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  • May 4, 2016
  • 04:30 AM

Injury Before College May Increase the Risk of Surgery During College

by Kyle Harris in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

An athlete who sustained an injury requiring surgery prior to college is more likely to sustain an injury that needs surgery during their college career.... Read more »

Wang, D., Rugg, C., Mayer, E., Lai, W., Sulzicki, P., Vail, J., & Hame, S. (2016) Precollegiate Knee Surgery Predicts Subsequent Injury Requiring Surgery in NCAA Athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. DOI: 10.1177/0363546516634306  

  • May 4, 2016
  • 02:34 AM

The developmental correlates of asthma (again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Can I just get it out of the way? May the 4th be with you.OK. The results from Mark Strom & Jonathan Silverberg [1] caught my eye recently and further evidence of a 'correlation' between asthma and developmental and/or behavioural outcomes. This time around it was "caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children" and how the appearance of asthma, hay fever and/or food allergy might show some important relationships with something like speech disorder. This follows other, similar work from this research tag-team that has previously graced this blog (see here).Based on the analysis of "cross-sectional data on 337,285 children aged 2-17 from 19 US population-based studies, including the 1997-2013 National Health Interview Survey and the 2003/4 and 2007/8 National Survey of Children's Health" researchers engaged in some number-crunching to ascertain how physiology and behaviour might be linked. When controlling for various other important variables such as age and a history of eczema, authors reported some interesting correlations based again on those household survey results. "Future prospective studies are needed to characterize the associations.I've zoomed in on the specific condition called asthma as being tied into parent (caregiver) -reported speech disorders because I'm mighty interested in the behavioural correlates that might follow this inflammatory condition (see here and see here for example). As Strom & Silverberg mention: "In one study that assessed caregiver-reported asthma severity, mild (1.58 [1.20-2.08], P=0.001) and moderate (2.99 [1.54-3.41], P<0.0001) asthma were associated with increased odds of speech disorder, however severe asthma was associated with the highest odds of speech disorder (5.70 [2.36-13.78], P=0.0001)." The idea therefore that severity of asthma might correlate with the odds of reporting (caregiver-reporting) a speech disorder, is seemingly an important one.I could speculate all-day as to what might be the important driver(s) in any association between asthma and speech disorder (genetics, immune function, gut bacteria, medication and/or pollutants) but I don't think it would be particularly helpful at this point. Not any more helpful than reiterating that we do need a lot more investigation into this proposed association and that preferential screening for one or other condition when the other has been diagnosed might be a rather good idea.And while I'm on the topic of immune function and behavioural correlates, how about another recent paper from this research tag-team [2] and more scientific evidence for a possible important association between atopic dermatitis and ADHD...----------[1] Strom MA. & Silverberg JI. Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2016 Apr 19.[2] Strom MA. et al. Association between AD and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in US Children and Adults. Br J Dermatol. 2016 Apr 23.----------Strom MA, & Silverberg JI (2016). Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatric allergy and immunology : official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology PMID: 27091599... Read more »

Strom MA, & Silverberg JI. (2016) Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatric allergy and immunology : official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. PMID: 27091599  

  • May 3, 2016
  • 07:39 AM

Flipping the Drake Equation for a deep time perspective on the Fermi Paradox

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Is anybody out there? Where are all the alien civilizations? Even if (intelligent) life is very unlikely, the sheer size and age of the universe means that even long odds might have produced space faring civilizations. Yet, so far, nada. When people are considering the (im)probability of non-human space travellers, one thing always comes up: […]... Read more »

  • May 3, 2016
  • 02:58 AM

Machine learning applied to autism screening going big time?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Machine learning, when machines, er.. learn, is of growing interest to the autism research field. The names Wall and Duda have filled quite a few posts on this blog (see here and see here for example) on this topic and their suggesting that applying machine learning algorithms to something like autism screening and detection could cut down on time taken and resources used.As per the publication of the paper by Daniel Bone and colleagues [1] it appears that others working in autism research are also waking up to the idea that this might be a useful area to investigate. So: "In this work, we fastidiously utilize ML [machine learning] to derive autism spectrum disorder (ASD) instrument algorithms in an attempt to improve upon widely used ASD screening and diagnostic tools." Fastidiously is such a lovely word (particularly in the context of science).The tools in question were the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R) and Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) (both of which have already been machine learning 'applied') and their scores "for 1,264 verbal individuals with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] and 462 verbal individuals with non-ASD developmental or psychiatric disorders, split at age 10." And the results... well, let's just say that the authors were not disappointed - or at least less disappointed than on previous research occasions [2] - as they reported on created algorithms that "were more effective (higher performing) than the current algorithms, were tunable (sensitivity and specificity can be differentially weighted), and were more efficient (achieving near-peak performance with five or fewer codes)." Indeed: "We present a screener algorithm for below (above) age 10 that reached 89.2% (86.7%) sensitivity and 59.0% (53.4%) specificity with only five behavioral codes." Sensitivity and specificity are important concepts when it comes to something like screening instruments in terms of identifying 'all' those with a specific condition and making sure that no 'not-cases' aren't mistakenly identified as 'cases'. The nearly 90% sensitivity rate presented by Bone et al on the basis of 5 behavioural codes is not to be sniffed at.The addition of one Cathy Lord to the authorship of the Bone paper also adds an air of inevitability that applying machine learning to autism research (and practice) is going to continue and increase. Not only because of her historical connection to the ADI-R [3] (which is a hefty document in anyone's book) but also given her very prominent role in autism research history. Who knows, I might one day be blogging about more big autism research names talking about Wall/Duda things including autism screening triage by YouTube? The final question is: outside of just behavioural variables, who would be brave enough to talk genetics/epigenetics/biology machine learning as the next step in autism screening and/or assessment?----------[1] Bone D. et al. Use of machine learning to improve autism screening and diagnostic instruments: effectiveness, efficiency, and multi-instrument fusion. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2016 Apr 19.[2] Bone D. et al. Applying machine learning to facilitate autism diagnostics: pitfalls and promises. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 May;45(5):1121-36.[3] Lord C. et al. Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised: a revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 1994 Oct;24(5):659-85.----------Bone D, Bishop S, Black MP, Goodwin MS, Lord C, & Narayanan SS (2016). Use of machine learning to improve autism screening and diagnostic instruments: effectiveness, efficiency, and multi-instrument fusion. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines PMID: 27090613... Read more »

  • May 2, 2016
  • 02:45 PM

Origin of synaptic pruning process linked to learning, autism and schizophrenia identified

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Vaccines don't cause autism, but because the brain is so complex, we still don't know how much of it works so figuring out the real causes (as in more than one) of autism has been slow going. Well, researchers have identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but in this case it is one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.... Read more »

Sonia Afroz, Julie Parato, Hui Shen Sheryl, & Sue Smith. (2016) Synaptic pruning in the female hippocampus is triggered at puberty by extrasynaptic GABAA receptors on dendritic spines . eLife. info:/

  • May 2, 2016
  • 07:11 AM

"Neuroscience-Based Nomenclature" for Mental Health?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Psychiatric drugs come in many kinds: there are antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medications, and more. But what all of these categories have in common is that they're anti- something. This is how we classify these drugs - by what they treat.

Except there's a problem - very few psychiatric drugs are only used to treat one thing. Take "antipsychotics". They're used in psychosis, but they're also a key tool in the treatment of mania, a different disorder entirely. Many of these dru... Read more »

Zohar J, Stahl S, Moller HJ, Blier P, Kupfer D, Yamawaki S, Uchida H, Spedding M, Goodwin GM, & Nutt D. (2015) A review of the current nomenclature for psychotropic agents and an introduction to the Neuroscience-based Nomenclature. European neuropsychopharmacology : the journal of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(12), 2318-25. PMID: 26527055  

  • May 2, 2016
  • 04:30 AM

If the Helmet Don’t Fit, You May Have to Sit (Out Longer with a Concussion)

by Stephen Stache in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

An athlete with a poorly fit helmet that sustains a concussion may have an increased risk of more severe symptoms and prolonged recovery.... Read more »

  • May 2, 2016
  • 03:50 AM

A statistical regression approach to estimate zooplankton mortality

by sceintists from the Marine group at CEES in Marine Science blog

It is notoriously difficult to estimate mortality rates for zooplankton populations in the open ocean. In a new paper, Kvile and colleagues demonstrate that mortality estimation can be improved using a statistical regression approach (SRA) that takes into account advection and spatiotemporal trends in recruitment. Using this method on
Calanus finmarchicus survey data from the Norwegian Sea–Barents Sea, they find indications of increased mortality for the oldest copepodite stage pair (CIV–CV), possibly reflecting higher predation pressure on larger copepodites.

... Read more »

  • May 2, 2016
  • 02:55 AM

On defining chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Most people who know a little bit about chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) will probably understand the potential importance of the findings reported by Leonard Jason and colleagues [1] (open-access available here). Suggesting that there may be "four groupings of patients" when it comes to how we "name and define the illnesses", this research group who surveyed over 500 people "in the United States, Great Britain, and Norway" report on one of the biggest challenges facing ME/CFS... how do we accurately define it?The problem of defining CFS/ME stems from the fact that there are currently several clinical presentations where CFS/ME might figure (or at least where patients fulfil ME/CFS criteria) and several different ways of clinically defining the condition(s) (see here and see here). That list of definitions may indeed also be growing (see here). With all that confusion about clinical overlap and what criteria are defining what patient group, it's little wonder that research is just starting to come to grips with some of the potential underlying biology of [some] CFS/ME (see here) after so many years in the scientific wilderness. Indeed, as with many conditions resting in that 'unexplained symptoms' category, not knowing can sometimes be fertile ground for various [unfounded] theorising...Jason et al (whose research has graced this blog before) set about categorising their participant group based on various case definitions and symptom presentations. They reported four groupings; by far the largest group of their participants (n=346) fell into a categorisation that "involves more specific criteria" defining CFS/ME including use of the relative new term SEID (Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease). Further: "efforts have specified domains of substantial reductions of activity, post-exertional malaise, neurocognitive impairment, and sleep dysfunction" and "Patients with these characteristics were more functionally impaired than those meeting just chronic fatigue criteria." The term used by authors for this group was Neuroendocrineimmune Dysfunction Syndrome (NDS) following on from previous work [2]. Smaller numbers of people included on their study did meet criteria for chronic fatigue (greater than 6 months) with (n=47) or without (n=62) explanation "by medical or psychiatric conditions." Jason and colleagues also defined a smaller group who met the Ramsay ME criteria and who were described as an "even more impaired group." I wonder if this might include the 'housebound' group described in other research?The authors accept that there are 'limitations' to their research including issues around how they chose their sample(s) and some of the tools used relying on self-report; further work is indicated. But as a start trying to disentangle both the heterogeneity and issues with clinical classification when it comes to CFS/ME, their paper represents a good attempt to further focus minds on the spectrum of various overlapping fatigue conditions present and how we go about teasing apart phenotypes with a focus on core symptoms [2]. Minus the psychiatry focus, perhaps it is time to also looking at applying something like the principles of RDoC to the issue of ME/CFS?----------[1] Jason LA. et al. Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue. 2016;4(1):1-23.[2] Jason LA. et al. Factor Analysis of the DePaul Symptom Questionnaire: Identifying Core Domains. J Neurol Neurobiol. 2015 Sep;1(4).----------Jason LA, McManimen S, Sunnquist M, Brown A, Furst J, Newton JL, & Strand EB (2016). Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue : biomedicine, health & behavior, 4 (1), 1-23 PMID: 27088059... Read more »

Jason LA, McManimen S, Sunnquist M, Brown A, Furst J, Newton JL, & Strand EB. (2016) Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue : biomedicine, health , 4(1), 1-23. PMID: 27088059  

  • May 1, 2016
  • 02:17 PM

Influence of religion and predestination on evolution and scientific thinking

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Generally seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. However, in a new article, a biology researcher delves into observations on the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking over the centuries.

... Read more »

  • May 1, 2016
  • 11:00 AM

Being Explicit About Symmetry

by Joshua Fisher in Text Savvy

Working to orient oneself to the symmetries available in mathematical situations seems like one appropriate remedy to what I've called "left-to-rightism," or "cinemathematics"—a syndrome that makes us teach concepts like the equals sign (unwittingly) in a left-to-right way, such that students take away (unwittingly) the misconception that the equals sign indicates that some answer is to follow, rather than that two expressions are equal. Some recent research points to the benefits of thinking about symmetry when teaching negative numbers as well.... Read more »

  • May 1, 2016
  • 03:01 AM

The Truth About Cognitive Impairment in Retired NFL Players

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

NINETY-TWO percent of retired National Football League players have decreased cognitive function, according to a new study:“In the NFL group, baseline neuropsychological assessments showed 92% of players had decreased general cognitive proficiency, 86% had decreased information processing speed, 83% had memory loss, 83% had attentional deficits, and 85% had executive function impairment.”The Truth?The study reported on a self-selected sample of 161 current and retired NFL players recruited via a blog (“The NFL concealed the danger of brain injuries!!”), the Los Angeles Chapter of the Retired NFL Players Association, The Summit (??), and possibly other sources. Perhaps these players were motivated to participate because they had cognitive complaints, or because they wanted an evaluation in advance of the $1 billion concussion settlement. The League's Baseline Assessment Program is a required part of the settlement.The quote above is the full extent of the report on the players' neuropsychological assessments. These were done using computerized test batteries (MicroCog or WebNeuro), which are largely unknown to most clinical neuropsychologists. Was there an adequately matched control population? What norms were used? They don't say.THE TRUTH IS, we don't know the extent of cognitive impairment in these football players, or the percentage of all players who are affected, or the severity of impairment in those who are. This new paper (by Daniel Amen, Bennet Omalu, and others) doesn't give us enough information, but it succeeds in sounding the alarm about the dangers of football and the inevitability of memory loss and attention deficits.Are blows to the head bad for your brain? Can repeated concussions cause cognitive impairment and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)? Yes, almost certainly, but we can't rely on biased samples, appeal to celebrity, and Frontline documentaries (“researchers have identified CTE in 96 percent of NFL players that they’ve examined”) as conclusive scientific evidence. What's needed are better sampling methods (in the short term) and longitudinal studies that follow a diverse cohort over time (in the long term).The Scans Caption for top figure: SPECT brain scans showing abnormal low blood flow in an NFL player compared to a normal healthy control subject.The new paper by Amen et al. (2016) was actually focused on SPECT scans, not surprisingly, since these are the backbone of his business at the Amen Clinics. The article claims “90% sensitivity, 86% specificity, and 94% accuracy” in discriminating NFL players from controls. I won't elaborate here, but check out This Neuroimaging Method Has 100% Diagnostic Accuracy (or your money back) and The Dark Side of Diagnosis by Brain Scan for detailed critiques of the methods used here. I will flag one tiny issue, however:“All NFL players were male, while 56% of the control group were women.”Why?? The authors have a database of 100,000 SPECT scans...ReferencesDaniel G. Amen, Kristen Willeumier, Bennet Omalu, Andrew Newberg, Cauligi Raghavendra, & Cyrus A. Raji (2016). Perfusion Neuroimaging Abnormalities Alone Distinguish National Football League Players from a Healthy Population Journal of Alzheimer's Disease : 10.3233/JAD-160207Caption (from press materials): SPECT brain scans showing improvement of abnormal low blood flow in an NFL player compared after 3.5 months on a customized brain rehabilitation program.

... Read more »

Daniel G. Amen, Kristen Willeumier, Bennet Omalu, Andrew Newberg, Cauligi Raghavendra, & Cyrus A. Raji. (2016) Perfusion Neuroimaging Abnormalities Alone Distinguish National Football League Players from a Healthy Population. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. info:/10.3233/JAD-160207

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