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Am Fam Physician. 2007;76(6):756

Warning messages in alcohol ads ‘invisible’ to adolescents

Are warning messages in advertisements for alcohol often overlooked by adolescents? They might as well be written in invisible ink, suggest the results of a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Sixty-three adolescents participated in the study, and researchers used a device to measure their eye movements and fixation as they viewed six print advertisements for alcoholic beverages. The researchers found that the warning messages (e.g., “drink responsibly”) were the least frequently viewed areas of the advertisement; on average, only 7 percent (0.35 seconds) of their total viewing time was focused on each warning message. In addition, only a small percentage of the adolescents who viewed the messages could remember the concept or restate the message verbatim. (J Adolesc Health, July 2007)

Spirituality does not affect outcome of acute mi

Can being religious affect a patient's survival rate after having an acute myocardial infarction (MI)? Study results published in Psychosomatic Medicine suggest that it does not. Researchers administered a questionnaire on daily spiritual experiences to 503 participants who had had an acute MI. They were asked to respond to statements such as “I feel thankful for my blessings” and “I find strength in my religion or spirituality.” They also were asked if they attended church or whether they prayed or meditated. After an average follow-up of 18 months, 12 percent of the participants had died or had another MI. The researchers found no correlation between death or nonfatal repeat acute MI and overall spirituality, but patients who regularly attended church were less likely to have depression compared with those who never went to church. However, patients who scored high on the spirituality questionnaire or those who prayed regularly had the same likelihood of dying or having a recurrent nonfatal MI as those who said they were not spiritual or who rarely or never prayed. (Psychosom Med, July/August 2007)

Is having a sense of humor linked with age?

Getting old is no joke! Research from the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society suggests that older persons may have a more difficult time understanding jokes compared with younger persons. The authors tested the verbal and nonverbal humor comprehension of 40 undergraduate students and 41 adults older than 65 years. The participants' cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning, and short-term memory also were analyzed. To test humor comprehension, the authors asked the participants to choose the correct punch line of a verbal joke as well as to pick the correct ending to a series of comic strips. Compared with the older adults, the younger participants were 14 percent more accurate when choosing the correct ending to a comic strip and 6 percent more accurate when identifying the correct punch line to a joke. According to the authors, these study results suggest that older persons may have a harder time understanding a joke compared with younger persons because of possible deficits in cognitive mechanisms that are essential to humor comprehension. However, the authors note that a more sophisticated model could clarify the exact role of cognition. Further research also may be needed to investigate the psychological and physical benefits of humor. (J Int Neuropsychol Soc, July 2007)

Shortage of cadavers for medical research and training

Britain is facing a shortage of cadavers for research, and the outlook for obtaining more is grim. Britain needs about 1,000 cadavers each year to conduct scientific research and train its medical students. London, which is home to five medical schools and the Royal College of Surgeons of England, is expected to receive 40 percent fewer cadavers than it has received in the past. One professor of surgical anatomy noted that it would be ideal for his medical school to receive 90 cadavers each year, but currently they receive only 60 to 65 bodies. Many medical schools in Britain use prosections, which are prepared body parts that have been pre-dissected; however, experts fear that students may be missing out on crucial hands-on experience. Although one professor notes that a return to past practices (i.e., one cadaver to each student) is neither necessary nor desirable, the idea of a physician performing his or her first incision on a live patient is alarming. (Reuters, July 17, 2007)

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Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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