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Birkbeck, University of London

www.bbk.ac.uk
London, United Kingdom

Birkbeck, University of London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. It offers many Master's and Bachelor's degree programmes that can be studied either part-time or full-time, though nearly all teaching is in the evening. It also admits full-time students for PhDs. Wikipedia.

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News Article | May 12, 2017
Site: www.sciencenews.org

One of the most pressing and perplexing questions parents have to answer is what to do about screen time for little ones. Even scientists and doctors are stumped. That’s because no one knows how digital media such as smartphones, iPads and other screens affect children.   The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out guidelines, but that advice was based on a frustratingly slim body of scientific evidence, as I’ve covered. Scientists are just scratching the surface of how screen time might influence growing bodies and minds. Two recent studies point out how hard these answers are to get. But the studies also hint that the answers might be important. In the first study, Julia Ma at the University of Toronto and colleagues found that, in children younger than 2, the more time spent with a handheld screen, such as a smartphone or tablet, the more likely the child was to show signs of a speech delay. Ma presented the work May 6 at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. The team used information gleaned from nearly 900 children’s 18-month checkups. Parents answered a questionnaire about their child’s mobile media use and then filled out a checklist designed to identify heightened risk of speech problems. This checklist is a screening tool that picks up potential signs of trouble; it doesn’t offer a diagnosis of a language delay, points out study coauthor Catherine Birken, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Going into the study, the researchers didn’t have expectations about how many of these toddlers were using handheld screens. “We had very little clues, because there is almost no literature on the topic,” Birken says. “There’s just really not a lot there.” It turns out that about 1 in 5 of the toddlers used handheld screens, and those kids had an average daily usage of about a half hour. Handheld screen time was associated with potential delays in expressive language, the team found. For every half hour of mobile media use, a child’s risk of language delay increased by about 50 percent. “The relationship is not that strong,” Birken says, and those numbers come with big variations. Still, a link exists. And finding that association means there’s a lot more work to do, Birken says. In this study, researchers looked only at time spent with handheld screens. Future studies could investigate whether parents watching along with a child, the type of content or even time of day might change the calculation. A different study, published April 13 in Scientific Reports, looked at handheld digital device use among young children and its relationship to sleep. As a group, kids from ages 6 months to 3 years who spent more time using mobile touch screen devices got less sleep at night. Parent surveys filled out online indicated that each hour of touch screen use was linked to 26.4 fewer minutes of night sleep and 10.8 minutes more sleep during the day. Extra napping time “may go some way to offset the disturbed nighttime sleep, but the total sleep time of high users is still less than low users,” says study coauthor Tim Smith, a cognitive psychologist at Birkbeck, University of London. Each additional hour of touch screen use is linked to about 15 minutes less sleep over 24 hours. By analyzing 20 independent studies, an earlier study found a similar link between portable screen use and less sleep among older children. The new results offer “a consistent message that the findings from older children translate into those younger,” says Ben Carter of King’s College London, who was a coauthor on the study of older children. So the numbers are in. Daily doses of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on a mobile device equals 7.5 minutes less sleep and a 50 percent greater risk of expressive language delay for your toddler, right? Well, no. It’s tempting to grab onto these numbers, but the science is too preliminary. In both cases, the results show that the two things go together, not that one caused the other. It may be a long time before scientists have answers about how digital technology affects children. In the meantime, you can follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recently updated guidelines, which discourage screens (except for video chatting) before 18 months of age and for all children during meals or in bedrooms. We now live in a world where smartphones are ever-present companions, a saturation that normalizes the sight of small screens in tiny hands. But I think we should give that new norm some extra scrutiny. The role of mobile devices in our kids’ lives — and our own — is something worth thinking about, hard.


Lachish O.,Birkbeck, University of London
Proceedings - Annual IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science, FOCS | Year: 2014

In the Matroid Secretary Problem (MSP), the elements of the ground set of a Matroid are revealed on-line one by one, each together with its value. An algorithm for the MSP is called Matroid-Unknown if, at every stage of its execution, it only knows (i) the elements that have been revealed so far and their values and (ii) an oracle for testing whether or not a subset the elements that have been revealed so far forms an independent set. An algorithm is called Known-Cardinality if it knows (i), (ii) and also knows from the start the cardinality n of the ground set of the Matroid. We present here a Known-Cardinality algorithm with a competitive-ratio of order log log the rank of the Matroid. The prior known results for a OC algorithm are a competitive-ratio of log the rank of the Matroid, by Babaioff et al. (2007), and a competitive-ratio of square root of log the rank of the Matroid, by Chakraborty and Lachish (2012). © 2014 IEEE.


McMahon H.T.,University of Cambridge | Boucrot E.,Birkbeck, University of London
Journal of Cell Science | Year: 2015

Membrane curvature is an important parameter in defining the morphology of cells, organelles and local membrane subdomains. Transport intermediates have simpler shapes, being either spheres or tubules. The generation and maintenance of curvature is of central importance for maintaining trafficking and cellular functions. It is possible that local shapes in complex membranes could help to define local subregions. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and accompanying poster, we summarize how generating, sensing and maintaining high local membrane curvature is an active process that is mediated and controlled by specialized proteins using general mechanisms: (i) changes in lipid composition and asymmetry, (ii) partitioning of shaped transmembrane domains of integral membrane proteins or protein or domain crowding, (iii) reversible insertion of hydrophobic protein motifs, (iv) nanoscopic scaffolding by oligomerized hydrophilic protein domains and, finally, (v) macroscopic scaffolding by the cytoskeleton with forces generated by polymerization and by molecular motors.We also summarize some of the discoveries about the functions of membrane curvature, where in addition to providing cell or organelle shape, local curvature can affect processes like membrane scission and fusion as well as protein concentration and enzyme activation on membranes. © 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


The 150th anniversary affords an opportunity to revisit the circumstances surrounding Paul Broca's case report celebrated today as the moment of discovery of aphasia. The proceedings from January to June 1861 of the Paris Society of Anthropology are examined to reconstruct the events surrounding the report of M. Leborgne on April 18th. From a close reading of the presentations and discussions which took place during this period it is apparent that Broca's case report was a minor diversion to a debate about cranial measurements and their relation to intelligence in individuals and racial groups. Moreover, it appears that little attention was granted to Broca's first case at the time. While his ideas about localization and specialization developed and change over the next decade, it represented a minor field of interest for him. Nevertheless Broca's work on aphasia inspired research throughout Europe and North America and went on to have a lasting impact on both aphasiology and neuropsychology. © 2011 Elsevier Srl.


Sullivan S.,Birkbeck, University of London
Antipode | Year: 2013

In this paper I emphasise the financialisation of environmental conservation as 1. the turning of financiers to conservation parameters as a new frontier for investment, and 2. the rewriting of conservation practice and nonhuman worlds in terms of banking and financial categories. I introduce financialisation as a broadly controlling impetus with relevance for environmental conservation. I then note ways in which a spectacular investment frontier in conservation is being opened. I highlight the draw of assertions of lucrative gains, combined with notions of geographical substitutability, in creating tradable indicators of environmental health and harm. I disaggregate financialisation strategies into four categories-nature finance, nature work, nature banking and nature derivatives-and assess their implications. The concluding section embraces Marx and Foucault as complementary thinkers in understanding the transforming intensifications of late capitalism in environmental conservation, and diagnosing their associated effects and costs. © 2012 The Authors. Antipode © 2012 Antipode Foundation Ltd.


Risk factors that are associated with depression in the mother also negatively affect the child. This research sought to extend current knowledge by examining the duration and timing of maternal depression as a moderator of: (1) the impact of dependent interpersonal stress (DIS), such as partner conflict or low social support, and contextual risk (e.g. poverty) on child dysregulation; and (2) continuity in early child dysregulation. Mother-child pairs (n = 12 152) who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) were examined between pregnancy and age 4 years. Data on maternal depression were collected five times between pregnancy and 33 months postpartum; on DIS and contextual risk three times between pregnancy and 33 months; and on child dysregulation at age 2 and 4 years. Longitudinal latent class analysis identified a class of mothers (10%) who evinced a chronic level of depression between pregnancy and 33 months. For chronic-depressed versus non-depressed mothers, the results indicate that: (1) DIS predicted higher child dysregulation if experienced between pregnancy and age 2; (2) contextual risk had a differential effect on child dysregulation if experienced during pregnancy; and (3) children had higher continuity in dysregulation between age 2 and age 4. Assessing the impact of the timing and duration of maternal depression, and different types of co-occurring risk factors, on child well-being is important. Maternal depression and associated DIS, in comparison to contextual risk, may be more responsive to intervention.


Vermeesch P.,Birkbeck, University of London
Chemical Geology | Year: 2012

Since the development of SIMS and LA-ICP-MS technologies in the 1980s and 1990s, single grain U-Pb dating of detrital zircon has quickly become the most popular technique for sedimentary provenance studies. Currently by far the most widespread method for visualising detrital age distributions is the so-called Probability Density Plot (PDP), which is calculated by summing a number of Gaussian distributions whose means and standard deviations correspond to the individual ages and their respective analytical uncertainties. Unfortunately, the PDP lacks a firm theoretical basis and can produce counter-intuitive results when data quantity (number of analyses) and/or quality (precision) is high. As a more robust alternative to the PDP, this paper proposes a standard statistical technique called Kernel Density Estimation (KDE), which also involves summing a set of Gaussian distributions, but does not explicitly take into account the analytical uncertainties. The Java-based DensityPlotter program (http://densityplotter.london-geochron.com) was developed with the aim to facilitate the adoption of KDE plots in the context of detrital geochronology. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.


Senju A.,Birkbeck, University of London
Neuroscientist | Year: 2012

Theory of mind, the cognitive capacity to infer others' mental states, is crucial for the development of social communication. The impairment of theory of mind may relate to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which is characterized by profound difficulties in social interaction and communication. In the current article, I summarize recent updates in theory of mind research utilizing the spontaneous false belief test, which assesses participants' spontaneous tendency to attribute belief status to others. These studies reveal that young infants pass the spontaneous false belief test well before they can pass the same task when explicitly asked to answer. By contrast, high-functioning adults with ASD, who can easily pass the false belief task when explicitly asked to, do not show spontaneous false belief attribution. These findings suggest that the capacity for theory of mind develops much earlier than was previously thought, and the absence of spontaneous theory of mind may relate to impairment in social interaction and communication found in ASD. © The Author(s) 2012.


Lloyd-Fox S.,Birkbeck, University of London
Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society | Year: 2013

In the hope of discovering early markers of autism, attention has recently turned to the study of infants at risk owing to being the younger siblings of children with autism. Because the condition is highly heritable, later-born siblings of diagnosed children are at substantially higher risk for developing autism or the broader autism phenotype than the general population. Currently, there are no strong predictors of autism in early infancy and diagnosis is not reliable until around 3 years of age. Because indicators of brain functioning may be sensitive predictors, and atypical social interactions are characteristic of the syndrome, we examined whether temporal lobe specialization for processing visual and auditory social stimuli during infancy differs in infants at risk. In a functional near-infrared spectroscopy study, infants aged 4-6 months at risk for autism showed less selective neural responses to social stimuli (auditory and visual) than low-risk controls. These group differences could not be attributed to overall levels of attention, developmental stage or chronological age. Our results provide the first demonstration of specific differences in localizable brain function within the first 6 months of life in a group of infants at risk for autism. Further, these differences closely resemble known patterns of neural atypicality in children and adults with autism. Future work will determine whether these differences in infant neural responses to social stimuli predict either later autism or the broader autism phenotype frequently seen in unaffected family members.


Johnson M.H.,Birkbeck, University of London
Current Biology | Year: 2014

Some have suggested that autism may be caused by poor orienting to social stimuli in early infancy, compounded by the resulting failures to learn from, and about, other humans. Recent results contradict this hypothesis, suggesting a need to rethink. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

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