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UCLA Campus Report: Does Junk Food Make You Lazy?, More

A look at some of the non-sports stories making headlines around campus

Bunche Hall
Bunche Hall

An occasional report from around campus that recognizes that UCLA is a school with a world-class reputation for research and innovation and whose people make real impact on the real world:

The non-sports report returns this week with a small apology: I haven’t had a chance to get on campus and take some new pictures, so this week’s is a repeat. Other than that, here goes …

This week’s news focuses on the effect of a junk food diet, the difficulty in reducing bullying and a breakthrough in treating paraplegics.

UCLA Headines

Does a junk food diet make you lazy? UCLA psychology study offers answer

A new UCLA psychology study provides evidence that being overweight makes people tired and sedentary — not the other way around.

Life scientists led by UCLA's Aaron Blaisdell placed 32 female rats on one of two diets for six months. The first, a standard rat's diet, consisted of relatively unprocessed foods like ground corn and fish meal. The ingredients in the second were highly processed, of lower quality and included substantially more sugar — a proxy for a junk food diet.

After just three months, the researchers observed a significant difference in the amount of weight the rats had gained, with the 16 on the junk food diet having become noticeably fatter.

"One diet led to obesity, the other didn't," said Blaisdell, a professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute.

The experiments the researchers performed, Blaisdell said, also suggest that fatigue may result from a junk food diet.

Schools have limited success in reducing bullying, new analysis finds

Two UCLA professors who conducted the most thorough analysis to date of studies on school bullying have found that K-12 schools' efforts to curtail bullying are often disappointing.

The study revealed that schools are trying many different approaches to protect students, and while the more comprehensive programs have been the most effective, they require substantial commitment and school resources to be successful.

"Band-Aid solutions, such as holding one assembly a year that discourages bullying, do not work," said Jaana Juvonen, a UCLA professor of psychology and lead author of the review. "We are trying to figure out the right balance between comprehensive programs that are costly and require a lot of staff training versus programs that require fewer school resources."

The review, published in the journal Annual Review of Psychology, also debunks some common misconceptions about bullying. For example, while it was previously assumed that verbal aggression and exclusion were bullying tactics used more commonly by girls than by boys, the analysis revealed that boys use the tactics as much as girls do.

Perhaps less surprisingly, Juvonen said, gay and lesbian students and students who are overweight tend to get bullied significantly more than other students.

"Starting in elementary school, kids with characteristics that make them stand out are much more likely to get bullied," said Juvonen, who consults with several schools on anti-bullying programs. "They are prime targets for bullies because they are more likely to be friendless, and when they have nobody to defend them, the bullying often escalates."

Breakthrough therapy allows four paraplegic men to voluntarily move their legs

Four young men who have been paralyzed for years achieved groundbreaking progress — moving their legs — as a result of epidural electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, an international team of life scientists reports today in the medical journal Brain.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Louisville, UCLA and the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, was funded in part by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

All four participants were classified as suffering from chronic, motor complete spinal cord injuries and were unable to move their lower extremities prior to the implantation of an epidural stimulator. The stimulator delivers a continuous electrical current to the participants' lower spinal cords, mimicking signals the brain normally transmits to initiate movement.

The research builds on an initial study, published in May 2011 in the journal The Lancet, that evaluated the effects of epidural stimulation in the first participant, Rob Summers of Portland, Ore., who recovered a number of motor functions as a result of the intervention.

Now, three years later, the key findings documented in Brain detail the impact of epidural stimulation in a total four participants, including new tests conducted on Summers. Summers was paralyzed after being struck by a vehicle, and the other three participants were paralyzed in auto or motorcycle accidents.

UCLA in the News

Growth of Jazz Programs at Colleges | Christian Science Monitor

"Kenny Burrell is fundraising, bending ears, and twisting some well-connected arms to bolster America's jazz curriculum, specifically the University of California at Los Angeles's jazz-studies program, for which Mr. Burrell serves as founder and director. He persuaded the internationally renowned Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to partner with UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music in 2012, hoping to foster the exchange of musicians and ideas."

UCLA Freshman Applications | New York Times

"The University of California, Los Angeles, the national leader in applications, had more than 86,000 requests – twice as many as in 2005 – for space in a first-year class of about 6,000, and it also received 19,000 applications to transfer from other colleges and universities."

Focusing on One Sport Doesn't Guarantee Success | HealthDay News

"'Most successful athletes participate in a number of sports when they're 6, 8 or 10 years old,' said Dr. John DiFiori, chief of sports medicine at UCLA's School of Medicine. 'That way, kids learn different skills and have the chance to discover which sport they truly enjoy.'"

UCLA Seeks to Test Pharmaceutical Cannabis Extract | Los Angeles Daily News

"United Kingdom-based GW Pharmaceuticals received the go-ahead to continue with clinical trials for their product Epidiolex in February and UCLA wants to be on the list of test sites, according to Dr. Raman Sankar, chief of pediatric neurology at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA."