Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Association of Fetal Growth With General and Specific Mental Health Conditions

Association of Fetal Growth With General and Specific Mental Health Conditions. Erik Pettersson, Henrik Larsson, Brian D’Onofrio, et al. JAMA Psychiatry, doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4342

Key Points

Question  Do the associations between fetal growth and later mental health conditions remain after controlling for familial confounding factors and psychiatric comorbidity?

Findings  This register-based study including more than 1 million participants and using a within-sibling pair design found that higher birth weight (statistically adjusted for gestational age) significantly lowered the risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. Furthermore, an increase in birth weight by 1 kg significantly decreased a general factor of psychopathology by 0.047 SDs and a specific neurodevelopmental factor by 0.159 SDs.

Meaning  After controlling for familial factors and psychiatric comorbidity, fetal growth was most strongly associated with specific neurodevelopmental disorders.

Importance  It is unclear if the associations between fetal growth and later mental health conditions remain after controlling for familial factors and psychiatric comorbidity.

Objective  To examine the associations between fetal growth and general and specific mental health conditions, controlling for familial factors.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This register-based study conducted in Sweden analyzed 546 894 pairs of full siblings born between January 1, 1973, and December 31, 1998. Sibling pairs were followed up through December 31, 2013. First, population-based and within-sibling pair associations (which controlled for time-invariant familial confounders) between fetal growth and the outcomes were estimated. Second, exploratory factor analysis was applied to the outcomes to derive 1 general factor and 4 specific and independent factors. Third, the general and specific factors were regressed on fetal growth. Statistical analysis was performed from March 27, 2017, to October 27, 2018.

Main Outcome and Measures  The outcomes were 11 psychiatric diagnoses (depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse, drug use, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder) and court convictions of violent crimes. Birth weight (in kilograms) statistically adjusted for gestational age was the exposure.

Results  The mean (SD) age of the 1 093 788 participants was 27.2 (6.8) years (range, 15.1-40.9 years) and 51.5% were male. Nine outcomes were significantly associated with birth weight in the population at large: depression (odds ratio [OR], 0.96; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98), anxiety (OR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.92-0.95), posttraumatic stress disorder (OR, 0.91; 95% CI, 0.89-0.93), bipolar disorder (OR, 0.94; 95% CI, 0.89-1.00), alcohol abuse (OR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.87-0.91), drug use (OR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.80-0.85), violent crimes (OR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.83-0.86), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (OR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.86-0.90), and autism (OR, 0.95; 95% CI, 0.92-0.97). Only depression (OR, 0.95; 95% CI 0.92-0.98), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OR, 0.93; 95% CI, 0.87-0.99), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (OR, 0.86; 95% CI, 0.82-0.89), and autism (OR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.69-0.76) remained significantly associated within sibling pairs. An exploratory factor analysis indicated that 1 general and 4 specific factors (capturing anxiety, externalizing, neurodevelopmental, and psychotic conditions) fit the outcomes well. Across almost all sensitivity analyses, an increase in birth weight by 1 kg significantly reduced the general (β, −0.047; 95% CI, −0.071 to −0.023) and the specific neurodevelopmental factors (β, −0.159; 95% CI, −0.190 to −0.128) within sibling pairs.

Conclusions and Relevance  Controlling for familial confounders, reduced fetal growth was associated with a small but significant increase in the general factor of psychopathology and a moderate increase in a specific neurodevelopmental factor.

A gamma-ray determination of the Universe’s star formation history

A gamma-ray determination of the Universe’s star formation history. The Fermi-LAT Collaboration. Science Nov 30 2018:Vol. 362, Issue 6418, pp. 1031-1034. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8123

Gamma rays reveal the Universe's history

How many stars have formed in the Universe, and when did they do so? These fundamental questions are difficult to answer because there are systematic uncertainties in converting the light we observe into the total mass of stars in galaxies. The Fermi-LAT Collaboration addressed these questions by exploiting the way that gamma rays from distant blazars propagate through intergalactic space, which depends on the total amount of light emitted by all galaxies. The collaboration found that star formation peaked about 3 billion years after the Big Bang (see the Perspective by Prandini). Although this is similar to previous estimates from optical and infrared observations, the results provide valuable confirmation because they should be affected by different systematic effects.

Abstract: The light emitted by all galaxies over the history of the Universe produces the extragalactic background light (EBL) at ultraviolet, optical, and infrared wavelengths. The EBL is a source of opacity for gamma rays via photon-photon interactions, leaving an imprint in the spectra of distant gamma-ray sources. We measured this attenuation using 739 active galaxies and one gamma-ray burst detected by the Fermi Large Area Telescope. This allowed us to reconstruct the evolution of the EBL and determine the star formation history of the Universe over 90% of cosmic time. Our star formation history is consistent with independent measurements from galaxy surveys, peaking at redshift z ~ 2. Upper limits of the EBL at the epoch of reionization suggest a turnover in the abundance of faint galaxies at z ~ 6.

Macro‐Level Research on the Effect of Firearms Prevalence on Suicide Rates: The new analysis finds no significant effect

Macro‐Level Research on the Effect of Firearms Prevalence on Suicide Rates: A Systematic Review and New Evidence. Gary Kleck. Social Science Quarterly,

Objective: To systematically review the methods and findings of previous macro‐level research on the effect of firearms prevalence on suicide rates, and carry out a better state‐level analysis.

Methods: A cross‐sectional model of suicide rates is estimated with weighted least squares, using direct survey measures of gun prevalence.

Results and Conclusion: Prior macro‐level research is afflicted by the use of small samples of large heterogeneous units, invalid measures of gun prevalence, and few controls for confounders. The methodologically soundest prior research indicates that gun prevalence affects rates of gun suicides, but not total suicides. The new analysis likewise finds no significant effect of gun prevalence on total suicide rates.

From 2018, Sleep to be social: The critical role of sleep and memory for social interaction

Diekelmann, S., Paulus, F., & Krach, S. (2018). Sleep to be social: The critical role of sleep and memory for social interaction. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 41, E10. doi:10.1017/S0140525X17001327

Abstract: Humans are highly social animals who critically need to remember information from social episodes in order to successfully navigate future social interactions. We propose that such episodic memories about social encounters are processed during sleep, following the learning experience, with sleep abstracting and consolidating social gist knowledge (e.g., beliefs, first impressions, or stereotypes) about others that supports relationships and interpersonal communication.

The Problem of Non-Shared Environment in Behavioral Genetics: Intrinsic stochasticity of molecular processes underlying individual development creates minor fluctuations in gene expression

The Problem of Non-Shared Environment in Behavioral Genetics. Oleg N. Tikhodeyev, Оlga V. Shcherbakova. Behavior Genetics,

Abstract: The role of non-shared environment (NSE) in the development of psychological traits is usually comparable with that of the genotype. However, no specific factors of NSE with significant impact on such traits have been discovered so far. We propose that the current failures in understanding the origin of NSE are at least partly due to the fact that behavioral genetics has left out one of the key sources of phenotypic variation. This source is the intrinsic stochasticity of molecular processes underlying individual development. At the critical stages of ontogeny, even minor fluctuations in gene expression or gene-product functioning can remarkably affect the phenotype; this role is experimentally proved in multiple model organisms. In the present paper, several mechanisms of molecular stochasticity, which could affect the development of psychological traits, are discussed. We propose to distinguish external NSE (any external differences) and internal NSE (intrinsic molecular stochasticity). Available data indicate that the impact of external NSE is likely to be low, which makes the presumptive role of internal NSE rather decisive. If our assumption is true, the paradigm of behavioral genetics should be revised, and comprehensive analysis of molecular stochasticity during individual development is strongly required.

India Ramps Up Spending On Coal Exploration

India Ramps Up Spending On Coal Exploration
Reuters, Feb 1 2019,

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Indian government will increase spending on exploration of coal and lignite by 20 percent in the coming financial year but will slash funding for coal mine safety and conservation, according to the budget document released on Friday.

India is one of the world’s largest consumers of coal and rising imports of the fuel are adding to a burgeoning trade deficit, prompting the government to invest in developing more domestic resources.
In the 2019/20 financial year that begins in April, the government aims to spend 6 billion rupees ($84 million) on exploration of coal and lignite, the document for the 2019/20 budget showed.

At the same time, it will cut spending on conservation, safety and related infrastructure development by about a third from last year to 1.35 billion rupees, according to the document.

India is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a coal miner, with one miner dying every six days on average in 2017, according to government data, but this will be the second straight year that the government has cut spending on safety.

The coal ministry said that coal companies had their own safety budgets….

The coal ministry said it had increased spending for exploration in 2019/20 to develop more coal blocks to increase domestic coal production and minimize imports.

“This will also enable (the) release of more coal blocks for auction/allocation,” the ministry said.


Learning curves & teaching when acquiring nut-cracking: Chimpanzees more rapidly acquired the technique when an apprentice, and reached adult efficiency earlier than humans

Learning curves and teaching when acquiring nut-cracking in humans and chimpanzees. Christophe Boesch, Daša Bombjaková, Amelia Meier & Roger Mundry. Scientific Reports, volume 9, Article number: 1515 (2019).

Abstract: Humans are considered superior to other species in their tool using skills. However, most of our knowledge about animals comes from observations in artificial conditions with individuals removed from their natural environment. We present a first comparison of humans and chimpanzees spontaneously acquiring the same technique as they forage in their natural environment. We compared the acquisition of the Panda nut-cracking technique between Mbendjele foragers from the Republic of Congo and the Taï chimpanzees from Côte d’Ivoire. Both species initially acquire the technique slowly with similar kinds of mistakes, with years of practice required for the apprentice to become expert. Chimpanzees more rapidly acquired the technique when an apprentice, and reached adult efficiency earlier than humans. Adult efficiencies in both species did not differ significantly. Expert-apprentice interactions showed many similar instances of teaching in both species, with more variability in humans due, in part to their more complex technique. While in humans, teaching occurred both vertically and obliquely, only the former existed in chimpanzees. This comparison of the acquisition of a natural technique clarifies how the two species differed in their technical intelligence. Furthermore, our observations support the idea of teaching in both species being more frequent for difficult skills.

Taxing Top Earners: The revenue maximizing top tax rate is approximately 49 percent in a quantitative human capital model, instead of the recently established view of 73pct

Taxing Top Earners: A Human Capital Perspective. Alejandro Badel, Mark Huggett, Wenlan Luo. July 9, 2018.

Abstract: An established view is that the revenue maximizing top tax rate for the US is approximately 73percent. The revenue maximizing top tax rate is approximately 49 percent in a quantitative human capital model. The key reason for the lower top tax rate is the presence of two new forces not captured by the model underlying the established view. These new forces are strengthened by the endogenous response of top earners’ human capital to a change in the top tax rate.

Keywords: Human Capital, Marginal Tax Rates, Top Earners, Laffer Curve

Owner personality and the wellbeing of their cats share parallels with the parent-child relationship

Owner personality and the wellbeing of their cats share parallels with the parent-child relationship. Lauren R. Finka, Joanna Ward, Mark J. Farnworth, Daniel S. Mills. PLOS February 5, 2019.

Abstract: Human personality may substantially affect the nature of care provided to dependants. This link has been well researched in parents and children, however, relatively little is known about this dynamic with regards to humans’ relationships with non-human animals. Owner interactions with companion animals may provide valuable insight into the wider phenomenon of familial interactions, as owners usually adopt the role of primary caregiver and potentially surrogate parent. This study, using cats as an exemplar, explored the relationship between owner personality and the lifestyles to which cats are exposed. In addition, it explored owner personality as it related to reported cat behaviour and wellbeing. Cat owners (n = 3331) responded to an online survey examining their personality and the health, behaviour and management of their cats. Owner personality was measured using the Big Five Inventory (BFI) to assess: Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Neuroticism and Openness. Owners also provided information concerning the physical health, breed type, management and behavioural styles of their cats. Generalised linear mixed models were used to identify relationships between owner personality and a range of factors that may have welfare implications for the wider companion animal population, and specifically, cats. Higher owner Neuroticism was associated with an increased likelihood of non-pedigree rather than pedigree cat ownership, a decreased likelihood of ad libitum access to the outdoors, cats being reported as having a ‘behavioural problem’, displaying more aggressive and anxious/fearful behavioural styles and more stress-related sickness behaviours, as well as having an ongoing medical condition and being overweight. Other owner personality traits were generally found to correlate more positively with various lifestyle, behaviour and welfare parameters. For example, higher owner Extroversion was associated with an increased likelihood that the cat would be provided ad libitum access to the outdoors; higher owner Agreeableness was associated with a higher level of owner reported satisfaction with their cat, and with a greater likelihood of owners reporting their cats as being of a normal weight. Finally higher owner Conscientiousness was associated with the cat displaying less anxious/fearful, aggressive, aloof/avoidant, but more gregarious behavioural styles. These findings demonstrate that the relationship between carer personality and the care received by a dependent, may extend beyond the human family to animal-owner relationships, with significant implications for the choice of management, behaviour and potentially the broader wellbeing of companion animals.

Christians and Buddhists Are Comparably Happy on Twitter: A Large-Scale Linguistic Analysis of Religious Differences in Social, Cognitive, and Emotional Tendencies

Christians and Buddhists Are Comparably Happy on Twitter: A Large-Scale Linguistic Analysis of Religious Differences in Social, Cognitive, and Emotional Tendencies. Chih-Yu Chen1 and Tsung-Ren Huang. Front. Psychol., 06 February 2019 |

Abstract: Are different religions associated with different social, cognitive, and emotional tendencies? Although major world religions are known to encourage social interactions and help regulate emotions, it is less clear to what extent adherents of various religions differ in these dimensions in daily life. We thus carried out a large-scale sociolinguistic analysis of social media messages of Christians and Buddhists living in the United States. After controlling for age and gender effects on linguistic patterns, we found that Christians used more social words and fewer cognitive words than Buddhists. Moreover, adherents of both religions, similarly used more positive than negative emotion words on Twitter, although overall, Christians were slightly more positive in verbal emotional expression than Buddhists. These sociolinguistic patterns of actual rather than ideal behaviors were also paralleled by language used in the popular sacred texts of Christianity and Buddhism, with the exception that Christian texts contained more negative and fewer positive emotion words than Buddhist texts. Taken together, our results suggest that the direct or indirect influence of religious texts on the receivers of their messages may partially, but not fully, account for the verbal behavior of religious adherents.