In The News

EurekAlert!: World’s largest sleep study launches from Western University

June 27, 2017

Renowned Western University neuroscientist Adrian Owen has launched the world's largest sleep-and-cognition study to help researchers learn the effects on our brains of sleep and sleep deprivation. "Many of us are working more erratic hours and sleeping less, while the pace of our lives seems to be accelerating," said Owen, who is the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging at The Brain and Mind Institute at Western and Chief Scientific Officer at Cambridge Brain Sciences. "We know that this sleep disruption affects us in some ways, and that some people feel the impact more than others, but there's surprisingly little research into exactly how our brains deal with these sleep deficits." Sleep loss is a global problem that saps billions of dollars of productivity from the world economy and endangers lives. Lack of sleep is linked to physical ailments such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes and can impair driving abilities at least as significantly as alcohol intoxication. Yet the ability to function on just a few hours of sleep -- to work around the clock on an assignment or drive all night to a vacation destination -- remains a socially acceptable point of pride for many people. Read the full article here.

London Free Press: Western University researchers study impact of food waste

June 23, 2017

There’s no question; efforts to reduce the amount of household organic waste reaching London’s W12A landfill will play a critical role in addressing the looming capacity problem on Manning Drive. More than one tonne of waste is produced per person in London, according to City of London numbers. Around 45 per cent of that waste is diverted from the landfill through waste reduction, recycling, and composting programs, but the rest is contributing to an increasingly time-sensitive problem — W12A, a dumping ground for London garbage since 1977, is on pace to reach maximum volume by 2025. The largest chunk of household waste in the landfill (another 45 per cent, according to the City) is organic, which means food waste is a major culprit. Discussions at city hall over the past few years seem to be focused on addressing trash-related issues by expanding waste diversion programs. Those ideas, including the introduction of a green bin program for organics, are still being considered. But what if we’ve been asking the wrong questions? A couple of Western University researchers have a hunch that’s the case. The right question, they believe, is this: Why are Londoners throwing away so much food to begin with? Read the full article here.

University of Guelph: Red onions pack a cancer-fighting punch, study reveals

June 23, 2017

The next time you walk down the produce aisle of your grocery store, you may want to reach for red onions if you are looking to fight off cancer. In the first study to examine how effective Ontario-grown onions are at killing cancer cells, U of G researchers have found that not all onions are created equal. Engineering professor Suresh Neethirajan and PhD student Abdulmonem Murayyan tested five onion types grown in Ontario and discovered the Ruby Ring onion variety came out on top. Onions as a superfood are still not well known. But they contain one of the highest concentrations of quercetin, a type of flavonoid, and Ontario onions boast particularly high levels of the compound compared to onions grown elsewhere in the world. Read the full article here.

NPR: Using music to ease hearing loss

June 6, 2017

Trying to make out what someone is saying in a noisy environment is a problem most people can relate to, and one that gets worse with age. At 77, Linda White hears all right in one-on-one settings but has problems in noisier situations. "Mostly in an informal gathering where people are all talking at once," she says. "The person could be right beside you, but you still don't hear them." White, a retired elementary school teacher and principal, has not gotten hearing aids, although she says she probably will in the future. Instead, she's part of a group of people testing out a different intervention for dealing with hearing loss: learning music. She is part of an ongoing study organized by Frank Russo, a professor of psychology and director of the Science of Music, Auditory Research and Technology Lab, or SMART Lab, at Ryerson University in Toronto. He says understanding speech in noise is a top complaint among older adults with hearing loss. Read the full article here.

London Free Press: Western research offers insights into psychosis

June 6, 2017

Neurons found in the abnormal part of the brain during psychosis are also important in distinguishing between reality and imagination, according to newly published Western University research. “We’re trying to reverse-engineer the brain: find out how the brain does something,” said Julio Martinez-Trujillo, principal investigator of the Western study. “Once you reverse-engineer it, you can diagnose and treat the problem much better.” Diego Mendoza-Halliday, a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, partnered with Martinez-Trujillo for the study. Read the full article here.

CBC: Fidget spinner fad may point to deeper problem in the classroom

May 30, 2017

Fidget spinners are the hottest new gadget among school children, and while they're billed as useful tools to help kids focus, a University of Ottawa professor believes schools need to better accommodate students who get fidgety and need to move. The three-pronged, hand-held devices spin smoothly on a central bearing, sometimes creating an optical illusion, and they've become hugely popular. "Part of it is it's satisfying to kind of occupy your hands with something," said Dr. Joel Westheimer, research chair and professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa, on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "There is some research that shows that just like adults might knit during a meeting, or have some other kind of fidgeting tool, that kids also of course benefit from being able to do something with their hands while they're thinking, and it sometimes can help you pay attention." Read the full article here.