Diagnosis by Dreams

What you do while dreaming might be a sign of things to come. This isn’t non-scientific phooey, rather this is real science that can help doctors and patients address neurological issues. There’s been an increase in scientists looking at what people do while dreaming to see if they have Parkinson’s or other neurological difficulties, and by examining dream behaviour it might be possible to provide an earlier diagnosis.

In recent years awareness of RBD and an understanding of how it relates to synucleinopathies have grown. Studying this link is giving researchers ideas for early intervention. These advances contribute to a growing appreciation of the so-called prodromal phase of Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders—when preliminary signs appear, but a definitive diagnosis has not yet been made. Among the early clues for Parkinson’s, “RBD is special,” says Daniela Berg, a neurologist at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. “It’s the strongest clinical prodromal marker we have.”

Does damage to the brain stem also affect the content of dreams and the actions of dreamers? Sleep researcher Isabelle Arnulf, a professor of neurology at Sorbonne University in Paris, developed a keen interest in the dream-time behaviors of her Parkinson’s patients after noticing an unusual pattern: although these people struggled with movement while awake, their spouses often reported that they had no trouble moving while asleep. One particularly memorable patient, according to Arnulf, had been dreaming of crocodiles in the sleep lab when he lifted a heavy bedside table above his head and loudly shouted, “Crocodile! Crocodile!” to an empty room. When awake, he struggled to lift objects and to speak.

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More Trees Means Less Death


In the cold of winter you might not be thinking of the nice hot summer days as a negative thing. In the winter when temperatures get really low people suffer from hypothermia or worse, whereas in heat they can suffer from heat stroke or worse. When it comes to the heat there’s a nice and simple solution of planting trees.

In urban environments tree coverage can literally save lives by having a minium of 30% of urban space shaded by trees. Not only will the trees reduce heat in their immediate area they will provide cleaners air and a nicer place to be.

We found substantial variation in UHI death rates across European cities. In 2015, Gothenburg in Sweden recorded no premature UHI deaths, while urban heat was responsible for 32 premature deaths per 100,000 people in the Romanian city Cluj-Napoca.

The cities with the highest UHI death rates were in southern and eastern Europe. Most of these cities generally had low tree coverage and recorded the highest UHI effect.

Just 3.3% of Thessaloniki in Greece is covered by trees, resulting in urban temperatures 2.8? higher than the surrounding area. By contrast, 27% of Gothenburg is covered by trees, delivering an UHI effect of just 0.4?.

Overall, southern European cities will benefit most from increasing their tree cover. Our model estimates that Barcelona could reduce its UHI death rate by 60% by meeting the 30% tree coverage target.

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Judo Falls for the Elderly

When old people fall the results are likely to be far worse than when younger people hit the floor. There’s a long history of technology assistance for elderly individuals who fall from the infamous “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” device to the modern smartwatch with fall detection. As always, the best solution is prevention.

In Quebec an organization has popped up to help teach people how to fall so they don’t injure themselves. Yes, that’s right to prevent falls and help people deal with them is to get them to fall in the first place.

One of the principal lessons is to encourage suppleness and to teach students to not be afraid of falling, says Jean-François Marceau, executive director of Judo Quebec.

As part of the courses, students are taught the basics of how to drop down to — and then get up from — the floor.

“When you go back to that basic thing then you become less afraid of the floor,” said Marceau. “Of course you don’t learn to fall in one lesson and then it’s acquired for life. You have to practise for several weeks … It keeps the reflex on your body and your mind.”

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Thanks to Lindsay!

Pigeons Outperform Radiologists


Radiology is very complex and even doctors with years of training and experience can make misdiagnoses. So far AI systems haven’t been competitive with humans; however, pigeons are. Researchers trained pigeons to identify cancers in radiology images and concluded that the birds are just as good, if not better, than human observers. With the increasing costs of healthcare maybe paying workers in birdseed is a potential solution.

We report here that pigeons (Columba livia)—which share many visual system properties with humans—can serve as promising surrogate observers of medical images, a capability not previously documented. The birds proved to have a remarkable ability to distinguish benign from malignant human breast histopathology after training with differential food reinforcement; even more importantly, the pigeons were able to generalize what they had learned when confronted with novel image sets. The birds’ histological accuracy, like that of humans, was modestly affected by the presence or absence of color as well as by degrees of image compression, but these impacts could be ameliorated with further training. Turning to radiology, the birds proved to be similarly capable of detecting cancer-relevant microcalcifications on mammogram images.

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SHART Machines Can Detect Your Defecation

The next time you go to the doctor they may want to know the sounds you make while using the toilet. You may even get a S.H.A.R.T. detector in your home. This AI powered device monitors the sounds people make on the toilet to determine if their toilet time is a sign of something bigger. The Synthetic Human Acoustic Reproduction Machine has been revealed to the world recently and we may all be better for it.

“Self-reporting is not very reliable,” Ancalle says. “We’re trying to find a non-invasive way where people can get a notification on whether or not they should go get checked out. Like ‘Hey, your urine is not flowing at the rate that it should. Your farts are not sounding the way they should. You should check it out.’” They propose that changes in the tract — from cancer or another condition — would manifest in these acoustics.

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