Saturday, March 26, 2011

Notable Events - From Mar 27 To Apr 02

March 27, 1836 - The first Mormon temple was dedicated in Kirtland, OH.

March 27, 1860 - The corkscrew was patented by M.L. Byrn.

March 27, 1986 - Sammy Hagar played his first show as lead singer of Van Halen.

March 27, 1987 - U2 filmed their video "Where the Streets Have No Name" on a rooftop in L.A.

March 28, 1797 - Nathaniel Briggs patented a washing machine.

March 28, 1885 - The Salvation Army was officially organized in the U.S.

March 28, 1921 - U.S. President Warren Harding named William Howard Taft as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.

March 28, 1962 - The U.S. Air Force announced research into the use of lasers to intercept missiles and satellites.

March 28, 1967 - Raymond Burr starred in a TV movie titled "Ironside." The movie was later turned into a television series.

March 28, 1976 - Genesis began its first North American tour since Peter Gabriel's departure. Phil Collins was the new lead singer.

March 29, 1848 - Niagara Falls stopped flowing for one day due to an ice jam.

March 29, 1932 - Jack Benny made his radio debut.

March 29, 1943 - U.S. rationing of meat, butter and cheese began during World War II.

March 29, 1962 - Jack Paar made his final appearance on the "Tonight" show.

March 29, 1967 - France launched its first nuclear submarine.

March 29, 1976 - In Memphis, Bruce Springsteen jumped a fence at Graceland in an attempt to see his idol, Elvis Presley.

March 30, 1822 - Florida became a U.S. territory.

March 30, 1858 - Hyman L. Lipman of Philadelphia patented the pencil.

March 30, 1867 - The U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million dollars.

March 30, 1870 - The 15th amendment, guaranteeing the right to vote regardless of race, was passed by the U.S. Congress.

March 30, 1964 - "Jeopardy" debuted on NBC-TV.

March 30, 1967 - The cover of the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was staged and photographed.

March 30, 1987 - Vincent Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" was bought for $39.85 million.

March 31, 1880 - Wabash, Indiana, became the first town to be completely illuminated with electric light.

March 31, 1889 - In Paris, the Eiffel Tower officially opened.

March 31, 1917 - The U.S. purchased and took possession of the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million.

March 31, 1932 - The Ford Motor Co. debuted its V-8 engine.

March 31, 1940 - La Guardia airport in New York officially opened to the public.

March 31, 1958 - Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" was released.

April 01, 1621 - The Plymouth, Massachusetts, colonists created the first treaty with Native Americans.

April 01, 1748 - The ruins of Pompeii were found.

April 01, 1778 - Oliver Pollock, a New Orleans businessman, created the "$" symbol.

April 01, 1976 - Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" was released.

April 01, 1982 - The U.S. transferred the Canal Zone to Panama.

April 01, 1985 - The "We Are the World" album was released.

April 01, 1992 - Players began the first strike in the 75-year history of the National Hockey League (NHL).

April 02, 1513 - Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed in Florida.

April 02, 1956 - "The Edge of Night" and "As the World Turns" debuted on CBS-TV.

April 02, 1963 - Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King began the first non-violent campaign in Birmingham, AL.

April 02, 1978 - "Dallas" premiered on CBS-TV.
Thanks to On-This-Day / Memories Of History

Robert Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)

Robert Frost

Robert Frost (1941)
Born Robert Lee Frost
March 26, 1874
San Francisco, California,
United States
Died January 29, 1963 (aged 88)
Boston, Massachusetts,
United States
Occupation Poet, Playwright


Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was an American poet. He is highly regarded for his realistic depictions of rural life and his command of American colloquial speech.[1] His work frequently employed settings from rural life in New England in the early twentieth century, using them to examine complex social and philosophical themes. A popular and often-quoted poet, Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry.


Early years

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Robert Frost, circa 1910

Robert Frost was born in San Francisco, California, to journalist William Prescott Frost, Jr., and Isabelle Moodie.[1] His mother was of Scottish descent, and his father descended from Nicholas Frost of Tiverton, Devon, England, who had sailed to New Hampshire in 1634 on the Wolfrana.[citation needed]

Frost's father was a teacher and later an editor of the San Francisco Evening Bulletin (which later merged with the San Francisco Examiner), and an unsuccessful candidate for city tax collector. After his death on May 5, 1885, the family moved across the country to Lawrence, Massachusetts, under the patronage of (Robert's grandfather) William Frost, Sr., who was an overseer at a New England mill. Frost graduated from Lawrence High School in 1892.[2] Frost's mother joined the Swedenborgian church and had him baptized in it, but he left it as an adult.

Although known for his later association with rural life, Frost grew up in the city, and published his first poem in his high school's magazine. He attended Dartmouth College for two months, long enough to be accepted into the Theta Delta Chi fraternity. Frost returned home to teach and to work at various jobs – including helping his mother teach her class of unruly boys, delivering newspapers, and working in a factory as a lightbulb filament changer. He did not enjoy these jobs, feeling his true calling was poetry.

Adult years

Enlarge picture
"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life — It goes on" -- Robert Frost

Enlarge picture
This is the stone wall at Frost's farm in Derry, New Hampshire, which he described in "Mending Wall."

In 1894 he sold his first poem, "My Butterfly: An Elegy" (published in the November 8, 1894, edition of the New York Independent) for $15. Proud of his accomplishment, he proposed marriage to Elinor Miriam White, but she demurred, wanting to finish college (at St. Lawrence University) before they married. Frost then went on an excursion to the Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia, and asked Elinor again upon his return. Having graduated, she agreed, and they were married at Harvard University[citation needed], where he attended liberal arts studies for two years.

He did well at Harvard, but left to support his growing family.[3][4][5] Shortly before dying, Robert's grandfather purchased a farm for Robert and Elinor in Derry, New Hampshire; and Robert worked the farm for nine years, while writing early in the mornings and producing many of the poems that would later become famous. Ultimately his farming proved unsuccessful and he returned to the field of education as an English teacher at New Hampshire's Pinkerton Academy from 1906 to 1911, then at the New Hampshire Normal School (now Plymouth State University) in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

In 1912 Frost sailed with his family to Great Britain, living first in Glasgow before settling in Beaconsfield outside London. His first book of poetry, A Boy's Will, was published the next year. In England he made some important acquaintances, including Edward Thomas (a member of the group known as the Dymock Poets), T.E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound. Although Pound would become the first American to write a (favorable) review of Frost's work, Frost later resented Pound's attempts to manipulate his American prosody. Surrounded by his peers, Frost wrote some of his best work while in England.

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The Robert Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire, where he wrote many of his poems, including "Tree at My Window" and "Mending Wall."

As World War I began, Frost returned to America in 1915 and bought a farm in Franconia, New Hampshire, where he launched a career of writing, teaching, and lecturing. This family homestead served as the Frosts' summer home until 1938, and is maintained today as The Frost Place, a museum and poetry conference site. During the years 1916–20, 1923–24, and 1927–1938, Frost taught English at Amherst College, in Massachusetts, notably encouraging his students to account for the sounds of the human voice in their writing.

For forty-two years – from 1921 to 1963 - Frost spent almost every summer and fall teaching at the Bread Loaf School of English of Middlebury College, at its mountain campus at Ripton, Vermont. He is credited as a major influence upon the development of the school and its writing programs; the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference gained renown during Frost's time there.[citation needed] The college now owns and maintains his former Ripton farmstead as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus. In 1921 Frost accepted a fellowship teaching post at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he resided until 1927; while there he was awarded a lifetime appointment at the University as a Fellow in Letters.[6] The Robert Frost Ann Arbor home is now situated at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Frost returned to Amherst in 1927. In 1940 he bought a 5-acre (2.0 ha) plot in South Miami, Florida, naming it Pencil Pines; he spent his winters there for the rest of his life.[7]

Harvard's 1965 alumni directory indicates Frost received an honorary degree there. Although he never graduated from college, Frost received over 40 honorary degrees, including ones from Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities; and was the only person to receive two honorary degrees from Dartmouth College. During his lifetime, the Robert Frost Middle School in Fairfax, Virginia, the Robert L. Frost School in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and the main library of Amherst College were named after him.

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The Frost family grave in Bennington Old Cemetery

Frost was 86 when he spoke and performed a reading of his poetry at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20, 1961. He died in Boston two years later, on January 29, 1963, of complications from prostate surgery. He was buried at the Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont. His epitaph quotes a line from one of his poems: "I had a lover's quarrel with the world."

Frost's poems are critiqued in the Anthology of Modern American Poetry (Oxford University Press) where it is mentioned that behind a sometimes charmingly familiar and rural façade, Frost's poetry frequently presents pessimistic and menacing undertones which often are either unrecognized or unanalyzed.[8]

One of the original collections of Frost materials, to which he himself contributed, is found in the Special Collections department of the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts. The collection consists of approximately twelve thousand items, including original manuscript poems and letters, correspondence, and photographs, as well as audio and visual recordings.[9] The Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College also holds a collection of his papers.

Personal life

Robert Frost's personal life was plagued with grief and loss. In 1885 when Frost was 11, his father died of tuberculosis, leaving the family with just eight dollars. Frost's mother died of cancer in 1900. In 1920, Frost had to commit his younger sister Jeanie to a mental hospital, where she died nine years later. Mental illness apparently ran in Frost's family, as both he and his mother suffered from depression, and his daughter Irma was committed to a mental hospital in 1947. Frost's wife, Elinor, also experienced bouts of depression.[6]

Elinor and Robert Frost had six children: son Elliot (1896–1904, died of cholera); daughter Lesley Frost Ballantine (1899–1983); son Carol (1902–1940, committed suicide); daughter Irma (1903–1967); daughter Marjorie (1905–1934, died as a result of puerperal fever after childbirth); and daughter Elinor Bettina (died just three days after her birth in 1907). Only Lesley and Irma outlived their father. Frost's wife, who had heart problems throughout her life, developed breast cancer in 1937, and died of heart failure in 1938.[6]

Selected works


  • After Apple-Picking
  • Acquainted with the Night
  • The Aim Was Song
  • An Old Man's Winter Night
  • The Armful
  • Asking for Roses
  • The Bear
  • Bereft
  • Birches
  • The Black Cottage
  • Bond and Free
  • A Boundless Moment
  • A Brook in the City
  • But Outer Space
  • Choose Something Like a Star
  • A Cliff Dwelling
  • The Code
  • Come In
  • A Considerable Speck
  • The Cow in Apple-Time
  • The Death of the Hired Man
  • Dedication
  • The Demiurge's Laugh
  • Devotion
  • Departmental
  • Desert Places
  • Design
  • Directive
  • A Dream Pang
  • Dust of Snow
  • The Egg and the Machine
  • Evening in a Sugar Orchard
  • The Exposed Nest
  • The Fear
  • Fire and Ice (1920)
  • Fireflies in the Garden
  • The Flower Boat
  • Flower-Gathering
  • For Once, Then Something
  • Fragmentary Blue
  • Gathering Leaves
  • God's Garden
  • The Generations of Men
  • Ghost House
  • The Gift Outright
  • A Girl's Garden
  • Going for Water
  • Good Hours
  • Good-bye, and Keep Cold
  • The Gum-Gatherer
  • A Hundred Collars
  • Hannibal
  • The Hill Wife
  • Home Burial
  • Hyla Brook
  • In a Disused Graveyard
  • In a Poem
  • In Hardwood Groves
  • In Neglect
  • In White (Frost's Early Version of "Design")
  • Into My Own
  • A Late Walk
  • Leaves Compared with Flowers
  • The Line-Gang
  • A Line-Storm Song
  • The Lockless Door
  • Love and a Question
  • Lure of the West
  • Meeting and Passing
  • Mending Wall
  • A Minor Bird
  • The Mountain
  • Mowing
  • My Butterfly
  • My November Guest
  • The Need of Being Versed in Country Things
  • Neither Out Far Nor in Deep
  • Never Again Would Bird's Song Be the Same
  • Not to Keep
  • Nothing Gold Can Stay
  • Now Close the Windows
  • October
  • On a Tree Fallen across the Road
  • On Looking up by Chance at the Constellations
  • Once by the Pacific (1916)
  • One Step Backward Taken
  • Out, Out- (1916)
  • The Oven Bird
  • Pan With Us
  • A Patch of Old Snow
  • The Pasture
  • Plowmen
  • A Prayer in Spring
  • Provide, Provide
  • Putting in the Seed
  • Quandary
  • A Question
  • Range-Finding
  • Reluctance
  • Revelation
  • The Road Not Taken
  • The Road That Lost its Reason
  • The Rose Family
  • Rose Pogonias
  • The Runaway
  • The Secret Sits
  • The Self-Seeker
  • A Servant to Servants
  • The Silken Tent
  • A Soldier
  • The Sound of the Trees
  • The Span of Life
  • Spring Pools
  • The Star-Splitter
  • Stars
  • Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
  • Storm Fear
  • The Telephone
  • They Were Welcome to Their Belief
  • A Time to Talk
  • To E.T.
  • To Earthward
  • To the Thawing Wind
  • Tree at My Window
  • The Trial by Existence
  • The Tuft of Flowers
  • Two Look at Two
  • Two Tramps in Mud Time
  • The Vanishing Red
  • The Vantage Point
  • War Thoughts at Home
  • What Fifty Said
  • The Witch of Coös
  • The Wood-Pile

Poetry collections

Includes poems from first three volumes and the poem The Runaway
  • New Hampshire (Holt, 1923; Grant Richards, 1924)
  • Several Short Poems (Holt, 1924)[1]
  • Selected Poems (Holt, 1928)
  • West-Running Brook (Holt, 1928? 1929)
  • The Lovely Shall Be Choosers (Random House, 1929)
  • Collected Poems of Robert Frost (Holt, 1930; Longmans, Green, 1930)
  • The Lone Striker (Knopf, 1933)
  • Selected Poems: Third Edition (Holt, 1934)
  • Three Poems (Baker Library, Dartmouth College, 1935)
  • The Gold Hesperidee (Bibliophile Press, 1935)
  • From Snow to Snow (Holt, 1936)
  • A Further Range (Holt, 1936; Cape, 1937)
  • Collected Poems of Robert Frost (Holt, 1939; Longmans, Green, 1939)
  • A Witness Tree (Holt, 1942; Cape, 1943)
  • Come In, and Other Poems (1943)
  • Steeple Bush (Holt, 1947)
  • Complete Poems of Robert Frost, 1949 (Holt, 1949; Cape, 1951)
  • Hard Not To Be King (House of Books, 1951)
  • Aforesaid (Holt, 1954)
  • A Remembrance Collection of New Poems (Holt, 1959)
  • You Come Too (Holt, 1959; Bodley Head, 1964)
  • In the Clearing (Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1962)
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost (New York, 1969)
  • A Further Range (published as Further Range in 1926, as New Poems by Holt, 1936; Cape, 1937)
  • Nothing Gold Can Stay
  • What Fifty Said
  • Fire And Ice
  • A Drumlin Woodchuck


  • A Way Out: A One Act Play (Harbor Press, 1929).
  • The Cow's in the Corn: A One Act Irish Play in Rhyme (Slide Mountain Press, 1929).
  • A Masque of Reason (Holt, 1945).
  • A Masque of Mercy (Holt, 1947).


  • The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963; Cape, 1964).
  • Robert Frost and John Bartlett: The Record of a Friendship, by Margaret Bartlett Anderson (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963).
  • Selected Letters of Robert Frost (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1964).
  • Interviews with Robert Frost (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1966; Cape, 1967).
  • Family Letters of Robert and Elinor Frost (State University of New York Press, 1972).
  • Robert Frost and Sidney Cox: Forty Years of Friendship (University Press of New England, 1981).
  • The Notebooks of Robert Frost, edited by Robert Faggen (Harvard University Press, January 2007). [2]

Published as

Pulitzer Prizes

  • 1924 for New Hampshire: A Poem With Notes and Grace Notes
  • 1931 for Collected Poems
  • 1937 for A Further Range
  • 1943 for A Witness Tree


  1. ^ a b "Robert Frost". Encyclopædia Britannica (Online edition ed.). 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  2. ^ Ehrlich, Eugene; Carruth, Gorton (1982). The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. vol. 50. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195031865.
  3. ^ Nancy Lewis Tuten; John Zubizarreta (2001). The Robert Frost encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 145. ISBN 9780313294648. Retrieved 17 July 2010. "Halfway through the spring semester of his second year, Dean Briggs released him from Harvard without prejudice, lamenting the loss of so good a student."
  4. ^ Jay Parini (2000). Robert Frost: A Life. Macmillan. pp. 64–65. ISBN 9780805063417. Retrieved 17 July 2010.
  5. ^ Jeffrey Meyers (10 April 1996). Robert Frost: a biography. Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved 17 July 2010. "Frost remained at Harvard until March of his sophomore year, when he decamped in the middle of a term...."
  6. ^ a b c Frost, Robert; Poirier, Richard (ed.); Richardson, Mark (ed.) (1995). Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays. The Library of America. vol. 81. New York: Library of America. ISBN 188301106X.
  7. ^ Muir, Helen (1995). Frost in Florida. Valiant Press. pp. 41. ISBN 0963346164.
  8. ^ Nelson, Cary (2000). Anthology of Modern American Poetry. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 84. ISBN 0195122704.
  9. ^ "Robert Frost Collection". Jones Library, Inc. website, Amherst, Massachusetts. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
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Even Mild Stress Is Linked To Long-Term Disability, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — Even relatively mild stress can lead to long term disability and an inability to work, reveals a large population based study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

It is well known that mental health problems are associated with long term disability, but the impact of milder forms of psychological stress is likely to have been underestimated, say the authors.

Between 2002 and 2007, the authors tracked the health of more than 17,000 working adults up to the age of 64, who had been randomly selected from the population in the Stockholm area.

All participants completed a validated questionnaire (GHQ-12) at the start of the study to measure their mental health and stress levels, as well as other aspects of health and wellbeing.

During the monitoring period, 649 people started receiving disability benefit -- 203 for a mental health problem and the remainder for physical ill health.

Higher levels of stress at the start of the study were associated with a significantly greater likelihood of subsequently being awarded long term disability benefits.

But even those with mild stress were up to 70% more likely to receive disability benefits, after taking account of other factors likely to influence the results, such as lifestyle and alcohol intake.

One in four of these benefits awarded for a physical illness, such as high blood pressure, angina, and stroke, and almost two thirds awarded for a mental illness, were attributable to stress.

The authors say that it is important to consider their findings in the context of modern working life, which places greater demands on employees, and social factors, such as fewer close personal relationships and supportive networks.

These factors lead them to ask: "Are the strains and demands of modern society commonly exceeding human ability?" And they conclude that while mild stress should not be over-medicalised, their findings suggest that it should be taken more seriously than it is.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by BMJ-British Medical Journal, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Physical Activity Decreases Salt's Effect On Blood Pressure, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — The more physically active you are, the less your blood pressure rises in response to a high-salt diet, researchers reported at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention 2011 Scientific Sessions.

"Patients should be advised to increase their physical activity and eat less sodium," said Casey M. Rebholz, M.P.H., lead author of the study and a medical student at the Tulane School of Medicine and doctoral student at the Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. "Restricting sodium is particularly important in lowering blood pressure among more sedentary people."

Investigators compared study participants' blood pressure on two one-week diets, one low in sodium (3,000 mg/day) and the other high in sodium (18,000 mg/day).

The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg/day of sodium.

If a person's average systolic blood pressure (the top number in the reading, measured when the heart is contracting) increased 5 percent or more from the low-sodium to the high-sodium regimen, the researchers labeled them as high salt-sensitive.

Based on physical activity questionnaires, researchers divided participants into four groups ranging from very active to quite sedentary.

The average increases in systolic blood pressure after switching from low to high sodium, adjusted for age and gender, were:

  • 5.27 mm Hg in the least active group
  • 5.07 mm Hg in the next-to-lowest activity group
  • 4.93 mm Hg in the next to highest activity group
  • 3.88 mm Hg in the most active group

Compared with the sedentary group, the odds of being salt-sensitive, adjusted for age and gender, fell:

  • 10 percent in the next-to-lowest activity group
  • 17 percent in the next-to-highest activity group
  • 38 percent in the most active group

"In all the analyses we found a dose-response relationship with the more activity, the better," Rebholz said.

The participants were 1,906 Han Chinese adults (average age 38) in the Genetic Epidemiology Network of Salt Sensitivity (GenSalt), a large project to identify genetic and environmental factors contributing to salt sensitivity. Siblings and their parents were invited to become involved in GenSalt if at least one sibling had pre-hypertension (blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg) or stage-1 hypertension (between 140/90 and 159/99 mm Hg). No one was on blood pressure medication during the study.

The GenSalt project is located in rural China because the homogeneous population makes it more likely that genes influential to blood pressure control will be identified.

"The study needs to be repeated, but I suspect that the relationship between physical activity and salt-sensitivity will apply to other populations," Rebholz said.

Co-authors are: Dongfeng Gu, Ph.D.; Jing Chen, M.D., M.S.; Jian-feng Huang, M.D.; Jie Cao, M.D., M.S.; Ji-chun Chen, M.D., M.S.; Jianxin Li, M.D.; Fanghong Lu, M.D.; Jianjun Mu, M.D.; Jixiang Ma, M.D.; Dongsheng Hu, M.D., M.S.; Xu Ji, M.D.; Lydia A. Bazzano, M.D., Ph.D.; Depei Liu, M.D., Ph.D.; and Jiang He, M.D., Ph.D.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Heart Association, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Weight Worries For Mothers-To-Be

ScienceDaily (Mar. 23, 2011) — Being seriously overweight during pregnancy increases dangers for both mother and unborn child, but little is being done to help obese mums-to-be, says a leading researcher in the field.

Dr Nicola Heslehurst, from Teesside University's Health and Social Care Institute, led a team of academics from the universities of Teesside, Newcastle and Durham looking at the provision of clinical and support services for obese pregnant women.

They found that maternal obesity has more than doubled over the last two decades with one in six pregnant women now facing extra risks to themselves and their babies.

More than half the women who die in pregnancy or childbirth are obese or overweight and being seriously overweight increases the likelihood of conditions such as cardiac disease, diabetes and pre-eclampsia and can be a contributing factor in stillbirth, congenital anomalies and prematurity.

"But very little is being done nationally to support women in achieving a healthy weight before bearing children," says Dr Heslehurst, whose study of births around the country was published in the International Journal of Obesity. "Despite the potential risks, there is no strategic public information campaign."

Her study found wide regional variations for maternal obesity, ranging from just over 13% in London to nearly 22% in the West Midlands.

"Once obese women become pregnant there are still things they can do to minimise the potential for complications for themselves and their babies, such as healthy eating and moderate levels of physical activity," says Dr Heslehurst.

In joint research funded by Public Health North East and published in the journal Midwifery, Nicola's team found improvements to obesity services at North East maternity units over the last four years.

The main advances related to health and safety, such as the provision of more suitable equipment, including sturdier beds and operating tables. However, the lack of services to help mothers tackle their weight problems had still not been addressed, and there was a lack of partnership working between public health and maternity services. No weight gain guidelines were in place, for example.

"Mothers were being told they were putting their babies at risk and were then left to deal with it themselves, largely due to a lack of national guidelines for this type of advice and support for women," says Dr Heslehurst.

The lack of weight management services and weight gain guidance made it difficult for midwives to discuss obesity with women during pregnancy. "Midwives seek to build up a good relationship with women and they struggle to know how to initiate discussion with them about their weight as it is such a sensitive issue," says Dr Heslehurst.

"There is an urgent need for obesity training for midwives and better communication between the public health and maternity services," she says.

Lessons could be learned from the development of smoking cessation services during pregnancy, she suggests. Midwives participating in the study felt that the national drive for smoking cessation with its structured training, support and funding had worked successfully, whereas previous local initiatives without that level of strategic support had failed.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Teesside.

'Knowing It In Your Gut': Cross-Talk Between Human Gut Bacteria And Brain

Gut bacteria influence anxiety-like behavior through alterations in the way the brain is wired, new research suggests. (Credit: iStockphoto/Mads Abildgaard)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — A lot of chatter goes on inside each one of us and not all of it happens between our ears. Researchers at McMaster University discovered that the "cross-talk" between bacteria in our gut and our brain plays an important role in the development of psychiatric illness, intestinal diseases and probably other health problems as well including obesity.

"The wave of the future is full of opportunity as we think about how microbiota or bacteria influence the brain and how the bi-directional communication of the body and the brain influence metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes," says Jane Foster, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

Using germ-free mice, Foster's research shows gut bacteria influences how the brain is wired for learning and memory. The research paper has been published in the March issue of the science journal Neurogastroenterology and Motility.

The study's results show that genes linked to learning and memory are altered in germ-free mice and, in particular, they are altered in one of the key brain regions for learning and memory -- the hippocampus.

"The take-home message is that gut bacteria influences anxiety-like behavior through alterations in the way the brain is wired," said Foster.

Foster's laboratory is located in the Brain-Body Institute, a joint research initiative of McMaster University and St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton. The institute was created to advance understanding of the relationship between the brain, nervous system and bodily disorders.

"We have a hypothesis in my lab that the state of your immune system and your gut bacteria -- which are in constant communication -- influences your personality," Foster said.

She said psychiatrists, in particular, are interested in her research because of the problems of side effects with current drug therapy.

"The idea behind this research is to see if it's possible to develop new therapies which could target the body, free of complications related to getting into the brain," Foster said. "We need novel targets that take a different approach than what is currently on the market for psychiatric illness. Those targets could be the immune system, your gut function…we could even use the body to screen patients to say what drugs might work better in their brain."

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by McMaster University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Similarities Found In Brain Activity For Both Habits And Goals

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — A team of researchers has found that pursuing carefully planned goals and engaging in more automatic habits shows overlapping neurological mechanisms. Because the findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, show a neurological linkage between goal-directed and habitual, and perhaps damaging, behaviors, they may offer a pathway for beginning to address addiction and similar maladies.

The study was conducted by researchers at New York University's Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology, Princeton University's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience Institute, and University College London's Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging and Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London.

The brain is believed to engage in two types of decision-making processes -- deliberative, in which the future consequences of potential actions are weighed in order to achieve a particular goal, and automatic or habitual, in which previously successful actions are repeated without further contemplation. While the mechanisms behind these behaviors are distinct -- with goal-directed actions the result of planning and habitual ones, associated with addiction, produced more thoughtlessly -- researchers have had difficulty separating them behaviorally as they both typically pursue common ends.

The researchers on the Neuron study sought to differentiate both types of decision making by studying how humans' decisions and brain activity, measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), were influenced by previously received vs. potential future rewards in a gambling game.

In the experiments, subjects were asked to make two sets of choices, with a monetary reward given if they made certain selections. In the first set of choices, subjects were asked to make selections between different slot machines, represented by colored boxes. These choices led to the opportunity to choose between additional slot machines. If the subjects made certain choices in this second stage, they received a monetary reward. Each subject repeated this process 200 times, with the chance of winning a monetary reward varying in each round -- in some rounds, certain selections were associated with a high chance of winning money; in other rounds, these same choices were much less likely to yield a monetary benefit.

By analyzing how subjects adjusted their choices based on winning, or failing to win, money, the researchers were able to distinguish goal-directed from habitual decisions. Since the chances of winning money for different choices were constantly changing, a habitual decision, which is based on repeating a previously rewarded choice, was distinct from a goal directed one, which is based on contemplating the future outcome expected for the action.

Having dissociated the two types of decisions, the researchers examined brain activity related to decision processes. Despite the distinctions between goal-directed and habitual behaviors, the subjects' brain activity was similar for both types of action. Indeed, signals related to goal-directed plans were observed in an area of the brain known as the ventral striatum, which is normally associated with habits and drug abuse.

"This surprising result shows that the brain's systems for different behaviors are more intertwined than previously thought," explained Nathaniel Daw, an assistant professor in NYU's Center for Neural Science and Department of Psychology, one of the study's co-authors.

The authors added that the finding paves the way for seeking to understand how the brain regulates between goal-directed and habitual behaviors. By comprehending the mechanisms by which the brain controls these behaviors, subsequent research can begin to address how to curb habitual behaviors such as drug addiction or alcoholism. More specifically, because these decisions have a common neural target, there is a possibility that therapeutic methods could be designed and tested, targeting this locus, to enhance goal-directed behaviors while diminishing habitual ones.

The study was funded, in part, by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by New York University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

Losing A Parent Can Be Fatal

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2011) — The death of parents entails an increase in their children's risk of dying. This is shown in a new study performed by Mikael Rostila, a researcher at the Center for Health Equity Studies (CHESS) in Sweden, and Jan Saarela, a researcher at Åbo Akademi University in Finland. Those especially affected are younger children, and primarily if they lose their mother.

"Among children between 10 and 18 years of age, there's an increased risk of death. Compared with children who have not lost their mother at these ages, their risk of dying is nearly doubled. But even children up to the ages of 40-50 are affected by their mother's death, but in that case primarily over a longer term," says Mikael Rostila. In other words, our parents are very important to us throughout our lives.

"The fact that it's primarily the loss of a mother that impacts children can be explained in different ways. It may be so that the relation between mother and child is characterized by a stronger emotional contact, entailing that the child is affected more by the loss. Other studies have shown that mothers transfer material and economic resources to their children to a greater extent than fathers do, which may have a positive effect on their health," says Mikael Rostila.

Somewhat surprisingly the findings of the study indicate that older children who lose a parent evince lower mortality than children whose parents are living.

"This may be because the parents' final stage of life brings with it a great deal of anxiety and caring and many elderly parents are in ill health for an extended period. Paradoxically, their death can be a relief to the child in that the parent no longer has to suffer," says Mikael Rostila.

The study also shows that death by accident or suicide, for example, has the greatest consequences for the health of children.

"This is rather to be expected in that the unexpected loss of a parent means that we find it more difficult to accept the loss. We have no time to prepare ourselves for the event. This entails a greater risk of winding up in a crisis or depression," says Mikael Rostila.

"The study's findings have important consequences for health care, as we have little knowledge of how death and illness in an individual impact the health of loved ones. In caring for an individual in the final stages of life, physicians and other health care staff should pay more attention to the perceptions and reactions of loved ones. It may also be important for health care to follow up individuals who are mourning the death of a loved one. This can reduce suffering, illness, and death among loved ones," says Mikael Rostila.

The study is based on a registry database from CHESS where it is possible to link together parents and children and thereby follow children up to 10 years after the loss of a mother or father.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Expertanswer (Expertsvar in Swedish), via AlphaGalileo.

Psychologists Find The Meaning Of Aggression: 'Monty Python' Scene Helps Research

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — Bottling up emotions can make people more aggressive, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Minnesota that was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Army.

The study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, could have important implications for reducing violence and helping people in professions such as law enforcement and the military better cope with long hours and stressful situations.

The psychologists used a pair of classic movie scenes in their research. They found that subjects who were asked to suppress their emotions and show no reaction to a notoriously disgusting scene in the 1983 film "The Meaning of Life" and another in the 1996 film "Trainspotting" were more aggressive afterwards than subjects who were allowed to show their revulsion.

The research reinforces scientists' understanding of the "ego depletion effect," which suggests people who must keep their emotions bottled up -- not reacting to a difficult boss at work, for example -- are more likely to act aggressively afterwards -- by yelling at their children, perhaps.

Subjects in the experiment who were deprived of sleep before watching the scenes reacted no differently than those who were well rested. This suggests that fatigue does not make people more aggressive, as some previous studies have suggested.

"Our research suggests people may become more aggressive after they have to control themselves," says co-author Arthur Markman, a psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin "Whatever psychological mechanisms are at work when people deal with stress and then have to exercise self control later are not the same thing that happens when you're tired."

Markman wrote the study with Todd Maddox of The University of Texas at Austin and Kathleen Vohs and Brian Glass, both of the University of Minnesota.

Subjects in the study included U.S. Army soldiers, cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point and other college students.

Half of the subjects were asked to remain awake for 24 hours before watching the overeating scene from "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" and the toilet bowl scene from "Trainspotting." The others were permitted to sleep. Some of the subjects were then asked to watch the scenes without visibly reacting (monitors made sure they didn't cheat) while the others were able to watch the scenes with no restrictions.

All subjects were then placed in a computerized competition in which they could blast an online opponent with noise. (In reality, there was no opponent and no one was blasted, though subjects thought they were doing so.) Those subjects who had suppressed their emotions while watching the movie scenes began the competition by setting the noise level at between 6 and 7 on a scale of 10 while the others set the noise level at between 4 and 5, on average.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Texas at Austin.

'Junk Food' Moms Have 'Junk Food' Babies

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — A new research report published online in The FASEB Journal suggests that pregnant mothers who eat high sugar and high fat diets have babies who are likely to become junk food junkies themselves. According to the report, which used rats, this happens because the high fat and high sugar diet leads to changes in the fetal brain's reward pathway, altering food preferences.

Not only does this offer insight into the ever-increasing rate of human obesity, but it may also explain why some people easily resist fatty and sugary foods, while others seem hopelessly addicted.

"These results will help us to better help women about diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding for giving their infants the best start in life," said Beverly Muhlhausler, Ph.D., co-author of the study from the FOODplus Research Centre in the School of Agriculture Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia.

To make this discovery, Muhlhausler and colleagues studied two groups of rats, which during pregnancy and lactation, were either fed standard "rat chow" or a junk food diet made up of a selection of common human foods high in fat and high in sugar. After the baby mice were weaned, the pups from both groups were allowed to select their own diets from either the same range of junk food or the standard rat chow. Brains from some of the pups also were collected at different times after birth and measured for the levels of the "feel good" chemicals (dopamine and opioids) and the receptors that these chemicals act upon. The scientists found that the group of rats whose mothers had eaten the junk food diet had higher levels of the receptor for opioids after they were weaned. This group also chose to eat more of the fatty foods as compared to the pups whose mothers ate the standard rat chow. This suggests that infants whose mothers eat excessive amounts of high-fat, high-sugar junk foods when pregnant or breastfeeding are likely to have a greater preference for these foods later in life.

"How ironic that your mother nags you to eat your fruits and vegetables, but it could have been her actions that helped you to prefer junk food!" said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Perhaps in the future, studies like these will convince pregnant moms to go heavier on the green vegetables and a little lighter on the ice cream and Twinkies."

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

The Brain Is Not An Explanation

fMRI Brain scans pinpoint how chocoholics are hooked. This headline appeared in The Guardian a couple years ago above a science story that began: "Chocoholics really do have chocolate on the brain." The story went on to describe a study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of chocoholics and non-cravers. The study found increased activity in the pleasure centers of the chocoholics' brains, and the Guardian report concluded: "There may be some truth in calling the love of chocolate an addiction in some people."

Really? Is that a fair conclusion to draw from the fMRI data in this study, reported in the European Journal of Neuroscience? Brain stories have become very popular in the news pages in recent years—and brain imaging stories especially, in part because of the colorful "pictures" that often accompany the data and analysis. But how much can we really conclude from these images? How skeptical should we be, as readers of the science pages in the paper?

A growing number of scientists, including many who study the brain, are calling for more caution from scientists, both in reporting and interpreting fMRI data. Among them is University of Illinois neuroscientist Diane Beck, who in a recent article in Perspectives on Psychological Science discussed both the appeal and the pitfalls of popular stories about the brain and behavior.

The difficulties of these stories begin with the technology itself, the sheer complexity of which makes accurate reporting a challenge. Despite those colorful images in the journals and news pages, the fMRI is not a photograph—not even close. An fMRI image is actually constructed from the complex interplay of radio waves and the magnetic properties of hemoglobin. That familiar head-shaped image is the final product of highly sophisticated mathematics and modeling and statistical analysis—much of which neuroscientists themselves don't fully understand.

Even this paraphrase of mine is a gross oversimplification. The problem is that the final product—the brain image—looks like a photograph, and that's how most readers take it, as a simple snapshot of the brain in action. That's in part because the simplicity of the message is appealing: Complicated behavior X lights up brain area Y. But such reductionism, Beck argues, lacks any explanatory power. Consider the chocoholic example again: Leaving aside the fact that chocoholic is not a recognized diagnosis, what does this study actually show? It shows that people who define themselves as chocolate cravers have more activity, relative to people who do not define themselves as chocolate cravers, is certain pleasures centers of the brain. That is, the sight and taste of chocolate activated the brain's reward system in cravers, documenting . . . what? Well, documenting that some people find chocolate more rewarding than others. As Beck notes, we probably don't need a brain scan to corroborate what most people probably already believe anyway.

But it's the brain—it's biological—which gives readers more confidence in a behavior than the behavior itself. Why isn't it good enough to simply ask a lot of people if they crave chocolate? Chances are some would say yes and some would say no. The fact that the brain's reward center is relatively more active in cravers doesn't add much—and it certainly doesn't verify that a self-proclaimed chocoholic is akin to a heroin addict or alcoholic.

chocolate The chocoholic study may seem trivial, but is just one of many that Beck analyzes. Another is a 2006 New York Times study of glossolalia—speaking in tongues—which documented decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex during this religious practice. In the article, the lead scientist describes this result as consistent with the claims of the speakers that they lack control over their utterances, leaving the impression that the brain image supports the belief that people who speak in tongues are speaking the words of God. But nothing could be further from the truth. The most that we can conclude, Beck argues, is this: When practitioners claim they are in a different mental state when speaking in tongues than they are when gospel singing (the comparison condition), their brains corroborate that claim. But that's not an amazing claim. Indeed, it's again a claim that most of us would readily accept, just on the practitioners' say-so. As one media critic asked at the time: "If your test subject tells you he likes ice cream, what do we learn from the fact that his brain thinks so too?"

Explaining brain research is not easy, and Beck's purpose is not to fault particular reporters or news organizations. But she is alerting her scientific colleagues that the consumers of science prefer simple messages; have heightened confidence in biological evidence; and often confuse the brain for true explanation. That may be human nature, but scientists should be careful not to play into these pervasive biases.

Wray Herbert's book, On Second Thought: Outsmarting Your Mind's Hard-Wired Habits, explores the cognitive biases that skew human thinking and judgment. Excerpts from his two blogs—"Full Frontal Psychology" and "We're Only Human"—appear regularly in The Huffington Post and in Scientific American Mind.

Thanks to Wray Herbert / PsychologicalScience

Mini-Stroke Doubles Risk Of Heart Attack

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2011) — Patients who have suffered a "mini stroke" are at twice the risk of heart attack than the general population, according to research reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

These mini-strokes, called transient-ischemic attacks, or TIAs, occur when a blood clot temporarily blocks a blood vessel to the brain. Although the symptoms are similar to a stroke, a TIA is shorter ─ usually lasting only minutes or a few hours ─ and does not cause long-term disability. A TIA, also called a "warning stroke," signals a high risk of a subsequent, larger stroke.

In this study, the risk of heart attack among TIA patients was about 1 percent per year, double that of people who had never had a TIA. This increased risk persisted for years and was highest among patients under age 60, who were 15 times more likely than non-TIA patients to have a heart attack.

"Physicians and other healthcare providers should be mindful of the increased risk for heart attack after TIA, just as they are about the increased occurrence of stroke," said Robert D. Brown Jr., M.D., M.P.H., principal investigator and chair of the neurology department at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "In the same way that we evaluate the patient to determine the cause of TIA and implement strategies to reduce the occurrence of stroke after a TIA, we should step back and consider whether a stress test or some other screening study for coronary-artery disease should also be performed after a TIA, in an attempt to lessen the occurrence of heart attack."

In the study, the average length of time between a first TIA and a heart attack was five years. Researchers also found that TIA patients who later had a heart attack were three times more likely than those who did not have a heart attack to die during study follow-up.

Factors that independently increased the risk of heart attack after TIA included:

  • male gender;
  • older age; and
  • use of cholesterol-lowering medications (although patients using these drugs may have had more severe heart disease initially).

The study included 456 patients (average age 72, 43 percent men) diagnosed with a TIA between 1985 and 1994. Nearly two-thirds had high blood pressure, more than half smoked, and three-fourths were being treated with medication, such as aspirin, to prevent blood clots. Average follow-up was 10 years.

Investigators used a medical-records database (Rochester Epidemiology Project) to retrospectively identify TIA patients in Rochester, Minn. They then cross-referenced this information with data on heart attacks occurring within this patient group through 2006.

Most heart attacks are caused by coronary-artery disease, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood and oxygen flow in a blood vessel leading to the heart. Although coronary-artery disease is the primary cause of death among TIA patients, according to the study, limited data exist on the incidence of heart attack after TIA.

"In fact, coronary-artery disease is an even greater cause of death after transient-ischemic attack than stroke is, surprising as that may be," Brown said. "We should use the TIA event not only to provide a warning sign that patients are at heightened risk of stroke, but are also at increased risk of heart attack, an event that will increase their risk of death after the TIA."

Co-authors are Joseph D. Burns, M.D.; Alejandro A. Rabinstein, M.D.; Veronique L. Roger, M.D., M.P.H.; Latha G. Stead, M.D.; Teresa J. H. Christianson, B.S.; and Jill M. Killian, B.S. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The Mayo Clinic funded the study. TIA and stroke warning signs are sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, often on only one side of the body
  • Confusion and trouble speaking or understanding others
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Trouble walking, feelings of dizziness and loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache of unknown cause

The presence of any of these signs warrants a call to 9-1-1 for immediate medical attention.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by American Heart Association.

Improving Memory One Step At A Time

It's no secret that living a couch potato lifestyle-tied--to your television or computer is not good for your health. New research now shows that a simple walk in the park not only improves your waistline, but could give your brain a boost. Brain teasers, eating the right foods, learning something new -- these are all ways to boost your brain power. Now add this to the list. In a new study, neuroscientists and exercise scientists found that a simple walk can improve brain function in older adults. "What we found is that older participants became more fit over a course of a one year period, the connectivity increased between or among different brain regions." Art Kramer, Ph.D., Neuroscientist at the University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign, told Ivanhoe. As we age, some brain functions naturally decline like memory, multi-tasking and planning abilities. Participants in the study who walked at a moderate pace for 40 minutes, three times a week, showed an increase in these functions. "The increases were fairly dramatic, such that at the end of a year of exercise, the older adult's brain connectivity became equivalent of that of younger adults," Dr. Kramer added. Researchers looked at functional MRI brain scans of volunteers in the study, focusing on connections in the brain known as the default mode network or DMN. The more connections in the DMN region, the better performance adults had on cognitive tasks like planning, scheduling, memory and multi-tasking. "It appears if we remain active, remain cardiovascular fit, then those functions, those connections remain in place and indeed can be enhanced as we become fitter," Edward McAuley, Ph.D., Exercise scientist at the University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign, told Ivanhoe. Researchers say it's never too late to get started. "I felt that I could concentrate a little better," Gregory Stanton, a participant in study, told Ivanhoe. A little walking goes a long way. Researchers found that only moderate aerobic activity helped increase connections in the brain, a stretching and toning group in the study did not see significant improvement in brain functions.
Thanks to American Institute Of Physics

Bats Keep Separate Households

Separate homesteads: scientists from the MPI for Ornithology investigating the ecological niches of parti-coloured bats have discovered that males and females use entirely different foraging grounds. This means that from an ecological perspective, males and females behave like two different species. (Credit: Copyright MPI for Ornithology)

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — The use of different environments by males and females in the parti-coloured bat makes population estimation and thereby the conservation of the species more difficult. The use of different resources by males and females exacerbates the estimation of population sizes. However, the monitoring of population sizes, particularly for rare and threatened species, is pivotal to quick and effective conservation action. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell investigated the ecological niches of male and female parti-coloured bats (Vespertilio murinus) and found out that the sexes use entirely different foraging grounds. With their results they can show that a finer grained view of what different demographic subsets of species do is essential for correct estimation of population trends with important implications on action plans for conservation.

Reliable knowledge of population sizes and changes thereof often obtained by field surveys is essential for conservation. Differences in behaviour between demographic subsets of species, for example males and females, can lead to differences in resource use such as in diet or roost use. These differences can lead to specialisation and ultimately translate into spatial segregation within species. Reliable estimates of population sizes are however much hampered by sexual segregation. For threatened and rare species monitoring of population trends are essential for fast and appropriate conservation action.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell and their collaborators at the Swiss bat conservation centre now propose a novel way to obtain better estimates of population size for sexually segregating species.

They investigated the parti-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus) in Switzerland. And although the distribution of this species stretches over a vast area reaching from the Netherlands all the way to China, the species is rare in Western Europe. Despite the fact that males and females are barely different in size and fur coloration and identical in their preferences for day roosts, at a close glance they are fundamentally different. As so often among mammals in the parti-coloured bats too, females carry the full load of parental care with no support whatsoever from males in raising their twin pups. Twinning is rather exceptional among bats and presumably leads to even higher energetic costs imposed on the females. These differences in the investment between the sexes, so the scientists argue, result in different tolerance of males and females towards the quality of their foraging areas and the amount of prey they need to sustain themselves, leading to a segregation of the sexes.

Using radio telemetry data of male and female parti-coloured bats in conjunction with environmental data the scientists modelled the ecological niches of each of the sexes within the geographic area of Switzerland. This approach not only allowed to compare the amount of suitable habitat available to each of the two sexes by generating so called habitat suitability maps, but also allowed to estimate and compare the degree and overlap in ecological specialisation between sexes. "Female parti-coloured bats seem to be highly specialised and rely heavily on lake shores for their foraging activities" says Mariëlle van Toor from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. "Male parti-coloured bats, albeit being also highly specialised, use other and a broader range of resources than females such as rivers, cities, and agricultural areas. The maps which showed no spatial overlap of foraging grounds between the sexes revealed therefore that suitable habitat is almost three times more abundant for males than females. From an ecological perspective males and females behave like two different species" van Toor explains.

The study suggests that within the parti-coloured bats females are more vulnerable to habitat change and that conservation action has to pay special attention to their needs. More importantly, monitoring efforts should take these differences into account. This might represent a particular problem for bat surveys, since the most widely used method of acoustical survey which relies on counts of the echolocation calls emitted by the bats for orientation during flight does not allow to distinguish between males and females in the field. With the models presented in the study it will be possible to estimate the bias in sex specific habitat use where probabilities of sex specific habitat use can be associated with acoustic monitoring depending on the location in which the recordings were made.

Van Toor concludes with: "This study shows that in species where sexes segregate not necessarily the typical or in other words the most common habitat should be regarded as vital resources that may need protection, but the habitat of the more specialised and thus more vulnerable demographic subsets of the entire species pool." For the parti-colured bats in Switzerland the availability of aquatic ecosystems such as lakes and marshes is essential for reproductive females to ensure that this species finds enough prey also in the future.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Max-Planck-Gesellschaft.

Do The Math Dance - Mathematicians And Choreographers Use Dance To Teach Mathematics

May 1, 2008 — Combining math and dance concepts allows people to experience a physical sensation of the often abstract concepts of math. Mathematical problem-solving is incorporated when creating new dances, which can even inspire new mathematics. Concepts can be taught in the ballroom and applied in the classroom, bring together movement, rhythm, geometry, and more.

The terms, symbols and patterns of mathematics are often confusing, but two choreographers have calculated a way to put the rhythm in problem-solving.

It looks like a dance class, but it's actually teachers learning a new way to teach math. "We translate pattern into choreography and we translate pattern into math," Erik Stern, an educator and choreographer at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., told Ivanhoe.

Erik Stern and Karl Schaffer are the creators of a "math dance." "Many math-phobic adults and children -- young people -- are put off by math because they are given symbols before they have a real solid experience on which to base it on," Stern explains.

"Well, for many people, having a kinesthetic experience of an abstract idea is extremely helpful in understanding what that abstract is," Karl Schaffer, Ph.D., an educator, choreographer and mathematician at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, told Ivanhoe.

"I saw students who normally aren't very focused, extremely engaged in the lesson today with the movement and with the math concepts, and they loved it," Paula Bailey, principal of the Betsey B. Winslow School in New Bedford, Mass., told Ivanhoe.

Students can create their own movement patterns. For many, the experience helps them connect with numbers they may never have understood before. "You're dancing something that is in three's, for example, a Waltz, it has a different feeling because it's an odd number of beats than three fours, which has a very even feeling," Dr. Schaffer explained.

Experiencing the physical element often adds up to understanding the abstractions of math. The math dance program is designed for grades four through twelve. The activities help teach mathematics and dance, symmetry through movement, as well as visual arts.

WHAT IS MATHDANCE? Mathematical problem-solving is usually involved in the creation of the dances, and sometimes leads to new mathematics as well. In many cases the choreographic ideas easily translate to classroom activities usable in college math classes. Mathematical areas involved include polyhedral geometry, symmetry, the mathematics of rhythm, and variations on dissection puzzles such as tangrams.

The American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America contributed to the information contained in the video portion of this report.

Note: This story and accompanying video were originally produced for the American Institute of Physics series Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science by Ivanhoe Broadcast News and are protected by copyright law. All rights reserved.

Eye Movement Differs In British And Chinese Populations

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2011) — Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that eye movement patterns of Chinese people, born and raised in China, are different to those of Caucasian people living in Britain.

The team, working with Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, investigated eye movements in Chinese and British people to further understanding of the brain mechanisms that control them and how they compare between different human populations. They found that a type of eye movement, that is rare in British people, is much more common in Chinese people, suggesting that there could be subtle differences in brain function between different populations.

Tests of eye movements can be used to help identify signs of brain injury or disease, such as schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis, in populations across the world. Research at Liverpool, however, has shown that within the Chinese population there are a high proportion of healthy people that exhibit a pattern of eye movements previously thought to be rare in the absence of injury or disease. Findings, published in the journal Experimental Brain Research, suggest that this pattern may not be as effective as a signal of altered brain function, in every global community, as originally thought.

Working in China and in Britain, the team tested fast eye movements, called saccades. Participants in the study were asked to respond to spots of light with their eyes as they appeared suddenly to the right or left of their line of sight. The reaction time of the eye movements was the key measure that differentiated between Chinese and non-Chinese groups.

Dr Paul Knox, from the Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, explains: "In a person from any country in the world we would expect the reaction time of fast eye movements to be approximately a fifth of a second. Very rarely we find some people with eye movement reaction times that are much shorter than this, at around a tenth of a second. This, however, is usually assumed to be a sign of an underlying problem that makes it difficult to keep the eyes pointing where you would like for a long enough period.

"In our study, as we expected, 97% of British people had the common fifth of a second delay, and only 3% had the much faster response. In our Chinese group, however, 30% had the faster, less common response. Our participants were healthy, with normal vision, and yet the eye movement pattern previously thought to be rare, was relatively common in Chinese people.

"There could be a number of explanations for this and further investigation is needed to fully understand why populations differ. It could be that culture -- where we grow up, the education, work and social activities we are exposed to -- influence these particular biological responses even though our physical make-up is the same.

"The other possibility is that there are basic differences in brain structure and function that produce the kind of behaviour we identified. Maps of the brain were developed many years ago and were largely based on European populations. This became the blueprint for brain structure, but there could be differences between various populations."

Scientists are now investigating eye movement in Chinese people born and living in Britain compared to Chinese populations born in China but now living in Britain. The study aims to further understanding into the cultural effects on eye movement behaviour.

The research is funded by the Royal Society and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by University of Liverpool.

Religious Young Adults Become Obese By Middle Age: Cause May Be Unhealthy Food At Religious Activities

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2011) — Could it be the potato salad? Young adults who frequently attend religious activities are 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age as young adults with no religious involvement, according to new Northwestern Medicine research. This is the first longitudinal study to examine the development of obesity in people with various degrees of religious involvement.

"We don't know why frequent religious participation is associated with development of obesity, but the upshot is these findings highlight a group that could benefit from targeted efforts at obesity prevention," said Matthew Feinstein, the study's lead investigator and a fourth-year student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "It's possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity."

Previous Northwestern Medicine research established a correlation between religious involvement and obesity in middle-age and older adults at a single point in time. By tracking participants' weight gain over time, the new study makes it clear that normal weight younger adults with high religious involvement became obese, rather than obese adults becoming more religious.

The research is being presented at the American Heart Association's Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism/Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention Scientific Sessions 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The study, which tracked 2,433 men and women for 18 years, found normal weight young adults ages 20 to 32 years with a high frequency of religious participation were 50 percent more likely to be obese by middle age after adjusting for differences in age, race, sex, education, income and baseline body mass index. High frequency of religious participation was defined as attending a religious function at least once a week.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. A woman who is 5'5 and 180 pounds has a BMI of 30, for example.

The men and women in the study were part of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) multi-center study, supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"Obesity is the major epidemic that is facing the U.S. population right now," said senior study author Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "We know that people with obesity have substantial risks for developing diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer, and of dying much younger. So, we need to use all of the tools at our disposal to identify groups at risk and to provide education and support to prevent the development of obesity in the first place. Once the weight is on, it is much harder to lose it."

The authors caution that their findings should only be taken to mean people with frequent religious involvement are more likely to become obese, and not that they have worse overall health status than those who are non-religious. In fact, previous studies have shown religious people tend to live longer than those who aren't religious in part because they tend to smoke less.

"Here's an opportunity for religious organizations to initiate programs to help their congregations live even longer," Feinstein said. "The organizations already have groups of people getting together and infrastructures in place that could be leveraged to initiate programs that prevent people from becoming obese and treat existing obesity."

Feinstein noted Northwestern is leading such an educational intervention in a church on Chicago's West Side where members are taught how dietary changes and increased physical activity can lower cardiovascular disease risk factors such as obesity, cholesterol and high blood pressure. "Church-based interventions have shown promising results," he said.

Story Source: The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Northwestern University, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.