Worthington & Caron Proud to Again Sponsor the 4th Annual International Symposium on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

On June 7 some of the leading physicians involved in the diagnosis and treatment of pleural mesothelioma will meet at the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica, California for the4th Annual International Symposium on Lung-Sparing Therapies for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma. The symposium will be an all-day affair and begin at 8 am.Worthington & Caron is proud to sponsor this symposium for the fourth consecutive year.Once again, Dr. Robert B. Cameron will lead the symposium. In addition to being the Director of the UCLA Mesothelioma Comprehensive Research Program, Dr. Cameron also is the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center and Scientific Advisor at the Pacific Meso Center.Although the seminar is geared toward physicians, it also offers continuing medical education …

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US, European cholesterol guidelines differ in statin use recommendations

Application of U.S. and European cholesterol guidelines to a European population found that proportions of individuals eligible for statins differed substantially, with one U.S. guideline recommending statins for nearly all men and two-thirds of women, proportions exceeding those of the other guidelines, according to a JAMA study released online to coincide with the 2014 American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions.The common approach in cardiovascular disease (CVD) primary prevention is to identify individuals at high enough risk to justify more intensive lifestyle interventions, treatment with medications, or both. The CVD prevention guidelines developed by the National Cholesterol Education Program expert panel, the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) task force, and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) are the major guidelines influencing clinical practice. “Varying approaches to CVD risk estimation and application of different criteria for therapeutic recommendations would translate into substantial differences in proportions of individuals qualifying for treatment at a population level,” the authors write.Maryam Kavousi, M.D., Ph.D., of Erasmus MC-University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a study to determine population-wide implications of the ACC/AHA, the Adult Treatment Panel III (ATP-III), and the ESC guidelines, using 4,854 Dutch participants from the Rotterdam Study (a population-based study of patients 55 years of age or older). The researchers calculated 10-year risks for “hard” (major) atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) events (including fatal and nonfatal coronary heart disease [CHD] and stroke) (ACC/AHA); hard CHD events (fatal and nonfatal heart attack, CHD mortality) (ATP-III); and atherosclerotic CVD mortality (ESC). The proportions of individuals for whom statins would be recommended were calculated per guideline.The average age of the participants was 65.5 years; 54.5 percent were women. The researchers found that application of the ACC/AHA guideline recommended treatment for 96.4 percent of men and 65.8 percent of women; for the ATP-III guideline, the portion was 52 percent of men and 35.5 percent of women; and for the ESC guideline, 66.1 percent of men and 39.1 percent of women were included in the category where treatment was recommended.With the ACC/AHA approach, average predicted risk vs observed major ASCVD events was 21.5 percent vs 12.7 percent for men and 11.6 percent vs 7.9 percent for women. Similar overestimation occurred with the ATP-III and ESC model.”Improving risk predictions and setting appropriate population-wide thresholds are necessary to facilitate better clinical decision making,” the authors conclude.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The JAMA Network Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Natural plant compounds may assist chemotherapy

Researchers at Plant & Food Research have identified plant compounds present in carrots and parsley that may one day support more effective delivery of chemotherapy treatments.Scientists at Plant & Food Research, working together with researchers at The University of Auckland and the National Cancer Institute of The Netherlands, have discovered specific plant compounds able to inhibit transport mechanisms in the body that select what compounds are absorbed into the body, and eventually into cells. These same transport mechanisms are known to interfere with cancer chemotherapy treatment.The teams’ research, recently published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, showed that falcarinol type compounds such as those found in carrots and parsley may support the delivery of drug compounds which fight breast cancer by addressing the over-expression of Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (BCRP/ABCG2), a protein that leads to some malignant tissues ability to become resistant to chemotherapy.”It’s very exciting work,” says Plant & Food Research Senior Scientist, Dr Arjan Scheepens. “Our work is uncovering new means to alter how the body absorbs specific chemical and natural compounds. Ultimately we are interested in how food could be used to complement conventional treatments to potentially deliver better results for patients.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Tighter economic regulation needed to reverse obesity epidemic, study suggests

Governments could slow — and even reverse — the growing epidemic of obesity by taking measures to counter fast food consumption, according to a study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization today.The study, by a team of researchers based in the United States and Ireland, is the first to look at the effects of deregulation in the economy, including the agricultural and food sectors, and the resulting increase in fast food transactions on obesity over time. It suggests that if governments take action, they can prevent overweight and obesity, which can have serious long-term health consequences including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer.Rather than looking at the density of fast food outlets or self-reported fast food consumption as researchers have done in the past, the authors took the novel approach of taking data on the number of fast food transactions per capita from 1999 to 2008 in 25 high-income countries and compared them with figures on body mass index (BMI) in the same countries over the same time period as an indication of fast food consumption.A person with BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, while one with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.The authors of the study found that while the average number of annual fast food transactions per capita increased from 26.61 to 32.76, average BMI increased from 25.8 to 26.4. Thus, each 1-unit increase in the average number of annual fast food transactions per capita was associated with an increase of 0.0329 in BMI over the study period.”Unless governments take steps to regulate their economies, the invisible hand of the market will continue to promote obesity worldwide with disastrous consequences for future public health and economic productivity,” said lead author Dr Roberto De Vogli from the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis, in the United States.The study focuses on high-income countries, but its findings are also relevant to developing countries as “virtually all nations have undergone a process of market deregulation and globalization — especially in the last three decades,” De Vogli said.The BMI figures also reveal how widespread the problems of overweight and obesity are and that people living in the 25 countries are, on average, overweight and have been for the last 15 years.The average number of annual fast food transactions per capita increased in all 25 countries. The sharpest increases were in Canada (by 16.6 transactions per capita), Australia (14.7), Ireland (12.3) and New Zealand (10.1), while the lowest increases were in countries with more stringent market regulation, such as Italy (1.5), the Netherlands (1.8), Greece (1.9) and Belgium (2.1).They also found that the intake of animal fats and total calories changed only slightly at a time of a sharp increase in obesity.Taking data from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, the authors found that the intake of animal fats decreased slightly from 212 kcal per capita per day in 1999 to 206 in 2008 and that the caloric intake increased slightly for six of those years with 3432 calories per capita per day in 2002 compared to 3437 in 2008. Yet, most men and women do not need more than about 2500 and 2000 calories respectively a day.”This study shows how important public policies are for addressing the epidemic of obesity,” said Dr Francesco Branca, director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at WHO.”Policies targeting food and nutrition are needed across several sectors including agriculture, industry, health, social welfare and education,” Branca said, adding: “Countries where the diet is transitioning from one that is high in cereals to one that is high in fat, sugar and processed foods need to take action to align the food supply with the health needs of the population.”The new study echoes a growing body of literature providing evidence for measures that governments could take to reverse the obesity epidemic by hindering the spread of ultra-processed foodstuffs. Such measures include:economic incentives for growers to sell healthy foods and fresh food items rather than ultra-processed foods and subsidies to grow fruit and vegetables; economic disincentives for industries to sell fast food, ultra-processed foods and soft drinks such as an ultra-processed food tax and/or the reduction or elimination of subsidies to growers/companies using corn for rapid tissue growth, excessive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics; zoning policies to control the number and type of food outlets; tighter regulation of the advertising of fast food and soft drinks, especially to children; trade regulations discouraging the importation and consumption of fast food, ultra-processed foods and soft drinks; and more effective labelling systems especially for ultra-processed foods, including fast food and soft drinks. WHO’s 194 Member States agreed on the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases at the World Health Assembly in May 2013. One of the plan’s nine voluntary targets is to “halt the rise in diabetes and obesity.” It also proposes measures that countries can take to tackle obesity, including increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and managing food subsidies and taxes to promote a healthy diet.

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Scientists estimate 16,000 tree species in the Amazon

Oct. 17, 2013 — Researchers, taxonomists, and students from The Field Museum and 88 other institutions around the world have provided new answers to two simple but long-standing questions about Amazonian diversity: How many trees are there in the Amazon, and how many tree species occur there? The study will be published October 17, 2013 in Science.The vast extent and difficult terrain of the Amazon Basin (including parts of Brazil, Peru, Columbia) and the Guiana Shield (Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana), which span an area roughly the size of the 48 contiguous North American states, has historically restricted the study of their extraordinarily diverse tree communities to local and regional scales. The lack of basic information about the Amazonian flora on a basin-wide scale has hindered Amazonian science and conservation efforts.”In essence, this means that the largest pool of tropical carbon on Earth has been a black box for ecologists, and conservationists don’t know which Amazonian tree species face the most severe threats of extinction,” says Nigel Pitman, Robert O. Bass Visiting Scientist at The Field Museum in Chicago, and co-author on the study.Now, however, over 100 experts have contributed data from 1,170 forestry surveys in all major forest types in the Amazon to generate the first basin-wide estimates of the abundance, frequency and spatial distribution of thousands of Amazonian trees.Extrapolations from data compiled over a period of 10 years suggest that greater Amazonia, which includes the Amazon Basin and the Guiana Shield, harbors around 390 billion individual trees, including Brazil nut, chocolate, and açai berry trees.”We think there are roughly 16,000 tree species in Amazonia, but the data also suggest that half of all the trees in the region belong to just 227 of those species! Thus, the most common species of trees in the Amazon now not only have a number, they also have a name. This is very valuable information for further research and policymaking,” says Hans ter Steege, first author on the study and researcher at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in South Holland, Netherlands.The authors termed these species “hyperdominants.” While the study suggests that hyperdominants — just 1.4 percent of all Amazonian tree species — account for roughly half of all carbon and ecosystem services in the Amazon, it also notes that almost none of the 227 hyperdominant species are consistently common across the Amazon. Instead, most dominate a region or forest type, such as swamps or upland forests.The study also offers insights into the rarest tree species in the Amazon. According to the mathematical model used in the study, roughly 6,000 tree species in the Amazon have populations of fewer than 1,000 individuals, which automatically qualifies them for inclusion in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The problem, say the authors, is that these species are so rare that scientists may never find them.Ecologist Miles Silman of Wake Forest University, another co-author of the paper, calls the phenomenon “dark biodiversity.””Just like physicists’ models tell them that dark matter accounts for much of the universe, our models tell us that species too rare to find account for much of the planet’s biodiversity. …

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Genes linked to being right- or left-handed identified

Sep. 12, 2013 — A genetic study has identified a biological process that influences whether we are right handed or left handed.Scientists at the Universities of Oxford, St Andrews, Bristol and the Max Plank Institute in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, found correlations between handedness and a network of genes involved in establishing left-right asymmetry in developing embryos.’The genes are involved in the biological process through which an early embryo moves on from being a round ball of cells and becomes a growing organism with an established left and right side,’ explained first author William Brandler, a PhD student in the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford University.The researchers suggest that the genes may also help establish left-right differences in the brain, which in turn influences handedness.They report their findings in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics.Humans are the only species to show such a strong bias in handedness, with around 90% of people being right-handed. The cause of this bias remains largely a mystery.The researchers, led by Dr Silvia Paracchini at the University of St Andrews, were interested in understanding which genes might have an influence on handedness, in order to gain an insight into the causes and evolution of handedness.The team carried out a genome-wide association study to identify any common gene variants that might correlate with which hand people prefer using.The most strongly associated, statistically significant variant with handedness is located in the gene PCSK6, which is involved in the early establishment of left and right in the growing embryo.The researchers then made full use of knowledge from previous studies of what PCSK6 and similar genes do in mice to reveal more about the biological processes involved.Disrupting PCSK6 in mice causes ‘left-right asymmetry’ defects, such as abnormal positioning of organs in the body. They might have a heart and stomach on the right and their liver on the left, for example.The researchers found that variants in other genes known to cause left-right defects when disrupted in mice were more likely to be associated with relative hand skill than you would expect by chance.While the team has identified a role for genes involved in establishing left from right in embryo development, William Brandler cautioned that these results do not completely explain the variation in handedness seen among humans. He said: ‘As with all aspects of human behaviour, nature and nurture go hand-in-hand. The development of handedness derives from a mixture of genes, environment, and cultural pressure to conform to right-handedness.’

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Wishes benefit seriously ill children and their parents

Sep. 10, 2013 — New research has shown that schemes that grant children with a life threatening illness a special wish have a positive impact on their and their family’s wellbeing.The research also demonstrates that seeing the child experience their wish was positive for the parents, while often it provoked bittersweet feelings.The study, published in Acta Paediatrica and led by Dr Anne-Sophie Darlington, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton, Professor Passchier and Dr Heule at the Erasmus Medical Centre in the Netherlands, interviewed and surveyed 235 parents of children who had been granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the Netherlands.Parents were asked about their general impression of the wish and whether they felt it improved wellbeing and coping after the event. Parents who had sadly lost their child before the study were asked if the wish had influenced their bereavement.Results showed that almost all parents (92 per cent) indicated that the experience was a positive one and the majority agreed that their child momentarily did not feel ill during the event. Parents also said their child was distracted from their situation.Parents said that it was an important memory for them, although a minority thought their child’s quality of life had increased after the event.Parents (47 per cent) admitted that they often felt sad and conflicted as well as happy; they were happy their child received their wish but sad that they were eligible for a wish.For those parents whose child had died before the start of the study, 21 per cent felt the wish fulfilment helped with bereavement.Dr Darlington comments: “There has been a growing interest in the influence of positive events on wellbeing, especially of those people who are ill. Many organisations organise events with the hypothesis that these events improve the lives of the recipients. However research on such activities and their impact has been fairly scarce.”Our study has shown that on the whole the experience is a positive one with children experiencing more energy and parents being distracted. However, longer term effects were only found for a small group of parents and children. We are very grateful to the parents for taking part in our study.”

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Cause of cystic kidneys explained: Novel gene responsible for cystic kidney disease in children identified

Sep. 5, 2013 — Sylvia Hoff, a graduate student from the Spemann Graduate School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM), has identified a new gene that causes cystic kidneys in children and young adults. The work by the PhD student Sylvia Hoff and her international collaboration partners was published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics. The research group’s results lead to the identification of novel insights into the molecular mechanism underlying NPH, which is a prerequisite for developing pharmacological targets and new therapies for children with nephronophthisis.Share This:Nephronophthisis (NPH) is the most common inherited kidney disease that leads to renal failure in children. The kidneys of affected children develop cysts, and as there is no approved therapy yet, patients need dialysis and renal transplantation. In addition, NPH often affects other organs apart from the kidney, such as the eyes, the liver, or the brain.The PhD student Sylvia Hoff, together with Dr. Soeren Lienkamp of the Nephrology Department at the Freiburg University Medical Center headed by Prof. Gerd Walz, analyzed the function of NPH proteins during early developmental processes. They found that the ANKS6 protein has functions similar to those of some of the known NPH proteins. In collaboration with research groups in France, USA, Denmark, Switzerland, Egypt, the Netherlands, and Germany, they succeeded in identifying mutations in the ANKS6 gene of children with NPH. …

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Biologists uncover details of how we squelch defective neurons

Sep. 4, 2013 — Biologists at the University of California, San Diego have identified a new component of the cellular mechanism by which humans and animals automatically check the quality of their nerve cells to assure they’re working properly during development.In a paper published in this week’s issue of the journal Neuron, the scientists report the discovery in the laboratory roundworm C. elegans of a “quality check” system for neurons that uses two proteins to squelch the signals from defective neurons and marks them for either repair or destruction.”To be able to see, talk and walk, nerve cells in our body need to communicate with their right partner cells,” explains Zhiping Wang, the lead author in the team of researchers headed by Yishi Jin, a professor of neurobiology in UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and a professor of cellular and molecular medicine in its School of Medicine. “The communication is mediated by long fibers emitting from neurons called axons, which transmit electric and chemical signals from one cell to the other, just like cables connecting computers in a local wired network. In developing neurons, the journey of axons to their target cells is guided by a set of signals. These signals are detected by ‘mini-receivers’ — proteins called guidance receptors — on axons and translated into ‘proceed,’ ‘stop,’ ‘turn left’ or ‘turn right.’ Thus, the quality of these receivers is very important for the axons to interpret the guiding signals.”Jin, who is also an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, says defective protein products and environmental stress, such as hyperthermia, can sometimes jeopardize the health and development of cells. “This may be one reason why pregnant women are advised by doctors to avoid saunas and hot tubs,” she adds.The scientists discovered the quality check system in roundworms, and presumably other animals including humans, consists of two parts: a protein-cleaning machine containing a protein called EBAX-1, and a well-known protein assembly helper called heat-shock protein 90 known as “hsp90.””Hsp90 facilitates the assembly of guidance receivers during the production and also fixes flawed products whenever they are detected,” says Andrew Chisholm, a professor of neurobiology and cell and developmental biology, who also helped lead the study. “The EBAX-containing protein-cleaning machine is in charge of destroying any irreparable products so that they don’t hang around and affect the performance of functional receivers. The EBAX-1 protein plays as a defectiveness detector in this machine and a connector to Hsp90. It captures defective products and presents them for either repair or destruction.”A human neurodevelopmental disorder called “horizontal gaze palsy with progressive scoliosis” is associated with the defective production of one of the protein guidance receivers. …

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Do academic rankings create inequality?

Aug. 14, 2013 — A study led by a Michigan State University scholar questions whether higher education ranking systems are creating competition simply for the sake of competition at a time when universities are struggling financially.Global rankings that emphasize science and technology research — such as the Academic Rankings of World Universities by Shanghai Jiao Tong University — have become increasingly popular and influential during the past decade, said Brendan Cantwell, lead author and assistant professor of educational administration.As a result, researchers have begun to examine whether the rankings are creating increased inequality between and within universities. Cantwell’s study suggests higher education policies to achieve “world class” status are channeling more state and federal money to a select group of large research universities and away from efforts such as President’s Obama’s college completion agenda that aim to make a college degree achievable for all Americans.”Both of those policy agendas are occurring simultaneously: the push to have top-notch universities and a system of open access that allows students from all backgrounds to get an education,” Cantwell said. “I’m not saying those are incompatible, but you have finite resources and how you choose to allocate those resources affects one or the other of those goals.”The trend of universities competing for elite status on global ranking systems has become deeply entrenched in the United States and is now occurring worldwide, including in China, Germany, Netherlands and other countries, Cantwell said.In the study, Cantwell and Barrett Taylor, assistant professor of counseling and higher education at the University of North Texas, found that U.S. universities receiving more federal research money and awarding more doctorate degrees in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) tend to score higher in the Shanghai rankings.Cantwell said the rankings appear to be influencing policymakers to funnel research money to a small number of universities and, within those universities, to programs in the fields of science and technology.The study, which appears in the research journal Minerva, says a high global ranking does not necessarily translate to economic growth or jobs for students at a university. The “high status of a few universities,” it adds, “does not necessarily indicate social or economic benefits.””Given the deep fiscal constraints in the United States and much of Europe and the enormous challenges universities in less economically developed countries face in attaining ‘world class’ status, one questions the wisdom of investments in forms of competition that seem to produce only additional competition,” the study says.

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Increased fluctuation in blood pressure linked to impaired cognitive function in older people

July 30, 2013 — Higher variability in visit-to-visit blood pressure readings, independent of average blood pressure, could be related to impaired cognitive function in old age in those already at high risk of cardiovascular disease, suggests a a new article.There is increasing evidence that vascular factors contribute in development and progression of dementia. This is of special interest as cardiovascular factors may be amendable and thus potential targets to reduce cognitive decline and the incidence of dementia. Visit-to-visit blood pressure variability has been linked to cerebrovascular damage (relating to the brain and its blood vessels). It has also been shown that this variability can increase the risk of stroke.It has been suggested that higher blood pressure variability might potentially lead to cognitive impairment through changes in the brain structures.Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center (Netherlands), University College Cork (Ireland) and the Glasgow University (UK) therefore investigated the association of visit-to-visit blood pressure variability (independent of average blood pressure) with cognitive function in older subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease.All data were obtained from the PROSPER study, which investigated the effect of statins in prevention of vascular events in older men and women. This study took data on 5,461 individuals aged 70-82 years old in Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. Average follow-up was three years.Both systolic (peak pressure) and diastolic (minimum pressure) blood pressures were measured every three months in the same clinical setting. The variability between these measurements were calculated and used in the analyses.The study used data on cognitive function where the following was tested: selective attention and reaction time; general cognitive speed; immediate and delayed memory performance.Results showed that visit-to-visit blood pressure variability was associated with worse performance on all cognitive tests. The results were consistent after adjusting for cardiovascular disease and other risk factors.The main findings of the study were: higher visit-to-visit blood pressure variability is associated with worse performance in different cognitive tests; higher variability is associated with higher risk of stroke and both these associations are independent of various cardiovascular risk factors, in particular, average blood pressure.Researcher Simon Mooijaart, (Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands) says that by using a population of “over five thousand participants and over three years of blood pressure measurements, we showed that high visit-to-visit systolic and diastolic blood pressure variability associates with worse performance in different domains of cognitive function including selection attention, processing speed, immediate verbal memory and delayed verbal memory.” The researchers do add though that it is still unclear whether higher blood pressure variability is a cause or consequence of impaired cognitive function.They suggest several explanations for their findings: firstly that blood pressure variability and cognitive impairment could stem from a common cause, with cardiovascular risk factors being the most likely candidate; secondly that variability might reflect a long term instability in the regulation of blood pressure and blood flow to the key organs in the body; thirdly that exaggerated fluctuations in blood pressure could result in the brain not receiving enough blood, which can cause brain injury, leading to impairment of cognitive function.The researchers conclude that “higher visit-to-visit blood pressure variability independent of average blood pressure might be a potential risk factor with worse cognitive performance in older subjects at high risk of cardiovascular disease.” Given that dementia is a major public health issue, they say that further interventional studies are warranted to establish whether reducing blood pressure variability can decrease the risk of cognitive impairment in old age.

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Prisoners doing yoga may see psychological benefits

July 11, 2013 — Yoga can improve mood and mental wellbeing among prisoners, an Oxford University study suggests, and may also have an effect on impulsive behaviour.The researchers found that prisoners after a ten-week yoga course reported improved mood, reduced stress and were better at a task related to behaviour control than those who continued in their normal prison routine.’We found that the group that did the yoga course showed an improvement in positive mood, a decrease in stress and greater accuracy in a computer test of impulsivity and attention,’ say Dr Amy Bilderbeck and Dr Miguel Farias, who led the study at the Departments of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry at Oxford University. ‘The suggestion is that yoga is helpful for these prisoners.’Dr Bilderbeck adds: ‘This was only a preliminary study, but nothing has been done like this before. Offering yoga sessions in prisons is cheap, much cheaper than other mental health interventions. If yoga has any effect on addressing mental health problems in prisons, it could save significant amounts of public money.’The researchers were supported in the running of the trial by the Prison Phoenix Trust, an Oxford-based charity that offers yoga classes in prisons. They approached the Oxford University psychologists about conducting such a study to assess the benefits, though the study was designed, analysed and published independently of the Trust.The Oxford University researchers, along with colleagues from King’s College London, the University of Surrey and Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, report their findings in the Journal of Psychiatric Research.Prisons see rates of mental health problems that are many times higher than the general population, and high levels are often recorded of personal distress, aggression, antisocial behaviour and drug and alcohol abuse among prisoners.Yoga and meditation have been shown be beneficial in reducing anxiety, depression and improving mood in other areas and settings, so the Oxford researchers carried out an initial exploratory study to look at a range of possible benefits of yoga among prisoners.Inmates of a range of ages were recruited from five category B and C prisons, a women’s prison and a young offender institution, all in the West Midlands, and were randomly assigned to either a course of ten weekly yoga sessions of 90 minutes run by the Prison Phoenix Trust, or to a control group.In sessions with the researchers before and after the yoga course, all the prisoners completed standard psychology questionnaires measuring mood, stress, impulsivity and mental wellbeing. A computer test to measure attention and the participant’s ability to control his or her responses to an on-screen cue was also used after the yoga course.If yoga is associated with improving behaviour control, as suggested by the results of the computer test, there may be implications for managing aggression, antisocial or problem behaviour in prisons and on return to society, the researchers note — though this is not measured in this initial study.Dr Bilderbeck, who practices yoga herself, cautions: ‘We’re not saying that organising a weekly yoga session in a prison is going to suddenly turn prisons into calm and serene places, stop all aggression and reduce reoffending rates. We’re not saying that yoga will replace standard treatment of mental health conditions in prison. But what we do see are indications that this relatively cheap, simple option might have multiple benefits for prisoners’ wellbeing and possibly aid in managing the burden of mental health problems in prisons.’Sam Settle, director of the Prison Phoenix Trust, says: ‘Almost half of adult prisoners return to prison within a year, having created more victims of crime, so finding ways to offset the damaging effects of prison life is essential for us as a society. This research confirms what prisoners have been consistently telling the Prison Phoenix Trust for 25 years: yoga and meditation help them feel better, make better decisions and develop the capacity to think before acting — all essential in leading positive, crime-free lives once back in the community.’

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Some parents want their child to redeem their broken dreams

June 19, 2013 — Some parents desire for their children to fulfill their own unrealized ambitions, just as psychologists have long theorized, according to a new first-of-its-kind study.Researchers found the more that parents see their child as part of themselves, the more likely they are to want their child to succeed in achieving their own failed dreams.The results might help explain the actions of so-called “stage moms” or “sports dads” who push their sometimes-unwilling children to become stars of the stage or gridiron, said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.”Some parents see their children as extensions of themselves, rather than as separate people with their own hopes and dreams,” Bushman said.”These parents may be most likely to want their children to achieve the dreams that they themselves have not achieved.”The study was led by Eddie Brummelman of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. It appears online today (6/19) in the journal PLOS ONE.The results, while not surprising, had not previously been the subject of empirical research, Bushman said.”Right from the beginning of psychology, there have been theories that parents transfer their own broken dreams onto their children,” he said. “But it really hasn’t been experimentally tested until now.”The study, conducted in the Netherlands, involved 73 parents (89 percent mothers) of a child aged 8 to 15.Parents first completed a scale designed to measure how much they saw their children as part of themselves — from completely separate to nearly the same. This scale is commonly used in psychology, and has been found to be very reliable, Bushman said.The participants were then randomly separated into two groups. In one group, the parents listed two ambitions they had not been able to achieve in their lives, and wrote about why these ambitions were important to them. The other group completed a similar exercise, but focused on an acquaintance’s ambitions rather than their own.Some of the dreams that eluded parents included becoming a professional tennis player, writing a published novel and starting a successful business.Now that the parents were thinking about unfulfilled ambitions, they were asked several questions that probed their desire to have their child achieve their own lost dreams. For example, they were asked how strongly they agreed with statements like “I hope my child will reach goals that I wasn’t able to reach.”Results showed that parents who reflected on their own lost dreams (as compared to those of acquaintances) were more likely to want their children to fulfill them — but only if they felt strongly that their child was a part of themselves.Moreover, those who felt strongly that their child was a part of themselves were much more likely to want their children to fulfill their dreams — but only when they were asked to write about their own unfulfilled ambitions, as opposed to those of acquaintances. (The researchers asked some participants to write about acquaintances to be sure that thinking about one’s own unfulfilled ambitions was the key issue and not thinking about unfulfilled ambitions in general.)Bushman said it was significant that parents who see their children as part of themselves were the ones who transferred their dreams onto their offspring.”Parents then may bask in the reflected glory of their children, and lose some of the feelings of regret and disappointment that they couldn’t achieve these same goals,” he said. “They might be living vicariously through their children.”Future research will be needed to determine how this desire of parents for their children to fulfill their dreams may impact the mental health of their offspring, Bushman said.Other co-authors of the study included Sander Thomaes of Utrecht University and the University of Southampton; and Meike I. Slagt, Geertjan Overbeek and Bram Orobio de Castro of Utrecht University.

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Severe maternal complications less common during home births, study suggests

June 14, 2013 — Women with low risk pregnancies who choose to give birth at home have a lower risk of severe complications than women who plan a hospital birth, finds a new study.However, the authors stress that the overall risk of severe problems is small and the results are significant only for women who have previously given birth — not for first-time mums.The relative safety of planned home births is a topic of continuous debate, but studies have so far been too small to compare severe maternal complications between planned home and planned hospital birth among low risk women.Of all Western countries, the Netherlands has the highest percentage of home births, assisted by a primary care midwife.So a team of Dutch researchers decided to test whether low risk women at the onset of labour with planned home birth have a higher rate of rare but severe outcomes (known as severe acute maternal morbidity or SAMM) than those with planned hospital births.This was defined as admission to an intensive care unit, uterine rupture, eclampsia or major obstetric haemorrhage (requiring a large blood transfusion). Other adverse complications included postpartum haemorrhage (severe loss of blood after delivery) and manual removal of the placenta. Using data from a national study into maternal morbidity and national birth registry data from 1 August 2004 to 1 August 2006, they identified over 146,000 low risk women in primary care at the onset of labour.Results were adjusted for several factors including gestational age, maternal age, ethnic background and socioeconomic status.Of the 146,752 women included in the study, 92,333 (63%) had a planned home birth and 54,419 (37%) a planned hospital birth.For women having their first baby (nulliparous women), the rate of severe outcomes for a planned home birth was 2.3 per 1000 compared with 3.1 per 1000 for a planned hospital birth. The rate of postpartum haemorrhage was 43.1 per 1000 for a planned home compared with 43.3 per 1000 for a planned hospital birth.For women who had previously given birth (parous women), the rate of severe outcomes for a planned home birth was 1 per 1000 compared with 2.3 per 1000 for a planned hospital birth. The rate of postpartum haemorrhage was 19.6 per 1000 for a planned home compared with 37.6 per 1000 for a planned hospital birth.Adverse outcomes were less common among planned home births than among planned hospital births but differences were only statistically significant for women who had previously given birth.The researchers emphasise that their findings may only apply to regions where midwives are well trained to assist women at home births and where facilities for transfer of care and transportation in case of emergencies are adequate.However, they say the fact that they did not find higher rates of severe complications among planned home births “should not lead to complacency” and that “every avoidable adverse maternal outcome is one too many.”Overall, they conclude: “Low risk women in primary care with planned home birth at the onset of labour had a lower rate of severe acute maternal morbidity, postpartum haemorrhage, and manual removal of placenta than those with planned hospital birth. These differences were statistically significant for parous women.”

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Listening to music while driving has very little effect on driving performance, study suggests

June 6, 2013 — Most drivers enjoy listening to the radio or their favourite CD while driving. Many of them switch on the radio without thinking. But is this safe? Experiments carried out by environment and traffic psychologist Ayça Berfu Ünal suggest that it makes very little difference. In fact the effects that were measured turned out to be positive. Music helps drivers to focus, particularly on long, monotonous roads. Ünal will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 10 June 2013.Experienced motorists between 25 and 35 years of age are perfectly capable of focusing on the road while listening to music or the radio, even when driving in busy urban traffic. Ünal makes short shrift of the commonly held idea that motorists who listen to music drive too fast or ignore the traffic regulations. Ünal: ‘I found nothing to support this view in my research. On the contrary, our test subjects enjoyed listening to the music and did their utmost to be responsible drivers. …

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Building 3-D fractals on a nano scale

May 31, 2013 — It starts with one 3D structure with eight planes, an octahedron. This repeats itself to smaller octahedra: 625 after just four steps. At every corner of a new octahedron, a successive octahedron is formed. A truly fascinating 3D fractal ‘building’ is formed on the micro and nano scale. It can be used for high performance filtering, for example.Share This:Scientists of the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology of the University of Twente in The Netherlands present these structures in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering (JMM).A fractal is a geometric structure that can repeat itself towards infinity. Zooming in on a fragment of it, the original structure becomes visible again. A major advantage of a 3D fractal is that the effective surface rises with every next step. Looking at the octahedra, after four steps the final structure is not much bigger than the original octahedron, but the effective surface has been multiplied by 6.5. The smallest octahedra are 300 nanometers in size, with on every corner a nano pore of 100 nanometer. Having 625 of these nano pores on a limited surface area, a very effective filer with low flow resistance is formed. …

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Bee and wild flower biodiversity loss slows

May 22, 2013 — Declines in the biodiversity of pollinating insects and wild plants have slowed in recent years, according to a new study.

Researchers led by the University of Leeds and the Naturalis Biodiversity Centre in the Netherlands found evidence of dramatic reductions in the diversity of species in Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands between the 1950s and 1980s.

But the picture brightened markedly after 1990, with a slowdown in local and national biodiversity losses among bees, hoverflies and wild plants.

Professor Bill Kunin, Professor of Ecology at the University of Leeds, said: “Most observers have been saying that the 1992 Rio Earth Summit targets to slow biodiversity loss by 2010 failed, but what we are seeing is a significant slowing or reversal of the declines for wild plants and their insect pollinators.

“These species are important to us. About a third of our food production, including most of our fruit and vegetables, depends on animal pollination and we know that most crop pollination is done by wild pollinators. Biodiversity is important to ensuring we don’t lose that service. Relying on a few species could be risky in a changing environment,” he added.

The study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, found a 30 per cent fall in local bumblebee biodiversity in all three countries between the 1950s and the 1980s. However, that decline slowed to an estimated 10 per cent in Britain by 2010, while in Belgium and the Netherlands bumblebee diversity had stabilised.

The picture was better for other wild bees, with an 8 per cent reduction in diversity in the Netherlands and a stable picture in Great Britain turning into significant increases (7 per cent in the Netherlands and 10 per cent in Britain) over the past 20 years. While these solitary bees continued to decline in Belgium, hoverfly diversity improved there, shifting from stable diversity in the 1980s to significant (20 per cent) increases in recent decades. British wildflower diversity had declined about 20 per cent from the 1950s to the 1980s, but again the declines have ceased in the past 20 years.

Not all groups fared so well. Butterfly diversity continued to fall in all three countries at roughly the same rates as in the past.

Dr Luisa Carvalheiro, lead author on the paper, said: “It is possible that by 1990 the most sensitive species had already gone. However, that’s probably not the whole story, as there are still plenty of rare and vulnerable species present in recent records.

“There is a much more encouraging possibility: the conservation work and agri-environment programs paying farmers to encourage biodiversity may be having an effect. We may also be seeing a slowdown of the drivers of decline. The postwar emphasis on getting land into production and on more intensive farming has given way to a more stable situation in which the rate of landscape change has slowed and in which agrichemical excesses are regulated.

Dr Carvalheiro said: “If what we take from the Rio targets is that the investment in conservation gave us no results, then that is a counsel of despair. This study brings a positive message for conservation. But some important groups are undoubtedly still declining, so continued and increased investment in conservation practices is essential for guaranteeing the persistence of a diverse assemblage of species.”

Co-author Professor Koos Biesmeijer, who works both at the University of Leeds and Naturalis, said: “This paper builds on a widely-publicised study we published in 2006 that established that the diversity of bees and of wildflowers had declined. Our new work is based on a much bigger dataset and improved analytic methods, and it reveals much more detail about the scale and timing of biodiversity losses.

“However, while we can use biodiversity records to measure changes in the diversity of pollinators, we can’t tell what’s happening to their overall abundance or to the quality of the pollination services they provide to wildflowers or agricultural crops. To study these issues would require a long-term monitoring programme.”

The research team, including scientists from 18 institutions in Europe and the United States, used historical and contemporary records of species’ presence held by organizations including the European Invertebrate Survey, Butterfly Conservation, the Bees Wasps and Ants Recording Society, the INBO Research Institute for Nature and Forest in Belgium and the University of Mons, Belgium.

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