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Health
Honourable Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen’s Services announced the provincial government has granted the University of British Columbia more than $27 million for a variety of research infrastructure projects. The grant from the BC Knowledge and Development Fund (BCKDF) will provide the necessary funds needed for new laboratories, facilities and equipment for 40 research projects. The projects range from investigations into childhood diabetes to genome sequencing and cancer treatment.   One of the projects is the Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories. This project is led by UBC diabetes researcher Bruce Verchere at BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority. “The research enabled by this infrastructure will lead to new ways to predict, prevent, and treat diabetes for the many children in this province affected by this devastating disease,” said Verchere. The BCKDF also invests in Strengthening scientific research and fosters talents at post-secondary institutions, research hospitals and affiliated non-profit agencies province wide. “Our government invests tens of millions of dollars in innovation at public post-secondary institutions to build on the growth and diversification of our economy and advance technology. Research at UBC offers students hands-on study opportunities and leads to the jobs and investment that makes our technology sector an important contributor to the provincial economy”,  said Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education. Helen Burt, UBC associate vice-president, research and international said, UBC is appreciative of the support from the provincial government. The funding will enable talented scientists to make discoveries in the fields of health, life sciences, and science and technology. She further added, this investment could bring significant social and economic benefits to British Columbians.
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Politics, World
On May 9, the Philippines held its national and local elections, electing a new President and Vice President, as well as senators, mayors and other local officials. Though the official results will be released later in June, presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is the presumptive winner of the presidential race with a 6 million vote lead over his main contender, Manuel Roxas II. It is notable that the popular vote has chosen Duterte as the new president, despite of allegations of murder, of his infamous “Davao Death Squad” (DDS), and outspoken willingness to kill criminals and anyone who dares to defy his rule. Why has this been so? To understand Duterte’s popularity, one must understand the mood of the majority of Filipinos towards their government and place in society. For one, his rise comes at a time of increasing anger against the rampant corruption in the Philippine government. This corruption is represented by the candidates themselves, in terms of dynastic families continuing to hold power, as well as in the corruption of tax funds, bribery of officials, and others. Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II, the second ranked candidate, is the grandson of former President Manuel Roxas. Grace Poe, another close contender, is the daughter of Fernando Poe Jr, a famous figure in Philippine politics and popular culture. Jejomar Binay, another candidate, has various family members in different levels of government as well as many charges of corruption against him. Duterte appears to be the antithesis to these candidates. Formerly the mayor of Davao City, he will be the first President who hails from the Southern Philippines in a position dominated by candidates from the North. He is from a lower socioeconomic class than his opponents and has declared to have a simple lifestyle, though recent reports have shown that he too has unaccounted for wealth. He is not part of a dynasty in national politics, which has been a main source of frustration of Filipinos against government officials. He stands firm against corruption, and has vowed to file an executive order to implement Freedom of Information (FOI) regarding the government’s executive branch, which was started by President Ninoy ‘NoyNoy’ Aquino Jr but had failed to pass in Congress. Most of all, the dominating feature of his platform is his promise to solve crime in the Philippines in 3-6 months, allowing for the possibility of assassinations, death squads, as well as the dumping of bodies in Manila Bay. His apparent ability to keep order in Davao City with similar methods seems to give credibility for this promise. He is what the majority of Filipinos have seen as the saviour the Philippines so desperately needs. Indeed, while Aquino has managed to spearhead the largest economic growth since the era of martial law and earn the Philippines the title of a ‘Rising Asian Tiger’, this has largely not been felt at the lower layers of society. About a quarter of the Philippines’ population remains in poverty. With the governmental corruption, recent disastrous storms that have devastated the country, and lack of visible change, the frustration has grown. It is evident that a hero is needed to save the nation. But can Duterte save the Philippines? A president’s term lasts only 6 years, and as reflected in other parts of the world such as the US, change can be slow, frustratingly so, and it can bring criticism on the leader’s apparent inability to make it happen faster. But this is also what makes Duterte so popular – he is promising quick, immediate change for problems the nation, especially its lower socioeconomic classes, have experienced for so long. The people have spoken for the Punisher, the so-called Donald Trump of the East to become the new President of the Philippines. Experts fear that this new regime can bring an end to democracy in the Philippines and cause ripple effects across Southeast Asia. Others worry for the Philippines’ foreign relations during his rule, especially with consideration to the conflict in the South China Sea. Only time will prove to tell whether Duterte was the right choice. The Philippine election results can be found at this link, provided by the news outlet Rappler. The overseas votes are the remaining ones to be counted.
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Health, News
According to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine, a greater area of children’s brains is activated by their mother’s voice than by the voice of women they don’t know. Brain regions in children that are strongly activated by the voice of their mothers extend beyond auditory ares to include regions involved in emotion, reward processing, social functions, detection of what is personally relevant and face recognition. The study found that the strength of connections between the brain regions stimulated by the voice of the child’s mother would predict the child’s social communication abilities. “Many of our social, language and emotional processes are learned by listening to our mom’s voice,” said lead author Daniel Abrams, PhD, instructor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences. “But surprisingly little is known about how the brain organizes itself around this very important sound source. We didn’t realize that a mother’s voice would have such quick access to so many different brain systems.” Many years of research has revealed children prefer their mother’s voice. In one classic study, one year old babies sucked harder on their pacifiers once they heard their mother’s voice as opposed to the voice of other woman. However, the mechanism behind this inclination was not known. “We want to know: Is it just auditory and voice -selective areas that respond differently, or is it more broad in terms of engagement, emotional reactivity and detection of salient stimuli?”, said senior author Vinod Menon, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. This study tested 24 children aged between 7 to 12 with an IQ of at least 80. Children were all raised by their biological mothers and did not have any developmental disorders.  Before the brain scans the voice of each mother was recorded saying three nonsense word. Menon said these nonsense words were used to prevent the activation of a whole different set of circuitry in the brain. The voice of two mothers whose children were not included in the experiment were recorded to use as controls. The brain scans, revealed that even from very short clips, less than a second long, the children could distinguish their own mother’s voices with more than 97 percent accuracy. “The extent of the regions that were engaged was really quite surprising”,  said Menon. “We know that hearing mother’s voice can be an important source of emotional comfort to children,” said Abrams. “Here, we’re showing the biological circuitry underlying that.” Children whose brains showed a stronger degree of connection between all the different regions while hearing their mother’s voices had the strongest social communication ability. This finding shows increased brain connectivity between the regions, is a neural fingerprint for increased social communication abilities in children. Menon said this finding is an important template to examine social communication defects in children with disorders such as autism. “Voice is one of the most important social communication cues, It’s exciting to see that the echo of one’s mother’s voice lives on in so many brain systems.”
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Health
According to a new UBC study, community-based social groups could play a major role in helping people with early-onset dementia. UBC nursing professor, Alison Phinney, led the study which focuses on an independently run program known as Paul’s Club. The club offers social and recreational activities three days per week, members are from their mid-40s to late 60s. “Of the estimated 1.4 million Canadians living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by 2031, a few thousand in every major city will be diagnosed before age 65,” said Phinney. According to her research she believes day program’s like Paul’s Club could help patients continue to live at home for as long as possible. This club was founded by retired nurse, Rita levy and her husband, Michael, in 2012. The club members meet at a hotel with a friendly ambience without medical or hospital associations. The club runs from 10 am to 4pm to give members’ families a break from caring for their loved ones. The day starts with coffee, mostly followed by chair yoga, dance or other light workout before the group goes for lunch and a walk in the neighbourhood. And finally the day ends with an ice cream at a local gelato shop. “Young-onset dementia is incredibly challenging because they’re still fairly active and healthy and suddenly they’re no longer able to work,” said Phinney. The research is funded by the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.  The next stage of the study will examine a more conventional adult day program for the elderly, including some with dementia.
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