Medical notes

Time drags when you're giving up the fags. American researchers have found another possible excuse for the grumpiness in people trying to quit smoking: they lose their perception of time. In the Penn State University study, 20 daily smokers, who had gone without a cigarette for 24 hours, overestimated the duration of a 45-second interval. To the abstaining smokers, the interval felt approximately 50% longer than 45 seconds - more than one minute. Dr Laura Cousino Klein, co-director of the study, said, "The time-perception impairment that we observed in the abstaining smokers may be part of the reason they also reported feeling more stressed and unable to focus or be attentive. Time estimation is used as an index of attention processes."

Three blind people have had their sight partially restored after receiving a retinal implant in the US. The implants could work for all people whose eyesight has degenerated after an illness. The 4mm x 5mm implant, which contains electrodes made of silicone and platinum, electrically stimulates the remaining healthy retinal cells into seeing again. Testing conducted so far in some of the patients with the micro- electronic implant revealed that they were capable of detecting when a light is turned on or off, of describing the motion of an object, and even of counting discrete objects.

"We have found that the devices are indeed electrically conducting, and can be used by the patients to detect light or even to distinguish between objects such as a cup or plate in forced-choice tests conducted with one patient so far," said Professor Mark Humayun of the University of Southern California. Tests are continuing in the hope that the process may be further improved.

Researchers have called for Coproxamol, the prescription-only painkiller, to be prescribed less often, because it is one of the most commonly used drugs in overdose attempts. After antidepressants, Coproxamol is the most common drug used in suicide, but people are twice as likely to die as a result of an overdose of Coproxamol than of antidepressants. Fatal overdoses due to Coproxamol are the second most frequent means of suicide with prescribed drugs in England and Wales. Restricting availability could have an important role in suicide prevention, argued the Oxford University psychiatrists in the British Medical Journal.

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