henry copeland @hc

having fun with people and pixels, via racery, pullquote, twiangulate, improv, running

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Comparisons of three practical field devices used to measure personal light exposures and activity levelsLighting Research & Technology - MG Figueiro, R Hamner, A Bierman, MS Rea, 2013

This paper documents the spectral and spatial performance characteristics of two new versions of the Daysimeter, devices developed and calibrated by the Lighting Research Center to measure and record personal circadian light exposure and activity levels, and compares them to those of the Actiwatch Spectrum. Photometric errors from the Daysimeters and the Actiwatch Spectrum were also determined for various types of light sources. The Daysimeters had better photometric performance than the Actiwatch Spectrum. To assess differences associated with measuring light and activity levels at different locations on the body, older adults wore four Daysimeters and an Actiwatch Spectrum for seven consecutive days. Wearing the Daysimeter or Actiwatch Spectrum on the wrist compromises accurate light measurements relative to locating a calibrated photosensor at the plane of the cornea.

Humans rely more on 'inferred' visual objects than 'real' ones -- ScienceDaily

To make sense of the world, humans and animals need to combine information from multiple sources. This is usually done according to how reliable each piece of information is. For example, to know when to cross the street, we usually rely more on what we see than what we hear -- but this can change on a foggy day. "In such situations with the blind spot, the brain 'fills in' the missing information from its surroundings, resulting in no apparent difference in what we see," says senior author Professor Peter König, from the University of Osnabrück's Institute of Cognitive Science. "While this fill-in is normally accurate enough, it is mostly unreliable because no actual information from the real world ever reaches the brain. We wanted to find out if we typically handle this filled-in information differently to real, direct sensory information, or whether we treat it as equal." To do this, König and his team asked study participants to choose between two striped visual images, both of which were displayed to them using shutter glasses. Each image was displayed either partially inside or completely outside the visual blind spot. Both were perceived as identical and 'continuous' due to the filling-in effect, and participants were asked to select the image they thought represented the real, continuous stimulus. "We thought people would either make their choice without preference, or with a preference towards the real stimulus, but exactly the opposite happened -- there was in fact a strong bias towards the filled-in stimulus inside the blind spot," says first author Benedikt Ehinger, researcher at the University of Osnabrück. "Additionally, in an explorative analysis of how long the participants took to make their choice, we saw that they were slightly quicker to choose this stimulus than the one outside the blind spot." So, why are subjects so keen on the blind-spot information when it is essentially the least reliable? The team's interpretation is that subjects compare the internal representation (or 'template') of a continuous stimulus against the incoming sensory input, resulting in an error signal which represents the mismatch. In the absence of real information, no deviation and therefore no error or a smaller signal occurs, ultimately leading to a higher credibility at the decision-making stage. This indicates that perceptual decision-making can rely more on inferred rather than real information, even when there is some knowledge about the reduced reliability of the inferred image available in the brain. "In other words, the implicit knowledge that a filled-in stimulus is less reliable than an external one does not seem to be taken into account for perceptual decision-making," Ehinger explains.

Effects of exercise with or without light exposure on sleep quality and hormone reponses

Cycling adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) gets released by the stimulus of adrenocortical hormones due to intake of coffee, tea, chocolate, or stress. Excessive cAMP release accelerates energy release to reach excitement condition that leads us to be nervous and unsettled. However, sunlight exposure decreases cAMP, leading to peaceful and settled conditions [53].

10x risk of death from non-skin cancer due to low sun exposure

Many studies have shown that cancer-related death rates decline as one moves toward the lower latitudes (between 37°N and 37°S), and that the levels of ambient UVR in different municipalities correlate inversely with cancer death rates there. “As you head from north to south, you may find perhaps two or three extra deaths [per hundred thousand people] from skin cancer,” says Vieth. “At the same time, though, you’ll find thirty or forty fewer deaths for the other major cancers. So when you estimate the number of deaths likely to be attributable to UV light or vitamin D, it does is not appear to be the best policy to advise people to simply keep out of the sun just to prevent skin cancer.”

Lower risk of high blood pressure with sunlight

exposed a group of hypertensive adults to a tanning bed that emitted full-spectrum UVR similar to summer sunlight. Another group of hypertensive adults was exposed to a tanning bed that emitted UVA-only radiation similar to winter sunlight. After three months, those who used the full-spectrum tanning bed had an average 180% increase in their 25(OH)D levels and an average 6 mm Hg decrease in their systolic and diastolic blood pressures, bringing them into the normal range. In constrast, the group that used the UVA-only tanning bed showed no change in either 25(OH)D or blood pressure.

Low vitamin D = 4-5X increase in risk of type 1 diabetes

A Swedish epidemiologic study published in the December 2006 issue of Diabetologia found that sufficient vitamin D status in early life was associated with a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Nonobese mice of a strain predisposed to develop type 1 diabetes showed an 80% reduced risk of developing the disease when they received a daily dietary dose of 1,25(OH)D, according to research published in the June 1994 issue of the same journal. And a Finnish study published 3 November 2001 in The Lancet showed that children who received 2,000 IU vitamin D per day from 1 year of age on had an 80% decreased risk of developing type 1 diabetes later in life, whereas children who were vitamin D deficient had a fourfold increased risk. Researchers are now seeking to understand how much UVR/vitamin D is needed to lower the risk of diabetes and whether this is a factor only in high-risk groups.

North of 37 degrees double MS risk

living at a latitude above 37° increased the risk of developing MS throughout life by greater than 100%.

Melanoma away from sun exposure

Moreover, although excessive sun exposure is an established risk factor for cutaneous malignant melanoma, continued high sun exposure was linked with increased survival rates in patients with early-stage melanoma in a study reported by Marianne Berwick, an epidemiology professor at the University of New Mexico, in the February 2005 Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Holick also points out that most melanomas occur on the least sun-exposed areas of the body, and occupational exposure to sunlight actually reduced melanoma risk in a study reported in the June 2003 Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

Lower rates of some cancers with vitamin D

Whereas skin cancer is associated with too much UVR exposure, other cancers could result from too little. Living at higher latitudes increases the risk of dying from Hodgkin lymphoma, as well as breast, ovarian, colon, pancreatic, prostate, and other cancers, as compared with living at lower latitudes. A randomized clinical trial by Joan Lappe, a medical professor at Creighton University, and colleagues, published in the June 2007 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirmed that taking 2–4 times the daily dietary reference intake of 200–600 IU vitamin D3 and calcium resulted in a 50–77% reduction in expected incidence rates of all cancers combined over a four-year period in post-menopausal women living in Nebraska.

Sun reduces TB

a meta-analysis published in the February 2008 International Journal of Epidemiology found that high vitamin D levels reduce the risk of active TB (i.e., TB showing clinical symptoms) by 32%.

White skin an evolutionary adaption for low sunlight in north latitudes?

In the July 2000 issue of the Journal of Human Evolution, California Academy of Sciences anthropologists Nina Jablonski and George Chaplin wrote that because dark skin requires about five to six times more solar exposure than pale skin for equivalent vitamin D photosynthesis, and because the intensity of UVB radiation declines with increasing latitude, one could surmise that skin lightening was an evolutionary adaptation that allowed for optimal survival in low-UVR climes, assuming a traditional diet and outdoor lifestyle.

Sleep, dopamine and memory

The study shows that increasing sleep, with either a sleep-promoting drug or by genetic stimulation of the neural sleep circuit, decreases signaling activity by dopamine, while at the same time enhancing memory retention. Conversely, increasing arousal stimulates dopamine signaling and accelerates forgetting. This signal activity isn’t constant but is tied directly to the animal’s arousal level. “Our findings add compelling evidence to support the model that sleep reduces the forgetting signal in the brain, thereby keeping memories intact,” Davis said. “As sleep progresses to deeper levels, dopamine neurons become less reactive to stimuli and this leads to more stable memories.

Smarter in the sun?

Besides suppressing melatonin and warding off any residual sleepiness, recent studies suggest that bright light acts as a stimulant to the brain. Gilles Vandewalle and colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium asked volunteers to perform various tasks in a brain scanner while exposing them to pulses of bright white light or no light. After exposure to white light, the brain was in a more active state in those areas that were involved in the task. Although they didn’t measure the volunteers’ test performances directly, if you are able to recruit a greater brain response, then your performance is likely to be better: you will be faster or more accurate, Vandewalle says.

Is the dark really making me sad? | Ars Technica

Since October 2015, Anna’s classroom has been fitted with ceiling lights that change in colour and intensity to simulate being outside on a bright day in springtime. Developed by a company called BrainLit, the ultimate goal is to create a system that is tailored to the individual, monitoring the type of light they’ve been exposed to through the course of a day and then adjusting the lights to optimise their health and productivity.

Is the dark really making me sad? | Ars Technica

the leading theory is the ‘phase-shift hypothesis’: the idea that shortened days cause the timing of our circadian rhythms to fall out of sync with the actual time of day, because of a delay in the release of melatonin. Levels of this hormone usually rise at night in response to darkness, helping us to feel sleepy, and are suppressed by the bright light of morning. “If someone’s biological clock is running slow and that melatonin rhythm hasn’t fallen, then their clock is telling them to keep on sleeping even though their alarm may be going off and life is demanding that they wake up,” says Kelly Rohan, a professor of psychology at the University of Vermont. Precisely why this should trigger feelings of depression is still unclear. One idea is that this tiredness could then have unhealthy knock-on effects. If you’re having negative thoughts about how tired you are, this could trigger a sad mood, loss of interest in food, and other symptoms that could cascade on top of that. However, recent insights into how birds and small mammals respond to changes in day length have prompted an alternative explanation. According to Daniel Kripke, an emeritus professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, when melatonin strikes a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, this alters the synthesis of another hormone—active thyroid hormone—that regulates all sorts of behaviours and bodily processes. When dawn comes later in the winter, the end of melatonin secretion drifts later, says Kripke. From animal studies, it appears that high melatonin levels just after the time an animal wakes up strongly suppress the making of active thyroid hormone—and lowering thyroid levels in the brain can cause changes in mood, appetite, and energy. For instance, thyroid hormone is known to influence serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Several studies have shown that levels of brain serotonin in humans are at their lowest in the winter and highest in the summer. In 2016, scientists in Canada discovered that people with severe SAD show greater seasonal changes in a protein that terminates the action of serotonin than others with no or less severe symptoms, suggesting that the condition and the neurotransmitter are linked.

Is the dark really making me sad? | Ars Technica

Seasonality is reported by approximately 10 to 20 percent of people with depression and 15 to 22 percent of those with bipolar disorder. “People often don’t realise that there is a continuum between the winter blues—which is a milder form of feeling down, [sleepier and less energetic]—and when this is combined with a major depression,” says Anna Wirz-Justice, an emeritus professor of psychiatric neurobiology at the Centre for Chronobiology in Basel, Switzerland. Even healthy people who have no seasonal problems seem to experience this low-amplitude change over the year, with worse mood and energy during autumn and winter and an improvement in spring and summer, she says.

Is the dark really making me sad? | Ars Technica

And in his Treatise on Insanity, published in 1806, the French physician Philippe Pinel noted a mental deterioration in some of his psychiatric patients “when the cold weather of December and January set in."

Diverse populations make rational collective decisions -- ScienceDaily

The team found that individual ants had different yet consistent preferences. Some of the ants were happy to feed on either of the two solutions. Picky ants refused to feed from either. A third "middle" group consistently chose the solution with a higher concentration. These varied choices demonstrated that individual ants had individual thresholds to the sucrose concentration and made yes/no binary decisions accordingly. The researchers then fed each colony again with the differing sucrose solutions and found that the majority of the ants in all six experimental colonies chose the 4.0% sucrose solution, without being influenced by other ants in the colony. The "collective" decision of the colony was thus for the more nourishing solution. "Importantly, neither ants with a low threshold and high threshold contributed to the collective decision making, since the former didn't care about the concentration and the latter refused both concentrations. Thus, the decision maker was the middle group which preferred the higher concentration," says Hasegawa. "The study demonstrates simple yes/no judgements by individuals can lead to a collective rational decision, without using quality-graded responses, when they have diverse thresholds in the population," he continued. This mechanism can be applied to various fields including brain science, behavioural science, swarm robotics and consensus decision-making in human societies, conclude the researchers.

Loneliness in young adults linked to poor sleep quality -- ScienceDaily

Loneliness is defined by researchers as a distressing feeling that people experience when they perceive their social relationships to be inadequate. This is distinct from the concept of social isolation, as people can be socially isolated without feeling lonely, or feel lonely despite being surrounded by many people. While the effect of being lonely is well documented among the elderly, it is a common problem for young people too -- the Mental Health Foundation reports that loneliness is most frequent between the ages of 18-34. Despite this, little is known about health problems that are associated with loneliness among young adults, or the impact on sleep.

Parents with bipolar benefit from self-help tool -- ScienceDaily

"This online parenting support programme combines self-management strategies for bipolar disorder. It looks at the impact of extremes of mood on parenting and how to maintain consistency in parenting." As this intervention requires very little professional support, it could be offered as a supplement to current services without significant additional investment.

Blind people have differentiated brain map for 'visual' observations too

"We found that blind individuals also use the map in the visual brain," Professor Hans Op de Beeck from the KU Leuven Laboratory of Biological Psychology explains. "Their visual brain responds in a different way to each category. This means that blind people, too, use this part of the brain to differentiate between categories, even though they've never had any visual input. And the layout of their map is largely the same as that of sighted people. This means that visual experience is not required to develop category selectivity in the visual brain."

Building a better 'bot': Artificial intelligence helps human groups -- ScienceDaily

In a series of experiments using teams of human players and robotic AI players, the inclusion of "bots" boosted the performance of human groups and the individual players, researchers found. The study appears in the May 18 edition of the journal Nature. "Much of the current conversation about artificial intelligence has to do with whether AI is a substitute for human beings. We believe the conversation should be about AI as a complement to human beings," said Nicholas Christakis, co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science (YINS) and senior author of the study. Christakis is a professor of sociology, ecology & evolutionary biology, biomedical engineering, and medicine at Yale. The study adds to a growing body of Yale research into the complex dynamics of human social networks and how those networks influence everything from economic inequality to group violence. In this case, Christakis and first author Hirokazu Shirado conducted an experiment involving an online game that required groups of people to coordinate their actions for a collective goal. The human players also interacted with anonymous bots that were programmed with three levels of behavioral randomness -- meaning the AI bots sometimes deliberately made mistakes. In addition, sometimes the bots were placed in different parts of the social network. More than 4,000 people participated in the experiment, which used a Yale-developed software called breadboard. "We mixed people and machines into one system, interacting on a level playing field," Shirado explained. "We wanted to ask, 'Can you program the bots in simple ways?' and does that help human performance?" The answer to both questions is yes, the researchers said. Not only did the inclusion of bots aid the overall performance of human players, it proved particularly beneficial when tasks became more difficult, the study found. The bots accelerated the median time for groups to solve problems by 55.6%. Furthermore, the researchers said, the experiment showed a cascade effect of improved performance by humans in the study. People whose performance improved when working with the bots subsequently influenced other human players to raise their game.

Even small quantities of opioids prescribed for minor injuries increase risk of long-term use -- ScienceDaily

patients who received their first opioid prescription for an ankle sprain treated in U.S. emergency departments (EDs) commonly received prescriptions for anywhere from 15 to 40 pills, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Those who received 30 or more pills compared to less than 15 pills were twice as likely to fill an additional opioid prescription within three to six months.

Witnessing Parental Psychological Abuse May Do More Harm Than Physical Abuse | Psych Central News

“When children were exposed to physical violence in the home as well as psychological domestic abuse, they were more likely to be happier with the social support they were able to access. Psychological domestic abuse when it occurred alone seems to be the most damaging, perhaps because people are unable to recognize and speak out about it,” she said.

Email From Erika Christakis: "Dressing Yourselves," email to Silliman College (Yale) Students on Halloween Costumes - FIRE

I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity – in your capacity – to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?

Inside Corey Lewandowski’s Failed Romp in Trump’s Swamp | GQ

[…]to the denizens of the swamp, Trump has provided an even more lucrative gift: chaos. "There's just so much uncertainty around Trump—both in terms of what he's going to do on any given day, but also who's up and who's down in the administration," explains Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee communications director and Washington wise man. "And the uncertainty has been very profitable for lobbying firms all over the city. Every company is doubling down on their D.C. help. They're trying to navigate a world that was always foreign to them and is now extremely foreign to them."