Healthy Behaviors and Academic Success Go ‘Hand in Hand’

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Catherine N. Rasberry, PhD Health Scientist, Division of Adolescent and School Health CDC Atlanta

Dr.Raspberry

Catherine N. Rasberry, PhD
Health Scientist, Division of Adolescent and School Health
CDC Atlanta

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: For many years, researchers have documented links between health-related behaviors and educational outcomes such as letter grades, test scores, and other measures of academic achievement. However, many of those studies are becoming out-of-date or have used samples that were not nationally representative. The aim of this study was to see if previous findings held in a current, national sample of high school students.

Consistent with previous studies, our findings revealed that regardless of sex, race/ethnicity and grade-level, high school students who received mostly A’s, mostly B’s, or mostly C’s had higher levels of most protective health-related behaviors and lower levels of most health-related risk behaviors. For example, we found that:

  • Students who reported receiving mostly Ds and Fs, were nine times more likely than students who received mostly As to report having ever injected any illegal drugs.
  • Also, students who reported receiving mostly Ds and Fs were more than four times more likely than students who received mostly As to report that they had four or more sexual partners.
  • Conversely, students who reported receiving mostly As were twice as likely as students who received mostly Ds and Fs to report eating breakfast every day in the past week.

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More Time in School Associated With Less Cardiovascular Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Julien Vaucher  Physician and clinical research fellow (joint first author) Department of Internal Medicine Lausanne University Hospital Lausanne, Switzerland

Dr. Vaucher

Dr. Julien Vaucher 
Physician and clinical research fellow (joint first author)
Department of Internal Medicine
Lausanne University Hospital
Lausanne, Switzerland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Since the sixties, traditional studies have found that people who stay longer in the educational system subsequently develop less coronary heart disease. However, whether this association is causal is not clear, partly because randomised controlled trials are practically infeasible in this area. In our study, we used a genetic approach, called Mendelian randomization, that represents the next best thing to do.Based on genetic variants randomized by nature, we were able to randomize individuals according to 162 genetic markers that associate with more or less education. In other words, we used genetic markers, free from condounding factors, as proxies of education to reproduce the conditions of a trial. Then, if the genetic markers also associate together with coronary heart disease, the association between education and coronary heart disease is likely to be causal.

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Despite Sleep Benefits To Teens, Only Half of Parents Support Later School Start Times

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Galit Dunietz, Ph.D., MPH Doctor of Philosophy Department of Neurology University of Michigan  Ann Arbor MI

Dr. Dunietz

Galit Dunietz, Ph.D., MPH
Epidemiologist, Sleep Disorders Center
Department of Neurology
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor MI

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Insufficient sleep has a negative impact on health, cognition and mood and is linked to motor vehicle accidents. However, sleep loss in adolescents has become an epidemic and arises in part from biological processes that delay sleep and wake timing at the onset of puberty. This biology does not fit well with early school start times (before 8:30 a.m.). Despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to delay school start times, most schools in the U.S. have current start times before 8:30 a.m.

In this nationally representative study of US parents of teens, we examined whether parents supported or opposed later school start times (after 8:30 a.m.). We also examined what may have influenced their opinions.

We found that only about half of surveyed parents of teens with early school start times supported later school start times. Opinions appeared to depend in part on what challenges and benefits were expected to result from the change.

For example, parents who expected an improvement in their teen’s academic performance or sleep quantity tended to support the change, whereas parents that expected negative impact on afterschool activities or transportation opposed delays in school start times.  We also found that parents had misconception about sleep needs of their adolescents, as the majority perceived 7-7.5 hours of sleep as sufficient, or possibly sufficient even at this young age when 8-10 hours are typically recommended.

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“Positive Manifold” : Vocabulary and Reasoning Skills Reinforce Each Other In Adolescents

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Rogier Kievit PhD Cambridge Neuroscience

Dr. Kievit

Dr Rogier Kievit PhD
Cambridge Neuroscience

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: One of the most robust findings in psychology is the so-called ‘positive manifold’ – The fact that people who are better at cognitive task A are, on average, also better at task B (and C, D etcetera). Despite over a hundred years of empirical investigations, we don’t really know why this is the case. Here, we aimed to investigate the mechanisms that underlie the positive manifold. To do so, we studied almost 800 adolescents and young adults from Cambridge and London (the NSPN study; Www.nspn.org

We measured both their abstract reasoning skills (e.g. solving a puzzle) and vocabulary knowledge (e.g. example) on two occasions, about 1.5 years apart.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Our main finding was that abstract reasoning skills and vocabulary knowledge seem to reinforce each other during development. In other words, the adolescents who started out with higher vocabulary abilities had largest increases in reasoning skills, and those with better reasoning skills gained more vocabulary knowledge. This is exciting as we know mathematically that such a process can (at least partially) help explain the emergence of the positive manifold.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: That cognitive abilities interact with each other during development. It is tempting (also for scientists!) to think about skills like memory, reading and as separate domains. However, in reality they are part of a larger network of cognitive, mental and emotional processes that interact throughout the lifespan. We simple can’t fully understand humans as psychological agents by taking only ‘snapshots’.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: The field of psychology has recently realized it needs to increase sample sizes to gain robust knowledge about human behaviour and mental processes. I think the next step is realizing the importance of studying development (i.e. testing people on multiple occasions) as a way to look at longstanding questions in new and exciting ways. Secondly, we find that that mathematical models are a very exciting way to translate theories into directly testable propositions – Although such models are always oversimplifications, they often move scientific debates forward.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: With the emergence of experience sampling methods (e.g. performing cognitive tests on smartphones), ideally combined with longitudinal brain imaging, I think the next two decades will prove an incredibly exciting time for understanding human cognition.

Disclosures: The Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit is part of the University of Cambridge, funded through a strategic partnership between the MRC and the University.

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation:

Rogier A. Kievit et al, Mutualistic Coupling Between Vocabulary and Reasoning Supports Cognitive Development During Late Adolescence and Early Adulthood, Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0956797617710785

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

USPSTF: Behavioral Counseling to Promote a Healthful Diet and Physical Activity for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Adults Without Cardiovascular Risk Factors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH, FACP Barbara A. Levey, MD, and Gerald S. Levey, MD Endowed chair in medicine David Geffen School of Medicine University of California, Los Angeles Professor of public health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Dr. Mangione

Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH, FACP
Barbara A. Levey, MD, and Gerald S. Levey, MD
Endowed chair in medicine
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles
Professor of public health at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Americans can experience several health benefits from consuming healthy foods and engaging in physical activity. The Task Force recommends that primary care professionals work together with their patients when making the decision to offer or refer adults who are not obese and do not have hypertension, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or diabetes to behavior counseling to promote healthful diet and physical activity. Our focus was on the impact of a healthful diet and physical activity on cardiovascular risk because this condition is the leading cause of premature morbidity and mortality. The Task Force evaluates what the science tells us surrounding the potential benefits and harms of a particular preventive service. In this case, the Task Force found high quality evidence focusing on the impact a healthful diet and physical activity can have on a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Relying on this evidence, the Task Force was able to conclude that there is a positive but small benefit of behavioral counseling to prevent cardiovascular disease.

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More Education Means Lowers Cardiovascular Risk, Regardless of Income

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yasuhiko Kubota, MD, MPH Visiting Scholar Division of Epidemiology and Community Health School of Public Health University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Kubota

Yasuhiko Kubota, MD, MPH
Visiting Scholar
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Educational inequality is one of the most important socioeconomic factors contributing to cardiovascular disease. Since education is usually completed by young adulthood, educational inequality may affect risk of cardiovascular disease early in the life course. We thought it would be useful to calculate the lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease according to educational levels in order to increase public awareness of the importance of education.

Thus, our aim was to evaluate the association of educational attainment with cardiovascular disease risk by estimating the lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease using a US. biracial cohort. Furthermore, we also assessed how other important socioeconomic factors were related to the association of educational attainment with lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Babies As Young as 3-5 Months Taught To Stand

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson

Department of Psychology
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There are around 23 baby-swimming instructors in Iceland who are offering baby swimming-courses. However, Snorris way to do this is unice after my knowledge.

He has been doing baby swimming from 1990 – and has had around 7.000.- babies

He heard about this from Norway and discovered that very young babies can stand in this way. He discovered this through practical experience.

It works like this:  When holding children in the water – He put his hand under the feet of the children – and lift little bit under i.e gives some pressure (tactile stimuli) the children are gradually able to stand in the feet – so stimuli and experience is important. When they are able to stand once they are able to stand again.

How long time it takes for each baby to be able to stand varies a lot – as in our study – the youngest was 3.6 months old. One of the participants was standing in 15 sec in the hands of Snorri in the first week of baby swimming course.

I did see babies stand first soon after Snorri started baby swimming instruction around 1990-1991.

I was very surprised – and was thinking how is it possible? This is not supported by the literature. My colleagues an I thought about this as a window to study development of balance and coordination in infants. The issue about reflexes versus voluntary movement through experience was central.

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STEM activities do not seem to encourage students to make STEM subject choices for AS/A levels

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Pallavi-Amitava-Banerjee.jpg

Dr. Banerjee

Pallavi Amitava Banerjee, PhD, FRS
Lecturer, Graduate School of Education
St Luke’s Campus
University of Exeter 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Several educational programs are being run to increase an awareness and understanding of STEM generally and more specifically to encourage young people to take up STEM learning trajectories.

A longitudinal study was conducted where nearly 60,000 year 7 students were followed up through secondary school. Every year these students took part in several hands on activities, ambassador led events, school STEM trips throughout each academic year from the beginning of year 7 till they took GCSEs.

Two main educational outcomes were considered –
a) GCSE attainment in science and math and
b) continued post-16 STEM participation (AS- and A-levels).

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ADHD Less Common in Girls, But Has More Serious Consequences

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Jill Pell MD Director of Institute (Institute of Health and Wellbeing) Associate (School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing) University of Glasgow

Prof. Pell

Professor Jill Pell MD
Director of Institute (Institute of Health and Wellbeing)
Associate (School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing)
University of Glasgow

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The novelty of our study lies in its scale and scope. In terms of scope, it reported on six educational outcomes and three health outcomes in the same group of children.

In terms of scale, it is the first study of a whole country to compare educational outcomes of children with treated ADHD with their unaffected peers and is more than 20 times larger than previous studies on similar educational outcomes. The only previous countrywide study on health outcomes, included only children with very severe ADHD who were in psychiatric hospitals.

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Using Virtual Reality To Teach Medical Student Empathetic Communication Skills

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Frederick W. Kron, MD

President and Founder of Medical Cyberworlds, Inc
Department of Family Medicine,Ann Arbor, MI and
Michael D. Fetters, M.D., M.P.H., M.A.
Professor of Family Medicine
University of Michigan

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this technology and study?

Dr. Kron: Communication is the most important component of the doctor-patient relationship. I know that through research, but also through personal experience. As a cancer survivor, I’ve seen first-hand the difference that outstanding communication skill can make to a vulnerable patient.

At the beginning of the project, we asked medical educators about the challenges they had in assessing and training communication competency. They told us that technical skills are easy to teach and assess, but communication skills are mainly behavioral skills that involve verbal and nonverbal behaviors, facial expressions, and many other cues that pass between patient and provider. That’s hard to teach and assess. Activities like role play with standardized patients (SPs) have been widely used, but it’s impossible for SPs to accurately portray these behaviors, or for faculty to fully assess the nuanced behaviors of both learner and patient. Supporting this idea is a lack of evidence proving that SP encounters translate in behavioral changes or transfer into clinical settings.

Developments in virtual reality provided us with a great opportunity for assessing and teaching of communication behaviors. Working with a national group of experts, we created computer-based Virtual Humans that interact with learners using the full range of behaviors you’d expect from two people talking together. They are so behaviorally realistic and compelling, that they trigger emotional responses in learners, and make learners want to learn so they can do their best.

Dr. Fetters: Our team has particular interest in doctor-patient communication in the context of cancer. There are many critical aspects of cancer communication: breaking the bad news to the patient, negotiating sometimes conflicting family opinions about treatment, and communication among team members about the patient’s care, just to name a few. We’ve begun building out those scenarios in the technological platform we developed, Mpathic-VR.

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