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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(1):17-18

Ever wonder why you can remember your best friend from grade school but not your mom's phone number? Neuroscientists at Stanford University studied brain activity in healthy volunteers who looked at photos of indoor and outdoor scenes and then were shown a larger group of photos a half hour later. The participants were asked to identify which ones they had already seen, which ones looked familiar and which ones they had not seen. The study, published in Science, found that activity in one region of the right prefrontal lobe and areas on the right and left inner aspects of the temporal lobes, called the medial temporal lobe system, can predict what we will remember.

Women who do more have a lower risk of breaking a hip, according to a study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine. In this study of 10,000 women over 65 years of age, researchers found that women who were active were 36 percent less likely than inactive women to break a hip. While women involved in intense activities such as aerobics or weight training benefited the most, women involved in less intense activities such as social dancing or gardening also benefited if they were active for more than two hours a week. Also, women who sat for nine hours or more per day had a 43 percent greater incidence of broken hips than women who sat for under six hours per day.

Have you ever wondered why a person can be happy one minute and sad the next? Researchers from the University of Dayton think that people have a natural tendency to neutralize their emotions. They found that while people can easily put themselves in a good mood by watching a comedy skit or listening to music, they tend to return to a neutral state shortly thereafter, sometimes by remembering negative events from their lives. Researchers speculate that people are psychologically inclined to moderate their emotions, reports Psychology Today.

Ever worry about kids who have to wait for the school bus? With a new invention taken from the Pentagon's global positioning system, worries about children catching the bus may be a thing of the past, according to Newsweek. A district's school buses can be outfitted with a system called BusCall. When the system is in place, the phone in the child's house will ring when the bus is five minutes away. The inventors believe this will help when kids have to wait in freezing weather and for children who have to catch the bus in dangerous neighborhoods.

Success in learning to read may be related to brain structure and hand preference, as well as environmental factors. Researchers from the University of Florida Brain Institute followed 39 students from kindergarten through the sixth grade to study factors affecting reading skills. The children were evaluated on tasks that are known predictors of reading success, such as ability to rhyme and spell, and were tested for hand preference. Seven years later, the children were given the same reading test and underwent magnetic resonance imaging to measure the temporal plane on each side of the brain. Children from low-income families who had a larger temporal plane in the brain hemisphere on the same side of the body as the dominant hand were most at risk for reading failure, while children from an average or above-average environment with the larger temporal plane on the side opposite the dominant hand demonstrated above-average reading skills.

While 98 percent of Americans feel that sleep is as important to their health as good nutrition and exercise, the average night's sleep is a mere seven hours, and almost one in three adults sleeps six or fewer hours a night. According to a 1998 national survey by the National Sleep Foundation, there are some prevalent myths about sleep: 71 percent of those surveyed believe that the body will eventually adjust to nightshift work, 50 percent don't think that snoring is harmful (even though it may indicate the presence of sleep apnea), 42 percent believe that people need less sleep as they get older and 41 percent feel that turning up the radio will keep them awake while driving.

Obesity often goes hand-in-hand with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and osteoarthritis. Doctors at Tufts University and the New England Medical Center studied the effects of a synthetic hormone, leptin, on weight in 53 lean persons and 70 overweight persons. Participants were given daily shots of the hormone at four different doses. After a month, 46 people in the overweight group continued the shots for another five months with a diet that reduced their caloric intake by 500 calories a day. The results varied, with participants losing an average of 1.5 to 16 lb over the six-month period and the greatest weight loss occurring in those receiving the highest doses of leptin, says USA Today.

What are the top 10 medical conditions that are too embarrassing for patients to discuss with their family physicians? According to a poll conducted by the Take Time to Talk Advisory Council, the most embarrassing health issues are ranked as (10) menopause, (9) birth control and sex (especially for teenage patients), (8) alcohol or drug abuse, (7) eating disorders, (6) emotional problems such as depression, (5) incontinence of the bladder or bowels, (4) prostate problems, (3) physical and sexual abuse, (2) sexually transmitted diseases, and (1) the most embarrassing condition, impotence.

People ages 50 and over are functioning better than ever, according to research from the Survey of Income and Program Participation published in the American Journal of Public Health. From 1984 to 1993, there has been a 4.6 percent decline among respondents 50 years of age or older who have trouble lifting and carrying a 10-lb weight (such as a bag of groceries), a 3.7 percent decline among those who have trouble seeing newsprint, a 3.5 percent decline among those who have difficulty walking a quarter of a mile and a 2.5 percent decline in those who have trouble climbing a flight of stairs without resting.

Even with a low risk of infection and a high likelihood of success with CPR, 55 percent of urban physicians might not give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a patient with cardiac arrest. Of 227 residents and 96 faculty members who were anonymously surveyed at a New York hospital, 70 to 80 percent of respondents said they would refuse to give CPR to a man suspected of being gay or to a trauma victim, 50 to 60 percent would refuse for an unknown man and 20 to 30 percent, depending on specialty, would wait for a bag-valve mask to resuscitate a newborn or a child, says Physician's Weekly.

Are women who are doctors mentally healthier than other women? According to a study in Internal Medicine News, they are. The Women Physicians' Health Study, which included more than 4,500 women physicians, found that while 1.5 percent of women physicians reported having attempted suicide and 19.5 percent reported having been depressed, these rates were 4.2 percent and 7 to 25 percent, respectively, in women in the general population. Also, women physicians were more likely to use a preventive health program than women in the general population.

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Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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