US, European cholesterol guidelines differ in statin use recommendations

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

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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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Preschoolers can outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos

Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Edinburgh.The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers’ efforts to use children’s cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways.”As far as we know, this is the first study examining whether children can learn abstract cause and effect relationships, and comparing them to adults,” said UC Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, senior author of the paper published online in the journal, Cognition.Using a game they call “Blickets,” the researchers looked at how 106 preschoolers (aged 4 and 5) and 170 college undergrads figured out a gizmo that works in an unusual way. They did this by placing clay shapes (cubes, pyramids, cylinders, etc), on a red-topped box to see which of the widgets — individually or in combination — could light up the box and play music. The shapes that activated the machine were called “blickets.”What separated the young players from the adult players was their response to changing evidence in the blicket demonstrations. For example, unusual combinations could make the machine go, and children caught on to that rule, while the adults tended to focus on which individual blocks activated the machine even in the face of changing evidence.”The kids got it. They figured out that the machine might work in this unusual way and so that you should put both blocks on together. But the best and brightest students acted as if the machine would always follow the common and obvious rule, even when we showed them that it might work differently,” wrote Gopnik in her forthcoming column in The Wall Street Journal.Overall, the youngsters were more likely to entertain unlikely possibilities to figure out “blicketness.” This confirmed the researchers’ hypothesis that preschoolers and kindergartners instinctively follow Bayesian logic, a statistical model that draws inferences by calculating the probability of possible outcomes.”One big question, looking forward, is what makes children more flexible learners — are they just free from the preconceptions that adults have, or are they fundamentally more flexible or exploratory in how they see the world?” said Christopher Lucas, lead author of the paper and a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. “Regardless, children have a lot to teach us about learning.”Other co-authors of the study are Thomas Griffiths and Sophie Bridgers of the UC Berkeley Department of Psychology.A new study shows children can sometimes outsmart grownups when it comes to figuring out how gadgets work because they’re less biased in their ideas about cause and effect. (Video by Roxanne Majasdjian and Philip Ebiner) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHQ0DemKcEAStory Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of California – Berkeley. The original article was written by Yasmin Anwar. …

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Premature infants benefit from adult talk, study shows

Research led by a team at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University has been published in the February 10, 2014 online edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.The research indicates that premature babies benefit from being exposed to adult talk as early as possible.The research, entitled “Adult Talk in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) with Preterm Infants and Developmental Outcomes,” was led by Betty Vohr, MD, director of Women & Infants’ Neonatal Follow-Up Program and professor of pediatrics, along with her colleagues Melinda Caskey, MD, neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics; Bonnie Stephens, MD, neonatologist, developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and assistant professor of pediatrics; and Richard Tucker, BA, senior research data analyst.The goal of the study was to test the association of the amount of talking that a baby was exposed to at what would have been 32 and 36 weeks gestation if a baby had been born full term, using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd Edition (Bayley — III) cognitive and language scores.It was hypothesized that preterm infants exposed to higher word counts would have higher cognitive and language scores at seven and 18 months corrected age.”Our earlier study identified that extremely premature infants vocalize (make sounds) eight weeks before their mother’s due date and vocalize more when their mothers are present in the NICU than when they are cared for by NICU staff,” explained Dr. Vohr.At 32 weeks and 36 weeks, staff recorded the NICU environment for 16 hours with a Language Environment Analysis (LENA) microprocessor. The adult word count, child vocalizations and “conversation turns” (words of mother or vocalizations of infant within five seconds) between mother and infant are recorded and analyzed by computer.”The follow-up of these infants has revealed that the adult word count to which infants are exposed in the NICU at 32 and 36 weeks predicts their language and cognitive scores at 18 months. Every increase by 100 adult words per hour during the 32 week LENA recording was associated with a two point increase in the language score at 18 months,” said Dr. Vohr.The results showed the hypothesis to be true. Dr. Vohr concluded, “Our study demonstrates the powerful impact of parents visiting and talking to their infants in the NICU on their developmental outcomes. Historically, very premature infants are at increased risk of language delay.The study now identifies an easy to implement and cost effective intervention — come talk and sing to your baby — to improve outcomes.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Women & Infants Hospital. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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How chronic stress predisposes brain to mental disorders

University of California, Berkeley, researchers have shown that chronic stress generates long-term changes in the brain that may explain why people suffering chronic stress are prone to mental problems such as anxiety and mood disorders later in life.Their findings could lead to new therapies to reduce the risk of developing mental illness after stressful events.Doctors know that people with stress-related illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have abnormalities in the brain, including differences in the amount of gray matter versus white matter. Gray matter consists mostly of cells — neurons, which store and process information, and support cells called glia — while white matter is composed of axons, which create a network of fibers that interconnect neurons. White matter gets its name from the white, fatty myelin sheath that surrounds the axons and speeds the flow of electrical signals from cell to cell.How chronic stress creates these long-lasting changes in brain structure is a mystery that researchers are only now beginning to unravel.In a series of experiments, Daniela Kaufer, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology, and her colleagues, including graduate students Sundari Chetty and Aaron Freidman, discovered that chronic stress generates more myelin-producing cells and fewer neurons than normal. This results in an excess of myelin — and thus, white matter — in some areas of the brain, which disrupts the delicate balance and timing of communication within the brain.”We studied only one part of the brain, the hippocampus, but our findings could provide insight into how white matter is changing in conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, depression, suicide, ADHD and PTSD,” she said.The hippocampus regulates memory and emotions, and plays a role in various emotional disorders.Kaufer and her colleagues published their findings in the Feb. 11 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry.Does stress affect brain connectivity?Kaufer’s findings suggest a mechanism that may explain some changes in brain connectivity in people with PTSD, for example. One can imagine, she said, that PTSD patients could develop a stronger connectivity between the hippocampus and the amygdala — the seat of the brain’s fight or flight response — and lower than normal connectivity between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which moderates our responses.”You can imagine that if your amygdala and hippocampus are better connected, that could mean that your fear responses are much quicker, which is something you see in stress survivors,” she said. “On the other hand, if your connections are not so good to the prefrontal cortex, your ability to shut down responses is impaired. So, when you are in a stressful situation, the inhibitory pathways from the prefrontal cortex telling you not to get stressed don’t work as well as the amygdala shouting to the hippocampus, ‘This is terrible!’ You have a much bigger response than you should.”She is involved in a study to test this hypothesis in PTSD patients, and continues to study brain changes in rodents subjected to chronic stress or to adverse environments in early life.Stress tweaks stem cellsKaufer’s lab, which conducts research on the molecular and cellular effects of acute and chronic stress, focused in this study on neural stem cells in the hippocampus of the brains of adult rats. These stem cells were previously thought to mature only into neurons or a type of glial cell called an astrocyte. The researchers found, however, that chronic stress also made stem cells in the hippocampus mature into another type of glial cell called an oligodendrocyte, which produces the myelin that sheaths nerve cells.The finding, which they demonstrated in rats and cultured rat brain cells, suggests a key role for oligodendrocytes in long-term and perhaps permanent changes in the brain that could set the stage for later mental problems. …

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Why do young people fail to find stable jobs and thrive?

Around the world, more and more young people are failing to find stable jobs and live independently. A new study from IIASA population researchers explains why.The numbers of young people who fail to transition from childhood to independent adulthood is growing — more and more young people find themselves without full-time jobs, relying on their parents, or staying longer in school. These changes can be traced changes in the global labor force and education according to a new study published today in the Finnish Yearbook of Population Research.”Young adults are doing increasingly worse economically, in spite of living in wealthy regions of the world,” says IIASA population expert Vegard Skirbekk. “At the same time, older adult age groups have been doing increasingly better.”Skirbekk, along with IIASA researchers Warren Sanderson and Marcin Stonawski conducted the study in order to examine the common factors that help young people transition to adulthood. They call the problem, “Young Adult Failure to Thrive Syndrome.”While the phenomenon had been recognized in individual countries, including Italy, France, Spain, and Japan, explanations have often focused on recent causes such as government fiscal difficulties. But the new study shows that failure to thrive can be traced to global economic and demographic shifts beginning in the 1980’s.The study finds that failure to thrive can be tied to three major economic factors worldwide. First, an increasingly globalized labor force means that workers can move more easily between countries. Second, education levels have soared around the world, meaning many more workers are available for skilled positions. Third, more women have joined the labor force. All these factors mean more competition for jobs, particularly for young people who have little practical experience.In addition to changes in labor supply, technological changes have both created and destroyed jobs, with a trend towards fewer industrial jobs and more service sector jobs.”These changes mean that even as economic conditions have improved for some in the population, young people are worse off today than they were 20 years ago,” says Sanderson.The researchers say that such economic disadvantages also have an effect on demographic questions such as fertility rates and family formation, as many young people cannot afford to start families until later in life.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis. …

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False memories: The hidden side of our good memory

Justice blindly trusts human memory. Every year throughout the world hundreds of thousands of court cases are heard based solely on the testimony of somebody who swears that they are reproducing exactly an event that they witnessed in a more or less not too distant past. Nevertheless, various recent studies in cognitive neuroscience indicate both the strengths and weaknesses in this ability of recall of the human brain.Memory is a cognitive process which is intrinsically linked to language. One of the fundamental tasks that the brain carries out when undertaking a linguistic activity — holding a conversation, for example — is the semantic process.On carrying out this task, the brain compares the words it hears with those that it recalls from previous events, in order to recognise them and to unravel their meaning. This semantic process is a fundamental task for enabling the storing of memories in our brain, helping us to recognise words and to memorise names and episodes in our mind. However, as everyone knows, this is not a process that functions 100% perfectly at times; a lack of precision that, on occasions, gives rise to the creation of false memories.Two pieces of research, recently published by Kepa Paz-Alonso at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language (BCBL) in the Journal of International Neuropsychological Society and Schizophrenia Research scientific journals, have shown that this semantic process linked to the subsequent recognition of such words amongst children as well as amongst adult schizophrenics, is less efficient than that produced in a normal adult brain. Moreover, both studies have shown that children are less prone to producing this type of false memory in their brains, and something similar occurs in patients with schizophrenia.One of the reasons for this phenomenon is that children do not have this semantic process as automated and developed as adults. That is, the adult brain, after making the same connections over and over again between various zones of the brain concerned with memory, has mechanised the process of semantically linking new information for its storage. Nonetheless, according to the results of Mr. Paz-Alonso’s research, this process is more likely to generate false memories in the brain of an adult than in a child’s brain.According to the researcher, “in reality, the same processes that produce these “false memories” amongst healthy adults are also responsible for their having better memory. …

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A short stay in darkness may heal hearing woes

Call it the Ray Charles Effect: a young child who is blind develops a keen ability to hear things that others cannot. Researchers have long known that very young brains are malleable enough to re-wire some circuits that process sensory information. Now researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University have overturned conventional wisdom, showing the brains of adult mice can also be re-wired to compensate for a temporary vision loss by improving their hearing.The findings, published Feb. 5 in the peer-reviewed journal Neuron, may lead to treatments for people with hearing loss or tinnitus, said Patrick Kanold, an associate professor of biology at UMD who partnered with Hey-Kyoung Lee, an associate professor of neuroscience at JHU, to lead the study.”There is some level of interconnectedness of the senses in the brain that we are revealing here,” Kanold said.”We can perhaps use this to benefit our efforts to recover a lost sense,” said Lee. “By temporarily preventing vision, we may be able to engage the adult brain to change the circuit to better process sound.”Kanold explained that there is an early “critical period” for hearing, similar to the better-known critical period for vision. The auditory system in the brain of a very young child quickly learns its way around its sound environment, becoming most sensitive to the sounds it encounters most often. But once that critical period is past, the auditory system doesn’t respond to changes in the individual’s soundscape.”This is why we can’t hear certain tones in Chinese if we didn’t learn Chinese as children,” Kanold said. “This is also why children get screened for hearing deficits and visual deficits early. You cannot fix it after the critical period.”Kanold, an expert on how the brain processes sound, and Lee, an expert on the same processes in vision, thought the adult brain might be flexible if it were forced to work across the senses rather than within one sense. They used a simple, reversible technique to simulate blindness: they placed adult mice with normal vision and hearing in complete darkness for six to eight days.After the adult mice were returned to a normal light-dark cycle, their vision was unchanged. …

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Scientists pinpoint proteins vital to long-term memory

Sep. 12, 2013 — Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a group of proteins essential to the formation of long-term memories.The study, published online ahead of print on September 12, 2013 by the journal Cell Reports, focuses on a family of proteins called Wnts. These proteins send signals from the outside to the inside of a cell, inducing a cellular response crucial for many aspects of embryonic development, including stem cell differentiation, as well as for normal functioning of the adult brain.”By removing the function of three proteins in the Wnt signaling pathway, we produced a deficit in long-term but not short-term memory,” said Ron Davis, chair of the TSRI Department of Neuroscience. “The pathway is clearly part of the conversion of short-term memory to the long-term stable form, which occurs through changes in gene expression.”The findings stem from experiments probing the role of Wnt signaling components in olfactory memory formation in Drosophila, the common fruit fly — a widely used doppelgänger for human memory studies. In the new study, the scientists inactivated the expression of several Wnt signaling proteins in the mushroom bodies of adult flies — part of the fly brain that plays a role in learning and memory.The resulting memory disruption, Davis said, suggests that Wnt signaling participates actively in the formation of long-term memory, rather than having some general, non-specific effect on behavior.”What is interesting is that the molecular mechanisms of adult memory use the same processes that guide the early development of the organism, except that they are repurposed for memory formation,” he said. “One difference, however, is that during early development the signals are intrinsic, while in adults they require an outside stimulus to create a memory.”The first author of the study, “Wnt signaling is required for long-term memory formation,” is Ying Tan of the Baylor College of Medicine. Other authors include Germain U. Busto of TSRI and Curtis Wilson of Baylor College of Medicine.The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NS19904).

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Orangutans plan their future route and communicate it to others

Sep. 11, 2013 — Male orangutans plan their travel route up to one day in advance and communicate it to other members of their species. In order to attract females and repel male rivals, they call in the direction in which they are going to travel. Anthropologists at the University of Zurich have found that not only captive, but also wild-living orangutans make use of their planning ability.For a long time it was thought that only humans had the ability to anticipate future actions, whereas animals are caught in the here and now. But in recent years, clever experiments with great apes in zoos have shown that they do remember past events and can plan for their future needs. Anthropologists at the University of Zurich have now investigated whether wild apes also have this skill, following them for several years through the dense tropical swamplands of Sumatra.Orangutans communicate their plansOrangutans generally journey through the forest alone, but they also maintain social relationships. Adult males sometimes emit loud ‘long calls’ to attract females and repel rivals. Their cheek pads act as a funnel for amplifying the sound in the same way as a megaphone. Females that only hear a faint call come closer in order not to lose contact. Non-dominant males on the other hand hurry in the opposite direction if they hear the call coming loud and clear in their direction.”To optimize the effect of these calls, it thus would make sense for the male to call in the direction of his future whereabouts, if he already knew about them,” explains Carel van Schaik. …

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Embryonic stem cells produced in living adult organisms

Sep. 11, 2013 — A team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO) has become the first to make adult cells from a living organism and show characteristics of embryonic stem cells.Researchers have also discovered that these embryonic stem cells, obtained directly from the inside of the organism, have a broader capacity for differentiation than those obtained via in vitro culture. Specifically, they have the characteristics of totipotent cells: a primitive state never before obtained in a laboratory.The study, carried out by CNIO, was led by Manuel Serrano, the director of the Molecular Oncology Programme and head of the Tumoural Suppression Laboratory. The study was supported by Manuel Manzanares’s team from the Spanish National Cardiovascular Research Centre (CNIC).Embryonic stem cells are the main focus for the future of regenerative medicine. They are the only ones capable of generating any cell type from the hundreds of cell types that make up an adult organism, so they are the first step towards curing illnesses such as Alzheimer, Parkinson’s disease or diabetes. Nevertheless, this type of cell has a very short lifespan, limited to the first days of embryonic development, and they do not exist in any part of an adult organism.One of the greatest achievements in recent biomedical research was in 2006 when Shinya Yamanaka managed to create embryonic stem cells (pluripotent stem cells, induced in vitro, or in vitro iPSCs) in a laboratory from adult cells, via a cocktail of just four genes. Yamanaka’s discovery, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2012, opened a new horizon in regenerative medicine.CNIO researchers have taken another step forward, by achieving the same as Yamanaka, but this time within the same organism, in mice, without the need to pass through in vitro culture dishes. Generating these cells within an organism brings this technology even closer to regenerative medicine.The first challenge for CNIO researchers was to reproduce the Yamanaka experiment in a living being. They chose a mouse as a model organism. Using genetic manipulation techniques, researchers created mice in which Yamanaka’s four genes could be activated at will. …

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Text messages make it easier for kids to misbehave

Sep. 9, 2013 — Study of more than 76,000 text messages shows that texting about delinquent topics predicts youths’ involvement in antisocial behavior.Should parents and teachers worry that teenagers’ texting or SMS messaging may lead to involvement in more antisocial activities? Yes, says a study led by Samuel Ehrenreich of the University of Texas at Dallas and published in Springer’s Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Text messaging between adolescents about antisocial topics and behavior does in fact predict more rule breaking and aggression.The study provides a unique window into the social lives of adolescents, as it is the first to directly, naturally and unobtrusively observe text messaging between adolescents and their peers, and how it relates to later involvement in antisocial activities. 172 ninth-grade students from 47 American schools sent and received nearly 6,000,000 text messages during the yearlong study via Blackberry devices. The messages were archived, and four days of text messaging per participant were analyzed for discussions about the purchase or use of illegal substances, property crime, physical aggression and rule breaking. The youths, their parents and teachers rated their behavior before and after the ninth grade year.Ehrenreich and his team found that participants did use text messages to coordinate antisocial activities, often occurring within the school. Texting with a peer about rule-breaking activities may not only provide easy access to information about illegal and antisocial behavior, but may also reinforce the notion that these activities are accepted within the peer group. Although the research team noted that text messaging also enhanced prosocial communication, they believe that the private nature of text messaging provided an ideal forum to plan and discuss antisocial activities beyond the realm of adult supervision.The research team pointed out that youth who frequently engaged in antisocial SMS discussions may already be on a trajectory of increasing antisocial behavior. In line with the hypothesis suggesting that grouping deviant youth together increases their involvement in antisocial activities, communication about antisocial topics with deviant peers was found to be associated with increased rule-breaking and aggressive behavior.Antisocial behavior typically includes activities that violate legal or societal rules, or which are harmful to the victims of these actions. …

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Overweight and obese women are equally capable of the impulse control that lean women exhibit

Aug. 30, 2013 — Dieters call it willpower; social scientists call it delayed gratification.It’s the ability to delay an immediate reward in favor of a bigger future reward, for example, having a slimmer body in a few months versus the hot fudge sundae now. Previous studies have shown that overweight and obese people have a harder time delaying gratification, so they are more likely to forego the healthy body later on in favor of eating more calorie-dense foods now.But University at Buffalo research published last month in the journal Appetite now shows that behavioral interventions that improve delay of gratification can work just as well with overweight and obese women as with lean women.”This research is certainly welcome news for people who have struggled to lose weight, because it shows that when people are taught to imagine, or simulate the future, they can improve their ability to delay gratification,” says obesity expert, Leonard H. Epstein, PhD, SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who was senior author on the research.The research is part of a field called prospection, the process by which people can project themselves into the future, by mentally simulating future events.Some of the most famous research done on delay of gratification includes experiments done at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s, where children were given an opportunity to either eat a single snack, such as a marshmallow now, or, if they waited a period of time, they could be rewarded with multiple snacks. Follow-up studies found that in general, those who were able to wait were more responsible and successful in their adult lives.Epstein notes that many people have difficulty resisting the impulse for immediate gratification. Instead, they do something called delay discounting, in which they discount future rewards in favor of smaller, immediate rewards. This tendency is associated with greater consumption of highly caloric, ready-to-eat foods. It has been speculated that if people could modify delay discounting, they would be more successful at losing weight. “Now we have developed a treatment for this,” says Epstein. “We can teach people how to reduce delay discounting, where they learn how to mentally simulate the future in order to moderate their behavior in the present.”The UB researchers evaluated how much delay discounting participants engaged in using a hypothetical test that promised different amounts of money available either now or in the future. …

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Development of a therapeutic algorithm for optimal nosebleed management

Aug. 26, 2013 — Approximately 60 percent of people experience epistaxis, commonly known as nosebleed, at least once in their lifetime. Of those who experience nosebleed, six percent require medical treatment. A study in the September 2013 issue of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, explores which nosebleed treatment options demonstrate the best outcomes.Share This:”Although data exist on the efficacy of the different epistaxis management techniques, outcome comparisons between the modalities for both primary management as well as management of cases of recurrence are currently lacking,” the authors stated.The study analyzed various treatment outcomes of adult patients with epistaxis presenting to otolaryngologists at a tertiary care center between 2005 and 2011. The authors observed 147 patients (94 men and 53 women) who underwent cauterization, tamponade or nondissolvable packing, and/or proximal vascular control through embolization or surgical ligation. Treatment outcomes were then compared with the intent to derive an algorithm for optimal nosebleed management.According to the study, nondissolvable packing demonstrated the highest rate of failure or recurrence (57.4 percent) for initial bleed management. Chemical cautery was significantly more successful in achieving lasting hemostasis for the first bleeding episode. The authors also found that the duration of the nondissolvable pack placement had no significant impact on nosebleed recurrence. Furthermore, among patients who failed initial management, those who next underwent more invasive procedures such as cautery, embolization or surgical ligation experienced better outcomes and shorter inpatient stays.Because the subgroup analyses were limited in size for some of the treatment groups in this study, the authors urge caution when considering these findings.Although most cases of nosebleed do not require medical intervention, those patients who do present to a tertiary care otolaryngologist and need medical attention require a systematic, stepwise approach to address their condition. This study demonstrates “good outcomes with initial treatment with chemical cautery and with procedures that achieve directed vascular control in patients who develop epistaxis recurrence.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery. …

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Researchers find essential brain circuit in visual development

Aug. 25, 2013 — A study in mice reveals an elegant circuit within the developing visual system that helps dictate how the eyes connect to the brain. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, has implications for treating amblyopia, a vision disorder that occurs when the brain ignores one eye in favor of the other.Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, and can occur whenever there is a misalignment between what the two eyes see — for example, if one eye is clouded by a cataract or if the eyes are positioned at different angles. The brain at first has a slight preference for the more functional eye, and over time — as that eye continues to send the brain useful information — the brain’s preference for that eye gets stronger at the expense of the other eye.Patching the strong eye can help correct amblyopia. But if the condition isn’t caught and corrected during childhood, visual impairment in the weaker eye is likely to persist into adulthood.”Our study identifies a mechanism for visual development in the young brain and shows that it’s possible to turn on the same mechanism in the adult brain, thus offering hope for treating older children and adults with amblyopia,” said Joshua Trachtenberg, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurobiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The study was published in Nature.Within the brain, cells in a limited region called the binocular zone can receive input from both eyes. During brain development, the eyes compete to connect within this zone, and sometimes one eye prevails — a process known as ocular dominance.Ocular dominance is a normal process and is an example of the brain’s ability to adapt based on experience — called plasticity. But it can also set the stage for amblyopia. If one eye is impaired and can’t effectively compete, it will lose space in the binocular zone to the other eye. Also, this competition takes place during a limited time called the critical period. …

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A cautionary note on oxytocin as a treatment for psychiatric disorders

Aug. 12, 2013 — The hormone oxytocin is known for its widespread effects on social and reproductive processes, and recent data from intranasal administration in humans has produced hope for its use as a therapeutic in autism, schizophrenia, and other disorders.However, this leap to human use is happening without previous animal studies of long-term oxytocin administration, and without knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms involved in the behavioral findings.A new study now published in Biological Psychiatry indicates that the promising short-term effects often observed after a single dose of oxytocin may not translate to positive effects after long-term administration.This research was led by Dr. Karen Bales, Professor and Vice Chair of Psychology at the University of California. She and her colleagues examined the long-term effects of oxytocin treatment using the prairie vole, a small rodent that forms strong life-long pair bonds and is thus often used in studies of social behavior.Both male and female voles were treated with one of three dosages of intranasal oxytocin, administered daily from weaning through sexual maturity. During this time, the researchers observed and recorded the voles’ social interactions. They also conducted tests of social and anxiety-related behaviors in the adult voles, after the oxytocin treatment had finished, allowing them to measure any long-term effects.As expected, oxytocin treatment increased social behavior in male voles, similar to the effects repeatedly observed in humans. However, the long-term effects were concerning, with male voles showing deficits in their typical behaviors.”In this study, we showed that long-term exposure to oxytocin in adolescent male prairie voles led to disruption of social bond formation in these males as adults,” explained Bales. “Male prairie voles which received a dose similar to that being tested in humans, or even a lower dose, did not form pair-bonds normally with their pair-mate. Instead these males chose to associate with a strange female.”This important finding should suggest caution in the long-term use of intranasal oxytocin in developing humans.”The fact that long term treatment with oxytocin had the opposite impact of initial doses with the same substance suggests that special strategies will be needed if oxytocin is ever to become a long-term treatment for autism or schizophrenia,” said Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.Bales agrees, and added, “In our continuing research program, we also have preliminary data suggesting that these treatments caused long-term changes in the oxytocin system. …

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How books can have a positive impact on a child’s social struggles

Aug. 12, 2013 — A new study out of the University of Cincinnati not only finds that parents feel responsible about taking action when their children struggle with social issues, but also that parents are influenced by their own childhood memories. Jennifer Davis Bowman, a recent graduate of the special education doctoral program at the University of Cincinnati, will present her research on Aug. 12, at the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in New York, N.Y.Bowman’s study examined parents’ use of what’s called bibliotherapy — using books as interventions for children who experience social struggles that may arise from disabilities such as autism or Down Syndrome.Bibliotherapy involves books with characters that are facing challenges similar to their reading audience, or books that have stories that can generate ideas for problem-solving activities and discussions. Bowman says previous research found that bibliotherapy can improve communication, attitude and reduce aggression for children with social disabilities.The adult participants in the study were four caregivers who had concerns about their child’s social behavior. One of the participants was raising a grandchild. The other three were biological parents.The children involved in the study were three boys and one girl, ranging in age from 4 to 12.The majority of them had behavioral challenges associated with a diagnosed disability or disorder, including Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, speech impairment or developmental issues.The adults received training on using bibliotherapy to offset negative social behaviors in children. Each adult also participated in three structured interviews to explore their experience with social interventions, as well as their own early childhood experiences with friends, family and reading. They also were asked about their experiences in using stories as an intervention to negative behavior. The final interview examined parental views on social intervention and using bibliotheraphy as a successful social intervention.”The parents found that the same supports that were useful for leisure or academic reading were beneficial for bibliotherapy,” Bowman writes. …

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New data reveal extent of genetic overlap between major mental disorders

Aug. 11, 2013 — The largest genome-wide study of its kind has determined how much five major mental illnesses are traceable to the same common inherited genetic variations. Researchers funded in part by the National Institutes of Health found that the overlap was highest between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; moderate for bipolar disorder and depression and for ADHD and depression; and low between schizophrenia and autism. Overall, common genetic variation accounted for 17-28 percent of risk for the illnesses.”Since our study only looked at common gene variants, the total genetic overlap between the disorders is likely higher,” explained Naomi Wray, Ph.D., University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, who co-led the multi-site study by the Cross Disorders Group of the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC), which is supported by the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “Shared variants with smaller effects, rare variants, mutations, duplications, deletions, and gene-environment interactions also contribute to these illnesses.”Dr. Wray, Kenneth Kendler, M.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Jordan Smoller, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and other members of the PGC group report on their findings August 11, 2013 in the journal Nature Genetics.”Such evidence quantifying shared genetic risk factors among traditional psychiatric diagnoses will help us move toward classification that will be more faithful to nature,” said Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., director of the NIMH Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development and coordinator of the Institute’s Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project, which is developing a mental disorders classification system for research based more on underlying causes.Earlier this year, PGC researchers — more than 300 scientists at 80 research centers in 20 countries — reported the first evidence of overlap between all five disorders. People with the disorders were more likely to have suspect variation at the same four chromosomal sites. But the extent of the overlap remained unclear. In the new study, they used the same genome-wide information and the largest data sets currently available to estimate the risk for the illnesses attributable to any of hundreds of thousands of sites of common variability in the genetic code across chromosomes. They looked for similarities in such genetic variation among several thousand people with each illness and compared them to controls — calculating the extent to which pairs of disorders are linked to the same genetic variants.The overlap in heritability attributable to common genetic variation was about 15 percent between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, about 10 percent between bipolar disorder and depression, about 9 percent between schizophrenia and depression, and about 3 percent between schizophrenia and autism.The newfound molecular genetic evidence linking schizophrenia and depression, if replicated, could have important implications for diagnostics and research, say the researchers. …

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Low childhood conscientiousness predicts adult obesity

Aug. 9, 2013 — Results from a longitudinal study show that children who exhibit lower conscientiousness (e.g., irresponsible, careless, not persevering) could experience worse overall health, including greater obesity, as adults. The Oregon Research Institute (ORI) study examines the relationship between childhood personality and adult health and shows a strong association between childhood conscientiousness (organized, dependable, self-disciplined) and health status in adulthood. ORI scientist Sarah Hampson, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health, Hawaii report these findings in the August issue of Health Psychology. Hampson was recently the discussant for a panel on personality and health at the national American Psychological Association meeting in Honolulu, HI.”These results are significant and unique because they show the far-reaching effects of childhood conscientiousness on adult health. Others have shown that more conscientiousness children live longer. Now we have shown that these conscientious children are also healthier at midlife” noted Dr. Hampson.Hawaii school-children rated by their teachers in the 1960’s as less conscientious had worse global health status as adults and had significantly greater obesity, high cholesterol, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Childhood conscientiousness was significantly associated with decreased function of the cardiovascular and metabolic systems. This association was independent of the other Big Five personality childhood traits, adult conscientiousness, childhood socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and gender. …

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‘Beetle in spider’s clothing:’ Quaint new species from Philippine Rainforest Creeks

Aug. 6, 2013 — For biologists it is an easy matter: spiders have eight legs and insects have six. This fact is important when beholding and recognizing the tiny new species of Spider Water Beetles from the Philippine Island of Mindoro discovered by researchers of the Ateneo de Manila University.Zookeys has published the paper about the curious creatures in its latest issue.Primarily, the study was intended to find and describe the larvae of known species of the genus Ancyronyx, under which all Spider Water Beetles of the world are compiled. But when the researchers checked the pristine creeks and rivers of the ethnic Buhid’s ancestral lands in the Municipality of Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, they found the first new species, now named as Ancyronyx buhid.The second new species was detected among older collections of undetermined museum specimens. It was confirmed to occur in the waters of the famous Tamaraw Falls, a popular tourist destination in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. It was named Ancyronyx tamaraw after it’s “type locality”.The newly discovered Buhid Spider Water Beetle has high potential to be used as a bioindicator species for healthy ecosystem conditions, since it fulfills the necessary criteria: it is surprisingly common in clean, pristine running waters all over Mindoro, but it is absent in more or less polluted and altered streams and it can easily be identified in larval and adult stages, by eye-catching color patterns.The assignment of the immature larvae with the adult beetles was done by DNA tests since the genetic constitution is very similar in individuals of the same species irrespective of the developmental stage, but more varying between different species. The genetic data were deposited at gene bank, and the occurrence data of the Ancyronyx species of Mindoro were submitted to GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Both are curated free access databases. 20 species of Spider Water Beetles are known on earth by now. 11 of them are endemic to the Philippines and cannot be found anywhere else, indicating that the country is the diversity centre of this genus. …

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