TIME Research

Chronic-Fatigue Syndrome Is Real and Is Now Called Systemic-Exertion-Intolerance Disease

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Top medical advisory body publishes comprehensive report

Sufferers of chronic-fatigue syndrome have long complained about what they regard as a trivializing name for their condition. Now, they can claim two victories: it was renamed systemic-exertion-intolerance disease (SEID), and was proclaimed to be a real disease by a panel from the Institute of Medicine, an influential government advisory body.

The 15-member panel, which released a 235-page report Tuesday also offered new and simplified diagnostic criteria: profound fatigue, total exhaustion after even minor physical or mental exertion, unrefreshing sleep and “brain fog.”

The disease, afflicting anywhere from 860,000 to 2.5 million Americans, can leave sufferers incapacitated, incapable of attending school or going to work. The majority are undiagnosed because there is no test and sufferers battle a prevailing stigma that their ailment is primarily psychological.

[NPR]

TIME Research

Extremely Premature Babies Face Developmental Issues, Study Says

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A new study shows premature babies score lower on cognitive tests

Thanks to innovative technologies, babies born extremely premature have a much higher likelihood of survival now than in the past. However, they can be at a much greater risk for medical problems, and a new study suggests that being born too early can mean developmental problems later on.

For her PhD thesis, researcher and Lund University psychologist Johanna Månsson assessed around 400 extremely premature babies (born week 28 or earlier) and about 400 control babies that were born at full term. When the infants reached age 2.5, they underwent psychological tests, and Månsson discovered that the babies born prematurely had significantly worse scores for language comprehension, speech, motor skills and cognition. The premature babies were also more likely to have behavioral issues, and boys were overall more delayed than the girls.

Though there were distinct disparities between the children’s development, the premature infants still fell into score ranges that were classified as normal.

“Our findings encourage behavioral assessments during preschool years and emphasize the importance of considering multifactorial pathways of prediction when examining prematurity outcome,” Månsson writes in her report.

Månsson says the findings indicate that early interventions may be needed to ensure that extremely premature babies catch up developmentally.

TIME Research

Here’s Your Health Excuse to Take a Nap

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New study finds negative effects of a sleepless night can be undone by forty winks

Conventional wisdom used to be that you can never catch up on a lost night of sleep — but a new study adds weight to the emerging theory that the negative health effects of a sleepless night can actually be reversed by a good nap.

In a small study of 11 healthy men published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), researchers found that even if the men got only two hours of sleep the night before, they could combat the hormonal havoc caused by poor sleep if they took a couple of brief naps.

To reach these results, the researchers had the men undergo two sleep sessions in a lab. In the first, the men only got two hours of sleep and then had their urine and saliva measured and analyzed for hormonal changes. In the second session, the men once again only got two hours of sleep, but this time they also took two 30-minute naps the following day. The men provided saliva and urine samples once again.

MORE: Here’s How Much Experts Think You Should Sleep Every Night

The study found that when men only slept for two hours, they had a 2.5 increase in norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter which responds to stress. That increase can up the body’s heart rate and blood pressure. The men also had low levels of the protein interleukin-6 which is critical for having a proper immune response. However, when the men were sleep-deprived but napped the following day, the researchers found there were no changes in either their protein or hormone levels.

According to the researchers, the findings suggest that taking a nap can restore out-of-whack hormone levels, and improve immune system health. But to avoid the sluggishness and medical problems that can come from from not getting enough shut eye, try to get the recommended amount of sleep every night. For adults, that’s 7 to 9 hours.

TIME Race

Minorities Face Significant Barriers to Home Ownership in the U.S., Report Says

'It's clear that the housing playing field remains strikingly unequal in this country'

Minorities continue to face significant barriers to home ownership in the U.S., according to a new report.

The report, released by online real estate database Zillow, shows a significant disparity in home ownership, property values and home loan approval rates between white and minority communities.

Read More: The Long, Tangled Roots of the Michael Brown Shooting

More than 25% of loan applications by black applicants in the U.S. are denied, compared with 10% of their white counterparts, the report found. Additionally, nearly three in four white Americans own their homes, compared to less than half of black and Hispanic Americans.

The value of homes owned by minorities also tended to be less stable. While prices in white neighborhoods have largely recovered from the economic downturn of 2008, home prices in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods remain well below peak levels.

“It’s clear that the housing playing field remains strikingly unequal in this country,” Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said in a statement.

TIME Research

Energy Drinks May Drive Kids to Distraction

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A new study finds a link between consumption of energy drinks and hyperactivity and inattention

Middle schoolers who consume sweetened energy drinks are 66% more at risk for hyperactivity than other kids, according to a new study.

To assess the effect of a variety of beverages on middle schoolers, Yale School of Public Health researchers surveyed 1,649 students in 5th, 7th, and 8th grade about their beverage consumption and assessed their levels of hyperactivity and inattention.

“Despite considering numerous types of beverages in our analyses (eg, soda, fruit drinks), only energy drinks were associated with greater risk of hyperactivity/inattention,” the authors write in the study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Unlike soda and juice, energy drinks often contain ingredients like guarana and taurine. The researchers say it could be the effect of these ingredients mixed with caffeine that causes problems.

“Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, sugar and other ingredients that work synergistically with caffeine. Caffeine may be contributing to this association because the caffeine content of energy drinks is far greater on average than that of soda,” the authors write.

It’s important to note that the researchers could not determine that the energy drinks caused the hyperactivity and inattentiveness in the kids. The American Beverage Association has guidelines for energy drink companies that recommend against marketing their products to children and not selling in K-12 schools.

However, a January report from U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shows most energy drink companies will market to young people under age 18, which the senators object to arguing there are safety concerns for teenagers as well.

“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks,” study author Jeannette Ickovics, director of CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) at the Yale School of Public Health said in a statement.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Science-Backed Ways to Remember Anything

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Our ability to memorize is taking a back seat to convenience, but there must be a balance between the two

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

In this age of smart phones, smart TVs, smart watches, smart glasses—the list is becoming endless—the only thing that seems to be getting duller may be our own brains.

Think of all the things we used to be forced to memorize, which have become relics of a quaint and incomprehensible past. Can you imagine actually memorizing someone’s phone number anymore? And we all know that person who can’t find his own friend’s house without staring at his GPS.

Our ability to memorize is taking a back seat to convenience, and if you’re like me, you’ve noticed the detrimental effects.

It’s not all bad—professor of psychology Daniel Wegner has argued that new technology and search engines may be becoming helpful “virtual extensions of our memory” (sort of like what you do when you leave it to your significant other to remember important dates).

But there are disturbing consequences. A 2013 poll from The Trending Machine National showed that Millennials age 18-34 are “significantly more likely than seniors ages 55 or older to forget what day it is (15% vs. 7%), where they put their keys (14% vs. 8%), forget to bring their lunch (9% vs. 3%), or even to take a bath or shower (6% vs. 2%).”

A balance between memory and convenience must be achieved, and it is clearly time to fight back.

Here are three tips based on new scientific research that you can use to gain back control over your memory.

1. Associate Your Memories With Physical Objects

Here’s a common memory problem that can cause you huge embarrassment at the office: forgetting someone’s name. Whether you’re meeting a new employee or on the phone with an important client, finding a way to remember names can be the difference between making a great impression or committing a serious social blunder.

Next time you meet someone, try to associate his or her name with a physical object, like signs, buildings, billboards—basically anything that you can see, feel, or touch counts. Essentially, you’re connecting something tangible with more abstract information such as names, numbers, dates, or appointments, making them easier to remember.

So, if you meet Pete, for example, and he’s got a pen in his pocket, think of him as Pen Pete. The possibilities for object association with abstract information is nearly infinite, so get creative. (In my case, the more ridiculous my associations are, the more memorable they become.)

You’re probably used to using this physical object strategy when trying to remember directions—“turn left at the big red sign.” This is a natural association that has worked beautifully for the entirety of human existence. So why not apply it elsewhere?

2. Don’t Just Memorize by Repetition—Also Pay Attention to Nuance

Everyone is familiar with the old saying, “practice makes perfect.” Interestingly, scientists have found that while repetitive practice can enhance your ability to remember the “big picture” outline of an object, it is detrimental to remembering the minute details.

New research suggests that, although developing “muscle memory” is an efficient method for memorizing information and learning new tasks in a general way, it will impair your ability to memorize and learn in a thorough manner.

Think about it: If you’ve ever memorized a presentation without actually understanding what you’re saying, you know what happens. You either can’t remember what you’re supposed to say, or you come off sounding like a robot. God forbid that you get interrupted and can’t find your place again.

When it comes to memorization, rote repetition is not enough. Repetition needs to be complemented by an understanding of the details to successfully present in a way that commands your audience.

So what should you do? Practice repetitively—but ensure that your repetition is supported by a solid foundation of understanding.

3. Doodle Like Crazy

This will seem counterintuitive to some of you, but my fellow doodlers have known this truth for a long time—doodling while ingesting non-visual information helps to increase memory retention rate significantly.

A 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology demonstrated that people who were asked to doodle while listening to a list of names were able to recall 29% more of the names on average over non-doodlers. Doodles don’t even have to be related to the topic at hand. Per The Wall Street Journal, “Jesse Prinz draws people’s heads to help himself pay attention during lectures and the speeches at conferences he attends.”

How can doodling be this effective? Studies suggest that the act actually helps you to remain more focused and retain more information because it helps your brain retain a baseline of activity that may otherwise vanish during a dry lecture or speech. In other words, doodling keeps you awake and focused!

So next time you’re in a meeting, bust out a writing utensil and start drawing—though you may want to sit toward the back!

As we continue our journey into the 21st century, improving technology will only make the world even more convenient. We’ll have to remember less and even begin to rely heavily on automation in every facet of our lives.

While it would be easy to settle in to all of this convenience, aim to keep your memory sharp and your wits about you.

More from The Muse:

TIME psychology

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Men, Backed By Research

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Scientific studies show:

— Being too rich and good-looking can actually hurt a man. Then again, marriage may be a bad deal for handsome guys.

— You can predict how many women a man has slept with by how funny he is.

— Yes, most TV commercials make men look like morons.

— Companies pay women more if a male CEO has a daughter.

— Poor and hungry men prefer heavier women. Rich and full guys like skinny girls.

— Attractive TV anchors make men unable to remember the news.

— What’s the chance that a man’s kids are not really his, biologically?

— Punching things does make men feel better.

— If men’s jobs didn’t affect their ability to attract women they’d be far less ambitious.

— Men fake orgasms too.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Research

See the Human Body Under a Microscope

Closer than you thought possible

'Science is Beautiful'
‘Science is Beautiful’

The new book ‘Science is Beautiful’ shows how the human body can be alluring even in minutia.

TIME Research

E-Cigs Weaken Immune Systems in Mice, Study Says

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Latest study underscores the need for more research into electronic cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes can weaken the immune response in mice, putting them at higher risk for infections like the flu or strep, a new study finds.

The researchers exposed mice to e-cig vapor at comparable concentrations to human users for two weeks. The researchers then exposed the mice to strep and flu, comparing their responses to mice that hadn’t been exposed to the e-cig vapor. The results showed that the mice exposed to e-cig vapor had weakened immune defenses in their lungs and were more susceptible to the infections. The mice exposed to the flu virus were more likely to contract the illness and to die from it.

MORE: What to Know About the Science of E-cigarettes.

The study looked only at mice, not at humans, but the results underscore the need for further research into the effects of e-cigarettes on humans. “E-cig exposure as an alternative to cigarette smoking must be rigorously tested in users for their effects on immune response and susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections,” wrote the authors of the study published in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE. Lead author Thomas Sussan is a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

TIME Research

There’s a Smartphone Attachment That Will Test for HIV in 15 Minutes

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The device has the potential to save millions of lives

A team of researchers from Columbia University have developed a device that can be plugged into a smartphone and used to quickly test for HIV and syphilis.

The mobile device tests for three infectious-disease markers in just 15 minutes by using a finger-prick of blood, and draws all the power it needs from the smartphone, Science Daily reports.

The accessory costs an estimated $34 to make and is capable of replicating tests done in a laboratory using equipment that costs many thousands of dollars.

Samuel K. Sia, head researcher and associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia, described the smartphone accessory as “full laboratory quality.”

Because it can be easily used in remote and impoverished areas, like rural Africa, it is hoped the small but effective smartphone accessory will save millions of lives from sexually transmitted diseases.

[Science Daily]

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