Croatian family tourism as the best example of good practice in Europe

first_imgAt the invitation of the European Association of Family Accommodation (EHHA), of which it is a recent member, the Family Tourism Association presented at the World Tourism Fair (ITB) on March 9 in Berlin a model of regulation and organization of family accommodation as an example of good practice.”Croatian family accommodation is recognized as a successful model in the countries of the European Union. Half of all tourist beds are in private accommodation, which has grown by 25 percent in the last ten years”, Said the director of the HGK Tourism Department Leila Krešić-Jurić in the introductory part of the presentation and stated that family accommodation and related services earn two billion euros a year, which gives a value of 170.000 jobs, and the state collects 50 million euros a year from various taxes. . She pointed out that family accommodation last year brought 35 percent of all overnight stays to Croatian tourism, while the most numerous guests are from Germany, so family accommodation is the generator of a large increase in the number of overnight stays in Croatia in recent years.”The tradition of household accommodation dates back to Roman times and spa treatment, nurtured by proud citizens of Dubrovnik who resisted the sale of family real estate on which they build their present and future, and this model developed especially in the 60s on the Adriatic and represents the beginning of the economy sharing the modern age. With such a history and existing strategic documents of Croatian tourism, which respect the specifics of culture and tourist offer, Croatia is an example of how to easily regulate this activity“, Pointed out Krešić-Jurić and presented the legal and fiscal framework of family tourism and promotion through the tourist community.During the presentation, the role of the Family Tourism Community established at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce was emphasized, at the regional level in 1997, then at the national level in 2010. In three years, 10 regional sections have been established throughout Croatia for stronger lobbying, exchange of experiences, development of quality standards, branding and promotion, through national, regional and local forums visited by more than 10.000 citizens.Photo: HGKDuring the presentation, the President of the Family Tourism Association of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, Nedjeljko Pinezić, additionally presented the socio-demographic dimension of this type of accommodation and its impact on the Croatian economy. “Europe is the world’s number one destination. Tourists from all over the world want to come to Europe and experience the lifestyle of the locals. If we do not allow the local population to continue living in their area in the traditional way, we will lose the basic attraction that makes tourists come to Europe. The solution is to enable people to provide accommodation services in their homes. They thus remain attached to their homes”, Pointed out Pinezić and added that this creates additional jobs, for example, for taxi drivers, traders, caterers…”Household accommodation is an important issue in the European Union that requires fair and simple regulation. Croatia has gone through its difficult period in recent history and can offer its experience and its model of household accommodation management to other EU members as an example of good practice in all the above parameters.”, Said Pinezic. The presentation was held as part of a round table organized by EHHA, during which the impact of the sharing economy on tourism trends was discussed.Berlin is an example of a city where many visitors use real estate outside the law. The influx of tourists using household accommodation in major cities in Europe has caught city administrations unprepared and is now fighting to legally prevent tourist rental apartments. However, such attitudes provoke protests of citizens about freedom of movement and freedom of inclusion in modern economic trends. The discussion was attended by leaders of political parties in Berlin and the German Association of Family Accommodation and the director of Novasol Bernd Muckenschnabel, who was impressed by the Croatian model and announced with great pleasure his arrival at the next national Family Accommodation Forum.last_img read more

Blue Lagoon in search of seasonal workers

first_imgOn Saturday, May 13, the team of the Plava laguna tourist group (Plava laguna dd and Istraturist Umag dd) presented employment opportunities in Istrian destinations in two Osijek locations – on Ante Starčević Square and in the Portanova center. These are companies that employ a total of about 3 workers, and for the peak season itself, jobs are being offered for another 200 seasonal workers.”The Blue Lagoon Group annually employs about 2.000 thousand seasonal workers. Most of them have been employed since the Easter holidays, and about 200 jobs are still open. The companies Plava laguna and Istraturist operate in Istria and offer quality opportunities for acquiring work skills, gathering work experience and meeting interesting people. Jobs have been created in Poreč and Umag, accommodation and three meals a day are at the employer’s expense, and in addition to a secure and regular salary, incentives for work in July and August have been provided. “, say the Blue Lagoon group, adding that they need about 200 more seasonal workers, from waiters, chefs and other support staff.The fact that we already have a large number of seasonal workers who return to us from year to year speaks volumes about the quality of work in the Blue Lagoon. On the contrary, this year 78 new contracts were concluded for permanent seasonal workers, who are actually workers with a permanent contract, but in practice they usually work for less than twelve months while their length of service and pension insurance are paid throughout the year. This year we have invested in an additional 300 beds for personal accommodation, with a continuous increase in quality for existing accommodation. e hereIf you are looking for a seasonal job, apply for a job in the Blue Lagoon herelast_img read more

Study: This is your teen’s brain behind the wheel

first_imgPinterest Share on Twitter LinkedIn Share on Facebook “He found that peers significantly increase risk-taking among teens,” Telzer said. “I wanted to know whether we could reduce risk-taking by bringing a parent into the car.”Telzer and her colleagues observed that teens driving alone found risky decisions rewarding. Blood flow to the ventral striatum, a “reward center” in the brain, increased significantly when teen drivers chose to ignore a yellow stoplight and drove through the intersection anyway.Previous research has demonstrated that the ventral striatum is more sensitive to rewards in adolescence than during any other developmental period, Telzer said.“The prevailing view is that this peak in reward sensitivity in adolescence underlies, in part, adolescent risk-taking,” she said.A mother’s presence, however, blunted the thrill of running the yellow light, Telzer and her colleagues found.“When mom is there, the heightened ventral striatum activation during risky decisions goes away,” Telzer said. “Being risky, it appears, is no longer rewarding in the presence of mom.”Not surprisingly, teens stepped on the brakes significantly more often at yellow lights when their moms were present than when they were alone.“The teens go from about 55 percent risky choices to about 45 percent when their mom is watching,” Telzer said. “That’s a big effect.”Another brain region, the prefrontal cortex, kicked into gear when the teens put on the brakes – but only when their mom was watching, the researchers found. The PFC is important to behavioral regulation, also called “cognitive control,” Telzer said.“When they make safe decisions, when they choose to stop instead of going through that intersection, the prefrontal cortex comes online,” she said. “It’s activated when mom is there, but not when they’re alone.”The PFC (the control center) and the ventral striatum (the reward center) are key brain regions involved in adolescent risk-taking behavior, Telzer said. But in the absence of a well-developed control center, adolescents are more susceptible to the stimulating allure of risky behavior.“Here we’re showing that mom reduces the rewarding nature of risk-taking and increases activation of the prefrontal cortex during safe behavior,” Telzer said. “And so these two mechanisms help adolescents to think twice before running the intersection. A parent’s presence is actually changing the way the adolescent is reasoning and thinking about risk – and this increases their safe behavior.”center_img Email A new study of teenagers an d their moms reveals how adolescent brains negotiate risk – and the factors that modulate their risk-taking behind the wheel.In the study, reported in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14-year-old subjects completed a simulated driving task while researchers tracked blood flow in their brains. In one trial, the teen driver was alone; in another, the teen’s mother was present and watching, said University of Illinois psychology professor Eva Telzer , who led the study.Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University, developed the driving task and evaluated how the presence of peers influenced teen risk-taking, Telzer said. Sharelast_img read more

Positive reinforcement plays key role in cognitive task performance in ADHD kids

first_imgShare Share on Facebook Email The findings come out of a novel study published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Functions that collectively examined two leading theories on ADHD, combining what previous work had mostly looked at separately.One of those theories suggests that lower-than-average cognitive abilities contribute to symptoms associated with ADHD, such as inattentiveness. The other theory favors motivation over ability, focusing on whether kids with ADHD have an increased sensitivity to reward.“When asking whether the performance difference we see is the result of ability or motivation, this research has more of an answer than any study that comes before it,” says UB psychologist Larry Hawk, the paper’s principle investigator.The results of the research conducted by Hawk, Fosco, UB graduate student Michelle Bubnik and Keri Rosch of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, have clinical parallels as well.Behavioral therapy, which uses positive consequences to increase the likelihood of achieving certain behaviors, is among the leading psychosocial interventions for children with an ADHD diagnosis.The authors point out that the benefits of reward are not specific to children with ADHD.“The major difference is that typically developing kids usually perform well even when simply asked to do their best,” says Fosco. “But kids with ADHD typically need an external or an additional reinforcement to perform their best.”It’s a tricky area of research area, according to Hawk, since some of the subjects are being tested on tasks on which they have a demonstrated history of poor performance.There is also a degree of variability between the two groups. The authors say that having a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t necessarily mean that a child will perform poorly on any given task, and neither does the absence of a diagnosis mean that the child will perform well on any given task.“You can’t say kids with ADHD respond more to reinforcement because they were doing poorly to begin with,” says Hawk. “We showed that was not true. It was greater motivation to obtain external rewards that drove the effects we observed.” A little recognition for a job well done means a lot to children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – more so than it would for typically developing kids.That praise, or other possible reward, improves the performance of children with ADHD on certain cognitive tasks, but until a recent study led by researchers from the University at Buffalo, it wasn’t clear if that result was due to heightened motivation inspired by positive reinforcement or because those with ADHD simply had greater room for improvement at certain tasks relative to their peers without such a diagnosis.“Our results suggest that the motivation piece is critical,” says Whitney Fosco, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences. “Kids with ADHD showed more improvement because they are more motivated by the opportunity to gain rewards, not because they simply did worse from the beginning.”center_img Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Twitterlast_img read more

How marriage has morphed into a means of supporting intensive investments in children

first_img“In a gender-specialized economy, where men and women are playing very different productive roles, you need the long-term commitment to protect the vulnerable party, who in this case is the woman,” explained Lundberg, UCSB’s Leonard Broom Professor of Demography. “But when women’s educational attainment increased and surpassed that of men, and women became more committed to jobs and careers, the kind of economic disparity that supported a division of labor in the household eroded.”If this scenario is true for people across the economic spectrum, Lundberg posited, then statistics should show a broad-based retreat from marriage. Evidence, however, bears out something entirely different.“What we see is a striking adherence to traditional marriage patterns among the college educated and those with higher professional degrees,” Lundberg said. “While marriage rates have declined consistently over time, they have declined far more among people whose education level is high school or some college.”Also, college graduates tend to marry before they begin families and, when they do wed, their marriages are more stable than those of couples with less education. This puzzled Lundberg and Pollak.The researchers hypothesized that now — in the 21st century — a primary function of marriage is to provide a long-term stable home for children, which suggests that investments in offspring have become a driving force in preserving the institution of matrimony. Lundberg noted that mothers at all economic levels spend more time with their children now than was common 30 years ago.“In terms of time and money, the well-educated, higher-income parents have increased their investments in children much more than those with lower incomes,” Lundberg said. “They have the know-how and the resources and they expect to help their children become economically successful in a way that may seem out of reach for parents with much lower levels of resources.”According to Lundberg, the playing field is not level and the focus for low-income parents is on keeping their children safe and healthy. “When the joint project of intense investments in children seems out of reach, it may not seem worth putting up with the disadvantages of marriage,” Lundberg said.“One possible implication if we are right — and I should say that this is a speculative argument — is that it may be possible to encourage investing in children among lower-income parents by devoting more social resources to early childhood, enabling parents to see a brighter future for their children,” Lundberg added. “These societal investments could, in turn, make longer-term commitments among these parents more feasible and advantageous.”One aspect of marriage that hasn’t changed much over the years is that most men and women eventually do marry. “If you look at the fraction of people 50 years old who have ever married, the differences between the education groups are very, very small,” Lundberg said. “What is really distinctive is the timing of marriage and the very high proportion of women with a high school diploma or some college who have their first child either on their own or within a cohabitating relationship, which is extremely rare among people with a college degree or higher.“The timing is extraordinarily suggestive,” Lundberg concluded. “Almost everyone wants to get married eventually. The question is when, and do you wait until you get married before you have a child?” Share on Facebook Share Share on Twitter Emailcenter_img Pinterest Marriage as an institution is not what it used to be. Since the 1950s, the number of couple exchanging “I dos” has dropped steadily. And while most Americans do marry at some point in their lives, many are choosing to do so later.A new study by UC Santa Barbara demographer Shelly Lundberg and economist Robert Pollak of Washington University in St. Louis examines Americans’ changing sensibilities about marriage, using economics as a measuring tool. Lundberg and Pollak contend that families with high incomes and high levels of education have the greatest incentives to maintain long-term relationships. Their findings appear in the journal The Future of Children.The researchers argue that, since the mid-20th century, marriage has morphed from an institution based on gender specialization — the man earns the income and the woman stays home to take care of the children — to a means of supporting intensive investment in children. LinkedInlast_img read more

Decline in cognitive ability leads to fear of upfront costs

first_imgShare Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Facebook Emailcenter_img In 2014, 75.4 million Baby Boomers lived in the United States, according to Pew Research. As this generation continues to age, dialogue will increase on how to manage concerns associated with aging, such as the decline in cognitive ability and retirement decisions. Now, a researcher at the University of Missouri has found that older individuals with lower cognitive abilities are susceptible to behavioral biases, such as being adverse to upfront costs. Michael Guillemette, an assistant professor of personal financial planning in the University of Missouri’s College of Human Environmental Sciences, says that risk aversion, along with lower cognitive ability among older Americans, might explain the lack of demand for certain retirement savings products.“Some financial products, such as annuities, have upfront costs,” Guillemette said. “With a pure-life annuity, an individual will pay an upfront cost that is typically $50,000 or higher and in exchange will receive monthly payments for life. The risk associated with annuities comes from the uncertainty of death. If the full amount of the annuity is not paid out prior to the death of the recipient, the money is lost. In our study, an upfront cost caused people with lower cognitive abilities to shy away from future risky decisions.”In the study, Guillemette and his coauthors Chris Browning and Patrick Payne from Texas Tech University, measured participants’ cognitive function by evaluating respondents’ working memory and numeracy. The analysis considered two hypothetical risky financial prospects, both with equivalent expected returns, but one situation included an upfront cost and the other had no upfront cost. Share on Twitter Results from the study show that individuals with lower cognitive ability exposed to the perceived upfront cost were less willing to take subsequent risk. Results from the study might help explain the low demand for annuity products among older Americans. The results might also explain why companies choose to break up upfront costs in order to increase sales. For example, a large phone company now has a program where you pay for the full cost of the phone over several years.Baby Boomers, on average, have insufficient retirement assets, and a strain on the Social Security System leaves questions for how this generation will support themselves as they age. Annuities can play an important role for older Americans. Serving as a type of insurance, annuities can help protect people from running out of money before death. However, results from this study reveal that the upfront cost associated with annuities might deter older individuals from purchasing these products. Guillemette says that the industry could improve the demand for annuities by breaking the large upfront cost into incremental payments over time. The researchers also say that financial advisors often describe annuity products as investments, but they might be more appropriately framed as insurance products that protect against loss.“The perfect storm is created as individuals age,” Guillemette said. “When they get into their 60s and, especially, 70s it is natural to experience cognitive decline. This becomes detrimental when combined with the fact that as individuals age, they also become more confident in their choices. A Certified Financial Planner who is a fiduciary could be beneficial because he or she could recognize those cognitive shortfalls and work in the individual’s best interest in terms of proper financial decisions.”This study was published in Applied Economics Letters.last_img read more

Paying people to raise money for charity makes them less persuasive, study finds

first_imgShare on Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Share on Facebook People who receive a financial incentive to raise money for a charity they care about are actually less effective in soliciting donations, even when potential donors have no idea that incentives were involved, according to new findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research suggests that incentives may have this effect because they result in the fundraisers coming off as less sincere to the people they’re trying to persuade.“We show that incentives make persuaders less effective at communicating sincere concern for a charitable cause, which means the incentive is having harmful effects on the very activity it was designed to improve,” says psychological scientist and study author Alixandra Barasch of the Stern School of Business at New York University. “This is important because it helps us understand the costs and benefits of incentives in the context of philanthropy.”Although financial incentives can provide motivation to perform a task well, Barasch and colleagues Jonathan Z. Berman (London Business School) and Deborah A. Small (the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania) wondered whether paying people to advocate for a cause that they were already motivated to support might have unintended negative consequences.center_img Email Share In one study, the researchers recruited 36 “persuaders” at a community event intended to raise money for an organization supporting breast cancer research and awareness. The persuaders were asked to make a video pitch for the organization, doing their best to persuade potential donors to contribute. Some of the persuaders were offered a personal incentive: For every $10 donated in response to their video, they would receive $1.Later, 243 participants were randomly assigned to watch one of the video pitches. In addition to the standard $10 participation fee, they received an extra $3 that they could keep for themselves or donate to the cause promoted in the video.The data showed that participants donated less of their extra cash in response to pitches from persuaders who had received an incentive compared to pitches from persuaders who hadn’t been incentivized. This occurred despite the fact that the participants had no idea that the persuaders might have received incentives.A second study, in which college students made video pitches for community-service organizations, showed similar results. Again, persuaders who received an incentive were less effective in soliciting donations; moreover, participants rated the videos of incentivized persuaders as less sincere.The researchers hypothesized that the inherent conflict between benefits to others, or altruism, and benefits to the self might inhibit persuaders from behaving in a sincere manner. Additional data from a follow-up study supported this idea: Persuaders who were given a charitable incentive — any money raised from their pitch would be matched by the researchers – seemed to be just as effective in raising funds as those who received no incentive. In this case, the incentive didn’t benefit the persuaders personally, and so it didn’t inhibit them from being sincere.Together, the findings underscore the notion the incentives compromise persuaders’ ability to convey sincerity. Barasch and colleagues are currently planning follow-up studies to examine the cues – both verbal and nonverbal – that might convey sincerity.Even if incentives do have a negative effect on sincerity, the researchers note that there may be other reasons to use incentives in the context of fundraising campaigns:“Incentives may engage people who would otherwise not help at all, and they may help recruit better talent within a competitive landscape,” says Barasch.last_img read more

How authentic are photographic memories?

first_imgMomentous eventsMany of us have experienced momentous personal or world events for which even years later, our memories seem just as vivid and detailed as a photograph taken on the day. Yet studies show that these so-called “flashbulb memories” are far from photographic.In one study, American students were surveyed the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York in 2001 and asked to document the circumstances in which they first heard the news of these attacks, plus details of an everyday event they had recently experienced. Then either one, six, or 32 weeks later, the students were surveyed about the same two events again.Exceptional memoriesThe results showed that participants judged their everyday memories as less and less vivid over time. Their reports of these memories also became less detailed over time, and less consistent with their initial reports. In contrast, participants reported their 9/11 memories to be equally as vivid after 32 weeks as on the day after the attacks. But importantly, the memory reports showed that these “flashbulb memories” had in fact lost just as much detail over time as the everyday memories, and gained just as many inconsistencies.If our flashbulb memories aren’t photographic, then what about other highly compelling kinds of memories? For example, there are many historical and contemporary cases of people with astounding memory capabilities, who can visually absorb seemingly impossible amounts of information with very little effort, as if snapping mental photographs for later review in the mind’s eye. But by and large, these so-called “memory athletes” appear to hone their skills through intense practice and age-old memorising techniques, rather than mental photography. Only very rarely have apparent exceptions to this rule been identified, and these cases can serve as particular conundrums for sceptics.Setting memory athletes aside, we might instead consider another exceptional group of people: those with so-called “highly superior autobiographical memory” (HSAM), who appear capable of remembering each day of their lives since childhood in incredible, often verifiable detail.As more and more of these people have been discovered, many have been the subjects of scientific studies, which suggest that their memory abilities are not a result of practice but are largely unintentional. This ability is indeed amazing, but sceptics might argue that even these people’s memories cannot be called photographic. Indeed, one study of 20 people with HSAM found they were just as susceptible to false memories as a group of control participants of a similar age.Photographs fadeSo we might be willing to concede to sceptics, then, that although memories sometimes seem incredibly detailed, accurate, and consistent, few if any of them are truly like photographic records frozen in time.But on second thoughts, don’t all these findings tell us that our memories, in fact, are very much like photographs? After all, even long before the terms “post-truth” and “fake news” gained currency, photographs were never wholly reliable sources.Like our memories, vividly detailed photographs can turn out to be doctored and distorted; they can misrepresent the events that occurred. Like our memories, we don’t always view photographs with an objective eye, but through the lens of our personal agendas and biases. And like our memories, a printed photograph will fade over time, even though we might continue to value it just the same.In all of these respects at least, it’s easy to see that every single one of us has photographic memory, just maybe not in the way we first thought.By Robert Nash, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Aston UniversityThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Since the invention of photography itself, people have used photograph-themed metaphors when thinking and talking about memories and remembering. When we want to retain memories of everyday events for example, we take “mental snapshots”, and when we think back to momentous events, we regard them as “flashbulb moments”. But are memories ever truly like photographs?A large number of people certainly believe so. In fact, in one recent survey of the general public from the US and UK, 87% agreed —- at least to some degree —- that “some people have ‘true’ photographic memories”. Yet, when the same statement was put to members of an esteemed scientific society for memory research, only a third of the participants agreed.The many scientists who are sceptical about the existence of photographic memories know, of course, that plenty of memories do seem highly photographic to people. However, for these sceptics, none of the available evidence so far is enough to fully convince them. Share on Twitter Email Share on Facebookcenter_img Pinterest Share LinkedInlast_img read more

Differences in the rhetorical styles of candidates in the 2016 US presidential election

first_imgPinterest Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share LinkedIncenter_img Email According to several overall stylistic indicators, candidate Trump used a simple communication style, avoiding complex formulation and vocabulary. The authors analysed lexical density – or how much actual information there was in the words spoken. Trump scored the lowest for lexical density, and he also reused the same phrases more than other candidates.Former governors (Bush and Kasich) tend to use “we” more frequently than “I.” Usually Senators (Cruz, Paul, Clinton, and Sanders) tend to prefer using the pronoun “I.”Donald Trump presents an atypical figure, employing short sentences, a reduced vocabulary, repeating the same arguments with simple words. He is the single candidate to have the pronoun “I” in the second rank (after the article “the”).Hillary Clinton can also be characterized by a large use of the pronoun I. The candidates who stayed longer in the campaign had a clear preference for “I” over the “we.” When considering overall stylistic indicators, Clinton, O’Malley, and Sanders presented a high lexical density value as well as a higher number of long and complex words than the mean.Long sentences were preferred by O’Malley, Clinton, and Sanders. A relatively high lexical density percentage indicates a more complex text, containing more information. Using the transcripts of the TV debates, the lexical density values varied from 36.6% (Trump) to 44.6% (Cruz).The percentage of long or complex words varied from 18.3% (Trump) to 26.4% (Cruz, and Sanders). Senators Cruz and O’Malley had a more sophisticated communication style, employing longer sentences, and a more complex lexicon.An analysis of the top ten most specific terms per candidate reveals interesting specifics about their campaigns. Top terms used by Jeb Bush included “proven,” “status,” and “brother.” Top terms used by Martin O’Malley included “actually” and “Maryland.” Sanders preferred “Wall Street,” “wealth,” “class,” and “billionaire.” Top Clinton words included “comprehensive,” “affordable,” and “try.” Among the top ten specific words used by Trump in the course of his campaign were “I,” “Mexico,” “deal,” and “tremendous.”“As Trump won the primaries and the general election, does that mean that efficient communication must be based on tweet-like rhetoric and this form will dominate the future elections?” asked lead author Jacques Savoy. “Clearly the rhetoric evolution goes towards to short communication messages, but this also implies simplistic analysis and solutions? If the answer is affirmative, I see a real risk of the democracy.”The paper “Analysis of the Style and the Rhetoric of the 2016 US Presidential Primaries” is available at: https://academic.oup.com/dsh/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/llc/fqx007/2993886/Analysis-of-the-style-and-the-rhetoric-of-the-2016?redirectedFrom=fulltext A new paper published in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities reveals and quantifies dramatic differences in the speaking styles of candidates in the 2016 United States presidential election. Lexical analysis indicates that President Donald Trump had a distinct communication style, and it was far more direct than any of the other candidates.The most frequently used thematic words are very similar across politicians, with ‘people’ appearing in the top 4 for 7/9 candidates, and ‘say’ for 5/9. Trump and Hillary Clinton had 3 out of 4 most-used words the same.Researchers here analyzed the transcripts of the TV debates involving Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.last_img read more

Research suggests amygdala neural circuits drive pleasure-inducing behavior

first_imgLinkedIn Share on Facebook Email Pinterest Scientists have long believed that the central amygdala, a structure located deep within the brain, is linked with fear and responses to unpleasant events.However, a team of MIT neuroscientists has now discovered a circuit in this structure that responds to rewarding events. In a study of mice, activating this circuit with certain stimuli made the animals seek those stimuli further. The researchers also found a circuit that controls responses to fearful events, but most of the neurons in the central amygdala are involved in the reward circuit, they report.“It’s surprising that positive-behavior-promoting subsets are so abundant, which is contrary to what many people in the field have been thinking,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.center_img Share Share on Twitter Tonegawa is the senior author of the study, which appears in the March 22 issue of the journal Neuron. The paper’s lead authors are graduate students Joshua Kim and Xiangyu Zhang.Driving behaviorThe paper builds on a study published last year in which Tonegawa’s lab identified two distinct populations of neurons in a different part of the amygdala, known as the basolateral amygdala (BLA). These two populations are genetically programmed to encode either fearful or happy memories.In that study, the researchers found that the neurons encoding positive and negative memories relay information to different parts of the central amygdala. In their new work, they set out to further clarify the connections from the two BLA populations to the central amygdala, and to determine the functions of the central amygdala cells that receive information from the BLA.First, the researchers analyzed the genetic profiles of the central amygdala neurons and divided them into seven groups based on the genetic markers they express and their anatomical location. They then used optogenetics, a technique that allowed them to control neuron activity with light, to investigate the functions of each population.The researchers found that five of these populations stimulate reward-related behavior: When the mice were exposed to light, the mice repeatedly sought more light exposure because these neurons were driving a reward circuit. These same populations all receive input from the positive emotion cells in the BLA.Another population of neurons underlies fear-related innate and memory behaviors, and the last population was not required for either fear- or reward-related behavior.This finding contradicts the consensus that the central amygdala is involved primarily in fear-related behavior, the researchers say.“Classically people have generalized the central amygdala as a fear-related structure. They think it’s involved in anxiety and fear-related responses,” Kim says. “However, it looks like the structure as a whole mainly seems to participate in appetitive behaviors.”The researchers cannot rule out the possibility that some yet-to-be-discovered cells in the central amygdala control negative behavior, they say. “However, the cells that we have identified so far represent more than 90 percent of the central amygdala,” Tonegawa says. “If there are some other cells for negative behavior, it’s a small fraction.”“Most of the research on the amygdala during last 20 years has focused on the role of the central amygdala of the nucleus in mediating aversive responses,” says Richard Palmiter, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the research. “The Tonegawa lab has put together an amazing paper that will change the way scientists think about the central nucleus of the amygdala.”Surprising circuitsIn another surprising finding, the researchers discovered that the fear-linked neurons they identified in the central amygdala do not send messages directly to the part of the brain that is believed to receive fear-related input from the central amygdala. This part of the brain, the periaqueductal gray (PAG), is located in the brainstem and plays a role in responding to pain, stress, and external threats.Still unknown is where those central amygdala cells send their output, and whether it eventually gets to the PAG after stopping somewhere else. Tonegawa’s lab is now trying to trace these circuits further to find out where they go.The researchers are also studying the role of BLA neurons in fear extinction, which is the process of rewriting fearful memories so that they are associated with more positive feelings. This approach is often used to treat disorders such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the JPB Foundation.last_img read more

Particular personality traits are linked to economic ideologies

first_imgShare on Facebook Email Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Twittercenter_img Share Particular personality traits are linked to economic ideologies, according to new research, but this relationship appears to be influenced by a person’s income.The findings were published in the journal Political Psychology.“In my PhD, I studied the associations between people’s personality and their preferences about politics,” said study author Bert N. Bakker of the University of Amsterdam. “Many studies have shown direct associations between a person’s personality and their position towards politics on a scale from left (liberal) to right (conservative) as well as their positions towards social issues such as immigration and abortion.”“Yet, the association between personality and people’s preferences towards economic issues such as income redistribution were less clear,” Bakker said. “In this project, I set out to study whether the associations between personality and a person’s economic preferences might be stronger or weaker conditional upon another factor, namely their income.”The research was based on the Big Five model of personality, which breaks personality down into five traits: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. For his study, Bakker examined data from studies conducted in Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He found that people with more conservative economic attitudes tended to be more conscientious, but less agreeable and less neurotic than their more liberal counterparts.In other words, people who disagreed with statements such as “high income earners do not pay enough taxes” were more likely to score higher on a measure of Conscientiousness, and lower on measures of Agreeableness and Neuroticism.“Yet, the association between personality traits and economic preferences is attenuated by income,” Bakker told PsyPost. “Specifically, I find that the association between the personality trait Agreeableness and economic preferences is weaker among poor people compared to wealthier people in all three countries.”“Low income also attenuates the association between economic ideology and the traits Openness (in Denmark), Extraversion (in the United Kingdom) and Neuroticism (in the United States). As such, this study shows that personality traits are associated with economic preferences and that some personality traits are weaker associated with economic preferences among citizens with a lower income.”The study found some differences between Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States. But it is unclear if this is because of cultural and political differences, or differences in the methodologies of the studies examined.“I conducted this study in three countries,” Bakker said. “I relied upon data from Denmark and supplemented this with data from the United Kingdom and the United States. The data from the U.K. and U.S. was collected by other researchers and as such the measures employed are not exactly the same as those used in Denmark.”“Perhaps some of the differences that I find across the studies are due to the differences in the measurement of personality and/or the economic preferences. Future research using fully comparable surveys in multiple countries would be beneficial.”The study was titled: “Personality Traits, Income, and Economic Ideology“.last_img read more

Study finds a link between mood and the experience of creativity in those with bipolar disorder

first_imgThe different mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are associated with different levels of self-reported creativity, according to a new study published in Psychiatry Research.An estimated 5.7 million Americans have bipolar disorder, a serious mental illness characterized by recurrent periods of mania and depression. Manic episodes typically include hyperactivity, euphoria and insomnia.“Although some studies have looked at objective measures of creativity in bipolar disorder, we also thought it would be useful to understand how people diagnosed with bipolar disorder understand their own creativity and how this may be related to their mood,” said study author Tania Perich, a lecturer at Western Sydney University. Share on Facebook LinkedIn The researchers surveyed 397 individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder regarding their recent symptoms and their perceptions about their own level of creativity.Those reporting symptoms of depression tended to report feeling significantly less creative. But participants who reported mania symptoms did not view themselves as more creative than those who did not report any symptoms.“There is a relationship between mood and the experience of creativity for people living with bipolar disorder. When depressed, people experience lower perceived creativity,” Perich said.Some of the findings run contrary to previous research, which had found a relationship between mania and creativity. But the disparity could be the result of measuring creativity in different ways.The creativity measure in the new study asked participants to rate their creativity in a variety of specific domains, such as acting, crafts, dancing, money management, solving personal problems, and writing. The previous study, on the other hand, used a more general measure of creative achievement.“Further research is needed to better understand how creativity may help in living with bipolar disorder and how it may assist in improving well-being,” Perich said.The study, “Depression, mania and self-reported creativity in bipolar disorder“, was authored by Natalie Miller, Tania Perich, and Tanya Meade. Emailcenter_img Pinterest Share Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Our creative ideas are viewed as a window into our true selves

first_imgShare on Twitter “Then the agent shared a candle scent idea that was so inappropriate that it stopped the conversation completely. That got me thinking — are the ideas we share revealing of our true selves? Does being creative feel personally self-disclosing? So, my coauthor, Josh Katz and I turned that experience into the series of laboratory experiments.”The research consisted of five separate experiments.In three experiments with 600 participants in total, the researchers found that people who were asked to generate creative ideas — compared to typical or conventional ideas — were more likely to believe those ideas revealed something about themselves.Their fourth experiment, which included another 399 participants, indicated that focusing on one particular category of creative ideas tended to produce greater feelings of self-disclosure. In particular, people asked to brainstorm new scents for candles believed their ideas revealed more about themselves when asked to generate only new fruit scents compared to any type of scent.“This result seems consistent with a growing stream of research suggesting that creativity not only demands cognitive flexibility but also focused persistence,” the researchers wrote in their study.In the fifth and final experiment, 326 participants generated ideas and then shared them with one another. The researchers found that participants believed they disclosed more about their personality after sharing creative ideas compared to conventional ideas. The participants also felt that their partner revealed more personal information when sharing creative ideas.“The instruction to be creative is very common in organizations but it is not benign. In the process of being creative, you rely on your own idiosyncratic point of view and unique preferences, thus making the ideas you share revealing of your true self,” Goncalo told PsyPost.“More importantly, other people listen to your ideas and make judgments about you. We found that when people heard another individual’s creative ideas, they became more confident that their judgments about their personality were accurate. People are not just judging your ideas, they are making personal judgments about you based on your ideas.”The findings could have some important implications for personal relationships. But, currently, the relationship between creativity and social bonding is unclear.“We found that people use creative ideas to judge another person’s personality but we found no effect on how much they liked the person. It remains an open question as to whether hearing a person’s creative ideas can pave the way for either rejection or bonding,” Goncalo explained.“For instance, one person shared creative candle scents ideas like ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, ‘Spoiled Milk in a Hot Car’, ‘Dog Farts’ and ‘Guilt, Guile and Gore.’ You probably formed an image of this person based on these ideas. But whether you like this person or not will probably depend on whether your preferences match.”“My lab is doing more and more work on the consequences of creativity so I hope to have more findings to share in the near future,” Goncalo added.The study, “Your Soul Spills Out: The Creative Act Feels Self-Disclosing“, was authored by Jack A Goncalo and Joshua H Katz. Share Email Share on Facebookcenter_img Pinterest LinkedIn Creative ideas are perceived to be revealing of the self, according to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The findings provide new insights into the psychological and interpersonal consequences of creativity.“Most research on creativity has assumed that creativity is almost inherently positive and so most of the focus has been on how to boost creative output. More recently, I have become interested in the consequences of expressing creative ideas,” said study author Jack A. Goncalo, a professor and the Robert and Helen P. Seass Faculty Fellow at the Gies College of Business.“The link to self-disclosure came about through a conversation I had with a real estate agent who was showing my family homes and we remarked on the variety of different candle scents that we had smelled throughout the day. This conversation turned into an impromptu brainstorming session — everyone started sharing various ideas for candle scents (e.g. Vanilla, Freshly Baked Cookies, Orange Grove).”last_img read more

News report says multiple Saudi hospitals treating nCoV cases

first_imgMay 7, 2013 (CIDRAP News) – A media report late yesterday suggested that the 13 novel coronavirus (nCoV) cases reported in Saudi Arabia in the past few days are not confined to just one hospital, contrary to a May 5 statement from the Saudi health ministry.Malek al Moosa, executive director of a small hospital in Hofuf, in the country’s Eastern province, said the hospital has treated many of the nCoV patients but that it was not the only hospital treating such patients, the Wall Street Journal reported.Also, a man who is a cousin of three patients in the current case cluster, including one who died, said his cousins went to three different hospitals in the province, the newspaper said. The story did not name the man.The 13 cases, with 7 deaths, have all been reported since May 2. On May 5, Ziad A. Memish, MD, deputy minister for public health, reported that transmission of the disease seemed linked to one healthcare facility. He said there had been no transmission in the community.But Moosa denied that his hospital was the center of the outbreak, according to the Journal. “We have maybe paid the price of being transparent,” by testing patients and reporting the results, he said.The unidentified man whose cousins were infected told the newspaper that the Saudi health ministry “just wants to close the books” by saying the recent cases are limited to one hospital.Reports of the hospital cluster have stirred concern about possible person-to-person transmission of the virus and have prompted experts to recall how hospital outbreaks spurred the spread of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), another coronavirus infection, a decade ago.The novel virus is believed to be spreading to humans from some unidentified animal source. But person-to-person transmission has been clearly shown once before, when two family members of an infected UK man caught the virus from him after he returned sick from a trip to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Other small case clusters also have occurred, but human transmission has not been proved in those.In other developments, the Saudi government has invited an international team of experts to help investigate the outbreak, the Journal story said. The team is expected to arrive this week.Also, the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidance yesterday on infection prevention and control in caring for confirmed or probable nCoV case-patients.The 9-page document recommends assigning probable or confirmed cases “to be cared for exclusively by a group of skilled [healthcare workers] both for continuity of care and to reduce opportunities for inadvertent infection control breaches that could result in unprotected exposure.”The WHO also advises that relatives and visitors in contact with nCoV patients be limited to those “essential for patient support” and should be trained to use the same infection control precautions as healthcare workers use.The agency also recommends, among other things, that all staff members and visitors approaching within 1 meter of nCoV patients wear a medical mask, eye protection, gown, and gloves, and perform hand hygiene before and after patient contact.The WHO previously published recommendations on surveillance and clinical management for nCoV cases.Also today, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published a brief epidemiologic update on the nCoV cases in Saudi Arabia.See also: May 6 Wall Street Journal storyMay 6 WHO infection control guidanceMay 7 ECDC epidemiologic updatelast_img read more

News Scan for Aug 28, 2015

first_imgSalmonella outbreak tied to pork grows to 152 cases as recall expandsA salmonellosis outbreak tied to pork products grew by 18 cases, to 152, as a slaughterhouse in Washington state expanded a prior recall to more than 500,000 pounds of pork products and whole hogs after environmental sampling revealed insufficient sanitary conditions.The new case numbers were posted in an update today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency said that 24 people have been hospitalized because of their illness, an increase of 8 cases since the CDC’s previous update on Aug 14. Illness-onset dates range from Apr 25 to Aug 12.Meanwhile, Kapowsin Meats in Graham, Wash., recalled 523,380 pounds of pork products that may be contaminated with the outbreak strain, Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-, according to an update yesterday from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).Products affected by the expanded recall include bagged or boxed Whole Hogs for Barbecue and bagged or boxed fabricated pork products including various pork offal products, pork blood, and pork trim. The original recall, announced on Aug 13, involved about 116,000 pounds of pork products.Recalled products have the mark “Est 1628″ in the USDA seal of inspection. Pork products were shipped to Alaska, Oregon, and Washington and may still be in freezers. Consumers and establishments should throw away or return any pork affected by the recall.FSIS found unsatisfactory sanitary conditions in the Kapowsin Meats facility after beginning environmental and pork sampling processes on Aug 13, and the slaughterhouse has voluntarily suspended operations.Aug 28 CDC update Aug 27 FSIS update Case of 28-year poliovirus shedding reported in UKA man living in the United Kingdom (UK) has been shedding highly evolved, vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) serotype 2 for 28 years, according to a case report yesterday in PLoS Pathogens.Researchers at the UK National Institute for Biological Standards and Control analyzed more than 180 stool samples from the man from 1995 to this year. The man received a full course of childhood polio immunizations, including oral polio vaccine (OPV) administered in 1986, and was later diagnosed as having common variable immunodeficiency, which reduces the digestive tract’s ability to kill viruses.All stool samples were positive for a high titer of iVDPV (VDPV in an immunodeficient person) strains that had reverted to neurovirulent phenotypes capable of causing paralytic polio disease.The initial samples gathered in 1995 showed iVDPV strains had undergone antigenic drift of 9.9% to 11.3% from the Sabin serotype 2 poliovirus included in the live-attenuated OPV. By March 2015, strains drifted 17.7% from the Sabin 2 poliovirus.The iVDPV strains from the stool samples also contained a high proportion of nucleotide mutations that made them different from circulating VDPV type 2 strains and wild type 2 poliovirus. The samples did not show evidence of iVDPV derived from the Sabin types 1 or 3 poliovirus strains.All iVDPV isolates were capable of causing paralytic disease in transgenic mice with human poliovirus receptors. Although investigators said that most sites on the iVDPV strains did not react with monoclonal antibodies, an antibody reaction occurred at antigenic site 3b on all strains, suggesting that antibody activity at this site could be enough to neutralize the iVDPV strains in humans.The man represents the longest period of VDPV shedding currently known, and the only person identified as a chronic shedder of highly evolved VDPV, the authors said. Aug 27 PLoS Pathog case report Iowa reports H1N1v illness in person with swine contactA person in Iowa was infected with a variant H1N1 influenza strain (H1N1v), the CDC reported today in its weekly FluView update.The patient required hospitalization and reported close contact with swine in the week before he or she became ill. The agency said that no human-to-human transmission was associated with the case. No timetable or disease outcome was disclosed.”Early identification and investigation of human infections with novel influenza A viruses are critical so that risk of infection can be more fully appreciated and appropriate public health measures can be taken,” the agency said.The case is the third confirmed H1N1v infection this year. The first was reported in January in Minnesota, and the second was reported in May in Ohio and proved fatal. After the CDC confirmed more than 300 cases of variant H3N2 (H3N2v) in the summer of 2012, the annual number of variant influenza cases has dropped dramatically.Aug 28 CDC FluView report Mumps outbreaks reported on two Midwestern campusesHealth officials at the University of Illinois and the University of Iowa have reported mumps outbreaks on campuses as students return for the fall semester, according to local news reports.The University of Illinois has confirmed 101 cases of mumps, and ill students are still being tested, the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette reported on Aug 26. The university is offering free vaccination clinics for any students or staff who have not received two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.The Iowa City Press-Citizen on Aug 14 reported that six students at the University of Iowa have been diagnosed as having mumps. The Johnson County Public Health Department confirmed the surge in mumps cases, saying that it has received 15 reports of mumps diagnoses in 2015, compared with no cases in 2014 and 1 case in 2013.The University of Iowa Student Health and Wellness division issued a mumps health advisory to students on Aug 7. The advisory warns that the virus is highly contagious and can spread through saliva and mucus, also asking that students or staff with mumps symptoms such as swollen salivary glands and muscle aches remain home and ensure they have received both doses of the MMR vaccine.Aug 26 Champaign-Urbana News Gazette story Aug 14 Iowa City Press-Citizen report Aug 7 University of Iowa health advisorylast_img read more

WHO notes 3 Ebola cases in Guinea as UK nurse improves

first_imgThe World Health Organization (WHO) today reported three Ebola cases in Guinea, one of which is new, while a UK nurse is showing promising signs of recovery after nearly dying from meningitis caused by a relapse—not a re-infection—of the virus, hospital officials said.Sierra Leone, meanwhile, has now gone 5 weeks with no new cases, the WHO said in its weekly update.No registered contacts in 2 casesOne of the new patients in Guinea is in the capital, Conakry, while the other two are in Forecariah district, where some of the most recent cases have been detected. The case in Conakry and one of the other cases were reported by the media on Oct 16.As noted then, the Conakry patient, a 21-year-old man, is not part of a known transmission chain. And genomic analyses suggest he was not infected with the virus strain responsible for the most recent cases in Conakry and Forecariah, the WHO said today.The WHO also reported that the newly reported case, which was detected only during post-mortem testing, also was not a known contact of any previously reported case. “Therefore there remains a near-term risk of further cases among both registered and untraced contacts,” the agency said.The fatal case involved a 35-year-old woman, and genetic analysis showed she is part of the same chain of transmission as the four cases reported in Forecariah in the WHO’s Sep 30 update. Guinea had gone more than 2 weeks between those cases and the two reported last week.The third case is the 3-month-old child of the dead woman. Officials are monitoring 246 contacts in Guinea, 70 of whom are considered high risk. The WHO said an additional 253 contacts identified in the past 6 weeks remain untraced.Sierra Leone has now gone 5 weeks without a case, and all contacts linked to its two most recently active transmission chains have completed 21 days of follow-up. As well, the last patient to receive treatment was confirmed free of Ebola virus after a second consecutive test on Sep 25 was negative. Two high-risk contacts, however—one in Bombali and one in Kambia—remain untraced, and officials are still trying to locate them.The country will be declared free of the disease on Nov 7 if no further cases are reported.Signs of improvement after meningitisIn related news, Pauline Cafferkey, the Scottish nurse who contracted Ebola last December in West Africa before recovering in late January, came close to death from meningitis caused by the virus, her doctors said today. Her condition, though, has now improved enough for her to converse, use an iPad, and sit up in bed, The Guardian reported today.BBC News reported that Michael Jacobs, MD, who is treating Cafferkey at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said, “Pauline has become unwell by meningitis caused by the Ebola virus. But to be very clear about this, she hasn’t been re-infected with the Ebola virus.”This is the original Ebola virus that she had many months ago, which has been lying inside the brain, replicating at a very low level probably, and has now re-emerged to cause this clinical illness of meningitis. And this is obviously a serious thing.”Neurologic complications due to meningitis caused life-threatening disease while Cafferkey was being treated at the specialist isolation unit at Royal Free, Jacobs said. “I think she has a long recovery ahead of her and will be with us for quite a while still.”See also:Oct 21 WHO updateOct 16 CIDRAP News story “Guinea reports two more Ebola cases; review sheds light on CNS complications”Oct 21 Guardian storyOct 21 BBC News reportlast_img read more

Studies find prior dengue worsens Zika but hint at vaccine potential

first_imgA pair of studies today probing the complex antibody reactions between Zika and dengue infection have both bad news and good news: that earlier dengue infection can worsen Zika infections, but a certain antibody against dengue can also neutralize Zika virus, raising the possibility of a vaccine target.In other developments, more Zika-related birth defects were reported in the United States, along with a steep rise in the number of Puerto Ricans infected by the virus.Drawbacks, benefits of dengue-Zika similaritiesThe two studies were done by the same team of researchers from Imperial College London, the Pasteur Institute, and Madihol University in Bangkok. Also, both were supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council, and other groups.The team published the study on cross-reactions and enhanced Zika infection in Nature Immunology, while the report on the antibody with the potential to neutralize both viruses appeared in Nature.The authors noted that the lab findings in the first study are in the early stages, but in a nutshell, their work suggests that previous dengue exposure enhances Zika infection. Theirs is the second study to hint that prior dengue infection might be a cofactor in Zika infection. In late April, a team from Florida Gulf Coast University found that dengue monoclonal antibodies cross-react, don’t neutralize, and enhance Zika infection.In the new study, researchers also used antibodies collected from people who had been infected with Zika virus. When the group added the antibodies to cell culture, along with Zika virus, they found that the dengue antibodies recognize and bind to Zika, but they can also worsen Zika infection through a process called antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE). Identified earlier in dengue studies, ADE is thought to trigger more serious infections following a first dengue infection.Juthathip Mongkolsapaya, PhD, from Imperial College London, said in a press release that the next step is to investigate if ADE helps Zika virus cross the placenta. She said the team also found a group of antibodies (EDE1) that can bind to certain dengue virus sites and block Zika virus from entering immune cells.In the second study, the researchers confirmed that EDE1 antibodies bind efficiently to Zika virus and can neutralize infection, as they do for dengue virus. Using x-ray crystallography, they determined that the binding site on the viral envelope is the same for both viruses, which they said could one day lead to a universal vaccine that protects against both of them.In their experiments, the investigators tested two antibodies that were already known to neutralize dengue virus. One of them was even more effective at blocking Zika virus, suggesting a high level of closeness between the two viruses that surprised the team.Jeremy Farrar, MD, PhD, director of the Wellcome Trust, said in the Imperial College press release that the viruses come from the same flavivirus family and share many genetic, transmission pattern, and immune response characteristics.”These new studies suggest that prior infection with dengue doesn’t offer any protection against Zika, and may in fact predispose people to a more severe infection,” he said. “We can’t say yet whether this interaction is playing a role in the current outbreak, but if confirmed it’s likely to have important implications for the control and global spread of Zika, and for the development of any vaccine for the virus.”Farrar said there are still more questions than answers about Zika virus, including why explosive transmission hasn’t been seen in Southeast Asia and Africa, where the virus has caused disease for several years. “This is what the international research effort needs to work out, and quickly.US Zika birth defect totals riseIn outbreak news two more birth defects have been reported in US pregnant women infected with Zika virus, raising the total to eight as of Jun 16, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today in a regular update. One was related to a live birth and the other in a pregnancy loss situation.The CDC also reported the first birth outcome information in pregnant women infected with Zika virus who live in US territories. So far one pregnancy loss with birth defects had been reported as of Jun 16, which may reflect a case reported by Puerto Rico on May 13. Microcephaly was detected on ultrasound, and it wasn’t clear if the woman miscarried or had an abortion.Information on birth outcomes is from two different CDC Zika pregnancy registries: one that includes US states and the District of Columbia, and one based in Puerto Rico.The pregnancy registries also show rising numbers of pregnant women infected with Zika virus. So far 265 have been reported from US states as of Jun 16, an increase of 31 from the previous week, and 216 have been reported in US territories, up 27 from the last report.Puerto Rico Zika spike; more GBS, sexual transmissionThe CDC also reported a steep rise in the number of Zika infections in US territories where the virus is circulating, with a steady rise in the number of US residents who have traveled to affected areas.Zika-affected US territories reported 418 more cases since the CDC’s report last week, boosting the total to 1,854, most of them in Puerto Rico. For comparison, the total rose by 135 the previous week. The CDC last week warned of a rapid Zika rise in Puerto Rico, based on what it is seeing with blood center test results. The territories also reported one more Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) case, putting that total at seven.Meanwhile, the CDC reported 63 more infections in travelers as of Jun 22, increasing that total to 819. One more GBS case was received, with four now reported.The number of sexually transmitted Zika cases stayed the same, at 11 as of Jun 22, but the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) yesterday reported its first case, involving a 61-year-old woman from Lucas County whose husband had traveled to a country with active Zika transmission. The ODH said local officials are increasing mosquito assessment and control in the areas to reduce the risk of local mosquitoes becoming infected.Funding, outbreak spreadEarly this morning the US House of Representatives approved a $1.1 billion bill to fund the Zika virus response, but Democratic senators have threatened to sink the measure when it comes up for a Senate vote, because the bill includes $750 million in budget cuts to other health programs, USA Today reported. The vote came during an unrelated sit-in by House Democrats to protest lack of a House vote on gun control bills. The House is now adjourned until after the 4th of July holiday.Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean, is the latest location to report local Zika virus transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its weekly situation report. It also noted that Guadeloupe has reported one more patient with a severe neurologic condition, raising its total to four. The number of countries reporting microcephaly, sexual transmission, and GBS remained the same as last week. The WHO said its risk assessment hasn’t changed and that overall Zika activity isn’t declining, though cases have fallen in some countries and in some parts of countries.The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today awarded $742,000 to three health centers in American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands to help battle Zika virus. The two US territories are reporting local spread of the virus. HHS said in a statement that the money is meant to help expand preventive and primary care services, outreach, patient education, and screening. The health systems have 12 delivery sites that served nearly 26,000 patients in 2014, including 6,000 child-bearing-age women.See also:Jun 23 Nature Immunol abstractJun 23 Imperial College London press releaseJun 23 Nature abstractJun 23 Pasteur Institute press releaseJun 22 CDC update on birth outcomes in pregnant women infected with Zika virusJun 22 CDC update on Zika infections in pregnant womenJun 22 CDC update on Zika virus in the USJun 22 ODH news releaselast_img read more

Microcephaly case series points to need for expanded Zika screening

first_imgMicrocephaly screening for Zika complications in newborns might miss some birth defects, according to a long-awaited analysis of the first 1,500 suspected cases in Brazil, which revealed instances of brain damage in babies with normal head circumference, a team from Brazil reported yesterday.In the largest case series to date, published in The Lancet, researchers from Brazil said screening criteria should be adjusted to include signs and symptoms of brain abnormalities.In a related research development, pathology examination of postmortem samples from infants and fetuses from Brazil at US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labs revealed Zika antigens, cell damage, but no sign of Zika outside of the central nervous system and no indication that other pathogens are involved.Defects in babies with normal head sizeIn the surveillance study, the researchers analyzed investigations completed as of Feb 27 by medical teams of 1,501 live-born babies with suspected microcephaly.Using clinical data from Brazil’s Ministry of Health, they grouped the cases into five categories based on neuroimaging and Zika virus lab findings. Categories ranged from definite microcephaly to discarded. The team also looked at head circumference, first-week mortality, and history of maternal rash.Of the total, 899 cases were discarded. Among the remaining 602, 76 were definite, 54 highly probable, 181 moderately probable, and 291 somewhat probable. Compared with the discarded cases, definite or probable ones had small head circumference, and mothers were more likely to have had a rash during pregnancy (21% vs 61%). Infants in the definite and probable groups were also four time more likely to die during the first week of life.The analysis also revealed brain abnormalities in babies with normal head size who were born to mothers who had a Zika-like rash in late pregnancy. The investigators noted that cranium development is generally complete by week 30 of gestation, so infants can be born with normal head size and still have brain damage. They also said the findings raise the possibility that Zika infection in newborns might lead to brain damage.Cesar Victora, MD, PhD, the study’s lead author, said in a Lancet press release, “Although we believe that the underreporting of microcephaly cases is rare during the epidemic, newborns infected with the virus late in pregnancy may go unreported due to their head size being within normal range.” He also noted that about a third of the mothers of babies in the definite and probable group reported no rash during pregnancy.Examination of all newborns during epidemic waves should be considered, Victora said, and he warned that because southern Brazil experienced a wave of Zika in early 2016, the country could see a second spike in microcephaly at the end of the year.In a related commentary in the same Lancet issue, two experts from Brazil said adding new neurologic symptom criteria to detect Zika cases would be useful for identifying all affected infants, but many medical settings don’t have the specialized personnel. The authors are Jorg Heukelbach, MD, MPH, PhD, a community health specialist from the School of Medicine at Federal University of Ceara, and Guilherme Loureiro Werneck, MD, PhD, with the epidemiology department at the State University of Rio de Janeiro.Another option would be incorporating an accurate serologic test into routine prenatal care, and they said validation of such a test should be a research priority.Damage in postmortem and placental samplesIn the pathology study, also published yesterday in The Lancet, researchers from the CDC and collaborators in Brazil analyzed tissue from three babies born with microcephaly who died and two placentas from mothers who miscarried at 11 and 13 weeks’ gestation. In all five instances, the mothers reported Zika symptoms during their first pregnancy trimesters.In the three fatal cases, investigators found Zika antigens in neurons and glial cells. Brain tissue analysis showed cell damage, calcium deposits, and death. Unlike for other infections such as herpes, they found no sign of substantial inflammatory response or specific structural effects.No evidence of Zika virus were found in other organ systems, and the three babies showed a range of birth defects and brain abnormalities.In placental samples from the two miscarriages, investigators found Zika virus antigens. For all five cases, tests ruled out other infectious causes.The authors said the mechanism that causes the birth defects still isn’t clear, but it is probably related to the virus attacking the nervous system, resulting in brain damage and muscle impairment.In an accompanying commentary, two US-based experts said though the CDC has concluded that Zika virus causes microcephaly, detections of Zika virus in tissues are scarce. The authors are Drucilla Roberts, MD, a pathologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and Matthew Frosch, MD, PhD, a neuropathologist at MGH and Harvard University.They said more detailed pathology studies are needed to identify the full spectrum of Zika virus infection and to confirm the link to perinatal complications. Roberts and Frosch also recommended that future studies should include histopathologic examination of tissue at different gestational ages.”This report highlights that we can learn much about the pathogenesis of Zika virus congenital infection through careful pathological investigation, but leaves us with many questions for study,” the two wrote.Other developmentsThe CDC today reported 4 more Zika-related birth defects in US pregnant women, raising the total to 12 as of Jun 23. Three of the new cases involved live births, and one involved a pregnancy loss. The number of Zika-related birth defects in the US territories remained the same, at one. In other numbers updates, the CDC reported 22 more Zika infections in US pregnant women (raising the total to 287), and 34 more in pregnant women in the US territories (raising the total to 250). Regarding infections in the general population, the CDC reported 166 more cases in US territories where the virus is spreading locally, most of them in Puerto Rico. The total in the region stands at 2,020 now, and 3 more Guillain-Barre syndrome cases were reported, boosting the total to 10. US states reported 115 more Zika illnesses in travelers, increasing the total to 934, plus 2 more sexually transmitted Zika cases, putting that number at 13.Though most Americans have heard of Zika virus, only 13% are aware of the impact on adults and only half know that the virus can spread sexually, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported today in a health tracking poll for June. The poll also found widespread support for Zika funding, including assistance with reproductive services for women in outbreak areas in and outside of the United States.The CDC on Jun 28 added Anguilla to its level 2 travel notice for Zika virus. There are now 49 countries or territories listed among the CDC’s Zika travel advisories.See also:Jun 29 Lancet report on Zika microcephaly surveillanceJun 29 Lancet related commentaryJun 29 related Lancet press releaseJun 29 Lancet report on Zika birth defect pathologyJun 29 Lancet related commentaryJun 29 related Lancet press releaselast_img read more

Genetic tests reveal more about new H5N6 reassortant

first_imgThe latest analysis of reassortant H5N6 avian flu viruses from South Korean wild birds and domestic ducks shows that the strain is a close relative of an H5N6 virus that first turned up in Greek poultry last season, but it has two mutations that might alter its susceptibility to neuraminidase inhibitors, according to an expert familiar the test results.In other avian flu developments, the animal health officials in the United Kingdom (UK) issued a new risk assessment for avian flu in Europe, and French veterinary authorities reported another low-pathogenic H5N3 outbreak in poultry.H5N6 mutations might lower susceptibilityViruses from recent outbreaks in South Korea underwent further analysis at the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency of the Republic of Korea and the International Reference Laboratory in the UK government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency lab at Weybridge. And a reliable but anonymous source outlined the findings yesterday in a post to ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases.Earlier this week, the Netherlands became the fifth country to report the H5N6 reassortant, which is different than the one that has caused human infections in China and has been found in poultry outbreaks in a few Asian countries. In November, South Korea reported its first outbreak involving the reassortant, which was quickly followed by detections in Japan and Taiwan.According to the source, phylogenetic analysis showed that the recent H5N6 virus from South Korea differs from the strain implicated in outbreaks last winter. Also, all genes except neuraminidase are from the European H5N8 lineage that triggered widespread outbreaks last season and is still causing sporadic outbreaks.The neuraminidase gene, most similar to the H5N6 reassortant detected in Greece last winter, is related to low-pathogenic Eurasian influenza A virus circulating in wild birds. The expert said, however, there are differences between the neuraminidases in the Greek and South Korean isolates, and one of the viruses can’t determine the risk for the whole lineage. “Indeed, the Korean isolate has 2 mutations, which might confer altered susceptibility to neuraminidase inhibitors.”The findings point to ongoing H5 lineage circulation in multiple geographic regions, likely spread by wild birds.Though so far sequence analysis doesn’t show that the virus poses a zoonotic threat, heightened vigilance should be maintained for potential spread from wild birds to poultry, the expert said. The source added that the findings also underscore the complex evolution of H5 clade 2.3.4.4 viruses that will likely have different phenotypic properties in a range of hosts, possibly including humans.DEFRA weighs H5N6, H5N8 threatsIn a new outbreak assessment update, the UK Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said the recent H5N6 outbreak in the Netherlands probably reflects a new incursion into Europe, given that the only previous detection on the continent was the earlier poultry outbreak in Greece.The agency added that the same farm in the Netherlands was struck by an H5N8 outbreak last year. So far, early analysis suggests it is a reassortant between H5N8 and low-pathogenic H5N6.DEFRA also weighed in on the H5N8 threat, saying that since late October, outbreaks have continued, but at a lower rate than last season in just four countries: Russia, Italy, Germany, and Bulgaria.Wild migratory waterfowl have arrived from Asia for overwintering in northern Europe and the UK, and compared with this time last year, the outlook is more favorable for central Europe, with relatively fewer cases in wild birds. However, DEFRA added that it’s possible that wild birds have asymptomatic infections or are immune after exposure to the virus last season. Also, it’s possible that local birds could be maintaining the H5N8 virus, which could spread by other routes.With uncertainty about H5N8 prevalence in wild birds and the new development with the H5N6 ressortant, DEFRA is keeping the risk level at “medium” for now, with the risk staying at “low” for individual poultry farms.Low-path H5N3 in FranceIn outbreak developments, veterinary officials in France reported another low-pathogenic H5N3 outbreak, the second involving the strain this month, according to a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).The new outbreak began on Dec 2 at a turkey breeding farm in Maine-et-Loire department in west central France. Farm workers noticed an excessive death rate and a drop in egg production in one of the facility’s four pens. The virus killed 30 of 9,200 turkeys, and the remaining ones are slated for culling.See also:Dec 12 ProMED Mail postDec 11 DEFRA reportDec 11 OIE report on H5N3 in Francelast_img read more

News Scan for Dec 27, 2019

first_imgThree MERS cases confirmed in Qatar’s capitalQatar has reported three more MERS cases to the World Health Organization (WHO), the WHO said yesterday. The three cases are related, and all case-patients are from Doha.The first case-patient is a 67-year-old woman who developed symptoms of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection at the end of November, and died on Dec 12. The source of her illness is still under investigation.”The patient had neither a history of contact with dromedary camels nor recent travel. Follow up and screening of seven household contacts and 40 healthcare worker contacts is ongoing and two asymptomatic secondary cases have been identified so far,” the WHO said.The woman’s son, age 50, and a 32-year-old case contact have also been diagnosed as having MERS-CoV. Both patients were asymptomatic and identified during contact tracing. The WHO said a total of 47 identified contacts of the patient have been monitored daily for the appearance of respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms for a period of 2 weeks following their last exposure to the patient.From 2012 through Nov 30, 2019, a total of 2,494 laboratory-confirmed MERS-CoV cases and 858 associated deaths have been reported to the WHO, the vast majority in Saudi Arabia.Dec 26 WHO report Six countries report more polio cases; WHO extends polio emergencyIn the latest global polio developments, Afghanistan and Pakistan reported more wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases, and four African nations reported more circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) cases, according to totals reflected on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) tables, which include data reported as of Dec 24.The GPEI didn’t publish its full report with paralysis onsets, noting that the weekly updates will resume on Jan 9.ProMED Mail, the online reporting system of the International Society for Infectious Diseases (ISID) compiled a report on the recent cases compared to the previous weekly polio totals. It said for WPV1 cases, Afghanistan has two more, one each from Fara and Kandahar provinces, raising its total for the year to 26. Pakistan has 10 more cases from Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh, and Islamabad provinces, pushing its number for 2019 to 111.Meanwhile, four African countries reported five new cVDPV2 cases, including two from Angola and one each from Central African Republic, Chad, and Ethiopia.GPEI WPV1 cases as of Dec 24 GPEI vaccine-derived polio cases as of Dec 24 Dec 26 ProMED Mail postIn other polio developments, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) polio emergency committee met for the 23rd time on Dec 11, and after hearing from experts and representatives from polio-affected countries unanimously agreed that the risk of international spread remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).The WHO said in a Dec 20 statement on the deliberations that the committee voiced grave concerns about the significant rise in WPV1 cases this year, along with widespread transmission, vaccine refusal, and detection of vaccine-derived cases in Pakistan and challenging security and inaccessibility problems in Afghanistan.Regarding vaccine-derived polio, the group said multiple outbreaks in four of the WHO regions are very concerning, noting that since its last meeting, seven new countries have reported outbreaks. WHO emergency committees typically meet every 3 months or sooner if needed.Dec 20 WHO statement WHO details yellow fever outbreak in MaliThe WHO yesterday released more details about a yellow fever outbreak in Mali that has so far resulted in three confirmed cases, plus nine suspected and three probable infections.The initial case-patient is a 15-year-old girl from Koulikoro region who had not traveled outside of her district and had not been vaccinated. The other confirmed infections are in two men ages 17 and 25 from Ivory Coast who are living in Bouguimi district in Mali’s Sikasso region. Two of the people with confirmed infections died.The suspected and probable cases are all from Bouguimi district, and there are three deaths among the suspected infections.The WHO said mass yellow fever campaigns have been underway in Mali since 2008, but coverage is still below herd immunity thresholds and there are pockets of low immunity, with high population movements within and outside of the country possibly diluting population immunity.The district where the first patient is from is near Bamako, Mali’s capital and home to 2 million people. The district where the two other patients lived is near the Ivory Coast border. The WHO said the risk of yellow fever spread within Mali due to disease activity is high, the risk of regional spread is moderate, and the threat of global spread is low.Dec 26 WHO statement Dec 9 CIDRAP news scan “Health officials confirm 3 yellow fever cases in Mali, Ivory Coast”last_img read more

News Scan for Aug 31, 2020

first_imgUS cell phone data: Staying home amid lockdowns may stem COVID-19US counties with large declines in cell phone activity at workplaces, transit stations, and stores and concomitant increases in home activity during COVID-19 lockdowns had lower rates of coronavirus infections 5, 10, and 15 days later, according to a study published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.The researchers made 22,124 to 83,745 daily observations of cell phone location data from 949 to 2,740 counties, depending on data availability, from Jan 22 to May 11 and compared them with COVID-19 growth rates.Growth of COVID-19 cases was 45.5% lower in counties in the lowest quartile of activity in retail stores than in those with the highest quartile, while counties with the most residential activity had a 19% lower COVID-19 growth rate at 15 days than those with the least.Overall, cell phone activity outside the home increased roughly 0.5% compared with in-home activity per day that the stay-at-home measures were in place, suggesting waning adherence over time.After adjusting for county population, case rates, and state-level factors, rural counties had smaller reductions in cell phone activity at workplaces, transit stations, and stores and greater reductions in visits to parks and home activities than did urban counties.Counties in states with higher proportions of older adults, children, black residents, and people living in poverty; more per-capital hospital beds; and lower population density had the smallest reductions in workplace cell phone activity. Conversely, county residents stayed home more in states with a lower proportion of older adults, higher population density, greater economic productivity, lower rates of the uninsured, greater proportion spent on healthcare, fewer people living in poverty, and higher case rates.”Reductions in workplace activity and increases in residential activity were higher in counties and on days where/when there was a greater number of new cases, and thus there was likely a higher perceived risk of infection,” the authors said. “Counties with a high rate of cases were likely to also have more restrictions in place.”The researchers said that their findings support cell phone location monitoring to predict pandemic trends.Aug 31 JAMA Intern Med study Multicenter study suggests stealthy COVID-19 spread by childrenTwenty of 91 children (22%) diagnosed as having COVID-19 in a South Korean study had no symptoms, and most symptoms in clinically ill children went unrecognized or developed only after diagnosis, suggesting that this age-group may silently spread coronavirus in the community.The study, which involved pediatric contacts of people with COVID-19 at 22 medical centers from Feb 18 to Mar 31, was published late last week in JAMA Pediatrics. Of the 71 symptomatic children, 47 (66%) had symptoms that went unrecognized as coronavirus symptoms, and 18 (25%) developed symptoms only after diagnosis, while only 6 (9%) were diagnosed at the time of illness onset.Of the 91 children, 22 (24%) had lower respiratory tract infections. RNA from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was found in upper respiratory samples for a mean of 17.6 days among all patients and for a mean of 14.1 days in children with no symptoms. Mean duration of virus RNA detection was not different for children with upper versus lower respiratory tract infections (18.7 days vs 19.9 days). All patients recovered from their infections.Median patient age was 11 years, 53 (58%) were boys, and 6 (7%) had underlying medical conditions. Fifty-seven children (63%) were infected by household members.The authors called for heightened surveillance with COVID-19 testing to allow detection of the virus in children with no, mild, or nonspecific symptoms.In a commentary in the same journal, Roberta DeBiasi, MD, MS, and Meghan Delaney, DO, MPH, of George Washington University pointed out that most ill children had symptoms for as long as 28 days before diagnosis, although they were presumably being monitored because they were a contact of a COVID-19 patient.”This highlights the concept that infected children may be more likely to go unnoticed either with or without symptoms and continue on with their usual activities, which may contribute to viral circulation within their community,” they said.Aug 28 JAMA Pediatr study and commentary Ebola sickens 2 more in DRC outbreak, 109 total, with 47 deathsTests confirmed Ebola infections in 2 more people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Equateur province outbreak, raising the total to 109 cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said today on Twitter.No new deaths were reported, keeping the fatality count at 47.The outbreak, the DRC’s 11th involving Ebola, was first detected in early June in the same area where the country’s ninth outbreak occurred in 2018.Health officials are concerned about the latest outbreak, as responders grapple with COVID-19 and other health challenges and stretched resources. Also, the outbreak is occurring across a wide region, which includes both difficult-to-access areas and Mbandaka, the provincial capital.Aug 31 WHO African regional office tweetlast_img read more