Interview conducted by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)May 3 2018 Dom RabanManaging DirectorCorporation PopAn interview with Dom Raban, conducted by Kate Anderton, BScWhat are the emotional challenges faced by children undergoing medical treatment?There are quite a few; we know from the research base that children who are not well informed or poorly prepared for their medical treatment experience increased stress and anxiety, which we know leads to poorer health outcomes. Hospital stays can be a daunting experience for most, but it can be particularly stressful for children in an alien environment.Credit: Sutherland LabsResearch evidence indicates that the stress and anxiety they experience is triggered by all sorts of things; the unfamiliarity of the environment, fear of medical examinations, dealing with a difficult diagnosis, worrying about pain and death, separation from their parents, uncertainty about what’s going to happen, and a loss of control. Often, children are restrained when distressed to ensure that procedures are completed, which only enhances their anxiety.Aside from affecting their stress levels, it causes procedures to take longer and increases costs. Along with the risk of behavioral/psychological problems, which can have a wide-ranging impact beyond the hospital experience, going to hospital presents a panoply of emotional challenges for children.What are the current methods used by the NHS to explain medical procedures to children?Play staff currently deliver explanations, but they are unable to visit every child as their time is limited. Parents also provide information, because what little resources hospitals do offer tend to be directed at parents rather than their children. The leaflets, DVDs, books, and other information provided is not usually in a particularly child-friendly form.You could count on the fingers of one hand the few examples of hospitals beginning to use digital technologies to deliver information to children. But the technologies I’m aware of have been developed by individual hospitals, on a per-intervention basis. This means they’re very costly to produce, and are not scalable because the solution is attached to a particular hospital.Research indicates that when children source information, it’s usually from their friends, family, or the Internet, and that can lead to misinformation. There’s definitely an information gap between what children need and what the NHS and other health services are delivering.What challenges do healthcare providers face when supplying information about medical procedures to children?Traditional channels- booklets, leaflets and magazines-are usually used to supply information. As these are costly, it is usually difficult to distribute these to all patients. Traditional media like books and leaflets also tend to wear quickly and get passed around, so money’s invested in information resource, and almost instantly reinvested to replace the worn resources.Frontline staff tasked with preparing children for procedures are fairly thinly spread which presents another challenge. There’s a disproportionate number of staff compared to the number of children going through hospitals, so they don’t have sufficient time or resources to meet the needs of all the children.Why do you think it is important that new methods of supplying information about medical procedures to children are introduced?Health literacy is defined as the ability to understand health information and services and to use that knowledge to inform appropriate decisions, actions, and encounters with health professionals and health environments. This concept is central to our work.Poor health literacy has been associated with poor engagement with health services, and it’s really important that we encourage potential patients to engage with their own health so that they’re better able to self-manage their healthcare. Research has shown that children with improved health literacy and a better understanding of what will happen have better outcomes.New methods are important because traditional information channels like print and magazines, books, and even DVDs aren’t native to a child’s modern day experience, so utilizing apps and games is much more relatable for children.That’s how they interact with their devices daily, so whilst it’s sad that books aren’t the default source for children, we have to accept that reality and deliver information through an app environment. We’re talking to them in a domain that they interact with every day.When Simon Stevens created the NHS Five Year Forward View plan in 2014, he said that there’s a critical need for digital technologies to be exploited, as they offer a significant reduction in costs, a reduction in health professional and play staff time and appointment delays, and they provide greater accessibility for patients while meeting the needs of an increasingly technologically able child population.Though the NHS is not implementing it to any great extent, this shows that they do acknowledge the importance of digital technologies in terms of delivering information to patients.Please give an overview of Xploro.The first thing a child does when interacting with the app is create an avatar, which is central to the thinking behind the app. After a number of customization processes, including naming their creation, they’re left with an avatar absolutely unique to them.Through this process the child is able to create something that they feel belongs to them, and that avatar becomes their guide through the hospital process and is the conduit for the delivery of health service information.Three main areas of the hospital experience are addressed in the app. It deals with understanding who all the people are, anticipating what the environments are going to be like, and understanding what the technology and processes are going to be like.They’re introduced to interactive MRI scanners, bedside patient monitors, cannulas, or other pieces of medical equipment that they might come across, which they become familiar with through playing.Credit: Corporation PopThey’re shown different environments like a ward, an operating room, an anesthesia room and so on and so forth, and they can play with these in much the same way as they would play with the Sims. It’s really confusing when children are confronted with people in white coats, green coats, blue coats, and a whole army of people and they have very little understanding as to who they are and what they do. The guide introduces them to each of the various hospital staff roles before they encounter them,The guide crucially acts as an artificially intelligent conversational agent, allowing the child to have a conversational interaction with their guide. They can ask questions about when their next visitor is coming or what the Wi-Fi code is, or medical questions about what cancer is or why they require a blood test.However, the guide’s a bit more than a glorified FAQ. It can ask them to feedback how they’re feeling and what their experience has been like. It works across three main technologies, and most are augmented reality models. Importantly, the conversational element educates children about some of the procedures that they’re going to experience.How does Xploro help children understand the medical treatments they will receive?A key feature of our app is the focus on the pull rather than the push of information. This is the typical process with health information; you visit a hospital, where you might receive a diagnosis of one kind or another. Any information you’re given is presented as a big, thick leaflet full of technical terms, many of which you won’t understand, and it’s quite daunting and scary.We want children to use this app to access information as and when they want to, and having fun in the process. By allowing children to interact with information in that way, we’re not overpowering them with a whole range of information, some of which will be relevant and some of which won’t.Where did the idea for Xploro come from?In 2011, when my daughter was 13, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, and she underwent a year of horrendous treatment involving 18 rounds of chemotherapy and god knows how many blood transfusions. During her treatment at six different hospitals, she experienced a failed stem cell harvest and 10 weeks of proton beam therapy.The reason that she’s fit and well today and studying at university is that the clinical care was second to none. But it made me acutely aware that her information needs just weren’t being met, and the net effect on my daughter was that whilst the clinical care made her better, she felt disenfranchised from health services.As I run a digital agency that makes apps, games, and software, I wanted to do something that responded to my daughter’s experience, so the logical solution was to make an app.Is there any evidence to support the use of Xploro in healthcare?There’s a lot of research evidence on the benefits of providing information, not just to child patients but to any patients. Some demonstrates the positive impact that new technologies like augmented reality can have in a healthcare setting.In terms of evidence around Xploro, the funding that we’ve currently got from Innovate UK and the Biomedical Research Council is going to fund a six-month independent trial in the autumn with a cohort of patients using the app and a cohort not using the app, which will hopefully demonstrate the clinical effectiveness of what we’re doing.Credit: Sutherland LabsWhat impact will Xploro have on the NHS? Do you think it could be applied worldwide? Do you think it could be applied to the adult population?Essentially, we’re building a platform that we intend to be used for any patient of any age with any condition anywhere, but we’re starting with children.We’re focusing on eight to 14 year olds, because we think they are the most underserved in terms of information, and specifically children with a cancer diagnosis. This is partly because of my own experience and partly because it will enable us to perform a deep dive on a specific condition. We then plan to roll out versions of the app for other conditions, so there could be a diabetes version, a respiratory version and so on.I’m hoping it’ll have a big impact within the NHS, and we’re already receiving a lot of interest from several hospitals and from leading charities. We’re about a year away from release, and I’m hoping that by that time there’ll be a big uptake across the NHS.We plan to launch it simultaneously in the U.K. and the States, followed by a further rollout around English-speaking territories first, with other language versions following later. My personal goal and the reason why I’m doing all this alongside my day job of running a digital agency is that I want one and a half million children to benefit from using the app within the next five years. That’s my target.Where can readers find more information?The app is still in the development phase, but Dom Raban is happy for people to contact him via LinkedIn. You can find out more about Corporation Pop on their website.About Dom RabanDom Raban has been creating ‘stuff’ for nearly 40 years, from punk fanzines in the 1970s to content for emerging technology platforms now. He’s been in the digital space since the start, building his first website in 1995 and his first 3D virtual environment in 1996.He is currently Managing Director of Corporation Pop, a digital innovation agency that specialises in the development of apps, games and software. They are particularly experienced in 3D immersive virtual environments and for the last three years have been bringing that specialism to virtual and augmented reality applications.In 2011 Dom’s 13 year-old daughter was diagnosed with a serious illness and that experience has led him to develop ‘Xploro’ – a mobile application that aims to improve child health literacy through gameplay, augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
Source:http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/researchers_identify_gene_that_helps_prevent_brain_disease May 16 2018Scientists know that faulty proteins can cause harmful deposits or “aggregates” in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Although the causes of these protein deposits remain a mystery, it is known that abnormal aggregates can result when cells fail to transmit proper genetic information to proteins. University of California San Diego Professor Susan Ackerman and her colleagues first highlighted this cause of brain disease more than 10 years ago. Now, probing deeper into this research, she and colleagues have identified a gene, Ankrd16, that prevents the protein aggregates they originally observed.Usually, the information transfer from gene to protein is carefully controlled–biologically “proofread” and corrected–to avoid the production of improper proteins. As part of their recent investigations, published May 16 in the journal Nature, Ackerman, Paul Schimmel (Scripps Research Institute) My-Nuong Vo (Scripps Research Institute) and Markus Terrey (UC San Diego) identified that Ankrd16 rescued specific neurons–called Purkinje cells –that die when proofreading fails. Without normal levels of Ankrd16, these nerve cells, located in the cerebellum, incorrectly activate the amino acid serine, which is then improperly incorporated into proteins and causes protein aggregation.Related StoriesGene modulation goes wireless hacking the “boss gene”Wearing a hearing aid may mitigate dementia riskNew therapy shows promise in preventing brain damage after traumatic brain injury”Simplified, you may think of Ankrd16 as acting like a sponge or a ‘failsafe’ that captures incorrectly activated serine and prevents this amino acid from being improperly incorporated into proteins, which is particularly helpful when the ability of nerve cells to proofread and correct mistakes declines,” said Ackerman, the Stephen W. Kuffler Chair in Biology, who also holds positions in the UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.The levels of Ankrd16 are normally low in Purkinje cells, making these neurons vulnerable to proofreading defects. Elevating the level of Ankrd16 protects these cells from dying, while removing Ankrd16 from other neurons in mice with a proofreading deficiency caused widespread buildup of abnormal proteins and ultimately neuronal death.The researchers describe Ankrd16 as “…a new layer of the machinery essential for preventing severe pathologies that arise from defects in proofreading.”The researchers note that only a few modifier genes of disease mutations such as Ankrd16 have been identified and a modifier-based mechanism for understanding the underlying pathology of neurodegenerative diseases may be a promising route to understand disease development.
Jun 19 2018Small employers will more easily be able to band together to buy health insurance under rules issued Tuesday by the Trump administration, but the change could raise premiums for plans sold through the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces, analysts say.The move loosens restrictions on so-called association health plans, allowing more businesses, including sole proprietors, to join forces to buy health coverage in bulk for their workers.By effectively shifting small-business coverage into the large-group market, it exempts such plans from ACA requirements for 10 “essential” health benefits, such as mental health care and prescription drug coverage, prompting warnings of “junk insurance” from consumer advocates.Supporters say the new Labor Department rules, which the government estimated could create health plans covering as many as 11 million people, will lead to more affordable choices for some employers.When it comes to health insurance, “the regulatory burden on small businesses should certainly not be more than that on large companies,” Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta told reporters Tuesday.Existing rules limit association plans to groups of employers in the same industry in the same region.The new regulations eliminate the geographical restriction for similar employers, allowing, for example, family-owned auto-repair shops in multiple states to offer one big health plan, said Christopher Condeluci, a health benefits lawyer and former Senate Finance Committee aide.The rules, to be implemented in stages into next year, also allow companies in different industries in the same region to form a group to offer coverage — even if the only reason is to provide health insurance.Like other coverage under the ACA, association insurance plans will still be required to cover preexisting illnesses.Analysts warn that because these changes will likely siphon away employers with relatively healthy consumers from ACA coverage into less-expensive trade-association plans, the result could be higher costs in the online marketplaces.”If you have a group that is healthier than average, you might get a better rate from one of these plans, and your broker is going to come and say, ‘Hey, I can get you a better deal,'” said Dan Mendelson, president of Avalere Health, a consulting firm.That would mean that, on balance, consumers insured through ACA small-group and individual plans could be older, sicker and more expensive, adding to years of erosion of the ACA marketplaces engineered by Republicans hostile to the law.Loosening rules for association plans would lead to 3.2 million people leaving the ACA plans by 2022 and raising premiums for those remaining in individual markets by 3.5 percent, Avalere calculated this year.America’s Health Insurance Plans, the largest medical insurance trade group, issued a statement saying the regulation “may lead to higher premiums” in ACA insurance and “could result in fewer insured Americans.”Related Stories‘Climate grief’: Fears about the planet’s future weigh on Americans’ mental healthOnline training program helps managers to support employees’ mental health needsEmploying new federal rule on health insurance plans could save moneyUnlike ACA plans, association coverage does not have to include benefits across the broad “essential” categories, including hospitalization and emergency care.The National Association of Insurance Commissioners previously warned that such plans “threaten the stability of the small group market” and “provide inadequate benefits and insufficient protection to consumers.”The American Academy of Actuaries has expressed similar concerns.Business groups praised the change, proposed in draft form earlier this year.”We’ve been advocating for association health plans for almost 20 years, and we’re pleased to see the department moving aggressively forward,” said David French, senior vice president of government relations for the National Retail Federation.Association plans have been around for decades, although enrollment has been more limited since the ACA’s passage. While some of the plans have worked well for their members, others have a checkered history.In April, for example, Massachusetts regulators settled with Kansas-based Unified Life Insurance Company, which agreed to pay $2.8 million to resolve allegations that it engaged in deceptive practices, such as claiming it covered services that it did not.The coverage “was sold across state lines and was issued through a third-party association,” according to a release from the Massachusetts attorney general’s office. Jay Hancock: email@example.com, @JayHancock1Julie Appleby: firstname.lastname@example.org, @Julie_Appleby This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Source:https://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2018/Gene-discovery-unlocks-mysteries-of-our-immunity Jul 2 2018Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has identified a new gene that plays a critical role in regulating the body’s immune response to infection and disease.The discovery could lead to the development of new treatments for influenza, arthritis and even cancer.The gene, called C6orf106 or “C6″, controls the production of proteins involved in infectious diseases, cancer and diabetes. The gene has existed for 500 million years, but its potential is only now understood.”Our immune system produces proteins called cytokines that help fortify the immune system and work to prevent viruses and other pathogens from replicating and causing disease,” CSIRO researcher Dr Cameron Stewart said.Related StoriesResearch opens possibility of developing single-dose gene therapy for inherited arrhythmiasRevolutionary gene replacement surgery restores vision in patients with retinal degenerationResearchers capture high-resolution, 3D images of gene-editing enzymes”C6 regulates this process by switching off the production of certain cytokines to stop our immune response from spiraling out of control.”The cytokines regulated by C6 are implicated in a variety of diseases including cancer, diabetes and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis.”The discovery helps improve our understanding of our immune system, and it is hoped that this understanding will enable scientists to develop new, more targeted therapies.Dr Rebecca Ambrose was part of the CSIRO team that discovered the gene, and co-authored the recent paper announcing the discovery in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.”Even though the human genome was first fully sequenced in 2003, there are still thousands of genes that we know very little about,” Dr Rebecca Ambrose, a former CSIRO researcher, now based at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research said.”It’s exciting to consider that C6 has existed for more than 500 million years, preserved and passed down from simple organisms all the way to humans. But only now are we gaining insights into its importance.”Having discovered the function of C6, the researchers are awarded the privilege of naming it, and are enlisting the help of the community to do so.”The current name, C6orf106, reflects the gene’s location within the human genome, rather than relating to any particular function,” Dr Stewart said.”We think we can do better than that, and are inviting suggestions from the public.”A shortlist of names will be made available for final approval by a governing third party.The breakthrough builds on decades of work in infectious diseases, by researchers from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency.
Source:https://www.uhn.ca/corporate/News/PressReleases/Pages/Key_discovery_made_in_genetic_make_up_of_heart_condition_linked_to_sudden_cardiac_death.aspx Jul 9 2018A new study published in Circulation, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association and led by a cardiologist at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General Hospital has found evidence that only one of the 21 genes normally associated with Brugada Syndrome, a serious genetic heart condition associated with the risk of sudden arrhythmic death, is a definitive cause of the condition.”The global impact of this important research is significant for scientists, medical professionals and patients who are genetically pre-disposed or who have been diagnosed with this potentially-fatal heart condition,” says Dr. Barry Rubin, Medical Director, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, University Health Network. “The evidence-based findings of our internationally-recognized, multi-disciplinary team of researchers could dramatically alter both the diagnostic and treatment pathway for patients with Brugada Syndrome as well as other genetic-based conditions.”Related StoriesRepurposing a heart drug could increase survival rate of children with ependymomaResearch opens possibility of developing single-dose gene therapy for inherited arrhythmiasStroke should be treated 15 minutes earlier to save lives, study suggestsThe study’s findings came as the result of evaulations conducted by the Clinical Genome Resource (ClinGen) expert panel led by Dr. Michael Gollob, cardiologist, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre and Chair, Peter Munk Centre of Excellence in Molecular Medicine. ClinGen is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States.”Our research examined the genetic evidence for 21 genes reported as single gene causes for Brugada Syndrome,” says Dr. Gollob “Remarkably, 20 of 21 genes were classified as disputed evidence, indicating that genetic evidence to support causation of this disease by these specific genes was lacking,” he says.Researchers found that only the SCN5A gene, first discovered 20 years ago for Brugada Syndrome, was deemed a definitive cause of the condition. The study also highlights the risks associated with the genetic testing of genes that lack sufficient evidence for disease causation.”Clinically, evaluating genes that lack validity for disease causality creates a risk of misinterpreting the relevance of genetic changes in these genes and may lead to inappropriate diagnostic conclusions and treatment in patients”, says Dr. Gollob. “Our conclusions from this study are surely not unique to Brugada Syndrome. Invalid or questionable gene-disease associations are likely common for many diseases across multiple medical disciplines”, he says.”This ClinGen report highlights the importance and value of ClinGen’s efforts to standardize and improve the databases used by laboratories to guide testing decisions and the interpretation of test results,” said Jonathan Berg, MD, PhD, FACMG whose group leads theClinGen Cardiovascular Genomics Clinical Domain Work Group under which this Expert Panel completed their work on determining which genes are actually associated with Brugada Syndrome.
Source:https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/ Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Aug 29 2018Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say new experiments using magnetic pulse brain stimulation on people with moderate to severe restless legs syndrome (RLS) have added to evidence that the condition is due to excitability and hyperarousal in the part of the brain’s motor cortex responsible for leg movement.The researchers say their findings, published online in Sleep Medicine on May 31, may help devise safer, more effective ways to treat RLS and the chronic sleep deprivation it causes, using electrical or magnetic pulses to calm or interrupt the hyperarousal. Some 10 percent of adults in the U.S. experience RLS at one time or another, and about 1 in 500 report that the condition is severe and chronic enough to interfere with their quality of life, work productivity or mental health, according to the National Sleep Foundation.People with severe RLS describe symptoms of the condition as an overwhelming urge to move their legs when they are at rest. They may feel pain, or the sensation of soda bubbles in their veins or worms crawling in their legs, with relief coming only when standing or deliberately moving their legs. Long-term effects include fatigue, anxiety and depression, much of it linked to repeated interruption of sound sleep. Standard treatments, which may carry significant side effects, include medications that behave like the neurotransmitter dopamine, opioids and anti-seizure drugs.Although many conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes, have been associated with RLS, the neurological roots of the condition have been subject to much debate.The new study, the Johns Hopkins researchers say, supports the idea that the underlying mechanism for RLS rests in the brain’s “move my legs” center and makes even more sense of the relief those with RLS experience when they get up and move them.”Essentially the brain sends the signal when it’s preparing to move a limb, even when you aren’t planning to move, so your body is ready and amped up,” says Richard Allen, Ph.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The only way to alleviate the feeling is to move.”In the new study, the researchers identified 32 adults with a moderate to severe RLS diagnosis from patients and asked them to stop their treatments for 12 days. They recruited 31 adult matched controls with no history of RLS or other sleep disorders and healthy sleeping patterns as controls. Participants in both groups were an average age of 58, and 59 percent were women.For the experiments, the researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to apply safe pulses able to selectively stimulate various regions of the brain that control movement of the muscles in the hand or the leg. They then used electrodes attached to the hand or leg to measure muscle responses in that hand or leg during such stimulations in those with RLS and in the control group.Related StoriesWearing a hearing aid may mitigate dementia riskNeural pathways explain the relationship between imagination and willingness to helpResearchers measure EEG-based brain responses for non-speech and speech sounds in childrenPairing two pulses as a stimulus can either cause a reaction or suppress/inhibit a reaction in a muscle depending on the timing between the two pulses. The researchers looked at one type of excitatory paired pulses and two types of inhibitory pulses¾short- and long-interval ones.For each analysis, the researchers took the ratio of the responses. The ratios were greater in the leg for those with RLS, at 0.36 compared with 0.07 for those people without RLS, when looking at the inhibitory long-interval pulses, but not with the short-interval pulses. They said they didn’t see a difference in excitatory pulses in the legs.”This basically means that inhibition is reduced or weakened in people with restless legs syndrome compared to people without the condition,” says Rachel Salas, M.D., associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins. “The reduced response means that the region of the brain controlling the legs shows increased cortical excitability in the motor cortex.”In a separate set of experiments measuring the effect of paired pulses given to the brain in the region that controls the hand, they found no real differences in the ratios of either of the inhibitory pulses¾short- or long-interval ones¾between people with RLS and those without the condition.But the researchers say they did find that the ratios picked up from the hand muscles using excitatory pulses were lower, at 1.01 compared with controls with a ratio of 1.85.”The measurements from the hand muscles show that the activity in the brain is reduced in the region that controls the hand in people with restless legs syndrome compared to controls,” says Salas.Salas says that previous research shows that inhibitory pulses are associated with the action of the neurotransmitter GABA, a brain chemical typically known for tamping down activity in the brain’s neurons. The researchers say that since there is hyperactivity in the leg-controlling portion of the brain, it’s possible that cells and tissues there are lacking enough GABA to prevent hyperactivity.”Other studies with TMS have been done on people with RLS, but they didn’t look at people with severe forms of the condition or at the long-interval paired pulses in the leg,” says Salas. “We are fortunate to have access to such individuals because the Johns Hopkins Sleep Center attracts people worldwide and many who have exhausted treatment options available elsewhere,” she adds.Salas notes that medications that act like the neurotransmitter dopamine, such as ropinirole or pramipexole, work in the short term but can exacerbate the condition over time. Opioids are effective, but not ideal due to their risk for dependency. With the results of this new study, the researchers are hoping to use electrical stimulation to suppress the brain’s activity, and planning of these studies is in the works.
Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Sep 6 2018A study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging examines the relationship between brain function and the impact of life events on depressive symptomsA study in adolescent girls reports that recent life events impact depressive symptoms differently, depending on how the brain responds to winning and losing. A strong brain response to winning boosted the beneficial impact of positive experiences on symptoms, whereas a strong response to losing enhanced the detrimental impact of negative experiences on symptoms.The findings were published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.”This finding helps refine our understanding of how two types of known risk factors for depression, life events exposure and neural response to wins and losses, might interact to influence depression,” said first author Katherine Luking, PhD, of Stony Brook University, New York. The link between brain response, impact of daily experiences, and depressive symptoms in the study indicates that brain function determines how life experiences contribute to risk for and protection against depressive symptoms.Exposure to negative life events in particular has been strongly linked to increased risk for depression. “This study is novel in that we go beyond negative events to investigate the unique effects of both positive and negative life events on depressive symptoms during a vulnerable time in development, early adolescence,” said Dr. Luking.Adolescent girls, 8-14 years old, performed a task in which they could win or lose money. Girls with a stronger brain response to winning showed a relationship between positive life events dependent on their behavior—such as making a new friend—and reduced depressive symptoms. According to Dr. Luking, this means that “girls whose brains are more responsive to winning are better able to reap the benefits of the positive experiences that they create in their own lives.”Related StoriesNew therapy shows promise in preventing brain damage after traumatic brain injuryWearing a hearing aid may mitigate dementia riskRepurposing a heart drug could increase survival rate of children with ependymomaThe study also found that girls with a strong response to losses showed a relationship between negative life events independent of their behavior—such as experiencing a natural disaster—and increased depressive symptoms. This means that “girls whose brains are more responsive to losing are more vulnerable to the effects of negative events, particularly those beyond their control,” said Dr. Luking.”These results provide a window into how mechanisms in the brain might be targeted to modify the effects of positive and negative experiences on the moods of girls during a critical developmental period in their lives,” said Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. The findings suggest that treatments designed to increase responses to winning or decrease responses to losing could help strengthen the effect of positive experiences or reduce the harmful effect of negative experiences. Modifying the effects of these experiences could help protect against or reduce the risk for depression.Source: https://www.elsevier.com/
When a 10-kilometer-wide object slammed into Earth about 66 million years ago, it created an ecological catastrophe. In the ensuing environmental chaos, dinosaurs died out but mammals survived, setting the stage for the modern world. Now, scientists have confirmed that the plant kingdom suffered similar disparities after the impact, losing many more flowering evergreen species than plants that drop their leaves each year. Researchers looked at more than 1000 fossilized leaves from rocks deposited in what is now southern North Dakota during a 2.2-million-year interval spanning the dino-killing impact. In the 1.4 million years prior to the impact, leaves from the various species of flowering plants in the ecosystem had, on average, thicker and heavier leaves with fewer veins than those that lived in the 800,000 years after the impact, the researchers report online today in PLOS Biology. Thin, veiny leaves are a signature of deciduous plants; even though such leaves must be replaced every year, they allow deciduous species to take up carbon more quickly than their evergreen cousins. This “live fast, die young” strategy enabled deciduous survivors to better take advantage of the extremely variable postimpact climate in which suitable conditions for growth—especially those steady conditions generally preferred by slow-growing evergreens—occurred less frequently, the researchers propose. They conclude that postapocalyptic forests were likely chock-full of fast-growing deciduous species such as extinct relatives of sycamores, walnuts, and palms (pictured above in an artist’s reconstruction), whereas thick-leaved, slow-growing evergreens similar to today’s hollies and ivies were much less common than they had been prior to the impact. Even today, the researchers note, few if any forests are dominated by flowering evergreens.
By Katie LanginNov. 7, 2018 , 2:45 PM Visibility matters: A conversation with the co-founder of 500 Queer Scientists iStock.com/nito100 STEM is losing male LGBQ undergrads Working my way out Every year, after clicking “submit” on the final copies of their Ph.D. dissertations, thousands of scientists answer all sorts of questions—for example, about their age, sex, race, ethnicity, and career plans—as part of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). The questionnaire has served as an annual census of U.S. doctoral degree-grantees since 1957 and provides useful demographic information, which can be used to track the success of diversity efforts. In the years ahead, the survey may start covering even more ground: During a meeting last week at NSF’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, the agency said it plans to test the feasibility of adding questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.NSF’s move was catalyzed by a letter arguing that comprehensive, nationwide data on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) scientists and engineers are needed because the group experiences disadvantages and disparities that are akin to other underrepresented groups, such as racial and ethnic minorities and women. Only a handful of studies have examined LGBT representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduate programs and the scientific workforce, so there’s a clear need for more information, says Jonathan Freeman, an associate professor of psychology at New York University in New York City and the lead author of the letter. The letter writers used LGBT—rather than, say, LGBTQ—because it’s the most generally recognized term, and they didn’t want to confuse audiences who may not be as familiar with others. “In wanting to have a conversation with folks about these issues, oftentimes it’s a way to meet them where they’re at in terms of language,” says letter co-author Laura Durso, the vice president of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. Related content NSF moves to pilot LGBT questions on national workforce surveys The letter writers asked NSF to include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on the SED, as well as two biennial surveys administered by the agency: the Survey of Doctoral Recipients and the National Survey of College Graduates (NSCG), both of which are designed to examine the career trajectories of STEM degree holders living in the United States. The letter was cosigned by 251 scientists, engineers, and legal and public policy scholars, as well as 17 scientific organizations (including AAAS, which publishes Science Careers).If LGBT data were available from these surveys, “you’d have tons of people chewing on these data” to figure out if and where underrepresentation exists and to suggest interventions, Freeman says. Data collected by NSF could help us understand a whole host of questions about STEM’s LGBT community—“whether they’re here, whether they’re being retained, what their work trajectory is, whether they get paid as much”—notes Lauren Esposito, an assistant curator at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and cofounder of the 500 Queer Scientists visibility initiative.NSF is still in the early planning stages, so details are sparse regarding how it will move forward. But a spokesperson told Science Careers via email that changes to demographic data collection require working with an interagency group and a “lengthy, deliberate process involving extensive experimentation” in order to ensure that the agency generates “accurate, reliable data sets.” NSF plans to start with the biennial NSCG. The earliest that LGBT questions would be added is 2021 because the window for testing questions to add to the 2019 survey has passed.Durso, who has worked to add sexual orientation and gender identity questions to federal surveys across the U.S. government, understands why implementing changes to the survey will take time. “There’s actually quite a bit of testing that has to happen,” says Durso, who holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and has studied the LGBT community. “These are federal government surveys; you want to do a deliberate and well thought out process.” For instance, it’s important to get the wording right to ensure that people fully understand the question that they’re being asked. Before making any changes to an ongoing survey, statisticians also want to confirm that adding certain questions won’t cause some people to refuse to answer the survey entirely—for instance, because they are offended by the questions.Esposito is also concerned that collecting this type of information could be risky for the survey respondents themselves. Esposito—who hadn’t read the letter that was sent to NSF until Science Careers emailed her a copy—agrees that there’s a need for the data. “We should be informed and have tools at hand by which we can make policy and bring about change,” she says. But she worries about these kinds of data being in the hands of the federal government. “Sexual orientation and gender are not protected classes federally and in many states in this country,” she notes. When “you can be fired for that information, it seems risky and it seems like a risk that many people would have to think twice before taking,” she says.Told about Esposito’s concerns, letter co-author Adam Romero—the director of legal scholarship and federal policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law—acknowledged her concerns but expressed confidence that they were not a reason to scrap the survey questions. “In my experience, the federal government does a very good job to keep the personal demographic and other responses of survey takers highly confidential and protected,” he says. In addition, existing federal surveys that ask these kinds of questions usually give an option to decline to answer or to say that you don’t know. “For any particular person who may be uncomfortable, there’s no mandate to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity.”Policy decisions in higher education often hinge on information gleaned from federal surveys, notes Bryce Hughes, an assistant professor of education at Montana State University in Bozeman. So if NSF doesn’t collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, then “we’ll miss opportunities” to make policy decisions that benefit LGBT communities, he says. “I’m just excited to see this moving forward.” Hughes wasn’t involved with the push to nudge NSF to add LGBT questions, but he understands the value of these kinds of data: Earlier this year, he published a study showing that sexual minorities are more likely to leave STEM undergraduate programs than their heterosexual peers.Freeman—the author who spearheaded the letter—wants to get data into the hands of Hughes and other social scientists because he’s concerned that LGBT issues have been sidelined in STEM diversity discussions. “There is a tendency to see LGBT information … [as an] overly personal demographic detail … that should have no place in science and engineering,” Freeman says. But he says that people shouldn’t view it that way. “This is about a social identity that is like any other, like gender or race or ethnicity.” That’s why it’s important to have LGBT role models and adequate representation across STEM fields, he says.“These are scientists and engineers, and so numbers speak and data speak, and I think having actual data on this would really change things,” Freeman says. “I think it would trigger a snowballing event of getting more people to study this issue and getting universities and federal funding agencies” to think about LGBT diversity initiatives, he says.
Felix Gross Italy’s Mount Etna could be collapsing into the sea By Sid PerkinsOct. 10, 2018 , 2:00 PM For decades, scientists have known that the southeastern slopes of Mount Etna, an active volcano on the eastern shore of Sicily in Italy, are shifting toward the sea about 2 or 3 centimeters each year. Now, they have a better idea of why this is happening, and it’s making them worried.In a new study, scientists gathered data from seafloor instruments that allowed them to track the movement of the volcano’s submarine slopes over time. For most of the 15-month period they studied, nothing happened. But during an 8-day period in May 2017, Mount Etna’s southeastern flank moved 4 centimeters to the east, the researchers report online today in Science Advances.That’s a much larger movement than has been recorded on land, suggesting the southeastern flank of the volcano is collapsing under its own weight. There’s no telling whether, or when, this slow-motion landslide will really let loose, but the researchers note that sudden slumps of undersea material have created locally devastating tsunamis in other parts of the world.
6 Comment(s) Top News Karnataka: SC to rule today, says Speaker’s powers need relook The decision follows Tuesday’s suicide bombing in Tunis by a wanted militant.It was the third such incident within a week and came as Tunisia prepares for autumn elections and at the peak of a tourist season in which the country hopes to draw record number of visitors. Islamic State has claimed all three attacks. It has been banned “for security reasons”. (File Photo)Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has banned the wearing of the niqab face veil in public institutions “for security reasons” an official source told Reuters on Friday. In undecided Congress, first open call for Priyanka: She should be party chief NRC deadline approaching, families stranded in Assam floods stay home By Reuters |Tunis | Published: July 6, 2019 9:47:42 am Advertising
Advertising Idukki custodial death: Crime Branch arrests two police officers 2 Comment(s) Advertising Kerala: Idukki custodial death snowballing into big trouble for CPM Related News Will not protect erring policemen: Kerala CM on custodial death row “What has happened should never happen in an educational institution. The government will take strong action. Everyone has understood that by now. There will be no laxity in (police) proceedings,” the chief minister told reporters at a press briefing in the state capital.Earlier today, the Cantonment police in Thiruvananthapuram arrested R Sivaranjith and AN Naseem, the president and secretary of the now-disbanded SFI unit of the college respectively, in connection with the near-fatal stabbing of Akhil Chandran, the third-year undergraduate student at the college. Four other men, who are all members of the SFI unit, have also been detained and remanded to police custody for alleged involvement in the case. Sivaranjith and Naseem, the prime accused in the case.On Friday, Akhil was stabbed allegedly by Sivaranjith and Naseem for defying the orders of the SFI, that runs the college student union. When Akhil and a few of his friends sang a song in the college canteen a few days earlier, it invited the wrath of the SFI unit. Akhil, who is preparing to be a professional weight-lifting athlete, is undergoing treatment at the Medical College hospital and is stable. A third-year student at the University College in Thiruvananthapuram was stabbed allegedly by activists of the Students Federation of India.Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan censured in strongest terms the stabbing of a third-year student at the University College in Thiruvananthapuram allegedly by activists of the Students Federation of India (SFI), the student wing of the CPM. The arrest of Sivaranjith has also unravelled allegations of cheating in university examinations as a bundle of blank university answer-sheets were recovered by the police from his residence, along with a couple of official seals of the physical training department.The ruling CPM has distanced itself from its student wing, underlining that it will not attempt to protect the culprits in the case. The six leaders, arrested so far in the case, have been expelled from the SFI and the unit disbanded. They have been suspended from the college indefinitely as well. By Express Web Desk |Kochi | Published: July 15, 2019 8:45:49 pm
Exercising Wrist-Raint If that’s true, that could be a game-changer for me. After living in Montreal for several years, my French is shamefully rudimentary. I understand structure and syntax pretty well, though I struggle to understand people most of the time. That said, if I understand the topic of conversation and can pick out certain words, I can usually get the gist.So I don’t need Babel fish-like perfection in acuity, just something that picks up the core meaning. If I can respond in a way that my broken French doesn’t belie my Anglo heritage and the person I’m speaking with doesn’t automatically switch to English, I’d consider that a product worth investigating.Rating: 5 out of 5 Stronger Conversations Watching Apple’s product announcement showcase is a bit like celebrating New Year’s. People from all over the world are drawn to this annual event with the promise of something new and exciting, a vision of tomorrow and untold promise.Yet the more it comes around, the more disappointed we are. That promised kiss from a stranger at midnight is a dud. Our best intentions fall by the wayside as we use the arbitrary turning of a calendar page as reason to develop new habits, only to quit the gym within two weeks, or to snap creative photos with a fancy new camera lens before soon reverting to selfies. We expect so much from Apple these days, but more often than not we’re left wanting.Take the iPhone 8, the latest iteration of the company’s flagship product line (pictured above). It has a string of incremental, though technically and aesthetically impressive improvements to hardware and software.Yet even Apple couldn’t muster up enough excitement or passion to really sell the new features, sleepily reeling off factoids about new processors and cameras and the rest of it. Apple, more than ever, transparently treated this iPhone as simply a slightly better version of the previous one.Of course, the big news was iPhone X, the complete overhaul of iPhone, with a new design, OLED screen, and facial recognition supplanting Touch ID. Then there’s Apple Watch Series 3, which no longer necessarily needs to tether to an iPhone for full functionality, instead using its own cell connection for calls, messages, Siri and streaming music. Turbo TV Dial It Up I’m admittedly more enticed by the prospect of a smartwatch than ever, and cell connectivity is remarkable, assuming it works correctly. Still, as long as there’s no Spotify app, I’m disinclined to pick up an Apple Watch.Series 3 seems fine — and that’s all.Rating: 4 out of 5 Waiting for Mores But what really got me excited was the Pixel Buds, the wireless earphones. These connect directly with Google Assistant and, apparently, can translate 40 languages in close to real-time. In a packed product announcement period, there’s also Google’s new hardware to consider. The Pixel 2 looks like a solid phone with a great screen and better camera, though it nixes the headphone jack. There’s an AI camera, a Pixelbook laptop, and new Home smart speakers. Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that prods and probes at the latest gadget announcements just in case there’s literally anything worth writing home about.In this glorious fall breeze of an edition, we take a look at the latest product suite to drift our way from the Apple hivemind, and one especially intriguing item from Google’s latest hardware slate.As ever, these are not reviews, and the ratings relate only to how much I’d like to try each item. The sliver Apple has cut out of the screen to make space for the front-facing cameras looks silly. It negates what’s surely an impressive display to make sure there’s room for the tools Face ID needs to work.I can’t imagine ever using Face ID. It seems so inelegant, compared to placing a finger over the departed Home button. The iPhone X also rips up the rulebook for an iPhone’s UI, thanks to the lack of a Home button, and operates mostly through gestures and swipes.My contract is up soon, and while the promise of an OLED screen on an iPhone is thrilling, I’m more likely to get an iPhone 8, mainly for cost and Touch ID. I’m sure it’s great, and I’m still excited, though I probably shall make this purchase somewhat resignedly, still shaking my fist at Apple for ripping away the headphone port, seemingly for good. (Don’t get me wrong, I’d still like to play around with iPhone X.)iPhone 8 Rating: 5 out of 5 Heavy SighsiPhone X Rating: 4 out of 5 Where Did That Bit of Screen Goes? Babelling On Apple TV got an upgrade to 4K resolution output — just as 8K televisions are becoming slightly more commonplace and many 4K TVs have built-in support for many of the apps you’d want to use anyway.Unless you’re a diehard viewer of purchased iTunes content, really want Dolby Vision HDR support, or gaming on Apple TV, it’s hard to consider it worthwhile right now.Several studios (through iTunes) and apps (most significantly, YouTube) don’t support 4K on Apple TV yet, and Amazon Prime Video won’t be available for a while. I’m sure the experience of using it is nice, as my rating suggests, but I can’t imagine buying an Apple TV 4K.Rating: 3 out of 5 Richer Visions Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He’s Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word “soccer” in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.
Source:https://www.salk.edu/news-release/1-6-million-cirm-grant-supports-potential-diabetes-treatment/ Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Sep 27 2018Approximately 1.25 million Americans are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D), with an additional 40,000 people newly diagnosed every year. T1D is an autoimmune disease that destroys insulin-producing pancreatic islet cells. Insulin is a hormone that allows sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy. Without insulin, blood sugar accumulates, causing toxic side effects. Despite active research, T1D has no cure. While treatments, including daily insulin injections, are available, managing the disease remains challenging, and poorly controlled T1D can lead to blindness, organ failure and other health issues.Replacement therapies for beta cells (the cells that produce insulin in the islet) have been proposed as a game changer for T1D patients, potentially freeing diabetics from the daily burden of constantly managing their disease. There are two main challenges to transplanting insulin-producing islet cells: the shortage of transplantable cells and the underlying autoimmune response that destroyed the patient’s own islets.Ronald Evans, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, believes that the development of immune tolerant human islet-like organoids, or HILOs for short, may be a solution. He’s not alone. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) recently approved a $1.6 million grant to help bring Evans’ HILOs to patients with diabetes.”We are excited that CIRM has elected to support our work,” says Evans. “Transplanted islet cells have the potential to dramatically improve the quality of life for people with type 1 diabetes, but we need to overcome the shortage of transplantable cells, and we need to manage the autoimmune response. We believe HILOs will do both.”HILOs build upon a breakthrough Cell Metabolism paper published in 2016, which identified the secret switch (ERR gamma;) to generating mature functional islet cells; that is, cells that secrete insulin when they sense high sugar levels. HILOs are generated from pluripotent stem cells (which have the potential to become any tissue) and can be grown in large numbers, potentially solving the transplant shortage. These organoids contain a variety of cells, as well as a blood supply, to recapitulate normal islet cell function. In addition, early animal studies have shown HILOs are highly functional, secreting insulin in response to glucose.Related StoriesAADE’s comprehensive guidance on care of children, young adults with diabetes releasedNew biomaterial could encapsulate and protect implanted insulin-producing cellsIntermittent fasting may protect against type 2 diabetes”Our engineered functional human islet-like organoids are designed to circumvent the shortage of donor islets,” says Salk Research Associate Zong Wei, a member of the HILO project team. Salk Staff Scientist Eiji Yoshihara, a leading member of the HILO project team, notes, “In preclinical testing, our HILOs can immediately restore glucose homeostasis (balance) upon transplantation into T1D mice.”The project was funded under CIRM’s Discovery Quest Program, which invests in research that can be rapidly translated into treatments. The team will use these funds to develop a safe and efficient protocol to scale up HILO production to eliminate islet cell shortages. From a therapeutic perspective, HILOs could provide the complete package: easily transplantable organoids that produce insulin, resist immune attack and can be grown in sufficient numbers.”In addition to developing safe effective HILOs, we now have a way of cloaking the cells from the immune system, and thereby avoiding the autoimmune response that could destroy the implanted cells,” says Senior Staff Scientist Michael Downes, a senior member of the HILO team. “This is an exciting time. Although it is early days, the funding from CIRM will help develop HILOs to improve the quality of patient lives.”
Cyberattacks are nothing new to the International Republican Institute.”IRI has been targeted in the past and has taken proactive steps to defend ourselves from these types of cybersecurity threats,” said President Daniel Twining.”This latest attempt is consistent with the campaign of meddling that the Kremlin has waged against organizations that support democracy and human rights,” he noted. “It is clearly designed to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticize Mr. Putin’s authoritarian regime.”The Hudson Institute believes the Russian attack was meant to disrupt the organization’s democracy-promotion programs, particularly those aimed at exposing kleptocratic regimes, said spokesperson Carolyn Stewart.”This is not the first time authoritarian overseas regimes have attempted to mount cyberattacks against Hudson, our experts, and their friends and professional associates,” she said. “We expect it will not be the last.” Microsoft on Monday said it has torpedoed a pair of websites designed to steal credentials from visitors to two Republican Party think tanks.The malicious websites were among six the company took down last week. A group of hackers affiliated with the Russian military created the sites, according to Microsoft. The group apparently was the same group that stole a cache of email from the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential campaign.A U.S. court order allowed Microsoft to disrupt and take control of the domain names for the websites. The names were crafted to spoof the domains of legitimate websites, including the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, both well-known GOP think tanks.”Attackers want their attacks to look as realistic as possible, and they therefore create websites and URLs that look like sites their targeted victims would expect to receive email from or visit,” explained Microsoft President Brad Smith.Microsoft has used the court order tactic 12 times in the past two years to take down 84 websites associated with the Russian hacking groups known as “Strontium,” “Fancy Bear” and “APT28,” Smith noted. John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reportersince 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, theBoston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and GovernmentSecurity News. Email John. Sowing Confusion, Conflict and Fear Risk of Distrust Party-Neutral Hackers There has been progress in lowering the risk of election meddling since 2016, said the ICIT’s Eftekhari.”There’s been a significant increase in awareness between the presidential election and now,” he noted. “There’s also been progress by DHS and the states in improving election infrastructure.”Although there have been headline-grabbing reports about voter machine hacking, those hacks require physical access to a machine, which makes them highly unlikely.”The bigger risk is the threat to the integrity of an election an adversary can create by sowing seeds of distrust of the Democratic process in the minds of voters,” Eftekhari said.There’s also the eternal problem of change.”We’re very good at fighting the last war, but the Russians are very good at evolving their game,” Cybereason’s Rustici said.”I suspect if they’re going to do a psychological operation around the elections, the way they do it will be different than what they did in 2016,” he added. “How effective the defenses we’ve built for what they did in 2016 will be for those attacks is yet to be seen.” Reducing Election Meddling Low Risk, High Reward The domains Microsoft took offline indicate Fancy Bear has been broadening its target pool, Smith said. In addition to the GOP think tanks, which have been outspoken in their criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, four domains referenced the U.S. Senate, which hasn’t been a friend of Putin either.Microsoft’s Digital Crime Unit had no evidence the cashiered domains were used in any successful attacks, Smith was careful to note, nor did it know the identity of the ultimate targets of any planned attack involving the domains.The attack on the Republican think tanks is consistent with past behavior by Russian hacking groups, said Ross Rustici, senior director of intelligence services at Cybereason, an endpoint security company in Boston.”If you look at Russian targeting, they always attack organizations that are critical of Putin and his regime,” he told TechNewsWorld.”Both nonprofits highlighted by Microsoft have been consistently critical of Putin and his regime, so it doesn’t surprise me at all that they would be targets of Russian hacking attempts,” Rustici said. “The Russians don’t care which side of the aisle their target’s on. They’re looking to take down anybody that’s critical of Putin.” Despite Microsoft’s recent successful efforts to crack down on malicious Web activity, significant challenges lie ahead.”It’s not that difficult to spoof these sites all over again,” said Parham Eftekhari, executive director of the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a cybersecurity think tank in Washington, D.C.”That’s why this tactic is so appealing. It’s low risk, high reward,” he told TechNewsWorld.”The success rate for spearphishing emails is 10 to 20 percent. That means that out of 100 employees, 10 to 20 of them are opening and responding to a lure that gives an attacker access to a network,” Eftekhari pointed out.”It’s very easy to register things that are very close to legitimate companies or think tank names and use them for phishing attempts,” said Cybereason’s Rustici. “Unless you’re monitoring all the possible permutations, it’s easy to miss these.” Microsoft’s efforts could have a very disruptive impact on a the hackers’ efforts, said Mounir Hahad, head of the threat lab for Juniper Networks, a network security and performance company based in Sunnyvale, California.”It takes a lot of effort to build credible stories with credible websites and have enough visibility for those websites to actually draw traffic,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The perpetrators cannot just duplicate their content elsewhere because a lot of technology is pretty good at identifying similar content, knowing what’s fake and blocking it.”Operations like Microsoft’s could help reduce election meddling in the upcoming mid-term elections, but not completely eliminate it, said Hahad.Swaying election results may be only part of a long-term strategy that includes compromising candidates, he suggested.”Having spyware on a candidate’s phone or laptop may actually turn out to be advantageous for an adversary when the candidate is elected versus trying to elect someone more favorable to their positions,” said Hahad.
Making Quality Count Adding context to items on a page is another way Google tries to counter disinformation.For example, knowledge or information panels appear near search results to provide facts about the search subject.In search and news, Google clearly labels content originating with fact-checkers.In addition, it has “Breaking News” and “Top News” shelves, and “Developing News” information panels on YouTube, to expose users to authoritative sources when looking for information about ongoing news events.YouTube also has information panels providing “Topical Context” and “Publisher Context,” so users can see contextual information from trusted sources and make better-informed choices about what they see on the platform.A recent context move was added during the 2018 mid-term elections, when Google required additional verification for anyone purchasing an election ad in the United States.It also required advertisers to confirm they were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Further, every ad creative had to incorporate a clear disclosure of who was paying for the ad.”Giving users more context to make their own decisions is a great step,” observed CSIS’s Lewis. “Compared to Facebook, Google looks good.” Google may depend too much on its software, suggested Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech, a reviews, advice and information website for consumer security products.”I think Google leans perhaps a bit too heavily on its algorithms in some situations when common sense could tell you that a certain page contains false information,” he told TechNewsWorld.”Google hides behind its algorithms to shrug off responsibility in those cases,” Bischoff added.Algorithms can’t solve all problems, Google acknowledged in its paper. They can’t determine whether a piece of content on current events is true or false; nor can they assess the intent of its creator just by scanning the text on a page.That’s where Google’s experience fighting spam and rank manipulators has come in handy. To counter those deceivers, Google has developed a set of policies to regulate certain behaviors on its platforms.”This is relevant to tackling disinformation since many of those who engage in the creation or propagation of content for the purpose to deceive often deploy similar tactics in an effort to achieve more visibility,” the paper notes. “Over the course of the past two decades, we have invested in systems that can reduce ‘spammy’ behaviors at scale, and we complement those with human reviews.” Serious About Fake News With the release of the white paper, “Google wants to demonstrate that they’re taking the problem of fake news seriously and they’re actively combating the issue,” noted Vincent Raynauld, an assistant professor in the department of Communication Studies at Emerson College in Boston.That’s important as high-tech companies like Facebook and Google come under increased government scrutiny, he explained.”The first battle for these companies is to make sure people understand what false information is,” Raynauld told TechNewsWorld. “It’s not about combating organizations or political parties,” he said. “It’s about combating online manifestations of misinformation and false information.”That may not be easy for Google.”Google’s business model incentivizes deceitful behavior to some degree,” said Comparitech’s Bischoff.”Ads and search results that incite emotions regardless of truthfulness can be ranked as high or higher than more level-headed, informative, and unbiased links, due to how Google’s algorithms work,” he pointed out.If a bad article has more links to it than a good article, the bad article could well be ranked higher, Bischoff explained.”Google is stuck in a situation where its business model encourages disinformation, but its content moderation must do the exact opposite,” he said. “As a result, I think Google’s response to disinformation will always be somewhat limited.” Hiding Behind Algorithms Google makes quality count through algorithms whose usefulness is determined by user testing, not by the ideological bent of the people who build or audit the software, according to the paper.”One big strength of Google is that they admit to the problem — not everybody does — and are looking to fix their ranking algorithms to deal with it,” James A. Lewis, director of the technology and public policy program at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told TechNewsWorld.While algorithms can be a blessing, they can be a curse, too.”Google made it clear in its white paper that they aren’t going to introduce humans into the mix. Everything is going to be based on algorithms,” said Dan Kennedy, an associate professor in the school of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston.”That’s key to their business plan,” he told TechNewsWorld. “The reason they’re so profitable is they employ very few people, but that guarantees there will be continued problems with disinformation.” Post-Truth Era Google unveiled its game plan for fighting disinformation on its properties at a security conference in Munich, Germany, over the weekend.The 30-page document details Google’s current efforts to combat bad dope on its search, news, YouTube and advertising platforms.”Providing useful and trusted information at the scale that the Internet has reached is enormously complex and an important responsibility,” noted Google Vice President for Trust and Safety Kristie Canegallo.”Adding to that complexity, over the last several years we’ve seen organized campaigns use online platforms to deliberately spread false or misleading information,” she continued.”We have twenty years of experience in these information challenges, and it’s what we strive to do better than anyone else,” added Canegallo. “So while we have more work to do, we’ve been working hard to combat this challenge for many years.” Like other communication channels, the open Internet is vulnerable to the organized propagation of false or misleading information, Google explained in its white paper.”Over the past several years, concerns that we have entered a ‘post-truth’ era have become a controversial subject of political and academic debate,” the paper states. “These concerns directly affect Google and our mission — to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. When our services are used to propagate deceptive or misleading information, our mission is undermined.”Google outlined three general strategies for attacking disinformation on its platforms: making quality count, counteracting malicious actors, and giving users context about what they’re seeing on a Web page. More Context John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reportersince 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, theBoston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and GovernmentSecurity News. Email John.
Source:https://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/study-examines-racial-disparities-in-patient-characteristics-survival-after-heart-attack/ Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Nov 2 2018This study analyzed data for about 6,400 patients who had heart attacks to compare black and white patients across a range of characteristics (demographic, socioeconomic status, social factors, lifestyle factors, medical history, clinical presentation, health status and depression).Researchers looked at how these patient characteristics differed by race, how they were associated with survival after heart attack, and whether the association differed for black and white patients who had similar characteristics. Analyses suggest a difference in mortality rate based on characteristics that were more common in black patients but no differences in survival rates at one and five years between black and white patients with similar characteristics. These findings call for more understanding about how and why certain patient characteristics that are more common in black patients, such as lower socioeconomic status, are associated with survival so that new strategies can be developed to reduce observed racial disparities.
Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)May 30 2019Too much screen time can cause health problems for an adult. Insomnia, social disconnection and lack of exercise are just a few. Mix it with the turmoil of teen years – or the plasticity of a preschooler’s brain -; and it can lead to conditions ranging from obesity to mental health disorders. We have to recognize that children are very susceptible to their environment. Anything they do for a couple of hours every day – no matter what it is – is going to impact them not only in the moment, but also down the road.”Dr. James Waxmonsky, chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Penn State Health In recent years, the amount of time that children spend looking at laptop, tablet, television or cell phone screens has increased, while the age of first exposure has dramatically decreased.The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against screens for children 18 months of age and younger. It says toddlers and preschoolers ages 2 to 5 shouldn’t have more than an hour of daily exposure.”It used to be more about the content, but now we are recognizing there is nothing inherently beneficial about viewing screens,” Waxmonsky said. “It’s a matter of how much of a risk they pose.”He said while more research on the subject is needed, information has emerged suggesting that more than two hours of daily screen time can create a significant risk for problems with inattention and impulsivity, such as those seen in children with ADHD.It also has been linked to obesity and insomnia.”You have to recognize the impact of what they are not doing because they are staring at a screen,” Waxmonsky said.He suggests parents create fairly definitive rules about when their children can and cannot use screens, whether that means television, tablets, cell phones, e-readers or laptops.Related StoriesWhy Mattresses Could be a Health Threat to Sleeping ChildrenAn active brain and body associated with reduced risk of dementiaStudy offers clues about how to prevent brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s”Some prefer time limits,” he said. “Others use a task-based system where certain things must get done before they can have screen time.”Frequent exposure to rapidly-changing audio and visual bombardment -; hallmarks of many television shows and video games -; have been shown in animal models to prevent brain nerve tracks from developing as intended.The potential dangers of time in front of screens is compounded by concerns over the type of content and constant social connection that comes with it. Adolescents who spend a good deal of time online are at increased risk for depression and cyber bullying.”They are struggling to form their own identity,” Waxmonsky said. “When they are on a stage like that 24-7, they are more susceptible to peer feedback.”He urged parents to set a good example with their own technology use and noted thatthe presence of the parent’s smart phone decreases the amount of time that a parent interacts and engages with their child.”When the phone is there, you are much less present with your child,” he said. “That interaction is critical for early development and regulating emotion.”While there are benefits to children learning to using technology, Waxmonsky points to decades of research proving the benefits of one-on-one human interactions for healthy child development.”We have no grounds to say that kids and frequent exposure to screens are a safe combination,” he said. “But we know it does little to promote their development.”Source: Penn State Health