Winter 2019 Newsletter | In the Media

Ervin Staub, emeritus professor of psychological and brain sciences, recently gave a talk at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh where he discussed how to be an active bystander and how this can make a difference in preventing violence and harmful behavior. Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle

Rebecca Ready featured on Connecting Point. One of Ready’s research specialties is sports-related concussions, which can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. More commonly known as CTE, the degenerative brain disease was first discovered in football players. But, CTE can affect anyone with a history of repetitive brain trauma, like hockey players and military veterans. Dr. Ready joined Carrie Saldo to discuss her research. ​Watch Video

Susan Whitbourne, emeritus professor of psychological and brain sciences, writes a column about the idea of "mindless eating," or the tendency to eat more than one should due to outside factors that can't be controlled. She says poorly designed studies are now calling the whole idea into question. Psychology Today

Rebecca Spencer says while it is known that deep sleep helps process memories and emotions, lighter sleep, such as naps for small children, can also have a soothing effect. She says, "kids are really emotional without naps, and they're hypersensitive to emotional stimuli," because they haven't consolidated the emotional baggage from earlier in the day. Spencer says naps can help adults, but not the same degree. BBC

Rebecca Spencer featured on Connecting Point discussing her current studies on the importance of sleep for older adults as it relates to memory and how overnight sleep and naps affect preschool age children. Watch Video

Research conducted by Rebecca Spencer that indicates missing a nap for small children significantly and negatively reduced memory in several areas, including motor-skill development and regulating emotions, is cited in a news story. The story says even if children in preschool and kindergarten don’t require a nap, they should at least have some quiet time during the day. It also says up to 60 percent of 4-year-olds still need naps. Education Dive

A long magazine story looking at how anger has become the dominant emotion in American politics and personal life, cites a survey conducted back in 1977 in Greenfield by James Averill, emeritus professor of psychological and brain sciences, that drew an unexpectedly strong response from townspeople. He found that people were eager to share their angry episodes and most told him anger often helped them resolve the issues that created the conflict. The Atlantic

Harold Grotevant, Rudd Family Foundation Chair and PBS faculty member, comments in a powerful story chronicling a mother and her son who was placed in an open adoption. After a New York Times article 20 years ago, their story is revisited. Grotevant summarizes three decades of research on open adoption this way: “When we started, people were afraid of open adoption, they thought it would be confusing to children, would harm the bond with adoptive parents and would be bad for birth parents because it would not allow closure. We can now say definitively that none of those fears hold up. But we can also say that it’s complicated. Open adoption requires that families be flexible and good at communicating.” Yahoo News

A team of scientists based at UMass Amherst has been awarded a four-year, $953,300 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop miniature, implantable hardware that can record complex brain activity in animals and analyze it in real time. This new technical capability will allow the researchers to trace the origin of complex brain activity down to cellular levels, they say. The NSF funding is part of $16 million given to 18 cross-disciplinary projects around the country to conduct innovative research on neural and cognitive systems. The UMass Amherst team includes Guangyu Xu in electrical and computer engineering, David Moorman in psychological and brain sciences, and Geng-Lin Li in biology. They work collaboratively with Ethan Meyers in statistics, from Hampshire College. Recorder

One of the outstanding questions in neurodevelopment research has been identifying how connections in the brain change to improve neural function during childhood and adolescence. Now, results from a study in rats just reported by neuroscientists Heather Richardson, Geng-Lin Li and colleagues at UMass Amherst, suggest that as animals transition into adolescence, specific physical changes to axons speed up neural transmission, which may lead to higher cognitive abilities. Their co-author, doctoral candidate Andrea Silva-Gotay, says, “One advantage of increased conduction speed is faster processing of information; brain areas communicate faster and decisions can be made faster.” Writing in the journal eNeuro, the researchers report that they have identified specific developmental changes that may be key factors underlying enhanced neural processing in the medial prefrontal cortex of the maturing rat brain. Medicine News LineMedicalnewser.comScience CodexMedical Xpress

The vast majority of speech perception research has focused on how we recognize what the speaker says through listening only, and has failed to capture the value of speaking face-to-face, says speech perception expert Alexandra Jesse at UMass Amherst. Now she has a two-year, $100,000 grant from NIH’s National Institute of Aging to explore the mechanisms underlying audiovisual speech perception, that is, investigating how listeners, in particular older adults with age-related hearing loss, combine information from both hearing and seeing a speaker to their benefit. Jesse, a cognitive psychologist in the department of psychological and brain sciences who has devoted her research career to the study of auditory and audiovisual speech perception, says she and others have found that almost everyone recognizes speech better when they can hear and see the speaker than when they just hear the speaker. Health Care News

Results of a new study by neuroscientists at UMass Amherst suggest that a new treatment approach is needed – and how this may be possible – to address adverse effects of aromatase inhibitors, drugs commonly prescribed to both men and women to prevent recurrence of estrogen-positive breast cancer. The current drug therapy is linked to such complaints as hot flashes, memory lapses, anxiety and depression, side effects so bothersome that some patients discontinue the life-saving treatment, the researchers point out. Their study found that aromatase inhibitors do indeed suppress estrogen synthesis in body tissues, but their unexpected findings in the brain could explain some of the negative effects and provide insight into more effective, less disruptive future therapies. Neuroscientists Agnès LacreuseLuke Remage-Healey and their graduate students at UMass Amherst, collaborator Jessica Mong at the University of Maryland and first author Nicole Gervais worked together on this research.