About one in eight U.S. seniors will be treated for a traumatic brain injury, typically during a fall, a new study finds. Medicare data shows that about 13% of seniors suffered a severe concussion during an average follow-up period of 18 years, researchers report. Although these injuries can be treated, they increase the risk of serious conditions like dementia, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, heart disease, depression and anxiety, they added. “The number of people 65 and older with TBI is shockingly high,” said senior researcher Dr. Raquel Gardner, a neurologist with the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. For the study, researchers tracked about 9,200 Medicare enrollees with an average age of 75. Women, white people, the healthier and the well-off appear at higher risk of concussion, according to the data — a finding that runs counter to prior research. For example, about 64% of people who had a traumatic brain injury were female, even though women represented 58% of the total group studied, researchers said. Likewise, about 84% of people in the total group were white, but whites represented 89% of concussions, results show. About 31% of those with traumatic brain injury were in the top 25% of wealth, while 22% were in the lowest quarter, researchers said. Seniors with concussion also were less likely to have lung disease or to struggle with activities of daily…  read on >  read on >

California skateboarder Jared Hager has become the first person to receive a transparent skull replacement, which allows doctors to better view the function of his brain. The window has allowed doctors to both monitor his progress and test new and better scanning methods for assessing brain health. Hager, 39, of Downey, Calif., sustained a traumatic brain injury from a skateboarding accident at a Palm Springs reservoir in April 2019. “I just went down this hill without even looking at it, which is like a really dumb thing to do,” Hager told ABC News. During emergency surgery, half of Hager’s skull was removed to relieve pressure on his brain. Doctors had planned to replace the skull bone once Hager recovered, but the pandemic derailed those plans. Elective surgeries were halted, leaving Hager with just skin and connective tissue protecting his brain for two years. “Even if a stick hits my head, it’s just my brain right here. It’s just my brain.” Hager recalled. But the timing made Hager a perfect candidate to receive an experimental skull implant made of a material that resembles plexiglass. Through this “window,” doctors have tested new ultrasound and CT techniques that produce high-resolution brain images. These brain imaging scans collect data on brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow or electrical impulses. They can provide key insights into how the…  read on >  read on >

Stuttering is a neurological condition, not a psychological one, and scientists in Finland now believe they’ve found the disrupted network in the brain that may cause it. “These findings explain well-known features of stuttering, such as the motor difficulties in speech production and the significant variability in stuttering severity across emotional states,” said senior study author Juho Joutsa, a professor of neurology at the University of Turku. His team published its findings May 27 in the journal Brain. According to the researchers, anywhere from 5% to 10% of children will develop a stutter, and 1% of adults also struggle with stuttering. President Joe Biden has been open about his lifelong management of his own stuttering. “Stuttering was once considered a psychological disorder,” Jpoutsa said in a university news release. “However, with further research, it is now understood to be a brain disorder related to the regulation of speech production.” But just where in the brain a person’s stutter might originate has been unknown. In the study, Joutsa’s group first focused on 20 adults (ranging in age from 45 to 87) who all developed a stutter after suffering a stroke. Although the location in the brain where the stroke occurred varied between patients, the strokes did all seem to affect one particular brain network — unlike strokes that did not bring on stuttering. These networks connected…  read on >  read on >

A bilingual brain implant has allowed a stroke survivor to communicate in both Spanish and English, scientists report. Turning to an AI method known as a neural network, researchers trained the patient’s implant to decode words based on the brain activity produced when he tried to articulate those words, and then display those words and sentences on a screen. This method allows the brain implant to process data in a way that is similar to the human brain. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses have labored for years to design a decoding system that could turn the patient’s brain activity into sentences in both languages. In a report published May 20 in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, the scientists share the details of their effort. “This new study is an important contribution for the emerging field of speech-restoration neuroprostheses,” Sergey Stavisky, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the study, said in a journal news release. Even though the study included only one patient and more research is needed, “there’s every reason to think that this strategy will work with higher accuracy in the future when combined with other recent advances,” Stavisky added. The saga of the bilingual brain implant first began five years ago. At age 20, a man identified…  read on >  read on >

Near-infrared light pulsing into a person’s skull appears to boost healing in patients with a severe concussion, a new study finds. Patients who wore a helmet emitting near-infrared light displayed a greater change in connectivity between seven different pairs of brain regions, researchers report. “The skull is quite transparent to near-infrared light,” explained co-lead researcher Dr. Rajiv Gupta, a radiologist with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “Once you put the helmet on, your whole brain is bathing in this light.” For the study, researchers tested near-infrared light therapy on 17 patients who’d suffered an injury to the head serious enough to affect their thinking or be visible on a brain scan. Patients put on the light therapy helmet within 72 hours of receiving a traumatic brain injury, and researchers used brain scans to gauge the effects of the treatment. Another 21 patients put on the helmet but didn’t receive light therapy. The researchers focused on the brain’s resting-state function connectivity, or the communication that occurs between brain regions when a person is at rest and not engaged in a specific task. Researchers took brain scans a week after injury, two to three weeks post-injury and three months after injury. “There was increased connectivity in those receiving light treatment, primarily within the first two weeks,” said researcher Nathaniel Mercaldo, a statistician with Massachusetts General Hospital. “We…  read on >  read on >

If you’re one of the millions of Americans walking around with a new knee or hip, your odds for an infection in that joint rise if you ever have to undergo cancer chemotherapy, researchers report. “Given the number of people of receiving total joint replacements each year, as well as the cost both physically, emotionally and financially for those who develop an infection and may need subsequent treatment, we need to understand what factors may increase the risk for postoperative infections,” said study author Dr. Janet Conway. She’s an orthopedic surgeon at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics, and is also head of Bone and Joint Infection at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore. Her team tracked outcomes for over 17,000  patients who had undergone total knee replacement, total hip replacement or total shoulder replacement. They looked at people who’d also undergone chemotherapy within a year of their joint replacement surgery. Undergoing chemo appeared tied to a higher odds for an infection in the joint that had been replaced, the team found, compared to folks with new joints who had not undergone chemo. “We became curious about the potential effects of postoperative chemotherapy and the risk of joint infection as we saw cases in our own joint replacement patients,” Conway explained in a Sinai Hospital news release.  “To our knowledge, this is the first study to comprehensively…  read on >  read on >

Memorial Day means firing up that backyard grill for the season, hopefully under warm, sunny skies. You can be sure to enjoy the day without hazards by taking a few simple precautions, said Dr. Mike Ren, an associate professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Watch out for rising heat and humidity If Memorial day is a scorcher, hydration is key, Ren said. “A good rule of thumb is to drink water regularly throughout the day, aiming for 12 or more cups; when in the heat, drink one cup (eight ounces) of water roughly every 20 minutes,” he advised. And stay away from substances that can rob your body of water. “Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to fluid loss,” Ren noted in a Baylor news release. “On the other hand, sugary drinks can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels,” he added. “Prioritizing water consumption is crucial for maintaining proper hydration levels. If you want to add a little flavor, low or zero-sugar electrolyte powders and supplements can be a good alternative.” Shield your skin from the sun Folks may have forgotten the sun’s dangers as winter and spring ebb away. Dr. John Wolf, professor of dermatology at Baylor, recommends slapping on a sunscreen with an SPF of 30, and using…  read on >  read on >

One of the toughest decisions seniors face is when to give up their keys and stop driving. Even slight changes to the ability to remember, think and reason can lead a senior to decide to stop driving, a new study finds. Impaired cognitive function foreshadows the decision of many seniors to give up driving, even more so than age or physical changes related to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers found. And routine brain testing — in particular, screening meant to detect the earliest and most subtle decline — could help older adults make safe driving decisions while still preserving their independence, the study concluded. “Many older drivers are aware of changes occurring as they age, including subjective cognitive decline,” said researcher Ganesh Babulal, an associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “Doctors should discuss such changes with their older patients,” Babulal added in a university news release. “If risk is identified early, there is more time to support the remaining capacity and skills, extending the time they can drive safely, and to plan for a transition to alternative transportation options to maintain their independence when the time comes to stop driving.” For the study, researchers tracked 283 people with an average age of 72 who drove at least once a week and had no cognitive impairments at the start. The participants…  read on >  read on >

For decades, the responsibility for birth control has fallen largely on women, but new research suggests a birth control pill for men might one day become a reality. How does it work? It targets a protein required for fertility, scientists report. The protein, called serine/threonine kinase 33 (STK33), is enriched in the testicles and is specifically required to create functional sperm, they explained. A drug that inhibits STK33, called compound CDD-2807, blocked the ability of male lab mice to fertilize female mice, researchers reported May 23 in the journal Science. “We were pleased to see that the mice did not show signs of toxicity from CDD-2807 treatment, that the compound did not accumulate in the brain and that the treatment did not alter testis size,” said researcher Courtney Sutton, a postdoctoral fellow in pathology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Importantly, the contraceptive effect was reversible,” Sutton added in a Baylor news release. “After a period without compound CDD-2807, the mice recovered sperm motility and numbers and were fertile again.” Previous research had shown that naturally occurring mutations in STK33 leads to infertility in both mice and men by causing abnormal sperm with poor movement. These mutations cause no other health problems. “STK33 is therefore considered a viable target with minimal safety concerns for contraception in men,” said researcher Dr. Martin Matzuk, director of…  read on >  read on >

Three months after starting one of the new GLP-1 weight-loss drugs, more than a quarter of patients have already quit the medications, and by a year from first use more than a third have stopped, new research shows. Reasons for quitting Wegovy, Ozempic or similar drugs may include cost or gastrointestinal side effects, said a team led by Urvashi Patel, of the Evernorth Research Institute in St. Louis. The drugs’ price tag could be a big factor: Wegovy (semaglutide) costs about $1,300 per month, for example. “Each 1–percentage point increase in out-of-pocket cost per a 30-day supply of GLP-1 agonist was associated with increased odds of discontinuation,” Patel’s group noted. They published the findings May 23 in the journal JAMA Network Open. The St. Louis team looked at information from a major U.S. drug database on the use of GLP-1 meds by adults from early 2021 through to the end of 2023. Tirzepatide (Zepbound) was excluded from the list of GLP-1 meds because it was only approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at the end of 2023. The database of nearly 196,000 patients found that by three months after starting a GLP-1 drug, just over 26% of users had already discontinued use; by six months that had risen to just under 31%, and by a year out 36.5% had stopped taking their GLP-1…  read on >  read on >