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The Use of Google Trends in Health Care Research: A Systematic Review

November 17, 2014 Comments off

The Use of Google Trends in Health Care Research: A Systematic Review
Source: PLoS ONE

Background
Google Trends is a novel, freely accessible tool that allows users to interact with Internet search data, which may provide deep insights into population behavior and health-related phenomena. However, there is limited knowledge about its potential uses and limitations. We therefore systematically reviewed health care literature using Google Trends to classify articles by topic and study aim; evaluate the methodology and validation of the tool; and address limitations for its use in research.

Methods and Findings
PRISMA guidelines were followed. Two independent reviewers systematically identified studies utilizing Google Trends for health care research from MEDLINE and PubMed. Seventy studies met our inclusion criteria. Google Trends publications increased seven-fold from 2009 to 2013. Studies were classified into four topic domains: infectious disease (27% of articles), mental health and substance use (24%), other non-communicable diseases (16%), and general population behavior (33%). By use, 27% of articles utilized Google Trends for casual inference, 39% for description, and 34% for surveillance. Among surveillance studies, 92% were validated against a reference standard data source, and 80% of studies using correlation had a correlation statistic ≥0.70. Overall, 67% of articles provided a rationale for their search input. However, only 7% of articles were reproducible based on complete documentation of search strategy. We present a checklist to facilitate appropriate methodological documentation for future studies. A limitation of the study is the challenge of classifying heterogeneous studies utilizing a novel data source.

Conclusion
Google Trends is being used to study health phenomena in a variety of topic domains in myriad ways. However, poor documentation of methods precludes the reproducibility of the findings. Such documentation would enable other researchers to determine the consistency of results provided by Google Trends for a well-specified query over time. Furthermore, greater transparency can improve its reliability as a research tool.

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Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Related Treatments for Victims of Natural Disasters: A Worldwide Problem

November 7, 2014 Comments off

Systematic Review of the Efficacy of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Related Treatments for Victims of Natural Disasters: A Worldwide Problem
Source: PLoS ONE

Natural disasters can have devastating consequences. Each year, about 225 million people are victims of natural disasters worldwide, and up to 13,5 million of these people can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the first or second year following the disaster. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is the first-choice treatment for this disorder. In order to evaluate the efficacy of psychotherapeutic treatment based on cognitive-behavior therapy for people who developed post traumatic stress disorder after natural disasters we conducted a systematic search of published studies. We used the terms reported below in the electronic databases ISI Web of Science, PsycINFO, PubMed, PILOTS and Scopus with no restrictions of language or publication date. Articles that described randomized controlled, non-randomized controlled and non controlled studies on the efficacy of cognitive-behavior therapy for individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after exposure to a natural disaster were eligible for inclusion. The studies were required to use a standardized measure of effectiveness before and after the intervention and have a group of patients who had used cognitive-behavior therapy as the only intervention. Our search identified 820 studies, and 11 were selected for this review. These 11 studies involved 742 subjects, 10 related to earthquakes and 1 to a hurricane. The cognitive-behavior therapy techniques used were various: 7 studies used exposure therapy, 2 studies used problem solving, and the only 2 studies with adolescents used techniques including reconstructions and reprocessing of the traumatic experience. As limitations, the search involved only five electronic databases, no experts in the field were consulted, and the heterogeneity of the findings made it impossible to perform a meta-analysis. The results suggest the efficacy of cognitive-behavior therapy, particularly exposure techniques, for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder after earthquakes. However, further studies with stronger methodologies, i.e. randomized-control trials and non-randomized controlled trials, are needed.

The Inequality Footprints of Nations: A Novel Approach to Quantitative Accounting of Income Inequality

November 4, 2014 Comments off

The Inequality Footprints of Nations: A Novel Approach to Quantitative Accounting of Income Inequality
Source: PLoS ONE

In this study we use economic input-output analysis to calculate the inequality footprint of nations. An inequality footprint shows the link that each country’s domestic economic activity has to income distribution elsewhere in the world. To this end we use employment and household income accounts for 187 countries and an historical time series dating back to 1990. Our results show that in 2010, most developed countries had an inequality footprint that was higher than their within-country inequality, meaning that in order to support domestic lifestyles, these countries source imports from more unequal economies. Amongst exceptions are the United States and United Kingdom, which placed them on a par with many developing countries. Russia has a high within-country inequality nevertheless it has the lowest inequality footprint in the world, which is because of its trade connections with the Commonwealth of Independent States and Europe. Our findings show that the commodities that are inequality-intensive, such as electronic components, chemicals, fertilizers, minerals, and agricultural products often originate in developing countries characterized by high levels of inequality. Consumption of these commodities may implicate within-country inequality in both developing and developed countries.

Holding Thermal Receipt Paper and Eating Food after Using Hand Sanitizer Results in High Serum Bioactive and Urine Total Levels of Bisphenol A (BPA)

October 27, 2014 Comments off

Holding Thermal Receipt Paper and Eating Food after Using Hand Sanitizer Results in High Serum Bioactive and Urine Total Levels of Bisphenol A (BPA)
Source: PLoS ONE

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine disrupting environmental contaminant used in a wide variety of products, and BPA metabolites are found in almost everyone’s urine, suggesting widespread exposure from multiple sources. Regulatory agencies estimate that virtually all BPA exposure is from food and beverage packaging. However, free BPA is applied to the outer layer of thermal receipt paper present in very high (~20 mg BPA/g paper) quantities as a print developer. Not taken into account when considering thermal paper as a source of BPA exposure is that some commonly used hand sanitizers, as well as other skin care products, contain mixtures of dermal penetration enhancing chemicals that can increase by up to 100 fold the dermal absorption of lipophilic compounds such as BPA. We found that when men and women held thermal receipt paper immediately after using a hand sanitizer with penetration enhancing chemicals, significant free BPA was transferred to their hands and then to French fries that were eaten, and the combination of dermal and oral BPA absorption led to a rapid and dramatic average maximum increase (Cmax) in unconjugated (bioactive) BPA of ~7 ng/mL in serum and ~20 µg total BPA/g creatinine in urine within 90 min. The default method used by regulatory agencies to test for hazards posed by chemicals is intra-gastric gavage. For BPA this approach results in less than 1% of the administered dose being bioavailable in blood. It also ignores dermal absorption as well as sublingual absorption in the mouth that both bypass first-pass liver metabolism. The elevated levels of BPA that we observed due to holding thermal paper after using a product containing dermal penetration enhancing chemicals have been related to an increased risk for a wide range of developmental abnormalities as well as diseases in adults.

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.

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.

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