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(49) Research on HEALTH: do-your-own-little research.

Have you ever watched people walking in and out of a train station or through a metro underground? Have you ever wondered what was on their minds? For example, what did they eat or what did they do that day? In this post, we will learn about a Research method that everybody knows about and uses, called the “observation“. There are more types of observations used in Research, but the one that is easiest to do is simply to observe and record the behaviour of yourself or those around you.

Since this is Research on HEALTH month, let’s talk about how you can use observation to improve your health. This post is inspired by a life story of a Researcher that had a bike accident on a early rainy morning. She got a head concussion and for weeks she could not do much. So, she used observation to go through her pain and social isolation. Here is what she says….

O!

Observation can be so refreshing.

I was laying in bed for days and nights, without being able to look on the computer screen or telephone much, without watching a movie or reading a book. All I could do was staring at the ceiling and counting the wrinkles it had and different shapes it could draw through its little lines and bubbles.

In time, I was allowed to listen to audio books and then to meditate and then slowly I came back to my senses, but the process itself was long and meticulous.

So, out of boredom I started to observe. I am a Researcher afterall. If I could not do any work, I could at least train my ‘detective muscle’ that is needed if you want to be reflective and smart 🙂

I observed the reaction of my friends and family, the way they reacted to my situation, the perception they have about me, the delayed reactions, the laughter, the physical support. It was so sweet to see them so concerned and as a result trying to pamper me all the time. I observed how compassionate were the people I knew and how I was reacting to their compassion, how I was reacting to the light, how the weather was changing, what shapes the sun was making in the ceiling, what positions were bad for my head, what was making me feel good. Although, at first sight very childish maybe exercises, it helped make a dialogue with myself and see how I recovered day by day.

I ended up observing myself. How was I responding to pain? What was making me feel good again? How much was I complaining?

Observation helped me to feel stronger and more refreshed with the image I had towards the others, the image others had towards me and the image I had towards what was surrounding me.

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Last thing, if you happen to ever have a head concussion and you have long hair, it will not take you long time to Not observe that you need a good hair mask to soften your hair after so much rubbing it by the pillow!!! 😀

p.s. Some deadlines for you to respect if you or your friend has a head concussion, but please always consult a doctor, I am not a doctor.

  1. It is a myth that if you did not vomit or fainted at the place of the accident, you do not have a head concussion. It might be the case, but most probably if you hit your head is really not a good idea to stay STANDING.
  2. In the first 24 hours it is important to have someone next to you that can check on you during the night or take you to the emergency if necessary. Emergency-24-Hour-Service2.png
  3. In the first 2 weeks it is very important to have a good continous rest and if possible, not go to work, otherwise you will regret it for the next 6 month.
  4. Same for the first month, for as long as possible rest.
  5. In the next 6 month, your head will not be the same, it needs time to recover…

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Did you like this story? Are you motivated now to observe more the things and people around you? 

This is ‘do-your-own-little-research‘ moment on Researchista. 

With love for Research,

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(48) Research on HEALTH: dementia.

… and so I went to the Brightland Campus in Heerlen. You will hear more about it in the international news, just give it some time. It was my second visit at one of it’s centers, BISS Institute and I already fell in love with it. It reminds me about the Dutch Central Statistics Bureau: innovative, large spaces, new style of organizational management. In one of the offices I met Danny, who’s startup name, in my view, is brilliant: “Rementis“, helps people facing ‘remembering’ problems – dementia. Speaking of which, do you remember when we agreed that Research is not only used and done at the university and only by scientists, but also in business? 😉 Here is how Rementis uses Research to advance in their work and explain to people that struggle with dementia. This is Research on HEALTH month on Researchista.

Hi, my name is Danny Pouwels, 27y. I work for the last 6 years with people who suffer from dementia and see a lot of struggles. So, in jan. 2016 I quit my job to help the people who suffer from dementia.

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Danny Pouwels, social entrepreneur

Dementia is becoming one of the most intrusive diseases that crucially diminish the quality of life of those who suffer from it and the people around them. Seeing the struggles that dementia causes and the future developments of our population, it is important to tackle individual & demographic problems by cost-efficiently and effectively supporting the lives of people that suffer from dementia.

 Alzheimer Europe estimates the number of people with dementia in the Netherlands in 2012 as being 245,560. This represents 1.47% of the total population of 16,714,228. The number of people with dementia as a percentage of the population is somewhat lower than the EU average of 1.55%. The following table shows the estimated number of people with dementia between 30 and 59 and for every 5-year age group thereafter.

The biggest struggle they face at home is losing their ability to maintain a structured daily routine, or in other words being unable to face daily life independently. In almost all cases, enabling dementia patients to stay at home requires external help from (professional) caregivers.

As the condition of the patient declines, the caregivers (i.e. the people around them) become increasingly overwhelmed with tasks and soon face the issue of investing the majority of their persona time in giving care. This is an issue known to cause a series of mental problems. By enabling the dementia patient to continue to live independently, we reduce the time that caregivers are required to invest in order to take care of them. Consequently, the time and costs that are saved can be reallocated to individual or collective activities outside of the caregiving aspect.

We are Rementis and we want to remind people. Not only about the small things in life but also about the fact that, with the right help, an independent life is possible even when things look bad. We offer an in-house solution that supports them in independently completing those day-to-day tasks by sending constant reminders about what, when and how to do something. Moreover, to counteract the cognitive decline of the user we stimulate the cognitive, physical and social activity through various features.

A multifunctional display that serves as a smart-reminder, supporting the daily life of the user through various features that are offered on the Rementis platform. All features are based on either one of the aspects that stimulate the user on cognitive, physical or social level.

Post written by Danny Pouwels from Rementis.

With love for Research,

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(47) Research on HEALTH: first aid (CPR).

This is Research on HEALTH month on Researchista. It is when Researchers from different medical fields bring their best knowledge and expertise in few words to explain their Research findings and to hopefully help you overcome certain health questions or problems you might have. Please say hi to Sebastian! 

Hi there!

I studied Medicine at the Maastricht University (2010-2016) and became a member of Taskforce QRS (CPR instructor) in 2012. My first cardiopulmonary resuscitation was on a ward in a small town in Germany, where I was at the time following an internship. At that moment, I was a CPR instructor for nearly 3 years and I thought I knew all the steps perfectly. But nothing could prepare me for the real thing….. ☺

 

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Sebastian Sanduleanu, PhD student at Maastricht University

So, what to do when someone has a heart attack? First, let’s distinguish some key concepts:

“Cardiac arrest”

A “cardiac arrest”, not to be confused with a “heart attack” is when the heart stops beating (Figure 1). A heart attack may lead to a cardiac arrest.

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Fig. 1: Cardiac arrest vs. heart attack. Source: http://www.healthzone.org

If a cardiac arrest occurs, blood will stop circulating around the body and breathing will likewise cease within several minutes. Without a supply of oxygen, the cells in the body start to die. Especially brain cells are highly sensitive for low blood oxygen concentrations, after about five minutes of no oxygen brain cells will begin dying leading to brain damage and death.

Other key conceptual differences regarding symptoms:

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Source: http://www.positivemed.com

“CPR”

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR is one of the key elements of first aid. The purpose of CPR is by chest compression to keep oxygenated blood flowing through the body in order to keep the vital organs alive.

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Fig. 2. The BLS/AED algorithm Source: http://www.slideshare.net/adis23/cpr-prezentacija

It is important to know that CPR itself will not restart someone’s heart, it just keeps them alive until a defibrillator (Figure 3) arrives. This is a device which delivers an electrical shock to the heart in order to restart it. These defibrillators are, aside from hospitals, commonly found in sports parks, shopping malls, schools and near to crowded areas. Access is restricted to authorized users, from ambulance workers, (para-) medics to civilians trained in CPR (with a so called BLS = Basic Life Support certification).

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Fig. 3. The automated external defibrilator (AED)

CPR numbers in the Netherlands

Around 10.000 people in the Netherlands face a cardiac arrest outside the hospital every year. A major influence on the survival rate is the high percentage of bystanders, which had already begun CPR before the arrival of the first ambulance (>75%), the connection of an automatic external de-fibrillator (AED) and a shockable heart rhythm early. These findings have been summarized in the chain of survival (Figure 4).

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Fig. 4. The chain of survival.

The survival in the Netherlands is on average 23%, one of the highest in Europe. If there is a shockable rhythm start, the survival rate can be as high as 44%.

For those living in Maastricht: QRS Taskforce Maastricht, purpose and background
In order to improve the survival chances for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victims, Taskforce QRS Maastricht (Qualitative Resuscitation by Students), was founded in 2006 by medical students of Maastricht University3. In 2012 a new approach in CPR training, called Maastricht Quantity-orientated Resuscitation Session (M-QRS), was developed that focuses on the number of trained students per training. By comparing the new with the old approach quantitative growth could be assessed. Until now more than 12,937 secondary school students have now been trained by ERC-certified (European Resuscitation Council) CPR instructors with this efficient M-QRS approach. In comparison, a theoretical maximum of 6,469 could have been trained by means of the old approach. Sign up for CPR-training with Taskforce QRS: A civilian rescuer is a CPR trained volunteer that is contacted by 112 emergency rooms per SMS or via a special phone application to directly or after picking up an AED (automatic external defibrillator) go to the location of a victim of a cardiac arrest and to start CPR. Interested? Click on the link! 

(more at: Ghossein, A., Amin, H., Sijmons, J., Olsthoorn, J., Weerts, J., Houben, V. (2014). Taskforce QRS. European Heart Journal, 35(45), 3149-3151).

Heart physiology

The heart pumps oxygen and nutrients around the body through your blood. Waste products, e.g carbon dioxide and urea are removed through your circulation by respectively the lungs (diffusion) and the kidneys (urine filtration). In your lungs, oxygen enters your blood stream and carbon dioxide (a waste product) is removed in a process known as gas exchange (Figure 5).

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Figure 5. Gas exchange in lungs (Pearson, 2013).

All the cells in your body are dependent on oxygen, aside from nutrients to survive. This oxygen is used as energy source in the powerhouses of the cell, the mitochondria in a biochemical activity called metabolism.

 

 Post written by Sebastian Sanduleanu, MAASTRO Clinic, Maastricht University, Maastricht

 

 

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(46) Research on HEALTH: metabolism.

…(drums) and Researchista’s first Special Guest_Professor is Professor Dr. Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov! This is Research on HEALTH month and this month we will talk about metabolism. Let’s recall from school what metabolism is about? Metabolē means change” in Greek and is the set of chemical transformations within the cells of living organisms (that does not only include humans, but also plants and animals). Wikipedia says that this is usually divided into two categories: catabolism – the breaking down of organic matter, and anabolism – the building up of components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids. Usually, breaking down releases energy and building up consumes energy [Break down food – create new energy = metabolism]. This post is about on side when metabolism does not work.. called Metabolic Syndrome. I hope the post below will inspire to eat fat in a smart way!

Metabolic Syndrome: beyond simple fat accumulation

Everybody knows that consuming a healthy diet and doing physical exercise regularly are essential for keeping our health in optimal condition and our body in good shape. Although there are general guidelines that may help in defining what a healthy diet is, the term ‘healthy’ very much depends on individual needs and opinion. What is healthy can influenced by genetics, gender, age, cultural habits, nutrient availability, and socioeconomic state, amongst others. The notion that continuous malnutrition increases the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome and the associated metabolic complications is widely accepted.

Why does eating an unhealthy diet lead to detrimental effects on our organs including the liver, in some but not all individuals? Surprisingly, the effect of unhealthy diet on our body goes beyond the amount of fat.  In fact, it is all about location!

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Professor Dr. Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov, Maastricht University

From an evolutionary perspective, it has become clear that metabolism is a vital process, which is characterized by the efficient use of energy, as well as the ability to store excess energy for periods of food deprivation. In contrast to our ancestors, current industrialized habits are hallmarked by an excess intake of fat and sugar-enriched foods in combination with physical inactivity. This metabolic imbalance turned our former ‘survival’ state into a serious health problem, currently known as obesity, in which abnormal amounts of fat accumulates throughout the body. Nowadays, nearly one-third of the global population is overweight or obese. Lately, it has become apparent that not only adults suffer from obesity, but also children. As more and more individuals are getting obese, the metabolic syndrome is considered a major health threat.

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Adapted from http://www.struggle.pk

Before taking a closer look at the liver, it is first important to understand the concept of the Metabolic Syndrome. The Metabolic Syndrome is an ‘umbrella term’ for a cluster of factors that increases the risk of developing fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

It involves a complex interplay between different organs, including the fat tissue, intestines, pancreas, brains, cardiovascular system and the liver, in which lipid homeostasis is dysregulated and metabolic inflammation is taking the lead. The liver is one of the most essential organs involved in metabolism, as it does not only regulate the storage and degradation of nutrients such as fats, carbohydrates and amino acids, but it is also involved in the detoxification of harmful compounds.

What is the exact link between the liver and the Metabolic Syndrome?

When we eat too much fat, the excess fat is transported to the liver, where it will be taken up and start to accumulate. Thus, the more fat that we eat, the more fat that accumulates inside our liver cells. Accumulation of fat in the liver is common in our society: it is present in approximately 15 percent of the general population and 90 percent of the people are currently obese. This simple accumulation of fat in the liver is still reversible and, therefore, not necessarily considered harmful. This condition, however, starts to become problematic, once the unhealthy lifestyle continue for long period of time. Accumulation of fat in the liver increases the risk of developing liver inflammation. Ultimately, liver inflammatory can lead to severe, non-reversible liver damage, including liver failure and other associated complications such as cardiovascular disease. Therefore liver inflammation is considered a major health threat.

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 Why does continuous intake of fatty meals can cause severe complications to our body?

When our body is in a healthy condition, specific receptors on the plasma membrane of liver ensure that the fat will be taken up and further processed. Before fat can be broken down for direct energy supply or storage, it must first enter the lysosomes. These cellular acidic organelles are small vesicles inside our cells, which contain enzymes that are capable of breaking down the fat. Once the fat has been degraded into smaller lipid particles, it can leave the lysosomes and can be either stored in the cytoplasm of the cell or can return to the blood.

When the levels of fat intake are continuously high, as observed in obese people, the fat circulates longer in the blood and consequently get oxidized. We have shown that unlike non- oxidized fat, when oxidized fat is taken up by the cells, it accumulates inside the lysosomes. The accumulation of the oxidized fat inside the lysosomes is associated with the development of liver inflammation.

What did we conclude? It is not the accumulation of fat, but rather the location by which the fat accumulates, which triggers the inflammatory response in the liver. Therefore, the actual accumulation of oxidized fat in the lysosomes could be the actual trigger for the inflammatory response. These pioneering results have shed new lights on the possible underlying mechanisms which are leading to the Metabolic Syndrome and opened new venues for the treatment and prevention of the associated clinical complications.

by Professor in Hepatic Inflammation and Metabolic Health, Dr. Ronit Shiri-Sverdlov, Maastricht University UMC+ (Maastricht University Medical Centre = Academic Hospital+Maastricht University), Genetics and Cell Biology Department.

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Maastricht UMC+

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(44) Research on BRAIN (extended): Misophonia

The quest into the unknown land of ‘misophonia’ continues. It is not included in any diagnostic manuals, it is not widely acknowledged by the medical community. Yet people who suffer from misophonia exist and here is what they are confronted with, in the words of Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, the founder of International Misophonia Research Network, a New York State Certified School Psychologist, a Connecticut Professional Licensed Counselor, with a Doctorate in School/Clinical-Child Psychology, based here in the Connecticut, the United States of America.

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Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout, International Misophonia Research Network.

Differentiating Disorders: Misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity

As all researchers know, almost comically, well, uncovering new scientific knowledge is no easy task. Whether you are engaged in investigating a well-trod topic, or, like me, you are forging relatively new territory, there are often not simple solutions to the complex problems we encounter. Perhaps you have recently read about the disorder I study and advocate for, misophonia, on this blog. Misophonia is a neurologically based disorder in which auditory, and sometimes visual, stimuli are misinterpreted within the central nervous system, leading sufferers to have unpleasant reactions to sounds others would consider barely noticeable.

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Source: internet.

When misophonia sufferers are exposed to particular “trigger sounds,” the fight/flight response is set off within the body. For these individuals, hearing a noxious noise can feel akin to being confronted with a wild animal, as their hearts race and muscles tense.

Because misophonia (does not appear in diagnostic manuals, such as DSM-5 or ICD-10) is only recently gaining wider recognition in the public and scientific communities, studying this disorder presents a unique set of challenges. 

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Though there is a scant amount of research on misophonia at this point, fortunately, there is a large body of research that has been developed over the past 15 years on a similar disorder, Sensory Over-Responsivity (a subtype of Sensory Processing Disorder). Individuals suffering from Sensory Over-Responsivity react to all types of sensory information as thought it were dangerous, and their fight/flight systems can be activated by seemingly inoffensive sights, smells, tastes, touches, or sounds. In both, misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity, certain sounds can leave sufferers feeling angry, fearful, disgusted, and “out of control.”

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Source: Internet.

Though it may seem natural that the research on Sensory Over-Responsivity be used to inform our understanding of misophonia, this has, largely, not taken place. We may ask ourselves, why are these two highly similar disorders rarely compared in misophonia academic articles, or articles in the popular press? My answer to this question is an unfortunate one: for the most part, researchers are not used to working within a cross-disciplinary model.

While psychology researchers, audiology researchers, and occupational therapy researchers may be competent and successful within their own fields, they are often not accustomed to reaching beyond them to integrate other types of research into their own work. There is a long pragmatic and political history behind the lack of cross-disciplinary research work that is not necessarily the fault of academic researchers or clinicians. However, in the “age of information” that we are living in, sharing valuable knowledge between researchers from different disciplines should now be as quick and easy as doing a google search, and as common. As it is, this lack of information sharing trickles down to the public, and often leads Misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity sufferers to find inaccurate information about their own conditions.

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Unfortunately, another important problem facing both misophonia and Sensory Over-Responsivity is that neither disorder has been accepted into the diagnostic manuals (DSM-5 or the ICD-10). It is difficult to understand the logic behind this fact, as studies have estimated that up to 20% of children are affected by sensory-based disorders. Likewise, tens of thousands of people have gathered on social media platforms to form support groups for misophonia, helping one another fill the gaps left by a large portion of the mental health community. There is a long political history involving how a disorder gains entry into diagnostic manuals, and though the National Institute of Health has taken steps recently to try to change this process, this change comes long after the damage has been done. Therefore, what we are left with is two disorders that “don’t exist,” that are not reimbursable by insurance, and for which research funding is extraordinarily difficult to come by.

Sensory Over- Responsivity and Misophonia share more than symptoms. They share neglect from the medical and psychiatric communities, which has resulted in the dissemination of more than enough inaccurate and confusing information to do damage to sufferers lives. My hope is that going forward, receptive practitioners and researchers from all facets of the healthcare community can work cooperatively to study and treat these disorders, discovering important knowledge and improving sufferers’ quality of life.

This post is written by Dr. Jennifer Jo Brout  (who is also the mother of adult triplets, and is a Misophonia sufferer herself) and Miss Madeline Appelbaum, a recent alumna of Reed College (Oregon, USA), with a particular interest in educational psychology. Madeline wrote an undergraduate thesis on the effects of autonomous and controlled motivation to learn on college students.

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Madeline Appelbaum, Intern at International Misophonia Research Network

International Misophonia Research Network (Amsterdam)

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(43) Research on Brain (extension): Misophonia.

Hatred of sound: Misophonia.

Have you ever thought that hearing other people’s chewing can be disturbing to the level of a disease? … When I learned from Mercede that there are barely 40 scientific articles published on misophonia the world (her opinion) on this topic, I thought, this simply can not be. How is it possible that in all this detailed investigation of human body to which research progressed until now, only few studies have been made? This is Research on Brain (and its related parts) month on Researchista. Let’s get to learn about something one day, one of us or someone we know could experience. At least we will know what’s it called.

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Dr. Mercede Erfanian.

Misophonia is a relatively new neurobehavioral syndrome or disease. It is characterized by high hearing sensitivity that research shows it can result from exposure to specific sounds like gum chewing, lip smacking, crunching, etc.

Originally, it was described by Pawel and Margarette Jastreboff (2001) . They say that individuals with misophonia show increased physical excitement like sweating, heart racing, high body temprature, which are along with emotional distress. It seems majority of these sounds are repetitive and pattern-based, irrespective of sound strength (decibel level).

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Misophonia. Source: internet.

The potential triggers that can cause misophonia can be:other people’s chewing, throat clearing, slurping, finger tapping, foot shuffling, keyboard tapping, and pen clicking. These sound triggers vary across individuals, and suggesting that learning history, individual differences, and context may play a role in aversive responding.

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Source: internet.

When facing with misophonic triggers individuals also show behavioral responses that often include anger (ranging from irritation to rage), anxiety, and disgust, avoidance, and escape behavior. (called “misophonic responses”).

It is important to know that some individuals can have impairments in daily functioning (e.g., occupationally, interpersonally, academically) and the can develop other behavioral health problems due to misophonia. A group of investigated individuals that have misophonia have developed ways to cope with it, but still report that the condition is very difficult to manage and negatively affects various aspects of their lives.

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Misophonia has not been formally recognized (yet?) as a specific type of neurological, audiological, or psychiatric disorder. However, it has shown high co-occurring appearances? with-non-psychiatric and psychiatric disorders (e.g., tinnitus, hyperacusis, migraine headaches, autism spectrum disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder).

 

Here at .. Amsterdam… we would like to raise awareness and lead more research in this area. Although, the Netherlands has been very active, the country where this topic has been discussed much more widely than in other parts of the world, we realise that not many know about and would like to carry more research in this area. If it happens that you know neuroscientists or .. or simply wish to learn more about and support our raising awareness campaign, do that here (link gogo)

To be continued…

Post written by Mercede Erfanian, Research Fellow

International Misophonia Research Network (Amsterdam).

 

 

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(42) Research on BRAIN: do-your-own-little Research.

This post of Researchista’s fantastic experience of using Research to learn Dutch faster has been erased by mistake and it awaits one day for it to be reproduced.

It was one very good of a post…

Until the inspiration comes again!

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(41) Research on brain: hearing.

And here is Laurien back again with a crash intro on what is happening in our brain when we hear something! Did you hear that? 😉

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PhD Laurien Nagels-Coune

A ringing in your ear?

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Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/03/living-with-a-sound-you-can%E2%80%99t-turn-off/

The first post in this BRAIN research series was about language. Next to spoken words, there are plenty of other sounds in our daily life. They are the source of joy and comfort but what if a certain sound drives you mad? Tinnitus is the fancy term for ‘having a ringing in your ear’. It is in fact the perception of sound in absence of any actual sound.

Now, before I go on, I have to emphasize that I am no expert in this field. My PhD is focused on muscle-independent communication for locked-in patients. These are patients who lost most motor capacities and are in essence ‘locked-in’ their own bodies, yet let me tell you more about this another time 😉 . I am writing about tinnitus now because it is a scientific side project of mine and I will collaborate in a clinical investigation soon on it. As a clinician, I have always found it fascinating how such a seemingly insignificant disorder can drive one mad, but try to listen to a few of these 11 tinnitus sounds by the British tinnitus association. Personally, I can imagine going mad when being forced to listen to sound 8 or 11 for even a day.

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In April I went to a studium generale lecture here in Maastricht by Prof. dr. Robert Stokroos and Dr. Iris Nowak-Maes. Perhaps some of you were there as well? I remember that extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the immense turn-up that evening. Prof. dr. Stokroos confirmed the immense proportion of this seemingly insignificant disorder:

Source:http://www.geeksandbeats.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/shutterstock_24666676.jpg

About a million people in the Netherlands have to deal with tinnitus, about 60.000 of those are seriously hindered in their daily lives. Tinnitus costs around 2.3 percent of the yearly care budget.”

Ok, so now that we know what tinnitus is. We also know how severe its consequences are in our society. So let’s cut to the chase.

What causes tinnitus? The most common cause is exposure to noise, such as a noisy work environment. People that have been in warfare for example often develop tinnitus. What happens is that the cochlea, the ‘snail house’, of the ear gets damaged.

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Source: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/inner-ear

Specifically, there are tiny hair cells in this snail house that get damaged. But where does neuroscience come in? Well in most cases, damage to these little hair cells causes hearing loss in a specific frequency range. This is because the hair cells are grouped per frequency. What is interesting now is that often the tinnitus frequency is exactly in this frequency range! So what might be happening? Animal models suggest that when the hair cells are damaged, there is differentiation of nerves going from the cochlea to the brain. Our auditory part of the brain starts to have increased spontaneous activity.  So what is a disease of the ear, soon becomes a disease of the brain.

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Image adopted from Adjamian, P., Sereda, M., & Hall, D. A. (2009). The mechanisms of tinnitus: perspectives from human functional neuroimaging. Hearing research, 253(1), 15-31.

What is often seen in animal models is that there is some reorganization of the auditory cortex (part C of the above figure). You can see that the top red regions stop responding to high frequencies but start reacting on lower frequencies that were close to them. You can see how damage to a specific part of the ear, can change the workings of the brain.

The above is just a common way of thinking about tinnitus. However, be careful dear readers, little is still known about this fascinating topic. One in four tinnitus patients do not have hearing loss namely and reorganization of the auditory cortex has not been confirmed as a cause of tinnitus in humans. However, motivated neuroscientists keep learning and understanding this disease better and better. Once the mechanisms are unraveled, the way is open to treatment and interventions. However, my take home message to those readers that haven’t developed tinnitus yet is: Protect your ears J As always, prevention is better than treatment!

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Source: http://www.oaklandaudiology.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Pixmac000088050972.jpg

Tinnitus remains a hot topic in the field of neuroscience, we don’t understand it fully yet. There is still a lot more to discover about auditory perception. For example, another strange disorder that involves the hatred of certain specific sounds…   but our next guest will unravel the neural correlates of this phenomenon in next week’s post.

by Laurien Nagels-CounePhD student in Cognitive Neuroscience at FPN, Maastricht University

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(39) Research on Brain: language.

This is Research on Brain month on Researchista and this is our guest of the week, I would normally say, but this is not just an usual introduction. This is such a genuinely nice person and friend, I wish to transmit at least a little bit from the inspiration and huge support that Joao has been giving to research communication. I would like to thank him for accepting to break the ice on Research and BRAIN month – with its related topics that are included in one field, called ‘Neuroscience’. It start with how brain helps us express clearly and use language to solve our problems and grow. Welcome to our Special Guest Dr. Joao Correia, originally from Portugal, Experienced Researcher at Maastricht University.

LANGUAGE: YOUR KEY TO THE WORLD.

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Dr. Joao Correia

We all have the impression that the brain is vast, and that vastness allows us to perform a long list of human functions. One of the unique functions that humans have is by far the ability to communicate. Human communication is direct and self-motivated. We do not only express ourselves to others, but we do it with the intention to change the behavior and knowledge of others.

My research dives into the unknown neural circuits of the communicating brains via speech and language. I try to understand how we speak and how we understand the speech of others, and in addition how these seemingly natural capacities serve the memory and thoughts and above all, shape the advanced societies of our world. Imagine, a car crash test.

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A car at high speed drives against a brick wall. This is – figuratively – what happens in the tympanic membrane of our ears when you hear something. Sound waves (travelling at 340 meters per second) bring auditory information into our ears, which transforms this mechanical energy into electric signals that can be interpreted by our brains.

Without this basic physical and neural capacity to receive sound information, for example from speech, infants wouldn’t develop normal speech and linguistic capabilities. Our ability to speak or to read owes much to this initial training of speech sound perception, such as our parents voice.

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As the auditory cortices in the left and right hemispheres, receive signals from spoken language, they start to link to others brain areas that are being coherently stimulated. For example, we hear different melodic tunnes (also called ‘signatures’ or ‘prosodies’) when our parents want to provide us a positive or negative feedback for education. Or we hear the word ‘water’ coherently together with the experience of drinking water. In sum, our senses start becoming linked, originating richer memory representations (auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory or emotional). How exactly these links are created and used in everyday life remains largely unknown.

Another linguistic faculty that is poorly understood is how we speak. Remember how swimming is a super exercise because it uses so many muscles of our body? Well, speaking uses more than 100 muscles, from the diaphragm and costal muscles – to create air flow – to multiple muscles of the larynx – to create the necessary pressure – to transform air flow onto sound waves – and finally – muscles of the vocal tract like the lips and tongue – to shape those sound waves onto concrete speech sounds. Due to our highly linked brain, we are capable to develop speaking abilities purely from hearing other people speaking, as well as, experiencing our own attempts to speak.

This link between auditory and motoric brain systems is often referred to as sensorimotor integration, because it provides a platform to integrate sensory and motor components. Sensorimotor integration is a key aspect of speech development, everyday speaking and comprehension. In a nutshell, we speak in a certain way because of how we hear and we hear in a certain way because of how we speak.

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Source: internet.

I am deeply in love with the versatility and complexity of sensorimotor integration, as it has the potential to explain multiple mysteries of the communicating brains, how comprehension and speaking develop normally and abnormally or how the brain learns to read.

Until recently, to ask these questions would necessarily lead to difficult philosophic and psychological discussions for which my engineering background wouldn’t be ready. However, in addition to these critical points in science, today we can image the human brain safely and with unprecedented detail, which allows directly to test and create hypothesis for how humans communicate…

Functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) allows taking magnetic pictures of the brain as people execute scientific experiments, including speaking or listening to speech. The pictures,

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reflect oxygen consumption within each small 3D pixel (or voxel) and are extremely rich in detail. However, such a complex capability is not present in one or two voxels, but distributed among the vast neural circuitry of the brain. Thousands of voxels per second must be analyzed during a single act of hearing, speaking or reading.

This screams for computational tools, able to handle such large amount of data. In my work, I use tools that have been developed for statistical learning, like predicting the weather, to learn how voxels behave for language. By investigating how voxels encode linguistic units, I hope to help formulate models of spoken communication that can have a direct impact to understand the neural circuitry for speech and language and to help unravel how these circuits fail during speech and language disorders. There is a long road to walk, but with the help of parallel technological development, this road may now be driven in a fast sport car rather than by foot. In 2010, I counted on voxels of 42 cubic millimeters, in 2014 of 8 cubic millimeters, and now in 2016 of 1 cubic millimeter. This increase in spatial resolution has a huge impact on our research, that goes hand in hand with innovation. Together, the vastness of the human brain is becoming increasingly understood.

Post written by Joao Correia, M-BIC, Maastricht University

With love for Research,

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(38) Research on Food: make-your-own-little-Research.

Every Monday, during a month on Researchista’s Blog you will find a new subject in which we invite one or more Researchers to talk about it. They are called “Special Guests” (because they are special and because they are guests). At the end of every subject (4th week of each month), Researchista is inviting anyone willing to explore how that topic affects their daily life. This section is called “Make-your-own-little-Research” and is encouraging everyone to make their Research (it’s called little, because is our own private investigation 😉 ), by giving an example of how to use different Research concepts and methods to investigate that subject. As a results we hope to help changing our own behaviour about a topic in selected area. This is Research on Food (industry) month on Researchista, so our little Research is going to be on this subject.

Say hello to Irina B. aka Researchista and Diana Z. aka Social activist, i-care-about-the-environment-lets-do-it-together friend! This is our little Research. What would yours be like? m?

Little Research: “How to Read Food Labels”.

How to know which ingredients are not good for your health? Research is your best friend. Let’s start by making it clear: we love food. So much. You can not imagine.

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Irina B. aka Researchista

At the same time, we wonder what is healthy to eat and what is not? When we go shopping for food, are we actually buying the healthy food? This is our ‘Research question’ (a r.q. is usually stands for the aim/goal/purpose/objective of a scientific study): to what extent the food we buy is healthy? In other words, how to understand what it says on the package of content we buy.

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Diana Z. aka Busy Avocado

And here we start our journey, with the help of food blogger to become and corporate activist in this area, Diana and Irina ‘willing-to-learn how to read the labels’. Let’s figure this out.

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in Park & Shop, Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

First, determine what package of food you consume often and wish to know if it contains any chemicals or unhealthy products.

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in HEMA, Maastricht (Netherlands)

Food labeling is required by law and should be clear, accurate and easy to understand and protect the consumer. It should help the consumers to know what they are buying. It is regulated by different bodies in different countries. Information required to be displayed: ingredients, weight, name of food, storage instructions, use-by-date, clear preparation and cooking instructions, name and address of manufacturer, place of origin, batch number, any genetically modified ingredients, beverages which contain >1.2% alcohol. Nutritional information is only required if there is a nutritional claim made.

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Fats and sugars are contents that need extra research. If most of the fat content comes from healthy unsaturated fat, then it is a green light. If the fat is mainly saturated and/or the product has any trans-fat, it is definitely a no. Also watch out for Vegetable Oil.

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Source: internet

Vegetable oils are manufactured in a factory, usually from genetically modified crops that have been heavily treated with pesticides. Sugar, another “watch out!”,  has many names, 56 to be precise. If we notice these ingredients, besides sugar and if they come as first or second ingredient, better place this product back on the shelf.

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Source: thetruthaboutcancer.com

Once we are clear on the nutrition facts, we can continue with the individual ingredients research. Unfortunately, majority of manufacturers use various sickening ingredients that we cannot even pronounce their names. I have a general rule regarding this, if I cannot read and understand it, I don’t buy it. Watch out for the sickening ingredients: growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, BPA, artificial flavors and sweeteners, dyes and conditioners, carrageenan and others.

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Source: simpleobtainablesolutions.com

In conclusion, Researching food products’ labels can be an overwhelming task and maybe sometimes we can end up thinking there is nothing safe left to eat, but eventually the label understanding skills become habits and the process of identifying the good food is becoming as easy as ABC.

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Source: Pinterest, Mariasea

 

Happy Shopping!

Literature review with the courtesy of Busy Avocado and

With love for Research,

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Note from Diana:

“As people are becoming more health conscious, the demands for ethical food is on the rise. By ethical we mean not only sustainable, but also ethically grown, processed, packaged and marketed. Unfortunately, we witness that many large corporations are taking ethics for granted and only care about their profit, thus maximizing production, while neglecting the nutritional value of food. Many products already enter the food chain filled with chemicals and substances that can damage our health. Later on they are processed with additives, dyes, preservatives and thickeners, and eventually packaged in materials that are also hazardous for health. But the worst part is that companies spend thousands to promote these products, create beautiful packages, advertisements and incentives. Moreover, many of them go to the extreme to portray these products as healthy and suitable for children. Stopping these companies from producing and marketing products that contain harmful ingredients is not easy. In many countries corporations have a lot of power in the food industry. But there is another way to combat them. Learn to read and understand labels and avoid products that are clearly damaging your health.