LabBook November 2, 2012

Welcome to LabBook, our weekly roundup of University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences research news from around campus and the world wide web. Each Friday, LabBook will recap the week on the blog, link to news stories about our faculty and studies, and briefly summarize a handful of recent publications by our researchers.


If you’ve used a computer long enough you’re familiar with terms like megabyte and gigabyte. But do you know how big a petabyte is? Let’s just say it’s pretty big, and the researchers at the Computational Institute are working hard at building the kind of computers and software to handle petabyte-sized data. Earlier this month at the Petascale Day seminar, Robert Grossman talked about how this level of computing will allow scientists to analyze more than a million genomes.

Describe any problem in communicating with teens, and chances are someone will suggest using social media to get through to them. Convincing adolescent asthma patients to take their medications is one such problem, but Ves Dimov reviewed a number of pilot studies on using texting and social media to help them manage their asthma and found that the medium is only as effective as the message behind it.


In the modern, wired world, with smartphones and tablets flashing and buzzing constantly with people trying to get ahold of us, true solitude is increasingly rare. While loneliness is typically detrimental to our health, John Cacioppo says that voluntarily unplugging from gadgets and the internet can be good for the brain. He spoke about his research on loneliness in a widely published AP article on the trend of employers enforcing mandatory digital quiet time after hours.

Vitamins have always played an uncertain role in preventing cancer. Now a new study involving the University of Chicago, the University of Hawaii and the University of Southern California has found that higher levels of vitamin B6 significantly reduced the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The research, covered by the Daily Herald, will likely trigger more research into the actual mechanisms behind this benefit.

And finally, CNN, Popular Science and others covered a study by Sian Beilock showing that for people who have math anxiety, just thinking about doing problems or going to a class can cause a brain response similar to experiencing physical pain. But interestingly, they didn’t have the same reaction when actually doing the math problems. Maybe the secret is what I always tell my kids: Just do your math homework and get it over with.

About Matt Wood (531 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer and manager of communications at the University of Chicago Medicine & Biological Sciences Division.
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