Increasing diversity of marketable raspberries

Raspberries are the third most popular berry in the United States. Their popularity is growing as a specialty crop for the wholesale industry and in smaller, local markets, and U-pick operations. As consumer interest in the health benefits of colorful foods increases, small growers are capitalizing on novelty fruit and vegetable crops such as different-colored raspberries. Authors of a newly published study say that increasing the diversity of raspberry colors in the market will benefit both consumers and producers. “Producers will need to know how fruit of the other color groups compare with red raspberries with regard to the many postharvest qualities,” noted the University of Maryland’s Julia Harshman, corresponding author of the study published in HortScience (March 2014).Raspberries have an extremely short shelf life, which can be worsened by postharvest decay. Postharvest susceptibility to gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) drastically reduces the shelf life of this delicate fruit. “The main goal of our research was to compare the postharvest quality of different-colored raspberries that were harvested from floricanes under direct-market conditions with minimal pesticide inputs,” Harshman said. The researchers said that, although there is abundant information in the literature regarding red raspberry production in regard to gray mold, very little research has been conducted on postharvest physiology of black, yellow, or purple raspberries.The researchers analyzed 17 varieties of raspberries at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland, examining each cultivar for characteristics such as anthocyanins, soluble solids, titratable acids, pH, color, firmness, decay and juice leakage rates, ethylene evolution, and respiration.”In comparing the four commonly grown colors of raspberry, we drew several important conclusions,” they said. “The mechanisms controlling decay and juice leakage are distinct and mediated by both biotic and abiotic factors. The colors that performed well for one area are opposite the ones that did well in the other.” For example, firmness was expected to track closely with either leakage or decay resistance; however, the analyses did not indicate this.Red raspberries, in comparison with the other three colors analyzed during the study, had the highest titratable acids (TA) and the lowest ratio of soluble solids to TA, which, the authors say, accounts for the tart raspberry flavor consumers expect.Yellow raspberries had the lowest levels of anthocyanins and phenolics. …

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Facial transplantation: Almost a decade out, surgeons prepare for burgeoning demand

Plastic and reconstructive surgeons leading the first retrospective study of all known facial transplants worldwide conclude that the procedure is relatively safe, increasingly feasible, and a clear life-changer that can and should be offered to far more carefully selected patients.Reporting in The Lancet online April 27, NYU Langone plastic and reconstructive surgeon and senior author Eduardo Rodriguez, MD, DDS, says results after nearly a decade of experience with what he calls the “Mount Everest” of medical-surgical treatments are “highly encouraging.”The review team noted that the transplants still pose lifelong risks and complications from infection and sometimes toxic immunosuppressive drugs, but also are highly effective at restoring people to fully functioning lives after physically disfiguring and socially debilitating facial injuries.Surgeons base their claims on the experience of 28 people known to have had full or partial face transplants since 2005, when the first such procedure was performed on a woman in France.Of the 22 men and six women whose surgeries were reported, including seven Americans, none have chronically rejected their new organs and tissues, says Dr. Rodriguez, chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center and director of its Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery. All but three recipients are still living. Four have returned to work or school.Dr. Rodriguez, the Helen L. Kimmel Professor of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at NYU Langone, in 2012 performed what is widely considered the most extensive facial transplant (when he practiced at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore). The patient was a Virginia man who had lost the lower half of his face in a gunshot accident 10 years earlier. Dr. Rodriguez is currently readying his new team at NYU Langone to perform its first facial transplantation, expected later this year.In The Lancet article, Dr. Rodriguez and his colleagues point out that although all recipients to date have experienced some complications from infection, and mild to moderate signs of rejection, the few deaths among patients were due to infection and cancer not directly related to their transplants. …

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Icy wreckage discovered in nearby planetary system

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope have discovered the splattered remains of comets colliding together around a nearby star; the researchers believe they are witnessing the total destruction of one of these icy bodies once every five minutes.The “smoking gun” implicating this frosty demolition is the detection of a surprisingly compact region of carbon monoxide (CO) gas swirling around the young, nearby star Beta Pictoris.”Molecules of CO can survive around a star for only a brief time, about 100 years, before being destroyed by UV radiation,” said Bill Dent, a researcher at the Joint ALMA Office in Santiago, Chile, and lead author on a paper published in the journal Science online at the Science Express website. “So unless we are observing Beta Pictoris at a very unusual time, then the carbon monoxide we observed must be continuously replenished.”Comets and other icy bodies trap vast amounts of CO and other gases in their frosty interiors. When these objects collide, as is common in the chaotic environment around a young star, they quickly release their stored gases. If these collisions were occurring randomly in this system, then the CO would be more or less evenly distributed.But the new images from ALMA show something else: a single compact clump of CO approximately 13 billion kilometers (8 billion miles) from the star — or about three times the distance of Neptune to the Sun. “This clump is an important clue to what’s going on in the outer reaches of this young planetary system,” says Mark Wyatt, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge and coauthor on the paper.Earlier observations of Beta Pictoris with other telescopes revealed that it is surrounded by a large disk of dusty debris and harbors at least one planet orbiting approximately 1.2 billion kilometers (750 million miles) from the star.The new ALMA data suggest, however, that there may be a second, as-yet-undetected planet orbiting much farther out. The gravity from such a planet would shepherd millions of cometary bodies into a relatively confined area. A similar phenomenon is seen in our own Solar System where the planet Jupiter keeps a group of so-called Trojan asteroids in a confined orbit around the Sun.”To get the amount of CO we observed — which is equal to about one-sixth the mass of Earth’s oceans — the rate of collisions would be truly startling, with the complete destruction of a large comet once every five minutes,” noted Aki Roberge, an astronomer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and coauthor on the paper. “To get this number of collisions, this would have to be a very tight, massive swarm.”The astronomers propose an alternate possibility for the origin of this swarm of icy bodies; two Mars-size icy planets smashing together within the past million years could have produced the compact, cometary debris around the star. Such an occurrence, however, would be rare and there is a low likelihood that it could have occurred recently enough for the remnants to still be so concentrated.Both possibilities, however, give astronomers reason to be optimistic that there are many more planets waiting to be found around Beta Pictoris, which is located a relatively nearby 63 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation Pictor.ALMA’s unprecedented resolution and sensitivity enabled the astronomers to detect the faint millimeter-wavelength light emitted by both the dust grains and CO in the system.”And carbon monoxide is just the beginning; there may be other more complex pre-organic molecules released from these icy bodies,” adds Roberge.The astronomers hope that further observations with ALMA will shed more light on this system and help us understand what conditions were like during the formation of our own Solar System.ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). …

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Quality problems in America’s nursing homes tied to turnover

Two studies examining the relationship between turnover of nursing staff and quality problems in nursing homes have found adverse outcomes. This comes at a time of greater demand for care by the growing numbers of elderly Americans.The studies, both published in December, were based on data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey, which generated a sample of 1,174 nursing homes representing more than 16,000 nursing homes in the United States. These data were linked by facility to quality outcomes from contemporaneous databases used to monitor standards of nursing home care. The linkages were to Quality Indicators from Nursing Home Compare and to data on deficiencies of care from the Online Survey, Certification and Reporting (OSCAR).Staff turnover is of concern for nursing homes, as high turnover has been associated with increased adverse outcomes. These studies suggest that preventing staff turnover should be given greater emphasis.In the first study, “Are Nursing Home Survey Deficiencies Higher in Facilities with Greater Staff Turnover,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, Nancy B. Lerner, DNP ’10, RN, BSN ’66, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), and colleagues including UMSON Professor Alison M. Trinkoff, ScD, MPH, RN, FAAN, found that turnover for both licensed nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) was associated with quality problems as measured by deficiencies considered to be closely related to nursing care (qualify of care, qualify of life, and resident behavior deficiencies reported by OSCAR).In the second study, “Turnover Staffing, Skill Mix, and Resident Outcomes in a National Sample of U.S. Nursing Homes,” published in the Journal of Nursing Administration, Trinkoff and colleagues found that adverse resident outcomes such as pressure ulcers and pain are related to high turnover among CNAs. The study, even after controlling for factors including skill mix, bed size, and ownership, found nursing homes with high CNA turnover had significantly higher odds of pressure ulcers, pain, and urinary tract infections.”Changes are needed to improve the retention of care providers and reduce staff vacancies in nursing homes to ensure high quality of care for older Americans,” Lerner states. Further the study by Lerner and colleagues suggests the need for continued research using deficiencies as a measure of quality in addition to the quality indicators used by others.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland, Baltimore. …

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Local foods offer tangible economic benefits in some regions

Despite their typically small size and sparse distribution, farms that sell their products locally may boost economic growth in their communities in some regions of the U.S., according to a team of economists.”There has been a lot of hope, but little evidence, that local food systems can be an engine of economic growth in communities,” said Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “Our findings show that, at least in certain regions of the country, community-focused agriculture has had a measurable effect on economic growth.”The team’s findings, which appear in the February 2014 issue of Economic Development Quarterly, shed new light on the role that local food sales play in economies, and may help inform policymakers about supporting community-focused agriculture programs. The researchers defined community-focused agriculture as farm enterprises that sell products directly to consumers or that generate farm income from agritourism activities or both. Agritourism offers harvest festivals, pick-your-own activities and other recreational opportunities to attract visitors to farms. According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture — the most recently available data at the time of this study — only 6.2 percent of all farms engage in direct sales, and even fewer engage in agritourism activities. Goetz and his colleagues measured the impact of community-focused agriculture on local economic growth by examining its impact on agricultural sales overall.”Rather than look at the direct effect of community-focused agriculture on economic growth, we looked at the effect of these operations on total agricultural sales, and then at how total agricultural sales affected economic growth,” said Goetz. The study is the first to measure the impacts of local food sales, and agricultural sales more broadly, in this way.Using county-level data from the 2002 and 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, the team analyzed the link between direct farm sales — sales made directly from farmer to consumer — and total farm sales. When they examined the data on a national basis, they found a positive but not statistically significant relationship between the two.Goetz said that a different picture emerged when they looked at the data by region, as defined by the U.S. …

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Molecule that triggers septic shock identified

Sep. 12, 2013 — The body’s immune system is set up much like a home security system; it has sensors on the outside of cells that act like motion detectors — floodlights — that click on when there’s an intruder rustling in the bushes, bacteria that seem suspect. For over a decade researchers have known about one group of external sensors called Toll-like receptors that detect when bacteria are nearby.Now, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have identified a sensor pathway inside cells. These internal sensors are like motion detectors inside a house; they trigger an alarm that signals for help — a response from the immune system. This research, published in the Sept. 13, 2013 issue of the journal Science, indicates that both exterior and interior sensors work together to detect the same component of bacterial cell membranes, a molecule called lipopolysaccharide or LPS.By showing how the immune system distinguishes between suspicious activity and real threats, the study could lead to new therapies for septic shock — when the immune system overreacts to a bacterial infection to such an extent that it causes more harm than good.”During the defense against an infection you want to be able to differentiate between the bacteria that stay on the outside of the cell and the ones that get inside,” said senior study author Edward A. Miao, MD, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology. “You can think of the exterior sensors as a yellow alert; they tell us that bacteria are present. But these bacteria could either be simple ones in the wrong place, or very dangerous ones that could cause a serious infection. The interior sensors act as a red alert; they warn us that there are bacteria with ill intent that have the genetic capacity to invade and manipulate our cells.”The body responds to a bacterial infection by increasing blood vessel permeability near the area under attack, which allows immune system cells to leave the bloodstream and seek and destroy the bacteria. …

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Vegetarian diet for fish: Scientists discover key to easing aquaculture’s reliance on wild-caught fish

Aug. 6, 2013 — For the first time scientists have been able to develop a completely vegetarian diet that works for marine fish raised in aquaculture, the key to making aquaculture a sustainable industry as the world’s need for protein increases. The findings led by Aaron Watson and Allen Place at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Institute for Marine and Environmental Technology, are published in the August issue of the journal Lipids.”Aquaculture cannot sustainably grow and expand to meet growing global population and protein demand without developing and evaluating alternative ingredients to reduce fishmeal and fish oil use,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Aaron Watson.Supported by another paper published in the Journal of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the team has proven that a completely plant-based food combination can support fast-growing marine carnivores like cobia and gilthead sea bream in reaching maturity just as well as — and sometimes better than — conventional diets of fish meal and fish oil made from wild-caught fish.Nearly half of the world’s fish and shellfish supply is supplied by aquaculture — growing fish in tanks or ponds instead of catching them from the oceans or streams — and scientists have been trying to figure out how to make growing fish sustainable. Many high-value fish such as cobia, sea bream, and striped bass are predators and eat other fish to survive and grow. As a result, their food in captivity is made of a combination of fishmeal and fish oil, and must be caught from the wild to feed them. This is expensive (for example, it can take 5 pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of fish), and it further depletes the world’s fisheries.”This makes aquaculture completely sustainable,” said Dr. Allen Place. “The pressure on natural fisheries in terms of food fish can be relieved. We can now sustain a good protein source without harvesting fish to feed fish.”The replacement of fishmeal and fish oil in aquaculture diets has been a goal for researchers for decades but has met with limited success. …

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Heart pump with behind-the-ear power connector

Aug. 7, 2013 — Cardiac surgeons and cardiologists at the University of Maryland Heart Center are part of a multi-center clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of powering heart pumps through a skull-based connector behind the ear. Typically, these devices for patients with severe heart failure are energized through an electrical cord connected at an abdominal site, where potentially deadly infections can develop.”Over time, nearly one-third of our patients surviving with the assistance of an implanted blood pump develop an infection at the site where the power cord exits the skin. This complication may be lethal but, if not, it is always a difficult problem,” says the University of Maryland’s principal investigator, Bartley P. Griffith, M.D., the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and a senior cardiac surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center.The infection-prone abdominal connection also limits some activities such as swimming and bathing, since water may also contribute to infection.The pumps, called left ventricular assist devices (LVADs), support the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle. LVADs are implanted in the chest and powered with external batteries.The study, named RELIVE (Randomized Evaluation of Long-term Intraventricular VAD Effectiveness), compares two similar continuous flow heart pumps designed for “destination therapy.” The devices provide long-term support to patients with end-stage heart failure who, for a variety of reasons at the time of implant, are ineligible for a heart transplant. The major difference is in the way electrical power from the battery pack gets to each pump implanted in the chest. In one case, the internal power cord is routed through a traditional opening, or pump pocket, in the abdominal wall. In the other, the internal power cable is tunneled through the neck to the head. …

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Re-learning how to see: Researchers find crucial on-off switch in visual development

Aug. 1, 2013 — A new discovery by a University of Maryland-led research team offers hope for treating “lazy eye” and other serious visual problems that are usually permanent unless they are corrected in early childhood.Amblyopia afflicts about three percent of the population, and is a widespread cause of vision loss in children. It occurs when both eyes are structurally normal, but mismatched — either misaligned, or differently focused, or unequally receptive to visual stimuli because of an obstruction such as a cataract in one eye.During the so-called “critical period” when a young child’s brain is adapting very quickly to new experiences, the brain builds a powerful neural network connecting the stronger eye to the visual cortex. But the weaker eye gets less stimulation and develops fewer synapses, or points of connection between neurons. Over time the brain learns to ignore the weaker eye. Mild forms of amblyopia such as “lazy eye” result in problems with depth perception. In the most severe form, deprivation amblyopia, a cataract blocks light and starves the eye of visual experiences, significantly altering synaptic development and seriously impairing vision.Because brain plasticity declines rapidly with age, early diagnosis and treatment of amblyopia is vital, said neuroscientist Elizabeth M. Quinlan, an associate professor of biology at UMD. If the underlying cause of amblyopia is resolved early enough, the child’s vision can recover to normal levels. But if the treatment comes after the end of the critical period and the loss of synaptic plasticity, the brain cannot relearn to see with the weaker eye.”If a child is born with a cataract and it is not removed very early in life, very little can be done to improve vision,” Quinlan said. …

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Starburst to star bust: Light shed on mystery of missing massive galaxies

July 24, 2013 — New observations from the ALMA telescope in Chile have given astronomers the best view yet of how vigorous star formation can blast gas out of a galaxy and starve future generations of stars of the fuel they need to form and grow. The dramatic images show enormous outflows of molecular gas ejected by star-forming regions in the nearby Sculptor Galaxy. These new results help to explain the strange paucity of very massive galaxies in the Universe.The study is published in the journal Nature on July 25, 2013.Galaxies — systems like our own Milky Way that contain up to hundreds of billions of stars — are the basic building blocks of the cosmos. One ambitious goal of contemporary astronomy is to understand the ways in which galaxies grow and evolve, a key question being star formation: what determines the number of new stars that will form in a galaxy?The Sculptor Galaxy, also known as NGC 253, is a spiral galaxy located in the southern constellation of Sculptor. At a distance of around 11.5 million light-years from our Solar System it is one of our closer intergalactic neighbours, and one of the closest starburst galaxies [1] visible from the southern hemisphere. Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) astronomers have discovered billowing columns of cold, dense gas fleeing from the centre of the galactic disc.”With ALMA’s superb resolution and sensitivity, we can clearly see for the first time massive concentrations of cold gas being jettisoned by expanding shells of intense pressure created by young stars,” said Alberto Bolatto of the University of Maryland, USA lead author of the paper. “The amount of gas we measure gives us very good evidence that some growing galaxies spew out more gas than they take in. We may be seeing a present-day example of a very common occurrence in the early Universe.”These results may help to explain why astronomers have found surprisingly few high-mass galaxies throughout the cosmos. Computer models show that older, redder galaxies should have considerably more mass and a larger number of stars than we currently observe. It seems that the galactic winds or outflow of gas are so strong that they deprive the galaxy of the fuel for the formation of the next generation of stars [2].”These features trace an arc that is almost perfectly aligned with the edges of the previously observed hot, ionised gas outflow,” noted Fabian Walter, a lead investigator at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, and a co-author of the paper. …

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A potentially life-saving protein takes shape

July 2, 2013 — A tiny protein called ubiquitin — so named because it is present in every cell of living things as dissimilar as hollyhocks and humans — may hold the key to treatment for a variety of diseases from Parkinson’s to diabetes. The protein, found in all eukaryotes (organisms with membranous cells), was considered unimportant when it was described in 1975. But scientists now know ubiquitin takes many different forms and is important in basic cellular processes, from controlling cells’ circadian clocks to clearing away the harmful build-up of cells found in cancer and other diseases.To maximize ubiquitin’s potential for treating diseases, researchers are working to identify the protein’s dizzying array of structures, and to understand each form’s function. Ubiquitin forms polymeric chains linked by specific amino acids. Each ubiquitin protein can connect to its neighbor through one of eight different amino acids, and each combination appears to do something different in a normal cell, says University of Maryland structural biologist David Fushman, whose lab studies these ubiquitin chains and their linkages.Imagine the cell as a dance floor, thronged with proteins seeking partners, says Fushman, who has studied ubiquitin since 2000. When two ubiquitins join through a lysine, “it’s like two hands meeting, but with just a single finger touching that’s specific to that lysine.” The choice of lysine determines the shape of the ubiquitin chain, and probably also determines its function.Fushman and his colleagues’ newly published research focuses on one of the most common and least studied linkages, the polymeric chain formed by the amino acid Lysine-11. The ubiquitin chains linked by Lysine-11 “are directly involved in cell cycle regulation,” Fushman says. To turn that knowledge into medically useful information, “we have to understand exactly how they form and with whom they interact.”Most work of this type is done in a test tube and uses x-ray crystallography to map the structures. Fushman’s lab uses a different method that he says produces an environment somewhat closer to nature. The team used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) and other techniques to map the Lysine-11-linked chains.The researchers found these chains take on a different shape in solution than in crystals, and are more flexible than was previously thought. …

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Pre-existing insomnia linked to PTSD and other mental disorders after military deployment

June 28, 2013 — A new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the Naval Health Research Center has shown Military service members who have trouble sleeping prior to deployments may be at greater risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety once they return home. The new study, published in the July 2013 issue of the journal SLEEP, found that pre-existing insomnia symptoms conferred almost as a large of a risk for those mental disorders as combat exposure.”Understanding environmental and behavioral risk factors associated with the onset of common major mental disorders is of great importance in a military occupational setting,” said lead study author Philip Gehrman, PhD, assistant professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry, member of the Penn Sleep Center, and the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. “This study is the first prospective investigation of the relationship between sleep disturbance and development of newly identified positive screens for mental disorders in a large military cohort who have been deployed in support of the recent operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.”Using self-reported data from the Millennium Cohort Study, the research team evaluated the association of pre-deployment sleep duration and insomnia symptoms on the development of new-onset mental disorders among deployers. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the odds of developing PTSD, depression, and anxiety, while adjusting for relevant covariates including combat-related trauma.They analyzed data from 15,204 service members, including only those servicemen and women on the timing of their first deployment across all branches and components of military service. They identified 522 people with new-onset PTSD, 151 with anxiety, and 303 with depression following deployment. In adjusted models, combat-related trauma and pre-deployment insomnia symptoms were significantly associated with higher odds of developing posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.”One of the more interesting findings of this study is not only the degree of risk conferred by pre-deployment insomnia symptoms, but also the relative magnitude of this risk compared with combat-related trauma,” says Gehrman. “The risk conferred by insomnia symptoms was almost as strong as our measure of combat exposure in adjusted models.”The researchers also found that short sleep duration (less than six hours of sleep per night), separate from general insomnia, was associated with new-onset PTSD symptoms.”We found that insomnia is both a symptom and a risk factor for mental illness and may present a modifiable target for intervention among military personnel,” says Gehrman. “We hope that by early identification of those most vulnerable, the potential exists for the designing and testing of preventive strategies that may reduce the occurrence of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.”The research team says that additional study is needed to investigate whether routine inquiry about insomnia symptoms and application of appropriate early, effective interventions reduces subsequent morbidity from mental disorders. They note that in a military population, assessment of insomnia symptoms could easily be incorporated into routine pre-deployment screening.The Millennium Cohort Study is funded through the Military Operational Medicine Research Program of the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Maryland.

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Student engagement more complex, changeable than thought

June 20, 2013 — A student who shows up on time for school and listens respectfully in class might appear fully engaged to outside observers, including teachers. But other measures of student engagement, including the student’s emotional and cognitive involvement with the course material, may tell a different story — one that could help teachers recognize students who are becoming less invested in their studies, according to a new study coauthored by a University of Pittsburgh researcher.More importantly for educators, the study, published online in the professional journal Learning and Instruction, suggests that student engagement — essential for success in school — is malleable, and can be improved by promoting a positive school environment. The result paves the way for future work to offer teachers diagnostic tools for recognizing disengagement, as well as strategies for creating a school environment more conducive to student engagement.”Enhancing student engagement has been identified as the key to addressing problems of low achievement, high levels of student misbehavior, alienation, and high dropout rates,” said Ming-Te Wang, assistant professor of psychology in education in the School of Education and of psychology in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at Pitt, who coauthored the study with Jacquelynne S. Eccles, the Wilbert McKeachie and Paul Pintrich Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Education at the University of Michigan.”When we talk about student engagement, we tend to talk only about student behavior,” Wang added. “But my coauthor and I feel like that doesn’t tell us the whole story. Emotion and cognition are also very important.”Wang and Eccles’ study is among the first attempts by researchers to use data to explore a multidimensional approach to the question of student engagement. In the past, only behavioral measures of student engagement — such as class attendance, turning in homework on time, and classroom participation — had been evaluated when gauging student engagement. By conducting a study linking students’ perceptions of the school environment with behavior, the authors have provided one of the first pieces of empirical research supporting the viability of the multidimensional perspective, which had previously been largely theoretical.The researchers designed a 100-question survey that includes the evaluation of emotional engagement and cognitive engagement. Sample survey questions that tested emotional engagement in classes across all subject areas asked students to agree or disagree with statements such as “I find schoolwork interesting” and “I feel excited by the work in school.” Sample questions concerning cognitive engagement asked students to provide ratings to questions like “How often do you make academic plans for solving problems?” and “How often do you try to relate what you are studying to other things you know about?”Using the survey, Wang and Eccles conducted a two-year longitudinal study, tracking approximately 1,200 Maryland students from seventh through eighth grade. …

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Transplant patient outcomes after trauma better than expected

June 10, 2013 — In the largest study of its kind, physicians from the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) have determined that outcomes for traumatic injury in patients with organ transplants are not worse than for non-transplanted patients, despite common presumptions among physicians. The findings, published in the June 2013 issue of The Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, also show that transplanted organs are rarely injured in traumatic events.”Trauma teams should be encouraged that patients with prior organ transplants don’t do worse after injury, and that the transplanted organ (also known as a graft) is infrequently injured after trauma; however, our study did show that there may be an increased risk of graft rejection after trauma,” says the study’s lead author, Joseph R. Scalea, M.D., a surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “We recommend that patients be assessed by a transplant surgeon as soon as possible, and graft function should be closely followed by a transplant team during hospitalization and after discharge from the trauma center.”The study analyzed patients with prior organ transplants who were admitted to Shock Trauma from 2007-2011. Fifty patients with previous solid-organ transplants were admitted for traumatic injury during the period. The outcomes of these patients were compared with more than 13,000 non-transplanted patients admitted during the same period.One patient was admitted with a direct injury to a transplanted organ; three others had questionable graft injuries which did not affect organ function.In the months following trauma, a percentage of the transplant group went on to develop organ rejection. Long-term graft outcomes were followed at different institutions, but data for 41 transplant patients followed at the University of Maryland Medical Center (82 percent of study patients) showed seven patients (17 percent) with acute organ rejection within six months of admission for trauma.Transplant recipients, whose immune systems are already suppressed to prevent organ rejection, are presumed to be at greater risk of infection from traumatic injury; however, this was not observed in the current study.Severe trauma activates nearly all components of the immune system, triggering a series of responses that lead to inflammation, which can limit tissue damage and promotes repair and healing. Typical signs of inflammatory response include pain, swelling, heat, redness and/or loss of function. The University of Maryland research team’s findings offer insight into the pathophysiology of the inflammatory responses following traumatic injury. Too much inflammation can cause entire organ systems to shut down, whereas not enough inflammation may prohibit a patient from developing the appropriate response to an injury or infection. …

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