearly indestructible.
The simplest model looks like a toy with picture cards, depicting food, health and daily activities, that slide in and out. Press one of the 12 buttons beneath a picture and the device voices simple sentences. Children who have gained some skill with a keyboard can graduate to computer-based applications with a much wider range of data and picture choices, Parents can also enter information about a child for other adults to use in case he or she needs help. Although some parents fear that use of such devices may discourage their children from trying to speak, Rebecca Landa, director of the Centre for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, argues that hearing a phrase spoken aloud may help them eventually say it themselves. The one drawback is that speech pathologists who evaluate children may not be familiar with the devices and therefore lack the expertise to fit a child with the right one. Parents may need to take the initiative of researching the right fit for their child.

Kids can recover from autism
Growing body of research suggests that at least 10% of children with autism can “recover” from it-most of them after undergoing years of intensive behavioral therapy. Skeptics questions the phenomenon, but University of Connecticut psychology professor Deborah Fein is among those who convinced it as real. She presented research at an autism conference in Chicago that included 20 children who, according to rigorous analysis, got a correct diagnosis but years later were no longer considered autistic. Among them was Leo, a boy in Washing DC, who once made no eye contact, who echoed words said to him and often spun around in circles- all classic autism symptoms. Now he is an articulate, social third- grader. The study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, involves children aged 9 to 18. Autism researcher Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, called Fein’s research a break through. “ Even though a number of us out in the clinical field have seen kids who appear to recover,” it has never been documented as thoroughly as Fein’s work, Dawson said. Previous studies have suggested between 3% and 25% of autistic kids recover. Fein says her studies have shown the range is 10% to 20%. But even after lots of therapy –often carefully designed educational and social activities with rewards –most autistic children remain autistic. Recovery is “not a realistic expectation for the majority of Kids,” but parents should know it can happen, Fein said. The children in her study “really were” autistic and now they’re “really not”. University of Michigan autism expert Catherine Lord said she also has seen autistic patients who recover. Most had parents who spent long hours working with them on behavior improvement.

Courtsey : The Times of India, The Indian Express, PTI, IANS,The Hindustan Times, Mental Health News