Babies Who Get Cuddled More Seem to Have Their Genetics Changed For Years Afterwards

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The amount of close and comforting contact that young infants get doesn’t just keep them warm, snug, and loved.

A 2017 study says it can actually affect babies at the molecular level, and the effects can last for years.

Based on the study, babies who get less physical contact and are more distressed at a young age, end up with changes in molecular processes that affect gene expression.

The team from the University of British Columbia in Canada emphasises that it’s still very early days for this research, and it’s not clear exactly what’s causing the change.

But it could give scientists some useful insights into how touching affects the epigenome-the biochemical changes that influence gene expression in the body.

During the study, parents of 94 babies were asked to keep diaries of their touching and cuddling habits from five weeks after birth, as well as logging the behaviour of the infants – sleeping, crying, and so on.

Four-and-a-half years later, DNA swabs were taken of the kids to analyse a biochemical modification called DNA methylation.

It’s an epigenetic mechanism in which some parts of the chromosome are tagged with small carbon and hydrogen molecules, often changing how genes function and affecting their expression.

The researchers found DNA methylation differences between “high-contact” children and “low-contact” children at five specific DNA sites, two of which were within genes: one related to the immune system, and one to the metabolic system.

DNA methylation also acts as a marker for normal biological development and the processes that go along with it, and it can be influenced by external, environmental factors as well.

Then there was the epigenetic age, the biological ageing of blood and tissue. This marker was lower than expected in the kids who hadn’t had much contact as babies, and had experienced more distress in their early years, compared with their actual age.

“In children, we think slower epigenetic ageing could reflect less favourable developmental progress,” said one team member, Michael Kobor.

Gaps between epigenetic age and chronological age have been linked to health problems in the past, but again it’s too soon to draw those kind of conclusions: the scientists readily admit they don’t yet know how this will affect the kids later in life.

We are also talking about less than 100 babies in the study, but it does seem that close contact and cuddles do somehow change the body at a genetic level.

Of course it’s well accepted that human touch is good for us and our development in all kinds of ways, but this is the first study to look at how it might be changing the epigenetics of human babies.

It will be the job of further studies to work out why, and to investigate whether any long-term changes in health might appear as a consequence.

“We plan to follow up on whether the ‘biological immaturity’ we saw in these children carries broad implications for their health, especially their psychological development,” said one of the researchers, Sarah Moore.

“If further research confirms this initial finding, it will underscore the importance of providing physical contact, especially for distressed infants.”

The research was published in Development and Psychopathology.

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The trajectory of a child’s life can be changed if parents know how to deliver “Language Nutrition.”

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An alarming number of  children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade.  This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole. If left unchecked, this problem will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap, and reduce high school dropout rates.  Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to succeed in a global economy, participate in higher education, or enter military and civilian service.

EduCare was created to help reverse this potentially catastrophic trend by delivering common-sense solutions at the federal, state, and local levels.

EduCare is an interactive program that delivers personalized guidance to women and caregivers throughout their pregnancy and baby’s early childhood up to age 8. With no application to download, EduCare acts as a virtual coach for moms and families. The platform provides age-specific guidance to care for baby and encourage physical and emotional health and wellness, and “Language Nutrition” to support nurturing of literacy and brain development.

Early childhood development is our unifying goal; supporting community solutions to address lack of school readiness and helping parents succeed in their critical roles as first teachers and best advocates.

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Make Reading a Part of Your Christmas Tradition.

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Children will love the one-on-one time and will always remember this holiday experience together. This will help show your child that reading is important to you and can be something you both enjoy together.

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Does Global Warming Mark the End for Chocolate?

schokoladeWhen anything bad happens we can usually count on one thing to make us feel better…chocolate. After all, there’s nothing like a good candy bar or pain au chocolat to comfort us in times of trouble. But what happens when the cruel world decides to target our chocolate supply? Continue reading

Nuture young readers by bringing books to life.

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Most parents know that reading bedtime stories to preschoolers is key to developing early literacy. But new research with low-income children by psychologists suggests it takes more than nightly reading to foster a child’s future reading success.

Parents, teachers and others who read to children must also engage young children with lively, enthusiastic recitations that bring characters and plots to life, and pose open-ended questions that spark children’s comprehension, vocabulary and interest.

Such reading-aloud extras, say researchers, are as important as regular teeth-brushing for children ages 4 and 5 because they can be the difference between a child who picks up reading easily and one who struggles when he or she reaches kindergarten.

“Everyone feels like they know how to read a book to children,” says Karen Stoiber, PhD, of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, who directs the EMERGE project, a reading intervention she’s conducting with Milwaukee’s Head Start program. But in reality, many parents and teachers need coaching on how to ask questions as they go along to emphasize rhyming and to teach children how to follow words on the page.

Numerous studies over the last decade show that such strategies are vital for boosting low-income children’s vocabularies, language development, sound awareness and letter recognition abilities—all building blocks for early literacy. According to National Center for Education Statistics data, only 20 percent of 4-year-olds in poverty can recognize all 26 letters, compared with 37 percent of their peers at or above the poverty level.

Stoiber and other psychologists are including such coaching as part of interventions proven to improve pre-reading skills among low-income preschoolers. One of the best ways to boost these children’s literacy is by helping teachers and parents maximize the time they spend reading with their children, says Jorge E. Gonzalez, PhD, of Texas A&M University, a U.S. Department of Education-funded researcher who studies oral language and literacy development.

“Children who start school with a poor vocabulary rarely catch up,” says Gonzalez. “The bottom line is there is not a lot of room for error on this issue.”

The Reason Curious Kids Are More Likely to Succeed in School

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New research finds curious kids achieve greater success in school, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Plenty of parents will tell you that one of the most annoying questions to come out of their kids’ mouths is “Why?”                                                          

There’s a stage nearly every child goes through, when it becomes their response to almost everything — even your answer to the last time they asked the question.

It can be exhausting, particularly when you don’t actually know the answer to whatever it is they’re currently questioning. Why is the sky blue? Does anyone actually know?

But take heart, parents. All those “whys” could pay off in a big way for your little one down the line.

Pediatric Research recently published a study linking curiosity to academic achievement. The study involved direct assessments given to 6,200 kindergarten students, as well as parent-reported behavioral questionnaires. The results yielded a correlation between curiosity and greater academic achievement in reading and math.

The study’s findings may help ease the minds of many modern parents, particularly in light of a 2016 poll that found over 50 percent of parents with kids under the age of 18 placed their children’s academic performance as being among their top three parenting concerns.

But if curiosity is the key to academic success, can curiosity be fostered, or is it an innate trait?

Lead researcher Dr. Prachi Shah believes it’s a little bit of both. She explains, “I think we can align experiences with a child’s innate passions, and in that way, we can cultivate their interests and their engagement in topics that can help foster early learning.”

The new study gives her hope that cultivating curiosity can help improve academic performance throughout their lives.

Good teachers find ways to connect what the students are learning to things that matter to them. An easy way to do this is to give them part of the whole picture, and then provide ways for students to put the pieces together themselves. Even though it can be tricky, students feel a greater sense of accomplishment when they figure stuff out on their own.

Dr. Shah thinks a lot of it also has to do with teaching to a child’s specific interests. “Kids can be curious about one topic, but not another,” she explains. “For both parents and educators, it’s really about discovering what a child’s individual passions are. What’s driving their interest? If a child feels they can play an active part in making a decision about what they are pursuing, that helps them to be more invested in what they’re learning.”

The Weather and Big Data Equals Big Business.

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The weather has a significant influence on almost one-third of the world’s buying everyday. “The old paradigm of business and weather was cope and avoid,” says The Weather Channel’s vice president for weather analytics. “With [big data] technology, the paradigm is now anticipate and exploit.”

The Weather Channel (TWC) is an American basic channel and satellite television company, owned by a consortium made up of Blackstone Group, Bain Capital, and NBCUniversal located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The channel has broadcast weather forecasts and weather-related news and analysis, along with documentaries and entertainment programming related to weather since 1982.

TWC provides numerous customized forecasts for online users through its website, weather.com, including home and garden, and event planning forecasts. Third-party web analytics providers Alexa and SimilarWeb rated the site as the 146th and 244th most visited website in the world respectively, as of July 2015. SimilarWeb rated the site as the most visited weather website globally, attracting more than 126 million visitors per month.

That massive web traffic is exactly how The Weather Channel has turned ‘Big Data’ into a completely new business.

TWC is before all a technology platform operator, which developed an extremely high-volume data platform, collecting and analyzing data from 3 billion weather forecast reference points, more than 40 million smartphones and 50,000 airplane flights per days, and serves 65 billion unique access to weather data each day.

TWC collects terabytes of data everyday and uses it not only to predict the weather in millions of locations, but also to predict what consumers in those locations will buy.

In a very savvy move TWC married more than 75 years’ worth of weather data with aggregated consumer purchasing data. For example, air-conditioners sales increases during hot weather, but folks in Atlanta suffer three days longer than people in Chicago before running out to buy one. Such analysis has created a whole new business for TWC – ‘Selling ads based on big data analytics’.

For example, P&G Pantene and Puffs brands buy ads based on TWC’s weather and consumption analytics. A women checking The Weather Channel app in a humid locale receives an ad for Pantene Pro-V Smooth, a product formulated to tame frizzy hair.

Checking the app again on low humidity day or drier area results in seeing an ad for a volumizing product instead. Similarly, a consumer looking at a high pollen forecast receives an ad for Puffs facial tissues, with the message, “A face in need deserves Puffs indeed.”

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Currently, TWC is generating half of the company’s ad revenue to the business using web analytics.

Big data and web analytics helped TWC maintain an extensive online presence at weather.com and through a set of mobile applications for smartphones and tablet computers. These services are now administered by The Weather Channel’s former parent company, The Weather Company, which was sold to IBM in 2016. The Weather Channel continues to license its brand assets and weather data from IBM.

TWC’s case is the epitome of how effective use of big data and web analytics can lead to marketing opportunities. It also demonstrates how today’s big companies can advance through ‘Digital Marketing’ which can also help them to diversify and strengthening their business portfolios.