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How brain maintains internal balance

The researchers have found a new fundamental mechanism that explains how the brain maintains its internal balance.

It involves the brain’s most basic inner wiring and the processes that control whether a neuron relays information to other neurons or suppresses the transmission of information.

This constant ratio, called the E/I ration, was known to exist for individual neurons at a given time but this study goes a step further and shows that the E/I ratio is constant across multiple neurons in the cortex of mice and likely also humans, since the fundamental architecture of mammalian brains is highly conserved across species.

Massimo Scanziani, PhD said that neurons in our brain drive by pushing the brake and the accelerator at the same time, so this means that there is no stimulus that you can apply that will activate purely excitatory neurons or purely inhibitory ones.

 Scanziani further explained that the study shows that the inhibitory neurons were the master regulators that contact hundreds or thousands of cells and made sure that the inhibitory synapses at each of these contacts was matched to the different amounts of excitation that these cells were receiving.

It was also stated that if E/I balance is broken, it will completely alter people’s perception of the world and they will be less able to adapt appropriately to the range of stimulation without being overwhelmed or completely oblivious.

It paves the way for interventions that might restore the balance in the brain and could help understand what goes wrong in the diseased state.
Midwifery pivotal in saving lives during pregnancy

A new series has revealed that midwifery has a crucial part to play in saving the lives of millions of women and children who die during and around the time of pregnancy.

According to the researchers, it also improves their continuing health and wellbeing and has other long-lasting benefits.

Professor Mary Renfrew of the Mother and Infant Research Unit, School of Nursing and Midwifery, at Dundee University, Scotland, one of the Series authors said although midwifery is already widely acknowledged as making a vital and cost-effective contribution to high-quality maternal and newborn care in many countries, its potential social, economic and health benefits are far from being realised on a global scale.

The Series suggest that in the countries with the highest burden of infant and maternal deaths, over three quarters of stillbirths and maternal and newborn deaths could be prevented in the next 15 years if effective.

Scientists also said that both under-use and overuse of medical interventions in pregnancy contribute to short- and long-term illness for an estimated 20 million childbearing women.

The researchers added that this not only effects their health and wellbeing, but may also result in their needing to pay for ongoing health-care costs, and on the ability of their families to escape poverty.
Advanced CT scanners to reduce radiation exposure

The growing use of CT scans could be placing patients at a higher lifetime risk of cancer from radiation exposure, but advanced CT scanning equipment has reduced the danger significantly, says a new study.

Computed tomography (CT) scans are an accepted standard of care for diagnosing heart and lung conditions. The new study by Beaumont Health System, of 2,085 patients at nine centres in the US and Middle East, found that using newer generation, dual-source CT scanners significantly reduced radiation exposure for patients when compared with first generation, 64-slice, single-source scanners or first generation, dual-source CT scanners.

Patient radiation exposure was reduced by 61 per cent with the newer scanners, with no significant difference in image quality for patients having CT scans for coronary artery disease, pulmonary embolism or aortic disease. 

“Newer technology makes a difference in terms of radiation exposure and the difference is quite large,” said study author Kavitha Chinnaiyan, director of Advanced Cardiac Imaging Research at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. 

“It is important for patients to ask questions when referred for a radiation-based test to understand what the procedure involves and what the risks are of the particular technique and if there are alternative imaging choices,” she said.

The study findings also have important implications for referring physicians, she said.The study results provide information that will help in setting standards for radiation safety quality control in cardiovascular imaging.

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