The development of social emotions such as compassion is crucial for successful social interactions as well as for the maintenance of mental and physical health, especially when confronted with distressing life events. Yet, the neural mechanisms supporting the training of these emotions are poorly understood. To study affective plasticity in healthy adults, we measured functional neural and subjective responses to witnessing the distress of others in a newly developed task (Socio-affective Video Task). Participants' initial empathic responses to the task were accompanied by negative affect and activations in the anterior insula and anterior medial cingulate cortex-a core neural network underlying empathy for pain. Whereas participants reacted with negative affect before training, compassion training increased positive affective experiences, even in response to witnessing others in distress. On the neural level, we observed that, compared with a memory control group, compassion training elicited activity in a neural network including the medial orbitofrontal cortex, putamen, pallidum, and ventral tegmental area-brain regions previously associated with positive affect and affiliation. Taken together, these findings suggest that the deliberate cultivation of compassion offers a new coping strategy that fosters positive affect even when confronted with the distress of others.
Highly prevalent conditions with multiple and complex underlying etiologies are a challenge to public health. Undernutrition, for example, affects 20% of children in the developing world. The cause and consequence of poor nutrition are multifaceted. Undernutrition has been associated with half of all deaths worldwide in children aged <5 years; in addition, its pernicious long-term effects in early childhood have been associated with cognitive and physical growth deficits across multiple generations and have been thought to suppress immunity to further infections and to reduce the efficacy of childhood vaccines. The Etiology, Risk Factors, and Interactions of Enteric Infections and Malnutrition and the Consequences for Child Health (MAL-ED) Study, led by the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, has been established at sites in 8 countries with historically high incidence of diarrheal disease and undernutrition. Central to the study is the hypothesis that enteropathogen infection contributes to undernutrition by causing intestinal inflammation and/or by altering intestinal barrier and absorptive function. It is further postulated that this leads to growth faltering and deficits in cognitive development. The effects of repeated enteric infection and undernutrition on the immune response to childhood vaccines is also being examined in the study. MAL-ED uses a prospective longitudinal design that offers a unique opportunity to directly address a complex system of exposures and health outcomes in the community-rather than the relatively rarer circumstances that lead to hospitalization-during the critical period of development of the first 2 years of life. Among the factors being evaluated are enteric infections (with or without diarrhea) and other illness indicators, micronutrient levels, diet, socioeconomic status, gut function, and the environment. MAL-ED aims to describe these factors, their interrelationships, and their overall impact on health outcomes in unprecedented detail, and to make individual, site-specific, and generalized recommendations regarding the nature and timing of possible interventions aimed at improving child health and development in these resource-poor settings.
In fish schools the density varies per location and often individuals are sorted according to familiarity and/or body size. High density is considered advantageous for protection against predators and this sorting is believed to be advantageous not only to avoid predators but also for finding food. In this paper, we list a number of mechanisms and we study, with the help of an individual-based model of schooling agents, which spatial patterns may result from them. In our model, schooling is regulated by the following rules: avoiding those that are close by, aligning to those at intermediate distances, and moving towards others further off. Regarding kinship/familiarity, we study patterns that come about when agents actively choose to be close to related agents (i.e., 'active sorting'). Regarding body size, we study what happens when agents merely differ in size but behave according to the usual schooling rules ('size difference model'), when agents choose to be close to those of similar size, and when small agents avoid larger ones ('risk avoidance'). Several spatial configurations result: during 'active sorting' familiar agents group together anywhere in the shoal, but agents of different size group concentrically, whereby the small agents occupy the center and the large ones the periphery ('size difference model' and 'active sorting'). If small agents avoid the risk of being close to large ones, however, small agents end up at the periphery and large ones occupy the center ('risk avoidance'). Spatial configurations are also influenced by the composition of the group, namely the percentage of agents of each type. Furthermore, schools are usually oblong and their density is always greatest near the front. We explain the way in which these patterns emerge and indicate how results of our model may guide the study of spatial patterns in real animals.
Multimorbidity, the coexistence of 2 or more chronic conditions, has become prevalent among older adults as mortality rates have declined and the population has aged. We examined population-based administrative claims data indicating specific health service delivery to nearly 31 million Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries for 15 prevalent chronic conditions. A total of 67% had multimorbidity, which increased with age, from 50% for persons under age 65 years to 62% for those aged 65-74 years and 81.5% for those aged >= 85 years. A systematic review identified 16 other prevalence studies conducted in community samples that included older adults, with median prevalence of 63% and a mode of 67%. Prevalence differences between studies are probably due to methodological biases; no studies were comparable. Key methodological issues arise from elements of the case definition, including type and number of chronic conditions included, ascertainment methods, and source population. Standardized methods for measuring multimorbidity are needed to enable public health surveillance and prevention. Multimorbidity is associated with elevated risk of death, disability, poor functional status, poor quality of life, and adverse drug events. Additional research is needed to develop an understanding of causal pathways and to further develop and test potential clinical and population interventions targeting multimorbidity.
We introduce SRISK to measure the systemic risk contribution of a financial firm. SRISK measures the capital shortfall of a firm conditional on a severe market decline, and is a function of its size, leverage and risk. We use the measure to study top financial institutions in the recent financial crisis. SRISK delivers useful rankings of systemic institutions at various stages of the crisis and identifies Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, and Lehman Brothers as top contributors as early as 2005-Q1. Moreover, aggregate SRISK provides early warning signals of distress in indicators of real activity.
Using a news-based index of policy uncertainty, we document a strong negative relationship between firm-level capital investment and the aggregate level of uncertainty associated with future policy and regulatory outcomes. More importantly, we find evidence that the relation between policy uncertainty and capital investment is not uniform in the cross-section, being significantly stronger for firms with a higher degree of investment irreversibility and for firms that are more dependent on government spending. Our results lend empirical support to the notion that policy uncertainty can depress corporate investment by inducing precautionary delays due to investment irreversibility.
Changes in cortical thickness over time have been related to intelligence, but whether changes in cortical surface area are related to general cognitive functioning is unknown. We therefore examined the relationship between intelligence quotient (IQ) and changes in cortical thickness and surface over time in 504 healthy subjects. At 10 years of age, more intelligent children have a slightly thinner cortex than children with a lower IQ. This relationship becomes more pronounced with increasing age: with higher IQ, a faster thinning of the cortex is found over time. In the more intelligent young adults, this relationship reverses so that by the age of 42 a thicker cortex is associated with higher intelligence. In contrast, cortical surface is larger in more intelligent children at the age of 10. The cortical surface is still expanding, reaching its maximum area during adolescence. With higher IQ, cortical expansion is completed at a younger age; and once completed, surface area decreases at a higher rate. These findings suggest that intelligence may be more related to the magnitude and timing of changes in brain structure during development than to brain structure per se, and that the cortex is never completed but shows continuing intelligence-dependent development.
Background. In April 2012, the Jordan Ministry of Health investigated an outbreak of lower respiratory illnesses at a hospital in Jordan; 2 fatal cases were retrospectively confirmed by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) to be the first detected cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV). Methods. Epidemiologic and clinical characteristics of selected potential cases were assessed through serum blood specimens, medical record reviews, and interviews with surviving outbreak members, household contacts, and healthcare personnel. Cases of MERS-CoV infection were identified using 3 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention serologic tests for detection of anti-MERS-CoV antibodies. Results. Specimens and interviews were obtained from 124 subjects. Seven previously unconfirmed individuals tested positive for anti-MERS-CoV antibodies by at least 2 of 3 serologic tests, in addition to 2 fatal cases identified by rRT-PCR. The case-fatality rate among the 9 total cases was 22%. Six subjects were healthcare workers at the outbreak hospital, yielding an attack rate of 10% among potentially exposed outbreak hospital personnel. There was no evidence of MERS-CoV transmission at 2 transfer hospitals having acceptable infection control practices. Conclusions. Novel serologic tests allowed for the detection of otherwise unrecognized cases of MERS-CoV infection among contacts in a Jordanian hospital-associated respiratory illness outbreak in April 2012, resulting in a total of 9 test-positive cases. Serologic results suggest that further spread of this outbreak to transfer hospitals did not occur. Most subjects had no major, underlying medical conditions; none were on hemodialysis. Our observed case-fatality rate was lower than has been reported from outbreaks elsewhere.
Monitoring and controlling 2 language systems is fundamental to language use in bilinguals. Here, we reveal in a combined functional (event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging) and structural neuroimaging (voxel-based morphometry) study that dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a structure tightly bound to domain-general executive control functions, is a common locus for language control and resolving nonverbal conflict. We also show an experience-dependent effect in the same region: Bilinguals use this structure more efficiently than monolinguals to monitor nonlinguistic cognitive conflicts. They adapted better to conflicting situations showing less ACC activity while outperforming monolinguals. Importantly, for bilinguals, brain activity in the ACC, as well as behavioral measures, also correlated positively with local gray matter volume. These results suggest that early learning and lifelong practice of 2 languages exert a strong impact upon human neocortical development. The bilingual brain adapts better to resolve cognitive conflicts in domain-general cognitive tasks.
Categorical models of emotions posit neurally and physiologically distinct human basic emotions. We tested this assumption by using multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA) to classify brain activity patterns of 6 basic emotions (disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, anger, and surprise) in 3 experiments. Emotions were induced with short movies or mental imagery during functional magnetic resonance imaging. MVPA accurately classified emotions induced by both methods, and the classification generalized from one induction condition to another and across individuals. Brain regions contributing most to the classification accuracy included medial and inferior lateral prefrontal cortices, frontal pole, precentral and postcentral gyri, precuneus, and posterior cingulate cortex. Thus, specific neural signatures across these regions hold representations of different emotional states in multimodal fashion, independently of how the emotions are induced. Similarity of subjective experiences between emotions was associated with similarity of neural patterns for the same emotions, suggesting a direct link between activity in these brain regions and the subjective emotional experience.