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We throw away or destroy millions of unused medicines each year, at an estimated cost of £300m to the NHS. But could they be safely re-used? Reading’s Dr Parastou Donyai has gathered the views of patients and says it’s time for a public debate.

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If it had not been for the discoveries of Arvid Carlsson we would have no drugs for Parkinson’s disease. In a recent post for The Conversation, Reading neuroscientist Dr Patrick Lewis explores the legacy of the scientist who discovered a critical molecule that brain cells use to communicate.

Arvid Carlsson, the Swedish neuroscientist and Nobel laureate, died on June 29, 2018 at the age of 95. He had devoted his life to understanding how the brain works and was awarded the Nobel for his research into dopamine – an important chemical found in the brain.

So what is dopamine, and why did finding out about it merit the Nobel Prize?

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When Billy Caldwell’s medicinal cannabis oil was recently seized at Heathrow Airport, the drug was put back in the spotlight. Reading’s Professor Gary Stephens investigates the effects of cannabis-derived compounds on the brain. Here gives update on the research, why it’s needed and how long it will be before new drugs will reach patients in a new post for The Conversation.

Gary Stephens with University of Reading colleagues Dr Ben Whalley and Dr Claire Williams, pictured at a Cannabis-growing site in 2011.

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Research that is helping to save children’s lives in rural India, protecting endangered species in Africa, and opening children’s eyes to science in the UK are among those shortlisted for the University of Reading’s Research Engagement and Impact Awards 2018.

Two of last year’s Impact and Engagement Award finalists, Dr Teresa Murjas and Dr Kate Allen.

The awards, which are in their second year, aim to recognise staff at the University of Reading who have achieved extraordinary things by interacting with people in the real world to drive better understanding of research and bring about change.

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Wind turbines in the Seychelles – picture: IEA

Researchers working across national borders feature prominently in the latest group of University of Reading academics to be awarded research funding.

In total, £12.5 million of funds were awarded during the third quarter of 2017-18, to 80 projects across all five research themes at Reading: Environment, Food, Health, Heritage & Creativity and Prosperity & Resilience.

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Our native language and emotions are closely woven together. Being bilingual offers an emotional detachment that can be useful for reasoning, but which also makes it easier to swear, says David Miller in a new post for The Conversation.

Image credit: BeelginCC-BY-2.0  

A taxi driver recently cut me up on the motorway. Without hesitation, I machine-gunned a string of vulgarity at the poor man. What struck me was that every word that came out of my mouth was in Spanish. As a native speaker of English, having learned Spanish as an adult, English should have been the more readily accessible language. Yet there I was, cussing out this stranger in Mexican-accented Spanish alongside an assortment of inappropriate hand gestures.

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It’s Dementia Action Week. Reading researchers are tackling the problem of dementia on all fronts, from investigating its causes to how we can improve care and quality of life for those it affects. Today we speak to Professor Arlene Astell, who uses sound and video to trigger long-term memories in people with dementia and get them talking again.

“People with dementia often withdraw from social interactions, lose confidence and feel embarrassed about their condition – their world shrinks. We want to find ways to stimulate their mind and memories and improve their quality of life,” explains Arlene Astell, who is Professor of Neurocognitive Disorders in Reading’s School of Psychology and Language Sciences.

“One of the questions we’re asking in our research is ‘What makes life more enjoyable for people with dementia – what are the activities and pastimes they can do that give them the same pleasure and satisfaction that they had before?’”

Arlene and colleagues are doing this through the use of technology. Working with the BBC to use their sound and TV archive they have developed touch-screen software, called the Computer Interactive Reminiscence and Conversation Aid (CIRCA). The software uses audio and video clips of evocative sounds, music and images from the past – such the whine of an electric milk float, a picture of a 1950s street scene or a recording of Winston Churchill speaking on the radio.

 

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The language the oil industry uses to talk about climate change has altered over time as it attempts to distance itself from culpability, says linguistics specialist Dr Sylvia Jaworska in a new post for The Conversation.

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Academics have a duty to speak to the media, especially in tragic and complex cases, argues Tom Sheldon, Senior Press Manager at the Science Media Centre.

“How many more Charlies and Alfies must be paraded in front of us before we realise that keeping quiet only makes things worse?”

In July 2017 the story of Charlie Gard, a baby with incurable mitochondrial disease, played out across the media. By April 2018 we all knew the name Alfie Evans, another little boy with another untreatable condition. In both cases the medical teams and the courts agreed nothing could be done.  Both children have since died. There’s nothing enjoyable or satisfying about these stories. They are profoundly sad.

Nine months after Charlie Gard, and the rest of us watched as Alfie’s Army demonstrated outside Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and his parents were locked in bitter dispute with the medical team. For a second time, a battle over the life of a child none of us knew had become major news, and the need for expert voices to be heard in the media and by the public was as strong as ever. Yet with a few notable exceptions, the rest of the medical profession once again failed to show up, allowing misinformation around Alfie Evans to take hold. Nine months after Charlie Gard, and we have dismally failed to learn any lessons.

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