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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Inaugural UofL Optimal Aging Conference set for June 12-14

Event brings together seniors, caregivers, academics and professionals

Newswise, January 27, 2016--The Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging at the University of Louisville will host its inaugural Optimal Aging Conference June 12-14 in Louisville. The conference will be held at the Brown Hotel, 335 W. Broadway.

The Optimal Aging Conference brings together academics, professionals and older adults across a variety of disciplines who are united by a view that aging is an opportunity, not a disease, said Institute Executive Director Anna Faul, D.Litt. 

“This conference supports the dissemination of biopsychosocial aging research, age-friendly product innovation, and evidence-based practice and education models, with participation and input from older adults,” Faul said.

The conference will feature presentations on the latest in aging research and the deadline for abstract submissions is March 18.
Registration will open April 1. 

The registration fee for students, residents, and senior citizens age 65 and older is $100; $240 for KAG Members; and $260 for all other academics and professionals.

The conference also will feature exhibits from a variety of businesses and organizations involved in the aging profession. Deadline for exhibitors and sponsorships is April 30.

The conference is sponsored jointly by the UofL Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging and the Kentucky Association for Gerontology. For information about the conference, visit or call 502-852-5629.

How Obesity Makes Memory Go Bad

UAB researchers find that epigenetic changes associated with chronic obesity alter expression of memory-related genes in the brain.

Newswise, January 27, 2016 – University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers are probing how obesity makes memory goes bad, and the underlying molecular mechanism that drives this decline.

They have found that epigenetic changes dysregulate memory-associated genes, and a particular enzyme in brain neurons of the hippocampus appears to be a link between chronic obesity and cognitive decline. Their work is published in the Jan. 27 issue of Journal of Neuroscience.

Obesity plagues developed nations, and among the numerous negative health outcomes associated with obesity is a memory impairment that is seen in middle-aged and older obese people.

The cause of this decline? Experiments with obese rodents have given a clue: altered gene expression in the hippocampus area of the brain. Until now, the reasons gene expression was changed, as well as the mechanism by which obesity leads to pathogenic memory impairment, have not been known.

There was one suspect: epigenetic dysregulation in neurons of the hippocampus. Foundational experiments over the past decade have linked the creation of long-term memories to changes in DNA methylation and hydroxymethylation — changes caused by epigenetic mechanisms that sit above the level of the genes.

Such lasting molecular changes to DNA appear to play an important role in promoting or suppressing memory formation through their ability to increase or reduce the expression of genes that help brain neurons create new synaptic connections.

UAB researchers have now shown that epigenetic changes are indeed associated with changes in the expression of memory-associated genes within the hippocampus of obese mice, and these epigenetic changes correlate with diminished object location spatial memory in the obese mice.

The UAB researchers have also implicated reduced amounts of one particular memory-associated gene product — SIRT1 — as the principal pathogenic cause of obesity-induced memory impairment. The hippocampus subregion of the brain is important for consolidation of long-term memory.

Corresponding author J. David Sweatt, Ph.D., first author Frankie D. Heyward, Ph.D., and colleagues in the UAB Department of NeurobiologyEvelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute, write that these data “provide the first evidence that high-fat-diet-induced obesity leads to the time-dependent development of aberrant epigenetic modifications within the hippocampus, as well as corresponding reduction in the expression of various memory-related genes.”

Sweatt noted, “We feel this is a very exciting finding that identifies a new linkage between diet, epigenetics and cognitive function, especially in light of the burgeoning obesity epidemic in the U.S. and elsewhere.”

This work, they write, “offers a novel working model that may serve as a conceptual basis for the development of therapeutic interventions for obesity-induced memory impairment.”

In details about the cause of altered gene expression, the UAB researchers found that:
• Mice with diet-induced obesity at 20 weeks had impaired performance in object location memory tests, and their hippocampus had impaired synaptic plasticity, as measured by long-term potentiation.
• Four memory-associated genes — Ppargc1a, Ppp1cb, Reln and Sirt1 — showed significantly decreased gene expression at 23 weeks of diet-induced obesity, as has been seen before, and the latter three had significantly increased DNA methylation in their gene promoter regions. Increased methylation is known to decrease gene expression. Furthermore, the Sirt1 promoter region also had significantly decreased DNA hydroxymethylation. Gene expression increases or decreases as DNA hydroxymethylation increases or decreases.
• Obesity-induced memory impairment develops over time. At just 13 weeks of diet-induced obesity, seven weeks earlier than the experiments above, mice did not have significant object location memory impairment, and at 16 weeks of diet-induced obesity, also seven weeks earlier than above, none of the genes showed significant increases in DNA methylation. Only one gene at 16 weeks — Ppargc1a — showed significant decreases in gene expression and DNA hydroxymethylation.

To probe the mechanism by which obesity leads to pathogenic memory impairment, the UAB researchers focused on the gene Sirt1, which makes an enzyme that is active in the neuron during energy expenditure and fat mobilization.

This enzyme appears to be depleted and dysfunctional in obesity, and the deletion of the Sirt1 gene in the brain shortly after birth is known to impair memory and the ability to form new neural synapses. These roles for the SIRT1 gene product — in both high-fat-diet-induced molecular pathology and in memory impairment — suggest that it might be a link between chronic obesity and cognitive decline.

Heyward, Sweatt and colleagues found that the hippocampus of obese mice had significantly diminished protein expression of SIRT1, and a substrate of the enzyme, acetlylated-p53, was significantly increased, suggesting reduced enzymatic activity. Also, a targeted deletion of Sirt1 in the forebrain region that includes the hippocampus at age 8-12 weeks showed decreased Sirt1 mRNA and protein in the hippocampus, and these mice showed impaired object-location memory when tested two weeks later.

Furthermore, chemical activation of SIRT1 in diet-induced obese mice by feeding them resveratrol showed decreased levels of acetylated-p53, suggesting increased SIRT1 enzymatic activity, and the resveratrol-fed obese mice had a normal object-location memory, as compared with the control obese mice.

The resveratrol-fed obese mice did not show an enhanced memory compared with normal mice. This suggests that resveratrol preserved their hippocampus-dependent spatial memory and SIRT1 function in the hippocampus.

Besides Heyward and Sweatt, co-authors of the paper, “Obesity weighs down memory through a mechanism involving the neuroepigenetic dysregulation of Sirt1,” are Daniel Gilliam, Mark Coleman, Cristin Gavin, Ph.D., Jing Wang, Ph.D., Garrett Kaas, Ph.D., Richard Trieu, John Lewis and Jerome Moulden, all of the UAB Department of Neurobiology.

Heyward is now a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, the Broad Institute and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. While at UAB, Heyward was supported by a UNCF/Merck Graduate Science Research Dissertation Fellowship that helps train and develop African-American biomedical scientists.

About 10 years ago, Sweatt’s lab made the seminal discovery that everyday experiences tap into epigenetic mechanisms in subregions of the brain, and the resulting epigenetic changes in DNA are critically important for long-term memory formation and the stable storage of long-term memory. The 2007 Neuron paper “Covalent modification of DNA regulates memory formation,” by Courtney Miller, Ph.D., and Sweatt, was the first to show
that active regulation of the chemical structure of DNA is involved in learning and experience-driven changes in the brain.

Obesity and cognitive decline
Evidence that suggests a link between the two includes:
• People ages 40-45 who were obese had a 74 percent increased risk of dementia 21 years later, and those who were overweight had a 35 percent greater risk. This study cohort had 10,276 men and women. Whitmer, RA, et al., BMJ 2005.
• A study of 2,223 healthy workers found that a higher body-mass index was associated with lower cognitive scores, after adjustment for age, sex, educational level, blood pressure, diabetes and other co-variables. Also, a higher BMI at baseline was associated with higher cognitive decline at a follow-up five years later. Cournot, M., et al., Neurology 2006.
• Metabolic syndrome in 73 people with an average age of 60 was associated with significant reductions in recall and overall intellectual functioning, compared with age- and education-matched controls. Hassenstab, J.J., et al., Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders 2010.
• A study of 8,534 twin individuals who were 65 or older showed that being overweight or obese at mid-life, with an average age of 43, was related to later dementia at the older age. Xu, W.L., et al., Neurology 2011.

About UAB

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center and the state of Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees and an economic impact exceeding $5 billion annually on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, patient care, community service and economic development. UAB: Knowledge that will change your world. Learn more at

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cost of End-of-Life Care in the U.S. is Comparable to Europe and Canada, Finds New Penn Study

First Analysis of the Differences in Treatment and Costs of End-of-Life Care Among Developed Countries Shows Room for Improvement Across the Board

Newswise, January 21, 2016  – Despite widespread perception, the United States does not provide the worst end-of-life care in the world. 

In the first international comparison of end-of-life care practices, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvaniaand colleagues from seven countries found that the United States actually has the lowest proportion of deaths in the hospital and the lowest number of days in the hospital in the last six months of life among the those countries, according to a new study published today in JAMA.

However, the United States performs poorly in other aspects of end-of-life care, especially related to high-technology interventions. 

Over 40 percent of patients who die with cancer are admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) in the last six months of life, which is more than twice that of any other country in the study. Similarly, 39 percent of American patients dying with cancer received at least one chemotherapy treatment in the last six months of life more than any other country in the study.

Using data from 2010 to 2012, researchers compared the site of death, treatments, and care used, as well as hospital expenses during the last six months of life for 389,073 patients who died in seven countries: Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.S. 

In Belgium and Canada over 50 percent of patients died in the hospital, while in England, Norway, and Germany over 38 percent of patients died in the hospital. By comparison in the U.S. 22 percent, and in the Netherlands 29 percent of cancer patients died in the hospital, which is in accordance with most patients’ wishes.

“There’s a widespread perception that the U.S. spends a tremendous amount on end-of-life care, but until now there’s never been a comparative study to put U.S. spending and resource utilization in context,” said senior author Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, Vice Provost for Global Initiatives, the Diane vS. Levy and Robert M. Levy University Professor, and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Penn. 

“End-of-life care is intensive and expensive, and what we know now is that the US does not have the worst end-of-life care and that no country is optimal. All countries have deficits.”

Spending on end-of-life care was high in the U.S. at about $18,500 for hospital care in the last six months of life. Canada and Norway were even higher at $21,840 and $19,783 per patient, respectively, while Belgium, England, and the Netherlands were lower at $15,699, $9,342, and $10,936, respectively.
Importantly, these results suggest reasons for optimism, suggests Emanuel: “Care for patients dying with cancer has improved. As the U.S. shows it is possible to change care. In the early 1980s over 70 percent of patients with cancer died in the hospital and spending many days in the hospital was common. We can improve care and now countries need to commit to improving that care.”

“Every country has its own challenges to improve end-of-life care. There are still too many people with cancer dying in acute care hospitals when we know our patients prefer to die at home,” said Justin E. Bekelman, MD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology and Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and lead author of the new study. 

“The U.S. continues to have high rates of ICU admissions and other markers of care intensity near the end of life. We can do better. We need a concerted effort toward making end-of-life care more consistent with our patients’ wishes.”

Using the results of this paper as a baseline for end-of-life care in the U.S. compared to other countries, the authors say moving forward it will be important for studies to focus on the cost of care outside of the hospital and better understanding the drivers of health care utilization disparities.

“This study focuses only on patients with cancer and mainly on their hospital services,” Emanuel said. 

“To really understand the costs and to develop new models for improved delivery of end-of-life care, we need a prospective study to evaluate three things: dying patients with other diseases, the full range of care both in and out of the hospital, and most importantly, the quality of that care.”

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging (P01-AG19783), the National Cancer Institute (KO7CA163616), and the Commonwealth Fund (20130502).

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. 

Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania(founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. 

The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $409 million awarded in the 2014 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. 

Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2014, Penn Medicine provided $771 million to benefit our community.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mind of Blue: Emotional Expression Affects the Brain’s Creativity Network

Study of Jazz Pianists Finds ‘Happy’ and ‘Sad’ Music Evoke Different Neural Patterns

Newswise January 11, 2016 — The workings of neural circuits associated with creativity are significantly altered when artists are actively attempting to express emotions, according to a new brain-scanning study of jazz pianists.

Over the past decade, a collection of neuroimaging studies has begun to identify components of a neural circuit that operates across various domains of creativity.

But the new research suggests that creativity cannot be fully explained in terms of the activation or deactivation of a fixed network of brain regions.

Rather, the researchers said, when creative acts engage brain areas involved in emotional expression, activity in these regions strongly influences which parts of the brain’s creativity network are activated, and to what extent.

“The bottom line is that emotion matters,” said senior author Charles Limb, MD. “It can’t just be a binary situation in which your brain is one way when you’re being creative and another way when you’re not. Instead, there are greater and lesser degrees of creative states, and different versions. And emotion plays a crucially important role in these differences.”

Most of the new research, which appears in the January 4, 2016 issue of Scientific Reports, was conducted in Limb’s laboratory at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine before his move to UC San Francisco in 2015. In his surgical practice, Limb, now the Francis A. Sooy Professor of Otolaryngology at UCSF and an accomplished jazz saxophonist, inserts cochlear implants to restore hearing.

Previous research by Limb and others using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study musical improvisation, freestyle rapping, and the rendering of caricatures—creative acts that unfold in real time and are therefore more amenable to laboratory studies than, say, painting—deactivate a brain region known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), which is involved in planning and monitoring behavior.

This DLPFC deactivation has been taken to be a neural signature of the “flow state” artists may enter to free up creative impulses.

But in the new study, led by first author Malinda McPherson, the researchers found that DLPFC deactivation was significantly greater when the jazz musicians, who played a small keyboard while in the fMRI scanner, improvised melodies intended to convey the emotion expressed in a “positive” image (a photograph of a woman smiling) than when they aimed to capture the emotions in a “negative” image (a photograph of the same woman in a mildly distressed state).

On the other hand, improvisations targeted at expressing the emotion in the negative image were associated with greater activation of the brain’s reward regions, which reinforce behaviors that lead to pleasurable outcomes, and a greater connectivity of these regions to the DLPFC.

“There’s more deactivation of the DLPFC during happy improvisations, perhaps indicating that people are getting into more of a ‘groove’ or ‘zone,’ but during sad improvisations there’s more recruitment of areas of the brain related to reward,” said McPherson, a classical violist and first-year graduate student in the Harvard-MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology.

 “This indicates there may be different mechanisms for why it’s pleasurable to create happy versus sad music.”

Because the images themselves might induce an emotional response in the musicians, in addition to the brain scans made while the musicians improvised, each scanning session also included a time period in which the musicians passively viewed the images.

For each musician, any brain activity data generated during these passive viewing periods, including emotional responses, were subtracted from that elicited during their musical performances.

This allowed the researchers to determine which components of brain activity in emotional regions were strongly associated with creating the improvisations.

Moreover, Limb said, the research team avoided biasing the musicians’ performances with words like “sad” or “happy” when instructing the musicians before the experiments.

“The notion that we can study complex creativity in artists and musicians from a neuroscientific perspective is an audacious one, but it’s one that we’re increasingly comfortable with,” Limb said.

“Not that we’re going to answer all the questions, but that we have the right to ask them and to design experiments that try to shed some light on this fascinating human process.”
The research was funded by the Dana Foundation and by the Brain Science Institute of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Co-authors were Frederick S. Barrett, PhD; Monica Lopez-Gonzalez, PhD; and Patpong Jiradejvong.

About UCSF: UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences, as well as a preeminent biomedical research enterpriseand UCSF Health, which includes two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, as well as other partner and affiliated hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the Bay Area. Please visit

Why Washington Is Failing

New book examines the issues behind why politicians won't reach across the aisle

Newswise, January 11, 2016 — Bad feelings about each other rather than competing ideologies keep Republicans and Democrats from encouraging their representatives to compromise and get things done, say the authors of a new book about why Washington won’t work.

“Deeply negative feelings cause more trouble than deep ideological differences would,” said Marc J. Hetherington, professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.

“When you disagree with the other side on the issues, you can often find a middle ground. When you don’t like the other side, you don’t even talk to them.”

“Although citizens have it in their capacity to nudge office holders toward compromise, they don’t trust their opponents enough to push their side’s representatives to compromise with those they increasingly view as the devil.”

That is the argument put forth in the new book Why Washington Won’t Work: Polarization, Political Trust and the Governing Crisis (The University of Chicago Press) by Hetherington and Thomas J. Rudolph.

The result is stagnation. The 112th and 113th Congresses, which served from 2011-14, were the least productive since scholars began to measure congressional productivity in the 1940s.

Distrust of the other side

Polls by the American National Election Studies (ANES) show that people’s feelings about their own party have remained steady over time. But their feelings about the other party are incredibly negative.

“Surveys show that our feelings about the party we do not identify with have never been more negative in the history of survey research,” Hetherington said.

“To put the Obama-era scores in perspective, consider that the average favorability scores that Republicans gave atheists and illegal immigrants in 2012 are significantly higher than what they gave the Democratic Party. Similarly, Democrats feel much better about Christian Fundamentalists, their frequent political adversaries, than they do the GOP.

“Because of these negative feelings about the other side, the public reinforces polarization rather than nudging representatives toward compromise.”

That’s not to say that the public themselves are more partisan than ever. Although commentators sometimes claim it to be so, the evidence doesn’t back it up.

“According to data from the ANES, there are about the same percentage of strong partisans now as there were in the 1980s and 1990s,” Hetherington said. “In fact, there are fewer strong partisans now than there were in the 1950s and 1960s.”

When asked, roughly the same percentage of Americans say they are “moderate” as say they are “liberal,” “conservative” or even “haven’t thought enough about it.”
Voter turnout is up

Voters aren’t getting disgusted and turning away, either, Hetherington said.

“Turnout, for the most part, has been on the increase, not the decline,” Hetherington said. “This is not the behavior of an ideologically alienated group of people.”

Voters don’t mind sending ever more radical representatives to Congress, as long as they vote against the other party’s initiatives once they get there. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has built his recent career on that theory, Hetherington said. 

“His unwillingness to compromise may not have succeeded in making Barack Obama a one-term president, as was his stated goal, but it did improve his political fortunes immensely,” Hetherington said. “He moved from being Senate Minority Leader with 41 seats in 2009 to being Senate Majority Leader with 54 seats in 2015.

“What a handsome payoff for being a political roadblock.”

How to end the standoff

Politicians earning trust from voters across party lines could end the standoff, Hetherington said.
“Absent trust, any bridges that form between the two sides are made of sand,” he said.

Thomas J. Rudolph is professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Palliative Care Offers Greater Cost Savings for Cancer Patients with Multiple Chronic Conditions

Newswise, January 6, 2016--Patients with incurable cancer and numerous other serious health conditions who consulted with a palliative care team within two days of hospitalization had significant savings in hospital costs, according to a new study led by researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Published in the January issue of the journal Health Affairs, the study also determined that the higher number of serious coexisting conditions patients had, the greater reduction in direct hospital costs.

While previous studies have shown the link between palliative care and lower costs, this is the first study to examine whether the effect of palliative care consultation varies by the number of co-existing chronic conditions.

Researchers compared a treatment group of advanced cancer patients with numerous serious health conditions (also known as comorbidities) from six hospitals who were seen by a palliative care team with a separate group who received usual care.

Findings indicated that patients from the treatment group on average had a 22 percent reduction in costs compared to the group that did not receive palliative consultation.

Data showed that patients with the highest number of comorbidities had up to a 32 percent reduction in costs. The study’s findings suggest that early palliative consultations with the sickest patients may decrease unwanted aggressive end-of-life care, as well as shorten length of stays in hospital. 

Palliative care is a team-based specialty (incorporating medicine, nursing, social work and chaplaincy) focused on improving quality of life for people with serious illnesses by adding a layer of support for patients, their families, and health care providers.

It is provided in conjunction with all other appropriate medical treatments, including curative and life-prolonging therapies.

Programs using palliative care consultation teams have rapidly expanded in recent years. Today, over 90 percent of medium-size to large U.S. hospitals now have palliative care teams.

“We already know that coordinated, patient-centered palliative care improves care quality, enhances survival, and reduces costs for persons with cancer,” said R. Sean Morrison, MD, Director of the National Palliative Care Research Center and Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lead author of the study.

“Our latest research now shows the strong association between cost and the number of co-occurring conditions. Among patients with advanced cancer and other serious illnesses, aggressive treatments are often inconsistent with patients’ wishes and are associated with worse quality of life compared to other treatments. It is imperative that policymakers act to expand access to palliative care.”

Patients with multimorbidities account for a high proportion of U.S. health care spending. They also comprise two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries and account for almost half of the program’s total spending.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), over the next decade, annual Medicare expenditures will increase by 98 percent and total annual national health spending will grow by 76 percent, reaching $5.4 trillion.

Increasing access to palliative care during hospitalization for patients with advanced cancer and multiple chronic conditions could both improve care and help curb the growth of health care spending.

“The fact that we found greater cost savings for cancer patients with more comorbidities than for those with fewer comorbidities raises the question of whether similar results would be observed in patients with other serious illnesses and multimorbidity,” said Professor Peter May of Trinity College Dublin and a former visiting research fellow in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-author of the study.

“Future research is also needed to determine when in the course of illness palliative care is most cost-effective.”
The study was supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Nursing Research. Additional collaborators include researchers from Johns Hopkins University, Trinity College Dublin, Virginia Commonwealth University and James J. Peters VA Medical Center.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.
The System includes approximately 6,100 primary and specialty care physicians; 12 joint-venture ambulatory surgery centers; more than 140 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the renowned Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the highest in the nation in National Institutes of Health funding per investigator. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 hospitals in Geriatrics, Cardiology/Heart Surgery, and Gastroenterology, and is in the top 25 in five other specialties in the 2015-2016 “Best Hospitals” issue of U.S. News & World Report. Mount Sinai’s Kravis Children’s Hospital also is ranked in seven out of ten pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report. The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked 11th nationally for Ophthalmology, while Mount Sinai Beth Israel is ranked regionally.

For more information, visit or find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Why White, Older Men Are More Likely to Die of Suicide

Newswise, January 6, 2016 — In the United States, older men of European descent (so-called white men) have significantly higher suicide rates than any other demographic group. 

For example, their suicide rates are significantly higher than those of older men of African, Latino or Indigenous descent, as well as relative to older women across ethnicities.

Behind these facts there is a cultural story, not just individual journeys of psychological pain and despair. Colorado State University’s Silvia Sara Canetto has spent a large portion of her research career seeking to uncover cultural stories of suicide.

A professor in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Psychology, Canetto adds a new chapter to that story in an article recently published in the journal Men and Masculinities. Among her findings are that older white men have higher suicide rates, yet fewer burdens associated with aging. 

For example, they are less likely to experience widowhood and have better physical health and fewer disabilities than older women. They have more economic resources than ethnic minority older men, and than older women across ethnicities.

White older men, however, may be less psychologically equipped to deal with the normal challenges of aging, likely because of their privilege up until late adulthood, Canetto asserts.

An important factor in white men’s psychological brittleness and vulnerability to suicide once they reach late life, Canetto says, may be dominant scripts of masculinity, aging and suicide.

Particularly pernicious for this group may be the belief that suicide is a masculine response to “the indignities of aging.” This is a script that implicitly justifies, and even glorifies, suicide among men.

As illustrations, in her article Canetto examines two famous cases. Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman died of suicide in 1932, at age 77.

His biographer said Eastman was “unprepared and unwilling to face the indignities of old age.” Writer Hunter S. Thompson, who killed himself in 2005 at age 67, was described by friends as having triumphed over “the indignities of aging.”

Both suicides were explained in the press through scripts of conventional “white” masculinity, Canetto asserts. “The dominant story was that their suicide was a rational, courageous, powerful choice.”
Canetto’s research challenges the notion that high suicide rates are inevitable among white older men.

As additional evidence that suicide in this population is culturally determined, and thus preventable, Canetto points out that older men are not the most suicide-prone group everywhere in the world.

For example, in China, women of reproductive age are the demographic group with the highest suicide mortality.

Among the implications of Canetto’s research is that attention to cultural scripts of suicide offers new ways of understanding and preventing suicide.

As cultural stories, the “indignities of aging” suicide script as well as the belief that suicide is a white man’s powerful response to aging can and should be challenged, and changed, she says.

Study: We Trust in Those Who Believe in God

Newswise, January 6, 2016--It's political season and there's one thing you're sure to hear a lot about from candidates vying for support--religion. Talking directly or subtly about religion has become part of the American way in political campaigns.

A new study suggests including religion in campaign speeches feeds a belief that those who are religious to some extent are trustworthy and viewed more favorably. The study was conducted by Scott Clifford of the University of Houston Department of Political Science and Ben Gaskins of Lewis & Clark College.

"Their religious identification reflects a powerful, widespread, but often subtle and unconscious bias in American society against those who do not believe in God," Clifford said. The researchers note that there has been only one openly atheist congressman (Pete Stark, D-California), who lost in 2012.

Their findings were published in the journal American Politics Research.
Clifford and Gaskins say their study shows the challenges for non-religious candidates vying for public office.

Using national survey polling data, the researchers assessed the willingness of voters to support an atheist candidate, the favorability of candidate Hillary Clinton depending on whether she is viewed as religious, and the view that a religious candidate is trustworthy.

"Our findings suggest that not demonstrating religiousness is a significant roadblock for winning public office in the United States, and being perceived as religious increases the level of trust instilled in politicians by voters," Clifford said. 

"For Republicans (showing religiousness) will reinforce their existing support, but Democrats can expand appeal to moderates and conservatives with displays of religiousness." 

Among their findings:
• Believing atheists are moral increases willingness to vote for such a candidate
• 27 percent of respondents said atheists cannot be moral
• Majority said they would not vote for an atheist
• Mormons were 28 percentage points less likely than those with no religious affiliation to vote for an atheist
• Jewish respondents were no more or less likely than those with no religious affiliation to vote for an atheist

Additionally, they found that candidate Hillary Clinton was viewed more favorably and perceived to be more honest if she also was thought to be religious. That view was held most notably by non-liberals, who also indicated they were more likely to vote for her.

Clifford and Gaskins used data from two polls--2007 Newsweek poll of 1,004 adults, 2007 CBS News poll of 1,282 adults.