Health Life

Computational model reveals how the brain manages short-term memories

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If you’ve ever forgotten something mere seconds after it was at the forefront of your mind—the name of a dish you were about to order at a restaurant, for instance—then you know how important working memory is. This type of short-term recall is how people retain information for a matter of seconds or minutes to solve a problem or carry out a task, like the next step in a series of instructions. But, although it’s critical in our day-to-day lives, exactly how the brain manages working memory has been a mystery.

Now, Salk scientists have developed a new computational model showing how the brain maintains information short-term using specific types of neurons. Their findings, published in Nature Neuroscience on December 7, 2020, could help shed light on why working is impaired in a broad range of neuropsychiatric , including schizophrenia, as well as in normal aging.

“Most research on working memory focuses on the excitatory neurons in the cortex, which are numerous and broadly connected, rather than the inhibitory neurons, which are locally connected and more diverse,” says Terrence Sejnowski, head of Salk’s Computational Neurobiology Laboratory and senior author of the new work. “However, a recurrent neural network model that we taught to perform a working memory task surprised us by using inhibitory neurons to make correct decisions after a delay.”

In the new paper, Sejnowski and Robert Kim, a Salk and UC San Diego MD/Ph.D. student, developed a computer model of the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain known to manage working memory. The researchers used learning algorithms to teach their model to carry out a test typically used to gauge working memory in primates—the animals must determine whether a pattern of colored squares on a screen matches one that was seen

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Q&A for Consumers | Hand Sanitizers and COVID-19

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The FDA is working with U.S. government partners including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), medical product manufacturers, and international partners to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Find the most recent FDA updates on our Coronavirus Disease 2019 page.

Test your knowledge about hand sanitizer. Take our hand sanitizer quiz.

Q. Is hand sanitizer effective against COVID-19?
A. The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. If soap and water are not available, CDC recommends consumers use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Q. Should I be using antibacterial soap to wash my hands?
A. The best way to prevent the spread of infections and decrease the risk of getting sick is by washing your hands with plain soap and water, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is essential, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing one’s nose. There is currently no evidence that consumer antiseptic wash products (also known as antibacterial soaps) are any more effective at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients could do more harm than good in the long-term and more research is needed.

For additional information, see Topical Antiseptic Products: Hand Sanitizers and Antibacterial Soaps.

Q. Where can I buy

Health Life

Significant disparities in telemedicine use, especially among older and POC patients

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After ‘COVID-19,’ the term that most people will remember best from 2020 is likely to be ‘social distancing.’ While it most commonly applied to social gatherings with family and friends, it has impacted the way many receive medical care. Historically, the United States has been relatively slow to broadly adopt telemedicine, largely emphasizing in-person visits.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the spring of 2020, necessitated increased use of virtual or phone call visits, even prompting the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to relax some of its regulations, primarily for video-based . These large scale changes made telemedicine exponentially more popular than it had been even at the start of the calendar year.

But while this was a positive for those who otherwise would have delayed or foregone care due to the pandemic, a new study led by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, published in JAMA Network Open, uncovered significant inequities, particularly by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, and when someone needed to use a language other than English.

“As we begin to establish novel ways of caring for our via telemedicine, it is critical that we make the foundation of this new way forward equitable,” said the study’s senior author, Srinath Adusumalli, MD, an assistant professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania Health System assistant chief medical information officer for connected health. “We hope that regulatory and payer organizations recognize potential inequities that could be introduced by policies they create—which might include not reimbursing for telephone visits, and potentially leading to lack of access to care for particular patient populations, specifically those disproportionately affected by events like the COVID-19 crisis.”

The researchers, who included the study’s lead author, Lauren Eberly, MD, a

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Could a complementary health treatment help you?

Looking to add a complementary health treatment—like yoga or meditation—to your pain management approach?

Before you dive in, make sure to check with your health care provider. Complementary health approaches are generally safe, but you have to make sure the approach you choose is safe for you and performed correctly. For treatments such as acupuncture or massage, be sure you are treated by a professional.

To help you get started, here are overviews of five types of complementary health treatments, with helpful information in part from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s (NCCIH) “Pain: Considering Complementary Approaches” e-book.

Acupuncture. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate specific areas of the body to reduce pain. As part of the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, NCCIH-supported researchers study how acupuncture can help older adults with chronic low back pain. Other research has found that acupuncture can help with fibromyalgia pain, knee pain, and headaches.

Spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is one of the most commonly used complementary health treatments in the U.S. It involves a chiropractor or other health professional applying a controlled force to the joints of the spine using their hands or a device. Spinal manipulation may be a helpful nondrug treatment for people with chronic low back pain. It may also help relieve headaches, including migraines.

Meditation and mindfulness. Meditation can involve focusing your mind on a particular sensation (such as breathing), a sound, a repeated word or phrase, or an image. Mindfulness helps you focus your attention or awareness on the present moment. Recent research supported by NCCIH has shown that using mindfulness to help patients with chronic pain and dependence on opioids has promise.

Yoga. Yoga is a series of poses, movements, and deep-breathing exercises. It often combines deep breathing and meditation.