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Vol. LIX, No. 16
August 10, 2007
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Digest

  The ability to listen to two people at once has been found to be hereditary, according to an NIDCD study of twins.  
  The ability to listen to two people at once has been found to be hereditary, according to an NIDCD study of twins.  
Hearing Two Things at Once

The fact that you can simultaneously listen to someone talking on the phone and someone talking on the radio says more about your genes than about what a great listener you are. According to new research from NIDCD's study of identical and fraternal twins published in the August issue of Human Genetics, skills in "auditory processing"-the functions performed by the brain that help a listener interpret sounds-are largely hereditary. Auditory processing skills allow us to, among other things, determine where a sound is coming from, the timing and sequence of sounds and whether a voice we hear is one to pay attention to or ignore. In the majority of tests for these skills, researchers found a significantly higher correlation among identical twins than among fraternal twins, indicating that the differences in performance were largely genetically, well, related.

The Earlier Treatment the Better

Initial results from an ongoing clinical trial sponsored by NIAID suggest that more HIV-infected infants survive if they are given therapy early on, regardless of their apparent state of health. The findings-presented in July at the 2007 International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney, Australia-could have significant public health implications, researchers said, because they will lead experts to consider changes in standards of care in many parts of the world and because they highlight the importance of diagnosing HIV infections early. An estimated 2.3 million children are currently infected with HIV; there were more than half a million born with the virus in 2006 alone.

New Insights into HIV Vulnerability

More news from NIAID: thanks to the first genome-wide association study of an infectious disease, conducted through the Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology that was established by NIAID in 2005, we now have a clearer picture of why some people can suppress virus levels following HIV infection. Investigators identified three gene variants, two of which are linked to an infected person's ability to control HIV viral load and a third that's implicated in disease progression to AIDS. Published by Science on the Science Express web site, this research could help provide new targets for vaccine developers and could lead to improved HIV therapies.

Speedier Relief for Depression

NIMH researchers have learned more about how the medication ketamine-used experimentally for depression-relieves symptoms of the disorder in hours, rather than the weeks or months it takes for current antidepressants to work. The research, published online in Biological Psychiatry, impacts more on the use of antidepressants in general than on ketamine itself; its side effects make it unlikely to ever come into use. Instead, learning how ketamine works so quickly should aid in getting scientists closer to understanding how to develop faster-acting antidepressant medications for those who suffer from the disorder, thereby eliminating the great lengths of time current sufferers often have to wait to see if they will find relief.

Soda and the Heart

Drinking more than one soft drink daily, be it diet or regular, gives middle-aged adults a more than 40 percent greater rate of having or developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk for heart disease. The new data from NHLBI's Framingham Heart Study, published in a report online in Circulation, echoes earlier findings showing that extra calories and sugar in soft drinks contribute to weight gain and therefore to risk for heart disease. However, the similar risk found among those drinking diet soft drinks is more challenging to understand, researchers said, adding that a possible explanation might be that people who regularly drink soft drinks, diet or not, are also known to eat foods higher in calories and fat and get less physical activity. -

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