Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 6th 2017 Contents A24 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 6, 2017
You're never too old to learn
One day, our brains will not
work the way they used to, we
won't be as "sharp" as we once
were, we won't be able to remem-
ber things as easily.
This is what's been ingrained in
us. We're even led to believe that we
can't learn new skills or take in cer-
tain information such as language,
past a certain age.
But a new theory holds that it
doesn't have to be that way. In
fact, as adults, if we continue to
learn the way we did as children,
UCR psychology professor Rachel
Wu asserts, we can redefine what it
means to be an "aging" adult.
Wu has published A Novel The-
oretical Life Course Framework for
Triggering Cognitive Development
Across the Lifespan, in the journal
Human Development. In the paper,
she redefines healthy cognitive aging
as a result of learning strategies and
habits that are developed through-
out our life. These habits can either
encourage or discourage cognitive
"We argue that across your
lifespan, you go from broad learning
---learning many skills as an infant or
child, to specialised learning---be-
coming an expert in a specific area
when you begin working, and that
leads to cognitive decline initially
in some unfamiliar situations, and
eventually in both familiar and un-
familiar situations," Wu said.
In the paper, Wu argues that if we
reimagine cognitive aging as a devel-
opmental outcome, it opens the door
for new tactics that could dramat-
ically improve the cognitive health
and quality of life for aging adults.
In particular, if adults embrace the
same "broad learning experiences"
(characterised by six factors below)
that promote children's growth and
development, they may see an in-
crease in their cognitive health, and
not the natural decline that we all
Wu and her collaborators define
"broad learning," as encompassing
these six factors:
1. Open-minded, input-driven
learning---learning new patterns,
new skills, exploring outside of one's
2. Individualised scaffolding
(consistent access to teachers and
mentors who guide learning).
3. Growth mindset (belief that
abilities are developed with effort).
4. Forgiving environment (allowed
to make mistakes and even fail).
5. Serious commitment to learn-
ing (learn to master essential skills,
persevere despite setbacks).
6. Learning multiple skills simul-
The researchers explain that
intellectual engagement declines
from infancy to aging adulthood as
we move from "broad learning" to
"specialisation." They argue that,
during infancy and childhood, en-
gaging in these six factors actually
increases basic cognitive abilities
and they predict that the same is
the case in adulthood.
Wu and the researchers define
"specialised learning" as encom-
passing these factors:
1. Closed-minded knowl-
edge-driven learning (preferring
familiar routines, staying within
our comfort zones).
2. No scaffolding (no access to
experts or teachers).
3. Unforgiving environment (high
consequences for mistakes or failing,
such as getting fired).
4. Fixed mindset (belief that abil-
ities are inborn talent, as opposed to
developed with effort).
5. Little commitment to learning.
6. Learning one (if any) skill at a
"When you look across the
lifespan from infancy, it seems likely
that the decline of broad learning
has a causal role in cognitive aging.
But if adults were to engage in broad
learning via the six factors that we
provide, aging adults could expand
cognitive functioning beyond cur-
rently known limits," Wu said.
(University of California - Riverside)
Wu took up painting seven years ago. At first, she was told she was terrible.
(Painting on left). But, after years of practicing and taking courses, she was
told she was talented. (Painting on the right).
Infected HCV kidney
Ten patients at Penn Medicine
in the USA have been cured of the
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following
lifesaving kidney transplants from
deceased donors who were infect-
ed with the disease. The findings
point to new strategies for increas-
ing the supply of organs for the
US's more than 97,000 patients
who are awaiting kidney trans-
plants---often for as many as five
or more years.
In 2016, Penn Medicine launched
an innovative clinical trial to test the
effect of transplanting kidneys from
donors with HCV into patients cur-
rently on the kidney transplant waitlist
who do not have the virus, and who opt
in to receive these otherwise unused
organs. Recipients were then treated
with an antiviral therapy in an effort
to cure the virus. Early data from the
study were presented by David Gold-
berg, MD, MSCE, an assistant profes-
sor of Medicine and Epidemiology in
the Perelman School of Medicine at
the University of Pennsylvania, at the
2017 American Transplant Congress
in Chicago, and were simultaneously
published in the New England Journal
Goldberg, who co-led the study with
Peter Reese, MD, MSCE, an assistant
professor of Medicine and Epidemi-
ology at Penn and chair of the Ethics
Committee for the United Network of
Organ Sharing (UNOS), approached
and enrolled participants who relied
on dialysis treatments to stand in for
their damaged kidneys. Participants
were between 40 and 65 years of age
and had been waiting for a transplant
for at least a year and a half. A three-
step process of education and consent
was used during pre-enrollment to
ensure patients, and their loved ones
were provided with a comprehensive
understanding of the risks. Once en-
rolled, and as organs became available,
the team performed HCV donor gen-
otyping during the allocation process,
selecting only kidneys that were con-
sidered "high quality."
In the first phase of the study, to
date, 10 patients have received trans-
plants using the protocol. On average,
patients received a transplant 58 days
after enrolling in the trial. At three days
after surgery, patients were tested for
HCV, and all 10 tested positive for the
disease. Next, the participants were
treated with the standard 12-week
course of elbasvir/grazoprevir, com-
monly known as Zepatier, a recent-
ly-approved and highly effective oral
medication prescribed to eradicate
HCV. All 10 patients have been cured
of their contracted HCV.
The research team is designing a
new clinical trial that will study this
same approach in patients who are
heart transplant recipients, and in
the future they hope to examine the
efficacy of this approach in liver and
(University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine)
Ten patients have been cured of the
Hepatitis C virus following lifesaving
kidney transplants from deceased
donors who were infected with the
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