Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

UTSA​​ researches mental health, AI and more

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Kara Lee

This November, UTSA faculty and students have been busy finding new methods to aid mental health and combat disease. A $2 million grant is set to fund an AI-related research team, and a new study is analyzing how NFL ticket prices should consider demographics.

Catch up with the latest updates in Roadrunner research with The Paisano’s monthly recap.

Professor’s research discovers how to decrease suicide risk in patients with chronic pain

According to the National Institute of Mental Health data, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for American adults, and “individuals with chronic pain are at least twice as likely to report suicidal behaviors or to complete suicide.” 

UTSA professor Willie Hale understands that certain risk factors are associated with the increase in suicide rates.

Using questionnaires from 207 anonymous patients, most of whom are active duty military, Hale researched the correlation between suicide and severe pain under the interpersonal theory of suicide to exponentially improve suicide prevention treatment for those who suffer from chronic pain.

The concept of the interpersonal theory of suicide suggests that prolonged severe pain directly correlates to a higher risk of suicide due to patients feeling like a burden or rejected by others. 

When people with chronic pain feel like a burden to others, they are more likely to want to attempt suicide,” Hale said. 

Acceptance and commitment therapy techniques have enabled patients with chronic pain to engage in their daily activities and enjoy life despite the presence of pain. “It matters whether or not you’ve made peace with the pain,” Hale said. “If you can get people to move from making no peace with their pain to just being a little bit okay with it, that cuts their suicide risk in half, and if you can get them to a high level of pain acceptance, it eliminates that risk.”

Hale uncovered therapy techniques and pain acceptance that will aid patients in short-circuiting their severity of pain and perceived burdensomeness to manage their pain and encourage them to participate in activities to improve their quality of life.

UTSA researchers discover new method to inhibit cholera infection

Vibrio cholerae is a toxigenic bacterium that “colonizes the human intestine to cause the disease cholera,” an acute, diarrheal illness. The mechanism by which the bacteria attaches to the intestinal wall is not fully understood.

UTSA Microbiology professor Karl Klose, Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg College of Sciences professor co-authored a research article entitled “A peptide-binding domain shared with an Antarctic bacterium facilitates Vibrio cholerae human cell binding and intestinal colonization” with Cameron Lloyd, a recent UTSA doctoral student.

Klose has primarily studied the pathogenic mechanisms of V. cholerae for the past 30 years while also guiding Lloyd, the primary author of the thesis article, in Klose’s laboratory for five years. Lloyd and Klose successfully identified a peptide that can repress the virality of V. cholerae.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cholera is an intestinal infection that causes diarrhea, vomiting, circulatory collapse and shock. If left untreated, 25 to 50% of severe cholera cases can be fatal. Cholera is a leading cause of epidemic diarrhea in parts of the world, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates up to four million people are infected each year.”

Lloyd learned how to “genetically manipulate V. cholerae and measure its ability to spread disease, bind to red blood cells and form biofilms, which are surfaces where communities of bacteria form that are more resistant to antibiotics,” subsequently hindering the spread of the bacteria.

Psychology team analyzing methods to enhance cognitive function in cancer survivors 

UTSA associate professor of psychology Joe Houpt and Daniel Hughes, assistant professor of research in the Institute for Health Promotion Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio), have earned a $50,000 grant from the Mays Cancer Center at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio).

The grant will fund their project, “Surviving is Not Enough: Enhancing Cognitive Function in Cancer Survivors through Movement and Introspection,” which focuses on recording and strengthening cancer survivors’ cognitive functioning by “studying the effects of breast cancer on a survivor’s spirituality, nutritional well-being and physical health.”

Hughes states that the “patients will participate in a six-month therapeutic yoga program coupled with psycho-social support text messaging, which is based on mental state. Participants will also complete surveys and specially designed cognitive tasks. The patients’ results on the cognitive tasks will become the models for tracking a patient’s cognitive well-being.”

A pilot program led by Hughes during the pandemic, which yielded positive outcomes, allowed the team to expand their local research to the 38-county catchment area of the South Texas region. Using telehealth, the team was able to engage survivors with a “whole-person approach” to maintain the patient’s comfort throughout the program process and eliminate possible accessibility barriers that would inhibit patients from participating.

This project is proving to be an effective treatment process, and with this grant, Houpt and Hughes will continue this research at Mays Cancer Center. The team is looking at additional funding opportunities to expand the project and recruit patients to implement it on a broader scale.

Professor granted $2 million to research energy-efficient applications of AI

UTSA College of Sciences professor Fidel Santamaria received a $2 million grant through the National Science Foundation’s Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) program to develop new artificial intelligence (AI) applications using neuroscience to create the most energy-efficient computing systems to this day.

To test the least “energy-hungry” electronic models, Santamaria collaborated with University of Tennessee Knoxville professor Stephen Sarles, Portland State University professor Christof Teuscher and University of South Carolina professor Yuriy V. Pershin by collectively combining their work in biology, physics, computer science and engineering.

We, as humans, have a good abstraction processing of information with very, very little energy consumption compared to computers. On top of that, we are very flexible in learning. We can process things and use history to retrofit or use it as feedback. We’re history dependent.”

Addressing the energy efficiency of the brain’s ability to process information, the team modeled the computers after the systems in the human brain, also known as neuromorphic computing.

Santamaria stated that “these technologies, if successful, will be transformative in how we build and use things, and the NSF is very interested in trying to understand the ethical consequences of that. For that reason, we have an exciting collaboration with a philosopher here at UTSA, Christopher Stratman, on bioethics.” 

Along with aiding funding for the research, this grant will also support four years of training for students and fund the development of workshops with leading philosophers and bioethicists working on these types of AI applications.

NFL’s variable ticket pricing is found beneficial in areas with high-income diversity

Hayri Alper Arslan, assistant professor of economics at UTSA, used his knowledge and interest in data analytics and economics to study variable ticket pricing in the National Football League (NFL). The results of the study were published in one of the top-rated academic journals, Management Science.

Arslan’s research analyzes NFL ticket sales to uncover if the prices were consistent with a fair market price and if the prices deterred or encouraged a certain demographic of consumers.

From the founding of the NFL in 1920 until 2013, the professional football league did not allow participating teams to charge different prices across games. Each franchise had high- and low-demand games based on consumer data, but the pricing remained constant. This caused sales in the secondary market to increase and become more profitable.”

Due to this market imbalance, the NFL created a new variable pricing system, “in which teams would be able to adjust ticket prices based on the popularity and demand of each game; the higher the popularity of the matchup, the higher the price of each ticket.”

By analyzing the primary and secondary related ticket market data, Arslan discovered that “the implementation of variable pricing in the NFL increased primary market ticket sales by about 1.6% per game,” therefore confirming that variable pricing overall is beneficial to the NFL ticket market, but also uncovering that the traditional pricing of NFL tickets favored customers with higher incomes.

“Our research showed that it is essential to take demographics into account when making pricing decisions. We hope that with the help of this study, policymakers will promote variable pricing for other organizations to address the fairness issue in markets.”

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About the Contributor
Kara Lee, Graphic Editor
Kara is a communication major on track to graduate in 2025. After graduating they hope to work for non-profits that specialize in environmental concerns so they can give back to the planet that provides so much for us. When Kara is not in school or working they can be found either drawing or hiking.

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