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Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies

October 19, 2014 Comments off

Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies
Source: PLoS ONE

Human sensory and motor systems provide the natural means for the exchange of information between individuals, and, hence, the basis for human civilization. The recent development of brain-computer interfaces (BCI) has provided an important element for the creation of brain-to-brain communication systems, and precise brain stimulation techniques are now available for the realization of non-invasive computer-brain interfaces (CBI). These technologies, BCI and CBI, can be combined to realize the vision of non-invasive, computer-mediated brain-to-brain (B2B) communication between subjects (hyperinteraction). Here we demonstrate the conscious transmission of information between human brains through the intact scalp and without intervention of motor or peripheral sensory systems. Pseudo-random binary streams encoding words were transmitted between the minds of emitter and receiver subjects separated by great distances, representing the realization of the first human brain-to-brain interface. In a series of experiments, we established internet-mediated B2B communication by combining a BCI based on voluntary motor imagery-controlled electroencephalographic (EEG) changes with a CBI inducing the conscious perception of phosphenes (light flashes) through neuronavigated, robotized transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), with special care taken to block sensory (tactile, visual or auditory) cues. Our results provide a critical proof-of-principle demonstration for the development of conscious B2B communication technologies. More fully developed, related implementations will open new research venues in cognitive, social and clinical neuroscience and the scientific study of consciousness. We envision that hyperinteraction technologies will eventually have a profound impact on the social structure of our civilization and raise important ethical issues.

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Sleep Quality during Exam Stress: The Role of Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine

October 14, 2014 Comments off

Sleep Quality during Exam Stress: The Role of Alcohol, Caffeine and Nicotine
Source: PLoS ONE

Academic exam stress is known to compromise sleep quality and alter drug consumption in university students. Here we evaluated if sleeping problems and changes in legal drug consumption during exam stress are interrelated. We used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) to survey sleep quality before, during, and after an academic exam period in 150 university students in a longitudinal questionnaire study. Self-reports of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine consumption were obtained. The Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ-20) was used as a measure of stress. Sleep quality and alcohol consumption significantly decreased, while perceived stress and caffeine consumption significantly increased during the exam period. No significant change in nicotine consumption was observed. In particular, students shortened their time in bed and showed symptoms of insomnia. Mixed model analysis indicated that sex, age, health status, as well as the amounts of alcohol and caffeine consumed had no significant influence on global sleep quality. The amount of nicotine consumed and perceived stress were identified as significant predictors of diminished sleep quality. Nicotine consumption had a small-to-very-small effect on sleep quality; perceived stress had a small-to-moderate effect. In conclusion, diminished sleep quality during exam periods was mainly predicted by perceived stress, while legal drug consumption played a minor role. Exam periods may pose an interesting model for the study of stress-induced sleeping problems and their mechanisms.

A Systematic Review of Economic Evaluations of Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

October 10, 2014 Comments off

A Systematic Review of Economic Evaluations of Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder
Source: PLoS ONE

Purpose
The borderline personality disorder is a common mental disorder. It is frequently associated with various mental co-morbidities and a fundamental loss of functioning. The borderline personality disorder causes high costs to society. The aim of this study was to perform a systematic literature review of existing economic evaluations of treatments for borderline personality disorder.

Materials and Methods
We performed a systematic literature search in MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO and NHSEED for partial and full economic evaluations regarding borderline personality disorder. Reported cost data were inflated to the year 2012 and converted into US-$ using purchasing power parities to allow for comparability. Quality assessment of the studies was performed by means of the Consensus on Health Economic Criteria checklist, a checklist developed by a Delphi method in cooperation with 23 international experts.

Results
We identified 6 partial and 9 full economic evaluations. The methodical quality was moderate (fulfilled quality criteria: 79.2% [SD: 15.4%] in partial economic evaluations, 77.3% [SD: 8.5%] in full economic evaluations). Most evaluations analysed psychotherapeutic interventions. Although ambiguous, most evidence exists on dialectical-behavioural therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy and schema-focused therapy are cost-saving. Evidence on other interventions is scarce.

Conclusion
The economic evidence is not sufficient to draw robust conclusions for all treatments. It is possible that some treatments are cost-effective. Most evidence exists on dialectical-behavioural therapy. Yet, it is ambiguous. Further research concerning the cost-effectiveness of treatments is necessary as well as the identification of relevant cost categories and the validation of effect measures.

The Number of Scholarly Documents on the Public Web

October 10, 2014 Comments off

The Number of Scholarly Documents on the Public Web
Source: PLoS ONE

The number of scholarly documents available on the web is estimated using capture/recapture methods by studying the coverage of two major academic search engines: Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic Search. Our estimates show that at least 114 million English-language scholarly documents are accessible on the web, of which Google Scholar has nearly 100 million. Of these, we estimate that at least 27 million (24%) are freely available since they do not require a subscription or payment of any kind. In addition, at a finer scale, we also estimate the number of scholarly documents on the web for fifteen fields: Agricultural Science, Arts and Humanities, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics and Business, Engineering, Environmental Sciences, Geosciences, Material Science, Mathematics, Medicine, Physics, Social Sciences, and Multidisciplinary, as defined by Microsoft Academic Search. In addition, we show that among these fields the percentage of documents defined as freely available varies significantly, i.e., from 12 to 50%.

Hat tip: PW

The Advantages of Demographic Change after the Wave: Fewer and Older, but Healthier, Greener, and More Productive?

October 6, 2014 Comments off

The Advantages of Demographic Change after the Wave: Fewer and Older, but Healthier, Greener, and More Productive?
Source: PLoS ONE

Population aging is an inevitable global demographic process. Most of the literature on the consequences of demographic change focuses on the economic and societal challenges that we will face as people live longer and have fewer children. In this paper, we (a) briefly describe key trends and projections of the magnitude and speed of population aging; (b) discuss the economic, social, and environmental consequences of population aging; and (c) investigate some of the opportunities that aging societies create. We use Germany as a case study. However, the general insights that we obtain can be generalized to other developed countries. We argue that there may be positive unintended side effects of population aging that can be leveraged to address pressing environmental problems and issues of gender inequality and intergenerational ties.

The Invisible Prevalence of Citizen Science in Global Research: Migratory Birds and Climate Change

September 25, 2014 Comments off

The Invisible Prevalence of Citizen Science in Global Research: Migratory Birds and Climate Change
Source: PLoS ONE

Citizen science is a research practice that relies on public contributions of data. The strong recognition of its educational value combined with the need for novel methods to handle subsequent large and complex data sets raises the question: Is citizen science effective at science? A quantitative assessment of the contributions of citizen science for its core purpose – scientific research – is lacking. We examined the contribution of citizen science to a review paper by ornithologists in which they formulated ten central claims about the impact of climate change on avian migration. Citizen science was never explicitly mentioned in the review article. For each of the claims, these ornithologists scored their opinions about the amount of research effort invested in each claim and how strongly the claim was supported by evidence. This allowed us to also determine whether their trust in claims was, unwittingly or not, related to the degree to which the claims relied primarily on data generated by citizen scientists. We found that papers based on citizen science constituted between 24 and 77% of the references backing each claim, with no evidence of a mistrust of claims that relied heavily on citizen-science data. We reveal that many of these papers may not easily be recognized as drawing upon volunteer contributions, as the search terms “citizen science” and “volunteer” would have overlooked the majority of the studies that back the ten claims about birds and climate change. Our results suggest that the significance of citizen science to global research, an endeavor that is reliant on long-term information at large spatial scales, might be far greater than is readily perceived. To better understand and track the contributions of citizen science in the future, we urge researchers to use the keyword “citizen science” in papers that draw on efforts of non-professionals.

Urbanisation at Multiple Scales Is Associated with Larger Size and Higher Fecundity of an Orb-Weaving Spider

September 11, 2014 Comments off

Urbanisation at Multiple Scales Is Associated with Larger Size and Higher Fecundity of an Orb-Weaving Spider
Source: PLoS ONE

Urbanisation modifies landscapes at multiple scales, impacting the local climate and changing the extent and quality of natural habitats. These habitat modifications significantly alter species distributions and can result in increased abundance of select species which are able to exploit novel ecosystems. We examined the effect of urbanisation at local and landscape scales on the body size, lipid reserves and ovary weight of Nephila plumipes, an orb weaving spider commonly found in both urban and natural landscapes. Habitat variables at landscape, local and microhabitat scales were integrated to create a series of indexes that quantified the degree of urbanisation at each site. Spider size was negatively associated with vegetation cover at a landscape scale, and positively associated with hard surfaces and anthropogenic disturbance on a local and microhabitat scale. Ovary weight increased in higher socioeconomic areas and was positively associated with hard surfaces and leaf litter at a local scale. The larger size and increased reproductive capacity of N.plumipes in urban areas show that some species benefit from the habitat changes associated with urbanisation. Our results also highlight the importance of incorporating environmental variables from multiple scales when quantifying species responses to landscape modification.

See: The Urban Environment Is Creating Super-Sized Spiders (The Atlantic)

Categories: ecology, PLoS ONE, urban issues
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