Some teens are victims of verbal threats and actual violence by their peers, while others are bullies. A new collaborative study conducted by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Georgia State University in the US has found that those who suffer most are both the perpetrators and targets of violence. Appearing in Prevention Science, the study was conducted by psychology Prof. Christopher Henrich of GSU and psychology Prof. Golan Shahar of BGU.

Adolescent violence is a major public health problem, with devastating educational, legal, economic and health costs around the world.

The researchers, who have been collaborating in the study of adolescent development and stress since 2000 – tracked 1,081 fifth graders for a year, looking at effects of bullying and being bullied. Those who said they both perpetrated and were targeted for violence showed a bigger increase in violence in sixth grade as well. They said the findings are relevant for both the basic scientific understanding of adolescent violence and the development of preventive intervention targeting youth violence and depression.

The blame can probably be put on a violent social environment, he continued. “They might signal their plight through elevated symptoms of depression. Unfortunately, such a depression might render these teens particularly vulnerable to the effects of violence, creating a vicious cycle.”

BLIND ‘HEAR’ COLORS AND SHAPES


The blind can be helped to “hear” colors, according to research by Prof. Amir Amedi of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University’s Medical Faculty. As a result, the blind and visually impaired are being offered tools, via training with sensory SDs, to receive environmental visual information and interact with it in ways otherwise unimaginable. The work is patented by Yissum, HU’s technology transfer company.

These features are normally perceived visually, but using non-invasive sensory substitution devices (SSDs), people with vision problems are able to “feel” them in their brains through their remaining senses.

Using a visual-to-auditory SSD in a clinical or everyday setting, users wear a miniature camera connected to a small computer (or smartphone) and headphones. The images are converted into “soundscapes” using an algorithm, allowing the user to listen to and interpret the visual information from the camera. With the EyeMusic SSD (available free at the Apple App store at http:// tinyurl.com/oe8d4p4), one hears pleasant musical notes to convey information about colors, shapes and location of objects.

Using this SSD equipment and a innovative training program, the blind are able to achieve various abilities. In recent articles in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience and Scientific Reports, blind and blindfolded-sighted users of the EyeMusic were shown to correctly perceive and interact with objects, such as recognizing different shapes and colors, or taking a drink.

In studies published in two prestigious scientific journals, Neuron and Current Biology, it was shown that the blind can categorize sound-conveyed images such as faces, houses and outdoor scenes, plus everyday objects, and locate people’s positions, identify facial expressions and read letters and words.

Despite these encouraging behavioral demonstrations, SSDs are currently not widely used by the blind population. Problems that have prevented their adoption have been changing for the better; new technological advances enable SSDs to be much cheaper, smaller and lighter, and they can run using a standard smartphone.

“The human brain is more flexible than we thought,” concluded Amedi. “These results give a lot of hope for the successful regaining of visual functions using cheap, non-invasive SSDs or other, invasive sight restoration approaches. In the blind, brain areas have the potential to be ‘awakened’ to processing visual properties and tasks even after years or maybe even lifelong blindness.”

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