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Study to examine social media’s effects on stress during COVID-19 pandemic

The impact of social media on anxiety and stress during the coronavirus pandemic is the focus of a new study led by mental health experts at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and computer scientists at Georgia Tech. The National Science Foundation is funding the pilot study.

The researchers plan to use computer algorithms to identify stressors — such as anxiety-provoking messages or messages containing misinformation — linked to the pandemic. They also plan to design their own messages that can be delivered over social media platforms to help relieve downturns in psychological well-being.

“As we continue to stay home as much as possible and remain physically distant from one another, many people rely on social media to stay connected,” said co-principal investigator Patricia A. Cavazos-Rehg, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Washington University. “But much of what is on social media is anxiety-provoking. There’s also misinformation on social media, and that is problematic, too.”

Using artificial intelligence algorithms, Cavazos-Rehg and the study’s other principal investigators — Munmun DeChoudhury, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing, and Srijan Kumar, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Computational Science and Engineering in the College of Computing, both at Georgia Tech — will attempt to identify social media posts associated with stress and anxiety. They also will develop computer models to predict which online communities may be the most vulnerable to those stressors. Online communities can be geographical, but they are defined as communities because of shared interests among their members. The researchers then will sample and survey the members of such communities, and then design and deliver messages on Twitter as possible interventions.

In previous research, Cavazos-Rehg has analyzed social media influences on smoking and vaping behavior in teens. She’s also tracked the influence of social media advertising on marijuana use, as many states have legalized medicinal and recreational pot. She explained that just as social media exposure influences those behaviors, it also can influence one’s psychological response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We plan to offer tips about maintaining psychological health, even about consuming social media in ways that help keep emotional well-being intact,” Cavazos-Rehg said. “That might involve taking breaks from the social media activities we’re engaging in or at least spending less time focused on messages related to COVID-19.”

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Horseradish: a medicinal plant of the year protects against viruses and bacteria – natural healing naturopathic specialist portal

Horseradish the herb of the year 2021 is

It’s long been known that horseradish is an extremely healthy food. It is rich in important vitamins and minerals and also contains plenty of fiber. In addition, it can protect against bacteria and viruses. Recently, the sea was named radish for medicinal plant of the year 2021.

According to a communication from a professionals Jury of the NHV Theophrastus has named the horse-radish (Armoracia rusticana) for the medicinal plant of the year 2021. The First Chairman of the Association, Konrad jungnickel announced.

Protection against viruses and bacteria

Horseradish is rich in Vitamin C, iron, zinc and potassium, and also contains a lot of fiber as well as Vitamin B1 and B2. Furthermore, are included in the sharp root essential Oils. These mustard oils can protect, according to the experts on viruses and bacteria. Due to its healthy properties, horseradish is already for centuries as a spice and medicinal plant.

Also, the Association NHV Theophrastus appreciates the positive properties of the Plant. The Association selects since 2003, the medicinal plant of the year. With the Initiative of the Association reports on the treasures of the nature.


Through a sensible use of this plant to alleviate or cure some of the suffering – whether as an extract, salad addition or a spice. Things to know about the horseradish, the Association will publish in a brochure and on the Internet.

Too little exploited potential

“Horseradish as a medicinal plant, a large and, unfortunately, so far little exploited potential,” says the Association’s Chairman, Konrad young Nickel. Scientific studies prove for the horseradish contained ingredients have anti-inflammatory properties, remarkable anti-viral effects and strong anti-bacterial effects. “This is especially in view of the increasing antibiotic resistance, pointing the way” so young Nickel.

Part of the daily dining plan

The sharp root, which is referred to in southern Germany and Austria as horseradish, is in many kitchens at home. Horseradish refined meat and fish dishes, vegetables and sauces. Jungnickel, who advises as a health practitioner, many of his patients to a natural diet, recommends:

“Horseradish should be – at least in the cold Season – part of the daily diet.” Then the root is a real cure in the sense of the Greek physician Hippocrates, according to which the food is also a healing agent should be.

In shipping, the positive effects of horse-radish are known for a long time. According to the figures, he was carried earlier on extended sea voyages as a durable food for the prevention of the Vitamin deficiency disease scurvy. (ad)

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Researchers uncover effects of negative stereotype exposure on the brain

The recent killings of unarmed individuals such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade have sparked a national conversation about the treatment of Black people—and other minorities—in the United States.

“What we’re seeing today is a close examination of the hardships and indignities that people have faced for a very long time because of their race and ethnicity,” said Kyle Ratner, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at UC Santa Barbara. As a social psychologist, he is interested in how social and biological processes give rise to intergroup bias and feelings of stigmatization.

According to Ratner, “It is clear that people who belong to historically marginalized groups in the United States contend with burdensome stressors on top of the everyday stressors that members of non-disadvantaged groups experience. For instance, there is the trauma of overt racism, stigmatizing portrayals in the media and popular culture, and systemic discrimination that leads to disadvantages in many domains of life, from employment and education to healthcare and housing to the legal system.”

Concerned by negative rhetoric directed at Latinx individuals, Ratner and his lab have investigated how negative stereotype exposure experienced by Mexican-American students can influence the way their brains process information.

In a recent paper published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the research team focuses on how negative stereotype exposure affects responses to monetary incentives. Their finding: The brains of Mexican-American students exposed to negative stereotypes anticipate rewards and punishments differently versus those who were not so exposed. The discovery, he said, is the first step in a series of studies that could help researchers understand neural pathways through which stigma can have detrimental effects on psychological and physical health.

‘I’m so tired of this’

Much existing research has focused on how experiencing stigma and discrimination triggers anger, racing thoughts and a state of high arousal. Although Ratner believes this is a reaction that people experience in some contexts, his recent work focuses on the psychological fatigue of hearing your group disparaged. “It’s this feeling of ‘oh, not again,’ or ‘I’m so tired of this,'” he said, describing a couple of reactions to the stress of managing self-definition in the face of negative stereotypes.

While noticing several years ago that experiencing stigma can produce this sense of withdrawal and resignation, Ratner was reminded of work he conducted earlier in his career relating stress to depressive symptoms.

“In work I was involved in over a decade ago, we showed that life stress can be associated with anhedonia, which is a blunted sensitivity to positive and rewarding information, such as winning money,” he said. “If you’re not sensitive to the rewarding things in life, you’re basically left being sensitive to all the frustrating things in life, without that positive buffer. And that’s one route to depression.”

Given that experiencing stigma can be conceptualized as a social stressor, Ratner wanted to investigate whether negative stereotype exposure might also relate to sensitivity to reward.

Reward Processing in the Brain

Ratner and his colleagues focused on the nucleus accumbens, a sub-cortical brain region that plays a central role in anticipating pleasure—the “wanting” stage of reward processing that motivates behaviors.

Using functional MRI to measure brain activity, the researchers asked Mexican-American UCSB students to view sets of video clips in rapid succession and then gave these students the opportunity to win money or avoiding losing money.

In the control group, the viewers were shown news and documentary clips of social problems in the United States that were relevant to the country in general—childhood obesity, teen pregnancy, gang violence and low high school graduation numbers.

In the stigmatized group, subjects were shown news and documentary clips covering the same four domains, but that singled out the Latinx community as the group specifically at risk for these problems.

“These videos were not overtly racist,” Ratner said of the stigmatizing clips. Rather, he explained, the videos tended to spend a disproportionate amount of attention on the association between specific social issues and their effects in the Latinx community, rather than presenting them as problems of American society as a whole. The clips were mostly from mainstream news agencies—the newscasters and narrators, he said, appeared to be “presenting facts as they understood them,” but the content of these clips reinforced negative stereotypes.

After repeated exposure to negative stereotypes, the research participants were asked to perform a Monetary Incentive Delay (MID) task, which required them to push a button whenever they saw a star on the screen. Pressing the button fast enough resulted in either winning money or avoiding losing money.

In those individuals shown the stigmatizing clips, the nucleus accumbens responded differently to waiting for the star to appear, as compared to those who viewed the control clips, a pattern that suggests that negative stereotype exposure was “spilling-over” to affect how participants were anticipating winning and losing money.

“We saw that something about watching these stigmatizing videos was later influencing the pattern of response within this brain region,” Ratner said. This suggests that the nucleus accumbens is representing the potential of winning and losing money differently in the brains of those who previously saw the stigmatizing videos than those who didn’t, he explained. The researchers also found that the group that saw the stigmatizing videos reported lower levels of arousal right before starting the MID task, consistent with stigmatizing experiences having a demotivating effect.

“The nucleus accumbens is very important for motivated behavior, and sparks of motivation are important for many aspects for everyday life,” Ratner said. A loss of motivation, he continued, is often experienced by those who perceive their situation as out of their control.

One reason negative stereotypes in the media and popular culture are so problematic is they make people feel stigmatized even when they are not personally targeted in their daily life by bigoted people, he explained. “It becomes something you can’t escape—similar to other stressors that are out of people’s control and have been shown to cause anhedonia.”

Ratner is careful to point out that this study merely scratches the surface of brain processes involved in intergroup reactions such as stigma—how the brain processes social motivations is far more complex and necessitates further study.

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Side effects from testicular cancer predicted by machine learning

In collaboration with Rigshospitalet, researchers from DTU Health Technology have developed a machine learning model that can predict chemotherapy-associated nephrotoxicity, a particularly significant side effect in patients treated with cisplatin.

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. The number of new cases is increasing worldwide. There is a relatively high survival rate, with 95% surviving after 10 years—if detected in time and treated properly. However the standard chemotherapy includes cisplatin which has a wide range of long-term side effects, one of which can be nephrotoxicity.

“In testicular cancer patients, cisplatin-based chemotherapy is essential to ensure a high cure rate. Unfortunately, treatment can cause side effects, including renal impairment. However, we are not able to pinpoint who ends up having side effects and who does not,” says Jakob Lauritsen from Rigshospitalet.

Patient data is key to knowledge

The researchers therefore asked the question: How far can we go in predicting nephrotoxicity risk in these patients using machine learning? First, it required some patient data.

“Using a cohort of testicular-cancer patients from Denmark– in collaboration with Rigshospitalet, we developed a machine learning predictive model to tackle this problem,” says Sara Garcia, a researcher at DTU Health Technology, who, together with Jakob Lauritsen, are the first authors of an article published recently in JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

The high-quality of Danish patient records allowed the identification of key patients, and a technology partnership between DMAC and YouDoBio facilitated DNA collection from patients at their homes using postal delivered saliva kits. The project, originally funded by the Danish Cancer Society, saw the development of several analyses strategies of genomics and patient data, bringing forward the promise of artificial intelligence for integration of diverse data streams.

Best predictions for low-risk patients

A risk score for an individual to develop nephrotoxicity during chemotherapy was generated, and key genes likely at play were proposed. Patients were classified into high, low, and intermediate risk. For the high-risk, the model was able to correctly predict 67% of affected patients, while for the low-risk, the model correctly predicted 92% of the patients that did not develop nephrotoxicity.

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