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How autistic brain is different

Scientists have opened a new window into understanding social difficulties of individuals with autism after being able to visualise differences in brain activity between those with and without the condition.

Experts at the University of Cambridge discovered that the brains of individuals with autism, considered a condition of extreme egocentrism, are less active when engaged in self-reflective thought.

Michael Lombardo, Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues from the Autism Research Centre at the university, used functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) imaging and concentrated particularly in part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vMPFC), known to be active when people think about themselves. They found that the particular area of the brain was more active when typical volunteers were asked quizzed about themselves compared to when they were thinking about others.

Lombardo said: “This new study shows that within the autistic brain, regions that typically prefer self-relevant information make no distinction between thinking about the self or another person. This is strong evidence that in the autistic brain, processing information about the self is atypical.”

Exercises boost survival among cancer patients

Even moderate physical activity can significantly reduce death risk in men suffering from colorectal cancer, say researchers.

They found that patients who engaged in moderate physical activity were 53 per cent more likely to be alive and free of the disease than those who were less physically active.

“Moderate exercise has now been incorporated in some guidelines for colorectal cancer survivors and this new research should further reinforce to oncologists that they should discuss this in their survivorship plan,” said Jeffrey A Meyerhardt, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“However, while our work found a significant benefit for patients who exercise, it’s important that exercise still be seen as a supplement to, not a replacement for, standard therapies,” Meyerhardt added.

During the study, Meyerhardt and his team examined 668 men with colorectal cancer. More than 50 per cent of the men exercised the equivalent of one hour of walking, at least six days per week, although the men engaged in a variety of different recreational exercises.

The benefit of exercise was seen regardless of age, how advanced the cancer, weight and any history of previous physical activity.

Diabetes: Steroids delay progression of eye disease

A new study has revealed that injecting steroids into the eye can significantly reduce progression of diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that can cause vision loss and blindness.

Proliferative diabetic retinopathy occurs when new blood vessels form on the optic disc or another component of the retina. Controlling blood glucose levels can help prevent the development of retinopathy and laser treatments can reduce the risk of vision loss, but identification of other treatments remains desirable.

The researchers showed that steroid injections interfered with the creation of new blood vessels, possibly by reducing the production of compounds that spur their growth.

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