Monday, April 13, 2009

Surgical treatment 'can cure high blood pressure'

Is this another example of a medical miracle that eventually turns into an iatrogenic disaster? It may be treating a symptom rather than curing the cause

A surgical treatment for high blood pressure could cure millions of sufferers without the need for powerful drugs. The operation appears to permanently alleviate the chronic condition, which affects about a third of all adults in the UK and is a major cause of strokes and heart attacks.

It works by destroying bundles of nerves that line the artery supplying blood to the kidneys. In some people these nerves are thought to encourage the kidneys to retain salt, which contributes to high blood pressure. Doctors have developed a technique to blast the nerves with concentrated radiowaves to stop them from working. Clinicians found this had an almost immediate effect in lowering blood pressure. The effects were still apparent in patients 12 months later.

Most of the 50 patients in the Australian trial had dangerously high blood pressure but multiple drugs to control their condition had not worked. Experts claim that if further trials are as successful, most patients could benefit from the operation, known as radio frequency ablation and reported in The Lancet. It could be available in two years.


How the shape of your brain shows what kind of personality you have

Was phrenology right after all? Psychologists have long known that personality is highly hereditary so the findings below are not very surprising

Scientists may one day be able to find out what a young child’s personality will be like by simply scanning their brain, new research has shown. New research has found that the shape of your brain gives a clue to what type of person you are.

The differences in the shape of the brains of 85 people were scanned and measured. They found that larger or smaller amounts of tissue in certain areas of the brains were linked to specific personality traits. The discovery raises the startling possibility of being able to discover a young child’s future personality by analysing the shape of their brain.

The four main personality types were classified by psychiatrists as ‘novelty-seeking’, ‘harm avoidance’, ‘reward dependence’ and ‘persistence’. Those with a novelty-seeking personality had an area of the brain above the eye sockets which was larger than in other people, according to Professor Annalena Venneri of the University of Hull. ‘Novelty seekers’ were likely to act impulsively while those bracketed in the harm avoidance group were usually pessimistic and shy.

Those who were hard-working were part of the ‘persistence’ group while inveterate gamblers with an addictive personality were likely to be part of the ‘reward dependence’ category. People with ‘reward dependence’ personalities had brains with far less tissue in the fronto-striatal section of the brain. Damage to the fronto-striatal area is often linked to autism.

People with harm-avoidance personalities had significantly smaller volumes of tissue in brain regions called the orbito-frontal area and the posterior occipital region. The research suggests that children are born with certain personalities and also indicates that their brain develops differently depending on the type of person they become.


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