Weekly recap: Vulnerable kindergarteners and yoga therapy

Did you know that Canada apparently doesn’t have a national bird? Or at least, didn’t? Because as of last week, the Canadian Geographic and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society embarked on a two-year project and named the gray jay as the winner of Canada’s Next Top Bird — unofficially anyways. Parliament still needs to approve it so that the gray jay will finally join the beaver and the Canadian horse — yes, Canadian horse, and not a moose — as certified Canadian icons. While we all wait for that confirmation, why not check out some of the wonderful things UBC researchers have done over the past few days:

One in three BC kindergarten students start school vulnerable

Recent data suggests that one in three kindergarten students in BC start school vulnerable in at least one area critical for their healthy development. Children who experience such vulnerabilities are said to be more likely to experience challenges later in life such as struggling with school or experiencing anxiety and depression.

The data revealed a concerning decline in social competence and emotional well-being which is said to be the result of a complex set of issues, including increased access to technology, living in a fast-paced environment, and more financial pressure on parents and caregivers resulting in less time spent with the children.

On the plus side, the data did show an increase in language and cognitive competence, which the researchers attributed to the province’s investment in early literacy programs over the past decade.

Hospital size a factor in hip fracture mortality

Hip fractures occur almost as frequently as cancers in the elderly and a recent study has suggested that hospital size might be a bigger factor in hip fracture mortality than previously thought.

The study — which assigned hospital size based on the number of beds — found that patients admitted for hip fracture have significantly higher mortality rates in small and medium community hospitals than in teaching and large hospitals. And the rates only get higher should these patients opt for surgery to repair their fracture.

The study didn’t explore why such an occurrence happens and the authors said the paper is more of a call-to-action rather than a broader exploration of the issue. They did suggest that it could be a resource-centric issue that could be solved by province-wide system policies and programs.

Electroshock therapy and yoga to combat depression

A UBC-led initiative is seeking to add a combination of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and yoga to a growing list of possible depression treatment options. 

Depression is believed to be a result of electrical activity imbalance in the prefrontal cortex, where the left side is under-active and right side is overactive. tDCS aims to prime the left side so it’s more easily stimulated while simultaneously priming the right side to do the opposite. Studies have shown, however, that tDCS’s effectiveness relies on a person’s neural state — and that is where yoga comes in. Yoga practitioners are widely credited to possess healthier brain waves, heart rates, blood pressures, respiration and sleep. The resulting treatment currently involves six minutes of tDCS, followed by a 30 minute one-on-one yoga session.

The study is still in its preliminary stages, with the researchers trying the treatment on regular yoga practitioners that don’t have depression. The researchers hope to use results gathered from this stage to justify clinical trials to test the efficacy of the treatment.