Research news: binge eating, sexually transmitted infections, zoosemiotics and rainfalls

The research news section gives regular hints about interesting studies in various fields of research.

Social sciences

Women tend to overeat after negative emotions, men after positive ones

In the recently published article, psychological scientists of the University of Tartu studied how positive and negative emotions relate to binge eating – consuming an excessive amount of food within a short period of time – among men and women. The method used allowed to obtain a number of assessments from the subjects about their momentary emotions and binge eating episodes over several days. The analysis revealed that among women, binge eating episodes were more likely after negative emotions, while men tended to overeat after positive emotions. This suggests that women tend to comfort themselves with food while men are less likely to do so.

Read more in the article.

Further information:

Hedvig Sultson, Junior Research Fellow in Clinical and Experimental Psychology, hedvig.sultson@ut.ee
Kairi Kreegipuu, Professor of Experimental Psychology, kairi.kreegipuu@ut.ee
Kirsti Akkermann, Associate Professor in Clinical Psychology, kirsti.akkermann@ut.ee

Medicine

Mycoplasma genitalium is related to seminal inflammatory markers among infertile males 

 The topic of the impact of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on male fertility continues to be controversial. Gonorrhoeae and chlamydia have been proven to harm male fertility, but little is known about trichomonas and Mycoplasma genitaliumThe study by University of Tartu researchers aimed to investigate the prevalence of causes of STIs such as chlamydia (Chlamydia trachomatis), gonococci (Neisseria gonorrhoeae), trichomonas (Trichomonas vaginalis) and Mycoplasma genitalium among infertile males to analyse the effect of these STIs on semen parameters and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in blood. In the study, 2,000 men with fertility problems were compared to 248 men with proven fertility (male partners of pregnant women). They were tested for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and genital mycoplasmosis, their semen, urine and blood analyses were taken and also interleukin-6 level in semen was measured.  The main finding was that the Mycoplasma genitalium infection occurred only in the group of infertile men and was related to semen inflammatory markers. The prevalence of STIs among infertile males is low (below 2%). STIs were found to have no impact on PSA. 

Read more in the article.

Further information: Stanislav Tjagur, doctoral student in Medicine, stanislav.tjagur@kliinikum.ee

Arts and humanities

Zoosemiotics helps to understand interspecies communication

Interspecies communication is a hotly-debated topic in ever-expanding environments like cities, where it shapes the quotidian interactions of different animal agents, including humans. In a recently defended doctoral thesis, the interspecies communication taking place in hybrid environments was analysed semiotically, focusing on the interaction of humans and apes in zoological gardens and research laboratories. It was analysed through the lens of zoosemiotics, enabling the researcher to abandon an anthropocentric perspective and adopt that of other species. The umwelt model used in the research proves to be an inspiring and powerful tool that we can use to (partially) access the world of other organisms. In the thesis, the author develops the concept of "umwelt overlap", namely the idea that the umwelt should not merely be understood as a species-specific nor as an organism-specific model, but should rather be expanded to encompass areas of shared meanings. The thesis shows how interaction can lead to mutually intelligible languages that allow two different species to communicate. For instance, the acquisition and usage of new signs remarkably modify the semiotic environment of different animal species and is therefore linked to the concept of umwelt transition. The study also reveals that animals in captivity can shape institutional practices and other human-made sign systems, such as animal handling practices. The research proposes several practices to improve animal welfare in captivity.

Read more in the doctoral thesis.

Further information: Mirko Cerrone, PhD in Semiotics and Culture Studies, mirko.cerrone@ut.ee

Science and technology

Heavy rainfall patterns over the Nordic-Baltic region have changed during the years 

Heavy rains can greatly disrupt people's lives, flooding fields and destroying crops, washing away roads and causing flooding in cities. As temperatures increase, the atmosphere can hold more moisture and the potential for more frequent and intense rainfall and the related damage is present. The study aimed to identify changes in daily amounts of heavy precipitation over the Nordic-Baltic region. The observed changes reveal temporal and spatial variability. Almost all stations showed an increase in the daily amount of heavy rainfall during the last 50 years, but over a longer period, since 1901, there are multidecadal periods of increase and decrease. Compared to the first half of the 120-year period studied, the second half has seen a shift towards later annual maxima: instead of August, maximum rainfalls increasingly tend to happen in October and December. Changes in the occurrence of heavy rainfall may also require changes in the design of buildings.

Read more in the article.

Further information: Piia Post, Associate Professor in Meteorology and Climatology, piia.post@ut.ee

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Doctoral defence: Martin Kolnes “Appraisal driven modulation of attention control”

On 16 December at 16:00 Martin Kolnes will defend his doctoral thesis “Appraisal driven modulation of attention control” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Psychology). 
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Doctoral students are invited to three-minute thesis competition

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Doctoral defence: Hedvig Sultson “Refining the constructs of positive and negative emotional eating”

7. oktoobril kell 14.15 kaitseb Hedvig Sultson psühholoogia erialal doktoritööd "Refining the constructs of positive and negative emotional eating".