Posts tagged with "Research"

Ways to cope with multiple sclerosis

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can come as a shock to some but a relief to finally receive answers for others. MS is a chronic disease where the central nervous system is greatly affected. No two people share the exact same symptoms, and these can come and go. Some people have regular attacks, while others constantly suffer for extended periods of time. Continue reading for suggestions on how to cope with specific MS symptoms.

Blurred Vision

Blurred vision can be a very frustrating symptom as it affects most of your day to day living. Resting your eyes can reduce the strain, so ensuring you have regular breaks throughout the day and get plenty of sleep will help. Furthermore, avoiding too much screen time will help. That means that working long hours on a computer is not helpful and staring at your phone should be kept to a minimum.

Loss of balance and poor coordination

Loss of balance and poor coordination can be incredibly debilitating as it stops you from completing many tasks you probably have taken for granted most of your life. Things such as getting out of bed, standing up and climbing stairs all of a sudden seem to become almost impossible and carry the risk of injury. Risk reduction is the major thing to support you in coping with this new-found issue. Avoid carrying out any sort of activity in the dark as that strains your body more and adds further risk. Sensible shoes are a must, so choose ones with a low heel or even walking shoes. Walking with a stick can help too. 

Extreme fatigue

Extreme fatigue will come and go with MS. One day, you may feel able to conquer the world and the next, you may find merely walking to the bathroom a challenge. Prioritizing tasks is really important when it comes to your fatigue. Reserve your energy for the most critical activities. If you do feel able to engage in some of your usual activities, try to make them less strenuous to enable you to complete more. Exercise is still important, so short walks, for example, could be incorporated into your daily routine. If you are able to, take little naps during the day to perk you up somewhat. Limiting your caffeine intake may also help. 

Muscle spasms and spasticity

There are many different types of treatment and medication available to help ease the pain caused by muscle spasms and spasticity. It is always recommended that you speak with your consultant to ensure the best course of action is being followed. Some people also ultimately choose to use cannabis for medicinal purposes from somewhere like The Green Solution, who will be able to give advice on the best product to use. Physiotherapists will be able to offer a program of exercises to ensure you are able to get the most out of your day with posture and seating positions being most important. Movement is essential to ensure you continue to be as flexible as possible.

Beethoven’s Effect on Test Results

Students Who Listened to Beethoven During Lecture — and Heard the Same Music in Dreamland — Did Better on Test Next Day

But scores on the material nine months later dropped to ‘floor level,’ Baylor University study finds

College students who listened to classical music by Beethoven and Chopin during a computer-interactive lecture on microeconomics — and heard the music again that night — did better on a test the next day than did peers who were in the same lecture, but instead slept that evening with white noise in the background.

Over the long haul — when students took a similar test nine months later — the boost did not last. Scores dropped to floor levels, with everyone failing and performance averaging less than 25% percent for both groups. However, targeting memory reactivation (TMR) may aid during deep sleep, when memories are theorized to be reactivated and moved from temporary storage in one part of the brain to more permanent storage in other parts, researchers said.

The study, supported by the National Science Foundation and conducted by Baylor’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory (SNAC), is published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

“All educators want to teach students how to integrate concepts, not just memorize details, but that’s notoriously difficult to do,” said Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor’s sleep lab and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience. “What we found was that by experimentally priming these concepts during sleep, we increased performance on integration questions by 18% on the test the next day. What student wouldn’t want a boost or two to their letter grade? The effects were particularly enhanced in participants who showed heightened frontal lobe activity in the brain during slow wave sleep, which is deep sleep.”

He noted that the effects emerged when using gold standard procedures: neither participants nor experimenters knew who received a particular treatment, sleep was measured using EEG in a laboratory setting, and the learning materials matched those that would actually be used in a college classroom, in this case an undergraduate microeconomics lecture.

Poor sleep is widespread in college students, with 60 percent habitually sleeping fewer than the recommended seven hours on 50 to 65 percent of nights. While students may be more concerned about immediate test results — and TMR may help them cram for an exam — learning by rote (item memory) does not normally benefit grasping and retaining a concept.

For the study, researchers recruited 50 college students ages 18 to 33 for a learning task with a self-paced, computer-interactive lecture; and for two overnight polysomnography sessions, with the first night an adaptation to the lab and screening for sleep disorders, and the second done the evening of the lecture.

During the lecture, soft background selections were played from a computer: the first movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Piano Sonata, the first movement of Vivaldi’s “Spring” Violin Concerto and Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat major, Op. 9, No. 2.

That night in Baylor’s sleep lab, research personnel applied electrodes and used computers to monitor sleep patterns of both test and control groups. Once technicians observed a person was in deep sleep, they played either the classical music or the white noise — depending on whether the individual was in the test or control group — for about 15 minutes.

“Deep slow wave sleep won’t last super long before shifting back to light sleep, so we couldn’t play them endlessly,” Scullin said. “If we played it during light sleep, the music probably would have awoken participants. The first slow wave cycle is the deepest and longest.”

The music choice was important, researchers said.

“We ruled out jazz because it’s too sporadic and would probably cause people to wake,” Scullin said. “We ruled out popular music because lyrical music disrupts initial studying. You can’t read words and sing lyrics — just try it. We also ruled out ocean waves and ambient music because it’s very easy to ignore. You’re going to have a heck of a time forming a strong association between some learning material and a bland song or ambient noise.

“That left us with classical music, which many students already listen to while studying,” he said. “The songs can be very distinctive and therefore pair well with learning material.”

In the microeconomics exam the next day, the TMR of classical music more than doubled the likelihood of passing the test when compared with the control condition of white noise.

Scullin cautioned against confusing the Baylor study’s findings with the so-called “Mozart Effect” — the finding that having students listen to Mozart pieces led to better scores on intelligence tests. Subsequent tests of the “Mozart Effect” found that it either did not replicate or that boosts were strictly due to increased arousal when listening to energetic music.

“Mozart doesn’t make memories,” Scullin said.

Previous researchers have found that memories associated with sensory cues — such as an odor or song — are re-activated when the same cue is received later. When that happens during deep sleep, the corresponding memories are activated and strengthened, said co-researcher Chenlu Gao, a doctoral candidate of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.

Early experimenters also played audio tapes during sleep to test whether individuals can learn new knowledge while sleeping. But while those experiments failed to create new memories, “our study suggests it is possible to reactivate and strengthen existing memories of lecture materials during sleep,” Gao said. “Our next step is to implement this technique in classrooms — or in online lectures while students complete their education at home due to COVID-19 social distancing measures — so we can help college students ‘re-study’ their class materials during sleep.”

“We think it is possible there could be long-term benefits of using TMR but that you might have to repeat the music across multiple nights,” Scullin added. “After all, you wouldn’t just study material a single time and then expect to remember it months later for a final exam. The best learning is repeated at spaced-out intervals — and, of course, while maintaining good sleep habits.”

*The study was supported by the National Science Foundation. Paul Fillmore, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders in Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, also was a co-researcher.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 18,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and seven academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences.

ABOUT THE SLEEP NEUROSCIENCE AND COGNITION LABORATORY

The goal of the Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory at Baylor University is to understand the basic processes supporting cognition and to translate that knowledge to promote health and flourishing across the adult lifespan. The two lines of inquiry focus on the sleep-based underpinnings of health and cognitive flourishing; and how technology can be leveraged to support prospective memory and quality of life in persons with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

 

Rice University on COVID-19

Rice U. experts available to discuss COVID-19’s wide-ranging impact

As the COVID-19 pandemic grows and impacts the lives of people across the globe, Rice University experts are available to discuss various topics related to the disease.

Joyce Beebefellow in public finance at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, can discuss paid leave programs.

“COVID-19 highlights the importance of paid (sick) leave programs to workers,” she said. “The issue is not whether we should have a paid leave program; it is how to design a program that provides nationwide coverage to all American workers instead of waiting until the next pandemic.”

Robert Bruce, dean of Rice’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, is an expert in online and distance learning, community education and engagement and innovative models for personal and professional development programs.

“The field of continuing and professional studies is uniquely positioned to help the public during a crisis that requires social distancing,” he said. “Our core mission is to empower people to continue to learn and advance, regardless of location or age or learning style.”

Utpal Dholakia, a professor of marketing at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, is available to discuss consumer behavior and panic-buying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone is panic-buying, not just all over the country, but basically all over the world,” Dholakia said. “That makes the sense of urgency even more. Are all these suppliers going to be able to keep up with the demand?”

John Diamond, the Edward A. and Hermena Hancock Kelly Fellow in Tax Policy at the Baker Institute and an adjunct assistant professor in Rice’s Department of Economics, can discuss the economic impact on Houston and Texas, particularly unemployment.

Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, professor in sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program, studies the intersection of science and religion. She can discuss how these two entities can work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and recently authored an editorial about this topic for Time magazine. It is available online HERE.

Christopher Fagundes, an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences, is available to discuss the link between mental and immune health.

“In my field, we have conducted a lot of work to look at what predicts who gets colds and different forms of respiratory illnesses, and who is more susceptible to getting sick,” Fagundes said. “We’ve found that stressloneliness and lack of sleep are three factors that can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system that make people more susceptible to viruses if exposed. Also, stress, loneliness and disrupted sleep promote other aspects of the immune system responsible for the production of proinflammatory cytokines to overrespond. Elevated proinflammatory cytokine production can generate sustained upper respiratory infection symptoms.”

And while this research has centered on different cold and upper respiratory viruses, he said “there is no doubt” that these effects would be the same for COVID-19.

Mark Finley is a fellow in energy and global oil at the Baker Institute.

“The U.S. and global oil market is simultaneously grappling with the biggest decline in demand ever seen (due to COVID-19) and a price war between two of the world’s largest producers, Russia and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Bill Fulton, director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, an urban planner, an expert on local government and the former mayor of Ventura, California, can speak to both the short-term and long-term changes in city life and the way government works.

What will the effect be on transportation and transit? Retail and office space? Will people walk and bike more? How will they interact in public spaces in the future? How will government function and hold public meetings during the crisis, and will this fundamentally alter the way government interacts with the public in the long run? How will local governments deal with the inevitable revenue loss — and, in the long run, with the fact that they will probably have less sales tax?

Vivian Ho, the James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics, director for the Center of Health and Biosciences at the Baker Institute and a professor of economics, can discuss insurance coverage as families experience lost income and jobs during the crisis.

“Policymakers should temporarily expand subsidies for middle class workers who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace,” Ho said. “Families experiencing lost income due to the pandemic shouldn’t have to worry about losing access to health care in the midst of a pandemic.”

“Hospitals in states that did not expand Medicaid coverage to able-bodied adults under the Affordable Care Act are bearing tougher financial burdens, which may damage their ability to respond to the current health crisis,” she said.

Mark Jones, a professor of political science and fellow at the Baker Institute, is available to discuss how the spread of COVID-19 is impacting elections, including runoffs in Texas.

“COVID-19 has already resulted in the postponement of local elections originally scheduled for May 2, with the elections now to be held in November with current officeholders’ tenure extended until their successors are confirmed in November,” Jones said. “It is increasingly likely that COVID-19 will affect the Democratic and Republican primary runoff elections scheduled for May 26, with a growing possibility that the elections will be conducted entirely via mail ballots or at the minimum will involve the adoption of no-excuse absentee voting whereby any Texan, not just those 65 or older, hospitalized or out of the county, will be able to obtain an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

“The emergency adoption of no-excuse absentee voting would change the composition of the May primary runoff electorate by expanding turnout among many voters who otherwise would have been unlikely to participate, as well as increase pressure on the Texas Legislature to reform the state’s electoral legislation to allow for no-excuse absentee voting when it reconvenes in January of 2021 for the next regular session.”

Danielle King, an assistant professor of psychological sciences and principal investigator of Rice’s WorKing Resilience Lab, is an expert on the topic of resilience to adversity. Her research focuses on understanding the role individuals, groups and organizations play in fostering adaptive sustainability following adversity. She can discuss how individuals can remain resilient and motivated in difficult circumstances.

“Though we are still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can begin to enact adaptive practices that foster resilience such as remaining flexible to changing circumstances, practicing acceptance of the present realities, seeking social support in creative ways while practicing social distancing, and finding and engaging with experiences and thoughts that elicit positive emotions during trying times,” King said.

Tom Kolditz, founding director of Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders, is a social psychologist and former brigadier general who has done extensive research on how best to lead people under perceived serious threat. His work is widely taught at military service and police academies globally, and he did extensive work with the banking industry during the 2008 financial crisis. His expertise is in articulating what people need from leaders in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times and what leaders must do to gain and maintain people’s trust. His book, “In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It,” teaches people to lead in crisis, when people are anxious or afraid.

“Leadership when people are under threat hinges far less on managerial principles, and far more on trust,” Kolditz said. “Whether in a company or their own family, people who lead in the same way now as they did two months ago will experience a significant decline in their influence.”

Jim Krane, the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at the Baker Institute, is an expert on energy geopolitics and Middle East economies and societies. He can comment on the effect on OPEC and its production decisions, relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and how low oil prices will affect policy inside producer countries.

Ken Medlock, the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics at the Baker Institute, senior director of institute’s Center for Energy Studies and an adjunct professor and lecturer in Rice’s Department of Economics, can discuss COVID-19’s impact on oil prices and the oil industry.

Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English and director of Rice’s Medical Futures Lab, can discuss the representation of outbreaks, contagion and disease in public discourse and the media. She is also an expert on digital health privacy. She is the founding director of the Medical Humanities program at Rice, and her first book, “Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health,” is one of several titles made available for open-access download through June 1 by its publisher, Duke University Press.

Peter Rodriguez, dean of the Jones Graduate School of Business and a professor of strategic management, can discuss the economic impact of COVID-19 in Houston, the state of Texas and around the world.

Eduardo Salas, professor and chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences, is available to discuss collaboration, teamwork, team training and team dynamics as it relates to COVID-19.

“We often hear that ‘we are in this together’ and, indeed, we are,” Salas said. “Effective collaboration and teamwork can save lives. And there is a science of teamwork that can provide guidance on how to manage and promote effective collaboration.”

Kyle Shelton, deputy director of the Kinder Institute, can discuss how the economic impact of COVID-19 closures and job losses can amplify housing issues, and why governments at every level are opting for actions such as halting evictions and foreclosures and removing late fees. He can also speak to some of the challenges confronted by public transportation, why active transportation like biking and walking are so important now, and how long-term investments in these systems make cities and regions more adaptive and resilient.

Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science and a fellow in urban politics at the Baker Institute, is an expert in emergency preparedness, especially related to hurricanes and flooding. He can also discuss why and when people comply with government directives regarding how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, and the political consequences of natural disasters.

“Since God is not on the ballot, who do voters hold accountable before and in the aftermath of natural disasters?” he said.

Laurence Stuart, an adjunct professor in management at Rice Business, can discuss unemployment in Texas, how people qualify for it and what that means for employers and employees.

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

road, uber, car, traffic, illustration, car-sharing,

Uber Decreases Traffic Injuries Rate in the UK

An Important Study

University of Oxford researchers has found that ride-hailing provider,Uber, is associated with a 9% decline in serious road accident injuries in the UK. However, that relative improvement is counterbalanced by the fact that there was an increase in slight road accident injuries in London.

Since its launch in San Francisco in 2010, Uber has experienced henomenal growth, reaching six continents, more than 70 countries, and
700 cities through 2018.  Whilst it took Uber roughly six years to reach the 1 billion ride milestone (March 2016), it took just two and a half more years (September 2018) to reach 10 billion total rides.
                     
Professor David Kirk from the University of Oxford; Department of Sociology and Nuffield College said: “ Ride-hailing is a private sector intervention that may have transformative potential to change the nature of road safety worldwide, yet there has been relatively little research on the potentially beneficial and detrimental effects of ride-hailing for public safety. Our study presents the very first findings of the association between the deployment of Uber and road accident injuries in the UK, thereby adding much needed research to the public debate about the safety of ride-hailing. ”

The Relationship between Uber and Accidents Rates in Great Britain 

This study is a collaboration between researchers at Oxford, Bocconi University, and the University of California-Davis.It exploited differences in the timing of the deployment of Uber across Britain to test the association between the advent of Uber services and rate of fatal and non-fatal accidents in those areas. In Great Britain, road accident fatalities and injuries have steadily declined since the mid-1960s, due in part to efforts to improve road and vehicle safety and limit the extent of drink-driving. Yet progress on reducing road fatalities as well as serious injuries stalled in recent years and even began to reverse course, with serious injuries increasing nearly 12% from 2014 to 2018. Along with suicide and drug overdose, traffic fatalities are among the leading causes of death of 15 to 29 year olds in the UK, as well as worldwide.

Professor Kirk said: “ Expanding the availability and lowering the cost of alternate transportation options should, in theory, reduce the number of drink-driving occurrences and fatalities.Conversely,Uber may actually increase road accidents by increasing the number of vehicles and vehicle miles travelled on Great Britain roads. ”

Kirk, with colleagues Nicolo Cavalli (Bocconi) and Noli Brazil (UC-Davis), found that slight injuries (sprains and bruises) declined outside of London after the rollout of Uber, but increased within London. No statistically significant association between Uber and traffic fatalities  was observed.

The Next Step

 Professor Kirk also said: “ One interpretation for the decline in serious road injuries is that Uber may be a substitute form of transportation for risky drivers, including drink-drivers. However,ride-hailing is also a substitute for public transit, particularly buses, thereby increasing traffic congestion. Our next step is to examine the effect on road traffic accidents following the withdrawal of Uber in cities such as London,where the provider may have lost its licence to operate. We also want to examine the effects of Uber and other ride-hailing competitors in countries besides the US and UK, given that most of the ride-hailing market is in Asia.”

The paper: The Implications of Ridehailing for Risky Driving and Road Accident Injuries and Fatalities is available online at Social Science & Medicine at HERE.

About The University of Oxford

 Oxford University has been placed number 1 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the fourth year running, and at the heart of this success is our ground-breaking research and innovation.

Oxford is world-famous for research excellence and home to some of the most talented people from across the globe. Our work helps the lives of millions, solving real-world problems through a huge network of partnerships and collaborations. The breadth and interdisciplinary nature of our research sparks imaginative and inventive insights and solutions.

Benefits of Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are evolutionary, not revolutionary, says Baker Institute expert

Tesla will disrupt the automotive industry only if it is able to achieve scale, according to a new issue brief by an expert in the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Ford vs. Tesla: What Does a Transformational Automobile Scale-up Look Like?” is authored by Gabriel Collins, the Baker Botts Fellow in Energy and Environmental Regulatory Affairs at the Baker Institute.

Ford and Tesla both earned their reputations through what Collins describes as a “revolutionary vehicle type” — the Model T and Model S-X-3 suite, respectively — and as market makers. Comparing their sales growth trajectories, Collins hypothesizes, can offer insights on how electric vehicle (EV) sales are scaling up as well as how EVs can reshape automobile and oil markets.

The modern world, saturated with automobiles, provides a different battle for Tesla than Ford faced. For Tesla, scalability is essential and “holds the keys to lasting structural change in the energy and transportation spaces,” Collins wrote. Without scale, he says, Tesla cannot compete with the legacy brands that have built off of Ford’s vision for decades. Scale would allow EVs to create the operational infrastructure that can support pure-battery EVs and become more affordable, Collins says.

So can EVs reach market-transforming scale within the next decade?

“Possibly,” Collins wrote. “One overwhelming reality leaps forth from the past decade of data and anecdotal evidence alike: at the global level, EVs have thus far been evolutionary, not revolutionary, factors in the transportation sector.

“Tesla has been ‘evolutionary’ in that the changes they have introduced to the car market to date are thus far incremental …” Collins writes. “A ‘revolutionary’ change, such as the introduction of the Model T, would cause palpable shifts on even a short-term basis. … EVs are not yet impacting the market with sufficient mass to trigger that compounding, deep, high-velocity change necessary for a revolution.”

Collins conducts a range of globally focused commodity market, energy, water and environmental research. He focuses on legal, environmental and economic issues relating to water — including the food-water-energy nexus — as well as unconventional oil and gas development, and the intersection between global commodity markets and a range of environmental, legal and national security issues.

Related materials:

Follow the Baker Institute via Twitter @BakerInstitute

Follow the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies via Twitter @CES_Baker_Inst

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks as the No. 2 university-affiliated think tank in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog.

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

Alcoholism in the Family

Alcoholism in the family affects how your brain switches between active and resting states.

A family history of alcoholism affects a process that the brain uses when transitioning from a mentally demanding state to a resting state, researchers have found.

You don’t have to be a drinker for your brain to be affected by alcoholism. A new study shows that just having a parent with an alcohol use disorder affects how your brain transitions between active and resting states – regardless of your own drinking habits.

The study, performed by researchers at Purdue University and the Indiana University School of Medicine, discovered that the brain reconfigures itself between completing a mentally demanding task and resting.

But for the brain of someone with a family history of an alcohol use disorder, this reconfiguration doesn’t happen.

While the missing transition doesn’t seem to affect how well a person performs the mentally demanding task itself, it might be related to larger scale brain functions that give rise to behaviors associated with addiction. In particular, study subjects without this brain process demonstrated greater impatience in waiting for rewards, a behavior associated with addiction.

Brain-Reconfiguration
Multiple regions of the brain are involved in a “reconfiguration” that happens between completing a difficult task and resting. But for people with a family history of alcoholism, this reconfiguration is diminished.

Findings are published in the journal NeuroImage. The work was led by Enrico Amico, a former Purdue postdoctoral researcher who is now a researcher at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.

How the brain reconfigures between active and resting states is like how a computer closes down a program after you’re finished with it. “The moment you close a program, a computer has to remove it from memory, reorganize the cache and maybe clear out some temporary files. This helps the computer to prepare for the next task,” said Joaquín Goñi, a Purdue assistant professor in the School of Industrial Engineering and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.

“In a similar way, we’ve found that this reconfiguration process in the human brain is associated with finishing a task and getting ready for what’s next.” Goñi’s research group, the CONNplexity Lab, takes a computational approach to neuroscience and cognitive science.

Past research has shown that a family history of alcoholism affects a person’s brain anatomy and physiology, but most studies have looked at this effect only in separate active and quiet resting states rather than the transition between them.

“A lot of what brains do is switch between different tasks and states. We suspected that this task switching might be somewhat lower in people with a family history of alcoholism,” said David Kareken, a professor of neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and director of the Indiana Alcohol Research Center.

The study defined a “family history of alcoholism” as someone with a parent who had enough symptoms to constitute an alcohol use disorder. About half of the 54 study participants had this history.

Researchers at Indiana University measured the brain activity of subjects with an MRI scanner as they completed a mentally demanding task on a computer. The task required them to unpredictably hold back from pressing a left or right key. After completing the task, the subjects rested while watching a fixed point on the screen.

A separate task outside of the MRI scanner gauged how participants responded to rewards, asking questions such as if they would like $20 now or $200 in one year.

Amico and Goñi processed the data and developed a computational framework for extracting different patterns of brain connectivity between completing the mentally demanding task and entering the resting state, such as when brain areas rose and fell together in activity, or one brain area rose while another fell at the same time.

The data revealed that these brain connectivity patterns reconfigured within the first three minutes after finishing the task. By the fourth minute of rest, the effect had completely disappeared.

And it’s not a quiet process: Reconfiguration involves multiple parts
of the brain at once.

“These brain regions talk to each other and are very strongly implicated in the task even though by this point, the task is already completed. It almost seems like an echo in time of what had been going on,” Kareken said.

Subjects lacking the transition also had the risk factors that researchers have seen to be consistent with developing alcoholism. These include being male, a greater number of symptoms of depression,
and reward-impatience.

A family history of alcoholism, however, stood out as the most statistically significant difference in this brain reconfiguration.

The finding affects research going forward.

“In the past, we’ve assumed that a person who doesn’t drink excessively is a ‘healthy’ control for a study. But this work shows that a person with just a family history of alcoholism may also have some subtle differences in how their brains operate,” Goñi said.

This research was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grant P60AA07611) and the Purdue Discovery Park Data Science Award “Fingerprints of the Human Brain: A Data Science Perspective.” The work was also partially supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants R01EB022574, R01MH108467, and R00AA023296).

About Discovery Park
Discovery Park is a place where Purdue researchers move beyond traditional boundaries, collaborating across disciplines and with policymakers and business leaders to create solutions for a better world. Grand challenges of global health, global conflict and security, and those that lie at the nexus of sustainable energy, world food supply, water and the environment are the focus of researchers in Discovery Park. The translation of discovery to impact is integrated into the fabric of Discovery Park through entrepreneurship programs and partnerships.

Purdue University Engineers New Nickel Material

Hybrid technique aims to produce stronger, corrosion-resistant nickel for auto, medical, manufacturing industries

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Nickel is a widely used metal in the manufacturing industry for both industrial and advanced material processes. Now, Purdue University innovators have created a hybrid technique to fabricate a new form of nickel that may help the future production of lifesaving medical devices, high-tech devices and vehicles with strong corrosion-resistant protection.

The Purdue technique involves a process where high-yield electrodeposition is applied on certain conductive substrates. The Purdue team’s work is published in the December edition of Nanoscale. One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers with nickel is dealing with the places within the metals where the crystalline grains intersect, which are known as the boundary areas. These conventional grain boundaries can strengthen metals for high- strength demand.

However, they often act as stress concentrators and they are vulnerable sites for electron scattering and corrosion attack. As a result, conventional boundaries often decrease ductility, corrosion resistance and electrical conductivity.

Another specific type of boundary, much less common in metals such as nickel due to its high-stacking fault energy, is called a twin boundary. The unique nickel in a single-crystal-like form contains high-density ultrafine twin structure but few conventional grain boundaries.

This particular nickel has been shown by the Purdue researchers to promote strength, ductility and improve corrosion resistance. Those properties are important for manufacturers across several industries – including automotive, gas, oil and micro-electro-mechanical devices.

“We developed a hybrid technique to create nickel coatings with twin boundaries that are strong and corrosion-resistant,” said Xinghang Zhang, a professor of materials engineering in Purdue’s College of Engineering “We want our work to inspire others to invent new materials with fresh minds.”

The solution of the researchers at Purdue is to use a single crystal substrate as a growth template in conjunction with a designed electrochemical recipe to promote the formation of twin boundaries and inhibit the formation of conventional grain boundaries. The high-density twin boundaries contribute a high mechanical strength exceeding 2 GPa, a low corrosion current density of 6.91 × 10^−8 A cm^−2, and high polarization resistance of 516 kΩ.

“Our technology enables the manufacturing of nanotwinned nickel coatings with high-density twin boundaries and few conventional grain boundaries, which leads to superb mechanical, electrical properties and high corrosive resistance, suggesting good durability for applications at extreme environments,” said Qiang Li, a research fellow in materials engineering and member of the research team. “Template and specific electrochemical recipes suggest new paths for boundary engineering and the hybrid technique can be potentially adopted for large-scale industrial productions.”

Potential applications for this Purdue technology include the semiconductor and automotive industries, which require metallic materials with advanced electric and mechanical properties for manufacturing. The nanotwinned nickel can be applied as corrosion-resistant coatings for the automobile, gas and oil industries.

The new nickel hybrid technique can be potentially integrated to the micro- electro-mechanical system industry after careful engineering designs. MEMS medical devices are used in critical care departments and other hospital areas to monitor patients.

The relevant pressure sensors and other functional small-scale components in MEMS require the use of materials with superior mechanical and structural stability and chemical reliability.

The team worked with the Purdue Research Foundation, Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the technology. They are looking for partners. For more information on licensing and other opportunities, contact D.H.R. Sarma from OTC at dhrsarma@prf.org 

The research has been funded by the Department of Energy’s. The Purdue team worked with scientists from Sandia National Laboratories on the technology.

About Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university’s academic activities through commercializing, licensing and protecting Purdue intellectual property. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Visit the Office of Technology Commercialization for more information.

Derrick Wan, 360 MAGAZINE, stem cells

NEW STEM CELL STUDY

 A new study released today in STEM CELLS outlines how fat grafting – which previous studies have shown can reduce and even reverse fibrosis (scar tissue) buildup – also improves the range of motion of the affected limb. The study, conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, was conducted on mice.

The tumor-destroying capabilities of radiation therapy can be a life saver for a person suffering from cancer. But it’s a therapy that has several unwanted side effects, too, including causing substantial damage not just to cancerous cells, but any healthy tissue in its path. Over time, fibrosis builds up in the treated area which, in the case of an arm, shoulder, or leg, for example, can lead to painful contractures that significantly limit extensibility and negatively impact the person’s quality of life.

The Stanford team irradiated the right hind legs of subject mice, which resulted in chronic fibrosis and limb contracture. Four weeks later, the irradiated limbs of one group of the mice were injected with fat enriched with stromal vascular cells (SVCs). These potent cells already naturally exist in fat, but supplementation of fat with additional SVCs enhances its regenerative capabilities. A second group was injected with fat only, a third group with saline and a fourth group received no injections, for comparison. The animals’ ability to extend their limb was then measured at baseline and every two weeks for a 12-week period. At the end of the 12 weeks, the hind limb skin underwent histological analysis and biomechanical strength testing.

“Each animal showed significant reduction in its limb extension ability due to the radiation, but this was progressively rescued by fat grafting,” reported corresponding author Derrick C. Wan, M.D., FACS. Fat grafting also reduced skin stiffness and reversed the radiation-induced histological changes in the skin.

“The greatest benefits were found in mice injected with fat enriched with SVCs,” Dr. Wan added. “SVCs are easily obtained through liposuction and can be coaxed into different tissue types, where they can support neovascularization, replace cells and repair injured issue.

“Our study showed the ability of fat to improve mobility as well as vascularity and appearance,” he continued. “We think this holds enormous clinical potential — especially given that adipose tissue is abundant and can be easily collected from the patients themselves — and underscores an attractive approach to address challenging soft tissue fibrosis in patients following radiation therapy.”

Furthermore, said co-author and world-renowned breast reconstructive expert Arash Momeni, M.D., FACS, “Our observations are potentially translatable to a variety of challenging clinical scenarios. Being able to reverse radiation-induced effects holds promise to substantially improve clinical outcomes in implant-based as well as autologous breast reconstruction. The study findings are indeed encouraging as they could offer patients novel treatment modalities for debility clinical conditions.

“Excessive scarring is a challenging problem that is associated with a variety of clinical conditions, such as burn injuries, tendon lacerations, etc. The potential to improve outcomes based on treatment modalities derived from our research is indeed exciting,” Dr. Momeni added.

“Skin and soft tissue scarring and fibrosis are well-established problems after radiation. The current study, showing that human fat grafting can normalize the collagen networks and improve tissue elasticity in immune deficient mice, provides molecular evidence for how fat grafting functions,” said Dr. Jan Nolta, Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS. “The studies indicate that, with the appropriate regulatory approvals, autologous fat grafting could potentially also help human patients recover from radiation-induced tissue fibrosis.”

Full article HERE.

Make a passionate pitch—if you want investors

The brains of investors are wired to pay closer attention to entrepreneurs who pitch with passion, according to new research.

One would expect that entrepreneurs who pitch their startup ideas with passion are more apt to entice investors. Now there’s scientific proof the two are connected: enthusiasm and financial backing. According to new research from Case Western Reserve University, the brains of potential investors are wired to pay closer attention to entrepreneurs who pitch with passion.

Researchers examined investors’ neural responses to entrepreneurs’ pitches, conducting a randomized experiment that explored the response of investors’ brains using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

(fMRI)—finding a causal relationship between passion of the pitcher and interest from investors.

“No one has ever invested in a startup they ignored,” said Scott Shane, the A. Malachi Mixon III Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve.

“Founder passion is essential to establishing investor attention, and our study demonstrates measurable neural effects that offer a biological explanation for their tendency to react positively to enthusiasm and emotion of entrepreneurs,” said Shane, lead author of the paper, published in the Journal of Business Venturing. By showing such energy in pitching their business ideas, entrepreneurs can considerably increase neural engagement in potential investors—increasing the odds these financiers will support a new, untested venture by having strong, measurable effects on their decision-making.

“Most of time investors just say ‘no,’” said Shane. “In fact, the vast majority of entrepreneurs never receive a dime from external investors.

“Entrepreneurs should know: More engaged brains are more likely to meaningfully evaluate pitches,” he said. “We believe our data makes a strong argument that displays of passion trigger heightened engagement that, in turn, makes investors more likely to write a check.”

The experiment

Videos of pitches—identical in content but different in delivery—were randomly assigned to investors inside an fMRI machine. Depending on the passion-level of the pitch, investors’ brains reacted differently: Heightened displays of passion increased investor fixation on the stimulus (the pitch) to override distractions—and demonstrate a causal effect of displayed passion on investor interest.

· Investors randomly assigned a pitch with high founder passion resulted in informal investor interest increasing by 26%, relative to the same pitch delivered with low passion;

· Data from fMRIs showed investor neural responses to entrepreneurs’ high-passion pitches increased investor neural engagement by 39% over lower founder passion.

“More engaged brains are more likely to meaningfully evaluate pitches—and not play on their phones or think about lunch which should result in more favorable investor assessments,” said Shane.

While it’s possible that other mechanisms may be present in the brains of investors—such as inferring from passion that entrepreneurs may be more capable or competent—the experiment showed that passion is a key mechanism because it causes investors to pay attention, said Shane.

The practice of passion

The findings offer strong implications for the practice of entrepreneurship. “Pitching with enthusiasm and passion—these are skills that can be taught,” said Shane. “Flat, unenthusiastic pitches are the enemy of attracting investor attention and to succeeding in a competitive, cutthroat environment.”

Each year, hundreds of thousands of early-stage entrepreneurs, who often lack established track records, offer pitches—widely recognized as the gateway to investor funding—to financiers across the globe. The study focused on Informal investors—referred to as “family, friends and foolhardy strangers” by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor who account for most startup investments, investing $1 trillion globally between 2012-2015, according to the organization.

The study was co-authored by David Clingingsmith, an associate professor of economics at the Weatherhead School. Will Drover of the University of Oklahoma, and Moran Cerf of Northwestern University also co-authored the paper.

Stem Cell Relief

Clinical trial shows promise of stem cells in offering safe, effective relief from arthritic knees

Stem cells collected from the patient’s own bone marrow holds great interest as a potential therapy for osteoarthritis of the knee (KOA) because of their ability to regenerate the damaged cartilage. The results were released today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM).

KOA is a common, debilitating disease of the aging population in which the cartilage wears away, resulting in bone wearing upon bone and subsequently causing great pain. In its end stages, joint replacement is currently the recommended treatment. In the first clinical trial of its kind to take place in Canada, researchers used mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), collected from the patient’s own bone marrow under local anesthesia, to treat KOA.

The study was conducted by a research team from the Arthritis Program at the Krembil Research Institute, University Health Network, Toronto, led by Sowmya Viswanathan, Ph.D., and Jaskarndip Chahal, M.D. “Our goal was to test for safety as well as to gain a better understanding of MSC dosing, mechanisms of action and donor selection,” Dr. Viswanathan said.

It involved 12 patients, aged 45 to 65, with moderate to severe KOA. They were divided into three groups, with each group receiving a different dose of MSCs. (Each patient was injected with his or her own cells.) The researchers then followed the patients for the next 12 months, using analytical methods that included imaging, biomarkers, molecular fingerprinting and the patient’s own assessment of how he or she felt.

At the end of the 12-month period, the team noted significant improvements in the patients’ pain levels and quality of life. The study also showed that the MSCs were safe at all the doses tested and that the higher the dose, the more effective the outcome.

Dr. Viswanathan said, “We also obtained novel insights into a potential anti-inflammatory mechanism of action of these cells in osteoarthritic knee joints. We noted that donor heterogeneity is an important factor, and our assembled panel of genes helps us identify cells which are potent in osteoarthritis. These are important findings which we hope to translate into a larger, powered clinical trial as part of our next steps.”  

“Furthermore,” added Dr. Chahal, “we have been able to show that through an anti-inflammatory mechanism of action, such patients have an improvement in pain, function and quality of life. This sets the stage for the future of cell-based therapy and trials in Canada.”

“This clinical pilot study advances the field of stem cell research for patients with arthritis, showing safety, and giving insights into potential therapy efficacy guidelines”, said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “We look forward to larger scale trial results.”

The full article, “Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stromal Cells in Patients with Osteoarthritis Results in Overall Improvement in Pain and Symptoms and Reduces Synovial Inflammation,” can be accessed here.

About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine

STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM), co-published by AlphaMed Press and Wiley, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices. SCTM is the official journal partner of Regenerative Medicine Foundation.

About AlphaMed Press

Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS® , celebrating its 37th year, is the world’s first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, entering its 24th year, is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. All three journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial boards dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines.  

About Wiley

Wiley, a global company, helps people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Our online scientific, technical, medical and scholarly journals, combined with our digital learning, assessment and certification solutions, help universities, learned societies, businesses, governments and individuals increase the academic and professional impact of their work. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The company’s website can be accessed here.

About Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF)

The non-profit Regenerative Medicine Foundation fosters strategic collaborations to accelerate the development of regenerative medicine to improve health and deliver cures. RMF pursues its mission by producing its flagship World Stem Cell Summit, honoring leaders through the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards, and promoting educational initiatives.