Healthy Aging in the Era of Pandemics

The UC San Diego Center for Healthy aging envisions a world where older adults enjoy the highest level of well-being, through innovative science, inter-professional collaborations, and community partnerships. The center’s research encompasses medicine and healthcare as well as technology, housing, the built environment, and more.

In November 2021, the center hosted a day long symposium focused on healthy aging in the era of pandemics. True to the times, the symposium was held over Zoom allowing researchers from across the country to join and share their latest work. Topics included wisdom and social connections, healthy lifestyle and physical exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, technology for seniors, electronic psychotherapies, and magnetic brain stimulation.

Symposium Highlights:

Loneliness vs. Wisdom in the Era of Pandemics with Dilip V. Jeste
Can wisdom be a safeguard for physical and mental health during difficult times? Dilip V. Jeste, MD explains the biological and cognitive roots of wisdom and how it can be harnessed to combat loneliness.

Electronic Psychotherapies and Cognitive Remediation
How can new technologies be used to help anxiety and depression? Tarek Rajji, MD shares recent findings from trials combining brain stimulation with cognitive remediation. John Torous, MD, MBI takes a deep dive into mental health apps and how to evaluate their effectiveness and utility.

The Role of Exercise and Nutrition in Healthy Aging: From Fall Prevention to Inflammation
Can virtual classes help seniors with fall prevention and staying fit? What are the impacts of diet on inflammation and mental health? Jeanne Nichols, PhD and Mark Rapaport, MD detail their respective work in mental and physical well-being.

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep: How Sleep Affects Our Mental and Physical Health; Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is essential to our physical and mental health. Renowned sleep experts share insights into how to get better sleep as well as current sleep therapies. Ellen Lee, MD explains the biological importance of sleep, its impact on health and aging, and how to improve your sleep habits. Atul Malhotra, MD discusses the impacts of sleep deprivation on your daily life and current treatments for obstructive sleep apnea including the use of CPAP technology.

Aging in Marginalized Communities
María Marquine, PhD shares research on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adults age 50+, noting the differential impact by race/ethnicity in the US. Lauren Brown, PhD discusses the unique stress experience of black older adults.

Technology for Seniors
How are seniors using technology to stay connected and healthy? Ramesh Rao, PhD hosts Tom Kamber and Eric Granholm, PhD for a discussion of technology for seniors including mental health interventions.

Magnetic Brain Stimulation
What is magnetic brain stimulation and how can it be used to improve our health? Dhakshin Ramanathan, MD, PhD and Zafiris “Jeff” Daskalakis, MD, PhD join Jyoti Mishra, PhD to discuss how and why to use therapies such as TMS and MTS to treat depression.

Browse all programs in Healthy Aging in the Era of Pandemics.


How Mass Persuasion Works

The UC San Diego Library presents a fascinating talk by Dr. Joel Dimsdale, distinguished professor emeritus in the UC San Diego Department of Psychiatry.

Dimsdale discusses his latest book “Dark Persuasion: A History of Brainwashing from Pavlov to Social Media,” which traces the evolution of brainwashing from its beginnings in torture and religious conversion into the age of neuroscience and social media.

When Pavlov introduced scientific approaches, his research was enthusiastically supported by Lenin and Stalin, setting the stage for major breakthroughs in tools for social, political and religious control. Tracing these developments through many of the past century’s major conflagrations, Dimsdale explores the history of different methods of interrogation and how Nobel laureates, university academics, intelligence operatives, criminals and clerics all populate this shattering and dark story—one that hasn’t yet ended.

Joel E. Dimsdale is distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego. He consults widely to government agencies and is the author of numerous other works, including “Anatomy of Malice: The Enigma of the Nazi War Criminals.”

Watch Dark Persuasion – The History of Brainwashing from Pavlov to Social Media with Joel Dimsdale .


New CARTA Series: From Molecules to Societies

The latest series from CARTA explores the development of several important distinctly human characteristics that range from molecules, to metabolism, anatomy, disease, and behavior.

In Episode One, UC San Diego professor Carol Marchetto discusses how a comparative gene expression analysis of human and non-human primates revealed differences in the regulation of a class of transposable elements LINE1 retrotransposons between species; University of Southern California professor Joseph Hacia discusses studies profiling phytanic acid levels in red blood cells obtained from humans and captive non-human primates all on low phytanic acid diets; and Emory University professor James Rilling discusses the difference of arcuate fasciculus between human and non-human primate brains and how the specialization of speech has helped humans evolve.

In Episode Two, Emory University professor Dietrich Stout discusses an evolutionarily motivated definition of technology that highlights three key features: material production, social collaboration, and cultural reproduction; UC San Diego professor Pascal Gagneux discusses how recent comparative genome studies have revealed that this polymorphic system is ancient and shared between humans and non-human primates, this despite the fact that none of the great ape species carries all four ABO blood types; and University of Utah professor James O’Connell discusses food sharing, evaluates one hypothesis that focuses on males acquiring big game meat and marrow to provide for mates and offspring. The other hypothesis surrounds how certain kinds of savanna plant food set up the forager interdependence which propelled all aspects of life history change.

In Episode Three, Arizona State University and University of Utah professor Polly Wiessner addresses intergroup ties between humans, chimpanzees and bonobos and explores some of the possible evolutionary developments that contributed to the human disposition to form mutually supportive external bonds, and then discusses the impact of social ties on coalitionary action; UC San Diego professor Rafael Nuñez discusses the comparative analysis of “quantity” and “number”, and the implications it has for debates about the origins of other human special capacities such as geometry, music, and art; and UC San Diego School of Medicine professor Nissi Varki discusses the incidence of carcinomas, including the rarity of occurrence of common human carcinomas in captive chimpanzees.

Explore these programs on more, visit CARTA: Comparative Anthropogeny: From Molecules to Societies.


Staying Accountable for Climate Commitments

Leaders from around the globe have gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in the United Kingdom to focus on efforts being made to reduce the human impact of climate change. Those impacts and the urgency to act have not gone unnoticed in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

As world leaders gather at COP26, The Institute of the Americas (IOA) has released a policy white paper (Nationally Determined Contributions Across the America: A Comparative Hemispheric Analysis) to better assess progress made to date by countries across the Americas in delivering on their climate commitments. The white paper provides a timely snapshot of progress while also highlighting the serious funding gaps that remain if LAC countries are going to deliver on their previously agreed upon climate pledges.

Watch Institute of the Americas Climate Nationally Determined Contributions Report.


Meet a Mathematician

Ever wonder what a scientist does all day? Do they sit in a lab full of bubbling beakers? Are they locked away in a dark room full of reference books? Science Like Me answers those questions, dispels some myths, and more. Saura Naderi, an engineer with a passion for creativity, talks with scientists across UC San Diego about how they found their way into the world of research. Hear about moments from their childhood that sparked their love of science, how they spend a typical day, and what keeps them motivated to learn more and keep science moving forward.

In a recent episode, Naderi spoke with Alex Cloninger, PhD about his path to becoming a mathematician. His current work is in the area of geometric data analysis. His path towards a career in science was set in motion during a childhood trip to a planetarium with his parents. “That, I think, was the first aha moment. Not necessarily that I wanted to go into math, but that science was neat, and surprising, and that I didn’t understand how something happened, and I just wanted to figure it out.”

Cloninger views math as a skill everyone can master with the right tools. “I hate the phrase of someone not being a math person, because I really see learning math and getting to understand math is really just about practice, and about having people that are there to support you in that practice,” he says. He also disagrees with the idea that math is a solitary endeavor. “I think the most surprising thing is how fun and social research can be, and talking with colleagues can be – and that we all have this kind of common interest, maybe not in math, or in physics, or in a particular question, but in curiosity, right? …One of the things that I had no concept of before getting further into math, and even becoming a professor, was that the curiosity of a question can always be fun.”

To learn more about Cloninger’s research and day-to-day life in academia, watch Science Like Me: Meet a Mathematician. Interested in more scientific journeys? Check out the rest of the Science Like Me series.