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Entrepreneurship and Immigration:

Have you ever wonder how moving to a new country has inspired or made people open a new business and become an entrepreneur? Dr Nur (2015) found a direct link between immigrant entrepreneurship and success longevity in their businesses through innovation and sustainability. These successes lead to the creation of global brands, such as Heinz, Avon, Dell, Amazon, Estee Lauder and a hundred others.

Greetings from Italy! 

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Dr. Nur Suhaili Binti Ramli, Department of Management, University of Venice, Italy

Dr Nur informs us that despite broad discussions between immigration and entrepreneurship in United States, Australia or Canada little research is done to investigate the success rates of the immigrant entrepreneurs in the European host countries, the longevity of immigrant businesses, survival rate during crises periods or scale-up potential, and various business strategies implemented by the immigrants.
To fight the myth: “Migrants still our jobs”, on-going research question: Does the immigrant entrepreneurship positively contribute to the European countries’ socio-economic development?
For example, the recent CENSIS and collaboration with Roma-Tre University (2019) found on a growing number of immigrant entrepreneurs and a positive causal effect of immigrant entrepreneurship on the national economy in the last ten years. The findings are beneficial for the internationalisation strategy as well as for the job creation, contribution to the economic growth, and support to the local government during the economic crisis. More findings of this sort can be useful for the EU Government’s decision making in drafting policies to reduce problems within the area (part of migration issue). Therefore, Dr Nur and her collaborator Prof Finotto are interested in examining the immigrant entrepreneurship phenomenon in Europe on a comparative approach and over time and is hoped to add significant findings.
The subject of the study (immigrant entrepreneurs) has been conducted in Dr. Nur’s earlier research that summarises during the Great Depression and Second World War, immigrant entrepreneurs put more endeavour into marketing innovation, while the non-immigrant entrepreneurs (native) are more likely to improve their product through innovation, retaining the same product line and target market. Among other things, a compelling finding demonstrates that immigrant entrepreneurs started to implement market segmentation, while non-immigrant entrepreneurs ventured into vertical product differentiation, strengthened their quality with product improvement, which increased consumer trust by associating their brands with particular products. Dr. Nur (2016) emphasise that some immigrant entrepreneurs at host country are somewhat patriotic, especially when their host country is facing difficulties. For example, they show support towards local governments during these two periods by helping the US government to survive during wartime, such as more than 50% of facilities at one of an immigrant entrepreneur’s factory and laboratories were made available to the US Government for the production of war items for the armed forces. It provides historical evidence that immigrant entrepreneurship is essential and has a significant contribution to the socio-economic of the host country. Extending from this study, Dr. Nur and Prof. Finotto use a similar research framework to study the phenomenon in the European context.

Several studies on immigration and entrepreneurship between 2010 and 2018 have almost doubled, that focus mainly on the performance of the entrepreneurs and compare businesses created by native and immigrant entrepreneurs by longevity, strategy during crises periods, and by businesses that started small and later, became global brands. However, there is a limited study on the comparative approach to answer these two questions: Why immigrant entrepreneurs have different strategies to business compared to non-immigrant entrepreneurs in Europe over-time? And, How do they recognise entrepreneurial opportunity identification at the host country in Europe differently than the native?, which interest Dr Nur and Prof Finotto to scrutinise the investigation. It is an exciting work-in-progress to follow as it focuses on the European countries when the influx of migration is a critical issue. The preliminary findings from two pilot studies summarise that immigrant entrepreneurs offer job creation to the local community, establish and smoothen business entry barrier between the host and home country, contribute taxes that benefit local pensioners, and create competitive advantage. Dr. Nur and Prof. Finotto are now conducting comprehensive research to confirm the preliminary findings, which updates are available via twitter.

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Furthermore, Prof William R. Kerr and Dr Sari Pekkala Kerr (2017) point out that many policymakers believe that immigrant founders were essential for the revival of the country’s growth and continued recovery from the Great Depression. In contrast, Dr Nahikari Irastorza, and Prof Iñaki Peña-Legazkue (2018) explain that the immigrant entrepreneurs are more likely to quit their businesses earlier than their native competitors. Although there are mixed findings on the business performances and strategies of immigrant entrepreneurs, in general, they can adapt and expand despite the economic crisis with several explanations including on how and why they identify entrepreneurial opportunity at host country differently than the native. In summary, the immigrant entrepreneurship phenomenon must not be excluded from local agendas and discussion, particularly in Europe. With a broad range of evidence on the subject, it concludes that this research area is critical and beneficial for shaping and improving the policy in the future to benefit the economy and society at large in Europe.

 

Further reading:

  1. CENSIS (2019), Available online at http://www.censis.it/7?shadow_comunicato_stampa=121202
  2. Kerr, S.P., & Kerr, W.R. (2017). Immigrant Entrepreneurship. In Measuring Entrepreneurial Businesses:
  3. Current Knowledge and Challenges, 187-249. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.
  4. Irastorza, N., & Peña-Legazkue, I. (2018). Immigrant entrepreneurship and business survival during the recession:
  5. Evidence from a local economy. The Journal of Entrepreneurship, 27(2), 243-257.
  6. Ramli, N.S., (2016). A comparative study of marketing strategies: the development of cosmetic brands created by diaspora entrepreneurs and non-diaspora entrepreneurs in the US cosmetic industry. [Doctoral dissertation], University of York, United Kingdom.
  7. Ramli, N.S., (2015). Immigrant entrepreneurs on the world’s successful global brands in the cosmetic industry. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences195, 113-122

The authors are currently working on the following project:

A Comparative Study of Entrepreneurial Opportunity Identification between Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Non-Immigrant Entrepreneurs in Europe.

Researcher: Dr Nur Suhaili Binti Ramli  Twitter: DrSuhailiRamli

Funding: Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy

Supervisor/Collaborator: Professor Vladi Finotto.

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Researchista’s Sparkle

Dear Researchista friend,

Thousands of PhD theses are published every month/year in the world, and thousands and even millions of public money (usually) are invested in the research projects behind the theses, yet only a very-very-very small % of the knowledge shared in these valuable books reach you :/

I started Researchista because I had a dream: I wanted Researchers to be heard and the intellectual effort to be valued. So, I made a board game out of my PhD thesis in hope to inspire other Researchers to connect to the wider audience in a different way.

Budgets on Research communication are usually scarce or most of the times non-existent, simply because after a research study was carried out, the results are used for a certain purpose by policy makers or other parties involved, often forgetting that the general public like you and me can benefit of it greatly also.

I made a game out of my PhD thesis and I hope one day it will reach you as well, online or by paper.

This is not just a game, this is a cause.

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Join Researchista’s cause!

Have a look at the game, share the word, like our page, find us on Instagram.

Homepage

http://www.facebook.com/playyourtaxes.com

http://www.instagram.com/playyourtaxes

The activity of the blog will re-start as soon as possible.

With love for Research,

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(54) Research on MUSIC: microsonic.

I will probably repeat this many times, but one of the challenges at Researchista is to keep my excitement down. Since I started this blog and our Facebook page, I met so many interesting people and the things we discuss are sometimes simply mind-blowing (bam) and this is one of these cases… So, from the left to the right we have 1 half musician/Researcher, 1 composer and 1 half Researcher/musician-amateur, who… how should I put it… joined their forces to create music out of the sounds that human body makes. Wait, what? I will stop here and let you discover this on your own… 

..here they are: Eva, Lucas and Ruth.

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They created “Microsonic” – an interdisciplinary project based music and on microbial communication, or shortly: music & microbes, how original is that! 😀

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here is the microbe, here is the music and here is the Researcher 🙂

The story behind: Both artists and scientists seek to understand aspects of the complex world around us. Despite this common ground, artists and scientists are too often separate in their endeavors. The Academy Honours Programme for Young Artists and Scientists (Netherlands) promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and interactions. The idea is to bridge this gap by bringing together ten artists and ten scientists of diverse backgrounds where they can discuss themes, amongst which: the role of art and science in society.

It was here at this workshop back in 2015 where the three of us met. It was already late, we changed the décor in the meanwhile to a pub, when we got involved into a discussion about communication, its musical aspects and how microbial organisms (e.g. bacterias) are communicating.

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source: internet

The beautiful thing about music is that it is an ultimate abstract art form that is not tied to specific images that connect easily with other disciplines from arts and science. And so, the idea to collaborate on a musical project inspired by microbial communication (aka microbes and bacterias) came into being.

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source: internet

Research about microbial communication via sound signals has only received limited attention due to its technical challenges. Even though electronic devices capable of detecting sounds on microscopic length scales get more advanced every day, the technique is still in its infancy. It is already possible to hear the sound of a large group of microbes – which sounds like white noise – but the devices still need to be developed further to be able to hear the sound of single isolated microbes. Because little is known about this form of communication, Lucas saw a role for himself to play as a composer. Since the communication is inaudible for us human beings, Lucas started to explore how a musical composition out of how this microbial world could possibly sound.

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“Microsonic” partition by Lucas Wiegerink

The Opinion article “When microbial conversations get physical”, Gemma Reguera discusses various forms of microbial communication, which formed the basis for the composition. It appears that the microbial microcosm is a rich sound world on its own. Reguera states that “every particle in a cell has a unique natural frequency of vibration and therefore produces a distinctive sound, very much like voice tonality and pitch in humans”.

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source: internet

Sound waves are generated when objects vibrate. Experiments with yeast cells not only demonstrate that intracellular motions were sufficiently strong enough to propagate across the stiff cell wall, but that they could also generate reproducible acoustic signals.

For our project Microsonic, Lucas composed a soft musical piece, as to give the audience the feeling of a hidden sound world. The public is invited to join on a sound journey into the human body. The microbial world slowly fades into their world. A tape with real sounds stemming from the human body is added to the composition to give the translated communication of microbes a real context. The sound journey starts off with a kind of white noise – unclear, almost inaudible and a bit scratchy – and you start wondering what it is. It is the sound of blood streaming through a vein. Then the zooming starts: more and more internal body sounds are heard, including the creaking of human nerves. But also, by further zooming in you will hear the sound produced by millions and millions of microbes. There the musicians come into the picture. The playing instruments symbolize the several sound signals that microbes use to communicate. Slowly, you get introduced into their microscopic world.

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source: internet

More and more pitched signals become distinguished, first only short ones, but as we zoom further, we hear longer ones as well. The microbial sound world becomes richer and richer; higher and lower pitches occur and the dynamic contrasts intensify. When listening carefully, you will hear that microbes make connections and communicate by taking over each other’s signals. So does the musicians – based on live improvisation. It is at this moment that you as human being can get a glimpse of the communication of microbes and maybe even feel part of their conversation. The composed journey ends with a collective ‘vibrational mode’, when a certain group of microbe cells are ‘in tune’.

The challenge for our composer Lucas was that he was used to thinking in terms of melodies and chords. However, microbial communication via sound signals is not a musical process – still produduces patterns and sounds. As a result, he had to change his approach to composing and relinquish control. Instead, he created a number of frameworks in which the musicians had freedom of movement and become part of the creation process. The subject of communication lends itself very well to this way of making music. The musicians improvise while listening and reacting to each other; they have to communicate to let it work.

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here it how body sounds from within…. https://soundcloud.com/user-354620747/research-on-music-microsonic

Our project is an example of how arts and science that both have the urge to understand and express the complex external world can reinforce each other. This demands certain effort, yes, but is even more rewarding. So had our composer Lucas to let go of his usual approach towards composing. And it is exactly this that makes interdisciplinary collaboration extremely interesting – since it questions the usual approach and way of working. But there is more, interdisciplinary collaboration can support inspiration in each other’s work and reinforce the expression of the complex mechanism in our (microbial) world towards a public. All we can say, go out, open your eyes, take the risk to look outside your usual box”.

The post is written  with Eva van Ooij, Ruth Schmidt (Dutch Institute of Ecology) and Lucas Wiegerink, and was presented at the PAS – Parcours of Art & Science Festival of Maastricht University in 2016. Many thanks to the members of Ensemble 88 – an ensemble specialized in contemporary music. The musical performance was accompanied by a presentation on microbial communication by Ruth.

With love for Research,

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More of Lucas’ compositions:

“The occult beauty of the finite is about that realisation that what is dear to us is also fleeting, and the beauty that lies in such transience. I was inspired to write this piece by the illness and passing away of my mother. As her health worsened, I became increasingly aware of the small pockets of beauty in our lives. Living under the illusion that everything lasts forever, these are easy to miss. But as one faces the loss of something precious, the world is brought into sharper focus”.

Being Arthur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvTeIy4w-xc&feature=youtu.be
Kameroperahuis in collaboration with Dutch Touring Opera and Opera Days Rotterdam

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(53) Research on MUSIC: Research with music.

This post is dedicated to all supermen and superwomen out there that manage to combine 2 passions, at which they are both good at, in their everyday life. And this my friend, is a setar.

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Please welcome my multi-talented friend, Nasser Davarzani!

Music helps me to focus better. Sometimes when I don’t have motivation for work, I bring my level of concentration by bringing music. It cheers me up.

My PhD research is about the application of statistics in medicine. Last, but not least, I sing and play Iranian traditional music.

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(and no, this is not a presentation for a conference 🙂 Nasser singing, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Research in music

How research helps you advance with your music? When somebody is working with traditional music, it’s important to know about the history of the instrument and  culture of its country.  You must know about the specifications and abilities of your instruments if you are going to play with another instruments. It helps you  to know with which instrument you can combine it.

Is important to know about the structure of the music and about the instrument itself. It helps you to know more about your instrument and how to mix with other instruments. Knowing more about the history helps you more.

You are a PhD student in statistics while you play professional music, how does that work?

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Source: http://www.actuallywecreate.com/music-work
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UGI team, Maastricht University, Netherlands

Music and Research

Every day I work till 18.00 at the university and then I go to music school and practice 1 hour singing, it takes a lot of energy but when I go out I feel re-energized. Then I go home and I practice 1 hour for my instrument.

At least 2 hours of practice for me is a kind of meditation, because all I think about are the notes, music, voice and sound. Sometimes I close my eyes, and I feel my body fully present in the music. The only thing I think about is the sound and the word I should pronounce and the lyrics that I sing. Iranian music is mixed with very old poems and which are full of spiritual concepts. When you sing these kind of poems, you without thinking go into this kind of spiritual mood and you don t think about the world that you live in.

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Karlsruhe, Germany

Most of the time, Iranian music full of love stories and spiritual concepts and unconsciously when you sing these kind of things you feel it fully with your body and to really sing it best you need to understand what you sing and it helps you to go more deep into spiritual things.

 

Post written by Nasser Davarzani, PhD at the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering, also Researcher at the Department of Pathology of Maastricht University and the student of one of the best instrumentalist and composer of Iran, Mr. Hamid Motebassem.

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

 

 

With love for Research,

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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+

With love for Research,

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fashionista# 2: Maasboulevard.

This photoshoot is part of Researchista_fashionista story. The location of our second photoshoot is one of the main streets in Maastricht: Maasboulevard. It is main because it runs through the junction between Stationstraat, a street that takes you from the train station directly to the city centre… and with thee mmm, street itself. Basically, it’s at the cross-road of things. And also! not least important, it flows next to the river bank of the Maas. This is where you can have a promenade and buy a ticket for a boat ride to Belgium..voila! or should I better say, gezellig!

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Say hello to Carolin!

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Hello, Carolin!14470692_10153785434906846_1458698556_n

This story is about how the body’s immune system could attack the brain in a way that leads to a “wrong” diagnosis of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Let’s start at the beginning:

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A self-destructing body

Put simply, autoimmunity is when your body’s immune system attacks your own body. The ‘normal’ healthy function of the immune system is, of course, to recognise and “clean up” foreign structures that do not belong to the inside of the body, such as microbes. The system consists of several components, including white blood cells, some of which are specialised cells (B-cells). These cells produce antibodies that are responsible for recognising the foreign invader – the antigen. Those antibodies can be imagined as red flags with two arms holding on to the antigen and signaling the rest of the crew that what they have found here has to be cleaned up. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for those antibodies to make a mistake and hold on to something that is actually a (healthy) part of the body. This leads to an immunity attack, possibly inflammation, without any foreign aggressor. This can happen in any part of the body, leading to many different complications. You may have heard of rheumatoid arthritis, a disease where the immune system attacks proteins in the joint. This is caused by such a ‘mistake’, and it leads to the destruction and inflammation of insulin dependent diabetes (Type 1 Diabetes), where the insulin producing beta-cells in the pancreas are destroyed by an autoimmune attack.

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The brain on fire

For me, the most fascinating cases are when auto-antibodies are targeting the brain. In particular, I am interested in those autoimmune reactions which lead to psychiatric symptoms. The connection might not be very obvious, but I am studying the role of autoimmunity in psychotic disorders (e.g. schizophrenia or bipolar disorder) and also the pathologic mechanism of the so-called autoimmune encephalitis (brain inflammation).

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 A different view on psychotic disorders

Perhaps I should mention that I am coming from a biomedical background, so I have a “special” approach to psychiatric/mental disorders. To me, everything in the body has a biological explanation and what is projected externally (behaviour, personality, indicators of mental state, etc.) has an internal origin in the organs, in this case the brain. I am aware that not everyone might agree with this theory, but the study of the mind (psychology and psychiatry) and the brain/nervous system (neurology) is definitely starting to fuse, and diseases are starting to be called “neuropsychiatric”. In the future, I think that all mental diseases will be explained by neuronal changes and the discipline of (neuro-)psychiatry will be a subspecialty of neurology. This will, therefore, also include psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Currently, we know very little about the underlying mechanisms of these diseases or, shall I say, “disorders”, “syndromes” or “collection of patients with similar symptoms”. Likely, these cohorts of patients do not all suffer from the same disease. Instead, there are different groups of patients with a different set of genetic and environmental factors leading to neuronal changes via different ways. One mechanism, in a subset of these patients, could be an autoimmune disease, for example.

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Latest research on immune factors in psychotic disorders 

This hypothesis of an autoimmune cause in psychosis is not as absurd as it may first seem. It is well accepted that a unsregulated immune system and genes, important for immune regulation, are linked to developing psychotic disorders. A big game-changer was the discovery, within the last 10 years, of several autoimmune diseases, which target neurotransmitter receptors and ion-channels, crucial for functioning and communication of cells in the brain (neurons). This autoimmune inflammation of the brain also leads to symptoms that look very similar to schizophrenia, but commonly co-occur with “neurological” symptoms, such as movement disorders, epileptic seizures, and loss of consciousness. Interestingly, some research groups are starting to find auto-antibodies in blood and cerebrospinal fluid (the liquid around the brain) that potentially bind the brain. My research builds on these findings. Via a  collaboration with many different hospitals all over Europe, I received a large cohort of blood/serum samples from psychotic patients (around 600 samples) and healthy controls (250 samples). These large samples provided me the opportunity to test for the presence of auto-antibodies that attack the brain. It seems that these auto-antibodies are more common in diseased individuals than in the  controls. However, these results are preliminary and I don’t want to give away too much at this point …

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Finding signs of inflammation in brains of schizophrenic patients

Another study, that I started recently, may further help us understand the link between autoimmunity and psychotic disorders, this time using brain tissue from post-mortem schizophrenia patients. In this project, we are using methods to ‘colour’ certain cells or structures in the brain. We expect to find markers that point towards a presence of the immune system, such as immune cells and antibodies, and to make a distinction between brains of healthy individuals and individuals with psychotic disorders. Overall, we hope to find ways to identify those patients that might be “misdiagnosed” with a psychotic disorder and be able to treat the biological cause of their disease.

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 Treating the cause and not the symptoms

Why we think this is important? Well, it might make a big difference for the patients because they could get a very different treatment. For autoimmune disorders, there are already several possible treatments out there which might also be successful in “autoimmune psychosis”. So, I hope that one day the diagnosis of schizophrenia & co. will be altered, and instead, we can use a diagnosis of diseases so that we can treat the cause and maybe even cure it (let’s dream big)!

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So, after the Researchista part, here’s another note on the Fashionista:

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If I was at risk for any addiction, it would probably be shopping. I can spend the whole day checking clothes and at times buying many more things than my closet can handle.

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This year, I made the resolution to buy less and focus on sustainable, high quality materials. I am making an effort, but there is definitely room for improvement…

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photostique-04976I also like sewing my own clothes or recycling old things. For example, the dress I am wearing in the photo-shoot I created from a cotton fabric that my mother brought me from a holiday in Malaysia. Unfortunately, I usually don’t have the time to sew my own clothes… However, in the end, these unique pieces are always worth the effort.

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by Carolin Hoffman, PhD student at Department of Neuroscience, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience (FHML), Maastricht University,  Early-Experienced Researcher.

This street was inviting and a good place for exploration and reflection along the river. Here is a little poetic touch out of this reflection on Research developments on body’s immune system on Maasboulevard.

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Who is next to share a story on Researchista fashionista? 😉

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With love for Research,

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Jumping pose, Researcher style

Photo credits: PhotostiquePeter Mullenberg (A beautiful vespa scooter was provided with the courtesy of Photostique, bedankt!). Editing Credits: Rose Education Consultancy, Claire Willis. Outfits: happy people in a self-made dress by Carolin and Vanilia dress on Researchista.

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Fashion Fashionista Photoshoot Researcher Researchista

fashionista #1. Lage Barakken.

This photoshoot is part of Researchista_fashionista story.

# 1: Lage Barakken street.

p.s. Before anything, this is not how Researchers dress for work. I do not want to make Research sexy, neither do I want to promote a distorted image of people doing Research. I just want to make sure to remind that Researchers are creative people 🙂 About the Research story of Researchista you will hear in that last photo-shoot of this project, till then… get to know my other peers and their Research quests and findings.

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This is Maastricht (by summer) Wyck district, Lage Barakken street, which in English translates as “low barracks“. Here is what the “Dutch Review” says about it. photostique-05556.png

So, here I was out of my place, walking through one of the shortest streets in Maastricht, Lage Barakken, in search for some history… to find it right at the corner. Few minutes away from the train station, hundreds of people pass daily by this exquisite hotel behind my back, disguised in a white fortress.

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It’s facade is still echoing the “Belle Epoque“…

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Source: Facebook page of Hotel Beaumont

… can you hear the music?

Every day, people enjoy peacefully their meal at these wide opened windows, while observing the passers by or gather loudly in group meetings in conference rooms. Buses and taxes are crowding in at the main entrance when things are happening in Maastricht.

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Wearing: Louboutin, classic black… the most sexy shoes in the world.

It is a family business that started in 1912 and is currently carried out by the 4th generation of family, a very creative family probably :).   I could not not share with you this Christmas wish, how great to preserve the sense of humour at all times :).

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“Turn that frown, upside down” (Facebook page of “Hotel Beaumont”).

It probably hosted many notorious people that visit Maastricht with various occasions until now. The polite waiters and room organizers take a break to inhale some fresh air or fresh cigarette on the Lage Barakken side to restart their work briefly after, and this what others were doing for years and years since 1912.

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Ten years after, at its opposite corner, which at the moment happened to be a shoe shop (really nice one), one of the first cinemas in Maastricht, Cinema “Palace” opened.

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cinematreasures.org

I only know from two friends of mine who went there when they were small that the cinema was very big at that time. photostique-05620.pngphotostique-05628.png

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At the moment, Maastricht is having almost 4 cinema houses.

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That was a little tour for you on the short street of Lage Barakken. Well, I also missed on telling you that this street is cut in half by the Stationstraat, that as the name suggest, it is the street of the station (main train&bus station) that leads you directly into the city center. I missed on capturing it’s clock in the middle, it’s postal office where cheerful people work, the bar opposite to the old cinema and the new student building arising that will probably bring even more dynamics to the area.

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Now that we are done with the tour of the street, and since we are on the street where I live, I would like to invite you at the terrace of the building house where I reside, for a final little chat. Wearing these Sergio Rossi shoes, it all feels a bit different 😀

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Wearing: Stijl Fashion Group (Danish designers),  Shoes: Sergio Rossi from Kymyka, Maastricht

Ok, I have to admit that the most difficult thing for me since I launched Researchista is to keep my excitement down!!! 🙂 I have met so many interesting people and did things that I have never done before, that sometimes it makes it difficult for me to stay calm.

I am a Researcher, but above all, I am a woman, who feels comfortable in her own element. I am a feminist since I was in my first university year in an environment where feminism is still a very fearful word. In some villages of my home country the expression “an unbeaten wife is like an uncleaned house” still holds, if you know what I mean. With these pictures, I do not aim to promote beauty through expensive shoes, although, I have to admit these are the most fancy shoes I probably ever wore. I do not aim to objectify the image of women or promote a false image of the Research community.

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Shoes & bag: Louboutin PINK from Kymyka, Maastricht

I simply do not need excuses to wear red lipstick or enjoy a beautiful dress with a pair of high heels. It is a choice. It is my self-expression.

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Louboutin pink purse and heels from Kymyka Shoes and Bags, Maastricht

This week, we are opening up an important topic and that is Fashion in Research. It must be difficult to avoid buying clothes from big chain brands (e.g. H&M, Zara), this became so habitual, but at the same time, we are also in charge for nurturing the dangerous treatment of workers in clothing industry and there must be an alternative! See what is the solution proposed by our Special Guest, Hasmik Matevosyan, a specialist in this area. By the way, the shoes and the bag I wear here are not part of retail fashion industry.

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Call: Are you a Researcher? Do you live in Maastricht? If you want to join me next time, leave me your letter at researchista@researchista.com. Let’s expand the horizons together! 🙂

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With my partners in crime:

Photographer, Peter Mullenberg from Photostique.

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Ms. Ecaterina Onica, usually an interior designer, but this time, my make-up artist.

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And since it’s fashion month, and you got to have a statement bag or a pair of earrings-statement, I picked a statement pose instead. Now waiting for my invitation to the Vogue Netherlands 🙂 and I am not joking 🙂

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Photography by: Photostique. All the pictures here were painted by the master in picturing, Mr. Peter Mullenberg. Thank you!*****

Credits: I would like to personally thank very much Nadja van der Borgh from Kymyka Shoes and Bags, who is the official distributor Louboutin unforgettable shoes that I am wearing. Also, to thank Sanne Pieters and Bart Kramp from Stijl Fashion Group, who are in charge of these wonderful outwears from Danish designers.

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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)

With love for Research,

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Academia anxiety definition health knowledge origin research Researcher Special Guest stress

(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).

 

 

With love for Research,

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