All Articles in the Category ‘Research’

The Science of Gratitude and How Kids Learn to Express It

Scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute describe the neuroscience behind gratitude and how kids learn it.

What happens in our brains and bodies when we feel gratitude? We get a fuzzy feeling when we give thanks or receive it because we did something nice. But why does gratitude feel good? And how can families teach kids to express this sentiment?

Dr. Susan Ferguson, a neuroscientist at the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, says the feeling of gratitude activates several parts of the brain. The ventral tegmental area is a part of the brain associated with reward and motivation. The hypothalamus is associated with basic tasks such as eating, sleeping, hormone secretion and stress. The septum is associated with bonding. When we feel and express thanks, these parts of the brain light up.

“Research shows that gratitude is linked with feelings of reward, improved sleep and decreased depression and anxiety,” Ferguson said. “There are measurable benefits to mental health and interpersonal relationships when humans feel gratitude.” Read full post »

Using Big Data to Predict and Prevent Preterm Birth

Photo for BlogWorldwide, preterm birth is the leading cause of death for all children under age 5, taking the lives of more than 1.1 million children every year. Now, new research utilizing the emerging field of systems biology aims to harness big data in an effort to reduce the global burden of preterm birth.

Seattle is well known as a technology hub, and big data has become an area of great focus and opportunity. Advances in technology now allow for analysis of data sets that would have been much more difficult to accomplish just 10 years ago.

The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children’s, is announcing three new projects that will use big data to help discover the root causes of preterm birth and identify potential targets for interventions to improve pregnancy health. In this case, big data is defined as large and complex data sets generated from biological components like molecules and cells, which require computational and mathematical modeling to interpret. Read full post »

Screen Time, Holiday Time, Family Time: Tips For Parents On Tech Toys This Holiday Season

Dr. Dimitri Christakis says not all screen time is bad for children, but it’s important to be familiar with the content and manage the time kids spend on screen toys.

The American Academy of Pediatrics announced it is revising recommended screen time guidelines for kids. Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, offers parents advice on how to manage screen time and what to consider when shopping for children this holiday season.

Q: What should parents make of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) decision to revise screen time guidelines?
A: This is an acknowledgement that for kids growing up today, screen time is a constant part of their lives: At home, at school, when visiting friends, on the airplane, in cars. Digital products have permeated every part of kids’ days, so the revised guidelines ought to help families manage digital engagement.

The good news is that not all screen time is bad. But it’s important for parents to understand that kids are going through critical cognitive, social and emotional developmental phases, and screen time influences that development. Read full post »

New Research Shows That Risky Drinking Spikes When Young Adults Study Abroad

Researchers found that drinking-related posts on Facebook increased among students studying abroad, especially for those who went to Europe.

Studying abroad is a formative educational opportunity for many young adults, myself included. My time in French Polynesia last summer as a junior in college changed my outlook on the world and made me a better student, friend and daughter. But I also know from experience that studying abroad can also be problematic for some who might take the newfound freedom a little too far.

Underage and excessive drinking was something I witnessed, and according to new data from Seattle Children’s Research Institute, where I volunteer with the Social Media and Adolescent Health Research Team (SMAHRT), underage and excessive drinking is often a key part of the study abroad experience, especially for those who went to Europe.

Researchers found that drinking-related posts on Facebook increased among students studying abroad, especially for those who went to Europe. Read full post »

Flu Vaccine Matters for Children and Parents Alike

Flu Season AheadEach year in the United States alone, 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to complications from the flu. In 2014, influenza claimed the lives of more than 140 children; half of whom were healthy and had not been vaccinated.

“It’s important for everyone – especially children – to get a flu shot every year,” said Dr. Matthew Kronman, an infectious disease expert at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a member of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Below, Kronman answers some common questions related to the flu and flu shots.

Why is the flu dangerous? What happens to make it deadly?

Influenza by its very nature can cause infection and inflammation in the lungs, making it very difficult for some people to breathe. Add to this that people with influenza can be at risk of having a secondary bacterial infection on top of their influenza, and that sometimes the immune response to an influenza infection is overly robust to the point of causing damage itself, and it becomes clear how influenza can cause serious and even life-threatening infections. Fortunately, we have a vaccine annually that can help protect us from this severe infection!

Read full post »

Unique Corn Maze Raises Money for Childhood Cancer Research

Every year around March, Keith Stocker starts thinking about what he’s going to do with his next corn maze. The Snohomish, Wash., farmer and president of Stocker Farms has created many works of art with his crop, including a rendition of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and a nod to endangered animals at the Woodland Park Zoo. He was still looking for inspiration this year when he boarded an Alaska Airlines plane and picked up the in-flight magazine, Alaska Beyond.

“I started reading an article about Strong Against Cancer, (Seattle Seahawks quarterback) Russell Wilson and the research that’s being done at Seattle Children’s Hospital,” Stocker said. “I didn’t realize until I read that article how important this research is and what it’s doing for kids who are fighting for their lives, as well as their families. It spoke to me. I knew right then that this is what I needed to do for my next design.”

Read full post »

Transgender Youth Navigating Healthcare: One Family Offers Perspective As Seattle Children’s Researchers Seek Survey Participants

Tai Jordan, right, and his mother Carmen Jordan offer tips for how the healthcare system can accommodate transgender youth.

A clinician stepping out and calling a name into a lobby full of waiting patients may seem like no big deal, but for a transgender youth patient waiting for an appointment, it can cut like a knife.

“When a clinician walks into a room, the birth name on your chart is the first thing they call out,” explained Tai Jordan, a 17-year-old transgender youth. Tai, whose birth name is ‘Tairah,’ was born female, but identifies as male. “If you’re not out yet, or you pass as the gender you identify with and use a different name, the clinician has inadvertently outed you in a public space where you should feel safe.”

Seattle Children’s researchers Dr. David Breland and Dr. Yolanda Evans want to better understand the issues that transgender patients and their families face in healthcare. They have launched a survey for parents of transgender youth patients with the goal of better understanding healthcare experiences and barriers. Families who are interested in participating in this research study can send an email by clicking here or call 206-884-1433 to learn more. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete and each participant receives a $10 gift card. Read full post »

Seattle Children’s Researchers Pioneer Gene Editing That Kills, Resists HIV

Dr. David Rawlings, left, and Dr. Andrew Scharenberg, right, have pioneered a gene editing technique that can kill and resist HIV.

Dr. David Rawlings, left, and Dr. Andrew Scharenberg, right, have pioneered a gene editing technique in T cells that can kill and resist HIV.

Dr. David Rawlings and Dr. Andrew Scharenberg, researchers at the Center for Immunity and Immunotherapy at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, published a paper today in Science Translational Medicine that reveals a groundbreaking approach to engineering human T cells, which are crucial for fighting infection and show promise in treating autoimmune disorders, blood diseases and some types of cancer. Using HIV as a model for this new gene editing technique, they found that T cells could be engineered to resist HIV infection and simultaneously kill HIV-infected T cells or B cell tumors.

On the Pulse sat down with Dr. Rawlings to discuss this major discovery in gene editing and learn how it could help scientists working to find cures for HIV, cancer and other diseases. Read full post »

Patient Shares Food Allergy Study Experience to Highlight New Web Hub For Seattle Children’s Research Studies and Clinical Trials


Isabelle Thomelin hopes that by participating in a clinical research study for her severe peanut and tree nut allergies, she can help researchers find effective therapies.

Families, patients and providers can now browse our clinical research studies at the newly-launched Seattle Children’s Research Studies and Clinical Trials Web Hub.

When a family is in a rush to get dinner on the table, maybe mom or dad will order pizza, grab healthy greens from the salad bar or hustle home with prepared food from the deli. But when the Thomelin family is considering dinner, they have to think about every single ingredient they bring into the kitchen. Their youngest daughter, 9-year-old Isabelle Thomelin, has severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.

Isabelle is enrolled in a clinical study at Seattle Children’s that may reduce her allergic reactions. The study will test an immunotherapy technique and a designer medicine to see if they allow Isabelle’s body to safely tolerate peanuts and tree nuts in gradually increased doses. Read full post »

NIH funds $490,000 for Muscular Dystrophy Research in Zebrafish; Family Hopes for Cure

Nick Olson, 7, comes to Seattle Children's for Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment.

Nick Olson, 7, comes to Seattle Children’s for Duchenne muscular dystrophy treatment.

Tiny, sleek zebrafish could hold the key for how we treat muscular dystrophy in the future. Dr. Lisa Maves, a researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to study drug combinations in zebrafish for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. It’s one of the most common forms of muscular dystrophy and affects males almost exclusively. The condition, caused by a genetic disorder of the X chromosome, gradually weakens the body’s muscles and occurs in about 1 out of every 3,500 boys.

Nick Olson is 7 years old—a redhead with a toothy smile and a stuffed animal named Puppyroni by his side. Nick has Duchenne muscular dystrophy. What does a little boy like Nick have in common with a zebrafish swimming in a tank? Genes. Zebrafish are perfect subjects for muscular dystrophy research because the same genes that caused muscular dystrophy in Nick cause it in zebrafish, too. Read full post »