Scholars Notebook April 2015

SCHOLARS NOTEBOOK

The Remarkable Story of Burmese Women:
Clues and Surprises from Myanmar

A TALK BY JEAN R. RENSHAW

April 2015 Speaker 

Jean Renshaw in Myanmar
(Photo Permission from Jean Renshaw)

Jean R. Renshaw is a principal in the consulting firm, AJR International Associates, and a Professor of Management and Organizational Behavior.  Her experience bridges years in the academic world, years as an economist at Rand Corporation, and years of consultation to business, governmental and non-governmental agencies. She is an acknowledged expert and author on Women’s rights and empowerment issues in Asian countries, and is much sought after for that expertise. Most recently she has travelled to Burma (Myanmar) and gained insight into the stories of women in that country. She will speak to us about the remarkable and unusual history of the rights and limitations on Burmese Women, and the prognosis for their future evolution in that country based on her research and observations.
 

From the President 

ENHANCING COGNITIVE RESERVES

Here we are where we left off in last month's ruminations about age changes in memory. Or maybe you just stumbled into this column. No matter, there is much to discuss in the way of cognitive shields, memory reserves, or protective devices for conserving memory abilities in latter life. With the explosion of Alzheimer’s Disease and the increase in the number of seniors, we want to learn all we can regarding the field of aging, from dementia to “normal” functioning, and the possibility that skills and independence can be maintained over one’s lifetime. Research on these topics is in full swing, with studies on the effects of cognitive training, life-style choices, and physical activity. 

In any event, how can we investigate the effectiveness of using cognitive training as a buffer? Let’s focus on a large-scale study,   “Effects of Cognitive Training Interventions with Older Adults”, (published 2002) in which 2,802 participants (65 – 94 years) were recruited from senior housing, community centers, and hospital/clinics in six metropolitan centers in the US. The objective was to assess whether training three types of basic cognitive skills could strengthen the mental abilities and daily functioning of older, independent–living adults. 

Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: 

10-session group training for verbal memory (remembering word lists, main ideas, using strategies such as mnemonics);  

  • Reasoning (solving problems that have a serial pattern, learning to identify patterns in letter, number series or understanding patterns in everyday tasks like taking prescription drugs or reading travel schedules); 
  • Speed-of -processing training (visual search skills, ability to identify and locate visual information quickly in complex tasks); 
  • A no-contact control group. 

Measures of cognitive functioning were obtained at four time points: 

  • Baseline (before training); 
  • Immediate post-test (after training); 
  • One year after training (A1); 
  • Two years after training (A2).  

Post-test, A1, and A2 scores were compared to baseline and control group scores. Measures of daily functioning were also obtained at each time point by testing participants’ ability to reason and correctly identity information in everyday stimuli such as medication labels, charts, forms, and their speed in dealing with real-world stimuli such as finding food items in grocery stores, counting out correct change, or responding appropriately to traffic signals. 

Remarkably, the results showed the effectiveness of cognitive training . “Each intervention improved the targeted cognitive ability compared with baseline, durable to two years. Booster training (several coaching and practice sessions eleven months following initial training) increased training gains in speed and reasoning interventions which were maintained at a 2-year follow-up”. It is very unusual to test and receive positive results at such a long interval. 

BUT, on the other hand, No training effects on measures of everyday functioning—the ability to reason and correctly use information such as counting change, responding to traffic signals--were detected at 2 years. What a disappointment, what a bummer; why did that happen? After all, one of the main purposes of the study was to test whether cognitive training would be applicable to everyday kinds of functioning, thereby providing evidence that cognitive strengthening through skill training could serve as an agent for keeping one on target with everyday kinds of tasks. The purpose was not primarily to train people to earn points on cognitive tests, but to be able to apply cognitive skills in real-life situations. 

And, so, guess how the researchers responded to these results. Devastated, embarrassed, traumatized or at least shook up? NO. They expressed none of that. Instead, they concluded that the minimal functional decline across all groups means that most participants showed little downward drift toward lower functioning over two years, and so “longer follow-up is likely required to observe training effects on everyday function”. Did I believe this? NO. Instead I thought that lab type training simply does not transfer into everyday life. 

End of story? No. It continues, thus, in a recent article, published 2014. While “researchers observed no improvements on measures of everyday functioning immediately after training, one year after training, or two years after training”… tests administered five and ten years later show a somewhat different story. Comparing participants to the no-contact control group, five years after training, “the reasoning group self-reported fewer daily-living problems, the speed-of-processing and reasoning groups were involved in fewer at-fault automobile crashes, and the speed-of-processing group reported less of a decline in health-related quality of life.” Researchers explained these effects in terms of  “a certain amount of decline was necessary in order to reveal transfer effects”. Perhaps that is so, but further replication of such delayed effects is necessary in order to accept the rationale of these conclusions and results. However, this cognitive research does set a high bar in the way of carefully designing training routines and measuring the effects of such training on similar tests as well as everyday functioning.  

End of story on training cognitive skills. Next we need to explore how life-style devises (e,g, photography, bilingualism) and physical activity (e.g., exercise programs) may help insulate seniors from cognitive confusion and functional decline.  What mechanisms contribute to “Healthy body, healthy brain.” 

Note.  References are available upon request. Contact Sue R. Rosner, e-mail, rosnersue@gmail.com, or US Mail, SDIS, P.O. Box 314, La Jolla, CA  92038

Sue R. Rosner

 

STUDY GROUPS

Colloquy Cafe

Colloquy Café will meet on Wednesday, April 15, at 1:30 to discuss the topic “corruption.” Please contact Mary Ellen Stratthaus for more details. 

The Colloquy Café met on March 18th to discuss motive, from the Latin for moving or causing to move.  Synonyms include influence, urge, and stimulus.  Intention sparks motive.  The wish to become famous can motivate one to choose careers as politicians or actors or outstanding athletes.  Motives can be highly diverse: Peace Corps volunteers may join to help others, to learn about other parts of the world or, simply, to travel to new countries.  A motivational speaker talks people into doing things, whether it's improving their job skills or changing their religion.  Motive, overall, is on an emotional level.  

Culture One

Culture One is meeting on April 22, 2015, 2 - 4 PM, at Vi, to discuss the abstracts of talks to be presented at the CARTA SYMPOSIUM, "Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution: Past and Present", May 15, 2015. This provides a useful introduction to the separate talks as well as an overview of the themes of the Symposium. Currently, abstracts are available for six of the nine scheduled talks. These provide a sampling of the program which ranges from information of the interplay between climate instability and evolutionary changes in archaic hominins, similarities between extreme temperature-climate shifts 14,700 years ago and the recent rate of change, ecological shifts in animal species related to climate trends, and the significance of the new geological phase, the Anthropocene, the age of humans. Contact Rosner for CARTA information, rosnersue@gmail.com, or Rose for meeting arrangements, beabe@me.com

Culture Two

The Culture Two Study Group expects to continue its focus on India at its next meeting, 1:30 PM, Friday April 24.  

In March, the group concluded its attention to India Calling by Anand Gibidharadas. The April meeting will use a different text for background reading, one with a more macro focus, actually a series of essays in a book titled Reimagining India. For April the reading will include three essays in the first chapter (The Rediscovery of India, Breakout or Washout, and Towards a Uniquely Indian Growth Model) as well as three essays in the second chapter (Federalism: Promise and Peril, Overtaking the Dragon, and The Precocious Experiment) 

Contact Sam Gusman at sagus@sbcglobal.net for further information or to learn about attending meetings of this group.

Film Group

The Film Group will meet Wednesday, April 1 at 10:00 a.m. at the home of Barbara Heckler to view the 2005 drama Water. The story tells of the ostracism of 1940s widows in rural India, and focuses on a 7-year-old widow who is sent to an ashram to live out her life.  Water was a 2006 nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.  Contact Barbara at bheckler@san.rr.com for information about attending.

Literature Group

The Literature Group’s next meeting will be on Friday, April 10, at Marcus Klein's. Nancy Cohen will lead us in a discussion of W. Somerset Maugham’s Moon and Sixpence. We meet at 10:30 a.m. and eat lunch afterwards. We all bring our own "brown bag" lunch; the host provides dessert. We welcome new members! But seating is limited; if you would like to come, please phone Marcus first.

Neuroscience

The Neuroscience Study Group scheduled for Thursday, April 2, has been cancelled and will be rescheduled. The reading assignment is Damasio"s Self Comes to Mind, Chapters 7 and 8 in part III—where Damasio promises to reveal all.  

For information about attending: beabe@me.com.


NOTES: From our March 21 Talk: Tracking Fish…With High Tech Tools

Dr. Heidi Dewar is a Fisheries Research Biologist at NOAA Southwest Fisheries Center in San Diego. She spoke about tracking the movement of individual specimens:

  • Humans have been fishing for 40,000 years….We see fish hooks in hieroglyphics.
  • Our concern is with “by-catch,” reproductive rates, sustainability, environmental effects.
  • The ocean is not an easy place to work; it’s hard to see. But new tools have been developed.
  • “Acoustic tagging” has been used for more than 30 years. There are satellite tags, tags that pop up to the surface and broadcast data to us. 
  • We learn about ocean temperatures, depth….Light signals from tags are used to estimate latitude and longitude.
  • Chemical tracers give us information about trans-Pacific migration. The microchemistry of the otolith, a structure in the inner ear, can tell us where a fish has been.

And finally, Dr. Dewar noted that “every inch of the ocean” has regional management. Getting nations to agree on conservation is a difficult task.

Arlene Gilbert 

 

New Members

Eloise M. Battle—interests: ecology, environmental issues, history;

Gloria c. Ehrlich—interests: art, literature, religion;

Natasha Josefowitz;

Ina Rosenthal-Urey—interests: economics, social change, art, religion.

David Parker

SDIS MONTHLY MEETING

Saturday, April 18, 2015
1:30 –3:30 PM

Free and Open to the Public

Room 111A, 
Chancellor’s Complex
UCSD Campus

Free Parking in the 
Gilman Parking Structure

This event, like all monthly meetings of SDIS, is free and open to the public. A question/discussion period follows the talk. The Chancellor’s Complex is a low building opposite the large Price Center at the end of Myers Drive, which runs north from Gilman  Drive. 

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Jean Renshaw spent two weeks in Myanmar in March, 2014, chairing a panel on Women Leaders in Asia.

In February of this year, she contributed a paper, a Critique, “Some Thoughts on Women’s Important Contributions to Myanmar in Transition,” to the Japan Policy Research Institute. She wrote: “Women are essential to the health and prosperity of all nations. Recent research from the IMF and United Nations indicate that a country’s productivity would increase if women’s talents were more fully utilized. Estimates of increases in productivity range from the United States at 5% to Japan 9%, UAE 12% and Egypt 34%....Women in Mayanmar have been active participants in leadership….I found myself intrigued by the beauty, poise and confidence of these women.” 

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Helen Hawkins Memorial Research Fund Award Recipient: Dr. Mary Stroll, May 16, 2015

SDIS is pleased to announce that Dr. Mary Stroll is the recipient of this year’s Helen Hawkins Memorial Research Fund Award. Dr. Stroll will be present at our SDIS General Meeting, May 16, 2015, at which time she will receive her award, and summarize her research paper, “Honorius II (1124-1130): an Enigma” to be presented at the Leeds International Medieval Conference, July 7, 2015, Leeds, UK. This paper is part of Stroll’s lengthy, distinguished career as an independent scholar of the papacy and its historical, political heritage. The meeting is open to SDIS members and guests

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Breakfast Roundtable

Breakfast Roundtable meets Monday, April 20, at Coco’s, 9:30 to 11 for breakfast and roundtable discussion. Coco’s is located in University City at the intersection of Genesee and Nobel Drive in the Costa Verde shopping Center. To make a reservation, contact Barbara Heckler, bheckler@san.rr.com, by the Saturday prior to the meeting. Don’t hesitate to email at the last minute – we’ll make space! 

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Supper with Scholars

Now meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 6 pm at Humphreys La Jolla Restaurant, 3299 Holiday Court, La Jolla. Meals from the menu (see  www.humphreyslajolla.com  ) are Dutch Treat. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to parkerd1954@gmail.com, stating whether you are coming alone or bringing friend(s).

The next two meetings are on April 9 and May 14.

Group discussion is based on suggested topics that have particularly interested the attendees in the last month. If possible, we select a question that can be addressed from the viewpoints of the various areas of expertise of the participants, which are ordinarily quite diverse, ranging from the humanities to natural sciences to social sciences to various professions. If some subject has particularly interested you during the past month, please suggest it.—

Dave and Dorothy Parker 

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Study Group
Times, Sites, Contacts


 Colloquy Café
April 15, 2015
1:30
At the Vi
Contact: M.E. Stratthaus
strattme@san.rr.com

   
Culture One
April 22, 2015
2:00-4:00
At the Vi - Signature Room
Contact: Sue Rosner
rosnersue@gmail.com

 
Culture Two
April 24, 2015
1:30-3:30
Contact: Sam Gusman
sagus@sbcglobal.net

 
Film Group
April 1, 2015
10 a.m.
At Barbara’s home
Contact: Barbara Heckler
bheckler@san.rr.com

 
Literature Group
April 10, 2015
10:30
Host: Marcus Klein
For info.call:760-751-3094


Science Group
To be rescheduled.
At Bea’s home at the Vi
Contact: Bea Rose
beabe@me.com