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News Article | May 4, 2017
Site: phys.org

Emory College senior Emma Reidy has discovered that college students don't really agree on what emojis mean, either. "I kept hearing how emoji is the fastest growing language, or it's some new type of language," says Reidy, a Spanish and linguistics double major who recently completed her honors thesis on the linguistic properties of the ubiquitous little pictograms. "I just didn't see it, and now I can show there is no real consensus on what they mean." The prospect of emoji emerging as a new type of language appeared to gain momentum after Oxford Dictionary selected an emoji as the 2015 Word of the Year. Officially called the Face With Tears of Joy, the emoji accounted for nearly 20 percent of all emoji use in the United States and United Kingdom. It also prompted incredulity in laymen and linguists alike on emoji as language. After all, regular thumb typers sometimes used the emoji to convey sadness, since the small image sometimes just appeared as a crying face. In linguistic quarters, there were purist arguments over the need for syntax and grammar to decode language. "It gets to the heart of a class all senior linguistic majors must take, asking what is language," says Marjorie Pak, a senior lecturer in linguistics who was Reidy's thesis adviser. "It's a difficult question, even for a professional, to begin to answer." Reidy was ripe for the debate. She had arrived at Emory thinking of an international studies degree when an introductory linguistics course altered her path. She became fascinated by the cultural prejudices in languages, studying not only what people say but how they say it. Anyone who has ever taken an online quiz asking if they say "sneakers" or "tennis shoes" for athletic footwear, or use "buggy" or "shopping cart" at the store, know the fun of such study. For Reidy, though, it went even further: She saw how linguistic formations could affect housing and job discrimination. She also experienced one of those snap judgments based on language when she studied abroad. Reidy had been studying and speaking Spanish since she was 4 years old. But that comfort with the language didn't help when she thought her hosts in Spain were related to pretty much everyone in town for their use of "tio"—uncle—when introducing people to her. Turns out, the use translated to just "man." No relations required. "What happens in language is a complicated dynamic between the word, the listener and the speaker," says Karen Stolley, a Spanish professor who taught Reidy as a first-year student in a 300-level Spanish class and served as the outside reader on her thesis. "Emma has learned to be very thoughtful about how language is used." Being deliberate about learning came in handy for Reidy's thesis. As administrative director of Emory Miracle and an Emory admissions fellow, she and friends used the little emotive pictures regularly. But she still was certain use didn't make emojis language. How to prove it? Her idea—after reading hundreds of pages of linguistic theory and debate on the combination of syntax and semantics—was to find a sample of college-aged, regular users of emojis. Emory was fertile ground for that. She gave study participants a lengthy questionnaire that first had more than 50 emojis on the Apple keyboard. She then had them translate a string of only emojis into that string of words we call sentences. Finally, she took known sentences—"I would like a bottle of wine, please" and "To be or not to be, that is the question"—and had participants create the emoji equivalent. "The more complicated ideas, I didn't think there would be a high level of the consistency that helps define language," Reidy says. "But I had no idea how big a rabbit hole I was stumbling into." True, the heavy emoji users created entirely different pictograph sentences when translating her sentences. But her analysis showed that the study users also couldn't agree on the meaning of single emojis. Given Apple has a limited amount of images, such open-ended use would be somewhat expected. After all, that peach could be a fruit or a tush, right? Even more curious, the same user ended up deciding to use an emoji they had already defined—for example, the flushed face to mean shocked—for an entirely different meaning, such as being flirty or coy. "What I found is not just anyone can understand the emoji without having context from the user," Reidy says. "With so much ambiguity, it can't correctly communicate the way a language should. I even got to where I was only using emojis ironically, to talk about the thesis." Linguistics program director Susan Tamasi thinks Reidy has discovered something new in her research. Emoji may have effectively killed off the common netspeak—why LOL when you can post a toothy face, after all—but it is likely more suited to improving written communication than becoming a language of its own. Rarely do text messages contain just a string of the pictographs. They are used in conversation with written language and can be a new way to add punctuation. With hilarious and disastrous miscommunications all too common over email and text, emoji may be what conveys the tone and intonation of spoken language. "Her research is a good way to highlight that just because something is new doesn't mean it's horrible," Tamasi says. "English isn't going away any time soon, but we can be creative and enhance communication in many different ways." Reidy still uses emoji with friends in Gamma Phi Beta and elsewhere. But her focus now is on heading to Argentina on a Fulbright teaching award. After that will come graduate school in applied linguistics, or English as a Second Language and a possible career teaching. Still, she may be called on to help translate emoji. The prospect of several skull emojis? Here at Emory, that's clearly Dooley. "Emojis still work well to communicate what you already know in context," Reidy says. Explore further: Female doctors, scientists, welders among 11 new emojis


PubMed | Emory College, Emory University and Agnes Scott College
Type: | Journal: Physiology & behavior | Year: 2016

Depression is a common and debilitating mood disorder that impacts women more often than men. The mechanisms that result in depressive behaviors are not fully understood; however, the hippocampus has been noted as a key structure in the pathophysiology of depression. In addition to neural implications of depression, the cardiovascular system is impacted. Although not as commonly considered, the cerebrovasculature is critical to brain function, impacted by environmental stimuli, and is capable of altering neural function and thereby behavior. In the current study, we assessed the relationship between depressive behavior and a marker of vascularization of the hippocampus in adult female cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis). Similar to previously noted impacts on neuropil and glia, the depressed phenotype predicts a reduction in a marker of vascular length in the anterior hippocampus. These data reinforce the growing recognition of the effects of depression on vasculature and support further consideration of vascular endpoints in studies aimed at the elucidation of the mechanisms underlying depression.


Pace T.W.W.,Emory University | Negi L.T.,Emory College | Dodson-Lavelle B.,Emory College | Ozawa-de Silva B.,Emory College | And 5 more authors.
Psychoneuroendocrinology | Year: 2013

Background: Children exposed to early life adversity (ELA) have been shown to have elevated circulating concentrations of inflammatory markers that persist into adulthood. Increased inflammation in individuals with ELA is believed to drive the elevated risk for medical and psychiatric illness in the same individuals. This study sought to determine whether Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT) reduced C-reactive protein (CRP) in adolescents in foster care with high rates of ELA, and to evaluate the relationship between CBCT engagement and changes in CRP given prior evidence from our group for an effect of practice on inflammatory markers. It was hypothesized that increasing engagement would be associated with reduced CRP from baseline to the 6-week assessment. Methods: Seventy-one adolescents in the Georgia foster care system (31 females), aged 13-17, were randomized to either 6 weeks of CBCT or a wait-list condition. State records were used to obtain information about each participant's history of trauma and neglect, as well as reason for placement in foster care. Saliva was collected before and again after 6 weeks of CBCT or the wait-list condition. Participants in the CBCT group completed practice diaries as a means of assessing engagement with the CBCT. Results: No difference between groups was observed in salivary CRP concentrations. Within the CBCT group, practice sessions during the study correlated with reduced CRP from baseline to the 6-week assessment. Conclusions: Engagement with CBCT may positively impact inflammatory measures relevant to health in adolescents at high risk for poor adult functioning as a result of significant ELA, including individuals placed in foster care. Longer term follow-up will be required to evaluate if these changes are maintained and translate into improved health outcomes. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.


Tan X.,Sun Yat Sen University | Tan X.,Emory University | Sidell N.,Emory University | Mancini A.,Emory College | And 6 more authors.
Reproductive Sciences | Year: 2010

Curcumin, a component of turmeric, has been reported to exhibit potential antitumor activities. This study assessed the effects of a novel synthetic curcumin analog, EF24, on proliferation, apoptosis, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) regulation in platinum-sensitive (IGROV1) and platinum-resistant (SK-OV-3) human ovarian cancer cells. EF24 time- and dose-dependently suppressed the growth of both cell lines and synergized with cisplatin to induce apoptosis. Although treatment with EF24 had no significant effect on VEGF messenger RNA (mRNA) expression,VEGF protein secretion into conditioned media was dose-dependently reduced with EF24 demonstrating ĝ̂1/48-fold greater potency than curcumin (P <.05). EF24 significantly inhibited hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced VEGF expression, as did the phenolic antioxidant tert-butylhydroquinone (t-BHQ). EF24 upregulated cellular antioxidant responses as observed by the suppression of reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and activation of antioxidant response element (ARE)-dependent gene transcription. Given its high potency, EF24 is an excellent lead candidate for further development as an adjuvant therapeutic agent in preclinical models of ovarian cancer. © The Author(s) 2010.


News Article | April 19, 2016
Site: phys.org

L'Hernault, chair of Emory College's Department of Biology, researched sperm proteins (not male hormones) in nematode worms. He and fellow researchers were able to establish a connection between fertilization in mammals, including humans, and nematodes. It was a highly unexpected outcome, given the two animal groups last shared a common ancestor about a billion years ago. The conclusion, which some think could eventually lead to the equivalent of "the pill" for men, provides new insights on the basic mechanics of sperm and egg fertilization. It was recently reported in the journal Current Biology. "At the end of the day, fertilization in humans seems to share some fundamental features with fertilization in worms," L'Hernault says. "Specifically, a similar protein is found on the sperm surface in humans and worms and, if a drug could be discovered that interfered with its function, we might be able to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg. "The worm may offer an inexpensive way to find such a drug," he adds. "Women have borne more than their fair share in that category of contraception, so the idea is to look at what might be possible for men." In mammals, such as mice and humans, this protein is called Izumo, named for a shrine in Japan where newly married couples visit seeking luck in having children. The Izumo equivalent in worms, named SPE-45, allows the sperm to be recognized by the egg, so that fertilization can occur. Without it, the sperm can move and do other processes normally, but they cannot fertilize the egg. Worms with a mutation affecting SPE-45 are sterile. If you do "gene therapy" by expressing the worm SPE-45 protein in mutant worms, fertility is restored. The challenge was to show that mammalian Izumo was functionally similar to SPE-45. L'Hernault says that he and his team of researchers worked for seven years, focusing on whether there was something specific that connected the two that allowed for fertilization. Both SPE-45 and Izumo proteins have an Ig region that probably allows the sperm to adhere to the egg. Ig regions are widely found in many proteins of all animals, where they provide "stickiness" to proteins. So, L'Hernault and his team took the Ig region from the mouse Izumo protein and used it to replace the Ig region in the worm SPE-45 protein, making a "hybrid" protein. Surprisingly, this "hybrid" protein can be expressed in a worm SPE-45 mutant and it will partially restore fertility to the worm SPE-45 mutant. In contrast, if the Ig domain from a worm skin protein is used to replace the Ig domain of the worm SPE-45 protein, this "hybrid" does not restore fertility. In other words, not any Ig domain, with its associated "stickiness," will allow SPE-45 to fertilize an egg. It must be either the natural worm SPE-45 Ig domain or the Ig domain from a similar mammalian gene. "One useful way to think about Ig domains is that they are all keys and, like real keys that look similar, some specifically open your house, while others only open your car," L'Hernault says. His research shows that the mouse Izumo and worm SPE-45 Ig domains are near-identical "keys." All animals produce sperm that stick to and fertilize eggs from that species, but, generally, sperm from one animal cannot fertilize eggs from another species. That means L'Hernault's work extends well beyond any potential connection to birth control and could provide more understanding on the basic underpinnings of fertility. "Knowing how sperm stick to and fertilize eggs will provide key insights into what has changed and what has remained similar as animals have evolved," L'Hernault says. Explore further: First vital step in fertilization between sperm and egg discovered


News Article | April 19, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

L'Hernault, chair of Emory College's Department of Biology, researched sperm proteins (not male hormones) in nematode worms. He and fellow researchers were able to establish a connection between fertilization in mammals, including humans, and nematodes. It was a highly unexpected outcome, given the two animal groups last shared a common ancestor about a billion years ago. The conclusion, which some think could eventually lead to the equivalent of "the pill" for men, provides new insights on the basic mechanics of sperm and egg fertilization. It was recently reported in the journal Current Biology. "At the end of the day, fertilization in humans seems to share some fundamental features with fertilization in worms," L'Hernault said. "Specifically, a similar protein is found on the sperm surface in humans and worms and, if a drug could be discovered that interfered with its function, we might be able to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg. "The worm may offer an inexpensive way to find such a drug," he added. "Women have borne more than their fair share in that category of contraception, so the idea is to look at what might be possible for men." In mammals, such as mice and humans, this protein is called Izumo, named for a shrine in Japan where newly married couples visit seeking luck in having children. The Izumo equivalent in worms, named SPE-45, allows the sperm to be recognized by the egg, so that fertilization can occur. Without it, the sperm can move and do other processes normally, but they cannot fertilize the egg. Worms with a mutation affecting SPE-45 are sterile. If you do "gene therapy" by expressing the worm SPE-45 protein in mutant worms, fertility is restored. The challenge was to show that mammalian Izumo was functionally similar to SPE-45. L'Hernault says that he and his team of researchers worked for seven years, focusing on whether there was something specific that connected the two that allowed for fertilization. Both SPE-45 and Izumo proteins have an Ig region that probably allows the sperm to adhere to the egg. Ig regions are widely found in many proteins of all animals, where they provide "stickiness" to proteins. So, L'Hernault and his team took the Ig region from the mouse Izumo protein and used it to replace the Ig region in the worm SPE-45 protein, making a "hybrid" protein. Surprisingly, this "hybrid" protein can be expressed in a worm SPE-45 mutant and it will partially restore fertility to the worm SPE-45 mutant. In contrast, if the Ig domain from a worm skin protein is used to replace the Ig domain of the worm SPE-45 protein, this "hybrid" does not restore fertility. In other words, not any Ig domain, with its associated "stickiness," will allow SPE-45 to fertilize an egg. It must be either the natural worm SPE-45 Ig domain or the Ig domain from a similar mammalian gene. "One useful way to think about Ig domains is that they are all keys and, like real keys that look similar, some specifically open your house, while others only open your car," L'Hernault added. His research shows that the mouse Izumo and worm SPE-45 Ig domains are near-identical "keys." All animals produce sperm that stick to and fertilize eggs from that species, but, generally, sperm from one animal cannot fertilize eggs from another species. That means L'Hernault's work extends well beyond any potential connection to birth control and could provide more understanding on the basic underpinnings of fertility. "Knowing how sperm stick to and fertilize eggs will provide key insights into what has changed and what has remained similar as animals have evolved," L'Hernault concluded.


Pace T.W.W.,Emory University | Negi L.T.,Emory College | Sivilli T.I.,Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies | Issa M.J.,Emory Collaborative for Contemplative Studies | And 3 more authors.
Psychoneuroendocrinology | Year: 2010

Increasing data suggest that meditation impacts stress-related physiological processes relevant to health and disease. For example, our group recently reported that the practice of compassion meditation was associated with reduced innate immune (plasma interleukin [IL]-6) and subjective distress responses to a standardized laboratory psychosocial stressor (Trier Social Stress Test [TSST]). However, because we administered a TSST after, but not prior to, meditation training in our initial study, it remained possible that associations between practice time and TSST outcomes reflected the fact that participants with reduced stress responses prior to training were more able to practice compassion meditation, rather than that meditation practice reduced stress responses. To help resolve this ambiguity, we conducted the current study to evaluate whether innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to a TSST conducted prior to compassion meditation training in an independent sample of 32 medically health young adults would predict subsequent amount of meditation practice time during a compassion meditation training protocol identical to the one used in our first study. No associations were found between responses to a TSST administered prior to compassion meditation training and subsequent amount of meditation practice, whether practice time was considered as a continuous variable or whether meditators were divided into high and low practice time groups based on a median split of mean number of practice sessions per week. These findings contrast strikingly with our original study, in which high and low practice time meditators demonstrated marked differences in IL-6 and distress responses to a TSST administered after meditation training. In addition to providing the first published data regarding stress responsivity as a potential predictor of subsequent ability/willingness to practice meditation, the current study strengthens findings from our initial work by supporting the conclusion that in individuals who actively engage in practicing the technique, compassion meditation may represent a viable strategy for reducing potentially deleterious physiological and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Cha E.S.,Emory University | Kim K.H.,University of Pittsburgh | Lerner H.M.,Emory College | Dawkins C.R.,Emory University | And 3 more authors.
American Journal of Health Behavior | Year: 2014

Objectives: To examine relationships among health literacy, self-efficacy, food label use, and dietary quality in young adults aged 18-29. Methods: Health literacy, self-efficacy, food label use, and dietary quality were assessed. Participants were categorized into low, medium and high health literacy groups based on Newest Vital Sign score. Results: Self-efficacy and health literacy were predictors of food label use, which positively predicted dietary quality. The low health literacy group had significantly lower use of food labels than the high health literacy group. However, there was no significant difference between medium and high health literacy groups. Conclusion: Strategies to enhance health literacy, self-efficacy and food label use should be developed to improve dietary quality and health outcomes.


Rowson S.A.,Emory University | Harrell C.S.,Emory University | Bekhbat M.,Emory University | Gangavelli A.,Emory College | And 4 more authors.
Frontiers in Psychiatry | Year: 2016

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has improved prognosis for people living with HIV (PLWH) and dramatically reduced the incidence of AIDS. However, even when viral load is controlled, PLWH develop psychiatric and neurological disorders more frequently than those living without HIV. Adolescents with HIV are particularly susceptible to the development of psychiatric illnesses and neurocognitive impairments. While both psychiatric and neurocognitive disorders have been found to be exacerbated by stress, the extent to which chronic stress and HIV-1 viral proteins interact to impact behavior and relevant neuroinflammatory processes is unknown. Determination of the individual contributions of stress and HIV to neuropsychiatric disorders is heavily confounded in humans. In order to isolate the influence of HIV-1 proteins and chronic stress on behavior and neuroinflammation, we employed the HIV-1 transgenic (Tg) rat model, which expresses HIV-1 proteins with a gag and pol deletion, allowing for viral protein expression without viral replication. This Tg line has been characterized as a model of HAART-controlled HIV-1 infection due to the lack of viral replication but continued presence of HIV-1 proteins. We exposed male and female adolescent HIV-1 Tg rats to a mixed-modality chronic stress paradigm consisting of isolation, social defeat and restraint, and assessed behavior, cerebral vascularization, and neuroinflammatory endpoints. Stress, sex, and presence of the HIV-1 transgene impacted weight gain in adolescent rats. Female HIV-1 Tg rats showed decreases in central tendency during the light cycle in the open field regardless of stress exposure. Both male and female HIV-1 Tg rats exhibited decreased investigative behavior in the novel object recognition task, but no memory impairments. Adolescent stress had no effect on the tested behaviors. Microglia in female HIV-1 Tg rats exhibited a hyper-ramified structure, and gene expression of complement factor B was increased in the hippocampus. In addition, adolescent stress exposure increased microglial branching and junctions in female wild-type rats without causing any additional increase in HIV-1 rats. These data suggest that the presence of HIV-1 proteins during development leads to alterations in behavioral and neuroinflammatory endpoints that are not further impacted by concurrent chronic adolescent stress. © 2016 Rowson, Harrell, Bekhbat, Gangavelli, Wu, Kelly, Reddy and Neigh.

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