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Want good grades? Quit Facebook now

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Sydney, Nov 12 : Parents, take note. If you want your children to score good grades in exams, tell them to quit social media as researchers have found that students whose grades were below average could boost their results if they devoted less time on social networking sites, especially Facebook.

The study, published in the journal Computers & Education, looked at the amount of time first-year university students spent on Facebook, and the impact it had on their grades.

More than 500 students enrolled in the first year subject ‘Introductory Accounting’ at an Australian university took part in the study, with an average age of 19.

The research from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) showed that while high achieving students were not affected by the amount of time on Facebook, below average students had significantly lower grades with greater Facebook use.

“Our research shows time spent on social networking platforms puts lower academic achievers at higher risk of failing their course,” said study researcher James Wakefield from the UTS.

Students taking part in the study spent on average nearly two hours a day on Facebook, however some were on the social networking site in excess of eight hours a day.

“Lower achieving students may already be grappling with self-regulation and focus, so it seems time spent on Facebook provides a further distraction from studies,” Wakefield said.

Researchers found that if the students used Facebook for three hours a day – not substantially higher than the average of just under two hours – the difference was around six marks in a 60 mark exam or 10 per cent.

While the research applies to university students studying STEM and business degrees, it is likely to also be relevant to high school students who use social media.

For the findings, researchers assessed the students’ general academic achievement using their weighted average mark (WAM) across all of their studies, and surveyed them about their Facebook use.

They also controlled for other factors that might influence their achievement, such as whether they were planning to major in accounting, as well as their age and gender.

“It appears that for students with lower academic achievement, the use of social networking sites replaces study time, whereas high achieving students are able to juggle both,” he said.

According to the researchers, students with below average grades would benefit from switching off notifications on their phones, and either quitting or reducing time spent on Facebook.

The research also looked at why students were using Facebook – whether to keep in touch with family and friends, for entertainment or for study purposes.

However, even when students used Facebook primarily for educational purposes, it was still a problem for lower performing students.

Health

Brain protein that could protect against Alzheimer’s disease

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Researchers have found that a protein that regulates white blood cells in the human brain could protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

The results published in the journal Communications Biology suggest that this protein, called CD33, could have important implications in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

“Immune cells in the brain, called microglia, play a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease,” explained study co-author Matthew Macauley, Assistant Professor at University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

“They can be harmful or protective. Swaying microglia from a harmful to protective state could be the key to treating the disease,” Macauley added.

Scientists have identified the CD33 protein as a factor that may decrease a person’s likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, Macauley’s research has shown that the most common type of CD33 protein plays a crucial role in modulating the function of microglia.

“The fact that CD33 is found on microglia suggests that immune cells can protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease under the right circumstances,” said Abhishek Bhattacherjee, first author and postdoctoral fellow in the Macauley lab.

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 44 million people around the world.

“These findings set the stage for future testing of a causal relationship between CD33 and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as testing therapeutic strategies to sway microglia from harmful to protecting against the disease – by targeting CD33,” said Macauley.

“Microglia have the potential to ‘clean up’ the neurodegenerative plaques, through a process called phagocytosis — so a therapy to harness this ability to slow down or reverse Alzheimer’s disease can be envisioned,” Macauley said.

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Lifestyle

Over 9 hours’ of sleep may raise stroke risk by 23%

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New York: People who sleep nine or more hours per night are 23 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who sleep seven to less than eight hours per night, warns a new study.

The results revealed that long naps are also not good for your health.

People who took a regular midday nap lasting more than 90 minutes were 25 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who took a regular nap lasting from one to 30 minutes, said the study published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

People who took no naps or took naps lasting from 31 minutes to one hour were no more likely to have a stroke than people who took naps lasting from one to 30 minutes.

“More research is needed to understand how taking long naps and sleeping longer hours at night may be tied to an increased risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown that long nappers and sleepers have unfavourable changes in their cholesterol levels and increased waist circumferences, both of which are risk factors for stroke,” said study author Xiaomin Zhang of Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China.

“In addition, long napping and sleeping may suggest an overall inactive lifestyle, which is also related to increased risk of stroke,” Zhang said.

The study involved 31,750 people in China with an average age of 62. The people did not have any history of stroke or other major health problems at the start of the study.

They were followed for an average of six years. During that time, there were 1,557 stroke cases.

The people were asked questions about their sleep and napping habits.

People who were both long nappers and long sleepers were 85 per cent more likely to later have a stroke than people who were moderate sleepers and nappers, said the study.

“These results highlight the importance of moderate napping and sleeping duration and maintaining good sleep quality, especially in middle-age and older adults,” Zhang said.

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India

Reduce helplessness for a stable society: Sudha Murthy

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New Delhi, Dec 11 : The conversation starts with Jean Paul Sartre and ends with Ayushmann Khurrana. And she seems happy about that.

At Infosys’ guesthouse in the national capital, which shuns shouting ‘corporates’, Sudha Murthy is sitting in a small room. The larger conference hall is reserved for waiting journalists.

In town for the Penguin Annual Lecture 2019, Murthy says her many roles, including being the Chairperson of Infosys Foundation, a writer, social worker and administrator, complete her.

“I must thank my excellent support system, else it would have been tough to do justice to them all. Frankly, there is not much demand from home and I don’t socialise much — no partying, get-togethers and very rare wedding appearances,” Murthy smiles.

That gives her enough time to write, she says.

“It is after all my cherished expression that lets me talk about what I feel deeply about, my joys, the sorrows,” she says, and adds, perhaps as an afterthought, “When something comes to my mind, I finish a book within 15-20 days.”

Murthy, however, doesn’t really like the fact that most schools, except perhaps some alternative ones, pay little attention to encouraging writing or pushing students towards other art forms.

“There seems to be such a drastic change from our times when hobby classes were an integral part. Now, both schools and parents are only looking at making their kids computer proficient from an early age.

“Of course, it also has to do with the intense competition in the face of a huge population, but it would be nice if they realised that encouraging creativity at an early age works wonders later on,” she says.

As the conversation veers towards her latest book ‘The Daughter from a Wishing Tree: Unusual Tales from Women in Mythology’, the author insists that mythology, which has been written by men, does not really boast of many prominent women characters, except Sita and Draupdi.

“And this is despite the fact that several women have taken very strong and decisive decisions, which have changed dynasties. Yet, they remain unsung. The book is, therefore, about unusual women, away from the popular narrative, but extremely important,” she says.

Stating that mythology happens to be an indispensable part of Indian culture, Murthy feels that it can be the saving light in the bleakest of times.

“Once you understand that it is not to be taken literally and is open to interpretation, it serves its true purpose — taking life head-on and never getting bogged down even in the worst of times,” she says.

For Murthy, who for decades has been working with the underprivileged, the one emotion that always strikes her is helplessness.

“The moment people start feeling that, they take extreme measures. Look at the French Revolution or the Naxalite movement closer home. In order to ascertain a healthy and stable society, it is important to reduce that helplessness and that’s what I work for,” she says.

Considering the fact that she was the only girl student in her engineering class and was the first woman engineer to be hired by TATA Engineering and Locomotive Company (TELCO), does she feel that things have really changed for women?

“For educated women, yes. If you look at the southern states, the demand for dowry has come down considerably in most communities. Education, leading to financial independence, has surely made women more empowered,” Murthy says.

Not only social justice, education or poverty alleviation, Murthy knows her cinema well too.

“I am a complete movie buff who still prefers to go for the late night show and seldom watch movies at home. Nowadays, I don’t miss any films starring Ayushmann Khurrana considering the fact that he makes such sensible choices. Well, I do miss the subtle style of directors like Basu Bhattacharya and Hrishikesh Mukherjee, but really admire Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s work among the contemporary directors,” Murthy concludes.

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