Monday
Feb032014

Scott Lentine's Blog

A bright young man recently contacted me by email after learning about our new research efforts in autism.  Scott shared with me his blog where he often posts poems about life with autism.  I wanted to share his blog with those who follow ours.  Thanks Scott!   

http://scottlentine.wordpress.com/

Monday
Feb032014

“A full-blown heroin crisis” - Vermont Governor’s speech

At the beginning of Year 2014, in the state of the states speeches, Vermont Governor focused almost his entire talk on the problem of drug addiction.  Opioid addiction has dramatically worsened in recent years according to NIDA statistics, and it especially poses a huge threat in New England area. In the lab, drug addiction is a main research topic we are focusing on. Hopefully, with the help of advanced imaging techniques, we could gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of addiction.

You can check out the related news here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/09/us/in-annual-speech-vermont-governor-shifts-focus-to-drug-abuse.html?_r=0

Heroin in New England, More Abundant and Deadly: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/us/heroin-in-new-england-more-abundant-and-deadly.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0

-Monica

Saturday
Jan252014

Theranostics: paving the path to personalized medicine

Recently, I got to know the concept of theranostics and did a little research on this creative approach. Theranostics was first proposed by Funkhouser in 2002.  Theranostics deliver therapeutic drugs and diagnostic imaging agents at the same time within the same dose. Therapeutic agents can be combined with a wide range of imaging tools including PET/SPECT, fluorescence, or MRI. Molecular imaging with a theranostic may inform the presence of a molecular target, as well as its distribution within a patient. The field of Theranostics is rapidly facilitating the shift from 'trial and error' medicine to personalized medicine.

Here are the links to a few very interesting reviews on theranostics, check them out:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bc200151q

For polymeric theranostics, see: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2013/TB/c3tb20191k#!divAbstract

For nanotheranostics, see: http://www.dovepress.com/nanotheranostics-ndash-a-review-of-recent-publications-peer-reviewed-article-IJN-recommendation1

Hong

Wednesday
Jan152014

Cognitive improvements through games?

Over the past few weeks, I have been inundated by ads from a company called Lumosity (http://www.lumosity.com). Now, maybe I’ve noticed these ads because I’m part of the target market, but their goal of improving cognition across the world population really intrigued me, so I did what all scientists do, a little research.

Turns out, Lumosity may be on to something, with several studies showing the ability of their specialized computer “games” to improve cognitive test scores. For example, in a study of 1,200 students (ages 8-15) those who trained with Lumosity improved their cognitive scores about twice as much as the control group, who did not train at all. The change in cognitive scores was also correlated to the number of training hours, with scores improving more as the training hours increased.  Another interesting study looked at the effect of Lumosity on breast cancer survivors, who often experience cognitive deficits known as “chemofog.” Following Lumosity training, the cancer survivors showed improvements in executive functions, including cognitive flexibility, verbal fluency and processing speed. A third study focused on the impact of cognitive training on emotional regulation, and found that 30 days of cognitive training improved self-esteem scores three months after the training was completed as compared to the control group, who played computer-based arcade games.

A question still in my mind is whether the training provided on the website simply prepares people for cognitive assessment, or does it really change people’s cognition throughout their daily lives? It appears that at least one group has attempted to answer this question, finding that while training may improve scores on specific cognitive tests, it does not appear to improve general cognitive function. Specifically, participants improved their scores for cognitive tasks for which they specifically trained, but this improvement did not transfer to novel, untrained cognitive tasks (Owen, et al. Nature, 2010, 465, 775-8).

As the debate goes on, I personally am curious as to whether there are any significant biochemical changes in the brains of people who show improvements in cognitive scores after using Lumosity. Even if Lumosity doesn’t provide population-wide improvements in cognition, I think it is worthwhile to consider easily-accessible, non-invasive methods that may provide cognitive improvements instead of constantly focusing on developing new drugs targeted at various patient populations.

~Genevieve

Monday
Dec162013

The best stats you've ever seen

As researchers in neuroscience we are dealing with statistics everyday: sample size, effect size, statistical significance...

In this talk at the TED conference, Rans Hosling is dealing with huge sample size: the population of the world!

http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html

In this charismatic and engaging talk, Rans Hosling delivers a powerful and informative message on the socioeconomic progression of countries of the world in the past 50 years.

All these data are open access in the gapminder website (http://www.gapminder.org/world). Displaying data in such a way really helps in understanding correlations between various parameters such as life expectancy and fertility rate or child survival and income. It’s fascinating to see the tremendous changes that occurred in the world in the past half-century.

As a scientist, this talk also demonstrates that statistics can be displayed in an interesting and dynamic way!

"The problem is not ignorance... it's preconceived ideas..."

~Marjorie