Pirates rookie Meadows making instant impact
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, May 30
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The “Wow” moment didn’t come when Austin Meadows received the news the Pittsburgh Pirates were calling him up to the majors.
It didn’t come when the outfielder’s extended trek to the majors ended when he stepped into the batter’s box for the first time as a big leaguer on May 18 in front of an appreciative PNC Park crowd that included hundreds dressed up as “Star Wars” characters as part of a promotion.
Instead, it arrived when he woke up in a hotel room across from the ballpark the morning of his debut and peeked out his window. What he saw forced him to do a double take, which tends to happen when you catch a glimpse of yourself on a banner stretched four stories high.
“I didn’t really expect that,” Meadows said with a laugh.
That might be the only thing that’s caught the 23-year-old off-guard. Long considered the eventual heir to Andrew McCutchen before a series of injuries at Triple-A slowed his progress, Meadows has been a revelation. He entered Wednesday hitting .417 with four home runs, six RBIs and two stolen bases while basically forcing the Pirates to keep him even after Starling Marte — whose trip to the disabled list opened up a roster spot for Meadows — was activated over the weekend.
Meadows’ splashy start led general manager Neal Huntington to stress the decision not to send him back to the minors wasn’t so Meadows could simply fill in.
“Austin Meadows isn’t here as a fourth outfielder,” Huntington said. “He’s here as part of a four-outfielder group.”
One in which Meadows will be a vital and versatile part. He’s already seen time at all three outfield positions at spacious and quirky PNC Park. Meadows credited Marte and outfield coach Kimera Bartee for giving him a crash course in how to navigate everything from the massive expanse of left field to the 21-foot high Roberto Clemente Wall in right.
When Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo hit a solo home run to the first row of seats Tuesday night, Meadows alertly raised his arms to ask manager Clint Hurdle to challenge the call. A fan dressed in Cubs’ gear stood at the railing and snagged the ball out of midair.
Though the homer stood upon review, Meadows’ presence of mind on his 11th day as a big leaguer — and his second start in right — is symbolic of the player the Pirates thought they were getting. They made the then-teenager from suburban Atlanta the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Meadows originally committed to play at Clemson before signing a $3 million signing bonus to join the Pirates, a decision that came with a significant amount of expectations. He joined a pipeline that produced McCutchen, Marte and Gregory Polanco, the “outfield of the future” when Pittsburgh began its renaissance from afterthought to contender earlier this decade.
Meadows practically sprinted to Triple-A Indianapolis before his progress stalled thanks to lingering hamstring and oblique injuries. He hit just .239 in 2016 and 2017 with the Indians and the clamoring for his promotion quieted. He hired a new trainer over the winter and hit .295 with 10 doubles in 32 games for Indianapolis before Marte was sidelined with an oblique issue of his own.
Meadows’ arrival earlier this month — unlike the arrivals of former coveted prospects McCutchen, Gerrit Cole and Polanco — was met with more of a shrug than breathless anticipation. That might not necessarily be a bad thing. It allowed the unassuming Meadows to fit in quickly in a clubhouse that’s undergone a significant overhaul since it made three straight playoff appearances from 2013-15, including McCutchen’s departure in a trade to San Francisco in January.
Make no mistake: Meadows is not McCutchen and isn’t trying to be McCutchen. He does, however, believe he belongs. So do his teammates.
“He looks the part,” said pitcher and 2010 first-round pick Jameson Taillon, who knows a thing or two about hype. “He looks like a ballplayer. He’s not nervous, he’s not scared … When I got called up, I felt like my head was in my locker, I just wanted to stay out of people’s way. Meadows has come up, he’s comfortable.”
And he’s raking. The player who never hit more than 12 home runs during any season in the minors already has four less than two weeks into his major league career, That includes a shot to right-center on Tuesday night off Chicago ace Jon Lester, the first homer Lester has given up to a lefty all season.
Yet it wasn’t even Meadows’ most impressive feat of the night. That came in the ninth against Cubs closer Brandon Morrow. Pittsburgh had two on with one out and trailed by four when Meadows stepped in. Meadows fended off four sinkers at 98 or 99 mph before lining an infield single that loaded the bases and kept a Pittsburgh rally alive.
“If you’re not impressed by Meadows’ at bats, you need to go watch another sport right now,” Hurdle said.
Meadows is doing his best to take everything in stride. For all his early success, he’s quick to point out the team has slumped since his arrival. He’s no savior. just one of 25 trying to do his part for a club that believes — if few others do — that it can contend in the stacked NL Central. He probably won’t hit .400 all season. He probably won’t hit a home run every third game. He’s well aware getting up here and staying up here are two entirely different things.
It’s a challenge he’s been preparing for since the first time he picked up a bat when he was 3. The stakes have changed. His mindset has not.
“You can’t have any fear up here,” he said.
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Study Finds As Pitch Count Climbs, So Do Pitcher Injuries
50 percent of high school pitchers report pain in their throwing arm
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
COLUMBUS – More than half of high school baseball pitchers report experiencing pain in their throwing arm during the season. To better understand the cause of these injuries, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center conducted a new study to determine when and why overuse injuries were occurring.
To more accurately assess the timing and severity of their pain, players were asked to submit a weekly questionnaire via text message. “We found that the number of injuries peaked early—only about four weeks in—and then slowly declined until the end of the season,” said James Onate, associate professor of health and rehabilitation sciences at the Jameson Crane Sports Medicine Institute. “We see a lot of kids who didn’t prepare in the off-season, and when their workload goes through the roof they’re not prepared for the demand of throwing.”
Researchers are also exploring the biomechanics behind overuse injuries. Onate, and his research partner Mike McNally, developed a high-tech pitching mound that measures the amount of force being driven by the legs, trunk and arms when throwing, as well as a pre-season program to help pitchers properly prepare their bodies to avoid injuries. “We’re starting to pinpoint what’s going to be the personalized approach to an individual to be able to throw, and then tweak it from there,” said Onate. “The whole goal is to keep the kids safe to be able to do what they want to do.”
Breakthrough in controlling DNA-based robots
Ohio State University
June 1, 2018
Researchers use magnets to move tiny nano-devices faster than ever before
COLUMBUS — Researchers have devised a magnetic control system to make tiny DNA-based robots move on demand—and much faster than recently possible.
In the journal Nature Communications, Carlos Castro and Ratnasingham Sooryakumar and their colleagues from The Ohio State University report that the control system reduced the response time of prototype nano-robot components from several minutes to less than a second.
Not only does the discovery represent a significant improvement in speed, this work and one other recent study herald the first direct, real-time control of DNA-based molecular machines.
The discovery could one day enable nano-robots to manufacture objects – such as drug-delivery devices — as quickly and reliably as their full-size counterparts. Previously, researchers could only move DNA indirectly, by inducing chemical reactions to coax it to move certain ways, or introducing molecules that reconfigure the DNA by binding with it. Those processes take time.
“Imagine telling a robot in a factory to do something and having to wait five minutes for it to perform a single step of a task. That was the case with earlier methods for controlling DNA nano-machines,” said Castro, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.
“Real-time manipulation methods like our magnetic approach enable the possibility for scientists to interact with DNA nano-devices, and in turn interact with molecules and molecular systems that could be coupled to those nano-devices in real-time with direct visual feedback.”
In earlier work, Castro’s team used a technique called DNA origami to fold individual strands of DNA to form simple microscopic tools like rotors and hinges. They even built a “Trojan horse” out of DNA for delivering drugs to cancer cells.
For this new study, the researchers joined with Ratnasingham Sooryakumar, professor of physics. He previously developed microscopic magnetic “tweezers” for moving biological cells in biomedical applications such as gene therapy. The tweezers were actually made of groups of magnetic particles that moved in sync to nudge the cells where people wanted them to go.
Those magnetic particles, while invisible to the naked eye, were still many times bigger than one of Castro’s nano-machines, Sooryakumar explained.
“We had discovered a way to harness the power of magnetic forces to probe the microscopic world—a hidden world of astounding complexity,” he said. “But we wanted to transition from the micro-world to the nano-world. This led to the collaboration with Dr. Castro. The challenges were to shrink the functionality of our particles a thousand-fold, couple them to precise locations on the moving parts of the machines and incorporate fluorescent molecules as beacons to monitor the machines as they moved.”
For this study, the team built rods, rotors and hinges using DNA origami. Then they used stiff DNA levers to connect the nanoscopic components to miniature beads made from polystyrene impregnated with magnetic material. By adjusting a magnetic field, they found they could command the particles to swing components back and forth or rotate them. The components executed the instructed movements in less than a second.
For example, the nano-rotor was able to spin a full 360 degrees in about one second with continuously controlled motion driven by a rotating magnetic field. The nano-hinge was able to be closed or opened in 0.4 seconds, or held at a specific angle with a precision of 8 degrees.
These movements could have taken several minutes if executed with traditional methods, Castro said. He envisions that complex nano-materials or biomolecular complexes could one day be fabricated in DNA-based nano-factories that detect and respond to their local environment.
The study was long in coming: The researchers decided to merge Sooryakumar’s magnetic platform with Castro’s DNA devices years ago. “It took a lot of dedicated work from several students to realize that idea, and we are excited to continue building on that. This study demonstrates an exciting advance that was only possible with this inter-disciplinary collaboration.” Castro said.
Those students were Stephanie Lauback—lead author of the paper, who completed the work to earn her doctoral degree, Kara Mattioli, Alexander E. Marras, Maxim Armstrong and Thomas P. Rudibaugh. Lauback is now at Juniata College, Mattioli at the University of Michigan, Marras at the University of Chicago, Armstrong at University of California, Berkeley, and Rudibaugh at North Carolina State University.
Their work was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation.
Social ties could preserve memory, slow brain aging
Study in mice finds living in groups a boon to cognitive health
Ohio State News
May 31, 2018
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A strong social network could be the key to preserving memory.
New research from The Ohio State University found that mice housed in groups had better memories and healthier brains than animals that lived in pairs.
The discovery bolsters a body of research in humans and animals that supports the role of social connections in preserving the mind and improving quality of life, said lead researcher Elizabeth Kirby, an assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience and member of the Center for Chronic Brain Injury at Ohio State.
“Our research suggests that merely having a larger social network can positively influence the aging brain,” said Kirby, who is a member of the Neurological Institute at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. Her research appears today in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
“We know that in humans there’s a strong correlation between cognitive health and social connections, but we don’t know if it’s having a group of friends that’s protecting people or if it’s that people with declining brain health withdraw from their human connections,” Kirby said.
This study was designed to answer that hard-to-crack question with an animal model.
Some mice lived in pairs, which Kirby refers to as the “old-couple model.” Others were housed for three months with six other roommates, a scenario that allows for “pretty complex interactions.”
The mice were 15 months to 18 months old during the experiment – a time of significant natural memory decline in the rodent lifespan.
“It’s like mouse post-retirement age. If they drove, they’d be forgetting where the keys are or where they parked the car more often,” Kirby said.
In tests of memory, the group-housed mice fared better.
One test challenged the mice to recognize that a toy, such as a plastic car, had moved to a new location. A mouse with good brain health will gravitate toward the novelty of something that has been relocated.
“With the pair-housed mice, they had no idea that the object had moved. The group-housed mice were much better at remembering what they’d seen before and went to the toy in a new location, ignoring another toy that had not moved,” Kirby said.
In another common maze-based memory test, mice are placed on a well-lit round table with holes, some of which lead to escape hatches. Their natural tendency is to look for the dark, unexposed and “safe” escape routes.
Both groups of mice improved their escape-route search strategies with practice – but the research team was struck by the differences in the groups’ response to repeated tests, Kirby said.
The “couples” mice didn’t get faster at the test when it was repeated over the course of a day.
“But over the course of many days, they developed a serial-searching strategy where they checked every hole as quickly as possible. It’d be like walking as quickly as possible through each row of a parking lot to look for your car rather than trying to remember where your car actually is and walk to that spot,” Kirby said.
The group-housed mice improved with each trial, though.
“They seemed to try to memorize where the escape hatches are and walk to them directly, which is the behavior we see in healthy young mice,” Kirby said. “And that tells us that they’re using the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is really important for good memory function.”
The serial searching employed by the pair-housed mice is simpler, easier and doesn’t use that part of the brain, she said.
In humans, mice and many other animals, brain function in the hippocampus markedly declines with age, even in the absence of dementia. Exercise and social ties are known to preserve memory in this region in people, Kirby said.
After the housing experiment, the researchers examined the brain tissue of the mice and found increased inflammation in the pair-housed mice – biological evidence of eroded cognitive health.
“The group-housed mice had fewer signs of this inflammation, meaning that their brains didn’t look as ‘old’ as those that lived in pairs,” Kirby said.
The researchers also looked for evidence of new neuron growth in the hippocampus and found no differences between the groups.
Previous research in this area has primarily focused on mice that have highly enriched environments with lots of toys and opportunities for exercise and compared them with mice without as much to do.
This study goes further by showcasing differences that appear to be due to socialization alone, Kirby said. Future research should explore the molecular explanations for the connection between socialization and improved memory and brain health, she said.
Kirby said that people who are aging would do well to consider how their choices about where to live might impact their ability to be social.
“Something as basic as how long it takes to drive or walk to a friend’s house can make a big difference as we get older,” she said.
“A lot of people end up isolated not by choice, but by circumstance. ‘Over the river and through the woods’ might be fun for the kids, but it’s probably not so great for Grandma,” Kirby said.
Other Ohio State researchers who worked on the study were Bryon Smith and Xinyue Yao.
Written by Misti Crane
Adult Congenital Heart Association Establishes Presence in Columbus
Philadelphia, Pa., May 31, 2018 – The only organization in the country that specifically serves adults with congenital heart disease (CHD), the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) has named Margaret High-Thomas Community Development Coordinator for Columbus—one of five regions ACHA has targeted for expansion this year. In this role, High-Thomas will plan, implement, and lead local program and development initiatives, including patient and family education and support groups, CHD conferences, fundraising and volunteer activities, and overall community outreach.
“We are thrilled to have Margaret join the ACHA team and help us expand throughout Ohio,” said Mark Roeder, President and CEO of ACHA. “Margaret’s strong background in the healthcare industry will deepen our relationships with existing hospitals and healthcare facilities, and allow us to build on new ones.”
Prior to ACHA, High-Thomas served as Manager at The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and Associate Director at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Earlier in her career, she held positions at Mount Carmel Medical Center, Arthritis Foundation, and Ohio State Medical Association. High-Thomas graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Journalism.
“I am heavily involved in the Columbus community, currently a member of the Ohio Healthcare Volunteer Management Association and a past member of the International Association of Business Communicators,” said High-Thomas. “I look forward to using my skills and knowledge in the healthcare field to continue to improve the lives of those affected by CHD through local programs and development initiatives.”
About the Adult Congenital Heart Association
The Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) is a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life and extending the lives of adults with congenital heart disease (CHD). ACHA serves and supports the more than one million adults with CHD, their families and the medical community—working with them to address the unmet needs of the long-term survivors of congenital heart defects through education, outreach, advocacy, and promotion of ACHD research. For more information about ACHA, contact (888) 921-ACHA or visit www.achaheart.org.
This is your brain detecting patterns
Ohio State University
May 31, 2018
It is different from other kinds of learning, study shows
COLUMBUS – Detecting patterns is an important part of how humans learn and make decisions. Now, researchers have seen what is happening in people’s brains as they first find patterns in information they are presented.
Findings showed that the brain processes pattern learning in a different way from another common way that people learn, called probabilistic learning.
Researchers showed study participants 50 series of 12 images that included various combinations of three photos – a hand, a face and a landscape – sometimes in a pattern and sometimes in a random order. Participants were in an MRI machine that showed what parts of their brain were active as they chose what photo they thought was coming up next.
“We could see what parts of the brain were activated when participants figured out that there was a pattern – or realized that there was no pattern,” said Ian Krajbich, co-author of the study and assistant professor of psychology and economics at The Ohio State University.
Krajbich conducted the research with Arkady Konovalov, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zurich who received his PhD at Ohio State. The study appears in the journal Neuron.
Humans try to detect patterns in their environment all the time, Konovalov said, because it makes learning easier. For example, if you are given driving directions in an unfamiliar city, you can try to memorize each turn. But if you see a pattern – for example, turn left, then right, then left, then right – it will be easier to remember.
“We realized that not much was known about how humans figure out these rules,” Konovalov said.
The study involved 26 adults. Each photo they were shown began as a scrambled image that was revealed over a period of three seconds.
They hit a button as soon as they thought they knew which one of the three images was being presented. The object was to select which image was being shown as quickly as possible. Participants earned money for their correct answers and the faster they responded, the more they earned.
“If they don’t know what image is coming next, they have to wait a while and that is costing them money,” Krajbich said. “But once they figured out a pattern, they responded more quickly and we could see how that was reflected in their brains.”
Scientists had long studied a different kind of learning model, which they call probabilistic.
In the probabilistic model, people learn by determining the probability of an event happening after some other event. For example, you might learn that your favorite sports team usually wins two out of three of its games after a loss.
But that model doesn’t explain pattern learning, Krajbich said. With patterns, you know that a particular event is going to happen at a specific point in time.
“People in our study aren’t just predicting the odds of which photo will show up next. They are learning patterns and developing rules that guide their decision and make them faster and more accurate,” Konovalov said.
Probabilistic and pattern learning differ in how they engage the brain, Krajbich said.
In this study, the researchers found different parts of the brain were active depending on two kinds of uncertainty that the participants faced.
One kind of uncertainty was the question of which image was coming next. Findings showed, not surprisingly, that the same parts of the brain were involved for this task that earlier studies had found were involved in probabilistic learning, Krajbich said.
The other kind of uncertainty concerned whether there was a pattern in the images presented. As the participants worked out this question, a different part of the brain – the ventromedial prefrontal cortex – was activated.
This part of the brain has been shown in other research to be associated with reward.
“One interpretation is that people may be getting a sense of reward for figuring out whether there is a pattern or not. We don’t know that for sure yet, but it is plausible,” Krajbich said.
The hippocampus was another part of the brain that was particularly active when participants were figuring out patterns. “We found that people who had more hippocampal activity were faster learners,” Krajbich said.
Overall, the study showed that pattern learning is treated differently in the brain from probabilistic learning.
“The brain is keeping track of more things than we previously thought,” Krajbich said. “It isn’t just about predicting what is coming next. It is looking for rules to help predict better and faster.”