Medical Research Update 2000

Article excerpt

For many of us, the new millenium holds great promise and opportunity--a chance for a "new beginning." Opening the door to the 21st century has freed our imaginations and bolstered our determination to embrace new aspirations, new discoveries, and new goals, The past year has given life to numerous treatments and research that hold equal promise. Starting this issue, we are going to provide medical research updates on a regular basis.

VISUAL IMPAIRMENTS

"Tunnel" Vision Now Possibile

After more than 30 years in development, researchers have developed an artificial vision system called the "Dobelle Eye," which will allow users to achieve some visual function in a "tunnel." The apparatus works as follows: A subminiature television camera and ultrasonic distance sensor are both mounted on a pair of special eyeglasses worn by the user. A miniature computer, mounted to the user's belt and connected to the eyeglases via a cable, processes video and distance signals, then activates a second microcomputer to transmit pulses to electrodes implanted on the surface of the brain's visual cortex. The first implant has been successful, as the user is able to navigate unfamiliar spaces, and is learning to watch TV and use a computer. Research has been done at the Dobelle Insitute in New York City in conjunction with its affiliates on Long Island and in Switzerland. For further information and to see a diagram of the Dobelle Eye, go to the following Web site: http://www.artificialvision.com.

ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD)

Treatment and Insomnia

Research is now available that shows a link between the treatment of ADHD and insomnia. The authors of a new study suggest that children with ADHD--who, as a result of their disability, are prone to sleep disorders--who receive stimulants, experience a nearly two-fold rate of insomnia over children who do not receive treatment. The Conclusion is that with the prevalence of ADHD (evident in three to five percent of the population) in our society and the common use of stimulant medications to treat it, it is important to monitor the sleeping patterns of children with ADHD before and during treatment to prevent exacerbating sleeping disorders. The Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology has recently published this study.

Cautioning Early Diagnosis

An inordinately high number (nearly 60 percent) of small children--as young as 1 year old--are being diagnosed with ADHD and treated with Ritalin[R], Prozac[R], Zoloft[R], and other psychotropic medications. A large percentage of these children have been found to have developed chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, language disorders, and developmental delays. One researcher, MSU pediatrician Marsha Rappley, MD, is cautionary about these seemingly hasty diagnoses. "I don't think you can give a sample diagnosis of ADHD in a child of this age ... My hypothesis about this is that the problems of these children are so severe that the physician and parents feel Compelled to do something." The study was conducted at the University of Michigan and published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

AUTISM

Benefits of Early Diagnosis Pauline Filipek, MD, professor of pediatrics and neurology at the University of California-Irvine, suggests in her new study the importance of early diagnosis of autism in children so that treatment can prevent the disease from becoming severely debilitating. According to the study, it is imperative that physicians be trained to spot the early signs of autism and carry out developmental screening of the disease on every well-child visit. "Our research found," says Dr. Filipek, "that children with autism are often not diagnosed until age 5 or 6 but have had symptoms of the disorder for years ... We believe one reason for this is that the current practice of brief well-child visits does not provide enough time for primary care practitioners to screen for autism. …