UBC in the news

Highlights of UBC media coverage in March 2010. compiled by Heather Amos

Poverty in childhood can shape neurobiology: study

Thomas Boyce, professor of pediatrics at UBC, found that living in poverty, or other stressful situations, can shape the neurobiology of a developing child. This study was picked up by ABC Radio, Yahoo News, Agence France Presse, The Times of India, the Irish Times and the Globe and Mail.

“Children growing up in a disadvantaged setting show disproportionate levels of reactivity to stress,” said Boyce.

Olympic venues offer novel features

The Agence France Presse, the New York Times, the Canadian Press and the Globe and Mail reported that UBC’s Thunderbird Arena was one of seven venues for the 2010 Paralympic Games, and host to the sledge hockey competition.

For the first time ever at the Paralympics, sledge hockey players were able to glide on and off the field of play because the bench areas and penalty box in UBC’s arena were filled with ice.

The Vancouver Sun and the Province also reported versions of this story.

Anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications increase cataract risks

UBC’s Mahyar Etminan is the lead author of a study that found that people who take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression may have a higher-than-average risk of developing cataracts.

But Etminan says that’s no reason to stop taking antidepressants: “The benefits of treating depression — which can be life-threatening — still outweigh the risk of developing cataracts,” as was reported by Reuters, Nature, the Globe and Mail, The Vancouver Sun and the Montreal Gazette.

Fairness is socially-learned, not innate, research suggests

UBC’s Joseph Henrich and his colleagues set out to determine if fairness is an evolved psychological tool or a social construct that emerged recently in response to cultural changes.

The Economist, USA Today, the New York Times, Science, MSNBC, Wired and others reported that the results back a cultural explanation of fairness. People living in communities that lack market integration display less concern with fairness or with punishing unfairness.

“Markets don’t work very efficiently if everyone acts selfishly and believes everyone else will do the same,” says Henrich. “If you develop norms to be fair and trusting with people beyond your social sphere, that provides enormous economic advantages and allows a society to grow.”

Money can’t buy you happiness, economists find

The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the New Zealand Herald and others reported on research by UBC’s Mukesh Esawaran and University of Calgary’s Curtis Eaton that found inhabitants of wealthy countries tend to grow more miserable as their economy grows richer.

The two economists learned that most people in a population, who are unable to afford the latest status symbols, were left unhappy.

“These goods represent a ‘zero-sum game’ for society: they satisfy the owners, making them appear wealthy, but everyone else is left feeling worse off,” say researchers. ciall e  ;e largest concentration of expertise in HIV/AIDS is right here in his backyard.

“UBC and the BC-CfE have one of the most well-regarded research clusters in the world when it comes to HIV/AIDS research and how we address issues that surround and impact infection and survival rates,” says Wood, who received his PhD from UBC but didn’t get into medical school on the first try.

“In retrospect it was a blessing,” says Wood. “Instead of going to medical school right away, I was recruited to stay at UBC as an assistant professor and received a large grant from the US National Institutes of Health to continue doing clinical research while I pursued a medical degree in Calgary.”

As for his mounting accolades, Wood says they are recognition of his teams at BC-CfE, St. Paul’s Hospital and UBC.

“It’s flattering and humbling, but none of it would be possible without my colleagues, the participants in our research, who give willingly of their time and experiences, and the fantastic team of graduate students who are so passionate and hardworking,” says Wood.

“We’re fighting such an uphill battle here, the more people we can get working in this area the more quickly we can turn this Titanic around.”