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French Scientists Are Paying Men $17,000 to Lie in Bed for Two Months

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French researchers are seeking young, healthy men willing to embrace their inner sloth for science. As The Guardian reports, scientists from the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (Medes) need male volunteers to spend two months in bed so they can study the effects of microgravity—the state of virtual weightlessness—on the human body. Subjects will be paid around $17,000.

According to experiment coordinator Arnaud Beck, the goal is to reproduce the weightlessness experienced by astronauts at the International Space Station. Prolonged weightlessness can affect the cardiovascular system, and can also cause vertigo and low blood pressure, in addition to bone density loss, muscle atrophy, and other side effects. These effects can differ depending on whether an astronaut is male or female, as NASA has found. Still, this study includes only men.

Arnaud and his colleagues want to study the harmful physical effects of prolonged weightlessness, and find ways to prevent them. The end goal is “to enhance astronauts’ performance and to ready them for their return to Earth,” according to a press release issued by the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency.

During the experiment's first 15 days, scientists will run tests on the subjects. After that, the bed-ridden men will spend 60 days on their backs, their upper bodies positioned in a slight downward incline. As the CNES explains, this position simulates the effects of weightlessness, as it shifts blood towards the upper body, “causing the same changes in blood volume, cardiac performance and vascular resistance as in space.”

In addition, half of the volunteers will take antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food supplements, and the other half will serve as a control group. Subjects will be monitored, so researchers can see how the drug cocktail affects their bodies as the physical side effects of weightlessness kick in.

Subjects can’t get up to eat, bathe, or even go to the bathroom, as they’re required to keep at least one shoulder touching the bed or its frame at all times. (In short, participants should be prepared—and willing—to use a bedpan for two months.) During the experiment's final 15 days, subjects will spend time recovering from their “weightless” two months, and the scientists will conduct additional tests to see how the experience—and the supplements—affected them.

The upcoming bed-rest study is technically part of a two-part experiment, launched by the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology last winter. One group of volunteers stayed in bed from January 2017 until April 2017, and the incoming group will remain prostrate from September to November.

Want to get paid to spend two months in bed? Volunteers must be non-smoking males, between the ages of 20 and 45, who are healthy and in good physical shape. The application is available online.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Women Suffer Worse Migraines Than Men. Now Scientists Think They Know Why
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Migraines are one of medicine's most frustrating mysteries, both causes and treatments. Now researchers believe they've solved one part of the puzzle: a protein affected by fluctuating estrogen levels may explain why more women suffer from migraines than men.

Migraines are the third most common illness in the world, affecting more than 1 in 10 people. Some 75 percent of sufferers are women, who also experience them more frequently and more intensely, and don't respond as well to drug treatments as men do.

At this year's Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, researcher Emily Galloway presented new findings on the connection between the protein NHE1 and the development of migraine headaches. NHE1 regulates the transfer of protons and sodium ions across cell membranes, including the membranes that separate incoming blood flow from the brain.

When NHE1 levels are low or the molecule isn't working as it's supposed to, migraine-level head pain can ensue. And because irregular NHE1 disrupts the flow of protons and sodium ions to the brain, medications like pain killers have trouble crossing the blood-brain barrier as well. This may explain why the condition is so hard to treat.

When the researchers analyzed NHE1 levels in the brains of male and female lab rats, the researchers found them to be four times higher in the males than in the females. Additionally, when estrogen levels were highest in the female specimens, NHE1 levels in the blood vessels of their brains were at their lowest.

Previous research had implicated fluctuating estrogen levels in migraines, but the mechanism behind it has remained elusive. The new finding could change the way migraines are studied and treated in the future, which is especially important considering that most migraine studies have focused on male animal subjects.

"Conducting research on the molecular mechanisms behind migraine is the first step in creating more targeted drugs to treat this condition, for men and women," Galloway said in a press statement. "Knowledge gained from this work could lead to relief for millions of those who suffer from migraines and identify individuals who may have better responses to specific therapies."

The new research is part of a broader effort to build a molecular map of the relationship between sex hormones and NHE1 expression. The next step is testing drugs that regulate these hormones to see how they affect NHE1 levels in the brain.

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The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
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Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

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