Healthy Choices

Patient observations about their own health are usually accurate

A new study out of Rice University finds that when patients make observations about their own health, they’re usually right.

The study, published this week in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, gathered the results of a health questionnaire and then blood samples from 1,500 participants.

They tested the blood samples for inflammation and the latent herpes virus, neither of which usually produce obvious symptoms. They found that those who reported feeling healthy had low virus and inflammation levels, while those who said they felt poorly were high on the virus and inflammation scales, according to a news release on the findings.

“When a patient says, ‘I don’t feel like my health is very good right now,’ it’s a meaningful thing with a biological basis, even if they don’t show symptoms,” said Christopher Fagundes, the report author and a Rice assistant professor of psychology, in the release.

Opposites attract, but only for single people

Being in a relationship may change the way we perceive attractiveness in others, a new study has found.

Researchers at Charles University in the Czech Republic showed university students pictures of faces, some of whom were manipulated to slightly resemble their own while others weren’t.

Students who were single reported that they were more attracted to pictures of people who did not look like them, while students in relationships said they were more drawn to the pictures of people who resembled them slightly. The pictures depicted people of both the same and opposite sex as the respondents.

“Our interpretation is that attractiveness perception mechanisms that give us a preference for a genetically suitable partner may be suppressed during romantic relationships,” said Jitka Lindová, an author of the study. “This might be a relationship maintenance strategy to prevent us from finding alternatives to our own partner, or perhaps self-resemblance becomes more important in terms of the social support we expect to receive from relatives, which are known as kinship cues.”

Possible receptor for OCD pinpointed

Researchers at Duke University have found a chemical receptor in the brain that is responsible for symptoms related to obsessive-compulsive disorder in mice, which may help them understand the disease in humans.

In 2007, Duke researchers created a mouse with model OCD by deleting a gene that makes the protein Sapap3, which helps organize the connections between neurons so that cells can communicate, according to a news release on the study. The mice that lack that protein groom themselves excessively and show signs of anxiety similar to what would be seen in humans.

In the study released this month, the research team reported that overactivity of a receptor for neurotransmitters called mGluR5 was the major driver for the abnormal behaviors, according to the release. When researchers gave Sapap3-lacking mice a chemical that blocks mGluR5, the grooming and anxiety behaviors abated.

Scientists will continue to study mGluR5-blockers for human application.

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola