The Chart: Local Health and Science News You Missed This Week

A potential migraine treatment, evidence for the obesity paradox, and more.

Welcome to the Chart, a weekly series that briefs you on interesting happenings in the local health, science, and research scene. Here’s what you missed this week: 


Photo via iStock/Wavebreakmedia

Shedding light on migraines

Migraine sufferers often seek refuge in a dark room, and a new study from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) may explain why. BIDMC researchers uncovered a connection between light-sensitive nerve cells in the eye and parts of the brain responsible for mood and physiological responses, illuminating why light can be so painful for those with headaches. They also found that exposure to colored light intensified sufferers’ migraines, and made them feel negative emotions such as anger, sadness, nervousness, and fear. (Interestingly, green light did not have that effect.)

“Now we are working on ways to use this information in hopes that soon migraine sufferers will be able to avoid not only the pain but also the negative emotions and physical discomfort that light creates for them,” says lead author Rami Burstein in a statement. See the whole study in PNAS.

Evidence for the obesity paradox?

The so-called “obesity paradox”—the idea that moderate obesity may actually offer protective benefits for some patients with chronic diseases—is a highly controversial topic in medicine. And a new study from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) may stoke the flames.

The BUSM team found that, though obesity is a risk factor for stroke, overweight and moderately obese patients may have better post-stroke survival than thinner patients. The results do not suggest that obesity is universally healthy; rather that it may somehow affect the way individuals recover from a stroke, “whether from having the extra ‘metabolic reserve’ following a severe disease, or other influences such as medication use, avoidance of smoking or some aspect of their diet,” according to a BUSM statement. See the results in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Trouble at UMass Memorial Medical Center

State Auditor Suzanne Bump announced Thursday that UMass Memorial Medical Center failed to properly report 80 substance-exposed babies born at its facilities. By law, hospitals must tell the Department of Children and Families when newborns show signs of an illegal substance dependency. According to Bump’s audit, UMass saw 456 substance-exposed babies between January 2014 and August 2016, but 80 of those cases were reported incorrectly, and one was never reported at all. As a result, Bump’s office is calling on UMass to improve its protocols. See the full audit here.