Health Briefs


Gene Mutation
Is Marker For Cancer, Parkinson’s

A gene mutation identified as the most frequent cause of Parkinson’s disease and a major cause of the disease among Ashkenazi Jews also carries a risk of cancer in the Ashkenazi population, researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center have found. According to a report in “Movement Disorders,” carriers of the LRRK2 G2019S mutation were almost three times as likely as non-carriers to develop non-skin cancers.

“If our findings are confirmed in a larger trial that is ongoing, it would have implications for how we treat and counsel Ashkenazi Jews with Parkinson’s disease and have the potential to identify new therapies to treat or slow this disease or all patients,” said Dr. Susan Bressman, senior author of the research.

Stress May Dull Senses

Contrary to popular belief, stressful situations do not heighten one’s senses but dull the senses in the long term, a study conducted by researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science has found. The findings, reported in “Nature Neuroscience,” may explain the role of post-traumatic stress in survivors of the 9/11 terror attacks on New York and other high-anxiety situations.

The research conducted by Dr. Rony Paz of the Institute’s Department of Neurobiology involved volunteers who learned musical tones that were associated with negative, pleasant or neutral outcome, such as an odor. Volunteers who were exposed to an offensive odor were later less able to distinguish between tones.

“We think this is a trick of the brain that evolved to help us cope with threats, but now it is dysfunctional in many cases,” Dr. Paz said.

Long-term Treatment Good Bet For Gamblers

Long-term treatment with drugs – the same type of drugs used to combat alcohol addiction – may be equally effective in treating people with a gambling addiction, Dr. Pinhas Dannon of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has reported. Dannon, a psychiatrist, told the 119th European Congress of Psychiatry that a minimum two-year regimen of Naltrexone, combined with other treatments, including group therapy, has proven effective in keeping 80 percent of gamblers in a clinical trial “gamble-free.”

The majority of gambling addicts who participated in earlier six-month-long treatment programs returned to gambling, he said. “The initial results [of the earlier study] were too optimistic,” Dannon said, adding that suppor