School subject choice may be in genes
Genetic factors may influence a student’s choice of which academic subjects to study at the age of 16, according to a study published in Scientific Reports. The results suggest that choosing to study A-levels — a 2-year course undertaken by students in England and Wales as a prerequisite for higher education — and the choice of subjects may be partly influenced by inherited factors. Students who decide to study A-levels are free to choose from over 80 different subjects. However, it is largely unknown why they differ in their choice of A-levels and what influences their decisions. Researchers from King’s College London investigated the extent to which a student’s decision to study A-levels, the choice of subjects and subsequent achievement can be explained by genetic or environmental influences. By comparing identical and non-identical twins from a UK-representative sample of 6584 twin pairs, the authors found that the choice of which subjects to study was influenced 52–80% by genetic factors and 18–23% by environment. They also found that the decision to study A-levels was influenced in equal measure by genetic (44%) and shared environmental factors (47%). The authors suggested that A-level subject choice may, in part, be based on previous educational achievement, which is partly heritable.

Most GPs not ready for e-health changes, says AMA
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has written to the federal Health Minister Sussan Ley and Shadow Health Minister Catherine King urging them to reconsider the new rules regarding GP compliance for the new MyHealth Record system. The AMA conducted a survey across 658 practices and found that just 24% are ready to comply. The new rules that came into effect last month penalise practices that fail to upload the shared health summaries for at least 0.5% of their standardised whole-patient equivalent each quarter. Practices that can’t upload the quota are ineligible for payment under the newly branded Practice Incentives Program Digital Health Incentive. The survey found that 39.5% of practices are unable to comply and 36% of practices are unsure. Of the practices that can’t comply, the average estimate of loss of income from incentive payments was $23 400. For more on this story visit doctorportal.

Dogged hunt for ataxia gene
Scientists from the Western University of Health Sciences in California have now linked a genetic mutation to a specific type of ataxia in humans and mice, after first being spotted in Parson Russell terrier dogs. The researchers found that the mutation affects the function of the enzyme calpain-1 – which protects against nerve death – and consequently leads to abnormal brain development and uncoordinated movement, according to the study published in Cell Reports. Calpain is an enzyme involved with learning, memory and neurodegeneration in the brain. The researchers demonstrated that during the first week after birth, mice lacking calpain-1 had a much higher rate of neuronal death in their cerebellum, as compared to normal mice, and many of their synapses failed to mature.

Diabetes drug lowers risk of heart attack, stroke
A glucose-lowering drug has been shown to safely lower the overall risk of heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death among patients with type 2 diabetes. Research presented at the American Diabetes Association’s 76th Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that patients who were at risk for cardiovascular disease had a 13% lower risk of cardiovascular death, non-fatal heart attack or non-fatal stroke when they took the drug liraglutide compared to those who took placebo. The randomised, double-blind study assigned patients either to liraglutide or placebo and followed them for an average of 3.8 years. Study results found a 22% lower risk of cardiovascular mortality, 15% lower risk of all-cause mortality and 22% lower risk of new evidence of advanced diabetic kidney disease. For more on this story visit doctorportal.

Gym workouts help memory … sometimes
A study published in Current Biology suggests an intriguing strategy to boost memory for what you’ve just learned: hit the gym 4 hours later. The findings showed that physical exercise after learning improves memory and memory traces, but only if the exercise is done in a specific time window and not immediately after learning. Researchers from the Netherlands tested the effects of a single session of physical exercise after learning on memory consolidation and long-term memory. Seventy-two study participants learned 90 picture-location associations over a period of approximately 40 minutes before being randomly assigned to one of three groups: one group performed exercise immediately, the second performed exercise 4 hours later and the third did not perform any exercise. The exercise consisted of 35 minutes of interval training on an exercise bike at an intensity of up to 80% of the participants’ maximum heart rates. Forty-eight hours later, participants returned for a test to show how much they remembered while their brains were scanned via magnetic resonance imaging. The researchers found that those who exercised 4 hours after their learning session retained the information better 2 days later than those who exercised either immediately or not at all. The brain images also showed that exercise after a time delay was associated with more precise representations in the hippocampus, an area important to learning and memory, when an individual answered a question correctly.

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