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  • richardmitnick 10:48 am on January 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Indiana University, ,   

    From Indiana University and Rutgers University: “Nearly imperceptible fluctuations in movement correspond to autism diagnoses, IU-led study finds” 

    Indiana U bloc

    Indiana University

    Rutgers University
    Rutgers University

    Jan. 17, 2018
    Kevin Fryling
    IU Communications
    Phone: 812-856-2988

    Study provides strongest evidence to date that movement is an accurate biomarker for neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

    A new study led by researchers at Indiana University and Rutgers University provides the strongest evidence yet that nearly imperceptible changes in how people move can be used to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism.

    IU Ph.D. student Di Wu directs a volunteer as she touches images on a screen using a device designed to track miniscule fluctuation in the arm’s movement. IU-led research suggest physical movement is an accurate method to diagnose neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism. Photo by James Brosher, IU Communications.

    The study’s results, reported Jan. 12 in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, suggest a more accurate method to diagnose autism. Current assessments depend on highly subjective criteria, such as a lack of eye movement or repetitive actions. There is no existing medical test for autism, such as a blood test or genetic screening.

    “We’ve found that every person has their own unique ‘movement DNA,'” said senior author Jorge V. José, the James H. Rudy Distinguished Professor of Physics in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Physics. “The use of movement as a ‘biomarker’ for autism could represent an important leap forward in detection and treatment of the disorder.”

    It’s estimated that 1 percent of the world’s population, including 3.5 million children and adults in the United States, are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, which is the country’s fastest-growing developmental disability.

    Unlike diseases diagnosed with medical tests, autism remains dependent upon symptoms whose detection may vary based upon factors such as the person conducting the assessment. The assessments are also difficult to administer to very young children, or to people with impairments such as lack of verbal skills, potentially preventing early interventions for these groups. Early intervention has been shown to play an important role in successful treatment of autism.

    “Our work is focused on applying novel data analytics to develop objective neurodevelopmental assessments for autism, as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders,” said Di Wu, an IU Ph.D. student and the lead author on the study. “We really need to narrow the gap between what physicians observe in patients in the clinic and what we’re learning about movement within the field of neuroscience.”

    To conduct the study, the researchers examined over 70 volunteers as they moved their arm to touch an object on a screen. The volunteers included 30 individuals previously diagnosed with autism, ages 7 to 30, including a girl with no verbal skills. The group also included 15 neurotypical adults, ages 19 to 31; six neurotypical children; and 20 neurotypical parents of volunteers with autism.

    After the assessment, each volunteer was assigned a “score” based on the level of hidden speed fluctuations in their movement. A lower score indicated a greater risk for autism, with numbers under a certain threshold corresponding to previous diagnosis of autism. The greater amount of fluctuation in the movement of the individuals with autism was possibly related to the level of “noise” naturally produced by random neuron firings in the brain, for which neurotypical individuals seem to develop stronger compensation methods.

    Eighteen of the 30 individuals in the study with autism were assessed at the IU School of Medicine before the experiment, using four standard psychiatric tests for autism. In each case, the movement-based diagnoses corresponded to these qualitative-based assessments, which are rarely in complete agreement.

    The volunteers who scored lower on the scale also exhibited more severe forms of autism. Currently there is no standard accepted quantitative metric to diagnose the disorder’s severity. Also, lower-than-average scores in several of the volunteers’ parents, who did not have an autism diagnosis themselves, suggested that movement could possibly be used to assess a neurotypical parent’s risk for children with autism, José said.

    The volunteers’ movements were captured using high-speed, high-resolution sensors to track fluctuations in movement invisible to the naked eye. The study also tracked changes in speed and position of the arm at every point in movement, as opposed to a single variable — the top movement of the arm’s velocity — examined in a previously published study from the team. The new motion data strengthens evidence for movement as a biomarker for autism.

    Next, the researchers aim to conduct movement assessments on more people, including more research on the parents of children with autism to better understand the connection between lower parental scores on the movement assessment and their children’s risk for autism.

    Dr. John I. Nurnberger Jr., the Joyce and Iver Small Professor of Psychiatry and director of the Institute of Psychiatric Research at the IU School of Medicine, provided access to volunteers with autism, as well as medical expertise, to the study. An additional major contributor to the study was Elizabeth Torres at Rutgers University.

    This study was supported in part by the National Science Foundation, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation and New Jersey Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism.

    See the full article here .

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    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national research university and the state’s preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to providing services, solutions, and clinical care that help individuals and the local, national, and global communities where they live.

    Founded in 1766, Rutgers teaches across the full educational spectrum: preschool to precollege; undergraduate to graduate; postdoctoral fellowships to residencies; and continuing education for professional and personal advancement.

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    Please give us back our original beautiful seal which the University stole away from us.
    As a ’67 graduate of University college, second in my class, I am proud to be a member of

    Alpha Sigma Lamda, National Honor Society of non-tradional students.

    Indiana U Campus

    Indiana University students get it all—the storybook experience of what college should be like, and the endless opportunities that come with it. Top-ranked academics. Awe-inspiring faculty. Dynamic campus life. International culture. Phenomenal music and arts events. The excitement of IU Hoosier sports. And a jaw-droppingly beautiful campus.

  • richardmitnick 6:57 am on August 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species”, Indiana University,   

    From Indiana U: “Expanding the theory of evolution” 2015 

    Indiana U bloc

    Indiana University

    August 5, 2015 [Just found this in RSS]
    No writer credit

    The concepts originally laid out in Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” in 1859 continue to serve as a major foundation for the modern theory of evolutionary biology.

    In recent decades, however, biologists in previously overlooked fields such as developmental biology and ecology have made discoveries that extend the basic principles upon which Darwin’s theory was founded.

    Yet many scientists — and science textbooks — regard these modifications merely as “proximate considerations,” not as core aspects of evolution. Indiana University Bloomington biologist Armin Moczek and a team of international collaborators want to change these assumptions.

    Armin Moczek. No image caption or credit.

    Their new approach, dubbed the “extended evolutionary synthesis,” appears in the Aug. 5 issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

    “Our long-term goal is to lay out an extended conceptual framework for evolutionary biology that delivers answers to questions that traditional methods have been unable to provide,” says Moczek, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Biology, who is an author on the paper.

    Other collaborators include distinguished scientists from the the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, Austria, Sweden and the United States. The work is the journal’s 2015 “Darwin Review,” an honorary name given each year to a single paper judged highly significantly by the journal’s editors.

    “It’s important that conceptual frameworks themselves evolve in response to new data, theories and methodologies,” said Moczek, an internationally known expert on the evolution and development of insects. “This isn’t always straightforward since habits of thought and practice can grow deeply entrenched.”

    In the paper, Moczek and others focus on several processes that, they argue, play critical roles in evolution but typically are not regarded as part of current evolutionary theory.

    The authors discuss the way an organism’s growth from egg to adult influences species’ evolution. The field of evolutionary developmental biology, or “evo-devo,” has found that highly different organisms — from sea urchins to insects and mammals — use the same “building blocks” to grow their bodies during development. This shared “toolbox” enables unrelated organisms to evolve strikingly similar structures over time — the independent evolution of eyes in insects and vertebrates, for example.

    These same building blocks may also be re-used in different ways. Moczek’s research, for example, shows that genes and developmental pathways that originally gave rise to legs and other appendages were later re-used to create beetles’ extravagant horn-like structures.

    Moczek and colleagues also argue that the role of “plasticity” — or the ability of many organisms to adjust their growth and development in response to environmental changes over their lifetime — has been overlooked in evolutionary theory. They cite growing evidence that novel traits prompted by the environment may be genetically fixed in subsequent generations.

    Lastly, the scientists say evolutionary theory should expand to consider how organisms systematically modify their own environment, such as building nests or burrows; change the atmosphere or soil; or create cultures. And they show that factors beyond genetic inheritance influence species across generations, including prenatal hormones, care after birth and learning.

    Traditional evolutionary biology emphasizes a single direction: Genes give rise to observable traits, such as its physical characteristics, biological processes or behaviors. The environment may favor certain traits but in the process remains external from the organism.

    “We’re arguing for a reciprocal model, one in which genes not only contribute to an organism’s observable traits, but also where an organisms’ own traits, behaviors and actions significantly impact the rate and direction of evolutionary change,” Moczek says.

    This shift in approach could also have an impact on fields related to biology, such as medicine, Moczek adds.

    The new conceptual framework could help advance research on how diseases — and their cures — may have roots in factors beyond genes, he says. A growing number of studies suggest autoimmune diseases may stem in part from a lack of “natural challenges” caused by widespread use of antibiotics, lack of parasites and even flush toilets, for example. Others show that controlled inoculation with helminths, a parasitic worm, can alleviate symptoms from asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis; or that non-obese diabetic mice prone to type 1 diabetes will not develop the disease upon infection with pig whipworms.

    “Collectively, these studies provide growing support that co-development with microbial or infectious agents may be key to healthy development,” Moczek says. “We may find the conditions that favor or discourage diseases actually arise from the environments we create through our actions.”

    Collaborators on the paper are Kevin Neville Laland of the University of St. Andrews, U.K.; Tobias Uller of the University of Oxford, U.K., and University of Lund, Sweden; Marcus W. Feldman of Stanford University; Kim Sterelny of Australian National University and University of New Zealand; Gerd B. Müller of the University of Vienna; Eva Jablonka of Tel Aviv University; and John Odling-Smee of the University of Oxford.

    See the full article here .

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    Indiana U Campus

    Indiana University students get it all—the storybook experience of what college should be like, and the endless opportunities that come with it. Top-ranked academics. Awe-inspiring faculty. Dynamic campus life. International culture. Phenomenal music and arts events. The excitement of IU Hoosier sports. And a jaw-droppingly beautiful campus.

  • richardmitnick 7:59 am on August 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Caty Pilachowski, , Indiana University, , , ,   

    From Science Node: Women in Stem -“A Hoosier’s view of the heavens” Caty Pilachowski 

    Science Node bloc
    Science Node

    24 Aug, 2017
    Tristan Fitzpatrick

    Caty Pilachowski

    Courtesy Emily Sterneman; Indiana University.

    “An eclipse violates our sense of what’s right.”

    So says Caty Pilachowski. Pilachowski, past president of the American Astronomical Society and now the Kirkwood Chair in Astronomy at Indiana University, has just returned from Hopkinsville, Kentucky where she observed the eclipse on the path of totality and watched the phenomena associated with a solar eclipse.

    “There are all kinds of effects that we can see during an eclipse,” says Pilachowski. “For example, we’re able to see the corona, which we can never see during the daytime without special equipment.”

    The surface of the sun, Pilachowski explains, has a temperature of roughly 5,780 kelvins (10,000º Fahrenheit). The thin gas that makes up the corona far above the sun, however, has a much hotter temperature— over a million degrees K.

    “That process of transporting energy into the highest atmosphere of the sun is not well understood,” she observes. “It’s the region just above the bright lower atmosphere of the sun that we’re best able to see during the eclipse, and that’s where the energy transport occurs.”

    Smile for the camera

    But the star in our own neighborhood isn’t the only one Pilachowski is keeping her eye on.

    When they’re not watching eclipses, Pilachowski and her colleagues at the IU Department of Astronomy use the One Degree Imager (ODI) on the WIYN 3.5M Observatory at Kitt Peak outside Tucson, Arizona.

    One Degree Imager (ODI) on the WIYN 3.5M Observatory

    NOAO WIYN 3.5 meter telescope at Kitt Peak, AZ, USA

    The ODI was designed to image one square degree of sky at a time (the full moon takes up about half a square degree). Each image produced with the ODI is potentially 1 – 2 gigabytes in size.

    Kitt Peak outside of Tucson, Arizona hosts the 3.5 meter WIYN telescope, the primary research telescope for IU astronomers. Courtesy IU Astronomy; UITS Advanced Visualization Laboratory.

    IU astronomers collect thousands of these images, creating huge datasets that need to be examined quickly for scholarly insight.

    “Datasets from the ODI are much larger than can be handled with methods astronomers previously used, such as a CD-ROM or a portable hard drive” says Arvind Gopu, manager of the Scalable Compute Archive team.

    This is where IU’s computationally rich resources are critically important.

    The ODI Portal, Pipeline, and Archive (ODI-PPA) leverages the Karst, Big Red II, and Carbonate supercomputers at IU to quickly process these large amounts of data for analysis.

    Karst supercomputer

    Big Red II supercomputer

    These HPC tools allow researchers to perform statistical analysis and source extraction from the original image data. With these resources, they can determine if they’ve located stars, galaxies, or other items of interest from the large slice of the universe they’ve been viewing.

    “The advantage of using ODI-PPA is that you don’t have to have a lot of supercomputing experience,” says Gopu. “The idea is for astronomers to do the astronomy, and for us at UITS Research Technologies to do the computer science for them.”

    This makes the workflow on the ODI much faster than for other optical instruments. When collecting images of the universe, some instruments run into the crowded field problem, where stars are so close to each other they blend together when imaged. Teasing them apart requires a lot of computational heft.

    Another advantage ODI-PPA offers is its user-friendly web portal that makes it easy for researchers to view out-of-this-world images on their own machines, without requiring multiple trips to Kitt Peak.

    “Without the portal, IU astronomers would be dead in the water,” Pilachowski admits. “Lots and lots of data, with no way to get the science done.”

    Out of the fire and into the frying pan

    Pilachowski is also a principal investigtor on the Blanco DECam Bulge Survey (BDBS). A three-year US National Science Foundation-funded project, BDBS uses the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) attached to the Blanco Telescope in Chile to map the bulge at the heart of the Milky Way.

    Dark Energy Survey

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL

    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam at an altitude of 7200 feet

    Like the yolk of a fried egg rising above egg whites in a frying pan, billions of stars orbit together to form a bulge that rises out of the galactic center.

    With the help of the DECam, Pilachowski can analyze populations of stars in the Milky Way’s bulge to study their properties.

    Astronomers use three different variables to catalog stars: How much hydrogen a star has, how much helium it has, and how much ‘metals’ it has (or, all the elements that aren’t hydrogen or helium).

    When the data from the survey is processed, Pilchowski can explore a large amount of information about stares in the Bulge, giving her clues about how the Milky Way’s central star system formed.

    “Most large astronomical catalogues are in the range of 500 million stars,” says Michael Young, astronomer and senior developer analyst at UITS Research Technologies. “When we’re done with this project, we should have a catalog of about a billion stars for researchers to use.”

    Journey of two eclipses

    As a child of the atomic age, Pilachowski grew up devouring books about the evolution of stars. She read as many books as she could about how they were formed, what stages they went through, and how they died.

    “That interest in stars has been a lifelong love for me,” Pilachowski says. “It’s neat to me that what I found exciting as a kid is what I get to spend my whole career studying.”

    She observed the last total solar eclipse in the continental US on February 26, 1979, an event she says further inspired her research in astronomy.

    “For me that eclipse was a combination of, ‘Wow, this is so amazing,’” Pilachowski recalls.

    “On the other hand, the observer in me saw cool things that were present, like planets that were visible right near the sun in the day time.”

    Regardless of whether scientists get closer to answering why the sun’s outer atmosphere is much hotter than its surface, Pilachowski says the eclipse has an eerie, unnerving effect on viewers.

    “We have this deep, ingrained understanding that the sun rises every morning and sets every evening,” says Pilachowski. “Things are as they’re supposed to be. An eclipse is something so rare and counter to our intuition that it just affects us deeply.”

    See the full article here .

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    Science Node is an international weekly online publication that covers distributed computing and the research it enables.

    “We report on all aspects of distributed computing technology, such as grids and clouds. We also regularly feature articles on distributed computing-enabled research in a large variety of disciplines, including physics, biology, sociology, earth sciences, archaeology, medicine, disaster management, crime, and art. (Note that we do not cover stories that are purely about commercial technology.)

    In its current incarnation, Science Node is also an online destination where you can host a profile and blog, and find and disseminate announcements and information about events, deadlines, and jobs. In the near future it will also be a place where you can network with colleagues.

    You can read Science Node via our homepage, RSS, or email. For the complete iSGTW experience, sign up for an account or log in with OpenID and manage your email subscription from your account preferences. If you do not wish to access the website’s features, you can just subscribe to the weekly email.”

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