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By Jon Cohen Until now, researchers wanting to understand the Neanderthal brain and how it differed from our own had to study a void. The best insights into the neurology of our mysterious, extinct relatives came from analyzing the shape and volume of the spaces inside their fossilized skulls. But a recent marriage of three hot fields—ancient DNA, the genome editor CRISPR, and "organoids" built from stem cells—offers a provocative, if very preliminary, new option. At least two research teams are engineering stem cells to include Neanderthal genes and growing them into "minibrains" that reflect the influence of that ancient DNA. None of this work has been published, but Alysson Muotri, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, described his group's Neanderthal organoids for the first time this month at a UCSD conference called Imagination and Human Evolution. His team has coaxed stem cells endowed with Neanderthal DNA into pea-size masses that mimic the cortex, the outer layer of real brains. Compared with cortical minibrains made with typical human cells, the Neanderthal organoids have a different shape and differences in their neuronal networks, including some that may have influenced the species's ability to socialize. "We're trying to recreate Neanderthal minds," Muotri says. Muotri focused on one of approximately 200 protein-coding genes that differ between Neanderthals and modern humans. Known as NOVA1, it plays a role in early brain development in modern humans and also is linked to autism and schizophrenia. Because it controls splicing of RNA from other genes, it likely helped produce more than 100 novel brain proteins in Neanderthals. Conveniently, just one DNA base pair differs between the Neanderthal gene and the modern human one. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Evolution
Link ID: 25116 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Sara Goudarzi The presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a statement Wednesday advocating for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to stop separating migrant families. The statement cites research that indicates endangerment of those involved. Last week the American Psychological Association released a letter opposing the Trump administration’s policy of taking immigrant children from their parents at the border. Under the zero-tolerance immigration policy, since May more than 2,300 immigrant children—some of them babies—have been forcibly separated from their parents attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico. Also Wednesday, as the backlash and public outcry continue to grow, Pres. Donald Trump said he would sign an executive order to stop separating families at the order. It was unclear when children already separated might be reunited with their families. But even if reunited soon, medical experts say the effects of separation can potentially last a lifetime. Scientific American spoke with Alan Shapiro, assistant clinical professor in pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, about the effects of separation trauma and other health and mental consequences of breaking up families. Shapiro is also senior medical director for Community Pediatric Programs (CPP), a collaboration between the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City and the Children’s Health Fund, and medical director and co-founder of Terra Firma, a partnership that provides medical and legal services to immigrant children. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 25115 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Meredith Wadman Breaking with a history of reticence, nearly 600 scientists, students, and lab animal workers published a letter in USA Today this morning that calls on U.S. research institutions to “embrace openness” about their animal research. “We should proudly explain how animals are used for the advancement of science and medicine, in the interest of the well-being of humans and animals,” the 592 signatories write in the letter. “From the development of insulin and transplant surgery to modern day advances, including gene therapies and cancer treatments; animals … continue to play a crucial role in both basic and applied research.” The letter was organized by the pro–animal research advocacy group Speaking of Research, which has offices in the both the United States and the United Kingdom. The group notes that four Nobel Prize–winning biologists are among the signatories: William Campbell, Mario Capecchi, Carol Greider, and Torsten Wiesel. It was also signed by students, lab technicians, veterinarians, physicians, and a few public policy experts. “I read the letter and decided within minutes that I would sign it,” says Greider, a biologist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for her discovery of the enzyme telomerase. “Animal research is very important to understanding fundamental biological mechanisms.” © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Rights
Link ID: 25114 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Nicholas Bakalar Night owls may be at greater risk for depression than early birds. Previous studies have found a link between a person’s unique circadian rhythm, or chronotype, and depression, but none were able to tell whether sleep habits were a cause or an effect of the disease. This new prospective study, in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, is a step closer to establishing causality. Researchers gathered health and behavioral data on 32,740 women whose average age was 55. Each categorized herself as a definite evening or morning type, a somewhat morning or evening type, or neither. All were free of depression at the start of the study, and over the following four years 2,581 of them developed depression, defined by antidepressant use or a clinical diagnosis. After adjusting for marital status, living alone, being retired, alcohol consumption and other variables, the researchers found that compared to the intermediate types, morning people were 12 percent less likely to develop depression, and night owls 6 percent more likely to develop it. The relationship was linear: the more a woman tended toward the night-owl type, the more likely she was to develop depression. “The effect is modest, a modest association for chronotype and incident depression,” said the lead author, Céline Vetter, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado. “But the overall pattern remains constant. We need to get much deeper into what the genetic and environmental contributions are between mood and chronotype.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Biological Rhythms; Depression
Link ID: 25113 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Victoria Davis Some people can trace their traditions back decades; the swamp sparrow has passed its songs down for more than 1500 years. The findings, published today in Nature Communications, suggest humans are not alone in keeping practices alive for long periods of time. To conduct the study, researchers recorded a collection of songs from 615 adult male swamp sparrows from six densely populated areas across the northeastern United States. They dissected each bird’s song repertoire, identifying only 160 different syllable types within all the recorded sample. Most swamp swallows sang the same tunes, using the same common syllables, but there were a few rare types in each population, just as there are variations in human oral histories over time. Using a statistical method of calculation called approximate Bayesian computation and models that measure the diversity of syllable types present in each population, the scientists were able to calculate how the songs of each male would have changed over time. They also found that all but two of the most common syllables used during their sampling in 2009 were also the most common during an earlier study of the species when recordings were made in the 1970s. Overall, the analysis indicated that the average age of the oldest tune dated back about 1537 years. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 25112 - Posted: 06.21.2018

Maria Temming Getting robots to do what we want would be a lot easier if they could read our minds. That sci-fi dream might not be so far off. With a new robot control system, a human can stop a bot from making a mistake and get the machine back on track using brain waves and simple hand gestures. People who oversee robots in factories, homes or hospitals could use this setup, to be presented at the Robotics: Science and Systems conference on June 28, to ensure bots operate safely and efficiently. Electrodes worn on the head and forearm allow a person to control the robot. The head-worn electrodes detect electrical signals called error-related potentials — which people’s brains unconsciously generate when they see someone goof up — and send an alert to the robot. When the robot receives an error signal, it stops what it is doing. The person can then make hand gestures — detected by arm-worn electrodes that monitor electrical muscle signals — to show the bot what it should do instead. MIT roboticist Daniela Rus and colleagues tested the system with seven volunteers. Each user supervised a robot that moved a drill toward one of three possible targets, each marked by an LED bulb, on a mock airplane fuselage. Whenever the robot zeroed in on the wrong target, the user’s mental error-alert halted the bot. And when the user flicked his or her wrist left or right to redirect the robot, the machine moved toward the proper target. In more than 1,000 trials, the robot initially aimed for the correct target about 70 percent of the time, and with human intervention chose the right target more than 97 percent of the time. The team plans to build a system version that recognizes a wider variety of user movements. That way, “you can gesture how the robot should move, and your motion can be more fluidly interpreted,” says study coauthor Joseph DelPreto, also a roboticist at MIT. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Brain imaging; Robotics
Link ID: 25111 - Posted: 06.20.2018

By Virginia Morell When an adult striped dolphin emerged from the Mediterranean Sea in 2016 pushing, nudging, and circling the carcass of its dead female companion for more than an hour, a nearby boat of scientists fell silent. Afterward, the students aboard said they were certain the dolphin was grieving. But was this grief or some other response? In a new study, researchers are attempting to get to the bottom of a mystery that has plagued behavioral biologists for 50 years. Grief, in humans at least, is a reaction to the permanent severing of a strong social or family bond. Although chimpanzees, baboons, and elephants are thought to experience the complex emotion, scientists don’t yet know enough about it in other animals. There are dozens of photos and YouTube videos of grieflike behavior in dolphins: Some mothers have been seen carrying their dead infants in their mouths or on their backs for a week or longer, even as the body decomposes; a couple adult males have also been seen holding dead calves in their mouths. In the new study, cetacean biologist Giovanni Bearzi of Dolphin Biology and Conservation in Pordenone, Italy, and his colleagues at other institutions analyzed 78 scientific reports from 1970 to 2016 of these kinds of displays—which they labeled “postmortem-attentive behavior.” They found that just 20 of 88 cetacean (dolphin and whale) species engage in them. Of those, most were dolphins from the Sousa and Tursiops genera. Just one was a baleen whale—a humpback. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 25110 - Posted: 06.20.2018

By Elizabeth Bauer Ask a roomful of neuroscientists to define the term “emotion” and you will trigger a lively discussion. Some will argue that emotions involve conscious experiences that can be studied only in humans. Others might counter that insects and other invertebrates exhibit some of the emotion building blocks seen in mammals. Some will contend that different emotions correspond to anatomically distinct areas of the brain, whereas others argue that emotions are produced in a highly distributed manner. Still others will bring up the 19th-century psychologist William James’s argument that emotions are a consequence, not a cause, of behavior. In The Neuroscience of Emotion, Ralph Adolphs and David J. Anderson argue that before we can study it, we must first define what we mean by “emotion.” Only then, they maintain, can we form appropriate and testable hypotheses. Colleagues at Caltech, the authors bring different experimental backgrounds to the topic of emotion. Adolphs studies the neural basis of human social behavior. Anderson uses rodents and fruitflies as model organisms to investigate how internal states elicit emotional behaviors. Their book is less a catalog of recent neuroscientific discoveries and more a conceptual framework for investigating emotional behaviors both in humans and in other animals. Adolphs and Anderson begin by contending that emotions are biological phenomena that cause behavioral and physiological changes in the brain and body and—in some species—subjective feelings. If emotions are a class of internal brain states expressed in measurable ways, they argue, we can study the neurobiological implementation of these states separately from subjective conscious feelings, meaning both humans and other animals are potential subjects. They go on to define, in detail, the basic properties of an emotion, including valence, scalability, persistence, automaticity, and generalization. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Emotions; Aggression
Link ID: 25109 - Posted: 06.20.2018

Siobhan Roberts In May 2013, the mathematician Carina Curto attended a workshop in Arlington, Virginia, on “Physical and Mathematical Principles of Brain Structure and Function” — a brainstorming session about the brain, essentially. The month before, President Obama had issued one of his “Grand Challenges” to the scientific community in announcing the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies), aimed at spurring a long-overdue revolution in understanding our three-pound organ upstairs. In advance of the workshop, the hundred or so attendees each contributed to a white paper addressing the question of what they felt was the most significant obstacle to progress in brain science. Answers ran the gamut — some probed more generally, citing the brain’s “utter complexity,” while others delved into details about the experimental technology. Curto, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University, took a different approach in her entry, offering an overview of the mathematical and theoretical technology: A major obstacle impeding progress in brain science is the lack of beautiful models. Let me explain. … Many will agree that the existing (and impending) deluge of data in neuroscience needs to be accompanied by advances in computational and theoretical approaches — for how else are we to “make sense” of these data? What such advances should look like, however, is very much up to debate. … How much detail should we be including in our models? … How well can we defend the biological realism of our theories? All Rights Reserved © 2018

Keyword: Robotics; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25108 - Posted: 06.20.2018

A National Institutes of Health-funded study found that treatment of opioid use disorder with either methadone or buprenorphine following a nonfatal opioid overdose is associated with significant reductions in opioid related mortality. The research, published today (link is external) in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was co-funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, both parts of NIH. Study authors analyzed data from 17,568 adults in Massachusetts who survived an opioid overdose between 2012 and 2014. Compared to those not receiving medication assisted treatment, opioid overdose deaths decreased by 59 percent for those receiving methadone and 38 percent for those receiving buprenorphine over the 12 month follow-up period. The authors were unable to draw conclusions about the impact of naltrexone due to small sample size, noting that further work is needed with larger samples. Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are three FDA-approved medications used to treat opioid use disorder (OUD). The study, the first to look at the association between using medication to treat OUD and mortality among patients experiencing a nonfatal opioid overdose, confirms previous research on the role methadone and buprenorphine can play to effectively treat OUD and prevent future deaths from overdose. Despite compelling evidence that medication assisted treatment can help many people recover from opioid addiction, these proven medications remain greatly underutilized. The study also found that in the first year following an overdose, less than one third of patients were provided any medication for OUD, including methadone (11 percent); buprenorphine (17 percent); and naltrexone (6 percent), with 5 percent receiving more than one medication.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25107 - Posted: 06.20.2018

Cassandra Willyard One of the earliest attempts to estimate the number of genes in the human genome involved tipsy geneticists, a bar in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, and pure guesswork. That was in 2000, when a draft human genome sequence was still in the works; geneticists were running a sweepstake on how many genes humans have, and wagers ranged from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands. Almost two decades later, scientists armed with real data still can’t agree on the number — a knowledge gap that they say hampers efforts to spot disease-related mutations. The latest attempt to plug that gap uses data from hundreds of human tissue samples and was posted on the BioRxiv preprint server on 29 May1. It includes almost 5,000 genes that haven’t previously been spotted — among them nearly 1,200 that carry instructions for making proteins. And the overall tally of more than 21,000 protein-coding genes is a substantial jump from previous estimates, which put the figure at around 20,000. But many geneticists aren’t yet convinced that all the newly proposed genes will stand up to close scrutiny. Their criticisms underscore just how difficult it is to identify new genes, or even define what a gene is. “People have been working hard at this for 20 years, and we still don’t have the answer,” says Steven Salzberg, a computational biologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, whose team produced the latest count. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 25106 - Posted: 06.20.2018

By James Gorman In the world of noses, the elephant’s trunk clearly stands out for its size, flexibility, strength and slightly creepy gripping ability. Go ahead, try to pluck a leaf with your nostrils and see how you fare.So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the elephant’s sense of smell is also outstanding. Past studies have shown that elephants have more scent receptors than any other mammal. And in other experiments, researchers following up reports that elephants in Angola were avoiding minefields found that they could detect TNT. Another report concluded that elephants could use scent clues to tell the difference between two Kenyan tribes, the Maasai, who traditionally speared them, and the Kamba, who did not. The elephants apparently used these clues to help them avoid the Maasai. The latest bit of research adds to the evidence by showing how they use their great sense of smell in choosing food. Elephants often must find vegetation and water at a distance, and they also distinguish between fairly similar plants once they reach a clump of likely vegetation. It seemed that they probably used their sense of smell, but Melissa Schmitt, a researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and her colleagues wanted to see how good they were. So she tested them at close range, using two buckets with two different hidden foods. They easily picked out the bucket with leaves from plants they enjoyed, say wild pear, and avoided ones they didn’t like, wild olive, for instance. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 25105 - Posted: 06.19.2018

Chris Benderev Stephanie and Natalie enrolled their older son in sessions at a Brain Balance Achievement Center in the hope that it would help him make friends. Hokyoung Kim for NPR Some parents see it coming. Natalie was not that kind of parent. Even after the director and a teacher at her older son's day care sat her down one afternoon in 2011 to detail the 3-year-old's difficulty socializing and his tendency to chatter endlessly about topics his peers showed no interest in, she still didn't get the message. Her son, the two educators eventually spelled out, might be on the autism spectrum. "I was in tears at the end," she says. "When I got home, I was just devastated." Natalie broke the news to her wife, Stephanie, whose mind fast-forwarded to a distressing future. Would her son — a squat, cheerful boy who, despite his affectionate nature, didn't have any playmates — ever be able to make friends? When a doctor eventually confirmed he had an autism spectrum disorder, the diagnosis came with a suggestion: Perhaps the boy would benefit from Prozac when he turned 7. "That was when both of us fell apart in that meeting," Natalie says. For both parents, medication wasn't an option. Article continues after sponsorship "Prozac is a very powerful drug for adults. Why would you give it to a 7-year-old?" Stephanie wondered after the doctor's visit. "I welled up with all of this emotion. And I said I will not let that happen." (To protect their privacy, we are only using Natalie's and Stephanie's first names. We are not naming their children.) The fear of psychotropic drugs led the family to pursue alternative treatments for autism. To start, they dropped gluten. © 2018 npr

Keyword: ADHD; Autism
Link ID: 25104 - Posted: 06.19.2018

By Amanda Svachula Marcos Gardiana, a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic with five tattoos of Disney characters on his body to prove it, was excited to see the company’s latest blockbuster, “Incredibles 2,” on Sunday, and took his girlfriend along with him. He never got to see the end of it. Mr. Gardiana, 27, who has epilepsy as a result of a brain injury from a 2011 car accident, said he started getting lightheaded and dizzy in the theater. He had a “small” seizure at first, he said, and then a “blackout seizure, a full-on shaking seizure.” His girlfriend, Courtney Anderson, 21, led him to a bench outside. “He sat down for a minute, pale as a ghost,” she said. “He had a second, full-on seizure, eyes rolled back. And he lost consciousness.” Mr. Gardiana had apparently suffered seizures triggered by flashing lights during the movie, an unusual but also a well-established peril for some people with epilepsy. It was unclear whether the Walt Disney Company, which did not respond to requests for comment on Monday, had warned theaters about the danger. But beginning on Friday, the first full day of showings for “Incredibles 2,” signs began appearing in movie houses warning that a “sequence of flashing lights” may affect people who are susceptible to “photosensitive epilepsy or other photosensitivities.” But it appears that some epileptic viewers did not get the memo. Mr. Gardiana said he saw no warning signs in the Las Vegas theater he went to. The manager of the theater said that a sign had been posted on Friday but that she could not comment further. In Times Square, where the movie was showing at the Regal Cinemas, a sign did not go up on Monday until this reporter asked where it was; that theater’s manager declined to comment. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Epilepsy
Link ID: 25103 - Posted: 06.19.2018

By Roni Caryn Rabin The director of the nation’s top health research agency pulled the plug on a study of alcohol’s health effects without hesitation on Friday, saying a Harvard scientist and some of his agency’s own staff had crossed “so many lines” in pursuit of alcohol industry funding that “people were frankly shocked.” A 165-page internal investigation prepared for Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, concluded that Kenneth J. Mukamal, the lead investigator of the trial, was in close, frequent contact with beer and liquor executives while designing the study. Buried in that document are disturbing examples of the coziness between the scientists and their industry patrons. Dr. Mukamal was eager to allay their concerns, respond to their questions and suggestions, and secure the industry’s buy-in. Dr. Mukamal has repeatedly denied communicating with the alcohol industry while planning the trial, telling The Times last year that he had, “literally no contact with the alcohol industry.” In a statement issued on Friday, Dr. Mukamal said he and his colleagues “stand fully and forcefully behind the scientific integrity” of the trial. But the report documented conference calls he held with alcoholic beverage companies and lengthy memos written in response to their concerns, long before the N.I.H. even announced it would sponsor the trial. Beer and liquor companies offered their own suggestions for carrying out the trial. Carlsberg, the Danish beer company, at one point suggested that clinical trial centers be established in Russia, China and Denmark. (A trial site was located in Copenhagen, but not in Russia or China.) The strategy of engagement with industry was effective. Five large beer and liquor companies eventually agreed to pick up most of the $100 million tab for the 10-year-long randomized trial. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25102 - Posted: 06.19.2018

Ed Yong Peter, aged 3, was scared of rabbits. So Mary Cover Jones kept bringing him rabbits. At first, she’d take a caged rabbit up to Peter, while he ate some candy and played with other children. At first, Peter was terrified by the mere presence of a rabbit in the same room. But soon, he allowed the animal to get closer—12 feet, then four, then three. Eventually, Peter was happy for rabbits to nibble his fingers. “The case of Peter illustrates how a fear may be removed under laboratory conditions,” Cover Jones wrote in 1924. Cover Jones is now recognized as the "mother of behavioral therapy." Her observations laid the groundwork for what would become known as exposure therapy—the practice of getting people to overcome their fears by facing them in controlled settings. A century later, neuroscientists can watch how the act of facing one’s fears actually plays out inside the brain. Using gene-engineering tools, they can label the exact neurons in a mouse’s brain that store a specific fearful memory. Then, they can watch what happens when the rodent recalls those experiences. By doing this, Ossama Khalaf from the EPFL in Lausanne showed that the extinction of fear depends on reactivating the neurons that encode it. A mouse has to re-experience a deep-rooted fear if it is to lose it. When someone encounters a new experience—say, a terrifying rabbit—groups of neurons in their brain fire together, the connections between them become stronger, and molecules accumulate at the places where neurons meet. Many scientists believe that these preserved patterns of strengthened connections are the literal stuff of memories—the physical representations of the things we remember. These connected neuron groups are called engrams.

Keyword: Emotions; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25101 - Posted: 06.18.2018

By Jessica Wright, Spectrum o Young people with autism have more psychiatric and medical conditions than do their typical peers or those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a new study suggests. The early onset of these problems suggests they do not stem solely from a lifetime of poor healthcare, says lead researcher Lisa Croen, director of the Autism Research Program at Kaiser Permanente, a managed healthcare provider based in California. “One possible explanation is that there’s something physiologic or genetic that’s underlying not only what falls into the definition of autism, but also physical health and, more broadly, mental health,” she says. Some of the problems in young people with autism, such as obesity, may be related to poor diet, medication use and limited physical activity, says Alice Kuo, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. Several studies have documented the co-occurrence of psychiatric and medical conditions in people with autism. Croen’s team published a similar analysis in 2015 of adults with autism aged 18 to 74. (The oldest control was 92.) © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 25100 - Posted: 06.18.2018

by Judith Graham You’ve turned 65 and exited middle age. What are the chances you’ll develop cognitive impairment or dementia in the years ahead? New research about “cognitive life expectancy” — how long older adults live with good vs. declining brain health — shows that after age 65, men and women spend more than a dozen years in good cognitive health, on average. And, over the past decade, that time span has been expanding. By contrast, cognitive challenges arise in a more compressed time frame in later life, with mild cognitive impairment (problems with memory, decision-making or thinking skills) lasting about four years, on average, and dementia (Alzheimer’s disease or other related conditions) occurring over 1½ to two years. Even when these conditions surface, many seniors retain an overall sense of well-being, according to new research presented in April at the Population Association of America’s annual meeting. “The majority of cognitively impaired years are happy ones, not unhappy ones,” said Anthony Bardo, a co-author of that study and an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. Recent research finds that: Most seniors don’t have cognitive impairment or dementia. Of Americans 65 and older, about 20 to 25 percent have mild cognitive impairment while about 10 percent have dementia, according to Kenneth Langa, an expert in the demography of aging and a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. Risks rise with advanced age, and the portion of the population affected is significantly higher for people older than 85. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 25099 - Posted: 06.18.2018

By Jan Hoffman One in seven high school students reported misusing prescription opioids, one of several disturbing results in a nationwide survey of teenagers that revealed a growing sense of fear and despair among youth in the United States. The numbers of teenagers reporting “feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” suicidal thoughts, and days absent from school out of fear of violence or bullying have all risen since 2007. The increases were particularly pointed among lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students. Nationally, 1 in 5 students reported being bullied at school; 1 in 10 female students and 1 in 28 male students reported having been physically forced to have sex. “An adolescent’s world can be bleak,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey and analyzed the data. “But having a high proportion of students report they had persistent feelings of hopelessness and 17 percent considering suicide is deeply disturbing.” In 2017, 31 percent of students surveyed said they had such feelings, while 28 percent said so in 2007. In 2017, nearly 14 percent of students had actually made a suicide plan, up from 11 percent in 2007. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is given every two years to nearly 15,000 students in high schools in 39 states, and poses questions about a wide array of attitudes and activities. The report did offer some encouraging trends, suggesting that the overall picture for adolescents is a nuanced one. Compared to a decade ago, fewer students reported having had sex, drinking alcohol or using drugs like cocaine, heroin or marijuana. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Depression
Link ID: 25098 - Posted: 06.18.2018

By Aaron E. Carroll The medical research grant system in the United States, run through the National Institutes of Health, is intended to fund work that spurs innovation and fosters research careers. In many ways, it may be failing. It has been getting harder for researchers to obtain grant support. A study published in 2015 in JAMA showed that from 2004 to 2012, research funding in the United States increased only 0.8 percent year to year. It hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation; officials say the N.I.H. has lost about 23 percent of its purchasing power in a recent 12-year span. Because the money available for research doesn’t go as far as it used to, it now takes longer for scientists to get funding. The average researcher with an M.D. is 45 years old (for a Ph.D. it’s 42 years old) before she or he obtains that first R01 (think “big” grant). Given that R01-level funding is necessary to obtain promotion and tenure (not to mention its role in the science itself), this means that more promising researchers are washing out than ever before. Only about 20 percent of postdoctoral candidates who aim to earn a tenured position in a university achieve that goal. This new reality can be justified only if those who are weeded out really aren’t as good as those who remain. Are we sure that those who make it are better than those who don’t? A recent study suggests the grant-making system may be unreliable in distinguishing between grants that are funded versus those that get nothing — its very purpose. When a health researcher (like me) believes he has a good idea for a research study, he most often submits a proposal to the N.I.H. It’s not easy to do so. Grants are hard to write, take a lot of time, and require a lot of experience to obtain. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 25097 - Posted: 06.18.2018