Evidence of a Christmas spirit network in the brain: functional MRI study

Hougaard, A. et al. BMJ 2015;351:h6266

Objective To detect and localise the Christmas spirit in the human brain.

Design Single blinded, cross cultural group study with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Setting Functional imaging unit and department of clinical physiology, nuclear medicine and PET in Denmark.

Participants 10 healthy people from the Copenhagen area who routinely celebrate Christmas and 10 healthy people living in the same area who have no Christmas traditions.

Main outcome measures Brain activation unique to the group with Christmas traditions during visual stimulation with images with a Christmas theme.

Methods Functional brain scans optimised for detection of the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response were performed while participants viewed a series of images with Christmas themes interleaved with neutral images having similar characteristics but containing nothing that symbolises Christmas. After scanning, participants answered a questionnaire about their Christmas traditions and the associations they have with Christmas. Brain activation maps from scanning were analysed for Christmas related activation in the “Christmas” and “non-Christmas” groups individually. Subsequently, differences between the two groups were calculated to determine Christmas specific brain activation.

Results Significant clusters of increased BOLD activation in the sensory motor cortex, the premotor and primary motor cortex, and the parietal lobule (inferior and superior) were found in scans of people who celebrate Christmas with positive associations compared with scans in a group having no Christmas traditions and neutral associations. These cerebral areas have been associated with spirituality, somatic senses, and recognition of facial emotion among many other functions.


Conclusions There is a “Christmas spirit network” in the human brain comprising several cortical areas. This network had a significantly higher activation in a people who celebrate Christmas with positive associations as opposed to a people who have no Christmas traditions and neutral associations. Further research is necessary to understand this and other potential holiday circuits in the brain. Although merry and intriguing, these findings should be interpreted with caution.

View the full article here

Hospital services targeted in sexual health shake-up

HSJ//21 DECEMBER, 2015

So far 29 of the 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation have signed up to the London Sexual Health Transformation Project.

The number of tier three sexual health facilities could reduce significantly

This will see a London-wide procurement of an online single point of access for home-based testing. It is hoped this will reduce the need for face to face appointments by up to 15 per cent.

Boroughs will then work together on a sub-regional basis to reconfigure sexual health services with a focus on reducing reliance on hospital services.

Andrew Howe, programme director for the project and director of public health for Barnet and Harrow London borough councils, told HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle spending on sexual health in London was forecast to increase from £115m in 2015-16 to £124m by the end of the decade.

Read the full article via HSJ

Colour-changing bandage to help fight antibiotic resistance

Prototype dressing turns fluorescent when a wound is infected, allowing doctors to prescribe drugs only when needed

The growing threat of antibiotic resistance because of unnecessary prescribing is a “ticking time bomb” that should be ranked alongside terrorism in terms of risk, England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davis, has said.

The drugs are often administered to patients with wounds as a precautionary measure to prevent a bacterial infection from developing. However, not all patients will need antibiotics and the problem for doctors is identifying which ones are susceptible to infection.

Researchers at the University of Bath, led by Dr Toby Jenkins, have developed a type of dressing that can alert doctors when a wound becomes infected, avoiding the precautionary use of antibiotics.

The dressing releases a fluorescent dye in small dots when a wound, such as a burn, becomes infected, allowing medics to treat it quickly.

Read the full article via the Guardian