Research news in brief

June 12, 2003

New software helps teams deal with information overload

Penn State researchers have developed new software that can help decision-making teams in combat situations or homeland security handle information overload by inferring teams' information needs and delivering relevant data from computer-generated reports.

The agent software called CAST (Collaborative Agents for Simulating Teamwork) highlights relevant data. This helps improve a team's decision-making process as well as enhances members' collaboration.

"This version of CAST provides support for teams by anticipating what information team members will need, finding commonalities in the available information and determining how that information should be processed," said John Yen, professor of information sciences and technology. "Decision making is made easier because the software offers only relevant data."

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Land use, property values linked

Agriculture and other land uses that provide open space increase the value of houses located within a quarter-mile radius, while landfills and large-scale animal operations lower the value of nearby houses, according to a new study by researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

The study, summarized in the report "The Impact of Open Space and Potential Local Disamenities on Residential Property Values in Berks County, Pennsylvania," was authored by Richard Ready, assistant professor of agricultural and environmental economics, and Charles Abdalla, associate professor of agricultural and environmental economics.

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Study suggests cause for restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) may sound like something right out of a 1950s horror flick. For some sufferers, it is. This affliction causes an irresistible urge to move the legs often accompanied by creepy-crawly sensations in the legs. The sensations are only relieved by movement, and become worse as the sun goes down. Night after night this sleeplessness occurs for the millions who suffer with RLS and their partners.

Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University who performed a study on brain tissue found that, although there are no unique pathological changes in the brains of patients with RLS, it appears that cells in a portion of the mid-brain aren't getting enough iron.

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Plants, people share molecular signaling system

Scientists have discovered that plants respond to environmental stresses with a sequence of molecular signals known in humans and other mammals as the "G-protein signaling pathway," revealing that this signaling strategy has long been conserved throughout evolution.

Because a large percentage of all the drugs approved for use in humans target the G-protein signaling pathway, the findings could also be used in the search for plant compounds that regulate the pathway in mammals, possibly leading to new drugs for human diseases.

In addition, the research identifies the enzyme in plants that triggers the production of an important molecule, S1P, in this signaling system. The enzyme in mammals is known to play a critical role in regulating the proliferation and death of cells.

"Our research also indicates that the S1P-G-protein signaling pathway is the previously unknown genetic basis of characteristics that regulate a plant's ability to withstand drought," said Sarah M. Assmann, the Waller professor of plant biology at Penn State and leader of the group of researchers from Penn State and Virginia Commonwealth University. Its discovery in plants could be used to develop crop varieties with higher yields and greater drought resistance, in addition to helping to identify plant sources for new pharmaceuticals.

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(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009