Friday October 20, 2017

Study suggests air pollution may damage brain

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smoke-712471_640A research study has found that long-term exposure to air pollution may lead to loss of white matter in the brain.

In the study, older women who lived in places with higher air pollution had significantly reduced white matter in the brain. White matter in the brain is made of axon cells, which enable the nerves to communicate.

“Investigating the impact of air pollution on the human brain is a new area of environmental neurosciences,” said lead author of the study Jiu-Chiuan Chen from Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in the US.

“Our study provides the convincing evidence that several parts of the ageing brain, especially the white matter, are an important target of neurotoxic effects induced by long-term exposure to fine particles in the ambient air.”

For the study, the researchers took brain scans of 1403 women who were 71 to 89 years old and used residential histories and air monitoring data to estimate their exposure to air pollution in the previous six to seven years.

The results suggest that ambient particulate air pollutants may have a deleterious effect on brain ageing.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.

-(IANS)

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‘Humans Have Caused Pollution and Humans Can Fix It too’, Says UN Environment Head; Asserts Asia Must Lead Efforts for a Pollution-Free Earth

World Health Organization figures show Asia has 25 of the world's 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health

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Asia-Pacific
People wear protective masks during a polluted day in Shanghai (VOA)

Bangkok, September 9, 2017 : Asia-Pacific — home to more than half the world’s population and some of its fastest-growing economies — is a key battleground in the fight against pollution, one of the biggest threats to the planet and its people, the U.N. environment chief said.

An estimated 12 million people die prematurely each year because of unhealthy environments, 7 million of them due to air pollution alone, making pollution “the biggest killer of humanity,” Erik Solheim told the first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment in Bangkok this week.

ALSO READ Air Pollution expected to Cause 60,000 Deaths in 2030 and 2,60,000 in 2100 Globally: Study

Humans have caused pollution and humans can fix it, said Solheim, executive director of UN Environment, in an interview with Reuters at the four-day summit.

“The struggle for a pollution-free planet will be won or lost in Asia — nowhere else,” said the former Norwegian minister for environment and international development.

The sheer size of Asia-Pacific, as well as its continued economic growth, put it at the heart of the challenge, he added.

The region’s development has been accompanied by worsening pollution of its air, water and soil. Its emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide doubled between 1990 and 2012, and the use of resources such as minerals, metals and biomass has tripled, according to the United Nations.

Asia-Pacific
A man carries a sack of vegetables as he walks past a polluted canal littered with plastic bags and other garbage, in Mumbai. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) (VOA)

World Health Organization figures also show Asia has 25 of the world’s 30 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particles in the air that pose the greatest risks to human health. The pollution comes largely from the combustion of fossil fuels, mostly for transport and electricity generation.

Solheim said Asia is also a major contributor of plastic polluting the world’s oceans — and solutions can be found in the region. He pointed to a huge beach cleanup campaign in Mumbai that inspired Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to overhaul the country’s waste management system.

“There’s enormous environmental opportunity,” Solheim said. “Asia has by and large strong governments, and they have the ability to fix problems.”

Coal no longer king?

Solheim said fighting pollution by moving toward renewable energy sources such as wind and solar would also benefit efforts to curb climate change, which scientists say is stoking more deadly heatwaves, floods and sea-level rise around the world.

But environmentalists worry that Asia’s demand for coal, the most polluting of the major fossil fuels, is likely to grow for years to come.

Figures from a forum organized by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Singapore earlier this year show that some 273 gigawatts of coal power are still being built, although much more has been put on hold.

In July, analysts told Reuters that Japan, China and South Korea are bank-rolling coal-fired power plants in Indonesia despite their pledges to reduce planet-warming emissions under the Paris climate deal.

Asia-Pacific
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to limit the rise in average world temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Experts say curbing or ending the use of coal is required if this goal is to be reached.

Globally, many countries — including China — are shutting down or suspending plans for coal-fired power plants as costs for wind and solar power plummet.

Solheim is optimistic, noting that the International Energy Agency significantly raised its five-year growth forecast for renewables led by China, India, the United States and Mexico.

“There are very, very few people in the world who believe that the future is coal,” he said. “I think we will see the shift [to renewables] happening much faster than people tend to believe.”

ALSO READ Paris climate pact: The play of words

On U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull his nation out of the Paris Agreement, Solheim sees a silver lining.

“The surprising judgment of history may be that Donald Trump did a lot of service to this fight against climate change by withdrawing, because he galvanized the reaction of everyone else,” said Solheim.

“All the big, iconic companies of modern capitalism — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon — they immediately said, ‘We will move into the green economy.'” (VOA)

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Contagious yawning: Why we yawn when someone else does? Read to find out

The findings of Research on why is yawning so so contagious?

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Why we yawn when someone else does?
Why we yawn when someone else does? Pixabay
  • Contagious yawning is triggered involuntarily when we observe another person yawn, it is a common form of Echophenomena
  • The  Research findings showed that our urge to yawn is increased if we are instructed to resist yawning
  • Echophenomena isn’t just a human trait, it is found in chimpanzees and dogs too

New York, USA, September 3, 2017:  Ever wondered why even if we are not tired, we yawn if someone else does? Why is yawning so contagious?

It is because the human propensity for contagious yawning is triggered automatically by primitive reflexes in a brain area responsible for motor function, a research suggests.

Contagious yawning is triggered involuntarily when we observe another person yawn – it is a common form of Echophenomena -the automatic imitation of another’s words (echolalia) or actions (echopraxia).

The  Research findings showed that our urge to yawn is increased if we are instructed to resist yawning. And no matter how hard we try to stifle a yawn, it might change how we yawn but it won’t alter our propensity to yawn.

Also Read: Ever wondered why you Itch when another person scratches in front of you?

“This research has shown that the ‘urge’  is increased by trying to stop yourself. Using electrical stimulation we were able to increase excitability and in doing so increase the propensity for contagious yawning,” said Georgina Jackson, a Professor at the University of Nottingham.

“The findings may be important in understanding the association between motor excitability and the occurrence of Echophenomena in a wide range of conditions linked to increased cortical excitability and/or decreased physiological inhibition such as epilepsy, dementia, autism, and Tourette syndrome,” added Stephen Jackson, a Professor at the University.

For the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the team used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to analyze volunteers who viewed video clips showing someone else yawning and were instructed to either resist yawning or to allow themselves to yawn.

“If we can understand how alterations in cortical excitability give rise to neural disorders we can potentially reverse them. We are looking for potential non-drug, personalized treatments, using TMS that might be effective in modulating imbalances in the brain networks,” Jackson said.

Echophenomena isn’t just a human trait, it is found in chimpanzees and dogs too. (IANS)

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‘India Won the 1962 War and Gandhiji was not Murdered’: Are New Textbooks in India Misinforming the Youth?

How can the youth know the struggles of the ancestors of the nation if they believe that we have a all-too-glorified past?

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New Textbooks
New School Textbooks in India are not telling the real history to youth. Wikimedia

August 25, 2017: Fake news has become the biggest evil to true information. Exaggerated/ altered facts to support an ideological agenda has become increasingly common, combined with photoshopped images and fabricated videos.

But this misinformation when breaches the sacredness of education and knowledge, it takes the form of the most dangerous thing. Such fabricated tales are now available in the new textbooks in India.

History, in particular, has been twisted and told to young students of India. It is unfortunate that the textbooks which are to shape the able youth of the nation and telling outright lies.

ALSO READ: Politics and Education: A Relationship that contributes a lot in shaping our Future

Below are some of the incidents that have been explained differently than the reality:

THE MUGHALS

The Hindus have always hated the Mughal chapter of the Indian History. The Mughal Dynasty came to India for conquest and occupied the majority of the nation. The Dynasty which came from Central Asia ruled over the Indian subcontinent from 1526-1857 after which the White people took over. The slavery of Hindus in their own nation is a sad but true fact. The Mughal rule was also perceived as the authoritarian nature of Islam, although the interests that the dynasty was pursuing were purely political. The people who opposed the Mughal Dynasty in India included Chattrapati Shivaji, the Maratha King, along with Assam Kings Commander Lachit Borphukan, are well respected among the Hindu sect.

There was also an incident involving Mughal King Akbar and Rajput Chieftain Maharana Pratap. Maharana Pratap rejected becoming subordinate to Akbar. Hence, a war was waged which later came to be known as the Battle of Haldighati. Although Maharana’s Rajput forces gave a tough fight, it was outnumbered by Akbar’s huge military.

In July 2017, India Today reported that in the Class X textbooks of history, it is said that it was the Rajput forces that defeated the Mughals in the battle. This change was approved by the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education during the period of revising state textbooks.

MAHATMA GANDHI

Nowhere in the Class VIII textbooks do the students find the story of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination. The book does explore Gandhi’s life span, but it does not inform how the father of the nation was killed by Nathuram Godse. The Rajasthan Rajya Pathyapustak Mandal has published the textbook.

JAWAHARLAL NEHRU

The same textbook that has omitted Godse’s name has also forgotten Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first PM and the longest one at that. While Nehru’s decisions during his leadership are of various debates, the book has not discussed the first PM and his role in reconstructing a newly independent and divided nation. However, the book has extensively mentioned the First President Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel. Indian Express reported how the political ideology has played a role here to hide the true picture of history. Nehru, for all his secular ideas and a different idea of the country, which was not so popular among some sects.

1962 WAR BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

India was taken off guard by an attack from the Chinese troops in 1962. India, which was still recovering from independence, lost embarrassingly. In the recent Dokhlam standoff, Chinese media has reminded India of the humiliating defeat. Needless to say, the 1962 Indo-Sino war left a mark on Indians.

But in Madhya Pradesh’s Sanskrit Textbooks for Class VIII students, it is claimed that India won the war. The book titled ‘Sukritika’ explicitly states, “What famously came to be known as Sino-India war of 1962 was won by India against China,” reports Times of India. The textbook is published by Kriti Prakashan and is used at CBSE affiliated schools in Madhya Pradesh.

THE UNFORTUNATE REALITY

Indian Express had also reported the dire need for improvement in Maharashtra. Important events of world history (and not just western history) such as the French and American Revolution, Magna Carta, Greek Academia, etc. are all replaced by the glorification of the Maratha dynasty.

These incidents are shameful when viewed from a citizen’s lens. How can one expect to believe knowledge and intellect when information itself is a lie? How can the youth know the struggles of the ancestors of the nation if they believe that we have an all-too-glorified past?


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