Changing Faces: Stimulating the Brain Morphs People’s Faces Before Patient’s Eyes

The patient sits on the bed, his head wrapped in thick gauze bandages. He looks his doctor in the eye and says, “You just turned into somebody else… You almost look like somebody I’ve seen before, but somebody different. That was a trip.”

No, 47-year-old Ron Blackwell hadn’t taken any psychedelic drugs.  He wasn’t delirious or psychotic following the brain surgery he had recently undergone. Instead, he was responding to signals from electrodes implanted in his brain to help determine the source of his seizures. By coincidence, the test electrodes had been placed in his fusiform gyrus, the brain region involved in recognizing faces.

MORE: Could Deep Brain Stimulation Fend Off Alzheimer’s?

“Your nose got saggy and went off to the left,” Blackwell said, describing the changes he was seeing in his doctor Josef Parvizi’s face in a video released along with a new study. The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was led by Parvizi, who is an associate professor of neurology at Stanford.

While having surgery to treat epilepsy, Blackwell agreed to take part in an experiment led by Parvizi aimed at understanding what the fusiform region actually does and how specific it is to recognizing faces.

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Aspirin, a Wonder Drug? Studies Show It May Prevent Cancer

Many people take a daily aspirin to reduce their risk of heart attack, but now fresh evidence suggests that the over-the-counter pain reliever may be a powerful tool in cancer prevention as well.

In three new studies published in the Lancet,
researchers from from the University of Oxford say a daily dose of aspirin can reduce people’s risk of developing a variety of cancers and also lower the chance of their cancer spreading.


The studies looked at patients who were participating in several long-term, randomized trials on the effect of daily low-dose aspirin (75 mg to 300 mg) for the prevention of heart disease. The researchers examined how many of the participants went on to develop cancer. In one study, patients taking aspirin had a nearly 25% lower risk of cancer after five years, compared with those taking a placebo. That translated to a 15% lower risk of dying of cancer during the study period; after five years, the risk of death was 37% lower in patients who remained on aspirin. Seguir leyendo “Aspirin, a Wonder Drug? Studies Show It May Prevent Cancer”

Smoking May Lead to Faster Cognitive Decline in Men

In a new study, middle-aged men who smoked did worse on tests of cognitive ability over time, but women who lit up didn’t show the same declines.
By ALICE PARK | @aliceparkny | Slyadnev / Getty Images


We know that smoking contributes to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, emphysema and lung cancer, among others. But now there’s  growing evidence that using cigarettes can also affect the brain: the latest study shows that smoking is associated with cognitive decline as early as age 45, and that male smokers may be more vulnerable to these mental effects than women.

For the study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers led by Severine Sabia, a research associate in the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, gave cognitive tests to 7,236 middle aged men and women three times between 1997-99 and 2007-09, when they were 44-69 years old, 50-74 years old and 55-80 years old.

The researchers also collected the participants’ 20-year smoking history through regular self-reported questionnaires.

MORE: The Nicotine Patch May Improve Memory

And when they compared the cognitive scores to smoking status, they found that men who smoked showed faster decline than nonsmoking men over 10 years.The size of the effect associated with smoking was similar to that of 10 years of aging. Even after Sabia and her colleagues adjusted for the effects of heart disease, stroke and lung function on mental abilities, the effect of smoking remained strong… Seguir leyendo “Smoking May Lead to Faster Cognitive Decline in Men”

FDA Approves New Suppliers to Ease Cancer Drug Shortages

Scimat / Getty Images

The FDA approved another supplier for a preservative-free version of methotrexate, a crucial drug for children with a type of leukemia called ALL and for high-dose treatment of bone cancer.

Federal regulators said Tuesday that they’ve approved new suppliers for two crucial cancer drugs, easing critical shortages — at least for the time being — that have left patients and parents frightened about missing life-saving treatments.

The news brings a light at the end of the tunnel for some patients, but not for thousands of others, given that there are currently 283 separate drugs in short supply or totally unavailable in this country.

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration said it will temporarily allow importation of a replacement drug for Doxil, a drug for ovarian and other cancers that hasn’t been available for new patients for months.

The agency also has approved another supplier for a preservative-free version of methotrexate, a crucial drug for children with a type of leukemia called ALL and for high-dose treatment of bone cancer. The version with preservatives can be toxic or cause paralysis in children and other patients getting the drug either via injections into spinal cord fluid or at very high doses.

The FDA also has approved the release of a batch manufactured by Ben Venue Laboratories Inc., shortly before it closed several factories at its complex in Bedford, Ohio, due to serious quality problems. That closing is what turned the on-again, off-again methotrexate shortage that began in late 2008 into a crisis almost overnight, with fears that patients would begin missing treatments as soon as the end of this month. Seguir leyendo “FDA Approves New Suppliers to Ease Cancer Drug Shortages”

Whither Qnexa? A Brief History of Diet Pills and the FDA

We still don’t have a magic pill for weight loss, and the spotty safety records of diet remedies throughout history show why.

Alexander Ho for TIME


Will the second time will be the charm for the diet drug Qnexa? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the data on the weight-loss medication, again — an advisory panel will meet on Wednesday — having rejected the drug for approval once already in 2010.

The agency’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory Committee initially voted 10-to-6 against approving Qnexa over concerns that that it could increase heart rate and cause birth defects — concerns the FDA still has the second time around. According to the FDA’s briefing documents, the advisory panel will be asked on Wednesday to consider whether Qnexa’s maker, Vivus Inc., should conduct a clinical trial on cardiovascular risks prior to approval — a move that could significantly delay its reaching the market. Vivus proposes doing the study post-approval.

The key question for the panel isn’t whether Qnexa is effective for weight loss — clinical trials suggest it is, though in the second year of one trial, participants regained some of the weight they had lost in the first year — but whether its potential side effects outweigh its benefits.

Qnexa is a combination of two existing drugs — phentermine, an appetite-suppressing stimulant, and topiramate, an anti-seizure medication that is generally prescribed to control epilepsy but also affects appetite. The latter drug, topiramate, increases the risk of oral clefts, a birth defect, by two to five times when used by pregnant women, according to the latest studies, the FDA said. Seguir leyendo “Whither Qnexa? A Brief History of Diet Pills and the FDA”