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1. Happy Halloween Ephemera

This marks the first year my daughter (now three) actually cared what her Halloween costume was.  She wanted to be a princess.  I brought home The Paper Bag Princess in response.  No worries.  She won’t be wearing a paper bag or anything.  I just wanted to combat the princess notion any which way.  And now – links!

  • Almost exactly a year ago I attended the Society of Illustrators show where some of the best picture book art of the year was on display.  At that time the show was honoring the late great artist Barbara Cooney (she of Miss Rumphius fame, amongst other things).  Her son, Barnaby Porter, was on hand to talk about her and in the course of his talk he explained what exactly she would do on Halloween.  I’ve remembered it ever since and figured some of you Cooney fans out there might get a kick of Rocco Staino’s recording of Barnaby’s memories.

  • Fair play to Brooklyn Public Library, by the way.  They take the cake when it comes to faux hauntings.  At NYPL we haven’t a single named ghost in the system.  I mean, we all know that the Ottendorfer branch is the haunted one, but I’d love a name to go along with all the mysterious goings on.
  • 19585 1 229x300 Happy Halloween EphemeraThe other day Adam Rex tweeted the following: “Game I play every October: try to discover a children’s character with a commercially available costume but NO sexy version of said costume.”  Challenge accepted!  Except . . . dang it.  It’s not as easy as it sounds.  Not Amelia Bedelia.  Not Curious George (really, people?).  Not the aforementioned Paper Bag Princess (though those get really quite creative).  In the end, it turned out that Clifford the Big Red Dog was the only safe one left.  The same, I suspect, cannot be said for his companion Emily Elizabeth.
  • Finally, today is the day when the children’s book publishers all across this great nation doff their craziest book-related costumes.  If you want a taste of what that feels like, here‘s last years costuming kookiness.  Fun Extra: If you look at the Raven Boys crew, my husband’s the raven on the far right.  True story.

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2. A Kashmiri “Hamlet” Becomes Bollywood’s Most Praised, And Most Attacked, Movie Of The Year

kashmiri hamlet

Haider, an adaptation of the Shakespeare play set amid the bloody 1990s conflict in Kashmir, has won rapturous praise from Indian cinephiles and film critics – and has enraged Hindu nationalists, who accuse the movie of glorifying terrorists and justifying ethnic cleansing. (Hmm, where have we heard that sort of thing before?)

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3. Celebrate our COMPULSION for Halloween!

If there is one thing the staff here at Adventures in Young Adult Publishing loves as much as Halloween, it is our fearless leader and head spooker, Martina Boone. We couldn't think of anything better to celebrate this boo-tastic day than by sharing our love of Martina's new release COMPULSION. Her luscious and atmospheric Southern Gothic YA will most definitely put you in a spooky frame of mind.

So join us as we each share our love of Martina and our fascination with her Compulsion.

From Lisa Gail Green:

Halloween is my favorite holiday. It’s a pretty big deal at my house. I love anything and *almost* everything spooky. It’s also no secret that I absolutely LOVE Martina’s book, COMPULSION. I mean it when I say it’s one of my favorite books ever. Heck, if I could dress like Barrie for Halloween I would! I can’t because I’d never survive the heels. But I digress.

I love the gothic feel of the book, the characters, the paranormal powers and so on, but before I read it I hadn’t realized it also had GHOSTS. If ghosts are done right, I adore them. I wish I could pull them right out of COMPULSION and make them part of my house. You know, basically turn my whole house into Watson Island. That way I’d also get the Fire Carrier at midnight and so on. Maybe even have some little people to blame my messy house on…

Magic is something I believe in and so I did figure out a way to bring the book to life on Halloween. Should I share my secret? *shifty eyes* Okay. I’m going to take my brand new copy of COMPULSION, which I’ve preordered (since my signed ARC is a treasure that must be preserved for eternity, can you say, “Fan Girl”?) and I’m going to curl up and re-read it on All Hallows Eve! I. Am. So. Excited.

From Erin Cashman:

Halloween is such a magical time, it seems as if anything is possible. What better time to read COMPULSION? Magic is woven into everything at Watson Landon’s, from the ghosts, to the Fire Carrier, to the yunwi, to the characters themselves. (And let’s not forget that magical setting!) I adore the yunwi. I love how they seem like pests at first, but as the story evolves we learn that they, like magic, are there for a reason. Everything changes when our feisty young heroine, Barrie, steps onto her ancestor’s stronghold, the yunwi included. Barrie becomes the center of the magic in ways that no one expects, least of all her. I have had the honor of reading PERSUASION (I know you are so jealous! You should be!) and without giving anything away (well, maybe just a little away) I can tell you that the yunwi become more important to the story, in a way that I LOVE! So, until the Watson Landing theme park is built, in order to have this world come to life you better start reading COMPULSION!

From Alyssa Hamilton:

So for me, one of my absolute favourite things about Halloween are the haunted houses and one of the spookiest things about Compulsion was the house itself. Watson's Landing became a living, breathing character to me, and it was brilliant. The atmosphere the Martina created was magical but so so eerie. I imagined myself walking down those creaky hallways and feeling something that just wasn't quite right and being so creeped out you start getting jumpy. Some of my favourite books have included houses that absolutely come alive, and Compulsion and Watson's Landing has easily topped that list for me.

The unknown factor that comes with a large home and the stories that can evolve out of past generations living and dying in them create layers upon layers of unknown bits and pieces. Watson's Landing is like a subtle haunted house that creeps up on you throughout the entire book. Compulsion's release date being so near to Halloween was one of the best things Simon & Schuster could have done, because Martina gave me a haunted house like no other.

From Jan Lewis:

I absolutely love the little people or yunwi in COMPULSION. They are little tricksters who steal random things from Watson's Landing. I've always imagined them as adorable little shadow children who are a bit naughty but mean well. Since I have two little people of my own, I thought this would be the perfect time to share them.

Meet yunwi Grayson, who has stolen Mommy's copy of COMPULSION, and yunwi Ellery, who has stolen Daddy's screwdriver and Mommy's cell phone. What naughty little people! Luckily, if I give them a bowl of nuts and berries and a glass of milk, they will happily return our possessions.

From Susan Sipal:

One of the many aspects of Martina's Compulsion that fascinated me the most was her use of mythological spirits. The Fire Carrier is awesome and so mysterious, but I think it was the yunwi who stole my heart and caught my attention the most as I'd also used a different version of this legend in one of my own stories. Based on the little people of Cherokee legend, Martia's little spirits are quite mischievous and entertaining but also critical to the story.

Since Martina's yunwi fascinated me so much, I decided to do what I love to do and research them some more. Turns out, there are "little people" in cultures all around the world from the dwarfs, fairies, and leprechauns of Western Europe to the Ebu Gogo of Indonesia and the Menehune of Hawaii to the Domovoi of Russian heritage. All these little people wandering about in our myths makes me wonder...could they be based on experience? One thing is for sure, as part of our shared human experience, they appeal strongly. And Martina's yunwi are sure to enchant the reader.

I wonder -- if we were to visit Watson Island this Halloween, would the Fire Carrier and yunwi come magically to life at midnight? Or is that what reading is for?

And a Happy Halloween to all!

Lisa, Erin, Alyssa
Jan, and Susan

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VIDDY is a flat pack construct-it-yourself pinhole camera kit that was successfully funded on Kickstarter. Each kit is screen printed by hand, eco-friendly, easy to build and fully functional taking both 35mm and medium format film. Each VIDDY kit also comes with two decorative front sticker panels designed exclusively for their Kickstarter campaign by illustrators Becca Allen and Suzi Kemp.

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5. Review: How We Fall

How We Fall by Kate Brauning. Merit Press. 2014. Reviewed from ARC.

The Plot:  Jackie's feelings for Marcus are intense, but she tries to hide it. Oh, they flirt, and yes, there are stolen kisses. So why can't they just both admit that it's more than flirtation, why not go on a real date?

Jackie's afraid, afraid of what people will think. Marcus is her cousin. And, to make matters more sensitive, or at least Jackie more sensitive to what people will think, their families share one home. They live under the same roof.

Jackie has few people she can trust or turn to. Her older sister is at college; her parents wouldn't understand, or worse, would over react. Her best friend, Ellie, has disappeared and it's beginning to look like Ellie didn't run away but was kidnapped, or worse.

Breaking up with Marcus, or, rather, stopping things, doesn't help. Her feelings don't just go away, and seeing him with a new girl,, Sylvia, makes things worse. So Jackie tries seeing someone new, Will.

Jackie begins to pore over all emails and messages from Ellie, hoping to figure out what happened to Ellie. And she's surprised when a name turns up in an old email: Sylvia. Could Marcus's new friend have a connection to Ellie and her disappearance?

The Good: How We Fall looks at love and lust and desire. Jackie knows full well what other people are going to think about her and Marcus being together, and I'm sure there are readers who won't be able to get over the first cousin romance. As Jackie points out, though, it's not illegal; and at most, it means that in some states they wouldn't be able to marry. There was something so sweet, and heart-breaking, to have Jackie both trying to deny her feelings and love for Marcus, while doing searches to find colleges in states where marriage is possible. Add to it that Jackie is keeping her emotions and thoughts so close, from fear, that she hasn't shared this with Marcus.

Jackie's attraction to and love for Marcus is clear, and while the story is told from Jackie's point of view, it also becomes clear that what he feels for Jackie is true. On one level, How We Fall is, simply, about star-crossed lovers.

The star-crossed is made more complicated by the unique housing situation. About two or three years earlier (Jackie is now 16, Marcus a year older), the two families decided, for several reasons, to combine households and move in together. For Jackie and her older sister, that meant moving from California to rural Missouri. Her father, a lawyer, now does legal consulting from home; her mother works at the library. Her uncle works in a lawn and garden shop and her aunt takes care of the home, which also involves a working farm.

To use Jackie's words to describe her aunt and uncle: "Uncle Ward's opinions were a junk drawer combination of conservative family values, generous interpretations of self-restraint and normalcy, and questionable ideas Aunt Shelly found on the internet." Ward and Shelly have six children, ranging from twin toddlers to Marcus, the eldest.

The families share a home -- this isn't sharing land, or a building. It's using the same kitchen, the same living spaces, and trying to balance their values. It's not always easy; you can tell that sometimes Jackie's mother (Ward's sister) is biting her tongue about Shelley's judgments and rules. (Let's just say that Shelley isn't a fan of TV or movies while Jackie is looking to major in film in college.) Jackie has also gone from youngest child of two to an eldest child helping not only with chores, and selling their farm produce, and helping in the gardens and with the animals, but also babysitting her younger cousins.

Still, the families make it work. They are happy and functional; but it's also a financial decision. They are living a lifestyle, and in a home, that requires four adults working. But, to be honest, working "less", with a better quality of life, if that makes sense. Look at the father: he can return to law, but he's happier being a consultant. Jackie's mother is happy working at the library, but if the families split, she'd need to get a better paying job. I really loved that this book included this non-typical living argument, and that the arrangement works. And, I also think that more and more readers are going to identify with teens in home situations that are non-traditional.

As you can tell, the love story and the setting is what really captured my attention. There is also a mystery going on, the mystery of Ellie's disappearance, and I liked how this was handled. Jackie is not Veronica Mars; her friend lurks in the background, something that Ellie thinks about but, especially at first, doesn't obsess over. It's as time goes by, and it turns into a murder investigation, and Marcus's new girlfriend is revealed to have a link, that Jackie finds herself actively trying to learn more about Ellie's life to figure out what happened.

There is also Jackie's own new boyfriend, Will. One of the reasons I like Will is he ends up being such a good, understanding guy. Seriously, whether in real life or a book, when a person is confronted with a situation when they can be cruel or they can be kind -- when they can be judgmental or understanding -- when they be angry and lash out,or listen and be a friend? And they choose kind? It just makes my day; it reaffirms that people are good. And that was Will. Someone who is good.

Also, Will is cute. I said that How We Fall is also about desire, and that's true of Jackie and Marcus and Jackie and Will. Jackie is trying to figure out what she wants, and what she feels, and what is love, and what is love -- and it's a bit messy, made messier but the awkwardness of the situation and her thinking she is protecting everyone by not admitting to her feelings for Marcus. And then here is Will and yes he's fun to kiss cause he's older and hot and even with all this he is just such a good guy. And I love that this book shows the complexity of feeling, emotion, and desire that a teen girl feels.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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6. Exercise: Food For the Brain!

Note:  This information is taken from an article written by W. Douglas Tynan, director of Integrated Health for the American Psychological Association.  It is paraphrased from the Sunday October 26,2014 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. You can find more on this topic and other health topics on his website about healthy kids at: http://www.Philly.com

We all know that exercise is good for the heart and body.  Staying fit with regular exercise helps children grow stronger and ward off obesity.  But there are several studies that have found exercise to be EXTREMELY BENEFICIAL to children’s developing brains.

Charles Hillman from the University of Illinois found that kids who participated in regular physical activity – 60 minutes per day – enhanced cognitive performance and brain function. The study measured  one hour of vigorous exercise followed by 45 minutes of a less vigorous skills game for a total of two hours every day after school for 150 days of the school year.  On measures of concentration, attention, impulse control, flexible thinking and brain activity (measured by scalp electrodes), the 8-9 year old studied, did much better overall than their sedentary peers.

A second study by Catherine Davis at the University of Georgia, with older children who were overweight and did low level (20 minutes per day) and high level (40 minutes per day), for only 15 weeks had the same results, along with better scores in concentration, math and impulse control.  If a prescription medication showed the same results, people would be lining up to buy it.  If there was a curriculum that showed this benefit, school districts would be signing up in droves. 

But, it is NOT a product, but rather a lifestyle to be taught at home and in school. The best way to get children to do their best in school is to GET THEM TO MOVE! Instead of eliminating physical education programs, we should be expanding them.  The most intriguing part of these studies was the gain in impulse control.  Is it my imagination, or were there fewer children with ADHD 50 years ago when recess and backyard play were popular staples of every neighborhood? I’d love to hear your views on this interesting topic.




The importance of these findings




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7. A Quick Guide to Workshop Lingo

Call it jargon, call it terminology, call it what you will. We have our own made-up words for things sometimes.

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8. What Ancient Greek And Roman Statues Look(ed) Like In Color

ancient statues in color

Most people assume that classical statuary was mostly of pure white marble, a sort of pure source of Western civilization. But scholars have known for at least a century that most Greek and Roman statues were brightly painted – and now an exhibition in Copenhagen is trying to reconstruct their original appearance.

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9. UPDATE - caroline gardner

Lots of things have been happening at Caroline Gardner recently, including opening their first ever store in London's Kings Road, a new range of ceramics including mugs, cake tins, eggcups and tea towels. Plus a very cute stationery range called 'Muchly Lovely' featuring owls and dogs that also includes a 2015 calendar and diary. Finally there is chance to join this fabulous company as a

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10. The Strange History Of The Ouija Board


It started with a pair of spiritualists in post-Civil-War New York; became a ubiquitous family pastime that was considered good, clean fun (and great for a date); and had its reputation ruined by The Exorcist. (It also told its first manufacturers what it wanted to be called.) (includes podcast)

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11. Peter Sellars To Stage His First Dance Work


“[He] has directed operas and theater, collaborated with Toni Morrison and staged St. Matthew’s [sic] Passion with the Berlin Philharmonic. Now, he will turn his attention to Flex, a Brooklyn-born form of street dance, in a commission from the Park Avenue Armory [in New York].”

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12. The Paris Winter by Imogen Robertson

Who wouldn't want to spend the winter in Paris?  Maud was in Paris starving and freezing as an art student when Tanya, a wealthy woman, befriended her and helped ​Maud ​obtain a position ​in a home to take care of a young lady.

​Maud found out the accommodations brought about more than a warm place to stay and good meals.  Sylvie, the young lady she was taking care of, smoked opium and stole things​, her "brother" wasn't very honest, and nothing was what it seemed. What else was going to happen, and what did she get herself into?

What was supposed to be a life-changing winter turned out to be a winter of lies, ​danger​, deceit, and murder​. 

The beginning of THE PARIS WINTER was a bit slow, but as the tale unraveled, there was nothing slow​, ​​nothing short of deviousness, and nothing ​short of
intrigue​.  Don't give up too soon.

You will feel sorry for Maud, you will love Tanya and Yvette - they are actually comical and so loyal to Maude, you will hate Sylvie and her "brother," and you will question all that goes on with them and question their motives.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE PARIS WINTER because of the well-developed, unlikeable, devious, corrupt characters and the unpredictable, twisted plot with a marvelous, thrilling ending.   This thrilling ending was set during the Paris flood of 1910 and was a perfect connection to Maud's intentions.

Don't miss reading THE PARIS WINTER.  You will be pulled in just like the flood waters of Paris pulled in its citizens.  THE PARIS WINTER is an alluring, captivating historical read. 4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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13. French Global goes ... French

       A book I've mentioned a couple of times and have long found fascinating is French Global: A New Approach to Literary History, published by Columbia University Press in 2010 (see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk). I do, however, have a tough time reviewing anthologies, and so I still haven't gotten around to giving it its proper due -- despite its being one of the more interesting literary overviews I've read in recent years.
       Now, as Jean-Louis Jeannelle reports in Centrifuger les lettres françaises in Le Monde, French Global is going ... French, as it is being published in French; see the Garnier publicity page or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       It's actually surprising that it hasn't come out in French before since it should be of particular interest in France. Anyway, I can certainly commend it to you, in either English or French -- it's fascinating stuff.

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14. Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award

       They've announced that the 2014 Asia Society Bernard Schwartz Book Award (and its $20,000 prize) goes to The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and A Forgotten Genocide, by Gary Bass, selected " from over 100 nominations" (which are unfortunately not identified). See also the Vintage publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
       The prize: "recognizes nonfiction books for their outstanding contributions to the understanding of contemporary Asia or U.S.-Asia relations".
       Interestingly, while translations are eligible, they apparently have to have been published, for the first time, in their original language and in English in the year for which they are being considered (i.e. for the 2015 prize between 1 January and 31 December 2014). Very, very few books get translated into English and published in the same year they appear in their original language. Very few.

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15. Stem cell therapy for diabetes

This month, it was reported that scientists at Harvard University have successfully made insulin-secreting beta cells from human pluripotent stem cells. This is an important milestone towards a “stem cell therapy” for diabetes, which will have huge effects on human medicine.

Diabetes is a group of diseases in which the blood glucose is too high. In type 1 diabetes, the patients have an autoimmune disease that causes destruction of their insulin-producing cells (the beta cells of the pancreas). Insulin is the hormone that enables glucose to enter the cells of the tissues and in its absence the glucose remains in the blood and cannot be used. In type 2 diabetes the beta cells are usually somewhat defective and cannot adapt to the increased demand often associated with age and/or obesity. Despite the availability of insulin for treating diabetes since the 1920s, the disease is still a huge problem. If the level of blood glucose is not perfectly controlled it will cause damage to blood vessels and this eventually leads to various unpleasant complications including heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and gangrene of limbs. Apart from the considerable suffering of the affected patients, the costs of dealing with diabetes is a huge financial burden for all health services. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes in particular is rising in most parts of the world and the number of patients is now counted in the hundreds of millions.

To get perfect control of blood glucose, insulin injections will never be quite good enough. The beta cells of the pancreas are specialised to secrete exactly the correct amount of insulin depending on the level of glucose they detect in the blood. At present the only sources of beta cells for transplantation are the pancreases taken from deceased organ donors. However this has enabled a clinical procedure to the introduced called “islet transplantation”. Here, the pancreatic islets (which contain the beta cells) are isolated from one or more donor pancreases and are infused into the liver of the diabetic patient. The liver has a similar blood supply to the pancreas and the procedure to infuse the cells is surgically very simple. The experience of islet transplants has shown that the technique can cure diabetes, at least in the short term. But there are three problems. Firstly the grafts tend to lose activity over a few years and eventually the patients are back on injected insulin. Secondly the grafts require permanent immunosuppression with drugs to avoid rejection by the host, and this can lead to problems. Thirdly, and most importantly, the supply of donor pancreases is very limited and only a tiny fraction of what is really needed.

Syringe, by Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014″. CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This background may explain why the production of human beta cells has been a principal objective of stem cell research for many years. If unlimited numbers of beta cells could be produced from somewhere then at least the problem of supply would be solved and transplants could be made available for many more people. Although there are other potential sources, most effort has gone into making beta cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC). These resemble cells of the early embryo: they can be grown without limit in culture, and they can differentiate into most of the cell types found in the body. hPSC comprise embryonic stem cells, made by culturing cells directly from early human embryos; and also “induced pluripotent stem cells” (iPSC), made by introducing selected genes into other cell types to reprogram them to an embryonic state. The procedures for making hPSC into beta cells have been designed based on the knowledge obtained by developmental biologists about how the pancreas and the beta cells arise during normal development of the embryo. This has shown that there are several stages of cell commitment, each controlled by different extracellular signal substances. Mimicking this series of events in culture should, theoretically, yield beta cells in the dish. In reality some art as well as science is required to create useful differentiation protocols. Many labs have been involved in this work but until now the best protocols could only generate immature beta cells, which have a low insulin content and do not secrete insulin when exposed to glucose. The new study has developed a protocol yielding fully functional mature beta cells which have the same insulin content as normal beta cells and which secrete insulin in response to glucose in the same way. These are the critical properties that have so far eluded researchers in this area and are essential for the cells to be useful for transplantation. Also, unlike most previous procedures, the new Harvard method grows the cells as clumps in suspension, which means that it is capable of producing the large number of cells required for human transplants.

These cells can cure diabetes in diabetic mice, but when will they be tried in humans? This will depend on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the USA. The FDA has so far been very cautious about stem cell therapies because they do not want to see cells implanted that will grow without control and become cancerous. One thing they will insist on is extremely good evidence that there are absolutely none of the original pluripotent cells left in the transplant, as they would probably develop into tumours. This highlights the fact that the treatment is not really “stem cell therapy” at all, it is actually “differentiated cell therapy” where the transplanted cells are made from stem cells instead of coming from organ donors. The FDA will also much prefer a delivery method which will enable the cells to be removed, something which is not the case with current islet transplants. One much discussed possibility is “encapsulation” whereby the cells are enclosed in a semipermeable membrane that can let nutrients in and insulin out but will not allow cells to escape. This might also enable the use of immunosuppressive drugs to be avoided, as encapsulation is also intended to provide a barrier against the immune cells of the host.

Stem cell therapy has been hyped for years but with the exception of the long established bone marrow transplant it has not yet delivered. An effective implant which is easy to insert and easy to replace would certainly revolutionize the treatment of diabetes, and given the importance of diabetes worldwide, this in itself can be expected to revolutionize healthcare.

Featured image credit: A colony of embryonic stem cell. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The post Stem cell therapy for diabetes appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Oxytocin and emotion recognition

Imagine you are in class and your friend has just made a fool of the teacher. How do you feel? Although this will depend on the personalities of those involved, you might well find yourself laughing along with your classmates at the teacher’s expense. The experience of sharing an emotion with your friends (in this case the fun of getting one over on the teacher) will probably strengthen your friendship further. But in a class of one hundred students, there are likely to be one or two who have trouble understanding the joke.

The ability to infer and understand other peoples’ emotions and beliefs plays an important role in human social relationships. However, for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — a developmental disorder that affects approximately 1% of the population and for which there is no established treatment — this can be challenging. While high-functioning individuals with ASD may be able to compensate for difficulties in inferring others’ beliefs, they often continue to have trouble understanding others’ emotions, and this leads to impaired social functioning.

Increasing evidence suggests that oxytocin — a neuropeptide that promotes social behavior and bonding in humans and in animals — can improve emotion recognition in ‘typically developing’ individuals, i.e. those without ASD. Notably, oxytocin improves the ability to infer others’ emotions more than the ability to identify their beliefs. Oxytocin has also been shown to improve social behavior in individuals with autism and to partially reverse patterns of brain dysfunction thought to be responsible for the deficits. This has led to the suggestion that oxytocin could be used to develop medications for currently untreatable psychiatric conditions characterized by social impairments.

However, studies to date have only investigated the ability of oxytocin to improve recognition of basic emotions such as fear or happiness. These differ from “social” emotions such as embarrassment and shame, which require us to represent the mental state of another. Moreover, most existing studies have provided participants with so-called “direct cues” as to others’ emotions, such as their facial expressions or tone of voice. However, these cues are not always available in real life and the ability to identify others’ emotions using only indirect cues is itself important for social functioning. We therefore decided to investigate whether oxytocin would also improve the ability of individuals with ASD to recognise social emotions, even in the absence of direct cues.

MRI of brain by bykst. Public Domain via Pixabay.
MRI of brain by bykst. Public Domain via Pixabay.

To do so, we modified a cartoon-based task called the “Sally-Anne task,” which is commonly used to test for understanding of other peoples’ false beliefs, and used MRI scans to measure brain activity in subjects with and without ASD as they performed the task. In the standard version, participants are shown a cartoon in which one protagonist (Sally) places a ball in a box and then leaves the room. In her absence, another protagonist (Anne) moves the ball to a second box to the right of the first, and Sally then returns. At the end of the story, participants are asked the following questions: “Is the ball in the left-hand box?” to test comprehension of the story, and “Does Sally look for her ball in the left-hand box?” to test for understanding of Sally’s false belief about the location of the ball. To examine participants’ ability to infer others’ emotions, we introduced a third question: “How does Anne feel when Sally opens the left-hand box?”. Given that Ann’s gain effectively depends on Sally’s loss, the emotions involved will be complex social emotions: Ann, for example, might gloat upon realizing that she has fooled Sally by moving the ball.

We discovered that individuals with ASD are less accurate than IQ-matched controls in inferring social emotions in the absence of direct cues such as facial expressions. Moreover, individuals with ASD showed lower activity than controls in two brain regions that contribute to this ability, namely the right anterior insula and superior temporal sulcus. Individuals with ASD who had a normal IQ were not significantly impaired in inferring others’ beliefs; however, they did show lower brain activity than controls in a region implicated in this process, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex.

In order to determine whether oxytocin could improve the ability of individuals with ASD to identify others’ social emotions, we conducted a double-blind trial. We administered a single dose of either oxytocin or placebo in the form of an intranasal spray to subjects with ASD and to matched controls. As predicted, oxytocin increased the accuracy with which individuals with ASD were able to identify others’ social emotions in the absence of direct cues, and also enhanced their originally-diminished brain activity in the right anterior insula. This increase in activity was not observed in other brain regions or during attempts to understand others’ beliefs, suggesting that oxytocin acts specifically on the ability to infer social emotions.

Ultimately therefore, the results of our behavioral experiments and brain activity studies lend support to the idea that intranasal oxytocin could potentially form the basis of a treatment for at least some of the social impairments in ASD.

Heading image: Oxytocin-neurophysin by Edgar181. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Oxytocin and emotion recognition appeared first on OUPblog.

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17. The History of Gay Publishing in One Career

history of gay pub

An interview with Michael Denneny, who co-founded the pathbreaking literary magazine Christopher Street and was the first man to make a career out of editing and publishing serious gay novels.

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18. Ten Years On, Theo Van Gogh’s Murder Still Haunts The Netherlands


A decade ago Sunday, the filmmaker, media figure and right-wing provocateur was shot and had his throat slit by a young Moroccan Dutchman who claimed he was defending the name of Allah. “In this tidy country of 17 million, which prides itself on tolerance, the murder opened a raw and polarizing debate … which is still raging.”

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19. Inilah Latihan Theresia Mariana Dan Pramugari Cantik TNI AU Lainnya

Nama Theresia Mariana Susanti mendadak ramai diperbincangkan di media sosial. Wanita cantik anggota TNI Angkatan Udara tersebut merupakan pramugari pesawat kepresidenan.

Tak mudah menjadi pramugari TNI AU. Seleksinya pun cukup ketat. Tahun ini TNI AU cuma meluluskan 15 pramugari yang akan bertugas di pesawat kepresidenan dan pesawat VIP milik TNI.

Awalnya para wanita Angkatan Udara (Wara) TNI AU ini diseleksi. Baik fisik, psikotes, hingga kemampuan bahasa asing. Rata-rata mereka yang mengikuti pendidikan pramugari berpangkat bintara atau sersan.

Setelah seleksi, mereka dilatih di Pusdiklat PT Garuda Indonesia. Di sana mereka dilatih layaknya pramugari pesawat komersial biasa. Di sini para Wara TNI AU itu mempelajari hal-hal dasar kepramugarian. Seperti menghidangkan makanan, upaya penyelamatan, dan memandu penumpang.

Setelah lulus dari Pusdiklat Garuda, baru mereka mengikuti pendidikan standarisasi pramugari TNI Angkatan Udara di Skadron Udara 17 Lanud Halim Perdanakusuma.

Menurut Kepala Sekolah Latihan Standarisasi Pramugari TNI Angkatan Udara tahun 2014 Kapten Pnb Septi Arun Dwi, Latihan Standarisasi Pramugari TNI Angkatan Udara merupakan angkatan yang ke-5 diikuti 15 personel dari berbagai satuan TNI Angkatan Udara.

Latihan berlangsung satu bulan, sejak 26 Agustus hingga 20 Oktober 2014. Materi utama meliputi bina kelas sebanyak 75 jam pelajaran dan bina terbang dengan praktik di empat jenis pesawat. Masing-masing empat jam dengan dua sortie penerbangan.

"Instruktur dan pelatih merupakan penerbang, teknisi dan pramugari yang telah berpengalaman dari Skadron Udara 17," kata Kapten Septi dalam rilis dari TNI AU.

Ditekankan sebagai bagian dari crew udara, para pramugari diharapkan dapat mengintegrasikan budaya operational crew guna mewujudkan awak pesawat yang terampil, solid dan siap siaga dalam bertugas.

Kini 15 pramugari telah dinyatakan lulus dan siap terbang di udara.

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20. Nordic Council Literature Prize

       They've announced that Hägring 38, by Swedish-writing Finnish author Kjell Westö has won this year's Nordic Council Literature Prize -- the biggest (and pan-)Scandinavian literature prize, which also comes with a pay-out of DKK 350,000 (just shy of US$60,000).
       See also the Schildts & Söderströms publicity page, or Tom Ellett's review in the Swedish Book Review.

       Is it really possible that Westö's Lang is still the only thing of his to have been translated into English (about a decade ago) ? (See, for example, Michael Dibdin's review in The Guardian.) Good timing, anyway, from Harvill, who are re-issuing it early next year; pre-order your copy at Amazon.co.uk.

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21. The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson | Book Review

THE KISS OF DECEPTION, by Mary E. Pearson, is an exciting, quest-filled story that will please more traditional magical fantasy fans.

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22. Those Most Adaptable to Change Succeed – Marketing in the Digital Age

"It's not the strongest nor most intelligent that survives; the most adaptable to change wins." While Charles Darwin wasn't thinking of marketing in the digital age when he said these words, they couldn't be more appropriate to the quick and ever-changing climate of online marketing. I'm a writer as well as an online marketer and writing is an evergreen topic. There are steadfast rules that

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23. WALLPAPER - ingela p arrhenius

Photowall have launched a new wall mural collection called 'Fabel' by Swedish illustrator and designer Ingela P Arrhenius. There are eight designs currently in the range including Ingela's personal favourite 'Town" (above & below) which reminds her of the picture books she enjoyed as a young girl. Other designs include Frames, Jungle, Forest, Space, Tivoli and Travelling - and all the designs

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24. No more Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards

       Very disappointing news: they've announced that the wonderful SF&F Translation Awards Closing Down; see also Cheryl Morgan -- one of the directors of the association running the awards -- on Translation Awards - The End at her Cheryl's Mewsings weblog.
       The Best Translated Book Award (for which I am one of the judges) does, of course, consider science fiction and fantasy titles, but it's a crowded field and there is definitely room for a specialized award that focuses solely on this area.

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25. Bradley Cooper Plays A Man Who’s Haunted Him For Decades

bradley cooper

Starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway “is serious business for the actor: a scoop of earth following his gradual but precipitous soar into the showbiz stratosphere, with its thinner, giddy-making air.” It’s also a role he’s been fixated on since age 12.

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