Originally created 12/31/98

Health capsules: Brainpower difference



Scientists at the State University of New York at Buffalo have confirmed what most women already know; they use more of their brain for processing language than do men.

Using PET scans to watch the living brain at work, the researchers found that men process complex linguistic tasks primarily on the left side of their brain. Women process these tasks on both sides of the brain.

These patterns may correlate with sex-based differences in information processing, superior female performance on language tasks and superior performance by men on visual-spatial tasks, Jeri Jaeger reported in the scientific journal NeuroReport.

Violent past

Intimate-partner violence may be more prevalent than previously thought, according to a Georgia Women's Health Survey of females 15 to 44 years old.

The study estimated that of the 1,691,600 females in that age category living in Georgia, 30 percent had experienced violence from a partner sometime in their lives. Twenty percent had experienced such violence in the past year, and of these, 63 percent had sustained injuries.

Low socioeconomic status was the biggest risk factor for violence, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Postpartum depression

More than 1 in 10 new mothers may suffer from depression, and fewer than half of these cases are diagnosed, researchers at the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn., have found.

"Postpartum depression can interrupt the bonding between the mother and child and impair a woman's ability to care for her new child," said Tonya L. Bryan and Ann M. Georgiopoulos, fourth-year medical students.

Among 909 new mothers questioned, 11 percent reported signs of depression that included a sense of helplessness and gloom, loss of self-esteem, grief or sadness, anxiety or worry, irritability, suicidal thoughts and retreat from relationships, the researchers reported at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Calcium needs

Although nearly 90 percent of adult bone mass is formed by age 17, most children do not consume enough calcium to achieve their maximum bone strength.

Building peak bone mass in the first two decades of life is an important factor in the prevention of adult osteoporosis, said Laura L. Tosi, of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Girls 6 to 11 years old take in only 43 percent of their daily requirement of calcium, and those 12 to 19 take in only about 14 percent, Dr. Tosi reported at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Boys 6 to 11 get 53 percent of their requirement, while those 12 to 19 get only 35 percent.

Doctor participation

Doctors are getting somewhat better about explaining things to patients, but they still have a long way to go when their patients are children.

More than 300 videotaped reviews of pediatric patient encounters found that children played a very small role in their own informed-consent sessions, said Alexandra Maria van Dulmen of the Netherlands Institute of Primary Health Care in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

For every medical question doctors asked children, they asked three of their parents, she reported in Pediatrics, a publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Doctors directed only 13 percent of medical information to children.

"Children's contributions have been, until now, primarily ignored in communication research, although there are indications that considering their views increases satisfaction and compliance," Dr. van Dulmen said.