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Implications of the Circumpolar Genetic Structure of Polar Bears for Their Conservation in a Rapidly Warming Arctic

February 25, 2015 Comments off

Implications of the Circumpolar Genetic Structure of Polar Bears for Their Conservation in a Rapidly Warming Arctic
Source: PLoS ONE

We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how genetic demography changed with ancient fluctuations in climate. Characterizing their circumpolar genetic structure using microsatellite data, we defined four clusters that largely correspond to current ecological and oceanographic factors: Eastern Polar Basin, Western Polar Basin, Canadian Archipelago and Southern Canada. We document evidence for recent (ca. last 1–3 generations) directional gene flow from Southern Canada and the Eastern Polar Basin towards the Canadian Archipelago, an area hypothesized to be a future refugium for polar bears as climate-induced habitat decline continues. Our data provide empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis. The direction of current gene flow differs from earlier patterns of gene flow in the Holocene. From analyses of mitochondrial DNA, the Canadian Archipelago cluster and the Barents Sea subpopulation within the Eastern Polar Basin cluster did not show signals of population expansion, suggesting these areas may have served also as past interglacial refugia. Mismatch analyses of mitochondrial DNA data from polar and the paraphyletic brown bear (U. arctos) uncovered offset signals in timing of population expansion between the two species, that are attributed to differential demographic responses to past climate cycling. Mitogenomic structure of polar bears was shallow and developed recently, in contrast to the multiple clades of brown bears. We found no genetic signatures of recent hybridization between the species in our large, circumpolar sample, suggesting that recently observed hybrids represent localized events. Documenting changes in subpopulation connectivity will allow polar nations to proactively adjust conservation actions to continuing decline in sea-ice habitat.

See: Polar Bears Shifting to Areas with More Sea Ice — Genetic Study Reveals (USGS)

Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest

February 23, 2015 Comments off

Red, Purple and Pink: The Colors of Diffusion on Pinterest
Source: PLoS ONE

Many lab studies have shown that colors can evoke powerful emotions and impact human behavior. Might these phenomena drive how we act online? A key research challenge for image-sharing communities is uncovering the mechanisms by which content spreads through the community. In this paper, we investigate whether there is link between color and diffusion. Drawing on a corpus of one million images crawled from Pinterest, we find that color significantly impacts the diffusion of images and adoption of content on image sharing communities such as Pinterest, even after partially controlling for network structure and activity. Specifically, Red, Purple and pink seem to promote diffusion, while Green, Blue, Black and Yellow suppress it. To our knowledge, our study is the first to investigate how colors relate to online user behavior. In addition to contributing to the research conversation surrounding diffusion, these findings suggest future work using sophisticated computer vision techniques. We conclude with a discussion on the theoretical, practical and design implications suggested by this work—e.g. design of engaging image filters.

A Clinical Index to Predict Progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease

February 10, 2015 Comments off

A Clinical Index to Predict Progression from Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia Due to Alzheimer’s Disease
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Mild cognitive impairment is often a precursor to dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, but many patients with mild cognitive impairment never develop dementia. New diagnostic criteria may lead to more patients receiving a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment.

Objective
To develop a prediction index for the 3-year risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment to dementia relying only on information that can be readily obtained in most clinical settings.

Design and Participants
382 participants diagnosed with amnestic mild cognitive impairment enrolled in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a multi-site, longitudinal, observational study.

Main Predictors Measures
Demographics, comorbid conditions, caregiver report of participant symptoms and function, and participant performance on individual items from basic neuropsychological scales.

Main Outcome Measure
Progression to probable Alzheimer’s disease.

Categories: dementia, PLoS ONE, science

Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag behind Water? An Analysis of Global Progress on Community- and Household-Level Access to Safe Water and Sanitation

January 26, 2015 Comments off

Does Global Progress on Sanitation Really Lag behind Water? An Analysis of Global Progress on Community- and Household-Level Access to Safe Water and Sanitation
Source: PLoS ONE

Safe drinking water and sanitation are important determinants of human health and wellbeing and have recently been declared human rights by the international community. Increased access to both were included in the Millennium Development Goals under a single dedicated target for 2015. This target was reached in 2010 for water but sanitation will fall short; however, there is an important difference in the benchmarks used for assessing global access. For drinking water the benchmark is community-level access whilst for sanitation it is household-level access, so a pit latrine shared between households does not count toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target. We estimated global progress for water and sanitation under two scenarios: with equivalent household- and community-level benchmarks. Our results demonstrate that the “sanitation deficit” is apparent only when household-level sanitation access is contrasted with community-level water access. When equivalent benchmarks are used for water and sanitation, the global deficit is as great for water as it is for sanitation, and sanitation progress in the MDG-period (1990–2015) outstrips that in water. As both drinking water and sanitation access yield greater benefits at the household-level than at the community-level, we conclude that any post–2015 goals should consider a household-level benchmark for both.

See: Study calls for new global standard for safe drinking water and sanitation (Science Daily)

New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions

January 8, 2015 Comments off

New Year’s Res-Illusions: Food Shopping in the New Year Competes with Healthy Intentions
Source: PLoS ONE

Objective
How do the holidays – and the possible New Year’s resolutions that follow – influence a household’s purchase patterns of healthier foods versus less healthy foods? This has important implications for both holiday food shopping and post-holiday shopping.

Methods
207 households were recruited to participate in a randomized-controlled trial conducted at two regional-grocery chain locations in upstate New York. Item-level transaction records were tracked over a seven-month period (July 2010 to March 2011). The cooperating grocer’s proprietary nutrient-rating system was used to designate “healthy,” and “less healthy” items. Calorie data were extracted from online nutritional databases. Expenditures and calories purchased for the holiday period (Thanksgiving-New Year’s), and the post-holiday period (New Year’s-March), were compared to baseline (July-Thanksgiving) amounts.

Results
During the holiday season, household food expenditures increased 15% compared to baseline ($105.74 to $121.83; p<0.001), with 75% of additional expenditures accounted for by less-healthy items. Consistent with what one would expect from New Year’s resolutions, sales of healthy foods increased 29.4% ($13.24/week) after the holiday season compared to baseline, and 18.9% ($9.26/week) compared to the holiday period. Unfortunately, sales of less-healthy foods remained at holiday levels ($72.85/week holiday period vs. $72.52/week post-holiday). Calories purchased each week increased 9.3% (450 calories per serving/week) after the New Year compared to the holiday period, and increased 20.2% (890 calories per serving/week) compared to baseline.

Conclusions
Despite resolutions to eat more healthfully after New Year’s, consumers may adjust to a new “status quo” of increased less-healthy food purchasing during the holidays, and dubiously fulfill their New Year’s resolutions by spending more on healthy foods. Encouraging consumers to substitute healthy items for less-healthy items may be one way for practitioners and public health officials to help consumers fulfill New Year’s resolutions, and reverse holiday weight gain.

Early-Life Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and ADHD Behavior Problems

December 29, 2014 Comments off

Early-Life Exposure to Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons and ADHD Behavior Problems
Source: PLoS ONE

Importance
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are widespread urban air pollutants from combustion of fossil fuel and other organic material shown previously to be neurotoxic.

Objective
In a prospective cohort study, we evaluated the relationship between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behavior problems and prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure, adjusting for postnatal exposure.

Materials and Methods
Children of nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women in New York City were followed from in utero to 9 years. Prenatal polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure was estimated by levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon- DNA adducts in maternal and cord blood collected at delivery. Postnatal exposure was estimated by the concentration of urinary polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites at ages 3 or 5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behavior problems were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist and the Conners Parent Rating Scale- Revised.

Results
High prenatal adduct exposure, measured by elevated maternal adducts was significantly associated with all Conners Parent Rating Scale-Revised subscales when the raw scores were analyzed continuously (N = 233). After dichotomizing at the threshold for moderately to markedly atypical symptoms, high maternal adducts were significantly associated with the Conners Parent Rating Scale-Revised DSM-IV Inattentive (OR = 5.06, 95% CI [1.43, 17.93]) and DSM-IV Total (OR = 3.37, 95% CI [1.10, 10.34]) subscales. High maternal adducts were positivity associated with the DSM-oriented Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Problems scale on the Child Behavior Checklist, albeit not significant. In the smaller sample with cord adducts, the associations between outcomes and high cord adduct exposure were not statistically significant (N = 162).

Conclusion
The results suggest that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons encountered in New York City air may play a role in childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder behavior problems.

See: A Link Between Air Pollution and Adolescent ADHD (The Atlantic)

The Prevalence and Correlates of Lifetime Psychiatric Disorders and Trauma Exposures in Urban and Rural Settings: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R)

December 28, 2014 Comments off

The Prevalence and Correlates of Lifetime Psychiatric Disorders and Trauma Exposures in Urban and Rural Settings: Results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R)
Source: PLoS ONE

Introduction
Distinctions between rural and urban environments produce different frequencies of traumatic exposures and psychiatric disorders. We examine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders and frequency of trauma exposures by position on the rural-urban continuum.

Methods
The National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) was used to evaluate psychiatric disorders among a nationally-representative sample of the U.S. population. Rurality was designated using the Department of Agriculture’s 2003 rural-urban continuum codes (RUCC), which differentiate counties into levels of rurality by population density and adjacency to metropolitan areas. Lifetime psychiatric disorders included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, mood disorders, impulse-control disorders, and substance abuse. Trauma exposures were classified as war-related, accident-related, disaster-related, interpersonal or other. Weighted logistic regression models examined the odds of psychiatric disorders and trauma exposures by position on the rural-urban continuum, adjusted for relevant covariates.

Results
75% of participants were metropolitan, 12.2% were suburban, and 12.8% were from rural counties. The most common disorder reported was any anxiety disorder (38.5%). Drug abuse was more common among metropolitan (8.7%, p = 0.018), compared to nonmetropolitan (5.1% suburban, 6.1% rural) participants. A one-category increase in rurality was associated with decreased odds for war-related trauma (aOR = 0.86, 95%CI 0.78–0.95). Rurality was not associated with risk for any other lifetime psychiatric disorders or trauma exposure.

Discussion/Conclusions
Contrary to the expectation of some rural primary care providers, the frequencies of most psychiatric disorders and trauma exposures are similar across the rural-urban continuum, reinforcing calls to improve mental healthcare access in resource-poor rural communities.

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