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Researchers recruit study participants in the area around them — college towns. So those participants are usually whiter, richer and more educated than the U.S. population.
Enlarge this image Roy Scott/Ikon Images/Getty Images Brain imaging studies have a diversity problem.That's what researchers concluded after they re-analyzed data from a large study that used MRI to measure brain development in children from 3 to 18.Like most brain imaging studies of children, this one included a disproportionate number of kids who have highly educated parents with relatively high household incomes, the team reported Thursday in the journal Nature Communications.For example, parents of study participants were three times more likely than typical U.S. parents to hold an advanced degree. And participants' family incomes were much more likely to exceed $100,000 a year.So the researchers decided to see whether the results would be different if the sample represented the U.S. population, says Kaja LeWinn, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. "We were able to weight that data so it looked more like the U.S." in terms of race, income, education and other variables, she says.And when the researchers did that, the picture of "normal" brain development changed dramatically.For instance, when the sample reflected the U.S. population, children's brains reached several development milestones much earlier.One of these milestones involved the total surface of the brain's cortex, which plays a key role in in memory and thought. The unweighted data showed that this surface area continued to increase until after a child's 12th birthday. The weighted data showed a much earlier peak — before age 10.Unweighted data also showed several areas in the front and back of the brain developing at the same time. But the weighted data showed a different pattern. Areas toward the back of the brain, which do things like process visual information, developed first. Meanwhile areas toward the front of the brain, which are involved in thinking and judgment, developed later.This study doesn't look at what those differences might mean for children's emotional and intellectual development. The key point is rather that researchers should make sure that they're looking at a representative sample when they're defining "normal."The idea that the brain tends to develop earlier toward the back and later toward the front is "more consistent with our broader understanding of brain development," LeWinn says. And it is one reason many brain scientists argue that judgment and impulse control are not fully developed until people reach their 20s.The study is a reminder that the brains of children from different backgrounds can develop differently, LeWinn says. "The brain is really responsive to experience," she says. "That's something we need to pay attention to."The results also offer a reminder that brain imaging studies tend to attract an atypical group of people. Participants are likely to live near a major university, where the studies are usually conducted, LeWinn says. They are also "more likely to be white, more likely to be high income, more likely to have more education, and they may have different social networks," she says.One reason for these differences is that university-based studies tend to attract people who have ties to the school. "Many of the studies we use to understand how the brain works included mostly college students," she says.It's unrealistic to expect that every brain imaging study sample represents the full range of U.S. residents, Le Winn says. But even small studies should do a better job disclosing the characteristics of people being studied. And larger studies should consider weighting the results to more accurately represent the nation's population, she says.At least one big study is already trying to address the diversity issue.The federally funded Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study is in the process of enrolling 10,000 children ages 9 and 10. Researchers plan to track participants until they become adults using brain imaging as well as information about sleep, attention, substance use, physical activity and sports injuries.And to make sure the participants reflect the U.S. population, researchers are taking steps to enroll children of diverse races and ethnicities, education and income levels, and living environments.The team is doing that by recruiting students from carefully selected schools from 21 sites across the country. "Our ultimate goal is to recruit a sample that matches the U.S. population," says Emily Giron, the ABCD project's communications manager.Let's block ads! (Why?) [...]
Mon, Oct 16, 2017
Source: Headlines -NPR Category: TOP NEWS
Enlarge this image President Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House on Monday. Evan Vucci/AP hide captiontoggle caption Evan Vucci/AP Not much of significance has gotten through this Congress, despite the House, Senate and White House all being controlled by the same party — Republicans.President Trump says don't blame him."We're not getting the job done. And I'm not going to blame myself, I'll be honest," Trump said during short remarks in a Cabinet meeting.He then shifted away from "we" to "they.""They're not getting the job done," the president said of Congress.It's a continued attempt by Trump to draw a line between himself and Republicans in Congress. It's something that has irritated Republicans, who feel the president hasn't shown the rigor to understand the details of legislation in order to adequately sell it.Trump was asked about his former chief strategist Steve Bannon's efforts to put up primary challenges to establishment Republicans in Congress. Trump said he understands it and seemed supportive."And I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from," Trump said, "and I can understand, to be honest with you ... I can understand where a lot of people are coming from, because I'm not happy about it. And a lot of people aren't happy about it."Over the weekend, Bannon let loose on congressional Republicans, particularly Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell."Up on Capitol Hill, it's like the Ides of March," Bannon told the Values Voter Summit. "They're just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar. We've cut your oxygen off, Mitch."One of Bannon's requirements to back a candidate would be that they vote against McConnell as GOP leader."It's not my war," Bannon added, "this is our war, and y'all didn't start it, the establishment started it. ... Right now, it's a season of war against a GOP establishment."Steven Law, president of the McConnell-aligned superPAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, told NPR Monday that he's not concerned about Bannon's threats."I think this is somebody who talks big, but at the end of the day, I just don't see it there," Law told David Greene on NPR's Morning Edition. "The only thing that's a concern for us is that we are going to have to divert some resources that we'd otherwise spend beating Democrats to make sure that we don't nominate candidates who would lose general elections the way they did in 2010 and 2012 before we got involved."In those two cycles, five tea party challengers won Republican primaries and went on to lose to Democrats in general elections. In 2014, McConnell vowed to crush insurgent primary challengers — and did so. But in the age of Trump, the outsiders hope to be newly ascendant."At the end of the day," Law said, "I think our problem right now is not a Steve Bannon problem, it's a product problem."The man whose face would be on the label of that product is the president. But Trump has tried to insulate his brand by taking credit for executive actions while attempting to separate himself from congressional failures.And Trump did not wavBannon off — even when given a second chance to do so."There are some Republicans frankly that should be ashamed of themselves," Trump said.He added that "most of them" are "really really great people. ... So I can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels."All of it essentially boils down to Trump giving a wink and nod to Bannon to keep doing what he's doing.As usual with Trump, it's a warning shot: you're either with him or against him. And if you're against me, it means war.Let's block ads! (Why?) [...]
Mon, Oct 16, 2017
Source: Headlines -NPR Category: TOP NEWS
Enlarge this image Catalan regional President Carles Puigdemont attends a ceremony commemorating the 77th anniversary of the death of Catalan leader Lluis Companys at the Montjuic Cemetery in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday. Manu Fernandez/AP hide captiontoggle caption Manu Fernandez/AP Catalan President Charles Puigdemont is expected Monday to clarify a declaration of independence for the semi-autonomous region, a move that could trigger Spain to impose direct rule.Last week, following an Oct. 1 referendum that went for Catalonia to break away from Spain, Puigdemont declared independence for the region of 7.5 million people. However, he quickly withdrew the declaration, calling instead for talks with Madrid on the region's future.Even so, Puigdemont and other Catalan lawmakers signed a document declaring a Catalan republic "as an independent and sovereign state."The declaration angered Spanish authorities, who had called the referendum illegal and tried to stop it.In response to Puigdemont's declaration, Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave the leader until 10 a.m. Monday to clarify. If he meant independence, Rajoy said, then Madrid would suspend Catalonia's autonomy and impose direct rule.Madrid has asked for an unambiguous "Yes" or "No" from Puigdemont. If he says "No" or ignores the deadline, it would trigger a clause in the Spanish constitution allowing Madrid to strip Catalonia of its autonomy."The pressure building on Puigdemont is absolutely enormous," Angel Talavera, an analyst at Oxford Economics in London, tells Bloomberg. "Anything that looks at all non-committal is going to make the government act" against his regional government.As NPR's Lauren Frayer wrote on Friday, the answer "has huge implications for what the Spanish government does next and how the country's relatively young democracy — indeed, possibly even the whole European Union — might stay intact."The government of Catalonia says 90 percent cast a "yes" ballot on the independence referendum, but most people who opposed breaking away from Spain boycotted the vote. Opinion on the issue is reportedly nearly evenly split and turnout for the referendum was just 43 percent.Puigdemont, who came to power in January 2016 in a narrow win for pro-independence parties, faces a dilemma. If he proclaims independence, he risks losing Catalonia's autonomy but if he backs down, the far-left Catalan party, the CUP, is likely to withdraw support for his government, causing it to collapse.On Sunday, Puigdemont seemed to suggest that he was leaning toward standing by the independence declaration, saying his decision would be inspired by democracy.If he insists on a formal break, The Local Spain reports that Madrid would invoke "the never-used Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which allows Spain's central government to take over the powers of a regional government that is acting against the national interest, to block an independence declaration."Let's block ads! (Why?) [...]
Mon, Oct 16, 2017
Source: Headlines -NPR Category: TOP NEWS