UAB Magazine Online Features
Exploring the Marketplace of the Mind
By Jo Lynn Orr
It turns out that you may have a mind for economics—even if you can’t tell a Laffer curve from a bump in the road. Today many scientists are trying to understand how people make choices by viewing the human brain as a sort of marketplace, where each decision comes with a price tag reflecting its risks and rewards. This field of study is known as neuroeconomics, and it could help shed light on everything from consumer preferences to substance abuse.
Don Ross, Ph.D., is applying neuroeconomics to another form of addiction: gambling. Ross, a professor of economics and philosophy at UAB and professor of economics at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, explains that gambling can provide the truest model of addiction because it doesn’t involve a substance introduced from outside the brain. Most people who gamble don’t become addicted, of course, but some people find the experience so “rewarding” that it becomes obsessive. Ross and his research team are trying to find out what makes those addicted minds tick. “We’re interested in understanding how—independently of the whole person—that part of the brain that auto-processes reward stimuli does the computations that it does,” he says.
New Life After Cancer
By Josh Till
Advanced procedures now available at UAB can help women and men preserve or restore their ability to start a family after cancer treatment, says G. Wright Bates Jr., director of UAB's Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
When patients are diagnosed with cancer, they suddenly face a lot of questions about a lot of issues—treatment options, insurance concerns, sick time from work, and many others. But there is one question many patients often don’t think about: Will cancer affect my ability to have children?
For some, the answer is yes. The number of individuals facing cancer during their reproductive years is significant—about 800,000 men and women. Depending on the type of cancer and the treatments involved, the chances for survivors to conceive after treatment can be low.
But UAB’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Services Clinic is working to increase those chances. The clinic offers patients several options to preserve or restore their fertility to start a family after they complete their cancer treatment.
“Today UAB offers several advanced procedures for preserving fertility, especially for women,” says G. Wright Bates Jr., M.D., director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. “We want to raise awareness among men and women going through chemotherapy and radiation about their options and encourage discussion of reproductive issues with their oncologist.”
UAB has been at the vanguard of scientific and medical discovery for decades. Here are but a few examples:
In May 2006, an international team of scientists led by UAB researchers discovered a crucial missing link in the search for the origin of HIV-1, the virus responsible for human AIDS. That missing link is the natural reservoir of the virus, which the team has found in wild-living chimpanzees in southern Cameroon.
The UAB Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) was the first to perform clinical trails of the protease inhibitor Indinavir (Crixivan), one of the first protease inhibitors used in the “triple drug cocktail” to fight HIV.
The journal Science named three UAB faculty, Drs. Michael Saag, George Shaw, and Beatrice Hahn, among the top 10 AIDS researchers in the country, and highlighted the AIDS research program at UAB in 1996.
In 1960, Dr. Basil Hirschowitz (right), former director of the UAB division of gastroenterology, was the first to explore the stomach with his invention, the fiber optic endoscope, the prototype of which is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
UAB researcher Dr. Max D. Cooper was the first to characterize B-cells as part of the human immune system. He also was first to successfully treat SCID (severe combined immunodeficiency disease) with the transplant of fetal liver cells.
In 1977, Dr. Richard Whitley (left) administered a systemic antiviral for the treatment of the deadly HSV (herpes simplex virus) encephalitis, leading to the world’s first effective treatment for a viral disease.
UAB researchers were the first to discover the protein that led to the development of the now well-known drug Viagra, causing what some have called the second sexual revolution.
UAB heart surgeon the late John W. Kirklin (right) developed a computerized intensive care unit that became a model for modern ICUs around the world. They help improve care and reduce complications. Kirklin initially gained fame by improving the safety and usefulness of the heart-lung bypass pump.
UAB was in the first handful of institutions to be designated by the National Institutes of Health as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. It is the only federally designated cancer center in Alabama and among the nation’s oldest. This means a wide range of research, education and clinical activities are available, and facilities and laboratories meet certain high standards.
UAB dentists were the first to develop the four-handed method of dentistry, where both a dentist and a hygienist treat a patient. Four-handed dentistry is now standard practice.
Several UAB researchers have been the first to develop animal models for the study of a variety of diseases, including lupus, inflammatory bowel disease and sickle cell disease.
Dr. Eric Sorscher (right) was the first researcher in the United States to implant a corrected gene into the lungs of patients with cystic fibrosis using a lipid molecule delivery system.
The first simultaneous heart-kidney transplant in the Southeast was performed at UAB by Drs. David C. McGiffin and David Laskow in 1995.
In August 1969, Dr. Henry B. Peters became the first dean of the School of Optometry, the nation’s first optometry school to be integrated into a medical center complex. The school is now one of the top optometry schools in the nation and still one of only three integrated into a medical center.
In 1987, the world’s first genetically engineered mouse-human monoclonal antibody was used at UAB Hospital in the treatment of cancer.
In 1984, UAB Hospital became the first hospital in the United States to use color Doppler echocardiography for visualizing internal cardiac structures.
Behind the Scenes of BlazeRadio
By Caperton Gillett
UAB students are reaching a nationwide audience and gaining valuable experience as programmers and managers of the university's Internet radio station.
There’s a deejay booth sitting right behind a floor-to-ceiling panel of glass on a main artery in the Hill University Center, and yet most students don’t notice it until they tune in to BlazeRadio, UAB’s student-run online radio station. Each week, for several hours per day, students take to the airwaves—or, rather, the Internet—to send music, news, sports coverage, and conversation out to an audience that spans the country. Anything, that is, that “people can feed off of, that they can enjoy listening to,” says Ryan McLaughlin, junior broadcast major, deejay, and general manager of the station.
McLaughlin’s personal programming includes an eclectic mix of hip-hop music, banter, the occasional in-studio guest, and, on Wednesday evenings, a top-15 countdown show with two of his friends joining him behind the mic and call-in topics ranging from STDs to relationships to, in one case, old-school cartoon theme songs. The show is built on “the random thoughts you always have that you’ve never bothered to say,” McLaughlin says.