When it comes to keeping the peace after a heated argument, it may be more important for wives than for husbands to stay calm and keep emotions under control.
While both spouses were equally able to cool down during conflicts, the husbands’ emotional regulation had little or no bearing on long-term marital satisfaction, according to a recent study published in the journal Emotion.Related Articles On Futurity
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“When it comes to managing negative emotion during conflict, wives really matter,” says psychologist Lian Bloch, lead author of the study, which she conducted during doctoral and postdoctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University.
Bloch and fellow researchers at Berkeley and Northwestern University analyzed videotaped interactions of more than 80 middle-aged and older heterosexual couples, focusing on how they recovered from disagreements. Time and again they found that marriages in which wives quickly calmed down during disputes were ultimately shown to be the happiest, both in the short and long run.
“Emotions such as anger and contempt can seem very threatening for couples. But our study suggests that if spouses, especially wives, are able to calm themselves, their marriages can continue to thrive,” Bloch says.Constructive communication
While it is commonly held that women play the role of caretaker and peacemaker in relationships, the study is among the first to reveal this dynamic in action over a long period of time, researchers point out.
Results show that the link between the wives’ ability to control emotions and higher marital satisfaction was most evident when women used “constructive communication” to temper disagreements.
“When wives discuss problems and suggest solutions, it helps couples deal with conflicts,” says Berkeley psychologist Robert Levenson, senior author of the study. “Ironically, this may not work so well for husbands, who wives often criticize for leaping into problem-solving mode too quickly.”Long-term marriages
The study is one of several led by Levenson, who looks at the inner workings of long-term marriages. Participants are part of a cohort of 156 heterosexual couples in the San Francisco Bay Area whose relationships Levenson and fellow researchers have tracked since 1989.
Every five years, the couples come to Levenson’s lab at Berkeley to report on their marital satisfaction and to discuss areas of conflict in their relationships. Researchers code their conversations based on facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and topic of discussion.
In this latest look at the emotional forces at play in long-term marriages, researchers pinpointed the most negative peaks in the couple’s conversations and timed how long it took spouses to recover based on their body language, facial expressions, and emotional and physiological responses.
Claudia Haase, a coauthor of the study and an assistant professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern, notes that age may also play a role in how couples interact when conflicts arise.
“The middle-aged and older couples in our study grew up in a world that treated men and women very differently,” she says. “It will be interesting to see how these gender dynamics play out in younger couples.”
Source: UC Berkeley
Non-wood bats are controversial in youth baseball, but new research shows that—in the hands of young teen players—lighter models don’t hit the ball any faster.
Ever since non-wood bats entered the game, people have debated whether and when non-wood bats make the ball fly faster. That’s because non-wood bats transfer energy to the ball better, a phenomenon called the “trampoline effect.”
The concern is that faster hits not only make the game harder for the defense but also more dangerous. Such concerns have led to uniform bat regulations in college and high school baseball, but amid uncertainty about how non-wood bats perform in the hands of younger players, the rules are less consistent for that age group.
“Everyone wants baseball to be safe and enjoyable,” says biomechanics scientist Glenn Fleisig, chair of the medical and safety advisory committee of USA Baseball, the nation’s governing body for all amateur and youth baseball.
“The time has come for us to have coordinated rules for bat performance in youth baseball, but the bat regulations for high school and up cannot be simply applied to youth baseball.”Related Articles On Futurity
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What’s needed is more scientific data relevant to younger teens. In a study now online in the Journal of Applied Biomechanics, researchers took a swing at gathering some.Testing the bats
In fact, Joseph “Trey” Crisco, professor of orthopaedics at Brown University, and colleagues recruited 22 volunteer hitters aged 13 to 18 to take about 3,400 swings with 13 different youth baseball bats (all of the non-wood bats tested were too light to be allowed in high school or college play).
The research team found that while non-wood bats did hit the ball faster overall, that varied widely based on the bat model and the batter’s age. Among the 10 non-wood bats studied, only three allowed players to hit the ball significantly faster than the three wood bats. One bat produced significantly slower hits, and six other bats produced hits of essentially the same speed as wood.
For the youngest teen baseball players, many of whom need lighter bats to participate at all, one of the most significant findings was that lighter non-wood weight bats did not launch the ball at significantly higher speeds than wood bats.
“Professor Crisco’s work is going to be the foundation of data for making regulations and recommendations for youth baseball bats going forward,” says Fleisig, who is also research director of the American Sports Medicine Institute.‘Trampoline effect’
At a given pitch speed, three independent factors influence the speed of a batted ball: the bat’s mass and its distribution along its length, called the “moment of inertia” (MOI); the bat’s degree of energy transfer, or its “trampoline effect”; and the speed of the swing, a consequence of the hitter’s strength and biomechanics.
To measure these factors, Crisco and his team set up a batting cage and a pitching machine in a gym. They used an array of eight cameras shooting 300 frames a second to capture the complete motions of specially marked bats and balls. The video systems tracked the pitch speed, the bat speed, the ball speed, and the place on the bat where the ball made contact.
Among the younger ballplayers in the study, lighter non-wood bats allowed them to swing somewhat faster than with wood, but the balls didn’t go any faster, despite their higher trampoline effect. For these players, the much lower bat mass meant much less ball momentum overall.
“At the youth level for the bats that we studied, even though there was a trampoline effect, the loss of momentum overcompensated for it so no matter how hot the trampoline effect was, the bats were so light they still were not outperforming wood substantially,” Crisco says.
Among 13- to 15-year-olds, swing speed slowed significantly as bat mass increased, Crisco found. That meant that even the fastest-hitting bat was not as potent in the hands of the younger players as the older ones.Batter biomechanics
The non-wood bat that launched the ball fastest, called “Model A,” had a weight and MOI that was on par with a light wood bat, but it had a much higher trampoline effect than the wood bats. The ball speed advantage it gave each hitter depended on the hitter’s age.
The 13-year-old players hit balls 7.4 miles an hour faster with model A than with the wood bats, but the 18-year-old hitters whacked the ball 11.6 miles an hour faster with model A (which they could never use in a real game), than with wood.
Although the study helps resolve the effect of the interplay between bat physics and batter biomechanics in youth baseball, the work of monitoring bats and their performance will likely continue, Crisco says.
“I think we have a very good handle on what’s going on now with these bats,” Crisco says. “The challenge is [that manufacturers] are going to come up with a new material and a new construction that our assumptions may or may not be valid for.”
Researchers from Brown and Lifespan health system contributed to the study, which USA Baseball and the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment funded.
Source: Brown University
A simple new blood test may reveal early signs of pancreatic cancer, a disease that now is nearly always fatal because it isn’t usually discovered until it has spread.
The findings of a small preliminary study, if confirmed, could be an important step toward reducing mortality from the cancer, researchers say. The disease has a five-year survival rate of less than 5 percent; there have been few improvements in survival over the past three decades.
“We have mammograms to screen for breast cancer and colonoscopies for colon cancer, but we have had nothing to help us screen for pancreatic cancer,” says Nita Ahuja, associate professor of surgery, oncology and urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She led the study described online this month in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
“While far from perfect, we think we have found an early detection marker for pancreatic cancer that may allow us to locate and attack the disease at a much earlier stage than we usually do,” she says.Nanoparticle magnets
Ahuja and her colleagues were able to identify two genes, BNC1 and ADAMTS1, which together were detectable in 81 percent of blood samples from 42 people with early-stage pancreatic cancer, but not in patients without the disease or in patients with a history of pancreatitis, a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
By contrast, the commonly used PSA antigen test for prostate cancer only picks up about 20 percent of prostate cancers.Related Articles On Futurity
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Ahuja’s team found that in pancreatic cancer cells, chemical alterations to BNC1 and ADAMTS1—epigenetic modifications that alter the way the genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence—prevent the genes from making their protein product. These alterations are caused by the addition of a methyl group to the DNA.
Using a very sensitive method developed by Johns Hopkins engineers, the researchers were able to find in the blood even the smallest strands of DNA of those two genes with their added methyl groups.
The technique uses nanoparticle magnets to latch onto the few molecules being shed by the tumors, which are enough to signal the presence of pancreatic cancer in the body, the researchers found.
Researchers say they found BNC1 and ADAMTS1 in 97 percent of tissues from early-stage invasive pancreatic cancers. Surgery is the best chance for survival in pancreatic cancer, because radiation and chemotherapy are not very effective against it. The smaller the cancer—the earlier it is detected—the more likely surgery will be successful and the patient will survive.Fewer false alarms
Ahuja says the practical value of any blood test for cancer markers will depend on both its sensitivity, or the proportion of tumors it detects, and its specificity, or how many positive results are false alarms.
The specificity of this new pair of markers is 85 percent, meaning 15 percent would be false. Ahuja says she hopes further research will help refine the test, possibly by adding another gene or two, in order to go over 90 percent in both sensitivity and specificity.
Ahuja also cautions that her team needs to duplicate the results in a larger sample of tumors, but is encouraged by the results so far. She says she doesn’t envision the blood test as a means of screening the general population, the way mammograms and colonoscopies are used to find early breast and colon cancers.
Instead, she imagines it would be best used in people at high risk for the disease, such as those with a family history of pancreatic cancer or a previous case of pancreatitis, or those who are long-term smokers or people with the BRCA gene mutations, which are linked to breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers.
“You have to optimize your medical resources,” says Ahuja, who hopes a commercial blood test might one day only cost $50.
She also notes that once BNC1 and ADAMTS1 are identified in a patient’s blood, further tests will be needed to locate an actual cancer. Surgery to remove it would presumably have a better chance of curing the disease owing to its small size and early stage.
The National Cancer Institute and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the American College of Surgeons/Society of University Surgeons Career Development Award, the Lustgarten Foundation, the Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation, and the National R&D program through the Dongnam Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences funded by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology supported the work.
Source: Johns Hopkins University
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To stay well, pregnant women may need higher doses of a medication commonly used to treat bipolar disorder.
A new study published in American Journal of Psychiatry shows the blood concentration of the drug lamotrigine decreases in pregnant women.
About half of the women in the study had worsening depressive symptoms as their lamotrigine blood levels dropped. The drug levels fall because women have increased metabolism during pregnancy.
When a woman with bipolar disorder becomes pregnant, she and her physician often don’t realize her medication needs adjusting to prevent the symptoms from coming back—a higher risk during pregnancy. There also is little information to guide dosing for psychiatric medications during pregnancy, researchers say.
Approximately 4.4 million women in the US have bipolar disorder. Women of childbearing age having the highest prevalence.Proactive treatment needed
“Now physicians change the dose of the drug in response to women’s symptoms worsening,” says lead investigator Crystal Clark, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychiatrist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “We need to optimize their medication dosing so they stay well.”
The study results will help physicians understand how to increase their patients’ doses during pregnancy and then reduce them postpartum to avoid toxicity, Clark says.
Depressive episodes—as opposed to manic—are most likely to recur in pregnant women with bipolar disorder.
“The safety of the fetus is at risk,” Clark says. “Pregnant women that are depressed are less likely to take care of themselves, which often leads to poor nutrition, lack of compliance with prenatal care, and isolation from family and friends.
“It has also been linked to premature births and babies with low birth weights among other poor birth outcomes.”
The National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health supported the research.
Source: Northwestern University
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New research solves the mystery of how the drug metformin lowers blood sugar for people with type 2 diabetes.
Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the study shows that metformin reduces fat in the liver, which allows insulin to work better. The finding may help scientists develop more effective therapies for diabetes.
“This work, the result of a great international collaboration, has the potential to help develop more effective treatments for type 2 diabetes, which currently affects 4 percent of Australians and represents an ever growing burden on our health system,” says Professor Bruce Kemp, from the University of Melbourne and St. Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research, who has worked closely on the project.Fatty liver Related Articles On Futurity
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Senior author on the study Greg Steinberg, an associate professor at McMaster University in Canada, says the key is that metformin doesn’t work to lower blood glucose by directly working on the glucose. “It works on reducing harmful fat molecules in the liver, which then allows insulin to work better and lower blood sugar levels.”
Sandra Galic from St Vincent’s Institute and co-lead author on the study, was keen to work out the mechanism of action of metformin. “We knew that metformin activates the metabolic sensor AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), but didn’t know how that action resulted in the improvements seen in patients taking the drug.
“When we introduced mutations into two proteins in the AMPK pathway in mice so that they could no longer be switched off by AMPK, we found that that the mice developed fatty liver and pre-diabetes, but did not become obese as expected.”
She says when they put the mice on a high-fat diet, the mice did become obese, “but we were surprised to find that metformin failed to lower their blood sugar levels,” she notes.
Kemp says that many people taking metformin have a fatty liver, which is frequently caused by obesity.
“Fat is likely a key trigger for pre-diabetes in humans. Our study indicates that metformin doesn’t directly reduce sugar metabolism, as previously suspected, but instead reduces fat in the liver, which in turn allows insulin to work effectively,” adds Kemp.
The National Health and Medical Research Council and Australian Research Council supported the research.
Source: University of Melbourne
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Astronomers have discovered a new black hole candidate in the globular cluster known as M62.
Last year when a team of astronomers led by a Michigan State University professor discovered two black holes in a collection of stars known as a globular cluster, the team wasn’t sure if the black holes’ presence was a common occurrence or a unique stroke of luck.
Researchers, who report their findings in Astrophysical Journal, are now thinking it was the former.
“This implies that the discovery of the other black hole, in the globular cluster called M22, was not just a fluke,” says Laura Chomiuk, team member and assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Michigan State. “Black holes really may be common in globular clusters.”Related Articles On Futurity
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Black holes are stars that have died, collapsed into themselves, and now have such a strong gravitational field that not even light can escape from them.
The globular cluster M62 is located in the constellation Ophiuchus, about 22,000 light years from Earth.
Until recently, astronomers had assumed that the black holes did not occur in globular clusters, which are some of the oldest and densest collections of stars in the universe. Stars are packed together a million times more closely than in the neighborhood of our sun.
There are so many stars in such a condensed area that they often interact with one another. Massive black holes would have the most violent encounters, “sling-shotting” each other out of the cluster.
Last year’s discovery of a pair of black holes in a cluster was especially surprising, Chomiuk says. It had been thought that if two black holes dwelled at the center, they would regularly encounter one another until one shoved the other out.
“I think it’s safe to say that we have discovered a whole new hunting ground for black holes,” says Chomiuk.
The team made the discovery by using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico.
Source: Michigan State University
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A new survey reveals negative attitudes toward bisexuality, especially bisexual men, among both heterosexual and homosexual people.
Men who identify as heterosexual are three times more likely to categorize bisexuality as “not a legitimate sexual orientation.”
“That attitude that can encourage negative health outcomes in people who identify as bisexual,” according to an analysis led by Mackay Friedman, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.Related Articles On Futurity
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Researchers present the results of the survey today at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting & Exposition in Boston.
“Bisexual men and women face prejudice, stigma, and discrimination from both heterosexual and homosexual people,” says Mackay Friedman, director of Project Silk, an HIV prevention initiative.
“This can cause feelings of isolation and marginalization, which prior research has shown leads to higher substance use, depression and risky sexual behavior. It also can result in lower rates of HIV testing and treatment.”Bisexuality bias
Building on previous work assessing attitudes toward bisexual men and women, Friedman and his colleagues surveyed hundreds of adult college students for words that come to mind in relation to bisexual people, such as “confused,” “different,” and “experimental.” The researchers then developed a 33-question survey and administered it to an online sample of 1,500 adults.
Overall, respondents were generally negative in terms of their attitudes toward bisexual men and women, with almost 15 percent of the sample in disagreement that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation.
However, women, white people, and people who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual had less bias and prejudice against bisexual people. Of note, respondents who identified as gay or lesbian responded significantly less positively toward bisexuality than those identifying as bisexual, indicating that even within the sexual minority community, bisexuals face profound stigma.
In addition, these findings indicate that male bisexuals likely suffer more stigma than female bisexuals.Stigma and secrecy
Friedman explains that when a bisexual person perceives that his or her sexual orientation is not recognized by peers, it can cause the person to feel socially isolated and unable to talk openly with friends, family, and school mates.
“Having hard data to back up why a bisexual person might feel the need to be secretive about sexual orientation, something that can lead to higher depression and many other negative health outcomes, is very useful to people trying to fight stigma and marginalization,” says Friedman.
“For example, this information can guide social marketing interventions and outreach to reduce that stigma, and improve rates of HIV prevention, testing, and treatment within the bisexual community.”
Additional researchers contributed to the study from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University Bloomington, which sponsored the study. The NIH also provided partial funding.
Source: University of Pittsburgh
Scientists have developed a new method for quantitatively measuring human brain tissue using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
The team members measured the volume of large molecules (macromolecules) within each cubic millimeter of the brain. Their method may change the way doctors diagnose and treat neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis.Related Articles On Futurity
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“We’re moving from qualitative—saying something is off—to measuring how off it is,” says Aviv Mezer, postdoctoral scholar in psychology at Stanford University. The team’s work appears in the journal Nature Medicine.
Mezer, whose background is in biophysics, found inspiration in seemingly unrelated basic research from the 1980s. In theory, he read, magnetic resonance could quantitatively discriminate between different types of tissues.
“Do the right modifications to make it applicable to humans,” he says of adapting the previous work, “and you’ve got a new diagnostic.”Faster and reliable
Previous quantitative MRI measurements required uncomfortably long scan times. Mezer and psychology professor Brian Wandell unearthed a faster scanning technique, albeit one noted for its lack of consistency.
“Now we’ve found a way to make the fast method reliable,” Mezer says.
Mezer and Wandell, working with neuroscientists, radiologists and chemical engineers, calibrated their method with a physical model—a radiological “phantom”—filled with agar gel and cholesterol to mimic brain tissue in MRI scans.
Their results provided a new way to look at a living brain.Multiple sclerosis
MRI images of the brain are made of many “voxels,” or three-dimensional elements. Each voxel represents the signal from a small volume of the brain, much like a pixel represents a small volume of an image.
The fraction of each voxel filled with brain tissue (as opposed to water) is called the macromolecular tissue volume, or MTV. Different areas of the brain have different MTVs.
Mezer found that his MRI method produced MTV values in agreement with measurements that, until now, could only come from post-mortem brain specimens.
This is a useful first measurement, Mezer says. “The MTV is the most basic entity of the structure. It’s what the tissue is made of.”
The team applied its method to a group of multiple sclerosis patients. MS attacks a layer of cells called the myelin sheath, which protects neurons the same way insulation protects a wire. Until now, doctors typically used qualitative MRI scans (displaying bright or dark lesions) or behavioral tests to assess the disease’s progression.
Myelin comprises most of the volume of the brain’s “white matter,” the core of the brain. As MS erodes myelin, the MTV of the white matter changes. Just as predicted, Mezer and Wandell found that MS patients’ white matter tissue volumes were significantly lower than those of healthy volunteers.
Mezer and colleagues at Stanford School of Medicine are now following up with the patients to evaluate the effect of MS drug therapies. They’re using MTV values to track individual brain tissue changes over time.
The team’s results were consistent among five MRI machines.
Mezer and Wandell will next use MRI measurements to monitor brain development in children, particularly as the children learn to read. Wandell’s previous work mapped the neural connections involved in learning to read. MRI scans can measure how those connections form.
“You can compare whether the circuits are developing within specified limits for typical children,” Wandell says, “or whether there are circuits that are wildly out of spec, and we ought to look into other ways to help the child learn to read.”
Tracking MTV, the team says, helps doctors better compare patients’ brains to the general population—or to their own history—giving them a chance to act before it’s too late.
Source: Stanford University
A meditation-based therapy known as ‘mindfulness’ training can improve attention skills in incarcerated youth and increase self-control over emotions and actions, research shows.
The recent study is the first to show that mindfulness training can be used in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy to protect attentional functioning in high-risk incarcerated youth.Related Articles On Futurity
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Researchers followed 267 incarcerated males, ages 16 to 18, over a four-month period. They found that participation in an intervention that combined cognitive behavioral therapy with mindfulness training (or “CBT/MT”), called Power Source, had a protective effect on youths’ attentional capacity. This research, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, is the largest controlled study of mindfulness training for youth to date.
“The CBT/MT approach responds to the significant childhood psychosocial hardships that most incarcerated youths have experienced, including exposure to violence, poverty, and physical, and emotional abuse by caregivers,” explains principal investigator Noelle R. Leonard, a Senior Research Scientist at the New York University College of Nursing.
“These experiences impair cognitive control processes, such as attention regulation, which is vital for the self-regulation of feelings and actions. The antisocial behavior prevalent among youthful offenders is the result of an ongoing interplay between this psychosocial adversity and deficits in cognitive control processes, particularly attention.”
Improving attention can lead to better self-control. Reflecting on the impact of the intervention, one study participant stated, “Just yesterday. Got into an altercation with a guy in the kitchen. Guy says, ‘We’re gonna fight.’ At first thought, my initial response was to fight. Then I thought about the consequences—I’d lose my job [in the prison kitchen], don’t want to go to court and don’t want to hear the judge mouth about my fights.” Attention to the goal of staying out of trouble allowed this participant to consider an alternative to fighting.Why it works
“Mindfulness meditation can be seen as involving two components: self-regulation of attention and non-judgmental awareness,” says Leonard. “The practice involves training youth to attend to something as simple as the sensations associated with breathing. While our minds will invariably wander to other thoughts or get distracted by things in the environment, by repeatedly returning attention back to the breath in a non-judgmental way, we are building attentional capacity to interrupt the cycle of automatic and reactive thoughts.”
The mindfulness training is complemented by exercises that focus on taking responsibility for offending behavior and increasing motivation for engaging in non-violent, pro-social behaviors. “Although we don’t have direct evidence for this yet, we hypothesize that this repeated practice can translate into maintaining a focus on pro-social or non-violent goals in the course of youths’ daily lives, amidst the harsh conditions of incarceration or in the context of anti-social peers” adds Leonard.
“Mindfulness training helps youth consider more adaptive alternatives,” added Bethany Casarjian of the Lionheart Foundation, who developed the Power Source intervention and co-authored the study. “It creates a gap between triggers for offending behavior and their responses. They learn to not immediately act out on impulse, but to pause and consider the consequences of a potential offending and high risk behavior.”‘Unrelenting stress’ of incarceration
Study participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups based upon the prison dormitory where they resided: the intervention group received cognitive-behavioral/mindfulness training and the control group received an evidence-based cognitive-perception intervention focusing on attitudes and beliefs about substance use and violence. Participants completed a computerized Attention Network Test (ANT) prior to the intervention and four months later.
The researchers found that this high-stress period of incarceration led to declines in attentional task performance for all subjects. This poorer performance over time might be accounted for by the unrelenting stress on cognitive control that is necessary for complex problem solving, emotion regulation, and behavioral inhibition.
However, the CBT/MT intervention group showed significantly less of a decline in attentional task performance as compared to the control group. Moreover, within the CBT/MT group, the attentional task performance among those who practiced outside of intervention sessions remained stable compared to those who did not practice outside of the intervention sessions.
These findings indicate that a multi-session CBT/MT intervention can be effective in limiting degradation in attentional performance in incarcerated youth, thus providing a protective effect on offending youths’ functional attentional impairments during incarceration in a high-security urban jail.
Co-author Amishi P. Jha, of the University of Miami, has reported that protracted periods of high stress, such as preparing for military deployment, degrades cognitive control functions such as attention and working memory.
“Cognitive control processes like attention are involved in decision-making and emotion regulation,” says Jha. “With degraded attention, the chances of impulsive and risky decision-making, as well as emotional reactivity are greater.”
The current results suggest that strengthening attention through mindfulness training may be a key route for reducing recidivism among young offenders, and highlight the need to teach detained youth strategies to improve cognitive and emotional control in the stressful detainment environment.
In particular, training methods that allow youth to actively engage in exercises on their own to improve cognitive control may be ideal in conjunction with structured intervention activities or psychotherapy to help youth cultivate resilience by building their capacity for cognitive control while detained and after release.
“Finally”, Leonard adds, “We know that incarceration is not good for youth, and with this study, we have direct evidence that incarceration depletes the very processes youth need to strengthen in order to steer their developmental trajectory in a more pro-social, law-abiding direction.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the research.
Source: New York University
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A new study looks at mainstream news coverage of transgender-related issues, and identifies a trend the researchers call “gender panic.”
When New York City moved in 2006 to make it easier for transgender people to revise the gender on their birth certificates, the proposal was widely expected to pass.
But the anti-discrimination measure failed, in part because of public opposition to removing the requirement that individuals have genital surgery before claiming a different gender.Related Articles On Futurity
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“The backlash was intense,” says Kristen Schilt, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. “There was such a fervor over taking the surgery requirement out, a sense of, ‘Absolutely not. There’s going to be chaos.’”
Schilt calls this public reaction “gender panic,” a concept that she and co-author Laurel Westbrook explore in a new study in the journal Gender and Society.
The authors examined mainstream news coverage of transgender-related news and policy issues, and found trends that reflect entrenched views about transgender people and broader gender issues.
Like the terms “moral panic” and “sex panic,” Schilt describes gender panic as a deep, cultural fear, set off in this case when the “naturalness” of a male-female gender binary is challenged. When such challenges affect public policy, Schilt says, “that’s when the panic starts to get really hot.”
Since the 1960s, American society has tended to uphold values of autonomy and equality, including gender self-identity, Schilt says. Transgender people typically are accepted in “non-sexual” spaces like the workplace. But acceptance hits a wall when it comes to places reserved for women.
In the case of New York birth certificates, the “panic” centered on how such a policy could lead to granting access to women’s bathrooms and locker rooms for individuals who identify as women but have male anatomies.
In these women-only spaces, many people regard the mere assertion of a person’s gender identity as insufficient—it must be accompanied by anatomical change.Bathrooms and sports
“We found that what calms down the panic is having a very clear policy about who’s in your bathroom,” Schilt says, “and that policy relates very distinctly to genitalia.” She points out that the world of transgender athletics elicits far less panic because the Olympics and all sports teams subscribe to the Stockholm Consensus, a rigidly detailed policy governing athletes’ bodies, from hormone levels to genitalia.
For example, people with male genitalia are forbidden from competing in the Olympics as women, though a man without a penis could compete in men’s events.
The authors contend that gender panic is often unfounded, based not on evidence but on an imagined threat. “There’s an opposition that’s asking, ‘But what if?’” Schilt says.
Public outcry against the birth certificate case centered on the potential dangers of encountering a transgender person in a woman’s bathroom—opponents invoked scenarios of sexual predators pretending to be transgender in order to violate women and children in these settings. Even without data to support them, such arguments are powerful enough to sway policy. New York City, for example, swiftly abandoned its proposal.
Instances of gender panic almost never centered on potential violation of male spaces, such as transgender men in male bathrooms, the study found. Westbrook, an assistant professor of sociology at Grand Valley State University, attributes the focus on women’s spaces to underlying social beliefs about gender, particularly the notion that women are weak and vulnerable and men are strong and dangerous.
“Women have been taught that someone is always looking to attack us,” she says. “We have to be extra cautious or that attack will be successful.” Men don’t have that sense, she adds, even though they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime.Transgender children
Despite these deep-seated beliefs, there are signs of change. In August 2013, California became the first state to pass a law allowing transgender public school children to choose a sports team—or a bathroom—based on their own perception of their gender. The law does not include a requirement that the children be anatomically male or female.
That could signal things to come. While previous cases caused concerns about crimes by adults, Schilt says, “It’s harder to have a really negative reaction to a child.”
Source: University of Chicago
Animals that push forward and back at the same time aren’t wasting effort. They are maximizing both stability and maneuverability simultaneously, a new study shows.
The finding—while it could lead to more agile robots—serves primarily to shed light on a question that has baffled biologists: why do animals exert force in ways that don’t move them toward their destination? A robot designer would likely avoid the side-to-side sashaying of a running lizard or cockroach, movements that seem inefficient. So why do the animals behave this way?Related Articles On Futurity
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A research team led by Johns Hopkins University engineers says that the extra exertion isn’t necessarily wasteful after all. It allows at least some animals to accomplish a double-play often described as impossible in engineering textbooks.
“One of the things they teach you in engineering is that you can’t have both stability and maneuverability at the same time,” says Noah Cowan, the associate professor of mechanical engineering who supervised the research. “The Wright Brothers figured this out when they built their early airplanes. They made their planes a little unstable to get the maneuverability they needed.”Animal mechanics
When an animal or vehicle is stable, it resists unwanted changes in direction. On the other hand, if it is maneuverable, it has the ability to quickly change course when desired. Generally, engineers have assumed that a system can rely on one property or the other—but not both. Not so.
“Animals are a lot more clever with their mechanics than we often realize,” Cowan says. “By using just a little extra energy to control the opposing forces they create during those small shifts in direction, animals seem to increase both stability and maneuverability when they swim, run, or fly.”
Cowan says this discovery, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help engineers simplify and enhance small robots that fly, swim, or move on mechanical legs.Knifefish in slow motion
The scientists used slow-motion video to study the fin movements of the tiny glass knifefish. These shy fish, each about 3 inches, prefer to hide in tubes and other shelters, where they avoid being eaten by predators in their Amazon basin habitat. In a lab, the team filmed the fish at 100 frames per second to study how they used their fins to stay in one place in these tubes, even when facing a steady flow of water.
“What is immediately obvious in the slow-motion videos is that the fish constantly move their fins to produce opposing forces. One region of their fin pushes water forward, while the other region pushes the water backward,” says Eric Fortune, a professor of biological sciences at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who was a co-author of the paper. “This arrangement is rather counter-intuitive, like two propellers fighting against each other.”
If the fish wants to move forward or backward instead of hovering, it can adjust the proportion of fin pushing in either direction. The research team developed a mathematical model that suggested that this odd arrangement enables the animal to improve both stability and maneuverability.
The team then tested that model with a robot that mimicked the fish’s fin movements. This biomimetic robot was developed in the lab of Malcolm MacIver, associate professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at Northwestern University and a co-author.Hummingbirds and bees do it
“We are far from duplicating the agility of animals with our most advanced robots,” MacIver says. “One exciting implication of this work is that we might be held back in making more agile machines by our assumption that it’s wasteful or useless to have forces in directions other than the one we are trying to move in. It turns out to be key to improved agility and stability.”
The mutually opposing forces that help the knifefish become both stable and maneuverable can also be found in the hovering behavior of hummingbirds and bees, says senior author Cowan, who directs the Locomotion in Mechanical and Biological Systems Lab at Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering.
“As an engineer, I think about animals as incredible, living robots,” says lead author Shahin Sefati, a doctoral student advised by Cowan. “It has taken several years of exciting multidisciplinary research during my PhD studies to understand these ‘robots’ better.”
The National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research funded the study.
Source: Johns Hopkins University
The post ‘Double-play’ motion keeps critters stable and agile appeared first on Futurity.
Children and teens from families with lower socioeconomic status may grow up to be more susceptible to the common cold.
Researchers say there’s an association between socioeconomic status during childhood and the length of telomeres later in life. Telomeres are protective cap-like protein complexes at the end of chromosomes, and having shorter telomeres can increase the chances of getting sick.
Telomere length is a biomarker of aging with telomeres shortening with age. As a cell’s telomeres shorten, it loses its ability to function normally and eventually dies. Having shorter telomeres is connected to the early onset of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer—and predicts susceptibility to acute infectious disease in young to midlife adults.
A new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity links low childhood socioeconomic status to shorter telomeres and an increased susceptibility to the common cold.
“This provides valuable insight into how our childhood environments can influence our adult health,” says Sheldon Cohen, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University.Own your home?
In the study, Cohen and his team measured the telomere lengths of white blood cells from 152 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 55. To gauge childhood and current socioeconomic status, the participants reported whether they currently own their home and whether their parents owned the family home when they were between the ages of 1 and 18.Related Articles On Futurity
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They were then exposed to a rhinovirus, which causes a common cold, and quarantined for five days to see if they actually developed an upper respiratory infection.
The results showed that participants with lower childhood socioeconomic status—indicated by fewer years that their parents were homeowners—had shorter than average telomere length.
Telomere length decreased by 5 percent for each year the participants’ parents did not own a home.
The researchers also found that parental homeownership in both early childhood and adolescence were both associated with adult telomere length.
The participants with lower childhood socioeconomic status were also more likely to become infected by the cold virus. Specifically, for each year their parents did not own a home during their childhood years up to age 18, the participants’ odds of developing a cold increased by 9 percent.
“We have found initial evidence for a biological explanation of the importance of childhood experiences on adult health,” Cohen says. “The association we found in young and midlife adults suggests why those raised by parents of relatively low socioeconomic status may be at increased risk for disease throughout adulthood.”
Researchers from the University of Virginia Health Science Center, the University of Pittsburgh, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and the University of California San Francisco contributed to the study. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine funded the research.
Source: Carnegie Mellon University
The post Kids who grow up with less may catch more colds as adults appeared first on Futurity.
A molecule called VIP may offer a new way to treat people suffering from the effects of jet lag or shift work.
A certain dosages, VIP desynchronizes time-keeping neurons in the brain’s biological clock. Far from being catastrophic, the temporary loss of synchronization actually might be useful.
Neurons knocked for a loop by a burst of VIP are better able to re-synchronize to abrupt shifts in the light-dark cycle—such as jet lag.
It takes tumbling cells only half as long as undisturbed cells to entrain to the new schedule, scientists report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The scientists hope to find a way to coax the brain into releasing its own stores of VIP or to find other ways to deliberately cause tumbling so the body’s clock will reset to a new time. Such a treatment might help travelers, shift works, and others who overtax the biological clock’s ability to entrain to environmental cues.Timing is everything
The master circadian clock in mammals is a knot of 20,000 nerve cells roughly the size of a quarter of a grain of rice called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). Each neuron in the SCN keeps time, but because they’re different cells, they have slightly different rhythms. Some run a bit fast and others a bit slow.
“They’re like a society where each cell has its own opinion on what time of day it is,” says Erik Herzog, a biology professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “They need to agree on the time of day in order to coordinate daily rhythms in alertness and metabolism.”Related Articles On Futurity
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The cells talk to one another through a molecule called VIP (vasoactive intestinal polypeptide), a small string of amino acids that they release and receive. It’s through VIP that cells tell one another what time they think it is, Herzog said. If you get rid of VIP or the receptor for VIP, the cells lose synchrony.
“We were trying to understand exactly when VIP is released and how it synchronized the cells,” Herzog says, “and Sungwon An, then a graduate student in my lab, discovered that when there was extra VIP around, the cells lost synchrony.
“That was really surprising for us,” he adds. “We did a lot of experiments just to make sure the VIP we had bought wasn’t contaminated in some way.”
It turned out the effect was real. Above a critical level, the more VIP was released, the more desynchronized the cells became.
“It’s almost as if at higher doses the cells become blind to the information from their neighbors,” Herzog says.
“Then we thought: ‘Well, if the cell rhythms are messed up and out of phase, the system may be more sensitive to environmental cues than it would be if all the cells were in sync.’”Slow vs. abrupt changes
If it was more sensitive, it might be better able to adjust to the abrupt schedule shifts that characterize modern life.
They were encouraged in this line of thinking by a simulation of the SCN created by Linda Petzold, Kirsten Meeker, Rich Harang and Frank Doyle, all chemical engineers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The numerical model predicted that increasing VIP would lead to phase tumbling (less synchrony) and accelerated entrainment.
Rapid entrainment to environmental cues is important, Herzog explains. The master clock has evolved to adjust to slow seasonal changes in light/dark schedules, but not to abrupt ones that are built into the fabric of modern life. Even the seemingly benign one-hour shift for daylight savings time increases the risk of fatal car crashes and of heart attacks.
“We were curious to see whether adding extra VIP would improve the ability of biological clocks to make big adjustments,” Herzog says.
Tests show that a shot of VIP does in fact accelerate entrainment to a new light schedule.
“We found that in mice we could cut ‘jet lag’ in half by giving them a shot of VIP the day before we ‘flew them to a new time zone,’ by shifting their light schedule,” Herzog says.
“That’s really exciting, ” Herzog adds. “This is the first demonstration that giving a bit more of a substance the brain already makes actually improves the way the circadian system functions. ”
“We’re taking the system the brain uses to entrain to changes in the seasons and goosing it a bit so that it can adjust to bigger shifts in the light schedule,” he says.
“We’re hoping we’ll be able to find a way to coax the brain into releasing its own stores of VIP or a light trigger or other signal that mimics the effects of VIP.”
Several simple practices, such as hand washing and opening a window, can lower the chances of spreading the flu among household members, new research confirms.
“Winter is coming and with it, the threat of flu, including H1N1, is becoming big,” says Sun Wenjie, a global health postdoctoral associate at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and leader of the study published in the journal PLOS ONE.Related Articles On Futurity
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The study is based on data of flu transmission within households during a 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak in Beijing, China. The researchers focused on living conditions and behavior that can influence the spread of flu among members of a household. The results suggest health education can be a significant factor in preventing the flu from spreading.
Households with generally higher levels of education tended to have lower H1N1 transmission rates between members, as these households more frequently ventilated living areas and residents washed their hands more often.
The researchers compared rates of flu transmission within 54 case households, in which there was a self-quarantined index patient (the first case identified within the group) as well as a secondary case, to disease transmission in 108 control households, each with a self-quarantined first patient and another family member in close contact.
Household density plays a significant role in spreading flu, concluded the researchers. Compared to close contacts living in a single room, the risk of infection of those sharing a room with the index patient was 3.29 times greater, according to the study.
“H1N1 is a respiratory disease and is easily transferred through close contact, and contaminated hands can serve as vehicles of transmission of upper-respiratory illness,” says Wenjie. “On these grounds, strengthening public health education and promotion of proper personal hygiene practices may have a positive impact on prevention of pandemic H1N1 flu.”
Study: Tulane University
The rarer a male guppy’s color pattern, the more attractive he is to females—and the more offspring he will likely father—researchers find.
“We think that females might exhibit this preference because it helps them to avoid mating with close relatives,” says Helen Rodd of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto.Related Articles On Futurity
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“Guppies breed in small pools that are isolated from other pools in their stream and so often live surrounded by their fathers, uncles, brothers, and cousins. By picking a male that is quite distinct from the rest, a female could be trying to increase the chance that he isn’t related to her.”
The researchers looked into this mate preference behavior to explain the wide variety of colors and patterns in natural populations of fish. The bodies and tales of male guppies in the wild are covered with spots and stripes of many different colors: orange, yellow, blue, violet, green, black, and white. The sizes and positions of the spots also vary from one individual to the next.
“We think this variety exists because when females prefer unusual-looking males, these rare males will leave many sons and grandsons and slowly his and his descendant’s color pattern will become more common. But when this color pattern becomes common those that have it will leave fewer offspring and so that color morph will gradually decline in prevalence. We will expect a cycling of a color morphs.”Faddish females
Rodd says the phenomenon is a bit like fashions from earlier decades that get recycled over time.
“Say a small group of hipsters in Greenwich, New York City, or San Francisco decide to dress like people from the 1970s, then a few fashion designers see them and think, ‘Hey, that’s cool,’ and spread the message that it is cool to dress this way. Eventually lots of people will be dressing this same way and it won’t be novel anymore and it will fall out of fashion, until a decade later when another group of fashion-conscious individuals reinvent 70s fashion again.
“This fish situation is similar except, in this study, we showed this faddish behavior in female fish actually translates into males’ success with females and thus their ability to pass their genes to the next generation. New ‘fashions’ appear as new color combinations arise and eventually the equilibrium that we see today with many, many different color patterns has been reached. It is like living in a big city—we see a whole range of styles, including goth.”
Over time, the female guppy preference for males with unusual color patterns, and the invention of new color morphs and the recycling of old color morphs should create the incredible array of color that we see in these fish, Rodd explains. The study appears in the journal Nature.Colorful males
The research team conducted their experiments in the guppy’s natural habitat—little pools in streams in Trinidad. They caught all of the male and female guppies from four to six pools and sorted them into two types—those with a lot of color on their tail fin or those with very little color in their tail fin.
In their experimental manipulation, they place the males in the pools so that, in some pools, 75 per cent of the males had a lot of color on their tails and 25 per cent of the males had little color on the tails. They used the opposite ratio in other pools. They gave the females a tiny tattoo to identify which pool they were from and put them back in their own pool.
After 16 or 17 days, they collected the females, took them to the lab, raised their offspring and figured out which male was the father of each of the offspring. They repeated this experiment in three different streams, in four to six pools each time. Females consistently preferred the males that were rarer.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the National Science Foundation supported the study.
Source: University of Toronto
Just a few genetic changes can spur the evolution of new species, even if the original populations are still in contact and exchanging genes, a new study shows.
Once started, however, evolutionary divergence evolves rapidly, ultimately leading to fully genetically isolated species, report scientists in Cell Reports.Related Articles On Futurity
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“Speciation is one of the most fundamental evolutionary processes, but there are still aspects that we do not fully understand, such as how the genome changes as one species splits into two,” says Marcus Kronforst, assistant professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, and lead author of the study.
To reveal genetic differences critical for speciation, Kronforst and his team analyzed the genomes of two closely related butterfly species, Heliconius cydno and H. pachinus, which only recently diverged.
Occupying similar ecological habitats and able to interbreed, these butterfly species still undergo a small amount of genetic exchange.
The researchers found that this regular gene flow mutes genetic variants unimportant to speciation—allowing them to identify key genetic areas affected by natural selection. The butterfly species, they discovered, differed in only 12 small regions of their genomes, while remaining mostly identical throughout the rest.
Eight of these coded for wing color patterning, a trait important for mating and avoiding predation, and under intense selection pressure, while the other four remain undescribed.
“These 12 spots appear to only function well in the environment their species occupies, and so are prevented from moving between gene pools, even though other parts of the genomes are swapped back and forth,” Kronforst says.
The team also compared the genomes of these two groups to a third species, still closely related but further removed on an evolutionary time scale. Here, they found hundreds of genomic changes, indicating that the rate of genetic divergence accelerated rapidly after the initial changes took hold.
“Our work suggests that a few advantageous mutations are enough to cause a ‘tug-of-war’ between natural selection and gene flow, which can lead to rapidly diverging genomes,” Kronforst says.
Kronforst and his team plan to characterize the remaining four divergent genome areas to look for functions important to speciation. They also are studying why species more commonly arise in tropical areas.
“It is possible that this type of speciation, in which natural selection pushes populations apart, has been important in the evolution of other organisms. It remains to be seen whether it is a common process though,” Kronforst adds.
The National Science Foundation supported the study.
Source: University of Chicago
Catholic schools are not necessarily better than public schools, according to a new national study.
Math scores for Catholic school students dropped between kindergarten and eighth grade, while math scores for public school students increased slightly. In addition, Catholic school students saw no significant increase in reading scores or better behavioral outcomes between kindergarten and eighth grade.
“Across many outcomes, both academic and behavioral, we don’t find anything that seems to point to a real benefit of Catholic schools over public schools,” says Todd Elder, associate professor of economics at Michigan State University.Related Articles On Futurity
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There are more than 2 million students in 6,700 Catholic schools in the United States, according to the National Catholic Educational Association.Catholic school students
The study, published in the Journal of Urban Economics, is the first to examine test scores starting in kindergarten. Results from the first national standardized tests in math and reading—taken just weeks after the start of kindergarten—show that Catholic school students perform much better on average than public school students.
That huge gap is likely due to higher socioeconomic status for families who send their children to Catholic schools, Elder says. “What you see is that the kids who go to Catholic schools are much, much different the day they walk in the door than the kids who go to public schools.”
But if Catholic schools were truly better, as past research implies, that achievement gap would widen as the students progressed through school—and it doesn’t, in either math or reading, Elder says. In fact, when it comes to math scores, the public school students closed the gap somewhat by the eighth grade.
Average math scores for Catholic school kindergartners dropped from 62 percent in kindergarten to 57 percent in eighth grade. For public school students, average math scores increased from 47 percent in kindergarten to 49 percent in eighth grade.
“That’s the shocking finding,” Elder says.Teacher pay
While previous research has noted that Catholic school students generally outperform public students academically, it has missed the point that Catholic school students essentially start off in kindergarten with an advantage that has nothing to do with the schooling itself, he says.
One possible explanation for lower Catholic school achievement is that Catholic school teachers typically make less than public teachers. The study notes that in 2008, private elementary school teachers had an average salary of $35,730 compared to $51,660 in public schools—a 45 percent difference that may make it difficult for Catholic schools to attract quality teachers.
“Some people say Catholic schools are doing more with less,” Elder says. “But these findings suggest they’re not doing more with less—that they may, in fact, be doing less with less.”
Another possible explanation is that public schools have better designed curriculum, the study says.
Elder analyzed the data of about 7,000 students who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: Kindergarten Class of 1998-99. The students were surveyed in kindergarten, first grade, third grade, fifth grade, and eighth grade.
In addition to math and reading scores, the study looked at behavioral outcomes and other factors including absences, suspensions, tardiness and repeating grades. “Taken together,” the study says, “the estimates in this paper do not point to any beneficial effects of Catholic primary schooling.”
Source: Michigan State University
Abnormalities in two particular types of white blood cells called neutrophils may be key to more accurate and earlier diagnosis of deadly bacterial meningococcal.
While meningococcal infection is relatively rare, affecting approximately 2,500 people each year in the United States, it is a devastating disease. It kills 7 to 15 percent of those who acquire the infection, and often causes permanent complications for survivors, such as brain damage and hearing loss. Many patients also require amputation of limbs because the disease can cause severe tissue damage.
Immediate treatment is important in meningococcal infection because it usually progresses rapidly within eight to twelve hours. Some patients may die within as little as 12 to 24 hours after onset of symptoms, which can include a sudden high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness, and mental confusion. About half of patients with the infection have a rash.Diagnosis needed in hours, even minutes
“When we talk about early diagnosis, we’re not talking about days, but rather hours and even minutes,” says Michael Cooperstock, professor of child health in the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, medical director of infection control at University of Missouri Health Care, and senior author of the study.Related Articles On Futurity
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“Diagnosis of most bacterial infections traditionally has relied upon the detection of an increase in the total number of white blood cells,” Cooperstock says. “That’s because an increase in a patient’s white blood cell count is an indication of acute inflammation associated with infection.”
However, in their study of 216 cases from the US Multicenter Meningococcal Surveillance Study, researchers found that 33 percent of the patients with active infections had total white blood cell counts that appeared normal. After examining the patients’ blood tests more closely, the researchers found that a better indicator of infection was not the total white blood cell count but rather abnormalities in two particular types of white blood cells called neutrophils.
“When we looked at the neutrophil counts of each patient, we examined not only the total number of neutrophils, but also the number of immature neutrophils and the ratio of immature to total neutrophil cells,” Cooperstock says. “We found that 94 percent of the patients showed an abnormality of one or more of these three tests, indicating a serious infection might be present. Reliance on the total white blood cell count alone, however, would have given false reassurance that infection was not present in more than 30 percent of those cases.”‘First responder’ cells
Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells, acting as first responders to help fight infection, particularly bacterial infections. Mature neutrophil cells are called segmented neutrophils, and immature cells are known as band neutrophils.
“Our study,” published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, “suggests that physicians should look not at the total white cell count but at the total number of neutrophils, the total number of band neutrophils and the ratio of band to total neutrophils as an indicator that could lead to a suspicion of meningococcal infection,” Cooperstock says.
“If any of the three neutrophil indicators are outside a certain range, there is a possibility that the patient has a serious bacterial infection, including the possibility of meningococcal disease, and would need careful attention.”
Cooperstock also pointed out that although automated white cell counts, a method used in many emergency rooms and clinics, may be quicker, they do not measure neutrophil bands and could lead to a missed diagnosis.
“Our purpose with the publication of this study is to point out the best way to evaluate neutrophil counts when ordering blood analysis,” Cooperstock says. “That’s especially important for children with fever, who often may not present with typical meningococcal symptoms.”
Source: University of Missouri
The post Neutrophils: A better way to diagnosis meningitis? appeared first on Futurity.
Scientists have discovered a new SARS-like coronavirus in Chinese horseshoe bats that can infect people.
The research team isolated and cultured the live virus that binds to the human SARS ACE2 receptor, proving that it can be transmitted directly from bats to people.
The study, published in the journal Nature, describes how the team uncovered genome sequences of a new virus closely related to the SARS coronavirus, which erupted in Asia in 2002 and 2003 and caused a global pandemic crisis.Related Articles On Futurity
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The research is the first time that scientists have been able to isolate a live SARS-like virus from bats. It will allow them to conduct detailed studies to create control measures to thwart outbreaks and provide opportunities for vaccine development.
“This work shows that these viruses can directly infect humans and validates our assumption that we should be searching for viruses of pandemic potential before they spill over to people,” says study co-author Jonna Mazet, a professor at the University of California, Davis.
Mazet is co-director of PREDICT, a project of USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats program, which is designed to target surveillance of wildlife populations and identify potential pandemic viruses before they emerge.SARS missing link
Coronaviruses are common viruses that usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses. The SARS coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory illness and can infect people and animals.
During the original SARS outbreak in the wet markets of Guangdong province in China, it was thought that bat viruses first infected civets—small mammals native to tropical Asia and Africa—and then evolved to infect people through this intermediate host.
The current breakthrough suggests that SARS may have originated from one of these bat viruses, precluding civets from playing a part in the human infection process.
“We have been searching for this missing link for 10 years, and finally we’ve found it,” says co-senior author Zhengli Shi from the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
The results are based on genetic analyses of live samples taken over the course of a year from members of a horseshoe bat colony in Kunming, China. At least seven different strains of SARS-like coronaviruses were found to be circulating within the single group of bats.
“The discovery that bats may directly infect humans has enormous implications for public health control measures,” says co-senior author Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, which led the international effort, including scientists in China, Australia, Singapore and the United States.
“Our research here uncovered a wide diversity of potentially pandemic viruses present, right now, in bats in China that could spill over into people and cause another SARS-like outbreak. Even worse, we don’t know how lethal these viruses would be if such an outbreak erupted,” add Daszak.Protect bat habitats
Daszak says the study carries lessons for the recent outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, which likely originated in Saudi Arabian bats. Bat habitats need to be protected from severe human-induced changes to the environment, he says, and that public health measures need to be created to reduce the risk of transmission.
It is not uncommon for bats to be a food source for many people in China and other parts of Asia.
The National Institutes of Health/National Science Foundation Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases grant and USAID Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT initiative funded the project, with additional support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH, US Department of Health and Human Services, China’s State Key Programs for Basic Research, and National Natural Science Foundation of China.
Source: UC Davis
A new study finds higher levels of racism in white Americans is associated with having a gun in the home and greater opposition to gun control policies.
After accounting for numerous other factors such as income, education, and political ideology, the researchers found that for each one point increase (on a scale from one to five) in symbolic racism there was a 50 percent increase in the odds of having a gun in the home and a 28 percent increase in support for policies allowing people to carry concealed guns.Related Articles On Futurity
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Each one point increase in symbolic racism (a modern measure of anti-black racism) was also associated with a 27 percent increase in the odds of opposing bans on hand guns in the home. After accounting for those who already had a gun in the home, the odds were reduced to a non-significant 17 percent increase. However, the authors note that this reduction is unsurprising as opposition to bans on guns equates to self interest on behalf of those who already own a gun and do not wish to give it up.
And racism was already strongly associated with having a gun in the home.
The research, published in PLoS One, was stimulated by gun control debates in the US after mass shootings such as the Sandy Hook tragedy, and research showing black Americans are more likely to be shot than whites.
The most recent figures show there are approximately 38,000 gun related deaths in the US each year, with other research suggesting having a gun in the home is related to a 2.7 or 4.8 fold increase in the risk of a member of that home dying from homicide or suicide, respectively.Illogical arguments?
“Coming from countries with strong gun control policies, and a 30-fold lower rate of gun-related homicides, we found the arguments for opposing gun control counterintuitive and somewhat illogical,” says Kerry O’Brien who led the research at Monash University.
“For example, white Americans oppose gun control to a far greater extent than do black Americans, but whites are actually more likely to kill themselves with their guns than be killed by someone else. So why would you keep them? We decided to examine what social and psychological factors predict gun ownership and opposition to gun control.”
Conservatism, anti-government sentiment, party identification, and being from a southern state were also associated with opposition to gun control, but the association between racism and the gun-related outcomes remained after accounting for these factors and other participant characteristics (age, education, income, and gender).Symbolic racism
Symbolic racism supplanted old-fashioned or overt/blatant racism, which was associated with open support for race inequality and segregation under ‘Jim Crow Laws’, but it still captures the anti-black sentiment and traditional values that underpinned blatant racism.
Symbolic racism is also related to stronger opposition to policies that may benefit black Americans, such as welfare, and greater support for policies that seem to disadvantage black Americans, such as longer prison sentences.
Study co-author Dermot Lynott from Lancaster University in the UK says they were initially surprised no one had studied this issue before, however, the US government cut research funding for gun-related research over a decade and a half ago, so research in this area has been somewhat suppressed.
According to a Pew Research Centre report the majority of US whites support stricter gun reform, but the results of our study suggest that US whites who oppose gun reform tend to have a stronger racial bias, are more politically and ideologically conservative, and have higher anti-government sentiment, says O’Brien.
“Our results are a first step, but there needs to be more funding for empirical research around how racial biases may influence people’s policy decisions, and particularly those policies that impact on the health and wellbeing of US citizens,” O’Brien says.
Source: Monash University