Mass General Research Study Suggests Active Physician Interventions Can Improve Quit Rates for Long Term Smokers

(Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A new Mass General research study suggests that physicians who take a more active role in connecting high-risk, longtime smokers with resources to help them quit can significantly improve their patients’ success at becoming smoke-free.

The study found that patients who receive annual lung cancer screenings due to high-risk smoking (averaging a pack a day for 30+ years) were 40% more likely to attempt quitting if their physicians provided them with direct assistance, such as connections to a treatment program, recommending or prescribing nicotine replacements or pharmaceutical aids, and then following up on those recommendations.

Of the group who agreed to try quitting, the chances of successful quitting increased by 46% with this active physician intervention. Elyse Park, PhD, of the Mass General Tobacco Treatment Center was lead author of the study.

Mass General Researchers Find Evidence of Neuroinflammation in Cases of Chronic Pain

A Mass General research study published earlier this year found—for the first time—evidence of neuroinflammation in the brain in patients with chronic pain. The study showed that levels of an inflammation- linked protein were elevated in regions of the brain known to be involved in the transmission of pain.

The discovery could make it possible to explore new treatments for chronic pain and
to find an objective way to measure the presence and/or intensity of chronic pain.

The inability to objectively measure chronic pain has been one of the most frustrating limitations on chronic pain treatment and research. Marco Loggia, PhD, of the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging is the lead author
of the study.


Does Gender Play a Role in Fear and Anxiety?

Did you know that the levels of estrogen or testosterone that you have in your body may play a role in how much you experience anxiety?

Dr. Mohammed Milad, director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at Mass General, has been studying how hormone levels in men and women can affect their feelings of anxiety–and the results are more surprising than you might think.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


Mass General Researchers to Join a Nationwide Network Investigating Treatments for Food Allergies

(Text from the Boston Business Journal – Full Article Here)
A Virginia-based nonprofit focused on food allergy research is bringing Boston Children’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital together with a number of medical centers throughout the country to progress development of food allergy treatments.

The main hope behind the network, put together by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization, is to provide an estimated $2 million annually to up to 40 sites to host clinical trials on food allergy drugs.


Mass General Researchers Use Imaging Tools to Gain Insights into the Physiology of the Trance State

Shamanic rituals that involve entering a trance state have been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. But we still know very little about the scientific basis of trances.

A team of investigators that included researchers from the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Mass General recently conducted MRI scans of 15 shamanic practitioners while they were in a trance state.


(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The results showed increased connectivity in parts of the brain involved in internally directed thought and cognitive control, as well as decreased connectivity in the auditory pathways in the brain.

This suggests that the repetitive drum sounds that are often used to induce trance states may help to focus the brain inward by creating a predictable rhythmic sound that is easy for practitioners to tune out. Michael Hove, PhD, of the Martinos Center, is both first and corresponding author of the study.


Researchers at Mass General Hope Deep Brain Stimulation Device can Help Veterans with PTSD

Mass General researchers are working on a deep brain stimulation device that may be able to help veterans returning from the battlefield with depression and post traumatic stress disorder (‪#‎PTSD‬) by stimulating key areas of the brain that may no longer be functioning correctly.



Neurosurgeon Dr. Emad Eskandar is working with a team of researchers to develop the matchbox-sized implant, which will provide electrical stimulation to various areas of the brain in response to unusual neuronal activity linked with depression and PTSD.

The project will utilize data collected by neurosurgeons and psychiatrists working at Mass General to help understand the relationship between nerve signaling and behavior.


Ever Wonder Why Doctors Wear White Coats?


Hint: it has something to do with science, individual character and perceptions of  authority. Find out more about the symbolism behind the white coat—and how this coat could be evolving in the near future—in this essay by researcher Nancy Etcoff, PhD, director of the Program of Aesthetics and Well-Being in the Mass General Department of Psychiatry.


Work in Research at Mass General


Did you know that Mass General is home to the largest hospital-based research program in the United States? Each week, the Mass General Research Institute generates a PDF file with active links to the latest job openings in research. This week’s list has more than 160 positions, from full to part time, from clinical research coordinators to research


Mass General Research Study Suggests that Cases of Hepatitis C May be Higher Than Reported

A new research study conducted by investigators from Mass General and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health suggests that the number of hepatitis C virus (HCV) cases in the United States may actually be higher than reported, in the context of an enlarging opioid use epidemic.

This gap in reporting may be due to fragmented care available to those at highest risk, such as intravenous drug users, the lack of specific symptoms, lack of a single diagnostic test, and restrictive surveillance definitions that qualify for reporting to the national level.

Dr. Arthur Kim of the Mass General Division of Infectious Diseases and senior author of the paper says, “Overall, I would argue that we should devote more resources to surveillance, so that we can better track cases as part of a comprehensive effort to prevent HCV and HIV infection in people who inject drugs. Otherwise the costs – both personal and financial – of allowing these infections to spread and treating them in the future will be quite high.”