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Neuroscience, Videos

Mind your matter: Researcher makes the case for protecting kids' heads

If you’ve ever experienced the urge to (permanently) encase your adventurous child’s head in a helmet, don’t fret – you’re not alone. In this TED talk, Kim Gorgens, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Denver, admits that neuropsychologists tend to obsess about this too. It comes with the territory for those studying how concussions affect a developing brain.

Gorgen, a parent herself, asks, “How do we guarantee the safety of our kids?” Her favorite strategy involves full-body bubble wrap (she’s kidding; watch the video). She also discusses the G-forces of various sports related impacts and the status of legislation requiring kids under 18 to wear helmets.

Previously: When can athletes return to play? Stanford researchers provide guidance and New concussion guidelines for NFL players

Image of the Week

Image of the Week: Gladys Louise Goselin with an unidentified baby


This image comes from the Gladys Goslyn Papers, courtesy of the Stanford Medical History Center. Curator Drew Bourn gave this short biographical sketch on her:

Gladys Louise Bagley was born in Guerneville, California, on February 20, 1895 and died on November 11, 1975 at the age of 80. She married Otto Goselin of Eureka, California, on October 26, 1923. Gladys received her diploma from the Stanford School for Nurses from Leland Stanford Junior University Medical School, the Stanford University Hospitals, Lane Hospital, February 19, 1919. Gladys worked at the Humboldt County Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

This image is No. 3 of 6 in a series of images featuring women throughout medical history. The images are from Stanford Medical History Center’s Flickr photo stream.

Previously: Mystery photo from Stanford Medical History Center and Doctors and nurses in the operating room at Lane Hospital

Microbiology, Stanford News

Stanford researchers examine microbial communities of the mouth


You may not think about it often, but your mouth is a neighborhood of sorts: every surface is alive with microorganisms that are moving, competing, reproducing and dying. The good news is that the majority of these colonists coexist peacefully with humans and support a healthy oral physiology. The bad news is these microbial residents occasionally cause cavities, gum disease or colds.

So in a recent study, Stanford researchers analyzed more than 11,000 microbial gene sequences from ten individuals to better understand oral microbial communities. Their inquiry yielded 247 species, including a handful of new microbes. According to the findings, which come from the lab of David Relman, MD:

Our data indicate that there is a variety of alternative oral bacterial community structures, and a greater degree of variation in patterns of diversity, associated with oral health than previously thought. It remains to be seen what factors, e.g., human genetics or lifestyle, correlate with oral bacterial community structure.

Interestingly, some of these microbes are friendly neighbors and were often found together, whereas others just don’t seem to get along and rarely occur together in any given mouth. Understanding the nature of these competitive interactions between microbes could one day be used to develop preventative dental treatments. For example:

Chronic periodontitis is one of the most common inflammatory conditions worldwide, and is associated with bacterial community structures that are distinct from those of health.

Previously: New York Times explores our amazing microbes and Researchers manipulate microbes in gut
Photo by Rainer Ebert

Image of the Week

Image of the Week: Mystery photo from Stanford Medical History Center


This image from the Stanford Medical History Center is, according to curator Drew Bourn, a “mystery photo.” The Center has very little information about the image, but the names of the subjects are known (from left to right): Margaret Sullivan, Dolores Torrez, Ruth Barron, and Sandra Juracich.

I invite Scope readers to comment here if you have more information.

This image is No. 2 of 6 in a series of images featuring women throughout medical history. The images are from Stanford Medical History Center’s Flickr photo stream.

Cancer, Media, Technology

Collaborative project creates a virtual world for cancer patients


The pain and isolation of dealing with a cancer diagnosis are challenging emotional experiences for adults. Now imagine getting that diagnosis as an adolescent.

But a new collaborative effort initiated by Mette Hoybye, PhD, a visiting scholar at the Center on Stress and Health, and Henrik Bennetsen, chief executive officer and co-founder of Katalabs, aims to fuse cancer therapy with virtual worlds to provide a learning space for young cancer patients. The project, which is aimed at patients ages 13 to 24, is called BE Community.

Hoybye, whose work over the past ten years has focused on the use of social media in support of different health conditions, explains in an e-mail:

We are envisioning the BE community as a social learning space, where young patients can hang out and interact with others in a similar situation. We will provide structured learning interactions – in the form of games, videos, treatment and nutrition diaries, and visualization exercises – with the hope of improving young patients’ self-efficacy with respect to adhering to treatments and additionally with finding motivation to make good health behavior choices.

Aiming to be more than a Facebook for adolescent cancer patients, Hoybye emphasizes the potential to provide evidence for the clinical relevance of psycho-social interventions in cancer treatment:

Patients feel empowered by support resources they find online and experience a strong sense of emotionally beneficial recognition from interactions with similar others in shared patient spaces such as discussion fora or websites. We are also planning to collect various measures of treatment adherence, for example: appointment attendance, blood tests to observe adherence to chemotherapy regimens, and possibly cortisol levels to indicate stress level.

And, on the software side of the project, Bennetsen helped develop Sirikata, the platform on which BE Community will run. He explains:

To do this we leverage the ongoing research at Stanford Computer Science’s Meru Virtual World Infrastructure Groupcoupled with emerging webtechnologies that allows us to deliver fullmultiuser3D spaces in a normal web browser without having to require the user to download or install any specialized software.

Image courtesy BE Community

History, Image of the Week

Image of the Week: Doctors and nurses in the operating room at Lane Hospital


The identities of the doctors and nurses captured in this image are largely unknown – owning in part to the surgical masks obscuring some of their faces, and in part to the age of the photograph. According to Stanford Medical History Center curator Drew Bourn:

Two of the women who appear in this shot may have been Agnes Safley (married to Edward Burke Gould, graduated from the Stanford School of Nursing in 1908) and Clara Tuttle (also graduated from the Stanford School of Nursing in 1908; passed away in 1948). If Safely and Tuttle appear in this image, it is unclear which of the women they are.

Lane Hospital was built in 1882 by Levi Cooper Lane, MD, surgeon and founder of Cooper Medical College. In 1985 his wife, Pauline Lane, inaugurated Lane Hospital Training School for Nurses, which would officially become the Stanford School of Nursing in 1922 after Cooper Medical College became Stanford University School of Medicine.

This image is No. 1 of 6 in a series of images featuring women throughout medical history. The images are from Stanford Medical History Center’s Flickr photo stream.


From the honeymoon to the split: The evolving relationship between graduate school mentors and mentees


As a fifth year graduate student, having just defended my thesis, I recently found myself reminiscing about the early years in my graduate career. I am particularly fond of one analogy a principal investigator (PI) mentioned back in the days when I was trying to decide which lab to join. He said (and I am paraphrasing a bit):

Choosing an advisor whose lab you want to join is not unlike selecting a significant other. At first, you think the other person is totally amazing. Everything he or she says is interesting; you love spending time together. Alas, this is a honeymoon phase. Over time reality sets in – you have to work at your relationship. Personal traits start to get on your nerves; suddenly you can’t seem to communicate any more. Finally, you can’t remember any more why you ever liked this person in the first place.

To all the first-year students and advisors out there rocking precariously in this boat, try not to stress about this momentous decision: The “marriage” can stay healthy for the next five to six years at least. Just keep in mind some key qualities when honing in on your thesis lab and future advisor:

Understanding: This trait is essential to any healthy relationship. If your advisor says, “You have to use two independent siRNAs every time you do a knockdown experiment,” it is important that you understand that he is really saying, “All experiments are useless with out the proper controls”.

Mutual Respect: Can you agree to disagree with your advisor? Or, rather, can he or she agree to disagree with you?

Caring and Sharing: Show your PI those western blots hot off the developer – share all your data, in fact.

Trust and Faith: Distrust and suspicious behavior are obvious liabilities in a healthy relationship – try to avoid either. On the other hand, sneaking around the lab late at night to load more plates in the real-time machine and catch up on data analysis your advisor asked for yesterday is a good thing.

Complete Support: The strongest relationships are those in which you have the unfailing belief that you could fall back upon your partner.

Obviously it’s not a perfect analogy, but, as you grad students out there know, it’s pretty close.

Lisandra West is a PhD candidate in cell and molecular biology.

Photo by Rob Gallop

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