Science and Medicine

Why Drunk Drivers May Get Behind the Wheel

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Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents claim 17,000 American lives each year—the equivalent of one death every 30 minutes.

A new study shows the impact of alcohol intoxication on reasoning and problem-solving abilities and may explain why some people feel they have recovered enough to drive after drinking.

The research, led by Peter J. Snyder, PhD, vice president of research for Lifespan, is the first to explore how these cognitive abilities are impacted during both rising and declining blood alcohol concentrations, at matched blood alcohol level concentrations, and how self-evaluation of recovery differs from actual recovery from impairment. The study is published in the August 2010 issue of Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, a publication by the American Psychological Association.

Alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents claim 17,000 American lives each year—the equivalent of one death every 30 minutes. An increase of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 percent doubles the relative risk of a motor vehicle crash among 16- to 20-year old males, and that risk increases to nearly 52 times when the BAC is between 0.08 percent and 0.10 percent, the legal limits in many states.

Until now, there has been little research to provide a better understanding of the extent to which perception of drunkenness and cognitive abilities are impacted on both the rising and declining limbs of the BAC curve. In this study, Snyder and his colleagues developed a test that could look at rising and declining levels of BAC and study its impacts on functions that would be required for driving. Through a placebo-controlled controlled study of a group of college students, the researchers were able to compare the subjective feelings of drunkenness and their ability to navigate a hidden maze learning task as their BAC both rose and fell over an 8-hour period.

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Predicting how nanoparticles will react in the human body

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“This information will allow us to predict where a particular nanomaterial will end up in the human body, and whether or not it will be taken up by certain cells,” Riviere said.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a method for predicting the ways nanoparticles will interact with biological systems—including the human body. Their work could have implications for improved human and environmental safety in the handling of nanomaterials, as well as applications for drug delivery.

NC State researchers Dr. Jim Riviere, Burroughs Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology and director of the university’s Center for Chemical Toxicology Research and Pharmacokinetics, Dr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, professor of investigative dermatology and toxicology, and Dr. Xin-Rui Xia, research assistant professor of pharmacology, wanted to create a method for the biological characterization of nanoparticles—a screening tool that would allow other scientists to see how various nanoparticles might react when inside the body.

“We wanted to find a good, biologically relevant way to determine how nanomaterials react with cells,” Riviere said. “When a nanomaterial enters the human body, it immediately binds to various proteins and amino acids. The molecules a particle binds with will determine where it will go.”

This binding process also affects the particle’s behavior inside the body. According to Monteiro-Riviere, the amino acids and proteins that coat a nanoparticle change its shape and surface properties, potentially enhancing or reducing characteristics like toxicity or, in medical applications, the particle’s ability to deliver drugs to targeted cells.

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Childhood Memories of Father Have Lasting Impact

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Men who reported having a good relationship with their father during childhood were more likely to be less emotional when reacting to stressful events in their current daily lives than those who had a poor relationship, according to her findings. This was not found to be as common for the women in the study.

SAN DIEGO—Sons who have fond childhood memories of their fathers are more likely to be emotionally stable in the face of day-to-day stresses, according to psychologists who studied hundreds of adults of all ages.

Psychology professor Melanie Mallers, PhD, of California State University-Fullerton presented the findings Thursday at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.

“Most studies on parenting focus on the relationship with the mother. But, as our study shows, fathers do play a unique and important role in the mental health of their children much later in life,” Mallers said during a symposium focusing on social relationships and well-being.

For this study, 912 adult men and women completed short daily telephone interviews about that day’s experiences over an eight-day period. The interviews focused on the participants’ psychological and emotional distress (i.e., whether they were depressed, nervous, sad, etc.) and if they had experienced any stressful events that day. These events were described as arguments, disagreements, work-related and family-related tensions and discrimination.

The participants, who were between the ages of 25 and 74, also reported on the quality of their childhood relationships with their mother and father. For example, they answered questions such as, “How would you rate your relationship with your mother during the years when you were growing up?” and “How much time and attention did your mother give you when you needed it?” The same questions were asked about fathers. The research controlled for age, childhood and current family income, neuroticism and whether or not their parents were still alive.

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