Highlights of the BMC-series: August 2017

Managing diagnostic uncertainty • Mobile applications for suicidal ideation self-management • Androgen receptors in developing heart cells • Winners of the 2017 BMC Ecology Image Competition • Methods for word learning • Changes in physical activity in older people

BMC Family Practice: Managing diagnostic uncertainty

Diagnostic uncertainty is one of the biggest predictors of diagnostic error. When coming across diagnostic uncertainty, physicians can respond in multiple ways including cognitive, emotional and ethical reactions. A study published in BMC Family Practice determined how primary care physicians deal with diagnostic uncertainty in cognitive, emotional, and ethical domains. These responses included behaviors such as reaching out to supportive colleagues, seeking out further training, anxiety due to diagnostic uncertainty, and whether or not to disclose diagnostic uncertainty to patients. Diagnostic uncertainty can have implications for the doctor, patient, and healthcare system in general and the authors further discuss how doctors can better manage their responses to diagnostic uncertainty.

BMC Psychiatry: Mobile applications for suicidal ideation self-management

The use of online and mobile telephone applications (‘apps’) have been increasingly used to treat psychological disorders, especially for populations that have limited resources and are remotely located. In a study published in BMC Psychiatry, Witt and colleagues searched the exhisting literature to determine the effectivenss of apps for the self-management of suicidal ideation and self-harm. The use of apps offers some promise for reducing suicidal ideation although there did not seem to be any beneficial impact on suicide attempts or self-harm. Furthermore, the adherence to these programs was poor. The authors discuss the limitations and variability of the existing literature and argue for more well designed studies to determine whether the use of apps for suicidal ideation and self-harm can be productive.

BMC Physiology: Androgen receptors in developing heart cells

Androgens have been shown to be involved in the sex differences in cardiovascular diseases. Androgen receptors in cardiac muscle cells called myocytes could help explain this association. In a study published in BMC Physiology, the authors examined the expression of androgen receptors on cardiac myocytes while also looking at alpha and beta myosin heavy chain genes and atrial natriuretic peptide genes. The authors looked at the hearts of male and female mice prenatally and early postnatally.  Androgen receptors were found in cardiac myocytes during heart development prenatally and during heart maturation postnatally.  Androgen receptors were found primarily in the cardiac myocytes nuclei compared to surrounding cells and were found more in atria compared to ventricles postnatally. These findings indicate that androgen receptors are involved in heart development pre- and post-natally but interestingly the lack of sex difference suggests that sex differences in cardiovascular diseases may not be related to the developing heart.

Image(s) of the month: The winners of the 2017 BMC Ecology Image competition 2017

For the fifth year BMC Ecology held its astounding image competition.  Ecologists from all over the world submitted their photographs to showcase their research. The BMC Ecology editorial board, along with special guest judge Chris Darimont, had the pleasure to vote on the photographs based on the image and the story behind it. This year’s winning image was by Ana Carolina Lima who took a picture of giant South American turtles (Podocatemias expansa) which was admired for its “…rare, multi-layered perspective from above”.  In contrast to the lively image of the winner, the first runner-up photograph entitled “Two Towers” pictures the stark Antarctic landscape.  Winners were selected for each section of BMC Ecology including a special Editor’s pick. Meanwhile 3rd place went to the image below, entitled ‘Connections’. Read the announcement editorial to see all the winners, along with a number of excellent highly commended entries.

Second runner-up
Roberto García-Roa

BMC Psychology: Methods for word learning

There are several techniques to learn new words which can include recall, reproduction, and restudy. These techniques have been shown to be beneficial when learning written words. A study published in BMC Psychology by Krishnan and colleagues, which went through BMC Psychology’s Results-free Review process, aimed to determine the effects of three different word learning techniques when participants are taught words that are presented to them verbally instead of in written form. Participants went through a task in which they learned pseudowords presented verbally and learned these words through a cued recall, reproduction, and restudy method of learning. It was hypothesized that cued recall practice would lead to better retention in the long term.  In contrast to the hypothesis, cued recall training did not provide better retention of newly learned words in the long term compared to the forms of learning new words. This suggests that how people learn words presented verbally differs from how they learn written words.

BMC Geriatrics: Changes in physical activity in older people

Less than 10% of the population in the UK over 75 years of age reach the recommended amount of physical activity. Unfortunately, this information is primarily collected through subjective questionnaires thereby risking accuracy. In a study published in BMC Geriatrics the authors surveyed a population of almost 600 community dwelling people over the age of 65. Various questionnaires were used to assess health, subjective norms, coping planning and social support, anxiety, and depression.  Subjects were then fitted with an accelerometer on their waist to measure physical activity. The lack of a satisfactory social network, older age, lower self-reported physical functioning and diabetes all independently predicted lower objectively measured physical activity.

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