Neurofeedback helps young people manage emotions

first_imgDifficulty handling emotions and keeping them under control can cause various psychological issues and even lead to full-blown psychiatric problems (in cases of emotionally catastrophic events). This is especially true in childhood. Trauma experienced in youth can contribute to later problems such as depression, anxiety and even more serious conditions.There are various techniques for helping people control their emotions, including neurofeedback, a training method in which information about changes in an individual’s neural activity is provided to the individual in real-time and this enables the individual to self-regulate this neural activity to produces changes in behaviour. While already in use as a treatment tool for adults, until now the methodology had not been used on young people who are more vulnerable and could thus benefit from more efficient control of their emotions.The new study used real time fMRI-based neurofeedback on a sample of kids. “We worked with subjects between the ages of 7 and 16,” explains SISSA researcher and one of the authors of the study, Moses Sokunbi. “They observed emotionally- charged images while we monitored their brain activity, before ‘returning’ it back to them.” The region of the brain studied was the insula, which is found in the cerebral cortex. Pinterest Share LinkedIn Share on Facebookcenter_img Email Share on Twitter The young participants could see the level of activation of the insula on a “thermometer” presented on the MRI projector screen and were instructed to reduce or increase activation with cognitive strategies while verifying the effects on the thermometer. All of them learned how to increase insula activity (decreasing was more difficult).Specific analysis techniques made it possible to reconstruct the complete network of the areas involved in regulating emotions (besides the insula) and the internal flow of activation. In this way, scientists observed that the direction of flow when activity was increased reversed when decreased.“These results show that the effect of neurofeedback went beyond the superficial- simple activation of the insula- by influencing the entire network that regulates emotions,” explains Kathrine Cohen Kadosh, Oxford University researcher and first author of the study. “They demonstrate that neurofeedback is a methodology that can be used successfully with young people.”“Childhood and adolescence is an extremely important time for young people’s emotional development,” says Jennifer Lau, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, who has taken part in the study. “Therefore, the ability to shape brain networks associated with the regulation of emotions could be crucial for preventing future mental health problems, which are known to arise during this vital period when the brain’s emotional capacity is still developing.”last_img read more

Sex differences in brain may underlie disorders more common in males

first_imgAnother main finding in Dr. Knickmeyer’s work is that by the age of two, myelination of long fiber tracks in the brain is more developed in males than in females. Myelination is the development of an insulating myelin sheath around nerves so that they are able to transmit information more quickly.Dr. Knickmeyer has also shown that a genetic disorder that only occurs in females – Turner Syndrome, which is marked by the partial or complete loss of one of the two X sex chromosomes that females have, also involves a significant decrease in brain volume in inferior parietal lobes (just above the TPJ). This suggests that inferior parietal lobe volume can be influenced, at least in females, by sex chromosomes. Share on Facebook Email LinkedIn Many early-onset neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, are more common in males than females. The origin of this gender bias is not understood, partially due to a major gap in research on sex differences regarding how the brain typically develops.According to a new study presented today at the annual meeting of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, female infants have larger volumes of gray matter around the temporal-parietal junction of the brain than males at the time of birth. The temporal-parietal junction, or TP, which is found under the temporal bones near the ears, integrates the processing of social information as expressed in others’ faces and voices, a function that is impaired in those with autism spectrum disorders. Sex differences in this area of the brain may be a clue as to why males are at higher risk for certain forms of autism spectrum disorders.Dr. Rebecca Knickmeyer’s group at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill has been characterizing sex differences in brain development in a group of over 800 normal newborns, who are assessed until they are 2 years old, using brain imaging and measures of sex hormones in saliva.center_img Pinterest Share Share on Twitterlast_img read more

New study indicates students’ cognitive functioning improves when using standing desks

first_imgLinkedIn Share on Facebook Through using an experimental design, Mehta explored the neurocognitive benefits using four computerized tests to assess executive functions. Executive functions are cognitive skills we all use to analyze tasks, break them into steps and keep them in mind until we get them done. These skills are directly related to the development of many academic skills that allow students to manage their time effectively, memorize facts, understand what they read, solve multi-step problems and organize their thoughts in writing. Because these functions are largely regulated in the frontal brain regions, a portable brain-imaging device (functional near infrared spectroscopy) was used to examine associated changes in the frontal brain function by placing biosensors on students’ foreheads during testing.“Test results indicated that continued use of standing desks was associated with significant improvements in executive function and working memory capabilities,” Mehta said. “Changes in corresponding brain activation patterns were also observed.”In earlier studies that primarily focused on energy expenditure, teachers observed increased attention and better behavior of students using standing desks. Mehta’s research study is the first study not subject to bias or interpretation that objectively exams students’ cognitive responses and brain function while using standing desks.“Interestingly, our research showed the use of standing desks improved neurocognitive function, which is consistent with results from previous studies on school-based exercise programs,” Mehta said. “The next step would be to directly compare the neurocognitive benefits of standing desks to school-based exercise programs.”“There has been lots of anecdotal evidence from teachers that students focused and behaved better while using standing desks,” added Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE, co-researcher and director of the Texas A&M Ergonomics Center. “This is the first examination of students’ cognitive responses to the standing desks, which to date have focused largely on sedentary time as it relates to childhood obesity.”Continued investigation of this research may have strong implications for policy makers, public health professionals and school administrators to consider simple and sustainable environmental changes in classrooms that can effectively increase energy expenditure and physical activity as well as enhance cognitive development and education outcomes. Pinterest Emailcenter_img Share Share on Twitter Do students think best when on their feet? A new study by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health indicates they do.Findings published recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health provide the first evidence of neurocognitive benefits of stand-height desks in classrooms, where students are given the choice to stand or sit based on their preferences.Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, researched freshman high school students with who used standing desks. Testing was performed at the beginning and again at the end of their freshman year.last_img read more

Twenty-five-point drop in IQ caused by lack of gene copy

first_imgShare on Twitter No autism is alike. This is also true of most mental disorders. “We now understand that each gene mutation has a specific effect, which adds to other effects to draw a unique picture of the disease in each patient,” said Dr. Sébastien Jacquemont, a geneticist who sees on a daily basis children who are referred to him for a potential genetic diagnosis of mental disorder such as autism.To understand this additive effect, a precise quantification of the effect each identified mutation has in these patients is necessary. “We have just discovered, for example, that a missing copy of a region in chromosome 16 results in a 25-point intelligence quotient (IQ) drop in carriers. Addition of a copy in the same genomic region results in an approximate 16-point drop. Strangely enough, even if carriers show much differentiated sets of symptoms – and sometimes no symptoms at all – the specific effect of these two mutations seems to remain the same,” said Jacquemont, who is a clinical researcher at CHU Sainte-Justine, the mother-child hospital affiliated to University of Montreal, where he is also professor.Together with international collaborators, the scientist authored an article in the renowned scientific journal JAMA Psychiatry. Email LinkedIn Share on Facebookcenter_img Pinterest Share To reach these conclusions, the researchers measured the intelligence of 700 family members who had at least one relative carrying the same genetic mutation on chromosome 16, which is known to predispose to autistic spectrum disorders. Even in study participants whose IQ was considered to be normal, the researchers found a substantial 25 points IQ drop induced by 16p11.2 gene deletions. Indeed, it is quite common for mutation carriers to show no mental health problems.“Intellectual faculties are the sum of many factors, the majority of which are genetic and inherited from parents. Each first-degree relative – parents and offspring, siblings – has 50% of their genetic code in common and therefore 50% of the genetic factors that partially determine cognition,” said Dr. Jacquemont. Studying families thus enabled the researchers to measure the factors that combine with the mutations which effects they wanted to quantify. “For example, depending on the additional factors involved, a 25-point IQ drop can determine whether or not a person has crossed the threshold of ‘intellectual disability.”Further studies are needed to quantify the effect of all mutations associated with autism and characterize the additive effects that lead to this psychiatric disorder. “No single mutation can cause the whole set of clinical signs shown by these patients,” concludes the scientist.last_img read more

Rhythm of oscillations in cerebral cortex are key to understanding Down syndrome

first_imgShare on Facebook Cerebral activity is governed by a fine balance between neuronal excitation and inhibition. Specifically, neurons are activated by excitation mechanisms tightly regulated by inhibition processes. For certain functions, the neuronal network needs to be synchronized. This causes high-frequency oscillations that make behavior and information-processing possible. This synchronization depends on the excitation/inhibition balance that is affected in a significant number of disorders that involve cognitive dysfunction.In an article published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, scientists from the Centre for Genomic Regulation, led by Dr. Mara Dierssen, and the laboratory of Dr. Mavi Sánchez Vives, at the Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS), describe altered oscillations and synchronization in the cerebral cortex for a Down syndrome candidate gene in a mouse model. Such alterations have been linked to problems with functions as relevant as decision-making, impulsiveness, working memory or attention.“Changes in the cellular architecture of neurons in the cerebral cortex, in Down syndrome animal models had already been detected in the past. We observed that the neurons had a different structure. Now we have taken another step, studying the physiology, or the function of this cerebral cortex, and found that those cellular alterations and slight changes in inhibitory connectivity translate into a deficit of activation of this region and of its neuronal activity rhythm and synchronization,” states Dr. Mara Dierssen, head of the Cellular and Systems Neurobiology group and Co-Principal Investigator of this study. “One of the main problems with mental impairment is that we don’t understand how the alterations that we detect at the cellular level trigger changes in the cerebral circuits and alterations in cognitive function. The study that we’ve published explains some of these cellular alterations and offers for the first time an in vivo study of the physiology of the cerebral cortex, a key structure in executive functions such as concentration, learning or problem-solving.” she adds. The researchers focused on one of the genes related with Down syndrome. Using experiments on animal models that overexpress the candidate gene, the researchers have shown that an excess of this gene causes very subtle changes in the excitation/inhibition balance, and these lead to a significant diminishment of the activity and synchronization of excitatory neurons in the prefrontal cortex. In other words, when this gene is over-expressed, it reduces the discharge level of the neurons and alters the oscillation of high-frequency waves in the cerebral cortex. Not only that, they observed that the problem originates in neurons responsible for controlling inhibition. In short, if there is less activity and an imbalance in the frequencies of the cerebral waves in Down syndrome it could be due to changes in the connectivity of neurons that should control them.The study combined experiments in electrophysiology and histology with a computational model that virtually emulates the neuronal circuit of the cerebral cortex. “We’ve identified anatomical and functional alterations and, using a computational model, we’ve shown how these deficits could explain experimental observations,” says Dr. Sánchez Vives, head of the Systems Neurosciences team and Co-Principal Investigador of this paper. “The computational model has made it possible for us to understand the entire mechanism. We can make predictions on how the cerebral cortex functions in this pathology, and how the alterations detected will impact cognitive function,” concludes the researcher.This study, the lead authors of which are Marcel Ruiz-Mejias of IDIBAPS and María Martínez de Lagrán of the CRG, has also been participated in by researchers from Pompeu Fabra University, the Pablo de Olavide University and the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome. Pinterest Sharecenter_img LinkedIn Share on Twitter Emaillast_img read more

Why do we think we see so much when the scientific evidence suggests we see so little?

first_imgShare on Facebook Share on Twitter Glance out the window and then close your eyes. What did you see? Maybe you noticed it’s raining and there was a man carrying an umbrella. What color was it? What shape was its handle? Did you catch those details? Probably not. Some neuroscientists would say that, even though you perceived very few specifics from the window scene, your eyes still captured everything in front of you. But there are flaws to this logic, MIT researchers argue in an Opinion published April 19, 2016 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. It may be that our vision only reflects the gist of what we see.“A ton of work supports that this perception that our visual experience is so rich and vivid is just totally wrong,” says first author Michael A. Cohen, a postdoctoral fellow in the Nancy Kanwisher Lab at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research. “But even if we can just see a handful of items, we definitely have an understanding of the world around us — a sense of what kind of scene we’re in.”A staple study researchers use to quantify our visual consciousness involves showing people flashes of different shapes or objects on a computer screen and asking how many details they can remember. In most cases, subjects report back four or five correct answers. The exception is when subjects are primed to look for something in advance, which changes what they pay attention to. This selective focus is part of why cognitive scientists can’t agree on what we actually “see,” because sight should not be so variable. Pinterest LinkedIncenter_img For Cohen, however, consciousness is a combination of several processes, including focus and memory, that helps us make decisions about future actions. He points to studies that suggest that our brains are hardwired to quickly take in large objects and scenes (e.g., a highway, a park, a store) within fractions of a second. Glimpse out that window and you take in the depth, navigability, openness, and temperature of the surroundings. The brain does capture some details — for example, you don’t just see a man and an umbrella, but that the man is carrying the umbrella. But most of our visual perception may quite literally be focused on the “big picture.”“One of the useful things about this field of study is that there are many instances in which your subjective experience is misguided and science can reveal a bunch of things about your own consciousness that you weren’t necessarily aware of,” Cohen says. “There are many experiments in which people are very much surprised by the limits of their own cognitive experiences.”If we see less than we think that we do, the other senses likely follow similar rules. There’s evidence that audio perception also relies on gists of all of the sounds that we hear. From the window, you take in the sounds of the falling rain, singing birds, and car engines, but what you’re tuning out is the hum of streetlamps or the conversation taking place on the sidewalk. Again, the ears only capture the gist of the environment.Other researchers will likely disagree with how Cohen and co-authors — Kanwisher and Tufts University cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett — limit consciousness by the bandwidth of memory and decision making. Not to mention that they can’t disprove that we don’t unconsciously “see” all in view.“It’s very difficult to measure consciousness objectively without conflating reportablity with subjective experience,” Cohen says. “I think this paper gives us hope that we can bridge the gap between what we as scientists can quantify and the subjective impressions that people have when they open their eyes.” Email Sharelast_img read more

Witnesses can catch criminals by smell

first_imgMove over sniffer dogs, people who witnessed a crime are able to identify criminals by their smell. Police lineups normally rely on sight, but nose-witnesses can be just as reliable as eye-witnesses, new research published in Frontiers in Psychology has found.“Police often use human eye-witnesses, and even ear-witnesses, in lineups but, to date, there have not been any human nose-witnesses;” explained Professor Mats Olsson, experimental psychologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden; “We wanted to see if humans can identify criminals by their body odor.”Dogs have been used to identify criminals through body odor identification in court, but it is commonly thought that the human sense of smell is inferior to that of other mammals. However, research shows that humans have the ability to distinguish individuals by their unique body odor. Our olfactory sense is often associated with emotional processing and is directly linked to the areas of the brain associated with emotion and memory; the hippocampus and the amygdala. To find out more about human odor memory following stressful events, Olsson and his team investigated how well we identify body odor in a forensic setup. In their first study, participants watched video clips of people committing violent crimes, accompanied by a body odor that they were told belonged to the perpetrator.They also watched neutral videos, with a similar setup. Then they identified the criminal’s body odor from a lineup of five different men’s odors, showing correct identification in almost 70% of cases. “It worked beyond my expectation;” explained Olsson; “Most interestingly – participants were far better at remembering and identifying the body odor involved in the emotional setting.”Olsson has tested the limits of our nose-witness ability. The team conducted the same experiment but varied the lineup size – three, five and eight body odors, and the time between observing the videos and undertaking the lineup – 15 minutes up to one week. In lineups of up to eight body odors, participants were still able to distinguish the criminal.The accuracy of their identification did reduce with the larger lineup size, which is in line with studies on eye and ear-witnesses. The results also show that the ability to distinguish the criminal’s body odor is significantly impaired if the lineup is conducted after one week of having smelt the offender’s body odor.There is ongoing research into how the memory of a crime scene can be affected by emotion. This is largely focused on visual memory as visual lineups are the common method of criminal identification.“Our work shows that we can distinguish a culprit’s body odor with some certainty;” concluded Olsson; “This could be useful in criminal cases where the victim was in close contact with the assailant but did not see them and so cannot visually identify them.” Share Share on Facebook Pinterestcenter_img Email LinkedIn Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Christian nationalism linked to authoritarian attitudes towards crime in the United States

first_imgEmail Pinterest Share on Facebook Share “So, I started reading some work by my graduate mentor, Samuel Perry, who along with Andrew Whitehead looked at Christian nationalism as a predictor of white Americans’ boundary formation and maintenance work. While they had looked at these influences in the family context, no one had applied them to how attitudes towards criminal or delinquent behaviors.”“In a society that relies so heavily on incarceration and retributive justice practices, I felt it important to ask how this powerful and understudied social force of Christian nationalism has played a role in the rise of mass incarceration over the last half century.”For his study, Davis analyzed data from the Baylor Religion Survey, which included measurements of Christian nationalist ideology as well as measurements regarding attitudes toward crime and punishment.He found that people who believed that the federal government should declare the United States a Christian Nation and advocate Christian values were more likely to support the death penalty, approve of harsher punishments for criminals, and believe it was necessary to “crackdown on troublemakers to save our moral standards.”“I think what this study shows, essentially, is that the overrepresentation of Christianity in the mythos of American history has real and potentially harmful consequences far beyond the realms of patriotism or religiosity,” Davis told PsyPost.“This study specifically shows, that net of the influence of political ideology, religious belief, race, education, the more fervently individuals express desires to live in a society that explicitly and exclusively favors (white) Christianity, the more supportive they are of punishing deviant behaviors.”“Furthermore, once Christian nationalism is controlled for, religiosity (measured by frequency of prayer, scripture reading, and church attendance) predicts that people will be more forgiving rather than more punitive,” Davis said. “So it really is the conflation of people’s religious and national identities, not religion per se that predicts these punitive attitudes.”The study controlled for a number of sociodemographic and political variables. But like all research, it includes some limitations.“The biggest caveat with this study, as in any cross-sectional research, is that I cannot prove causal order,” Davis explained. “So while we now know that Christian nationalism is strongly associated with punitive attitudes towards crime and deviance, we don’t know if people are punitive because they are Christian nationalists, or if Christian nationalism is appealing to them because they are already punitive.”“We also don’t know how this association plays out in the daily lives of Americans. Do people who score higher on Christian nationalism participate in corporal punishment more readily than those who score lower? Do they ground their children more often? These are questions that future research would benefit from addressing.”“It is important as we move forward, particularly within the current political climate, that we understand the role symbolic boundaries play in people’s ideologies,” Davis added.“Christian nationalism, really, offers symbolic membership to the ‘real America’ in a way that is independent of both Christianity and nationalism. If we are to address issues of mass incarceration, systemic racism, and discrimination faced by “non-traditional” families, we must recognize the role Christian nationalism plays in erecting boundaries between groups and individuals.”The study was titled: “Enforcing Christian Nationalism: Examining the Link Between Group Identity and Punitive Attitudes in the United States“.center_img Share on Twitter LinkedIn New research has found a link between Christian nationalism and authoritarian attitudes towards crime. The study, published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, provides evidence that the Christian nationalist ideology — rather than religious commitment or traditional values — is associated with the belief that troublemakers should be harshly punished.“As I was working on my Masters’ Thesis project and trying to narrow down what questions I wanted to answer, I was also witnessing the growing momentum of the Trump presidential campaign. This success among a plethora of candidates whose messages were more in line with traditional Christian values, particularly among evangelical Americans, was surprising to me as someone who was raised in an evangelical home and I wanted to understand what was so appealing about his message to the American people,” explained Joshua Davis of the University of Oklahoma, Norman.last_img read more

ICEID COVERAGE CDC says common waterborne diseases may cost $539 million

first_img In a statement yesterday from the CDC he said when people think of waterborne diseases, they usually think of simple diarrhea that is bothersome, but quickly resolves. “However, these infections can cause severe illness that often results in hospital stays of more than a week, which can quickly drive up healthcare costs,” he said. Cryptosporidiosis is caused by a parasite containing an outer shell that can resist chlorine disinfectants. It typically spreads through contaminated drinking or recreational water. The main symptom is watery diarrhea that can last as long as 2 weeks. Giardiasis, also known as “backpacker’s disease,” is also caused by a parasite that can contaminate soil or water, according to the CDC. Symptoms include diarrhea and other intestinal problems that can last from 2 to 6 weeks. Michael Beach, PhD, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases and senior author of the study, said that the study is useful as a baseline for measuring the effect of future waterborne disease prevention interventions. CDC cryptosporidiosis background information Legionnaires’ disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, is a type of pneumonia that infects about 8,000 to 18,000 people each year, according to background information from the CDC. Infections are fatal in 5% to 30% of patients. The bacteria can grow in warm water sources such as air conditioning systems or hot tubs. People typically contract the disease by breathing in vapor or mist from contaminated water sources. Older people and those with underlying lung conditions are most vulnerable to the disease. Cost estimates for individual diseases were: CDC Legionnaires’ disease background information Legionnaires’ disease, $101 million to $321 million For each disease, researchers calculated the cost paid by the insurer, the patient’s out-of-pocket expenses, and the total amount paid. Total estimated cost ranged from $154 million to $539 million, which included $44 million to $147 million in payments for Medicare and Medicaid. Inpatient hospitalization costs were highest for Legionnaires’ disease, averaging $34, 000 per patient and lowest for giardiasis, which totaled about $9,000. Inpatient costs for cryptosporidiosis averaged $21,000.center_img Modest disease prevention investments such as public health education campaigns, appropriate inspection of building water systems, and appropriate maintenance of pools and other recreational water facilities could drive down disease rates and lead to significant healthcare cost savings, Beach said. Giardiasis, $16 million to $63 million Jul 14 CDC press release See also: The study, presented yesterday at the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases in Atlanta, is the first to assess the total healthcare costs of all waterborne diseases in the United States, the authors said. Using a large insurance claims database, they gauged the hospitalization costs of three common waterborne illnesses in the United States: Legionnaires’ disease, cryptosporidiosis, and giardiasis. Jul 15, 2010 ATLANTA (CIDRAP News) – A new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the yearly waterborne illness burden at as much as $539 million. Cryptosporidiosis, $37 million to $145 million CDC giardiasis background informationlast_img read more

Influenza B viruses with lower antiviral sensitivity reported

first_imgMar 29, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – North Carolina health officials have reported a number of influenza B isolates with reduced sensitivity to oseltamivir (Tamiflu), a rare finding, but they say antivirals remain effective and there is no reason for clinicians to change their prescribing practices.Out of 92 type B isolates from North Carolina that were tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in recent months, 31 had a mutation associated with reduced sensitivity to oseltamivir, but not actual resistance, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday.”These particular viruses are less sensitive to the drug in the lab, but they are not resistant,” Dr. Zack Moore of the state Division of Public Health (DPH), said in a press release. “We want to assure physicians and their patients that antiviral drugs remain an effective treatment for influenza.”The viruses do not show reduced susceptibility to zanamivir (Relenza), the other antiviral in the neuraminidase inhibitor class, state officials said. Neuraminidase inhibitors are the only antivirals useful against type B viruses, which are not affected by the two older antivirals, amantadine and rimantadine.Most of the patients who were infected with the reduced-sensitivity viruses had typical flu symptoms and recovered after several days, but one patient had “severe underlying immune problems” and died shortly after being diagnosed as having flu, according to the state press release.”Because the importance of intermediate sensitivity to oseltamivir in these samples is not yet clear, the N.C. Division of Public Health and the CDC are advising physicians to follow existing antiviral guidelines, but to consider this new information when caring for North Carolina patients who are hospitalized with severe influenza B infections,” the state press release said.Reduced antiviral sensitivity in type B viruses is not unknown, according to experts, but resistance is much more commonly associated with influenza A viruses. Oseltamivir resistance in 2009 H1N1 viruses has been reported sporadically ever since that virus emerged almost 2 years ago. And the previous seasonal H1N1 virus became widely resistant to oseltamivir in the 2008-09 flu season, prompting a change in the CDC’s antiviral guidance.The CDC is testing more type B viruses from North Carolina and from neighboring states for the mutation associated with reduced sensitivity, state and CDC officials said. The CDC is also conducting a telephone survey of North Carolinians who had influenza B to gather information about their treatment. No updated numbers or survey results were available today, officials told CIDRAP News.Julie G. Henry, public information officer with the North Carolina DPH, said the reduced sensitivity was discovered by the CDC after the DPH sent the agency a batch of type B isolates during routine surveillance. After discovering the phenomenon, the CDC asked for more isolates to test, she told CIDRAP News. The CDC had analyzed 92 isolates by mid March.Alicia Fry, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s Influenza Division, stressed that the reduced sensitivity was discovered in lab assays and its practical implications are unclear.”The important thing to understand is that in a lab test we found that the sensitivity was reduced, but it was not resistant,” she told CIDRAP News. “Whenever we find this, we sequence the neuraminidase, and this virus had a genetic change in the active site of the neuraminidase, at position 221, an isoleucine to valine change.””We have no idea of the clinical significance of this,” she added. “The release was really just North Caroline trying to be careful.”Fry said there were two things that prompted the CDC to pay attention. One was that the relevant number was “a little elevated,” and the mutation was on the active site of the virus’s neuraminidase. “And the fact that we found a cluster made us decide to look at it more closely,” she said.”The important thing that North Carolina has been very careful to point out is that this is not a reason not to use antiviral agents,” she commented. “At this point we don’t have any evidence that oseltamivir doesn’t work. . . . . We hope we can learn a little more about this so we can understand it and find out how far it’s circulated.”Fry said there have been a few previous reports of reduced antiviral sensitivity in type B viruses. She pointed out a Japanese study in which researchers found 1 reduced-sensitivity isolate among 74 children who had received oseltamivir treatment for influenza B and 7 reduced-sensitivity isolates among 348 patients who had not received the drug. The isolates had different mutations from the one identified in the North Carolina cases. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007.Influenza B has co-circulated with H3N2 and 2009 H1N1 in the United States this flu season. The CDC’s latest flu surveillance update says that 28% of the flu isolates identified in the week of Mar 13 to 19 were type B. Among 461 type B viruses tested this season, none showed resistance to oseltamivir or zanamivir, the CDC report says.North Carolina also has seen a mix of influenza B, H3N2, and 2009 H1N1 viruses through most of the season, according to a chart on the DPH Web site. Henry said that as of mid March, 213 (43%) of the 490 flu isolates tested by the state lab were type B.See also:Mar 28 North Carolina DPH press releaseMar 25 CDC flu updatelast_img read more