H1N1 Flu Vaccine: Supply & Demand

After the newest strain of the flu (H1N1) was reported and the first death was a child the public was confused and scared (calling the microbe “swine” flu probably didn’t help). Schools in New York City were being closed by the Mayor and the Governor at press conferences. People everywhere were infected and everyone was vulnerable because no one had immunity. In June, 2009, the World Health Organization declared the flu a pandemic. Models predicted millions would die. People didn’t know whether there was enough time to manufacture vaccines and demand was HIGH. Hysteria abounded.

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Will this be on the test?

Students learn lots of material in traditional lecture courses, they must realize that not all of the material they learn can be on the test. The question then is how much material do they study before they take the test? Further, is deciding to stop studying a conscious decision, or do students just study when they are able?

If students actually make a decision, does he or she stop studying after 25% of the material is known? 50%? 75%? Or maybe the student only stops studying when they think they know all of it? Alternatively, is the decision to stop more qualitative, like a general feeling of knowing the material?

I’m helping an undergraduate student explore these issues as a possible explanation for low performer’s greater metacognitive overconfidence. What do you think?

-Posted by Tyler

The Myth of the Overmedicated Child: An Author’s Failure to Find Confirming Evidence

In the New York Times, a book is reviewed in which the author, Judith Warner, admittedly cannot find the evidence that she sought to support her initial position on the overpresence of overmedicated children (i.e., that children today are overmedicated). Though the author initially only sought confirming evidence that there are many overmedicated children along with parents who are all too willing to drug their children in order to make them “more normal,” the author had much difficulty in finding any of these children or eager parents to interview for her book. As such, the author reinvented the message of her book, concluding that “most no parent takes the issue of psychiatric diagnosis lightly or rushes to ‘drug’ his or her child; and that responsible child psychiatrists don’t, either ” . In a way, the fact that she looked for confirming evidence and couldn’t find it, made her more willing to accept the alternative.

-Posted by Ashley

Calorie Wars

Essentially, we all know that Americans have a large health problem in terms of obesity and related disorders (e.g., diabetes, heart disease). Here is some interesting information about the best way to help persuade Americans to trim down!

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The Olympics and Sport Psychology

Sport Psychology becomes very important during the Olympics for some athletes, like Magdalena Neuner. Neuner is a German biathlete (skier and rifle shooter) who recognizes that

One has to understand that physical fitness alone isn’t sufficient. My mental training is very complex and it makes me believe in myself…. To control your mind is more difficult than to control your body.

American athletes also use sport psychologists to train themselves mentally for the game. Notably, Lindsey Vonn (skier) and Scott Lago (snowboarder) use sport psychologists to help them overcome their anxieties before a game using techniques like visualization and biofeedback.

Despite the use of sport psychologists by many, however, some mock the use of sport psychology. Specifically, a Swedish reporter says

There are only losers who use sports psychologists. My God, when athletes start to scream for psychologists is when we know that they have already lost.

Also, it has been reported that the Swedes look down on the Norwegians who have

a bit desperately called in an entire army of mumbo-jumbo talk.

(See articles in the Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor).

-Posted by Ashley

Juvenile Delinquency, Competency, and Neurological Assessments

For my first post, I thought it would be cool (and so did Tyler) to share some research I have been involved with during my first two years at UND (and will be writing up for publication soon, I hope!).

Essentially, Dr. April Bradley and Dr. Roni Mayzer at UND were awarded a grant for this research. The study was investigating a variety of factors related to juvenile delinquency. We wanted to compare two groups of juveniles – those who were considered “status offenders” and those considered actually “delinquents”. Status offenders (or unruly juveniles) are juveniles who are in trouble for engaging in behaviors that are only illegal because of their status as a juvenile. This would include crimes such as smoking/possessing cigarettes, drinking/possessing alcohol, truancy, running away from home, being an unruly juvenile, etc. Delinquency crimes would be anything that would illegal for anyone, regardless of age (e.g., theft, assault, illicit drug use/possession, sex offenses).

Basically, we gave them a large battery of tests and surveys, and the psychosocial factors came out to be irrelevant in general. However, results did show some neurological differences and differences on the competency measure (MacCAT-CA). Unruly juveniles (status offenders) had much better planning, reasoning, and overall executive function scores. Additionally, unruly juveniles had better MacCAT-CA scores, suggesting they would better be able to use an attorney’s services appropriately, understand court proceedings, and be able to reason through what is going on in the court. The unruly juveniles also had better verbal comprehension scores than the delinquent juveniles.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to contact me!


Autism Spectrum Disorders in the news

Autism and its related condition, Asperger’s syndrome, have been in the news quite a bit lately.

First, in a move that probably infuriated Jenny McCarthey, the prestigious medical journal Lancet fully retracted a study linking the MMR vaccine to Autism. (Lancet link, Guardian article).

Then, a draft of the DSM-V was released for comment and no longer included Asperger’s syndrome as a separate diagnosis, but rather as a part of a Autism Spectrum Disorder category (link).

Finally, a new study has shown that the hormone oxytocin may have therapeutic benefits for individuals with autism. When these adult participants inhaled the hormone they were more likely keep eye contact, use social cues in games, and responded better to facial expressions. (Reuters article)

-posted by Tyler