Category Archives: Research

Blending Psychology and Dance

Many of our graduating seniors can likely relate to the difficulties of choosing a career path, let along having to make difficult decisions between pursuing a research passion versus one of a more personal nature. This choice was once faced by the new president-elect of the American Psychological Association, Nadine Kaslow, an Emory professor and chief psychologist of Grady Health System who is also the psychologist for the Atlanta Ballet. Dr. Kaslow has been able to incorporate her two passions through these joint appointments. To learn more about the motivations underlying her career and lifestyle paths, please visit

Senior Predictive Health Minors present final projects on Friday, May 3rd at 8:30 am

The final course requirement for Predictive Health Minors is called “Health 410: Predictive Health Challenge.”  This year’s inaugural senior class took on as their final challenge the creation of an app to improve health.  The class has been working in small groups of 2-4 students to produce an app targeting a specific health challenge that they have identified.  On Friday, May 3rd at 8:30 am in White Hall Room 207, students will describe the health challenge that they are targeting and then publicly demonstrate how their app works.  We encourage Emory students and community members to attend these presentations.

Diagnosing ear infections with iPhone technology

Ear infections are the most common among preschool aged children, though can be difficult to distinguish between one caused by bacteria, and thus requiring antibiotics, and a case caused by a virus which will ultimately resolve without such treatment.

Dr. Wilbur Lam, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, is working with colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, to develop a “Remotoscope”, an iPhone attachment and accompanying app that works as an otoscope. Using a phone equipped with the Remotoscope, a parent could snap images of the child’s inner ear over the course of the illness to aid physicians in diagnosing the cause of an infection, as well as use the images to determine whether or not to seek medical attention.

For more information about the device, please visit:

Calorie restriction, longevity, and health

Previous studies on caloric restriction in animal models like mice and nematodes found that the reduction in consumption lead to an increase in longevity.  Thus far, the impacts of such dietary restrictions in primate species have been mixed, with at least one major study finding no such association between life span and calorie restriction and another concluding that the restriction did in fact add years.

While longevity is still being debated, these studies are finding that the animals “health span”, or the number of years they live before showing signs of age-related disease, is extended among primates living on calorie restricted diets.  To learn more about the concept of a “health span”, as well as specific findings related to health outcomes such as cancer and heart disease among the study cohorts, please visit:

Emory pushes forward in AIDS vaccine research

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded Emory with a $6 million grant to continue work towards an AIDS vaccine.  The team, led by Bali Pulendran, PhD and Rafi Ahmed, PhD, includes researchers from across the university, including the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory Vaccine Center, and the Rollins School of Public Health.

The funding will go towards exploring how programming innate immunity can lead to protective antibodies against HIV in a nonhuman primate model, by using nanoparticles that mimic properties of the virus to illicit a response.

For more information about this research and the grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, please visit:



To go organic or not: reactions to a recent Stanford study

Recently Stanford University released a systematic review of the published literature regarding the health effects of organic foods compared with their conventionally grown counterparts.  Their study found that, in general, organic products did not have significantly beneficial health effects.  However, of the 237 research results they examined, only 3 actually commented specifically on clinical health outcomes and all of the rest were nutrient- or pesticide-specific studies.  The average difference in pesticide presence between organic and conventionally grown produce was approximately 30%, with organic produce exhibiting less residue.

The public has had strong reactions to the study; for reactions to the Stanford review, please see the following NY Times article:



Levering the immune system against depression


An Emory University research team led by Andrew H. Miller, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, recently released the results of a study proposing a novel treatment target for difficult cases of depression.  Inflammation is the body’s innate reaction to a wound, but has also been observed in patients with depression and chronic inflammation is associated with depression cases that do not respond to typical medications and treatments.  In the study, participants with chronic inflammation and depression received infliximab, a drug used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, or a placebo in addition to a prescribed anti-depression regimen. Infliximab was found to improve the treatment outcomes for depressed individuals with high levels of inflammation, and is a promising tool leveraging the immune system in the treatment of psychiatric conditions.
For more information about the study, please visit:

Potential link between PFCs and obesity in later life

An Emory University research team led by Dr. Michelle Marcus recently explored the association between exposure to polyfluoralkyl compounds (PFCs) during fetal development and body weight at age 20 months.  Their results indicated that the infants of 447 women who had increased PFC exposures during pregnancy were smaller than average at birth, and by 20 months of age were larger than average.  This research adds to the wealth of literature documenting the effects of environmental exposures on future health, and in particular adds to a growing body of evidence that points towards a connection between obesity and PFC exposure.  For more information about the study, please visit:

“Sugars” and cancer

Researchers across Emory are participating in numerous projects that examine the different relationships between “sugars” and cancer.

First, Emory was recently awarded two grants totaling $2.5 million dollars over five years from the National Cancer Institute to study the sugary coatings of cancer cells.  Novel diagnostic methods and anticancer treatments  are expected to come from this research.  Read more at:

Second, Emory researchers continue to investigate cancer cell’s “sugar cravings”.  Cancerous cells use up more glucose than healthy cells, as they turn off the mitochondria which are typically responsible for producing energy and instead rely on glucose.  In the video below, Jing Chen, PhD, associate professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, explains how his team is examining whether anticancer therapies can target this mis-appropriation of glucose.  To read more about the research, please visit:

Sleep improves working memory for patients with Parkinson’s disease

Researchers from the Department of Neurology, Program in Sleep Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine investigated the role of sleep in improving the working memory of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD).  Reduced memory capacity is a lesser known symptom associated with PD, which is more commonly associated with visibly slow movements and tremors.

The research team examined how PD patients with and without sleep apnea, a condition where the airway is obstructed and blood oxygen levels decline during sleep, performed on working memory tests after a nights’ rest.  The patients without sleep apnea performed better on the tests, and PD patients also taking dopamine-enhancing medications had improved outcomes over those not taking the medications.  For more information about the study, including comments form the first author, postdoctoral fellow Michael Scullin, please visit:


leep apnea, the disruption of sleep caused by obstruction of the airway, interfered with sleep’s effects on memory. Study participants who showed signs of sleep apnea, if it was severe enough to lower their blood oxygen levels for more than five minutes, did not see a working memory test boost.

While the classic symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors and slow movements, Parkinson’s can also affect someone’s memory, including “working memory.” Working memory is defined as the ability to temporarily store and manipulate information, rather than simply repeat it. The use of working memory is important in planning, problem solving and independent living.

The findings underline the importance of addressing sleep disorders in the care of patients with Parkinson’s, and indicate that working memory capacity in patients with Parkinson’s potentially can be improved with training. The results also have implications for the biology of sleep and memory.

The results were published this week in the journal Brain.

“It was known already that sleep is beneficial for memory, but here, we’ve been able to analyze what aspects of sleep are required for the improvements in working memory performance,” says postdoctoral fellow Michael Scullin, who is the first author of the paper. The senior author is Donald Bliwise, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine.

The performance boost from sleep was linked with the amount of slow wave sleep, or the deepest stage of sleep. Several research groups have reported that slow wave sleep is important for synaptic plasticity, the ability of brain cells to reorganize and make new connections.