Connect with us


Tracking mental health over the COVID-19 pandemic

Philadelphia, October 26, 2022 – When the world shut down in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people the world over experienced profound…



Philadelphia, October 26, 2022 – When the world shut down in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people the world over experienced profound psychological stress to varying degrees. Now, a new study takes advantage of the unique situation and longitudinally studied the demographic, neurobiological, and psychological factors that contributed to individuals’ risk or resilience to mental health disruptions related to the stress.

Credit: Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging

Philadelphia, October 26, 2022 – When the world shut down in March of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people the world over experienced profound psychological stress to varying degrees. Now, a new study takes advantage of the unique situation and longitudinally studied the demographic, neurobiological, and psychological factors that contributed to individuals’ risk or resilience to mental health disruptions related to the stress.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, published by Elsevier.

While “resilience” is a broad term with many connotations, the authors describe it as the ability of an individual to resist the negative impacts of illness, stress, or trauma, in line with a recently proposed definition. Psychological factors, such as coping abilities, help people protect themselves from harmful experiences and are associated with resilience to trauma.

The researchers assessed data from over 2,000 participants collected as part of the Barcelona Brain Health Initiative. They analyzed the change in participants’ anxiety and depression symptoms from two years before to during the first year of the pandemic. The researchers analyzed the data to identify participants with resilience, which they defined here as the lack of development of anxiety or depression over the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, all participants reported normal or mild symptoms, and in terms of measures of resilience, reported medium-high coping skills and low-to-moderate stress levels. Across the sample, scores reflecting depressive and anxiety symptoms increased, particularly in women, but the changes were mediated by individual differences in coping skills and perceived stress.

Resilience has also been linked in previous studies to structural and functional characteristics of specific brain areas and circuits, including the default mode network (DMN), which is associated with mind-wandering activity. To examine these influences, the researchers made use of brain imaging data that had been collected on over 400 participants before the pandemic. The data showed that brain connectivity within the DMN explained much of the individual resilience and the psychological influences on mental health.

David Bartrés-Faz, PhD, from the University of Barcelona and a senior author of the study, said, “Our findings show that psychological aspects such as coping strategies should be considered within the context of each individual biological complexity. We found evidence of how the specific configurations of brain networks (such as the DMN) were meaningful to understand responses to stress – even years later – in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the combination of individual psychological factors and specific biological substrates can predict the risk of vulnerability to anxiety and depression symptoms during a prolonged stress factor.”

Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, said of the study, “While we are in the early stages of being able to characterize brain network function and relate it to individual differences, the results of this study strikingly suggest that the state of the DMN, known to be associated with social and emotional processing as well as self-referential memory, may provide contextual support during stressful experiences that may contribute to healthy coping and better mental health outcomes.”


Read More

Continue Reading


Why are crypto fans obsessed with micronations and seasteading?

From repurposed cruise ships like MS Satosh, to the blockchain governed Liberland and Satoshi Island, crypto fans are trying to create utopian new communities…



From repurposed cruise ships like MS Satosh, to the blockchain governed Liberland and Satoshi Island, crypto fans are trying to create utopian new communities built around new rules.

We cant blame Elon Musk for dreaming of moving to Mars the human race has always been curious about finding a better life somewhere else. 

But not everyone in crypto is looking up to the stars to find new worlds; others stay on earth and attempt to build a new micronation, or a crypto community, here. There are dozens of projects in development and a few actually operational including Liberland, Satoshi Island and Puertopia/Sol attracting interest from the blockchain world.


While many head out to sea to build their new communities, another option is to find land left over after conflicts. This is not as crazy as it sounds, and in the shifting territorial landscape after the breakup of the Yugoslavian empire, small pockets of land have turned up. Vt Jedlika, a Czech economist and Libertarian, founded Liberland on April 13, 2015 on Thomas Jeffersons birthday on a small track of terra nullius (unclaimed land) on the banks of the Danube between Croatia and Serbia. At seven square kilometers, it is larger than Vatican City and Monaco and similar in size to Gibraltar.

The tiny nation is not yet habited despite boasting 785,000 citizens, all of whom currently reside abroad.

Jedlika wanted to form a new nation with low taxes and greater freedoms, and he found the land literally by Googling the term terra nullius.

President Vt Jedlika at the 2019 Floating Man Festival in Liberland. Source: Supplied

We had a need to start a new country in order to defend the personal and economic freedoms of certain groups of people that really enjoy freedom and want to live in a free society, says Jedlika.

Liberland is a pristine piece of land; its a beautiful place with sandy beaches, and I think its actually one of the most beautiful places on the Danube. People can actually come there for recreation, and people are coming camping there as we speak even though its winter right now.

Of course, there are some major challenges, including geopolitical challenges that we have to overcome.

Liberland is in phase one and preparing the groundwork for future recognition and urban development. So, nothing has yet been built, although you can sign up for residency online. The would-be country has signed memorandums of understanding with Ghana, Malawi and Haiti, and while official recognition has not been achieved, Jedlika is convinced it is only a matter of time.

The crypto angle

The government has selected the Polkadot ecosystem to develop the countrys governance and will rely on DAOs to run everything transparently.

We will be running everything at the speed of light. Everything, including Congress, the land registry, the courts system and budgeting, will be registered on the blockchain. This will allow for all decisions to be transparent and to happen at speed. We are also planning for citizens to run the nodes on their IT infrastructure on their computers at home and to make money while supporting Liberland.

Liberland flag
The flag of Liberland. Source: Liberland

There will be two houses of parliament in Liberland. The first is more meritocratic where citizens who hold the official Merit token, pay voluntary taxes and contribute to Liberland can vote on decisions in the country. The other house is the Senate and will be populated with people who helped build Liberland and will have more of an oversight role, including Jedlika moving into a steward position if he is voted out of his current position.

Voting will be frequent, every three months, to ensure that the citizens can actually influence decision-making rather than in traditional four-year election cycles. The code is in place and is scheduled to be launched on the eighth anniversary of the foundation of the state, April 13, 2023. In time, there will be a maximum of 14,000 active voters at any given time.

Liberland is being put together in the Arctic Village next door in Serbia, which is largely neutral to Liberland, while it seeks to improve its still uncomfortable relationship with Croatia.

Verdis next door

A neighboring strip of land was also claimed by a passionate founder this time, by 14-year-old Daniel Jackson in 2019, who wishes to establish Verdis. Jackson was born and raised in Australia to English parents, and the now 18-year-old does not see his age as an impediment. 

A group of people and I decided to create Verdis in order to help make a difference in the world, especially around reconciliation of ethnic groups, neutrality zone, a new government structure, and a way to hopefully help boost tourism and economy in Slavonia and Vojvodina as an extra benefit for neighboring Croatia and Serbia, says Jackson.

Daniel Jackson, president of Verdis, with the new national flag. Source: Supplied

Verdis is roughly 0.451 square kilometers, making it slightly larger than Vatican City. 

In some ways, I did see inspiration from Liberland, but we still have different goals and aspirations. I think that with enough effort and hard work, Verdis is feasible, especially with our right to the land under international law.

Around 27 people are currently involved in Verdis government. The nation is in the process of having its passports recognized by the Chief Immigration Officer of Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).

According to Jackon, most of Verdis citizens plan to move to Verdis in the future, starting with houseboats along the Danube.

We believe Verdis will survive, as long as it is actively worked on, and works to keep its voice loud in its search for international recognition, says the young acting president.

Satoshi Island

Satoshi Island was founded in 2021 by acquiring an entire island in the South Pacific Ocean. Aimed at digital professionals and based 100% on cryptocurrencies, the island looks to attract tech professionals looking to work alongside like-minded people.

The vision behind Satoshi Island was born out of a feeling of wishing that industry-based events and conferences would last longer. Online is fine but even better is to have a year-round venue where crypto enthusiasts and professionals could live, work and visit.

Unlike some of the other projects, Satoshi Island is simply about celebrating crypto, and the island venue was simply to give it a sense of freedom and community.

Satoshi Island c
Satoshi Island concept art. Source: Satoshi Island

The Satoshi Island project has no political agenda, separatist or ideological ideas, a spokesperson tells Magazine. Whereas some people might think that the vision stems from wanting to escape due to being disenfranchised with the rest of the world, this couldnt be further from the truth. The only goal is to create a place for people in the industry to congregate and have the ability to utilize blockchain technology to the fullest. The island could be most likely compared to a private retreat or golf course where only members can visit.

Starting with a blank slate allowed them to look at the master planning of the island with fresh ideas. All the systems (where possible) will be blockchain-based and sustainable, with everything 100% powered by renewable energy generated on the island. Modular development is also an important aspect of the island. This type of architecture allows them to build in ways that significantly reduce the time, disturbance and impact on the nature and landscape.

The rep tells us that families with children seem to be attracted to the idea, often with the female being the main proponent. 


We are expecting the population to be a mix of people living and working on the island all year round, as well as people who live there half the year as they escape colder or hotter climates.

You can also take a holiday there. Take a look at the interesting Satoshi Island video here.

Puertopia, I mean, Sol

Puerto Rico was another hot spot for crypto bros. People such as Brock Pierce of EOS and Tether fame and Joel Comm of the Bad Crypto Podcast relocated to the U.S. territory where taxes are favorable and the crypto rich were welcomed, at least initially by locals enjoying income growth, especially in hospitality. There were grand plans to build a blockchain-powered city called Puertopia in the derelict remains of the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Ceiba, which would include a crypto-exclusive bank and showcase what a crypto future could look like. The New York Times reported that someone told it Puertopia translates to eternal boy playground (which sounds suspiciously like a joke directed at Pierce), so they changed the name to Sol. A backlash against crypto and the effects of crypto winter in 2022 has seen updates on the project dry up of late.

Crypto Utopia

Kyle Chase of Master Ventures fame and crypto influencer attempted to set up a Libertarian crypto community and business incubator in his beloved Thailand. Magazine paid a visit in February last year and heard wild tales of unchecked merrymaking, crypto-influencers, police grillings, a reported $20,000-a-month burn rate and a collision between idealism and reality. After shifting locations a number of times, the concept has yet to be fully realized.

MS Satoshi

The project that was the Satoshi Cruise ship suffered an ignominious ending through red tape rather than political inference. Launched by three cryptocurrency advocates in 2020 when cruise ships were relatively cheap as a result of the pandemic, the ill-fated Satoshi Cruise Ship failed to ignite real interest in Libertarians interested in making it their home.

MS Satoshi
Artists impression of the MS Satoshi. Source: MS Satoshi

Attempts were made to sell off rooms, but limits on cooking and general living on a cruise ship did little to attract citizens, and then the enormous running costs and regulations around running and maintaining a ship (even down to permits and sewage) proved too much for the founders. It has now been converted back into a luxury cruising vessel.


Arktide pod
Arktide is working on a 250-foot diameter dome, which will be a total of five floors with a height of 50 feet from base to dome top. Source: Arktide

Seasteading refers to the idea of building permanent homes on the sea, known as seasteads, in areas that are not under the jurisdiction of any government.

At present no one has actually created a seastead that has been officially recognized as a sovereign state. Different designs for seasteads have been proposed, such as modified cruise ships, repurposed oil rigs and specially constructed floating islands. It is fraught with legal difficulties, however, as a Bitcoiner couple who set up a floating home off the coast of Thailand discovered when the navy hauled them and charged them with violating Thai sovereignty.

The concept itself has been around for decades. The 2020 Netflix film Rose Island highlighted the attempt by Italian engineer Giorgio Rosa to build a sovereign island in the Adriatic Sea back in the 1960s, complete with a restaurant, bar, souvenir shop and post office. The short-lived experiment ended when Italian warships accosted the platform, removed the last inhabitants and then completely removed all evidence from the sea. 

California-based nonprofit the Seasteading Institute was founded in 2008 by activist, software engineer and political economic theorist Patri Friedman, grandson of Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman.

Development director Carly Jackson tells Magazine she is currently aware of 12 seasteading projects in various stages of development (see the full list here), of which the leading ones are Arktide, Atlas Island, Atlantis Sea Colony and Freedom Haven.

The genesis of some of the projects is based on politics, including Atlas Island and Freedom Haven. Other projects, such as Arktide, a project that bought property in Puerto Rico as a base to build from, have incorporated blockchain from the very beginning.

I expect one or more of the active projects to launch platforms in the next year or so. It will probably take a few more years to have enough of a community to move out to international waters. Im not sure if that will make seasteading mainstream, but I hope it will be normalized for people to consider living on a floating city in a decade or so.

The Maldives Floating City

The Floating City is scheduled to begin construction this year and has 5,000 housing units linked by waterways and laid out in hexagonal segments. The city boasts that it is a climate change solution, but with each house priced at $250,000, it appears to want to attract investors or nomadic professionals looking for somewhere to lay their hats.

Oceanix Busan

Oceanix Busan is planned to be located just one mile from the southeastern coast of South Korea. Initially, the project will consist of three triangular platforms, each capable of accommodating 12,000 people. The goal is for the project to expand into a hexagonal city of more than 20 platforms. The project (officially named Oceanix City) was presented by Bjarke Ingels Group and Samsung Group at the United Nations Roundtable of Sustainable Floating Cities in 2019, and it was agreed by the U.N. that it will be a prototype for sustainable floating cities. In addition to being a floating city, it will also serve as a testing ground for various sustainable living technologies.

The prototype of the floating city is due for completion this year and will comprise interconnected platforms that have a total surface area of 15.5 acres. Each modular piece of the city, which floats on water, is specifically designed for a particular purpose such as residential space, research facilities or accommodation.

Oceanix Buscan
An artists impression of Oceanix Buscan. Source:

For details on other micronations click here.

Read More

Continue Reading


Cardboard Box Demand Plunging At Rates Unseen Since The Great Recession

Cardboard Box Demand Plunging At Rates Unseen Since The Great Recession

By Rachel Premack of FreightWaves,

Demand and output for cardboard…



Cardboard Box Demand Plunging At Rates Unseen Since The Great Recession

By Rachel Premack of FreightWaves,

Demand and output for cardboard boxes and other packaging material fell sharply in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to data released by the American Forest & Paper Association and Fibre Box Association on Friday.

It’s the latest indicator that consumer demand is eroding following the pandemic. Dwindling savings, inflation, rising interest rates and fears of a recession may all be swaying consumers to spend less. 

Such pressures would show up in the humble box industry, which serves as an excellent barometer for the larger economy. Practically everything we consume and use spends some time in a box, ranging from online orders to food sent to grocery stores.

Box shipments have plunged at a rate not seen since the Great Recession. (Source: Fibre Box Association, KeyBanc Capital Markets) 

U.S. box shipments fell by 8.4% in the fourth quarter, according to the Fibre Box Association. KeyBanc’s Adam Josephson, who leads the bank’s analysis of the packaging industry, wrote in a Sunday note that this was “the most severe quarterly decline since the Great Financial Crisis (2Q09).”

Inventories of containerboard in the U.S. are unusually high. (Source: American Forest & Paper Association, Fibre Box Association, KeyBanc Capital Markets) 

U.S. box operating rates fell to 80.9%, the Fibre Box Association said, which was also a low last seen in the first quarter of 2009. This means nearly 20% of the U.S. capacity to produce boxes was stagnant last quarter. Supply of containerboard, which is used to make corrugated boxes, stood at 4.3 weeks, according to the American Forest & Paper Association. That’s down from last quarter, but still historically high. 

Inventories of containerboard in the U.S. are unusually high. (Source: American Forest & Paper Association, Fibre Box Association, KeyBanc Capital Markets) 

The American Forest & Paper Association reported that another type of packaging material called boxboard had its lowest operating rate in its five-year record during 2022’s final quarter. Boxboard is typically thinner than cardboard and lacks air pockets.

Box bloodbath? Cardboard crisis?

Box demand normally sees modest upticks of 1% to 2% each year. But government stimulus and the shift from service to goods demand through 2020 and 2021 shocked box demand into some of its fastest growth in history. Prices rose as much as 55% through this time, Josephson said. 

A hangover after a yearslong cardboard carnival would be in order — and this one looks nasty.

To Josephson, the end of 2022 in the packaging world had “echoes of the Great Financial Crisis everywhere one looks,” he wrote in the Sunday note. What’s more, significant capacity — that is, more facilities that produce packaging materials — is set to enter the market through the next several years. It’s a tricky time for more packaging production to open up, given the shaky outlook for demand and falling consumer spending.

Consumer debt is growing at nearly the same pace it was prior to 2020. But that debt is more expensive as interest rates soar. (FreightWaves SONAR)



"Inflationary pressures on the consumers have also added to the problem by reducing the consumers’ discretionary spending capabilities,” said Thomas Hassfurther, executive vice president of corrugated products at WestRock, in a Thursday call to investors. WestRock is the No. 2 largest packaging company in the U.S.

“In addition, consumer behavior changed very quickly as we exited the extreme COVID period, resulting in more of a preference towards travel, entertainment and experience versus that of tangible goods,” Hassfurther said. “Containerboard and box demand continues to be negatively impacted from the deterioration in U.S. and global economic conditions, rising interest rates and a cooler housing market.”

However, WestRock executives maintained that demand in 2023 still appeared “healthy” compared to pre-COVID times. On the Thursday call, they forecast shipments to be 6% higher in first-quarter 2023 compared to the same period in 2019, on a per-day basis.

What goes up must come down … and down …

Many of the industries that saw wild demand during the pandemic are now crashing, like container shipping, used cars and home building

A downturn after a wild upswing isn’t particularly shocking. What’s troublesome is that executives grew or made plans to grow in response to this unprecedented demand. An increase in supply will further drive down already-plummeting prices.

In the cardboard world, for example, more than 2 million tons per year of additional containerboard output is coming to the North American market. Ocean carriers expect to add a record-breaking number of new container ships through the next two years. And nearly 60 real estate firms, most of which expanded payrolls during the pandemic, have already had to lay off more than 13,000 workers through 2022 and 2023, according to Insider.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Outbound requests for truckload services were slightly up in late January 2023, compared to the same period in 2019 and 2020. That’s a chipper indicator for goods demand. The Fed’s offensive on inflation has appeared to slow the rate of price increases without halting an unusually strong job market. Payrolls across the U.S. remain historically strong, with an unemployment rate of just 3.5%.

Tyler Durden Tue, 01/31/2023 - 17:40

Read More

Continue Reading


Aging | Clearance of p16Ink4a+ cells: limited effects on β-cell mass and proliferation in mice

“[…] we set out to explore the effects of removing p16Ink4a+ senescent cells on the proliferative capacity and mass of β-cells […].” Credit: 2023…



“[…] we set out to explore the effects of removing p16Ink4a+ senescent cells on the proliferative capacity and mass of β-cells […].”

Credit: 2023 Bahour et al.

“[…] we set out to explore the effects of removing p16Ink4a+ senescent cells on the proliferative capacity and mass of β-cells […].”

BUFFALO, NY- January 31, 2023 – A new research paper was published on the cover of Aging (listed as “Aging (Albany NY)” by Medline/PubMed and “Aging-US” by Web of Science) Volume 15, Issue 2, entitled, “Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive cells in a mouse transgenic model does not change β-cell mass and has limited effects on their proliferative capacity.”

Type 2 diabetes is partly characterized by decreased β-cell mass and function which have been linked to cellular senescence. Despite a low basal proliferative rate of adult β-cells, they can respond to growth stimuli, but this proliferative capacity decreases with age and correlates with increased expression of senescence effector, p16Ink4a

In a new study, researchers Nadine Bahour, Lucia Bleichmar, Cristian Abarca, Emeline Wilmann, Stephanie Sanjines, and Cristina Aguayo-Mazzucato from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School hypothesized that selective deletion of p16Ink4a-positive cells would enhance the proliferative capacity of the remaining β-cells due to the elimination of the local senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP). 

“We aimed to investigate the effects of p16Ink4a-positive cell removal on the mass and proliferative capacity of remaining β-cells using INK-ATTAC mice as a transgenic model of senolysis.”

Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive subpopulation was tested in mice of different ages, males and females, and with two different insulin resistance models: high-fat diet (HFD) and insulin receptor antagonist (S961). Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive cells did not affect the overall β-cell mass. β-cell proliferative capacity negatively correlated with cellular senescence load and clearance of p16Ink4a positive cells in 1-year-old HFD mice improved β-cell function and increased proliferative capacity in a subset of animals. Single-cell sequencing revealed that the targeted p16Ink4a subpopulation of β-cells is non-proliferative and non-SASP producing whereas additional senescent subpopulations remained contributing to continued local SASP secretion. 

“In conclusion, deletion of p16Ink4a cells did not negatively impact beta-cell mass and blood glucose under basal and HFD conditions and proliferation was restored in a subset of HFD mice opening further therapeutic targets in the treatment of diabetes.”



Corresponding Author: Cristina Aguayo-Mazzucato 

Keywords: beta cells, mass, proliferation, senolysis, senescence

Sign up for free Altmetric alerts about this article:


About Aging-US:

Launched in 2009, Aging (Aging-US) publishes papers of general interest and biological significance in all fields of aging research and age-related diseases, including cancer—and now, with a special focus on COVID-19 vulnerability as an age-dependent syndrome. Topics in Aging go beyond traditional gerontology, including, but not limited to, cellular and molecular biology, human age-related diseases, pathology in model organisms, signal transduction pathways (e.g., p53, sirtuins, and PI-3K/AKT/mTOR, among others), and approaches to modulating these signaling pathways.

Please visit our website at​​ and connect with us:

  • SoundCloud
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • LabTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest


For media inquiries, please contact


Aging (Aging-US) Journal Office

6666 E. Quaker Str., Suite 1B

Orchard Park, NY 14127

Phone: 1-800-922-0957, option 1


Read More

Continue Reading