Posts tagged with "Study Finds"

Is niacin bad for you? Too much of this common B vitamin could trigger heart problems

April 25, 2024

A common B vitamin might actually be harmful for your health. Researchers at Cleveland Clinic have made a significant breakthrough in understanding how high levels of niacin (vitamin B3) could lead to cardiovascular diseases, reports Study Finds.

The study identifies a new pathway through which excessive dietary niacin contributes to heart disease, challenging previous beliefs about the vitamin’s health benefits.

Niacin is prevalent in the Western diet and has been widely fortified in foods such as flour, cereals, and oats for decades to prevent nutritional deficiencies. However, this new research indicates that overconsumption of niacin can lead to elevated levels of a metabolite known as 4PY, which is now linked to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events.

Foods that are rich in niacin include red meat, poultry, fish, brown rice, fortified cereals and breads, nuts and seeds, beans and peas, and bananas.

The study’s findings are based on a combination of large-scale clinical studies and preclinical experiments. Researchers discovered that high circulating levels of 4PY are strongly associated with the development of cardiovascular diseases, primarily through its role in triggering vascular inflammation. This inflammation can damage blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by stiff, hardened arteries.

“What’s exciting about these results is that this pathway appears to be a previously unrecognized yet significant contributor to the development of cardiovascular disease,” says study lead author Dr. Stanley Hazen, Chair of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute and Co-Section Head of Preventive Cardiology in the Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute, in a media release. “What’s more, we can measure it, meaning there is potential for diagnostic testing. These insights set the stage for developing new approaches to counteract the effects of this pathway.”

Researchers also delved into genetic links between 4PY and vascular inflammation—offering a foundation for future studies aimed at reducing or preventing this inflammation. The work opens the door to developing new approaches to counteract the effects of the 4PY pathway, potentially revolutionizing how we view niacin’s role in our diet and its implications for heart health.

Despite niacin’s long-standing recommendation for lowering cholesterol, the study suggests a reevaluation of niacin fortification in food and the use of niacin supplements.

“The main takeaway is not that we should cut out our entire intake of niacin—that’s not a realistic approach,” notes Dr. Hazen. “Given these findings, a discussion over whether a continued mandate of flour and cereal fortification with niacin in the United States could be warranted.”

The study’s broader implications include a potential rethinking of dietary guidelines and fortification practices, especially in the United States, where niacin fortification has been mandated for over fifty years.

The study has been published in the journal, Nature Medicine.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Hardest-working cities in America: Who puts in the longest hours?

March 4, 2024

According to a recent study conducted by WalletHub, the average U.S. worker logs 1,811 hours on the job per yearsignificantly outpacing their counterparts in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Germany.

This dedication to the grind is especially pronounced in certain U.S. cities, as the study identifies through a comparison of 116 large cities across 11 key metrics, including employment rates and average weekly work hours, reports Study Finds.

Washington, DC, emerges as the nation’s hardest-working city—notable not only for its long work hours but also for the high percentage of workers (64%) who leave some of their vacation time unused. The capital’s residents also commit to lengthy commutes and active participation in volunteer work—adding layers to their already packed schedules.

Coming in second is Irving, Texas, where residents have a much lower amount of down time compared to people in most cities. The city also ranks ninth in the United States in terms of the average number of hours worked per week.

Third on the list is Cheyenne, Wyoming, where residents put in the third-most hours of work per week. People living in Cheyenne also have the third-lowest amount of leisure time, on average.

Rounding out the top five are Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Anchorage, Alaska.

Interestingly, Texas has nine cities that rank in the top 20—including Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi, Plano, Fort Worth, Arlington, Laredo, and Garland.

Compared to the United Kingdom and Germany, Americans put in 279 more hours and 470 more hours of work, respectively. One of the major reasons why is because of the lack of federal laws mandating paid leave in the United States and a pervasive fear of being perceived as a slacker.

“Some have referred to this as America’s culture of presenteeism. A smaller percentage of American workers than those in Europe have union representation and union workers are more likely to have better pay and benefits than their non-union counterparts,” explains Michael Yelnosky, a professor at Roger Williams University.

He adds, “We are also a country that celebrates consumerism and the acquisition of wealth. Our brand of capitalism is much more individualistic and laissez-faire than European versions. Many American workers do not think the long hours are worth it.”

The question of whether longer hours lead to higher productivity is up for debate. Americans usually associate an employee’s value with the amount of time he or she works. However, research does not support the idea that long, unbroken work hours enhance productivity. Instead, they may lead to stress, burnout, and a host of other negative outcomes for both employees and employers.

“Long work hours mean time away from family, which may not be beneficial for the family, and may create issues that spill over into broader society,” says Ann Hodges, program chair of paralegal studies at the University of Richmond.

In terms of policies to improve American workers’ quality of life, experts suggest reforms such as updating overtime protections and enacting laws that offer predictable schedules and prevent “clopening” shifts, where an employee closes the business at night but has to come back in the morning to open.

“Today, employers frequently avoid paying overtime by classifying their workers as exempt salaried employees. Companies are more likely to assign longer hours to workers who cannot earn this wage bonus,” notes Keith Cunningham-Parmeter, a professor at Lewis & Clark Law School. “Currently, the law allows employers to deny overtime to workers who make roughly $35,000 per year, if they meet certain other requirements. The Department of Labor has recently proposed changing this minimum to about $55,000. That is a step in the right direction.”

As for the opposite end of the list, a few surprising cities have fallen from the ranks of the hardest-working places in America. Forever known as “the city that never sleeps,” New York ranked 99th out of 116 cities on WalletHub’s survey. Last year, the Big Apple also ranked last on WalletHub’s survey of the best places to start a career.

The motor city of Detroit, famous for its car-making past, ranked second-to-last on the 2024 list of hard-working cities. Of the cities surveyed, only Burlington, Vermont finished lower.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Low-cost urine test soon may save dogs from cancer

March 1, 2024

Cancer is a major concern for dog owners, especially as their furry companions get older. Nearly half of all dogs over the age of ten are likely to develop some form of cancer, making early detection key to keeping our pets disease-free into their senior years. With that in mind, researchers have unveiled a simple urine test that may soon give pet owners and vets a non-invasive way of testing for the disease before it’s too late, reports Study Finds.

A team from Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine says that, until now, detecting cancer in dogs primarily relied on three blood tests that search for tumors or cancer proteins. These tests, however, are invasive, expensive, and can take time to produce results. The innovative urine test developed by the research team offers a rapid, cost-effective alternative.

At the heart of this advancement is a technique known as Raman spectroscopy. By analyzing urine samples, researchers discovered that dogs with cancer exhibit a unique molecular “fingerprint” in their urine, distinct from healthy dogs.

“If a new patient comes into the clinic and provides a urine sample, we can

compare it against our database of urine scans to determine if the sample more closely matches a cancer fingerprint or a healthy fingerprint,” says Ryan Senger, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, in a university release. “With the research that we have done so far, we were more than 90% accurate at being able to tell if a new sample had cancer fingerprint or a healthy fingerprint.”

Currently, blood tests for cancer in dogs only offer about 60% accuracy, take time, and leave dog owners with huge medical bills. This urine-based screening not only provides quicker results but also opens the door for at-home testing in the future.

“Owners could go from paying for expensive testing every few months, to having a urine screening done once every few months, depending on the dog’s risk for cancer, if they wanted to,” adds Nikolaos Dervisis, an associate professor of oncology at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “This screening would allow veterinarians to decide if further comprehensive testing is needed based on the results.”

Beyond early detection, the research team is also looking at the broader applications for their work. They aim to use the screening tool to assess how dogs respond to cancer therapy, monitor the recurrence of tumors, and even extend the technology to other animals and potentially human health studies.

“We could potentially measure responses to medicine and chemotherapy in dogs already undergoing treatment, then monitor those dogs to see how they’re doing. Can we differentiate the kind of diseases we screen for? Which patients are responding to drugs and why? We’re currently working to collaborate with other institutions to further explore how all these factors can be beneficial,” notes John Robertson, a research professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics.

While hope is on the horizon for dog owners everywhere, the team cautions that this new test is still in the research phase and is currently only available through specific medical studies called clinical trials with limited access. The Virginia Tech team believes this cancer test is likely “several years away from public availability.”

The findings are published in the journal, Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Study: Ginseng could change your workout forever

Febraury 26, 2024

A popular nutritional supplement enhances athletic recovery and performance, a new study finds. The research, conducted by Spanish academics, has found that ginseng not only aids in the body’s recovery after exercising, but also boosts performance and reduces the risk of injuries, reports Study Finds.

Ginseng is a slow-growing perennial plant with fleshy roots, belonging to the genus Panax in the family, Araliaceae. There are several varieties of ginseng, with the most commonly known types being Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)—each having different uses and effects.

The active compounds within ginseng act on the central nervous system, combat oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and regulate cortisol levels. This regulation is essential for metabolic functions and maintaining a healthy immune system.

“We’ve found that ginseng can play a significant role … when it comes to recovering after exercise,” says study author Borja Muñoz, a fitness coach at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) in Barcelona.

the guidance of Patricia Martínez, a dietician, nutritionist, and course instructor at UOC, the team highlighted ginseng’s direct impact on diminishing fatigue and facilitating muscle recovery after playing sports.

The analysis concluded that regular consumption of ginseng significantly reduces post-exercise muscle damage in healthy adults. It aids in muscle regeneration, mitigates muscle fatigue, and addresses exercise-induced muscle damage through its unique properties.

One notable finding was ginseng’s ability to decrease levels of biological markers like creatine kinase (CK) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which are indicative of muscle damage and inflammation. Additionally, ginseng helps reduce the accumulation of lactate in the blood, a common cause of muscle fatigue during intense physical exertion.

“When taken together with a balanced diet, ginseng can provide additional nutrition for athletes or anyone else who does physical exercise on a regular basis,” explains Muñoz. “It’s also worth noting that, unless it’s medically contraindicated in any given case, taking ginseng on a regular basis is considered beneficial (or at least not harmful) for healthy people.”

The inception of this study was sparked by Muñoz’s observations during his tenure as a fitness coach and injury specialist with a football club in China, where ginseng is a staple in traditional Chinese medicine. Soccer players reported notable benefits from ginseng consumption, likening its effects to those of an energy drink.

This pioneering research opens the door for further investigation into ginseng’s potential in sports performance and injury prevention. Researchers advocate for the development of a scheduled consumption protocol to maximize ginseng’s benefits.

“There’s still a significant amount of work to do, as ginseng has potential to increase athletes’ physical performance and help prevent certain injuries, particularly muscle injuries,” concludes Muñoz.

The study is published in the journal, Nutrients.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Paranormal mystery: Tesla driving through ‘Conjuring’ graveyard senses people walking

February 12, 2024

Are there real ghosts walking around in a famous graveyard in Rhode Island? According to the sensors in one man’s Tesla, the answer may be an eerie yes! In a bizarre event shared on TikTok, the driver’s Tesla sensors purportedly detected what appeared to be several “people” walking around his car. The problem is he and his passengers were driving through an empty cemetery, reports Study Finds.

For those who believe in ghosts, you may be excited to learn that this potentially paranormal shocker took place on the road along a cemetery near the Arnold Estate, the real-life inspiration for the 2013 movie “The Conjuring.” As the unnamed driver of the Tesla passed this graveyard, the images of people walking appeared on the motion sensor display.

In the video on TikTok, a group of people driving in the car stops to stare at the terrifying sight unfolding on the pedestrian sensor screen, you can hear them react in shock as more and more “ghosts” appear in the graveyard!

At one point, it even looks as if the ghosts are surrounding the Tesla, which spooks the riders even more. The video does show someone standing in front of a grave as they pull in, and the driver says his cousin and a friend were outside and eventually got in the car. That certainly would indicate an instance of the sensors picking up a person, but as the number of individuals grows and they appear to be in multiple places, the travelers are left laughing in confusion.

The unnamed driver, who claims to be a Tesla employee, adds that this isn’t some funny prank built into the car’s software by Tesla founder Elon Musk.

“[I can] confirm this is not an Easter egg Elon added as I’ve tried this many times. It’s not just picking up the gravestones, as even if it was they would show as stationary on the screen,” the driver said, according to a report by SWNS.

So, what was the car picking up on its screen? It might help first to understand how the sensors on a Tesla work. These sensors are calibrated to detect objects and people in typical driving environments. A graveyard, with its unique layout and objects, might present atypical conditions that the car’s system isn’t optimized to handle—leading to unusual readings on the sensor system.

Tesla’s pedestrian detection recently underwent a major transition. Prior to 2022, the system used a combination of sensors and software. This combined:

  • Radar: Radar sensors emit radio waves that bounce off objects and return to the sensor, providing information about the object’s distance and speed. However, radar waves can penetrate some materials but not others, and they’re generally not capable of detecting objects buried underground.
  • Cameras: Tesla vehicles use multiple cameras to provide a 360-degree view around the car. The cameras feed visual information to the car’s computer system, which uses image recognition algorithms to identify objects like cars, pedestrians, and road signs.
  • Ultrasonic sensors: These are used primarily for close-range detection and are especially useful for parking assistance. They use sound waves to detect objects around the vehicle. Like radar, these waves are not designed to penetrate the ground significantly.
  • Autopilot and full self-driving (FSD) software:This software analyzes the combined data from the sensors to identify pedestrians, predict their movements, and take potential actions such as braking or issuing warnings.

Since 2022, most Tesla models (Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X) have transitioned to Tesla Vision, a system that relies solely on cameras and vision-based software. This approach uses a sophisticated “occupancy network,” which analyzes camera footage to identify and differentiate objects—including pedestrians—with high accuracy.

It’s highly unlikely that the sensors were detecting bodies underground. More plausible explanations could include:

  • False positives from the sensor system: The car’s sensors, particularly the cameras, might be misinterpreting tombstones, trees, or other structures as people. This can happen due to the shapes, sizes, or even reflective properties of these objects.
  • Software glitches: The algorithms processing the sensor data might misinterpret what the sensors are picking up—especially in unusual environments like a graveyard.
  • Environmental factors: Things like shadows, lighting conditions, or weather might affect how the sensors perceive their surroundings.

While it’s unclear which type of Tesla this was, it’s clear that the high-tech car sees “something” in one of the creepiest places in the United States.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

What are the least intelligent dog breeds? Here are the top seven loveable airheads.

January 21, 2024

Not all dog breeds are blessed with great intellect. Some pups, bless their furry hearts, are more “party hard” than “ponder deeply.” Indeed, the dogs on the list below of “least-intelligent breeds” may not remember where they left their squeaky toys, but they are equally as loveable to have by your side as any other pups, reports Study Finds.

How were the ‘dumbest’ dogs discerned by Study Finds? The researchers contacted ten expert sources for their opinions. Their seven top choices are described below:

1.  Afghan Hounds, those silky stunners with flowing locks, wear their hearts on their fluffy sleeves (and everywhere else fur permits). While not known for their puzzle-solving prowess, they bathe their humans in boundless affection and goofy grins—proving love doesn’t need an IQ test.

The EditWorld Animal Foundation notes, “In fact, Afghans are often considered the dumbest dog when it comes to ‘obedience intelligence’ or its ability to learn new commands from humans. During testing, researchers determined that it took them repeating new commands an average of 80 times before the Afghan Hound caught on.”

However, Dogster raves that— despite the common misconceptions—Afghan Hounds are merely independent. “Afghans are sighthounds, which means they were bred to hunt using their extraordinary speed and eyesight. Like many sighthounds, Afghans can be aloof; which means they can be a little standoffish and reserved, especially with strangers,” they say.

2. Basset Hounds, with their droopy eyes and soulful sighs, are champions of snuggles and masters of melting hearts. Although not known for mental acuity, their floppy ears and silly smiles make them experts at stealing treats and winning over anyone with a soft spot for furry goofballs.

Hepper Blog says, “Basset Hounds are scent hounds who are strongly guided by their noses. If they pick up an intriguing scent, they will follow it, regardless of what else they are doing. This means that a Basset will generally ignore commands if they smell something good. They are also quite sedentary and would prefer to move as little as possible, and they are notorious for being difficult to train because it takes a lot of repetitions for them to learn a new command.”

PetGuide.com agrees that instinct in Basset Hounds is strong: “In fairness, all scent hounds are a slave to their noses. They are so in tune with what they’re busily sniffing out that trying to get their attention to teach them anything is close to impossible. While this boy is a gentle and amazing family pet, he does have a rather large learning curve when it comes to housebreaking and all that sit, stay, give-a-paw stuff.”

 3. Basenjis, despite their adorable yodel and playful antics, aren’t known for their intellectual prowess. Independent and curious, they often have their own agenda, which may not always align with ours—earning them their “lovable moron” reputation.

Oodlelife comments, “Not as popular in the United States, Basenji is a hunting dog that originated from Africa. Basenjis are best described as quiet dogs. People who rarely talk, for whatever reason, are often labeled and assumed to be ‘dumb.’ This is the same reason why Basenjis are tagged as one of the most dim-witted dogs in the canine world.”

The World Animal Foundation says that the Basenji’s stubborn dedication to hunting instinct can come across as being stupid but refutes this stance: “The Basenji is another on the top list of dumbest dog breeds bred for hunting, as evidenced by its penchant for taking off after prey, no matter what it’s doing at the time. The drive to catch the smaller animals—typically cats, squirrels, chipmunks, and the like—is so innate that it will disregard any other commands while in pursuit. In this respect, it’s super smart.”

4. Bulldogs: While “dumb” isn’t an accurate descriptor, some adore bulldogs’ playfully stubborn streaks and comical drool-fest moments, finding their goofiness endearing and distinctly bulldog-ish. Their goofy quirks and laid-back charm often stand in stark contrast to more high-energy breeds—offering a comforting, low-maintenance companionship many find delightful.

Terribly Terrier claims, “Looks can be deceiving, but in this case they’re pretty much spot-on. These (literally) thick-headed dogs really are as dumb as they look. That doesn’t stop people from loving the breed, though. In fact, it’s part of the charm.”

5. Chow Chows’ fluffy lion mane, wrinkled teddy bear face, and perpetual blue tongue create an irresistible paradox: regal goofballs who seem lost in perpetual daydreams; melting hearts with their cuddly aloofness and perpetually surprised expressions.

Terrier Center explains, “A lot of the dumbest dogs are fun-loving and happy-go-lucky, but not the Chow Chow. These deeply suspicious guard dogs are downright intimidating—mostly because you have no idea what’s going on in their heads.”

Oodlelife states that they prefer to overlook any questions of intellect in favor of uniquely good looks. “When it comes to Chow Chows, talking about their level of intelligence is sometimes beyond discussion. They are dogs who look like lions and have blue-black tongues. Anyone will be happy to disregard their IQ and focus on their adorable and unique physical appearance. What else can you ask for?”

6. Borzois’ regal elegance hides a mischievous streak: Their long, slender faces morph into comical expressions as they swipe treats or zoom off with socks. This playful contrast between graceful beautyand sneaky antics tickles human funny bones and warms hearts.

According to Dogster, “Yet another sighthound, the Borzoi is an independent freethinker. This breed can also be stubborn—training a Borzoi is an exercise in patience. Borzois seem to do best with frequent, short training sessions rather than hour-long classes. In the house, they are generally very well-mannered, calm, clean and quite affectionate, especially with their special people.”

The World Animal Foundation says that, with this breed, we have a case of willfulness rather than lack of smarts: “The Borzoi kind of resembles an Afghan Hound in that it’s tall with long flowing fur and known for its graceful, gentle nature. Like its Afghan counterpart, it’s a sighthound, which means it exhibits the same traits—this is one of the independent breeds and is very stubborn. Training the Borzoi requires a lot of patience because of those two traits. For this reason, it ranks low on the intelligence scale.”

The Borzoi craves a capable handler. “Where most dogs are driven only to please their families, the borzoi is not as driven and forces its owner to work hard to train them. Once a dog owner has proven to this breed that they are capable of strong leadership, they are always rewarded with companionship and loyalty,” notes Canine Journal.

7. Pekingese are lovable loaves baked with fluffy fur and stubborn charm. Their flat faces, waddling walks, and snorting snores melt hearts like butter. Snuggle up to their squishy rolls and forget fancy tricks. These cuddly companions offer warmth, devotion, and a symphony of snorts as their contribution to world knowledge.

Hepper Blog says, “The Pekingese was bred as a companion dog and was primarily bred for the Chinese Tang Dynasty. Unfortunately, the breed still believes itself to be part of the elite. As such, it can be very difficult to convince a Pekingese that it should follow orders. It will expect to be pampered and it has a strong stubborn streak so no amount of convincing and cajoling will work.”

Dogster adds that these affectionate dogs need training early and with consistency. “Can you blame the Peke for enjoying the easy life? Pekingese are also stubborn and difficult to housebreak. This doesn’t make them dumb, but it does make for some training challenges. Start training early and be consistent.”

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Doctors place little value on patients’ perspectives, jarring survey shows

January 8, 2024

It can be a difficult chore to advocate for yourself in the doctor’s office—especially when what you have to say doesn’t carry the weight that it probably should. According to a new study, many doctors place minimal importance on patients’ perspectives during diagnosis—a practice that may need reassessment, reports Study Finds.

The research—conducted by a team from the University of Cambridge and King’s College London—examines how clinicians value different types of evidence when making diagnoses. Surprisingly, only 4% of the doctors surveyed considered patients’ self-assessments as one of the top three valuable sources of evidence, out of 13 types.

Additionally, the study uncovered a gender bias in diagnosis. Female patients were more frequently told that mental factors, such as stress, were causing or worsening their symptoms. Moreover, male clinicians were more likely to suggest that patients were exaggerating their symptoms.

A patient interviewed for the study expressed that feeling disbelieved and disregarded by their doctor created a “very unsafe environment.” This sentiment underscores the need for medical professionals to evolve beyond the outdated “paternalistic” mindset of “doctor knows best” and to start valuing patients’ views.

The study involved over a thousand doctors and patients and focused on neuropsychiatric lupus as an example. It’s a challenging disease to diagnose—and the research assessed how clinicians weigh 13 different types of evidence, including brain scans, observations from family and friends, and patients’ self-assessments. Nearly half of the patients reported that their doctors seldom asked for their disease assessments, although some patients had positive experiences with doctors valuing their opinions.

Most doctors rated their assessments as the highest, despite admitting uncertainty in diagnosing symptoms like headaches, hallucinations, and depression. These “neuropsychiatric” symptoms, often misdiagnosed, can lead to lower quality of life and earlier death.

The study highlights one patient’s experience of feeling “degraded and dehumanized” by their doctor’s disbelief. The patient emphasized the danger of disregarding patients’ expertise on their own bodies.

Prior research shows that a doctor listens to a patient’s concerns for just 11 seconds before cutting them off. The same study also found that only 33% of doctors give their patients adequate time to speak during a visit.

The study also notes that personal characteristics, like ethnicity and gender, sometimes influence diagnoses. Female patients, for instance, were often told their symptoms were psychosomatic.

While some medical professionals—especially nurses and psychiatrists—highly value patient opinions, the study suggests a broader need for a shift in approach.

The authors acknowledge that patients might sometimes misinterpret their “No human being is always going to be able to accurately pinpoint the cause of symptoms, and patients and clinicians can both get this wrong,” concludes Dr. Tom Pollak, a senior author of the study. “But combining and valuing both views, especially when the diagnostic tests aren’t advanced enough to always detect these diseases, may reduce misdiagnoses and improve clinician and patient relationships, which in turn leads to more trust and more openness in symptom reporting.”

The findings are published in the journal Rheumatology.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

New finding: Smarter dogs, with shorter heads, process the world just like humans

December 21, 2023

Do dogs see the world in the same way as humans? For some, the answer is yes! New research reveals that “smarter” canines process information similarly to people, reports Study Finds.

Researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, studied how dogs interpret gestures—particularly, pointing—compared to human toddlers.

The phenomenon under investigation is known as “spatial bias,” which is the tendency to interpret information in relation to space, location, or distance, even when the same information could apply to an object. In simple terms, it’s about how dogs and children react when someone points to the position of an object.

While children quickly understand that the gesture points to the object, itself; dogs tend to view it as a directional cue—indicating a specific direction in which to move. This distinction has been observed in dogs through various behavioral tests, but this study takes a deeper dive into the phenomenon.

“This is manifested, for example, in the way dogs and children react to gestures when we show them the position of an object,” says study first author Ivaylo Iotchev in a university release. “Very early on, children interpret the gesture as pointing to the object, while dogs take the pointing as a directional cue. In other words, regardless of the intention of the person giving the cue, the meaning for children and dogs is different. This phenomenon has previously been observed in dogs using a variety of behavioral tests, ranging from simple associative learning to imitation, but it had never been studied per se.”

The study aimed to clarify whether this difference in interpretation was due to dogs having inferior vision compared to primates or if it was related to information processing bias—meaning that spatial parameters were more significant to dogs than the objects themselves.

To explore this, researchers conducted behavioral tests involving 82 dogs. In one task, dogs had to learn whether a treat was consistently placed on either the right or left plate, essentially learning a location. In another task, two types of plates were used—one white and round; and the other, black and square. These plates were always placed in the middle, and the dogs received only one type to eat from but were exposed to both in a semi-random sequence. In this scenario, they were learning about the properties of the plates.

The study found that dogs learned faster when the treat’s location was on the right or left, indicating a preference for spatial cues over object features.

To investigate whether spatial bias was sensory, cognitive, or a combination of both, researchers measured the dogs’ visual acuity by examining the shape of their heads and assessed their problem-solving skills through a series of cognitive tests.

Dogs with shorter heads, known as brachycephalic breeds, were found to have human-like vision characteristics, indicating sharper and more focused vision. Additionally, dogs with better cognitive performance were more adept at linking information to objects as readily as to places.

“We tested their memory, attention skills and perseverance. We found that dogs with better cognitive performance in the more difficult spatial bias task linked information to objects as easily as to places,” explains Eniko Kubinyi, head of the MTA- ’Lendület’ Momentum Companion Animal Research Group.

The study reveals that spatial bias in dogs is not merely a sensory issue but is also influenced by cognitive factors. It highlights the differences in how dogs and humans process information and emphasizes the importance of considering these factors in understanding canine behavior. The study also suggests that “smarter” dogs can overcome their biases in challenging learning situations—indicating the complexity of canine cognition.

The study is published in the journal, Ethology.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

Study: The love of nature originates in your genes

December 12, 2023

Is our love of nature ingrained in our DNA or shaped by our childhood experiences? Scientists in Gothenburg, Sweden, have discovered that it’s a combination of both—with your preference for green spaces actually depending on the genes you inherited from your mom and dad. This has significant implications for how we design our urban spaces, reports Study Finds.

The rejuvenating effects of nature are well-documented, especially in urban settings. City trees and green patches have consistently been shown to enhance the well-being of residents.

So, why do we, as humans, gravitate towards nature? This innate affinity is called biophilia. Yet, the exact reasons for biophilia remain a subject of debate among experts.

Diving into this debate, researchers analyzed numerous studies focusing on both genetic factors and early life experiences. Their findings highlight that while some people innately possess a stronger connection to nature due to genetics, childhood experiences also play a pivotal role.

“We have been able to establish that many people have an unconscious positive experience of nature,” says Bengt Gunnarsson, professor emeritus of Environmental Science at the University of Gothenburg, in a university release.

“But the biophilia hypothesis should be modified to link the variation in individuals’ relationships with nature to an interaction between heredity and environmental influence.”

It’s also crucial to acknowledge that nature doesn’t elicit uniform reactions. For instance, a Japanese study showed that while walking in a forest triggered positive emotions in 65% of participants, it implies that not everyone had a similarly positive reaction. Another study underscored that those with nature-rich childhoods exhibited stronger leanings towards natural environments over urban ones.

Further shedding light on the matter, Gunnarsson mentions a twin study revealing genetic factors influencing one’s affinity or aversion to nature. However, upbringing and environment also had a considerable impact on their sentiments towards nature.

Nature isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Some relish manicured parks, while others yearn for the raw wilderness. This diversity in preference is molded by both genetics and personal experiences.

“So it’s important that we don’t standardize nature when planning greenery in our towns and cities,” notes study co-author Marcus Hedblom, a researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. “We shouldn’t replace wild greenery with a park and assume that it will be good for everyone.”

Gunnarsson underscored the importance of future research in discerning the intricate interplay between genetics and environment in shaping one’s bond with nature.

“There are probably quite a large number of people who do not have such positive feelings towards nature, partly due to hereditary factors,” concludes Gunnarsson.

“Future studies that dig deeper into the interactions between hereditary and environmental factors are essential if we are to understand what shapes individuals’ relationships with nature. But we have to remember that we are all different and take that into account when planning for different natural areas in towns and cities. Let people find their own favorite green spaces!”

The study is published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

New tool can diagnose Type 2 diabetes using just ten seconds of your voice

October 24, 2023

A new type of artificial intelligence (AI) requires only 6-10 seconds of a voice clip to diagnose Type 2 diabetes—offering a potential breakthrough in screening for the disease, reports Study Finds.

This novel diagnostic method, which has been labeled a “potential game changer,” enables individuals to screen themselves for the disease by simply uttering a few sentences into their smartphones.

The study merges voice technology with artificial intelligence. Developed by Klick Labs in Toronto, the test has an accuracy rate of 89% for women and 86% for men. The technology uses between six and ten seconds of voice recording; and basic health data, such as age, gender, height, and weight. This information feeds into an AI model designed to determine if an individual has Type 2 diabetes.

For the study, 267 participants, identified as either non-diabetic or Type 2 diabetic, were instructed to record a specific phrase on their smartphones six times a day over a span of two weeks. From the amassed 18,000+ recordings, scientists examined 14 distinct acoustic attributes to discern differences between the two groups.

The findings, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Digital Health,

delve deep into vocal characteristics—identifying subtle changes in pitch and intensity that are imperceptible to the human ear. Through advanced signal processing, the researchers could pinpoint vocal alterations caused by Type 2 diabetes, noting that these changes differed between men and women.

“Our research highlights significant vocal variations between individuals with and without Type 2 diabetes and could transform how the medical community screens for diabetes,” says Klick scientist Jaycee Kaufman, the paper’s lead author. “Current methods of detection can require a lot of time, travel, and cost. Voice technology has the potential to remove these barriers entirely.”

Globally, nearly half of the 480 million adults with diabetes are unaware of their condition. Furthermore, approximately 90 percent of all diabetic cases are Type 2.

“Our research underscores the tremendous potential of voice technology in identifying Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions,” says Yan Fossat, VP of Klick Labs and the study’s principal investigator. “Voice technology could revolutionize healthcare practices as an accessible and affordable digital screening tool.”

He further notes its potential applications, including tests for high blood pressure, prediabetes, and various women’s health issues.

Research contact: @StudyFinds