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Jul 13
Sleep problems may indicate multiple
Scientists have found that multiple sclerosis (MS) may be identified at least five years earlier as the patients were more likely to undergo treatments for nervous system disorders like pain or sleep problems, according to a study.

MS results from the body's immune system attacking myelin -- fatty material that enables rapid transmission of electrical signals -- which disrupts the communication between the brain and other parts of the body, leading to vision problems, muscle weakness, difficulty with balance and coordination, and cognitive impairments.

"The existence of such `warning signs` are well-accepted for Alzheimer`s disease and Parkinson`s disease, but there has been little investigation into a similar pattern for MS," said lead researcher Helen Tremlett from the Division of Neurology at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

"We now need to delve deeper into this phenomenon, perhaps using data-mining techniques. We want to see if there are discernible patterns related to sex, age or the `type` of MS they eventually develop," Tremlett added.

For the study, published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, the team examined health records of 14,000 people with multiple sclerosis and compared them to the health records of 67,000 people without the disease.

Fibromyalgia -- a condition involving widespread musculoskeletal pain -- was found more than three times in people who were later diagnosed with MS as compared to those who did not.

Irritable bowel syndrome was almost twice as common in people who developed the disorder. Migraine headaches and any mood or anxiety disorder, which includes depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder were also found in higher rates among the group.

Further, higher rates of these illnesses also correspond with higher use of medications for musculoskeletal disorders, nervous system disorders, and disorders of the genito-urinary tract, along with antidepressants and antibiotics.

The findings may enable physicians to diagnose the disease earlier and start the treatment, thus possibly slowing the damage it causes to the brain and spinal cord.

Jul 13
Smelling coffee may boost your analytical skills for GMAT
If you love the fragrance of coffee, there are high chances of better performance in analytical tasks, a new study has found.

According to the researchers, smelling a coffee-like scent -- which has no caffeine in it -- has an effect similar to that of drinking coffee, suggesting a placebo effect of coffee scent.

The findings also suggested that the scent of coffee alone may help people perform better on the analytical portion of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) -- a computer adaptive test required by many business schools.

"It`s not just that the coffee-like scent helped people perform better on analytical tasks, which was already interesting," said co-author Adriana Madzharov from the Stevens Institute of Technology in the US.

"But they also thought they would do better, and we demonstrated that this expectation was at least partly responsible for their improved performance," Madzharov added.

For the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, the research team administered a 10-question GMAT algebra test in a computer lab to about 100 undergraduate business students.

The participants were divided into two groups. One group took the test in the presence of an ambient coffee-like scent, while a control group took the same test -- but in an unscented room.

The researchers found that the group in the coffee-smelling room scored significantly higher on the test.

The team also designed a follow-up survey -- conducted among more than 200 new participants -- quizzing them on beliefs about various scents and their perceived effects on human performance.

The participants believed they would feel more alert and energetic in the presence of a coffee scent, versus a flower scent or no scent; and that exposure to coffee scent would increase their performance on mental tasks.

The results suggest that expectations about performance can be explained by beliefs that coffee scent alone makes people more alert and energetic.

Previous studies have also suggested that coffee may lessen the risk of heart disease, diabetes and dementia.

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