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Health Highlights: Oct. 11, 2011

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Neuroscientists Develop Means of Making Brain 'See-Through'

Neuroscientists who developed a way to turn the brain's opaque gray matter into a see-through substance say this technique may help reveal the physical basis of memories, personality traits and perhaps even consciousness.

The Japanese team created a chemical mixture that turns dead biological tissue from a colored lump into something resembling translucent jelly, The New York Times reported.

The research appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Currently, the scientists are using the new technique to create a map of the underlying architecture of mouse brains, which are far less complex than human brains. But the team believes that the transparency solution will work just as well on human brains, The Times reported.


Foreign Pests Invaded U.S. After 9/11

U.S. officials' focus on preventing terror attacks after 9/11 resulted in an invasion of foreign insects and plant diseases that has cost the country billions of dollars in crop damage and control efforts.

After 9/11, hundreds of agricultural scientists who had been responsible for intercepting foreign species at the border were shifted to anti-terrorism tasks in the newly-created Homeland Security Department, the Associated Press reported.

The damage caused by the resulting influx of foreign species has led to higher food prices, lower-quality produce, and the risk of environmental harm from chemicals used to fight the new pests.

Efforts are now underway to boost agricultural inspections at border checkpoints, airports and seaports, according to Homeland Security officials, the AP reported.


Pot-Shaped Candy Causes Outrage

Marijuana-shaped candy that started appearing on U.S. store shelves in recent months has parents, politicians and anti-drug activists up in arms.

Kalan LP of the Philadelphia suburb of Lansdowne is distributing the "Pothead Ring Pots," Pothead Lollipops" and bagged candy to about 1,000 stores around the country. The products have been on the market for six to nine months, the Associated Press reported.

The candy doesn't contain anything illegal, but sends the wrong message, critics say.

"We're already dealing with a high amount of drug abuse and drug activity and trying to raise children so they don't think using illegal substances is acceptable," said Buffalo City Council member Darius Pridgen, the AP reported. "So to have a licensed store sell candy to kids that depicts an illegal substance is just ignorant and irresponsible."

An angry parent alerted Pridgen about the candy in the hopes that the city could get it out of local stores.

"It's the whole idea that it promotes drugs and the idea that, here, you'll look cool if you use this -- which is what gets these kids in trouble in the very first place," said Jodie Altman, program supervisor at Renaissance House, a treatment center for drug- and alcohol-addicted youth in Buffalo, the AP reported.


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Posted: October 2011