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Category: Research

UW-Madison researchers using Tai Chi, video games to improve balance among adolescents with autism

Wisconsin Public Radio

New research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows balance training using video games changed the brain structure of adolescents with autism and helped improve balance, posture and the severity of autism symptoms.

Brittany Travers, a UW-Madison occupational therapy professor and Waisman Center lead researcher, said she and her colleagues are interested in finding ways to better interventions that improve the motor skills of individuals with autism. She said prior research has shown balance control appears to plateau earlier in kids with autism than those without. As people age balance becomes more of a challenge for everyone, Travers said.

“But the speculation is that autistic individuals may be more at risk for falls and later in life if these balance challenges are not addressed,” Travers said.

UW-Madison researchers studying more targeted alternative to pesticides

Wisconsin Public Radio

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are digging into a different, more targeted method of controlling crop-attacking pests, a tactic that could prove to be less harmful to the environment than traditional pesticides.

Russell Groves, professor and chair of the university’s entomology department, recently joined Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Larry Meiller Show” to explain the present and future of RNA interference.

The snow season is shortening in Wisconsin, forcing the snowshoe hare north in search of a landscape to blend into

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: According to data from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, Wisconsin’s average winter temperature rose about 2 to 6 degrees between 1950 and 2018, depending on the part of the state. And in the coming years, those temperatures could rise another 6 degrees, greatly impacting the amount of snow the state sees, and the areas where snow is present for the entire winter season.

But what is really impacting the hares isn’t the amount of snow falling in Wisconsin — that has largely stayed the same, said Michael Notaro, the associate director for the Nelson Institute. It’s the amount of snowpack, or snow on the ground, that is impacting animals.

As the Earth’s temperature increases, snow melts quicker, meaning the snow season doesn’t last as long.

“In the future, as it keeps getting warmer, eventually (precipitation) is going to be more in the form of a liquid, but so far that hasn’t necessarily occurred, but (snow) is just not staying on the ground very long,” Notaro said.

UW-Madison expert launches cancer research using sharks


A UW-Madison expert is launching research focused on therapies for diseases such as cancer – using sharks.In 2021, the UW Carbone Cancer Center provided the necessary equipment for the research to UW Carbone faculty member Dr. Aaron LeBeau. LeBeau will leading the shark-based cancer research, which is currently the only research of its kind worldwide.

Opinion | Some Antiracist Books Aren’t Very Good. Do I Still Have to Read Them to My Child?

The New York Times

The progress made in children’s book publishing has been encouraging and certainly necessary. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the numbers of children’s books written by Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latino authors have all significantly increased in the past 20 years.

Road salt threatens Michigan lakes and rivers. Can an alternative take hold?

Michigan Radio

Quoted: Last month, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Michigan State University released results of a study revealing that society’s reliance on rock salt is salinating Lake Michigan.

Even small increases can trigger unknown ecosystem changes and secondary effects such as drinking water pipe corrosion, said Hilary Dugan, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Limnology and lead author of the study.

Lake Michigan is still “extremely fresh” water, Dugan said. “There’s no cause for alarm. But I think people should be aware that it is rising and that is fully because of human-derived salts.”

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson uses God in one of multiple attempts at sowing doubt over the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: Ajay Sethi, associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, explained that “viruses like SARS-CoV-2 evolve as they replicate in a person with infection and as they spread from one person to the next. When that evolutionary process yields a strain that has a genetic make-up which is very different from the original virus, it is considered a ‘variant.’ ”

He added that “a virus is a ‘variant of concern’ if it has the potential to threaten the pandemic response in some way. It may be more infectious than other variants, cause more severe illness, not be detectable by current tests, less affected by current treatments, partially escape immunity provided by current vaccines, or a combination of these.”

Dr Har Gobind Khorana at 100: Re-evaluating a shared heritage – Pakistan


His methods quickly attracted the attention of scientists elsewhere who started to make summer trips to Vancouver and his fame as an innovative scientist grew. In 1960, moving to Madison, Wisconsin, Gobind and his colleagues worked hard to solve the problem of the genetic code — how the “language” of DNA and RNA is transformed into proteins in the cell. The Khorana lab was able to show that triplet sequences encode specific amino acids, corroborating the work of Marshall Nirenberg who was to share the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1968 with Gobind.

UW-Madison further commits to the study of psychedelics

The Capital Times

The Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances will expand the scope of psychedelic research at UW-Madison, building on clinical studies that have been done on campus since 2014. Several other universities, such as Yale and New York University, have also invested in research on psychedelics as a treatment for headaches, alcohol abuse and depression.

Preparing for the Next Plague

Scientific American

In October, the NIAID announced a $36-plus-million-dollar program to develop pan-coronavirus vaccines, with funding going to three academic programs, located at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Duke University in North Carolina. Recognizing the need for a comprehensive strategy, the funding is going to multidisciplinary groups with expertise in virology and immunology, immunogen design, and innovative vaccine and adjuvant platforms and technologies.

“Special Needs” Is a Euphemism That Hurts Disabled Kids


The term “‘disability’ is not a slur,” says Morton Ann Gernsbacher, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies how language is used in relation to disability. But the term “special needs” may be moving in that direction, she says.

Come the Metaverse, Can Privacy Exist?

Wall Street Journal

A key question for the Delft team and its counterpart at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is how to obscure data on eye movements with privacy filters without sacrificing too much utility. Researchers from both schools said eye-trackers could give companies a wealth of information for targeted advertising at a very granular level.

Irregular menstrual cycles may prevent women from accessing abortions

The Capital Times

When states began proposing “heartbeat bills” — legislation that would prohibit abortion as early as six weeks, as soon as a fetus’s heartbeat is detected — Jenna Nobles took notice, employing her skills as a researcher. For the past few years, the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of sociology has examined how these policies could affect people with irregular or long menstrual cycles.

Fourth-graders from Green Bay schools ask professor about environment, renewable energy

Wisconsin Public Radio

A class of fourth graders from Green Bay public schools recently submitted questions about renewable energy and the environment to WPR’s “The Morning Show.”

Greg Nemet, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, joined the show to answer those questions.

The Myth of Tribalism

The Atlantic

Sohad Murrar and her colleagues at the University of Wisconsin at Madison recently applied the same idea to intergroup relations. In recent years, universities and other organizations have invested heavily in training in which instructors extol the benefits of diversity and urge participants to be mindful of their own implicit biases. But those initiatives have a mixed record. Murrar’s team found that drawing people’s attention to social norms could produce much better results.

UW-Madison researchers pour themselves into 40-year History of Cartography Project

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Embedded within a four-decade-long endeavor to document the history of cartography is a deceptively simple question: What is a map?

In a world where most people interact with maps almost daily, pulling them up on their smartphone to effortlessly chart a path through the lattice of streets that lie between Point A and Point B, the map, at first glance, is a tool.

But ask a generations-spanning team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison what a map is, and they’ll give you a more complex answer. Maps are more than a flattened rendering of the land around us, said Matthew Edney, a senior scientist at UW and a professor of geography at the University of Southern Maine.

“They’re cultural documents,” he said. “They’re social instruments.”

Boaz, Wisconsin, population 156, to host state’s first community-scale microgrid

Wisconsin State Journal

Pioneered by UW-Madison scientists, microgrids can use solar panels, diesel generators, batteries or some combination of resources to supply electricity when operating as islands. Microgrids are seen as a way to bring power to people in regions without access to electricity as well as a way to increase reliability and resiliency in developed countries while making better use of intermittent clean energy sources. They also offer a more manageable platform for utilities to test out things like battery storage, said Dominic Gross, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at UW-Madison.


Clean energy from ammonia: UW discovery a step towards carbon-free economy

Wisconsin State Journal

UW-Madison scientists have discovered a new way to capture energy from an everyday product that could be a key step to a carbon-free economy. Researchers in professor John Berry’s chemistry lab found that ammonia combined with a catalyst containing the metal ruthenium spontaneously produces nitrogen, releasing electrons that can be siphoned off.

UW Madison Cartography Lab’s “We Are Here: Local Mapmakers Explore the World That Connects Us” Exhibit


We Are Here: Local Mapmakers Explore the World That Connects Us is an exhibit that was developed by the UW Madison Cartography Lab and currently showing at the Overture Center until January 16th. The exhibit features work from both current students and alumni from their current places of employment and aims to let people know that Madison is a hub and important place of cartography training.

How Shark Antibodies Could Aid the Fight Against Coronavirus and Prepare for Future Outbreaks

Smithsonian Magazine

Nurse sharks (Ginglymostomatidae) are slow-moving, bottom-dwelling predators that stalk prey in warm shallow waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. In a new study published in Nature Communications, scientists suggest the sharks could lend a fin in a new, more effective treatment for Covid-19.

‘Drug cocktail’ may be needed as COVID variants attack immune system on multiple fronts

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Quoted: “If you’re a virus and you turn off the innate immune system, it’s like a thief cutting off the alarms in a bank in order to sneak in,” said Thomas Friedrich, a professor in the department of pathobiological sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

Sharks may be able to protect us from coronavirus, research suggests. Here’s how

Miami Herald (McClatchy)

Although some may fear sharks when swimming in open waters, these often misunderstood creatures may hold a way to help protect us from the coronavirus, new research suggests. As one of the ocean’s top predators, sharks have antibody-like proteins that can stop the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study published Dec. 16.

Do children’s books encourage gender stereotypes?

Daily Mail

Books designed for children may be perpetuating gender stereotypes, a new study warns.

More than 240 books written for children five years old and younger were analysed by a team from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They found that books with a male main character were more often about professions, whereas those with a female protagonist were about affection.

Study finds more than 1M tons of salt is flowing into Lake Michigan each year

Wisconsin Public Radio

More than 1 million metric tons of salt is flowing into Lake Michigan each year, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The findings come as the state has been making significant strides to reduce salt use on roads to curb pollution.

Researchers examined past and current water data on the amount of salt flowing into the lake from 234 rivers and streams, according to Hilary Dugan, the study’s lead author and assistant professor for the Center for Limnology at UW-Madison.

“There’s a tremendous amount of salt going into the lake each year,” said Dugan. “But because of the volume of Lake Michigan, that concentration is still pretty low.”

Wisconsin’s population growth stagnated over the last year

Wisconsin Public Radio

Quoted: In Wisconsin, there were more deaths than births for the first time since the state began keeping vital records, said demographer David Egan-Robertson of the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

“It’s just been a complete sea change in terms of how we view the population,” Egan-Robertson said.

A combo of therapies tackling metastatic cancer

WQAD Pittsburgh

Now scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are testing a combination of targeted radiation, given by injection, with immunotherapy.

“We’re just delivering a very low dose to stimulate the immune system, not necessarily kill cancer cells,” explained Dr. Patel.

The researchers tested the therapy in mice and found that even when the mice were given a low dose of radiotherapy their immune systems revved up and wiped out the cancer.

Scientists say they plan to apply for FDA approval to conduct human clinical trials on the combination therapy.

Flexibility in peptides may be more effective to treat diabetes: Study

Asia News International

According to a new research, peptides could be more effective to treat diabetes if they were more flexible and could move back and forth between different shapes.

The study has been published in the ‘Nature Chemical Biology Journal’.

The findings could help improve drug design for these diabetes drugs and possibly other therapeutic peptides.

Kids under 5 still waiting for Covid-19 vaccine protection

Dr. Bill Hartman, who runs the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine trial for kids 6 months to 5 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, thinks a vaccine for this age group could be available as early as the “first month or two” of 2022.
Even that isn’t fast enough for some parents, but having worked on several trials during the pandemic, Hartman has been impressed with how quickly things can move when there are dedicated volunteers.
“I feel lucky to live in a city that has a population of people that really want to help us get answers so we can end this pandemic,” he said. “I tell the volunteers all the time that someday in the future, they will be able to tell a story about how they helped save the world.”

Health leaders say only Wisconsinites fully vaccinated with booster shot should gather for holidays

NBC 26

This holiday weekend, AAA expects over 100 million Americans to travel. But state health leaders urge unvaccinated people to reconsider.

“If they’re not [vaccinated], really, it’s important that folks do not try to gather,” Dr. Jeff Pothof said.

According to the UW Health Chief Quality Officer, only a group of people who are fully vaccinated with a booster shot should get together during Christmas time.

Plan ahead to celebrate holidays safely: Doctors recommend getting tested for COVID-19 before gathering

CBS 58

Quoted: “If you’re vaccinated and boosted, holiday celebrations for the most part pose really low risk,” UW Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof said.

For unvaccinated people, that’s not the case. If someone gets vaccinated or boosted now, they won’t be fully protected by Christmas Day, but Pothof said some protection is better than none.

“The best day to get your booster shot, if you haven’t gotten it, is today, as soon as possible,” Pothof said.

DNA sequencing can help babies with symptoms not explained by newborn screening

Wisconsin State Journal

With older children or adults who have spent years trying to pinpoint the cause of their conditions, speed is not as vital, he said. That’s why genome sequencing for patients at the new Undiagnosed Genetic Disease Clinic is done at UW-Madison’s Biotechnology Center, which can run so-called “long-read” sequencing that can provide even more answers. UW plans to study up to 500 patients at the clinic over five years, with the goal of diagnosing rare disorders and discovering new disease genes.

36 Children’s Books About Diversity to Read to Your Kids

Reader's Digest

Noted: A recent count by Cooperative Children’s Book Center School of Education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison found that “books about white children, talking bears, trucks, monsters, potatoes, etc. represent nearly three-quarters of children’s and young adult books published in 2019.” In other words, vegetables, animals, monsters, and aliens had more visibility in books than brown or black characters.

Proteins taken from SHARK immune systems can prevent COVID-19 and variants like Omicron from infecting human cells – but scientists say the treatments won’t be ready until the next outbreak

The Daily Mail

Antibody-like proteins found in a shark’s immune system could be a natural COVID killer that not only prevents the virus that causes it, but also different variants – such as Omicron that is currently spreading across the globe.

The proteins, known as VNARs, are one-tenth the size of human antibodies, making them small enough to ‘get into nooks and crannies that human antibodies cannot access,’ Aaron LeBeau, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of pathology who helped lead the study, said in a statement.

New Report Touts Benefits Of State Income Tax Repeal As Governors & Lawmakers Jockey To Become Nation’s 10th No-Income-Tax State


This is the context in which a new study was released today by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Noah Williams, founder of the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy (CROWE), finding that Wisconsin taxpayers and the state economy as a whole would benefit if the Badger State were to become the nation’s 10th no-income-tax state, making it the only state in the Midwest without an income tax.

What if There’s No Such Thing as Closure?

The New York Times

With her husband’s drawn-out illness, Boss’s life came to resemble the cases she’d spent her career studying. Nearly 50 years ago, as a doctoral student in child development and family studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she researched families with at least one member who was either physically or psychologically absent.