Friday, September 25, 2015

Feel Good: Volunteer With AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for 2016

http://www.aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2006/volunteer_aarp_tax_aide.html

Feb. 2015

Help people and give your mind a workout, too.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation's largest volunteer-run tax preparation and assistance service. And we want you to join us.

We started in 1968 with just four volunteers at one site preparing 100 tax returns. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide now involves more than 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.6 million taxpayers annually at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. In fact, we're one of the most effective volunteer programs in America.

But even though we've grown a lot, we're still all about the grassroots. You'll be helping people in your own community with a much-needed service that's free, individualized and has no strings attached.

Almost four out of five people who turn to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide are 60 or older. Household incomes aren't high. For many of them, a tax refund could mean they won't have to choose between paying for groceries and keeping the lights on.

Who volunteers?

People like you. And there's a role for everyone.

Good with numbers? Be a tax volunteer.

You'll work with taxpayers directly; filling out tax returns and helping them seek a refund. Experience isn't necessary — we'll train you on the latest tax preparation forms and software.

Skilled in all things digital? Be a technology coordinator.

You'll manage computer equipment, ensure taxpayer data security and provide technical assistance to volunteers at multiple sites.

Love working with people? Be a greeter.

You'll welcome taxpayers, help organize their paperwork and manage the overall flow of service.

Want to help us get the word out? Be a communications coordinator.

You'll promote AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and recruit volunteers in your community.

Have a knack for running things? Be a leadership or administrative volunteer.

Manage volunteers, make sure program operations run smoothly, track volunteer assignments and site activities, and maintain quality control.

Speak a second language? You're urgently needed!

We have a big demand for bilingual speakers. Dedicated translators who can assist our volunteers are also welcome.

Get the joy and satisfaction of helping others by applying to join the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer team today! Your expertise will be appreciated more than you can imagine.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in conjunction with the IRS.

Sign up to be an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Volunteer. Go

Monday, August 31, 2015

An Important but Rarely Discussed Lesson of the Stanford Prison Experiment

I suggest reading the whole article at the following link.

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/an-important-but-rarely-discussed-lesson-of-the-stanford-prison-experiment/?WT.mc_id=SA_SP_20150831

By Scott Barry Kaufman | August 27, 2015

•••••

The standard story, given by the experimenter Phillip Zimbardo, is that the experiment is a lesson about how everyday people (and groups consisting of everyday people), when given too much power, can become sadistic tyrants. In a recent article for The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova casts some doubt on that conclusion, arguing that the real lesson is the power of institutions to shape behavior, and how people are shaped by those preexisting expectations.

While this is certainly a valuable lesson, I believe another crucial variable at play that is rarely mentioned by commentators of the prison experiment or even in psychology textbooks is the person. Yes, power corrupts. But power does not corrupt everyone equally.

There's no way the small group of participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment represented the full range of human personality variation. For one, these were young males. Already, there is going to be higher levels of testosterone, on average, than most other populations. But there's also the issue that these participants actively sought out participation in a study having to do with prison. Research published in 2007 found that people who responded to an ad to be part of a study on "prison life" scored higher on tests of aggressiveness, authoritarianism, machiavellianism, narcissism, and social dominance, and lower on measures of empathy and altruism.

But even among the small sample of young male participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment, there was great variability in how people responded to power. Some guards were particularly cruel, whereas others could barely take the cruelty and offered to go on errands, while still others were actively kind to the prisoners, fulfilling their requests. Let's also not forget the hero of the film, Zimbardo's graduate student Christina Maslach, who recoiled in horror at the sight of how the participants were treated in the experiment.

I fear it's all too easy for us to focus our attention on that one loud, brash person who abuses power while ignoring the majority who were not nearly as cruel. Zimbardo has remarked that he was afraid he would be in for a very long and boring experiment. I suspect that if "Cool Hand Luke" didn't sign up for the experiment, the experiment would indeed have lasted the full two weeks. People would have generally followed the rules, and we probably wouldn't have had a movie made after it.

•••••

Since the Stanford Prison Experiment, we've learned a lot more about the psychology of power. Here's something we've found: power isn't inherently good or evil.

Yes, it's true that power fundamentally alters perception. As Adam Galinsky and colleagues put it, “powerful people roam in a very different psychological space than those without power.” Power increases confidence, optimism, risk-taking, sensitivity to internal thoughts and feelings, goal-directed behavior and cognition, and creativity.

But these are not necessarily bad outcomes. Put to good use, power can have an incredibly positive effect on people. There are so many compassionate teachers, bosses, politicians, humanitarians, and others who wield power, who genuinely want to make the world a better place.

I think a really important point here is that power amplifies the person. It gives already existing personality dispositions and tendencies a louder voice, and increases the chances that these tendencies will be given fuller expression. Thus, we must consider interactions between the person and the situation. As Galinsky and colleagues point out, "the situation loses its suffocating hold over the thoughts and behavior of the powerful... and they are left with their own opinions, beliefs, attitudes, and personalities to drive their behavior."

Research shows that activating the concept of power in men with an already-existing disposition toward sexual harassment or aggression increases objectification of women. There's also an emerging line of research on the "Dark Tetrad"-- which consists of the darker personality dispositions of narcissism, psychopathy, machiavellianism, and everyday sadism. One study found that when given the opportunity, everyday sadists (those with a higher appetite for cruelty) killed bugs at greater rates than nonsadists, and were more willing to work for the opportunity to hurt an innocent person. Similarly, when narcissists have their ego threatened (e.g., are insulted), they are much more likely to increase aggression, even increasing aggression on innocent bystanders.

Not just anyone put in a position of power will hurt others, however. Serena Chen and colleagues found that those with an exchange relationship orientation (who focus on tit for tat) engaged in more self-serving behaviors when given power, whereas those with a communal relationship orientation (who take into account other people's needs and feelings when making a decision) demonstrated greater generosity when given power.

•••••

One interesting reversal to the finding that power amplifies the person is that when people in positions of power are given explicit and salient goals, the situation becomes much more important, and can override people's innate dispositions.* Perhaps we can refocus people's tendencies in a positive direction by providing them with clear prosocial goals.

This suggestion acknowledges the fact that no one is all good or all bad; all of us have many sides. Even people who abuse power most certainly have other, more prosocial sides that may be unexplored. We must ask ourselves which side we most want to bring out of a person. Zimbardo's experiment shines a light on the bad, but I could imagine an equally persuasive study designed in such a way to show the incredible potential for good in just about anyone when given power with prosocial goals.

Another way to bring out more positive outcomes is to simply put more people with prosocial dispositions (e.g., high empathy and compassion) in positions of power and let them carry out their already existing prosocial goals (e.g., desire to reduce violence, feed the hungry, etc.).

There are so many humane people in this world. In fact, most people are humane.

•••••

Research shows that in environments in which authority is unstable, or at least perceived as unstable, being in a position of low power can actually be empowering. As one group of researchers put it, "For low power individuals, power instability is empowering, leading them to act and behave as high power individuals... Having unstable low power leads to feelings of confidence and self-efficacy, especially when low power individuals can gain power by being creative. They may be more confident about their abilities and also perceive that they have the 'power to change their situation."

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Psychotic patients distinguished from controls while watching movie 'Alice in Wonderland'

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/econ-ppd082715.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
Psychotic patients distinguished from controls while watching movie 'Alice in Wonderland'
European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Researchers using fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) have found that even first-episode psychotic patients process information differently from a control group. To ensure both groups experienced the same brain stimuli, the measurements were taken while the subjects watched a movie, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. The work is being presented at the 28th ECNP Conference in Amsterdam.

•••••

'In this work, we attempted to determine whether a person is a first-episode psychosis patient or a healthy control subject just by looking at their brain activity recorded during movie viewing. We found, that by monitoring activity in a region known as the precuneus we were able to distinguish patients from control subjects especially well. This would mean that the precuneus, a central hub for the integration of self- and episodic-memory-related information, plays an important role in this kind of information processing of psychotic patients.

She continued:

We were able to achieve almost 80% classification accuracy using these methods. This is the first study which directly associates the beginnings of psychosis with the precuneus, so it is now important that much more research is done in this area'. The researchers hope that this approach can feed into earlier screening and better diagnosisof at-risk populations.

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Study shows that food may be addictive

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/econ-sst082715.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
Study shows that food may be addictive
Research indicates food craving is 'hard-wired' in the brain
European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

An international group of researchers have found that food craving activates different brain networks between obese and normal weight patients. This indicates that the tendency to want food may be 'hard-wired' into the brain of overweight patients, becoming a functional brain biomarker.

Obesity is one of the most difficult problems facing modern society. Treating obesity is a health priority, but most efforts (aside from bariatric surgery) have met with little success. In part, this is because the mechanisms associated with the desire to eat are poorly understood. Recently, studies are beginning to suggest that the brain mechanisms underlying obesity may be similar to those in substance addiction, and that treatment methodologies may be approached in the same way as other substance addictions, such as alcohol or drug addiction.

•••••

This still needs to be viewed as an association between food craving behaviour and brain changes, rather than one necessarily causing the other. However, these findings provide potential brain biomarkers which we can use to help manage obesity, for example through pharmacotherapies and brain stimulation techniques that might help control food intake in clinical situations".

Research shows testosterone changes brain structures in female-to-male transsexuals

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/econ-rst082815.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
Research shows testosterone changes brain structures in female-to-male transsexuals
European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Brain imaging shows that testosterone therapy given as part of sex reassignment changes the brain structures and the pathway associated with speech and verbal fluency. This result supports research that women in general may deal with speech and interaction differently than men.

•••••

The results show that this therapy induces structural changes in areas of the brain involved in verbal fluency in female-to-male transsexuals. This may have wider implications, for example in the way that men and women handle speech and interaction.

•••••

'It is well-known that language development differs between girls and boys and that this is related to gender-related differences in brain maturation. However, this intriguing neuroimaging study of transsexuals before and after their female-to-male gender reassignment suggests that even adult men and women differ in brain structure within regions involved in language and speech. In particular, female-to-male gender reassignment resulted in local brain matter decrease within language processing regions, which may explain why verbal abilities are often stronger in women.'

Air pollution associated with increased heart attack risk despite 'safe' levels


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-apa082815.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
Air pollution associated with increased heart attack risk despite 'safe' levels
European Society of Cardiology

Particulate matter and NO2 air pollution are associated with increased risk of severe heart attacks despite being within European recommended levels, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Jean-Francois Argacha, a cardiologist at University Hospital Brussels (UZ Brussel-Vrije Universiteit Brussel), in Belgium.1

"Dramatic health consequences of air pollution were first described in Belgium in 1930 after the Meuse Valley fog," said Dr Argacha. "Nowadays, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers air pollution as one of the largest avoidable causes of mortality. Besides the pulmonary and carcinogenic effects of air pollution, exposition to air pollution has been associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular mortality."

"In addition to the long term consequences, more recent research suggests that acute exposure to air pollution may trigger some cardiovascular events such as strokes, heart failure or myocardial infarction (heart attack)," continued Dr Argacha. "Myocardial infarction covers a number of clinical conditions and the effect of pollution on these subsets is unknown."

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Young adults living in polluted city show early signs of cardiovascular risk

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-yal082815.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
Young adults living in polluted city show early signs of cardiovascular risk
European Society of Cardiology

Young adults living in a polluted city show early signs of cardiovascular risk, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Krzysztof Bryniarski from Jagiellonian University, Collegium Medicum in Krakow, Poland.1 Residing in a polluted city was associated with higher levels of inflammatory markers in otherwise healthy adolescents and young adults, which indicate a greater risk of having a heart attack in future.

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CPR for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest should be conducted for at least 35 minutes

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-cfo082815.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
CPR for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest should be conducted for at least 35 minutes
European Society of Cardiology

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest should be conducted for at least 35 minutes, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Yoshikazu Goto, associate professor and director of the Department of Emergency and Critical Care Medicine at Kanazawa University Hospital in Kanazawa, Japan.1 The study in more than 17 000 patients found that nearly all survivals were achieved within 35 minutes and longer CPR achieved little benefit.

•••••

Dr Goto said: "Our study shows that EMS personnel or clinicians should continue CPR for at least 35 minutes in patients who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital. More than 99% of survivals and favourable neurological outcomes were achieved by 35 minutes with minimal gains afterwards. CPR leads to absolutely no benefit from 53 minutes onwards."

•••••

Bystander CPR linked to lower nursing home admission and brain damage after cardiac arrest

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-bcl082815.php

Public Release: 30-Aug-2015
Bystander CPR linked to lower nursing home admission and brain damage after cardiac arrest
European Society of Cardiology

Bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has been linked to a 30% lower risk of nursing home admission and brain damage in survivors of cardiac arrest outside hospital in research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Kristian Kragholm, a PhD student in the Department of Anesthesiology, Cardiovascular Research Centre, Aalborg University Hospital, Denmark.

•••••

"We found that the risk of brain damage or nursing home admission was around 30% lower if bystanders performed CPR than if they did not," said Dr Kragholm. "When cardiac arrest occurs, the pump function of the heart abruptly stops and the oxygen supply to vital organs including the brain is impaired. This can lead to brain damage and the need for institutional care if the patient survives. Bystanders initiating CPR can help circulate oxygen in the blood to the brain and thereby increase the chances of patient survival without brain damage."

The researchers previously showed that national initiatives in Denmark between 2001 and 2011 increased bystander CPR and survival after cardiac arrest. These included mandatory basic life support courses in elementary schools and when acquiring a driver's license as well as introducing health care professionals into emergency dispatch centres to guide laymen's recognition of arrest and initiation of CPR.

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Midday naps associated with reduced blood pressure and fewer medications

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-mna082815.php

Public Release: 29-Aug-2015
Midday naps associated with reduced blood pressure and fewer medications
European Society of Cardiology

Midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure levels and prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Manolis Kallistratos, a cardiologist at Asklepieion Voula General Hospital in Athens, Greece.1

"Although William Blake affirms that it is better to think in the morning, act at noon, eat in the evening and sleep at night, noon sleep seems to have beneficial effects," said Dr Kallistratos. "Two influential UK Prime Ministers were supporters of the midday nap. Winston Churchill said that we must sleep sometime between lunch and dinner while Margaret Thatcher didn't want to be disturbed at around 3:00 pm. According to our study they were right because midday naps seem to lower blood pressure levels and may probably also decrease the number of required antihypertensive medications."

He added: "Μidday sleep is a habit that nowadays is almost a privileged due to a nine to five working culture and intense daily routine. However the real question regarding this habit is: is it only a custom or is it also beneficial?"

•••••

Coffee linked with increased cardiovascular risk in young adults with mild hypertension

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-clw082815.php

Public Release: 29-Aug-2015
Coffee linked with increased cardiovascular risk in young adults with mild hypertension
European Society of Cardiology

Coffee drinking is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events (mainly heart attacks) in young adults (18-45) with mild hypertension, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Dr Lucio Mos, a cardiologist at Hospital of San Daniele del Friuli in Udine, Italy.1 The 12 year study in more than 1 200 patients found that heavy coffee drinkers had a four-fold increased risk while moderate drinkers tripled their risk. Future prediabetes attenuated the associations suggesting that the effect of coffee on cardiovascular events may be mediated by its long term influence on blood pressure and glucose metabolism.

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Prolonged television watchers have higher risk of fatal pulmonary embolism

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-ptw082815.php

Public Release: 29-Aug-2015
Prolonged television watchers have higher risk of fatal pulmonary embolism
European Society of Cardiology

Prolonged television watchers have a higher risk of fatal pulmonary embolism, a condition associated with long haul flights, reveals research presented at ESC Congress today by Mr Toru Shirakawa, public health research fellow in the Department of Social Medicine at Osaka University in Japan.1 The 18 year study in more than 86 000 people found that watching an average of five or more hours of television per day was associated with twice the risk of fatal pulmonary embolism as watching less than two and a half hours daily.

"The association between prolonged sitting and pulmonary embolism was first reported among air raid shelter users in London during World War II," said Mr Shirakawa. "Nowadays, a long haul flight in an economy class seat is a well known cause of pulmonary embolism that is called 'economy class syndrome'."

He continued: "Pulmonary embolism is a serious, sometimes fatal, lung-related vascular disease characterised by sudden onset of symptoms such as chest pain or difficulty breathing. The disease is caused by obstruction of the pulmonary arteries by blood clots, generally formed in the leg vessels. Risk factors include cancer, prolonged bed rest or sitting, and oral contraceptive use."

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Pollution and weather influence outcomes after heart attack

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/esoc-paw082815.php

Public Release: 29-Aug-2015
Pollution and weather influence outcomes after heart attack
European Society of Cardiology

Pollution and weather influence outcomes after a heart attack, according to research presented at ESC Congress today by Ms Aneta Cislak, research fellow in the Silesian Centre for Heart Diseases, Medical University of Silesia in Zabrze, Poland.1

"Weather changes like rain or heat affect our daily activity and even our productivity at work," said Ms Cislak. "Since this influence is so noticeable we were interested to see if weather has any connection with cardiovascular diseases including acute coronary syndromes. Moreover, air pollution affects our health, especially in highly industrialised areas. We performed our research in Silesia, the most urbanised and industrialised region in Poland."

•••••

The researchers found that patients with high risks of MI and bleeding and low left ventricular ejection fraction were admitted for NSTE ACS on warmer, sunnier, drier and windy days with higher carbon monoxide and ozone air concentrations (Figure 1). Ms Cislak said: "These were the sickest patients. The findings may be explained by the fact that their organs may be more sensitive to weather changes, leading to decompensation."

Treatment with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to widen blocked coronary arteries was more frequently successful when the weather was sunnier and less windy but colder and with lower concentrations of ozone, carbon monoxide and nitric oxides (Figure 2). "One of the possible explanations for this finding is that air pollutants like carbon monoxide bind irreversibly to haemoglobin and impair blood oxygen transport. This can cause hypoxia and lead to worse clinical status and less successful treatment," said Ms Cislak.

Higher in-hospital and one month mortality was observed on colder, more sunny and less windy days (Figure 3). "For now, we are not able to explain this phenomenon, but we hope that further studies will help us to verify and understand it better," said Ms Cislak.

She added: "This was a small observational study and our analysis was univariate so we cannot rule out the possibility that the associations were caused by the co-existence of other factors. Multivariate analysis is needed to confirm our observations. Possible mechanisms for our observations are various. They may include seasonal growth of death rates reported in the general population in Poland. Also the negative influence of air pollutants on the cardiovascular system could be explained by their connection with inflammation, affecting the respiratory system and as an effect impaired oxygenation. There is no doubt that the analysed factors may potentiate or diminish each other's effects e.g wind purifies the air by blowing pollutants or lower temperature causes more intensive home heating and combustion products emission."

Ms Cislak concluded: "It should be remembered that not only do humans influence the environment, but the environment also influences humans.

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The alien within: Fetal cells influence maternal health during pregnancy (and long after)

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/asu-taw082515.php

Public Release: 28-Aug-2015
The alien within: Fetal cells influence maternal health during pregnancy (and long after)
Arizona State University

Parents go to great lengths to ensure the health and well-being of their developing offspring. The favor, however, may not always be returned.

Dramatic research has shown that during pregnancy, cells of the fetus often migrate through the placenta, taking up residence in many areas of the mother's body, where their influence may benefit or undermine maternal health.

The presence of fetal cells in maternal tissue is known as fetal microchimerism. The term alludes to the chimeras of ancient Greek myth--composite creatures built from different animal parts, like the goat-lion-serpent depicted in an Etruscan bronze sculpture.

According to Amy Boddy, a researcher at Arizona State University's Department of Psychology and lead author of a new study, chimeras exist. Indeed, many humans bear chimerical traits in the form of foreign cells from parents, siblings or offspring, acquired during pregnancy.

"Fetal cells can act as stem cells and develop into epithelial cells, specialized heart cells, liver cells and so forth. This shows that they are very dynamic and play a huge role in the maternal body. They can even migrate to the brain and differentiate into neurons," Boddy says "We are all chimeras."

•••••

Fetal cells may do more than simply migrate to maternal tissues. The authors suggest they can act as a sort of placenta outside the womb, redirecting essential assets from the maternal body to the developing fetus. Cells derived from the fetus--which can persist in maternal tissues for decades after a child is born--have been associated with both protection and increased susceptibility to a range of afflictions, including cancer and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.

But, as co-author Wilson Sayres, cautions, "it's not only a tug of war between maternal and fetal interests. There is also a mutual desire for the maternal system to survive and provide nutrients and for the fetal system to survive and pass on DNA."

If some degree of fetal microchimerism exerts a beneficial effect on maternal and offspring survival, it will likely be selected for by evolution as an adaptive strategy.

A review of existing data on fetal microchimerism and health suggests that fetal cells enter a cooperative relationship in some maternal tissues, compete for resources in other tissues and may exist as neutral entities--hitchhikers simply along for the ride. It is likely that fetal cells play each of these roles at various times.

For example, fetal cells may contribute to inflammatory responses and autoimmunity in the mother, when they are recognized as foreign entities by the maternal immune system. This may account in part for higher rates of autoimmunity in women. (For example, women have three times higher rates of rheumatoid arthritis, compared with men.)

Fetal cells can also provide benefits to mothers, migrating to damaged tissue and repairing it. Their presence in wounds--including caesarian incisions--points to their active participation in healing. In other cases, fetal cells from the placenta are swept through the bloodstream into areas including the lung, where they may persist merely as bystanders.

•••••

Finally, the authors note, fetal microchimerism may be one piece of a subtle and dizzyingly complex puzzle. Cell traffic is actually bi-directional, with the fetus receiving cells from the mother. Fetal cells from maternal tissue may cross the placental barrier during subsequent pregnancies, potentially influencing the health of later offspring. To further complicate matters, cells from later fetuses can also cross the placenta to enter the microchimeric arena, perhaps introducing sibling rivalries for the mother's limited resources.

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Lack of folic acid enrichment in Europe causes mortality among fetuses

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/au-lof082815.php

Public Release: 28-Aug-2015
Lack of folic acid enrichment in Europe causes mortality among fetuses
Aarhus University

A new international study shows that 5,000 foetuses in Europe annually are affected by spina bifida and other severe defects on the central nervous system. Seventy per cent of these pregnancies are terminated, while increased mortality and serious diseases affect the children who are born. At least half of the cases can be avoided by adding folic acid to staple foods as is already being done in seventy non-European countries.

A lack of folic acid enrichment in Europe is the cause of several thousand cases of foaetal abnormalities e.g. spina bifida. These congenital diseases lead to an open spinal cord or brain malformation due to deformed vertebrae. The best-case scenario for the newborn baby is to undergo some correcting surgeries, though this case is also associated with various degrees of disabilities. In the worst cases, the baby will not survive. Today, two out of three foetuses with spina bifida are terminated by an abortion after diagnosis in the beginning of the pregnancy.

Half of the 5,000 annual cases could be avoided by enriching foods with the vitamin folic acid, which is known to play an important role in the formation of the vertebrae in prenatal life. In Europe, it is currently recommended that all women who are planning a pregnancy should take a folic acid supplement. But the numbers which reveal the development over 11 years show that the voluntary scheme is ineffective and has serious consequences for the foetuses.

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70 non-European countries have already introduced folic acid enrichment, including the USA, where it was introduced 17 years ago, as well as Canada and Australia. The measure has reduced foetal defects related to folic acid such as spina bifida by fifty per cent.

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Oysters harbor, transmit human norovirus: Avoid raw ones

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/asfm-oht082815.php

Public Release: 28-Aug-2015
Oysters harbor, transmit human norovirus: Avoid raw ones
American Society for Microbiology

Oysters not only transmit human norovirus; they also serve as a major reservoir for these pathogens, according to research published August 28 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. "More than 80 percent of human norovirus genotypes were detected in oyster samples or oyster-related outbreaks," said corresponding author Yongjie Wang, PhD.

"The results highlight oysters' important role in the persistence of norovirus in the environment, and its transmission to humans, and they demonstrate the need for surveillance of human norovirus in oyster samples," said Wang, who is Professor in the College of Food Science and Technology, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai, China.

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CPR: It's not always a lifesaver, but it plays one on TV



Public Release: 28-Aug-2015
CPR: It's not always a lifesaver, but it plays one on TV
Popular medical dramas make resuscitation look twice as effective as in real life -- and it may influence real patient decisions, according to a USC study
University of Southern California

If you think that performing CPR on a person whose heart has stopped is a surefire way to save their life, you may be watching too much TV.

The truth is more depressing than fiction, according to a new study by University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology researchers. While medical dramas Grey's Anatomy and House show cardiopulmonary resuscitation saving a patient's life nearly 70 percent of the time, the real immediate survival rate is nearly half that - around 37 percent.

Researchers also found another discrepancy between reality and TV: Half of the characters who received CPR made enough of a recovery to eventually leave the hospital, but in reality, only 13 percent of patients given CPR survive in the long-term, said senior author and Davis School Associate Professor Susan Enguidanos, an expert in end-of-life care.

"Most people have no knowledge of actual CPR survival and thus make medical care decisions for themselves and family members based on inaccurate assumptions," Enguidanos said.

Some people think it's a no-brainer that fiction sometimes distorts the truth, but research has shown that 42 percent of older adults report that their health knowledge comes from TV. Many are likely basing their care preferences on inaccurate ideas of what risks they face and how survivable a heart attack is, Enguidanos said.

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Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/ufs--isd082815.php

Public Release: 28-Aug-2015
Increasingly severe disturbances weaken world's temperate forests
USDA Forest Service - Pacific Southwest Research Station

Longer, more severe, and hotter droughts and a myriad of other threats, including diseases and more extensive and severe wildfires, are threatening to transform some of the world's temperate forests, a new study published in Science has found. Without informed management, some forests could convert to shrublands or grasslands within the coming decades.

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Many forests are remarkably resilient, re-growing after years of logging. Yet, the researchers note from review of the enormous body of work on the subject, climate change and rising global temperatures are giving rise to "hotter" droughts -- droughts that exhibit a level of severity beyond that witnessed in the past century. During a hotter drought, high air temperatures overheat leaves and also increase the stress on trees by drawing the moisture from their tissues at faster rates than normal. Snow that would normally act as emergency water storage for trees during the dry season instead falls as rain.

Combined, these factors may cause abnormally high levels of forest mortality during hotter droughts.

"Some temperate forests already appear to be showing chronic effects of warming temperatures, such as slow increases in tree deaths," said Nathan Stephenson, coauthor and ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "But the emergence of megadisturbances, forest diebacks beyond the range of what we've normally seen over the last century, could be a game-changer for how we plan for the future."

Chronic stress from drought and warming temperatures also expose temperate forests to insect and disease outbreaks. And as temperatures rise in many regions, fires grow in frequency and severity causing losses in private property, natural resources and lives.

Losing temperate forests to worsening droughts, megafires and insect and disease outbreaks could lead to widespread losses of forest ecosystem services like national park recreational areas, the researchers caution. Forests also play an important role in storing atmospheric carbon dioxide and watershed protection, for example. The scientists encourage future studies identifying forests most vulnerable to the effects of mega-disturbances. In some cases, forest managers may be able to preserve ecosystem services like carbon storage as temperate forests transition to new ecological states.

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Confidence in parenting could help break cycle of abuse

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/uor-cip082815.php

Public Release: 28-Aug-2015
Confidence in parenting could help break cycle of abuse
University of Rochester

To understand how confidence in parenting may predict parenting behaviors in women who were abused as children, psychologists at the University of Rochester have found that mothers who experienced more types of maltreatment as children are more critical of their ability to parent successfully. Intervention programs for moms at-risk, therefore, should focus on bolstering mothers' self-confidence--not just teach parenting skills, the researchers said.

"We know that maltreated children can have really low self-esteem," said Louisa Michl, a doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of Rochester. "And when they become adults, we've found that some of these moms become highly self-critical about their ability to parent effectively. Research has shown that this type of self-doubt is related to poor parenting--yelling, hitting, and other kinds of negative parenting behaviors."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is this the American way?

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/opinion/op-ed/article31469141.html

Aug. 18, 2015
By Alec Karakatsanis, The New York Times

Last month, President Obama used his clemency power to reduce the sentences of 46 federal prisoners locked up on drug-related charges. But for the last six years, his administration has worked behind the scenes to ensure that tens of thousands of poor people – disproportionately minorities – languish in federal prison on sentences declared by the courts and the president to be illegal and unjustifiable.

The case of Ezell Gilbert is emblematic of this injustice. In March 1997, he was sentenced to 24 years and four months in federal prison for possession with the intent to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine. Because of mandatory sentencing laws, Mr. Gilbert was automatically sentenced to a quarter-century in prison, though even the judge who sentenced him admitted that this was too harsh.

At his sentencing, Mr. Gilbert noted a legal error that improperly increased his sentence by approximately a decade. In 1999, he filed a petition seeking his release. A court ruled against him.

Nearly 10 years later, the Supreme Court issued a ruling confirming that Mr. Gilbert had been right. A public defender helped him file a new petition for immediate release. Obama’s Justice Department, however, convinced a Florida federal judge that even if Mr. Gilbert’s sentence was illegal, he had to remain in prison because prisoners should not be able to petition more than once for release.

A federal appellate court disagreed, and in June 2010, three judges set Mr. Gilbert free. The judges explained that it could not be the law in America that a person had to serve a prison sentence that everyone admitted was illegal. Mr. Gilbert returned home and stayed out of trouble.

Here’s where it gets interesting. There are many people like Mr. Gilbert in America’s federal prisons – people whose sentences are now obviously illegal. Instead of rushing to ensure that all those thousands of men and women illegally imprisoned at taxpayer expense were set free, the Justice Department said that if the “floodgates” were opened, too many others would have to be released.

In May 2011, the same court, led by a different group of judges, said that the “finality” of sentences was too important a principle to allow prisoners to be released, even if the prison sentence was illegal. Mr. Gilbert was rearrested and sent back to prison to serve out his illegal sentence.

Judge James Hill, then an 87-year-old senior judge on the appellate court in Atlanta, wrote a passionate dissent. Judge Hill, a conservative appointed by Richard M. Nixon, declared that the result was “urged by a department of the United States that calls itself, without a trace of irony, the Department of Justice.”

Judge Hill concluded: “The government hints that there are many others in Gilbert’s position – sitting in prison serving sentences that were illegally imposed. We used to call such systems ‘gulags.’ Now, apparently, we call them the United States.”

In 2013, years after sending him back to prison, Obama granted Mr. Gilbert clemency, and the president recently won praise for doing the same for several dozen other prisoners of the war on drugs.

•••••

When firefighters speak out on climate change, we ought to listen up

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/24/firefighters-climate-change-drought

Char Miller
Monday 24 August 2015

Climate change is worsening the fires that ravage many parts of America each year. Grime-streaked firefighters battling one of the 167 active wildfires currently scorching portions of the US west will tell you as much. What they have encountered on the firelines in the past few years is evidence that everything has changed as a result of global warming.

•••••

But what firefighters believe is abnormal is just a new normal driven by climate change. Temperatures that spike above long-held norms, record-breaking low-humidity levels, multi-year droughts, tinder-dry vegetation and fierce winds are among the factors fueling these new, more massive infernos. The sooner that firefighting agencies, public officials, policymakers and citizens acknowledge the impact that climate change is having on the frequency, intensity, duration and behavior of fire, the sooner that they will begin to develop new responses to wildland fire in the US west.

Doing so will mean admitting that climate change is also disrupting the capacity of firefighting organizations to respond. They were created to snuff out fires based on what were perceived to be static weather patterns – the old normal.

•••••

Factoring climate change into our calculations about what fires we’re able and not able to fight will be a hard concession for firefighters and the public to accept. Still, we will have to let some fires burn, particularly those distant from populated areas.

Yet making such tough choices must come coupled with an increase in spending at national, state and local levels for fire-prevention measures. The US Forest Service is now spending more than 50% of its budget on firefighting alone, which is seriously undercutting its ability to conduct more cost-effective thinning of forests that can diminish a fire’s intensity and speed.

More money is also needed for educational outreach to those inhabiting fire zones – dubbed the wildland-urban interface – to ensure that their dwellings are more fire safe and defensible. This investment is particularly imperative in California, where more than two million people live in these zones, putting themselves directly in the path this new fire regime.

The extreme situations wildland firefighters now regularly encounter are warning signs. How bad it gets depends on how quickly we can read and respond to them.

Link between gene variant and strong emotional reactions in children

"children who were more aggressive when they were exposed to stress, were the least aggressive when they were not exposed to stress"

Some refer to these children as orchid children.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/nuos-lbg082615.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Link between gene variant and aggression in children
Findings help to substantiate 'differential susceptibility,' where some individuals are more susceptible to environmental conditions partly due to genotype
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Some children react more strongly to negative experiences than others. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have found a link between aggression and variants of a particular gene.

But children who react most aggressively also tend to respond more strongly to good experiences, the Norwegian researchers found. These children's mood swings have deeper valleys, but also greater peaks.

Aggression is common in young children. Aggressive behaviour increases until children are around 4 years old, and then gradually subsides.

Research has shown that children who struggle with aggressive behaviour when they are young often carry these problems into puberty.

But aggression in children is not necessarily all bad. It may be a logical response to external factors, for example if children are exposed to violence and abuse.

Not only can aggression be the right response to an external influence, it may also be helpful to have more aggressive individuals among us.

In a stable situation with adequate resources, people with a stable temperament have an advantage. Individuals with a more variable disposition may overreact to even minor changes, which can be an evolutionary disadvantage.

But as soon as conditions change, such as an increase in the struggle for resources, those who react more strongly to external influences have the advantage.

According to some American scientists, probably the best scenario for a population is to have a broad mix of people with varying tendencies to react aggressively.

•••••

Aggression is the result of both genetics and environment, making it interesting to examine how genes and environment interact. How do people with different genotypes react to different environmental conditions?

In a group of children, some will be more aggressive than others. Some will react strongly to stress, while others maintain their equilibrium in almost any situation. The child's genes can at least partly explain this phenomenon.

The Norwegian research group is led by Beate W. Hygen of NTNU's Department of Psychology and NTNU Social Research. Researchers found a correlation between aggression and the particular gene variants present in children when they had experienced or not experienced serious life events.

This gene is involved in dopamine breakdown in the brain.

This finding was in itself a confirmation of earlier studies, but the Norwegian researchers also found that children who were more aggressive when they were exposed to stress, were the least aggressive when they were not exposed to stress.

This indicated that they had a tendency to greater variation in behaviour in both directions than their less aggressive counterparts.

•••••

Previously, scientists thought that some children are more vulnerable than others when experiencing trauma or stress, and that these vulnerable children function on an equal footing with others in positive environmental conditions.

Differential susceptibility theory argues that those individuals most affected by adverse conditions may also benefit most from positive conditions.

That is, these individuals function better under positive environmental influences than those who are not as susceptible to environmental conditions.

•••••

Experts stress need for sufficient iodine nutrition during pregnancy


http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/w-esn082715.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Experts stress need for sufficient iodine nutrition during pregnancy
Wiley

New research published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that pregnant women in Sweden had inadequate levels of iodine in their diets. Proper iodine nutrition is necessary for neurological development of the fetus.

Iodine is an element that is involved in the production of thyroid hormones. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need about 50% more iodine in the diets, and WHO recommends a total daily iodine intake of 250 μg/d for pregnant and lactating women. Medical evidence confirms that moderate to severe iodine deficiency during pregnancy may impair the baby's neurological development.

"The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that each country assess idoine nutrition in the population every five years," explains lead author Dr. Michaela Granfors with the University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden. "A recent investigation indicated that iodine status during pregnancy was adequate in only one third of the examined pregnant populations in Europe. Our study investigates iodine nutrition levels in Swedish women during pregnancy."

•••••

Canada government suspends scientist for folk song about prime minister

If any more evidence was needed that Harper's denial of global warming is due to stupidity, suspending Turner for writing this song clinches it. Doing so is an excellent way to get international attention to Tony Turner & this song, and bring ridicule to the Canadian government.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/28/canadian-scientist-suspended-folk-song-stephen-harper

Nicky Woolf
Friday 28 August 2015

An environmental scientist working for a Canadian government agency has been suspended and will be investigated for recording a protest song about the prime minister, Stephen Harper, according to union representatives.

The song is called Harperman and was written by Tony Turner, who worked at Environment Canada and is, in his spare time, “a mainstay on the Ottawa folk music scene”, according to a biography on his website.

The song, which is recorded with a backing choir and a double bass, with Turner himself on the guitar, contains lyrics like “no respect for environment / Harperman, it’s time for you to go”, and “no more cons, cons, cons / we want you gone, gone gone”.

Turner’s union representatives told the CBC that Turner was being accused of having “violated the departmental code of values and ethics in that the writing and performing of this song "somehow" impeded his ability to impartially study migratory birds”.

“We will stand up for its members who face the prospect of being disciplined for exercising their democratic rights as citizens. The supreme court of Canada has confirmed that public service workers, like all Canadian citizens, benefit from freedom of expression,” Debi Daviau, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union which represents Turner, told the Ottawa Citizen.

A Facebook page calling for a nationwide singalong of the song for 17 September was set up after the song was released by a friend of Turner.

“Can’t we make jokes or say anything? Are we all muzzled? This is the politics of fear. I am an activist and singer but mostly I am a citizen and I care about democracy and freedom of speech,” Diane McIntyre, who sang a solo in the song, told the Ottawa Citizen.

•••••


Rising seas mean less bridge clearance

One of those things that seem obvious in hindsight.

http://www.the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002384303

After leaving its berth on a canal in Tokyo’s Shinagawa district, a yakatabune roofed pleasure boat operated by Funayado Nakakin very narrowly cleared the underside of the Tennosu Bridge as it slowly passed under it. The young boatman’s head cleared the underside of the bridge, which was just 2.7 meters above the surface, by just a few centimeters.

“We really have to watch out for this bridge,” he said nervously.

Kazuo Yamada, a boatman belonging to another yakatabune operator, says he has been navigating the same canal for 20 years. He says about twice a year, during the high tides of summer and autumn, he is unable to pass under the Tennosu Bridge, which forces him to forgo operating boat trips. Higher temperatures in summer cause the seawater to expand and consequently push up the canal’s water level.

But in the past 10 years there have been days outside of summer and autumn when the water level has been too high for the boat to pass under the bridge. Yamada now cancels about 10 boat trips a year.

“The rising water levels in recent years are abnormal,” the 52-year-old president of Nakakin said.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the average yearly water level in Tokyo Bay rose by about 15 centimeters between 1951 and 2013, while the rise measured at 16 other locations across the country in the past 50 years is also around 15 centimeters.

•••••

In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), experts concluded that the world’s sea level has risen almost consistently for about 110 years to 2010, with a world average increase of 19 centimeters. At the end of this century, scientists forecast an additional global rise of 63 centimeters — with a rise of as much as 70 to 80 centimeters forecast in the seas around Japan.

The melting of ice caps, especially in Antarctica, are believed to be causing rising global water levels, while the hotter temperatures, which cause seawater to expand, also contribute. Changes in water levels vary slightly between regions due to the effects of currents and other factors. However, the meteorological agency maintains that “because the world’s oceans are all connected, there is a risk that the trend of rising [sea levels] will continue in waters around the country as well.”

•••••

US scientists warn leaders of dangers of thawing permafrost

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/whrc-usw082715.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
US scientists warn leaders of dangers of thawing permafrost

International policymakers gather in Alaska to discuss Arctic challenges

Woods Hole Research Center

As President Obama and high-level representatives of other nations converge in Anchorage, Alaska on August 30-31 for the Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER), hosted by the U.S. Department of State, top U.S. climate scientists urge policymakers to address the critical problem of the thawing permafrost in the Arctic region.

Arctic permafrost - ground that has been frozen for many thousands of years - is now thawing because of global climate change, and the results could be disastrous and irreversible.

"The release of greenhouse gases resulting from thawing Arctic permafrost could have catastrophic global consequences," said Dr. Max Holmes, a Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) who has been advising State Department officials on the problem.

Thawing permafrost releases greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) into the atmosphere, which accelerates climate change, which in turn causes more thawing of the permafrost. This potentially unstoppable and self-reinforcing cycle could constitute a calamitous "tipping point."

WHRC scientists have counseled the State Department on policies that could control this problem, including reducing global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use and deforestation, and limiting emissions of "black carbon," sooty particles that darken snow and ice and hasten Arctic warming.

"Despite the importance and urgency of this problem, until now it has received little attention from policymakers," said Dr. Sue Natali, another WHRC scientist. A study published earlier this year by Dr. Natali and WHRC scientists estimated that greenhouse gases released from thawing permafrost could make it much more difficult to meet the widely held goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

"The United States must lead a large-scale effort to find the tipping point - at what level of warming will the cycle of warming and permafrost thawing become impossible to stop," said Dr. Holmes. "The real and imminent threat posed by permafrost thawing must be communicated clearly and broadly to the general public and the policy community."

Four-day school week can improve academic performance, study finds

Walker notes the results are only applicable to smaller and more rural school districts. Further studies should be performed to understand the effects on urban school districts, she said.
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/gsu-fsw082715.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Four-day school week can improve academic performance, study finds
Georgia State University

Shortening the school week to four days has a positive impact on elementary school students' academic performance in mathematics, according to researchers at Georgia State University and Montana State University.

The study, published in the journal Education, Finance and Policy in July, analyzed the impact of a four-day school week on student achievement by comparing fourth-grade reading and fifth-grade math test scores from the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) for students who participated in a four-day school week, versus those who attended a traditional five-day school week.

The researchers found a four-day school week had a statistically significant impact on math scores for fifth-grade students, while reading scores were not affected.

•••••

Although the shortened school week did not have a measurable impact on reading outcomes, "the idea that the change in the calendar did not have negative effects we thought was an important result," Walker said.

A number of school districts in the United States have moved from the traditional Monday through Friday schedule to a four-day week schedule as a cost-saving measure to reduce overhead and transportation costs.

Four-day weeks have been in place for years in rural school districts in western states, particularly in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Over one-third of the school districts in Colorado have adopted a four-day schedule. The alternative schedule has also been considered in school districts in Oregon, Missouri, Florida and Georgia.

The four-day school week requires school districts to lengthen the school day to meet minimum instructional hour requirements. Previously, there was a lack of information on whether the four-day school week affects student performance, Walker said.

•••••

Walker notes the results are only applicable to smaller and more rural school districts. Further studies should be performed to understand the effects on urban school districts, she said.

Study links air pollution to children's low GPAs

I think of studies like this when I have to be around food truck gatherings, with their engines running.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/uota-sla082715.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Study links air pollution to children's low GPAs
The University of Texas at El Paso

EL PASO, Texas - A University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) study on children's health has found that fourth and fifth graders who are exposed to toxic air pollutants at home are more likely to have lower GPAs.

•••••

Children who were exposed to high levels of motor vehicle emissions from cars, trucks and buses on roads and highways were found to have significantly lower GPAs, even when accounting for other factors known to influence school performance. The results of the study were published in the academic journal Population and Environment.

"There are two pathways that can help us to explain this association," said the study's co-author Sara E. Grineski, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at UTEP. "Some evidence suggests that this association might exist because of illnesses, such as respiratory infections or asthma. Air pollution makes children sick, which leads to absenteeism and poor performance in school. The other hypothesis is that chronic exposure to air toxics can negatively affect children's neurological and brain development."

•••••

"This isn't a phenomenon unique to EPISD," Grineski said. "What makes our study different is that we are actually studying kids in their home setting, but there's a body of literature where they have studied levels of air pollution at schools in California and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, instead of at children's homes. A study on the Los Angeles Unified School District showed that schools with higher levels of pollution have lower standardized test scores."

•••••

Collins has reported that on-road mobile sources like the trucking industry are the largest contributors of overall air pollution in the city.

•••••

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Benefits and drawback to deep thinking

I have found that the difficulty I have in turning off my thoughts about a problem can lead to insights and solutions I would not have had otherwise.

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/cp-inf082015.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Is neuroticism fueled by overthinking?
Cell Press

Isaac Newton was a classic neurotic. He was a brooder and a worrier, prone to dwelling on the scientific problems before him as well as his childhood sins. But Newton also had creative breakthroughs--thoughts on physics so profound that they are still part of a standard science education.

In a Trends in Cognitive Sciences Opinion paper published August 27, psychologists present a new theory for why neurotic unhappiness and creativity go hand-in-hand. The authors argue that the part of the brain responsible for self-generated thought is highly active in neuroticism, which yields both of the trait's positives (e.g., creativity) and negatives (e.g., misery).

•••••

The overthinking hypothesis also explains the positives of neuroticism. The creativity of Isaac Newton and other neurotics may simply be the result of their tendency to dwell on problems far longer than average people. "I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light," Newton once said of his problem-solving method.

"We're still a long way off from fully explaining neuroticism, and we're not offering all of the answers, but we hope that our new theory will help people make sense of their own experiences, and show that although being highly neurotic is by definition unpleasant, it also has creative benefits," Perkins says. "Hopefully our theory will also stimulate new research as it provides us with a straightforward unifying framework to tie together the creative aspects of neuroticism with its emotional aspects."

Covert and overt forms of sexism are equally damaging to working women

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/sp-cao082415.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Covert and overt forms of sexism are equally damaging to working women
SAGE Publications

Frequent sexist wisecracks, comments and office cultures where women are ignored are just as damaging to women as single instances of sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, according to a new study out today in The Psychology of Women Quarterly (a SAGE Journal).

"Norms, leadership, or policies, that reduce intense harmful experiences may lead managers to believe that they have solved the problem of maltreatment of women in the workplace," wrote the study authors Dr. Victor E. Sojo, Dr. Robert E. Wood and Anna E. Genat. "However, the more frequent, less intense, and often unchallenged gender harassment, sexist discrimination, sexist organizational climate and organizational tolerance for sexual harassment appeared at least as detrimental for women's wellbeing. They should not be considered lesser forms of sexism."

•••••

Short bouts of activity may offset lack of sustained exercise in kids

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/nksn-sbo082415.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Short bouts of activity may offset lack of sustained exercise in kids
NIH study finds interrupting sitting with short walks lowers blood sugar, insulin and blood fats
NIH/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Brief intervals of exercise during otherwise sedentary periods may offset the lack of more sustained exercise and could protect children against diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a small study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health

Children who interrupted periods of sitting with three minutes of moderate-intensity walking every half hour had lower levels of blood glucose and insulin, compared to periods when they remained seated for three hours. Moreover, on the day they walked, the children did not eat any more at lunch than on the day they remained sedentary.

•••••

Research suggests older adults possess important forms of expertise

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/cu-cur082715.php

Public Release: 27-Aug-2015
Chapman University research suggests older adults possess important forms of expertise
As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts - such as in music and storytelling.
Chapman University

Chapman University's research on aging and skill development appears as the lead article in the latest issue of American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The study, called "Skill Ontogeny Among Tsimane Forager-Horticulturalists," provides the most complete analysis to date of skill development in a traditional society. The results show that most skills essential to Tsimane survival are acquired prior to first reproduction, and then develop further to meet the increasing demands of offspring. As adults continue to age beyond their reproductive years, despite physical frailty setting in, they are often regarded as experts - such as in music and storytelling.

•••••

According to the findings, older adults might be the go-to providers of many important services needed in human communities. In the field, the researchers interviewed 421 Tsimane adults across eight villages in the Bolivian Amazon and found that when it comes to many of the skills requiring lots of knowledge - but not necessarily high-strength--such as music, storytelling, making bows and arrows, and textile production, seniors in the community report the most proficiency and are regarded by others as most expert.

While older folks, freed up from the primary responsibilities of feeding a brood, compensate for their increasing frailty by remaining productive with low-strength skills that complement their extended family's production, the extra time needed to focus on complementary skills is one possible factor explaining their expertise. But what impressed Schniter and his fellow researchers is that many of the skills older adults excel in also have a pedagogical component: they involve transferring conceptual and procedural knowledge to youngsters so that they might also someday develop the necessary abilities for life in a society dependent on interpersonal exchanges of resources acquired through hunting, fishing, and gardening.

"It shows that many important cultural skills, and not just food production like previously argued, take a long time to learn; and that not all abilities peak in middle adulthood as previously thought," Schniter says. "In (Tsimane) society people have an appreciation for that and they defer those roles to older adults."
The study leads to possible implications for industrialized societies and economies, too. Along with the skills specific to life in their traditional subsistence society in the Amazon, seniors were the age group that excelled most at planning, conflict negotiation, and delegation.

"Those are prized talents in any economy; so if baby boomers delay retirement, as some economists predict, it might behoove employers to better deploy them," says Schniter.

Extreme Arctic sea ice melt forces thousands of walruses ashore in Alaska

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/aug/27/walruses-alaska-arctic-sea-ice-melt

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent
Thursday 27 August 2015

The extreme loss of Arctic sea ice due to climate change is forcing thousands of walruses to crowd ashore on a remote barrier island off Alaska, and threatening their survival.

Barack Obama will be the first US president to visit the Alaskan Arctic on 31 August on a three-day tour to draw attention to the drastic consequences of climate change for the Arctic, such as warming winters and the rapid retreat of sea ice.

The first reported sighting of animals forced to come ashore in the Chukchi Sea was by a photographer on 23 August, and confirmed by villagers in the remote hamlet of Point Lay late on Thursday, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Such landings, forced by the absence of sea ice on which to rest and feed, put the animals at risk of stampede in the limited space of the barrier island.

The animals are easily spooked by aircraft or onlookers, government scientists warned. Trampling deaths are one of the biggest natural risks.

Sea ice cover in the winter months fell to a new low this year because of climate change and abnormal weather patterns.

Some scientists believe the Arctic could be entirely ice-free in the summer months by the 2030s – with profound effects for local indigenous communities that rely on the ice, as well as wildlife that depend on extreme conditions.

Since 2000, the forced migration of walruses and their young to barrier islands such as Point Lay – known as a “haul out” – has become an increasingly regular occurrence, according to US government scientists.

•••••

Last year, as many as 40,000 animals, mainly females and their young, were forced ashore. It was the biggest known haul-out of its kind in the US Arctic, according to government scientists. The Federal Aviation Authority re-routed flights and bush pilots were told to keep their distance to avoid a stampede.

Agency scientists said about 60 young walruses were killed because of crowding and stampedes.

“Walruses often flee haulouts in response to the sight, sound, or odor of humans or machines. Walruses are particularly sensitive to changes in engine noise and are more likely to stampede off beaches when planes turn or fly low overhead,” Andrea Medeiros, a spokeswoman for the fish and wildlife service, said in an email.

•••••

Gary Braasch, an environmental photographer, said he first spotted the walruses coming ashore on the southern end of the barrier island, about two miles from the hamlet of Point Lay, on the evening of 23 August.

•••••

Don't believe the hype. Coal is not a job creator

I wonder how much Abbot gets in campaign contributions from coal companies?

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/28/dont-believe-the-hype-coal-employs-fewer-than-mcdonalds

Ben Oquist
Aug. 27, 2015

The prime minister (Tony Abbott, of Australia) has repeatedly said that the next election should be about jobs. He has attempted to kick-start a new “economy versus environment” strategy in relation to a coal mining. According to the ABS a huge 0.3% of Australians are currently employed in coal mining. If the coal industry trebled in size tomorrow it still wouldn’t be enough to create jobs for the extra 101,900 people who have become unemployed since Tony Abbott became prime minister.

Anyone who has ever seen an open cut coal mine will understand why they don’t create a lot of jobs. Work that was once done by men with picks and shovels is now done by explosives and enormous machines. Economists call such industries “capital intensive” which is another way of saying “doesn’t create many jobs”.

The ABS provides clear data on this issue for anyone who is interested: it shows that every $1m in mining output creates 1.02 jobs while every $1m from health creates 8.47 jobs and agriculture creates 3.7 jobs. There is no doubt that building the Shenhua coal mine on the prime agricultural lands of the Liverpool plains will cost jobs, not create them.

•••••

Abbott has claimed repeatedly that “green tape” and “lawfare” are holding up a potential 10,000 jobs at his favourite coal mine, even though the company’s own economics expert, Dr Jerome Fahrer, admitted under oath that the figure was closer to 1,500 – including indirect jobs.

•••••

Babies born in a recession ‘have worse health’

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/29/iceland-babies-born-recession-worse-health

Jamie Doward
Saturday 29 August 2015

Economic woes can be as damaging to a baby’s health as smoking or drinking during pregnancy, according to the first study to establish a causal link between foetal exposure to financial stress in an advanced economy and the health of babies at birth.

Research presented at this month’s annual congress of the European Economic Association in Mannheim by Arna Vardardottir, assistant professor at the department of economics at Copenhagen Business School, tracks the unexpected collapse of Iceland’s economy in 2008.

After studying the weight of newborn children in Iceland’s national birth register, Vardardottir found that babies who had been in their first trimester during the crisis were born 120g lighter than the average. They were also 3.5% more likely to have a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg) than average and were generally more likely to suffer from neonatal diseases.

Vardardottir said her results showed that financial stress had an impact similar to those of the two most widely cited behavioural issues during pregnancy: smoking and drinking. “My results show that a sudden deterioration in economic conditions has a negative impact on birth outcomes and that children in the early stages of gestation are more vulnerable to such shocks,” she said.

“The findings suggest large losses from financial distress that have previously been ignored: children with worse health at birth can expect to earn substantially less over their lifetime, and low-income families are more likely to experience financial stress.”

•••••

“The results imply large welfare losses from financial distress that have hitherto been ignored because children with worse health at birth can expect substantially lower lifetime earnings,” she said. “They suggest that economic hardships may in general exacerbate income inequalities in the long run, since low-income households are typically more exposed to financial stress.”

Cannabis use may influence cortical maturation in adolescent males who have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia



Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
Cannabis use may influence cortical maturation in adolescent males
...who have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care

Male teens who experiment with cannabis before age 16, and have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia, show a different brain development trajectory than low risk peers who use cannabis.

The discovery, made from a combined analysis of over 1,500 youth, contributes to a growing body of evidence implicating cannabis use in adolescence and schizophrenia later in life.

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Adolescence is a period of vulnerability with regard to the emergence of psychotic disorders, especially in boys. Environmental influences on the continuing maturation of neural circuits during adolescence are of great interest to neuroscientists and medical professionals.

"Given the solid epidemiologic evidence supporting a link between cannabis exposure during adolescence and schizophrenia, we investigated whether the use of cannabis during early adolescence (by 16 years of age) is associated with variations in brain maturation as a function of genetic risk for schizophrenia," said senior author Tomas Paus, MD, PhD, the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Professor and Chair in Population Neuroscience at Baycrest, University of Toronto, and the Dr. John and Consuela Phelan Scholar at Child Mind Institute, New York.

"Our findings suggest that cannabis use might interfere with the maturation of the cerebral cortex in male adolescents at high risk for schizophrenia by virtue of their polygenic risk score. Their brains showed lower cortical thickness compared with low-risk male participants and low-or-high risk female participants who used the drug."

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness: "It is too early to classify schizophrenia as either a neurodevelopmental (impairment of the growth and development of the brain) or a neurodegenerative (progressive loss of structure or function of neurons) disorder, as both seem to occur over the course of the illness. Research strongly suggests the emergence of schizophrenia is a result of both genetic and environmental factors."

"Brain aging is about brain development," said Dr. Paus. "Our study shows the importance of understanding environmental influences on the developing brain in early life as this can have important implications for brain health through the lifespan."

Bright screens at night imperil sleep of young teens

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/bu-bsa082515.php

Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
Bright screens at night imperil sleep of young teens
Brown University

A new study has an important implication for tweens and young teens as they head back to school: Taking a gadget to bed could really hurt their sleep.

Enough light exposure at night can keep anyone from falling asleep as quickly as they otherwise would have. But the new research, published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, finds that the sleep biology of boys and girls aged 9 to 15 who were in the earlier stages of puberty were especially sensitive to light at night compared to older teens. In lab experiments, an hour of nighttime light exposure suppressed their production of the sleep-timing hormone melatonin significantly more than the same light exposure did for teens aged 11 to 16 who were farther into puberty.

A glass of water before each meal could help in weight reduction

A glass of water is preferable to a "bottle" of water, for the sake of the environment, which eventually affects our own health. Also, plastic bottles can leach harmful chemicals into the water.

Since participants were encouraged to drink tap water, why did the article refer to "bottles"?

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/uob-abo082615.php

Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
A bottle of water before each meal could help in weight reduction, researchers say
University of Birmingham

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have shown that drinking 500ml of water at half an hour before eating main meals may help obese adults to lose weight. They believe that the simple intervention could be hugely beneficial, and be easily promoted by healthcare professionals and through public health campaigns.

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Those who reported preloading before all three main meals in the day reported a loss of 4.3kg (9.48lbs) over the 12 weeks, whereas those who only preloaded once, or not at all, only lost an average of 0.8kg (1.76lbs).

Dr Helen Parretti, NIHR Clinical Lecturer at the University of Birmingham, explained, "The beauty of these findings is in the simplicity. Just drinking a pint of water, three times a day, before your main meals may help reduce your weight."

"When combined with brief instructions on how to increase your amount of physical activity and on a healthy diet, this seems to help people to achieve some extra weight loss - at a moderate and healthy rate. It's something that doesn't take much work to integrate into our busy everyday lives."

Participants were encouraged to drink tap water. Sparkling water, sodas or sweetened drinks were not allowed as part of the study.

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Research demonstrates millions of plastic particles exist in cosmetic products

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/uop-rdm082615.php

Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
Research demonstrates millions of plastic particles exist in cosmetic products
University of Plymouth

Everyday cosmetic and cleaning products contain huge quantities of plastic particles, which are released to the environment and could be harmful to marine life, according to a new study.

Research at Plymouth University has shown almost 100,000 tiny 'microbeads' - each a fraction of a millimetre in diameter - could be released in every single application of certain products, such as facial scrubs.

The particles are incorporated as bulking agents and abrasives, and because of their small size it is expected many will not be intercepted by conventional sewage treatment, and are so released into rivers and oceans.

Researchers, writing in Marine Pollution Bulletin, estimate this could result in up to 80 tonnes of unnecessary microplastic waste entering the sea every year from use of these cosmetics in the UK (United Kingdom/Great Britain) alone.

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New NASA videos show stark ice loss from Earth's ice sheets

See the link below for videos of changes over time.

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/08/new-nasa-videos-show-stark-ice-loss-from-earths-ice-sheets/

Aug. 27, 2015

The US space agency, NASA, yesterday released brand new images showing the pace of ice loss from Earth's two vast ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica.

The amount of ice lost from the frozen expanses at the very north and south of the planet is accelerating, say the scientists, and together have helped raise global sea level by more than 7cm since 1992.

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Changing ocean currents and temperatures are also melting the Greenland ice sheet from the bottom up, scientists say. A new three-year NASA project called Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG ) aims to get a better handle on how the rate of ice loss compares to surface melting.

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As ice on land melts, it raises global sea levels. On top of the contribution from melting ice sheets and glaciers, sea water expands as it gets warmer, raising sea levels further still.

NASA scientists have been measuring the height of the surface of the ocean in detail since 1992, first with the Topex/Poseidon satellite and later with its successors, Jason-1 and -2.

Together with the GRACE satellites and the ARGO network of more than 3,000 ocean sensors, scientists now have a good idea of how sea levels are changing.

Globally, sea level has risen by about 19cm since the start of the 20th century, 7.4cm in the last 20 years alone. About a third of that is from warming water, the rest from melting land ice, say the NASA scientists.

But sea level rise doesn't happen at the same speed everywhere. A third new video from NASA below shows how sea level has changed in different parts of the world since 1992. Red is where sea level has risen, blue is where it has fallen.

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Differences in sea level rise from one place to another are largely down to ocean currents and natural cycles such El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, explains Josh Willis, oceanographer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and chief scientist behind the coming Jason-3 satellite mission.

But that looks set to change, he says. Scientists predict meltwater from ice sheets will overtake natural cycles to become the most significant contributor to overall sea level change.

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So, how much more can we expect sea levels to rise?

Steve Nerem, head of NASA's sea level team, says what we've seen so far from the ice sheets is just the beginning. He says:

"Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it's pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet [91cm] of sea level rise and probably more."

The question is whether it will happen over the course of this century or longer, says Nerem.

This is at the upper end of the range of 52-98cm by 2100 put forward in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013, assuming emissions stay very high (RCP8.5). But if the ice sheets collapse altogether, we can expect a lot more than that, says Tom Wagner, scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. He says:

"We've seen from the paleoclimate record that sea level rise of as much as 10 feet [3m] in a century or two is possible, if the ice sheets fall apart rapidly."

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World sea levels set to rise at least one metre over next 100-200 years, NASA says

1 meter = 3.28084 feet



Updated August 27, 2015

Sea levels are rising around the world and the latest satellite data suggests that one metre or more is unavoidable in the next 100-200 years, NASA scientists have said.

Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting faster than ever, and oceans are warming and expanding much more rapidly than they have in years past.
Key points:

Rising seas will have "profound impacts" around the world, NASA Earth Science Division director Michael Freilich said.

"More than 150 million people, most of them in Asia, live within one meter of present sea level," he said.

Low-lying US states such as Florida are at risk of disappearing, as are some of the world's major cities such as Singapore and Tokyo.

"It may entirely eliminate some Pacific island nations," he said.

There is no doubt that global coastlines will look very different in years to come, US space agency experts told reporters on a conference call to discuss the latest data on sea level rise.

"Right now we have committed to probably more than three feet (one metre) of sea level rise, just based on the warming we have had so far," said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, and leader of NASA's sea level rise team.

"It will very likely get worse in the future.

"The biggest uncertainty is predicting how quickly the polar ice sheets will melt."

What's the top CEO-to-worker pay gap? 1,951 to 1, study says

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-ceo-pay-gap-20150825-story.html

By Samantha Masunaga
Aug. 25, 2015

Discovery Communications topped a list of companies with the largest pay difference between their chief executives and median workers, according to a new study by jobs and recruiting company Glassdoor.

The ratio between CEO David M. Zaslav's pay and the median pay of Discovery workers is 1,951 to 1, according to the study. In 2014, Zaslav made $156 million (156,000,000), while median pay was $80,000.

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Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. came in second, with a pay ratio of 1,522, and CVS Health was third with a ratio of 1,192.

In a statement, CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said annual compensation for its CEO and other executives is “in line” with industry standards, and “closely reflects” the company’s financial performance and success.
[Which implies their workers are underpaid.]

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Low-level arsenic exposure before birth associated with early puberty and obesity

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/nioe-lae082615.php

Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
Low-level arsenic exposure before birth associated with early puberty and obesity
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Female mice exposed in utero, or in the womb, to low levels of arsenic through drinking water displayed signs of early puberty and became obese as adults, according to scientists from the National Institutes of Health. The finding is significant because the exposure level of 10 parts per billion used in the study is the current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standard, or maximum allowable amount, for arsenic in drinking water. The study, which appeared online August 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, serves as a good starting point for examining whether low-dose arsenic exposure could have similar health outcomes in humans.

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"We unexpectedly found that exposure to arsenic before birth had a profound effect on onset of puberty and incidence of obesity later in life," said NIEHS reproductive biologist and co-author Humphrey Yao, Ph.D. "Although these mice were exposed to arsenic only during fetal life, the impacts lingered through adulthood."

The impacts Yao is referring to are obesity and early onset puberty, particularly in female mice. The researchers did not examine in this study whether males also experienced early onset puberty, but they did confirm that male mice exposed to arsenic in utero also displayed weight gain as they aged. Both the low and high doses of arsenic resulted in weight gain.

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"It's very important to study both high doses and low doses," said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program. "Although the health effects from low doses were not as great as with the extremely high doses, the low-dose effects may have been missed if only high doses were studied."

Wide-ranging networking boosts employee creativity

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/ru-wnb082615.php

Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
Wide-ranging networking boosts employee creativity
Findings have implications for management practice
Rice University

Companies can promote creativity in employees by encouraging them to network beyond their immediate business networks, according to a new study by management experts at Rice University, Australian National University (ANU), Erasmus University Rotterdam, Monash University in Clayton, Australia, and the University of Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.

"Social networks can be important sources of information and insight that may spark employee creativity," the authors said. "The cross-fertilization of ideas depends not just on access to information and insights through one's direct network -- the people one actually interacts with -- but at least as much on access to the indirect network one's direct ties connect to."

The researchers found it is the "nonredundant ties" -- the people one does not interact with directly but with whom one's direct ties interact -- that offer the greatest efficiency for employees to gather novel information. This information can then be used as the raw material for the employee to generate creative ideas, said the authors, who believe the results are applicable to U.S. companies.

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Scientists discover mechanism behind 'strange' earthquakes

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-08/uosc-sdm082615.php

Public Release: 26-Aug-2015
Scientists discover mechanism behind 'strange' earthquakes
Currents of semi-liquid rock key to seismicity away from tectonic plate boundaries
University of Southern California

t's not a huge mystery why Los Angeles experiences earthquakes. The city sits near a boundary between two tectonic plates -- they shift, we shake. But what about places that aren't along tectonic plate boundaries?

For example, seismicity on the North American plate occurs as far afield as southern Missouri, where earthquakes between 1811 and 1812 estimated at around magnitude 7 caused the Mississippi River to flow backward for hours.

Until now, the cause of that seismicity has remained unclear.

While earthquakes along tectonic plate boundaries are caused by motion between the plates, earthquakes away from fault lines are primarily driven by motion beneath the plates, according to a new study published by USC scientist Thorsten Becker in Nature on Aug. 27.

Just beneath the Earth's crust is a layer of hot, semi-liquid rock that is continually flowing -- heating up and rising, then cooling and sinking. That convective process, interacting with the ever-changing motion of the plates at the surface, is driving intraplate seismicity and determining in large part where those earthquakes occur. To a lesser extent, the structure of the crust above also influences the location, according to their models.

"This will not be the last word on the origin of strange earthquakes. However, our work shows how imaging advances in seismology can be combined with mantle flow modeling to probe the links between seismicity and mantle convection," said Becker, lead author of the study and professor of Earth sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

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