Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dementia Patients Need Urgent Support After Diagnosis

How do people with dementia and their carers respond to being diagnosed with the condition?  What are their experiences and feelings around dementia diagnosis?  Are there any barriers to being diagnosed?

Many of us know someone who has dementia – perhaps a family member or a friend.  It mainly affects older people, affecting one in twenty people over the age of sixty-five and one in five over the age of eighty. And with aging populations around the world, the number of people with dementia is increasing – worldwide there are estimated to be over thirty-five million people with dementia and this number is set to rise to well over 115 million by 2050 according to Alzheimer’s Disease International.

In a paper just published in PLoS Medicine, researchers led by Dr Frances Bunn from the University’s Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), have found that there is an urgent need for support from outside the family both immediately after diagnosis of dementia and also on an on-going basis.

They found that the needs of people with dementia and their carers are complex and varied which makes diagnosing and supporting them very challenging. The research showed that support needs to be on-going, flexible and sensitive to their needs – so any future research must focus on the development and evaluation of ways to best meet those needs.

The paper “Psychosocial Factors That Shape Patient and Carer Experiences of Dementia Diagnosis and Treatment: A Systematic Review of Qualitative Studies” is now available.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Mediterranean Diet Revisited: What’s on your plate?
People often feel bombarded and confused with information about diet and health, especially as some of it is conflicting.  But what do you need to keep you fit and healthy?

Many people are aware that a Mediterranean diet provides many health benefits, particularly in terms of obesity and risk of heart disease…but what does a real Mediterranean diet put onto a UK plate?

Dr Richard Hoffman from the School of Life and Medical Sciences will be talking about the health benefits of Mediterranean plant foods at “The Mediterranean Diet Revisited” conference being held at Fishmongers’ Hall in London on Friday 2 November 2012.  As one of a series of high profile speakers at the event, Richard will reveal the lessons that can be learned from the Mediterranean diet in order to improve the consumption and nutritional value of plant foods in the UK.

The one-day conference, which HRH The Princess Royal will attend, takes a look at what constitutes a Mediterranean diet,  including the latest evidence on why it contributes to good health and how it could be adopted more widely and sustainably.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Children in Scotland are still eating too much sugar

courtesy of Stuart Miles
Much has been written about children’s health and their diets.  But a new survey on the eating, drinking and purchasing habits of schoolchildren living in Scotland reveals that they are still eating too much sugar and saturated fat.

The amount of sugar consumed has reduced since the previous survey in 2006, but children’s intake continues to be much higher than the Scottish Dietary Goals.   Sugars and saturated fat from soft drinks, sweets, biscuits, cakes, yogurt and fruit juice were the major sources.

Dr Wendy Wills, from the Centre for Research in Primary and Community Care (CRIPACC), developed new questions for the survey, to assess what food and drink children purchase ‘beyond the school gate’.

This is the first time that food and drink purchasing has been assessed from a representative sample of children in Scotland. The survey dispels the myth that children usually buy ‘unhealthy’ foods and drinks from burger, chip or ice cream vans outside of schools and paves the way for further research to find out why so many children are choosing to buy food and drink from supermarkets and other outlets.

The dietary and food and drink purchasing survey was undertaken in 2010 on behalf of the Food Standards Agency in Scotland, and was carried out by the University of Hertfordshire, University of Aberdeen and Scotcen.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Signing in Babies Does Not Accelerate Language Development

So many times, you hear proud parents saying of their little bundles of joy, “I’m sure she’s trying to speak… I wonder what she wants to say”.  That’s why many mothers join baby signing courses so that they can start to communicate with their little one before he or she is able to talk.  But more than that, they want to give them a head start in learning to speak.

Can baby signing really accelerate babies learning to talk or even increase their vocabulary, as many baby sign supporters claim?  Or are there other benefits to baby signing?

Lara and Rosie asking for "more"
 - they're still hungry!
Researchers led by Dr Liz Kirk, from the Department of Psychology, found no evidence to support the claims that baby signing helps to accelerate babies’ language development but did find that mothers were more responsive to their babies’ non-verbal clues.

Babies learnt gestures and used them to communicate long before they started talking, However, they did not learn the associated words any quicker than the group of non-gesturing babies, nor did they did they show enhanced language development.

But interestingly, the study’s findings revealed that mothers who gestured with their babies were more responsive to their babies and also thought of them as an individual with a mind.  This has great potential in clinical situations where early gestures from babies or young children may provide timely interventions where there is risk of language delay or impairment.

The full research paper “To Sign or Not to Sign? The Impact of Encouraging Infants to gesture on Infant Language and Maternal Mind-Mindednessis published at Child Development.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Seeing Stars… at Open Evenings

Looking up to the heavens on cloudless night, you see so many stars, twinkling in the night sky.  But there’s so much more to see… galaxies, planets, suns, red dwarfs, brown dwarfs, black holes, newly formed stars and... more, importantly, identifying what it is.

Our series of Public Open Evenings at our Observatory at Bayfordbury gives a great opportunity for everyone, from children to adults and budding amateur astronomers, to visit a working astronomical observatory. 

Come along to talk to researchers and post-graduate students who will be providing expert demonstrations, tours and talks on many different aspects of astronomy including:
  • A tour around the sky in our planetarium

  • A demonstration of how our radio telescopes work

  • Visit our seven optical telescopes

  • A (recorded) video link to the Chilean observatories

  • Visit our Astrolab to participate in various  of computer and lab experiments

The Public Open Evening Season starts on Friday 5th October with a very special event to mark the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) with a special speaker coming from the ESO HQ in Germany.

To book your place at this opening event on 5th October, or to see alternative dates, click here