New research at the University of Adelaide has opened the way for the development of new lines of barley with resistance to powdery mildew.In Australia, annual barley production is second only to wheat with 7-8 million tonnes a year. Powdery mildew is one of the most important diseases of barley.Senior Research Scientist Dr Alan Little and team have discovered the composition of special growths on the cell walls of barley plants that block the penetration of the fungus into the leaf.The research, by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls in the University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine in collaboration with the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Germany, will be presented at the upcoming 5th International Conference on Plant Cell Wall Biology and published in the journal New Phytologist.”Powdery mildew is a significant problem wherever barley is grown around the world,” says Dr Little. “Growers with infected crops can expect up to 25% reductions in yield and the barley may also be downgraded from high quality malting barley to that of feed quality, with an associated loss in market value.”In recent times we’ve seen resistance in powdery mildew to the class of fungicide most commonly used to control the disease in Australia. Developing barley with improved resistance to the disease is therefore even more important.”The discovery means researchers have new targets for breeding powdery mildew resistant barley lines.”Powdery mildew feeds on the living plant,” says Dr Little. “The fungus spore lands on the leaf and sends out a tube-like structure which punches its way through cell walls, penetrating the cells and taking the nutrients from the plant. The plant tries to stop this penetration by building a plug of cell wall material — a papillae — around the infection site. Effective papillae can block the penetration by the fungus.”It has long been thought that callose is the main polysaccharide component of papilla. But using new techniques, we’ve been able to show that in the papillae that block fungal penetration, two other polysaccharides are present in significant concentrations and play a key role.”It appears that callose acts like an initial plug in the wall but arabinoxylan and cellulose fill the gaps in the wall and make it much stronger.”In his PhD project, Jamil Chowdhury showed that effective papillae contained up to four times the concentration of callose, arabinoxylan and cellulose as cell wall plugs which didn’t block penetration.”We can now use this knowledge find ways of increasing these polysaccharides in barley plants to produce more resistant lines available for growers,” says Dr Little.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Adelaide. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.Read more
Kessler Foundation researchers have found that among persons with multiple sclerosis, self-generation may be influenced by variables such as task meaningfulness during learning and memory. They also found that type of task (functional versus laboratory) had a significant effect on memory. This is the first controlled investigation of therapeutic and patient-specific factors that supports the inclusion of self-generation in cognitive rehabilitation. The study was published in the January issue of Neuropsychological Rehabilitation: An International Journal.Yael Goverover, PhD, OT, is a Visiting Scientist at Kessler Foundation. She is an associate professor at New York University. Dr. Goverover is a recipient of the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research Fellowship award (Mary Switzer Award).The researchers studied two groups: 35 persons with MS who had moderate to severe learning and memory impairments (SEVERE-MS), and 35 persons with little to no impairment (MILD-MS). All the participants learned two types of tasks (functional everyday tasks and laboratory tasks), each in two learning conditions (Provided and Generated). Participants were required to recall the information immediately, 30 minutes, and 1 week following initial learning. Significantly more words were recalled from the generated condition, a finding that was consistent for both SEVERE-MS and MILD-MS. …Read more
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. …Read more
Oct. 16, 2013 — Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and other research facilities have contributed significantly towards a first explanation for the development of music. Contrary to what was previously suspected, music does not simply distract us when physically working hard by making the work seem a lot easier, but actually the music reduces the effort. This new insight permits on the one hand a conclusion to man’s historical development of music, and on the other hand provides an important impulse for the expansion of the therapeutical use of music.Certain genres of music like Blues and Gospel are, in their formation, directly linked to hard physical work. When the slaves toiled in the cotton fields, they sang. When chained prisoners chipped stones in the quarries, they sang, and incorporated the sounds of work into their music. When sportsmen and women want to achieve peak performance they often let themselves be driven by music and occasionally also fans singing and chanting.It has been suspected for a long time now that there must be a correlation between music and bodily exertion, but such a connection with music making has not yet been researched in more depth from a neuroscientific perspective. Up until now we assumed that being active with music would relieve the severely stressed from the self awareness of one’s own body — proprioception — so that the bodily response to the stress would be simply less clearly perceived. Scientist Tom Fritz is dubious about this simple explanation: “Does this effect of music actually result from the distraction of proprioceptive reactions?”To be able to clarify the question, the scientists developed series of tests in which three different fitness machines were used. In one of the first tests, there were always three participants using the fitness equipment and at the same time passively listening to music. …Read more
Aug. 28, 2013 — Teachers who practice “mindfulness” are better able to reduce their own levels of stress and prevent burnout, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (CIHM) at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center.The results of the study, led by Assistant Scientist Lisa Flook, were recently published in the journal Mind, Brain and Education.Mindfulness, a notion that stems from centuries-old meditative traditions and is now taught in a secular way, is a technique to heighten attention, empathy and other pro-social emotions through an awareness of thoughts, external stimuli, or bodily sensations such as breath.While teachers play a critical role in nurturing children’s well-being, progress in addressing teacher stress has been elusive. Stress and burnout among teachers is a major concern for school districts nationwide, affecting the quality of education and incurring increased costs in recruiting and sustaining teachers.For the study, a group of 18 teachers was recruited to take part in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, a well-established and well-studied method of mindfulness training. The project team adapted the MBSR training to fit the particular needs and time demands of elementary school teachers. It was among the first efforts to train teachers, in addition to students, in mindfulness techniques and to examine the effects of this training in the classroom.”We wanted to offer training to teachers in a format that would be engaging and address the concerns that were specifically relevant to their role as teachers,” says Flook, who has advanced degrees in education and psychology and whose primary interest is in exploring strategies to reduce stress and promote well-being in children and adolescents.The teachers who received the training were randomly assigned and asked to practice a guided meditation at home for at least 15 minutes per day. They also learned to use specific strategies for preventing and dealing with stressors in the classroom, such as “dropping in,” a term to describe the process of bringing attention to the sensations of breath and other physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions for brief periods of time. The training also included caring practices to bring kind awareness to their experiences, especially those that are challenging.One of the goals of the study was to evaluate outcomes using measures that could be affected by mindfulness training. The researchers found that those who received the mindfulness training displayed reductions in psychological stress, improvements in classroom organization and increases in self-compassion. In comparison, the group that did not receive the training showed signs of increased stress and burnout over the course of the school year. These results provide objective evidence that MBSR techniques are beneficial to teachers.”The most important outcome that we observed is the consistent pattern of results, across a range of self-report and objective measures used in this pilot study, that indicate benefits from practicing mindfulness,” says Flook, who also leads CIHM’s “Kindness Curriculum” study involving 4-year-old preschoolers.Madison teacher Elizabeth Miller discovered that mindfulness is a meditative technique that does not require “just sitting still and trying to observe your thoughts,” which she said was difficult for her. …Read more
Aug. 27, 2013 — In the Midwest, some people have a fear of encountering snapping turtles while swimming in local ponds, lakes and rivers. Now in a new study, a University of Missouri researcher has found that snapping turtles are surviving in urban areas as their natural habitats are being polluted or developed for construction projects. One solution is for people to stop using so many chemicals that are eventually dumped into the waterways, the scientist said.”Snapping turtles are animals that can live in almost any aquatic habitat as long as their basic needs for survival are met,” said Bill Peterman, a post-doctoral researcher in the Division of Biological Sciences at MU. “Unfortunately, suitable aquatic habitats for turtles are being degraded by pollution or completely lost due to development. We found that snapping turtles can persist in urbanized areas, despite the potential for more interaction with humans.”Peterman said that reducing negative inputs, such as waste and harmful chemicals, into waterways will help restore snapping turtles’ habitats. Engaging in this type of environmental action also will increase biodiversity in those habitats and improve the quality of life to all species that call those habitats home.However, even though turtles are living in urban areas, Peterman says people have nothing to fear.”Everyone has a snapping turtle story, but some are just too far-fetched and lead to false accusations,” Peterman said. “In reality, snapping turtles aren’t aggressive animals and won’t bite unless they are provoked. So, if you should happen to see one around your property, simply leave it alone and let it go about its business.”The study took place in the Central Canal that flows through urban Indianapolis; researchers used tracking devices on large snapping turtles to monitor turtle movements. Peterman and his colleagues found that snapping turtles used all parts of the Central Canal, but were particularly dependent upon forested areas.”While we didn’t study whether the snapping turtle populations were increasing or decreasing, we regularly saw hatchling and juvenile snapping turtles,” Peterman said. …Read more
Aug. 25, 2013 — Stem cell scientists at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre have discovered the gene GATA3 has a role in how blood stem cells renew themselves, a finding that advances the quest to expand these cells in the lab for clinical use in bone marrow transplantation, a procedure that saves thousands of lives every year.Share This:The research, published online today in Nature Immunology, provides an important piece in the puzzle of understanding the mechanisms that govern the blood stem cell self-renewal process, says principal investigator Norman Iscove, Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret, University Health Network (UHN). Dr. Iscove is also an investigator at UHN’s McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine and a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.”Researchers have known for a long time that stem cells can increase their numbers in the body through self-renewal; however, it has proven very difficult to establish conditions for self-renewal in the laboratory,” says Dr. Iscove. Indeed, he explains, the quest to do so has been a holy grail for stem cell researchers because the very effectiveness, safety and availability of the transplantation procedure depend on the number of stem cells available to transplant.In the lab and using genetically engineered mice, the Iscove team zeroed in on GATA3 and determined that interfering with its function causes stem cells to increase their self-renewal rate and thereby results in increased numbers of stem cells. Dr. Iscove expects scientists will be able to use this new information to improve their ability to grow increased numbers of blood stem cells for use in bone marrow transplantation and possibly, gene therapy.Dr. Iscove’s research is a new page in the growing volume of stem cell science that began here in 1961 with the ground-breaking discovery of blood-forming stem cells by Drs. James Till and the late Ernest McCulloch. …Read more
Aug. 22, 2013 — In the aftermath of a heart attack, cells within the region most affected shut down. They stop beating. And they become entombed in scar tissue. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have demonstrated that this damage need not be permanent — by finding a way to transform the class of cells that form human scar tissue into those that closely resemble beating heart cells.Last year, these scientists transformed scar-forming heart cells, part of a class of cells known as fibroblasts, into beating heart-muscle cells in live mice. And in the latest issue of Stem Cell Reports, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Cardiovascular and Stem Cell Research Director Deepak Srivastava, MD, reveal that they have done the same to human cells in a petri dish.”Fibroblasts make up about 50% of all cells in the heart and therefore represent a vast pool of cells that could one day be harnessed and reprogrammed to create new muscle,” said Dr. Srivastava, who is also a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. “Our findings here serve as a proof of concept that human fibroblasts can be reprogrammed successfully into beating heart cells.”In 2012, Dr. Srivastava and his team reported in the journal Nature that fibroblasts could be reprogrammed into beating heart cells by injecting just three genes, together known as GMT, into the hearts of live mice that had been damaged by a heart attack. They reasoned that the same three genes could have the same effect on human cells. …Read more
June 27, 2013 — On São Miguel Island in the Azores, there used to exist a small, nocturnal bird of prey, related to the European scops owl, named Otus frutuosoi, which was very probably driven to extinction with the arrival of the first settlers in the 15th century. An international study, in which Spanish researchers participated, has for the first time identified fossils of this species endemic to the island.On 28 August 2011 researchers Juan Carlos Rando, from the University of La Laguna (Tenerife), and Josep Antoni Alcover from the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies in Mallorca unearthed some small fossil bones buried not far below the ground of the Água de Pau cave (São Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal).Two years later, an article published by the journal Zootaxa has revealed that the remains found belong to an extinct species of scops owl which has been given the name Otus frutuosoi in honour of the 16th-century Azorean historian Gaspar Frutuoso.Carbon dating the fossils indicates that they are from 1,970 years ago. The hypothesis entertained by the researchers is that the arrival of human beings to the archipelago in the 15th century changed its ecosystem and caused the extinction of the species.”Humans have a history of changing island ecosystems. When humans arrived on the island mice started to appear and laurisilva — a type of humid forest — was destroyed. This surely played a large part in the extinction of the São Miguel scops owl,” Alcover explains.Scops owls are nocturnal birds of prey, and this new species in particular is phylogenetically related to the Otus scops, or European scops owl, which with a length of 20 cm is the smallest nocturnal bird of prey on the Iberian Peninsular.It is calculated that the wing surface of the Otus frutuosoi measured a maximum of 114 cm2, at least 33% less than the European scops owl, and although its legs were 11.6% longer, “the appearance of its body was more squat,” according to the experts.”The body of the extinct scops owl of the Azores was shorter and wider than that of its modern-day European relatives. Its beak was short and small, similar to that of the nightjar. Having long legs and very short wings, it must have been a very poor flyer and thus more of a land-dwelling bird,” the scientist points out.The second extinct scops owl on North Atlantic islandsA year ago, the same team of scientists documented another extinct bird of the same genus, although bigger, in Madeira: the Otus mauli.Due to its anatomical features, the scientists believe that the Otus frutuosoi was an insectivore and must have lived on the ground of the laurisilva, where it would have found food and protection.Otus frutuosoi remains have only been found on São Miguel Island in the Azores, therefore it is considered endemic to the island, although the authors do not discount the possibility of finding more fossils of the same species or other similar ones in various parts of the archipelago.”The discovery of endemic scops owls in Azores and Madeira indicates that on occasions atmospheric conditions have occurred that have dragged these birds with them. Some reached safe land, where they survived and developed in isolated conditions, and new species formed,” concludes Alcover.Read more
June 13, 2013 — Researchers from the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of Illinois, evaluating the biomass potential of woody crops, are taking a closer look at the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), which showed a higher yield and a faster harvest time than other woody plant species that they evaluated, said U of I associate professor of crop sciences Gary Kling.”For now the only thing you can do with it is use it for direct combustion,” Kling said. “But if it becomes a major crop other researchers could start working on the process of how to break it down,” he said. “The EBI is working on how to get the sugars out of plants and how to turn those to alcohols. It is a very tough thing to do. It’s typically been tough to break down the biomass in woody plants to make it useful for alcohol production. Our plan is to be able to take anything we grow and convert it into a drop-in fuel.”Kling said he and his team’s role in the EBI’s feedstock production/agronomy program, is to improve the production aspects of bioenergy crops. While other researchers in the program have evaluated miscanthus, switchgrass, and prairie cord grass, Kling is examining which short-rotation woody crops grow best in the Midwest.”Robinia pseudoacacia is showing great potential as a biomass crop for Midwestern energy production, out-yielding the next closest species by nearly three-fold,” Kling said. “We picked the best crops and moved those forward. Other crops may catch up, but black locust was the fastest out of the gate. We will pursue other crops as well for a number of years, but we want to move to the next step which is on to improved selections.”As part of the initial study, two-year old seedlings were planted in the spring of 2010, grown over the summers of 2010 and 2011, and were then coppiced in the winter of 2011-2012. …Read more
June 11, 2013 — A team of NIH-supported researchers is the first to show, in mice, an unexpected two-step process that happens during the growth and regeneration of inner ear tip links. Tip links are extracellular tethers that link stereocilia, the tiny sensory projections on inner ear hair cells that convert sound into electrical signals, and play a key role in hearing. The discovery offers a possible mechanism for potential interventions that could preserve hearing in people whose hearing loss is caused by genetic disorders related to tip link dysfunction. The work was supported by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a component of the National Institutes of Health.The findings appear in the June 11, 2013 online edition of PLoS Biology. The senior author of this study is Gregory I. Frolenkov, an associate professor in the College of Medicine at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, and his fellow, Artur A. Indzhykulian, Ph.D., is the lead author.Stereocilia are bundles of bristly projections that extend from the tops of sensory cells, called hair cells, in the inner ear. Each stereocilia bundle is arranged in three neat rows that rise from lowest to highest like stair steps. Tip links are tiny thread-like strands that link the tip of a shorter stereocilium to the side of the taller one behind it. When sound vibrations enter the inner ear, the stereocilia, connected by the tip links, all lean to the same side and open special channels, called mechanotransduction channels. …Read more
June 11, 2013 — Newly formed stars shine brightly, practically crying out, “Hey, look at me!” But not everything in our Milky Way galaxy is easy to see. The bulk of material between the stars in the galaxy — the cool hydrogen gas from which stars spring — is nearly impossible to find.A new study from the Hershel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation, is shining a light on these hidden pools of gas, revealing their whereabouts and quantities. In the same way that dyes are used to visualize swirling motions of transparent fluids, the Herschel team has used a new tracer to map the invisible hydrogen gas.The discovery reveals that the reservoir of raw material for making stars had been underestimated before — almost by one third — and extends farther out from our galaxy’s center than known before.”There is an enormous additional reservoir of material available to form new stars that we couldn’t identify before,” said Jorge Pineda of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of a new paper on the findings published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.”We had to go to space to solve this mystery because our atmosphere absorbs the specific radiation we wanted to detect,” said William Langer of JPL, principal investigator of the Herschel project to map the gas. “We also needed to see far-infrared light to pinpoint the location of the gas. For both these reasons, Herschel was the only telescope for the job.”Stars are created from clouds of gas, made of hydrogen molecules. The first step in making a star is to squeeze gas together enough that atoms fuse into molecules. The gas starts out sparse but, through the pull of gravity and sometimes other constricting forces, it collects and becomes denser. When the hydrogen gets dense enough, nuclear fusion takes place and a star is born, shining with starlight.Astronomers studying stars want to follow this journey, from a star’s humble beginnings as a cloud of molecules to a full-blown blazing orb. To do so requires mapping the distribution of the stellar hydrogen fuel across the galaxy. Unfortunately, most hydrogen molecules in space are too cold to give off any visible light. …Read more
June 6, 2013 — Researchers at the JC Self Research Institute of the Greenwood Genetic Center (GGC), along with collaborators from Biolog, Inc. in California, have reported an important discovery in the understanding of autism which was published this week in Molecular Autism.The study, led by GGC’s Director of Research, Charles Schwartz, PhD, (left) and Staff Scientist, Luigi Boccuto, MD, (right) found that individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) showed significantly decreased metabolism of the amino acid L-tryptophan when compared to both typical controls and individuals with other neurodevelopmental disorders. Cells from individuals with autism metabolized L-tryptophan at a decreased rate whereas cells from individuals without autism did not show this change.Researchers also measured the expression of genes that are known to be involved in L-tryptophan metabolism in a small subset of patients with autism and found they also expressed some of the genes at lower levels than those without autism.”The important and immediate implication of this work is the development of a simple, early blood screening test for autism by measuring the metabolism of L-tryptophan using Biolog’s technology,” shared Dr. Boccuto. Biolog’s assay method, called Phenotype MicroArray technology, allows researchers to measure the ability of cells to generate energy from various biochemical nutrients, including L-tryptophan.Currently there are no laboratory tests that can accurately diagnose ASDs, which are estimated to affect 1 in 50 school-aged children in the US. Current diagnosis depends upon a developmental evaluation and parent interviews and can often not be made prior to 2-3 years of age. “A screening, and eventually, a diagnostic blood test for autism would be of immense value to families,” explained Dr. Schwartz. “An early, accurate diagnosis is key to providing effective and timely therapies for these patients and their families.”Dr. Boccuto added, “We also see tremendous potential that these findings will aid in our understanding of the molecular and metabolic bases of autism. …Read more
Feb. 6, 2013 — Tai Chi may reduce falls among adult stroke survivors, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013.
Compared to survivors receiving usual care or participating in a national fitness program for Medicare-eligible adults called SilverSneakers®, those practicing Tai Chi had the fewest falls.
Tai Chi is a martial art dating back to ancient China. It includes physical movements, mental concentration and relaxed breathing.
“Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge,” said Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D., R.N., the study’s principal investigator and assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, Ariz. “Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls. Tai Chi is readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively inexpensive.”
Stroke survivors experience seven times as many falls each year than healthy adults, Taylor-Piliae said. These falls can cause fractures, decrease mobility and increase fear of falling that can result in social isolation or dependence. Tai Chi has significantly reduced falls in healthy older adults.
Researchers recruited 89 stroke survivors — most of whom had ischemic strokes — for a randomized prospective study outside of a hospital setting. Participants were an average 70 years old, 46 percent were women and most Caucasian, college educated and living in the Tucson area, and suffered a stroke on average three years prior to beginning the study.
Among the participants, 30 practiced Tai Chi, 28 took part in usual care and 31 participated in SilverSneakers®. The Tai Chi and SilverSneakers® groups participated in a one-hour exercise class three times each week for 12 weeks. The usual care group received a weekly phone call and written material about participating in community-based physical activity.
During the 12-week trial, there were a total of 34 reported falls in participants’ homes mainly from slipping or tripping: five falls in the Tai Chi group; 15 falls in the usual care group; and 14 falls in the Silver Sneakers group. Only four people sought medical treatment.
Yang-style Tai Chi, as practiced in the study, is the most popular of five styles used in the United States because of its emphasis on health benefits, both physical and psychosocial benefits, researchers said.
“The main physical benefits of Tai Chi are better balance, improved strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance,” Taylor-Piliae said. “Psycho-social benefits include less depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life.”
Co-authors are: Tiffany Hoke, R.N.; Bijan, Najafi, Ph.D.; and Bruce Coull, M.D. Author disclosures are on the abstract.
An American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars Grant funded the study.Read more
May 29, 2013 — New research published by an international team of psychologists has shown that people can suppress incriminating memories and thereby avoid detection in brain activity guilt detection tests.
Such tests, which are commercially available in the USA and are used by law enforcement agencies in several countries, including Japan and India, are based on the logic that criminals will have specific memories of their crime stored in their brain. Once presented with reminders of their crime in a guilt detection test, it is assumed that their brain will automatically and uncontrollably recognise these details, with the test recording the brain’s ‘guilty’ response.
However, research by psychologists at the universities of Kent, Magdeburg and Cambridge, and the Medical Research Council, has shown that, contrary to this core assumption, some people can intentionally and voluntarily suppress unwanted memories — in other words, control their brain activity, thereby abolishing brain activity related to remembering. This was demonstrated through experiments in which people who conducted a mock crime were later tested on their crime recognition while having their electrical brain activity measured. Critically, when asked to suppress their crime memories, a significant proportion of people managed to reduce their brain’s recognition response and appear innocent.
This finding has major implications for brain activity guilt detection tests, among the most important being that those using memory detection tests should not assume that brain activity is outside voluntary control, and any conclusions drawn on the basis of these tests need to acknowledge that it might be possible for suspects to intentionally suppress their memories of a crime and evade detection.
Dr Zara Bergstrom, Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Kent and principal investigator on the research, said: ‘Brain activity guilt detection tests are promoted as accurate and reliable measures for establishing criminal culpability. Our research has shown that this assumption is not always justified. Using these types of tests to say that someone is innocent of a crime is not valid because it could just be the case that the suspect has managed to hide their crime memories.’
Dr Michael Anderson, Senior Scientist at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, commented: ‘Interestingly, not everyone was able to suppress their memories of the crime well enough to beat the system. Clearly, more research is needed to identify why some people were much more effective than others.’
Dr Anderson’s group is presently trying to understand such individual differences with brain imaging.
Dr Jon Simons, of the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, added: ‘Our findings would suggest that the use of most brain activity guilt detection tests in legal settings could be of limited value. Of course, there could be situations where it is impossible to beat a memory detection test, and we are not saying that all tests are flawed, just that the tests are not necessarily as good as some people claim. More research is also needed to understand whether the results of this research work in real life crime detection.’Read more