Post List

  • August 25, 2011
  • 08:00 AM

Deinstitutionalization of Mental Health Care – Availability of Bed Space and Involuntary Admissions

by Shaheen Lakhan in Brain Blogger

As developed nations around the world have attempted to deinstitutionalize mental health care, the number of beds available for inpatient treatment has declined. A recent survey of mental health care reported that the decrease in bed space leads to more involuntary admissions for mental health care. Wealthy, developed nations throughout the world, including the United [...]... Read more »

Abramowitz M, Grinshpoon A, Priebe S, & Ponizovsky AM. (2008) New institutionalization as a rebound phenomenon? The case of Israel. The Israel journal of psychiatry and related sciences, 45(4), 272-7. PMID: 19439832  

Priebe S, Badesconyi A, Fioritti A, Hansson L, Kilian R, Torres-Gonzales F, Turner T, & Wiersma D. (2005) Reinstitutionalisation in mental health care: comparison of data on service provision from six European countries. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 330(7483), 123-6. PMID: 15567803  

Priebe S, Frottier P, Gaddini A, Kilian R, Lauber C, Martínez-Leal R, Munk-Jørgensen P, Walsh D, Wiersma D, & Wright D. (2008) Mental health care institutions in nine European countries, 2002 to 2006. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 59(5), 570-3. PMID: 18451020  

Swartz MS, Wilder CM, Swanson JW, Van Dorn RA, Robbins PC, Steadman HJ, Moser LL, Gilbert AR, & Monahan J. (2010) Assessing outcomes for consumers in New York's assisted outpatient treatment program. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 61(10), 976-81. PMID: 20889634  

  • August 25, 2011
  • 07:00 AM

August 25, 2011

by Erin Campbell in HighMag Blog

I like to imagine that actin and microtubules duked it out one day over which was more important. Actin let microtubules have the mitotic spindle, as long as actin could have the leading edge. So, imagine how ticked off microtubules were to learn that actin was discovered a few years ago to play an important role in Golgi organization, a task long-associated with microtubules. Zoinks!

The Golgi apparatus is a ribbon-like network of membrane stacks that process and sort various material synthesized by the cell. Its organization near the nucleus of the cell is long-known to be dependent on the microtubule cytoskeleton, and a recent paper describes new results on how important the actin cytoskeleton is in Golgi organization, too. Zilberman and colleagues have shown that an actin polymerizing protein called mDia1 and its activator, RhoA, affects the organization of the Golgi network. Specifically, when active forms of either of these proteins were introduced into cells, the Golgi network dispersed over an area much larger than in normal cells. In the images above, the Golgi network (red) covers a larger area in cells with an active form of mDia1 (bottom) than in normal cells (top). The actin network is in green.

Zilberman, Y., Alieva, N., Miserey-Lenkei, S., Lichtenstein, A., Kam, Z., Sabanay, H., & Bershadsky, A. (2011). Involvement of the Rho-mDia1 pathway in the regulation of Golgi complex architecture and dynamics Molecular Biology of the Cell, 22 (16), 2900-2911 DOI: 10.1091/mbc.E11-01-0007

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Zilberman, Y., Alieva, N., Miserey-Lenkei, S., Lichtenstein, A., Kam, Z., Sabanay, H., & Bershadsky, A. (2011) Involvement of the Rho-mDia1 pathway in the regulation of Golgi complex architecture and dynamics. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 22(16), 2900-2911. DOI: 10.1091/mbc.E11-01-0007  

  • August 25, 2011
  • 05:57 AM

Using work technology at home hinders our ability to detach from work

by Alex Fradera in BPS Occupational Digest

We know that psychologically detaching from work is important, leading to less fatigue, more positive working-week experiences, and higher overall life satisfaction. How you fill your leisure time has a big impact on psychological detachment - for instance, we've reported on the beneficial effects of volunteering on detachment. A recent study confirms what many suspect – it's harder to switch off when technology keeps you plugged in.

In their study, YoungAh Park, Charlotte Fritz and Steve Jex looked at work-home segmentation: how much we partition our domains of leisure and work. Some of this is preference – for example, you might choose not to take a job likely to intrude into your home life. And some is about surrounding norms: if it's typical to take work home, or to call a colleague on a work issue in an evening, it's difficult not to be drawn into these activities.

But the authors suspected that a major factor was technology use at home, and investigated this through a survey completed by 431 university alumni now in full-time employment. As well as measures of detachment from work, segmentation preference eg “I prefer to keep work life at work”; and perceived segmentation norm, they also looked at frequency of use of different technologies (email, internet, phone, pda) for workplace purposes when at home.

As expected, both a preference for and a culture of less segmentation led to less psychological detachment. People who used technologies for work purposes while at home struggled to detach from work, and the analysis showed that this was a major route through which weak segmentation had its effect on detachment. In part, weak segmentation manifests as work-technology behaviours at home.

It's important to note that technology did not explain all of the variance, which means that setting strict rules about technology use is not the only way to help psychological detachment, nor necessarily sufficient; you may want to develop habits that deal with ruminations, develop end-of-day rituals, or establish clearer boundaries with colleagues. But technology certainly plays a part, and so it's worth considering the practices of your own workplace: for instance,are the trends towards shedding work desktops for laptops, and “bring your own computer” programs, helping or hurting us?

Park, Y., Fritz, C., & Jex, S. (2011). Relationships between work-home segmentation and psychological detachment from work: The role of communication technology use at home. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology DOI: 10.1037/a0023594
... Read more »

  • August 25, 2011
  • 05:30 AM

"Fat Children Eat Less Than Their Thinner Peers"!?

by Yoni Freedhoff in Weighty Matters

"Fat Children Eat Less Than Their Thinner Peers". That's the tweet Linda Bacon from HAES fame sent out to her followers at 9:55am yesterday morning.

It certainly fits the HAES narrative that the world's completely backwards in regard to anything and everything weight related.

Sadly it also continues Linda's confusing practice of tweeting bad data.

Linda's HAES platform, whether you agree or disagree with it, rests on the shoulders of her critical analysis of the medical literature on obesity, and her take is that many of the studies with which researchers and clinicians have vilified obesity, were either poorly designed or poorly analyzed.

But yet here's Linda promoting a Medscape news piece on a non-peer reviewed, poster presentation from a pediatric conference, where the findings are readily debatable.

The poster whose findings she was authoritatively retweeting, tracked the dietary recall of 12,316 children between the ages of 1 and 17 years of age.

Tweet and actual data accuracy aside, what the researchers truly reported wasn't that all fat children eat less than their thinner peers, but rather that the caloric intake of overweight and obese kids aged 1-7 exceeded that of their thinner peers but that the pattern "flipped" at age 7.

So what does "flipped" mean?

According to the poster, 9-11 year old kids with overweight and obesity reported consuming 1,988 calories daily, while their thinner peers reported consuming 2,069 (a difference of 4% which I'd venture isn't likely to be a statistically significant one). The study's 15-17 year olds with overweight and obesity reported consuming 2,271 calories daily, while their thinner counterparts reported 2,537 (a difference of 12%).

But can we really trust the dietary recall of children with overweight and obesity?

I'm not trying to be harsh. This world is not kind to overweight and obese children (or adults), and Linda would certainly know better than most of the stigma, bias and bullying those kids likely face on a daily basis - potentially even from their parents, their schools and their physicians. I don't think it would be an even remotely surprising finding that when participating in dietary recall surveys, children with overweight and obesity, especially older children who've had more time to experience hateful weight bias, might be more likely to under report.

So is there data to suggest that's a real possibility? Could these kids be under-reporting by more than the 12% seen in the oldest age group?


In fact just this past February there was a review paper published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity titled, Assessing dietary intake in children and adolescents: Considerations and recommendations for obesity research. Regarding under-estimation, here's what the review paper's authors had to say, "One of the most robust findings in dietary studies of children and adolescents is the positive association between under reporting and increased body fatness, particularly in adolescents (4,14,15). This is consistent with studies in overweight and obese adults (16). The extent of mis-reporting irrespective of weight status increases with age and has been reported as 14% of energy intake in 6-year-olds (17), 25% in 10-year-olds (18) and 40% (4,19) to 50% (14) in obese adolescents.."The authors further report that the type of study most likely to suffer from under-reporting is the very type performed for the poster in question, "Studies characterising under-reporting have focused on total diet assessment methods and in particular, energy intake"To be clear, I think Linda Bacon's contribution to the field of overweight and obesity research, as well as public policy and attitude, is tremendously important. I just can't rationalize the scientifically critical Linda Bacon with her Twitter persona that seems to just retweet anything that satisfies the HAES narrative, no matter how weak or poorly designed the study (or in this case, the poster) may be.


There's got to be a better way to fight misinformation and statistically indefensible conclusions than the promulgation of misinformation and statistically indefensible conclusions.

Magarey, A., Watson, J., Golley, R., Burrows, T., Sutherland, R., McNaughton, S., Denney-Wilson, E., Campbell, K., & Collins, C. (2011). Assessing dietary intake in children and adolescents: Considerations and recommendations for obesity research International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 6 (1), 2-11 DOI: 10.3109/17477161003728469

... Read more »

Magarey, A., Watson, J., Golley, R., Burrows, T., Sutherland, R., McNaughton, S., Denney-Wilson, E., Campbell, K., & Collins, C. (2011) Assessing dietary intake in children and adolescents: Considerations and recommendations for obesity research. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, 6(1), 2-11. DOI: 10.3109/17477161003728469  

  • August 25, 2011
  • 05:15 AM

Cornering multiple sclerosis -- still a long way to go

by Cesar Sanchez in Twisted Bacteria

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that causes neurological disability in young adults. Several environmental and genetic factors have been linked to the disease, but the precise mechanisms involved, and whether neurological damage precedes inflammation or vice versa, remain unclear.

In a recent article published in Nature, an international consortium of researchers report the identification of 29 new susceptibility loci, most of which are related to immune system function and, in particular, to T-helper-cell differentiation.

Previous genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that analysed relatively modest numbers of multiple sclerosis patients identified more than 20 risk loci, especially some that encode components of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). To identify a more complete set of susceptibility loci and obtain new insights into disease mechanisms, an international team of researchers carried out a large GWAS in which they analyzed over 465,000 autosomal single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from about 9,800 patients and 17,400 controls (that is, people not affected by multiple sclerosis) from 15 countries.

This analysis confirmed 23 loci that had previously been linked to the disease, and revealed another 29 new loci. Most of the risk attributable to the MHC could be accounted by four mutations, one in class-I locus HLA-A and three in class-II locus HLA-DRB1. A statistical analysis of the functions of the 52 loci (as annotated in the Gene Ontology database) showed that they are enriched for lymphocyte functions. In particular, many genes encoding cell surface receptors (such as CXCR5 and IL7R) with roles in T-helper-cell differentiation showed strong association with multiple sclerosis. In addition, the researchers identified two susceptibility loci with a role in vitamin D synthesis (CYP27B1 and CYP24A1) and others that encode known targets of therapies for multiple sclerosis such as natalizumab (VCAM1) and daclizumab (IL2RA). By contrast, very few genes with known roles in inflammation-independent neurodegeneration were identified.

The overrepresentation of susceptibility genes with roles in T-cell maturation suggests that multiple sclerosis is primarily caused by immune dysfunction, which is followed by neurological damage. However, the 52 variants can explain only ~20% of the heritability of the disease, and therefore a myriad of other susceptibility loci, each adding a tiny percentage to the overall risk of developing multiple sclerosis, remain to be identified.

Original article:
... Read more »

  • August 25, 2011
  • 03:20 AM

Why being happy at work makes you more successful at work

by David Lurie in Setsights

There are three types of learning at work. Taught Learning – training courses and their ilk Guided Learning – coaching, mentoring, peer support programmes etc. Experiential Learning – learning from experience – so this includes learning on the job, learning … Continue reading

Related posts:The Three Schools of Degree Selection
SMART Objectives? Anything but
Networking for the Nervous Part 3) – Games and Exercises
Letting go may be the key to success in your career
Networking for the Nervous (Part 2) – The Cheatsheet
... Read more »

  • August 24, 2011
  • 10:03 PM

Workplace stress: Opposites attract

by Vivek Venkataraman in sciencebyte

Highly stressed people at the workplace are individually surrounded by less stressed people and vice-versa... Read more »

Watanabe, J., Akitomi, T., Ara, K., & Yano, K. (2011) Antiferromagnetic character of workplace stress. Physical Review E, 84(1). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.84.017101  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 07:41 PM

2nd Roman Bioarchaeology Carnival

by Kristina Killgrove in Powered By Osteons

I'm back with some Roman bioarchaeology related links from the last two weeks.  Not a whole lot to choose from for this carnival, so feel free to email me about recent articles.

Excavations at the Tomb of the Queen
New Finds
August 15 - The necropolis at Tarquinia, dating to the 7th century BC, revealed in 2010 a previously unknown room in the Tumulo della Regina (Tomb of the Queen).  It's being reported that the tomb has now been opened and that it has quite a number of impressive frescoes, which is interesting because the tomb is thought to pre-date the widespread use of frescoes. I suspect we'll be hearing more about this find soon. [Lots of photos here and below.]

Old Finds, New Analyses

Gary Staab making casts
The Sept/Oct issue of Archaeology magazine has a story on "Pompeii's Dead Reimagined."  Artist Gary Staab reinterprets the 150-year-old casts of four denizens of Pompeii who were killed in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
August 19 - In 2008, archaeologists discovered the tomb of Marcus Nonius Macrinus, the man who inspired the movie Gladiator, along the via Flaminia, near the Tiber River.  Last week, an essay was published in the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero by Fernando Acitelli, who complains quite poetically about the state of disrepair of the tomb and the lack of signage for tourists.
Varia on Roman Bodies

Hobnail footprint from Isca
(credit: @CaerleonDig)
August 18 - Quick Twitpic of a hobnail footprint posted by @CaerleonDig (Twitter feed for the excavation of Roman Isca in Britain).  I love footprints - from the ones made at Laetoli by Australopithecus afarensis to the ones found in fresh mud and wet tiles in the Roman world - and some day I dream of doing a bioanthropological study of the scores of shoes found at Vindolanda.  Footprints and shoes can tell you an enormous amount about a person's gait, and they're understudied in the Roman world, if you ask me.
August 20 - Caroline Lawrence, who writes the Roman history kids' books The Roman Mysteries, has a short piece on the ancient Roman approach to dieting.  Yes, body shaming was alive and well two millennia ago, and the 2nd century Greek philosopher Celsus recommended bulimia and anorexia among his tips for getting and staying slim.
Journal ArticlesAugust 12 - I posted on this blog about a sulphur isotope study into the diet of Roman-era people in Oxfordshire, England.  If you missed it, you can find it here under "Weaning and freshwater fish consumption in Roman Britain."
October - The Journal of Archaeological Science has published an article on migration to Apollonia Pontica, a Greek colony on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria.  The study involves oxygen isotope analysis of skeletal remains from the 5th-3rd centuries BC, so this doesn't exactly fall under Roman bioarchaeology.  But the authors, Keenleyside, Schwarcz, and Panayotova (2011), do great work in the field of isotope analysis in the Greco-Roman world, so I wanted to mention this one.  They found that 5 out of the 60 people whose first and third molars they studied were from elsewhere, possibly further south in the Aegean region.  Of those 5, the authors found both males and females, suggesting migration to Apollonia Pontica involved children of both sexes, maybe as a family group, maybe as slaves.  They leave the possibility open for future strontium isotope analyses, which I for one would like to see.
Italian ArchaeologyAugust 15 - In Italy, I am called an antropologa, simply an anthropologist, which is someone who studies the human body.  I think cultural anthropologist (which is what comes to mind when someone in the US says "anthropologist") is antropologa culturale or something similar.  So a bioarchaeologist is somewhat distinct from an archaeologist (archeologa) in Italy, at least in my experience.  Regardless, even though archaeologists are usually the ones in the field and anthropologists are the ones in the lab, they work together and face similar job prospects.  A brief news item posted last week by English-language Chinese news agency CNTV outlines just how dire the situation is for Italian archaeologists to find and keep a job.  In an area of the world with so much cultural heritage that needs to be dealt with as modern infrastructure encroaches on it, it's a shame that archaeology in Italy isn't better funded.  Watch the video here.

I'll be back in two weeks' time with another collection of links more or less related to Roman bioarchaeology. As mentioned above, feel free to email me anything you think may be of interest to the carnival!

Keenleyside, A, Schwarcz, H, & Panayotova, K (2011). Oxygen isotopic evidence of residence and migration in a Greek colonial population on the Black Sea. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38 (10), 2658-2666.... Read more »

Keenleyside, A, Schwarcz, H, & Panayotova, K. (2011) Oxygen isotopic evidence of residence and migration in a Greek colonial population on the Black Sea. Journal of Archaeological Science, 38(10), 2658-2666. info:/

  • August 24, 2011
  • 07:14 PM

Astrobiology: Where’s the Bacon?

by sarah in One Small Step

  The presence of life in the Universe has titillated scientists for centuries. The explosion of exoplanet discoveries throughout our Galaxy and beyond in the last 15 years has allowed philosophical exploration to turn into real science. Research in astrobiology, “the study of the origins, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe” by [...]

... Read more »

Chyba, C., & Hand, K. (2005) ASTROBIOLOGY: The Study of the Living Universe. Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 43(1), 31-74. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.astro.43.051804.102202  

Kaltenegger L, Selsis F, Fridlund M, Lammer H, Beichman C, Danchi W, Eiroa C, Henning T, Herbst T, Léger A.... (2010) Deciphering spectral fingerprints of habitable exoplanets. Astrobiology, 10(1), 89-102. PMID: 20307185  

L. Kaltenegger, & D. Sasselov. (2011) Exploring the Habitable Zone for Kepler planetary candidates. ApJ. arXiv: 1105.0861v2

  • August 24, 2011
  • 05:44 PM

Banish your worries by surrendering to God

by Tom Rees in Epiphenom

You may have seen, earlier this month, one of several news reports about how belief in God is great for reducing worries (e.g. here). Well no, that's not really what the study found - the study is actually a bit more precisely focussed than that and a bit more interesting for it.

The researchers, lead by David Rosmarin at Harvard Medical School, were interested in the idea that the  Middle-Eastern monotheisms place a great deal of focus on trusting God. Yet many believers don't trust their God - for whatever reason, they've "come to believe that the Divine is intentionally ignorant or malevolent." Indeed, some people seem to hold both beliefs about God simultaneously.

Now, believers who mistrust their God also tend to be more depressed, anxious and worried. Although that might sound unsurprising, in fact the reasons for this aren't altogether clear.

Rosmarin thought that trusting God might help people to cope better with uncertainty. So, first off they surveyed a bunch of mostly very-devout believers - around 100 Christians and 200 Jews. He asked them about their trust in God, how freaked out they were by uncertainty, and how worried they were.

By carefully analysing the results they were able to show that the data fitted the model, and that it was unlikely that the cause and effect ran in the backwards direction. That supports the idea that distrust in God leads to fear of uncertainty, which in turn makes you worried.

So far so good. The next step was to see if increasing trust in God could decrease fear of uncertainty and reduce worry.

So they took a group of 39 religious, but stressed and worried, Jews, and ran them through a two-week programme of guidance, stories, visualisation exercises and prayer, all designed to increase their trust in God. The programme was effective - trust in God went up, distrust went down, and as a result the participants were more tolerant of uncertainty and less worried.

So it does indeed seem that, for stressed-out religious Judaeo-Christians, getting them to trust God makes them better able to cope with uncertainty. Another recent study found that Appalachian students who surrender to God are less stressed.

Crucially, however, it only applies to people who already believe in God. If you do, then changing your views about God can change your outlook.

But when you think about it, really all that's happening here is that you are making these people fatalistic. Maybe you could create the same effect in non-believers by encouraging them to be fatalistic. I know that when I'm stressed, taking a fatalistic outlook helps a lot!
And a final thought to consider. Fatalism might make you less anxious about uncertainty, but that can have unintended knock-on effects too. It might lead to a certain lack of realism about your own inevitable death, for example. And who knows what else!

Rosmarin, D., Pirutinsky, S., Auerbach, R., Björgvinsson, T., Bigda-Peyton, J., Andersson, G., Pargament, K., & Krumrei, E. (2011). Incorporating spiritual beliefs into a cognitive model of worry Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67 (7), 691-700 DOI: 10.1002/jclp.20798

This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

... Read more »

Rosmarin, D., Pirutinsky, S., Auerbach, R., Björgvinsson, T., Bigda-Peyton, J., Andersson, G., Pargament, K., & Krumrei, E. (2011) Incorporating spiritual beliefs into a cognitive model of worry. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67(7), 691-700. DOI: 10.1002/jclp.20798  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 05:13 PM

Back to the backbone of Homo erectus

by zacharoo in Lawn Chair Anthropology

Of course the title is referring to all of the back bones. An alternate title may be "The backbone's connected to the - what bone?" but that's also kinda lame. I'll do better next time.
Martin Hausler and colleagues (in press) report on newly identified vertebral fragments of the WT 15000 Homo erectus skeleton, perhaps the most complete of an early hominid (this one ~1.5 million years ago). This skeleton, and other early hominids (i.e. Australopithecus africanus), were described as having six lumbar (lower back) vertebrae; the modal number in humans is 5, and 3-4 in the great apes. The issue of vertebral formula (the number of cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral verts) in hominids is interesting because it is unclear what the ancestral condition is: was ancestral pattern to have more lumbars (like australopiths) from which humans and apes lost verts, or is ape pattern is ancestral, and lumbars were gained then lost over the course of human evolution.
The fragments found by Hausler and team establish that the WT 15000 individual - and presumably all H. erectus - possessed only 5 lumbar vertebrae. In the past, the only evidence of the 6th-to-last pre-sacral vertebra was the vertebral body. It was unclear whether this vertebra would have had articular facets for ribs (like a thoracic vertebra) or not (like a lumbar vertebra). The pedicle fragments identified by Hausler and colleagues (figure to the right) have a rib facet, and so indicate that the 6th-to-last vertebra of this skeleton was thoracic. Thus, WT 15000 - and again presumably all Homo erectus - had a modern-human-like vertebral formula.
The evolution of the hominid spinal column is interesting. Hausler and team's results don't refute the hypothesis that the ancestral vertebral formula was higher than in modern great apes. The hypothesis of 5 lumbars in the great ape-human common ancestor, which became reduced independently in the Great ape lineages. The evo-devo of the spinal column is especially interesting because it seems to me that it may not be so outlandish to identify and test hypotheses about how spinal column development (segmentation) changed over the course of hominid and ape evolution. I need to think on this a bit, I'll hafta get back to you . . .* figures are from Hausler et al. in press
ReferenceMartin Haeusler, Regula Schiess, Thomas Boeni (2011). New vertebral and rib material point to modern bauplan of the Nariokotome Homo erectus skeleton Journal of Human Evolution : 10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.07.004... Read more »

Martin Haeusler, Regula Schiess, Thomas Boeni. (2011) New vertebral and rib material point to modern bauplan of the Nariokotome Homo erectus skeleton. Journal of Human Evolution. info:/10.1016/j.jhevol.2011.07.004

  • August 24, 2011
  • 04:18 PM

Climate Change Creates Ambidextrous Animals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Even animals without hands can display handedness--or, at least, a preference to do things with one side of the body rather than the other. Animals ranging from primates to birds to invertebrates have been shown to favor their left or right side. Fish might reveal that preference by choosing to swim right, for example, when avoiding a predator. Don't get too charmed by the idea of left-handed and right-handed fish, though: In a warming world, they may disappear.A new study by researchers in Italy and Australia looked at young coral reef fish, Neopomacentrus azysron, which often display a preference for the right or left side. (Humans are unusual in that almost all of us prefer the right side. In other animals, individuals might be biased toward one side or the other, but the population as a whole tends to be evenly distributed.) To measure the reef fishes' preference, the researchers put them in a very elementary maze: It was shaped like a T, and fish had to swim either right or left at the end.As some hard-working fish wranglers put 70 baby reef fish through the maze 10 times each, the researchers recorded the preference of each individual fish to turn right or left. They also performed a random simulation of fish going through the maze, to see what the results would have been like if fish were choosing their direction arbitrarily. There was a significant difference between real fish and simulated fish: This meant the baby reef fish were displaying a true preference for the right or left side, or "lateralization."Another group of baby reef fish were kept for four days in water with an elevated level of carbon dioxide. As CO2 in the atmosphere increases, causing global warming, more of it is also absorbed by the oceans. The carbon dioxide level in the water that housed these baby fish, the authors say, is a level our oceans are predicted to reach between the years 2050 and 2100.After being kept in the high-CO2 water, these reef fish also took their turn in the T-shaped maze. Unlike the fish raised in normal water, though, high-CO2 fish showed no preference for turning right or left. Their results were indistinguishable from the random simulation.The increased CO2 seems to have affected the neural development of these animals. But what does it matter if climate change wipes out right- or left-handed fish? Preferring one side over the other, in fish or in humans, isn't just a biological fluke. The authors say reef fish may choose the right or left side because one of their eyes is stronger than the other. Having a bias toward one side allows fish to make a quick decision when avoiding a predator: In a previous study, fish from areas with high predation were found to have stronger lateralization, suggesting that preferring one side or the other is an evolutionary advantage.It's not just about turning left or right. Lateralization in animals' behaviors reflects the underlying asymmetry in our brains. It's thought that dividing tasks between the two sides of the brain makes us more efficient, like a computer using parallel processing. Fish with a right or left preference have been found to perform better in various cognitive and physical challenges.In a warming world--and an acidifying ocean--will ecosystems fall apart as fish and other animals lose the skills evolution has selected? A study published last year found that clownfish raised in elevated CO2 levels chose to swim toward the smell of a predator, rather than away. Their sense of smell seems to have been damaged by living in acidified water. Or maybe they were suicidal because they couldn't decide which fin they preferred to write with. Either way, the future is looking stormy for ocean ecosystems.Domenici, P., Allan, B., McCormick, M., & Munday, P. (2011). Elevated carbon dioxide affects behavioural lateralization in a coral reef fish Biology Letters DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0591... Read more »

  • August 24, 2011
  • 03:15 PM

Do you see what I hear? (A tale of childhood synesthesia.)

by NerdyOne in Try Nerdy

Growing up, I didn’t think anything of the fact that when I listened to music, I saw patterns of colors in my mind. I had no reason to question it, and nothing about it seemed too noteworthy. Sad Backstreet Boys songs meant swirling purples and blues and happy Backstreet Boys songs meant orange and yellow starbursts. It wasn’t until college that I became aware that the word for my experiences was synesthesia, and that I had pretty much stopped experiencing it.... Read more »

  • August 24, 2011
  • 02:54 PM

The organizational Antecedents of a Firm's Supply Chain Agility

by Daniel Dumke in SCRM Blog - Supply Chain Risk Management

This time I’d like to have a look at supply chain risk management from a strategic point of view: What are the prerequisites in the design and culture of an organization to mitigate supply chain risks? The title of the article I review today is: “The organizational antecedents of a firm’s supply chain agility for risk mitigation and response”.... Read more »

  • August 24, 2011
  • 12:00 PM

How cytomegalovirus evades the immune system

by Lab Rat in Lab Rat

The human immune system is a large and complex beast, but in general it has two roles. Firstly, to prevent an infection from causing any harm and secondly to protect the body against a repeat attack. For many diseases protection against reinfection happens very efficiently, and this is the principle on which vaccines are based. By exposing your body to a non-harmful sample of the disease your immune system can built up resistance. For cytomegalovirus however the immune system seems mysteriously unable to protect against reinfection, which is a major problem for the design and development of working vaccines.... Read more »

Hansen, S., Powers, C., Richards, R., Ventura, A., Ford, J., Siess, D., Axthelm, M., Nelson, J., Jarvis, M., Picker, L.... (2010) Evasion of CD8 T Cells Is Critical for Superinfection by Cytomegalovirus. Science, 328(5974), 102-106. DOI: 10.1126/science.1185350  

Nigro, G., Adler, S., La Torre, R., & Best, A. (2005) Passive Immunization during Pregnancy for Congenital Cytomegalovirus Infection. New England Journal of Medicine, 353(13), 1350-1362. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa043337  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 10:28 AM

What you expect is what you get: The Pygmalion Effect

by Psych Your Mind in Psych Your Mind

"Whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right."
-Henry Ford

A couple of Fridays ago I posted a video about teacher who took her third grade class through an activity designed to help them learn about prejudice. When the students were told by their teacher that people with a certain eye color were smarter and better all around, they came to believe it and act in accordance. In the comments to this post, a reader noted that this video reminded him of the famous study by Rosenthal and Jacobson (1966) testing something they'd termed the “Pygmalion effect,” and so I thought I'd share that study with you today.

The Pygmalion effect? If you are not a fan of Eliza Doolittle and My Fair Lady, you might think this effect sounds like a medical condition that occurs after too much sun exposure (or is that just me?), but it’s not. What we’re talking about here is a simple case of self self-fulfilling prophecies (which Juli first wrote about here). Rosenthal and Jacobson were interested in the role of teacher expectancies in learning. What exactly does this mean? Imagine that a third grade teacher starts in the fall with a new class of students, a few of which had older sibling who passed through her class in previous years. She knows that those siblings were star students, and expects the younger siblings will also perform well. She might also talk with some of the second grade teachers who had had some of her students the previous year, and get all kinds of insider information about which students were top performers, and which straggled behind. Now let’s fast forward to the end of the year. Not surprisingly, the students whom the teacher had expected to do well met her expectations, and the stragglers continued to straggle behind. Did those star students perform well because they were smarter than the rest, as indicated by their siblings’ success and the reports of their second grade teachers? Or could it have been a much more sinister story - that they did so well simply because their teachers expected them to do well? This is exactly what Rosenthal and Jacobson wanted to find out.
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Rosenthal R, & Jacobson L. (1966) Teachers' expectancies: determinants of pupils' IQ gains. Psychological reports, 19(1), 115-8. PMID: 5942071  

Rosenthal, R. (1995) Critiquing Pygmalion: a 25-Year Perspective. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(6), 171-172. DOI: 10.1111/1467-8721.ep10772607  

Snow, R. (1995) Pygmalion and Intelligence?. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(6), 169-171. DOI: 10.1111/1467-8721.ep10772605  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 10:28 AM

Greater Variety of Chocolate No More Consumption?

by Dr Shock in Dr Shock MD PhD

Buffer To my astonishment the relation between the exposure of unhealthy snack foods in a supermarket and eating behavior is hardly a topic of research. Read this in a recent study about the relationship between a greater variety of chocolates in supermarket and consumption of chocolates. In this Australian study they used data from 1007 [...]

No related posts.... Read more »

Thornton, L., Cameron, A., Crawford, D., McNaughton, S., & Ball, K. (2011) Is greater variety of chocolates and confectionery in supermarkets associated with more consumption?. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 35(3), 292-293. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2011.00706.x  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 09:31 AM

Tip of the Week: DomainDraw for quick motif diagrams

by Mary in OpenHelix

Bioinformatics resources can be really complex–sometimes daunting, heavily loaded with crucial data, and provide amazing visualization of large data sets and various features of the underlying data. And other times, that’s way more than you need. Overkill. Like aiming an elephant gun at a mosquito.... Read more »

Fink JL, & Hamilton N. (2007) DomainDraw: a macromolecular feature drawing program. In silico biology, 7(2), 145-50. PMID: 17688439  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 08:59 AM

Childhood Adversity and Adult Health Risk

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

One of the key elements of preventive medicine for mental disorders is providing a childhood environment of safety, support and stimulation for all children.  In a previous post on the prevalence of adverse childhood events, I reviewed a study that estimated up to one-third of the adult U.S. population experienced three or more childhood adverse experiences.Although the link between adverse childhood experience and later mental health problems is well known, the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and later medical health problems is relatively unexplored.A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry provides some important insight on this topic.  Scott and colleagues examined cross-sectional community data in adults from 10 countries.  Subjects were queried about the presence of a variety of adverse childhood experiences including:physical abusesexual abusechildhood neglectparental deathparental divorceother parental lossparental mental disorderpaternal substance abuseparental criminal behaviorfamily violencefamily economic adversity (poverty)Subjects were queried about presence of (and age of onset of) a number of mental disorders including: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, PTSD, social phobia and major depression.  Additionally, subjects were queried about the presence of a number of medical conditions including heart disease, asthma, diabetes, arthritis, chronic back/neck pain and frequent/severe headaches.Presence of history of most childhood adverse experiences was linked to an increased risk for all six of the medical disorder groups.  The size of the effect for each childhood adverse effect appeared to be increase of between 30% to 100% over those without the individual childhood adversity.  An additive effect appeared present with adults experience three or more adverse childhood experiences having the greatest risk of an adult medical disorder.Additionally, independently from the effect of adverse childhood environment on adult medical health, an early-onset (before age 21) of an anxiety disorder or depression also increased adult medical disorder risk for the six categories.  So a model of the finding from this study might look something like this:There are obviously some limitations to this type of study.  It is possible the link between childhood adverse experiences works through primarily a genetic mechanism.  Parental mental disorders is both a possible environmental and genetic contribution to early-onset mental disorders.  The authors note that for heart disease and asthma, smoking status of the subject was controlled.  Smoking status is an important confound and is increased in families with substance abuse and parental criminal behavior.I think this is a very important study that documents the medical as well as mental health risks associated with multiple adverse childhood adversities.  Further studies of the mechanisms of this association will be important to explore.Photo is from a Juno Beach sunrise photo with an insect eye filter from the author's collection. Scott KM, Von Korff M, Angermeyer MC, Benjet C, Bruffaerts R, de Girolamo G, Haro JM, Lépine JP, Ormel J, Posada-Villa J, Tachimori H, & Kessler RC (2011). Association of childhood adversities and early-onset mental disorders with adult-onset chronic physical conditions. Archives of general psychiatry, 68 (8), 838-44 PMID: 21810647... Read more »

Scott KM, Von Korff M, Angermeyer MC, Benjet C, Bruffaerts R, de Girolamo G, Haro JM, Lépine JP, Ormel J, Posada-Villa J.... (2011) Association of childhood adversities and early-onset mental disorders with adult-onset chronic physical conditions. Archives of general psychiatry, 68(8), 838-44. PMID: 21810647  

  • August 24, 2011
  • 08:00 AM

Taxonomy in decline or growth?

by Zen Faulkes in NeuroDojo

Earlier this year, Craig McClain from Deep Sea News wrote an editorial at Wired arguing that taxonomy as a scientific discipline was “going extinct.”

A short new paper challenges that view.

Joppa and colleagues looked at taxonomic research on cone snails (pictured), spiders, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals. The number of taxonomists studying each group has gone up in every case, not down.

The number of species being described is also going up, but it is actually not keeping up with the growth of taxnomists: the average number of new species described by each taxonomist is getting smaller. It’s also noteworthy that taxonomists are not working alone, contrary to popular conceptions of expertise for whole groups being locked in the head of single individuals.

Can the perception of taxonomy as a discipline in decline be reconciled with the data? First, the data only goes to 2000. A lot has changed in ten years, though I don’t know if it has changed that much. Second, the authors suggest that taxonomy in North America and Europe might be running counter to a global trend: declining here while growing in the rest of the world.

Another idea I have that might explain the discrepancy is that there is no control group. The number of taxonomists may be increasing, but how does it compare to other disciplines in biology? I suspect that there has been healthy growth of biological sciences as a whole, and that while the number of taxonomists may have increased “exponentially” (as described by Joppa and colleagues), other fields, like cell and molecular biology, have increased even more exponentially. (Mathematicians, don’t bug me if that is a meaningless phrase.)


Joppa L, Roberts D, & Pimm S (2011). The population ecology and social behaviour of taxonomists Trends in Ecology & Evolution DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2011.07.010

Photo by richard ling on Flickr; used under Creative Commons license.... Read more »

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