The Health News – 28 April 2016

Overview:
• Disturbing findings reveal many people battling anorexia are not under the care of a doctor or medical practitioner. According to the interim findings of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, just 32 per cent of people with anorexia are regularly seeing a doctor.

• A report into autism diagnosis in Australia has found discrepancies in how children are assessed for the condition and calls for a national standard to ensure early intervention. The study was produced through the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism.

• Scientists at Toulouse University discovered slime mould — a single-cell organism at the bottom of the food chain — can learn. The finding has important implications for understanding the evolution of intelligence, as well as how many organisms can be “smart” and successful without a brain.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the  28th of April 2016. Read by Rebecca Foster. Health News

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-27/anorexia-patients-missing-out-on-regular-medical-care/7359686

Disturbing findings reveal many people battling anorexia are not under the care of a doctor or medical practitioner.

Just 32 per cent of people with anorexia are regularly seeing a doctor, according to the interim findings of the Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane.

Professor Nick Martin, from QIMR, said the results showed how important it was for parents to watch for the warning signs of anorexia, such as the avoidance of eating with the family.

The study aimed to identify genes which predispose people to anorexia nervosa.

“We know there is a strong genetic component and new molecular technologies give us the hope of finding those genes and provide much better treatment in the future,” Professor Martin said.

The Anorexia Nervosa Genetics Initiative (ANGI) is the world’s largest genetic investigation of anorexia nervosa.

Researchers hope to detect genetic variations that may be implicated in the illness.

Study centres are located at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, Denmark, Sweden and the United States.

Scientists hope to recruit more than 13,000 around the world. So far, 2,443 Australians have taken part.

Patients give a blood and DNA sample so scientists can examine it for genetic patterns.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-27/report-finds-autism-diagnosis-inconsistent-across-australia/7363856

A report into autism diagnosis in Australia has found discrepancies in how children are assessed for the condition and calls for a national standard to ensure early intervention.

The study was produced through the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism.

The senior author of the report, Professor Andrew Whitehouse from Perth’s Telethon Kids Institute, said the study highlighted serious problems.

“It’s clear that one child can go to a diagnostic team in Queensland and get a diagnosis of autism, cross state boundaries and not get a diagnosis,” he told 720 ABC Perth.

“It leads to horrible inequity and doesn’t give kids the best start in life.”

The report suggested parents concerned about their children might be visiting multiple doctors in search of a diagnosis, but Professor Whitehouse rejected the term “doctor shopping”.

Professor Whitehouse said the solution rested in creating national minimum standards for autism diagnosis and a system that supported children with developmental delays.

He said he hoped the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would provide the impetus for national standards.

Professor Whitehouse said the most rigorous standards had been pioneered in Western Australia and that framework should be rolled out to other states.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-27/slime-mould-can-learn-even-without-brain/7363176

Scientists have discovered slime mould — a single-cell organism at the bottom of the food chain — can learn.

The finding has important implications for understanding the evolution of intelligence, as well as how many organisms can be “smart” and successful without a brain.

Learning likely even predates the emergence of nervous systems, much less brains, according to a new study, which is published in the journalProceedings of the Royal Society B.

The research could explain why something as lowly as slime mould fares so well.

“Slime moulds are known for their surprisingly complex cognitive abilities: finding the shortest way through a maze, anticipating periodic events, choosing the best diet or avoiding traps,” said lead author French biology student Mr Romain Boisseau of Toulouse University …

The learning exhibited by the slime mould during the experiments is known as habituation — where original behaviour changes in response to repeated stimulus.

This is different to simple sensory adaptation — where chemical receptors change their sensitivity due to a stimulus; or motor fatigue — where an organism is no longer able to respond because it is tired.

Mr Boisseau said basic learning required at least three steps: a behavioural response to whatever the trigger is, memory of that moment, and future changed behaviour based on the memory.

The organism must, however, “be able to recover from the process”, such that it is not locked into the new behaviour, said the study’s senior author Dr Dussutour.

The researchers are not yet certain how a single-celled organism like slime mould exhibits learning and cognition without a brain.

Prior papers authored by Professor Simona Ginsburg of the Open University of Israel and colleague Professor Eva Jablonka hypothesised that external modifications to DNA could potentially encode past experiences, allowing organisms without nervous systems to remember and learn.

Plants also have the ability to learn, previous studies have shown.

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