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A father’s age at conception influences a child’s social behavior later on

The children of very young and very old fathers were most affected. 

 

Getty Images.

People are having children later in life nowadays. They’re delaying marriage too. Millennials need to gain more education and spend a longer time in the workforce building up their career, in order to afford a wedding and children. So how is this shift affecting the next generation and society as a whole?


Many studies have focused on the impact an older mother has on a child’s development. For a woman, having a child later in life increase the risk of miscarriage, a difficult pregnancy, and the child having a developmental disorder. One plus side though, older women might parent better.  

Now, studies are turning toward older fathers. New research has shown that children born to a father over age 35 have a higher risk of autism, schizophrenia, or a birth defect. One study found that children born to dads over age 40 may even risk lower scholastic achievement.

Though slight, over an entire population, the impact could be significant. So much so, that one UK bioethicist has proposed a program to encourage 18 year-old's to bank their sperm, and have the National Health Service (NHS) pay for it. The results of this study show that if such a plan were enacted, officials might want to wait to collect until the man was a little bit older.

Older fatherhood may increase the risk of lower scholastic achievement. Getty Images.

A new study finds that an older father is the single most important factor in a child’s development of prosocial skills. This was independent of the mother’s age. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP). These include social skills such as helping, sharing, acknowledging the pain of others, and being considerate.

Researchers examined data from over 15,000 twins in the UK. Parents answered the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). This is a behavior evaluation tool for 3-16 year-olds used by clinicians, educationalists, and researchers. All of the subjects were part of another project called the Twins Early Development study (TEDs). Researchers examined the children’s records of social problems with peers, and instances of emotionality and hyperactivity. They also looked at the age of the father and any other relevant environmental or genetic factors.

What they learned was that certain prosocial aspects of a child’s personality and behavior are genetically driven. Those children born to a father under age 25 had better social behaviors when they were young. The same was true to those born to a father who was 51 or older. When children were born to a young or old father, when they became adolescents, their prosocial behavior lagged behind their peers. 

There might be an ideal window for when the right time is to farther children. Getty Images.

Dr. Magdalena Janecka was lead author of the study. She is a fellow at the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai, in New York City. Dr. Janecka wrote in a press release, “Increased importance of genetic factors observed in the offspring of older, but not very young fathers, suggests that there could be different mechanisms behind the effects at these two extremes of paternal age.” She added, “Although the resulting behavioral profiles in their offspring were similar, the causes could be vastly different.”

This is the first study of its kind linking a father’s age to social behavior. Dr. Janecka hopes that this allows for a better understanding of how a father’s age effects his children. “In extreme cases, these effects may contribute to clinical disorders,” she said. “Our study, however, suggests that they could also be much more subtle.”

If the findings are corroborated, future research will investigate what mechanisms are at play, and what might be done to mitigate risks, besides of course, planning to have children at a younger age, which might not be possible for some men.

According to Dr. Janecka, “Identifying neural structures that are affected by paternal age at conception, and seeing how their development differs from the typical patterns, will allow us to better understand the mechanisms behind those effects of paternal age, as well as, likely, autism and schizophrenia.”

To learn more about how an older men’s sperms can influence his offspring, click here: 

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Lee Jae-Sung of Korea Republic lies on the pitch holding his knee during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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