ADFA Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia Business cards have arrived!

My ADFA Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia Inc business cards have arrived in the mail. I am now officially ADFA’s Social Media Voice and I’m very proud and honoured to be asked to take on this very important role and one that I am very passionate in getting the word out that there is no safe asbestos, asbestos kills. Helping via Social Media to create awareness, support and advocacy is a very powerful tool in today’s modern technology.Asbestos Diseases Foundation of Australia (ADFA) is a not-for profit organisation working to provide support to people living with asbestos related diseases, family members, carers and friends. ADFA is a community based group founded by Trade Unions, victims, families of victims, and concerned citizens to meet the needs …

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‘Lost in translation’ issues in Chinese medicine addressed by researchers

Millions of people in the West today utilize traditional Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, herbs, massage and nutritional therapies. Yet only a few U.S. schools that teach Chinese medicine require Chinese-language training and only a handful of Chinese medical texts have so far been translated into English.Given the complexity of the language and concepts in these texts, there is a need for accurate, high-quality translations, say researchers at UCLA’s Center for East-West Medicine. To that end, the center has published a document that includes a detailed discussion of the issues involved in Chinese medical translation, which is designed to help students, educators, practitioners, researchers, publishers and translators evaluate and digest Chinese medical texts with greater sensitivity and comprehension.”This publication aims to raise awareness among the many stakeholders involved with the translation of Chinese medicine,” said principal investigator and study author Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, founder and director of the UCLA center.The 15-page document, “Considerations in the Translation of Chinese Medicine” was developed and written by a UCLA team that included a doctor, an anthropologist, a China scholar and a translator. It appears in the current online edition of the Journal of Integrative Medicine.Authors Sonya Pritzker, a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner and anthropologist, and Hanmo Zhang, a China scholar, hope the publication will promote communication in the field and play a role in the development of thorough, accurate translations.The document highlights several important topics in the translation of Chinese medical texts, including the history of Chinese medical translations, which individuals make ideal translators, and other translation-specific issues, such as the delicate balance of focusing translations on the source-document language while considering the language it will be translated into.It also addresses issues of technical terminology, period-specific language and style, and historical and cultural perspective. For example, depending on historical circumstances and language use, some translations may be geared toward a Western scientific audience or, alternately, it may take a more natural and spiritual tone. The authors note that it is sometimes helpful to include dual translations, such as “windfire eye/acute conjunctivitis,” in order to facilitate a link between traditional Chinese medical terms and biomedical diagnoses.The final section of the document calls for further discussion and action, specifically in the development of international collaborative efforts geared toward the creation of more rigorous guidelines for the translation of Chinese medicine texts.”Considerations in the Translation of Chinese Medicine,” was inspired by the late renowned translator and scholar Michael Heim, a professor in the UCLA departments of comparative literature and Slavic studies. A master of 12 languages, he is best known for his translation into English of Czech author Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” The new UCLA document is dedicated to him.The document, the authors say, was influenced in large part by the American Council of Learned Societies’ “Guidelines for the Translation of Social Science Texts,” which are intended to promote communications in the social sciences across language boundaries. It was also influenced by Pritzker’s longstanding anthropological study of translation in Chinese medicine, which is detailed in her new book, “Living Translation: Language and the Search for Resonance in U.S. …

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Chronic stress in early life causes anxiety, aggression in adulthood, neurobiologists find

In recent years, behavioral neuroscientists have debated the meaning and significance of a plethora of independently conducted experiments seeking to establish the impact of chronic, early-life stress upon behavior — both at the time that stress is experienced, and upon the same individuals later in life, during adulthood.These experiments, typically conducted in rodents, have on the one hand clearly indicated a link between certain kinds of early stress and dysfunction in the neuroendocrine system, particularly in the so-called HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal), which regulates the endocrine glands and stress hormones including corticotropin and glucocorticoid.Yet the evidence is by no means unequivocal. Stress studies in rodents have also clearly identified a native capacity, stronger in some individuals than others, and seemingly weak or absent in still others, to bounce back from chronic early-life stress. Some rodents subjected to early life stress have no apparent behavioral consequences in adulthood — they are disposed neither to anxiety nor depression, the classic pathologies understood to be induced by stress in certain individuals.Today, a research team led by Associate Professor Grigori Enikolopov of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) reports online in the journal PLoS One the results of experiments designed to assess the impacts of social stress upon adolescent mice, both at the time they are experienced and during adulthood. Involving many different kinds of stress tests and means of measuring their impacts, the research indicates that a “hostile environment in adolescence disturbs psychoemotional state and social behaviors of animals in adult life,” the team says.The tests began with 1-month-old male mice — the equivalent, in human terms of adolescents — each placed for 2 weeks in a cage shared with an aggressive adult male. The animals were separated by a transparent perforated partition, but the young males were exposed daily to short attacks by the adult males. This kind of chronic activity produces what neurobiologists call social-defeat stress in the young mice. These mice were then studied in a range of behavioral tests.”The tests assessed levels of anxiety, depression, and capacity to socialize and communicate with an unfamiliar partner,” explains Enikolopov. These experiments showed that in young mice chronic social defeat induced high levels of anxiety helplessness, diminished social interaction, and diminished ability to communicate with other young animals. Stressed mice also had less new nerve-cell growth (neurogenesis) in a portion of the hippocampus known to be affected in depression: the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus.Another group of young mice was also exposed to social stress, but was then placed for several weeks in an unstressful environment. Following this “rest” period, these mice, now old enough to be considered adults, were tested in the same manner as the other cohort.In this second, now-adult group, most of the behaviors impacted by social defeat returned to normal, as did neurogenesis, which retuned to a level seen in healthy controls. …

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Bees capable of learning feats with tasty prize in sight

They may have tiny brains, but bumblebees are capable of some remarkable learning feats, especially when they might get a tasty reward, according to two studies by University of Guelph researchers.PhD student Hamida Mirwan and Prof. Peter Kevan, School of Environmental Sciences, are studying bees’ ability to learn by themselves and from each other.In the first study, published in February in Animal Cognition, the researchers found bees capable of learning to solve increasingly complex problems.The researchers presented bees with a series of artificial flowers that required ever-more challenging strategies, such as moving objects aside or upwards, to gain a sugar syrup reward.When inexperienced bees encountered the most complex flower first, they were unable to access the syrup reward and stopped trying. Bees allowed to progress through increasingly complex flowers were able to navigate the most difficult ones.”Bees with experience are able to solve new problems that they encounter, while bees with no experience just give up,” said Mirwan.She and Kevan consider the study an example of scaffold learning, a concept normally restricted to human psychology in which learners move through increasingly complex steps.In a second study recently published in Psyche,the researchers found bees learned by watching and communicating with other bees, a process called social learning.Mirwan made artificial flowers requiring the bees to walk on the underside of a disk to get a sugar syrup reward. These experienced bees foraged on the artificial flowers for several days until they became accustomed to feeding at them.To see whether other bees could learn from the experienced foragers, Mirwan confined inexperienced bees in a mesh container near the artificial flowers where they could observe the experienced bees. When the nave bees were allowed to forage on the artificial flowers, they took just 70 seconds to get the reward.Control bees that had not observed the experienced bees could not access the syrup.”Social learning in animals usually involves one individual observing and imitating another, although other kinds of communication can also be involved,” said Mirwan.”They could try for up to 30 minutes, but most gave up before then.”In a final test, Mirwan placed experienced bees in a hive with naive bees. When the naive bees were allowed to forage on the artificial flowers, they gained the syrup in just 3.5 minutes.Behavioural scientists usually assume that observation and imitation are at the heart of social learning, but social insects such as bees can also transmit information through touch, vibration and smell.The researchers said the communication method used by the bees is still a mystery.”We can’t quite explain how bees that had never even seen an artificial flower were able to become adept so quickly at foraging on them, but clearly some in-hive communication took place,” said Kevan.”It suggests that social learning in bumblebees is even more complex than we first expected.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Guelph. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Preserving large carnivores in ecosystem requires multifaceted approach

Carnivore management is not just a numbers game, Virginia Tech wildlife scientists assert in response to an article in the Jan. 10 issue of the journal Science that urged “minimum population densities be maintained for persistence of large carnivores, biodiversity, and ecosystem structure.””This type of approach may fail in social carnivore species,” said Kathleen Alexander, an associate professor of fisheries and wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. “Predator management is incredibly complex and we need to be extremely cautious in applying blanket approaches which rely on securing some target number or density of individuals in an ecosystem.”The research-based argument appears in a letter in the March 14 issue of Science and an article abstract in the October 2013 issue of the journal Population Ecology.”Life history strategy, including number of offspring, lifespan, diet, and behavior that evolves from ecological pressures of the species in question should also guide management approaches,” wrote Alexander and Claire E. Sanderson, a postdoctoral associate in fisheries and wildlife conservation, in the Science letter.The research published in Population Ecology evaluated 45 solitary and social medium and large carnivore species and their key life history attributes, population trends, and identified the presence of factors that increase the potential for extinction.Disturbingly, 73 percent of carnivore species — both social and solitary — were declining, observed Sanderson, Sarah Jobbins, also a postdoctoral associate, and Alexander.”Social carnivores appeared to be particularly vulnerable with 45 percent threatened by infectious disease but only 3 percent of solitary carnivores similarly impacted,” they report. “In this, increased contact between individuals, disease-related mortality, and loss of individuals below some critical threshold seems to be the issue, pushing social carnivores closer to the brink of extinction.”Reporting on their research on social carnivores, Sanderson, Jobbins, and Alexander said in the article, “Highly cohesive social species, like African wild dog, require strict participation from all group members … in all areas of life, including predator avoidance, reproductive success, hunting, and survivorship. This life-history strategy can result in enhanced fitness benefits for the group, but also a higher critical threshold for extinction.””The number of individuals in the group then becomes the critical factor influencing population persistence,” said Sanderson.For example, rabies and distemper have caused local extinction of African wild dog in regions of Africa. Even in a large population, transmission of an infectious disease from only a few infected individuals can result in sufficient mortality to push groups below a critical threshold, ultimately threatening population persistence, the researchers report.It has been found in certain ecosystems that when wild dog packs are reduced to less than four individuals, they may be unable to rear pups because of trade-offs between specialized roles, such as pup guarding and hunting.”While aggregation of conspecifics may be beneficial for reproduction, hunting, and vigilance, social living is a disadvantage when it comes to transmission of disease,” according to Alexander’s research.Also a wildlife veterinarian, she cofounded the Centre for Conservation of African Resources: Animals, Communities and Land Use, in Kasane, Botswana and has been conducting research in Africa since the late 1980s.”Failure to consider the impacts of group dynamics may result in underestimation of critical threshold population sizes or densities required for population persistence,” Sanderson, Jobbins, and Alexander write.Alexander and Sanderson conclude in their letter in Science, “We urge consideration of life-history strategy and social behavior in the development of carnivore management strategy.”

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Husband’s health, attitude loom large for happy long-term marriages

A husband’s agreeable personality and good health appear crucial to preventing conflict among older couples who have been together a long time, according to a study from University of Chicago researchers.The report found that such characteristics in wives play less of a role in limiting marital conflict, perhaps because of different expectations among women and men in durable relationships.”Wives report more conflict if their husband is in poor health,” said the study’s lead author, James Iveniuk, PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology. “If the wife is in poor health, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in terms of the quality of the marriage for the husband.”The study, “Marital Conflict in Older Couples: Positivity, Personality, and Health,” reports results from a national survey with data analyzed from 953 heterosexual couples who were married or cohabitating. The study participants ranged in age from 63 to 90 years old and the average length of their relationships was 39 years.The survey of older adults participating in the National Social Life Health and Aging Project, funded by the National Institute on Aging, compared the characteristics of the husbands to the characteristics of their wives and vice versa based on interviews with each person in which they were asked to describe themselves.Iveniuk and co-authors found many gender differences when they examined personality traits including openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and anxiety. They added a new measure called “positivity,” an overarching characteristic described as a person’s overall desire to be seen in a positive light. “Wives whose husbands show higher levels of positivity reported less conflict. However, the wives’ positivity had no association with their husbands’ reports of conflict,” Iveniuk said.Co-author Linda J. Waite, Lucy Flower Professor of Urban Sociology and director of the Center on Aging at NORC, says the study’s measurement of marital conflict could be summarized as, “How much does your spouse bother you?” The clashes are not primarily about fighting or violence, but rather whether one spouse criticizes the other, makes too many demands, or generally gets on the other person’s nerves.Another finding is that men who describe themselves as neurotic or extraverts tend to have wives who complain more about the quality of the marriage. Men with self-described neurotic wives may consider worrying to be a more “gender-appropriate” role for women. Husbands reported more criticism and demands from their wives overall, but also higher levels of emotional support.”Several previous studies have been about the implications of marital status on health,” Waite says. “This research allows us to examine individual marriages and not ‘married people.’ We have the reports on the quality of the marriage from each person, about their own personality and their own health.”The researchers suggest that future studies might examine the question of whether low levels of conflict in marriages require not only the absence of frustrating factors, such as poor health and negative traits, but also a better balance of emotional responsibilities between husbands and wives. …

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Can the solution to climate change help eliminate poverty?

It is clear that climate change and poverty are two separate problems that affect all corners of the world, but can the solution to one help eliminate the other? Richard Munang and Jessica Andrews, authors of “Harnessing Ecosystem-Based Adaptation: To Address the Social Dimensions of Climate Change,” published in Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development, think that we can.Ecosystem-Based Adaptation (EbA) is becoming more widely recognized as a possible solution to addressing climate change. “EbA is the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation to help people and communities adapt to the negative effects of climate change at local, regional, and global levels.” It works by providing sustainable social benefits for a local community within climate change adaptation practices. This idea understands the relationship and interconnectivity between many different facets of life; ecological, social/cultural, economic, and institutional.EbA is built to successfully implement sustained social and environmental achievements. Developing a community’s resilience in the face of climate change impacts improves the wellness of the entire ecosystem. “EbA can accelerate income gains, improve health, and secure food production, all while ensuring the sustainable development of local resources.” Munang and Andrews provide examples where this program has been successful. In Togo, Africa, EbA aided in the revitalization of water reservoirs, as well as cereal and vegetable production in the savannah region, directly benefiting women and youth groups. The extraordinary and integral component of this program is the collaboration between nongovernmental and civil society organizations (NGOs and CSOs, respectively) and the local community. This resulted in improved access to water, an array of social benefits, and a trained community competent to take an active role in future resilience efforts.However, there are some problems. The success of EbA depends largely on the involvement of the local community in the planning and implementation process, while also taking into consideration the overall political context and land use conflicts. …

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Access to social workers could keep veterans out of criminal justice system, researchers find

Approximately one in six veterans struggles with substance abuse, and 20 percent show signs of mental health issues or cognitive impairments, previous research has shown. These risk factors, combined with a lack of resources, could be contributing to an increase of veterans entering the criminal justice system, according to a report by the Center for Mental Health Services. Now, University of Missouri researchers have investigated ways social workers can address veterans’ needs and keep them out of jail.”Social workers are equipped to provide support to veterans through research, education, outreach and advocacy, which allows social workers to connect veterans with helpful resources rather than criminalizing them,” said Kelli Canada, assistant professor at the MU School of Social Work.According to Canada, social workers play key roles in veteran treatment courts that operate much like existing drug treatment and mental health courts, in which interdisciplinary teams address substance use, mental health concerns and legal issues. Rather than serving jail sentences for non-violent crimes, veterans are connected with teams that include social workers who are trained to assess individuals’ needs in the context of diverse environments. The social workers then work with veterans to develop multifaceted treatment plans tailored to their individual needs.”Veterans may be entering the criminal justice system for different reasons than the general public,” Canada said. “Barriers that prevent help-seeking, such as stigmas and lack of access to resources, may contribute to veterans being arrested. Social workers have the ability to recreate the narrative surrounding mental health and veterans in the criminal justice system and help to ensure that veterans get the assistance they need.”MU offers a military social work graduate certificate through the School of Social Work, which is housed in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. The certificate teaches strategies for working with military personnel and families and is available to graduate students and current social work practitioners with both online and on-campus options. The School of Social Work also houses the Center for Education and Research for Veterans and Military Families (CERV), which provides training to a variety of professionals on topics that address the particular needs of veterans and their families. Both the certificate and CERV are coordinated by David Albright, an assistant professor of social work at MU.”Social workers are often unaware of the many ways they can help veterans, so training centered around veterans’ issues is very important,” Canada said.The University of Missouri also provides support to veterans through the nationally-recognized MU Veterans Center, which connects military students, employees and families with resources. …

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The pain of social exclusion: Physical pain brain circuits activated by ‘social pain’

The distress caused by social stimuli (e.g., losing a friend, experiencing an injustice or more in general when a social bond is threatened) activates brain circuits related to physical pain: as observed in a study conducted by SISSA, this also applies when we experience this type of pain vicariously as an empathic response (when we see somebody else experiencing it).We would like to do without pain and yet without it we wouldn’t be able to survive. Pain signals dangerous stimuli (internal or external) and guides our behaviour. Its ultimate goal is to prioritize escape, recovery and healing. That’s why we feel it and why we’re also good at detecting it in others. Pain in fact protects not only the individual but also his social bonds. The brain contains circuits related to the more physical aspects of pain and others related to affective aspects. As observed in a study just published by Giorgia Silani, Giovanni Novembre and Marco Zanon of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, social pain activates some brain circuits of physical pain whether we feel it personally or when we experience it vicariously as an empathic response to other people’s pain.The study by Silani and colleagues is innovative since it adopted a more realistic experimental procedure than used in the past and compared behaviours and the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging in the same subjects, during tests involving both physical and social pain. “Classic experiments used a stylized procedure in which social exclusion situations were simulated by cartoons. We suspected that this simplification was excessive and likely to lead to systematic biases in data collection, so we used real people in videos.”The subjects took part in the experimental sessions simulating a ball tossing game, where one of the players was deliberately excluded by the others (condition of social pain). The player could be the subject herself or her assigned confederate. …

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Could PTSD involve immune cell response to stress? Study in mice raises question

Chronic stress that produces inflammation and anxiety in mice appears to prime their immune systems for a prolonged fight, causing the animals to have an excessive reaction to a single acute stressor weeks later, new research suggests.After the mice recovered from the effects of chronic stress, a single stressful event 24 days later quickly returned them to a chronically stressed state in biological and behavioral terms. Mice that had not experienced the chronic stress were unaffected by the single acute stressor.The study further showed that immune cells called to action as a result of chronic stress ended up on standby in the animals’ spleens and were launched from that organ to respond to the later stressor.Mice without spleens did not experience the same reactivation with the second stressor, signifying the spleen’s role as a reservoir for primed immune cells to remain until they’re activated in response to another stressor.The excessive immune response and anxiety initiated by a brief stressor mimic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.The Ohio State University scientists are cautious about extending their findings to humans. But they say their decade of work with this model of stress suggests that the immune system has a significant role in affecting behavior. And they are the first to study this re-establishment of anxiety in animals with a later acute stressor.“No one else has done a study of this length to see what happens to recovered animals if we subject them again to stress,” said Jonathan Godbout, a lead author of the study and associate professor of neuroscience at Ohio State. “That retriggering is a component of post-traumatic stress. The previously stressed mice are living a normal rodent life, and then this acute stress brings everything back. Animals that have never been exposed to stress before were unaffected by that one event – it didn’t change behavioral or physiological properties.”The research is published online in the journal Biological Psychiatry.These scientists previously determined that in mice with chronic stress, cells from the immune system were recruited to the brain and promoted symptoms of anxiety. The findings identified a subset of immune cells, called monocytes, that could be targeted by drugs for treatment of mood disorders – including, potentially, the recurrent anxiety initiated by stress that is a characteristic of PTSD.The research reveals new ways of thinking about the cellular mechanisms behind the effects of stress, identifying two-way communication from the central nervous system to the periphery – the rest of the body – and back to the central nervous system that ultimately influences behavior.“We haven’t proffered that there is a cellular component to PTSD, but there very well might be. And it’s very possible that it sits in the periphery as we’ve been describing in the mouse,” said John Sheridan, senior author of the study, professor of oral biology and associate director of Ohio State’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.In this model of stress, male mice living together are given time to establish a hierarchy, and then an aggressive male is added to the group for two hours at a time. The resident mice are repeatedly defeated, and this social defeat over six days leads to an inflammatory immune response and anxiety-like behavior.This kind of stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system and a commonly known fight-or-flight response. …

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Nothing so sweet as a voice like your own, study finds

Have you ever noticed that your best friends speak the same way? A new University of British Columbia study finds we prefer voices that are similar to our own because they convey a soothing sense of community and social belongingness.While previous research has suggested that we prefer voices that sound like they are coming from smaller women or bigger men, the new study — published today in the journal PLOS ONE — identifies a variety of other acoustic signals that we find appealing.”The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says lead author Molly Babel, a professor in the Department of Linguistics. “Very few things in our voices are immutable, so we felt that our preferences had to be about more than a person’s shape and size.”Aside from identifying the overwhelming allure of one’s own regional dialects, the study finds key gender differences. Among North Americans, it showed a preference for men who spoke with a shorter average word length. The researchers also found a preference for “larger” sounding male voices, a finding that supports previous research.For females, there was also a strong preference for breathier voices — a la Marilyn Monroe — as opposed to the creakier voices of the Kardashians or actress Ellen Page. The allure of breathiness — which typically results from younger and thinner vocal cords — relates to our cultural obsession with youthfulness and health, the researchers say. A creaky voice might suggest a person has a cold, is tired or smokes regularly.Babel says the findings indicate that our preference for voices aren’t all about body size and finding a mate, it is also about fitting in to our social groups.BackgroundBabel and her colleagues at the University of California, Santa Cruz asked college-aged participants in California to rate the attractiveness of male and female voices from people living west of the Mississippi River.They found that participants preferred different acoustic signals for males and females — and the strongest predictors of voice preference are specific to the community that you’re a part of.For example, the Californian participants had a strong preference for female voices that pronounced the “oo” vowel sound from a word like “goose” further forward in the mouth. This has been a characteristic of California speech since at least the early 1980’s. In many other regions of North America, people would pronounce the “oo” sound farther back in the mouth, as one might hear in the movie Fargo.The preference for males who had shorter average word length relates to a difference between how men and women speak. In North American English, longer average word length is a style typically used by women while shorter average word length is one used by men. …

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Frequent school moves can increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in early adolescence

Researchers at Warwick Medical School have shown that frequently changing schools during childhood can increase the risk of psychotic symptoms in later years.The study, published in American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that school mobility during childhood heightens the risk of developing psychotic-like symptoms in early adolescence by up to 60%.Suffering from psychotic-like symptoms at young age is strongly associated with mental health problems in adulthood, including psychotic disorders and suicide.Professor Swaran Singh, who led the study, explained, “Changing schools can be very stressful for students. Our study found that the process of moving schools may itself increase the risk of psychotic symptoms — independent of other factors. But additionally, being involved in bullying, sometimes as a consequence of repeated school moves, may exacerbate risk for the individual.”At the age of 12, participants in the study were interviewed to assess for the presence of psychotic-like symptoms including hallucinations, delusions and thought interference in the previous six months. Those that had moved school three or more times were found to be 60% more likely to display at least one definite psychotic symptom.The authors suggested that moving schools often may lead to feelings of low self-esteem and a sense of social defeat. This feeling of being excluded from the majority could also render physiological consequences leading to sensitisation of the mesolimbic dopamine system, heightening the risk of psychotic-like symptoms in vulnerable individuals.Dr Cath Winsper, Senior Research Fellow at Warwick Medical School and part of the study group said, “It’s clear that we need to keep school mobility in mind when clinically assessing young people with psychotic disorders. It should be explored as a matter of course as the impact can be both serious and potentially long lasting. Schools should develop strategies to help these students to establish themselves in their new environment.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Warwick. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Loneliness is a major health risk for older adults

Feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 percent, according to research by John Cacioppo, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.Cacioppo and his colleagues’ work shows that the impact of loneliness on premature death is nearly as strong as the impact of disadvantaged socioeconomic status, which they found increases the chances of dying early by 19 percent. A 2010 meta-analysis showed that loneliness has twice the impact on early death as does obesity, he said.Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at the University, joined other scholars at a seminar on “The Science of Resilient Aging” Feb. 16 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual meeting in Chicago.The researchers looked at dramatic differences in the rate of decline in physical and mental health as people age. Cacioppo and colleagues have examined the role of satisfying relationships on older people to develop their resilience, the ability to bounce back after adversity and grow from stresses in life.The consequences to health are dramatic, as feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, and increase depression and lower overall subjective well-being, Cacioppo pointed out in a talk, “Rewarding Social Connections Promote Successful Aging.”Cacioppo, one of the nation’s leading experts on loneliness, said older people can avoid the consequences of loneliness by staying in touch with former co-workers, taking part in family traditions, and sharing good times with family and friends — all of which gives older adults a chance to connect others about whom they care and who care about them.”Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers isn’t necessarily a good idea if it means you are disconnected from the people who mean the most to you,” said Cacioppo. Population changes make understanding the role of loneliness and health all the more important, he explained.”We are experiencing a silver tsunami demographically. The baby boomers are reaching retirement age. Each day between 2011 and 2030, an average of 10,000 people will turn 65,” he said. “People have to think about how to protect themselves from depression, low subjective well-being and early mortality.”Although some people are happy to be alone, most people thrive from social situations in which they provide mutual support and develop strong rapport. Evolution encouraged people to work together to survive and accordingly most people enjoy companionship over being alone.Research by Cacioppo and his colleagues has identified three core dimensions to healthy relationships — intimate connectedness, which comes from having someone in your life you feel affirms who you are; relational connectedness, which comes from having face-to-face contacts that are mutually rewarding; and collective connectedness, which comes from feeling that you’re part of a group or collective beyond individual existence.It is not solitude or physical isolation itself, but rather the subjective sense of isolation that Cacioppo’s work shows to be so profoundly disruptive. Older people living alone are not necessary lonely if they remain socially engaged and enjoy the company of those around them. …

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Another reason to not mix work, family: Money makes parenting less meaningful, study suggests

Money and parenting don’t mix. That’s according to new research that suggests that merely thinking about money diminishes the meaning people derive from parenting. The study is one among a growing number that identifies when, why, and how parenthood is associated with happiness or misery.”The relationship between parenthood and well-being is not one and the same for all parents,” says Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia. While this may seems like an obvious claim, social scientists until now have yet to identify the psychological and demographic factors that influence parental happiness.New research being presented today at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) conference in Austin offers not only insight into the link between money and parental well-being but also a new model for understanding a variety of factors that affect whether parents are happier or less happy than their childless counterparts.Money creates conflicting goalsFascinated by research suggesting that parenting is linked to lower well-being, Kushlev and his adviser Elizabeth Dunn sought to determine which aspects of life might influence how much pleasure and pain people got out of being parents. They specifically looked at the influence of wealth on meaning in parenthood.In one recently published study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, they found that a having a higher socioeconomic status lowers people’s sense of meaning while taking care of their children but not during other daily activities. In a field study in the same paper, they found that showing people images of money while filling out a questionnaire at a festival with their children also reduced their levels of meaning in life.In a new study, the researchers took the research a step further — showing some participants money while testing the influence of parents’ objectives when they were taking care of their children at a festival. The researchers asked one group of parents to read a paragraph about the festival in terms of productivity and achievement, while another group read about the festival in the context of satisfying the needs of their children with no expectation for direct return. They then surveyed both groups about parenting and sense of meaning. “This design allowed us to see whether money compromises meaning because of the conflict between the goals associated with money and the goals and the behaviors that parenting normally demands,” Kushlev says.They found that activating goals for both money-making and satisfying the needs of their children at the same time did indeed form a conflict: It made parents feel that what they were doing was less meaningful.Furthermore, they found this effect most pronounced in women. “Money seems to compromise meaning for mothers but not for fathers when they are spending time with their children,” Kushlev says. …

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Strategy that narrows academic achievement gap by 63 percent

Americans don’t like to talk about social class. But new research from Northwestern and Stanford universities suggests that, at least in college and university settings, they should do just that.An upcoming article in Psychological Science describes a novel one-hour intervention that closed by 63 percent the persistent academic achievement gap between first-generation college students and continuing-generation students. (Continuing-generation students are defined as those with at least one parent with a four-year college degree.)The key to the one-time intervention’s success was raising students’ awareness of the ways that social class shapes the college experience, according to Northwestern psychologist Nicole Stephens.”First-generation students earn lower grades, are at greater risk of dropping out and feel a greater sense of ‘not belonging’ when they transition to college, yet programs designed to help them usually leave out discussions of students’ social class backgrounds,” says Stephens, associate professor in Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.In “Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap,” lead author Stephens and co-authors MarYam Hamedani and Mesmin Destin outline the intervention they devised to help first-generation students successfully transition to college. Hamedani is associate director of Stanford University’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. Destin is assistant professor in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy and in its Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.The “difference-education intervention,” which took place at the beginning of the academic year, deliberately but subtly included discussions of the ways that students’ different social class backgrounds impacted their college experience. Researchers compared it to the “standard intervention” which, in contrast, avoided reference to social class.In both interventions, third- and fourth-year undergraduates from a wide variety of family backgrounds related personal stories about their own college adjustment to a group of incoming freshmen, some first-generation, some not.In the difference-education intervention, student panelists discussed obstacles to and strategies for college success that they linked to their different social class backgrounds. In the “standard intervention,” they discussed the same issues without talking about their family backgrounds.A panelist in the difference-education intervention said: “Because my parents didn’t go to college, they weren’t always able to provide me the advice I needed. So it was sometimes hard to figure out what classes to take and what I wanted to do in the future. But there are other people who can provide that advice, and I learned that I needed to rely on my adviser more than other students.”A panelist in the standard intervention also talked about the difficulty of choosing classes and of the need to rely on professors, mentors and other campus resources but did not mention her social class background.The effort to embrace instead of erase discussions of social class difference had significant long-term consequences. The difference-education intervention not only closed the social-class academic achievement gap by 63 percent but also improved first-generation students’ psychological adjustment to college.At the end of the academic year, they reported better outcomes on psychological well-being, social fit, perspective taking and appreciation of diversity than their peers in the standard intervention. …

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Matchmaking this Valentine’s Day: How it can bring you the most happiness

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you may be thinking of pairing up two friends for a date. If you follow your instinct to play Cupid, it’ll pay off in happiness — not necessarily for the new couple, but definitely for you.According to new research, matchmaking, a time-honored tradition, brings intrinsic happiness to the matchmaker. To maximize the psychological benefits of matchmaking, you should take care to introduce two people who not only seem compatible but who would be unlikely to meet otherwise, researchers say.”At some point, most people have made matches between others — like grabbing two strangers by the arm at a party and introducing them to each other — or can think of a friend notorious for their efforts to make introductions,” says Lalin Anik, a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She notes that the rising popularity of social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn has made matchmaking effortless and central to social life.Anik, with her colleague Michael Norton of the Harvard Business School, conducted an in-depth investigation of modern-day matchmaking, examining what motivates us to match others — even when it often goes wrong — and how we can reap the emotional benefits of socially linking others. In four studies, to be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin, they used surveys, computer games, and in-lab social interactions to show when and why making matches between others boosts happiness.In one study, the researchers asked groups of participants to engage in a brief “get acquainted” task in the laboratory. They then asked participants to pair others in the group: One group of participants had to match pairs that they thought would get along; another group tried to match pairs that they thought would not get along; and a third group matched people on the basis of a random characteristic — their social security numbers. Participants who selected pairs of people who they thought would bond became happier as a result of their matchmaking. Those in the other two groups felt the same as they did before the task.In another study, the researchers created a simple computer game in which participants saw a target face and selected one of three other faces with whom they thought the target would best or worst get along. Once again, the matchmakers had the best experience and were willing to play the game much longer than participants asked to pair people on the basis of mutual dislike.Some participants received monetary rewards for each match made, while others did not. Interestingly, the researchers found that paying people diminished their interest in the game. …

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Stroke trigger more deadly for African-Americans

Infection is a stronger trigger of stroke death in African- Americans than in whites, a University of Michigan study shows.African-Americans were 39 times more likely to die of a stroke if they were exposed to an infection in the previous month when compared to other time periods while whites were four times more likely and Hispanics were five times more likely to die of stroke after an infection, according to the findings that appear online Feb. 7 in Neurology.The most frequent infections were urinary, skin, and respiratory tract infections and occurred within 30 days of a stroke.”Infection before stroke appears to be most lethal for black Americans,” says lead author Deborah A. Levine, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine in the division of general medicine in the U-M Medical School. “We know that African- Americans have a much greater risk of dying from a stroke than white Americans, and we wanted to know if infection — which research suggests is a stroke trigger — might contribute to this disparity.”Infection is believed to promote the formation of blood clots and fat buildup in arteries, which block the artery and stop the flow of blood to the brain causing a stroke.Racial disparities in stroke death continue to widen in the U.S. where blacks are twice as likely to die from stroke as whites. The new findings show that all ethnic and racial groups had a higher risk of stroke following an infection but there were significant disparities in subsequent stroke deaths.Infection appeared to be a trigger of stroke death in whites and Hispanics as well, but it was particularly potent in African-Americans.Infection also occurred more often before stroke death in black Americans, with 70 percent experiencing an infection in the 30 days before stroke death compared to a frequency of 15 percent in months that were not followed by a stroke death. Infection occurred less often before stroke death in white Americans, with 45 percent experiencing an infection in the month before stroke death compared to a frequency of 19 percent in months that were not followed by a stroke death.Although earlier studies suggested that respiratory infections are the most potent triggers of stroke, Levine and colleagues found that urinary tract infections and skin infections seemed to be just as strong of triggers.The study was based on data from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally-representative sample of older Americans that is conducted by the U-M Institute for Social Research on behalf of the National Institute of Aging.”Because of the higher stroke mortality rate among black Americans, there has been much attention on racial differences in vascular risk factors, like hypertension, and health behaviors but less attention on acute exposures that might contribute to racial differences in stroke deaths,” Levine says.”It is unclear why acute infection is more common, more lethal, or a more powerful trigger for stroke death in black Americans. Genetic risks, clinical, economic or environmental factors, and differences in access to health care are potential reasons. We need further studies to better understand this disparity so we can prevent more black Americans from dying of stroke, particularly after infection,” Levine says.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Money makes people right-wing, inegalitarian, UK study finds

Lottery winners tend to switch towards support for a right-wing political party and to become less egalitarian, according to new research on UK data by Professor Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick and Professor Nattavudh Powdthavee of the London School of Economic and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne.Their study, published as a new University of Warwick working paper under the title “Does Money Make People Right-Wing and Inegalitarian: A Longitudinal Study of Lottery Wins”, shows that the larger the win, the more people tilt to the right. The study uses information on thousands of people and on lottery wins up to 200,000 pounds sterling. The authors say it is the first research of its kind.The authors believe their paper has wide implications for how democracy works. Professor Oswald said he had become doubtful of the view that morality was an objective choice. “In the voting booth, monetary self-interest casts a long shadow, despite people’s protestations that there are intellectual reasons for voting for low tax rates.”“We are not sure exactly what goes on inside people’s brains”, said Nick Powdthavee, “but it seems that having money causes people to favour conservative right-wing ideas. Humans are creatures of flexible ethics.”The authors believe their paper has wide implications for how democracy works. Professor Oswald said he had become doubtful of the view that morality was an objective choice. “In the voting booth, monetary self-interest casts a long shadow, despite people’s protestations that there are intellectual reasons for voting for low tax rates.”The authors’ paper comments that: “The causes of people’s political attitudes are largely unknown. One possibility is that individuals’ attitudes towards politics and redistribution are motivated by deeply ethical view. Our study provides empirical evidence that voting choices are made out of self-interest.”Using a nationally representative sample of lottery winners in the UK – the British Household Panel Survey – the researchers have been able to explore the observed longitudinal changes in political allegiance of the bigger winners to the smaller winners. …

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Does the term ‘research-based’ keep parents in the dark?

Does applying the term ‘research-based’ to parental advice automatically provide a stamp of authority? A commentary paper published in the Journal of Children and Media suggests that parents and caregivers are frequently misled into an ‘ignorance trap’ by recommendations which are based on ill-informed research.The risk of ambiguous parental advice is a hazard across health and education journalism, but seems to particularly affect the reporting on media and children. Parents are faced with making sense of increasingly intricate research findings and so are becoming ever-more reliant on advice provided by bloggers and reporters. Meanwhile, new ways for children to use digital media arrive every year, and so clear guidance and advice is imperative to support parents in their choices.The commentary names one particular example of a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which contained advice relating to children’s use of social networking sites. The report contained reference to the phrase ‘Facebook depression’, an expression which was quickly picked up by the press and used with the cachet of a real medical term. Stories on this phenomenon appeared across newspapers and television channels worldwide, despite not being based on any real evidence. The commentary finds that the citations actually originated from a first person account in a school newspaper, and from two websites names Trend Hunter and Science a Go Go. None of the citations referred to any research showing that social media use causes depression. Yet, because of the reputation and authority of the AAP, the one small mention of ‘Facebook depression’ has had a large impact.Guernsey suggests that both reporters and professional organizations have a responsibility to communicate clear and transparent advice to parents. Reporters need to gain an understanding of how research works and professional organisations need to be able to back up their statements with carefully reviewed research. …

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To calculate long-term conservation pay off, factor in people

Paying people to protect their natural environment is a popular conservation tool around the world — but figure out that return on investment, for both people and nature, is a thorny problem, especially since such efforts typically stretch on for years.”Short attention-span worlds with long attention-span problems” is how Xiaodong Chen, a former Michigan State University doctoral student now on faculty at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sums it up.Chen, with his adviser Jianguo “Jack” Liu, director of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) and others, have developed a new way to evaluate and model the long-term effectiveness of conservation investments. Their achievement is not only factoring in ecological gains — like, more trees growing — but also putting the actions and reactions of people into the equation.The paper, Assessing the Effectiveness of Payments for Ecosystem Services: an Agent-Based Modeling Approach, appears in this week’s online edition of Ecology and Society.The paper examines payments for ecosystem services — the practice of paying people to perform tasks or engage in practices that aid conservation. The authors examined one of China’s most sweeping — the National Forest Conservation Program, in which residents in Wolong Nature Reserve are paid to stop chopping down trees for timber and fuel wood.Chen explained they tapped into both social data and environmental information to be able to create a computer model to simulate how the policy would fare over many years in a variety of scenarios. Studies documenting results on land cover change and panda habitat dynamics were merged with studies revealing how people were likely to behave if new households were formed or incentives for conservation activities were varied.”Usually studies are developed in either the social sciences or the natural sciences, and the importance of the other perspectives are not built into scientific exploration,” Chen said. “We were able to develop this kind of simulation because of collaborative interdisciplinary research — by putting people with different backgrounds together.”He also said the model’s ability to run scenarios about how policy could work over decades is crucial because many goals of conservation, like restoring wildlife habitat, can take decades. In the meantime, the actions of individuals living in the area can change.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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