There is a strong stigma connected to women who leave their country to work abroad

Female labour migrants are criticised for abandoning their children in their home country. According to research, this stigma does not affect male migrants. The past few years have seen a major increase in female migrants from countries such as the Philippines, Russia, and Ukraine. They leave their home country in order to become house maids, nurses and child care workers in Western Europe. The women often leave due to financial necessity and unemployment, but this is not always the case.

The possibility for a better life abroad may be an equally important reason, but this fact is not talked about. “There is a strong stigma connected to women who leave their country to work abroad. Male labour migrants do not experience this type of stigma,” says researcher at Fafo Guri Tyldum.

She has studied the female migration discourse in Ukraine. A lot of women travel from Ukraine to Italy to work as private nurses for elderly people.

When grandmother leaves

There have been plenty of front page news in Ukrainian newspapers about how society is unravelling due to absent mothers. The children go to the dogs, nobody looks after the elderly, marriages are ruined and the remaining men are driven to the drink.

“It is a general understanding that women who migrate sacrifice their own children. The discourse on female migration gives the impression that the women who migrate leave behind small children, but the average age of these women is forty plus. Quite a few are actually grandmothers,” says Tyldum.

Since Ukrainian women generally have children at an early age, the children are more or less grown up when their mothers leave for Italy. They are often gone for several years at a time, and they send money home.

“Does this mean that these women are being stigmatised for something that is unfounded?”

“It does. And this is also reflected in the research literature on the field. Nearly all research on female migrants who travel to Italy focus explicitly on the motherhood aspect.”

There are some women who leave their small children behind, but according to Tyldum, they are a small minority among the large stream of Ukrainian migrants. Moreover, there is a strong tradition in Ukraine for leaving the child care to the grandparents.

“Migration researchers’ view on female migrants is quite simply behind,” says Tyldum.

Fatherhood more important than motherhood

According to the researcher, motherhood is not an important factor for understanding the female migration stream to Italy, simply because the majority of the women who migrate have grown up children.

“Fatherhood, on the other hand, is central for understanding why Ukrainian men go abroad to work,” claims Tyldum.

She emphasises that the male Ukrainian migrants talk a lot about their responsibility as fathers and of the importance of being an attentive husband in the periods between the work orders.

“These men clearly identify with their role as a family man and provider. But within migration research, few scholars have paid any attention to the fatherhood aspect of male work migration.”

Ukrainian men usually go to Russia and Poland to work in the construction industry. Their work is often characterised by short-term contracts, and they commute between home and their jobs abroad.

Women are always perceived as mothers
“When it comes to female migrants, on the other hand, they are viewed in light of their identity as mothers regardless of whether this is of any relevance or not,” says Tyldum.

“Why do you think this is the case?”

“It might reflect the prevailing moral panic in countries characterised by large-scale female migration. But at the same time it is striking, since many female researchers fight the same battle themselves. They, too, fight for the freedom to be defined as something other than just mothers,” says Tyldum.

Researchers studying male labour migration seem to be more interested in the migrants’ opportunities and their access to the labour market than in what consequences migration might have for the family that is left behind in the home country.

Sacrifice themselves for the family

Tyldum is interested in the motifs the migrants make use of when they relate their own migration narratives.

On the one hand, female migration to Italy is regarded as a sacrifice. From this perspective, the women sacrifice themselves in order to create a better life for their families.

Tanya, a 53-year old woman who has returned to Ukraine relates:

“He [her husband] had not been working for fourteen years. Why did I go to Italy? Because I had to. There was no money. I was afraid … the future was uncertain. That’s the reason why I left for Italy.”

The women often talk about being away from their families for years at a time and the grief it involves. On top of that, their jobs are perceived as degrading and the working conditions are poor.

Motherhood is a central motif in the narrative of sacrifice. Motherhood forces the women to leave Ukraine. It is a mother’s duty to secure her children’s future and set her own needs aside even if it involves humiliation and poor working conditions in a foreign country.

Also a story of freedom

Some of the women, on the other hand, tell stories of freedom. They migrate because Italy offers a better life for them than Ukraine.

According to Natalie, aged 55, young women go to Italy to find a husband, while the older women go in order to get away from one:

“Young women go because it is interesting. Some older women go because they don’t have a husband here in Ukraine, while others go because he [their husband] drinks. That’s why they stay in Italy. An Italian husband won’t harm his wife. Women have more rights than men there.”

Better in Italy than in Ukraine?

According to Tyldum, it is important to understand what these women are running away from.

“After all, the working conditions are better in Italy than in Ukraine for many of these women,” she explains.

“In Ukraine they typically have a good-for-nothing husband and they have to run the family farm all by themselves. And in addition to their own family, they are often also responsible for their parents in law. On top of all this they often have one or two jobs outside the home.”

As one of Tyldum’s interviewees said: “You’re lucky if you have two hours of spare time on a Sunday in Ukraine.”

In Italy they’re off work every Thursday afternoon and all day on Sundays. And although they have to be available day and night during the rest of the week, after all they are only minding one elderly person, not an entire extended family.

Freedom and denunciation

One of Tyldum’s female interviewees had been living with and working for an elderly woman in Italy for six years, and they had become good friends. She lived in a nice house by the sea, she was responsible for the old woman’s finances, and her children and grandchildren were allowed to come visit. She felt that she was mastering her own life, and she was able to save up a lot of money.

However, this narrative of freedom was mixed with a narrative of sacrifice, of how she had made sacrifices for her family and how she was met with prejudices, denunciation and disrespect when she returned to Ukraine.

According to Tyldum, the women may avail of the narrative of freedom in order to describe their lives in Italy, but it is nevertheless not regarded as a legitimate reason for leaving in the first place.

“It won’t be legitimate to say “I left to pursue my own happiness” as long as there’s a general assumption that the women who migrate sacrifice their children.”

Not enough reasons to stay

Tyldum emphasises that the narrative of sacrifice is just as true as the narrative of freedom.

“Believing that Ukrainian women experience such hardship in their home country that they’re happy with the mere opportunity to work on the black market in the EU is a pitfall.”

“The female migrants are facing a black labour market where they are in danger of being exploited. Their employer may make an effort to have their work legalised, but it is often not in the employer’s interest, since it would increase the price of the services that these women can offer,” says Tyldum.

You need to keep at least two thoughts in your head simultaneously to really understand female labour migration from Ukraine.

“The story about migration as a way of gaining freedom illustrates that despite the economical profit, there’s a chance that some of these women would have remained at home if the reasons for staying with their family in Ukraine were better.”


Posted in Human Behavior: Bias, Human Behavior: Gender Differences | Leave a comment

Teen rebellion marks subconscious separation from parents

Using brain scans, USC psychology researchers have found that teenage rebellion is a sign of teens separating from parents in their transition to adulthood.

The team believes this study is the first of its kind to record images of teenage brains as they responded to separate videos of their peers and parents.

Researchers tracked the brain activity of 22 teens, ages 16 to 18, through Magnetic Resonance Imaging and found that the MRIs of teens who reported engaging in the most risky behaviors — sex, drug use or reckless driving, for example — were more responsive to watching videos of other teens than videos of their parents.

“The more they were activating a central part of the brain to the unfamiliar peer versus to their parents, the more risky the behavior was that they were reporting,” said Darby Saxbe, assistant professor of psychology at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Researchers observed that when the rebellious teens saw the videos, a central region of their brains responded more to their peers than to their parents. In fact, the MRIs revealed a spike in activity in the precuneus — a portion of the brain that controls awareness about the thoughts and behaviors of others.



Posted in Pediatric Health: Teenagers | Leave a comment

There is no scientific evidence that stretching prevents tendon injuries: Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport

(Reuters Health) – Tendon injuries are common in sports, and there are many schools of thought on how to avoid them. But a new analysis of past research finds that stretching doesn’t help and might even raise the risk of injury for some. Shock absorbing insoles, and hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women, on the other hand, did offer protection for some, the researchers found.

“Stretching is often viewed as an empirically accepted method to prevent sports injuries, including tendinopathy,” write the authors, led by Janne A. Peters from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands.

“However, there is no scientific evidence that confirms this,” they point out in Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Tendons are thick cords that connect muscles to the bones. When they become irritated or inflamed, that is known as tendinitis.

Tendinosis, on the other hand, is when tiny tears occur in and near the tissue of the tendon. Most experts use “tendinopathy” to describe both inflammation and tears in tendons.

The condition can occur in all parts of the body, often around joints, including the ankle, knee, hip, groin, shoulder and elbow. It can be very painful, the authors note, and the chances of recurrence are high, so it often becomes a chronic condition.



Posted in Exercise: Stretching, Sports Medicine: Injuries | Leave a comment

Dr. Oz endangers the public and should be fired by Columbia: 10 doctors

A group of 10 prominent doctors from around the country is taking aim at Dr. Mehmet Oz, calling on Columbia University to oust the popular TV doctor from its faculty. In a letter addressed to Dr. Lee Goldman, Columbia’s Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine, they write:

“We are surprised and dismayed that Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons would permit Dr. Mehmet Oz to occupy a faculty appointment, let alone a senior administrative position in the Department of Surgery.

“As described here and here, as well as in other publications, Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine, as well as baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops. Worst of all, he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.

“Thus, Dr. Oz is guilty of either outrageous conflicts of interest or flawed judgements about what constitutes appropriate medical treatments, or both. Whatever the nature of his pathology, members of the public are being misled and endangered, which makes Dr. Oz’s presence on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution unacceptable.”

The author of the letter, Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, told CBS News that in his view, “a person who endangers patients and is a menace to public health should not be on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution.”


Posted in Health Care: Ethics, Nutrition: Information: Confusion | Leave a comment

Cancer and chemobrain: Cancer diagnosis affects cognitive function

Breast cancer patients often display mild cognitive defects even before the initiation of chemotherapy. A new study by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers now attributes the syndrome to post-traumatic stress induced by diagnosis of the disease.

A large number of studies have shown that cancer patients very often exhibit mild deficits of attention, memory and other basic cognitive functions. The phenomenon has generally been attributed to putative side-effects of chemotherapeutic drugs on the brain, and the condition is therefore popularly referred to as chemobrain. – However, more recent investigations have detected symptoms of chemobrain in patients who had not yet embarked on a course of chemotherapy. Now a research team led by LMU’s Dr. Kerstin Hermelink at the Breast Center in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Munich University Hospital has shown that, in breast cancer patients, pretreatment cognitive impairment is most probably due to posttraumatic stress induced by diagnosis of the malignancy itself. The group’s findings have just appeared in the “Journal of the National Cancer Institute”.

Much of the published evidence for the appearance of pretreatment perturbations of cognitive function has come from studies on breast cancer patients, and several hypotheses have been advanced to account for these findings. For example, it has been proposed that malignant disease might itself disrupt certain brain functions by activating the secretion of cytokines that modulate the immune system. An alternative suggestion is based on the idea that cancer and cognitive impairment might have a common genetic basis. The latest data come from a multicenter study called Cognicares (Cognition in Breast Cancer Patients – the Impact of Cancer-related Stress), in which the LMU researchers have tested a quite different theory, for which their findings now provide strong support.

Diagnosis-associated trauma

“Cancer patients can perceive and experience their condition as a severe trauma. Indeed, many of them develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, particularly in the early phase after they receive the diagnosis,” says Kerstin Hermelink. “Stress has a very considerable influence on cognitive performance and definitely impacts on brain function – so it was quite natural for us to ask whether the cognitive deficiencies displayed by many breast cancer patients might not be attributable to the stress that is inevitably associated with malignant disease.”

Hermelink and her colleagues studied 166 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 others in whom screening of the breast had revealed no signs of disease. The participants were assessed at three times during the first year following the diagnosis. Prior to the first course of treatment, the patients and the healthy controls exhibited very similar levels of performance on standard cognitive tests. However, in one specific test of attention, members of the patient group had a significantly higher error rate. “And as we suspected at the outset, the higher failure rate in this test could be linked to post-traumatic stress – the greater the level of stress, the more errors they made, and statistical analysis confirmed that the correlation was highly significant,” as Kerstin Hermelink explains.

Some good news too

Interestingly, the extent of pretreatment cognitive impairment detected in the Cognicares study was considerably lower than that reported in several earlier investigations. “This is probably because we took great pains to control effectively for the possible impact of factors that could have distorted the interpretation of the results,” says Hermelink. “In particular, we made sure that differences in the composition of the two groups were minimized as far as possible.” This is important because even slight differences in age structure, level of education or intelligence between the patients and the control group can result in discrepancies in cognitive performance on standardized tests, which could mask – or amplify – the extent of cognitive impairment displayed by the patients.

“For breast cancer patients our findings are good news,” says Kerstin Hermelink. “At all events – in pretreatment phase at least – they give no grounds for the belief that such patients suffer from more than minimal cognitive deficiencies, which are induced by the stress associated with the disease itself.”

The Cognicares study is one of the most extensive investigations of its kind yet carried out anywhere in the world. Six breast cancer centers located in and around Munich participated in the project, which was made possible by a grant from the Deutsche Krebshilfe (the German Cancer Aid). The results of the tests undertaken after the termination of primary treatment are now being analyzed.



Posted in Cancer: Chemo Brain | Leave a comment

A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis

Newswise — A potentially game-changing breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis has been achieved with the development of a system that can capture carbon dioxide emissions before they are vented into the atmosphere and then, powered by solar energy, convert that carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products, including biodegradable plastics, pharmaceutical drugs and even liquid fuels.

Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley have created a hybrid system of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria that mimics the natural photosynthetic process by which plants use the energy in sunlight to synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water. However, this new artificial photosynthetic system synthesizes the combination of carbon dioxide and water into
acetate, the most common building block today for biosynthesis.

“We believe our system is a revolutionary leap forward in the field of artificial photosynthesis,” says Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study. “Our system has the potential to fundamentally change the chemical and oil industry in that we can produce chemicals and fuels in a totally renewable way, rather than extracting them from deep below the ground.”

Yang, who also holds appointments with UC Berkeley and the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute (Kavli-ENSI) at Berkeley, is one of three corresponding authors of a paper describing this research in the journal Nano Letters. The paper is titled “Nanowire-bacteria hybrids for unassisted solar carbon dioxide fixation to value-added chemicals.” The other corresponding authors and leaders of this research are chemists Christopher Chang and Michelle Chang. Both also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. In addition, Chris Chang is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. (See below for a full list of the paper’s authors.)

The more carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere the warmer the atmosphere becomes. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels, especially coal, will remain a significant source of energy to meet human needs for the foreseeable future. Technologies for sequestering carbon before it escapes into the atmosphere are being pursued but all require the captured carbon to be stored, a requirement that comes with its own environmental challenges.

The artificial photosynthetic technique developed by the Berkeley researchers solves the storage problem by putting the captured carbon dioxide to good use.

“In natural photosynthesis, leaves harvest solar energy and carbon dioxide is reduced and combined with water for the synthesis of molecular products that form biomass,” says Chris Chang, an expert in catalysts for carbon-neutral energy conversions. “In our system, nanowires harvest solar energy and deliver electrons to bacteria, where carbon dioxide is reduced and combined with water for the synthesis of a variety of targeted, value-added chemical products.”

By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, the new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide.

“Our system represents an emerging alliance between the fields of materials sciences and biology, where opportunities to make new functional devices can mix and match components of each discipline,” says Michelle Chang, an expert in biosynthesis. “For example, the morphology of the nanowire array protects the bacteria like Easter eggs buried in tall grass so that these usually-oxygen sensitive organisms can survive in environmental carbon-dioxide sources such as flue gases.”

The system starts with an “artificial forest” of nanowire heterostructures, consisting of silicon and titanium oxide nanowires, developed earlier by Yang and his research group.

“Our artificial forest is similar to the chloroplasts in green plants,” Yang says. “When sunlight is absorbed, photo-excited electron−hole pairs are generated in the silicon and titanium oxide nanowires, which absorb different regions of the solar spectrum. The photo-generated electrons in the silicon will be passed onto bacteria for the CO2 reduction while the photo-generated holes in the titanium oxide split water molecules to make oxygen.”

Once the forest of nanowire arrays is established, it is populated with microbial populations that produce enzymes known to selectively catalyze the reduction of carbon dioxide. For this study, the Berkeley team used Sporomusa ovata, an anaerobic bacterium that readily accepts electrons directly from the surrounding environment and uses them to reduce carbon dioxide.

“S. ovata is a great carbon dioxide catalyst as it makes acetate, a versatile chemical intermediate that can be used to manufacture a diverse array of useful chemicals,” says Michelle Chang. “We were able to uniformly populate our nanowire array with S. ovata using buffered brackish water with trace vitamins as the only organic component.”

Once the carbon dioxide has been reduced by S. ovata to acetate (or some other biosynthetic intermediate), genetically engineered E.coli are used to synthesize targeted chemical products. To improve the yields of targeted chemical products, the S. ovata and E.coli were kept separate for this study. In the future, these two activities – catalyzing and synthesizing – could be combined into a single step process.

A key to the success of their artificial photosynthesis system is the separation of the demanding requirements for light-capture efficiency and catalytic activity that is made possible by the nanowire/bacteria hybrid technology. With this approach, the Berkeley team achieved a solar energy conversion efficiency of up to 0.38-percent for about 200 hours under simulated sunlight, which is about the same as that of a leaf.

The yields of target chemical molecules produced from the acetate were also encouraging – as high as 26-percent for butanol, a fuel comparable to gasoline, 25-percent for amorphadiene, a precursor to the antimaleria drug artemisinin, and 52-percent for the renewable and biodegradable plastic PHB. Improved performances are anticipated with further refinements of the technology.

“We are currently working on our second generation system which has a solar-to-chemical conversion efficiency of three-percent,” Yang says. “Once we can reach a conversion efficiency of 10-percent in a cost effective manner, the technology should be
commercially viable.”

In addition to the corresponding authors, other co-authors of the Nano Letters paper describing this research were Chong Liu, Joseph Gallagher, Kelsey Sakimoto and Eva Nichols.

This research was primarily funded by the DOE Office of Science.

Posted in Environmental Health: Alternative Energy, Environmental Health: Solar | Leave a comment

Scientists Use Brain Stimulation to Boost Creativity, Set Stage to Potentially Treat Depression

Newswise — CHAPEL HILL, NC – A UNC School of Medicine study has provided the first direct evidence that a low dose of electric current can enhance a specific brain pattern to boost creativity by an average of 7.4 percent in healthy adults, according to a common, well-validated test of creativity.

This research, published in the journal Cortex, showed that using a 10-Hertz current run through electrodes attached to the scalp enhanced the brain’s natural alpha wave oscillations – prominent rhythmic patterns that can be seen on an electroencephalogram, or EEG.

“This study is a proof-of-concept,” said senior author Flavio Frohlich, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, cell biology and physiology, biomedical engineering, and neurology. “We’ve provided the first evidence that specifically enhancing alpha oscillations is a causal trigger of a specific and complex behavior – in this case, creativity. But our goal is to use this approach to help people with neurological and psychiatric illnesses. For instance, there is strong evidence that people with depression have impaired alpha oscillations. If we could enhance these brain activity patterns, then we could potentially help many people.”

Frohlich, who is also a member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, is now in collaboration with David Rubinow, MD, chair of the department of psychiatry, to use this particular kind of brain stimulation in two clinical trials for people with major depressive disorder and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD – a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. Participant enrollment is now underway for both trials.

“The fact that we’ve managed to enhance creativity in a frequency-specific way – in a carefully-done double-blinded placebo-controlled study – doesn’t mean that we can definitely treat people with depression,” Frohlich cautioned. “But if people with depression are stuck in a thought pattern and fail to appropriately engage with reality, then we think it’s possible that enhancing alpha oscillations could be a meaningful, noninvasive, and inexpensive treatment paradigm for them – similar to how it enhanced creativity in healthy participants”

Brain Rhythms

At the center of Frohlich’s research are neural oscillations – the naturally occurring rhythmic electrical patterns that neurons generate and repeat throughout the brain. Alpha oscillations occur within the frequency range of 8 and 12 Hertz 9 (or cycles per second). They were discovered in 1929 by Hans Berger, who invented EEG. Alpha oscillations occur most prominently when we close our eyes and shut out sensory stimuli – things we see, feel, taste, smell, and hear.

“For a long time, people thought alpha waves represented the brain idling,” Frohlich said. “But over the past 20 years we’ve developed much better insight. Our brains are not wasting energy, creating these patterns for nothing. When the brain is decoupled from the environment, it still does important things.”

When alpha oscillations are prominent, your sensory inputs might be offline as you daydream, meditate, or conjure ideas. But when something happens that requires action, your brain immediately redirects attention to what’s going on around you. You come fully online, and the alpha oscillations disappear. Other oscillations at higher frequencies, such as gamma oscillations, take over.

Knowing this, other researchers began associating alpha oscillations with creativity. Frohlich set out to find evidence. His idea was simple. If he could enhance the rhythmic patterns of alpha oscillations to improve creativity, then it might be possible to enhance alpha oscillations to help people with depression and other conditions of the central nervous system that seem to involve the same brain patterns.

For three years, his lab has used computer simulations and other experiments to hone a technique to improve alpha oscillation.

For the Cortex study, Frohlich’s team enrolled 20 healthy adults. Researchers placed electrodes on each side of each participant’s frontal scalp and a third electrode toward the back of the scalp. This way, the 10-Hertz alpha oscillation stimulation for each side of the cortex would be in unison. This is a key difference in Frohlich’s method as compared to other brain stimulation techniques.

Each participant underwent two sessions. During one session, researchers used a 10-Hertz sham stimulation for just five minutes. Participants felt a little tingle at the start of the five minutes. For the next 25 minutes, each participant continued to take the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking, a comprehensive and commonly used test of creativity. In one task, each participant was shown a small fraction of an illustration – sometimes just a bent line on a piece of paper. Participants used the line to complete an illustration, and they wrote a title when they finished.

In the other session each participant underwent the same protocol, except they were stimulated at 10 Hertz for the entire 30 minutes while doing the Torrance test. The tingling sensation only occurred at the start of the stimulation, ensuring that each participant did not know which session was the control session.

Because rating creativity or scoring a test can involve subjectivity, Frohlich sent each participant’s work to the company that created the test. “We didn’t even tell the company what we were doing,” Frohlich said. “We just asked them to score the tests.”

Then Frohlich’s team compared each participant’s creativity score for each session. He found that during the 30-minute stimulation sessions, participants scored an average 7.4 percentage points higher than they did during the control sessions.

“That’s a pretty big difference when it comes to creativity,” Frohlich said. “Several participants showed incredible improvements in creativity. It was a very clear effect.”

Pattern Specific

But there was a question. What if the electrical stimulation merely caused a general electric effect on the brain, independent of the alpha oscillation? To find out, Frohlich’s team conducted the same experiments but used 40 Hertz of electrical current, which falls in the gamma frequency band typically associated with sensory processing – when the brain is computing what we see or touch or hear.

“Using 40 Hertz, we saw no effect on creativity,” Frohlich said. “The effect we saw was specific to the 10-hertz alpha oscillations. There’s no statistical trickery. You just have to look at each participant’s test to see these effects.”

Frohlich said he understood some people might want to capitalize on this sort of study to boost creativity in their everyday lives, but he cautioned against it. “We don’t know if there are long-term safety concerns,” he said. “We did a well-controlled, one-time study and found an acute effect.”

“Also, I have strong ethical concerns about cognitive enhancement for healthy adults, just as sports fans might have concerns about athletic enhancement through the use of performance-enhancing drugs.”

Instead, Frohlich is focused on treating people with depression and other mental conditions, such as schizophrenia, for which cognitive deficits during everyday life is a major problem.

“There are people that are cognitively impaired and need help, and sometimes there are no medications that help or the drugs have serious side effects,” Frohlich said. “Helping these populations of people is why we do this kind of research.”

This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the department of psychiatry at the UNC School of Medicine, and the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The current clinical trial for depression is funded through an independent investigator award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation (formerly NARSAD).

The first author of the study is Caroline Lustenberger, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in Frohlich’s lab; graduate student Michael Boyle, a graduate student in the biomedical engineering department; Alban Foulser, an undergraduate double major in psychology and German; and Juliann Mellin, a research assistant in the Frohlich lab.

Posted in Brain, Brain Stimulation, Human Behavior: Creativity, Mental Health: Depression | Leave a comment

Housework keeps older adults more physically and emotionally fit, CWRU researcher finds

Older adults who keep a clean and orderly home–because of the exercise it takes to get the job done–tend to feel emotionally and physically better after tackling house chores, according to new findings by a Case Western Reserve University school of nursing researcher.

“House cleaning kept them up and moving,” said Kathy D. Wright, PhD, RN, CNS, a postdoctoral KL2 Scholar at the university’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. “A clean environment is therapeutic.”

Wright and a research team set out to test a theory called House’s Conceptual Framework for Understanding Social Inequalities in Health and Aging. It’s considered a blueprint for understanding how factors such as income, education, environment and health behaviors, like smoking and exercise, influence an older person’s health.

The study’s 337 participants, from 65 to 94 years old, had to have at least one chronic illness, be enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid, have physical restrictions that prevented them from doing at least one basic daily task, such as bathing and dressing, and be unable to manage such responsibilities as taking medicines, handling finances or accessing transportation. All lived in Ohio’s Summit and Portage counties.

They discussed their backgrounds and physical and emotional well-being in interviews. The researchers then used the University of Utah’s Digit Lab, where Wright earned her doctorate degree while working for the Summa Health System, to link geographic and socioeconomic information on the neighborhoods with health data.

Wright said she was surprised to learn that housework and maintaining their property affected the participants’ physical and mental well-being more than such factors as neighborhood or income.

“What I found was that neighborhood poverty did not directly affect mental or physical health,” she said.

The study provided evidence that Wright had observed in her visits: people living in a chaotic environment seemed less satisfied than those in a place that was neat and tidy.

Wright hopes the study shows how important it is for sedentary older adults with disabilities and chronic illnesses to continue physical activities, such as doing reaching exercises while sitting, arm curls and standing up and sitting down in a chair.

Wright and her team’s findings were reported in the recent Geriatric Nursing article, “Factors that Influence physical function and emotional well-being among Medicare-Medicaid enrollees.”


Ginette A. Pepper, PhD, RN, FAAN; Michael Caserta, PhD; Bob Wong, PhD; and Cherie P. Brunker, MD, CMD, FACP (the University of Utah); Diana L. Morris, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Christopher J. Burant, PhD, MACTM (Case Western Reserve); Susan Hazelett, MS, RN, (Summa Health System); Denise Kropp, BS, CCRP (Northeast Ohio Medical University); and Kyle R. Allen, DO, AGSF (Riverside Health System Lifelong Health and Aging Related Services Administration), contributed to the study.

Data was used as a secondary analysis of findings from a previous study: After Discharge Care Management of Low-Income Frail Elderly, (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality grant #1 R01 HS014539-01A1 R01 HS014539-01A1).


Posted in Elder Care, Exercise: Benefits, Sitting | Leave a comment

Why Everything You’Ve Heard About Women and Negotiation Might Be Wrong

Newswise — University of Florida student Samantha Miller was listening to a lecture on a commonly held trope about negotiation — that women are bad at it — but the conventional wisdom didn’t fit with her experience at all. “I always ask what I feel I’m deserving of,” she said. “I had an idea that women in my generation were similar.”

So Miller, an undergraduate business major, approached UF associate professor Yellowlees Douglas, suggesting they replicate a 2008 study often cited to show that women avoid negotiating or lowball salary requests. Their findings, published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Business Administration in March, upend the assumption that men are inherently better negotiators.

Miller and Douglas discovered that women who had experience with successful negotiation were superior negotiators to men, even when they rated themselves as only average negotiators.

“The results were a near inversion of the previous study,” Douglas says.

The researchers concluded that women who avoided negotiation or negotiated poorly were likely influenced by a lack of experience — not by anything inherent in their gender.

In the study, 25 MBA students completed a survey and were asked to name the amount they would receive on a Starbucks card for participating. Douglas and Miller were surprised to see that women, on average, asked for amounts twice as large as those requested by men, and every woman who participated asked for a reward. Of the three highest amounts requested, two came from women.

“The women who negotiated well were likely recalling instances when they negotiated high-paying jobs or competitive bids,” Douglas said.

Because men are more likely than women to have held high-paying jobs, they are more likely to have previous successful negotiations to draw on, which could explain why previous studies showed women to be less skilled at negotiating. But landing a high-paying job isn’t the only way to practice negotiation, Douglas says: College career-services offices could add mock negotiations to mock interviews to give new grads experience to draw on, and job applicants — male or female — can take time to reflect on their previous successes before heading into a negotiation.

“I hope people shut up about gender and talk about the framework that informs gender bias — the forces that work on us subconsciously and affect men and women alike,” Douglas said.

Miller wants to repeat the study with a larger sample size, but hopes her initial findings will introduce a new understanding of gender and negotiation.

“I think it’s very telling of a new generation of empowered women.”

Posted in Human Behavior: Gender Differences | Leave a comment

The connection between mouth bacteria and inflammation in heart disease

Oral infections are the most common diseases of mankind and are also a key risk factor for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. In a review article published in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism on April 16, researchers summarize the latest clinical evidence supporting a link between oral infections, which are caused by the bacteria in our mouth, and heart disease, and they emphasize the important role of inflammation in both of these conditions.

“Given the high prevalence of oral infections, any risk they contribute to future cardiovascular disease is important to public health,” says senior author Thomas Van Dyke of the Forsyth Institute. “Unravelling the role of the oral microbiome and inflammation in cardiovascular disease will likely lead to new preventive and treatment approaches.” The (oral) microbiome refers to the totality of microorganisms in a body part-in this case the mouth–that we all co-exist with.

The most common oral infections are cavities and periodontal diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis, which are chronic inflammatory diseases that slowly and steadily destroy the supporting structures of multiple teeth. Significant epidemiological evidence supports an association between oral infections, particularly periodontitis, and stroke, especially among men and younger individuals.

Inflammation plays a major role both in oral infections such as periodontitis and in cardiovascular disease. However, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen can produce significant cardiovascular side effects, which means it is crucial that we consider alternative therapies. A high dose of a commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering medication, atorvastatin, which boosts blood levels of anti-inflammatory molecules called lipoxins and resolvins, prevents both periodontal and cardiovascular inflammation and reverses existing disease in humans. This is exciting and promising because lipoxins and resolvins also have the advantage of naturally controlling inflammation without suppressing the immune system.

“New discoveries of natural pathways that resolve inflammation have offered many opportunities for revealing insights into disease pathogenesis and for developing new pharmacologic targets for the treatment of both oral infections and cardiovascular disease,” Van Dyke says.

In future studies, it will be important to compare the effectiveness of these inflammation-reducing molecules, which we produce naturally, and other interventions that could potentially prevent or reverse periodontitis and cardiovascular disease. Another open question is whether there is a reverse relationship between these conditions: what if the onset of cardiovascular disease influences the presence or progression of periodontal disease? Or what are some of the common genetic mechanisms underlying periodontitis and cardiovascular disease?

In the meantime, Van Dyke recommends that people take better care of their teeth to potentially lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and other health problems. “The majority of diseases and conditions of aging, including obesity and type 2 diabetes, have a major inflammatory component that can be made worse by the presence of periodontitis,” he says. “Periodontitis is not just a dental disease, and it should not be ignored, as it is a modifiable risk factor.”


Posted in Heart Disease, Inflammation, Oral Health: Gingivitis, Oral Health: Periodontology | Leave a comment

We’re All Terrible at Understanding Each Other: Harvard Business Review

Whatever you may have heard to the contrary, Chip Wilson is not an idiot.  The founder and former CEO and Chairman of Lululemon Atheltica is, in point of fact, a highly successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, innovator, and self-made billionaire.  Idiots are very rarely any of those things.

But a 2013 Bloomberg TV interview with him and his wife Shannon, Lululemon’s original athletic wear designer, was not one of his finest moments.  When he was asked about reports of customers complaining about “pilling” in the company’s newest line of high-end yoga pants, he defensively replied that  “some women’s bodies just actually don’t work” for yoga pants, and that the problem was “really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there.”  Translation: If your fat thighs are ruining your pricey Lululemon yoga pants, that’s your problem. Maybe my pants are not for you.  (Incidentally, if you watch the video, you will see Shannon Wilson shoot him a look at that moment that would have surely turned him to stone had he noticed it, which he did not.)

It was, of course, horribly offensive – but was it Chip Wilson’s intention to be offensive? Did he even think what he said was offensive? In a video apology he later issued before stepping down as Lululemon’s Chairman, Wilson said that he was “sad for the repercussions of my actions” and that he “accepted responsibility,” that ubiquitous post-disaster PR phrase that everyone repeats but no one ever seems to mean.  But nowhere did he actually acknowledge that there was anything wrong with what he had said, or that he personally had been wrong to say it.


Posted in Human Behavior: Decision Making, Human Behavior: Empathy, Human Behavior: Etiquette, Human Behavior: Intelligence, Human Behavior: Intuition, Human Behavior: Manners, Human Behavior: Problem Solving | Leave a comment

Heart Attack Risk High in Divorced Women, Even After Remarrying

Divorced women suffer heart attacks at higher rates than women who are continuously married, a new study from Duke Medicine has found. A woman who has been through two or more divorces is nearly twice as likely to have a heart attack when compared to their stably-married female peers, according to the findings.
Even among women who remarry after the stress of divorce, their heart attack risk remains elevated according to the study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.

“Divorce is a major stressor, and we have long known that people who are divorced suffer more health consequences,” said Matthew Dupre, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine at Duke and the study’s lead author. “But this is one of the first studies to look at the cumulative effect of divorce over a long period. We found that it can have a lasting imprint on people’s health.”

The findings were based on the responses of a nationally representative group of 15,827 people ages 45 to 80 who had been married at least once. Participants were interviewed every two years from 1992 to 2010 about their marital status and health. About one-third of participants had been divorced at least once during the 18-year study.

Although men are generally at higher risk for heart attack, it appears women fared worse than men after divorce, although the differences were not statistically significant. Men who had been divorced had about the same risk as those who stayed married. It was only after two or more divorces that the risk for men went up, the study found.

The study also found that men who remarried also fared better than women. These men experienced the same risk of heart attack as men who had been married continuously to one partner.

In addition to Dupre, study authors include Linda K. George; Guangya Liu; and Eric D. Peterson. The researchers received funding from the National Institute on Aging (R03AG042712).


Posted in Divorce, Heart Disease: Heart Attack, Human Behavior: Anger, Human Behavior: Relationships, Marriage, Mental Health: Hostility | Leave a comment

Specific ways teachers talk to students that measurably impact literacy skills

CHICAGO, IL (April 16, 2015) – It has long been said teaching is both an art and a science. In a new study that uses a scientific lens to look at the conversational art of instruction, a team of researchers identify specific ways teachers talk to students that measurably impact literacy skills.

Teachers who built literacy lessons around standardized test questions, and those who failed to cultivate class-wide discussions saw a negative effect on literacy skill building, said Lynch School of Education Associate Professor Patrick Proctor, a co-author of the new study. Teachers who offered measured, positive feedback saw their students’ performance improve.

Proctor, lead author and doctoral student Catherine Michener, LSOE PhD ’15, and University of Maryland Associate Professor Rebecca Silverman present their findings today at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting session “Advances in Reading Instruction and Interventions.”

“We know that teaching involves a lot of talking in the classroom, but our question was what kinds of talk promote the growth of literacy skills?” said Proctor, whose research focuses on the language and literacy achievement of English language learners in U.S. public schools. “Reading is the underpinning of all learning. If kids are not strong readers by the time they are in middle school or high school, one of the fundamental mechanisms of learning is compromised and that puts those students behind in readiness for college and careers.”

The team used class observations and assessment data to study 236 students in grades three through five in 31 classrooms at six schools.

Literacy education has seen shifting support in recent years, with the Obama administration seeking $187 million for its Effective Teaching and Learning: Literacy initiative. The Bush administration’s massive Reading First program cost $1 billion annually.


Posted in Human Behavior: Learning, Teachers | Leave a comment