Research briefs

IT diagnoses Alzheimer's quicker than doctors
Computers have been developed that can diagnose Alzheimer's disease faster and more accurately than experts, say UK researchers. The research team at the Wellcome Trust Centre in London have developed computers that can identify differences between the brain scans of healthy patients and Alzheimer's sufferers. The computer can identify the characteristic damage of Alzheimer's with an accuracy as high as 96 per cent.

Brain regions affected by cocaine identified
UK researchers have identified the key brain areas damaged by cocaine use. For the study, the researchers took MRI scans of the brains of 13 cocaine users while they performed computer tasks that assessed impulsive behaviour and brain activity. They found that cocaine has a direct effect on the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control (Phil Trans R Soc B Online 2008).

CBT boost for depressed teenagers
Switching medications and adding cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help treat adolescents with depression who fail to respond to initial treatment with SSRIs, US research suggests. For the study, the researchers selected a group of 334 patients, aged 12-18, who had failed to respond to two months of SSRI treatment. For 12 weeks, participants were randomly assigned to one of four treatments. Those assigned to CBT and another antidepressant responded best to treatment with 54 per cent showing improvement, compared with 40 per cent in those switched to a different drug (JAMA 2008; 299: 901-13).

Nocturnal aircraft noise makes blood boil
Night-time noise from aircraft can increase a person's BP even if they do not wake up, according to UK research. For the study, the researchers monitored 140 sleeping volunteers in their homes near four major airports. BP increased noticeably after they experienced an aircraft travelling overhead, even if the volunteer remained asleep (Eur Heart J Online 2008).

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