College Nation

Legislators consider regulating morality


Louisiana State University

Tensions were high as afternoon turned to dusk, and residents of Brazoria, Texas, wanted the conflict resolved. Young and old, white and black, all wanted their chance at the microphone to voice their concerns to the mayor and city council.

Everyone had a different reason for not wanting a city ordinance banning the use of the word “nigger,” not only because of the $500 fine, but because not everyone has the same standards of morality.

They gathered in the City Hall parking lot, where city officials sat behind a white covered table in the rear of a flatbed trailer. At the end of the night, the ordinance failed.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for a ban of the word by entertainers in late November, just one day after comedian Michael Richards appeared on Jackson’s radio show to apologize for his racist rant the week before.

Jackson’s call for a ban wasn’t accepted well by some entertainers, and it is one of many efforts some perceive as trying to impose morality upon the masses.

Some legislators, including Louisiana state Rep. William Daniel of Baton Rouge, think morality issues will be more frequently discussed and voted on in the future.

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Daniel said morality issues are the hardest to debate because there is no right and no wrong.

– Courtesy of the Daily Reveille

Genetics, depression linked in study


Stanford University

Genetics of Recurrent Early-Onset Major Depression, a study coordinated by Dr. Douglas Levinson, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has shown that a gene in a small region of Chromosome 15 is probably responsible for increasing the risk of early-onset clinical depression, despite the influence of environmental factors.

The study, a joint effort between Levinson’s Stanford-based group and five other research teams at Columbia, Howard, John Hopkins, Rush and Iowa universities, was the culmination of two decades of scientific work on the genetic influence on psychiatric diseases. The study’s findings were published in two papers in the February issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The primary research technique used in the study was “positional cloning,” an approach in which the exact sequence of a gene is located using its position on the genome. This technique is necessary for diseases like depression, which are difficult to diagnose and have unknown causes.

Through the linking of the invisible to the observable, Levinson has been able to trace the genetic origins of diseases like schizophrenia and depression.

In positional cloning, genes are located using their proximity to known “markers” in the genome. The “markers” are like the obvious similarities that Levinson uses to track the invisible genes that cause diseases.

Use of different markers has allowed scientists to become increasingly precise over time. The original markers were known genetic variations like blood type, which could be assessed clinically, but Levinson’s team turned to single nucleotide polymorphisms, called SNPs or “snips”.

“You’re looking for direct correlation between having DNA sequence variation and getting sick,” Levinson said.

SNPs allowed scientists to form genetic maps detailed enough to track even the weak genetic influence exerted by diseases like depression. But they did so only in conjunction with extremely large sample sizes.

Levinson said that the findings could eventually lead to advances in the treatment of early-onset depression. This particular form of depression, he said, affects 3 to 4 percent of the population and can lead to suicide. Patients with depression, he said, describe “losing a sense of enjoyment in things.”

– The Stanford Daily

Binge eating surpasses anorexia and bulimia as most common eating disorder


University of Syracuse

Contrary to common belief, binge eating is the most frequent eating disorder, according to the first national census on eating disorders.

The prevalence of binge eating outpaces other well-known eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, according to the study conducted by researchers at Harvard University-affiliated McLean Hospital.

The study is based on data obtained in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, which surveyed more than 9,000 adults nationwide from 2001 to 2003.

Researchers found that binge eaters comprised 3.5 percent of the female sample and 2 percent of the male sample. The incidence of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa afflicted less than 2 percent of women and less than 1 percent of men.

About 0.9 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men reported suffering at some point from anorexia nervosa – a disorder characterized by an exaggerated fear of weight gain, which leads to self-starvation, according to the report.

The study found 1.5 percent of women and 0.5 percent of men reported the condition of bulimia nervosa, in which binge eating is followed by attempts to compensate by methods such as self-induced vomiting, excessive laxative use or exercise.

“Binge eating isn’t talked about much,” said Michelle Gallant, nutritionist and health educator at the SU Health Center. “More people are doing it than we realize.”

Although binge eating is not currently an official psychiatric diagnosis, the study – published Feb. 1 in the medical journal Biological Psychiatry – calls the disorder a “major public health burden” because of its direct link to severe obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.

– The Daily Orange