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Updated 10:30 AM October 8, 2004




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Research Notes

How individuals handle victory impacts ability to learn, hormonal levels

Some people are more comfortable losing than winning. Others get so depressed or angry if they lose, they don't learn from their mistakes, a U-M study says.
People report being happy after winning and blue after losing, but their ability to learn and their emotional hormonal state are influenced by their gender as well as their need to have an impact on other people. Men with a high power motivation who won big saw their testosterone levels surge 10 percent after their victories.

Almost universally, people report being happy after winning and blue after losing, but their ability to learn and their emotional hormonal state are influenced by their gender as well as their need to have an impact on other people. The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Some people want to lose because they feel uncomfortable being the center of attention," says psychology Professor Oliver Schultheiss. "So it's not just the situation, but your need for power over others that affects the way you react."

Men and women with a need to make a difference in other people's lives—a group that includes high-profile/high-impact figures such as politicians, leaders, journalists, comedians and teachers—are considered high in power motivation. This group's ability to learn increases after a victory.

People who shy away from dealing with other people and lack the strong need to impact others are considered low in power motivation. Subjects competed on a test that was rigged for subjects to either win or lose eight out of 10 rounds.

The study found men with a high power motivation who won big saw their testosterone levels surge 10 percent after their victories, and the better they performed, the more their ability to learn increased; comparable men who lost saw their testosterone levels drop 17 percent and they also showed learning deficits. Testosterone levels and learning were the exact opposite among low-power motivated men, who were far more comfortable losing than winning.

High-power women showed better learning abilities if they won and worse learning if they lost, and, conversely, low-power women were more likely to show better learning after a defeat than after a victory. Unlike men, however, high-power motivated women saw no change in testosterone when they won and a 20 percent jump in testosterone when they lost.

Attention to detail can make kids' hospital stays shorter, less costly, less frequent

A new study shows that sick children can go home from the hospital more quickly, less expensively and with less chance of a repeat visit if children's hospitals use a unique source of national data to check their performance against other children's hospitals and show them where they can improve.

The data, from the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), are specially adjusted to reflect the severity, or acuity, of children's illnesses. The study on their use, performed at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, will be published in the October issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The new study is based on data from children who had asthma attacks that required hospitalization. But the authors say their approach could be used to evaluate and improve care of any kind at any children's hospital. If more hospitals paid this kind of attention to detailed data and acted on the results, they could provide higher quality, more efficient and less costly care to many more children, the researchers say.

The study shows that the U-M team reduced the length and cost growth of asthmatic children's hospital stays, and their readmission rates, by using child-specific national data to check Mott's performance and look for opportunities to improve the delivery of asthma care in the hospital.

The adjusted medical codes and database allow a children's hospital to make an "apples to apples" comparison of itself against the average performance of all other hospitals. Such comparisons can be made for specific conditions, such as asthma or infectious diseases, and broken down by the severity of the condition. Where there is room for improvement, the data point medical staff toward opportunities for change.

"The original medical data system, called DRGs for Diagnosis-Related Groups, was built for adults, but kids are different," says lead author Dr. Aileen Sedman, who led the team while she was associate chief of clinical affairs at the U-M Health System and who now works as a medical advisor for NACHRI. She is an emeritus professor of pediatrics at the Medical School. "Now that we can look at these data in a child-specific way, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve quality."

Dr. Samya Nasr, clinical director of pediatric pulmonology, was co-author, and U-M Health System chief of clinical affairs Darrell Campbell was senior author.

Gene that fights off bacteria helps maintain normal eyesight

Scientists have learned that a family of genes long known to be integral to the immune system also plays a role in vision, perhaps preventing certain blinding diseases. The gene, TLR4, enables the eye to clear old outer segments, a function that is essential for maintaining normal vision. The gene belongs to a group of toll-like receptors (TLRs), which dispose of bacteria and other foreign matter in cells throughout the body.

Howard R. Petty, a biophysicist for the Kellogg Eye Center, says the discovery will give scientists new ways of thinking about the chain of molecular events that lead to eye disease. His findings were reported in the August issue of the Journal of General Physiology.

To maintain vision, the eye must continuously dispose of the aging or damaged outer segments of photoreceptor cells. This takes place in the layer of cells known as the retinal pigment epithelium. "The process is a little like recycling," Petty says. "As outer segments of photoreceptor cells become worn out, new outer segments are generated to replace them. If the eye cannot efficiently dispose of its worn out segments, a person will go blind."

As scientists learn more about this gene, they may find new avenues for studying such diseases as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration, Petty says. In RP, the damaged outer segments accumulate in the eye tissue, resulting in near or total blindness. If further studies show that TLR4 is associated with RP, scientists can begin to look at genetic therapies based on enabling TLR4 to perform its cleansing function. Petty already is conducting research to learn more about TLR4 and how its proteins interact with other elements involved in clearing outer segments.

The paper, "Toll-Like Receptor 4 (TLR4) of Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells Participates in Transmembrane Signaling in Response to Photoreceptor Outer Segments," is available at

In addition to Petty, other authors from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences are: Dr. Andrei L. Kindzelskii, Dr. Victor M. Elner, Dr. Susan G. Elner, Dr. Dongli Yang and Bret A. Hughes.

Standard psychological tools can be revised to test elderly Arab-Americans

A study by a faculty member at
U-M-Dearborn and researchers at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) has demonstrated that standard tools used to measure depression and dementia can be translated adequately for use among elderly Arab Americans.

In addition to translating the tools into Arabic, the researchers modified some cultural references that were in the original tests. The result assures uniform testing, thus avoiding non-standardized use of the tests. The study was conducted among a sample of nearly 200 elderly Arabs and Arab Americans in southeastern Michigan.

The results do more than prove the validity of the standard tests for depression when translated for this population, according to U-M-Dearborn psychology Professor Nancy Wrobel. "They also highlight the notion that even elderly minority group members in an area which is densely populated by their own group experience some difficulties with acculturation that may impact their mental health."

The long-term goal of the project is to improve the identification of dementia, depression and stress within this population through the translation and validation of commonly used diagnostic tests, Wrobel says.

Wrobel conducted the study with Mohamed F. Farrag, a psychologist associated with ACCESS, supported by a grant from the U.S. Administration on Aging, administered by Wayne County Senior Citizens' Services. The project was completed in conjunction with The Senior Alliance-Area Agency on Aging 1-C, which serves elderly people in western and southern Wayne County.

The results show that a majority of the 198 elderly Arab Americans in the study need substantial assistance with daily living and management of their own affairs. The data also suggest that the number of participants with symptoms of depression was much higher than the reported number who actually had received a diagnosis of depression before the study was started.

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