is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English.
I'm Bob Doughty.
I'm Shirley Griffith. This week, we will
tell about what is said to be the largest study yet of a treatment for
Parkinson's disease. We will also tell about
a study of young Americans and their use of social Web sites on the Internet.
Recently, researchers in the United
States studied the effectiveness of a treatment called deep brain stimulation. It has been used for years to treat patients
with Parkinson's disease. The study
found that the physical condition of Parkinson's patients often improves after
they receive deep brain stimulation. But
brain stimulation was also shown to have more side effects than drug treatments.
Parkinson's is a disease
of the central nervous system. The
disease affects between five hundred thousand and one million five hundred
thousand Americans. Doctors confirm
about sixty thousand new Parkinson's cases in the United States each year. The disease affects a small area of cells in
the middle of the brain. The cells
slowly lose their ability to produce a chemical called dopamine.
The decrease in the
amount of dopamine can result in one or more of the general signs of
Parkinson's. These include shaking in
the hands, arms and legs. They also
include muscle tightness and restricted movements. Another symptom is difficulty keeping
balanced while standing or walking. Medicine
can help patients. Yet it can become
less effective as the disease progresses.
brain stimulation uses electricity to shock the brain in areas that help send
messages to the body. In Parkinson's
patients, these areas of the brain can become blocked. When this happens, the messages give
misinformation to the body.
Deep brain stimulation begins by doctors
drilling two small holes in the head of the patient. Two thin, electrical wires are then placed in
the brain. They are connected under the
skin to another wire that leads to a small battery placed in the chest. The device supplies electricity.
do not know exactly how the brain stimulation works to help patients with
Parkinson's. But experts believe the
electrical current might help activate nerve cells that are not working correctly.
study involved two hundred fifty-five Parkinson's patients. It took place at thirteen medical centers
across the United States between May of two thousand two and October of two
thousand five. The patients kept written
records of their physical abilities.
Journal of the American Medical Association published results of the
study. They showed that patients who received
deep brain stimulation had better control of their symptoms than those who only
took medicine. In fact, the patients who
had the treatment reported an average gain of nearly five hours each day of
good control of their symptoms. The
average gain was zero hours for the other group.
brain stimulation is not the answer for all Parkinson's patients. Doctors say it is best for patients whose
medicines cause side effects or are not working. The treatment is not new. It was first approved for use in the United
States in nineteen ninety-seven. However,
its effectiveness had never before been compared to that of medicines in a large
In the United States,
Parkinson's patients can receive deep brain stimulation at about three hundred
medical centers. The treatment has been
performed about forty thousand times throughout the world.
But several possible side
effects make the treatment risky. The
side effects include pain in the head, problems speaking and slowed movement. One patient who had the surgery died. However, in many cases, the researchers found
the side effects ended within six months.
And, some patients said the improvements they experienced were worth the
brain stimulation is also costly. It can
cost as much as one hundred fifty thousand dollars. In addition, the battery placed under the skin
may require a replacement. This means
doctors need to perform another operation.
The company that makes the device, Medtronic, helped to
pay for the study.
Financial support also came from the United States Department of
Veterans Affairs and the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
addition to people with Parkinson's, the treatment is also being tested for
patients with severe depression, lasting pain and epilepsy.
networking services on the Internet are popular in many countries. These services are web sites that help people
find others like themselves and create personal identities. Users also can exchange resources and work
MySpace is a popular
social networking web site in the United States. Recently, researchers found that more than
half of young people who use MySpace often discuss high-risk activities. The activities are said to include drug use,
sexual behavior and violence.
Two studies exploring the subject
were published last month in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent
Medicine. The MySpace web site is
largely available to the public on the Internet. It provides personal web sites to individuals
around the world.
one study, American researchers examined MySpace pages belonging to five
hundred eighteen year-olds from the United States. The researchers say the MySpace pages were
chosen by chance. They found that
forty-one percent of the pages included information about alcohol or drug use. Twenty-four percent discussed sexual
behavior. And, fourteen percent included
discussion of violence.
study showed that males were more likely to discuss violence than females on
their MySpace pages. Young people who
said they were active in religious groups, sports or had other interests were
less likely to discuss risky behaviors.
the second study, the researchers read MySpace information about one hundred
ninety individuals. All of the
individuals said they were eighteen to twenty years old. Each person discussed high-risk behavior on
the web site.
of the researchers was Megan Moreno of the University of Wisconsin School of
Medicine and Public Health. At the time
of the study, she worked at the Seattle Children's Research Institute.
Moreno sent a message to half the young people.
Her e-mail suggested that they change their MySpace page. She also warned them about the risk of
sharing personal information. The
message also included links to information about diseases spread by sexual
The study found that about
fourteen percent of those receiving the e-mail removed sexual behavior
information from their site. Among
individuals who did not receive a message, about five percent later removed the
information. Those who received the
message also were more likely to make their MySpace pages private.
In the United States, the Internet is available to more
than ninety percent of young people.
About half of all young people use social connection web sites,
including MySpace and Facebook. MySpace
has more than two hundred million profiles or personal pages within its web
site. Research suggests about
twenty-five percent of all the profiles belong to individuals under age
written on social web sites is not always true.
Still, law enforcement officials have long warned about the dangers of
young people being identified by adults wishing to harm them. Parents also worry about the effects that
personal information or pictures can have on the child's ability to get jobs or
go to college.
Dimitri Christakis of the Seattle Children's Hospital worked on the study. He suggests that parents educate themselves
about the Internet. He suggests they
even create their own web pages, and read their children's pages. He says parents have a responsibility to know
what their children are including on public web sites.
SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Brianna Blake, who was also our
producer. I'm Shirley Griffith.
I'm Bob Doughty. We would like to hear
from you. Write to us at Special
English, Voice of America, Washington, DC, two-zero-two-three-seven,
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