Tag Archives: University of California Davis

University of California Davis study: A breath test for opioids

6 Oct

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides information on opioids:

Brief Description
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.
• Summary
• All opioids are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to addiction, overdose incidents, and deaths.
• An opioid overdose can be reversed with the drug naloxone when given right away. Improvements have been seen in some regions of the country in the form of decreasing availability of prescription opioid pain relievers and decreasing misuse among the Nation’s teens. However, since 2007, overdose deaths related to heroin have been increasing. Fortunately, effective medications exist to treat opioid use disorders including methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone.
• A NIDA study found that once treatment is initiated, both a buprenorphine/naloxone combination and an extended release naltrexone formulation are similarly effective in treating opioid addiction. However, naltrexone requires full detoxification, so initiating treatment among active users was more difficult. These medications help many people recover from opioid addiction.
• NIDA’s Role in the NIH HEAL Initiative℠ https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/nidas-role-in-nih-heal-initiative
• Prescription Opioids https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-opioids
• Heroin https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/heroin
• Fentanyl https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/fentanyl
• Opioid Research Findings Funded by NIDA
https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids

Opioids are powerful drugs and can be abused.

Resources:
What Is an Opioid? – Teens – Drug Information
https://teens.drugabuse.gov/blog/post/what-opioid

What are opioids and why are they dangerous? – Mayo Clinic
https://www.mayoclinic.org/…/expert-answers/what-are-opioids/faq-20381270

The American Society of Anesthesiologists has a concise description of opioid abuse at their site:

Opioid Abuse
Opioids are highly addictive, and opioid abuse has become a national crisis in the United States. Statistics highlight the severity of the epidemic, with the National Institute on Drug Abuse reporting that more than 2 million Americans abuse opioids and that more than 90 Americans die by opioid overdose every day, on average.
Why do people become addicted to opioids?
Opioids can make your brain and body believe the drug is necessary for survival. As you learn to tolerate the dose you’ve been prescribed, you may find that you need even more medication to relieve the pain or achieve well-being, which can lead to dependency. Addiction takes hold of our brains in several ways — and is far more complex and less forgiving than many people realize.
How can you avoid addiction to opioids?
If you or a loved one is considering taking opioids to manage pain, it is vital to talk to a physician anesthesiologist or other pain medicine specialist about using them safely and exploring alternative options if needed. Learn how to work with your physician anesthesiologist or another physician to use opioids more wisely and safely and explore what pain management alternatives might work for you.
What are the signs of an addiction?
People addicted to drugs may change their behavior. Possible signs include:
• Mixing with different groups of people or changing friends
• Spending time alone and avoiding time with family and friends
• Losing interest in activities
• Not bathing, changing clothes or brushing their teeth
• Being very tired and sad
• Eating more or less than usual
• Being overly energetic, talking fast and saying things that don’t make sense
• Being nervous or cranky
• Quickly changing moods
• Sleeping at odd hours
• Missing important appointments
• Getting into trouble with the law
• Attending work or school on an erratic schedule
• Experiencing financial hardship
https://www.asahq.org/whensecondscount/pain-management/opioid-treatment/opioid-abuse/

The University of California Davis has developed a breath test for opioids.

Science Daily reported in A breath test for opioids:

A test to detect opioid drugs in exhaled breath has been developed by engineers and physicians at the University of California, Davis. A breath test could be useful in caring for chronic pain patients as well as for checking for illegal drug use.
“There are a few ways we think this could impact society,” said Professor Cristina Davis, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis, who led the research along with Professor Michael Schivo from the UC Davis Medical Center. The work is described in a paper published in the Journal of Breath Research Oct. 3.
Doctors and nurses treating chronic pain may need to monitor patients to make sure they are taking their drugs correctly, that their prescribed drugs are being metabolized properly and that they are not taking additional medications. Blood tests are the gold standard: a reliable, noninvasive test would be a useful alternative.
Collecting droplets from breath
For the test developed by postdoctoral researcher Eva Borras, Davis and colleagues, subjects breathe normally into a specialized collection device. Droplets in breath condense and are stored in a freezer until testing. Davis’ lab uses mass spectrometry to identify compounds in the samples.
The researchers tested the technique in a small group of patients receiving infusions of pain medications including morphine and hydromorphone, or oral doses of oxycodone, at the UC Davis Medical Center. They were therefore able to compare opioid metabolites in breath with both blood samples and the doses given to patients.
“We can see both the original drug and metabolites in exhaled breath,” Davis said.
Fully validating the breath test will require more data from larger groups of patients, she said. Davis’ laboratory is working toward real-time, bedside testing…. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191004105645.htm

Citation:

A breath test for opioids
Date: October 4, 2019
Source: University of California – Davis
Summary:
A test to detect opioid drugs in exhaled breath has been developed by engineers and physicians. A breath test could be useful in caring for chronic pain patients as well as for checking for illegal drug use.

Journal Reference:
Eva Borras, Andy Cheng, Ted Wun, Kristen L Reese, Matthias Frank, Michael Schivo, Cristina E Davis. Detecting opioid metabolites in exhaled breath condensate (EBC). Journal of Breath Research, 2019; 13 (4): 046014 DOI: 10.1088/1752-7163/ab35fd

Here is the press release from University of California Davis:

A Breath Test for Opioids
By Andy Fell on October 3, 2019 in Human & Animal Health
UC Davis researchers have developed a method for detecting opioid drugs and drug metabolites in breath. The test could be useful for management of patients with chronic pain, as well as for detecting illegal opioid use. (Credit: Charles Wollertz/Getty Images)
A test to detect opioid drugs in exhaled breath has been developed by engineers and physicians at the University of California, Davis. A breath test could be useful in caring for chronic pain patients as well as for checking for illegal drug use.
“There are a few ways we think this could impact society,” said Professor Cristina Davis, chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at UC Davis, who led the research along with Professor Michael Schivo from the UC Davis Medical Center. The work is described in a paper published in the Journal of Breath Research Oct. 3.
Doctors and nurses treating chronic pain may need to monitor patients to make sure they are taking their drugs correctly, that their prescribed drugs are being metabolized properly and that they are not taking additional medications. Blood tests are the gold standard: a reliable, noninvasive test would be a useful alternative.
Collecting droplets from breath
For the test developed by postdoctoral researcher Eva Borras, Davis and colleagues, subjects breathe normally into a specialized collection device. Droplets in breath condense and are stored in a freezer until testing. Davis’ lab uses mass spectrometry to identify compounds in the samples.
The researchers tested the technique in a small group of patients receiving infusions of pain medications including morphine and hydromorphone, or oral doses of oxycodone, at the UC Davis Medical Center. They were therefore able to compare opioid metabolites in breath with both blood samples and the doses given to patients.
“We can see both the original drug and metabolites in exhaled breath,” Davis said.
Fully validating the breath test will require more data from larger groups of patients, she said. Davis’ laboratory is working toward real-time, bedside testing.
Other authors on the paper include graduate student Andy Cheng, UC Davis forensic science program; Ted Wun, Department of Internal Medicine; Kristen Reese and Matthias Frank, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Michael Schivo, UC Davis School of Medicine and VA Northern California Health System.
Davis’ laboratory is working on a variety of applications for detecting small amounts of chemicals, especially in air and exhaled breath. Other projects include diagnosing influenza in people and citrus greening disease in fruit trees.
The work was supported by grants from the UC Davis Medical Center’s Collaborative for Diagnostic Innovation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the NIH.
Media contact(s)
Cristina Davis, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, 530-754-9004, cedavis@ucdavis.edu
Andy Fell, News and Media Relations, 530-752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu
Media Resources
Read the paper (Journal of Breath Research) https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1752-7163/ab35fd

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines the opioid crisis:

Revised January 2019
Every day, more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids.1 The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.2
How did this happen?
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates. This subsequently led to widespread diversion and misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.3,4 Opioid overdose rates began to increase. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.1 That same year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder (not mutually exclusive).5
What do we know about the opioid crisis?
• Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.6
• Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.6
• An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.7–9
• About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.7
• Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.10
• The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.10
• Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.10

This issue has become a public health crisis with devastating consequences including increases in opioid misuse and related overdoses, as well as the rising incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome due to opioid use and misuse during pregnancy. The increase in injection drug use has also contributed to the spread of infectious diseases including HIV and hepatitis C. As seen throughout the history of medicine, science can be an important part of the solution in resolving such a public health crisis.
https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis

 

“The mentality, thought system and relationships that got you into addiction will keep you there unless you disentangle yourself from them.”

Oche Otorkpa,
The Night Before I killed Addiction

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University of California Davis and Yale University study: Early intervention in dyslexia can narrow achievement gap

5 Nov

University of California Davis and Yale University study: Early intervention in dyslexia can narrow achievement gap
The National Center for Learning Disabilities described dyslexia in What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia at a Glance

Dyslexia is the name for specific learning disabilities in reading. Dyslexia is often characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, decoding and spelling. Dyslexia may cause problems with reading comprehension and slow down vocabulary growth. Dyslexia may result in poor reading fluency and reading out loud. Dyslexia is neurological and often genetic. Dyslexia is not the result of poor instruction. With the proper support, almost all people with dyslexia can become good readers and writers.

As with other learning disabilities, dyslexia is a lifelong challenge that people are born with. This language processing disorder can hinder reading, writing, spelling and sometimes even speaking. Dyslexia is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness. It is also not the result of impaired vision. Children and adults with dyslexia simply have a neurological disorder that causes their brains to process and interpret information differently.

Dyslexia occurs among people of all economic and ethnic backgrounds. Often more than one member of a family has dyslexia. According to the National Institute of Child and Human Development, as many as 15 percent of Americans have major troubles with reading.

Much of what happens in a classroom is based on reading and writing. So it’s important to identify dyslexia as early as possible. Using alternate learning methods, people with dyslexia can achieve success.
http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia

Dyslexia is a neurological and genetic disease.

Medical News Today reported in the article, What Is Dyslexia? What Causes Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific reading disability due to a defect in the brain’s processing of graphic symbols. It is a learning disability that alters the way the brain processes written material. It is typically characterized by difficulties in word recognition, spelling and decoding. People with dyslexia have problems with reading comprehension.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities1 says that dyslexia is a neurological and often genetic condition, and not the result of poor teaching, instruction or upbringing.
Dyslexia is not linked to intelligence.

What is dyslexia?

The problem in dyslexia is a linguistic one, not a visual one. Dyslexia in no way stems from any lack of intelligence. People with severe dyslexia can be brilliant.
Albert Einstein (1879-1955) lived with dyslexia.

The effects of dyslexia, in fact, vary from person to person. The only shared trait among people with dyslexia is that they read at levels significantly lower than typical for people of their age. Dyslexia is different from reading retardation which may reflect mental retardation or cultural deprivation.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, dyslexia is the most common learning disability2. Eighty percent of students with learning disabilities have dyslexia.

The International Dyslexia Association3 estimates that 15% to 20% of the American population have some of the symptoms of dyslexia, including slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or mixing up similar words.

The National Health Service4, UK, estimates that 4-8% of all schoolchildren in England have some degree of dyslexia.

It is estimated that boys are one-and-a-half to three times more likely to develop dyslexia than girls. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186787.php

Since individuals manifest the condition of dyslexia in different ways, a debate is occurring about whether the diagnosis of dyslexia has meaning.

Science Daily reported in Early intervention in dyslexia can narrow achievement gap:

Identifying children with dyslexia as early as first grade could narrow or even close the achievement gap with typical readers, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and Yale University.

The data indicate that it is no longer acceptable to wait until a child is in third grade or later before undertaking efforts to identify or address dyslexia.

“If the persistent achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is to be narrowed, or even closed, reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition,” said Emilio Ferrer, a UC Davis psychology professor. He is lead author of the article published in The Journal of Pediatrics this month.

Ferrer and his Yale colleagues, Bennett and Sally Shaywitz, report the results of a longitudinal study of reading from first grade to 12th grade and beyond. Compared with typical readers, dyslexic readers had lower reading scores as early as first grade, and their trajectories over time never converge with those of typical readers. These data demonstrate that such differences are not so much a function of increasing disparities over time, but instead reflect marked differences already present in first grade between typical and dyslexic readers.

The authors also conclude that implementing effective reading programs as early as kindergarten or even preschool offers the potential to close the achievement gap…. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151102184216.htm

Citation:

Early intervention in dyslexia can narrow achievement gap Intervention should begin in first grade, or earlier

Date: November 2, 2015
Source: University of California – Davis

Summary:

Data demonstrate marked differences already present in first grade between typical and dyslexic readers.
Journal Reference:

1. Emilio Ferrer, Bennett A. Shaywitz, John M. Holahan, Karen E. Marchione, Reissa Michaels, Sally E. Shaywitz. Achievement Gap in Reading Is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists through Adolescence. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2015; 167 (5): 1121 DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.07.045

Here is the press release from UC Davis:

Early intervention in dyslexia can narrow achievement gap, UC Davis study says
November 2, 2015

Identifying children with dyslexia as early as first grade could narrow or even close the achievement gap with typical readers, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and Yale University.

The data indicate that it is no longer acceptable to wait until a child is in third grade or later before undertaking efforts to identify or address dyslexia.
“If the persistent achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is to be narrowed, or even closed, reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition,” said Emilio Ferrer, a UC Davis psychology professor. He is lead author of the article published in The Journal of Pediatrics this month.

Ferrer and his Yale colleagues, Bennett and Sally Shaywitz, report the results of a longitudinal study of reading from first grade to 12th grade and beyond. Compared with typical readers, dyslexic readers had lower reading scores as early as first grade, and their trajectories over time never converge with those of typical readers. These data demonstrate that such differences are not so much a function of increasing disparities over time, but instead reflect marked differences already present in first grade between typical and dyslexic readers.

The authors also conclude that implementing effective reading programs as early as kindergarten or even preschool offers the potential to close the achievement gap.
Related research in early intervention
The study builds on recent studies by UC Davis researchers and others that find that interventions in early reading are available and effective.

Ferrer is among a group of UC Davis faculty who recently received a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study and implement early reading intervention in schools in Yolo and Sacramento counties, and in Texas.
Additional information:
• Related: $3.5 million grant to UC Davis will help study early reading instruction
• Journal article
Media contact(s):
• Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News Service, (530) 752-6101, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

Getting a correct early diagnosis of dyslexia, which is a learning disability is crucial to a child’s academic success.

Resources:

From One Teacher to Another
http://dyslexia.yale.edu/1Teacher2Another.html

Dyslexia
http://www.readingrockets.org/helping/questions/dyslexia

Dyslexia and Reading Problems
http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/dyslexia.htm

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University of California Davis study: Curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning

6 Oct

MedicineNet.com defines working memory in the article, Definition of Working memory:

Working memory is a system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex cognitive tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension. Working memory is involved in the selection, initiation, and termination of information-processing functions such as encoding, storing, and retrieving data.
One test of working memory is memory span, the number of items, usually words or numbers, that a person can hold onto and recall. In a typical test of memory span, an examiner reads a list of random numbers aloud at about the rate of one number per second. At the end of a sequence, the person being tested is asked to recall the items in order. The average memory span for normal adults is 7 items. http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=7143

The University of Pennsylvania researchers studied working memory in a longitudinal study. See, Penn and CHOP Researchers Track Working Memory From Childhood Through Adolescence http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/news/penn-and-chop-researchers-track-working-memory-childhood-through-adolescence

Science Daily reported in the article, How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning:

The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
“Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation — curiosity — affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings,” says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of University of California at Davis.
For the study, participants rated their curiosity to learn the answers to a series of trivia questions. When they were later presented with a selected trivia question, there was a 14 second delay before the answer was provided, during which time the participants were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face. Afterwards, participants performed a surprise recognition memory test for the faces that were presented, followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions. During certain parts of the study, participants had their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,” explains Dr. Gruber.
Second, the investigators found that when curiosity is stimulated, there is increased activity in the brain circuit related to reward. “We showed that intrinsic motivation actually recruits the very same brain areas that are heavily involved in tangible, extrinsic motivation,” says Dr. Gruber. This reward circuit relies on dopamine, a chemical messenger that relays messages between neurons.
Third, the team discovered that when curiosity motivated learning, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for forming new memories, as well as increased interactions between the hippocampus and the reward circuit. “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance,” explains principal investigator Dr. Charan Ranganath, also of UC Davis.
The findings could have implications for medicine and beyond. For example, the brain circuits that rely on dopamine tend to decline in function as people get older, or sooner in people with neurological conditions. Understanding the relationship between motivation and memory could therefore stimulate new efforts to improve memory in the healthy elderly and to develop new approaches for treating patients with disorders that affect memory. And in the classroom or workplace, learning what might be considered boring material could be enhanced if teachers or managers are able to harness the power of students’ and workers’ curiosity about something they are naturally motivated to learn.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141002123631.htm

Citation:

How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning
Date: October 2, 2014
Source: Cell Press
Summary:
The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
States of Curiosity Modulate Hippocampus-Dependent Learning via the Dopaminergic Circuit
Matthias J. Gruber ,
Bernard D. Gelman,
Charan Ranganath
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2014.08.060
To view the full text, please login as a subscribed user or purchase a subscription. Click here to view the full text on ScienceDirect.
Highlights
• •People are better at learning information that they are curious about
• •Memory for incidental material presented during curious states was also enhanced
• •Curiosity associated with anticipatory activity in nucleus accumbens and midbrain
• •Memory benefits for incidental material depend on midbrain-hippocampus involvement
Summary
People find it easier to learn about topics that interest them, but little is known about the mechanisms by which intrinsic motivational states affect learning. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate how curiosity (intrinsic motivation to learn) influences memory. In both immediate and one-day-delayed memory tests, participants showed improved memory for information that they were curious about and for incidental material learned during states of high curiosity. Functional magnetic resonance imaging results revealed that activity in the midbrain and the nucleus accumbens was enhanced during
states of high curiosity. Importantly, individual variability in curiosity-driven memory benefits for incidental material was supported by anticipatory activity in the midbrain and hippocampus and by functional connectivity between these regions. These findings suggest a link between the mechanisms supporting extrinsic reward motivation and intrinsic curiosity and highlight the importance of stimulating curiosity to create more effective learning experiences.

Here is the press release from Cell Press Journal:

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
2-Oct-2014
Contact: Mary Beth O’Leary
moleary@cell.com
617-397-2802
Cell Press
@CellPressNews
How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning
The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.
“Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a form of intrinsic motivation—curiosity—affects memory. These findings suggest ways to enhance learning in the classroom and other settings,” says lead author Dr. Matthias Gruber, of University of California at Davis.
For the study, participants rated their curiosity to learn the answers to a series of trivia questions. When they were later presented with a selected trivia question, there was a 14 second delay before the answer was provided, during which time the participants were shown a picture of a neutral, unrelated face. Afterwards, participants performed a surprise recognition memory test for the faces that were presented, followed by a memory test for the answers to the trivia questions. During certain parts of the study, participants had their brains scanned via functional magnetic resonance imaging.
The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,” explains Dr. Gruber.
Second, the investigators found that when curiosity is stimulated, there is increased activity in the brain circuit related to reward. “We showed that intrinsic motivation actually recruits the very same brain areas that are heavily involved in tangible, extrinsic motivation,” says Dr. Gruber. This reward circuit relies on dopamine, a chemical messenger that relays messages between neurons.
Third, the team discovered that when curiosity motivated learning, there was increased activity in the hippocampus, a brain region that is important for forming new memories, as well as increased interactions between the hippocampus and the reward circuit. “So curiosity recruits the reward system, and interactions between the reward system and the hippocampus seem to put the brain in a state in which you are more likely to learn and retain information, even if that information is not of particular interest or importance,” explains principal investigator Dr. Charan Ranganath, also of UC Davis.
The findings could have implications for medicine and beyond. For example, the brain circuits that rely on dopamine tend to decline in function as people get older, or sooner in people with neurological conditions. Understanding the relationship between motivation and memory could therefore stimulate new efforts to improve memory in the healthy elderly and to develop new approaches for treating patients with disorders that affect memory. And in the classroom or workplace, learning what might be considered boring material could be enhanced if teachers or managers are able to harness the power of students’ and workers’ curiosity about something they are naturally motivated to learn.
###
Neuron, Gruber et al.: “States of curiosity modulate hippocampus-dependent learning via the dopaminergic circuit.”

Parents can help foster curious kids.

Justin Coulson writes in the article, Raising smart, curious children:

Parents can do several things that will foster curiosity and a love of learning in their children, and help them grow up intellectually stimulated and successful.
• Model a love of learning. Be seen reading, finding answers, and discovering things yourself. Your children will watch and learn from you.
• Embrace the motto “we try new things”. Whether it is a new meal, a new sport, a new holiday destination, or a new way of cleaning the house, let your children know that you want to try new things and discover things you previously did not know much about.
• Teach your children to find answers. When your children ask you a question, rather than answering them directly encourage them to find out for themselves. Point them to references, the Internet, or other useful sources.
• Ask questions. If your child is curious about something, find out why. Encourage discussion. Find out what s/he knows already. When your child makes a statement (about anything) you can ask “why” and have an interesting conversation. Your demonstration of curiosity can be a terrific example to your children
• Be willing to talk. It is often easy for a parent to say “I’ll tell you later”, or “Not now, I’m busy.” Such responses will dampen the enthusiasm and curiosity a child has for a subject. Be being available, your child will be able to pursue a love of learning and all you have to do is facilitate it.
• Provide tools for learning by visiting the library, buying books from the shops, and having access to the Internet available for appropriate learning activities.
• Eliminate the use of rewards for learning. Research shows that the more we reward someone for a task, the less interested they become in the task. When rewards are offered, people generally become more interested in the reward than in the process required to obtain the reward. Instead, encourage curiosity for its own sake….. http://www.kidspot.com.au/schoolzone/Study-tips-Raising-smart-curious-children+4165+304+article.htm

Education is a partnership and parents must help educators foster curiosity in children.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
Albert Einstein

Resources:

How Can Teachers Foster Curiosity? http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/06/04/33shonstrom.h33.html

How to Stimulate Curiosity http://ideas.time.com/2013/04/15/how-to-stimulate-curiosity/

Six ways to build greater curiosity in students http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/six-ways-to-build-greater-curiosity-in-students

How to Ignite Intellectual Curiosity in Students http://www.edutopia.org/blog/igniting-student-curiousity-inquiry-method

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