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Health Beat

• A recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) study on rats revealed that those who lead sleep-deprived lifestyles could suffer from impaired functioning without even realizing it. The more rats are sleep-deprived, the more some of their neurons take “catnaps” – resulting in a decline in task performance levels. Though the rats were awake and active, brainwave measures revealed that scattered groups of neurons in the thinking part of the brain (the cortex) are briefly falling asleep. “Such tired neurons in a wakeful brain may be responsible for the attention lapses, poor judgment, mistake-proneness and irritability that we experience when we haven’t had enough sleep, yet don’t feel particularly sleepy,” explained Giulio Tononi M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Strikingly, in the sleep-deprived brain, subsets of neurons go offline in one cortex area but not in another – or even in one part of an area and not in another.”

• Tom’s of Maine, a maker of oral hygiene products, recently selected 10 programs that were eligible to receive gifts; top five winners were determined by online votes cast for each program. The Children’s Hospital Tooth Bus program, which consists of two mobile units that deliver dental care to children from low-income families in the area, was selected as one of the winners and has received $20,000 from Tom’s of Maine. The buses are on the road five days a week and visit nine locations throughout the metropolitan area.

• Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control, well-woman exams, screenings for cervical and breast cancer as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted illnesses, has expanded its outreach efforts to provide free preventive health workshops to Latinos in the Greater New Orleans Area. This education outreach program has been designed for Spanish-speaking populations. Workshops, called “Cuentos,” meaning “Stories,” encourage informal discussion and greater understanding of health topics. Planned Parenthood staff members work in groups with five to 30 members. Information: 897-9200.

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