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Monday, March 05, 2007

Good for Kids, Bad for Kids 

Nobody wanted to be the fat kid. Well, ok, there was that one boy who stole all the cupcakes every day, but he probably wasn't clever enough to make the connection anyways. But parents - another reason not to let your kids get too fat: it seems that obese girls tend to hit puberty significantly earlier than do thinner ones. This is troublesome for any number of reasons*.

Being obese is also a risk factor for more injuries, which cause pain. A Canadian study suggests that ibuprofen (what's in Advil, Motrin, etc.) is more effective at treating kids' pain than acetaminophen (Tylenol) and even codeine in emergency department trials. The trial of 300 kids might be a little small though, considering the wide age range (6-17 years) and general variability of kids. Still, an interesting find.

Speaking of causing children pain (because really, it's so much fun to do**), Stanford researchers have found that kids may be more susceptible to brain damage due to stress. The famous HPA-axis, which forms a loop controlling stress and stress hormones, among other things, can be a person's own worst enemy.

If one suffers too much stress, the axis can 'overload,' and release too much cortisol, which can damage the brain. Specifically, the hippocampus, which not only then further fails to regulate cortisol, but also can't do its other jobs like making memories or processing information. Kids, whose brains are still developing, are logically thought to be more susceptible to this effect. I had some PTSD as a kid, so I'm now blaming that for all my troubles. Yay new scapegoats!

And speaking of how the brain works, European researchers think that they've figured out how the brain's excitatory-inhibitory balance is maintained. Or, at least part of how. Looking at neocortical pyramidal cells,
the team found that Martinotti cells seem to act as a sort of 'circuit breaker' or fusebox, inhibiting transmission when other excitatory signaling goes above a certain frequency. This is some cool stuff!

* I have to admit that I nearly spewed coffee out my nose when I read that obesity lead to earlier breast development. I mean...don't fat people...have...breasts...anyways!?!?!**
** Yes, I'm going straight to hell. See ya'll there. :-)

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