I’ve been reading lots of scientific papers in the two weeks since finishing classes. Below I’ve listed some of the more interesting finds.
Also, since I’m a nice guy, I only included articles that are free to view online (except for the coffee one, which only offers a free preview).
- Potential Adverse Cardiovascular Effects From Excessive Endurance Exercise (Mayo Clinic Proceedings)
This review article made some waves in the running community when it was published last week. Although I think some of the claims might be a little overstated, it definitely serves as a word of caution for those of us who enjoy long-distance running. Key findings: “Emerging data suggest that chronic training for and competing in extreme endurance events such as marathons, ultramarathons, ironman distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races, can cause transient acute volume overload of the atria and right ventricle, with transient reductions in right ventricular ejection fraction and elevations of cardiac biomarkers, all of which return to normal within 1 week. Over months to years of repetitive injury, this process, in some individuals, may lead to patchy myocardial fibrosis, particularly in the atria, interventricular septum, and right ventricle, creating a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias.”
- The Polarizing Impact of Science Literacy and Numeracy on Perceived Climate Change Risks (Nature Climate Change)
The hypothesis: People are apathetic about climate change because they don’t understand science. The data: Those with higher degrees of science literacy and numeracy are more polarized in their opinions about climate change. As a whole, they’re slightly LESS likely to be concerned about climate change. Conclusions: “…public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.”
- Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality (New England Journal of Medicine)
This data was only published 3 weeks ago, and it’s easily the largest study on the health effects of coffee drinking that I’ve ever seen (5+ million person-years of follow-up). It’s mostly good news for those like myself who enjoy a cup (or four) of coffee each day. Key findings: “…after adjustment for tobacco-smoking status and other potential confounders, there was a significant inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality.”
- Control Over Brain Activation and Pain Learned by Using Real-Time Functional MRI (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)
This is a slightly older article, so I might dig around to see if there have been any follow-ups. It’s a pretty neat concept, though: basically showing people real-time activation patterns in their brains and saying, “Hey! Try to…er…figure out a way to…um…change what’s going on in this area over here. It’ll make you feel better, I promise!” Key findings: “Here, we found that by using real-time functional MRI (rtfMRI) to guide training, subjects were able to learn to control activation in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), a region putatively involved in pain perception and regulation…Chronic pain patients [reported] decreases in the ongoing level of chronic pain after training.”