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The search for life in the Universe is a fundamental problem of astrobiology and modern science. The current progress in the detection of terrestrial-type exoplanets has opened a new avenue in the characterization of exoplanetary atmospheres and in the search for biosignatures of life with the upcoming ground-based and space missions. To specify the conditions favourable for the origin, development and sustainment of life as we know it in other worlds, we need to understand the nature of global (astrospheric), and local (atmospheric and surface) environments of exoplanets in the habitable zones (HZs) around G-K-M dwarf stars including our young Sun. Global environment is formed by propagated disturbances from the planet-hosting stars in the form of stellar flares, coronal mass ejections, energetic particles and winds collectively known as astrospheric space weather. Its characterization will help in understanding how an exoplanetary ecosystem interacts with its host star, as well as in the specification of the physical, chemical and biochemical conditions that can create favourable and/or detrimental conditions for planetary climate and habitability along with evolution of planetary internal dynamics over geological timescales. A key linkage of (astro)physical, chemical and geological processes can only be understood in the framework of interdisciplinary studies with the incorporation of progress in heliophysics, astrophysics, planetary and Earth sciences. The assessment of the impacts of host stars on the climate and habitability of terrestrial (exo)planets will significantly expand the current definition of the HZ to the biogenic zone and provide new observational strategies for searching for signatures of life. The major goal of this paper is to describe and discuss the current status and recent progress in this interdisciplinary field in light of presentations and discussions during the NASA Nexus for Exoplanetary System Science funded workshop ‘Exoplanetary Space Weather, Climate and Habitability’ and to provide a new roadmap for the future development of the emerging field of exoplanetary science and astrobiology.
A systematic review was conducted to evaluate whether healthier dietary consumption among children and adolescents impacts executive functioning. PubMed, Education Resources Information Center, PsychINFO and Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science databases were searched, and studies of executive functioning among children or adolescents aged 6–18 years, which examined food quality, macronutrients and/or foods, were included. Study quality was also assessed. In all, twenty-one studies met inclusion criteria. Among the twelve studies examining food quality (n 9) or macronutrient intakes (n 4), studies examining longer-term diet (n 6) showed positive associations between healthier overall diet quality and executive functioning, whereas the studies examining the acute impact of diet (n 6) were inconsistent but suggestive of improvements in executive functioning with better food quality. Among the ten studies examining foods, overall, there was a positive association between healthier foods (e.g. whole grains, fish, fruits and/or vegetables) and executive function, whereas less-healthy snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages and red/processed meats were inversely associated with executive functioning. Taken together, evidence suggests a positive association between healthy dietary consumption and executive functioning. Additional studies examining the effects of healthier food consumption, as well as macronutrients, on executive functioning are warranted. These studies should ideally be conducted in controlled environments and use validated cognitive tests.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a common and disabling condition with well-established heritability and environmental risk factors. Gene–environment interaction studies in MDD have typically investigated candidate genes, though the disorder is known to be highly polygenic. This study aims to test for interaction between polygenic risk and stressful life events (SLEs) or childhood trauma (CT) in the aetiology of MDD.
The RADIANT UK sample consists of 1605 MDD cases and 1064 controls with SLE data, and a subset of 240 cases and 272 controls with CT data. Polygenic risk scores (PRS) were constructed using results from a mega-analysis on MDD by the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium. PRS and environmental factors were tested for association with case/control status and for interaction between them.
PRS significantly predicted depression, explaining 1.1% of variance in phenotype (p = 1.9 × 10−6). SLEs and CT were also associated with MDD status (p = 2.19 × 10−4 and p = 5.12 × 10−20, respectively). No interactions were found between PRS and SLEs. Significant PRSxCT interactions were found (p = 0.002), but showed an inverse association with MDD status, as cases who experienced more severe CT tended to have a lower PRS than other cases or controls. This relationship between PRS and CT was not observed in independent replication samples.
CT is a strong risk factor for MDD but may have greater effect in individuals with lower genetic liability for the disorder. Including environmental risk along with genetics is important in studying the aetiology of MDD and PRS provide a useful approach to investigating gene–environment interactions in complex traits.
The Vista Variables in the Vía Láctea (VVV) ESO Public Survey is an ongoing time-series, near-infrared (IR) survey of the Galactic bulge and an adjacent portion of the inner disk, covering 562 square degrees of the sky, using ESO's VISTA telescope. The survey has provided superb multi-color photometry in 5 broadband filters (Z, Y, J, H, and Ks), leading to the best map of the inner Milky Way ever obtained, particularly in the near-IR. The main part of the survey, which is focused on the variability in the Ks-band, is currently underway, with bulge fields observed between 34 and 73 times, and disk fields between 34 and 36 times. When the survey is complete, bulge (disk) fields will have been observed up to a total of 100 (60) times, providing unprecedented depth and time coverage in the near-IR. Here we provide a first overview of stellar variability in the VVV data.
Although usually thought of as external environmental stressors, a significant heritable component has been reported for measures of stressful life events (SLEs) in twin studies.
We examined the variance in SLEs captured by common genetic variants from a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 2578 individuals. Genome-wide complex trait analysis (GCTA) was used to estimate the phenotypic variance tagged by single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We also performed a GWAS on the number of SLEs, and looked at correlations between siblings.
A significant proportion of variance in SLEs was captured by SNPs (30%, p = 0.04). When events were divided into those considered to be dependent or independent, an equal amount of variance was explained for both. This ‘heritability’ was in part confounded by personality measures of neuroticism and psychoticism. A GWAS for the total number of SLEs revealed one SNP that reached genome-wide significance (p = 4 × 10−8), although this association was not replicated in separate samples. Using available sibling data for 744 individuals, we also found a significant positive correlation of R2 = 0.08 in SLEs (p = 0.03).
These results provide independent validation from molecular data for the heritability of reporting environmental measures, and show that this heritability is in part due to both common variants and the confounding effect of personality.
Thin‑film silicon solar cells based on hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a‑Si:H) and hydrogenated microcrystalline silicon (μc‑Si:H) absorber layers are typically deposited using static plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) processes. It has been found that the use of very‑high frequencies (VHF) is beneficial for the material quality at high deposition rates when compared to radio-frequency (RF) processes. In the present work a dynamic VHF‑PECVD technique using linear plasma sources is developed. The linear plasma sources facilitate the use of very-high excitation frequencies on large electrode areas without compromising on the homogeneity of the deposition process. It is shown that state-of-the-art a‑Si:H and μc‑Si:H single-junction solar cells can be deposited incorporating intrinsic layers grown dynamically by VHF-PECVD at 0.35 nm/s and 0.95 nm/s, respectively.
Despite improvements in outcomes after completion of the Fontan circulation, long-term functional state varies. We sought to identify pre- and postoperative characteristics associated with overall function.
Methods and Results
We analyzed data from 476 survivors with the Fontan circulation enrolled in the Pediatric Heart Network Fontan Cross-sectional Study. Mean age at creation of the Fontan circulation was 3.4 plus or minus 2.1 years, with a range from 0.7 to 17.5 years, and time since completion was 8.7 plus or minus 3.4 years, the range being from 1.1 to 17.3 years. We calculated a functional score for the survivors by averaging the percentile ranks of ventricular ejection fraction, maximal consumption of oxygen, the physical summary score for the Child Health Questionnaire, and a function of brain natriuretic peptide. The mean calculated score was 49.5 plus or minus 17.3, with a range from 3 to 87. After adjustment for time since completion of the circulation, we found that a lower score, and hence worse functional state, was associated with: right ventricular morphology (p less than 0.001), higher ventricular end-diastolic pressure (p equals 0.003) and lower saturations of oxygen (p equals 0.047) prior to completion of the Fontan circulation, lower income for the caregiver (p equals 0.003), and, in subjects without a prior superior cavopulmonary anastomosis, arrhythmias after completion of the circulation (p equals 0.003). The model explained almost one-fifth (18%) of the variation in the calculated scores. The score was not associated with surgical centre, sex, age, weight, fenestration, or the period of stay in hospital after completion of the Fontan circuit. A validation model, using 71 subjects randomly excluded from initial analysis, weakly correlated (R equals 0.17, p equals 0.16) with the score calculated from the dataset.
Right ventricular morphology, higher ventricular end-diastolic pressure and lower saturations of oxygen prior to completion of the Fontan circuit, lower income for the provider of care, and arrhythmias after creation of the circuit, are all associated with a worse functional state. Unmeasured factors also influence outcomes.
The European Sero-Epidemiology Network 2 (ESEN2) aimed to compare serological results of vaccine-preventable diseases across Europe. To ensure direct inter-country comparability of hepatitis A virus antibody (anti-HAV) measurements, a standardization panel of 150 sera was developed by a designated reference laboratory and tested by participating national laboratories using assays of choice; each country's results were subsequently regressed against those of the reference laboratory. Quantitatively, the assays were generally highly correlated (R2>0·90). Nevertheless, qualitative comparisons indicated that results obtained with different assays may differ despite the usage of well-established international and local standards. To a great extent standardization successfully alleviated such differences. The generated standardization equations will be used to convert national serological results into common units to enable direct international comparisons of HAV seroprevalence data. The results of this study are expected to contribute to the evaluation and potential improvement of the currently employed immunization strategies for hepatitis in Europe.
Early results from the SAGE-SMC (Surveying the Agents of Galaxy Evolution in the tidally-disrupted, low-metallicity Small Magellanic Cloud) Spitzer legacy program are presented. These early results concentrate on the SAGE-SMC MIPS observations of the SMC Tail region. This region is the high H i column density portion of the Magellanic Bridge adjacent to the SMC Wing. We detect infrared dust emission and measure the gas-to-dust ratio in the SMC Tail and find it similar to that of the SMC Body. In addition, we find two embedded cluster regions that are resolved into multiple sources at all MIPS wavelengths.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) experiments frequently
administer substantially adapted cognitive tests. This study was designed
to identify FMRI correlates of a well-standardized clinical measure
presented with minor adaptations. We administered the WAIS–III
Symbol Search (SS) and a visuospatial control task to fifteen adults
during FMRI. SS-related brain activity was identified, followed by
analyses of activity related to performance level. Compared to the control
task, SS was associated with greater activity in bilateral medial
occipital, occipitoparietal, occipitotemporal, parietal, and dorsolateral
prefrontal cortices (DLPFC). Across both tasks, slower processing speed
was also related to greater activity in these areas, except right DLPFC.
Greater activity in left DLPFC was specifically related to slower
processing speed during SS. Performance was consistent with education
levels. Findings suggest that SS performance involves regions associated
with executive and visual processing. Furthermore, slower SS performance
was related to greater recruitment of left hemisphere regions associated
with executive function in other studies. (JINS, 2005,