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Science Digest: Shuttle Launch Delayed Again

The study does not debunk the idea that plaques and tangles play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Researchers led by Johns Hopkins University researcher Juan C. Troncoso and his colleagues said there might well be subtle physical differences between the brains of the nuns with and without Alzheimer's disease that the researchers could not detect. Rather, they concluded, the study suggests that rigorous intellectual activity can play a protective effect against the onset of Alzheimer's -- even among people with widespread damage to the brain.

-- Shankar Vedantam

Those Who Teach . . .

Positive relationships between pupils and teachers may be a powerful and inexpensive way to improve students' success, according to a recent review of research about the impact of social and emotional relationships between the two groups.

"Children don't learn as well when they are unhappy," said Christi Bergin, who co-wrote the review with her husband, David. The Bergins are psychologists at the University of Missouri . Their article, "Attachment in the Classroom," was published in the June issue of Educational Psychology Review, a peer-reviewed journal.

According to the review, positive teacher-student relationships result in a growth in reading, math, conceptual knowledge and advanced social skills. Students were more likely to have good grades and to score well on achievement tests. They were also referred less often for special education.

Students with less-positive teacher-pupil relationships were more likely to have trouble with classmates and to avoid engaging teachers. They also were more likely to be negative about school, receive poor grades and be aggressive, according to the article.

The authors recommend several ways in which teachers can create positive relationships with students. They include being well-prepared to teach class, explaining the reason for rules and the consequences for breaking them, helping students be accepting of their peers, and interacting with students in a sensitive and warm manner.

"Cognitive development is not the only important aspect of a child's success in a classroom," Christi Bergin said. "It is very important that educators pay attention to their social and emotional well being."

Bergin said strong, positive relationships with an adult at school can compensate for problems a child is having at home, though teachers may need to overcome the negative behavior often resulting from poor parent-child relationships.

-- Ibby Caputo


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