All posts by crparks3@gmail.com

Does Facing Your Fears Help You Get Over Them?

Whether it’s large crowds or air travel, most of us avoid the source of our fears like the plague. We’ll pass up the chance to see our favorite musician play a packed concert venue or we’ll opt to drive cross-country rather than hop on a plane. But should we do the opposite? Fear experts Michael Telch, a psychologist at the University of Texas, and Kerry Ressler, a psychiatrist at Emory University, explain how facing our fears can retrain the brain.

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What Is a Panic Attack?

Feeling panic is an adaptive response to danger. The related increase in breathing rate and blood flow provides what’s needed to fight off — or escape from — the threat. But feeling panic can be a problem when there is no threat. Heide Klumpp, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago explains what can happen when an unexpected panic attack comes out of the blue.

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Brain Facts: Neurodegenerative Diseases

Published by the Society for Neuroscience and overseen by an editorial board of leading neuroscientists from around the world, BrainFacts.org shares the stories of scientific discovery and the knowledge they reveal.

Relaunched in the fall of 2017, the site affirms its continued commitment to neuroscience literacy and outreach to the public. The corresponding book has also seen a recent relaunch.

Brain Facts recognition page
Brain Facts recognition page. Credit: Society for Neuroscience

I had the pleasure and privilege of writing Chapter 15: Neurodegenerative Diseases.

Dr. Ana Quiñones gets NIA score on R01

“I think this program is the most valuable for early stage investigators and people of color,” Dr. Ana Quiñones says about the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN).

Quiñones is an Assistant Professor at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Public Health. She saw an announcement about NRMN online and then decided to apply. Having already started writing a grant, she took part in a NRMN-P³ (or NRMN Proposal Preparation Program) coaching group based at the University of Minnesota. When she started the program, however, she had some reservations that it wouldn’t suit her needs. “I don’t think I really had a lot of mentors or peers who had expertise in my work,” she says. Without that expertise Quiñones was afraid that the NRMN cohort wouldn’t be able to help her write a successful grant application. She studies health disparities between Latinx, blacks, and whites among U.S. populations, and comparative analyses of international health care systems, especially among the aged. That work involves complex mathematical modeling.

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Gaining Skills and a Growing Professional Network through NRMN STAR

“I’m not scared to apply any more,” Dr. Brandy Piña-Watson says, after having completed a coaching group session with the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). Piña-Watson is an assistant professor of counseling in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Texas Tech University. There she studies how the psychological and sociological factors that impact depression among Latinx adolescents and emerging adults, with an emphasis among Mexican Americans.

Until entering the NRMN STAR (NRMN Steps Towards Academic Research Fellowship Program) coaching group, she had minimal exposure on writing an NIH grant. She hadn’t received training on how to write an NIH grant application at Texas A&M University, where she received her Ph.D. in counseling psychology. The focus there was on how to obtain tenure, not how to write a grant, Piña-Watson says. And at Texas Tech there was a dearth of researchers winning NIH grants, leaving no one to mentor her on the process.

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Dr. Tanecia Mitchell on Earning her First NIH Grant

“I don’t feel like I have as many challenges now,” Dr. Tanecia Mitchell says, after securing her first National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant and having laid the foundation for many more to come. Mitchell credits earning the K01 grant, an award from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, to her experience gained from participating in the National Research Mentoring Network (NRMN). The grant is to study mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, and inflammation in clinical patients with kidney disorders.

The five-year, $768,776 award marked not only the first NIH grant for Mitchell, but the first K01 grant awarded to the Department of Urology faculty at her institution. Prior to winning the grant, Mitchell worked as an instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. One month later after receiving the NIH award, Mitchell assumed the position of Assistant Professor at UAB’s School of Medicine.

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NRMN/Kat Milligan-Myhre

“I’m hoping that [NRMN] continues for a while,” says Dr. Kat Milligan-Myhre, believing it will increase the amount of tenured professors from under-represented groups in STEM.

Milligan-Myhre is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and was excited when the NIH scored the R15 grant application she submitted in February to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. That enthusiasm paled in comparison to the feeling she had when she was informed in early December that the grant she had resubmitted in October had been awarded.

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Grassroots Science Detectives Solve Arsenic Mystery

In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added the Iron King Mine Humboldt Smelter Superfund site in Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, to its National Priorities List. Concerned if they could safely eat vegetables grown in their gardens, local citizens met with EPA officials. To answer that question, the medically underserved and low-income community received help from Monìca Ramìrez-Andreotta — then a doctoral student and a Superfund Research Program training fellow at the University of Arizona. But instead of taking the matter entirely in her hands, Ramìrez-Andreotta coordinated and collaborated with residents to analyze local arsenic levels and the potential risk to the vegetable gardeners in what would become the Gardenroots project.

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Feb. 20, 1962: First American Orbits Earth

REPRINTED FROM SPACENEWS
Originally posted: 19 February 2008

WASHINGTON — By the end of 1961 the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union had heated up.

In August of that year, the Soviets sent up their second orbital flight, with Cosmonaut Gherman Titov aboard, while the United States had completed just two suborbital flights. Feeling the pressure, NASA decided to advance its flight schedule by dropping a third planned suborbital flight and instead accelerating its upcoming orbital mission.

That was good news for John Glenn, who had been disappointed to be picked to be the third U.S. astronaut in space behind Alan Shepard and Virgil “Gus” Grissom. Glenn may not have been the first U.S. astronaut in space, but the affable pilot became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the Earth after his Mercury capsule, dubbed Friendship 7, launched Feb. 20, 1962, from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard an Atlas rocket.

Glenn was a Marine fighter pilot who flew 59 combat missions during World War II and 63 combat missions during the Korean War. He also had served as a test pilot and as an advanced flight training instructor. In July 1957, Glenn achieved fame for setting a transcontinental flight time record by flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 34 minutes.
In April 1959, Glenn was among the seven U.S. astronauts selected to launch into space for Project Mercury. The “Mercury Seven” also included Shepard, Grissom, Wally Schirra, Scott Carpenter, Donald “Deke” Slayton and Gordon Cooper.

NASA’s original plan was to have an open call to select astronauts for Project Mercury, but U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the decision to use military test pilots instead.

The Mercury Seven were assigned to the Space Task Group based in Hampton, Va.

Over the next few years the group received training in various simulations, parabolic flights, pressure suits, survival skills and communications. They also took academic courses including space science, engineering and physiology. The astronauts were assigned areas of specialty to help design the Mercury capsule.
Glenn was responsible for the layout of the cockpit.

“The astronauts’ specialty assignments had some direct affect on the redesign of the Mercury suit, cockpit layout and the capsule hatch and window systems,” the NASA History Web site said.

Glenn’s flight originally was scheduled for December 1961, but inclement weather and technical problems with the capsule resulted in a series of launch delays. Finally, his Friendship 7 capsule was launched into space the following February.

Aside from a minor error that kept the capsule out of its proper orbital attitude for 38 seconds, the launch and the early part of them flight were nominal.

Glenn noted a dust storm over Africa’s west coast, the electric lights of two cities – Perth and Rockingham, Australia – and the quick onset of sunrise and sunset.

But at the end of the first orbit, Glenn lost control of an attitude control jet, which meant the capsule became like a car with its wheel alignment out of balance, the NASA History Web site said.

Glenn was forced to override the automatic control system – the Mercury capsules were designed to be primarily automated spacecraft – for manual control. He was able to maintain control but could not complete some of his observational assignments, and piloting manually meant the rate of fuel consumption increased.

However, the next reported problem was more serious. A landing-system monitor signaled to the ground that the capsule’s heat shield was not locked into place, meaning it was only being held in place by the overlying retro-rocket package. Without Mercury’s heat shield, the capsule would disintegrate during re-entry – along with Glenn.

After weighing their options, officials at the control center decided that instead of ejecting the retro-rocket package after readying the landing gear as is typically done, they would keep it in place and thus maintain the heat shield, the NASA History Web site said.

Mercury chief designer Maxime Faget approved of that course of action, as long as the retro-rockets were exhausted; any leftover fuel probably would ignite upon re-entry, the NASA History Web site said.

Although not immediately informed of the perceived danger, Glenn became suspicious of a problem when tracking stations kept asking him if his landing-bay deploy switch was turned off, the NASA History Web site said.

“We are recommending that you leave the retro package on during the entire re-entry,” the control center said, according to the 1963 U.S. National Archives documentary film “The John Glenn Story.”

During re-entry Glenn saw the retro-pack breaking into pieces and thought it was the heat shield and that he would be next, according to the NASA History Web site.

Fortunately, he was wrong. Glenn splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean safely after the nearly five-hour flight.

The heat shield was later found to have been locked firmly into place – its sensor simply had malfunctioned.