The Lab: research news from UCR and the UC system

Photo Courtesy of tobaccofreeca.com
Photo Courtesy of tobaccofreeca.com

Tobacco Control Program
A new study at UC San Francisco has set out to examine the impact of the California Tobacco Control Program (CTCP) from 1989 to 2008. The main goal of this tobacco control program is to reduce the use of tobacco products per individual and, in turn, decrease both state and health care costs. According to the UC Newsroom, this program will “cost $2.4 billion and reduced healthcare costs by $134 billion.”

The study has shown that tobacco control funding is simultaneously connected with the decrease of cigarette and tobacco sales among billions of consumers. Nearly $28.5 billion have been deducted from the overall sales of numerous tobacco companies. The study was borne from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP) in conjunction with California’s Tobacco Control Program.

The creation of a tobacco control program was seen as necessary when the state of California found that over 8.6 million people suffer from a smoking-related illness. Over 443,000 people die each year in the United States from smoking and/or second-hand smoke. According to the UC Newsroom, “to help save lives and lower healthcare costs, California passed Proposition 99 in 1988 to create a tobacco control program.” The organization is completely hands on and has extended its efforts to the media to showcase the lies of the tobacco industry, the addictions of nicotine and ultimately the deaths caused by tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

Nearly 1500 research grants have been awarded during 2012 to extend the investigation of tobacco use, effects, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. According to UCSF Professor Stanton Glantz, “research shows that large scale aggressive tobacco control programs not only save lives, but make an important contribution to health care cost containment.”

Behavioral Therapy
A new behavior therapy referred to as Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), has recently been introduced as a tool to treat deficiencies in autistic children. This therapy was forged by Lynn Koegel, clinical director of Koegel Autism Center and has received positive feedback.

A tool known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is used by researchers to acquire a before and after investigation, documenting the changes taking places within PRT. “fMRI allows researchers to see what areas of the brain are active while processing certain stimuli — in this case human motion,” said Shelly Leachman, development writer at UC Santa Barbara.

Within this particular study, two children received eight to 10 hours of treatment each week for four months. According to Avery C. Voos, a graduate student at UCSB’s Koegel Autism Center, “these kids showed increased activation in regions of the brain utilized by typically developing kids.” One of the main objectives of this treatment is to improve social relations and engagements among autistic children. In this, researchers and students use various techniques that allow children to better understand rules and codes attached to social relations. “PRT forgoes the focus on specific skills, like block-building, to concentrate instead on so-called ‘pivotal areas,’ such as motivation,” said Shelly Leachman.

While this research and therapy is relatively new, researchers still have ways to go in understanding if this treatment has long-term benefits and if the effects remain after a few months of treatment. Researchers hope to test large groups of children and believe this treatment will be most successful when utilized on kids with autism at a young age.

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