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January 2018 in NYU Research

Top findings from the past month.
Hamburger character crying out in money tears

An NYU College of Global Public Health analysis deemed a federal junk food tax both legally and economically viable—in the form of an excise tax paid by manufacturers rather than a sales tax paid by consumers. 

NYU neuroscientists concluded that in mice with Fragile X Syndrome—the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability and autism—it's the abnormal interactions between neurons, rather than any observable fault in the neurons themselves, that result in cognitive impairments. A separate study found that mice with the syndrome were cognitively inflexible: They could learn and remember normally, but were unable to learn new information that contradicted what they had previously learned. 

An NYU Steinhardt study of 330 undergraduates found that women avoided choosing particular college majors because of perceived discrimination in those fields—not necessarily because of other factors like science or math phobia, or whether the majors were associated more with money or creativity. 

Meyers College of Nursing researchers found that increasing percentages of older Americans are identifying cognitive impairment among their family members, though the condition is still likely underreported, with differences in reporting among different ethnic groups. 

A study led by NYU Langone's Moosa Mohammadi revealed the structure of a protein called αKlotho (named for the Greek goddess that spins the thread of life), refuting 20 years of research suggesting that it is a major anti-aging hormone. Instead, the results attribute this function to fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23), and explain how αKlotho simply helps FGF23 to mediate its anti-aging action.

Wagner's Jan Blustein found evidence that nursing homes tend to ignore residents' hearing loss—a problem that affects more than 80% of people aged 80 and over. 

NYU psychologists found that we trust strangers when they resemble people we've found to be trustworthy in the past and distrust them when they resemble people we've found to be untrustworthy in the past—even when we aren't conscious of the resemblance. 

An NYU Langone study of people who use apps to track their sleep habits found that they tend to be young, relatively affluent, and likely to report that they eat well and are relatively healthy—even if some smoke. Sleep app users typically had between 16 and 25 health apps on their smartphones.