University of California San Francisco study: Dozens of genes associated with autism

29 Oct

The number of children with autism appears to be growing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides statistics on the number of children with autism in the section Data and Statistics:

Prevalence

  • It is estimated that between 1 in 80 and 1 in 240 with an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States have an ASD. [Read article]

  • ASDs are reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, yet are on average 4 to 5 times more likely to occur in boys than in girls.  However, we need more information on some less studied populations and regions around the world. [Read article]

  • Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with an ASD with an approximate prevalence of 0.6% to over 1%. A recent study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%. [Data table ]

  • Approximately 13% of children have a developmental disability, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.  [Read article] http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

In order for children with autism to reach their full potential there must be early diagnosis and treatment.

Science Daily reported in Dozens of genes associated with autism in new research:

Two major genetic studies of autism, led in part by UC San Francisco scientists and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.

The two new studies, published in the advance online edition of Nature on October 29, 2014, tied mutations in more than 100 genes to autism. Sixty of these genes met a “high-confidence” threshold indicating that there is a greater than 90 percent chance that mutations in those genes contribute to autism risk.

The majority of the mutations identified in the new studies are de novo (Latin for “afresh”) mutations, meaning they are not present in unaffected parents’ genomes but arise spontaneously in a single sperm or egg cell just prior to conception of a child.

The genes implicated in the new studies fall into three broad classes: they are involved in the formation and function of synapses, which are sites of nerve-cell communication in the brain; they regulate, via a process called transcription, how the instructions in other genes are relayed to the protein-making machinery in cells; and they affect how DNA is wound up and packed into cells in a structure known as chromatin. Because modifications of chromatin structure are known to lead to changes in how genes are expressed, mutations that alter chromatin, like those that affect transcription, would be expected to affect the activity of many genes.

One of the new Nature studies made use of data from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a permanent repository of DNA samples from nearly 3,000 families created by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. Each SSC family has one child affected with autism, parents unaffected by the disorder and, in a large proportion, unaffected siblings. The second study was conducted under the auspices of the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), an initiative supported by the National Institute of Mental Health that allows scientists from around the world to collaborate on large genomic studies that couldn’t be done by individual labs.

“Before these studies, only 11 autism genes had been identified with high confidence, and we have now more than quadrupled that number,” said Stephan Sanders, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF, co-first author on the SSC study, and co-author on the ASC study. Based on recent trends, Sanders estimates that gene discovery will continue at a quickening pace, with as many as 1,000 genes ultimately associated with autism risk.

“There has been a lot of concern that 1,000 genes means 1,000 different treatments, but I think the news is much brighter than that,” said Matthew W. State, MD, PhD, chair and Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor in Psychiatry at UCSF. State was co-leader of the Nature study focusing on the SSC and a senior participant in the study organized by the ASC, of which he is a co-founder. ”There is already strong evidence that these mutations converge on a much smaller number key biological functions. We now need to focus on these points of convergence to begin to develop novel treatments….”                                                                                                                            http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141029141223.htm

Citation:

Dozens of genes associated with autism in new research

Date:             October 29, 2014

Source:         University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Summary:

Two major genetic studies of autism, involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.

Nature | Article

Synaptic, transcriptional and chromatin genes disrupted in autism

Nature

(2014)

doi:10.1038/nature13772

Received

18 May 2014

Accepted

18 August 2014

Published online

29 October 2014

Abstract

  • Abstract•

The genetic architecture of autism spectrum disorder involves the interplay of common and rare variants and their impact on hundreds of genes. Using exome sequencing, here we show that analysis of rare coding variation in 3,871 autism cases and 9,937 ancestry-matched or parental controls implicates 22 autosomal genes at a false discovery rate (FDR) < 0.05, plus a set of 107 autosomal genes strongly enriched for those likely to affect risk (FDR < 0.30). These 107 genes, which show unusual evolutionary constraint against mutations, incur de novo loss-of-function mutations in over 5% of autistic subjects. Many of the genes implicated encode proteins for synaptic formation, transcriptional regulation and chromatin-remodelling pathways. These include voltage-gated ion channels regulating the propagation of action potentials, pacemaking and excitability–transcription coupling, as well as histone-modifying enzymes and chromatin remodellers—most prominently those that mediate post-translational lysine methylation/demethylation modifications of histones.                                                                                   http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature13772.html

Here is the press release from the University of California San Francisco:

Dozens of Genes Associated with Autism in New Research

Functions of Newly Identified Genes Converge on a Few Important Biological Processes

By Pete Farley on October 29, 2014 | Email | Print

Two major genetic studies of autism, led in part by UC San Francisco scientists and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows that rare mutations in these genes affect communication networks in the brain and compromise fundamental biological mechanisms that govern whether, when, and how genes are activated overall.

The two new studies, published in the advance online edition of Nature on October 29, 2014, tied mutations in more than 100 genes to autism. Sixty of these genes met a “high-confidence” threshold indicating that there is a greater than 90 percent chance that mutations in those genes contribute to autism risk.

The majority of the mutations identified in the new studies are de novo (Latin for “afresh”) mutations, meaning they are not present in unaffected parents’ genomes but arise spontaneously in a single sperm or egg cell just prior to conception of a child.

The genes implicated in the new studies fall into three broad classes: they are involved in the formation and function of synapses, which are sites of nerve-cell communication in the brain; they regulate, via a process called transcription, how the instructions in other genes are relayed to the protein-making machinery in cells; and they affect how DNA is wound up and packed into cells in a structure known as chromatin. Because modifications of chromatin structure are known to lead to changes in how genes are expressed, mutations that alter chromatin, like those that affect transcription, would be expected to affect the activity of many genes.

One of the new Nature studies made use of data from the Simons Simplex Collection (SSC), a permanent repository of DNA samples from nearly 3,000 families created by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. Each SSC family has one child affected with autism, parents unaffected by the disorder and, in a large proportion, unaffected siblings. The second study was conducted under the auspices of the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), an initiative supported by the National Institute of Mental Health that allows scientists from around the world to collaborate on large genomic studies that couldn’t be done by individual labs.

“Before these studies, only 11 autism genes had been identified with high confidence, and we have now more than quadrupled that number,” said Stephan Sanders, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF, co-first author on the SSC study, and co-author on the ASC study. Based on recent trends, Sanders estimates that gene discovery will continue at a quickening pace, with as many as 1,000 genes ultimately associated with autism risk.

“There has been a lot of concern that 1,000 genes means 1,000 different treatments, but I think the news is much brighter than that,” said Matthew W. State, MD, PhD, chair and Oberndorf Family Distinguished Professor in Psychiatry at UCSF. State was co-leader of the Nature study focusing on the SSC and a senior participant in the study organized by the ASC, of which he is a co-founder. ”There is already strong evidence that these mutations converge on a much smaller number key biological functions. We now need to focus on these points of convergence to begin to develop novel treatments.

Autism, which is marked by deficits in social interaction and language development, as well as by repetitive behaviors and restricted interests, is known to have a strong genetic component. But until a few years ago, genomic research had failed to decisively associate individual genes with the disorder.

The two new studies highlight the factors that have radically changed that picture, State said. One is the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS), which allows researchers to read each of the “letters” in the DNA code at unprecedented speed. Another is the establishment of the SSC; a 2007 study had suggested that de novo mutations would play a significant role in autism risk, and the SSC was specifically designed to help test that idea by allowing for close comparisons between children with autism and their unaffected parents and siblings. Lastly, collaborative initiatives such as the ASC are enabling teams of researchers around the world to work closely together, pooling their resources to create large datasets with sufficient statistical power to draw valid conclusions.

The large research teams behind each of the two new studies used a form of NGS known as “whole-exome” sequencing, a letter-by-letter analysis of just the portion of the genome that encodes proteins.

In November 2013, a study led by A. Jeremy Willsey, a graduate student in State’s lab, showed that the functional roles of the nine high-confidence autism risk genes that had then been discovered all converged on a single cell type in a particular place in the brain at a particular time during fetal development. Willsey is a co-author on both of the new Nature studies, which State believes will further accelerate our understanding of how the myriad of genes involved in autism affect basic biological pathways in the brain.

“These genes carry really large effects,” State said. “That we now have a bounty of dozens of genes, and a clear path forward to find perhaps hundreds more, provides an incredible foundation for understanding the biology of autism and finding new treatments.”

UCSF is the nation’s leading university exclusively focused on health. Now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a medical college, UCSF is dedicated to transforming health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy; a graduate division with world-renowned programs in the biological sciences, a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and top-tier hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals.

It is imperative that ALL women receive prenatal care particularly poor and those women at risk of difficult pregnancies. Early diagnosis of autism gives the child the best chance of achieving their potential.

Related:

Autism and children of color                                                                                                                                                                                       http://drwilda.com/tag/children-of-color-with-autism/

Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine study: Kids with autism more likely to be bullied                                     http://drwilda.com/2012/09/06/archives-of-pediatrics-and-adolescent-medicine-study-kids-with-autism-more-likely-to-be-bullied/

Father’s age may be linked to Autism and Schizophrenia                                                                                                     http://drwilda.com/2012/08/26/fathers-age-may-be-linked-to-autism-and-schizophrenia/

Chelation treatment for autism might be harmful                                                                                                                                                  http://drwilda.com/2012/12/02/chelation-treatment-for-autism-might-be-harmful/

Journal of American Medical Association study: Folic acid may reduce autism risk                                               http://drwilda.com/tag/folic-acid-in-pregnancy-may-lower-autism-risk/

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Northwestern University study: Heavier babies do better in school

27 Oct

The Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services explains why healthy babies are important. “Healthy babies are more likely to develop into healthy children, and healthy children are more likely to grow up to be healthy teenagers and healthy adults.” http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/earlychildhood/health/index.aspx

The New York Times reported in the article, Heavier Babies Do Better in School:
A study of children in Florida found that those who were heavier at birth scored higher on math and reading tests in the third to eighth grades.
Like so many other parts of health care, childbirth has become a more medically intense experience over the last two decades. The use of drugs to induce labor has become far more common, as have cesarean sections. Today, about half of all births in this country are hastened either by drugs or surgery, double the share in 1990.
Crucial to the change has been a widely held belief that once fetuses pass a certain set of thresholds — often 39 weeks of gestation and five and a half pounds in weight — they’re as healthy as they can get. More time in the womb doesn’t do them much good, according to this thinking. For parents and doctors, meanwhile, scheduling a birth, rather than waiting for its random arrival, is clearly more convenient.
But a huge new set of data, based on every child born in Florida over an 11-year span, is calling into question some of the most basic assumptions of our medicalized approach to childbirth. The results also play into a larger issue: the growing sense among many doctors and other experts that Americans would actually be healthier if our health care system were sometimes less aggressive.
The new data suggest that the thresholds to maximize a child’s health seem to be higher, which means that many fetuses might benefit by staying longer in the womb, where they typically add at least a quarter-pound per week. Seven-pound babies appear to be healthier than six-pound babies — and to fare better in school as they age. The same goes for eight-pound babies compared with seven-pound babies, and nine-pound babies compared with eight-pound babies. Weight, of course, may partly be an indicator of broader fetal health, but it seems to be a meaningful one: The chunkier the baby, the better it does on average, all the way up to almost 10 pounds.
“Birth weight matters, and it matters for everyone,” says David N. Figlio, a Northwestern University professor and co-author of the study, which will soon be published in the American Economic Review, one of the field’s top journals… http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/12/upshot/heavier-babies-do-better-in-school.html?abt=0002&abg=0&_r=0

Citation:

The Effects of Poor Neonatal Health on Children’s Cognitive Development (WP-13-08)
IPR-WP-13-08
David Figlio, Jonathan Guryan, Krzysztof Karbownik, and Jeffrey Roth
This working paper makes use of a new data resource—merged birth and school records for all children born in Florida from 1992 to 2002—to study the effects of birth weight on cognitive development from kindergarten through schooling. Using twin fixed effects models, the researchers find that the effects of birth weight on cognitive development are essentially constant through the school career, that these effects are very similar across a wide range of family backgrounds, and that they are invariant to measures of school quality. They conclude that the effects of poor neonatal health on adult outcomes are therefore set very early.
David Figlio, Orrington Lunt Professor of Education and Social Policy and of Economics, and Director and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Jonathan Guryan, Associate Professor of Human Development and Social Policy, and Faculty Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Krzysztof Karbownik, Visiting Scholar, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University
Jeffrey Roth, Research Professor of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, University of Florida
Download working paper PDF http://www.ipr.northwestern.edu/publications/docs/workingpapers/2013/IPR-WP-13-08.pdf

Other articles have questioned whether heavier babies are healthier:

Bigger Baby Trend Worries Doctors As Health Concerns Mount Over Supersized Deliveries http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/bigger-baby-trend_n_3780699.html

Everyday Research blog analyzes the study in Heavier babies do better in school:
Questions
a) How do we know this is a correlational study? What are its variables?
b) Here’s a quote from the article:
Mr. Figlio estimates that, all else equal, a 10-pound baby will score an average of 80 points higher on the 1,600-point SAT than a six-pound baby. Another way to see the pattern is to look only at top-scoring students: Among the top 5 percent of test scorers in elementary school, one in three weighed at least eight pounds at birth, compared with only one in four of all babies.
Does this quote address statistical validity? Construct validity? External validity? or Internal validity?
c) Here’s a great addition. Underneath the main figure in the article, are tables of results for education, race, and age. The caption reads:
The effect of being heavier is similar across many different types of mothers.
Is this caption addressing potential moderators? potential mediators? or potential third variable problems?
d) Here’s another quote from the piece:
Florida offers a window on the issue because the state tracks children from birth through college…. The authors of the new study….used the data to compare birth weight with test scores from third through eighth grades, as well as with kindergarten readiness scores. They controlled for, among other factors, the health and sex of the baby, the length of the pregnancy and the health, age, race and education of the mother
Looking at the last sentence of this quote, is this statement addressing potential moderators? potential mediators? or potential third variable problems?

http://www.everydayresearchmethods.com/2014/10/heavier-babies-do-better-in-school.html

The question many parents ask is what is a healthy weight range.

The What to Expect article, Your Newborn’s Weight: What’s Normal, What’s Not discusses healthy weight:

So just what is average for a newborn? At birth, the average baby weighs about 7.5 pounds — though the range of normal is between 5.5 and ten pounds (all but five percent of newborns will fall into this range).
What makes your baby weigh more or less than the newborn in the next bassinet? Several factors come into play:
• Your own diet and weight, both before and during pregnancy (If you’re overweight, you may have a heavier baby. If you don’t get enough nutrients while you’re pregnant, your baby may be smaller.)
• Your prenatal health, including whether you drink, smoke, or have diabetes
• Your own birth weight, plus genetics (your size at birth, plus your and your hubby’s size now, can both play a role)
• Whether your baby is a boy or a girl (boys tend to be heavier)
• Whether this is your firstborn (they tend to be smaller than subsequent children)
• Whether your baby is a twin or triplet (multiples tend to be smaller than singletons)
• Your baby’s race (Caucasian babies are sometimes larger than African-American, Asian, or Native American infants)… http://www.whattoexpect.com/baby-growth/newborn-weight.aspx

The key is regular prenatal care.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports in What is prenatal care and why is it important?

Prenatal Care
Women who suspect they may be pregnant should schedule a visit to their health care provider to begin prenatal care. Prenatal visits to a health care provider include a physical exam, weight checks, and providing a urine sample. Depending on the stage of the pregnancy, health care providers may also do blood tests and imaging tests, such as ultrasound exams. These visits also include discussions about the mother’s health, the infant’s health, and any questions about the pregnancy.
Preconception and prenatal care can help prevent complications and inform women about important steps they can take to protect their infant and ensure a healthy pregnancy. With regular prenatal care women can:
• Reduce the risk of pregnancy complications. Following a healthy, safe diet; getting regular exercise as advised by a health care provider; and avoiding exposure to potentially harmful substances such as lead and radiation can help reduce the risk for problems during pregnancy and ensure the infant’s health and development. Controlling existing conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, is important to avoid serious complications in pregnancy such as preeclampsia.
• Reduce the infant’s risk for complications. Tobacco smoke and alcohol use during pregnancy have been shown to increase the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Alcohol use also increases the risk for fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, which can cause a variety of problems such as abnormal facial features, having a small head, poor coordination, poor memory, intellectual disability, and problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones.2 According to one recent study supported by the NIH, these and other long-term problems can occur even with low levels of prenatal alcohol exposure.3

In addition, taking 400 micrograms of folic acid daily reduces the risk for neural tube defects by 70%.4 Most prenatal vitamins contain the recommended 400 micrograms of folic acid as well as other vitamins that pregnant women and their developing fetus need.1,5 Folic acid has been added to foods like cereals, breads, pasta, and other grain-based foods. Although a related form (called folate) is present in orange juice and leafy, green vegetables (such as kale and spinach), folate is not absorbed as well as folic acid.
• Help ensure the medications women take are safe. Certain medications, including some acne treatments6 and dietary and herbal supplements,7 are not safe to take during pregnancy.
Learn more about prenatal and preconception care. http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/preconceptioncare/Pages/default.aspx

http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pregnancy/conditioninfo/Pages/prenatal-care.aspx

See, Prenatal care fact sheet http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/prenatal-care.html

Our goal as a society should be a healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood. ©

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University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign study: ADHD kids may benefit with FITKids exercise intervention

21 Oct

Moi wrote in ADHD coaching to improve a child’s education outcome:
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry discusses the primary symptoms of ADHD in the article, What Is ADHD:

The primary symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention.
Hyperactive children always seem to be in motion. A child who is hyperactive may move around touching or playing with whatever is around, or talk continually. During story time or school lessons, the child might squirm around, fidget, or get up and move around the room. Some children wiggle their feet or tap their fingers. A teenager or adult who is hyperactive may feel restless and need to stay busy all the time.
Impulsive children often blurt out comments without thinking first. They may often display their emotions without restraint. They may also fail to consider the consequences of their actions. Such children may find it hard to wait in line or take turns. Impulsive teenagers and adults tend to make choices that have a small immediate payoff rather than working toward larger delayed rewards….

ADHD News has a synopsis of the ADHD news     http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/categories/adhd

http://drwilda.com/2012/03/31/adhd-coaching-to-improve-a-childs-education-outcome/

Julia Lawrence of Education News reported about a Quebec study in the article, Study: ADHD Drugs Don’t Improve Academic Performance in Kids:

Shirley S. Wang of The Wall Street Journal writes about one such study published in June which looked at academic outcomes of Quebec students prescribed ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Adderall over a span of 11 years. Researchers concluded that boys who were taking drugs academically underperformed peers with the same symptoms who were not medicated. The working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research also reported that girls who took ADHD drugs had higher incidence of emotional problems than ones who did not.

“The possibility that [medication] won’t help them [in school] needs to be acknowledged and needs to be closely monitored,” says economics professor Janet Currie, an author on the paper and director of the Center for Health & Wellbeing, a health policy institute at Princeton University. Kids may not get the right dose to see sustained benefits, or they may stop taking the medication because side effects or other drawbacks outweigh the benefits, she says.

Why drugs that claim to improve concentration, focus and emotional control don’t lead to academic improvement is a question that has puzzled researchers for some time — and answering the question could be the key to effective ADHD treatment in children. Finding an effective treatment regime could help a lot of kids; according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 2.7 million children currently on ADHD drugs of some kind in the United States alone.

http://www.educationnews.org/parenting/study-adhd-drugs-dont-improve-academic-performance-in-kids/#sthash.HkASci3N.dpuf

This study is in accord with research from Yale University.

Geneva Pittman of Reuters wrote in the article, Be cautious of mind-altering drugs for kids: doctors:

Focusing on stimulants typically used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, researchers said the number of diagnoses and prescriptions have risen dramatically over the past two decades.

Young people with the disorder clearly benefit from treatment, lead author Dr. William Graf emphasized, but the medicines are increasingly being used by healthy youth who believe they will enhance their concentration and performance in school.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1.7 percent of eighth graders and 7.6 percent of 12th graders have used Adderall, a stimulant, for nonmedical reasons.
Some of those misused medicines are bought on the street or from peers with prescriptions; others may be obtained legally from doctors.

“What we’re saying is that because of the volume of drugs and the incredible increase… the possibility of overdiagnosis and overtreatment is clearly there,” said Graf, from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

In their statement, published in the journal Neurology, he and his colleagues say doctors should not give prescriptions to teens who ask for medication to enhance concentration against their parents’ advice. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/13/us-medications-kids-idUSBRE92C17H20130313

A University of Illinois study indicates that exercise might be an effective therapy.

James Hamlin wrote in the Atlantic article: Exercise Is ADHD Medication:

Physical movement improves mental focus, memory, and cognitive flexibility; new research shows just how critical it is to academic performance.

Mental exercises to build (or rebuild) attention span have shown promise recently as adjuncts or alternatives to amphetamines in addressing symptoms common to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Building cognitive control, to be better able to focus on just one thing, or single-task, might involve regular practice with a specialized video game that reinforces “top-down” cognitive modulation, as was the case in a popular paper in Nature last year. Cool but still notional. More insipid but also more clearly critical to addressing what’s being called the ADHD epidemic is plain old physical activity.

This morning the medical journal Pediatrics published research that found kids who took part in a regular physical activity program showed important enhancement of cognitive performance and brain function. The findings, according to University of Illinois professor Charles Hillman and colleagues, “demonstrate a causal effect of a physical program on executive control, and provide support for physical activity for improving childhood cognition and brain health.” If it seems odd that this is something that still needs support, that’s because it is odd, yes. Physical activity is clearly a high, high-yield investment for all kids, but especially those attentive or hyperactive. This brand of research is still published and written about as though it were a novel finding, in part because exercise programs for kids remain underfunded and underprioritized in many school curricula, even though exercise is clearly integral to maximizing the utility of time spent in class…..                                                                                                                       http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/exercise-seems-to-be-beneficial-to-children/380844/?single_page=true

Citation:

Effects of the FITKids Randomized Controlled Trial on Executive Control and Brain Function

  1. Charles H. Hillman, PhDa,
  2. Matthew B. Pontifex, PhDb,
  3. Darla M. Castelli, PhDc,
  4. Naiman A. Khan, PhD, RDa,
  5. Lauren B. Raine, BSa,
  6. Mark R. Scudder, BSa,
  7. Eric S. Drollette, BSa,
  8. Robert D. Moore, MSa,
  9. Chien-Ting Wu, PhDd, and
  10. Keita Kamijo, PhDe

+ Author Affiliations

1.     aDepartment of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois; 2.     bDepartment of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; 3.     cDepartment of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas; 4.     dDepartment of Exercise Science, Schreiner College, Kerrville, Texas; and 5.     eSchool of Sport Sciences, Waseda University, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To assess the effect of a physical activity (PA) intervention on brain and behavioral indices of executive control in preadolescent children.

METHODS: Two hundred twenty-one children (7–9 years) were randomly assigned to a 9-month afterschool PA program or a wait-list control. In addition to changes in fitness (maximal oxygen consumption), electrical activity in the brain (P3-ERP) and behavioral measures (accuracy, reaction time) of executive control were collected by using tasks that modulated attentional inhibition and cognitive flexibility.

RESULTS: Fitness improved more among intervention participants from pretest to posttest compared with the wait-list control (1.3 mL/kg per minute, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.3 to 2.4; d = 0.34 for group difference in pre-to-post change score). Intervention participants exhibited greater improvements from pretest to posttest in inhibition (3.2%, 95% CI: 0.0 to 6.5; d = 0.27) and cognitive flexibility (4.8%, 95% CI: 1.1 to 8.4; d = 0.35 for group difference in pre-to-post change score) compared with control. Only the intervention group increased attentional resources from pretest to posttest during tasks requiring increased inhibition (1.4 µV, 95% CI: 0.3 to 2.6; d = 0.34) and cognitive flexibility (1.5 µV, 95% CI: 0.6 to 2.5; d = 0.43). Finally, improvements in brain function on the inhibition task (r = 0.22) and performance on the flexibility task correlated with intervention attendance (r = 0.24).

CONCLUSIONS: The intervention enhanced cognitive performance and brain function during tasks requiring greater executive control. These findings demonstrate a causal effect of a PA program on executive control, and provide support for PA for improving childhood cognition and brain health.

Key Words:

  • Accepted July 25, 2014.

After-school exercise program enhances cognition in 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds

Date:         September 29, 2014

Source:           University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Summary:

A nine-month-long, randomized controlled trial involving 221 prepubescent children found that those who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day after school saw substantial improvements in their ability to pay attention, avoid distraction and switch between cognitive tasks, researchers report.

Here is the press report from the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign:

After-school exercise program enhances cognition in 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds

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9/29/2014 | Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor | 217-333-5802; diya@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A nine-month-long, randomized controlled trial involving 221 prepubescent children found that those who engaged in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day after school saw substantial improvements in their ability to pay attention, avoid distraction and switch between cognitive tasks, researchers report in the journal Pediatrics.

Fitness, cognitive function and brain function improved in children in the FITKids exercise intervention group, researchers report. | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Half of the study subjects were randomly assigned to the after-school program and the rest were placed on a wait list. All participants underwent cognitive testing and brain imaging before and after the intervention.

“Those in the exercise group received a structured intervention that was designed for the way kids like to move,” said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Charles Hillman, who led the study. “They performed short bouts of exercise interspersed with rest over a two-hour period.”

The intervention, called FITKids, was based on the CATCH exercise program, a research-based health promotion initiative that was initially funded by the National Institutes of Health and now is used by schools and health departments across the U.S.

The children in the FITKids exercise group wore heart-rate monitors and pedometers during the intervention.

“On average, kids’ heart rates corresponded with a moderate-to-vigorous level of exercise intensity, and they averaged about 4,500 steps during the two-hour intervention,” Hillman said. The children were active about 70 minutes per day.

As expected, fitness increased most in the intervention group over the course of the study.

“We saw about a six percent increase in fitness in children in the FITKids intervention group,” Hillman said. Fitness improved less than one percent in the wait-list control group, he said.

Children in the exercise group also demonstrated substantial increases in “attentional inhibition,” a measure of their ability to block out distractions and focus on the task at hand. And they improved in “cognitive flexibility,” which involves switching between intellectual tasks while maintaining speed and accuracy. Children in the wait-list control group saw minimal improvements in these measures, in line with what would be expected as a result of normal maturation over the nine months, Hillman said.

“Kids in the intervention group improved two-fold compared to the wait-list kids in terms of their accuracy on cognitive tasks,” he said. “And we found widespread changes in brain function, which relate to the allocation of attention during cognitive tasks and cognitive processing speed. These changes were significantly greater than those exhibited by the wait-list kids.

“Interestingly, the improvements observed in the FITKids intervention were correlated with their attendance rate, such that greater attendance was related to greater change in brain function and cognitive performance,” Hillman said.

The study did not distinguish improvements that were the result of increased fitness from those that might stem from the social interactions, stimulation and engagement the children in the intervention group experienced, Hillman said.

“Other research at Georgia Regents University led by Catherine Davis has actually used social and game-playing as their control group, and showed that the cognitive effects of their physical activity intervention are above-and-beyond those that are gained just through social interactions,” he said.

The FITKids program is designed to get children socially engaged in exercise, which is part of what makes it an effective intervention, Hillman said.

“The fact is that kids are social beings; they perform physical activity in a social environment,” he said. “A big reason why kids participate in a structured sports environment is because they find it fun and they make new friends. And this intervention was designed to meet those needs as well.”

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health funded this research.

Editor’s note: To reach Charles Hillman, call 217-244-2663; email chhillma@illinois.edu.

The paper, “Effects of the FITKids Randomized Controlled Trial on Executive Control and Brain Function,” is available online or from the U. of I. News Bureau.

Physically fit children are not only healthier, but are better able to perform better in school. Our goal as a society should be:

A healthy child in a healthy family who attends a healthy school in a healthy neighborhood ©

Reference Links:

Edge Foundation ADHD Coaching Study Executive Summary

http://edgefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Edge-Foundation-ADHD-Coaching-Research-Report.pdf

Edge Foundation ADHD Coaching Study Full Report

http://edgefoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Edge-Foundation-ADHD-Coaching-Research-Report.pdf

ADHD and College Success: A free guide

http://www.edgefoundation.org/howedgehelps/add-2.html

ADHD and ExecutiveFunctioning

http://edgefoundation.org/blog/2010/10/08/the-role-of-adhd-and-your-brains-executive-functions/

Executive Function, ADHD and Academic Outcomes

http://www.helpforld.com/efacoutcomes.pdf

Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests

http://drwilda.com/2012/05/08/louisiana-study-fit-children-score-higher-on-standardized-tests/

If you suspect that your child might have ADHD, you should seek an evaluation from a competent professional who has knowledge of this specialized area of medical practice.

Related:

Studies: ADHD drugs don’t necessarily improve academic performance

http://drwilda.com/2013/07/14/studies-adhd-drugs-dont-necessarily-improve-academic-performance/

ADHD coaching to improve a child’s education outcome

http://drwilda.com/2012/03/31/adhd-coaching-to-improve-a-childs-education-outcome/

An ADHD related disorder: ‘Sluggish Cognitive Tempo’

http://drwilda.com/2014/04/12/an-adhd-related-disorder-sluggish-cognitive-tempo/

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MDRC report: New York City’s small schools raise graduation rates for disadvantaged students

19 Oct

The Wisconsin Department of Education has a succinct description of what makes a successful school in Characteristics of Successful Schools Chpt 1 – Overview:

Successful Schools Have a Vision That:

  1. is accompanied by other strategic planning. Strategic planning is a data-driven process that guides decision making, as well as program implementation components such as:
    • goal statements
    • means to accomplish the goals
    • timelines
  2. links education standards to teacher expectations and student performance
  3. fosters district wide expectations and experiences that result in all students mastering challenging standards at proficient or above levels
  4. engages the entire learning community to take responsibility for all students’ learning
  5. includes carefully defined terms that are known and supported by all constituents
  6. is developed with representation from a wide variety of publics and demographic groups
  7. drives resource allocation in the learning as well as the broader community
  8. allows the societal, academic, and organizational components of education to operate in a seamless manner
  9. articulates the learning community’s commitment to both excellence and equity in the organization
  10. embraces the dual mission of creating in each student solid and rigorous academic achievement and civic caring and responsibility

http://cssch.dpi.wi.gov/cssch_cssovrvw1

MDRC, with a grant from the Gates Foundation, has been studying small schools in New York City for the past several years. Disadvantaged students are enabled in the small school setting, according to their findings.

Patricia Willens of NPR reported in the story, New Research Suggests Small High Schools May Help After All:

Findings from a new long-term study of small high schools in New York City show the approach may not only boost a student’s chances of enrolling in college but also cost less per graduate.

The city began an intensive push to create smaller learning communities in its high schools in 2002. That year, the city’s education department rolled out a districtwide lottery system for high school admission.

The study, by the research group MDRC, compares the academic outcomes of students in the small schools with a control group of students who sought admission, lost a lottery, and enrolled in other New York City high schools.

At the same time, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg started creating hundreds of high schools enrolling about 100 students per grade — enrollments much smaller than the comprehensive high schools that had been the norm for decades.

These small schools shared some key characteristics: academic rigor, personalized relationships with teachers, and real-world relevance to the classroom lessons. Another key: outside funding, including from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corp. of New York, and the Open Society Foundations. (Those three philanthropies are also supporters of NPR.)

The proportion of students who graduated from these high schools in four years and enrolled the next year in a post-secondary institution was 8.4 percentage points higher than in the control group, 49 percent, the MDRC study finds. In particular, the researchers found that the schools boosted college enrollment for black males by 11.3 percentage points, a 36 percent increase relative to their control group counterparts.

The small high schools included in the multiyear study also cost less per graduate. Costs were roughly 14 percent to 16 percent lower, the study said, largely because students graduated in four years rather than staying for a fifth year of high school….                           http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/10/17/356661018/new-research-suggests-small-high-schools-may-help-after-all

Here is the press release from MDRC:

New Findings Show New York City’s Small High Schools Boost College Enrollment Rates Among Disadvantaged Students

Higher High School Graduation Rates Translate into College Enrollment; College-Going by Black Males Up by 36 Percent

10/2014

(New York, October 16, 2014) — MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research firm, released new findings today from its rigorous multiyear study of small public high schools in New York City. The findings confirm that these schools, which serve mostly disadvantaged students of color, not only raise graduation rates by 9.4 percentage points, but they boost college enrollment by 8.4 percentage points. In addition, the small high schools achieve these gains at a lower cost per graduate than that of the high schools attended by students who had applied to these schools but were randomly assigned to other public high schools when small school slots were full.

Nearly all of the increase in high school graduation rates can be attributed to a rise in Regents diplomas attained, and the effects are seen in virtually every student group attending these schools, including male and female students of color, students with below grade level eighth-grade proficiency scores in math and reading, low-income students, and students in special education. The effects on postsecondary enrollment are seen for most student subgroups, including low-income students and students of color. For example, the schools boosted college enrollment by 11.3 percentage points for black males, a 36 percent increase relative to their control group counterparts.

“Our study confirms that New York City’s small public high schools are making a marked difference for a wide range of disadvantaged students, not only helping more of them to graduate with Regents diplomas but equipping them to actually take the next critical step into college,” said Gordon Berlin, President of MDRC.  “What is truly remarkable, though, about these results is that a high school reform has had a measurable effect on college-going and it has done so at scale — across scores of public high schools.”

More Detail on the Study and the Findings

The creation of small schools by the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) began in the 1990s. In 2002, the NYCDOE instituted a district-wide high school admissions process that emphasized student choice and began establishing over 100 new academically nonselective small public schools. Each enrolling approximately 100 students per grade in grades 9 through 12, these schools were created to serve some of the district’s most disadvantaged students. Besides being small, they emphasize academic rigor, personalized relationships among strong teachers and students, and real-world relevance of learning. MDRC’s study takes advantage of the lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process that kick in when schools have more applicants than seats available to compare over time the academic outcomes of students who won their first lottery and enrolled in the small schools with those who sought admission, lost a lottery, and enrolled in other New York City high schools.

Previous reports by MDRC (in 2010, 2012, and 2013) showed marked increases in graduation rates for the cohorts of students who entered these small high schools in 2005, 2006, and 2007. This new report updates those findings with results from a fourth cohort of students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2008. For the first time, the study also follows students into postsecondary education. A separate working paper contains a cost analysis. The study’s new findings include:

  • For all four cohorts of students, small high schools in New York City markedly increased high school graduation rates for large numbers of disadvantaged students of color, even as graduation rates were rising at other New York City high schools. For the full sample, students at small high schools have a graduation rate of 71.6 percent, compared with 62.2 percent for students in the control situation. The higher graduation rate was driven by students earning Regents diplomas. These effects were seen among nearly all subgroups of students who attended the small high schools.
  • Attending a small high school increased the percentage of students who graduated from high school in four years and enrolled the next year in a postsecondary institution by 8.4 percentage points (to 49.0 percent). Most subgroups, including black males, black females, and students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch, experienced these effects. Small high schools modestly increased enrollment rates in postsecondary schools at every selectivity level, including competitive and very competitive schools, as defined by Barron’s ratings.
  • The small high schools achieved these gains at a lower cost per graduate than that of the high schools attended by their control group counterparts — roughly 14 percent to 16 percent lower. This is in large part because more students successfully graduate from small high schools and fewer need to attend an expensive fifth year of high school.

What Are Small Schools of Choice?

Small schools of choice (SSCs) — a term coined by the researchers to emphasize the fact that these nonselective schools are open to and chosen by students of all academic levels — are more than just small. They were developed and approved through a competitive proposal process administered by the New York City Department of Education and designed to stimulate innovative ideas for new schools by a range of stakeholders and institutions, from educators to school reform organizations, led in part by New Visions for Public Schools and including the Urban Assembly, the Institute for Student Achievement, the College Board, and others. The resulting schools emphasize academic rigor; strong, sustained relationships between students and faculty; and community partnerships to offer relevant learning opportunities outside the classroom. Each SSC also received start-up funding as well as assistance and policy support from the district and other key players to facilitate leadership development, hiring, and implementation. These reform efforts were supported by a consortium of funders, led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Open Society Foundations, and were implemented in collaboration with the United Federation of Teachers and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. Prior research by the Research Alliance for New York City Schools suggests that teachers and principals at SSCs strongly believe that academic rigor and personal relationships with students contribute to the effectiveness of their schools.

How Was the Study Conducted?

As noted above, the study takes advantage of lottery-like features in New York City’s high school admissions process. Each year, NYC eighth-graders are required to select in rank order of priority up to 12 high schools that they want to attend; when an SSC has more applicants than spaces, the district’s High School Application Processing System uses a randomized process to break ties and assign students to the SSC or to another school in the district from each student’s list of preferences. This analysis examines lotteries that occurred in 84 of the 123 SSCs and provides the basis for an unusually large and rigorous study of the effects of enrolling in SSCs on students’ academic achievement; the study tracks more than 12,000 students in SSCs and other high schools in New York City. The study does not compare the SSCs to the large, failing high schools they replaced but, rather, to the other public high schools operating in the reform-rich atmosphere in New York City.

MDRC’s study is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. All publications from the study, including the new one, Headed to College: The Effects of New York City’s Small High Schools of Choice on Postsecondary Enrollment by Rebecca Unterman, are available on MDRC’s website.

Contact: John Hutchins, Communications Director, 212-340-8604, john.hutchins@mdrc.org, or Farhana Hossain, 212-340-4505, farhana.hossain@mdrc.org.                                                                                               http://www.mdrc.org/news/press-release/new-findings-show-new-york-city-s-small-high-schools-boost-college-enrollment

There are pros and cons to attending a small school.

Kristen Bevilacqua wrote about Pros and Cons of Small High Schools:

Pros*

Class sizes are usually smaller at small high schools. With fewer students in a class, students get more personal attention from their teachers. Shy students may feel more comfortable participating and asking questions and in more intimate class settings.

Fewer students equal fewer cliques. The atmosphere at small schools encourages close friendships since classmates get to know each other better than they would with thousands of peers in the same building. There is no opportunity to be anonymous, so students are more accountable to themselves. I knew the name of every student in my graduating class and the classes below me when I graduated from high school.

Cons*

Large high schools tend to have a more diverse student body. While smaller schools may foster an atmosphere for close friendships, it is less likely that their students will be exposed to as many different ethnicities and cultures as their large school counterparts.

With diversity comes differences. A small and less diverse school does not introduce students to various and opposing opinions. For students’ budding minds, the exploration of all ideas is important for their development and self-discovery.

Although there may be less competition for Editor of the school newspaper or yearbook, the choices for extra curricular activities are more limited at a small high school. For example, my high school did not have any sports teams. If one of my classmates would have liked to play competitive sports, she would have had to join a league or group not affiliated with our school – not as convenient as playing on your school team.

The facilities can also be limited as a small school. They may not have a gymnasium, or functioning cafeteria; if there is a science lab it is probably shared by all grades studying different sciences…..                     http://www.educationspace360.com/index.php/pros-and-cons-of-small-high-schools-3-14879/

The MDRC study emphasizes there should be no one size fits all in education.

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18 Oct

Monday:

Is Obama’s response to the Ebola outbreak right out of the ‘House of Cards’

Wednesday:

The PC police won’t let people ask: Are current infectious diseases like Enterovirus D68 made worse by mass illegal immigration?

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Yale, New York University and University of Wisconsin Madison study: More ADHD medication given during school term to lower status children

16 Oct

Carolyne Gregoire reported in the Huffington Post article, American Teens Are Even More Stressed Than Adults:

Last year, the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America survey found that Millennials, aged 18-33, were the country’s most-stressed generation. Now, the title belongs to an even younger demographic: American teenagers.
Even before the pressures of work and adulthood set in, for most young Americans, stress has already become a fact of daily life. And this sets the stage early for unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices that may increase the risk of developing stress-related health problems down the road.
American teenagers are now the most stressed-out age group in the U.S., according to APA’s 2013 Stress In America survey. While adults rate their stress at a 5.1 on a 10-point scale, teens rate their stress levels at 5.8…… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/11/american-teens-are-even-m_n_4768204.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

Quite often stress and depression in children is treated with medication.

Science Tech Daily reported in the article, Study Finds Stimulant Use Increases by 30% During the School Year:

New research from Yale, NYU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that students are 30% more likely to take a stimulant medication during the school year than they are to take one during the summer.
The authors found that school-year increases in stimulant use are largest for children from socioeconomically advantaged families. Because many children use stimulants only during the school year and take a “drug holiday” in the summer, the authors conclude that these children are using stimulants to manage their schools’ academic demands.
Stimulant medications, which improve concentration and help manage other symptoms associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are the most widely used class of medications among adolescents. Childrens’ use of these medications in the United States has increased dramatically in the last two decades, from approximately 2.4% of children in 1996 to 6% of children at present…. http://scitechdaily.com/study-finds-stimulant-use-increases-30-school-year/

Citation:

Medical Adaptation to Academic Pressure
Schooling, Stimulant Use, and Socioeconomic Status
1. Marissa D. Kinga
2. Jennifer Jenningsb
3. Jason M. Fletcherc
1. aYale School of Management
2. bNew York University
3. cUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison
1. Marissa King, Yale School of Management, 165 Whitney Avenue, New Haven, CT 06511 E-mail: marissa.king@yale.edu
Abstract
Despite the rise of medical interventions to address behavioral issues in childhood, the social determinants of their use remain poorly understood. By analyzing a dataset that includes the majority of prescriptions written for stimulants in the United States, we find a substantial effect of schooling on stimulant use. In middle and high school, adolescents are roughly 30 percent more likely to have a stimulant prescription filled during the school year than during the summer. Socioeconomically advantaged children are more likely than their less advantaged peers to selectively use stimulants only during the academic year. These differences persist when we compare higher and lower socioeconomic status children seeing the same doctors. We link these responses to academic pressure by exploiting variation between states in educational accountability system stringency. We find the largest differences in school year versus summer stimulant use in states with more accountability pressure. School-based selective stimulant use is most common among economically advantaged children living in states with strict accountability policies. Our study uncovers a new pathway through which medical interventions may act as a resource for higher socioeconomic status families to transmit educational advantages to their children, either intentionally or unwittingly.

Here is the synopsis from Yale Insights:

Medicate to Educate: Study Finds Stimulant Use Increases by 30% During the School Year
Marissa D. King — October 2014
Children are 30% more likely to take a stimulant medication during the school year than they are to take one during the summer, according to a new study published in the American Sociological Review. The authors found that school-year increases in stimulant use are largest for children from socioeconomically advantaged families. Because many children use stimulants only during the school year and take a “drug holiday” in the summer, the authors conclude that these children are using stimulants to manage their schools’ academic demands.
Stimulant medications, which improve concentration and help manage other symptoms associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are the most widely used class of medications among adolescents. Childrens’ use of these medications in the United States has increased dramatically in the last two decades, from approximately 2.4% of children in 1996 to 6% of children at present.
Larger school-year increases in stimulant use were found in states with higher levels of accountability pressure, suggesting that education policies impact stimulant use. Children from families who are not poor and live in states with more strict standardized-testing and school-accountability environments are much more likely to use stimulants only during the school year compared to their less economically advantaged peers in states with less stringent accountability environments.
“Many parents are faced with a tough decision: Do they medicate their kids to help them manage in an increasingly demanding school environment?” said Marissa King, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management and lead author of the study. “Rather than trying to make kids conform to the school system by taking stimulants, we need to take a closer look at what is happening in schools.”
To examine the effect of schooling on stimulant use, King and her colleagues analyzed a data set including the majority of prescriptions written for stimulants in the United States during the 2007-2008 academic year. They linked the patterns of stimulant use during the school year to academic pressure by analyzing state rankings of school-accountability policies published by Education Week. Differences in school year and summer use could not be explained by avoidance of medication side effects, medication cost, or type of ADHD.
The researchers also examined the influence of doctors on school-based stimulant use to determine whether the socioeconomic differences they observe occur because more- and less-advantaged children see different doctors. Even when children from more- and less-advantaged backgrounds were treated by the same doctor, children from more-advantaged backgrounds were more likely to use stimulants only during the school year. This suggests that socioeconomic differences in school-based stimulant use are driven by parents, not doctors. “Socioeconomically advantaged families are more likely to trust their own judgment about medication decisions rather than defer to their doctors,” said King.
The researchers say that the study suggests that medical interventions like stimulant use may be a new pathway through which more advantaged parents translate their economic advantages into educational advantages for their children, either intentionally or unwittingly.
“Medical Adaptation to Academic Pressure: Schooling, Stimulant Use, and Socioeconomic Status,” by Marissa King (Yale School of Management), Jennifer Jennings (New York University), and Jason Fletcher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), is published in the American Sociological Review.
http://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/medicate-educate-study-finds-stimulant-use-increases-30-during-school-year

Paul Tough wrote a very thoughtful New York Times piece about the importance of failure in developing character, not characters.
In What If the Secret to Success Is Failure? Tough writes:
Dominic Randolph can seem a little out of place at Riverdale Country School — which is odd, because he’s the headmaster. Riverdale is one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, with a 104-year-old campus that looks down grandly on Van Cortlandt Park from the top of a steep hill in the richest part of the Bronx. On the discussion boards of UrbanBaby.com, worked-up moms from the Upper East Side argue over whether Riverdale sends enough seniors to Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be considered truly “TT” (top-tier, in UrbanBabyese), or whether it is more accurately labeled “2T” (second-tier), but it is, certainly, part of the city’s private-school elite, a place members of the establishment send their kids to learn to be members of the establishment. Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that’s for prekindergarten.
Randolph, by contrast, comes across as an iconoclast, a disrupter, even a bit of an eccentric. He dresses for work every day in a black suit with a narrow tie, and the outfit, plus his cool demeanor and sweep of graying hair, makes you wonder, when you first meet him, if he might have played sax in a ska band in the ’80s. (The English accent helps.) He is a big thinker, always chasing new ideas, and a conversation with him can feel like a one-man TED conference, dotted with references to the latest work by behavioral psychologists and management gurus and design theorists. When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark.
For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”
The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that….” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/what-if-the-secret-to-success-is-failure.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
Because of high stakes testing, it appears that poorer children are being given medication because of educational policy issues like having a school or district appear to succeed in a testing environment, rather than the particular need of the child.

Related:

Schools have to deal with depressed and troubled children http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/schools-have-to-deal-with-depressed-and-troubled-children/

School psychologists are needed to treat troubled children http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/school-psychologists-are-needed-to-treat-troubled-children/

Battling teen addiction: ‘Recovery high schools http://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/battling-teen-addiction-recovery-high-schools/

Resources:
Psych Central’s Depression In Young Children http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/05/20/depression-in-young-children/13970.html

WebMD’s Depression In Children http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-children

Healthline’s Is Your Child Depressed? http://www.healthline.com/hlvideo-5min/how-to-help-your-child-through-depression-517095449

Medicine.Net’s Depression In Children http://www.medicinenet.com/depression_in_children/article.htm

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King’s College London study: Education achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits

13 Oct

Talking about the influence of genetics and learning is a touchy subject. The 1994 Bell Curve by Herrnstein and Murray started a wild fire. http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/The_Bell_Curve.html The King’s College focused on:

The high heritability of exam grades reflects many genetically influenced traits such as personality, behavior problems, and self-efficacy and not just intelligence. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141006152151.htm

The study deals with the effect of genetics on emotional intelligence which is very important to achievement.

Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A. wrote the excellent article, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) for HELPGUIDE.Org.

What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and diffuse conflict. Emotional intelligence impacts many different aspects of your daily life, such as the way you behave and the way you interact with others…. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/eq5_raising_emotional_intelligence.htm

Education achievement requires not only intelligence, but motivation, resilience, and conflict resolution.

Science Daily reported in the article, Why is educational achievement heritable?

New research, led by King’s College London finds that the high heritability of exam grades reflects many genetically influenced traits such as personality, behaviour problems, and self-efficacy and not just intelligence.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), looked at 13,306 twins at age 16 who were part of the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded UK Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). The twins were assessed on a range of cognitive and non-cognitive measures, and the researchers had access to their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) scores.

In total, 83 scales were condensed into nine domains: intelligence, self-efficacy (confidence in one’s own academic ability), personality, well-being, home environment, school environment, health, parent-reported behaviour problems and child reported behaviour problems.

Identical twins share 100% of their genes, and non-identical twins (just as any other siblings) share 50% of the genes that vary between people. Twin pairs share the same environment (family, schools, teachers etc). By comparing identical and non-identical twins, the researchers were able to estimate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors. So, if overall, identical twins are more similar on a particular trait than non-identical twins, the differences between the two groups are due to genetics, rather than environment.

Eva Krapohl, joint first author of the study, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s, says: “Previous work has already established that educational achievement is heritable. In this study, we wanted to find out why that is. What our study shows is that the heritability of educational achievement is much more than just intelligence — it is the combination of many traits which are all heritable to different extents.

“It is important to point out that heritability does not mean that anything is set in stone. It simply means that children differ in how easy and enjoyable they find learning and that much of these differences are influenced by genetics.”

The researchers found that the heritability of GCSE scores was 62%. Individual traits were between 35% and 58% heritable, with intelligence being the most highly heritable. Together, the nine domains accounted for 75% of the heritability of GCSE scores.

Heritability is a population statistic which does not provide any information at an individual level. It describes the extent to which differences between children can be ascribed to DNA differences, on average, in a particular population at a particular time…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141006152151.htm

Citation:

Why is educational achievement heritable?
Date: October 6, 2014

Source: King’s College London
Summary:
The high heritability of exam grades reflects many genetically influenced traits such as personality, behavior problems, and self-efficacy and not just intelligence. The study looked at 13,306 twins at age 16 . The twins were assessed on a range of cognitive and non-cognitive measures, and the researchers had access to their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) scores.
The high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence
1. Eva Krapohla,1,
2. Kaili Rimfelda,1,
3. Nicholas G. Shakeshafta,
4. Maciej Trzaskowskia,
5. Andrew McMillana,
6. Jean-Baptiste Pingaulta,b,
7. Kathryn Asburyc,
8. Nicole Harlaard,
9. Yulia Kovasa,e,f,
10. Philip S. Daleg, and
11. Robert Plomina,2
Significance
Differences among children in educational achievement are highly heritable from the early school years until the end of compulsory education at age 16, when UK students are assessed nationwide with standard achievement tests [General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)]. Genetic research has shown that intelligence makes a major contribution to the heritability of educational achievement. However, we show that other broad domains of behavior such as personality and psychopathology also account for genetic influence on GCSE scores beyond that predicted by intelligence. Together with intelligence, these domains account for 75% of the heritability of GCSE scores. These results underline the importance of genetics in educational achievement and its correlates. The results also support the trend in education toward personalized learning.
Abstract
Because educational achievement at the end of compulsory schooling represents a major tipping point in life, understanding its causes and correlates is important for individual children, their families, and society. Here we identify the general ingredients of educational achievement using a multivariate design that goes beyond intelligence to consider a wide range of predictors, such as self-efficacy, personality, and behavior problems, to assess their independent and joint contributions to educational achievement. We use a genetically sensitive design to address the question of why educational achievement is so highly heritable. We focus on the results of a United Kingdom-wide examination, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), which is administered at the end of compulsory education at age 16. GCSE scores were obtained for 13,306 twins at age 16, whom we also assessed contemporaneously on 83 scales that were condensed to nine broad psychological domains, including intelligence, self-efficacy, personality, well-being, and behavior problems. The mean of GCSE core subjects (English, mathematics, science) is more heritable (62%) than the nine predictor domains (35–58%). Each of the domains correlates significantly with GCSE results, and these correlations are largely mediated genetically. The main finding is that, although intelligence accounts for more of the heritability of GCSE than any other single domain, the other domains collectively account for about as much GCSE heritability as intelligence. Together with intelligence, these domains account for 75% of the heritability of GCSE. We conclude that the high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence….

Here is the press release from King’s College:

News
Why is educational achievement heritable?
Posted on 06/10/2014
Exams
New research, led by King’s College London finds that the high heritability of exam grades reflects many genetically influenced traits such as personality, behaviour problems, and self-efficacy and not just intelligence.
The study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), looked at 13,306 twins at age 16 who were part of the Medical Research Council (MRC) funded UK TEDS | The Twins Early Development Study (TEDS). The twins were assessed on a range of cognitive and non-cognitive measures, and the researchers had access to their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) scores.
In total, 83 scales were condensed into nine domains: intelligence, self-efficacy (confidence in one’s own academic ability), personality, well-being, home environment, school environment, health, parent-reported behaviour problems and child reported behaviour problems.
Identical twins share 100% of their genes, and non-identical twins (just as any other siblings) share 50% of the genes that vary between people. Twin pairs share the same environment (family, schools, teachers etc). By comparing identical and non-identical twins, the researchers were able to estimate the relative contributions of genetic and environmental factors. So, if overall, identical twins are more similar on a particular trait than non-identical twins, the differences between the two groups are due to genetics, rather than environment.
Eva Krapohl, joint first author of the study, from the MRC Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s, says: “Previous work has already established that educational achievement is heritable. In this study, we wanted to find out why that is. What our study shows is that the heritability of educational achievement is much more than just intelligence – it is the combination of many traits which are all heritable to different extents.
“It is important to point out that heritability does not mean that anything is set in stone. It simply means that children differ in how easy and enjoyable they find learning and that much of these differences are influenced by genetics.”
The researchers found that the heritability of GCSE scores was 62%. Individual traits were between 35% and 58% heritable, with intelligence being the most highly heritable. Together, the nine domains accounted for 75% of the heritability of GCSE scores.
Heritability is a population statistic which does not provide any information at an individual level. It describes the extent to which differences between children can be ascribed to DNA differences, on average, in a particular population at a particular time.
Kaili Rimfeld, joint-lead author, also from the IoPPN at King’s says: “No policy implications necessarily follow from finding that genetics differences influence educational achievement, because policy depends on values and knowledge. However, our findings support the idea that a more personalized approach to learning may be more successful than a one size fits all approach. Finding that educational achievement is heritable certainly does not mean that teachers, parents or schools aren’t important. Education is more than what happens to a child passively; children are active participants in selecting, modifying, and creating their experiences – much of which is linked to their genetic propensities, known in genetics as genotype–environment correlation.”
TEDS is supported by the UK Medical Research Council with additional funding from the National Institutes of Health.
Paper reference: Krapohl, E. et al. “The high heritability of educational achievement reflects many genetically influenced traits, not just intelligence” published in PNAS.
For further information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London seil.collins@kcl.ac.uk / (+44) 0207 848 5377

Teachers and schools have been made TOTALLY responsible for the education outcome of the children, many of whom come to school not ready to learn and who reside in families that for a variety of reasons cannot support their education. All children are capable of learning, but a one-size-fits-all approach does not serve all children well. Different populations of children will require different strategies and some children will require remedial help, early intervention, and family support to achieve their education goals. http://drwilda.com/2012/02/11/3rd-world-america-money-changes-everything/

ALL children have a right to a good basic education.

Resources:
The Global Creativity Index http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2011/10/global-creativity-index/229/

The Rise of the Creative Class

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0205.florida.html

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