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Volume 96, Issue 2


Studied disproportion
Black children, who generally have less access to health care, are overrepresented in medical research studies and clinical trials, while white and Hispanic children are underrepresented. In a study published in the October Pediatrics, researchers at the University of Chicago Hospitals compared race-specific medical data from 1999 and 2000 to 2000 U.S. census data and found that 26 percent of children involved in medical research and 32 percent of those enrolled in clinical trials were African Americans, who as a whole make up 13 percent of the U.S. population. The study concluded that even though minorities benefit from participating, those benefits are not translating into better clinical care.

Sleep on it
Studying all night for a German exam may not help as much as sleeping. Dozing improves people’s ability to learn language, say
Howard Nusbaum, chair of psychology, Daniel Margoliash, professor of organismal biology & anatomy, and researcher Kimberly Fenn, AM’00. Their October 7 Nature article described an experiment in which they trained students to recognize a series of spoken words, then tested them 12 hours later. Students trained in the morning and tested at night had lower recognition scores than those trained at night and tested the next morning after sleeping. In addition, when the students tested at night were retested the following morning, their performance matched the other group’s. The results suggest that sleep may help consolidate and restore memory.

More relieving pain relief
A drug developed to neutralize the side effects of painkillers may have an added benefit for AIDS patients, Chicago researchers led by Jonathan Moss, professor of anesthesiology & critical care, reported October 17 to the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Opioid-based pain relievers such as morphine can cause severe constipation and also increase the ability of HIV to infect certain immune-system cells. But Methylnaltrexone (MNTX), developed in 1979 by the late Chicago pharmacologist Leon Goldberg, blocks morphine’s impact on the intestinal tract without obstructing its painkilling effects in the brain. Moss and his group, continuing Goldberg’s work, found that MNTX also prevents opioids from increasing immune-system cells’ susceptibility to HIV infection.

Manual override
Many people are less able to express themselves when they cannot move their hands freely. Susan Goldin-Meadow, professor of psychology, explains why in her book Hearing Gesture: How Our Hands Help Us Think (Harvard University Press, 2003). Goldin-Meadow examined how hand movements not only help people to communicate but also provide context that speech alone leaves out. Further, she showed that when words and gestures contradict, the listener takes more information from the latter. Her findings suggest that nonverbal communication may shed more light on the nature of language than previously thought.

Doctors may flinch at bioterrorism
Two years after September 11, 2001, only 20 percent of American physicians feel well prepared to treat victims of a bioterrorism attack. That’s according to a survey by Chicago researchers published in the September 9 Health Affairs. The results, coauthor and associate professor of medicine Matthew Wynia says, show that “we really aren’t where we should be in terms of readiness to handle the next bioterrorism event.” Even so, 80 percent of the 1,000 doctors surveyed said they would care for patients “in the event of an unknown but potentially deadly illness.”—J.N.L.


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