School of Patients: Expert patients teaching other patients

The expert patient is a new approach to chronic disease management, where patients are recognised as the experts in managing their own disease. This could be used to help and empower recently diagnosed patients to take control of their own health. In Andalucia, Spain, this type of programme is carried out by an organisation called School of Patients (“Escuela de Pacientes” – ).

To illustrate how patients lives are improving within this school, we present here the testimony of two its teachers: Fabiola Rey -diagnosed diabetic thirty years ago- and Rocio Fernandez -fighting breast and lung cancer for over twelve years.

The expert patient

“Patients might not be doctors, but they know how they want to be treated”- says Rocio Fernandez, a woman has been fighting with cancer for a long time. A medical treatment is not only about alleviating symptoms, but also to pay attention at how the patient is feeling emotionally. In the school of patients, groups of people undertaking the same chronic disease, e.g. diabetes, cancer, hemophilia, participate in support groups guided by others who have had their same disease for a longer time. They are called the teachers, and they do this activity voluntarily without receiving any type of economic benefit. But the teachers at the school of patients are not a substitute for the doctor; their mission is to help to complete an integral treatment to the patient.

School of Patient, more than teaching

Although Fabiola has been a teacher at the school of patients for many years, she feels like she is still participating as a student in the workshops that are actually lead by herself. “I am continuously learning at the school of patients… All the time. Even when I meet people who have been going through my disease for less time than me, I learn from them because it makes me stay connected with the time when I had just been diagnosed”-said Fabiola. In the workshops, patients are encouraged to be active and to be stronger than their diseases, and Fabiola says that one can really see the difference in them, before and after each workshop.

Escuela de Pacientes
School of Patients in Andalusia (Spain)

A new meaning to the disease

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can raise up existentialist questions to people. For Rocio, being able to help others through the school of patients, has filled up that gap. “Being a teacher at the school of patients allowed me to give a different meaning to my disease, because now I can teach to others all the things that I’ve learnt during my treatment”- said Rocio. And indeed, who would have more knowledge about dealing with a chronic disease  than someone who has lived with the disease for many years? It is probably because of this that this type of programmes are trying to be implemented in different European countries (read more at The way our grandparents generation dealt with chronic diseases, is certainly different than the way younger generations have started to do it. Only time will let us see the overall benefits, but Rocio and Fabiola are already an example of this.

By Nuria Luque and Bruno C. Borro

Mindfulness meditation helps to stress less, scientists confirm

Always busy, thinking about the future or lingering in the past, a full agenda and no time for yourself. Sounds familiar? These seemingly insignificant worries can amount to real stress in our lives. Being chronically stressed can have serious health consequences, contributing to autoimmune, cardiovascular or metabolic diseases. Mindfulness meditation is one possible way to reduce stress, improve well-being and boost brainpower.

Mindfulness meditation effects confirmed

While Denmark consistently ranks in the top three of the World Happiness Report (1), it is also among the countries with the highest antidepressant consumption (2). Finding sustainable and accessible means to address the stress crisis is an important challenge for today’s society. Recently, neuroscientists confirmed that meditation can reduce stress and even lead to changes in brain structure – after only three months of practicing for half an hour a day. 

A modern scientific perspective on an ancient technique

A large-scale research project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany involving over 300 participants gives new insight into the benefits of meditation techniques. In the group who started with mindfulness meditation and practiced daily for three months, the neuroscientists found physical changes in the brain regions responsible for emotion regulation and attention (3). Furthermore, the participants’ self-reported stress level decreased by 26 % in this time (4).

Mindfulness meditation has proved effect on the brain
Mindfulness meditation has proven physical effects on the brain
Mindfulness – how to benefit from “doing nothing”

Mindfulness meditation is one of many meditation techniques that focus on reducing stress by training the ability to be present in moment – being mindful. “Anybody can benefit from mindfulness meditation. In our day and age, we are confronted with so much information and we are required to be constantly online. We need to have time to settle in ourselves,” explains Professor Reinhard Stelter from the University of Copenhagen who has authored a number of studies on the topic. But mindfulness meditation is not a miracle solution, it requires some effort, Stelter adds: “To maximize the benefits, meditation should be a part of overall changes in our lifestyle. And it is a skill that has to be learnt. It’s like training for a marathon, you need to practice.

Prof. Reinhard Stelter has focused on mindfulness meditation in his research
Prof. Reinhard Stelter has studied how mindfulness meditation impacts people in difficult life situations

by Markéta Hrabánková and Felicitas Flohr


1. World Happiness Report

2. OECD Health at a Glance 2017, page 191

3. Study confirming brain changes resulting from meditation

4. Study confirming stress reduction resulting from meditation

Mars salty lake organisms could be living under the ice-cap

Liquid water discovered on Mars

An exciting discovery of a liquid water lake on the red planet by a group of scientists of ESA (the European Space Agency) has recently been made public. The group working on the satellite called Mars Express has discovered the lake underneath the large southern polar ice-cap. This discovery opens up many new possibilities for us to search for Mars salty lake organisms. Therefore, scientists on Earth are thrilled by the new prospects.
Could this be a home of Mars salty lake organisms?
The South Pole of Mars, captured by ESA

Life finds a way  – even in extreme places on earth

We know organisms can be found in every corner of the Earth, also in places that are very extreme. These organisms are known as extremophiles, and biologists have found them on Earth in both boiling hot geysers as well as cold salty lakes underneath the polar ice-caps. The question is now; could similar organisms exist on Mars? In order to answer this, we first have to understand the what kinds of life could live there.

 Ancient Mars was earth’s fraternal twin

We know that geological evidence tells us of the young Mars as a planet not too different from Earth. However, because Mars is smaller than Earth it could not keep its atmosphere until the present day. Another problem for the habitability of Mars is that it does not have a proper magnetosphere protecting the surface from radiation. Mars today looks very different; we have lost the oceans and all we have left of the atmosphere is carbon dioxide. We could, therefore, suspect the lake found on Mars to contain organisms from this ancient ocean.

Scientists could Find Mars salty Lake organisms in the future

Now, we still have many unanswered questions about this amazing discovery. Even though Mars is very far away, the answers are within our reach. Therefore, we are going to need new and dedicated scientists, who can study these far-off potential homes for life in the future.

Extreme salty organisms might live here
The bottom of the Antarctic Lake Vostok. By NASA/JPL-Caltech/Wikimedia Commons

Ny viden om genanvendelse af bioaske kan give basis for evidens baseret lovgivning

Genanvendelse af bioaske som gødning i skovplantager
Genanvendelse af bioaske som gødning i skovplantager. Kilde: Louise Hindborg Mortensen

Blandt befolkningen findes der en generel holdning at politiske beslutninger på miljøområdet bør tages på et evidens baseret grundlag. Der er meget forskningen indenfor disse emner, men solid forskning tager tid og kan derfor ikke altid følge med de nødvendige lovkrav. Det tager år for de relevante forskningsprojekter at skaffe midler, opstille gennemarbejdede forsøg, indhente data og derefter analysere dem. I den mellemliggende tid, er der stadig behov for miljøregulering. Indtil resultaterne er på plads, må lovgiverene basere deres beslutninger på forskernes antagelser, nabolandes lovgivning og et generelt forsigtighedsprincip.
Af flere grunde er dette ikke fordelagtigt. Forskernes antagelser er ikke altid korrekte, vores nabolandes erfaringer kan ikke altid overføres og der må være en vis balance mellem udvikling og forsigtighed, dog altid med et miljøbeskyttende udgangspunkt. Derfor er det yderst relevant at revidere lovgivningen løbende, når solide forskningsresultater bliver offentliggjort.


Et eksempel er ”Bekendtgørelse om anvendelse af bioaske til jordbrugsformål” (Bioaskebekendtgørelsen) fra 2008. Bioaskebekendtgørelsen omhandler regulativer vedrørende genbrugen af aske efter biobrændsel (træ eller strå). Bioaske er i dag oftest betragtet som et affaldsprodukt for kraftvarmeværkerne, men asken indeholder næringsstoffer som potentielt kan bruges til jordforbedring i biobrændselplantager. Genanvendelse af asken som nærring er en bæredygtig måde at deponere hvad der ellers betragtes som affald og kan potentielt være en besparelse for kraftvarmeværkerne. Bioaske indeholder dog også det giftige tungmetal cadmium, hvilket er grunden til at man i 2008 byggede bioaskebekendtgørelsen op omkring et forsigtighedsprincip. For skov er dosen sat til 3 tons aske/hektar/10 år, dog maks. 3 gange over en periode på 75 år. Desuden må cadmium tilførslen ikke overskride 60 g cadmium pr. ha pr. 75 år.

Ashback – et studie af bioaske til  genanvendelse i skovplantager

Siden udarbejdelsen af Bioaskebekendtgørelsen, har et omfattende studie fra Københavns Universitet (Center for Ashback) undersøgt hvordan aske påvirker jorden i en skov. Projektet har blandt andet undersøgt risiko forholdene for cadmium. Konklusionen er at der ved nuværende doser ikke er nogen risiko for at cadmium vil akkumulere i systemet og evt. blive en del af den menneskelige fødekæde. Studiet viser desuden at aske dosis skal sættes betragteligt op, før cadmium vil blive en risikofaktor.

Resultaterne fra Ashback er klar netop som bioaskebekendtgørelsen skal til revision, hvilket muliggør en ny evidens baseret politik på området.

Hør mere om studiet og cadmium i podcasten herunder:


Forfatteren, Louise Hindborg Mortensen, er PhD på Center for Ashback

Brain scanning is helping scientists understand mental illness

by Julius Grothen, Katrine Rosenmejer, Liva Kasch Hansen, Marta Quatorze

Mental illness can be difficult to accept, both for the sick person and for the surroundings. It is a lot easier to diagnose a broken arm, than to diagnose a broken mind. Nevertheless, every fifth adult in Denmark has symptoms of a psychological disorder [1]. To be able to diagnose and medicate various mental illness, researchers are trying hard to get a better understanding of the mind. But their task is challenging. We have been talking to medical physicist Bryan Haddock about this subject.


Mental illness is affecting many people, but are poorly understood
Mental illness is affecting many people, but they are poorly understood

Emotions and brain scans

Emotions originates from our brain. Our brain consists of different compartments performing different tasks. When we experience something, parts of our brain get activated. These parts will then send signals to other parts of the brain or to the body. In this way we are able to move, think and feel [2]. When a person has a mental illness, something is working differently in the brain. This is one of the areas that Bryan Haddock and his co-workers are investigating at the Danish hospital Rigshospitalet.

“Psychiastry patients is a large group of patients, that is basicallyas inhibited or disabled as you can get. At the same time, we have very little to offer them”

Bryan Haddock, Medical Physics Expert

A look into the brain

It is the belief of Bryan Haddock that the answer to helping people with mental illnesses could be found within the function of the brain: “It is our hope to find out where things go wrong and how we could change that to help these patients”. One of the tools to do so is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). fMRI is a technique that can image the activation of the brain. This makes it possible to see which parts of the brain that activates during different stimuli. [2]

fMRI scanner used for mapping the changes in brain activity
fMRI scanner used for mapping the changes in brain activity

Locating Christmas spirit in the brain

As a part of a study Bryan Haddock and his co-workers tried to locate the Christmas spirit in the brain of people celebrating Christmas. Even though not directly related to mental illness, the results still contribute to the understanding of human emotions and could help develop new methods to further this understanding [4]. See more in the video below where we interview Bryan Haddock to learn more about this interesting experiment.


As explained in the video, the purpose of the experiment was not only to locate the Christmas spirit in the brain, but also to inform about the shortcomings of such experiments. Due to the complexity of the mind, one can never be quite sure that the activation appearing on the brain scan happens for the reasons we would expect. For example, we don’t know if the person is thinking or feeling something that is unrelated to what we are looking for. Therefore all research needs to be repeated in different settings before the results can be trusted. [3][4]

Nevertheless, this is a promising field and it is the hope of Bryan Haddock and others, that this kind of research will make the breakthroughs that are so desperately needed in the study of mental illness.

[1] Folker, P. Mental sundhed. SDU  (accessed at 16-08-18)

[2] Filippi, M. (2016). FMRI techniques and protocols (Second ed., Neuromethods). New York, NY: Humana Press. Pages 3-28

[3] Milham et al. (2017). Clinically useful brain imaging for neuropsychiatry: How can we get there? Depression and Anxiety, vol 34(7), pp. 578-587

[4] Hougaard et al. (2016). All in the mind: Evidence of a Christmas spirit network in the brain: functional MRI study. British Medical Journal. Vol 351

Podcastserie om hjernerystelse

Behandling af langvarig hjernerystelse

De fleste har oplevet at slå hovedet uden at få alvorlige følger, men hvert år pådrager 25.000 danskere sig en hjernerystelse. I 10 til 15 % af tilfældene er der stadig mén efter flere måneder. Der findes ikke én bestemt behandling af hjernerystelse, og mange oplever derfor at det er svært at finde frem til den rette behandling. Nederst i artikel er en liste over forskellige behandlingsmuligheder.

Pilotafsnit – En Rystet Hjerne hos akupunktør

I dette pilotafsnit af podcastserien En Rystet Hjerne, møder vi to Katriner, og hører vi mere om akupunktur som behandlingsmulighed for hjernerystelse.

Forskning på området

Rent neurologisk vil hjernen være genoprettet allerede et par måneder efter man har fået hjernerystelsen. Forskning på området tyder på at det er en kombination af flere årsager som gør, at folk får langvarige følger. Dette oplyser Hana Malá Rytter, forsker i neuropsykologi på Københavns Universitet, og uddyber:

“Der er flere ting i det. Der er selve traumet, det der kommer umiddelbart efter traumet og den måde det håndteres på. Og så er der alt det efterfølgende, som er en blanding af traumet, men lige så meget den måde man plejer at være (…), altså hvad er det for en person man er.”

Behandling af hjernerystelse


En hjernerystelse er altså en kompleks situation, der påvirkes af flere ting. Det er svært at behandle, specielt fordi alle tilfælde er forskellige. Der er derfor ikke én behandling som virker på alle. Sundhedssystemet har sjældent en udførlig løsning til folk, der henvender sig med langvarig hjernerystelse. Mange oplever derfor at føle sig svigtet og overladt til sig selv.

Selv på nettet er det svært at danne sig et overblik over behandlingsmuligheder og tilbud til folk ramt af hjernerystelse.  

Vi har i denne artikel forsøgt at samle de mest kendte former for behandling og andre nyttige links. Der er både anerkendte og alternative behandlingsformer, samt forløb der nogle gange er dækket af sygesikringen.

Målet er lave en podcastserie, der går i dybden med flere behandlingsmuligheder. Du kan lytte til pilotafsnittet her, og hvis der kommer flere afsnit kan du finde dem på denne side.

 Oversigt over behandlingsmuligheder og andre nyttige links

Tatjana Clemmensen, Cecilie Sand Nørholm og Laura M. V. Knudsen, august 2018

Climate change: Tipping point cascades in the Earth system

A new perspective piece published in PNAS proposes novel processes through which the planet could enter a ‘Hothouse Earth’ state. The mechanism, the climatic equivalent of a gravitational slingshot, could propel us toward extreme climate change quicker than previously thought – which was already “pretty fast”, remarked one source. Yet, whilst US governmental agencies preoccupy themselves with climate deregulation, a point of no return approaches, totally unphased and mostly unnoticed. But what are the climate change tipping points and cascades in the Earth system?

A tip of the hat

Lenton et al. first coined the term ‘tipping element’ in 2008, setting the stage for research into climate tipping points. The term describes the large-scale biophysical features of the Earth’s climate such as Arctic sea ice and the Amazon rainforest. All these features would be significantly altered after surpassing as-yet unknown climate thresholds. The nature of these tipping elements makes it extremely difficult for them to return to their original states.

Bite the hand that feeds

The new report by Steffen et al. suggests that 2°C of global warming could trigger a tipping cascade. The report uniquely considers self-reinforcing feedback loops such as the effects of tipping elements on one another, and how this could impact human control over the future climate. Such runaway feedbacks could lead to a ‘Hothouse Earth’ faster than current models predict. We are already ~1°C above pre-industrial levels and as temperature increases lag emissions, humanity may already be committed to a pretty sketchy game of chicken.

2 little too late?

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 – 2°C based on findings from the IPCC report. Not everybody agrees on the finality of those 2 degrees of warming. Most scientists, such as Anders Svensson, feel the climate system is too unpredictable to assign a safe level of warming – it could be more, but it could also be much less.

Climate policy does not yet consider nonlinear mechanisms such as tipping cascades presuming that mitigation actions can restore previous conditions. Steffan et al. propose this is as an oversight requiring renewed levels of stewardship in response.

– Andrew Hattle, Janani Venkatesh, Jesse Jones 

The Fake News Podcast. Episode 1: Science Communication

Fake News in Science Communication

Nick Cooper

Fake news is a term that has become unavoidable in modern society.

Whether it be in our daily conversations, nightly news or embedded in our Twitter feeds. But what actually is fake news? Does it relate to the communication of science? Who is responsible for its creation and dissemination? And are there any solutions? These questions we look to answer in the inaugural episode of the Fake News Podcast.

What is fake news?

Fake news is defined by Lazer et al (2018) as;

“Fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organisational process or intent”.

Fake News in Science Communication

This definition does not fit in well with the communication of fake science related news and is focused on news outlets creating fake news. This is not always the case. We spoke to Olivier Driessens from the University of Copenhagen, Olivier pointed out that fake news can also comes from the onset of undertaking scientific research. With large, influential cooperations funding research. They are able to construct favourable narratives for their businesses which may in turn lead to the creation of fake news stories, by creating ‘noise’ within science.

Fake news is not a new phenomenon…..

“The faking of news stories has been around for a long time, and every iteration of technological advancement, from the telegraph in the 19th century to contemporary social media algorithms, has unleashed new possibilities of deception and fabrication” (Gelfert, 2018).

Who is responsible for its creation and dissemination?

We as humans instinctively are drawn towards to clean and simple explanations, fuelling the fake news fire. We are collectively responsible for the creation and spread of fake news. The introduction of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have doused the fake news fire in petrol. Accelerating the news cycle and the effectiveness of news outlets, scientists, journalists and leaders to disprove  or eliminate contradictory ‘noise’ in scientific conclusions.

Vox: False News stories travel faster and farther on Twitter than the truth.

Some examples of scientific fake news on Twitter;

Are there any solutions?

there are no easy solutions to the fake news problem. A well educated population and collective awareness of fake news can be a first step towards a society where truth prevails and fake news noise is pushed out of the foreground and into the background. Listen to the podcast here for a more in depth discussion on Fake News in science.


Gelfert, A. 2018. Fake News: A Definition. Informal Logic, Vol. 38, No.1. . pp. 84–117.
Lazer, D, M, J., Baum, M, A., Benkler, Y., Berinsky, A, J., Kelly M., Greenhill, K, M., Menczer, F., Metzger, M, J., Nyhan, B., Pennycook, G., Rothschild, D., Schudson, M., Sloman, S, A., Sunstein, C, R., A. Thorson, A, E., Watts, D, J., Zittrain, J, L. 2018. The Science of Fake News. Science  09 Mar 2018: Vol. 359, Issue 6380, pp. 1094-1096.
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao2998
Vox. 2018. False News stories travel faster and farther on Twitter than the truth.

Lessons learned about citizen involvement in climate change adaptation

Climate change adaptation and citizen involvement in Trørød, Denmark

By Karina Finch Schandorf Petersen

Photograph by Kim Matthai Leeland
Photograph by Kim Matthai Leeland

In 2015 a climate change adaptation project was established in Trørød, Denmark to handle the excessive amounts of rainwater in the area caused by heavy rain events. This has resulted in some useful lessons that other climate professionals could profit from.

The climate change adaptation project was originally planned to reduce water overflood to Maglemoserenden water stream, and the project is considered a success in relations to its hydraulic goals. A part of the project included citizen involvement since the project area is placed in a residential neighborhood. The project is a co-financed collaboration between the municipality of Rudersdal and the local provider. The result is some useful experiences with citizen involvement which other climate professionals could benefit from. Organizations like the Danish task force of Climate change adaptation and KLIKOVAND has allready been arranging trips to the area in Trørød amongst other project areas to share lessons learned and show examples of methods used with other municipalities and professionals working with climate projects.

Watch the video from Viekær here. 

The project is an interesting example of citizen involvement in a climate project because the citizens have had a great influence on the rain beds, which means that they have been invited to plant meetings, as well as having influence on shape, size and appearance of the rain beds. This has resulted in people taking ownership of the project and today  many of the rain bed plants are taken care of by the citizens themselves. Furthermore, the municipality made an effort trying to help the citizens detach rainwater from the sewer system on their private property, but this was not as successful.

The project solution involves rain beds, permeable pavements and Irish crossings. The rain beds are guaranteed under a 10-year rain-event but is dimensioned to have a greater capacity that that.


Learning Tech Lab: Læringspil en del af skolernes hverdag

Learning Tech Lab: Læringspil en del af skolernes hverdag

Læringsspil er populære som aldrig før, hvilket har fået flere og flere skoler til at prøve kræfter med de nye muligheder. På Antvorskov skole i Slagelse tages der hver dag stilling til forskellige læringsspil for at finde lige netop de spil, der kan forbedre børnenes læring.

 Med Learning Tech Lab får eleverne lov at prøve kræfter med læringspil 

Learning Tech Lab giver muligheder for børn i alle aldre
Learning Tech Lab giver muligheder for børn i alle aldre

Når Antvorskov skole søger efter læringsspil, må det ikke være ren underholdning eller trial and error. ”Der skal være tale om spil, der giver ’ægte læring’. Det kan godt i nogle sammenhæng være færdighedsspil, som træner fx færdighedsregning, stavning, grammatik m.v. men vi ser helst at spillene lægger mere op til interaktion og selvstændig tænkning,” udtaler skolens læringskonsulent Dorte Kamstrup.

Learning Tech Lab i hverdagen

Til daglig arbejder skolen med satsningen Learning Tech Lab. En satsning, der har til formål, at alle elever – på alle klassetrin og i alle fag – møder arbejdet med teknologi i nogle projektbaserede forløb. I forbindelse med LTL har skolen med stor succes deltaget flere gange i First LEGO League samt Unge Forskere, så det er ikke nyt for skolen, at der skal prøves kræfter med den nyeste teknologi.

Antvorskov skole har været udvalgt som forsøgsskole for Alineas nye satsning med adaptive læringsspil. Det er spil, der tilpasser sig det enkelte barns niveau, og som udnytter spilverdenens belønningssystemer i form af levels og point. ”Her er netop forlaget Alinea kommet langt med mange af sine materialer lige fra ’Den første læsning’ til indskolingen, Istav til mellem-trinnet og udskolingen, CampMat til indskolingen og nu CampEngelsk. Det er klart materialer, som vi har store forventninger til,” udtaler Dorte Kamstrup.

21st Century Skills

På trods af den store succes med spillene fra Alinea, har de generelle læringsspil stadig en stor udfordring, hvis man spørger lærings-konsulenten. Hvis det bliver spil, der alene kan det samme som de gamle udfyldningssider, som elever i mange årtier er blevet slæbt igennem, så er det et kæmpe tilbageskridt. Det skaber ikke elever med 21th Century Skills. Men fordelen ved det elektroniske materiale er, at det er selvrettende og frigør lærerens tid til at tage de faglige snakke med eleverne på et differentieret niveau – og så må man ikke underkende motivations-faktoren. Som læringskonsulenten siger: ”En 2. klasse elev i matematik, som normalt vil finde målestok svært, finder det straks meget nemt, når det sker i Minecraft, og han bliver bedt om at bygge sin model en gang til, men nu dobbelt så stor.”

Læringsspil en del af skolernes hverdag
Learning Tech Lab giver børn muligheder for at prøve kræfter med læringsspil