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Concept: Meta-analysis


To review the evidence for the short term association between air pollution and stroke.

Concepts: Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Meta-analysis, Term, Finance


This review summarises the literature on shift work and its relation to insufficient sleep, chronic diseases, and accidents. It is based on 38 meta-analyses and 24 systematic reviews, with additional narrative reviews and articles used for outlining possible mechanisms by which shift work may cause accidents and adverse health. Evidence shows that the effect of shift work on sleep mainly concerns acute sleep loss in connection with night shifts and early morning shifts. A link also exists between shift work and accidents, type 2 diabetes (relative risk range 1.09-1.40), weight gain, coronary heart disease (relative risk 1.23), stroke (relative risk 1.05), and cancer (relative risk range 1.01-1.32), although the original studies showed mixed results. The relations of shift work to cardiometabolic diseases and accidents mimic those with insufficient sleep. Laboratory studies indicate that cardiometabolic stress and cognitive impairments are increased by shift work, as well as by sleep loss. Given that the health and safety consequences of shift work and insufficient sleep are very similar, they are likely to share common mechanisms. However, additional research is needed to determine whether insufficient sleep is a causal pathway for the adverse health effects associated with shift work.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Hypertension, Heart, Chronic, Meta-analysis, Acute, Shift work


Previous meta-analyses comparing the efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions for depression were clouded by a limited number of within-study treatment comparisons. This study used network meta-analysis, a novel methodological approach that integrates direct and indirect evidence from randomised controlled studies, to re-examine the comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for adult depression.

Concepts: Comparison, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Meta-analysis, Publication bias, Cultural studies, Direct examination


 To determine whether feeding infants with hydrolysed formula reduces their risk of allergic or autoimmune disease.

Concepts: Systematic review, Autoimmune disease, Meta-analysis


Reproducibility is a defining feature of science, but the extent to which it characterizes current research is unknown. We conducted replications of 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals using high-powered designs and original materials when available. Replication effects were half the magnitude of original effects, representing a substantial decline. Ninety-seven percent of original studies had statistically significant results. Thirty-six percent of replications had statistically significant results; 47% of original effect sizes were in the 95% confidence interval of the replication effect size; 39% of effects were subjectively rated to have replicated the original result; and if no bias in original results is assumed, combining original and replication results left 68% with statistically significant effects. Correlational tests suggest that replication success was better predicted by the strength of original evidence than by characteristics of the original and replication teams.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Statistics, Statistical significance, Statistical hypothesis testing, Effect size, Meta-analysis, Statistical power


Objective To estimate the benefits and harms of using corticosteroids as an adjunct treatment for sore throat.Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials.Data sources Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), trial registries up to May 2017, reference lists of eligible trials, related reviews.Study selection Randomised controlled trials of the addition of corticosteroids to standard clinical care for patients aged 5 or older in emergency department and primary care settings with clinical signs of acute tonsillitis, pharyngitis, or the clinical syndrome of sore throat. Trials were included irrespective of language or publication status.Review methods Reviewers identified studies, extracted data, and assessed the quality of the evidence, independently and in duplicate. A parallel guideline committee (BMJ Rapid Recommendation) provided input on the design and interpretation of the systematic review, including the selection of outcomes important to patients. Random effects model was used for meta-analyses. Quality of evidence was assessed with the GRADE approach.Results 10 eligible trials enrolled 1426 individuals. Patients who received single low dose corticosteroids (the most common intervention was oral dexamethasone with a maximum dose of 10 mg) were twice as likely to experience pain relief after 24 hours (relative risk 2.2, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 4.3; risk difference 12.4%; moderate quality evidence) and 1.5 times more likely to have no pain at 48 hours (1.5, 1.3 to 1.8; risk difference 18.3%; high quality). The mean time to onset of pain relief in patients treated with corticosteroids was 4.8 hours earlier (95% confidence interval -1.9 to -7.8; moderate quality) and the mean time to complete resolution of pain was 11.1 hours earlier (-0.4 to -21.8; low quality) than in those treated with placebo. The absolute pain reduction at 24 hours (visual analogue scale 0-10) was greater in patients treated with corticosteroids (mean difference 1.3, 95% confidence interval 0.7 to 1.9; moderate quality). Nine of the 10 trials sought information regarding adverse events. Six studies reported no adverse effects, and three studies reported few adverse events, which were mostly complications related to disease, with a similar incidence in both groups.Conclusion Single low dose corticosteroids can provide pain relief in patients with sore throat, with no increase in serious adverse effects. Included trials did not assess the potential risks of larger cumulative doses in patients with recurrent episodes of acute sore throat.Systematic review registration PROSPERO CRD42017067808.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Clinical trial, Medical statistics, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Relative risk, Meta-analysis, Random effects model


Hippocampal volume increase in response to aerobic exercise has been consistently observed in animal models. However, the evidence from human studies is equivocal. We undertook a systematic review to identify all controlled trials examining the effect of aerobic exercise on the hippocampal volumes in humans, and applied meta-analytic techniques to determine if aerobic exercise resulted in volumetric increases. We also sought to establish how volume changes differed in relation to unilateral measures of left/right hippocampal volume, and across the lifespan. A systematic search identified 4398 articles, of which 14 were eligible for inclusion in the primary analysis. A random-effects meta-analysis showed no significant effect of aerobic exercise on total hippocampal volume across the 737 participants. However, aerobic exercise had significant positive effects on left hippocampal volume in comparison to control conditions. Post-hoc analyses indicated effects were driven through exercise preventing the volumetric decreases which occur over time. These results provide meta-analytic evidence for exercise-induced volumetric retention in the left hippocampus. Aerobic exercise interventions may be useful for preventing age-related hippocampal deterioration and maintaining neuronal health.

Concepts: Medical statistics, Volume, Systematic review, Thermodynamics, Hippocampus, Integral, Strength training, Meta-analysis


A systematic review to examine the efficacy of computer-based cognitive interventions for cognitively healthy older adults was conducted. Studies were included if they met the following criteria: average sample age of at least 55 years at time of training; participants did not have Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment; and the study measured cognitive outcomes as a result of training. Theoretical articles, review articles, and book chapters that did not include original data were excluded. We identified 151 studies published between 1984 and 2011, of which 38 met inclusion criteria and were further classified into three groups by the type of computerized program used: classic cognitive training tasks, neuropsychological software, and video games. Reported pre-post training effect sizes for intervention groups ranged from 0.06 to 6.32 for classic cognitive training interventions, 0.19 to 7.14 for neuropsychological software interventions, and 0.09 to 1.70 for video game interventions. Most studies reported older adults did not need to be technologically savvy in order to successfully complete or benefit from training. Overall, findings are comparable or better than those from reviews of more traditional, paper-and-pencil cognitive training approaches suggesting that computerized training is an effective, less labor intensive alternative.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Effectiveness, Cognitive psychology, Cognitive neuroscience, Efficacy, Meta-analysis, Video game, Mild cognitive impairment


The hypothesis that the S allele of the 5-HTTLPR serotonin transporter promoter region is associated with increased risk of depression, but only in individuals exposed to stressful situations, has generated much interest, research and controversy since first proposed in 2003. Multiple meta-analyses combining results from heterogeneous analyses have not settled the issue. To determine the magnitude of the interaction and the conditions under which it might be observed, we performed new analyses on 31 data sets containing 38 802 European ancestry subjects genotyped for 5-HTTLPR and assessed for depression and childhood maltreatment or other stressful life events, and meta-analysed the results. Analyses targeted two stressors (narrow, broad) and two depression outcomes (current, lifetime). All groups that published on this topic prior to the initiation of our study and met the assessment and sample size criteria were invited to participate. Additional groups, identified by consortium members or self-identified in response to our protocol (published prior to the start of analysis) with qualifying unpublished data, were also invited to participate. A uniform data analysis script implementing the protocol was executed by each of the consortium members. Our findings do not support the interaction hypothesis. We found no subgroups or variable definitions for which an interaction between stress and 5-HTTLPR genotype was statistically significant. In contrast, our findings for the main effects of life stressors (strong risk factor) and 5-HTTLPR genotype (no impact on risk) are strikingly consistent across our contributing studies, the original study reporting the interaction and subsequent meta-analyses. Our conclusion is that if an interaction exists in which the S allele of 5-HTTLPR increases risk of depression only in stressed individuals, then it is not broadly generalisable, but must be of modest effect size and only observable in limited situations.Molecular Psychiatry advance online publication, 4 April 2017; doi:10.1038/mp.2017.44.

Concepts: Scientific method, Gene, Statistical significance, Effect size, Meta-analysis, Statistical power, Serotonin transporter, 5-HTTLPR


There is increasing evidence that gardening provides substantial human health benefits. However, no formal statistical assessment has been conducted to test this assertion. Here, we present the results of a meta-analysis of research examining the effects of gardening, including horticultural therapy, on health. We performed a literature search to collect studies that compared health outcomes in control (before participating in gardening or non-gardeners) and treatment groups (after participating in gardening or gardeners) in January 2016. The mean difference in health outcomes between the two groups was calculated for each study, and then the weighted effect size determined both across all and sets of subgroup studies. Twenty-two case studies (published after 2001) were included in the meta-analysis, which comprised 76 comparisons between control and treatment groups. Most studies came from the United States, followed by Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Studies reported a wide range of health outcomes, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community. Meta-analytic estimates showed a significant positive effect of gardening on the health outcomes both for all and sets of subgroup studies, whilst effect sizes differed among eight subgroups. Although Egger’s test indicated the presence of publication bias, significant positive effects of gardening remained after adjusting for this using trim and fill analysis. This study has provided robust evidence for the positive effects of gardening on health. A regular dose of gardening can improve public health.

Concepts: Health care, Epidemiology, Statistical significance, Middle East, Effect size, Meta-analysis, Statistical power, Gene V. Glass