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OBSSR Connector Monthly Newsletter

The Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) Connector Monthly Newsletter is a monthly e-newsletter featuring updates from OBSSR Director William T. Riley, Ph.D., information about behavioral and social sciences in the news, events and announcements, findings from recently published research, funding announcements, and other updates. The current newsletter is provided below.
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July 14, 2020

Director's Voice

OBSSR at 25

Celebrating 25 Years of the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research!

James M. Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Division of Program Coordination, Planning, and Strategic Initiatives, provides a perspective of OBSSR from NIH leadership.

On July 1, 1995, the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR) was formed with Norman Anderson as its first Director. That year, the Digital Video Disc (DVD) was introduced. JavaScript was developed and web browsers like Netscape were making the Internet accessible to the general public. Amazon sold its first book and eBay was launched. In the medical sciences, Hemophilus influenzae became the first free living organism to have its complete genome sequenced. The first protease inhibitor was approved by the FDA for combination treatment of HIV/AIDS. Clearly, much has changed in medicine, technology, and the world in the 25 years since OBSSR was formed.

The behavioral and social sciences have also changed substantially over the past 25 years; however, some of the research published in 1995 is still highly relevant and influential today.

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Research Spotlights

Findings from Recently Published Research

Task functional MRI measurements—good for understanding the average human brain but may not be reliable for predicting individual differences

Task functional MRI measurements—good for understanding the average human brain but may not be reliable for predicting individual differences

In a recent publication, researchers funded by NIA, NIH Blueprint for Neuroscience Research, NSF, and others, cast doubt on the usefulness of task functional MRI (fMRI) for between subject effect predictions and biomarker development. Recently, there has been an increasing interest in identifying brain biomarkers of disease risk for personalized medicine. One limitation to identifying meaningful biomarkers is measurement reliability, such that a measure provides consistent results under similar circumstances.
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Children from disadvantaged neighborhoods have altered regulation of genes related to chronic inflammation, tobacco smoke, air pollution, and lung cancer as adults

Children from disadvantaged neighborhoods have altered regulation of genes related to chronic inflammation, tobacco smoke, air pollution, and lung cancer as adults

What is the connection between your childhood neighborhood and, gene regulation, and later health outcomes? A study funded by the NICHD, NIEHS, and others, examined the different ways DNA methylation may be influenced by one's childhood social environment. Previous studies have shown that children raised in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods have worse health as adults, when compared with their peers from more affluent communities. Environmentally induced alterations to the epigenome, such as differential DNA methylation, have been proposed as one potential mechanism linking early-life environments to later-life health outcomes.
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A healthier lifestyle may lead to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s dementia

A healthier lifestyle may lead to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s dementia

Within the United States, approximately 5.7 million people are living with dementia. In a recent study funded by the NIA, researchers sought to determine the behavioral correlates that may help to delay the onset of this devastating disease. Currently, there are no effective pharmacotherapies that modify the course of dementia; however, epidemiologic studies and clinical trials suggest that primary prevention, typically through increasing healthy behaviors, may be able to delay the onset of the disease. The goal of the current study was to comprehensively assess the specific healthy lifestyle factors that are connected to the onset or delay of Alzheimer dementia. The researchers used two prospective longitudinal studies: the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP; n = 1,845) and the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP; n = 920).
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In the Know

Events and Announcements

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Funding Announcements

Recently Published FOAs

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Protocol Template for Behavioral and Social Sciences Research

Resource for communicating the science, methods, and operations of a clinical trial

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