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February 2018 in NYU Research

Top findings from the past month.
photo: gloved hand holding a vial

This month, NYU Dentistry researchers developed a new saliva test that can diagnose Zika in a matter of minutes—much faster than current commercial blood tests. A Marron Institute of Urban Management report found that about 6,270 excess deaths are occurring each year in the United States as a result of air pollution concentrations exceeding American Thoracic Society recommended standards. NYU Law statistics professors found that of the top 1,000 most frequently used English words, only three—"although," "showed," and "seemed"—are not used in active registered trademarks.

NYU Global College of Public Health researchers concluded that misleading labeling on formulas and milks marketed for toddlers may lead parents to purchase "unhealthful" and "unsuitable" drinks that are not recommended by pediatricians. NYU Tandon engineers developed the first process to 3D-print components of syntactic foam—extremely strong and lightweight composites used in vehicles, airplanes, ships, and especially submarines, where complex shapes must survive stresses at great depths. A study by NYU psychologists found that college students tend to underestimate the severity of their roommates' distress

Steinhardt occupational therapy professor Janet Njelesani found that disabled children in West Africa experience violence from the day they are born, and are more than four times more likely to be victims of violence than their non-disabled peers. Tandon professor Maurizio Porfiri and team developed a robotic zebrafish that can "see" and mimic a real fish in real time. NYU researchers in New York and Shanghai teamed up on a study that found that the "louder" our internal thoughts, the softer we will perceive the external sounds around us. 

NYU economist Sylvain Chassang developed a new approach to dealing with market uncertainty that disregards the past as a variable in investment strategy and, instead, champions game theory. Steinhardt doctoral student Kate Schwartz found that both students and teachers reacted positively to their schools being repainted in bright, vibrant colors, saying that the new hues improved the learning environment. A team of scientists including NYU's Nadrian Seeman deployed DNA to create a circuit element capable of splitting and combining current.

In medicine, NYU researchers showed that the current biological understanding of Alzheimer's disease is incomplete, and that standard diagnostic tools fail to identify risk for it in patients younger than 70. Boosting the action of a protein called MuSK slowed the loss of neuromuscular synapses, temporarily extended survival of motor neurons, and extended the lifespan of mice with Lou Gehrig's disease. Neuroscientists found that the nerve circuits that enable people to walk first appeared more than 400 million years ago in fish whose descendants still walk the seafloor on their fins. By analyzing fMRI images in every region of the brains in 892 American men and women, researchers linked greater entropy—the variety of nerve circuits used to interpret the surrounding world—to more versatile processing of information, which is considered a key aspect of intelligence.

A study by Steinhardt's Amy Whitaker showed that artists can reap significant financial rewards from holding an equity stake (say, 10%) in their own artwork—compared with investing the equivalent dollar amount in the S&P 500.