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This Week in Research: Predicting Crime and Staving Off Alzheimer’s with Sleep

1 Written by: | Friday, Oct 25, 2013 10:45am

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Don’t worry, there’s nothing sinister and dystopian about “predictive policing,” the attempt to stop criminals before they commit a crime. Right? RIGHT?

According to Jennifer Bachner, program coordinator for Johns Hopkins’ Center for Advanced Governmental Studies, predictive policing techniques use algorithms, time/space analysis, and social network analysis to get a jump on crime. For example, in Santa Cruz, California, the police determined high-risk crime areas by plotting things like where criminals and victims tend to congregate and potential escape routes. In Baltimore County, the police were able to predict a grocery store robbery after analyzing a string of similar robberies. And in Richmond, Virginia, homicide detectives mapped out a suspect’s network of friends and family using his posts on social media.

“We can use data from a wide variety of sources to compute estimates about phenomena such as where gun violence is likely to occur, where a serial burglar is likely to commit his next crime, and which individuals a suspect is likely to contact for help,” Bachner told the Hopkins Hub. “We can estimate the probability that a car will be stolen, for example, if we know the location of the car, characteristics of the car, and the time of day.” Cool — or creepy? You be the judge.

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Yet more proof that getting a good night’s sleep is a smart thing to do:  According to research out of Johns Hopkins, sleeping poorly may result in an earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and a faster progression once the disease has set in.

According to the researchers, study participants who slept poorly (or slept less) tended to show increases in a particular biomarker that’s a hallmark of the disease.

“These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people,” said Adam Spira, lead author of the study and a professor with the School of Public Health’s Department of Mental Health. “To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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