December 31, 2007

Test to Assess Concussion

The NewsHour reported on Nov. 26, 2007 about a test that measures cognitive impairment after concussion, and is more accurate than the more common "how do you feel" assessments that are done before sending athletes back onto the field following concussion.

Betty Ann Bowser reports on "ImPACT, which stands for immediate post-concussion assessment and cognitive testing, a sophisticated computer program that measures function in all four lobes of the brain. It is the first diagnostic tool developed that can map out how a concussion has caused impairment." She interviews Mickey Collins, neuropsychologist and assistant director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who says that ImPACT "... looks at one's ability to remember information. It looks at one's reaction time. It looks at one's ability to multitask, to do two things at once. It looks at one's ability to really maintain attention and concentration." He also comments:

You can't manage concussion with a cookbook. The minute I hear a clinician say, "You've had a concussion, sit one week out, and you'll be fine," is the minute I realize the clinician has no idea what they're talking about.
One of my favorite Giants, Antonio Pierce, was diagnosed with concussion following a recent game. He played again the next week, but ... was he really ok to play? Here's more about it, according to the Canadian Press (Nov. 15):

"Antonio Pierce vowed to play for the New York Giants against the Detroit Lions despite nagging 'little headaches' from a concussion suffered last weekend.

" 'If I ain't totally broke and I can play and run, I should be out there, and I think I will be,' Pierce said Thursday after missing his second straight day of practice for Sunday's game in Detroit."
[article no longer available online]
I can't find any mention of it since then, and he's played all games, so I guess he's ok ... but after hearing more about concussion from the NewsHour, and knowing what happens to many retired NFL folks ... I worry.

Wayne Chrebet, terrific (retired) receiver for the Jets retired because of postconcussion syndrome two years ago. The Times reported on Dec. 22 that "Mr. Chrebet, 34, has recently acknowledged he has bouts of depression and memory problems so severe that he cannot make the routine drive from his New Jersey home to his Long Island restaurant without a global-positioning system." They refer to an interview with Chrebet published in the Star Ledger in early September:
"Six documented concussions - in all probability, he suffered twice as many in his career - forced Chrebet, the sure-handed and fearless wide receiver, into retirement after the 2005 season. Today, the migraines and darkness still stalk him, sneaking up from behind like a cheap-shotting cornerback."
I'd like to see more care taken to diagnose concussion on the field and more caution when sending folks back in to play. Moral question: should I stop watching football because it's so potentially dangerous to the players' brains? [sigh]

For More Information

December 18, 2007

Gratitude is Good for You

It turns out that gratitude is good for you. Robert Emmons is one of the fathers of the study of gratitude in psychology, and I've seen his name around the blogosphere a lot lately. I decided to investigate.

Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research
Emmons & Michael McCullough's 2003 article "Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-being in Daily Life" illustrates some of the effects of gratitude on well-being, exercise, and sleep. The studies suggest that a daily, long-term commitment to thinking about things for which one is grateful result in " ... substantial and consistent improvements in people’s assessments of ... global well-being." (p. 385)

The article describes three studies. The first showed that undergraduates who were randomly assigned to focus on gratitude ("generosity of friends" & "the Rolling Stones") were generally happier, exercised more, and slept more than those who were randomly asked to focus on "hassles" ("messy kitchen" & "stupid people driving"). This 9-week study was the longest of the three and had the most significant health effects with respect to sleep & exercise. However, subjects only kept track of their gratitude or hassle-o-meter only on a weekly basis.

The second study also focused on randomly-assigned undergraduates who kept a daily record of their gratitude or hassles. This study was in effect for 13 days and gratitude subjects "...experienced higher levels of positive affect during the 13-day period" (p. 383) but had no significant difference in any health measures. The third study assessed adults suffering from chronic disease for three weeks rather than two; subjects were randomly asked to keep a record of daily gratitude and their overall well-being or just a daily record of their overall well-being. Subjects' spouses or significant others were also asked to keep a log of the subjects' overall well-being.

The third study showed that folks in the "gratitude manipulation" group showed an increase in positive affect and a reduction in negative affect, and that "gratitude intervention" improved the amount and quality of subjects' sleep. More significantly, the spouses and significant others agreed with the grateful subjects' self-assessment and rated them "... as higher in positive affect." Other than sleep, however, there were no other health effects seen; this is likely because the study lasted only 3 weeks and not 9 as in Study 1.

Emmons and McCullough caution that the long-lasting and long-term effects of "gratitude manipulation" and "gratitude intervention" are unclear. And of course, there are lots of suggestions for future research. But hey, what can it hurt to practice gratitude manipulation?

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December 17, 2007

New in Health Communication

Saw a few interesting tidbits on health communication recently & thought they might be interesting:

Anti-drinking Campaign Ads May Be 'Catastrophically Misconceived': ScienceDaily reports on a British study that shows "Some anti-drinking advertising campaigns may be 'catastrophically misconceived' because they play on the entertaining 'drinking stories' that young people use to mark their social identity, say researchers who have just completed a three year study of the subject."

Instead of turning young adults off of drinking by portraying "...drunken incidents, such as being thrown out of a nightclub, being carried home or passing out in a doorway ... young people [see them] as being a typical story of a 'fun' night out, rather than as a cautionary tale."
(thanks to Bora for the link)


Roma Harris & Nadine Wathen interviewed 40 women living in a "highly agricultural rural county in southwestern Ontario" about how they locate health information and published the results in the October 2007 issue of Reference & User Services Quarterly.

Excerpts from the article abstract:

" ... Most of the women in the study undertake considerable health-related information gate-keeping for themselves and on behalf of family members and others in their personal networks. They seek and assess information from a wide variety of sources, some of which they locate via the Internet, and they balance what they learn against their experiences with the formal health system. The women's accounts focused repeatedly on the quality of their relationship with those to whom they turn for assistance, although the actual roles of helpers, whether physicians, friends, librarians, or staff in health food stores, often appeared to be incidental. Instead, helpers' perceived effectiveness seemed to depend largely on how well they express care when information is exchanged. Several women also reported that they had diagnosed and even treated themselves, sometimes on the basis of information gathered from the Internet. ..."

The library was occasionally cited as a resource, but mostly for the Internet access; however there were some serious concerns about the rural library:
  1. Some women felt that the library wouldn't have current health books
  2. Some women felt that the library wasn't worth going to because the books would have to be returned
  3. Some women would not ask a library staffer for help due to concerns about confidentiality, since they live in such a small community. Presumably they don't want the librarian knowing their business.
So. Two very different and mildly disturbing reports about communicating health information. (See also my October post Seniors & Medical Information, summarizing a JASIS&T article on the topic)

For More Information
  • Anti-drinking Campaign Ads May Be 'Catastrophically Misconceived'. ScienceDaily (Dec. 14, 2007).
  • Harris, Roma and Nadine Wathen. "If My Mother Was Alive I'd Probably Have Called Her." Reference & User Services Quarterly, Fall2007, Vol. 47 Issue 1, p67-79. May be available from RUSQ web site; definitely available from EBSCO's "Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts" or @ your library.

December 14, 2007

Using Social Software in Libraries

Just heard a great talk by Meredith Farkas called Building Academic Library 2.0. Meredith did a terrific job of talking about technology in a way that tech librarians would appreciate and that non-techies would understand. The talk was presented to academic librarians, but her tech explanations are also useful to anyone interested in social software like blogs, wikis, flickr, and podcasts to interact with patrons or students.

Two non-tech recommendations that I especially liked:
  • Let go of "the culture of perfect" -- if we wait for our web site, chat software, OPAC to be the elusive perfect, it'll never happen and we'll get left behind. (the "culture of perfect" is Meredith's idea, the "we’ll be left behind" is mine).
  • Nurture talent. Meredith mentions a Library Journal Mover & Shaker who recently left academia; Meredith exhorted the audience to support innovators, and find ways of keeping people who do cool stuff. I agree with that, and I raise her one: we librarians who are dong cool stuff should active support each other. I think we do that already, but I want to keep it more of a priority for myself to support my friends and colleagues who are fighting the good fight.

(Meredith's talk starts around minute 13)

If you want to know more about using social software in libraries, in the classroom, or anywhere else, this is a good talk, and Meredith also has a book on the topic. Yay!

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December 12, 2007

OCLC's Jay Jordan @ UConn

Yesterday, the University of Connecticut Libraries Forum Team sponsored a conversation with Jay Jordan, president and CEO of OCLC. He was dynamic, engaging, smart, and thoughtful.

Some data from Jordan on OCLC itself:
Over 60,000 libraries in 112 countries are using various OCLC services. 91 million records, 1.4 billion holdings, 72 million books and "a lot" of article-level metadata. They are adding Japanese e-book content and millions of non-US "files", from Sweden, Bavaria, and New Zealand, among others.

Some of the OCLC materials and programs discussed:
  • Many interesting (and free!) OCLC Reports available, including 2007's Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World and 2005's Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources
  • -- search WorldCat holdings online for free. See some of the libraries that own items (primarily books) by typing in your zip code.
    • Right now, you can only see holdings of libraries that pay to have their holdings displayed in "free" WorldCat; this financial arrangement is understandable from OCLC's perspective, but it is a shame that ALL library holdings don't display in I raised this point and was heartened to hear that Jordan understands it.
    • They've recently added the option to create your own lists in See one of the lists I've created for newly-added books at UConn in Communication Sciences
    • Jordan reported some interesting data on referrals from Google and other "partner sites" to
      • 130 million referrals from "partner sites" to Open WorldCat
      • 7.6 million click-throughs from OpenWorldCat to library services (i.e., individual libraries whose holdings are in "free" WorldCat)
  • WorldCat Delivery Pilot: "OCLC is testing a new service that will facilitate requests for library materials across disparate library system platforms and will interact with different circulation systems. The service will also test the optional delivery of requested library items directly to users at their homes or offices."
    • They are testing this with 12 libraries in Montana, and I love this quote from one of its users: "like netflix but for books."

  • WorldCat Local Pilot: This is a way of using WorldCat as an individual library's OPAC. See it in action at the University of Washington. UW's holdings display first, then their consoritial library's holdings, then WorldCat / ILL holdings.

December 11, 2007

Neuroplasticity on PBS

A recent Mind Hacks post alerted me to the upcoming PBS series Brain Fitness Program, to be shown as part of the December 2007 pledge drive. From the PBS Press Release: "Dr. [Michael] Merzenich, of the University of California San Francisco, has been leading the effort to design the scientifically based set of brain exercises that are demonstrated in this program."

Alvaro, at the blog Sharp Brains, reports on this as well, and suggests that there will be a video available as part of the pledge drive, available for a $120 donation to PBS. I'm a member of PBS; I'm hoping the show will be available as a podcast as well.

(see the trailer from YouTube)

The PBS press release describes Merzenich's work:

"Dr. Michael Merzenich and his colleagues worked together to create a system for strengthening the brain and making it perform with more agility, speed and comprehension. The Brain Fitness Program is based on neuro-plasticity — the ability of the brain to change, adapt and even rewire itself. The brain remains highly malleable or 'plastic' throughout life, and by presenting the brain with the proper stimuli, scientists can drive beneficial physical and functional change. In the past two years, this global team of scientists has developed computer-based stimulus sets (or 'exercises') that drive beneficial changes in the brain. This methodology is being expanded to address auditory and visual processing and memory, dealing with complexity and the neurological basis for difficulties in hand movement, posture, balance and mobility."

For those in my tv viewing area, this will be shown on the afternoon of December 15, or you can check your local listings.

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December 09, 2007

Football & Math

It's unusual, but not impossible, that two of my favorite things come together. And technically, math isn't one of my favorite things, but football is, and when one of "my" players wants to be a high school math teacher when he's done playing for the Giants, well, that's close enough to cognitive science for me.

All this to introduce a cute story in Saturday's New York Times about backup linebacker Chase Blackburn, who is trying to figure out "whether the team’s assistant athletic trainer, John Johnson, had used enough athletic tape in his 50-year career with the Giants to circle the earth." He knows
"... the circumference of the earth [and] how long Johnson had been wrapping body parts. [He and his teammates] could guess how many players he wrapped each day and each season.

"They did not know how many feet of tape each roll contained."
Bummer. But Blackburn is "finishing a math degree from the University of Akron, where he played football, by taking courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. He hopes to complete a master’s degree, too, and he says he would like to teach high school math when his football career ends."

I love football, and I love science, and I love when football players like, er, math. Go Giants!

For More Info
Branch, John. Giants' Blackburn May Get Chance to Solve the Eagles. New York Times, Dec. 8, 2007.

December 05, 2007

Images Online

I saw two great lists of free online images, both published in November. Thought I'd blog them here so I don't forget them ...
Check out both the text of the blog posts as well as the comments.

My three favorite sites for images for PowerPoint presentations are ...
  • Google images
  • Flickr (there are some great shots here which nicely illustrate various points about reference that I like to make; see all images tagged library)
  • stock.xchng "free stock photography." What I like about these is that you can enter a term like "change" and find relevant results. Ain't tagging grand?!

December 04, 2007

Feline Diabetes & Diet

please also read my May 2008 post More About Feline Diabetes & Diet

ScienceDaily reports on a new study from Robert Backus, a University of Missouri-Columbia veterinarian which "...suggests that weight gain, not the type of diet, is more important when trying to prevent diabetes in cats."

When my cat Boomer was diagnosed with diabetes, my vet suggested putting him on a low-carb / low-kibble diet because kibbles are full of carbs which convert to sugar (insulin) more easily than the relatively higher protein content in canned food. Backus' research "... compared a colony of cats in California raised on dry food with a colony of cats in New Zealand raised on canned food. After comparing glucose-tolerance tests, which measures blood samples and indicates how fast glucose is being cleared from the blood after eating, researchers found no significant difference between a dry food diet and a wet food diet."

Instead, Backus' research "... suggests that weight gain, not the type of diet, is more important when trying to prevent diabetes in cats."

The findings were presented at the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Conference in April. I'm curious to see the paper, too.

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December 02, 2007

Library & Information Science Blog Posts

So I got an iPod Touch a few weeks ago, and it's swell. I love having the Internet anywhere in the house or at work, and this makes it much easier to keep up with blogs. Yay! Google Reader has a terrific mobile interface, which makes the blog posts easy to read. Say what you will about Google taking over the world, but they sure know what works for people. I wish libraries were more like Google in that respect. But I digress.

Anyway, I've had more time to browse / read blogs, both cognitive science and library science. Yay! I've seen things I want to blog. I star the items I want to blog and go back to them later, investigate, and write a blog post. I've also seen items I want to share with my LIS students. But that's not what this blog is for, and I can't take on another blog.

Google to the rescue! I can also "share" items:

Nifty! And because Google owns Blogger / Blogspot, I can easily embed the recently starred posts on the right navigation bar of this blog. If you have a Google Reader account, you can subscribe to my shared items and easily see the new posts.