It’s been a super busy week, but we’re not done yet. That’s right, my inability to say no to things has come back to haunt me! It’s not that bad though, two 15-minute talks to two different groups and that’s the extent of it. So you know not too bad, but I do enjoy doing some science outreach when I have the chance anyway, so not totally a bad deal.(more…)
The lost children
Can you mourn the loss of something you never had? Imagine for a second you were born without a limb. Can you miss it if you never had it to begin with? I’ve been struggling with this question a lot lately, not because I was born without a limb, but because I was born without a family and in some ways that isn’t too different. Maybe it’s wrong to compare a missing limb to a missing family, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it, because family is an extension of you.(more…)
Day 323: Skype a Scientist!
Today is going to be fun, I’ve got a ton of meetings, but I also get to do outreach. If you’re a scientist, you can do it too, no matter where you are in the field, sign up at Skype a Scientist. While I wanted to write this post before my sessions I ended up having to write it afterwards so let’s get into what I talk about and how it went.
Day 128: Christmas Day
For those of you who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas! For those of you who celebrate different holidays this time of the year, happy holidays, and for those of you who don’t celebrate anything, that’s okay too. No judgement here for sure. Since today is C-day I figured I would do a quick post and share something a bit personal to me.
Day 67: On being a student coordinator
I figure we can finish out the week by talking about yet another project that doesn’t involve my research. I’m a student chair for a workshop for neurotech entrepreneurs. Fun fact: I’ve never done this before. Yep, there has to be a first time for everything you do and this will be my first time attempting to run one of these things. Let’s talk about what that looks like. (more…)
Day 66: Sometimes we learn more from failure
It has been a busy week, as you’ve seen I’ve had not one, but two Skype a scientist sessions in one day, then we did some outreach with some local 4th graders, yesterday I even posted photos of the event. Yesterday I also had a conference call to help set up an event that I’m helping run for neurotech entrepreneurs. If you follow me on twitter, you know I’ve pushed people to apply for it. So let’s talk about what I’ve got going on today!
Day 65: Lab Tour photos
As you may have seen, yesterday we had our lab tour group come through. So today I just wanted to share a few photos from the time they had with us, it was a lot of fun and hopefully we inspired a few kids!
Day 64: Lab Tours!
When doing your advanced degrees (Masters or PhD) you end up with a lot of different responsibilities that have nothing to do with your education. That isn’t to say that it isn’t an important thing or that I hate doing it, you just don’t learn anything with regard to your study subject. Today is one of those days, let’s talk about it.
Day 63: The Importance of Science Outreach
Today is Skype a Scientist day! Every term I volunteer my time and try to explain my journey, my research, and my pitfalls with students all over the US. Technically this is my second session (of six!) this term, but I wanted to talk about why I do what I do today. So if you’re interested in what it’s all about, keep reading.
Protect kids from toxic secondhand smoke, experts urge
It’s advice most smokers with children probably take lightly, but they shouldn’t. Parents and policy advocates should take a “zero tolerance” approach to exposing children to secondhand cigarette smoke, which can be responsible for lifelong cardiovascular consequences in addition to respiratory and other health issues.
Parents’ math skills ‘rub off’ on their children
Parents who excel at math produce children who excel at math. This is according to a recently released study, which shows a distinct transfer of math skills from parent to child. The study specifically explored intergenerational transmission–the concept of parental influence on an offspring’s behavior or psychology–in mathematical capabilities.
Breastfeeding associated with better brain development and neurocognitive outcomes
A new study, which followed 180 preterm infants from birth to age seven, found that babies who were fed more breast milk within the first 28 days of life had had larger volumes of certain regions of the brain at term equivalent and had better IQs, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function.
Too much cellular ‘noise’ can affect brain development
Using cutting-edge imaging technology, biologists have determined that uncontrolled fluctuations (known at “noise) in the concentration of the vitamin A derivative Retinoic acid (RA) can lead to disruptions in brain organization during development. Identifying how a cell responds to a signal made by another cell, despite the level of noise present, may improve our understanding of developmental disorders.
Born to run? Love of exercise may start in the womb
If you see me on the street and I am running, there is a good chance you should be running as well, because something dangerous is coming. I don’t run, I hate to run, I loathe running, did I mention I don’t like to run? Maybe it’s all the running I did in the military, or if a new study is correct, it may have to do with my mother. Which is good, because now I can blame someone else for my hatred of running.
Investigating potential fetal exposure to antidepressants
Depression is a serious issue for expecting mothers. Left untreated, depression could have implications for a fetus’s health. But treating the disease during pregnancy may carry health risks for the developing fetus, which makes an expecting mother’s decision whether to take medication a very difficult one. To better understand how antidepressants affect fetuses during pregnancy, scientists studied exposure in mice.
Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain
A gene linked to mental disorders helps lays the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development, according to Salk Institute research. The findings reveal new mechanistic insights into the gene, known as MDGA1, which may bring a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders in people.
Improving your toddler’s memory skills has long-term benefits
If your toddler is a Forgetful Jones, you might want to help boost his or her brainpower sooner rather than later. New research shows that preschoolers who score lower on a memory task are likely to score higher on a dropout risk scale at the age of 12.
Put the cellphone away! Fragmented baby care can affect brain development
Mothers, put down your smartphones when caring for your babies! That’s the message from University of California, Irvine researchers, who have found that fragmented and chaotic maternal care can disrupt proper brain development, which can lead to emotional disorders later in life.
Mental health risk for new dads
Researchers have found anxiety around the arrival of a new baby is just as common as postnatal depression, and the risks for men are nearly as high as for women. Mental health researcher Dr Liana Leach reviewed 43 separate studies and found anxiety before and after a child arrives is just as prevalent as depression, affecting around one in ten men, around half the rate for women.
Strongest evidence yet of a link between breakfast and educational outcomes
A direct and positive link between pupils’ breakfast quality and consumption, and their educational attainment, has for the first time been demonstrated in a ground-breaking new study carried out by public health experts at Cardiff University. The study of 5000 9-11 year-olds from more than 100 primary schools sought to examine the link between breakfast consumption and quality and subsequent attainment in Key Stage 2 Teacher Assessments* 6-18 months later.
Kids meals, toys, and TV advertising: A triple threat to child health
Fast food companies advertise children’s meals on TV with ads that feature toy premiums, and it has been suggested that the use of these toy premiums may prompt children to request eating at fast food restaurants. In a new study, researchers found that the more children watched television channels that aired ads for children’s fast food meals, the more frequently their families visited those fast food restaurants.
Premature birth appears to weaken brain connections
Babies born prematurely face an increased risk of neurological and psychiatric problems that may be due to weakened connections in brain networks linked to attention, communication and the processing of emotions, new research shows. Studying brain scans from premature and full-term babies, researchers zeroed in on differences in the brain that may underlie such problems.
How reward and daytime sleep boost learning
A new study suggests that receiving rewards as you learn can help cement new facts and skills in your memory, particularly when combined with a daytime nap. The findings from the University of Geneva reveal that memories associated with a reward are preferentially reinforced by sleep. Even a short nap after a period of learning is beneficial.
Parents influence children’s play of violent video games
Parents who are more anxious and emotional can impact the amount of violent video games their children play, according to new consumer research from Iowa State University. Russell Laczniak, a professor of marketing and the John and Connie Stafford Professor in Business, says given the harmful effects of violent video games, he and his colleagues wanted to better understand how parents influence children’s behavior.
Genetic analysis supports prediction that spontaneous rare mutations cause half of autism
A team led by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has published a new analysis of data on the genetics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One commonly held theory is that autism results from the chance combinations of commonly occurring gene mutations, which are otherwise harmless. But the authors’ work provides support for a different theory.
Viruses flourish in guts of healthy babies
Bacteria aren’t the only nonhuman invaders to colonize the gut shortly after a baby’s birth. Viruses also set up house there, according to new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. All together, these invisible residents are thought to play important roles in human health.
Spines of boys and girls differ at birth
Looking at measurements of the vertebrae – the series of small bones that make up the spinal column – in newborn children, investigators at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles found that differences between the sexes are present at birth. Results of the study suggest that this difference is evolutionary, allowing the female spine to adapt to the fetal load during pregnancy.
Anyone hear the new Taylor Shift song?
Since I’m apparently feeling a little punny…
Less intensive chemo avoids irreversible side effects in children’s cancer
Children with a rare type of cancer called Wilms’ tumour who are at low risk of relapsing can now be given less intensive treatment, avoiding a type of chemotherapy that can cause irreversible heart problems in later life. The move follows the results of a Cancer Research UK trial showing that the drug doxorubicin can be safely omitted from treatment without affecting patients’ chances of survival.
REM sleep critical for young brain development; medication interferes
Rapid eye movement or REM sleep actively converts waking experiences into lasting memories and abilities in young brains reports a new study. The finding broadens the understanding of children’s sleep needs and calls into question the increasing use of REM-disrupting medications such as stimulants and antidepressants.
Researchers find mechanisms that initiate labor
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have identified two proteins in a fetus’ lungs responsible for initiating the labor process, providing potential new targets for preventing preterm birth. Previous studies have suggested that signals from the fetus initiate the birth process, but the precise molecular mechanisms that lead to labor remained unclear.
Autism: The value of an integrated approach to diagnosis
Researchers at Inserm (Inserm Unit 930 “Imaging and Brain”) attached to François-Rabelais University and Tours Regional University Hospital have combined three clinical, neurophysiological and genetic approaches in order to better understand the brain mechanisms that cause autism. When tested on two families, this strategy enabled the researchers to identify specific gene combinations in autistic patients that distinguished them from patients with intellectual disabilities.
Liar, Liar: Children with good memories are better liars
Children who benefit from a good memory are much better at covering up lies, researchers from the University of Sheffield have discovered. Experts found a link between verbal memory and covering up lies following a study which investigated the role of working memory in verbal deception amongst children.
Babies who can resettle are more likely to ‘sleep through the night’
Good news, for parents who see their babies “resettle” when they wake up. According to a video study, young infants who can “resettle” themselves after waking up are more likely to sleep for prolonged periods at night. Okay, maybe that’s bad news for parents who don’t have a baby who “resettles,” but it’s still good information.
That daily soda or sugary drink habit may be punishing your liver
If you enjoy a daily soda, or other tasty sugar filled drink, you may want to put it down. New research shows that a daily sugar-sweetened beverage habit may increase the risk for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The study comes from researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University and is bad news for anyone who loves sugary drinks.
Eating the placenta: trendy but no proven health benefits and unknown risks
Celebrities such as Kourtney Kardashian blogged and raved about the benefits of their personal placenta ‘vitamins’ and spiked women’s interest in the practice of consuming their placentas after childbirth.
Babies can think before they can speak
Two pennies can be considered the same — both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs. Analogical ability — the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas — is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes.
Air pollution is causing your baby problems, but breastfeeding can help
Aitana Lertxundi has conducted her research work within the framework of the INma (Childhood and Environment) programme led by Jesús Ibarluzea of the Department of Health of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region). The aim is to assess how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health and also to examine the role of diet in physical and neurobehavioural development in infancy. The study focusses on the repercussions on motor and mental development during the first years of life caused by exposure to the PM2.5 and NO2 atmospheric pollutants.
UK Researchers find parental perception of child’s weight is skewed
Childhood obesity affects more than double the amount of children it did 30 years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). To figure out why the rate is increasing researchers studied the relationship between parents and their obese children to determine how to improve pediatric health. The study actually reveals how poorly parents rate their own child’s weight issues — at least until they reach extreme levels of obesity.
The impact of military deployment on children
Being a military family is hard, it’s hard for the person serving (obviously) and if divorce rates are any indication, it is also hard on the spouse. While the added stress of deployment on a family cannot adequately be explained, even as someone who has seen it first hand, those stresses affect even the littlest members of the family. A new study reports that following military parents’ return from combat deployment, their children show increased visits for mental healthcare, physical injury, and child maltreatment consults, compared to children whose parents have not been deployed.
Depressed parents cause anxiety and bad behavior in toddlers
Being a new parent can be stressful, new mothers can suffer from postpartum depression and even new fathers can find the changes stressful enough to cause depression. Unfortunately– and if that wasn’t bad enough– a new study shows that a father’s depression during the first years of parenting – as well as a mother’s – can put their toddler at risk of developing troubling behaviors such as hitting, lying, anxiety and sadness during a critical time of development.
Hipster liver wants to remind everyone
A point of note, your kidneys and liver do a great job of “detoxing” the body. There is no special thing you need to do or buy to help it along; if you really want to give your liver a high five for being awesome, just drink in moderation.
Scientists find a way to treat hormone deficiency from an unlikely source
Science has helped us to live longer and in some cases much fuller lives. Unfortunately for some with serious medical conditions, they may lead a long life, but a life of what? To that end a group of researchers set out to help people with hormone deficiencies and the team has developed a potential new therapy based on an unlikely model: immune molecules from cows.
Study shows children and birds learn alike
Your child is your pride and joy — and why not, every parent should be a proud one, even if your child might be bird brained. Or maybe birds are baby brained? In any case, a new study has found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects–and not just a few objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.
Mothers don’t speak clearly to their babies
People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like “tummy”. While we might be inclined to think that we talk this way because it is easier for children to understand, new research suggests that, surprisingly, mothers may actually speak less clearly to their infants than they do to adults.
Evolution of whooping cough and the anti-vaccination movement
When I was your age, whooping cough wasn’t what it is today. I’m sure we all know the stereotypical grandfather telling stories like that, but — at least in this case — if he started his story off like that then he is actually right. Over the last few years, this once-common childhood illness, has evolved in response to its own vaccine, in other words this isn’t your parents’ pertussis.
Obesity and a high-fat diet might be hurting your baby
We’ve seen it on the news, we’ve probably even read some articles about it, the “western” diet is awful. Yet, despite the warnings, Americans as a whole still eat awfully. Unfortunately, the health effects are very real and a new study shows that it may not just be effecting an expected mothers health, it may be harming the unborn child as well.
Antidepressants and the effects on your unborn child
Think you know what causes depression? Well unfortunately scientists don’t have the exact answer, surprised? That’s not the only problem, there is an ever growing concern that we live in an over medicated society and a newly released study doesn’t paint a better picture. About 15 percent of women in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders and depression during their pregnancies, and many are prescribed antidepressants. However little is known about how early exposure to these medications might affect their offspring as they mature into adults.