Combating depression with video games

Video games that combine play with exercise (“exergames”) are being investigated as a treatment for seniors with a common form of depression.

In a pilot study, 19 participants with subsyndromal depression (SSD) played an exergame three times a week. The participants ranged in age from 63 to 94 years and played one of five Nintendo Wii sports games: tennis, bowling, baseball, golf or boxing. More than one-third of the participants had a 50 percent or greater reduction of depressive symptoms.

SSD is much more common than major depression in seniors, and is associated with substantial suffering, functional disability, and increased use of costly medical services. Physical activity can improve depression; however, fewer than five percent of older adults meet physical activity recommendations. Exergames offer a novel treatment.

The study, carried out at the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UCSD School of Medicine, appears in the The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. News release at


Fighting roundworm

Biologists at UCSD have discovered that a protein from a soil bacterium is an effective treatment for intestinal parasitic roundworms. These parasites, which include hookworms and whipworms, infect about two billion people in underdeveloped tropical regions and are cumulatively one of the leading causes of debilitation worldwide.

The crystal protein known as Cry5B is produced by the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) bacterium and is effective at a single dose at curing mammals of intestinal roundworm infections.

Bt is used in agricultural insect control and is the leading biologically produced insecticide worldwide. Bt crystal proteins have been used as organic insecticides for over five decades and are non-toxic to vertebrates. The finding is reported in the open-access journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. News release at


Studying seamounts

Lying beneath the ocean are chains of mountains, isolated peaks, and volcanoes exploding with magma and other minerals from below Earth’s surface. Some peaks surpass the height of Mt. Everest.

Known as seamounts, these underwater mountains are scattered across every ocean and collectively comprise an area the size of Europe. They host life forms found nowhere else on Earth. More than 99 percent of all seamounts are unexplored by scientists.

In an effort to bring together the extremely diverse seamount research community, a special edition of the journal Oceanography is devoted to the topic.

Scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD worked with colleagues from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Oregon State University, University of British Columbia and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. They contributed expertise in seamount chemistry, physics, geology, hydrology, oceanography, biology and fisheries conservation to this special interdisciplinary effort to delve into the broad research supported by seamounts and to communicate the science and threats facing them to the public. This special issue of Oceanography is available at


2010 High Tech Fair

  • 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 9
  • Del Mar Fairgrounds, Wyland Hall
  • FREE: Registration required at

Open to seventh- to 12th-grade students and their parents. Exhibitors from 50 companies will demonstrate current and emerging technologies in the fields of aerospace, biotech, robotics, telecommunications, and clean energy. Researchers and scientists will be on hand to conduct interactive demonstrations and answer questions.

The High Tech Fair is a collaborative effort between the Science Alliance, the San Diego County Office of Education and San Diego City Schools.

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.