Asthma patients reduce symptoms, improve lung function with shallow breaths, more CO2

Medical Express

Originally posted: Nov. 4, 2014


Asthma patients taught to habitually resist the urge to take deep breaths when experiencing symptoms were rewarded with fewer symptoms and healthier lung function, according to a new study from Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

The findings are from a large clinical trial funded with a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
The results suggest asthma patients using behavioral therapy in conjunction with their daily asthma medicine can improve their lung health over the long-term, said principal investigators Thomas Ritz and Alicia E. Meuret, both SMU clinical psychologists. READ MORE

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Jeffrey Engel, History, different views on fall of Berlin Wall

LA Times

U.S., Russia, Europe, China have different views on Berlin Wall’s fall

November 1, 2014, 7:00 a.m.

The Berlin Wall continues to haunt the world. Only shards remain of the concrete and barbed wire that once divided a city and split a continent. Few can be found in Berlin itself. Sections adorn a men’s room in Las Vegas, a pedestrian mall in South Africa and the dining room at Microsoft. Bits can even be found on EBay (buyer beware).

But the wall’s legacy, not its collectibility, is the problem. The world cannot agree on precisely why it fell, and more broadly why European communism collapsed and the Cold War ended. Four contradictory explanations dominate, from the most powerful corners of the Earth: the United States, Russia, Europe and China. This is no mere academic debate. How political elites understand the past directly affects their strategies for the future, and conflicting readings of a shared pivot point offer a recipe for ongoing international instability. READ MORE

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Cal Jillson, Political Science, candidate with most votes wins, but majority not required

Star Telegram

Originally posted- November 3, 2014

No do-overs: Winners take all in Tuesday’s election.

Whoever gets the most votes wins — a majority is not required.

That’s what voters need to remember about Tuesday’s general election in Texas.

“It’s the first past the post,” said Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, an associate political science professor at the University of North Texas in Denton. “Most people don’t know that.

“But for a lot of reasons, [a majority] just doesn’t matter,” he said. “We have two competitive parties, and most people split between those parties. But there are some situations where it differs.”

Unlike in Texas primaries, where candidates must pick up 50 percent of the votes to win, candidates on the general election ballot simply need a plurality — the most votes — to win.

Several Texans in recent years — from then-Gov. George W. Bush seeking a first term in the White House to Gov. Rick Perry seeking another term in the governor’s mansion to Fort Worth’s Wendy Davis making a bid for the state Senate — have been among those to not hit the 50 percent mark.

“That’s the exception to the rule,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “Most of the time, one candidate or the other gets a majority.”

But if they don’t, they still win in November.

The good news is that the lack of runoffs for the general election means that an already long political season — which has seen Texas’ gubernatorial candidates campaigning for more than a year — will once and for all end Tuesday.

Voting runs from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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SMU seismologists, Texas Railroad Commission says oil companies must check seismic data before drilling

Dallas Morning News

Originally posted: Oct. 28, 2014

The Texas Railroad Commission ruled Tuesday that oil and gas companies must check local seismic data from the U.S. Geological Survey before opening a new waste disposal well.

The new rule follows a series of small but unexpected earthquakes almost 12 months ago around the North Texas town of Azle in the natural gas rich Barnett Shale. The earthquakes are under study by scientists at Southern Methodist University to determine if they were induced by nearby injection wells used to dispose of drilling waste. READ MORE

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Alicia Meuret, Psychology, how to prevent fear from becoming overwhelming

Dallas Morning News

Originally posted: Oct. 27, 2014

Fear on the brain: Why we’re afraid, and how to prevent fear from overwhelming us

Everyone knows what it’s like to be afraid.

A snake slithers unexpectedly across the path ahead, and your body automatically responds. You spring backward should it strike. Your heart pounds, muscles tense, breath quickens. You begin to perspire. All attention is on the snake.

This is the fear response, says Dr. Christa McIntyre-Rodriguez, head of the undergraduate neuroscience program at the University of Texas at Dallas.
It’s a primitive, physiological and emotional response to something perceived as immediately dangerous, she says. Fear focuses our attention and prepares us to act, making it essential to protecting us from threats to our survival — threats like a poisonous snake or an out-of-control car speeding toward us.

But sometimes, fear is unwarranted — say, when you peer closer at the snake and realize it’s just a rubber hose. Other times, fear remains longer than it should, as in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder.
How exactly do our brains process fear? What’s the difference between fear and anxiety? And how can we prevent either from unnecessarily overwhelming us?

We talked with three experts to find out.

A chemical response

When something frightens us, the part of the brain called the amygdala triggers the physiological response we know as fear, explains McIntyre-Rodriguez. After the initial fear response, the neocortex, a more recently evolved part of the brain that’s larger in humans than in other vertebrates, then evaluates the situation, drawing on the wisdom of the individual to determine whether there’s really a danger, she says.

That’s when you ask yourself: Do I need to be fearful of this? If yes, how can I protect myself? If no, OK, I can calm down.

Say somebody jumps out at you in a haunted house. At first you scream in shock, she says, but it’s mere seconds before you realize there’s no immediate threat. The next thing you know, you’re laughing at yourself. That’s the neocortex doing its job.

“Kids really ruminate over these scary things because their neocortex isn’t as developed as an adult’s,” she says. “They rely on their parents. They don’t have the wisdom of a fully developed brain.”

While fear is an immediate response, anxiety is the anticipation of danger, she says.

“Most of anxiety comes from some root fear,” explains Dr. Alan Podawiltz, chairman of psychiatry and behavioral health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and John Peter Smith Health Network.
That could be a fear of financial problems, fear of someone hurting you, fear of flying, fear of snakes, fear of scary stories, etc., he says.

With prolonged anxiety, the cellular structures of the body struggle under the constant cascade of hormones. That can lead to physical problems, such as high blood pressure, lack of appetite and loss of the desire to exercise, he says.

Nevertheless, experts say, anxiety is a part of normal human emotional experience, which means it’s important to have ways to cope with it.

How to cope
Preparing before facing something fearful helps ease anxiety, Podawiltz says.

For example, say you’re anxious before a job interview.
Podawiltz suggests first asking, “Are they going to kill me?”
“No. So there’s no reason for me to have a fight-or-flight response. Now, are they going to ask me about my work experiences? Yes. So, I need to think about what experiences are most appropriate for that setting.”
Imagining what you’re going to be up against and how you will respond helps your body counteract the fear response by slowing the heart rate and relaxing the muscles.

“It’s preparing myself before I go into that arena,” Podawiltz says. “It’s like what teachers do before teaching a class and what the military does before an operation … it doesn’t take away anxiety, but it provides better coping mechanisms when the anxiety does occur.”

Exercises like yoga and meditation help in the same way, he says.
“Don’t attempt to not think about it!” adds Dr. Alicia Meuret, associate professor of psychology and director of the Anxiety and Depression Research Center at Southern Methodist University.
In an email, she explains the tangled logic behind this: “By trying not to think about it, you will need to think about whether you are thinking about it — which will massively increase the amount of thinking about it.”
Instead, Meuret suggests calming irrational fears by considering the likelihood of the worst-case outcome, which might be rather small.
But, she adds, for some people, anxiety can become more frequent, occur at unreasonable times or have an intensity out of proportion relative to the actual danger. In these cases, she says, treatments, such as psychosocial interventions and medication, can help.

“Even though it often seems that what patients with an anxiety disorder are fearful about is trivial, the disorder itself is not,” Meuret says. “It can be extremely disabling and is associated with immense social and economic costs.”

When asked what he fears, Podawiltz says he’s afraid of speaking in front of crowds.

Besides mentally preparing himself before a speech, he also calms himself during the talk by giving himself a physical cue to relax.
With his right hand, he touches his finger to his thumb. To the audience, it looks like he’s merely pointing, but really, he’s pausing, taking a breath and giving himself a mental message to relax.

“Guess what?” asks Podawiltz. “My anxiety lowers.”

Since the Ebola scare in Dallas, McIntyre-Rodriguez says she’s felt fearful of germs. To cope, she reminds herself that it’s helpful to fear germs because that fear reminds her to wash her hands and not touch dirty things.

She also evaluates the risk of encountering the virus with the rewards of experiencing life.

After all, she says, “We have to accept risk in everything.” READ MORE

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KERA Think: Tiny Particles, Big Impact with Physicist Thomas Coan

KERA public radio 90.1 hosted physicist Thomas E. Coan on Krys Boyd‘s “Think” program Oct. 29. Coan and Boyd discussed neutrinos, one of the most elusive particles in the Standard Model’s “particle zoo.” Listen to the Podcast


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SMU bolsters Jewish offerings, Texas Jewish Post

TJP Article

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November 4th – Human Rights Coffee House


Event date: November 4, 2014

Event time: 5:00 p.m.

Event location: Hughes Trigg Student Center, The Varsity

Event Contact: Michelle Anderson

Event Description: Are your electronic products fueling the deadliest war in the world? Find out about the issue of conflict minerals and the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative. Add your voice to the conversation!

For more information:

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Matthew Wilson, Political Science, lieutenant governor candidates on education


Posted Oct. 20, 2014

…..As the Republican nominee in a red state, Patrick is the front-runner in this race. Southern Methodist University Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson believes if Patrick wins he would take his tea party values to the lieutenant governor’s office.

“He’ll want to give these proposals a hearing before the senate. And so therefore, his election would create more of an opportunity for these cherished conservative priorities to actually see the floor,” Wilson says. READ MORE

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Department of Religious Studies hosts a lecture on Muslims and Jews in Christian America

Dallas Morning News

By TAYLOR DANSER Neighborsgo

Published: 23 October 2014 08:25 AM

Religious historian Charles L. Cohen will lecture on Jews and Muslims in Christian America at 4 p.m. Thursday in Room 100 of Southern Methodist University’s Hyer Hall.
Cohen is the E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions and director of the Lubar Institute for the study of Abrahamic Religions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information call Richard Cogley at 214-768-2099.

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