Check Out Our Latest Research Roundup

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Do you want to keep up with the latest Mass General research news but find yourself short on time? There’s a solution for that! Our monthly Research Roundup column highlights recent developments from our talented clinician-investigators and PhD scientists, and you can read it in just a few minutes. Find out more about heart implants, busy brain, a new diabetes study, and more! Check our July roundup here.

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Making Popcorn at the Mass General Picnic

Editor’s Note: This summer we have two communications interns working with us to write stories about research at the hospital and their experiences being part of the hospital community. This is a post by our intern Alyssa.

On one of the first days of my internship, I was given a sheet of paper outlining important dates scattered throughout the following few weeks. Arguably the most important event was the annual Employee Summer Picnic, where the Research Institute had a vital job to perform (or so I was continuously told).

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Through means I’m unaware of, we had been designated years ago to pop popcorn at each Summer Picnic. We had developed a sort of cult following, as people were apparently requesting our presence at this year’s event.

So when the day came, we arrived at the Bulfinch Lawn early to set up shop. Our table was situated on the patio to the side of the stage, where members of the New England Patriots would appear as part of the My Giving Helps employee campaign.

Last year, the campaign raised over $1 million to help support clinical advancements at Mass General and local families in need. There was a pretty tremendous turnout, and I imagine that even those who couldn’t donate still came out to support the cause.

I surprisingly learned the ropes of popcorn-making pretty quickly. While at first I assumed this would be my first and only experience as a food vendor, I actually used my newfound skills the following weekend when my friend was unsure of the kernel-to-oil ratio when popping popcorn at her party.

Though there was concern at first about the quantity of popcorn we were supplied with, the rush didn’t last long. As soon as the Patriots players (please don’t ask me for their names) started playing a life-size version of Operation on stage, people abandoned food lines to catch a photo, or a 15-minute video.

Even as it started raining, people still held out their phones and tablets while we rushed to salvage our top-notch popcorn machines. Despite the definitive forecast, no one had arranged for our prized table to be covered from the downpours and our power strips were rendered useless.

So we stood under the awning and watched the stage, while people actually tried to coerce us into giving them the leftover kernels sitting at the bottom of the now soaked machines.

But if amateur popped popcorn is what brings attention to the hard work being done at the Research Institute, I don’t mind smelling a bit like burnt butter for the day.

Why A Cluttered Mind is Bad for Creativity

Massachusetts General Hospital researcher Dr. Moshe Bar explains why a clear mind is vital for innovative thinking in a recent New York Times opinion piece.

“We found that a high mental load consistently diminished the originality and creativity of the response: Participants with seven digits to recall resorted to the most statistically common responses (e.g., white/black), whereas participants with two digits gave less typical, more varied pairings (e.g., white/cloud).

“In another experiment, we found that longer response times were correlated with less diverse responses, ruling out the possibility that participants with low mental loads simply took more time to generate an interesting response. Rather, it seems that with a high mental load, you need more time to generate even a conventional thought. These
experiments suggest that the mind’s natural tendency is to explore and to favor novelty, but when occupied it looks for the most familiar and inevitably least interesting solution.”

READ THE STORY

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Longest Day Event Offers Insights into Alzheimer’s Disease

(Editor’s note: This summer, the Mass General Research Institute has two communications interns working with us as we work to highlight all of the research that takes place across Massachusetts General Hospital. Here is a post from our intern, Milo Goodman.)

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Last month, Alyssa and I took a trip over to the MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day event.

The event’s purpose was to share relevant research about Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders as well as information on how Mass General utilizes state-of-the-art imaging techniques and provides services that help to maintain quality of life for both the patient and the caregiver.

Continue reading “Longest Day Event Offers Insights into Alzheimer’s Disease”

Mass General Researchers Unwrap Their Scientific Challenges Over Lunch

(Editor’s Note: The Massachusetts General Hospital Research Institute has two communications interns from Emerson College this summer. This post is from our intern Alyssa.)

I’ve been alternating my time at the Mass General Research Institute between creating social media friendly content, generating story outlines, and delving into unfamiliar clinical research.

But one of my favorite experiences was attending the Research Portfolio Wrap Session a few weeks back.

Aside from indulging in free lunch (the provided tomato, basil, and mozzarella sandwiches were much higher quality than those served at my school), I was able to get the inside scoop on the current research efforts being taken on by some of Mass General’s brightest scientific minds.

Continue reading “Mass General Researchers Unwrap Their Scientific Challenges Over Lunch”

Mass General Researcher Uses the Web to Map the mind

We’ve all seen those quizzes on the web and in our social media feeds: Which 90s TV star are you? What character would you be in the Harry Potter universe? Normally, we see them as a fun and inconsequential distraction, a way to pass the time while we’re waiting in line at the store or unwinding at the end of the day.

It turns out, however, that web-based quizzes can be a powerful research tool.

While they may not be able to tell you what celebrity you resemble or what your spirit animal would be, a team of researchers led by Mass General’s Laura Germine, PhD, has been using web-based testing for more than a decade to gain valuable scientific insights into the mysteries of human cognition.

Germine, an investigator in the Mass General Department of Psychiatry, is a pioneer in the growing field of citizen science, a process where large numbers of people contribute to science—usually online—by volunteering to participate in experiments posted by
researchers.

By posting cognitive assessment tests on her website, TestMyBrain.org, Germine has been able to gain access to a much larger pool of research subjects than would be possible with a traditional in-lab research study.

She has also been able to capture the types of subjects who have been difficult to recruit into research, such as middle-aged subjects who are typically at work or with children when most research studies are conducted in the lab.

“It’s nice to be able to have an experiment where instead of having 40 to 50 to 100 people, we get 1,000 to 5,000 to 10,000 people,” Germine explained in a recent interview. “It makes for science that is more statistically powerful. In a traditional trial it’s usually not feasible to get that many people in the door. It’s just never going to happen. If you could, it would be at an enormous expense.”

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