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Musical training boosts attention, working memory in children

Oct. 8 (UPI) — New research out of Chile suggests kids that play musical instruments, regularly practicing and performing, benefit from improved attention and working memory.

For the study, published Thursday in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers measured attention control and auditory encoding processes in the brains of musically trained children and a control group of children.

“There were no differences between groups in age, IQ and parental education, a proxy of socioeconomic status,” lead study author Leonie Kausel, a violinist and neuroscientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, told UPI in an email.

“This is important, because these three factors are known to have an influence on the functioning of executive functions,” said Kausel, a neuroscientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, who also plays violin.

All of the musically trained children, ages 10 to 13, had been playing an instrument for at least two years and practiced at least two hours per week.

Researchers had the two groups of children perform tasks that tested their auditory-visual attention and working memory. Functional magnetic resonance imaging allowed scientists to detect small changes in blood flow within the brain as the children performed the tasks.

Study participants were asked to focus on either one, both or neither of two stimuli: a visual abstract figure and a short melody. The stimuli were presented simultaneously for four seconds.

Two seconds later, the children were replayed various stimuli and asked if they recognized them. The replayed stimuli were sometimes the same as the original stimuli and other times novel.

Children who played and practiced musical instruments more accurately recognized the stimuli and had faster reaction times.

The fMRI images helped scientists identify two main neural mechanisms explaining the difference in attention and working memory performance: a domain-general attention mechanism and a domain-specific auditory encoding mechanism.

“The domain-general attention mechanism controls our attentional resources and is used when we pay attention to something — independent of what we pay attention to, for example, stimuli in different sensory modalities,” Kausel said. “So in our study this mechanism seems to play a role in the encoding of both visual and auditory stimuli.”

“The domain-specific auditory encoding mechanism on the other hand is more specific to support auditory encoding, independent of whether you are paying attention to the auditory stimuli or not,” Kausel said.

By asking participants to pay attention or not pay attention to one or both of the stimuli, and imaging the resulting brain activity, researchers were able to isolate the different neural mechanisms.

“When you subtract the activity from paying attention minus not paying attention, the ‘difference’ can be attributed to the cognitive process of paying attention or encoding of the stimuli,” Kausel said.

The tests revealed higher activity of the fronto-parietal attention control network in the musically trained group of children. There was also higher functioning of the phonological loop, the inferior frontal gyrus and supramarginal gyrus, among the instrument-playing children.

While the latest study showed a correlation between the two

Offering Flu Vax at ED Discharge Boosts Uptake Rates

A Wisconsin pediatric emergency department (ED) implemented a screening protocol that significantly increased flu vaccination rates in a traditionally undervaccinated population, a researcher reported.

Compared with the 2018-2019 flu season, the proportion of children vaccinated increased from 9% to 20% in the 2019-2020 season after Children’s Wisconsin implemented an electronic health record (EHR) infrastructure that allowed nurses to screen, counsel, and refer all children presenting to the ED for flu shots at discharge, reported Shannon Baumer-Mouradian, MD, of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Of children vaccinated, about 75% had Medicaid, and half were racial and ethnic minority patients, who have been reported to have lower vaccination rates, Baumer-Mouradian said at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) virtual meeting.

“Many of our children are uninsured or underinsured, and they do use the [ED] as their medical home,” Baumer-Mouradian told MedPage Today. “The ED breaks down barriers families have, whether it’s a lack of transportation to their primary care office or working weird hours and not being able to make it to appointments.”

Just 50% of children are vaccinated for influenza each year. In Wisconsin, vaccination rates are even lower at about 40%, Baumer-Mouradian said.

Health officials are warning of a “twindemic” this fall as the flu season approaches, but many Americans are hesitant to get a flu shot. In general, pediatric immunizations have plunged during the pandemic.

The AAP recommends all children receive a flu shot this year to reduce the chances of simultaneous influenza and COVID-19 outbreaks.

“If there was ever a winter to get a flu vaccine, it is this winter,” said Kenneth Hempstead, MD, of Kaiser Permanente in Roseville, California, who was not involved in the research.

After the program in this study improved immunizations only slightly in the 2018-2019 influenza season, Baumer-Mouradian and colleagues refined the protocol to also identify families who were more vaccine hesitant. In those settings, both a provider and a nurse counseled families in the 2019-2020 season.

“Identifying vaccine hesitancy meant not only did the nurse talk to the family about vaccines, but a trusted second-level provider also came in to spend time with families and encourage vaccines,” Baumer-Mouradian said during the virtual presentation. “I think that second step was an influential piece.”

Many families also reported that the wait time to get the flu shot in the ED was one of the main reasons they elected not to get it, so Baumer-Mouradian and colleagues started storing the vaccines in the ED refrigerators, she said.

The change resulted in a significantly reduced time to discharge for patients, from 20 minutes in the 2018-2019 season to 16 minutes last season. Also, the proportion of patients leaving prior to vaccination decreased from 30% to 10% between seasons, Baumer-Mouradian reported.

“Families didn’t want to wait around for the vaccine having already been in the [ED] for multiple hours in some cases,” Baumer-Mouradian said.

In total, 2,839 children were vaccinated at the hospital, which was a 2.3-fold increase from last year, the authors reported.

Immunotherapy drug boosts survival for lung cancer patients

A newly approved drug for the leading form of the number one cancer killer, lung cancer, does improve patient survival, a new study confirms.

The immunotherapy drug Tecentriq, or atezolizumab, was approved earlier this year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancers, or NSCLC, which comprise up to 85% of all lung tumors.

Tecentriq targets a protein known as PD-L1 that lies on the surface of tumor cells. Normally, this protein signals the body’s immune system T cells not to attack. However, by targeting PD-L1, Tecentriq unleashes the body’s natural T cells to target and destroy these cancer cells, researchers at Yale Cancer Center explained.

Tecentriq “has already shown excellent activity in patients who progress on frontline chemotherapy, but this study confirmed that the drug is active in selected patients who have not yet received any treatment for lung cancer,” said medical oncologist Dr. Nagashree Seetharamu, who treats lung cancer patients but wasn’t involved in the new study. She practices at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y.

The new study was funded by Tecentriq’s maker, Genentech, and the results were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study included 554 patients with stage 4 metastatic NSCLC tumors. All patients had tumors lacking mutations in the EGFR or ALK genes: As the researchers explained in a Yale news release, tumors with those mutations are better treated with other drugs.

Among 205 patients whose tumors had high cellular expression of PD-L1, the median overall survival was 20 months for those who received Tecentriq versus 13 months for those who received standard platinum-based chemotherapy.

Median progression-free survival — the time from treatment to the disease beginning to worsen — was eight months for patients who received Tecentriq versus five months for those on standard chemotherapy, the researchers found.

“These are exciting results that could be life-changing for many patients,” said study lead author Dr. Roy Herbst. He is chief of medical oncology at the Yale Cancer Center as well as the Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with more than 1.5 million patients diagnosed each year. Half of patients are diagnosed with metastatic disease, and they could be a candidate for this drug,” Herbst said in the news release.

“Also encouraging is that [Tecentriq] was generally well tolerated,” said Herbst, who is also associate cancer center director for translational research at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn. “Side effects for patients were similar to those seen in other trials of the drug, which has been approved for treatments of several types of cancer.”

The trial also assessed how Tecentriq performed among patients with a “high tumor mutational burden,” which means that they had high levels of genetic mutations in scraps of cancer DNA detected in blood tests. In some types of cancers, high mutational burden is tied to better responses to immunotherapy drugs like Tecentriq.

“Among these patients with NSCLC,

Immunotherapy Drug Boosts Survival for Lung Cancer Patients | Health News

By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

THURSDAY, Oct. 1, 2020 (HealthDay News) — A newly approved drug for the leading form of the number one cancer killer, lung cancer, does improve patient survival, a new study confirms.

The immunotherapy drug Tecentriq (atezolizumab) was approved earlier this year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with newly diagnosed non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), which comprise up to 85% of all lung tumors.

Tecentriq targets a protein known as PD-L1 that lies on the surface of tumor cells. Normally, this protein signals the body’s immune system T cells not to attack. However, by targeting PD-L1, Tecentriq unleashes the body’s natural T cells to target and destroy these cancer cells, researchers at Yale Cancer Center explained.

Tecentriq “has already shown excellent activity in patients who progress on frontline chemotherapy, but this study confirmed that the drug is active in selected patients who have not yet received any treatment for lung cancer,” said medical oncologist Dr. Nagashree Seetharamu, who treats lung cancer patients but wasn’t involved in the new study. She practices at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y.

The new study was funded by Tecentriq’s maker, Genentech, and the results were published Sept. 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study included 554 patients with stage 4 metastatic NSCLC tumors. All patients had tumors lacking mutations in the EGFR or ALK genes: As the researchers explained in a Yale news release, tumors with those mutations are better treated with other drugs.

Among 205 patients whose tumors had high cellular expression of PD-L1, the median overall survival was 20 months for those who received Tecentriq versus 13 months for those who received standard platinum-based chemotherapy.

Median progression-free survival — the time from treatment to the disease beginning to worsen — was eight months for patients who received Tecentriq versus five months for those on standard chemotherapy, the researchers found.

“These are exciting results that could be life-changing for many patients,” said study lead author Dr. Roy Herbst. He is chief of medical oncology at the Yale Cancer Center as well as the Smilow Cancer Hospital.

“Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with more than 1.5 million patients diagnosed each year. Half of patients are diagnosed with metastatic disease, and they could be a candidate for this drug,” Herbst said in the news release.

“Also encouraging is that [Tecentriq] was generally well tolerated,” said Herbst, who is also associate cancer center director for translational research at the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Conn. “Side effects for patients were similar to those seen in other trials of the drug, which has been approved for treatments of several types of cancer.”

The trial also assessed how Tecentriq performed among patients with a “high tumor mutational burden,” which means that they had high levels of genetic mutations in scraps of cancer DNA detected in blood tests. In some types of cancers, high mutational burden is tied to

Moderna says coronavirus vaccine boosts immune system response in older adults

Biotech company Moderna announced on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine candidate elicited immune responses in older adults from a Phase 1 study in levels comparable to those seen in younger adults. The findings were published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The vaccine candidate, dubbed mRNA-1273, “induced consistently high levels” of neutralizing antibody levels in 40 healthy participants across two age cohorts – 56-70 and 71 and over – per the company announcement.

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Biotech company Moderna announced on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine candidate elicited immune responses in older adults from a Phase 1 study in levels comparable to those seen in younger adults. (iStock)

Biotech company Moderna announced on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine candidate elicited immune responses in older adults from a Phase 1 study in levels comparable to those seen in younger adults. (iStock)

“These interim Phase 1 data suggests that mRNA-1273, our vaccine candidate for the prevention of COVID-19, can generate neutralizing antibodies in older and elderly adults at levels comparable to those in younger adults,” Dr. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer of Moderna, said in the announcement. “Given the increased morbidity and mortality of COVID-19 in older and elderly adults, these data give us optimism in demonstrating mRNA-1273’s protection in this population, which is being evaluated in the Phase 3 COVE study.”

MODERNA SEES ‘POSITIVE’ PHASE I DATA FOR POTENTIAL CORONAVIRUS VACCINE

The data stemmed from a second interim analysis which assessed a two-dose vaccination administered 28 days apart in two dose levels, 25 micrograms (µg) and 100 micrograms, reporting findings one month after the second dose.

“This analysis found that both the 25 µg and 100 µg dose levels were generally well-tolerated in both age cohorts,” per the announcement.

The 100 microgram dose elicited higher antibody levels, “supporting the selection of the 100 µg dose for further study in the Phase 3 trial.” Moderna previously announced plans to use the 100 microgram dose in its late-stage trial, which will enroll up to 30,000 volunteers in the U.S. As of Sept. 25, there were 27,232 participants enrolled, 30% of which were from diverse communities.

CORONAVIRUS WAS EVEN MORE CONTAGIOUS AT BEGINNING OF PANDEMIC THAN EXPERTS THOUGHT, STUDY FINDS

Company officials said the majority of adverse events were mild to moderate, like headache, fatigue and chills, among others.

After the second vaccination, one patient in the 56-70 cohort with the 25 microgram dose experienced a fever, and a second patient in the older cohort and higher dose had fatigue, but officials said “clinical laboratory values of Grade 2 or higher revealed no pattern of concern” and that the patients would be followed through 13 months for a longer assessment.

The findings were said to be confirmed through three live virus assays, and “robust neutralizing activity was observed in all participants 14 days after the second vaccination.”

The U.S. government already struck a deal with Moderna for 100 million doses of the vaccine, with an option to buy an additional 400 million doses.

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