Science Research Roundup

Massages Boost

Health Benefits

A recent study has shown that frequent massages have many health benefits, such as a stronger immune system, reduced stress hormones and alleviation of depression and fatigue.

The study showed that people who received regular massages reported a greater sense of well being, calm and relaxation, explained lead researcher and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Medicine, Mark Rapaport.

Rapaport said the multi-billion dollar massage industry claims frequent massages have many health benefits but has had no conclusive findings on how exactly massages improved health until now.

Researchers conducted the study in a five-week period to measure the neuroendocrine and immune changes associated with frequent massage visits, Rapaport explained.

The researchers advertised for healthy individuals between the ages of 18 and 45 with no history of physical or mental illness. Participants were randomly placed in groups: those who received massages frequently versus participants who only received light touch. The participants who received weaker massages showed an increase in white blood cells, which fights infection and other diseases and demonstrate a decrease in cortisol levels, a type of stress hormone, Rapaport said.

According to Rapaport, these preliminary works suggest that there may be differences in hormone and immunity levels due to the frequency of having a massage. The study concludes that massages are biologically active, meaning that they stimulate the immune, hormone, and stress systems compared to similar, but simple touch.

“We need to replicate and extend this work, but it may have significant impact on the use of massage to help treat a variety of conditions,” Rapaport said.

Rapaport said that if the immune findings are correct, massages could help in cancer treatment and if the hormone findings are correct, massages may even be useful as part of a treatment for a number of stress-related conditions.

New Technology Developed for Treating Stroke

Recent clinical trials have introduced new devices, called the Trevo Retriever and the Solitaire, as better treatments for strokes.

The specific kind of stroke that these devices treat is called ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot of some sort prevents blood from flowing to the brain, according to an Aug. 26 University press release. Both the Trevo Retriever and Solitaire are clot-removing devices that have shown to restore blood supply to the brain more efficiently than previously used devices, the press release states.

These studies looked at the neurological outcomes after using the new devices compared to the previously used Merci Retriever, an older device used to treat ischemic stroke. The studies showed that patients who were treated with Trevo or Solitaire stayed in the hospital for a shorter period and had better quality of life 90 days after the stroke, the press release notes.

According to the press release, the Trevo study took place at 16 sites across the United States while the Solitaire study took place at 18 sites across the United States. Neurointerventionalist and professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, Raul Nogueira, led both of these studies.

According to Nogueira, restoring blood flow to the brain is critical to recovery, and thus, more effective devices allow physicians to improve the overall quality of care of patients who have suffered from stroke.

Sleep Improves Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

A recent study suggests that people with Parkinson’s disease wake up with a better memory after a good night’s of sleep.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease with symptoms like tremors, slow movements and impaired “working memory,” according to an Aug. 26 University press release.

The study showed that sleep is required for better working memory ability, and people with Parkinson’s and sleep disorders suffer more than average, according to an author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow at Emory, Michael Scullin.

Donald Bliwise, professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, is the senior author of the study.

According to the press release, working memory is the ability to temporarily store and integrate information, an important part of everyday planning, problem solving and thinking.

The research has shown that sleep is vital for the brain’s ability to reorganize and make new connections, according to the paper published in the journal Brain. Sleep disorders like sleep apnea interfered with memory reorganization and did not show a memory improvement in the morning, explained the news release.

Patients also taking dopamine-enhancing medications saw the greatest improvement from sleep, indicating that the dopamine neurotransmitter is beneficial in memory, according to the published study.

Scullin and Bliwise said they believe addressing sleep disorders in the care of people with Parkinson’s could greatly improve their memory and overall quality of life.

— By Staff Writer Mallika Manyapu