Campus news in brief

Flu forecasting systems predict flu symptoms will peak in upcoming weeks

A group of computer scientists and statisticians at Carnegie Mellon University have predicted that flu activity may be reaching its peak for the 2016-2017 season. This was deduced from models created by the Stat and Delphi flu forecasting systems developed by the Delphi research group at Carnegie Mellon.

The Stat system creates its predictions by analyzing past flu patterns and current input from the CDC and Prevention’s domestic influenza surveillance system. It predicts that flu activity for Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia will peak the week of Feb. 12, and flu activity nationwide will peak this week and next week.

The Delphi system uses best guesses which are made weekly by a group of people who receive input from the CDC’s surveillance network. It predicts that flu activity for Pennsylvania will peak the week of Jan. 29 and will peak nationally the week of Feb. 5.

Compared to 11 competing flu forecasting systems, both the Stat and Delphi flu forecasting systems proved to predict the most accurate forecasts for the 2015-2016 flu season.
According to a Carnegie Mellon press release, members of the Delphi research group expressed the hope that they will eventually be able to forecast flu activity the same way that meteorologists make weather forecasts.

Meditation could be the key to dealing with stress during the Superbowl

Those looking forward to next week’s Superbowl are probably all too familiar with the stress that comes along with the event, especially if your favorite team is competing. Carnegie Mellon University scientists may have found the solution. They predict that if utilized during the games, mindfulness meditation can help improve stress management.

“If you get stressed out watching football or think that you might, set aside a little time before the game or during halftime doing brief mindfulness practices,” David Creswell, associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said in a university press release.

Scientists believe that mindfulness meditation can also help relieve stress in our everyday lives. Creswell found that mindfulness intervention programs are able to reduce loneliness in older adults, slow HIV progression, and even improve healthy aging. This is because mindfulness meditation training enhances brain stress resilience circuits and improves inflammatory health outcomes in high-stress adults.

“These brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience, such that mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress,” Creswell said.