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Magnets used to research anxiety disorders, treat acid reflux

September 30, 2013Magnets used to research anxiety disorders, treat acid reflux

Magnets used for medical purposes help patients and advance research. A new high power magnet at the University of Miami has the potential to teach researchers more about brain function, according to The Miami Hurricane.

Using powerful magnets as part of a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scanner, allow the machine to be 60,000 times stronger than the Earth's magnetic field. The fMRI scanner was recently delivered to the campus' Neuroscience Building in May and researchers are training to use it to study medical conditions. One of these scientists is Travis Evans, a first-year graduate student. He is working along with Jennifer Britton,  associate professor of UM's health division whose work concentrates on how anxiety, development and treatment engage with each other, according to her UM faculty page.

"For people like me, you don't just see the machine," Evans to The Miami Hurricane. "You see all the possibilities of research questions you could answer."

Using the fMRI scanner, researchers at UM can take thousands of images of a subject's brain within minutes. The fMRI goes beyond a regular MRI in that instead of simply looking at the physical aspects of the brain, researchers are able to inspect the brain as it is performing. Through this advanced technology, Evans and Britton might have be able to produce a link between human behavior and brain function while studying the effects of anxiety disorders and fear conditioning in children and adults. The subjects are expected to respond to stimuli or perform tasks in order for Evans and Britton to observe which sections of the brain are the most engaged through changes in blood flow as well as how these sections may be connected.

"Using those techniques, you can get at things like cognitive function, emotion, memory, language processing, thinking," Philip McCabe, associate chair of the psychology department, told The Miami Hurricane. "These were higher order things that no one could really get at before."

Doctors use powerful magnets to prevent acid reflux
Magnets are also being used to treat patients with moderate to severe gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to Kentucky.com. As a digestive disorder that involves reflux, GERD patients have the option of treatments including antacids and proton pump inhibitors to help maintain appropriate stomach acid production. They also may have to undergo changes in diet, eating smaller meals, or lifestyle adjustments to help manage their disease. However, the treatment option approved by the Food and Drug Administration hopes to treat GERD without having to resort to surgery or traditional medication.

For the past four years, the LINX Reflux Management System has been used to treat almost a thousand patients with chronic GERD using a surgical procedure. Considered minimally invasive, the surgical procedure involves implanting a device made of small beads formed into a band that is used as an artificial lower esophageal sphincter. The beads each hold a magnet that incorporates magnetic attraction to keep the sphincter remain closed to prevent reflux. Patients are able to eat and drink as they normally would because the beads separate during swallowing.

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