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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)

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Categories: ecology, PLoS ONE, urban issues

The Burden of Research on Trauma for Respondents: A Prospective and Comparative Study on Respondents Evaluations and Predictors

September 3, 2014 Comments off

The Burden of Research on Trauma for Respondents: A Prospective and Comparative Study on Respondents Evaluations and Predictors
Source: PLoS ONE

The possible burden of participating in trauma research is an important topic for Ethical Committees (EC’s), Review Boards (RB’s) and researchers. However, to what extent research on trauma is more burdensome than non-trauma research is unknown. Little is known about which factors explain respondents evaluations on the burden: to what extent are they trauma-related or dependent on other factors such as personality and how respondents evaluate research in general? Data of a large probability based multi-wave internet panel, with surveys on politics and values, personality and health in 2009 and 2011, and a survey on trauma in 2012 provided the unique opportunity to address these questions. Results among respondents confronted with these events in the past 2 years (N = 950) showed that questions on trauma were significantly and systematically evaluated as less pleasant (enjoyed less), more difficult, but also stimulated respondents to think about things more than almost all previous non-trauma surveys. Yet, the computed effect sizes indicated that the differences were (very) small and often meaningless. No differences were found between users and non-users of mental services, in contrast to posttraumatic stress symptoms. Evaluations of the burden of previous surveys in 2011 on politics and values, personality and health most strongly, systematically and independently predicted the burden of questions on trauma, and not posttraumatic stress symptoms, event-related coping self-efficacy and personality factors. For instance, multiple linear regression analyses showed that 30% of the variance of how (un)pleasant questions on trauma and life-events were evaluated, was explained by how (un)pleasant the 3 surveys in 2011 were evaluated, in contrast to posttraumatic stress symptoms (not significant) and coping self-efficacy (5%). Findings question why EC’s, RB’s and researchers should be more critical of the possible burden of trauma research than of the possible burden of other non-trauma research.

Crowdsourcing for Cognitive Science – The Utility of Smartphones

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Crowdsourcing for Cognitive Science – The Utility of Smartphones
Source: PLoS ONE

By 2015, there will be an estimated two billion smartphone users worldwide. This technology presents exciting opportunities for cognitive science as a medium for rapid, large-scale experimentation and data collection. At present, cost and logistics limit most study populations to small samples, restricting the experimental questions that can be addressed. In this study we investigated whether the mass collection of experimental data using smartphone technology is valid, given the variability of data collection outside of a laboratory setting. We presented four classic experimental paradigms as short games, available as a free app and over the first month 20,800 users submitted data. We found that the large sample size vastly outweighed the noise inherent in collecting data outside a controlled laboratory setting, and show that for all four games canonical results were reproduced. For the first time, we provide experimental validation for the use of smartphones for data collection in cognitive science, which can lead to the collection of richer data sets and a significant cost reduction as well as provide an opportunity for efficient phenotypic screening of large populations.

Slim by Design: Serving Healthy Foods First in Buffet Lines Improves Overall Meal Selection

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Slim by Design: Serving Healthy Foods First in Buffet Lines Improves Overall Meal Selection
Source: PLoS ONE

Objective
Each day, tens of millions of restaurant goers, conference attendees, college students, military personnel, and school children serve themselves at buffets – many being all-you-can-eat buffets. Knowing how the food order at a buffet triggers what a person selects could be useful in guiding diners to make healthier selections.

Method
The breakfast food selections of 124 health conference attendees were tallied at two separate seven-item buffet lines (which included cheesy eggs, potatoes, bacon, cinnamon rolls, low-fat granola, low-fat yogurt, and fruit). The food order between the two lines was reversed (least healthy to most healthy, and vise-versa). Participants were randomly assigned to choose their meal from one line or the other, and researchers recorded what participants selected.

Results
With buffet foods, the first ones seen are the ones most selected. Over 75% of diners selected the first food they saw, and the first three foods a person encountered in the buffet comprised 66% of all the foods they took. Serving the less healthy foods first led diners to take 31% more total food items (p<0.001). Indeed, diners in this line more frequently chose less healthy foods in combinations, such as cheesy eggs and bacon (r = 0.47; p<0.001) or cheesy eggs and fried potatoes (r = 0.37; p<0.001). This co-selection of healthier foods was less common.

Conclusions
Three words summarize these results: First foods most. What ends up on a buffet diner’s plate is dramatically determined by the presentation order of food. Rearranging food order from healthiest to least healthy can nudge unknowing or even resistant diners toward a healthier meal, helping make them slim by design. Health-conscious diners, can proactively start at the healthier end of the line, and this same basic principle of “first foods most” may be relevant in other contexts – such as when serving or passing food at family dinners.

Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders: Shared White Matter Disruption in Sensory Pathways but Divergent Connectivity in Social-Emotional Pathways

August 19, 2014 Comments off

Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders: Shared White Matter Disruption in Sensory Pathways but Divergent Connectivity in Social-Emotional Pathways
Source: PLoS ONE

Over 90% of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) demonstrate atypical sensory behaviors. In fact, hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment is now included in the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. However, there are children with sensory processing differences who do not meet an ASD diagnosis but do show atypical sensory behaviors to the same or greater degree as ASD children. We previously demonstrated that children with Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) have impaired white matter microstructure, and that this white matter microstructural pathology correlates with atypical sensory behavior. In this study, we use diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) fiber tractography to evaluate the structural connectivity of specific white matter tracts in boys with ASD (n = 15) and boys with SPD (n = 16), relative to typically developing children (n = 23). We define white matter tracts using probabilistic streamline tractography and assess the strength of tract connectivity using mean fractional anisotropy. Both the SPD and ASD cohorts demonstrate decreased connectivity relative to controls in parieto-occipital tracts involved in sensory perception and multisensory integration. However, the ASD group alone shows impaired connectivity, relative to controls, in temporal tracts thought to subserve social-emotional processing. In addition to these group difference analyses, we take a dimensional approach to assessing the relationship between white matter connectivity and participant function. These correlational analyses reveal significant associations of white matter connectivity with auditory processing, working memory, social skills, and inattention across our three study groups. These findings help elucidate the roles of specific neural circuits in neurodevelopmental disorders, and begin to explore the dimensional relationship between critical cognitive functions and structural connectivity across affected and unaffected children.

See: Kids with autism and sensory processing disorders show differences in brain wiring (Science Daily)

Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS)

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Development and Validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS)
Source: PLoS ONE

Main Objectives
The narcissistic personality is characterized by grandiosity, entitlement, and low empathy. This paper describes the development and validation of the Single Item Narcissism Scale (SINS). Although the use of longer instruments is superior in most circumstances, we recommend the SINS in some circumstances (e.g. under serious time constraints, online studies).

Methods
In 11 independent studies (total N = 2,250), we demonstrate the SINS’ psychometric properties.

Results
The SINS is significantly correlated with longer narcissism scales, but uncorrelated with self-esteem. It also has high test-retest reliability. We validate the SINS in a variety of samples (e.g., undergraduates, nationally representative adults), intrapersonal correlates (e.g., positive affect, depression), and interpersonal correlates (e.g., aggression, relationship quality, prosocial behavior). The SINS taps into the more fragile and less desirable components of narcissism.

Significance
The SINS can be a useful tool for researchers, especially when it is important to measure narcissism with constraints preventing the use of longer measures.

See: Just one simple question can identify narcissistic people (Science Daily)

How State Taxes and Policies Targeting Soda Consumption Modify the Association between School Vending Machines and Student Dietary Behaviors: A Cross-Sectional Analysis

August 5, 2014 Comments off

How State Taxes and Policies Targeting Soda Consumption Modify the Association between School Vending Machines and Student Dietary Behaviors: A Cross-Sectional Analysis
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Sodas are widely sold in vending machines and other school venues in the United States, particularly in high school. Research suggests that policy changes have reduced soda access, but the impact of reduced access on consumption is unclear. This study was designed to identify student, environmental, or policy characteristics that modify the associations between school vending machines and student dietary behaviors.

Methods
Data on school vending machine access and student diet were obtained as part of the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study (NYPANS) and linked to state-level data on soda taxes, restaurant taxes, and state laws governing the sale of soda in schools. Regression models were used to: 1) estimate associations between vending machine access and soda consumption, fast food consumption, and lunch source, and 2) determine if associations were modified by state soda taxes, restaurant taxes, laws banning in-school soda sales, or student characteristics (race/ethnicity, sex, home food access, weight loss behaviors.)

Results
Contrary to the hypothesis, students tended to consume 0.53 fewer servings of soda/week (95% CI: -1.17, 0.11) and consume fast food on 0.24 fewer days/week (95% CI: -0.44, -0.05) if they had in-school access to vending machines. They were also less likely to consume soda daily (23.9% vs. 27.9%, average difference = -4.02, 95% CI: -7.28, -0.76). However, these inverse associations were observed primarily among states with lower soda and restaurant tax rates (relative to general food tax rates) and states that did not ban in-school soda sales. Associations did not vary by any student characteristics except for weight loss behaviors.

Conclusion
Isolated changes to the school food environment may have unintended consequences unless policymakers incorporate other initiatives designed to discourage overall soda consumption.

See: Removing vending machines from schools is not enough to reduce soda consumption (Science Daily)

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