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192 research and innovation Articles | Page: | Show All

University of Toronto study shows infants prefer nice voices

It might not be news to parents, but the Wall Street Journal has taken note of a University of Toronto study, which found that infants less than a year old make up their minds about people based on the tones of voice they use – and remember those preferences. The study used a combination of puppets speaking a variety of phrases in happy or irritated tones, and then tested the same voices coming from plain paper cups. The infants in the test showed a marked preference for the puppets that spoke in pleasant tones, but weren’t swayed by nice-sounding inanimate objects. Moreover, they remembered the human-looking puppets who spoke pleasantly, and were drawn to them even after they shifted to a neutral tone.

Read the full story here.
Source: The Wall Street Journal

University of Toronto researchers hone in on 3D camera technology

The New York Times reports on a new 3D camera technology that's come from researchers at the University of Toronto, in conjunction with colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University. Cameras that sense depth have been on the market for years - take Microsoft's Kinect camera, for instance - but they don't work in bright light. Now, the researchers have devised a new generation of depth-sensing cameras that use only the light they need to calculate distances, by illuminating their target with laser light. As a result, they can accurately map the contours of an object they're looking at, be it something as simple as a ball or - or as detailed as a human face.
 
Read the full story here
Source: New York Times. 

Study points to the emotional intelligence of happy couples

New York Magazine has reported on an unusual study about marital happiness conducted by University of Toronto researchers.

Researchers studied the brain activity of long-married women, with an average age of 72, while they watched videos of their husbands recalling emotional memories. But there was a catch: The videos were deliberately mislabeled, so the husbands were said to be recalling a sad memory while visibly laughing, and vice-versa.

The results showed that the women's mental activity spiked when their husbands seemed inexplicably happy - but not when they were inexplicably sad (or at least no more than they did when watching similar videos of strangers). The study points towards the emotional sensitivities that lead to lasting marriages. As the article notes, "this neatly complements other past research showing, for example, that people who are unable to differentiate their partners’ emotions from their own (they assume they’re the same), tend to be viewed by their partners as more controlling and smothering."
 
Read the whole story here
Source: New York Magazine

U of T professor shares wisdom on "voyeur-­exhibitionist relationship’

The New York Times has profiled one of Toronto's lesser-known cultural leaders: Stéphane Deschênes, a senior figure in the International Naturist Federation, "a sort of United Nations of nudism."

Deschênes teaches at the University of Toronto (which is everywhere in the news this week), and runs a nudist colony on the outskirts of the city. In the piece, "How to Be Naked In Public," Deschênes describes ways of getting comfortable with naturism - starting with going in the buff in the comfort of your own home, and getting used to that before venturing into the outdoors. He also suggests watching out for the scourge of "phantom clothes" - the fleeting sensation that, even after years of committed naturalism, you're still wearing clothes when you're not.


Read the rest here.
Source: New York Times.

Study on "facial trustworthiness" reveals surprising bias in court outcomes

First impressions are more than lasting; in some cases, they can alter the course of an entire life. 

A University of Toronto study published earlier this month in the journal, Psychological Science, argues that whether or not a person has a face that appears trustworthy could determine their outcomes in court, as well as their treatment in prison. 

NPR reports:
 
Facial trustworthiness is a significant predictor of the sentence people receive," says John Paul Wilson, who led the study and is a social psychologist at the University of Toronto.

Past research has shown that people make quick judgments about someone's character based on their face. For instance, we tend to place more trust in someone whose lips naturally turn upward when their face is relaxed, Wilson says; it's like they're making a smile. The opposite is felt for people who have lips that curve downward, like a frown.

To learn how these biases affect real-life scenarios with serious implications, the research team collected more than 700 mugshots of white and African-American criminals in Florida. Images of the state's prisoners are freely available to the public online.


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Source: NPR

U of T drug researcher warns against jumping to conclusions with drug data

While researchers at Stanford University probe patient data to look for a potential link between a family of popular heartburn drugs and heart attack, a University of Toronto researcher warns against jumping to conclusions based on data correlates. 

“The problem is, it's very easy to do studies of this sort that lead to conclusions that can be misleading. I know because I've done that myself,” says Dr. David Juurlink, a drug-safety researcher from U of T. The drug family in question, proton-pump inhibitors, includes popular heartburn treatments like Prilosec, Nexium and Prevacid, and are generally considered more effective at treating heartburn than other drug combinations.

Juurlink's warning essentially urges researchers to remember that correlation does not necessarily equal causation; it’s better to get a more complete picture before advising physicians on courses of patient care. Of course, with repercussions as severe as potentially life-threatening heart attacks, the Toronto researcher's stance poses a point of contention. 

Read the full story here.
Source: NPR

Ebola research breakthrough at U of T

Groundbreaking work at the University of Toronto on fighting Ebola caught CNN's eye this week.

Research presented this week shows that a combination of three different HIV drugs "does a remarkably good job of fighting Ebola in the laboratory." 

"If it works out, we'll be doing somersaults -- if I knew how to do one -- down the hallways," Dr. Donald Branch, one of the researchers, told the news network.

Researchers elsewhere, including the World Health Organization, were quick to point out that the results were very preliminary, and since the U of T team used a strain of Ebola that doesn't infect humans, their results might not pan out in the real world. However, the team is hoping to get access to samples of live Ebola - kept under high security, for obvious reasons - to pursue their research.

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Source: CNN
 
 

Toronto's neuroplasticity theorist makes a return

It’s been seven years since Toronto-based psychiatrist Norman Doidge entered the mainstream consciousness with “The Brain that Changes Itself,” his international bestseller about neuroplasticity. Now, the author has released a sequel, “The Brain’s Way of Healing,” and it’s attracting attention from around the world.

And, what's more, the title is garnering international attention. 

"Doctors, scientists and patients from all over the world got in touch to tell him their stories about brain plasticity. He spent the next seven years travelling the world, meeting these people and turning their stories into The Brain's Way of Healing,” writes The Independent. 

Read more here
Source: The Independent. 

Scientific wedding vows

In the New York Times, we read of University of Toronto psychology grad student Samantha Joel, whose research into human relationships led her to craft a series of ten scientifically sound wedding vows – for her own wedding.

Drawn from the best research into what makes relationships thrive, her vows include items like "I promise to nurture your goals and ambitions; to support you through misfortune, and to celebrate your triumphs.” (She and her fiance are having the items engraved into a plaque to hang in their hallway.) 

Yay, science?
Yay, science!

Read the full story here
Source: New York Times. 

U of T researchers make a breakthrough on the study of autism within families

A University of Toronto study has found that not only does the incidence of autism increase within families, but that brothers and sisters with the condition are overwhelmingly likelier to carry different genetic risk factors for the disorder.


The Guardian reports:
Research on 85 families found that siblings with autism had the same genetic risk factors less than one third of the time. In nearly 70% of cases, tests on the siblings revealed little or no overlap in the mutations known to contribute to the condition.

The findings challenge the presumption that the same genetic risk factors are at work when autism runs in families. “We knew that there were many differences in autism, but our recent findings firmly nail that down,” said Stephen Scherer at the University of Toronto.

“This means we should not be looking just for suspected autism-risk genes, as is typically done in diagnostic genetic testing,” Scherer added. Instead, he said a full assessment of a person’s genome was needed if genetic information was ever going to inform their treatment


Read the full story here.
Source: The Guardian.
Photo: CLF via Compfight cc
 

U of T researchers land on genome diet

The future of dietary recommendations might come down to a person's DNA, University of Toronto researchers found. The lead researcher, professor Ahmed El-Sohemy, has launched the nutritional genomics firm, Nutrigenomix, that sets out to do just that.

The Independent reports:
The researchers found that subjects who were told that they carry a version of the gene associated with salt intake and high blood pressure significantly reduced their salt intake compared with the group that received the standard advice for salt intake. No significant changes were found for the other dietary components: caffeine, vitamin C and sugar. The authors of the study believe that this is because most of the 138 people in the study were already meeting the recommendations for these dietary components at the start of the study.


At $300 per genetic test, compliance is not without its financial incentive, either. 


Read the full story here. 
Source: The Independent

Toronto to be the site of North America's first Yuan trading hub

Toronto is poised to be North America's first trading hub for China's yuan currency, allowing for direct exchange and trade operations between the Canadian dollar and yuan. The deal, announced last week, is being predicted to save Canadian companies up to $6.2 billion over the next decade.  

"TD analyst Diarra Sourang said in a report that the arrangement will likely mean an increase in Canadian exports to China, and especially benefit small and medium-sized companies trying to expand into the world's second largest economy," reports Reuters, adding that a TD report has predicted that financial institutions and the province of British Columbia will likely benefit most from the arrangement. 

Read the full article here. 
Source: Reuters

 

A University of Toronto study might be the answer to a Kentucky town's fungus

Kentucky whiskey distilleries are behind a nasty "whiskey fungus" that's covering houses, cars, and street signs in the Louisville suburb of Shively, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage.

Munchies reports:
 

For years, the residents of Shively took this black soot as a given. They didn’t know it was a preventable fungus caused by the nearby whiskey distilleries and they didn’t make much of a fuss about it. It was just another neighborhood complaint that wasn’t getting addressed by the local councilmen.
 
That changed in 2007, when University of Toronto mycologist James Scott published an academic paper about the fungus, which got attention not only for re-naming and re-classifying it based on DNA analysis, but also for pinning it on the whiskey industry. Dr. Scott discovered that this fungus—which he named Baudoinia, after the man who first studied it in 1872, Anton Baudoin—feeds on the ethanol vapor released by liquor as it ages. (Not surprisingly, you’ll find Baudoinia near scotch, brandy, and rum distilleries as well, since they also off-gas ethanol.) 
 

Scott's findings have led to a class-action lawsuit filed against the three major distilleries in the area – and possibly, as the piece points out, the booze industry's answer to the Erin Brokovich story



Read the full story here
Source: Munchies

 

Good news for bad guts

A local biotech startup, Encycle Therapeutics, is the recipient of a generous grant to further research its development of an oral treatment for inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD--the first of its kind.

Encycle was founded by Dr. Andrei Yudin of the University of Toronto in partnership with MaRS Innovation, who are working from a $4 million public-private funding partnership with Merck Canada. 

As Dr. Raphael Hofstein, president and CEO of MaRS Innovation, told Drug Discovery and Development: "Encycle Therapeutics has spent the last 18 months demonstrating the significant potential of its innovative macrocyle chemistry platform to generate small-cell permeable systems. This achievement has resulted in multiple partnership opportunities, affirming its position as one of Canada's emerging biotechnology companies to watch."



Read more here.
Source: Drug Discovery and Development magazine

Toronto-based SIM card launch makes waves

Following a crowdfunded production campaign, local startup KnowRoaming has made its product available for purchase. Already, techies and travellers have taken note. 

The reason for the fanfare: KnowRoaming promises to reduce pricey mobile roaming charges. It's an exciting prospect, even for mobile customers not subject to Canada's astronomical fees. 

The company's sticker SIMs get placed onto a phone's regular SIM, which then lie dormant until a person leaves their home network. At that point, the sticker enables the SIM card to pick up whatever happens to be the local network. Once a sticker kit has been purchased directly from the company's website and installed onto a phone, users can buy credits through an accompanying Android, iOS or web app to reap their savings. 

As the Globe and Mail reported earlier this year, KnowRoaming isn't an entirely novel concept; it essentially offers to step in as a low-hassle roaming provider. But it might just stick.

Source: Engadget
192 research and innovation Articles | Page: | Show All
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