Thursday, October 27, 2011

disconnected & communicate! SCIENCE ROCKS

ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2011) — Like a bridge that spans a river to connect two major metropolises, the corpus callosum is the main conduit for information flowing between the left and right hemispheres of our brains. Now, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found that people who are born without that link -- a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC -- still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains.

This was a real surprise," says Tyszka. "We expected to see a lot less coupling between the left and right brain in this group -- after all, they are missing about 200 million connections that would normally be there. How do they manage to have normal communication between the left and right sides of the brain without the corpus callosum?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Science Rocks.

 This type of research and hundreds like this one are so magical and energizing to me. I have no doubt  that in the near future we will find ways to maximize the incredible potential of every single infant. The scientific community has such a rich world of knowledge about infant brain development and child rearing which is still not available to the public in simple language and applicable to all.
Can hardly wait.....
33 week fetus touching face, with the umbilical cord visible. (Credit: Image courtesy of Lancaster University)
Babies in the womb develop a range of facial movements in such a way that it is possible to identify facial expressions such as laughter and crying. For the first time, a group of researchers was able to show that recognisable facial expressions develop before birth and that, as the pregnancy progresses from 24 to 36 weeks gestation, fetal facial movements become more complex.

The group of researchers include Dr Nadja Reissland, a psychologist and Professor James Mason Director of Research in Medicine and Health of Durham University, Professor Brian Francis, Professor of social statistics at Lancaster University and Dr Karen Lincoln, consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough, where the fetal scans are collected.
The group examined video-taped fetal facial movements obtained by 4D ultrasound machines in the later stages of pregnancy.
They recorded the same fetuses after they had been found to be healthy at their 20 week scan, several times between 24 and 36 weeks of gestation. They found that the movements of the fetal face become more complex over time.
Fetuses at the first stage of observation (24 weeks) were able to move one muscle in their face at a time. They would for example stretch their lips or open their mouth. By 35 weeks gestational age, fetuses combined a number of facial muscle movements, combining for example lip stretch, lowering of the eyebrows and deepening the nasolabial furrow, thereby turning isolated movements into recognisable and increasingly complex expressions.
Professor Brian Francis from the Department of Maths and Statistics at Lancaster University said: "This is a new and fascinating insight into the remarkable process of fetal development. This research has for the first time demonstrated that in healthy fetuses there is a developmental progression from simple to complex facial movements, preparing the fetus for life post birth."
Although the fetus cannot make any sounds, the development of facial expressions means that at birth, the baby has already developed the facial movements to accompany crying and laughing.
Dr Nadja Reissland from Durham University said: "We have found so much more than we expected. We knew that the baby blinks before birth and that some research has identified scowling before birth. However in this study for the first time we have developed a method of coding and analysis which allows us to objectively trace the increasing complexity of movements over time which results in recognisable facial expressions."
The researchers argue that these patterns of the motor movements are developed before the baby feels the emotion, just as the baby practises breathing movements in the uterus even before it has drawn a breath.
The discovery could help potentially identify health problems in utero, since there is a link between fetal behavioural patterns and the development of the fetal brain. Looking at differences between normal and abnormal fetal facial developments may indicate problems with brain development.
The researchers now plan to look at whether fetal facial movement might help differentiate between fetuses of mothers who smoke during pregnancy and non-smokers. They will also examine the development of facial expressions relating to anger, smiling and sadness.
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Story Source:
The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Lancaster University, via AlphaGalileo.
Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.

Journal Reference:
  1. Nadja Reissland, Brian Francis, James Mason, Karen Lincoln. Do Facial Expressions Develop before Birth? PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (8): e24081 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024081

Lancaster University (2011, September 13). Facial expressions develop before birth, researchers show. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 26, 2011, from­ /releases/2011/09/110913090927.htm

GENERATION X not such underachievers!

Generation X ScienceDaily (Oct. 25, 2011) — They've been stereotyped as a bunch of insecure, angst-ridden, underachievers. But most members of Generation X are leading active, balanced and happy lives, according to a long-term University of Michigan survey.

"They are not bowling alone,"
said political scientist Jon Miller, author of The Generation X Report.
"They are active in their communities, mainly satisfied with their jobs, and able to balance work, family, and leisure."  

Miller directs the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the U-M Institute for Social Research. The study, funded by the National Science Foundation since 1986, now includes responses from approximately 4,000 Gen Xers -- those born between 1961 and 1981.
"The 84 million Americans in this generation between the ages of 30 and 50 are the parents of today's school-aged children," Miller said. "And over the next two or three decades, members of Generation X will lead the nation in the White House and Congress. So it's important to understand their values, history, current challenges and future goals."
The first in a new quarterly series of Generation X Reports describes how Gen Xers are faring in terms of employment and education; marriage and families; parenting; community involvement and religion; social relationships; recreation and leisure; digital life; and happiness and life satisfaction.
Among the many findings:
  • Compared to a national sample of all adults, Gen Xers are more likely to be employed and are working and commuting significantly more hours a week than the typical U.S. adult, with 70 percent spending 40 or more hours working and commuting each week.
  • Two-thirds of Generation X adults are married and 71 percent have minor children at home.
  • Three-quarters of the parents of elementary school children say they help their children with homework, with 43 percent providing five or more hours of homework help each week.
  • Thirty percent of Generation X adults are active members of professional, business or union organizations, and one in three is an active member of a church or religious organization.
  • Ninety-five percent talk on the phone at least once a week to friends or family, and 29 percent say they do so at least once a day.
"In sociologist Robert Putnam's influential book, 'Bowling Alone,' he argued that Americans were increasingly isolated socially," Miller said. "But this data indicates that Generation X members are not bowling alone.
"Although they may be less likely to join community-based luncheon clubs, they have extensive social, occupational and community networks. They are active participants in parent-teacher organizations, local youth sports clubs, book clubs and other community organizations."
In addition, Miller points out, nearly 90 percent of Generation X adults participated in at least one outdoor activity, such as hiking, swimming, boating or fishing, and 40 percent engaged in two or more recreation and leisure activities per month.
On the cultural side, 45 percent of the Generation X adults surveyed reported attending at least one play, symphony, opera or ballet performance during the preceding year, and 13 percent said they had attended three or more cultural events during the last year.
"Generation X adults are also readers," Miller said. "Seventy-two percent read a newspaper, in print or online, at least once a week, and fully 80 percent bought and read at least one book during the last year. Nearly half said that they read six or more books in the last year."
Finally, Miller reports, Generation X adults are happy with their lives, with an average level of 7.5 on a 10-point scale in which 10 equals "very happy."
"That is not to say that some members of this generation are not struggling," Miller said. "And in future issues of the Generation X Report we will address some of the challenges many members of this group are facing."
The second Generation X Report will be issued in January 2012, on the topic of influenza. Using data collected during the 2010 influenza epidemic, the January report will explore how young adults kept abreast of the issue and what actions they eventually took to protect themselves and their families. Subsequent reports will cover food and cooking, climate, space exploration, and citizenship and voting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Does anyone ask why? Anyone out there?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for diagnosing and treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in preschoolers as young as 4. Previous guidelines, issued in 2000 and 2001, focused on children aged 6 to 12, but the new recommendations expand the targeted age group to 4 to 18 to include both preschoolers and older teens.

The reason for the expanded advice? New data released in the past decade has revealed that ADHD can begin earlier, and that children may benefit from behavioral treatments before they enter school, where attention problems can impede learning.

"Treating children at a young age is important, because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment, we can increase their chances of succeeding in school," said Dr. Mark Wolraich, chair of the AAP subcommittee responsible for writing the report.
Kids with ADHD typically have problems focusing and paying attention. They are hyperactive and behave impulsively. But the condition may look different in different age groups. Among school-aged children (age 6 or older), about half don't have issues with hyperactivity, according to Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, who specializes in studying preschool ADHD. In this age group, attention problems are more common, likely because they become more obvious in the school setting, where children need to sit in class and concentrate for longer periods of time.
Hyperactivity is more common among preschoolers, however. They may be accident-prone or have trouble playing with other kids. According to the AAP, it's the number of symptoms, and the number of different caregivers who notice them, that is important. It's not enough, for example, for only parents to complain of their child's overactive behavior. In order to meet the bar for diagnosis and justify treatment, at least one other party, such as a day care teacher or babysitter, must also note the same behaviors. And these symptoms must be persistent and severe enough to impair the child's ability to function, which could involve anything from their inability to get along with other children to being consistently unable to follow directions.
The new advice is similar to that in the diagnostic manual for diagnosing adult mental health disorders, and the AAP is advising pediatricians to follow the same guidelines in diagnosing the disorder among youngsters. It gives doctors something to look for in preschoolers, which may help parents and pediatricians to know when their child's energetic activity is normal, and when it crosses the line to become ADHD.
As far as treatments go, the Academy is recommending that preschoolers under age 6 start with behavioral therapies first, and to consider medications such as methylphenidate (known as Ritalin or Concerta) only if they don't improve. The AAP only recommends starting with medications in the most severe cases, in which both children and their families may benefit from more immediate alleviation of hyperactivity symptoms.
While the Food and Drug Administration has not approved methylphenidates for patients under age 6, the committee is basing its advice on clinical trials that suggest that the drugs are safe and effective in preschoolers. Trials on the effects of other ADHD medications, such as amphetamines, haven't been done in younger users. For older children in school (over age 6) the AAP advises either behavioral therapy, medication or, preferably, both, to address attention problems and hyperactive behaviors.
"For kids who present during preschool with symptoms of hyperactivity and attention deficit, pediatricians have been wrestling with how to approach and manage their symptoms," says Adesman. "What the AAP has done is provided clarification and guidance to pediatricians in terms of how to assess and treat them."

The Beatles are right .. again?


Scholars at Brigham Young University studied 1,734 married couples across the United States. Each couple completed a relationship evaluation, part of which asked how much they value "having money and lots of things."
The researchers' statistical analysis showed that couples who say money is not important to them score about 10 to 15 percent better on marriage stability and other measures of relationship quality than couples where one or both are materialistic.
"Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at," said Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life and lead author of the study. "There is a pervasive pattern in the data of eroding communication, poor conflict resolution and low responsiveness to each other."
The findings will be published Oct. 13 in the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy.
For one in five couples in the study, both partners admitted a strong love of money. Though these couples were better off financially, money was often a bigger source of conflict for them.
"How these couples perceive their finances seems to be more important to their marital health than their actual financial situation," Carroll said.
And despite their shared materialism, materialistic couples' relationships were in poorer shape than couples who were mismatched and had just one materialist in the marriage.
The study's overall findings were somewhat surprising to Carroll because materialism was only measured by self-evaluations.

ScienceDaily (Oct. 14, 2011) — New research to be published Oct. 13 confirms The Beatles' lyrical hypothesis and finds that "the kind of thing that money just can't buy" is a happy and stable marriage.