Social and Behavioural
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For decades, linguists and psychologists have been trying to understand the fascinating ways in which humans communicate with each other in different real-world settings. Overall, spoken communication involves a mixture of words, facial expressions, and gestures. Dr Holly Keily, a researcher at the University at Buffalo, has recently carried out a study specifically exploring how speakers explain events to partners who will need to identify them, particularly focusing on their use of gestures.
Over recent decades, the use of digital technologies has increased exponentially worldwide, bringing significant changes to daily life. Like most societal transformations, this process of ‘digitalisation’ has had both positive and negative aspects. Dr Jens Allwood, Professor Emeritus at the University of Gothenburg, has recently published a paper exploring some of the darker elements of digitalisation, particularly focusing on its tendency to dehumanise our daily activities.
The broad dissemination of information online has made students more inclined to question what they are being taught in the classroom. Many educators are thus trying to adapt their teaching strategies to ensure that new generations successfully acquire new skills and learn new knowledge. Dr Brenton Fredericks, Head of the Communication Sciences Department at Central University of Technology in South Africa, recently developed a framework that could improve communication between educators and students in the classroom, promoting more constructive and effective learning.
Discovery of Neurotrophic Factor-α1 Reveals New Treatment Strategies for Stress-induced Neurodegenerative Diseases and Depression | Dr Y. Peng Loh
Stress produces numerous negative effects on the human body. Lying deep within the brain, one particularly sensitive area is the hippocampus, where chronic exposure to stress hormones can lead to the degeneration and death of neurons. Thankfully, the brain holds defence mechanisms that block some of these negative effects. Deciphering these mechanisms with the aim of better treating neurodegenerative diseases and depression is Dr Y. Peng Loh from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the USA.
Dr Pierre Galanaud, an immunologist from Paris-Saclay University and Inserm UMR 996, analysed historical tax records to investigate the impact of epidemics on recent emigrants who experienced the 15th century plagues in Dijon, France. His research highlights the vulnerability of emigrants with low economic status to epidemic-related mortality. More broadly, his work demonstrates the important role that migrants play in population growth and demographic recovery after an epidemic has taken place. These findings are of particular relevance given the current COVID-19 pandemic.
On the 26th of June 2015, the US Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriage across the USA, allowing same-sex couples to be legally recognised as married in all 50 states. In a study conducted one year later, Dr Kristina B. Wolff at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, explored some of the benefits and costs of this legalisation for LGBTQ+ communities living in the USA. She introduced a new framework, based on the work of economist Dr Amartya Sen and philosopher Dr Martha Nussbaum, that could encourage long-lasting positive social change.
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) communities have a long history of exclusion and underrepresentation of women, African American, Latinx, American Indian and LGBTQIA+ students. In order for our STEM enterprise to be truly equitable, everyone that wants to become a scientist must have an equitable opportunity to do so, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In the movement toward equity, the demographic diversity of the STEM workforce must mirror that of the general population. STEM workforce diversity can accelerate innovation in scientific disciplines, and, if coupled with systemic cultural equity, can also support a STEM enterprise where everyone can thrive. Dr Verónica A. Segarra, Interim Chair and Assistant Professor of Biology at High Point University, has been exploring how scientific societies could help their disciplines be more equitable. Her efforts have helped to establish numerous alliances and collaborations among societies and diversity-focused organisations, with the mission of building a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.
Music has the power to influence how we interpret the world around us. Dr. Alessandro Ansani from the Department of Psychology at Sapienza University of Rome believes this interpretation is multidimensional and involves several interconnected cognitive factors and mechanisms. He has recently demonstrated the significant impact that background music can have on our interpretation of a simple movie scene, by manipulating the soundtrack.
Conversational Prosodic Entrainment in Youths with Autism Spectrum Disorder | Dr Heike Lehnert-LeHouillier
Young people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often display unusual patterns of speech. Dr Heike Lehnert-LeHouillier and her colleagues from New Mexico State University in the USA, have undertaken one of the first studies to assess linguistic alignment, also known as entrainment, in the conversations of children and adolescents diagnosed with ASD. Their research concluded that when compared with a control group who were matched in terms of age, gender and non-verbal IQ, young people with ASD do show different entrainment levels across their conversations.
Dr. Robert Trestman, at the Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, has co-developed START NOW, a successful group psychotherapy intervention specifically targeting mental health issues in prisoners. It combines elements of cognitive behavioral therapy to form skills-based learning. Furthermore, START NOW is easily accessible, cost-effective, and designed for use in settings with limited resources. Due to its success within correctional institutions, START NOW is being adapted for use in fields such as adolescent conduct issues and opioid misuse.
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Young people are central to a country’s growth and development, as they bring fresh perspectives and innovation. However, the path towards gaining full inclusion in society can be arduous for many youths, particularly those from marginalised and disadvantaged backgrounds.
Humanity is facing many challenges, ranging from COVID-19 to climate change, and from natural resource depletion to social inequity. The Prince Mahidol Award Conference is an annual event held in Bangkok, where leaders and experts meet to discuss global challenges. This year, the theme was ‘The World We Want: Actions Towards a Sustainable, Fairer and Healthier Society’.
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