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Health and Fitness, Stanford News, Videos

How social connection can improve physical and mental health

How social connection can improve physical and mental health

Past research has shown that a lack of social connection may be a greater detriment to a person’s health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure. In this TEDxHayward video, Emma Seppala, PhD, associate director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, discusses these and other findings showing that maintaining strong social relationships can improve physical and mental health. Contrary to popular belief, she says, social connection has more to do with your subjective feeling of connection than how many friends you have.

Take a moment to watch the talk and learn how fostering compassion for others and yourself can increase social connection and, as a result, benefit your health.

Previously: How loneliness can impact the immune system, The scientific importance of social connections for your health and Elderly adults turn to social media to stay connected, stave off loneliness

Autism, Genetics, Neuroscience, Research, Videos

Building a blueprint of the developing human brain

Building a blueprint of the developing human brain

In an effort to identify and better understand how genes turned on or off before birth influence early brain development, scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have created a comprehensive three-dimensional map that illustrates the activity of some 20,000 genes in 300 brain regions during mid-prenatal development.

A post on the NIH Director’s blog discusses the significance of the project, known as the BrainSpan Atlas of the Developing Human Brain:

While this is just the first installment of what will be an atlas of gene activity covering the entire course of human brain development, this rich trove of data is already transforming the way we think about neurodevelopmental disorders.

To test the powers of the new atlas, researchers decided to use the database to explore the activity of 319 genes, previously linked to autism, during the mid-prenatal period. They discovered that many of these genes were switched on in the developing neocortex—a part of the brain that is responsible for complex behaviors and that is known to be disrupted in children with autism. Specifically, these genes were activated in newly formed excitatory neurons, which are nerve cells that send information from one part of the brain to another. The finding provides more evidence that the first seeds for autism are planted at the time when the cortex is in the midst of forming its six-layered architecture and circuitry.

In the above video, Ed Lein, PhD, an Allen Institute investigator, talks about the atlas and explains how it will allow researchers to examine genes that have been associated with a range of neurodevelopmental disorders and pinpoint when and where that gene is being used.

Previously: NIH announces focus of funding for BRAIN initiative, Brain’s gain: Stanford neuroscientist discusses two major new initiatives and Co-leader of Obama’s BRAIN Initiative to direct Stanford’s interdisciplinary neuroscience institute

Medical Education, Stanford News, Videos

High schoolers share thoughts from Stanford’s Med School 101

High schoolers share thoughts from Stanford's Med School 101

Scenes from this year’s Med School 101: In the video above, three high-school students describe their interests in science and the sessions they attended at Stanford Medicine’s recent daylong event for local teens. One of the presenters, Anand Veeravagu, MD, also weighed in, saying: “I really wanted to share with them my journey from graduating high school all the way to being a neurosurgery resident and what that involves.” (A lot of training!)

For those interested in seeing more, images from the event can be found on our Flickr photo set.

Previously: The brain whisperer: Stanford neurologist talks about his work, shares tips with aspiring doctorsAt Med School 101, teens learn that it’s “so cool to be a doctor” and Med School 101 kicks off on Stanford campus today

Bioengineering, Global Health, Medicine and Society, Stanford News, Videos

Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries

Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries

Over the past few weeks my colleague Kris Newby has been writing about the Foldscope, the 50-cent microscope developed by bioengineer Manu Prakash, PhD. Today Prakash is announcing another device that will bring high tech science to the developing world – and to kids.

The device won a contest from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public to “Reimagine the chemistry set for the 21st century.” In the contest materials, the two groups cite the absence of chemistry sets on the market today that inspire creativity.

As the parent of two boys I have to agree. Chemistry toys these days come with prepackaged materials and set instructions for how to use them. Sure, I’m not enthusiastic about some of the dangerous chemicals in the kits that inspired an older generation of scientists, but a bit of creativity would be nice.

Prakash took inspiration from a simple music box to design a handheld chemistry set that can be programmed using holes punched in a paper tape. The prize came from the set’s use as a toy to inspire kids, but Prakash and graduate student George Korir also envision it being used to carry out science in developing countries. They say it can be built for about $5. Prakash told me, “I’d started thinking about this connection between science education and global health. The things that you make for kids to explore science [are] also exactly the kind of things that you need in the field because they need to be robust and they need to be highly versatile.”

My Stanford Report story goes on to describe how it works:

Like the music box, the prototype includes a hand cranked wheel and paper tape with periodic holes punched by the user. When a pin encounters a hole in the tape it flips and activates a pump that releases a single drop from a channel. In the simplest design, 15 independent pumps, valves and droplet generators can all be controlled simultaneously.

Prakash and Korir didn’t set out to make a kit for kids. Their idea was that a portable, programmable chemistry kit could be used around the world to test water quality, provide affordable medical diagnostic tests, assess soil chemistry for agriculture or as a snake bite venom test kit. It could even be used in modern labs to carry out experiments on a very small scale.

This chemistry set and the Foldscope are both part of what Prakash calls “frugal science.” There’s more about how the device works in the technical paper.

Previously: Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope and Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas
Photo in featured entry box by George Korir

Neuroscience, Patient Care, Stanford News, Videos

Treating intractible epilepsy

Treating intractible epilepsy

In this new Stanford Medicine video, patient Laura Koellstad tells the story of how her life changed with her first seizure and a diagnosis of intractible epilepsy, and then turned around following treatment at Stanford. Josef Parvizi, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, and Robert Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the Stanford Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, explain the functional mapping and surgical procedures used to treat Koellstad’s condition, allowing her to return to work and regain her ability to drive.

Previously: The brain whisperer: Stanford neurologist talks about his work, shares tips with aspiring doctorsHow epilepsy patients are teaching Stanford scientists more about the brain and Implanting electrodes to treat epilepsy, better understand the brain

Nutrition, Stanford News, Videos

Improving your health using herbs and spices

Can certain herbs and spices really boost immunity, control blood sugar, lower blood pressure and ease joint pain? As registered dietician Alison Ryan discusses in this Stanford Hospital & Clinics video, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests the answer is yes. During the 90-minute presentation, she explains in detail how ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and other ingredients can add a healthful punch to any meal, snack, or beverage by working to curb inflammation and prevent or delay certain types of cell damage. The talk is part of the Healthy Strides Ernest Rosenbaum Cancer Survivorship Lecture Series presented by the Cancer Supportive Care Program at Stanford.

Previously: How food may influence our cells and overall health and Nature/nurture study of type 2 diabetes risk unearths carrots as potential risk reducers

Aging, Genetics, Stanford News, Videos

Unlocking the secrets to human longevity

Unlocking the secrets to human longevity

Does the key to extending life lie within our genetic code? In this Stanford+Connects micro lecture, Stuart Kim, PhD, a professor of developmental biology and genetics, explains why he believes the answer is yes.

In his lab at Stanford, Kim and colleagues study functional genomics and aging and the search for genes that can either speed up or slow down aging, in particular with respect to the kidney. During this talk, he shares some of his lab’s advances in developmental biology in doubling the lifespan of a nematode, which is the world’s fastest-aging animal.

Previously: Male roundworms shorten females’ lifespan with soluble compounds, say Stanford researchers, Key to naked mole rat longevity may be related to their body’s ability to make proteins accurately, Longevity gene tied to nerve stem cell regeneration, say Stanford researchers and California’s oldest person helping geneticists uncover key to aging

Cancer, Research, Stanford News, Stem Cells, Videos

The latest on stem-cell therapies for leukemia

The latest on stem-cell therapies for leukemia

Leukemia research was the focus of a recent Google Hangout hosted by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine; included in the conversation were Stanford’s Ravi Majeti, MD, PhD; Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, with the University of California San Diego; and Karen Berry, PhD, DVM, a CIRM science officer. In the words of CIRM blogger Kevin McCormack, “Between the three of them they painted an optimistic look at the state of stem cell research into leukemia, the progress we are making, and the obstacles we still have to overcome.”

Majeti, whose works focuses on a potential leukemia treatment using an antibody to a protein called CD47, begins talking around the 10-minute mark.

Previously: Blood cancers shown to arise from mutations that accumulate in stem cells and Leukemia prognosis and cancer stem cells
Related: Cancer roundhouse

Public Health, Videos

Exploring popular health myths and how they influence health-care decisions

Exploring popular health myths and how they influence health-care decisions

This week on the TEDMED Great Challenges series, guests discussed popular health myths, ways these myths spread. and how doctors and patients can better evaluate medical information. In the video above, Rusty Hoffman, MD, chief of interventional radiology at Stanford, addresses a variety of topics, including misconceptions related to heart disease and uncertainty around new mammogram guidelines, and discusses building trust between doctors and patients to dispel myths using evidence-based medicine.

Previously: European experts debunk six myths about flu shot, Four common myths about U.S. health care, Exploring popular sleep myths and MythBusters looks at pain myths with Stanford doctor on April 28

Health and Fitness, Health Disparities, Stanford News, Videos

AAMC’s Health Equity Research Snapshot features Stanford project on virtual health advisers

AAMC's Health Equity Research Snapshot features Stanford project on virtual health advisers

To improve public health, Stanford and academic medical centers around the country conduct research to identify solutions to systematic and preventable inequities in medicine and health care. A selection of these projects – including research led by Abby King, PhD, professor of health research and policy and of medicine – have been highlighted in the 2014 Health Equity Research Snapshot developed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

King and colleague Timothy Bickmore, PhD, with Northeastern University, are conducting ongoing research examining how virtual advisers can promote physical activity regardless of individuals’ level of education or language. Findings  published last August demonstrated how individuals who participated in an exercise program guided by the online coach had an eight-fold increase in walking compared with those who did not. In the above video, King explains how virtual advisers can be as effective as their human counter parts in promoting regular physical activity and can reach far larger groups of people in a more cost effective way.

In addition to King’s video, the snapshot features six others produced by health-equity researchers and their teams that represent work on a wide array of health outcomes and populations. The AAMC initiative is intended to demonstrate how research at every stage – from basic discovery to community-based participatory research – can contribute to closing or narrowing gaps in heath and health care.

Previously: Help from a virtual friend goes a long way in boosting older adults’ physical activity
Video still in featured-entry box by Relational Agents Group, Northeastern University

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