Study illustrates how similar neural responses predict friendships

January 30, 2018

Dartmouth College

You may perceive the world the way your friends do, according to a new study finding that friends have similar neural responses to real-world stimuli and these similarities can be used to predict who your friends are.


Social network. The social network of an entire cohort of first-year graduate students was reconstructed based on a survey completed by all students in the cohort (N = 279; 100% response rate). Nodes indicate students; lines indicate mutually reported social ties between them. A subset of students (orange circles; N = 42) participated in the fMRI study.
Credit: Image by Carolyn Parkinson.



You may perceive the world the way your friends do, according to a Dartmouth study finding that friends have similar neural responses to real-world stimuli and these similarities can be used to predict who your friends are.

The researchers found that you can predict who people are friends with just by looking at how their brains respond to video clips. Friends had the most similar neural activity patterns, followed by friends-of-friends who, in turn, had more similar neural activity than people three degrees removed (friends-of-friends-of-friends).

Published in Nature Communications, the study is the first of its kind to examine the connections between the neural activity of people within a real-world social network, as they responded to real-world stimuli, which in this case was watching the same set of videos.

“Neural responses to dynamic, naturalistic stimuli, like videos, can give us a window into people’s unconstrained, spontaneous thought processes as they unfold. Our results suggest that friends process the world around them in exceptionally similar ways,” says lead author Carolyn Parkinson, who was a postdoctoral fellow in psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth at the time of the study and is currently an assistant professor of psychology and director of the Computational Social Neuroscience Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The study analyzed the friendships or social ties within a cohort of nearly 280 graduate students. The researchers estimated the social distance between pairs of individuals based on mutually reported social ties. Forty-two of the students were asked to watch a range of videos while their neural activity was recorded in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. The videos spanned a range of topics and genres, including politics, science, comedy and music videos, for which a range of responses was expected. Each participant watched the same videos in the same order, with the same instructions. The researchers then compared the neural responses pairwise across the set of students to determine if pairs of students who were friends had more similar brain activity than pairs further removed from each other in their social network.

The findings revealed that neural response similarity was strongest among friends, and this pattern appeared to manifest across brain regions involved in emotional responding, directing one’s attention and high-level reasoning. Even when the researchers controlled for variables, including left-handed- or right-handedness, age, gender, ethnicity, and nationality, the similarity in neural activity among friends was still evident. The team also found that fMRI response similarities could be used to predict not only if a pair were friends but also the social distance between the two.

“We are a social species and live our lives connected to everybody else. If we want to understand how the human brain works, then we need to understand how brains work in combination — how minds shape each other,” explains senior author Thalia Wheatley, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth, and principal investigator of the Dartmouth Social Systems Laboratory.

For the study, the researchers were building on their earlier work, which found that as soon as you see someone you know, your brain immediately tells you how important or influential they are and the position they hold in your social network.

The research team plans to explore if we naturally gravitate toward people who see the world the same way we do, if we become more similar once we share experiences or if both dynamics reinforce each other.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Dartmouth CollegeNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Carolyn Parkinson, Adam M. Kleinbaum, Thalia Wheatley. Similar neural responses predict friendshipNature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02722-7


Source: Dartmouth College. “Your brain reveals who your friends are: Study illustrates how similar neural responses predict friendships.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2018. <>.

January 29, 2018

Universitaet Tübingen

Psychiatrists and neuroscientists have for the very first time succeeded in measuring the readiness potential, outside a laboratory and under extreme conditions, namely prior to a 192-meter bungee jump.


Semi-professional cliff diver carrying a wireless EEG system to record his brain waves.
Credit: Surjo Soekadar



Surjo R. Soekadar, psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of Tübingen, and his doctoral candidate Marius Nann have for the very first time succeeded in measuring the readiness potential, outside a laboratory and under extreme conditions, namely prior to a 192-meter bungee jump.

The readiness potential is a characteristic electrical voltage shift in the brain that indicates an upcoming willful act, and that appears even before a person becomes aware of his/her own conscious decision to act. The results of the study will be published in an international journal later this spring but are now available online.

The readiness potential was first described in 1964 by Hans-Helmut Kornhuber and Lüder Deecke, who measured the brain waves of a test person over hundreds of finger movements and under strict laboratory conditions. Despite numerous studies, the readiness potential has never been measured in a real-life situation: Since the voltage shift is in the range of only a few millionths of a volt, only measurements under laboratory conditions were considered possible.

To advance the development of brain-machine interfaces, the researchers from Tübingen wanted to find out whether the readiness potential can be assessed in everyday environments. In addition, they were interested in whether the willpower necessary for initiating an act would influence the characteristics of the brain potential. For the study, two semi-professional cliff divers agreed to have their brain waves recorded before jumping from the second tallest bungee jumping platform in Europe, the 192-meter Europa Bridge near Innsbruck in Austria.

After only a few jumps, the researchers were able to measure the readiness potential beyond any doubt. “Once again, the current experiment shows that the boundaries of the possible are shifting and that neurotechnology might soon be part of our everyday life,” Soekadar says. “The small number of jumps necessary for the experiment shows that the readiness potential prior to a bungee jump is very well expressed”, Nann explains.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Universitaet TübingenNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Marius Nann, Leonardo G. Cohen, Lüder Deecke, Surjo R. Soekadar Marius Nann, Leonardo G. Cohen, Lüder Deecke, Surjo R. Soekadar. To jump or not to jump: The Bereitschaftspotential required to jump into 192-meter abyssSubmitted to biorXiv, 2018 [link]


Source: Universitaet Tübingen. “One step ahead – What happens in the brain before a bungee jump?.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 January 2018. <>.

The Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative 10 Year Anniversary  

The mission of the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI) is “To develop and drive adoption of practices that will increase the quality and efficiency of clinical trials.“ CTTI’s 10th Year Anniversary will be celebrated in Washington on February 5-6, 2018.


Target Health Inc. has supported the CTTI Mission since joining CTTI on 8 August 2008, and we congratulate CTTI for its major contribution to the clinical trials enterprise over the past 10 years. When we joined in 2008, our friend and colleague Dr. Judith Kramer wrote this in response to our commitment to join: “Likewise;  I really enjoyed our conversation.  I am very pleased that you decided to join CTTI as I think you will be an extremely valuable participant at the “table”.


As part of Target Health commitment to the CTTI Mission, Jules Mitchel, President of Target Health was honored to serve on the Executive Committee of CTTI representing the Steering Committee, and was one of the authors of the 2011 publication on “Monitoring the quality of conduct of clinical trials: a survey of current practices.” This seminal CTTI publication was coauthored by: Briggs W Morrison, Chrissy J Cochran, Jennifer Giangrande White, Joan Harley, Cynthia F Kleppinger, An Liu, Jules T Mitchel, David F Nickerson, Cynthia R Zacharias, Judith M Kramer, James D Neaton. The esteemed Target Health software development team also created the database used to collect the survey information.


A major highlight last year was a joint NIH Collaboratory Grand Rounds Webinar presented with John Laschinger, CDRH/FDA and Jules Mitchel: entitled CTTI Registry Trials Project: Evaluation and Design of Registries for Conducting Clinical Trials.


Current projects that Target Health is actively involved with include Mobile Devices and Registries. There is an interview of Dr. Mitchel on the CTTI website.


Here is what we wrote in ON TARGET in 2008:


Target Health is pleased to announce that it has joined the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI).


CTTI, a public-private partnership with FDA’s Office of Critical Path Programs and Duke University, is mandated to bring together all interested stakeholders in order to identify practices that, through broad adoption, will increase the quality and efficiency of clinical trials. It is envisioned that this group will seek out new methods and technologies that improve safety, enhance the quality of information from trials, and make the research process more efficient. CTTI will identify best practices, conduct empirical research, and develop new standards for future research efforts. .


For more information about Target Health contact Warren Pearlson (212-681-2100 ext. 165). For additional information about software tools for paperless clinical trials, please also feel free to contact Dr. Jules T. Mitchel. The Target Health software tools are designed to partner with both CROs and Sponsors. Please visit the Target Health Website.


Joyce Hays, Founder and Editor in Chief of On Target

Jules Mitchel, Editor



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Anatomy of a multipolar neuron. Graphic credit: BruceBlaus – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


Listening to music first involves subcortical structures like cochlear nuclei, the brain stem, and the cerebellum. It then moves up to auditory cortices on both sides of the brain. And when you hear music, listening also involves the memory centers in the brain, such as the hippocampus and lowest parts of the 1) ___ ____. Tapping along with the music gets your cerebellum involved. Reading music involves the visual cortex and listening to or recalling lyrics will involve language centers in the temporal and frontal lobes. If you actually perform music, your frontal lobe for planning, and your motor and sensory cortex will activate as well. Because playing music requires co-ordination of motor control, somatosensory touch and auditory information, most musicians are known to have developed a greater ability than the average person to use both hands. Increased networks between the left and right brain form thick fibers that interconnect the two motor areas, an area that is larger in musicians than in non-2) ___. Because the brain has the capacity to change (called neuroplasticity), music also affects some of the brain’s learning capacities, increasing the size of the auditory and motor 3) ___. A research team from Utrecht University in the Netherlands also found music is associated with an improved ability for auditory imagery. Musically trained groups performed better on both a musical imagery task and a non-musical auditory-imagery task than naive groups.


An earworm, sometimes known as a brainworm, sticky music, stuck song syndrome, or Involuntary Musical Imagery (INMI) is a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer 4) ___.  Phrases used to describe an earworm include “musical imagery repetition”, “involuntary musical imagery”, and “stuck song syndrome”. The word earworm is possibly a calque from the German Ohrwurm. Mark Twain chronicled the experience of earworms in his short story “A Literary Nightmare,” published in an 1876 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. This story describes the gradual 5) ___ possession of an entire community by a catchy jingle that gets stuck in a mental groove, over and over again, in all of their imaginations.


Researchers who have studied and written about the phenomenon include Theodor Reik, Sean Bennett, Oliver Sacks, Daniel Levitin, James Kellaris, Philip Beaman, Vicky Williamson, and, in a more theoretical perspective, Peter Szendy.  The phenomenon is common and should not be confused with palinacousis, a rare medical condition caused by damage to the temporal 6) ___ of the brain that results in auditory hallucinations. Vicky Williamson at Goldsmiths, University of London, found in an uncontrolled study that earworms correlated with music exposure (having heard the song recently or frequently), but could also be triggered by experiences that trigger the memory of a song (involuntary memory) such as seeing a word that reminds one of the song, hearing a few notes from the song, or feeling an emotion one associates with the 7) ___. The list of songs collected in the study showed no particular pattern, other than popularity. According to James Kellaris, 98% of individuals experience earworms. Women and men experience the phenomenon equally often, but earworms tend to last longer for women and irritate them more. Kellaris produced statistics suggesting that songs with lyrics may account for 73.7% of earworms, whereas instrumental music may cause only 7.7%. In 2010, published data in the British Journal of Psychology directly addressed the subject, and its results support earlier claims that earworms are usually 15 to 30 seconds in length and are more common in those with an interest in music.


Scientists at Western Washington University found that engaging working memory in moderately difficult tasks (such as anagrams, Sudoku puzzles, or reading a novel) was an effective way of stopping earworms and of reducing their recurrence.  Another publication points out that melodic music has a tendency to demonstrate repeating rhythm which may lead to endless repetition, unless a climax can be achieved to break the cycle. Research reported in 2015 by the School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences at the University of Reading demonstrated that, over the short-term, chewing gum could help by similarly blocking the sub-vocal rehearsal component of auditory short-term or “working” memory associated with generating and manipulating auditory and musical images.


Involuntary semantic memories are a new topic in psychology. Initial research has suggested that musical memories are a dominant type of involuntary 8) ___. Interestingly, no comprehensive information exists on the commonality of “earworms“, or repeated involuntary imagery of music (INMI), and its relationship to the engagement with musical activities.  A recent study investigated these, using cross-sectional, retrospective reports from a questionnaire study that was conducted among Finnish internet users (N = 12,519). The analyses of the Finnish data revealed that 89.2% of participants reported experiencing this phenomenon at least once a week. The amount of music practice and listening was positively related to the frequency of involuntary music. Women reported elevated levels of involuntary imagery episodes in contrast to men, who reacted differently. In older age-groups the frequency of the incidents decreased among both sexes. People with extensive, musical practice history, seemed to experience longer musical segments and more often instrumental ones. They were less agitated by involuntary music and reported it less often. The results are discussed in relation to a memory-based hypothesis of involuntary musical imagery. In conclusion, INMI is viewed as an integral part of our musical mind. INMI appears to be a part of disparate cultures around the world.  In episode 20 of season 7 of SpongeBob SquarePants, entitled “Ear Worm” (2010), SpongeBob gets a song stuck in his head called “Musical Doodle”. The episode refers to the 9) ___ as a physical creature that enters one’s head upon one’s listening to a catchy song.


In 1943 Henry Kuttner published the short story “Nothing but Gingerbread Left” about a song engineered to damage the Nazi war effort, culminating in Adolf Hitler being unable to continue a speech. In Alfred Bester’s 1953 novel The Demolished Man, the protagonist uses a jingle specifically crafted to be a catchy, irritating nuisance as a tool to block mind readers from reading his mind. In Arthur C. Clarke’s 1957 science fiction short story “The Ultimate Melody”, a scientist, Gilbert Lister, develops the ultimate melody – one that so compels the brain that its listener becomes completely and forever enraptured by it. Lister theorized that a great melody “made its impression on the mind because it fit in with the fundamental electrical rhythms going on in the 10) ___.” Lister attempts to abstract from the hit tunes of the day to a melody that fits in so well with the electrical rhythms that it dominates them completely. He succeeds and is found in a catatonic state from which he never awakens.

Sources:;; Wikipedia


The great Oliver Sachs discusses in a short video, earworms or brainworms


ANSWERS: 1) frontal lobe; 2) musicians; 3) cortex; 4) playing; 5) musical; 6) lobe; 7) song; 8) memory; 9) earworm; 10) brain


Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1852 – 1934)

Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Spanish Nobel laureate in medicine.

Photo credit: Original photo is anonymous although published by Clark University in 1899. Restoration by Garrondo – Cajal.PNG, Public Domain,


Santiago Ramon y Cajal was a Spanish neuroscientist and pathologist, specializing in neuroanatomy, particularly the histology of the central nervous system. He won the Nobel prize in 1906, becoming the first person of Spanish origin who won a scientific Nobel prize. His original investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain made him a pioneer of modern neuroscience. Hundreds of his drawings illustrating the delicate arborizations of brain cells are still in use for educational and training purposes.


Santiago Ramon y Cajal was born 1 May 1852 in the town of Petilla de Aragon, Navarre, Spain. His father was an anatomy teacher. As a child, he was transferred many times from one school to another because of behavior that was declared poor, rebellious, and showing an anti-authoritarian attitude. An extreme example of his precociousness and rebelliousness at the age of eleven is his 1863 imprisonment for destroying his neighbor’s yard gate with a homemade cannon. He was an avid painter, artist, and gymnast, but his father neither appreciated nor encouraged these abilities, even though these artistic talents would contribute to his success later in life. In order to tame the unruly character of his son, his father apprenticed him to a shoemaker and barber.


Ramon y Cajal as a young captain in the Ten Years’ War in Cuba, 1874.

Graphic credit: Izquierdo Vives, Public Domain,



Over the summer of 1868, his father hoped to interest his son in a medical career, and took him to graveyards to find human remains for anatomical study. Sketching bones was a turning point for him and subsequently, he did pursue studies in medicine. Ramon y Cajal attended the medical school of the University of Zaragoza, where his father was an anatomy teacher. He graduated in 1873, aged 21. After a competitive examination, he served as a medical officer in the Spanish Army. He took part in an expedition to Cuba in 1874-75, where he contracted malaria and tuberculosis. In order to heal, he visited the Panticosa spa-town in the Pyrenees. After returning to Spain, he received his doctorate in medicine in Madrid in 1877. In 1879, he became the director of the Zaragoza Museum, and he married Silveria Fananas Garc?a, with whom he had four daughters and three sons. Cajal worked at the University of Zaragoza until 1883, when he was awarded the position of anatomy professor of the University of Valencia. His early work at these two universities focused on the pathology of inflammation, the microbiology of cholera, and the structure of epithelial cells and tissues.


In 1887 Cajal moved to Barcelona for a professorship. There he first learned about Golgi’s method, a cell staining method which uses potassium dichromate and silver nitrate to (randomly) stain a few neurons a dark black color, while leaving the surrounding cells transparent. This method, which he improved, was central to his work, allowing him to turn his attention to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), in which neurons are so densely intertwined that standard microscopic inspection would be nearly impossible. During this period he made extensive detailed drawings of neural material, covering many species and most major regions of the brain. In 1892, he became a professor in Madrid. In 1899 he became director of the National Institute of Hygiene , and in 1922 founder of the Laboratory of Biological Investigations , later renamed to the Cajal Institute. He died in Madrid on October 17, 1934, at the age of 82, continuing to work even on his deathbed.


Ramon y Cajal made several major contributions to neuroanatomy. He discovered the axonal growth cone, and demonstrated experimentally that the relationship between nerve cells was not continuous, but contiguous. This provided definitive evidence for what Heinrich Waldeyer coined the term neuron theory as opposed to the reticular theory This is now widely considered the foundation of modern neuroscience. Cajal was an advocate of the existence of dendritic spines, although he did not recognize them as the site of contact from presynaptic cells. He was a proponent of polarization of nerve cell function and his student, Rafael Lorente de N?, would continue this study of input-output systems into cable theory and some of the earliest circuit analysis of neural structures. By producing excellent depictions of neural structures and their connectivity and providing detailed descriptions of cell types he discovered a new type of cell, which was subsequently named after him, the interstitial cell of Cajal (ICC). This cell is found interleaved among neurons embedded within the smooth muscles lining the gut, serving as the generator and pacemaker of the slow waves of contraction which move material along the gastrointestinal tract, mediating neurotransmission from motor neurons to smooth muscle cells. In his 1894 Croonian Lecture, Ramon y Cajal suggested (in an extended metaphor) that cortical pyramidal cells may become more elaborate with time, as a tree grows and extends its branches.


Cajal devoted a considerable amount of time studying hypnosis which he used to help his wife during labor and parapsychological phenomena. A book he had written on these topics was lost during the Spanish Civil War. Cajal received many prizes, distinctions, and societal memberships during his scientific career, including honorary doctorates in medicine from Cambridge University and Wurzburg University and an honorary doctorate in philosophy from Clark University in the United States. The most famous distinction he was awarded was the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1906, together with the Italian scientist Camillo Golgi “in recognition of their work on the structure of the nervous system“. This caused some controversy because Golgi, a staunch supporter of reticular theory, disagreed with Ramon y Cajal in his view of the neuron doctrine. He published more than 100 scientific works and articles in Spanish, French and German. Among his most notable works were:


Rules and advice on scientific investigation


Degeneration and regeneration of the nervous system

Manual of normal histology and micrographic technique

Elements of histology


A list of his books includes:


Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1905) [1890]. Manual de Anatomia Patologica General (Handbook of general Anatomical Pathology) (in Spanish) (fourth ed.).

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago; Richard Greeff (1894). Die Retina der Wirbelthiere: Untersuchungen mit der Golgi-cajal’schen Chromsilbermethode und der ehrlich’schen Methylenblauf?rbung (Retina of vertebrates) (in German). Bergmann.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago; L. Azoulay (1894). Les nouvelles idees sur la structure du systeme nerveux chez l’homme et chez les vertebres’ (‘New ideas on the fine anatomy of the nerve centres) (in French). C. Reinwald.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago; Johannes Bresler; E. Mendel (1896). Beitrag zum Studium der Medulla Oblongata: Des Kleinhirns und des Ursprungs der Gehirnnerven (in German). Verlag von Johann Ambrosius Barth.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1898). “Estructura del quiasma optico y teoria general de los entrecruzamientos de las vias nerviosas. (Structure of the Chiasma opticum and general theory of the crossing of nerve tracks)“ [Die Structur des Chiasma opticum nebst einer allgemeine Theorie der Kreuzung der Nervenbahnen (German, 1899, Verlag Joh. A. Barth)]. Rev. Trim. Micrografica (in Spanish). 3: 15-65.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1899). Comparative study of the sensory areas of the human cortex. p. 85. Archived from the original on 10 September 2009.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1899-1904). Textura del sistema nervioso del hombre y los vertebrados (in Spanish). Madrid.

Histologie du systeme nerveux de l’homme & des vertebres (in French) – via Internet Archive.

Texture of the Nervous System of Man and the Vertebrates.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1906). Studien uber die Hirnrinde des Menschen v.5 (Studies about the meninges of man) (in German). Johann Ambrosius Barth.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1999) [1897]. Advice for a Young Investigator. Translated by Neely Swanson and Larry W. Swanson. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-68150-1.

Ramon y Cajal, Santiago (1937). Recuerdos de mi Vida (in Spanish). Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 84-206-2290-7.


Other accomplishments and honors:


In 1905, he published five science-fiction stories called “Vacation Stories“ under the pen name “Dr. Bacteria“.

The asteroid 117413 Ramonycajal has been named in his honor.


In the 21st Century:

In 2014, the National Institutes of Health exhibited original Ramon y Cajal drawings in its Neuroscience Research Center.


This year 2018:

An exhibition called The Beautiful Brain: The Drawings of Santiago Ramon y Cajal travelled through the US beginning 2017 at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis ending April 2019 at the Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.


A short documentary by REDES is available on YouTube. Spanish public television filmed a biopic series to commemorate his life


Take a look at the beauty of the drawings by the great neuroscientist, Santiago Ramon-y-Cajal


Review of Cajal’s work

Life of the genius at work

Short biography

NIH discusses the great drawings

Discussion of 21 drawings, with a short pause between each discussion


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Gut-Homing Protein Levels and HIV Infection Risk and Disease Progression


According to a study published online in Science Translational Medicine (24 January 2018), for the first time, a relationship has been shown between health outcomes and the proportion of key immune cells, at the time of HIV infection, that display high levels of a gut-homing protein called alpha-4 beta-7. Previous research illustrated this relationship in monkeys infected with a simian form of HIV. The new study found that women who had more CD4+ T cells displaying high levels of alpha-4 beta-7 on their surface were more likely to become infected with HIV, and the virus damaged their immune systems more rapidly, than women with fewer such cells. The National Institutes of Health co-funded the study with the South African Medical Research Council as part of the U.S.-South Africa Program for Collaborative Biomedical Research.


For the study, the authors compared the percentage of CD4+ T cells displaying high levels of alpha-4 beta-7 in blood samples drawn from 59 women shortly before they acquired HIV to the percentage of such cells in 106 women who remained HIV negative. The women, 18 to 40 years of age, were selected from participants in the CAPRISA 004 study, which evaluated the safety and efficacy of tenofovir gel for HIV prevention in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, from 2007 to 2010. Understanding HIV acquisition and disease progression among African women is especially important because women accounted for nearly 60% of new HIV infections among adults in sub-Saharan Africa in 2016.


Results showed that the proportion of CD4+ T cells with high levels of alpha-4 beta-7 had an effect, albeit modest, on the risk of acquiring HIV among both the women in the CAPRISA 004 study and a separate cohort of 41 high-risk females in Kenya. The risk of HIV acquisition rose by 18% for each 1% increase in alpha-4 beta-7 protein. The authors showed a similar association in monkeys that were exposed to a simian form of HIV. The proportion of CD4+ T cells with high levels of alpha-4 beta-7 strongly affected how quickly HIV damaged the immune system. CD4+ T cell levels declined twice as fast among women with higher pre-infection levels of alpha-4 beta-7 as among women with lower pre-infection levels. In addition, the amount of HIV in the blood within a few months of infection was greater in women with higher pre-infection levels of alpha-4 beta-7 than in women with lower pre-infection levels. According to the authors, the mechanism for the immune system damage likely was HIV-related damage to the gut, as higher pre-infection levels of alpha-4 beta-7 were associated with higher levels of a biological marker of gut damage. The authors also found that HIV targets CD4+ T cells displaying alpha-4 beta-7 very early in infection, particularly in the gut. In this regard, the authors looked at data from the U.S. Military HIV Research Program-led RV254 clinical trial at the Thai Red Cross in Bangkok, Thailand, and found that starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) right after HIV diagnosis did not prevent the depletion of CD4+ T cells from the gut or facilitate reconstitution of the depleted cells. According to the authors, these findings suggest that interventions in addition to ART may be needed to restore CD4+ T cells in the GI tracts of people living with HIV, and that one such intervention could be an anti-alpha-4 beta-7 antibody called vedolizumab, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.


In previous studies, a monkey-adapted form of vedolizumab contributed to the near-replenishment in monkeys of CD4+ T cells  that had been destroyed by a simian form of HIV. Based on this and related findings, NIAID initiated an early-phase clinical trial in 2017 to determine whether short-term treatment with vedolizumab in combination with ART could generate sustained HIV remission in people living with HIV. The study is taking place at the NIH Clinical Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Preliminary results are expected later this year. More information about the study is available at under study identifier NCT02788175.


FLU Infection Study Increases Understanding of Natural Immunity


According to a study published in mBio (23 January 2018), people with higher levels of antibodies against the stem portion of the influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) protein have less viral shedding when they get the flu, but do not have fewer or less severe signs of illness. HA sits on the surface of the influenza virus to help bind it to cells and features a head and stem region. It has only recently been discovered that humans naturally generate anti-HA stem antibodies in response to flu infection, and this is the first study of its kind to evaluate pre-existing levels of these specific antibodies as a predictor of protection against influenza. The findings could have implications for flu vaccine development, according to the authors.


Because the head region of HA is constantly changing, influenza vaccine strains must be updated each year. The HA stem region, however, is less susceptible to change, making it a potential target for novel vaccines aimed at broader, more durable protection. Therefore, the authors explored immune responses to two influenza surface proteins: HA — the main target of traditional seasonal flu vaccines — and neuraminidase (NA).


For the study, the authors sought to understand the role of pre-existing anti-HA stem antibodies in protection against influenza using data from a healthy volunteer influenza challenge trial that took place in 2013 at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The clinical trial enrolled 65 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 50 years and study participants stayed in a specially designed isolation and infection control unit throughout the study. The authors measured participants’ baseline levels of anti-HA stem antibodies, infected them with a 2009 H1N1 influenza virus, and then measured levels of anti-HA stem antibodies again. Results showed that all volunteers had anti-HA stem antibodies at baseline, although levels varied, and 64% of participants had increased levels after infection. However, people with higher levels before exposure had smaller increases, suggesting there could be a limit that humans can achieve naturally. Trial investigators also closely monitored participants’ symptoms and the amount of influenza virus they shed from the nose, which may indicate how contagious someone is. Similar to findings regarding anti-HA head antibodies, it was found that participants with higher baseline levels of anti-HA stem antibodies had reduced viral shedding, but no significant reduction in the duration or severity of illness.


The results show that people naturally make anti-HA stem antibodies, but that responses vary significantly, and also these antibody levels are not independent predictors of whether someone becomes sick or if so, how severely. The authors note that antibodies against NA remain the only identified predictor of disease severity, according to previously reported trial data. Although the data are limited, the results have implications for novel influenza vaccine design, according to the authors. They note future strategies ideally should focus on more than one aspect of immunity and that careful consideration of the complexity of influenza immune protection and evaluation of all aspects of the anti-influenza immune responses will ultimately be necessary in the development of a successful broadly protective or universal influenza vaccine.


New Treatment for Certain Digestive Tract Cancers


Gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (GEP-NETs) can be present in the pancreas and in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract such as the stomach, intestines, colon and rectum. It is estimated that approximately one out of 27,000 people are diagnosed with GEP-NETs per year.


The FDA has approved Lutathera (lutetium Lu 177 dotatate) for the treatment adult patients with somatostatin receptor-positive GEP-NETs. Lutathera is a radioactive drug that works by binding to a part of a cell called a somatostatin receptor, which may be present on certain tumors. After binding to the receptor, the drug enters the cell allowing radiation to cause damage to the tumor cells. This is the first time a radioactive drug, or radiopharmaceutical, has been approved for the treatment of GEP-NETs.


The approval of Lutathera was supported by two studies. The first was a randomized clinical trial in 229 patients with a certain type of advanced somatostatin receptor-positive GEP-NET. Patients in the trial either received Lutathera in combination with the drug octreotide or octreotide alone. The study measured the length of time the tumors did not grow after treatment (progression-free survival). Progression-free survival was longer for patients taking Lutathera with octreotide compared to patients who received octreotide alone. This means the risk of tumor growth or patient death was lower for patients who received Lutathera with octreotide compared to that of patients who received only octreotide.


The second study was based on data from 1,214 patients with somatostatin receptor-positive tumors, including GEP-NETS, who received Lutathera at a single site in the Netherlands. Complete or partial tumor shrinkage was reported in 16% of a subset of 360 patients with GEP-NETs who were evaluated for response by the FDA. Patients initially enrolled in the study received Lutathera as part of an expanded access program. Expanded access is a way for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases or conditions who lack therapeutic alternatives to gain access to investigational drugs for treatment use.


Common side effects of Lutathera include low levels of white blood cells (lymphopenia), high levels of enzymes in certain organs (increased GGT, AST and/or ALT), vomiting, nausea, high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia). Serious side effects of Lutathera include low levels of blood cells (myelosuppression), development of certain blood or bone marrow cancers (secondary myelodysplastic syndrome and leukemia), kidney damage (renal toxicity), liver damage (hepatotoxicity), abnormal levels of hormones in the body (neuroendocrine hormonal crises) and infertility. Lutathera can cause harm to a developing fetus; women should be advised of the potential risk to the fetus and to use effective contraception. Patients taking Lutathera are exposed to radiation. Exposure of other patients, medical personnel, and household members should be limited in accordance with radiation safety practices.


Lutathera was granted Priority Review, under which the FDA’s goal is to take action on an application within six monthswhere the agency determines that the drug, if approved, would significantly improve the safety or effectiveness of treating, diagnosing or preventing a serious condition. Lutathera also received Orphan Drug designation, which provides incentives to assist and encourage the development of drugs for rare diseases.


The FDA granted the approval of Lutathera to Advanced Accelerator Applications.

Citrus Salad with Purple Cabbage & Banana Yogurt Dressing

Each year, at this time of peak citrus, I try to create a new recipe that utilizes all the wonderful fresh fruit flavors and colors. We have been enjoying a variety of this particular recipe for several weeks now. Jules gives this one 5 stars. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.

©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Ingredients (for dressing)

2 fresh garlic cloves, squeezed into food processor

2 cups plain yogurt

1 cup creamy goat cheese

2 Tablespoons good honey

1 heaping Tablespoon sweet shredded coconut

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean, (optional)

1/2 orange, juiced

1 banana, sliced


I bought all of the fresh fruit from Whole Foods and FreshDirect. I got the shredded coconut from (this site has a wide selection of dates also) ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Directions (for dressing)

1. Put all of the above ingredients into the food processor and pulse until you have a very smooth creamy topping for the salad. If it’s too thick for your taste, just add a teaspoon at a time, of the freshly squeezed orange juice or coconut milk

2. Use this dressing/topping for the following fruit, when citrus is in season, which is right now.

3. Slice into circles and cut out the segments of all the different colors of citrus fruit that are now in season. Other fruit is added for flavor, health and color contrast


Blood oranges

Cara cara oranges

Pink grapefruit

Tangerines with interesting colors

A few blueberries

A few green seedless grapes

A few red seedless grapes

Chopped dates

1 heaping Tablespoon toasted then chopped walnuts


(Optional): Let all of the fruit soak in Grand Marnier for a few hours.

1 leaf of red lettuce on each salad plate or

1 leaf of red cabbage on each salad plate and/or

With a mandolin, run a section of red cabbage through once, and use the thin strands as a beautiful color contrast, healthy as well.


(Optional):1 teaspoon brown sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon chia seeds, toasted together and used for garnish later.


Fresh mint leaf, for garnish


To Serve:


Arrange the leaf first, on individual salad plates, then place the fruit onto the leaf. Just before serving, add a big dollop of the dressing on the fruit. Garnish with a few toasted seeds and a fresh mint leaf.


Basically, I am supplying the recipe for dressing over citrus. Part of the fun of doing this easy, delicious salad,, is your creativity in arranging the fruit. I had fun with the citrus colors and the very thin streaks of red cabbage.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


A favorite chilled white. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


This weekend we saw a magnificent production of G. Puccini’s, Tosca at the MetOpera, where Target Health Inc. is a patron. We urge you to rush to see this lush opera, starting with the vivid curtain, which you can see in the above photo, to the extraordinary voices, orchestration, direction and sets. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


As I play and select my favorite moments, to share with you, from this great opera, I assure you, there is not a dry eye on this side of the screen.


The greatest tenor who ever lived.

Luciano Pavarotti – E lucevan le stelle/Tosca (Act 3)


Renee Fleming and Joan Sutherland are my favorite sopranos

Renee Fleming – Tosca – Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore (Act 2)


Luciano Pavarotti. Recondita armonia. Tosca. G. Puccini. (Act 1)


Angela Gheorghiu & Jonas Kaufmann: Puccini – Tosca, ‘Love Duet’ (Act 1)

Jonas Kaufmann is considered by many, to be the best tenor alive today


After Tosca, we took relatives from Colorado out to dinner at Sardi’s. ©Joyce Hays, Target Health Inc.


Have a great week everyone!

From Our Table to Yours

Bon Appetit!

Study found that human-modified landscapes shrink mammal movements by up to half

January 25, 2018

Field Museum

Human beings take up a lot of real estate — around 50-70 percent of the Earth’s land surface. And our increasing footprint affects how mammals of all sizes, from all over the planet, move.


One of the lions in Tsavo, Kenya, whose movements were tracked for this study.
Credit: Copyright Bruce D. Patterson, The Field Museum



Human beings take up a lot of real estate — around 50-70 percent of the Earth’s land surface. And our increasing footprint affects how mammals of all sizes, from all over the planet, move.

A study recently published by Science found that, on average, mammals living in human-modified habitats move two to three times less far than their counterparts in areas untouched by humans. What’s more, this pattern persists globally: from African forest elephants to white-tailed antelope squirrels in North America, the human footprint infringes upon the footprints of mammal species both big and small. The study, led by Marlee Tucker of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Germany, is the first of its kind to log movement behaviors for such a wide range of mammals globally.

“All organisms need space,” Bruce Patterson, a co-author of this study and MacArthur Curator of Mammals at The Field Museum in Chicago, explained. “They need space to gather their resources, find mates, and perform their ecological services.” For instance, bats need room to find and consume insects and pollinate plants (which amount to $3.5 to 50 billion worth of agricultural labor annually in the US alone), and apex predators need room to hunt and control other species’ populations.

In the study, more than 100 researchers contributed information on 803 individual mammals representing 57 species in total. Patterson offered up data on the movement of lions in a pristine wilderness area of Tsavo, Kenya. From 2002-09, he followed three lions using high-tech collars that continuously tracked individuals’ movement via GPS — the data he contributed to the Science study. One of those lions, in its natural habitat, patrolled an area twice the size of Chicago (1400 km2) to find food, attract mates, and repel intruders.

But habitat loss and fragmentation disrupt these critical animal behaviors. Clearing rainforest is an example of habitat loss — the destruction and loss of usable area for a given species. Constructing a road through the savannah, on the other hand, constitutes habitat fragmentation — the division of habitat area into smaller, discontinuous spaces. When suitable habitat spaces become too small or too isolated, animals can no longer afford to visit them, changing their space use.

As habitats become compromised, resources like food and living space that animals rely on become scarce. Sometimes, when resources are limited, animals traverse larger areas to get what they need — if there’s not enough food in a five-mile radius, they might move to a ten-mile radius. However, this study shows that on the whole, that sort of additional movement tends not to be an option — if there’s no uninterrupted landscape available, then the affected animals simply can’t live there.

To that end, the Science study found “strong negative effects of the human footprint on median and long-distance displacements of terrestrial mammals.” Patterson put it more simply: “Human dominion over Earth’s landscapes gets in the way of animals doing their thing.” Some species, like mice, can make do with less room, but animals that need lots of space, like lions, tigers, and elephants, simply can’t live in areas with lots of humans.

“It is important that animals move, because in moving they carry out important ecological functions like transporting nutrients and seeds between different areas. Additionally, mammalian movements bring different species together and thus allow for interactions in food webs that might otherwise not occur. If mammals move less this could alter any of these ecosystem functions,” says lead author Marlee Tucker.

Across the wide array of species its data encompasses, the study points to a singular, and grim, conclusion: For mammal species, the effects of habitat loss and habitat fragmentation don’t discriminate by geographic location, body size, or where that species sits on the food chain — the human footprint threatens most other mammals.

Still, Patterson remains hopeful that the Science study can guide further research and change our approach to human land use. “Ultimately, it would be good to know whether there are critical thresholds in the human footprint for the species living around us. Are there specific points beyond which resources become limiting and species are excluded?” he asked. “As we continue to transform the landscape and as the human population expands, we’re limiting the space and resources that other mammals need to live.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Field MuseumNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Tucker et al. Moving in the Anthropocene: Global reductions in terrestrial mammalian movementsScience, 2018 DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9712


Source: Field Museum. “Humans take up too much space — and it’s affecting how mammals move: Study found that human-modified landscapes shrink mammal movements by up to half.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 2018. <>.

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