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    Surprising astronomers, Bennu spits plumes of dust into space

    Bennu spews dust from its rocky surface, which may be a new kind of asteroid activity.

    in Science News on March 19, 2019 06:55 PM.

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    The learning gap between rich and poor students hasn’t changed in decades

    The educational achievement gap between the poorest and richest U.S. students remains as wide as it was almost 50 years ago.

    in Science News on March 19, 2019 02:11 PM.

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    Episode 15: Is Mindfulness A Panacea Or Overhyped And Potentially Problematic?

    GettyImages-956814130.jpgThis is Episode 15 of PsychCrunch, the podcast from the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest, sponsored by Routledge Psychology. Download here.

    Mindfulness is everywhere these days, but is it really as beneficial as it’s often made out to be? Our presenter Ginny Smith hears from clinical psychologist Dr Catherine Wikholm (co-author of The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?); she visits the Cambridge Buddha Centre to meet people who have taken up mindfulness meditation; and she discusses some of the latest mindfulness research trials with Professor Barney Dunn, a clinical psychologist at Exeter University. Some of the evidence is indeed promising, and mindfulness meditation could offer a cost-effective way to help many people with mental health problems. However, Ginny also discovers that many trials are ongoing, mindfulness is not risk free, and it may not suit everyone.

    Some of the studies mentioned in this episode:

    Mechanisms of action in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in people with physical and/or psychological conditions: A systematic review.

    How do mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction improve mental health and wellbeing? A systematic review and meta-analysis of mediation studies

    Mindfulness Training Increases Momentary Positive Emotions and Reward Experience in Adults Vulnerable to Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy compared with maintenance antidepressant treatment in the prevention of depressive relapse or recurrence (PREVENT): a randomised controlled trial

    The Effectiveness of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in Real-World Healthcare Services

    The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a mindfulness training programme in schools compared with normal school provision (MYRIAD): study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

    Unwanted effects: Is there a negative side of meditation? A multicentre survey

    The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?

    Relevant studies and articles from our own archive and The Psychologist magazine:

    The Psychology of Mindfulness, Digested

    A Mindful Moment – collection of Psychologist magazine articles on mindfulness.

    Brainwave evidence hints at benefits from a school mindfulness programme

    Brief mindfulness training does not foster empathy, and can even make narcissists worse

    Experienced meditators have enhanced control over their eye movements

    This is what eight weeks of mindfulness training does to your brain

    Mindfulness meditation increases people’s susceptibility to false memories

    Just fifteen minutes of mindfulness meditation can improve your decision making

    How meditation alters the brain

    Episode credits: Presented and produced by Ginny Smith. Mixing Jeff Knowler. PsychCrunch theme music Catherine Loveday and Jeff Knowler. Art work Tim Grimshaw.

    Check out this episode!

    Subscribe and download via iTunes.
    Subscribe and download via Stitcher.
    Subscribe and listen on Spotify.

    Past episodes:

    Episode one: Dating and Attraction
    Episode two: Breaking Bad Habits
    Episode three: How to Win an Argument
    Episode four: The Psychology of Gift Giving
    Episode five: How To Learn a New Language
    Episode six: How To Be Sarcastic 😉
    Episode seven: Use Psychology To Compete Like an Olympian.
    Episode eight: Can We Trust Psychological Studies?
    Episode nine: How To Get The Best From Your Team
    Episode ten: How To Stop Procrastinating
    Episode eleven: How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
    Episode twelve: How to Be Funnier
    Episode thirteen: How to Study and Learn More Effectively
    Episode fourteen: Psychological Tricks To Make Your Cooking Taste Better

    PsychCrunch is sponsored by Routledge Psychology.

    PsychCrunch Banner April 16

    Routledge interviewed PsychCrunch presenter Christian Jarrett about the aims of the podcast and engaging with the public about psychology research.

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 19, 2019 11:01 AM.

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    How a tiger transforms into a man-eater

    ‘No Beast So Fierce’ examines the historical and environmental factors that turned a tiger in Nepal and India into a human-killer.

    in Science News on March 19, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    Group in China up to three retractions, ostensibly for three different reasons

    A group of researchers at Harbin Medical University in China has had a third paper retracted, making for a tale of three notices. The first retraction appeared in April 2017 as one of more than 100 from Tumor Biology for fake peer review. The second, for “Functions as a Tumor Suppressor in Osteosarcoma by Targeting … Continue reading Group in China up to three retractions, ostensibly for three different reasons

    in Retraction watch on March 19, 2019 10:46 AM.

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    Ultima Thule may be a frankenworld

    The first geologic map of Ultima Thule shows it might be made of many smaller rocks that clumped together under the force of their own gravity.

    in Science News on March 18, 2019 09:35 PM.

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    People can sense Earth’s magnetic field, brain waves suggest

    An analysis of brain waves offers new evidence that people subconsciously process information about the planet’s magnetism.

    in Science News on March 18, 2019 05:05 PM.

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    Max Planck Florida Institute Names Two New Max Planck Research Fellows

    The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience announces the appointment of two Max Planck Society Fellows, Drs. Michael Halassa and Yi Zuo. The fellowship program is supported by Germany’s Max Planck Society to promote cooperation between outstanding university professors and Max Planck Society researchers for a five-year period. The fellowship program is a longstanding hallmark of Max Planck Society collaborations, with more than 100 fellows being placed into collaborations with Max Planck Institutes around the world since the program began in 2005. Dr. Hallassa and Dr. Zuo are the first researchers to be awarded a Max Planck Society Fellowship at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, which was established in 2010 as the first and only Max Planck Institute in North America.

    Michael Halassa is an associate investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT and an assistant professor in the department of brain and cognitive sciences. During his fellowship, he will focus on research that provides new insights into the functional organization of the neural circuits underlying higher cognitive function that will have a significant impact on the field, and may be relevant for understanding conditions such as autism and attention deficit disorder.

    Dr. Halassa well known for his pioneering work on the neural circuits that give rise to cognitive processes like attention and executive function. His work focuses on understanding the role of the thalamus in cognition. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the 2017 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in the Biomedical Sciences and the 2015 Daniel X. Freedman Prize for Exception Research in Basic Brain & Behavioral Science. He was also awarded the 2017 Takeda/New York Academy of Science Innovator Award, was recognized as the 2017 NYU Langone Medical Center Next Generation Star and was named the 2015 Allen Institute Next Generation Leader.

    Dr. Yi Zuo is a professor in the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She will work with MPFI researchers to develop and apply microscopy techniques to study how synaptic plasticity and brain circuits are affected in mouse models of mental illnesses and stress. The projects addressed through this fellowship are expected to provide new insights into the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying synaptic reorganization during learning and in neuropsychiatric disorders.

    Dr. Zuo is a distinguished neuroscientist and one of the pioneers of chronic imaging of synapses in live animals. She is internationally recognized for her work on synaptic remodeling in development and learning. Over the past three years, Dr. Zuo has worked closely with Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in developing and organizing the advanced course “Neuro-Imaging Techniques” together with Dr. Yasuda. In addition to teaching the course, Dr. Zuo has initiated a collaboration with Dr. Fitzpatrick and Dr. Yasuda to develop new technologies for correlative light- and electron microscopy (CLEM). Dr. Zuo is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including the 2007 award from the Ellison Medical Foundation and the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR). She was also a 2015 National Award finalist for the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists.

    The Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience (MPFI), a not-for-profit research organization, is part of the world-renowned Max Planck Society, Germany’s most successful research organization with over 80 institutes worldwide. Since its establishment in 1948, 18 Nobel laureates have emerged from the ranks of its scientists. As its first U.S. institution, MPFI brings together exceptional neuroscientists from around the world to answer fundamental questions about brain development and function and to develop new technologies that make groundbreaking scientific discoveries possible. Their research is shared publicly with scholars, universities and other organizations around the globe, providing the necessary foundation of knowledge to develop treatments and cures for brain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

    in Max Plank Florida Institute for Neuroscience on March 18, 2019 02:33 PM.

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    Meet India’s starry dwarf frog — a species with no close relatives

    The newly identified starry dwarf frog represents a new species, genus and potentially even a new family.

    in Science News on March 18, 2019 02:00 PM.

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    Resurrecting woolly mammoth cells is hard to do

    Japanese scientists say some proteins in frozen mammoth cells may still work after 28,000 years. But that activity may be more mouse than mammoth.

    in Science News on March 18, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    First Study To Explore What It’s Like To Live With Avoidant Personality Disorder: “Safe When Alone, Yet Lost In Their Aloneness”

    GettyImages-472653346.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

    In the first study of its kind, researchers have asked people to describe in their own words what it’s like to live with Avoidant Personality Disorder – a diagnosis defined by psychiatrists as “a pervasive pattern of social inhibition, feelings of inadequacy, and hypersensitivity to negative evaluation”. Like all personality disorder diagnoses, AVPD is controversial, with some critics questioning whether it is anything other than an extreme form of social phobia.

    To shed new light on the issue, lead author Kristine D. Sørensena, a psychologist, twice interviewed 15 people receiving outpatient treatment for AVPD: 9 women, 6 men, with an average age of 33, and none of them in work. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the researchers said the overarching theme to emerge from the in-depth interviews was the participants’ struggle to be a person. “They felt safe when alone yet lost in their aloneness,” the researchers said. They “longed to connect with others yet feared to get close.” In the researchers’ opinion, the participants’ profound difficulties with their “core self” and in their dealings with others do indeed correspond to “a personality disorder diagnosis”.

    Beneath the overarching theme of struggling to be a person, there emerged two main themes, the first being “fear and longing“. This included participants’ descriptions of having to put on a mask when socialising and their difficulty feeling normal.  “I notice that you spend incredible amounts of energy. You just spend your entire consciousness in just not … trying not to make a fool out of yourself and appear normal.” (Steve). This constant performance meant they felt other people never really knew them. “I have never felt seen. Not even my mother knew me like that. I know I have missed it. I never felt loved.” (Lily). There were some rare exceptions to these difficulties. For instance, one participant said they felt authentic when with their young daughter, yet other participants described how, as their children grew older, their usual insecurities returned even when in their company.

    Another difficulty that was mentioned repeatedly was the dread of getting close to others. “I am very, very suspicious of people. Not that they would harm me physically, but what are their intentions? Or they seem nice, but really, they are not.” (Eva). Coping measures included only interacting through email or text message, and when in physical company, avoiding eye contact.

    The participants also described a conundrum – the solitude that brought them comfort and safety was also suffocating. They were “feeling sad, almost grieving when they were alone”, the researchers said. “There comes a heaviness, like ‘now you are alone again little man, and you will never manage this; you will die alone’” (Peter). To cope, the participants said they kept busy playing computer games and listening to music. Most effective in this regard were physical sports and hobbies like making music, yet sadly the relief evaporated as soon as thoughts of being evaluated crept into mind.

    The second main theme was “A doubting self” – including chronic insecurity and a fleeting sense of self. Participants had the perception that other people breeze through life and have no trouble being themselves. Related to this, the participants were constantly struggling to make sense of their own persistent insecurities. “There is always something grinding in my head, so there is no rest. I do not know how to answer myself to make it better” (Anita).

    The constant acting and pretense when in company led to feelings “like one is not even there” (Amanda). Sometimes this developed into an emotional hollowness. “I think that it is real fun or should be, but I do not feel anything” (Eva). After wearing a mask for so many years, some participants feared they had forgotten who they truly were underneath. “I feel like I do not know myself anymore” (Amanda). On the positive side, participants found time in nature was therapeutic, especially when immersed in a physical challenge. “There it is only me. I do not have to perform something for others to see. I find enormous pleasure from reaching the mountaintop. Then, you are kind of free” (Elsa).

    In short, the researchers said that their participants spend so much time “reflecting on themselves that it seemingly disrupted their everyday life functioning”. They also lacked feelings of belonging, attachment and intimacy. Their suspicion of others and the burden of keeping up appearances “caused the participants to retreat from and thus miss social experiences that might have provided more trustworthy and comforting answers to questions related to the inner mental lives of themselves or others.”

    Sørensena and her colleagues said these insights could be useful for therapists. The therapeutic alliance (a warm, trusting relationship between therapist and client) – always important – will be even more critical for clients with avoidant personality disorder. “The therapeutic relationship provides an opportunity for persons diagnosed with AVPD to experience being met with acceptance and understanding,” the researchers said.

    They added that “through a reflective process, patients might begin to make sense of why they do not manage what seems easy for most people. With this realization, their motivation to encounter new social learning might increase, together with a beginning of acceptance of life’s inherent uncertainties. Research on treatment of AVPD has been scarce and inconclusive, but the suggestions above do align with promising recommendations emphasizing the importance of social skills training and drawing on findings from social cognition research on mentalization, self‐other differentiation, interpersonal grounding for building a self‐concept, and affect consciousness.”

    Struggling to be a person: Lived experience of avoidant personality disorder

    Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 18, 2019 10:42 AM.

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    Late researcher faked Kumamoto earthquake data, university finds

    A researcher in Japan who published at least five papers about a deadly 2016 earthquake faked some of the data, Osaka University announced late last week. Yoshiya Hata resigned his Osaka post and later died, according to media outlet NHK. He claimed to have studied the April 2016 Kumamoto earthquake, which killed at least 50 … Continue reading Late researcher faked Kumamoto earthquake data, university finds

    in Retraction watch on March 18, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    Recruitment of pregnant women in randomized trials: What could hold us back?

    The APOSTEL line of trials has covered APOSTEL I-VII so far. APOSTEL stands for ‘Assessment of Perinatal Outcome with [S….] Tocolysis in Early Labor’ – in this acronym the ‘S’ had different meanings in the different APOSTEL trials. These trials are summarized in Table 1. The most recent publication related to these trials describes stakeholders’ views on recruitment of pregnant women in randomized trials using data gathered during the APOSTEL VI trial.

    Overview of APOSTEL trials

    APOSTEL trial Research topic Conclusions
    I Effectiveness of nifedipine in low-risk women with cervical length of 10-30 mm and negative fetal fibronectin test Nifedipine is not effective in prolonging pregnancy in low-risk women; surprisingly, women in the nifedipine group had significantly lower gestational age births than women in the placebo group.
    II Effectiveness of maintenance tocolysis with nifedipine Maintenance tocolysis with nifedipine does not improve adverse neonatal outcome or prolongation of pregnancy.
    III Effectiveness and safety of nifedipine and atosiban Nifedipine and atosiban are equally effective with respect to adverse neonatal outcome. A non-significant higher mortality rate was present in the nifedipine group.
    IV Nifedipine in women with preterm prelabor rupture of membranes No differences in perinatal outcome and prolongation of pregnancy between nifedipine and placebo groups.
    VI Pessary versus no treatment in women with successful treatment of threatened preterm birth (not delivered after 48 hours tocolysis and corticosteroids) Pessary treatment is not effective in reducing adverse perinatal outcome.
    V/VII Trials never started Other research groups already investigated the research topic upon completion of design of study.

    Table 1. The APOSTEL trials performed to date

    For decades, it was thought that tocolytics improved perinatal outcome, since tocolytics could prolong pregnancy. However, in 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that no effectiveness of tocolytic therapy on perinatal outcome has been proven so far and that randomized placebo-controlled trials on this topic are urgently needed. Our project group completely agreed with this statement and believes that tocolytics should only be administered in routine care when it has been proven to be effective. Prolongation of pregnancy should not be the main goal of tocolytic therapy; the main goal should be improvement of perinatal outcome. Threatened preterm birth could be a sign of a problem within the uterine environment and therefore tocolytic therapy may be harmful by exposing the fetus longer to a suboptimal uterine environment. In several countries it is unusual to administer tocolytic therapy in threatened preterm birth in view of a possible harmful effect or lack of effectiveness.

    Therefore we designed the APOSTEL 8 trial, which is currently open for recruitment, to solve the question whether administration of tocolytic drugs improves neonatal outcome in cases of threatened preterm birth. This trial investigates the effectiveness of 48 hours of tocolytics with atosiban versus placebo in women with threatened preterm labor between 30 and 34 weeks. The standard treatment of corticosteroids is administered to all participants. They will be randomized to either 48 hours of atosiban or 48 hours of placebo. The choice for atosiban was made as no significant difference in effectiveness was present between nifedipine and atosiban in the APOSTEL III trial and because of the favorable safety profile of atosiban. In addition, it is registered for the indication of tocolysis in many countries in Europe.

    Current status of APOSTEL 8


    Power analysis shows that we need to recruit 1514 participants in this study. All perinatal centers in the Netherlands will participate, together with many large secondary hospitals. Since several countries in Western Europe were interested in this trial, the APOSTEL 8 study will also be performed in the UK, Ireland and possibly Belgium.

    To date, recruitment is slow due to a number of factors. Doctors are often too busy treating newly admitted patients to be able to take the time to invite them to participate in the trial and provide enough information. And even if there is sufficient time to explain the trial, the pregnant woman and her partner have to make a difficult and urgent decision whether to participate or not at a time which is very scary and insecure for them. To quickly introduce the trial to possible participants, we created a short animation video in which the dilemma on this topic and the necessity for this trial is explained. Furthermore, we approach doctors and midwives to raise awareness of their attitudes when it comes to recruitment of pregnant women for a randomized trial, as these may be hindering recruitment.

    Stakeholders’ views on recruitment of pregnant women

    For decades, stakeholders involved in the inclusion of pregnant women in clinical research, such as bioethicists, researchers, and clinicians, have argued that research participation of pregnant women is essential in order to increase the evidence base for treatment of pregnant women and fetuses. In this qualitative study, we interviewed various stakeholders, including pregnant women themselves, in order to understand their opinions on including pregnant women in clinical trials.

    For this study, we made use of the APOSTEL trials in the Netherlands, specifically the APOSTEL VI study (see Table 1).

    Our analysis revealed four themes that characterized stakeholders’ views on inclusion of pregnant women in the APOSTEL VI study:

    First, pregnant women participated in the APOSTEL VI study primarily for potential individual benefit and secondarily for altruistic motives, as this quotation illustrates: “I like to participate when it is positive for me, when participation makes me feel like I do something good, but that it is also positive for myself and that nothing can go wrong.” (pregnant woman, participating in APOSTEL VI) This finding is in contrast with hypothetical studies, where altruistic motives are usually mentioned as the primary reason for participation.

    While pregnant women may be willing to participate …, an underlying protective sentiment, resulting in gate-keeping and directive counselling, sometimes hampered recruitment.

    Second, a gate-keeping tendency hampered recruitment of pregnant women who might be eligible and willing.  Alarmingly, questions about pregnant women’s decision-making capacities sometimes surfaced, as demonstrated in this quotation: “I think they [pregnant women] are behaviorally more vulnerable. I think they have some sort of black, blind spot: everything for the child. […] They are not sufficiently competent.” (gynecologist-in-training)

    Third, healthcare professionals may have used the counselling conversation to steer pregnant women towards a particular decision, which was called counseling positive or counseling negative: “Sometimes you know that it is not the right candidate. That it will be a mess. And then you counsel slightly more negatively.” (gynecologist-in-training)

    Fourth, all stakeholders were hesitant about inclusion of pregnant women in clinical research in general due to a protective sentiment, although this related mostly to trials that are not pregnancy-specific and in which there are risks: You should not expose pregnant women to medications of which the effects on the baby are unknown, if you have an alternative. It’s different if it is pregnancy-specific. In that case you don’t have an alternative, and then I have fewer objections.” (Research Ethics Committee member and clinician)

    What these findings show us is that while pregnant women may be willing to participate for potential individual benefit and altruistic motives, an underlying protective sentiment, resulting in gate-keeping and directive counselling, sometimes hampered recruitment. These results apply to the APOSTEL VI study in particular, but it may be that these views have affected the recruitment in past trials.

    In order to improve recruitment, it is therefore important to invest in educating and training of those involved in recruiting participants. This could be done by asking healthcare professionals to assess the logistics and potential risks and benefits of a study before discussing it with potential participants or by making stakeholders aware of their protective attitude and the resulting effects.

    The post Recruitment of pregnant women in randomized trials: What could hold us back? appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 18, 2019 09:00 AM.

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    The Wonderful Adventures of Nils Billestrup with Swedish gels

    I obtained the full report on the case of Karin Dahlman-Wright, Vice-Rector of the Karolinska Institutet. The investigation by Danish researcher Nils Billestrup for CEPN found 6 out of 8 papers contained data manipulations, but only in 2 cases serious enough to affect the conclusions.

    in For Better Science on March 18, 2019 06:00 AM.

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    ‘Epic Yellowstone’ captures the thriving ecosystem of the world-famous park

    A new documentary series about Yellowstone displays the dynamic, dramatic and exciting ecosystem that thrives within the park’s gates.

    in Science News on March 17, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    Are Atheists Genetically Damaged?

    I just came across a paper with an interesting title: The Mutant Says in His Heart, “There Is No God”. The conclusions of this work are even more interesting. According to the authors, Edward Dutton et al., humans evolved to be religious and atheism is caused (in part) by mutational damage to our normal, religious DNA. Atheists, in other words, are genetic degenerates. Despite the talk of mutations, there is no genetics in this paper. No atheist genomes were sequenced and found to

    in Discovery magazine - Neuroskeptic on March 16, 2019 07:31 PM.

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    Weekend reads: Lancet cardiac stem cell paper retracted; predatory journals pivot to video and get stung; reviews that cite retracted papers

    Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance. The week at Retraction Watch featured a publisher error that led to eight withdrawals; a paper … Continue reading Weekend reads: Lancet cardiac stem cell paper retracted; predatory journals pivot to video and get stung; reviews that cite retracted papers

    in Retraction watch on March 16, 2019 02:44 PM.

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    Some shrimp make plasma with their claws. Now a 3-D printed claw can too

    Scientists used a replica of a shrimp claw to re-create the extreme pressures and temperatures that the animals produce underwater.

    in Science News on March 15, 2019 06:00 PM.

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    U.S. heart attack mortality reached a two-decade low in 2014

    Deaths within 30 days of a heart attack have declined from 20 percent in 1995 to 12.4 percent in 2014, according to an analysis of Medicare patient data.

    in Science News on March 15, 2019 03:30 PM.

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    A new T. rex exhibit takes a deep dive into the iconic dinosaur

    “T. rex: The Ultimate Predator,” a new exhibit in New York City, draws on the latest science to provide a fresh look at Tyrannosaurus rex and its relatives.

    in Science News on March 15, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    “All very painful:” Two retractions to watch for, in eLife and PLOS ONE

    We have news of two upcoming retractions, both following critiques on PubPeer. PLOS ONE is retracting a 2012 paper by researchers at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità in Rome and the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, “Interferon-β Induces Cellular Senescence in Cutaneous Human Papilloma Virus-Transformed Human Keratinocytes by … Continue reading “All very painful:” Two retractions to watch for, in eLife and PLOS ONE

    in Retraction watch on March 15, 2019 10:59 AM.

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    There Are Sex Differences In The Trajectory Of Depression Symptoms Through Adolescence, With Implications For Treatment And Prevention

    GettyImages-171590184.jpgBy Matthew Warren

    It’s well known that teenagers’ moods go through drastic changes. In particular, depressive symptoms – like feelings of low mood or self-loathing – tend to increase as they grow older. Now researchers have plotted out the exact trajectory of these depressive symptoms. In their recent paper in Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Alex Kwong and colleagues from the University of Bristol report for the first time the points during teen development when symptoms increase most rapidly, on average – and they find that these timings differ between young men and women.

    The timing of symptom increases is of more than theoretical interest. Having more serious depression symptoms in adolescence is a known risk factor for developing depression later on in life, suggesting it could be useful to intervene and treat symptoms when they are at their worst. But when is that exactly? Past research has shown that, on average, depressive symptoms peak at some point in mid-to-late adolescence before decreasing again, but findings have been inconsistent: Scientists have suggested that peak depressive symptoms could occur as early as age 15 or as late as 20. And few studies have pinpointed other potentially important periods, such as the point at which depressive symptoms are increasing most rapidly, rather than simply when they have reached a peak.

    To better characterise these critical points, Kwong’s team examined data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. This study has been following children from birth in the 1990s through to today, providing an overview of development from childhood all the way through to adulthood. 

    The team looked at participants’ scores on the short mood and feelings questionnaire from the ages of 10 to 22. This questionnaire measures depressive symptoms over the previous two weeks, asking participants to indicate whether statements like “I felt miserable or unhappy” are true for them. Over the 12 year time period, participants had been given the questionnaire on eight separate occasions (although not everyone had completed every questionnaire: 7,335 participants completed the first questionnaire, decreasing to 3,850 by the final one).

    The researchers fit a model to this data, showing the path of depressive symptoms for each individual through adolescence and early adulthood. They then averaged these curves across males and females, to give the general trajectory for each sex.

    The team found that there were key differences between male and female participants. Females had higher depressive symptoms in general throughout their adolescence, except for between ages 10 and 11, when symptoms were higher for males. The symptoms didn’t peak until around age 20 for both sexes, but there were sex differences in the age at which symptoms increased most rapidly: for females this occurred at 13.7 years old, while for males it was much later, at 16.4 years old. 

    Screenshot 2019-03-14 at 15.11.57.pngVia Kwong et al, 2019

    The researchers say that these sex differences in the trajectories could relate partly to puberty. Girls generally go through puberty earlier, which could explain why their depressive symptoms increase most rapidly almost 3 years earlier than boys’ symptoms. This also suggests that girls could benefit earlier than boys from interventions designed to prevent the increase of depressive symptoms. 

    However, this study is the first to estimate the age at which depressive symptoms increase most rapidly, so the findings should be considered preliminary. It’s also not yet clear whether it’s possible to slow or reverse these rapid increases in teen depression symptoms – or what the later effects of doing so would be. Nevertheless, the authors say, “if this can be used for clinical purposes, it may be possible to treat individuals at this age, which may help reduce depressive symptoms or depression at a later stage.”

    Identifying Critical Points of Trajectories of Depressive Symptoms from Childhood to Young Adulthood

    Matthew Warren (@MattbWarren) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 15, 2019 09:14 AM.

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    Bremen Rector Scholz-Reiter: never a plagiarist!

    Bremen rector Bernd Scholz-Reiter previously explained his predatory publishing and self-plagiarism as a personal crusade for Open Access. Now a closed access conference paper he coauthored was declared by his university as definitely not plagiarised.

    in For Better Science on March 15, 2019 06:00 AM.

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    The rise of farming altered our bite and changed how people talk

    Eating soft, processed foods refashioned adults' jaws, which added “f” and “v” sounds to speech and changed languages worldwide, a study finds.

    in Science News on March 14, 2019 06:00 PM.

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    GenScript: Integrated Biologics Discovery and Development Services

    A One-Stop Solution For Biologics Services

    For over 16 years, GenScript has been a world leader in generating high quality, application-driven, cost-effective custom services for biologics discovery and development. Their proprietary technology platforms in a variety of domains makes the company very competitive in the biologics space.

    GensScript aims to serve as a one-stop provider from target discovery to IND application, maintaining conformity to the regulations for applications to regulatory agencies, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

    Leveraging GenScript’s in-depth understanding of industrial standards of biological drug discovery and development, world’s top pharmaceuticals and academic institutions use GenScript’s discovery and development services along with their GMP-compliant manufacturing services.

    GMP Plasmid and Virus Production

    GenScript has 16+ years of experience in high throughput production of plasmid DNA with 5000+ organization-level customers. Their services are used in various sectors, including gene therapy, CAR-T cell therapy, vaccine development, biodistribution studies and bioprocess manufacturing applications.

    GenScript offers the most affordable and high-quality GMP grade plasmid DNA production service to meet various needs with rapid turnaround time. Their capacity to produce GMP plasmids is flexible, with production scale ranging from micrograms to grams level. GenScript’s strengths include:

    • High plasmid quality (with more than 90% supercoiled content)
    • Short turnaround time
    • Product safety, with no antibiotics and animal derived components
    • High fermentation titers

    GenScript’s development and manufacturing platform includes cell banking, fermentation, purification and strict quality study services. They are capable of producing lentivirus and AAV virus with high titers suitable for in vitro and in vivo experiments. Their typical turnaround time is 3 weeks.

    For lentivirus production, GenScript can provide a one-stop solution from DNA synthesis to lentivirus production. Lentivirus systems with 2nd and 3rd generation are available with different promoters or tags. GenScript’s lentivirus production solution includes:

    • Synthesis of genetic materials like cDNA, shRNA and miRNA
    • Cloning the gene of interest into the lentivirus transfer plasmid
    • Production of virus
    • Purification and titration

    GenScript’s excellent track record includes 5 IND cases and 1 CAR-T project in clinical trial.

    Commercial Cell line and Process Development

    GenScript’s biologics platform can provide one-stop service of chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC) for the biopharmaceutical target. GenScript works with sponsors to determine the lead sequence after early research into developability assessment and pre-toxicity studies, and then enters the CMC stage to provide preclinical data for IND applications.

    GenScript is capable of providing all the services involved in pre-IND studies, including:

    • Stable cell line development
    • Process development of cell culture and purification
    • Quality studies and method validation
    • Formulation development
    • GMP pilot production
    • Bioassay development
    • PK/PD and toxicology studies

    The average clone titer of a GenScript-produced mAb is 3-6 g/L with guaranteed 50+ generation clone stability. Process development is compliant with QbD concepts to optimize critical process parameters (CPPs) and monitor critical quality attributes (CQAs) throughout the whole project to ensure robustness of cell culture and purification processes.

    GenScript’s comprehensive analysis platform is equipped with state-of-the-art instruments to fulfill the needs of quality studies for biomacromolecule characterization and process impurity analysis. In addition, cell-based bioassays have been established for many immune checkpoints and are customizable for client-specific targets.

    The qualified CMC service supports the IND application under FDA, cFDA and EMA. Generally, the entire CMC process requires 14-18 months, from gene to pre-IND phases. GenScript’s cGMP manufacturing capability will be available to meet the demand of Phase I trials (in 2019), and Phase II, Phase III and commercial production (in 2020-2021).

    SMAB Bispecific Antibody: From Rational Design to Preclinical Development

    Therapeutic antibody drugs have recently experienced explosive growth. Within oncology research alone, more than 20 therapeutic antibody drugs received FDA approval for new treatments or indications during 2015 to 2017. Additionally, more than 300 therapeutic antibody drugs are in ongoing clinical trials. Most recently the success of cancer immunotherapy, by blocking immune checkpoint proteins such as PD-1 and CTLA-4, created a hope for a “cancer cure” and triggered a second revolution so that the majority of pharmaceutical companies are investing many research resources in antibody therapeutics.

    Amidst fierce competition together with many unmet medical needs, there is an urgent demand for new therapeutic strategies, such as combination therapy, and novel modalities, such as bispecific antibodies.

    GenScript’s proprietary SMAB (single-domain antibody fused to monoclonal antibody) bispecific antibody platform minimizes the immunogenicity and manufacturing concerns of current bispecific antibody platforms while enabling bivalent and multi-valent therapeutics.

    Major advantages of the SMAB platform include superior bioavailability and excellent developability for high yield and stability. Molecules generated on the SMAB platform have the ability to bind to hidden epitopes, such as enzymes and ion channels. Also, the platform is flexible enough to enable construction of multivalent molecules in a plug-and-play fashion. SMAB bispecific antibodies have demonstrated high efficacy and and high affinity to target cells in many models.

    To build a new Biologics GMP Facility, GenScript has invested $75 million to establish a modern biologics discovery, development, clinical and commercial manufacturing center in the city of Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province, China. The Manufacturing Center is scheduled to come into use by 2020.

    in The Science Exchange Blog on March 14, 2019 05:40 PM.

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    Flickers and buzzes sweep mouse brains of Alzheimer’s plaques

    Precisely timed clicking noises can counter signs of Alzheimer’s in the brains of mice and improve memory.

    in Science News on March 14, 2019 03:00 PM.

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    Students worldwide are striking to demand action on climate change

    On March 15, students are set to attend more than 1,000 events to demand that governments do more to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

    in Science News on March 14, 2019 12:00 PM.

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    What happens when the Bering Sea’s ice disappears?

    Record-low sea ice in 2018 sent ripples through the Bering Sea’s entire ecosystem. Will this be the region’s new normal?

    in Science News on March 14, 2019 10:45 AM.

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    In Later Life, We Become Less Aware Of Other People’s Anger And Fear, But Remain Sensitive To Their Happiness

    GettyImages-529426058.jpgBy Emma Young

    Most people find it easy to infer the emotional state underlying a scowl or beaming smile. But not all facial emotional signals are so obvious. Sensitivity to these less obvious emotional signals varies from one person to another and is a useful skill, improving relations with other people and benefiting psychological wellbeing. As well as varying between individuals, are there also shifts in this ability during a typical person’s life? And, if so, might these age-related changes be relevant to known high-risk periods for psychological problems and the onset of mental illness? A new study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, provides some answers.

    Lauren Rutter at Harvard Medical School and her colleagues analysed data on 9,190 people aged 10 to 85 from the US, the UK, Canada, India, Australia and Germany. These participants completed the Emotion Sensitivity test on the testmybrain.org website. They were shown 56 pairs of faces, and each time, they were asked which of the pair was “more angry”, “more happy”, or “more fearful”. The faces had been carefully manipulated so that the difficulty level in making these judgements was “easy”, “medium” or “hard”. 

    The researchers found that sensitivity to facial cues of anger increased steeply from age 10 to age 14, then increased at a slower rate until age 30, followed by a gradual decrease in sensitivity into late age. From an evolutionary perspective, the sharp rise in anger sensitivity through early to mid adolescence makes sense: “As adolescents are learning to navigate their social worlds, knowing if their actions are inciting anger in others is a particularly adaptive skill,” the team notes. Other work on adolescents in the UK found that while bullies didn’t differ from others in their emotion recognition skills, victims of bullying were less able to recognise anger and fear in particular. “Thus, learning to discriminate anger and change actions accordingly may serve an important social function,” the researchers write.

    Fear sensitivity showed a marked increase at around age 19, with a peak at about 34 years. It then remained relatively high until around 45–50, then reduced. Being able to spot fear in others is clearly useful for avoiding dangerous situations, and for protecting children from danger – but hyper-sensitivity to other people’s fear could play a role in the development of anxiety disorders. Agoraphobia, OCD, PTSD, panic disorder and generalised anxiety disorder tend to develop between the ages of around 21 and 35, which is when the data indicated that sensitivity to fearful expressions rises, the team noted.  

    Meanwhile, happiness sensitivity showed a different lifespan pattern: after increasing between the ages of 10 and 22, there was “a very mild decline or plateau”, with sensitivity remaining relatively undimmed even into older age. The preservation of happiness sensitivity – combined with less awareness of other people’s anger and fear – may help to explain the results of studies finding that older adults (at least those with adequate social relationships) tend to report feeling happier more of the time than younger people. 

    The researchers also noted some possible gender differences: the data suggested that men’s anger sensitivity may continue to increase relatively steeply for a few more years, compared with women’s, and that their fear sensitivity improves more rapidly during adolescence, for example. However, these age-gender differences were not statistically significant. 

    There are some limitations of the study: most notably the participants were self-selecting and so may not be representative of the general population. But the large sample size is an advantage. Overall, the data certainly suggests that sensitivities to different emotions don’t develop in the same way across the lifespan, and that this may be relevant to age-related changes in psychological wellbeing. 

    Emotion sensitivity across the lifespan: Mapping clinical risk periods to sensitivity to facial emotion intensity

    Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 14, 2019 10:35 AM.

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    A real headache: Here’s one from the “What else could go wrong?” files

    Researchers in China have retracted a 2016 paper in Oncology Letters on the anti-cancer properties of aspirin because, well, it was a disaster from top to bottom. In the spirit of showing rather than telling, we’ll let the retraction notice do the work: We would like to retract our article entitled “Aspirin inhibits growth of … Continue reading A real headache: Here’s one from the “What else could go wrong?” files

    in Retraction watch on March 14, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    An origami design helps this robot lift delicate and heavy cargo

    Fragile items, such as soft fruits, as well as heavier goods are in safe hands with a new robotic gripper.

    in Science News on March 14, 2019 04:05 AM.

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    What Is Decidable About Low Dimensional Hybrid Systems?

    Olga Tveretina's journal club session, where she will present herself and Andrei Sandler's work.

    A hybrid system is a dynamic system that exhibits both continuous and discrete behaviour, and the number of its dimensions is determined by the number of the continuous variables. The hybrid system paradigm is a useful tool for describing a wide range of real-world applications. Examples come from robotics, avionics, biological networks, chemical processes, etc. Most of the hybrid systems are safety critical. Formally, verifying safety properties of hybrid systems consists of construction of a set of reachable states and checking whether this set intersects with a set of unsafe states. Therefore, one of the most fundamental problems in the analysis of hybrid systems is the reachability problem. The reachability problem is known for being difficult, and it is only decidable for special kinds of hybrid systems. Even though many attempts have been made to define the boundary between decidable and undecidable hybrid systems, it is far from being resolved. Asarin, Mysore, Pnueli and Schneider defined some classes of low dimensional hybrid systems lying on the boundary between decidable and undecidable systems in their seminal paper "Low dimensional hybrid systems – decidable, undecidable, don’t know (Asarin et al., 2012)", and for which decidability is unknown. In this talk, Olga will present an overview of the area and discuss the recent work on the decidability of reachability for a class of hybrid systems due to Asarin, Mysore, Pnueli and Schneider.

    Date: 15/03/2019
    Time: 16:00
    Location: D118

    in UH Biocomputation group on March 13, 2019 07:01 PM.

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    Hidden compounds in many medications can trigger allergies

    Analysis of 42,000 pill recipes shows nearly 93 percent have ingredients that may cause allergic reactions.

    in Science News on March 13, 2019 06:00 PM.

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    Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies

    Prominent scientists are using the word “moratorium” to make it clear that experiments to create babies with altered genes are wrong, for now.

    in Science News on March 13, 2019 06:00 PM.

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    Ultraprecise atomic clocks put Einstein’s special relativity to the test

    Physics obeys the same rules no matter what direction you’re facing, a new experiment confirms.

    in Science News on March 13, 2019 06:00 PM.

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    BMC Molecular and Cell Biology: one journal, one community, any organism

    We are pleased to announce the re-launch of BMC Cell Biology as BMC Molecular and Cell Biology, a broad scope, community journal for open-access molecular and cellular biology. We will make sure this is a wide-ranging, dynamic and visible journal.

    BMC Molecular and Cell Biology is built on the firm foundations of its predecessor BMC Cell Biology,  which was one the earliest BMC journals, launching in November 2000 and publishing its first article in the same year. For nearly 20 years this journal consistently published articles that are important to the community. We would like to take forward the key aspects of BMC Cell Biology – the importance of integrity in research, fairness to authors, and the evaluation of research without consideration of the impact – to the relaunched BMC Molecular and Cell Biology. In addition, we are expanding the scope to cover that of BMC Biochemistry, BMC Structural Biology, BMC Biophysics and BMC Molecular Biology, and we are in the process of closing these journals. Our mission is to bring all members of the molecular and cellular biology community together, irrespective of organism or technique.

    Research using human cells and mammalian cells is vital for understanding disease.

    Research using human cells and mammalian cells is of course vital for understanding disease. These studies will always be important to the community, but we would especially like to welcome researchers who work on a broader range of cells – whether eukaryotic such as plants or yeast, or prokaryotic such as bacteria, viruses, or archaea.  There is a wealth of research and exciting insights being generated in many organisms and we would like to ensure these results are shared.

    We also know that understanding the molecular biology of a cell requires multiple techniques. Structural biology, for example, provides powerful insights into molecular mechanisms, but sometimes because of the technical nature of crystallography, NMR, or electron microscopy, these insights are not readily apparent. For BMC Molecular and Cell Biology we want to ensure that these results are understandable to other researchers. We wish to take a similar approach with other biophysical techniques.

    The journal has a board of highly motivated  external editors bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience.

    The journal has a board of highly motivated  external editors bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience. Researchers can now find a home for their manuscript in one of the following revamped sections;

    • Transcription and translation
    • Structure and function of macromolecules
    • Cell cycle and cell division
    • Signalling
    • Membrane processes/transport
    • Protein folding
    • Proteasome
    • Degradation
    • Cell death
    • Molecular basis of disease
    • Metabolism

    We are committed to providing an excellent author service, in particular competitive turnaround times, but our top priority is publishing robust and reproducible science that is both open and accessible.

    We look forward to working with you in publishing good quality, scientifically valid research in this exciting addition to the BMC series journal portfolio.

    You can submit an article to BMC Molecular and Cell Biology here.

    If you have any questions about the journal, please contact the Editor at alison.cuff@biomedcentral.com

    The post BMC Molecular and Cell Biology: one journal, one community, any organism appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 13, 2019 02:15 PM.

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    Can virtual reality revolutionize education and communication? Meet the researcher looking for the answer

    Dr. Lukasz Porwol is finding uncommon uses for VR in common settings

    in Elsevier Connect on March 13, 2019 11:14 AM.

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    Pharmaceutical abuse sent more than 350,000 people to the ER in 2016

    The misuse of pharmaceuticals sent an estimated 350,000 people to U.S. emergency departments in 2016.

    in Science News on March 13, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    A New Study Supports Evolutionary Psychology’s Explanation For Why Men And Women Want Different Attributes In Partners

    GettyImages-876948742.jpgBy Jesse Singal

    When it comes to the heated subject of differences between how men and women behave, debate in psychology has centered on mate preferences and general interests. The available research shows that when it comes to (heterosexual) mating preferences, men are relatively more interested in physical beauty, while women are relatively more interested in earning capacity. As for general interests, men are more interested in physical things, while women are more interested in people.

    Even the staunchest evolutionary psychologists would acknowledge these are partially overlapping bell curves: There are plenty of men who are fascinated by other people, and plenty of women looking for physical beauty in a partner above all else. Yet the findings have been met with fierce resistance in some quarters. One of the more sophisticated rejoinders is known as social roles theory: The differences do exist, but they’re entirely or largely the result of gender roles imposed by society on individuals. However, a new study released as a preprint at PsyArXiv and involving participants from 36 countries has failed to replicate a key finding that’s previously been cited in support of social roles theory.

    In its purest form social roles theory can be seen as sitting at the Nurture end of a Nature/Nurture spectrum, according to which sex differences in behaviour arise through cultural tradition. At the Nature end, on the other hand, are various evolutionary psychology accounts which posit that sex differences in behavior were carved into place by evolution. That is, since reproduction means such different things for men and women – men can pass along their genes at very little “cost,” while for women doing so entails gestation and childbirth at the very least – men and women have evolved different preferences for mates.

    One of the most noteworthy studies published in support of social roles theory came out in American Psychologist in 1999. Alice H. Eagly and Wendy Wood reinterpreted data originally published by the evolutionary psychologist David Buss (showing average sex differences in mate preferences across cultures) and they reported that in countries with more egalitarian gender relations, the male-female differences were smaller. This suggested that gender equality gives women room to pursue their true romantic and sexual preferences, which aren’t all that far off from mens’.

    However, for the new preprint,  Lingshan Zhang and Benedict Jones, and their colleagues at the University of Glasgow, have posed the exact same questions about mate preferences to a new sample (this one featuring 910 men and 2350 women from 36 countries, all of whom had ranked a number of traits in partners from most to least important, or rated those same traits numerically, or both) and their analysis casts serious doubt on the ability of social roles theory to explain these disparities.

    The authors explain that in “contrast with Eagly and Wood (1999), who used aggregated data to calculate sex-difference scores at the country level, we used multilevel models to analyze the mate preferences for individual participants,” and they point to two studies which argue, in their words, that “the latter approach is preferable because it takes into account variability in preferences within each country.” (In all three studies – Buss; Eagly and Wood; and the new research – participants completed the same tasks, so it’s an apples-to-apples-to-apples comparison in that sense.)

    Zhang and his team found, as per their abstract, that “Although women preferred mates with good earning capacity more than men did and men preferred physically attractive mates more than women did, we found little evidence that these sex differences were smaller in countries with greater gender equality,” as defined by United Nations statistics.

    There was “one analysis [which] suggested that the sex difference in preferences for good earning capacity was smaller in countries with greater gender equality, [but] this effect was not significant when controlling for Galton’s problem or when correcting for multiple comparisons.” Galton’s problem is a statistical error that can occur when treating things as statistically independent that in fact aren’t – in this case, cultural practices in countries that are in close geographic proximity to one another.

    In the end, after controlling for Galton’s problem, the researchers found just one mate characteristic that has been the subject of some evo-psych theorising – domestic skills like cooking and cleaning – for which the previously documented greater appeal to men than women effectively disappeared in more gender equal countries. Elsewhere, though, the differences were robust, both in the ranked- and rated-trait data, even controlling for gender equality.

    In terms of how to interpret these new findings, Benedict Jones – co-author on the new preprint – clarified on Twitter that “the work doesn’t rule out social roles playing a role in mate preferences” and that “we don’t provide any direct evidence for evolutionary explanations of mate preferences and some of our recent work has challenged them. It’s complicated!”

    However, the new analyses match up, at least partially, with those of an important 2010 article published by Richard Lippa, who asked a similar set of questions pertaining to sex differences in personality and interests. Summarising “two meta-analyses and three cross-cultural studies on gender differences in personality and interests,” Lippa found “small” to “moderate” sex differences with regard to Big Five personality traits, but “very large” ones with regard to the person–thing divide. “Gender differences in personality tend to be larger in gender-egalitarian societies than in gender-inegalitarian societies,” he found, “a finding that contradicts social role theory but is consistent with evolutionary, attributional, and social comparison theories. In contrast, gender differences in interests appear to be consistent across cultures and over time, a finding that suggests possible biologic influences.”

    At the very least, Lippa’s study and the new one from Zhang and Jones et al make it harder for advocates of social roles theory to explain what’s going on. If sex differences in mate attraction were as simple as “Men are conditioned to seek out attractive women, and women to seek out high-earning men,” one would expect gender equality to have some effect on that dynamic. Nature and nurture surely intertwine and interact in myriad ways that humans may never fully disentangle, but for now these new results make it harder, as per Lippa, to rule out a strong role for “biologic influences.”

    Are sex differences in preferences for physical attractiveness and good earning capacity in potential mates smaller in countries with greater gender equality? [this study is a preprint meaning that it has not yet been peer reviewed and the final version may differ from the one that this report was based on]

    Post written by Jesse Singal (@JesseSingal) for the BPS Research Digest. Jesse is a contributing writer at BPS Research Digest and New York Magazine, and he publishes his own newsletter featuring behavioral-science-talk. He is also working on a book about why shoddy behavioral-science claims sometimes go viral for Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 13, 2019 10:08 AM.

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    Two papers yanked for lack of formal ethics approval

    Get it in writing. That’s the moral in a pair of retractions in different journals after authors claimed to have received oral — but not written — ethics approval for their research. One paper, in the International Journal of Pediatrics, a Hindawi title, came from a group in Kuwait and Greece. Titled “Prevalence and associated … Continue reading Two papers yanked for lack of formal ethics approval

    in Retraction watch on March 13, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    Nine companies are steering the future of artificial intelligence

    In ‘The Big Nine,’ futurist Amy Webb explores the political and economic factors that are shaping artificial intelligence.

    in Science News on March 12, 2019 06:38 PM.

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    BMC Health Services Research: Editor picks of 2018

    a mixed group of healthcare professional and business people meet around a conference table

    A pragmatic guide to implementation science for clinicians and clinical researchers

    Implementation science can be defined as the scientific study of methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings and other evidence-based practices into routine practice. The necessary use of theory to inform implementation programs is recognized, but clinicians and researchers are often unfamiliar with these theories and behavioral change. Although they are interested in such approaches, clinicians and researchers find it difficult to navigate the expanding number of theories, frameworks, and models. In addition, they are often unfamiliar with the language as well as the inconsistencies in nomenclature.

    Overworked doctor doing paperwork
    © baranq / stock.adobe.com

    The debate article by Lynch et al discusses the implementation of evidence-based practice in health care and can be used as a pragmatic guide to help clinicians and clinical researchers understand implementation theories, models and frameworks; what are they, how can they be used, and what prompts to consider when selecting a theoretical approach.

    A bitter pill to swallow

    Health systems are pressured to deliver efficient, effective, and affordable care. Patient-related factors such as malnutrition, anemia, and delirium affect efficiency and affordability of health care by increasing the length of stay and cost per patient. Another symptom common in patients with complex medical conditions is difficulty in swallowing, also known as oropharyngeal dysphagia. Although dysphagia is a symptom of a range of critical head and neck conditions, it is often reported as a secondary measure, and as a result the associated resource utilization costs to treat this condition are inconsistently reported

    overall expenditure measured via monetary cost increased by 40.36% in patients with oropharyngeal dysphagia

    The systematic review by Attrill et al investigated studies reporting on costs data and length of stay data related to oropharyngeal dysphagia. They report that dysphagia increases length of stay by nearly 3 days, and increases the health care costs per patient by more than 40%, suggesting that oropharyngeal dysphagia should be recognized as an important contributor to pressure on health care systems.

    Cost benefit of rehabilitating tortured refugees

    Following the recent surge of asylum seekers entering the European Union, questions have been raised about the ability of member states to integrate the newcomers into their societies and economy. This is particularly the case for individuals that have been subjected to torture. For torture is not only a socio-political phenomenon with severe psychological ramifications, it is also financially costly to society, in terms of both treatment and reduced productivity of the victim. In their study, Bager et al investigate if rehabilitation of traumatized refugees is economically beneficial in long term economic and social perspectives.

    Mental health assessment

    The study describes a cost evaluation comprised of cost-utility analysis and partial cost-benefit analysis described for refugees treated at the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims. The results suggest that productivity gains by family members lead to positive net social benefit after as little as 3 years, and these gains persisted over the study period. The authors suggest that multidisciplinary intervention to treat refugees provides “value-for-money” and is economically sustainable.

    Service user and carer involvement in mental health care safety

    They can make life very difficult, refuse to help you, and most likely change your diagnosis to personality disorder so that no one will want to treat you.

    Patient and carer involvement is a crucial tool to facilitate patient safety improvements. Despite serious failures in service provision, limited research has been carried out to identify these issues in the service provision of mental health care in the UK. Berzins et al address these issues in their study, wherein they discuss mental health service users’ and carers’ experiences of raising concerns about safety in mental health care services, and their views on the potential for service user and carer involvement in future safety interventions.

    The study suggests that mental health service users and carers experience great difficulties in raising concerns about the safety of these services. Reasons for not providing feedback on the services include unresponsiveness to complaints and fear of repercussions. The authors suggest that not collecting the user and carer feedback is a missed opportunity for learning and improvement of mental health services.

    Implementation strategy for health care interventions

    Implementation of new interventions into complex health care environments can prove to be a problematic and complicated matter. Factors that may affect implementation include interoperability, cost, fit with existing systems, disruptions to interactions between medical personnel and service users, and poor implementation planning. Despite the complexity of the process of implementation, there is limited evidence on how to successfully implement new interventions into health care environments. The paper by Ross et al provides an example of a successfully implemented digital health intervention.

    © fotogestoeber / stock.adobe.com

    The intervention described in this study is the HeLP-Diabetes digital self-management program for people with type 2 diabetes. To provide a learning opportunity, the authors describe strategies planned and employed as well as barriers encountered. The article may be of particular interest to people in the process of planning and executing implementation activities in health care services.

    The post BMC Health Services Research: Editor picks of 2018 appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 12, 2019 04:10 PM.

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    Stroke victims with busy immune responses may also see mental declines

    A small study links an active immune response soon after a stroke with a loss in cognitive ability a year later.

    in Science News on March 12, 2019 01:48 PM.

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    Gut microbiome patterns associated with post-surgery complication risk

    Despite the constant improvement in operation techniques, intensive care and standardized antibiotic use, postoperative complications are still a significant problem in daily clinical practice. Knowing which patients are at the most risk of developing these is vital for achieving the best possible outcomes.

    In recent years, the use of next-generation sequencing (NGS) has changed our perception and understanding of the structure and function of the microbiome in various organ systems. The use of NGS allows new insights into the complex composition of the intestinal flora and its reaction to external influences.

    We wanted to figure out if the gut microbiome experiences major changes in the perioperative setting, and if changes in bacterial diversity or composition might have an impact on the incidence of postoperative complications.

    We analyzed 116 stool samples of 32 patients undergoing pancreatic surgery using 16S-rRNA gene next-generation sequencing. Based on the structure of the gut microbiome, the samples could be allocated into three different microbial communities (A, B and C).

    principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of outcomes

    The composition of community B was characterised, among others, by an increase in Akkermansia that belongs to the Verrucomicrobia phylum which degrade intestinal gut mucin as their sole carbon and nitrogen source. The mucin layer of the intestinal gut has an important function as it acts as a physical barrier to protect epithelial cells from pathogen invasion.

    Animal experiments have shown a rise in mucin production, along with an increase in Akkermansia in the gut microbiome under pro-inflammatory conditions and a protective effect on the epithelium.

    In contrast Lachnospiraecae were decreased, normally associated with resistance against colonisation by more pathogenic bacteria including Clostridium difficile, which might indicate an increased susceptibility of the intestinal flora.

    Interestingly patients showing a microbial composition resembling community B at least once during the observation period were found to have a significantly higher risk for developing postoperative complications (e.g., anastomotic insufficiency or pancreatic fistula). Patients with a complicated course showed significantly increased C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a higher leucocyte count, prolonged hospital stay and longer time in the intensive care unit (ICU). Six patients were treated with percutaneous drainage and two patients underwent re-operation.

    Our results showed that differences in the gut microbiome are associated with the development of postoperative complications. Thus, methods that take into account differences in the NGS-defined microbial communities might represent a useful diagnostic tool in future clinical practice.

    NGS could improve our daily diagnostic procedures, especially in comparison to the mostly imprecise microbiologic culture based methods. But this requires clinical trials with large numbers of different patients with multiple diseases to evaluate which changes in the microbiome really need a therapeutic intervention and which are just a laboratory phenomenon.

    The post Gut microbiome patterns associated with post-surgery complication risk appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 12, 2019 12:20 PM.

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    3 trends that will impact pathology in 2019

    As technology pushes the limits of pathology, Elsevier’s Clinical Solutions Director for Greater China highlights key challenges and solutions

    in Elsevier Connect on March 12, 2019 10:20 AM.

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    When a paper duplicates one in another language, how can editors spot it?

    Same tea, different mug. Biomolecules, an MDPI journal, has retracted a 2018 paper by on the salubrious effects of tea because the authors had previously published the same article in a Chinese-language journal. The paper, “Evaluation of anti-obesity activity, acute toxicity, and subacute toxicity of probiotic dark tea,” came from researchers in China and one … Continue reading When a paper duplicates one in another language, how can editors spot it?

    in Retraction watch on March 12, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    50 years ago, doctors lamented a dearth of organ donors

    Fifty years ago, surgeons’ supply of heart donations was woefully low.

    in Science News on March 12, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    Psychologists Love To Report “Marginally Significant” Results, According To A New Analysis


    Screenshot 2019-03-12 at 09.07.56.pngFigure 3 from Olsson-Collentine et al, 2019: “Percentage of p values (.05 < p ≤ .10) reported as marginally significant (solid lines) and percentage of articles containing at least one such p value (dashed lines) between 1985 and 2016 in different psychology disciplines”

    By Matthew Warren

    One of the greatest temptations for psychologists is to report “marginally significant” research results. When statistical tests spit out values that are tantalisingly close to reaching significance, many just can’t help themselves. 

    Now a study in Psychological Science has shown just how widespread this practice is. Anton Olsson-Collentine and colleagues from Tilburg University analysed three decades of psychology papers and found that a whopping 40 per cent of p-values between 0.05 and 0.1 – i.e. those not significant according to conventional thresholds – were described by experimenters as “marginally significant”. 

    Psychologists use p-values to gauge whether a result is statistically significant. The p-value provides an estimate of the likelihood of the current results (and others more extreme) being obtained if the “null hypothesis” were true. (The null hypothesis is that there is no effect, or no difference between the groups being studied). At a certain threshold – usually when p is less than 0.05 – psychologists dismiss the null hypothesis and infer that their result probably represents a true effect.

    But sometimes researchers treat that threshold rather flexibly. If a p-value is a little greater than 0.05, they often report the result as “marginally significant”, implying that there could still be some kind of real effect going on. 

    To determine how often p-values are reported this way, Olsson-Collentine’s team examined the ways that values falling between 0.05 and 0.1 were described in journals published by the American Psychological Association from 1985 to 2016. 

    The team programmed some code to go through 44,200 papers and extract 42,504 p-values falling between 0.05 and 0.1. They then searched the text immediately before and after the p-values for words beginning “margin” or “approach”, which could indicate that the results were being reported as marginally significant (or “approaching” significance).

    The researchers found that almost 40 per cent of the non-significant p-values they identified were reported as marginally significant. Of nine main psychology disciplines, the practice was most common in organisational psychology, where 45 per cent of values were deemed marginally significant, and least common in clinical psychology, where that number dropped to 30 per cent.

    This kind of reporting is a problem because it’s likely to contribute to false positives (the misattribution of null findings as true effects) and less reproducible research, say Olsson-Collentine and his colleagues. By calling a result “sort-of-significant”, psychologists are essentially changing the rules for what counts as significant after the fact, and therefore highlighting results that may be less likely to represent “true” effects.

    Nevertheless, there was some good news: across the 30 year period covered by the new analysis, the “marginally significant” habit seems to have become less common in most of the nine psychological sub-disciplines. “The downward trend in psychology overall may reflect increasing awareness among researchers that p values in the range of .05 to .10 represent weak evidence against the null,” write the researchers. It may also be the result of editors becoming stricter, they add.

    Crucially, the new study only accounted for p-values described as “marginal” or “approaching” significance. But researchers can be much more inventive in the language they use. In 2013, statistician Matthew Hankins compiled a list of hundreds of other phrases psychological scientists have used to describe low-but-not-significant p-values in the literature, from “flirting with conventional levels of significance” to “very closely brushed the limit of statistical significance”. By missing some of the more creative ways that scientists try to squeeze positive results out of their work, it’s possible this new study is underestimating the extent of the problem.

    The Prevalence of Marginally Significant Results in Psychology Over Time

    Matthew Warren (@MattbWarren) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 12, 2019 09:12 AM.

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    One of the strongest known solar storms blasted Earth in 660 B.C.

    Ice cores and tree rings reveal that Earth was blasted with a powerful solar storm 2,610 years ago.

    in Science News on March 11, 2019 07:26 PM.

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    The first male bees spotted babysitting are mostly stepdads

    Some male bees guard young that are likely not their own while mom looks for pollen, a study finds.

    in Science News on March 11, 2019 07:01 PM.

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    AIT Bioscience Joins Science Exchange to Offer Online Access to Bioanalytical Solutions

    AIT Bioscience’s CEO, Terri Pascarelli, expressed her excitement about the partnership with Science Exchange saying, “We are proud to team up with Science Exchange to offer end-to-end bioanalytical services to pharmaceutical and biotech organizations. We are the first and only CRO in the world to provide solutions for all molecule types (large, small, and peptides/biomarkers) in a purpose-built facility utilizing a fully electronic analytical lab notebook system. We continue to invest in our people, processes and equipment to meet our clients’ growing demands. Our bioanalytical services range from discovery through commercialization to support screening, IND-enabling tox programs, and clinical development. We’re ready to meet you where you are for research and development needs.”
    AIT Bioscience logo
    Terri Pascarelli

    Science Exchange, the world’s leading marketplace for R&D services, announced a collaboration with AIT Bioscience, LLC, an emerging contract research organization (CRO), to offer online access to its bioanalytical services. AIT Bioscience’s services include ligand-binding assays across many platforms, mass spectrometry-based analyses, and cell-based assays. 

    AIT Bioscience‘s capabilities help increase accuracy and efficiency of bioanalytical data delivery, especially in regulated environments. Through this collaboration, AIT Bioscience’s services can be rapidly accessed by Science Exchange’s clients at leading R&D organizations worldwide.

    About AIT Bioscience

    AIT Bioscience, LLC, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an integrated contract research laboratory that provides continuous process monitoring and real-time quality control processes in Ligand Binding Assay (LBA) analytics for large molecules and LC-MS/MS analytics for small molecules in pre-clinical and phase I – III clinical trials. The integration of these services, supported by a state-of-the-art smart electronic laboratory environment, allows AIT Bioscience to formulate the best solution for its clients, across all bioanalytical methods. AIT Bioscience delivers robust analytical methods, highly knowledgeable client consultation, efficient sample logistics and rapid sample analysis from pre-IND through investigational new drug (IND) and new drug application (NDA). 

    in The Science Exchange Blog on March 11, 2019 03:43 PM.

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    The Placebo Effect, Digested – 10 Amazing Findings

    GettyImages-667063814.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

    The placebo effect usually triggers an eye-brow raise or two among even the most hard-nosed of skeptics. We may not be able to forecast the future or move physical objects with our minds, but the placebo effect is nearly as marvellous (Ben Goldacre once called it the “coolest, strangest thing in medicine”).

    The term “placebo effect” is short-hand for how our mere beliefs about the effectiveness of an inert treatment or intervention can lead to demonstrable health benefits and cognitive changes – an apparently incontrovertible demonstration of the near-magical power of mind over matter. It’s not literally magic, of course. Our beliefs are the subjective echo of physical processes in the brain – and it’s this constellation of neurochemical and electrical events , and their downstream effects, that underlies the placebo phenomenon (in some cases the placebo effect can also be interpreted as a form of conditioned response, in which a learned physiological reaction occurs in the absence of the original trigger).

    There is another angle to this topic. To research psychologists, the placebo effect isn’t always a phenomenon of wonder, but a methodological nuisance. Researchers must go to extreme lengths to rule out the influence of participant expectations, so as to establish which observed effects are truly attributable to an intervention.

    Here, in a celebration of the mysterious and maddening placebo effect, and to help inspire future research into this most fascinating aspect of human (and animal) psychology, we digest 10 amazing placebo-related findings:

    The Placebo Effect Works Even When You Know It’s A Placebo

    For the placebo effect to occur, it’s usually considered that deception is required – tricking the patient into thinking that an inert treatment is actually a powerful drug or similar. It’s this need for trickery that has long meant the deliberate inducement of placebo effects in mainstream medicine is seen as unethical. Nearly ten years ago, however, researchers showed that people with irritable bowel syndrome showed greater improvement after being given a so-called “open placebo” that they were told was completely inert, as compared to receiving no treatment. Presumably some residual belief and expectation of an effect survives being told that the treatment is physically impotent (or there is a condition response to the placebo that does not require positive beliefs). More recent research has since shown benefits of open placebos for many other conditions including back pain and hay fever. Open placebos “bypass at least some of the conventional ethical barriers” to the clinical use of placebos, according to some experts. Others however have highlighted the lack of  suitably robust research in this area, and it’s worth noting there have been some null findings – for instance, open placebos failed to speed up wound healing.

    Branding, Colours and Medical Paraphernalia Can All Boost The Placebo Effect

    Putting aside open placebos, there’s evidence that different forms of deceptive placebo vary in their effectiveness. The more powerful we imagine their effect will be, the larger the benefit. This means that four placebo pills have a larger effect than two; and placebo injections (filled with nothing other than saline solution) are more powerful than pills (in fact, in the context of osteoarthritis, a placebo injection was found to be more effective than a real drug). Also – depending on the condition being treated – pills of certain colours and descriptions are more effective than others, such as blue placebo pills making better sedatives than pink ones, and branded placebo pills being more effective than those without any labelling. The influence of the credibility of a given placebo on its subsequent effectiveness may help explain one of the most astonishing demonstrations of the placebo effect that I’ve come across. It involved “placebo brain surgery” – and what could elicit a greater hope for a treatment effect than the elaborate paraphernalia and protocols involved in experts operating on your brain? Specifically, the research showed that patients with Parkinson’s Disease who undertook a form of placebo brain surgery (supposedly, but not really, involving the injection of stem cells) showed greater symptom improvements than those patients who received the stem cell treatment, but didn’t think they had. “The placebo effect was very strong in this study,” the researchers said, “demonstrating the value of placebo-controlled surgical trials.”

    Some People Are More Prone To The Placebo Effect Than Others

    Certain personality traits are associated with it being more likely that a person will experience the placebo effect. This is logical since the placebo effect depends on our beliefs and expectations, which some of us may subscribe to more readily and enthusiastically than others. Among the results in this area, optimists are more responsive to analgesic placebos, as are people who score higher for emotional resilience and friendliness (this last finding may relate to the social dynamic involved in the elicitation of the placebo effect by physicians). Curiously, the traits related to placebo response vary according to the condition being treated – in the context of stress, for instance, one study found it was the more pessimistic and less empathic participants who showed a greater placebo response. Whereas personality traits appear to play an important role in the placebo effect, the evidence to date suggests that age and gender are largely irrelevant.

    Some Doctors Are Better At Inducing The Placebo Effect Than Others

    As placebo effects depend on the patient believing in the power of the treatment being given to them, it follows that some doctors will be better placed to reinforce this hope and expectation than others. Research backs this up: a study that involved a placebo injection for the treatment of an allergic reaction found that symptom improvement was greater when the injection was given by a doctor conveying warmth and confidence. Feelings of similarity toward one’s doctor may also be relevant: another study found that subjective pain was lower after a medical procedure when participants thought they’d been paired with a doctor who shared the same values and personal beliefs as them.

    The Placebo Effect Isn’t Just About Pain Reduction – It Can Boost Creativity And Cognitive Performance Too

    We usually think of the placebo effect in the context of medical interventions and especially pain relief. However, there is growing evidence that the effect can also work in other ways, including enhancing our physical and mental performance. In terms athletic abilities, various studies have shown placebo effects on speed, strength and endurance (in one placebo-like study, researchers asked cyclists to train to complete exhaustion and found they were able to persist significantly longer when their clocks had been secretly tampered with to make them run slow).

    In relation to creativity, one study found that people who smelt an odour that they were told boosts creativity went on to excel at tests of their creative performance as compared with a control group who smelled the same odour but weren’t told it had any special benefits. Another experiment involved participants receiving placebo non-invasive brain stimulation and performing a learning task. The placebo group thought their brains had been stimulated by a mild electrical current – in reality they hadn’t – and they were led to believe that this stimulation would boost their mental function. The placebo participants were subsequently more accurate in the learning task, and showed steeper reductions in their reaction times than control participants. “We conclude that experimentally induced expectancy can impact cognitive functions of healthy adult participants,” the researchers said.

    There’s Even Such A Thing As Placebo Sleep

    There is almost no end to the ways that the placebo phenomenon can manifest. In one particularly novel instance researchers tricked participants into thinking they’d had more sleep than they actually had, and then observed how this affected their performance the next day. The researchers achieved this deception by wiring their participants up to various physiological measures and then giving some of them false feedback on how much REM sleep they’d had. After hearing that they’d had an impressive amount of sleep, participants performed better on tests of language and arithmetic. Other imaginative examples and manifestations of the placebo effect include the study that showed health gains among hotel cleaning staff who had been reminded that their work counts as exercise, including in terms of weight, body mass index, body-fat, waist-to-hip ratio and blood pressure. Another intriguing research finding, which might be explained by a kind of placebo effect, was that people who believe they exercise more than their peers tend to live longer, regardless of how much they actually exercise.

    Animals Seem To Experience The Placebo Effect Too

    It is common in drug trials involving animals to compare an active treatment against a placebo, similar to the procedure in human drug trials. And when this is done, researchers have often observed that a significant number of animals in the placebo group show a treatment response, such as happened in a trial of an anti-seizure medication for dogs, and in a dietary intervention for muscle stiffness in horses. The problem with interpreting these kind of findings is that it’s possible the placebo effect really lies with the owners, who may interact with their animals differently when they believe they are receiving medial care or nutritional supplements.

    However, the argument that animals can demonstrate a kind of placebo effect is irrefutable in the context of lab studies involving rodents – in this case, researchers have paired an active drug, such as morphine, with a particular taste or smell, and then shown that the analgesic effect still occurs when the same taste or smell is repeated but without the drug. In this case the placebo effect is arising from a conditioned response rather than the animals’ expectations, but this is probably part of the placebo phenomenon in humans too. As Edward Ernst told BBC Earth: “A major chunk of what we believe constitutes the placebo effect has been in fact discovered in animals.”

    The Placebo Effect Has An Evil Twin

    If the placebo effect occurs simply because you believe a given treatment will be beneficial, it follows that if you have negative expectations, this could result in a worsening of your symptoms. That’s exactly what researchers have found and they’ve called this the “nocebo effect”. The placebo effect’s twin is not to be sniffed at either. A meta-analysis in the context of analgesia (in which some participants are told that an inert cream or pill leads to increased pain in some people) found that the nocebo effect is roughly similar in size to positive placebo effects.

    Intriguingly, nocebo effects can even occur in the presence of real pain-relieving medications, not just inert treatments – in one study, participants were told that their pain would increase after an analgesia treatment was stopped. The physiological effect of the analgesia would normally persist, however in these participants it ended abruptly, as if the negative expectations had cancelled out the genuine analgesic effect. The real-life implications of these kind of findings are obvious – if nothing else, it’s probably worth taking care when you read the side-effects leaflet that came with your latest prescription.

    The Placebo Effect Is A Bit Of A Pain For Many Psychology Researchers

    The placebo effect is fascinating in its own right, but for researchers interested in establishing the efficacy of psychological interventions, it can be maddening. The influence of expectations on our thoughts, feelings and behavior is so powerful and pervasive that it complicates the interpretation of many studies, unless they are very carefully designed. In their 2013 paper titled “The Pervasive Problem With Placebos In Psychology“, a team led by Walter Boot at Florida State University argued that in fact many psychology studies (on things like brain training, expressive writing and internet therapy) do not do enough to match participants’ expectations across different conditions. They explain that simply having an active control condition is not adequate if participants in the control group do not expect it to have as beneficial or powerful an effect as participants in the intervention condition expect of their experience. The way around this, Boot and his colleagues explained, is to measure participants’ expectations and take steps to try to match them across control and intervention conditions as much as possible. “‘We are hopeful that, with better designs and better checks on placebo effects, future research will provide more compelling evidence for the effectiveness of interventions,’ they concluded.

    The Placebo Effect Appears To Be Getting Stronger

    Curiously, it’s become apparent in recent years that the placebo effect is getting stronger – this has been shown for placebo antipsychotic medications, placebo anti-depressants, and – in the US only – for placebo analgesics. With regards to that last finding, research team leader Jeffrey Mogil told Nature News, “We were absolutely floored when we found out”. Specifically, in the 90s, they found that participants receiving an active drug reported 27 per cent greater pain relief than participants receiving placebo, but by 2013, the difference was just 9 per cent. One explanation is that drug trials have become larger and more elaborate, especially in the US, thus increasing the drama and intensity of the experience for participants only receiving placebo.

    Another possibility is that the general public has become more aware of the placebo effect – and of the idea that its impact on symptoms can be real (as reflected in less pain-related brain activity, for instance) and not merely illusory. That was the argument put forward by anesthesiologist Gary Bennett in the journal Pain last year. In fact, Bennett goes so far as to suggest that, because the term placebo now elicits such a strong placebo effect, its use should be dropped from drug trials. “The word ‘placebo’ should be avoided in all information and instructions given to the patients,” he advises. “Patient instructions should have the goal of forcing the patient’s expectations to the form: ‘I may receive pain relief’ vs. ‘I will not obtain pain relief’.”

    However hard we try to control, conceal and comprehend the placebo effect, it looks certain it will continue to baffle and amaze us for a long time to come.

    Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 11, 2019 12:53 PM.

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    The ‘roof of the world’ was raised more recently than once thought

    New studies suggest that the Tibetan Plateau may have risen to its dizzying heights after 25 million years ago.

    in Science News on March 11, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    Journal temporarily withdraws eight papers after publisher mistake

    Publishers love their embargoes, whether they’re of papers that aren’t open access yet, or are available to the media before they’re published. Apparently, however, they also break embargoes, just like the journalists they sometimes sanction for the same sin. Take Oxford University Press, which publishes the journal Physical Therapy for the American Physical Therapy Association … Continue reading Journal temporarily withdraws eight papers after publisher mistake

    in Retraction watch on March 11, 2019 10:00 AM.

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    KI Rector Ottersen and the magic gel of Institut Pasteur

    Karolinska rector Ottersen was criticised for suspicious figure in an old paper. Now his collaborators at Institut Pasteur provide outlandish explanations for a manipulated gel Ottersen's former lab provided. The original data, allegedly recovered, is not available to anyone, even KI.

    in For Better Science on March 11, 2019 06:00 AM.

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    The Curious Foreign Accent Syndrome

    "Foreign Accent Syndrome" (FAS) is a rare disorder in which patients start to speak with a foreign or regional tone. This striking condition is often associated with brain damage, such as stroke. Presumably, the lesion affects the neural pathways by which the brain controls the tongue and vocal cords, thus producing a strange sounding speech. Yet there may be more to FAS than meets the eye (or ear). According to a new paper in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, many o

    in Discovery magazine - Neuroskeptic on March 09, 2019 09:25 PM.

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    Weekend reads: Journal editor fired for homophobic comments; “three-parent baby” paper mega-correction; the Bette Midler journal club

    Before we present this week’s Weekend Reads, a question: Do you enjoy our weekly roundup? If so, we could really use your help. Would you consider a tax-deductible donation to support Weekend Reads, and our daily work? Thanks in advance. The week at Retraction Watch featured plagiarism by a priest; retraction of a creationist paper “published … Continue reading Weekend reads: Journal editor fired for homophobic comments; “three-parent baby” paper mega-correction; the Bette Midler journal club

    in Retraction watch on March 09, 2019 02:50 PM.

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    Scientists have chilled tiny electronics to a record low temperature

    In a first, electronic chip temperatures dip below a thousandth of a degree kelvin.

    in Science News on March 08, 2019 08:37 PM.

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    How droplets of oil or water can glow vibrant colors

    Viewed from various angles, tiny droplets of water or oil glow different colors under white light.

    in Science News on March 08, 2019 07:00 PM.

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    Divide and conquer: Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

    Treating patients as individuals

    There has recently been an enormous effort into developing a better prognostic classification for bowel cancer in order to enable us to better select patients for treatment. By classifying patients into smaller groups, we can select patients most likely to respond to a certain type of therapy resulting in an increase in response rates and minimizing unwanted toxicities. This is known as a precision medicine approach and in itself is not a new concept. In breast cancer, grouping patients by tumor characteristics to select the most appropriate treatment has been happening since the late 1980s, and in the early 2000s four breast cancer subtypes were defined which are still used in the clinic today.

    Therefore, there remains a need to identify characteristics within both the tumor and surrounding cells which may not only guide prognosis, but also provide novel targets for adjuvant therapies. It is now recognized that from a genetic standpoint, as with many cancer types, CRC is not just one disease, but a heterogeneous group of cancers that arise within the same organ. Therefore, given their prognostic value, the ability to subtype patient tumors in the routine pathology setting would enable optimal treatment allocation.

    Examples of Hematoxylin and eosin stain images required to classify immune subtype and stromal subtype.

    Making it simpler

    More recently this approach has been adopted by CRC scientists and in 2015 the leading experts in this field proposed four consensus subtypes for CRC. However, these four subtypes are dependent on specialized genomic testing, making them difficult and expensive for the clinical community to adopt. Therefore, we (Edwards research group, Wolfson Wohl Cancer Research Center, University of Glasgow) have performed a review of the literature (doi:10.1016/j.ctrv.2017.04.006) to identify features of the tumor that are easier to assess and devised a simpler method of subtyping CRC tumors that can easily be performed in routine diagnostic laboratory using existing techniques.

    The subtyping method we propose is based on immune infiltrate, stromal invasion, and proliferation rate, all of which can be readily translated into routine pathology and is called phenotypic subtypes. Phenotypic subtypes classify patients into immune, stromal, canonical and latent subtypes.

    Examples of immunohistochemistry required to assess proliferation rate and classify patients into canonical andlatent subtypes.

    The phenotypic subtyping method has been tested and validated in 3 retrospective different patient cohorts from across Europe (over 1000 patients) and a clinical trial cohort of almost 3000 patients. Excitingly not only can this subtyping method classify patients into different prognostic groups, but it is also associated with response to different chemotherapeutic regimens and therefore can be employed to identify which patient should receive which chemotherapy to maximize patient response and minimize patient’s toxicity. If this subtyping method can be incorporated into routine clinical practice it could revolutionize the treatment of patients, with different subtypes receiving different therapies. Currently we are working towards validating this within an international trial consortium (IDEA Trial) and if successful, we would then hope to test it in a prospective clinical trial.

    The post Divide and conquer: Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 08, 2019 03:10 PM.

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    Microwaved grapes make fireballs, and scientists now know why

    Electromagnetic waves bounce back and forth inside a grape, creating plasma.

    in Science News on March 08, 2019 02:00 PM.

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    Eyes wide shut at vision journal as retraction notice misses the point

    Molecular Vision appears to have been flying blind when it retracted a 2013 paper by Rajendra Kadam and colleagues. In December 2018, Kadam, a former “golden boy” in pharmaceutical research at the University of Colorado, Denver, was the subject of a finding from the U.S. Office of Research Integrity, which stated that he had fabricated … Continue reading Eyes wide shut at vision journal as retraction notice misses the point

    in Retraction watch on March 08, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    ‘Skeleton Keys’ unlocks the history and mysteries of bones

    From fish to dinosaurs to King Richard III, ‘Skeleton Keys’ surveys the scientific and cultural history of bones.

    in Science News on March 08, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    BMC Ecology Image Competition 2018: the winning images

    The sixth BMC Ecology Image Competition received more than 145 photographs from talented ecologists around the world, showcasing the amazing biodiversity, natural beauty and biological interactions found in nature. Anyone affiliated with a research institute was able to enter and we were amazed by both the quality and variety of submissions.

    Our guest judge, Zhigang Jiang of Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China selected the overall winner and runner ups while our BMC Ecology Section Editors chose the winning entry from their sections of the journal. Our accompanying editorial gives more information about the winning images and the reasoning beyond why they were picked. This also includes a selection of 6 highly commended images; there are some really great photos so please do take a look!

    Here are our winning images:

    Overall winner

    Our overall winning image of the clearwing butterfly (Hypomenitis enigma), was taken by Marianne Elias of Sorbonne University, France. This photo was taken in the southern Andes of Ecuador (2000m asl, Zamora-Chinchipe province) two hours after the butterfly had emerged from its chrysalis.

    Attribution: Marianne Elias

    First runner up

    Our first runner up is an image showing the dominance behavior of the griffon vulture. Pilar Oliva Vidal from University of Lleida, Spain captured this wonderful moment, titled ‘My treasure!’

    Attribution: Pilar Oliva Vidal

    Second runner up

    Our second runner up is an image by Matteo Santon from the University of Tuebingen, Germany is entitled ‘Hungry dugongs have no table manners’

    Attribution: Matteo Santon

    Behavioral and Physiological Ecology

    Our winning image in this category was taken by Arnaud Badiane from France. Arnaud has given the photo the title ‘Home in mother’s arms’, and shows a young Barbary macaque (Macaca silvanus) tucked in close to its mother.

    Attribution: Arnaud Badiane

    Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Research

    Chosen by Section Editors Luke Jacobus and Josef Settele, our winner in this category was another entry by Pilar Oliva Vidal, titled ‘Little treasures of the steppes’.

    Attribution: Pilar Oliva Vidal

    Community, Population and Macroecology

    Our winner in this category is entitled ‘Meadow Brown & solitary bee’. The photo was taken by William Mills of University of Brighton, UK.

    Attribution: William Mills

    Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems

    This category’s winning image was taken on the island of Hawaii by Sabrina Koehler of Kiel University, Germany. It shows a section of active lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano.

    Attribution: Sabrina Koehler

    Editors pick

    My choice as the Editor is entitled ‘Small Bridges’ and was captured by Darko Davor Cotoras Viedma of California Academy of Sciences, United States.

    Attribution: Darko Davor Cotoras Viedma

    Congratulations to all of our winners! Their images, along with our highly commended entries, have been released under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY), so everyone is welcome and encouraged to share them freely, as long as you clearly attribute the image author.

    The post BMC Ecology Image Competition 2018: the winning images appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 08, 2019 09:30 AM.

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    A New Study Has Investigated Who Watched The ISIS Beheading Videos, Why, And What Effect It Had On Them

    GettyImages-458984485.jpgBy Emma Young

    In the summer of 2014, two videos were released that shocked the world. They showed the beheadings, by ISIS, of two American journalists – first, James Foley and then Steven Sotloff. Though the videos were widely discussed on TV, print and online news, most outlets did not show the full footage. However, it was not difficult to find links to the videos online. At the time, Sarah Redmond at the University of California, Irvine and her colleagues were already a year into a longitudinal study to assess psychological responses to the Boston Marathon Bombing, which happened in April 2013. They realised that they could use the same nationally representative sample of US adults to investigate what kind of person chooses to watch an ISIS beheading – and why. Their findings now appear in a paper published in American Psychologist. 

    By late spring 2013, the researchers had recruited 4,675 adults online, and assessed their mental health, TV-watching habits, demographics, political affiliation and religion. Six months later, the participants also reported on their fear of future terrorism and also on their lifetime exposure to violence. Then, between April and June 2015 – roughly eight months after the two ISIS beheading videos were released – 3,294 of the participants reported anonymously whether they had watched one of the videos either in its entirety, partly, or not at all.

    About 20 per cent reported watching part of one of the videos, and another 5 per cent said they’d watched at least one to the end. People in these groups were more likely to be male, Christian and unemployed, to watch more TV than average, and to have a higher lifetime experience of violence. 

    Nearly 3000 of the participants also agreed to write about their motivations for watching, stopping watching, or avoiding the videos altogether. 

    Many who fully or partially watched the videos said that they wanted to gain information and verify that the videos existed, or wanted to satisfy their curiosity about what was in them. People who stopped watching part way through or who avoided the videos reported that they did so mostly for emotional reasons – (it was “too sad”, for example) – or because they didn’t want to feel that they were supporting ISIS by watching the footage. 

    A year after the participants gave these responses, they completed more online surveys, and the researchers found that those who’d watched at least part of a video had higher levels of distress and a greater fear of future negative events compared with those that hadn’t watched one. These relationships held after controlling for prior distress, lifetime exposure to violence and prior fear of negative events.

    The longitudinal nature of the study – with important psychological data gathered well before the videos were released, as well as afterwards – gives the researchers’ confidence in their conclusion: that “watching graphic coverage may exacerbate preexisting fears and increase psychological symptomatology, demonstrating the negative psychological impact of viewing graphic media produced by terrorists.” As Redmond and her colleagues further note, the findings also imply that “watching such coverage may assist terrorists in achieving their goal of instilling fear.” 

    Previous research into why people watch gruesome or scary videos has focused on fictional material. To the researchers’ knowledge, this is the first study to explore not only what percentage of people in the general population choose to watch videos of graphic real-life violence, but also why – and what the psychological effects might be. 

    The work raises some important questions, not least: how should news programmes handle coverage of such horrific events? Running the beheading footage in full on a mainstream news channel would have been unthinkable. But was the storm of coverage alluding to the content really necessary? It may have prompted many people – especially those with pre-existing fears – to want to see the full footage for themselves, potentially worsening their anxiety, which, the researchers suggest, may have had the ironic effect of making them more likely to seek out other, similar kinds of distressing footage in future. Understanding how to prevent such a “spiral of fear” will be an important topic for further research in the area. 

    Who watches an ISIS beheading—and why

    Emma Young (@EmmaELYoung) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 08, 2019 09:26 AM.

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    oi-VAE: output interpretable VAEs

    We recently read oi-VAE: Output Interpretable VAEs for Nonlinear Group Factor Analysis, which was published at ICML in 2018 by Samuel Ainsworth, Nicholas Foti, Adrian Lee, and Emily Fox. This paper proposes a nonlinear group factor analysis model that is an … Continue reading

    in Pillow Lab on March 07, 2019 10:30 PM.

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    Merging magnetic blobs fuel the sun’s huge plasma eruptions

    Solar eruptions called coronal mass ejections grow from a series of smaller events, observations show.

    in Science News on March 07, 2019 09:46 PM.

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    Human encroachment threatens chimpanzee culture

    Human activity is affecting chimps’ behavioral repertoire, a new study suggests. Creating chimp cultural heritage sites might save unique behaviors.

    in Science News on March 07, 2019 07:44 PM.

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    How helpful gut microbes send signals that they are friends, not foes

    Some beneficial gut bacteria use unique form of communication to let immune cells know that they’re friendly.

    in Science News on March 07, 2019 07:26 PM.

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    Japan puts plans for the world’s next big particle collider on hold

    The jury is still out on whether Japan will host the world’s first “Higgs factory” — the International Linear Collider.

    in Science News on March 07, 2019 05:32 PM.

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    Nanosponges sop up toxins and help repair tissues

    Nanoparticles coated with blood cell membranes can move through the body to clean up toxins or heal tissues — without instigating an immune reaction.

    in Science News on March 07, 2019 12:00 PM.

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    Semi-automated fact-checking for scientific papers? Here’s one method.

    Wouldn’t it be terrific if manuscripts and published papers could be checked automatically for errors? That was the premise behind an algorithmic approach we wrote about last week, and today we bring you a Q&A with Jennifer Byrne, the last author of a new paper in PLOS ONE that describes another approach, this one designed to … Continue reading Semi-automated fact-checking for scientific papers? Here’s one method.

    in Retraction watch on March 07, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    Here’s A Simple Trick For Anyone Who Finds Eye Contact Too Intense

    GettyImages-157522456.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

    We’re taught from an early age that it is polite and assertive to look people in the eyes when we’re talking to them. Psychology research backs this up – people who make plenty of eye contact – as long as it’s not excessive – are usually perceived as more competent, trustworthy and intelligent. If you want to make a good impression, then, it’s probably a good idea to meet the gaze of the person you’re talking to. However, following this advice is not necessarily straight-forward for everyone. It’s well-documented that mutual gaze can be emotionally intense and distracting, even uncomfortably so for some.

    If this is your experience, you may welcome a study published recently in the journal Perception that documents a phenomenon known as the “eye contact illusion” – put simply, we are not that good at telling whether an interlocutor is looking us in the eye or not. In fact, we tend to think they are, even when they’re not (a bias that is magnified after we’ve been rejected). Thanks to this illusion, you can give the impression of making eye contact simply by ensuring you are looking in the general direction of your conversant’s face.

    To demonstrate the eye contact illusion, one member of the Edith Cowan University research team, Oliver Guidetti, held 4-minute “getting to know you” chats with 46 male and female university students. Both Guidetti, and the students he chatted to, wore eye tracking glasses. For half the students, Guidetti made plenty of eye contact (around 77 per cent of the time, resulting in mutual eye contact during 52 per cent of the chat) just as he usually would. For the other students, he chatted in the same casual way, but deliberately reduced his eye contact to around 25 per cent, focusing more on the mouth region of their faces instead (resulting in mutual eye contact for just 3 per cent of the chat).

    The critical test was how much the students in the two groups believed Guidetti had tried to make eye contact and how much they enjoyed the chat. In fact both groups of students perceived the same amount of eye contact and enjoyed the chat the same amount. A follow-up experiment confirmed this wasn’t because the eye-tracking glasses made it hard to judge gaze direction.

    The researchers, including lead author Shane Rogers, said their findings were consistent with past evidence suggesting that during normal conversation, the perception of eye contact is driven by the other person looking in the general direction of your face, not into your eyes specifically. The new findings may be reassuring to anyone who wants to be a good communicator but who finds eye contact uncomfortably intense. “Don’t get hung up on seeking out the eyes of the audience, just look more generally at their face, and let the eye contact illusion experienced by your partner do the work for you,” the researchers advised.

    Contact Is in the Eye of the Beholder: The Eye Contact Illusion

    Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 07, 2019 09:58 AM.

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    Better prediction of the economic burden of multimorbidity from medical and long-term care expenditures

    Multimorbidity worldwide

    Multimorbidity, the coexistence of multiple chronic diseases in an individual, increases with age in older adults. Therefore, it is very common that older adults have more than one chronic medical problem at the same time, which impacts treatment for each of the conditions. Multimorbidity is a growing concern worldwide, especially in countries with aging populations. Numerous previous studies have reported that multimorbidity is associated with functional decline (i.e., older adults cannot take care of themselves in some aspects or more), decreased quality of life, and possibly even higher mortality, all of which are of concern to older adults and those who care for them. Aside from the burden on the individual from the conditions, there is also a societal burden from the costs associated with care for these individuals.

    Medical and long-term care insurance systems and these expenditures in Japan

    Japan has a mandatory universal medical insurance system, established in 1961. It covers services provided by medical professionals (e.g., doctors, nurses, various therapists), diagnostic tests, prescriptions, surgery, and anesthesia. In addition to the universal medical insurance system, Japan also launched a mandatory public long-term care insurance system in 2000. Those aged 65 years and older, as well as those aged between 40 and 64 years with specific aging-related diseases, are eligible for services. These include not only institutional care, whether long-term admission or short-term stay in a long-term care facility, but also community- and home-based care such as adult day care, outpatient rehabilitation, home help, or home-visit nursing. Long-term care insurance is also available in other countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, and South Korea.

    The economic burden on society caused by multimorbidity could be better evaluated by the sum of medical and long-term care expenditures … providing a more-accurate assessment.

    A steady increase in health-related spending has been a great concern in countries with aging populations. For example, in Japan in 2016, the annual medical expenditures were approximately US$372 billion and the annual long-term care expenditures were approximately US$88 billion. These figures represent 9% and 21% increases, respectively, over the past 5 years. These expenditures are projected to further increase with a rapidly aging society, both in Japan and around the world.

    The associations between multimorbidity and expenditures

    In our recent study, we examined the associations between multimorbidity and the sum of medical and long-term care expenditures using medical and long-term care claims data from Kashiwa City, a suburb in the Tokyo metropolitan area, Japan. It was already known that multimorbidity is associated with higher medical expenditures. We found that multimorbidity is also associated with higher long-term care expenditures, thereby increasing the sum of both types of expenditures. Our study further indicated that the economic burden on society caused by multimorbidity could be better evaluated by the sum of medical and long-term care expenditures than by medical expenditures alone, providing a more-accurate assessment.

    Japan has one of the most rapidly aging societies in the world and has not only medical but also long-term care insurance systems. As far as we know, this is the first study to examine the associations of multimorbidity with long-term care expenditures and with the sum of medical and long-term care expenditures, worldwide. As the steady increase in health-related spending has been a great threat for maintaining sustainable healthcare systems in many countries with aging populations, our results are meaningful not only for Japan but also globally. Effective strategies for reducing the prevalence of multimorbidity could provide not only medical and functional but also economic benefits for individuals and society.

    The post Better prediction of the economic burden of multimorbidity from medical and long-term care expenditures appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 07, 2019 09:01 AM.

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    FDA has approved the first ketamine-based antidepressant

    A nasal spray with a ketamine-based drug promises faster relief from depression for some people.

    in Science News on March 06, 2019 09:02 PM.

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    Hominids may have hunted rabbits as far back as 400,000 years ago

    Stone Age groups in Europe put small game on the menu surprisingly early.

    in Science News on March 06, 2019 07:00 PM.

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    Plan S: What strategy now for the Global South?

    Since the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) the OA movement has had many successes, many surprises, and many disappointments. OA initiatives have also often had unintended consequences and the movement has been beset with disagreement, divisiveness, and confusion. 
    Image Courtesy of PKP CC BY-SA

    In that sense, the noise and rancour surrounding Plan S is nothing new, although the discord is perceptibly greater. What seems clear is that Plan S raises challenging questions for those in the Global South. 

    And even if Plan S fails to win sufficient support to achieve its objectives, ongoing efforts in Europe to trigger a “global flip” to open access, and the way in which open content is likely to be monetised by commercial publishers, both suggest that the South needs to develop its own (alternative) strategy.

    I have explored what I see as the issues and discuss a possible strategy in the attached essay here.

    The essay ends with an interview with Omar Barreneche, Executive Secretary of Uruguay’s National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII). 

    A 1,400-word edited extract from this essay can be read on the LSE Impact Blog here.

    in Open and Shut? on March 06, 2019 04:53 PM.

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    Tiny bits of iron may explain why some icebergs are green

    Scientists originally thought the green hue of some icebergs came from carbon particles. Instead, iron oxides may color the ice.

    in Science News on March 06, 2019 04:00 PM.

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    This spider slingshots itself at extreme speeds to catch prey

    By winding up its web like a slingshot, the slingshot spider achieves an acceleration rate far faster than a cheetah’s.

    in Science News on March 06, 2019 03:19 PM.

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    Evaluating research: Who gets the money when the stakes are high?

    Research leaders confront challenges in deciding what to fund for the greatest societal impact

    in Elsevier Connect on March 06, 2019 11:01 AM.

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    A university thought its misconduct investigation was complete. Then a PubPeer comment appeared.

    When Venkata Sudheer Kumar Ramadugu, then a postdoc at the University of Michigan, admitted to the university on June 28 of last year that he had committed research misconduct in a paper that appeared in Chemical Communications in 2017, he also “attested that he did not manipulate any data in his other four co-authored publications … Continue reading A university thought its misconduct investigation was complete. Then a PubPeer comment appeared.

    in Retraction watch on March 06, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    These Violent Delights Don’t Have Violent Ends: Study Finds No link Between Violent Video Games And Teen Aggression

    GettyImages-180968005.jpgBy Matthew Warren

    Claims that violent video games lead to aggression have been around since the days of Space Invaders. When young people are exposed to violent media, the theory goes, their aggressive thoughts become more prominent, leading them to commit acts of violence. But while several studies have found results that seem to back up this idea, the evidence is far from unequivocal.

    Now a study published in Royal Society Open Science has failed to find any association between the time spent playing violent video games and aggressive behaviour, adding to a growing body of literature that suggests that such a link has been overstated – or may not exist at all.

    Many past studies in the field suffered from important methodological limitations, such as relying on people reporting their own levels of aggression, which opens results up to “mischievous responding”, where participants give dishonest responses just for the sake of it – a particular problem in research with young people.

    Perhaps more worryingly, researchers have often taken a “flexible” approach to analysis. For example, when calculating scores that represent the level of violence in games or how aggressive an individual is, researchers have decided to use just a small subset of all the questions that they’ve asked participants, allowing them to pick and choose from their measures to produce results consistent with their theories.

    In the new study, Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein sought to examine the link between violent video games and aggression more rigorously, avoiding the methodological pitfalls of past work and sticking to an analysis plan they described before starting out the study.

    The pair asked just over one thousand British 14- and 15-year-olds to list the games they had played in the past month, and how long they played them for. Rather than relying on the teenagers to describe whether these games were violent, the researchers checked whether or not each game contained violent content according to the European video game rating system, PEGI (of the more than 1,500 games participants listed, nearly two in three, such as Grand Theft Auto V, were rated as violent).

    To measure aggression, the researchers again avoided questioning the gamers directly. Instead, they asked the teenagers’ caregivers to complete a survey on the aggressive behaviours their child had shown over the past month, such as whether they had fought or bullied other children. They also directly measured the teens’ “trait” levels of aggression, asking them the extent to which they felt that various statements characterised them (for example, “Given enough provocation, I may hit another person”). The researchers used this measure to control for baseline levels of aggression in the analysis. 

    Przybylski and Weinstein found that their participants played video games for two hours per day, on average, and almost 49 per cent of the girls and 68 per cent of the boys had played one or more violent games in the past month. But the amount of time they’d spent playing violent video games did not predict how aggressive they had been. These results remained the same when the researchers classified the games’ content on the American rather than European video game rating scale. 

    Given on-going concerns from parents and policy-makers about the potential negative consequences of violent video games, a null finding from a large, carefully designed study should offer some reassurance. Of course, there’s always the possibility that gaming could be associated with other bad behaviour like bullying and trolling, and the authors say that these issues are worth further exploration. And while there are clearly benefits of having a third-party rate the teenagers’ aggression, it seems possible that some caregivers could still underplay or be unaware of their children’s aggressive behavior.

    It’s also true that the new study is just the latest in a field containing many contradictory results. But it stands apart from many past papers because of its methodology. The paper was published as a Registered Report, a format in which a journal provisionally accepts a paper based on its protocol, regardless of how the results turn out. The authors show that it would have been possible – though statistically inappropriate – to fish around in their data until they had found a significant result somewhere. For example, there was a correlation between aggression and self-reported time spent playing games generally (a question that wasn’t part of the planned analysis). “If we had not preregistered our empirical approach and felt motivated to publish a positive result we might have seized on this correlation and made it the central focus of our research report,” they say.

    At a time when many experts believe unsubstantiated fears surrounding technology are obscuring legitimate and more nuanced questions about the role of media in society, it is promising that researchers are grappling with these important methodological issues. As the authors write, “it is crucial that scientists conduct work with openness and rigour if we are to build a real understanding of the positive and negative dynamics and impacts of technology in people’s lives.”

    Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report

    Image: Grand Theft Auto V, shown here in a Manhattan games store, raked in more than $800 million in sales in its first 24 hours on the shelves. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images).

    Matthew Warren (@MattbWarren) is Staff Writer at BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 06, 2019 10:03 AM.

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    Did Plant Cell learn from Voinnet Affair?

    The Plant Cell is an elite journal, its authors and editors are some serious heavyweights whose labs cannot be associated with data manipulation.

    in For Better Science on March 06, 2019 08:46 AM.

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    The first planet Kepler spotted has finally been confirmed 10 years later

    Astronomers had dismissed the first exoplanet candidate spotted by the Kepler space telescope as a false alarm.

    in Science News on March 05, 2019 08:13 PM.

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    A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA

    One type of CRISPR gene editor makes frequent and widespread mistakes, studies in mice and rice reveal.

    in Science News on March 05, 2019 05:30 PM.

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    We Couldn’t Do It without YOU

    Every year, we get to work with new authors, reviewers, and editors who are ushering in the next wave of scientific advancement. We love publishing your work, reading your reviews, and learning from your expertise and we just want to say THANK YOU for supporting PLOS.

    Wow, did we really do all of that?

    We did! This has been a banner year for PLOS journals. In 2018 we saw more research articles published in PLOS Biology than ever before, began publishing Topic Pages in PLOS Genetics and Benchmarking articles in PLOS Computational Biology, partnered with bioRxiv to post over 1,300 preprints, and committed to moving forward with published and signed peer review. That’s on top of all of the special issues, Calls for Papers, and collections we’ve published in topics ranging from Climate Change and Health to Gender and NTDs.

    We’d also like to extend a warm welcome to more than 3,000 new members of the PLOS ONE Editorial Board who have joined us this year to provide more expertise for submission areas that need it most – we’re glad you’re here!

    For everything we do at PLOS, we are supported by the dedication of our research communities.

    Together, we’re stronger

    We are a community of more than 11,000 editors, 65,000 reviewers, and 150,000 authors. When we work together, we can make change happen in scholarly communication. Last year PLOS Pathogens editors hosted six writing workshops to help Early Career Researchers improve their skills and equip them with the tools they need to become authors. We also hosted interactive events like live-streamed preprint journal clubs to bring authors and experts from the community together for real-time feedback on their work.

    We’re listening to your feedback from our surveys, event meetups, and Section Calls and want to continue evolving our services in ways that matter to you.

    We’re working on new ways for reviewers to get credit for their work through ORCiD as well as signed and published peer reviews. We’re also going to continue the process improvements we’ve started on PLOS ONE to bring a faster, clearer process to our authors along with a number of exciting new options on other journals – stay tuned!

    Cite it, share it, celebrate it

    For everyone who has contributed to our success this year: our dedicated Editorial Board, incredible Guest Editors, and inspiring reviewers – these articles are for you!

    We’re sure we will have many more opportunities to thank you this year but please join us in celebrating your achievements this week by sharing your PLOS contributions with #PLOSCommunity.

    in The Official PLOS Blog on March 05, 2019 05:08 PM.

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    Building a post-parent support system: why and how

    Upon wishing my students a fruitful end to their college-application season, I thought back to that time in my own life. I began to consider what is really important for a successful college career versus what I thought would be important when I was applying to university. There are the things we assume will be key to our success: going to a prestigious school, picking a solid major with a clear career path associated with it, getting a good summer internship.

    But there are so many unknowns, which is one of the beautiful parts of going to university. The possibilities seem endless and it’s hard to top that feeling of unlimited potential that imbues the manicured landscape of your new home when you set foot on campus for the first time.

    But all those opportunities and unpredictability mean that you don’t really know if, a few years from now when you are lining up for commencement, you will be following your original dream or taking a different career path. You don’t know how long you will remain in your first career. Or what revelations or other life-altering experiences you may have during your college education, that could radically shift your values or priorities. Or what people or significant others you will hopefully meet.

    All of these important and inevitable adventures aside, there is another aspect of university that we sometimes don’t consider consciously and deliberately, but that is just as important. Moving away from home is, for most of us, our first significant opportunity to be independent from our parents long enough to mature into a functioning adult.

    Ambling through campus on any given day, the word “adult” can feel far away in time and atmosphere from college life. But it is already there on your personal horizon – the responsibility for keeping yourself healthy, the accountability to yourself and others to succeed in class and other activities. University is an opportunity to form and solidify your independent self with your own morals, values, and life outlook.

    It is also a time when you’ll be introduced to hundreds of people with varying life outlooks, and when you will join or consort with a variety of groups and communities that have different values, social etiquette, and cultures. With all of this possibility and variability, chances are that at some point, the following will occur:

    • You will fall short of your own expectations in a big way
    • You will fall short of someone else’s expectations in a way that is significant to them
    • Someone else will seriously disappoint your expectations

    When this happens, you have an opportunity to compare your expectations, their expectations, and the stated expectations of your campus community. Questions may arise in your mind: were those expectations reasonable? Where did they come from? You can learn a lot about yourself, your culture, and your values from these experiences.

    However, there is also the matter the unmet expectations themselves. These situations can be destabilizing, even traumatic. When they happen during your transition to adult independence, these occurrences can have an unhealthy effect on your outlook or personal growth if you don’t have the resources to process them and learn from them.

    I had an experience where I fell far short of my own expectations, and it haunted me for years afterward. What could have been an uncomfortable opportunity for me to stand up for myself and my values instead became a nuisance burden of shame that I carried about, inhibiting my own conception of myself as a competent adult.

    The trouble began towards the end of my sophomore year. I had been serving as secretary of a student organization for the year and had put in my name to run for president of that organization the following year. It was one of those national organizations with student branches on most college campuses and it was affiliated with my major.

    At the time I was running, the voting population of the organization was a bit ambiguous to me: was it the dues-paying members who made our activities possible, or was it the students of that major, for whom we designed and targeted our activities? If I had thought to read the bylaws of our student organization I would have found a good answer, but I didn’t. The outgoing president had a list of email addresses that he said corresponded to all the current students in the major. He would submit that list to the online election app so that all the students would have an opportunity to vote for the club’s next year of leadership, which is how the elections were usually run.

    However, a couple weeks before he was to submit the list, he made an offhand joke about padding the list with some extra emails to sway the election because so many of the upperclassmen had a problem with the person running against me and because he felt that she had bribed the freshman class by stopping by their morning lecture with a big box of donuts. I told him not to do that and he moved onto another topic of conversation. I thought it was a joke that I had heard the end of. It wasn’t until several weeks after the election that I found out he was serious. He announced in a leadership meeting that he had padded the vote and told us not to speak of it to anyone. When I asked how many votes he had added and found out that his padding was what won me the election, I was disappointed and ashamed. I felt personally responsible that he had done such a thing and that my voice seemed not to matter.

    But my own reaction made the situation much worse. My initial reaction was to feel unworthy of respect, given that he had already intentionally disrespected my stated value that he not interfere with the election and that he was now telling me to stay silent because my opinion still didn’t matter (to him). I felt ashamed of what he had done and afraid to discuss it with the faculty sponsor of our organization, who – from my isolated vantage point – seemed distant and uninterested. I had experienced some harassment over that school year and I became diffusely afraid of what would happen if I stuck up for myself by publicly ceding the election. And ashamed of being thought a troublemaker if I took time away from the faculty by asking them for advice on how to handle the situation.

    This event could have been an opportunity for me to stand up for myself and my values, except that I couldn’t even get my own mind right. The other folks in my major just seemed relieved that my opponent had lost and my roommate seemed annoyed with me for even bringing up my problem. In retrospect, there were at least three ways that I could have personally resolved the moral dilemma and secured support for myself to weather any resulting criticism or harassment. But I didn’t know where to turn for the initial supportive brainstorming and discussion that I needed in order to act according to my idealized priorities.

    I didn’t have a support system in place, and so I didn’t get the benefit of this trial life threw my way. Instead, I served the next year as if I had won, except that I subordinated myself to the vice president (who had run as the mate of the student who should have won), figuring that he had more of a mandate than I did for how we allocated our money and time in service of the students. And I carried a little ball of shame during that year and after for becoming part of a corrupt situation by not speaking out. It was a cowardly response and therefore did nothing for my confidence or progression to becoming a responsible adult.

    How can you ensure that you benefit from these trials as you navigate your college experience toward an adult self? By ensuring you have the resources and confidence to live according to your desired values. Create a multi-layered support and mentoring system for yourself that grows with your throughout your years in university. You can start right when you get to university by taking a few steps that I’ll outline in my next post. And every semester or year, you can take inventory of your support network and update it as needed. Watch for my next post, about creating your personal support system, and a follow up post about accessing support from the administrative resources provided by your university.

    in Marianne Bezaire on March 05, 2019 05:05 PM.

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    A second HIV patient has gone into remission after a stem cell transplant

    A second person with HIV has gone into remission after receiving blood stem cells from a donor unable to make a protein needed by the virus.

    in Science News on March 05, 2019 04:37 PM.

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    Ripples race in the brain as memories are recalled

    A fast brain wave called a ripple often came before a person’s correct answer on a memory test.

    in Science News on March 05, 2019 12:00 PM.

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    Journal retracts creationist paper “because it was published in error”

    It’s become a sort of Retraction Watch Mad Libs: Author writes a paper that is so far, far, out of the mainstream. Maybe it argues that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Or that vaccines cause autism. Truth squads swarm over the paper, taking to blogs and Twitter to wonder, in the exasperated tone of those who … Continue reading Journal retracts creationist paper “because it was published in error”

    in Retraction watch on March 05, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    Suppressed Thoughts Rebound, Which Could Explain Why Ultra-religious Teens Have More Compulsive Sexual Thoughts – And Are Less Happy – Than Their Secular Peers

    GettyImages-481381140.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

    A well-known effect in psychology is that if you try to suppress a thought, ironically this can make the thought all the more salient – known as the “rebound effect“. What are the implications of this effect for highly religious teenagers who have been taught to believe that sexual thoughts are taboo? Before now there has been little research on the rebound effect in this context, but in a recent paper in The Journal of Sex Research, Yaniv Efrati at Beit Berl College, Kfar-Saba, Israel, presents evidence that the rebound effect could explain why orthodox Jewish teens have more compulsive sexual thoughts and fantasies than their secular peers. What’s more, his results suggest this mental dynamic might be responsible for the religious teens’ lower scores on self-reported wellbeing.

    Three studies involved hundreds of secular Israeli teen volunteers, boys and girls aged 14 to 18, and a similar number of teen orthodox Jews of both sexes, who will have been taught by the religious text the Talmud that “thoughts of transgression are more severe than transgression” – as well as receiving other decrees to avoid impure thoughts and masturbation – and therefore may have learned to try to conceal and suppress their sexual thoughts and feelings out of fear of shame and guilt.

    True to this prediction, Efrati found that the orthodox Jewish teens tended to score higher on a questionnaire measuring their frequency of compulsive sexual fantasies and thoughts (for example, they agreed more often with statements like “I feel like my sexual fantasises hurt those around me”). He also found that higher scorers on compulsive sexual thoughts tended to report being less happy, and this association explained why the orthodox Jewish teens tended to report being less happy than their secular peers.

    In the final and most revealing study, Efrati linked the earlier findings with the rebound effect. Using a questionnaire measuring sexual suppression (an example item was “very often I find myself trying to suppress my sexual thoughts”), he found that Jewish orthodox teens engaged in more suppression of their sexual thoughts, and in turn this was linked with their having more compulsive sexual thoughts and fantasies, and also lower overall happiness (presumably because of the shame and guilt associated with the taboo thoughts, although they didn’t score any higher for depression or distress). Efrati said this result “corroborates with studies on the rebound effect in many other domains … and shows that suppression of sexual thoughts only begets higher pre-occupation with sexual thoughts and fantasies.”

    Although the findings are consistent with Efrati’s argument that the thought suppression rebound effect causes greater sexual thoughts among the religious teens, it’s important to note that the studies were purely correlational leaving them open to other interpretations. One alternative explanation, for instance, is to see everything in reverse – that the lower happiness among the Jewish orthodox teens (whatever is causing it) leads them to have more compulsive sexual thoughts, which triggers more attempts to suppress those thoughts. Even if Efrati’s interpretation is the correct one, it remains to be seen whether the same results will also apply among other religious groups besides orthodox Jews in Israel.

    “Despite these shortcomings, ” Efrati concluded, “we view the current research as an important step in understanding adolescents’ suppression of sexual thoughts, taking into account the cultural- religious context as a major component in adolescents’ sexual development.”

    God, I Can’t Stop Thinking About Sex! The Rebound Effect in Unsuccessful Suppression of Sexual Thoughts Among Religious Adolescents

    Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 05, 2019 09:24 AM.

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    A 2,000-year-old tattoo tool is the oldest in western North America

    The artifact is made of two pigment-stained cactus spines, and has been sitting in storage since its discovery in 1972.

    in Science News on March 04, 2019 09:00 PM.

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    Hidden ancient neutrinos may shape the patterns of galaxies

    The gravitational pull of subatomic particles born in the universe’s first second seem to influence how galaxies cluster into rings.

    in Science News on March 04, 2019 04:00 PM.

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    BMC Oral Health: Highlights of 2018

    Consequences of community water fluoridation cessation

    Community water fluoridation (CWF), the controlled addition of fluoride to a public water supply, has been described by the Centers for Disease and Control as one of the most positively impactful public health achievements of the modern day. CWF was first implemented in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945 and has since been employed across the United States and the wider world. CWF has been shown to significantly reduce childhood caries, the most common childhood disease.

    This retrospective comparative analysis used dental claims records of 0-18 year old patients from Juneau (Alaksa) to explore the consequences of CWF cessation on dental health.

    The effectiveness of CWF was confirmed by this investigation. The frequency of caries related procedures (particularly for 6-7 year olds) significantly increased during the fluoridation cessation period and there was an increase in the relative cost to treat the caries, suggesting an increase in caries severity.

    CWF can be viewed as a kind of government investment which works towards protecting young people from childhood disease and school absences whilst simultaneously reducing government spending on healthcare claims.

    Reporting of child maltreatment amongst public dental health personnel

    According to the World Health Organisation, child maltreatment can come in the form of physical, sexual, psychological abuse, as well as generalized neglect. One quarter of adults worldwide were physically abused as children. Although abuse reporting continues to rise, an estimated third of victims of childhood sexual abuse cases go unreported. The importance of developing frameworks to detect potential hidden victims or at-risk children is immeasurable.

    The repeated missing of dental appointments is considered to be an early indicator of struggling households and possible maltreatment.

    In Norway, all children below the age of 19 are provided with free and regular dental treatments from the Public Dental Health Service (PDHS). The PDHS are required by law to report suspicion of child maltreatment to the Child Welfare Services (CWS). The CWS is required to respond to PDHS maltreatment concerns within 3 weeks, unless the concern is unsubstantiated. When PDHS concerns result in CWS investigation, the reporter is provided with outcome information.

    1200 PDHS employees answered questionnaires regarding their reasons for sending a report to CWS and the responses the CWS gave.  The most common reason for sending a report of concern was if a child did not attend a dental visit, and not direct suspicion of neglect or interaction with parents/guardians. The repeated missing of dental appointments is considered to be an early indicator of struggling households and possible maltreatment. Grave caries and a lack of hygiene came 2nd and 3rd on the list, respectively. 40% of PDHS reports of suspicion of psychological abuse and trauma resulted in CWS investigation and measures.

    A quarter of reports resulted in measures, but the PDHS was not aware of the outcome of a third of submitted reports. Sexual abuse, grave caries and suspicion of neglect were the most strongly associated with CWS led outcomes. Although the PDHS were shown to be efficient reporters of potential maltreatment, the relatively low measures taken by the CWS, and even feedback to the PDHS , highlights a gap between the two organisations that requires some work to close.

    Using machine learning to predict bad breath from the mouth microbiome

    Oral malodour, otherwise known as halistosis, chronically affects around 50% of the developed world. It can lead sufferers to experience low self-esteem and bullying. The molecular culprits are volatile sulphuric and acidic compounds produced by periodontis-associated oral bacteria. Volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) are produced by approximately 700 bacterial species residing in the human mouth. It is the concentration of the different compounds that each bacterial species produces, rather than presence of the species itself, which generates the resulting odour. For this reason it has been very difficult to establish a framework for predicting oral malodour.

    To tackle this problem, the authors turned to Deep Learning, a machine learning process which is inspired by the communication patterns seen within the neurons of the human brain.  Bacterial samples were taken from 90 patients, half with malodour and half without. Bacteria present in each sample were identified via 16s rRNA gene amplification and sequencing. This data, bacterial identity and the odour profile of individuals, was then sorted via deep learning.


    Cladogram created by the authors showing different abundance of mouth microbiome taxa

    Healthy breath was associated with an abundance of Streptococcus, Granulicatella and Rothia, and malodour was associated with Veillonella, Peptostreptococcus, and Porphyromonas. The authors have provided evidence that saliva samples are a suitable substrate from which to assess oral malodour and have offered a potential deep learning based method in which the efficacy of malodour treatment can be measured.

    The association between stress, saliva and dental caries

    There has been much debate regarding the purported link between stress and the occurrence of dental caries. Stress can induce behavioural changes in people that can, in turn, be detrimental to oral health. A student’s tendency to increase sugar intake and neglect oral hygiene around exam time are examples of such behavioral changes. Stress can also induce flow rate changes in saliva. Behavioral and morphological changes collaborate to potentially increase the risk of dental caries amongst a stressed population.

    source: pixabay

    In this scoping review, the authors performed a search in OVID, Embase, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and WoS.

    Six studies, which used cortisol as the biomarker of stress, were included in the review. 4 of these studies identified a link between salivary cortisol and caries, and the remaining 2 did not. The authors do not concede a causative link between cortisol and caries; however they instead identify cortisol and caries as an oral health research gap.

    Regarding stress-induced salivary changes, the authors identify the limitation of the studies to have only measured acute stress responses instead of chronic stress exposure. The authors suggest the need for well designed, rigorous prospective cohort studies in which the extent that chronic stress (for example induced by low socio-economic status) effects caries is examined. The authors also suggest expanding cortisol-related measurements to more than just a single time-point (as seen in the examined studies) to better represent the complex factors contributing to human stress. The authors propose augmenting the measurement to also include:

    1.     The source of stress

    2.     The subject’s perception of stress

    3.     Physiological stress responses, for instance heart rate

    The authors conclude that although evidence can be found to support links between stress and caries, the studies actually provide impetus for a pressing need for precise, detailed, methodologically sound studies.

    Comparative effectiveness of school-based caries prevention

    School-based caries prevention affords children greater access to dental care, and helps to homogenise the kind of care that children from different socio-economic backgrounds experience. School-based dental treatment involving the application of dental sealants is endorsed by The American Dental association. However, efficacy of such procedures has been identified as a knowledge gap and unexplored area of research by the Institute of Medicine (Washington, USA).

    For this reason, the authors conducted a prospective observational study on 2 populations of children receiving school-based dental treatments. Both cohorts received glass ionomer sealants, but only one of the cohorts received a secondary intervention: interim therapeutic restorations placed on all asymptomatic teeth with carious lesions. Both interventions across both cohorts were performed every 6 months, and data was collected over the course of a decade.

    Regarding teeth, examination of any decay, missing, filled, sound or pulpal abnormalities were noted. Variables such as pain, swelling, infection and abscess were also recorded. Data was collected by the dental hygienists and dentists performing these procedures in an e-Case Report Forms, which were electronically collated and analysed.

    There was no statistically significant difference in the number of decayed or filled teeth across the cohorts. Interestingly however, there was a significant interaction between treatment and time, interpreted by the authors to mean that the incidence rate of decayed or filled teeth slowed over time for the children who received both primary and secondary interventions. This study offers important information to those involved in school-based optimal program design.


    The post BMC Oral Health: Highlights of 2018 appeared first on BMC Series blog.

    in BMC Series blog on March 04, 2019 03:30 PM.

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    Welfare reforms may have hurt some single moms’ teenage kids

    Welfare reform was meant to help the next generation, but making moms work and capping aid has led to more harm than gain, says a new study.

    in Science News on March 04, 2019 02:00 PM.

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    Plagiarism prompts retraction of 25-year-old article by prominent priest

    Retraction Watch readers may have heard about Fr. Thomas Rosica, a priest who recently apologized for plagiarism and resigned from the board of a college. The case, which involved Rosica’s speeches and popular columns, prompted at least two observers to take a look at his scholarly work. One of those observers was Michael Dougherty, who … Continue reading Plagiarism prompts retraction of 25-year-old article by prominent priest

    in Retraction watch on March 04, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    Bears that eat ‘junk food’ may hibernate less and age faster

    Wild black bears snacking on leftovers of sugary, highly processed foods in Colorado show possible signs of faster cellular wear.

    in Science News on March 04, 2019 11:00 AM.

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    Q&A: Amref leader on why universal health coverage is crucial for Africa

    Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group CEO of Amref Health Africa, talks about Africa’s unique path to UHC and what to expect at #AHAIC2019

    in Elsevier Connect on March 04, 2019 10:46 AM.

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    How machine learning can speed up “annoyingly hard” medical research

    Researcher Alexander Mathiasen hopes to solve medical problems with machine learning while working across disciplines

    in Elsevier Connect on March 04, 2019 10:20 AM.

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    Your Romantic Partner Is Probably Less Intelligent Than You Think, Suggests New Study

    GettyImages-1092632424.jpgBy guest blogger David Robson

    It’s now well known that many of us over-estimate our own brainpower. In one study, more than 90 per cent of US college professors famously claimed to be better than average at teaching, for instance – which would be highly unlikely. Our egos blind us to our own flaws.

    But do we have an even more inflated view of our nearest and dearest? It seems we do – that’s the conclusion of a new paper published in Intelligence journal, which has shown that we consistently view our romantic partners as being much smarter than they really are. 

    The researchers, Gilles Gignac at the University of Western Australia and Marcin Zajenkowski at the University of Warsaw, also tested whether the couples’ actual IQs influenced their relationship satisfaction – with surprising results.

    There had been some previous signs that we are especially optimistic about our loved ones’ attributes. When it comes to physical attractiveness, for instance, we tend to think that we have managed to attract someone who is even hotter than us – an effect sometimes called the “love is blind bias”. But past studies had failed to find a similar optimism for estimates of partners’ intelligence. Overall, people seemed to judge their partners’ intelligence as equal to their own – rather than thinking that they were especially clever. 

    For the new study, the researchers recruited 218 heterosexual couples, who had been together for an average of six years, and around a quarter were married. Rather that guessing IQ scores – which might be confusing for participants who have little knowledge of IQ tests and their scoring – the participants had to estimate their own intelligence and their partner’s intelligence using a more intuitive, graphical scale (see below). The researchers then converted those estimates to IQ points according to the known statistical distribution of intelligence – the famous bell curve. To find the participants’ actual, objective IQ scores, the researchers also asked them to take a standard test of non-verbal intelligence known as the Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices. 

    1-s2.0-S0160289618302150-gr1_lrg.jpgvia Gignac & Zajenkowski, 2019

    As the previous research on individual overconfidence had found, most participants over-estimated their own intelligence by a huge margin – the equivalent of around 30 IQ points on average. Overall, only 0.9 per cent of women and 1.8 per cent of men assessed their own intelligence as being below average (even though 68.8 per cent of the women and 55.0 per cent of the men in this study scored below 100 – the mean IQ of the population as a whole). 

    The participants’ estimates of their partners’ intelligence were even more skewed. The men thought their wives and girlfriends’ IQs were around 36 points higher than they really were; the women thought their husbands and boyfriends’ IQs were 38 points higher than the reality. In other words, if you are like the majority of people in this sample, your partner is probably much less clever than you believe.

    The Intelligence Trap Cover Available for pre-order now

    Besides this eye-catching result, Gignac and Zajenkowski’s paper is rich with other findings. They were interested, for instance, in whether people tend to hook up with someone of similar cognitive ability – and whether that “intellectual compatibility” is important for their happiness together. As previous research has found, there was a moderate correlation between the partners’ actual IQ scores – so in general people do seem to pick partners who roughly match their intelligence. 

    Maybe we have a slight preference for people with similar smarts to ourselves, or maybe it’s due to the fact that we have more opportunity to get romantically involved with people of roughly similar intelligence – in education or at work. Whatever the reasons, the degree of similarity of couples’ IQs didn’t seem to influence their relationship satisfaction – overall, couples with lower “intellectual compatibility” appeared to be just as happy as the couples who were more closely matched.

    Gignac and Zajenkowski also examined whether the men or the women in their sample were better at estimating their partners’ intelligence. According to some evolutionary psychologists, because the responsibility of pregnancy, childbirth, and usually childrearing, falls more directly on women, they should be pickier than men about the kind of person they choose to reproduce with. If true, it would make sense for women to have evolved to be more perceptive than men of differences in other people’s intelligence. Yet the researchers found no evidence of this. 

    As the researchers admit, there are some limitations to their study. They only used a non-verbal IQ test, for instance, and it’s possible you would see different results if you also looked at verbal questions. After all, the size of someone’s vocabulary and their linguistic fluency may be easier for a partner to judge accurately. 

    But overall, the findings help extend our understanding of our self-serving biases, showing our egotism and self-confidence can sometimes spill-over to our loved ones. Maybe we like to think we’re with a partner who reflects an even better version of ourselves.

    People tend to overestimate their romantic partner’s intelligence even more than their own

    Post written by David Robson (@d_a_robson) for the BPS Research Digest. David is the author of The Intelligence Trap, published in the UK and commonwealth by Hodder & Stoughton on 7 March. It is available for pre-order now.


    in The British Psychological Society - Research Digest on March 04, 2019 09:44 AM.