Tag Archives: woman

Stress might reduces fertility in women, but not in men

Credit: Pixabay.

Women who are under considerable stress may find it more difficult to conceive, according to a new study. The findings, however, did not apply to men.

Living a modern, fast-paced lifestyle is taking its toll on Americans. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, about eight in ten Americans say they frequently (44%) or sometimes (35%) encounter stress in their daily lives. Women are more likely to report frequent stress than men (49% vs 40%), which can trigger anxiety and depression.

Researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine investigated whether there was any association between stress and the odds of conception for women among the general population. To this aim, they turned to the Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO), a preconception cohort that followed couples for 12 months or until pregnancy, whichever came first.

PRESTO included 4,769 women and 1,272 men who had no prior history of infertility and had not been trying to conceive for more than six menstrual cycles.

The researchers measured perceived stress among the participants by employing a 10-item test designed to assess how unpredictable and overwhelming individuals find their life circumstances. Each item referred to the past month and had five response choices, ranging from 0 (never) to 4 (very often). Both partners had to complete the perceived stress scale (PSS), whose maximum score is 40, indicating severe daily stress.

Besides PSS, the researchers also assessed data on diet, sleep, household income, frequency of intercorse, and demographic factors such as race or ethnicity.

Association between baseline women’s and men’s scores on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and fecundability. Credit: Boston University School of Medicine.

On average, the baseline perceived stress score was about 1 point higher among women than in men, in line previous surveys and studies. The study’s most important finding, however, was that women who scored 25 or higher on the PSS were 13% less likely to conceive than women with PSS scores under 10. This association was stronger among women who had been trying to conceive for no more than two menstrual cycles and were under 35 years old.

The researchers note that only a small proportion of this association can be explained by less frequent intercourse and increased menstrual cycle irregularity due to stress.

Another important finding was that the PSS score did not seem to influence a man’s odds of conception. If there’s really a causal relationship, perhaps stress may interfere with a woman’s hormonal balance in such a way as to interfere with conception.

The authors have proposed several biological mechanisms through which stress might directly affect a woman’s fecundability. For instance, stress is known to be associated with higher levels of corticotropin-releasing hormones and glucocorticoids, which could delay or inhibit the surge of luteinizing hormones directly involved in ovulation induction. Stress might also reduce ovarian reserves.

More research will be required in order to establish such a causal link. In the meantime, couples who find it hard having a baby might want to consider managing their stress.

The findings appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Women ask for raises just as much as men do — but they just don’t get them

The fact that, on average, women are paid less than men for the same job should surprise no one. The gender pay gap has been thoroughly documented for years, with many economists estimating it at around 10-20%. There is no satisfying explanation for this phenomenon, but one of the more common theories is that women don’t ask for raises as much as men do. A new study thoroughly disproves that theory, showing that women “ask” just as much as men — they just don’t “get”.

“Even we were surprised by the results. We had expected to find less asking by the females. Instead, we found that, holding background factors constant, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. While that may sound like a modest difference, over a lifetime it really adds up,” researchers write in a descriptive article.

For the study, 4,600 randomly selected employees across 800 workplaces across Australia were sampled. Although a relatively small country, Australia has the advantage of being very culturally diverse, thus limiting any potential cultural influence. Researchers analyzed several ideas about gender differences. For instance, they tested to see if women act less assertively in negotiations for fear of upsetting the relationship with their boss or colleagues, which has been suggested in previous studies.

They found no evidence supporting this theory.

Furthermore, while some employees don’t ask for a raise for fear that it will disrupt workplace relationships, that is equally true for both men and women (14% for both).

Regarding the “asking,” there were several factors affecting how likely people were to ask for a raise. As expected, older workers do it more often, as do long-tenured employees. Unsurprisingly, part-time workers, both men and women, are less likely to ask and to receive a raise.

Researchers also wanted to see if education plays a part — and again, researchers didn’t find any evidence of highly-educated women asking for raises less than men, and the same could be said for less-educated employees.

“At referees’ request, after the further analysis, we were able to demonstrate to them that our main finding — women do ask — holds in both large and small companies, and holds for women with and without advanced levels of education. We also demonstrated that the finding is not because female workers have shorter lengths of job tenure or behave differently than men when they have dependent children,” researchers concluded.

The bottom line, we still don’t really know exactly why this gender pay gap exists, but it seems that women can’t be faulted for not asking. If anything, they ask as much as men, but they just don’t get as many raises. As to why this happens, it’s currently anyone’s guess.

The study has been published in the journal Industrial Relations.

Researchers fit Italian woman with futuristic, bionic hand

Almerina Mascarello lost her hand in a work accident — in July 1993, her hand was crushed by an industrial press. After almost 25 years, her luck completely changed.

An extraordinary fortunate event

 “I was flicking through a magazine on invalidity when I noticed a page asking people to undergo a test for a prosthesis. The Gemelli doctor phoned me a year later and asked me if I would like to be a guinea pig for a bionic hand“, she told ANSA.

“I said I would think about it and I said yes in May of last year. I went to Rome for the operation in June”Mascarello added.

Via Pixabay/Tumisu

The prosthetic — named LifeHand2 — was engineered by a team led by Silvestro Micera, from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa and the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. Neurologist Paolo Maria Rossini’s team from Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli Hospital did the medical work.

How the hand works

The medical team inserted hair-thin electrodes into Almerina’s upper arm nerves. These electrodes conduct sensorial information from the hand to a computer in a backpack. The computer translates the gathered info into a language the brain can understand. Basically, the computer transmits to the upper arm nerves electrical signals, telling the brain the consistency and shape of the object.


Almerina Mascarello opening a water bottle with the help of her new bionic hand. Credit: Youtube / Euronews.

A similar version of the bionic hand was priorly used by Danish patient Dennis Aabo Sorensen, who lost his hand in 2004 due to a firework explosion. His bionic hand was so sensitive that he was able to determine the consistency of different objects in 78 percent of cases. In 88 percent of cases, he could distinguish between a baseball, a glass, and a tangerine.

Credit: Youtube / Euronews.

The bionic hand is sophisticated enough to relay texture. Credit: Youtube / Euronews.

However, Mascarello’s implant and annexes were adjusted to fit into a backpack, unlike Sorensen’s. The bioengineering team’s goal is to create a hand prosthesis that has all the necessary components built in, miniaturizing the electronics as much as possible.

“We are going more and more in the direction of science fiction movies, like Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand in Star Wars – a fully controlled, fully natural, sensorized prosthesis, identical to the human hand.” lead researcher Micera told the BBC.

Sadly, Mascarello had to give up her prosthesis for further research. She felt like she was complete after 24 years, gathering joy from all the small things, like being able to tie her own shoes or dress alone. Unfortunately, only the research project is completed will she receive her own prosthetic hand.

“Now I’m eagerly awaiting them to call me and tell me it’s ready”, she stated.

Forensic experts reconstruct the face of a 2,300 year old Egyptian mummy

University of Melbourne researchers can now show you what ancient Egyptians looked like. They created a 3D-printed replica skull from CT scans of a mummy’s head and forensic reconstruction techniques to bring it back to life.

Reconstruction of an Egyptian woman cca. 300 BC.
Image credits Jennifer Mann/Paul Burston/University of Melbourne

A short while ago, researchers reconstructed the face of a woman who lived in Bronze Age England. Now, Australian researchers from the University of Melbourne brought the face of an even older culture back to life. Not just awesome, but educational too — the team says this reconstruction will teach students about diagnosing pathologies in former populations.

“The idea of the project is to take this relic and, in a sense, bring her back to life by using all the new technology,” said team member Varsha Pilbrow.

“This way she can become much more than a fascinating object to be put on display. Through her, students will be able to learn how to diagnose pathology marked on our anatomy, and learn how whole population groups can be affected by the environments in which they live.”

The mummy — just a wrapped head, severed from the body — was actually found by accident in the university’s collections area by a curator performing an audit. The team thinks it was brought here by Frederic Wood Jones, an archaeologist turned anatomy professor who taught there in the early 1900s.

“Her face is kept upright because it is more respectful that way,” said museum curator Ryan Jefferies. “She was once a living person, just like all the human specimens we have preserved here, and we can’t forget that.”

Reconstructing the face was the only way to ensure that the mummy was preserved, as Jefferies grew concerned that the skull was beginning to rot from the inside out. Naturally, the team couldn’t just unwrap the head as this might have caused irreparable damage to the head. So, the team took a CT scan of the mummy to understand what was going on inside. Seeing the CT scan made them realize that this was a great forensic and teaching opportunity in collaborative research, according to Jefferies.

They enlisted the help of a team of forensic experts from Monash University to reconstruct the face starting from the skull. The Monash team reckoned that the mummy was female — the team named her Meritamun — and likely lived sometime around 300 BC. A more precise dating will soon be available once the skull is carbon dated.

Imaging specialist Gavan Mitchell was able to use a 3D printer to create an exact replica of the skull, which the team turned over to forensic sculptor Jennifer Mann. She painstakingly reconstructed the mummy’s face using clay and all of the data gathered by the forensic team.

The replica skull.
Image credits Varsha Pilbrow/Gavan Mitchell/University of Melbourne.

“It is incredible that her skull is in such good condition after all this time, and the model that Gavan produced was beautiful in its details,” Mann said. “It is really poignant work and extremely important for finally identifying these people who would otherwise have remained unknown.”

The final result is a fully reconstructed face, the closest we’ve come ever to seeing an ancient Egyptian woman.

The team hasn’t yet published their results in a peer-reviewed journal, so the technique still awaits proper scrutiny.

So while we wait, check out this video to see the reconstruction in action:

media thin

Pressure to be thin influenced by genetics, study finds

media thinBe tall, be thin, be beautiful. The media has made sure we’re constantly bombarded by such imperatives, and aside from frustrations, some people have gone to such extremes to fit popular media expectations that they end up hurting themselves. This is, sadly, most evident in the case of women, where eating disorders or anorexia are frequently encountered. A new study, however, says that some women may be genetically predisposed to becoming vulnerable to idealized body size pressure.

The researchers sought out to measure to what degree women bought into the perceived ideal of thinness, which the researchers call thin-ideal internalization. With this is in mind, scientists at Michigan State University, performed tests for 300 female twins aged between 12 and 22. An assessment of how much participants wanted to look like people from movies, TV and magazines was made, after which a comparison was made between identical twins who share 100 percent of their genes and fraternal twins who share 50 percent. It was found that identical twins have closer levels of thin idealization than fraternal twins, implying genetics had a significant contribution.

Upon a closer look, the researchers were surprised to find that the heritability of thin idealization is 43 percent, meaning that almost half of the reason women differ in their idealization of thinness can be explained by differences in their genetic makeup. Thus, the study shows that media exposure to idealized body size has a less significant role to play than previously thought.

“We were surprised to find that shared environmental factors, such as exposure to the same media, did not have as big an impact as expected,” said Jessica Suisman, lead author of the study. “Instead, non-shared factors that make co-twins different from each other had the greatest impact.”

“The broad cultural risk factors that we thought were most influential in the development of thin-ideal internalization are not as important as genetic risk and environmental risk factors that are specific and unique to each twin,” she concluded.

The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, appears in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

source MSU


Shorties: The woman with the most piercings in the world

How many piercings do you think the most pierced woman in the world has? Fifty, a hundred, two hundred ? When she was examined by the Guinness book of records, Elaine Davidson had 462 piercings, with 192 in her face alone. But that was in May 2000, and things have changed greatly since then.

In august 2001, when she was re-examined, she had 720 piercings. Things went incredibly crazy after that; in 2005, the Guardian reported that she has 3950 piercings (!) in her body, with 500 piercings in her genitalia alone (inside and outside). Five hundred piercings in her genitalia; five hundred.

In 2010, she herself reported having 6725 piercings, weighing over 3 kilograms. I call no comment on this one.

Woman with no fear intrigues researchers

Courage is not the absence of fear, but being afraid and facing it; for a 44 year old woman who is referred to “SM” for privacy reasons, that is not an option – she can not feel fear, biologically. Researchers have tried and tried with their best techniques to scare her, but there was absolutely no result.

Haunted houses, monsters, snakes and spiders only managed to make her curious or to entertain her; she suffers from a rarecondition called Urbach–Wiethe disease that has destroyed her amygdala, an almond-shaped structure located deep in the brain that plays a crucial role in generating fear responses in numerous mammals, from rats to humans.

This new study revolved around SM and her she was the first ever to confirm that that part of the brain is actually responsible for generating fear responses in humans.

“This is the first study to systematically investigate the experience or feeling of fear in humans with amygdala damage,” lead author Justin Feinstein told LiveScience.

The study could prove to be extremely important in treating post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), especially for soldiers, but not only for them.

“Their lives are marred by fear, and they are oftentimes unable to even leave their home due to the ever-present feeling of danger,” Feinstein said. In contrast, SM is immune to this stress. “Traumatic events leave no emotional imprint on her brain,” he said.

It has to be said, being fearless has its good points and bad points. Her eldest son (she has three children) in his early 20s recalls this instance: ”

Me and my brothers were playing in the yard and mom was outside sitting on the porch. All of a sudden we see this snake on the road. It was a one lane road, and seriously, it touched from one end of the yard all the way to the other side of the road. I was like, ‘Holy cow, that’s a big snake!’ Well mom just ran over there and picked it up and brought it out of the street, put it in the grass and let it go on its way…”

But that’s only the start of it. She has been held at gun and knife point, physically accosted, threatened by death several times and almost died in an act of domestic violence; her life was on the line on numerous occasions, but she was never convicted of a crime. Of course, studying other patients in the same condition as SM would be extremely useful, but this kind of people are almost impossible to find.

“What stands out most is that, in many of these situations, SM’s life was in danger, yet her behavior lacked any sense of desperation or urgency,” the researchers wrote.