Commenced in January 2007
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Edition: International
Paper Count: 34

Search results for: Katerina Zaharieva

34 Study of the Impact of Synthesis Method and Chemical Composition on Photocatalytic Properties of Cobalt Ferrite Catalysts

Authors: Katerina Zaharieva, Vicente Rives, Martin Tsvetkov, Raquel Trujillano, Boris Kunev, Ivan Mitov, Maria Milanova, Zara Cherkezova-Zheleva


The nanostructured cobalt ferrite-type materials Sample A - Co0.25Fe2.75O4, Sample B - Co0.5Fe2.5O4, and Sample C - CoFe2O4 were prepared by co-precipitation in our previous investigations. The co-precipitated Sample B and Sample C were mechanochemically activated in order to produce Sample D - Co0.5Fe2.5O4 and Sample E- CoFe2O4. The PXRD, Moessbauer and FTIR spectroscopies, specific surface area determination by the BET method, thermal analysis, element chemical analysis and temperature-programmed reduction were used to investigate the prepared nano-sized samples. The changes of the Malachite green dye concentration during reaction of the photocatalytic decolorization using nanostructured cobalt ferrite-type catalysts with different chemical composition are included. The photocatalytic results show that the increase in the degree of incorporation of cobalt ions in the magnetite host structure for co-precipitated cobalt ferrite-type samples results in an increase of the photocatalytic activity: Sample A (4 х10-3 min-1) < Sample B (5 х10-3 min-1) < Sample C (7 х10-3 min-1). Mechanochemically activated photocatalysts showed a higher activity than the co-precipitated ferrite materials: Sample D (16 х10-3 min-1) > Sample E (14 х10-3 min-1) > Sample C (7 х10-3 min-1) > Sample B (5 х10-3 min-1) > Sample A (4 х10-3 min-1). On decreasing the degree of substitution of iron ions by cobalt ones a higher sorption ability of the dye after the dark period for the co-precipitated cobalt ferrite materials was observed: Sample C (72 %) < Sample B (78 %) < Sample A (80 %). Mechanochemically treated ferrite catalysts and co-precipitated Sample B possess similar sorption capacities, Sample D (78 %) ~ Sample E (78 %) ~ Sample B (78 %). The prepared nano-sized cobalt ferrite-type materials demonstrate good photocatalytic and sorption properties. Mechanochemically activated Sample D - Co0.5Fe2.5O4 (16х10-3 min-1) and Sample E-CoFe2O4 (14х10-3 min-1) possess higher photocatalytic activity than that of the most common used UV-light catalyst Degussa P25 (12х10-3 min-1). The dependence of the photo-catalytic activity and sorption properties on the preparation method and different degree of substitution of iron ions by cobalt ions in synthesized cobalt ferrite samples is established. The mechanochemical activation leads to formation of nano-structured cobalt ferrite-type catalysts (Sample D and Sample E) with higher rate constants than those of the ferrite materials (Sample A, Sample B, and Sample C) prepared by the co-precipitation procedure. The increase in the degree of substitution of iron ions by cobalt ones leads to improved photocatalytic properties and lower sorption capacities of the co-precipitated ferrite samples. The good sorption properties between 72 and 80% of the prepared ferrite-type materials show that they could be used as potential cheap absorbents for purification of polluted waters.

Keywords: nanodimensional cobalt ferrites, photocatalyst, synthesis, mechanochemical activation

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33 Improvement in the Photocatalytic Activity of Nanostructured Manganese Ferrite – Type of Materials by Mechanochemical Activation

Authors: Katerina Zaharieva, Katya Milenova, Zara Cherkezova-Zheleva, Alexander Eliyas, Boris Kunev, Ivan Mitov


The synthesized nanosized manganese ferrite-type of samples have been tested as photocatalysts in the reaction of oxidative degradation of model contaminant Reactive Black 5 (RB5) dye in aqueous solutions under UV irradiation. As it is known this azo dye is applied in the textile-coloring industry and it is discharged into the waterways causing pollution. The co-precipitation procedure has been used for the synthesis of manganese ferrite-type of materials: Sample 1 - Mn0.25Fe2.75O4, Sample 2 - Mn0.5Fe2.5O4 and Sample 3 - MnFe2O4 from 0.03M aqueous solutions of MnCl2•4H2O, FeCl2•4H2O and/or FeCl3•6H2O and 0.3M NaOH in appropriate amounts. The mechanochemical activation of co-precipitated ferrite-type of samples has been performed in argon (Samples 1 and 2) or in air atmosphere (Sample 3) for 2 hours at a milling speed of 500 rpm. The mechano-chemical treatment has been carried out in a high energy planetary ball mill type PM 100, Retsch, Germany. The mass ratio between balls and powder was 30:1. As a result mechanochemically activated Sample 4 - Mn0.25Fe2.75O4, Sample 5 - Mn0.5Fe2.5O4 and Sample 6 - MnFe2O4 have been obtained. The synthesized manganese ferrite-type photocatalysts have been characterized by X-ray diffraction method and Moessbauer spectroscopy. The registered X-ray diffraction patterns and Moessbauer spectra of co-precipitated ferrite-type of materials show the presence of manganese ferrite and additional akaganeite phase. The presence of manganese ferrite and small amounts of iron phases is established in the mechanochemically treated samples. The calculated average crystallite size of manganese ferrites varies within the range 7 – 13 nm. This result is confirmed by Moessbauer study. The registered spectra show superparamagnetic behavior of the prepared materials at room temperature. The photocatalytic investigations have been made using polychromatic UV-A light lamp (Sylvania BLB, 18 W) illumination with wavelength maximum at 365 nm. The intensity of light irradiation upon the manganese ferrite-type photocatalysts was 0.66 The photocatalytic reaction of oxidative degradation of RB5 dye was carried out in a semi-batch slurry photocatalytic reactor with 0.15 g of ferrite-type powder, 150 ml of 20 ppm dye aqueous solution under magnetic stirring at rate 400 rpm and continuously feeding air flow. The samples achieved adsorption-desorption equilibrium in the dark period for 30 min and then the UV-light was turned on. After regular time intervals aliquot parts from the suspension were taken out and centrifuged to separate the powder from solution. The residual concentrations of dye were established by a UV-Vis absorbance single beam spectrophotometer CamSpec M501 (UK) measuring in the wavelength region from 190 to 800 nm. The photocatalytic measurements determined that the apparent pseudo-first-order rate constants calculated by linear slopes approximating to first order kinetic equation, increase in following order: Sample 3 (1.1х10-3 min-1) < Sample 1 (2.2х10-3 min-1) < Sample 2 (3.3 х10-3 min-1) < Sample 4 (3.8х10-3 min-1) < Sample 6 (11х10-3 min-1) < Sample 5 (15.2х10-3 min-1). The mechanochemically activated manganese ferrite-type of photocatalyst samples show significantly higher degree of oxidative degradation of RB5 dye after 120 minutes of UV light illumination in comparison with co-precipitated ferrite-type samples: Sample 5 (92%) > Sample 6 (91%) > Sample 4 (63%) > Sample 2 (53%) > Sample 1 (42%) > Sample 3 (15%). Summarizing the obtained results we conclude that the mechanochemical activation leads to a significant enhancement of the degree of oxidative degradation of the RB5 dye and photocatalytic activity of tested manganese ferrite-type of catalyst samples under our experimental conditions. The mechanochemically activated Mn0.5Fe2.5O4 ferrite-type of material displays the highest photocatalytic activity (15.2х10-3 min-1) and degree of oxidative degradation of the RB5 dye (92%) compared to the other synthesized samples. Especially a significant improvement in the degree of oxidative degradation of RB5 dye (91%) has been determined for mechanochemically treated MnFe2O4 ferrite-type of sample with the highest extent of substitution of iron ions by manganese ions than in the case of the co-precipitated MnFe2O4 sample (15%). The mechanochemically activated manganese ferrite-type of samples show good photocatalytic properties in the reaction of oxidative degradation of RB5 azo dye in aqueous solutions and it could find potential application for dye removal from wastewaters originating from textile industry.

Keywords: nanostructured manganese ferrite-type materials, photocatalytic activity, Reactive Black 5, water treatment

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32 The Quality of Accounting Information of Private Companies in the Czech Republic

Authors: Kateřina Struhařová


The paper gives the evidence of quality of accounting information of Czech private companies. In general the private companies in the Czech Republic do not see the benefits of providing accounting information of high quality. Based on the research of financial statements of entrepreneurs and companies in Zlin region it was confirmed that the quality of accounting information differs among the private entities and that the major impact on the accounting information quality has the fact if the financial statements are audited as well as the size of the entity. Also the foreign shareholders and lenders have some impact on the accounting information quality.

Keywords: accounting information quality, financial statements, Czech Republic, private companies

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31 iPAD as a Communication Tool for Disabled Seniors: A Case Study

Authors: Vojtěch Gybas, Libor Klubal, Kateřina Kostolányová


This case study responds to the current trends in ICT. Mobile Touch iPads can provide very good assistance to disabled seniors. The intuitive tablet environment, the possibility of the formation environment and its portability, has a very positive effect on the use of particular communication. For comparison, using a conventional PC/notebook, word processor, keyboard and computer mouse compared to the iPad and selected applications. The results of this case study show that the use of mobile touch devices iPad for seniors with mental retardation is a great benefit. These devices do not require high demands on graphomotorics like a standard PC devices.

Keywords: ICT, iPad, handicapped seniors, communication, computer/notebook, applications, text editor

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30 Sex Education: The Teacher’s Discourses About the Relation Between the Children and the Media, Concerning Sex Education and the Childhood

Authors: Katerina Samartzi


This study focuses on the teacher’s discourses in Greece, about the relation between the children and the media, concerning sex education and widely the childhood. The teachers’ input reflect the anxieties and the dominant discourses that exist around these issues. The study begins with the critical discussion of the available literature concerning the potential impact of media and the ‘moral panics’, their role in sex education and the children’s use of sexual material. Moreover, the study analyses the social construction of childhood and sexuality. Given the lack of explicit and official protocol for the sex education in Greece and due the fact that the young people are familiar with all the material provided by the New Media and their part as an informal education, this project aims to point out the factors that reinforce these gaps. This study focuses on the way the adults and specifically teachers contextualize the children’s relation with media, their sexuality, the sex education, the use of sexual material and the childhood.

Keywords: childhood, children's sexuality, media, moral panics, pornography, sex education

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29 An Intercontinental Comparison of Delay Discounting for Real and Hypothetical Money and Cigarettes among Cigarette Smokers

Authors: Steven R. Lawyer, Tereza Prihodova, Katerina Prihodova


Delay discounting (DD) is one of the most frequently used behavioral-economic measures of impulsive choice, but there are few cross-cultural comparisons of discounting, and to the best of our knowledge, none compare patterns of DD across different commodities or compare real and hypothetical rewards across cultures. The purpose of this study was to compare patterns of DD for both real and hypothetical money and cigarettes among participants in the USA and the Czech Republic. Adult smokers from the United States and the Czech Republic completed standard measures of DD for hypothetical and real money (~$10USD) and cigarettes (1 pack, or 20 cigarettes). Contrary to data from the USA sample, Czech Republic participants discounted the value of real money steeper than hypothetical money, though this could be related to the relatively poor fit of the hyperbolic decay function to DD for hypothetical money in the Czech sample. These findings suggest that there might be cultural differences in delay discounting that warrant further attention.

Keywords: delay discounting, temporal discounting, cigarette smoking, real rewards, hypothetical rewards

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28 Nano-Enabling Technical Carbon Fabrics to Achieve Improved Through Thickness Electrical Conductivity in Carbon Fiber Reinforced Composites

Authors: Angelos Evangelou, Katerina Loizou, Loukas Koutsokeras, Orestes Marangos, Giorgos Constantinides, Stylianos Yiatros, Katerina Sofocleous, Vasileios Drakonakis


Owing to their outstanding strength to weight properties, carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRPs) composites have attracted significant attention finding use in various fields (sports, automotive, transportation, etc.). The current momentum indicates that there is an increasing demand for their employment in high value bespoke applications such as avionics and electronic casings, damage sensing structures, EMI (electromagnetic interference) structures that dictate the use of materials with increased electrical conductivity both in-plane and through the thickness. Several efforts by research groups have focused on enhancing the through-thickness electrical conductivity of FRPs, in an attempt to combine the intrinsically high relative strengths exhibited with improved z-axis electrical response as well. However, only a limited number of studies deal with printing of nano-enhanced polymer inks to produce a pattern on dry fabric level that could be used to fabricate CFRPs with improved through thickness electrical conductivity. The present study investigates the employment of screen-printing process on technical dry fabrics using nano-reinforced polymer-based inks to achieve the required through thickness conductivity, opening new pathways for the application of fiber reinforced composites in niche products. Commercially available inks and in-house prepared inks reinforced with electrically conductive nanoparticles are employed, printed in different patterns. The aim of the present study is to investigate both the effect of the nanoparticle concentration as well as the droplet patterns (diameter, inter-droplet distance and coverage) to optimize printing for the desired level of conductivity enhancement in the lamina level. The electrical conductivity is measured initially at ink level to pinpoint the optimum concentrations to be employed using a “four-probe” configuration. Upon printing of the different patterns, the coverage of the dry fabric area is assessed along with the permeability of the resulting dry fabrics, in alignment with the fabrication of CFRPs that requires adequate wetting by the epoxy matrix. Results demonstrated increased electrical conductivities of the printed droplets, with increase of the conductivity from the benchmark value of 0.1 S/M to between 8 and 10 S/m. Printability of dense and dispersed patterns has exhibited promising results in terms of increasing the z-axis conductivity without inhibiting the penetration of the epoxy matrix at the processing stage of fiber reinforced composites. The high value and niche prospect of the resulting applications that can stem from CFRPs with increased through thickness electrical conductivities highlights the potential of the presented endeavor, signifying screen printing as the process to to nano-enable z-axis electrical conductivity in composite laminas. This work was co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus through the Research and Innovation Foundation (Project: ENTERPRISES/0618/0013).

Keywords: CFRPs, conductivity, nano-reinforcement, screen-printing

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27 Changes in Physical Soil Properties and Crop Status on Soil Enriched With Treated Manure

Authors: Vaclav Novak, Katerina Krizova, Petr Sarec


Modern agriculture has to face many issues from which soil degradation and lack of organic matter in the soil are only a few of them. Apart from Climate Change, human utilization of landscape is the cause of a majority part of these problems. Cattle production in Czechia has been reduced by more than half in recent 30 years. However, cattle manure is considered as staple organic fertilizer, and its role in attempts for sustainable agriculture is irreplaceable. This study aims to describe the impact of so-called activators of biological manure transformation (Z´fix, Olmix Group) mainly on physical soil properties but also on crop status. The experiment has been established in 2017; nevertheless, initial measurements of implement draft have been performed before the treated manure application. In 2018, the physical soil properties and crop status (sugar beet) has been determined and compared with the untreated manure and control variant. Significant results have been observed already in the first year, where the implement draft decreased by 9.2 % within the treated manure variant in comparison with the control variant.

Keywords: field experiment, implement draft, vegetation index, sugar beet

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26 Bearing Capacity of Sheet Hanger Connection to the Trapezoidal Metal Sheet

Authors: Kateřina Jurdová


Hanging to the trapezoidal sheet by decking hanger is a very widespread solution used in civil engineering to lead the distribution of energy, sanitary, air distribution system etc. under the roof or floor structure. The trapezoidal decking hanger is usually a part of the whole installation system for specific distribution medium. The leading companies offer installation systems for each specific distribution e.g. pipe rings, sprinkler systems, installation channels etc. Every specific part is connected to the base connector which is decking hanger. The own connection has three main components: decking hanger, threaded bar with nuts and web of trapezoidal sheet. The aim of this contribution is determinate the failure mechanism of each component in connection. Load bearing capacity of most components in connection could be calculated by formulas in European codes. This contribution is focused on problematic of bearing resistance of threaded bar in web of trapezoidal sheet. This issue is studied by experimental research and numerical modelling. This contribution presented the initial results of experiment which is compared with numerical model of specimen.

Keywords: decking hanger, concentrated load, connection, load bearing capacity, trapezoidal metal sheet

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25 Examining the Perceptions of Religious Stakeholders towards Religious Tourism Development

Authors: Katerina Pericleous, Zanet Garanti


Traveling for religious and pilgrimage purposes consist of an early-stage motivation for the historical development of tourism. Sacred places become important attractions for local and foreign visitors, and many countries invest on the development of religious and pilgrimage tourism. Cyprus has a rich tradition as an important place for the establishment and diffusion of the Christian Orthodox Religion (Greek). Being considered the ‘island of Saints’, Cyprus sets strong foundations to be recognised as a spiritual destination of devotion for visitors interested in discovering the roots and the spiritual essence of the Christian Orthodox Religion. The paper elucidates on bringing together the fact whether tourism in sacred places affect the spirituality and religiosity. Thus, the aim is to consider the perceptions of main religious stakeholders, including monastery abbots, in relation to the development of religious tourism. The aim of the study is fulfilled by incorporating questionnaires targeting the responses of the involved religious key players and stakeholders. The results of the study are indicative and provide an understanding in terms of religious tourism as an important product by interpreting the stance of religious stakeholders. In general, religious leaders support tourism in religious sites and argue that spirituality and holiness can be maintained as long there is a policy that is followed both by religious and tourism policy makers. Undoubtedly, establishing Cyprus as a religious tourism destination would bring many economic and social benefits.

Keywords: religious tourism, cyprus, Christian orthodox religion, monasteries

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24 Assisted Approach as a Tool for Increasing Attention When Using the iPad in a Special Elementary School: Action Research

Authors: Vojtěch Gybas, Libor Klubal, Kateřina Kostolányová


Nowadays, mobile touch technologies, such as tablets, are an integral part of teaching and learning in many special elementary schools. Many special education teachers tend to choose an iPad tablet with iOS. The reason is simple; the iPad has a function for pupils with special educational needs. If we decide to use tablets in teaching, in general, first we should try to stimulate the cognitive abilities of the pupil at the highest level, while holding the pupil’s attention on the task, when working with the device. This paper will describe how student attention can be increased by eliminating the working environment of selected applications, while using iPads with pupils in a special elementary school. Assisted function approach is highly effective at eliminating unwanted touching by a pupil when working on the desktop iPad, thus actively increasing the pupil´s attention while working on specific educational applications. During the various stages of the action, the research was conducted via data collection and interpretation. After a phase of gaining results and ideas for practice and actions, we carried out the check measurement, this time using the tool-assisted approach. In both cases, the pupils worked in the Math Board application and the resulting differences were evident.

Keywords: special elementary school, a mobile touch device, iPad, attention, Math Board

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23 Individualized Teaching Process for Pupils with Moderate Mental Disability

Authors: VojtěCh Gybas, Libor Klubal, KateřIna KostoláNyová


Individualized teaching process for pupils with moderate mental disabilities with the help of using mobile touch devices may be one of the forms of teaching to achieve better development of these students during the teaching process. Didactics of information and communication technology (ICT) for special primary schools, where within the Czech Republic pupils with moderate mental retardation are educated, is not precisely and clearly defined. Still, general educational program for elementary school contains a special educational area of information and communication technology, in which the work and content area are focused on work with the classic desktop, and it is not always acceptable in the case of students with moderate mental disabilities. Individualization of their schooling requires a fully elaborate content of teaching material corresponding with intellectual abilities and individuality of each pupil. After three years of daily use of mobile touch devices iPad and participant observation of 7 pupils in a class from special elementary school, we can say that these technologies can be a very useful tool, and in many ways, they even exceed, compensate and replace freely available printed educational material that is rather outdated. By working with mobile touch technology, a pupil gains responsibility, trains his will, learns to rely on himself. The first results obtained from the case studies suggest that this form of teaching may also be beneficial for pupils with moderate mental disabilities.

Keywords: individualized teaching, mobile touch technology, iPad, moderate mental disability, special education needs

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22 The Role of Androgens in Prediction of Success in Smoking Cessation in Women

Authors: Michaela Dušková, Kateřina Šimůnková, Martin Hill, Hana Hruškovičová, Hana Pospíšilová, Eva Králíková, Luboslav Stárka


Smoking represents the most widespread substance dependence in the world. Several studies show the nicotine's ability to alter women hormonal homeostasis. Women smokers have higher testosterone and lower estradiol levels throughout life compared to non-smoker women. We monitored the effect of smoking discontinuation on steroid spectrum with 40 premenopausal and 60 postmenopausal women smokers. These women had been examined before they discontinued smoking and also after 6, 12, 24, and 48 weeks of abstinence. At each examination, blood was collected to determine steroid spectrum (measured by GC-MS), LH, FSH, and SHBG (measured by IRMA). Repeated measures ANOVA model was used for evaluation of the data. The study has been approved by the local Ethics Committee. Given the small number of premenopausal women who endured not to smoke, only the first 6 week period data could be analyzed. A slight increase in androgens after the smoking discontinuation occurred. In postmenopausal women, an increase in testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone, and other androgens occurred, too. Nicotine replacement therapy, weight changes, and age does not play any role in the androgen level increase. The higher androgens levels correlated with failure in smoking cessation. Women smokers have higher androgen levels, which might play a role in smoking dependence development. Women successful in smoking cessation, compared to the non-successful ones, have lower androgen levels initially and also after smoking discontinuation. The question is what androgen levels women have before they start smoking.

Keywords: addiction, smoking, cessation, androgens

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21 Circadian Expression of MicroRNAs in Colon and Its Changes during Colorectal Tumorigenesis

Authors: Katerina Balounova, Jiri Pacha, Peter Ergang, Martin Vodicka, Pavlina Kvapilova


MicroRNAs are small non-coding RNAs involved in a wide range of physiological processes. Post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression by microRNAs gives the organism a further level of control of the gene-expression program and the disruption of this microRNA regulatory mechanism seems to increase the risk of various pathophysiological conditions including tumorigenesis. To the present day, microRNAs were shown to participate in the mayor signalization pathways leading to tumorigenesis, including proliferation, cell cycle, apoptosis and metastasis formation. In addition, microRNAs have been found to play important roles in the generation and maintenance of circadian clock. These clocks generate circadian rhythms, which participate in a number of regulatory pathways. Disruption of the circadian signals seems to be associated with the development and the progression of tumours including colorectal cancer. We investigated therefore whether the diurnal profiles of miRNAs linked to tumorigenesis and regulation of circadian clock are changed during tumorigenesis. Based on published data we chose 10 microRNAs linked to tumorigenesis or circadian clock (let-7b-5p, miR 1 3p, miR 106b 5p, miR 141 3p, miR 191 5p, miR 20a 5p, miR 25 3p, miR 29a 3p, miR 34a 5p and miR 93 5p) and compared their 24-hr expression profiles in healthy and in chemically induces primary colorectal tumours of 52week-old mice. Using RT-qPCR we proved circadian rhythmicity in let-7b-5p, miR 106b 5p, miR 141 3p, miR 191 5p, miR 20a 5p, miR 25 3p, miR 29a 3p and miR 93 5p in healthy colon but not in tumours. The acrophases of miR 106b 5p, miR 141 3p, miR 191 5p, miR 20a 5p, miR 25 3p and miR 93 5p were reached around CT 24, the acrophases of let-7b-5p and miR-29a-3p were slightly shifted and reached around CT 21. In summary, our results show that circadian regulation of some colonic microRNAs is greatly affected by neoplastic transformation.

Keywords: circadian rhythm, colon, colorectal cancer, microRNA, tumorigenesis

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20 Illumina MiSeq Sequencing for Bacteria Identification on Audio-Visual Materials

Authors: Tereza Branyšová, Martina Kračmarová, Kateřina Demnerová, Michal Ďurovič, Hana Stiborová


Microbial deterioration threatens all objects of cultural heritage, including audio-visual materials. Fungi are commonly known to be the main factor in audio-visual material deterioration. However, although being neglected, bacteria also play a significant role. In addition to microbial contamination of materials, it is also essential to analyse air as a possible contamination source. This work aims to identify bacterial species in the archives of the Czech Republic that occur on audio-visual materials as well as in the air in the archives. For sampling purposes, the smears from the materials were taken by sterile polyurethane sponges, and the air was collected using a MAS-100 aeroscope. Metagenomic DNA from all collected samples was immediately isolated and stored at -20 °C. DNA library for the 16S rRNA gene was prepared using two-step PCR and specific primers and the concentration step was included due to meagre yields of the DNA. After that, the samples were sent to the University of Fairbanks, Alaska, for Illumina MiSeq sequencing. Subsequently, the analysis of the sequences was conducted in R software. The obtained sequences were assigned to the corresponding bacterial species using the DADA2 package. The impact of air contamination and the impact of different photosensitive layers that audio-visual materials were made of, such as gelatine, albumen, and collodion, were evaluated. As a next step, we will take a deeper focus on air contamination. We will select an appropriate culture-dependent approach along with a culture-independent approach to observe a metabolically active species in the air. Acknowledgment: This project is supported by grant no. DG18P02OVV062 of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

Keywords: cultural heritage, Illumina MiSeq, metagenomics, microbial identification

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19 Written Narrative Texts as the Indicators of Communication Competence of Pupils and Students with Hearing Impairment in the Czech Language

Authors: Marie Komorna, Katerina Hadkova


One reason why hearing disabilities as compared to other disabilities are considered to be less serious, is the belief that deaf and hard of hearing persons can read and write without problems and can therefore fairly easily compensate for problems related to their limited ability to hear sound. However in reality this is not the case, especially as regards written Czech, deaf persons are often not able to communicate their message clearly to its recipients. Their inability to communicate fully in written language is one of the most severe problems facing a number of deaf persons, a problem which they face and which makes it difficult for them to function in a sound-based environment. Despite this fact, this issue is one which has been given only a minimum of attention in the Czech Republic. That is why we decided to focus our research on this issue, specifically targeting written communication of deaf pupils in primary and secondary schools. The paper summarizes the background and objectives of this research. The written work of deaf respondents was obtained in response to a narrative based on a series of images which depicted a continuous storyline. Based on an analysis of the obtained written work we tried to describe the specifics of the narrative abilities of the deaf authors of these texts. We also analyzed other aspects and specific traits of text written by deaf authors at a phonetic-phonological, lexical-semantic, morphological and syntactic, respectively pragmatic level. Based on the results of the project it will be possible to increase knowledge of the communication abilities of deaf persons in written Czech. The obtained data may be used during future research and for teaching purposes and/or education concepts for teaching Czech to deaf pupils.

Keywords: communication competence, deaf, narrative, written texts

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18 Stimuli-Responsive Zwitterionic Dressings for Chronic Wounds Management

Authors: Konstans Ruseva, Kristina Ivanova, Katerina Todorova, Margarita Gabrashanska, Tzanko Tzanov, Elena Vassileva


Zwitterionic polymers (ZP) are well-known with their ultralow biofouling. They are successfully competing with poly(ethylene glycols) (PEG), which are considered as the “golden standard” in this respect. These unique properties are attributed to their strong hydration capacity, defined by the dipole-dipole interactions, arising between the ZP pendant groups as well as to the dipoles interaction with water molecules. Beside, ZP are highly resistant to bacterial adhesion thus ensuring an excellent anti-biofilm formation ability. Moreover, ZP are able to respond upon external stimuli such as temperature, pH, salt concentration changes which in combination with their anti-biofouling effect render this type of polymers as materials with a high potential in biomedical applications. The present work is focused on the development of zwitterionic hydrogels for efficient treatment of highly exudating and hard-to-heal chronic wounds. To this purpose, two types of ZP networks with different crosslinking degree were synthesized - polysulfobetaine (PSB) and polycarboxybetaine (PCB) ones. They were characterized in terms of their physico-mechanical properties, e.g. microhardness, swelling ability, smart behaviour. Furthermore, the potential of ZP networks to resist biofilm formation towards Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli was studied. Their ability to reduce the high levels of myeloperoxidase and metalloproteinase, two enzymes that are part of the chronic wounds enviroenment, was revealed. Moreover, the in vitro cytotoxic assessment of PSB and PCB networks along with their in vivo performance in rats was also studied to reveal their high biocompatibility.

Keywords: absorption properties, biocompatibility, enzymatic inhibition activity, wound healing, zwitterionic polymers

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17 Time-Dependent Modulation on Depressive Responses and Circadian Rhythms of Corticosterone in Models of Melatonin Deficit

Authors: Jana Tchekalarova, Milena Atanasova, Katerina Georgieva


Melatonin deficit can cause a disturbance in emotional status and circadian rhythms of the endocrine system in the body. Both pharmacological and alternative approaches are applied for correction of dysfunctions driven by changes in circadian dynamics of many physiological indicators. In the present study, we tested and compare the beneficial effect of agomelatine (40 mg/kg, i.p. for 3 weeks) and endurance training on depressive behavior in two models of melatonin deficit in rat. The role of disturbed circadian rhythms of plasma melatonin and corticosterone secretion in the mechanism of these treatments was also explored. The continuous exercise program attenuated depressive responses associated with disrupted diurnal rhythm of home-cage motor activity, anhedonia in the sucrose preference test, and despair-like behavior in the forced swimming test were attenuated by agomelatine exposed to chronic constant light (CCL) and long-term exercise in pinealectomized rats. Parallel to the observed positive effect on the emotional status, agomelatine restored CCL-induced impairment of circadian patterns of plasma melatonin but not that of corticosterone. In opposite, exercise training diminished total plasma corticosterone levels and corrected its flattened pattern while it was unable to correct melatonin deficit in pinealectomy. These results suggest that the antidepressant-like effect of pharmacological and alternative approach might be mediated via two different mechanism, correction of the disturbed circadian rhythm of melatonin and corticosterone, respectively. Therefore, these treatment approaches might have a potential therapeutic application in different subpopulations of people characterized by a melatonin deficiency. This work was supported by the National Science Fund of Bulgaria (research grant # № DN 03/10; DN# 12/6).

Keywords: agomelatine, exercise training, melatonin deficit, corticosterone

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16 Peptidoglycan Vaccine-On-Chip against a Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Experimental Sepsis Model

Authors: Katerina Bakela, Ioanna Zerva, Irene Athanassakis


Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is commonly used in murine sepsis models, which are largely associated with immunosuppression (incretion of MDSCs cells and Tregs, imbalance of inflammatory/anti-inflammatory cytokines) and collapse of the immune system. After adapting the LPS treatment to the needs of locally bred BALB/c mice, the present study explored the protective role of Micrococcus luteus peptidoglycan (PG) pre-activated vaccine-on chip in endotoxemia. The established protocol consisted of five daily intraperitoneal injections of 0.2mg/g LPS. Such protocol allowed longer survival, necessary in the prospect of the therapeutic treatment application. The so-called vaccine-on-chip consists of a 3-dimensional laser micro-texture Si-scaffold loaded with BALB/c mouse macrophages and activated in vitro with 1μg/ml PG, which exert its action upon subcutaneous implantation. The LPS treatment significantly decreased CD4+, CD8+, CD3z+, and CD19+ cells, while increasing myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), CD25+, and Foxp3+ cells. These results were accompanied by increased arginase-1 activity in spleen cell lysates and production of IL-6, TNF-a, and IL-18 while acquiring severe sepsis phenotype as defined by the murine sepsis scoring. The in vivo application of PG pre-activated vaccine-on chip significantly decreased the percent of CD11b+, Gr1+, CD25+, Foxp3+ cells, and arginase-1 activity in the spleen of LPS-treated animals, while decreasing IL-6 and TNF-a in the serum, allowing survival to all animals tested and rescuing the severity of sepsis phenotype. In conclusion, these results reveal a promising mode of action of PG pre-activated vaccine-on chip in LPS endotoxemia, strengthening; thus, the use of treatment is septic patients.

Keywords: myeloid-derived suppressor cells, peptidoglycan, sepsis, Si-scaffolds

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15 The Effect of Common Daily Schedule on the Human Circadian Rhythms during the Polar Day on Svalbard: Field Study

Authors: Kamila Weissova, Jitka Skrabalova, Katerina Skalova, Jana Koprivova, Zdenka Bendova


Any Arctic visitor has to deal with extreme conditions, including constant light during the summer season or constant darkness during winter time. Light/dark cycle is the most powerful synchronizing signal for biological clock and the absence of daily dark period during the polar day can significantly alter the functional state of the internal clock. However, the inner clock can be synchronized by other zeitgebers such as physical activity, food intake or social interactions. Here, we investigated the effect of polar day on circadian clock of 10 researchers attending the polar base station in the Svalbard region during July. The data obtained on Svalbard were compared with the data obtained before the researchers left for the expedition (in the Czech Republic). To determine the state of circadian clock we used wrist actigraphy followed by sleep diaries, saliva, and buccal mucosa samples, both collected every 4 hours during 24h-interval to detect melatonin by radioimmunoassay and clock gene (PER1, BMAL1, NR1D1, DBP) mRNA levels by RT-qPCR. The clock gene expression was analyzed using cosinor analysis. From our results, it is apparent that the constant sunlight delayed melatonin onset and postponed the physical activity in the same order. Nevertheless, the clock gene expression displayed higher amplitude on Svalbard compared to the amplitude detected in the Czech Republic. These results have suggested that the common daily schedule at the Svalbard expedition can strengthen circadian rhythm in the environment that is lacking light/dark cycle. In conclusion, the constant sunlight delays melatonin onset, but it still maintains its rhythmic secretion. The effect of constant sunlight on circadian clock can be minimalized by common daily scheduled activity.

Keywords: actighraph, clock genes, human, melatonin, polar day

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14 Association of Mir-196a Expression in Esophageal Tissue with Barrett´s Esophagus and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma

Authors: Petra Borilova Linhartova, Michaela Ruckova, Sabina Sevcikova, Natalie Mlcuchova, Jan Bohm, Katerina Zukalova, Monika Vlachova, Jiri Dolina, Lumir Kunovsky, Radek Kroupa, Zdenek Pavlovsky, Zdenek Danek, Tereza Deissova, Lydie Izakovicova Holla, Ondrej Slaby, Zdenek Kala


Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) is a highly aggressive malignancy that frequently develops from Barrett's esophagus (BE), a premalignant pathologic change occurring in the lower end of the esophagus. Specific microRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNAs that function as posttranscriptional regulators of gene expression, were repeatedly proved to play key roles in the pathogenesis of these diseases. This pilot study aimed to analyze four selected miRNAs in esophageal tissues from healthy controls (HC) and patients with reflux esophagitis (RE)/BE/EAC, as well as to compare expression at the site of Barrett's mucosa/adenocarcinoma and healthy esophageal tissue outside the area of the main pathology in patients with BE/EAC. In this pilot study, 22 individuals (3 HC, 8 RE, 5 BE, 6 EAC) were included and endoscopically examined. RNA was isolated from the fresh-frozen esophageal tissue (stored in the RNAlater™ Stabilization Solution −70°C) using the AllPrep DNA/RNA/miRNA Universal Kit. Subsequent RT-qPCR analysis was performed using selected TaqMan MicroRNA Assays for miR-21, miR-34a, miR-196a, miR-196b, and endogenous control (RNU44). While the expression of miR-21 in the esophageal tissue with the main pathology was decreased in BE and EAC patients in comparison to the group of HC and RE patients (p=0.01), the expression of miR-196a was increased in the BE and EAC patients (p<0.01). Correlations between those miRNAs expression in tissue and severity of diagnosis were observed (p<0.05). In addition, miR-196a was significantly more expressed at the site with the main pathology than in paired adjacent esophageal tissue in BE and EAC patients (p<0.01). In conclusion, our pilot results showed that miR-196a, which regulates the proliferation, invasion, and migration (and was previously associated with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and marked as a potential therapeutic target), could be a diagnostic tissue biomarker for BE and EAC as well.

Keywords: microRNA, barrett´s esophagus, esophageal adenocarcinoma, biomarker

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13 Demonstration of Land Use Changes Simulation Using Urban Climate Model

Authors: Barbara Vojvodikova, Katerina Jupova, Iva Ticha


Cities in their historical evolution have always adapted their internal structure to the needs of society (for example protective city walls during classicism era lost their defense function, became unnecessary, were demolished and gave space for new features such as roads, museums or parks). Today it is necessary to modify the internal structure of the city in order to minimize the impact of climate changes on the environment of the population. This article discusses the results of the Urban Climate model owned by VITO, which was carried out as part of a project from the European Union's Horizon grant agreement No 730004 Pan-European Urban Climate Services Climate-Fit city. The use of the model was aimed at changes in land use and land cover in cities related to urban heat islands (UHI). The task of the application was to evaluate possible land use change scenarios in connection with city requirements and ideas. Two pilot areas in the Czech Republic were selected. One is Ostrava and the other Hodonín. The paper provides a demonstration of the application of the model for various possible future development scenarios. It contains an assessment of the suitability or inappropriateness of scenarios of future development depending on the temperature increase. Cities that are preparing to reconstruct the public space are interested in eliminating proposals that would lead to an increase in temperature stress as early as in the assignment phase. If they have evaluation on the unsuitability of some type of design, they can limit it into the proposal phases. Therefore, especially in the application of models on Local level - in 1 m spatial resolution, it was necessary to show which type of proposals would create a significant temperature island in its implementation. Such a type of proposal is considered unsuitable. The model shows that the building itself can create a shady place and thus contribute to the reduction of the UHI. If it sensitively approaches the protection of existing greenery, this new construction may not pose a significant problem. More massive interventions leading to the reduction of existing greenery create a new heat island space.

Keywords: climate model, heat islands, Hodonin, land use changes, Ostrava

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12 Characterization of Cyanobacteria as Polyhydroxybutyrate Producer

Authors: Eva Slaninova, Diana Cernayova, Zuzana Sedrlova, Katerina Mrazova, Petr Sedlacek, Jana Nebesarova, Stanislav Obruca


Cyanobacteria are Gram-negative prokaryotes that belong to a group of photosynthetic bacteria. In comparison with heterotrophic microorganisms, cyanobacteria utilize atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide without any additional substrates. This ability of these microorganisms could be employed in biotechnology for the production of bioplastics, concretely polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) which are primarily accumulated as a storage material in cells in the form of intracellular granules. In this study, two cyanobacterial cultures from genera Synechocystis were used, namely Synechocystic sp. PCC 6803 and Synechocystis salina CCALA 192. There were optimized and used several various approaches, including microscopic techniques such as Cryo-scanning electron microscopy (Cryo-SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy using Nile red as a fluorescent probe (FLIM). Due to these instrumental techniques, the morphology of intracellular space and surface of cells were characterized. The next group of methods that were employed was spectroscopic techniques such as UV-Vis spectroscopy measured in two modes (turbidimetry and integrating sphere) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). All these diverse techniques were used for detection and characterization of pigments (chlorophylls, carotenoids, phycocyanin, etc.) and PHAs, in our case poly(3-hydroxybutyrate) (P3HB). To verify results, gas chromatography (GC) was employed concretely for the determination of the amount of P3HB in biomass. Cyanobacteria were also characterized as polyhydroxybutyrate producers by flow cytometer, which could count cells and at the same time distinguish cells including P3HB and without P3HB due to fluorescent probe called BODIPY and live/dead fluorescent probe SYTO Blue. Based on the results, P3HB content in cyanobacteria cells was determined and also overall fitness of the cells. Funding: This study was partly funded by the project GA19- 19-29651L of the Czech Science Foundation (GACR) and partly funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), a project I 4082-B25.

Keywords: Cyanobacteria, fluorescent probe, microscopic techniques, poly(3-hydroxybutyrate), chromatography, spectroscopy

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11 Involvement of Corticosterone in the Antidepressant-Like Effect of Endurance Training in Model of Melatonin Deficit

Authors: Jana Tchekalarova, Milena Atanasova, Katerina Georgieva


Pinealectomy can cause a disturbance in emotional status and circadian rhythms of the endocrine and metabolic functions in the body. Endurance training is considered a part of the complex therapy of dysfunctions driven by changes in circadian dynamics of many physiological indicators. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that systematic endurance training can have a beneficial impact on depressive behavior induced by pinealectomy in rat via correction of desynchronized circadian rhythms of corticosterone secretion in plasma. Four groups were formed as follows: sham sedentary rats, the sham group with exercise, rats with pinealectomy and sedentary, and rats with pinealectomy and exercise. The pineal gland was removed through thin forceps in anesthetized with ketamine (40 mg/kg, i.p.) and xylazine (20 mg/kg, s.c.) rats. A similar procedure was applied over the sham groups but without the last action of the pineal gland removal. Exercised rats were regularly trained on a treadmill with a velocity of 20 m/min, 0°slope (about 50 - 55% of VO2max), five days a week for four weeks. The exercise intensity was set according to the maximal lactate steady state, established for Wistar rats during treadmill running. For assessing depressive behavior, a splash test, sucrose preference test, and forced swimming test were applied. Corticosterone in plasma was measured by the Elisa test kit of animals decapitated under mild anesthesia with CO2, every 4th hour in a 24-h period. The continuous exercise program attenuated depressive responses characterized by anhedonia in the sucrose preference test, decreased grooming in the splash test, and despair- like behavior in the forced swimming test of rats with pinealectomy. Parallel to the observed positive effect on the emotional status, exercise procedure corrected the flattened patterns of plasma corticosterone levels. Our results suggest that the antidepressant-like effect of endurance training might be mediated via correction of the disturbed circadian rhythm of plasma corticosterone release in rats with pinealectomy. Therefore, this alternative mode might have a potential therapeutic application in a subpopulation of people characterized by a melatonin deficiency.

Keywords: corticosterone, depression, endurance training, pinealectomy

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10 Molecular Farming: Plants Producing Vaccine and Diagnostic Reagent

Authors: Katerina H. Takova, Ivan N. Minkov, Gergana G. Zahmanova


Molecular farming is the production of recombinant proteins in plants with the aim to use the protein as a purified product, crude extract or directly in the planta. Plants gain more attention as expression systems compared to other ones due to the cost effective production of pharmaceutically important proteins, appropriate post-translational modifications, assembly of complex proteins, absence of human pathogens to name a few. In addition, transient expression in plant leaves enables production of recombinant proteins within few weeks. Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a causative agent of acute hepatitis. HEV causes epidemics in developing countries and is primarily transmitted through the fecal-oral route. Presently, all efforts for development of Hepatitis E vaccine are focused on the Open Read Frame 2 (ORF2) capsid protein as it contains epitopes that can induce neutralizing antibodies. For our purpose, we used the CMPV-based vector-pEAQ-HT for transient expression of HEV ORF2 in Nicotiana benthamina. Different molecular analysis (Western blot and ELISA) showed that HEV ORF2 capsid protein was expressed in plant tissue in high-yield up to 1g/kg of fresh leaf tissue. Electron microscopy showed that the capsid protein spontaneously assembled in low abundance virus-like particles (VLPs), which are highly immunogenic structures and suitable for vaccine development. The expressed protein was recognized by both human and swine HEV positive sera and can be used as a diagnostic reagent for the detection of HEV infection. Production of HEV capsid protein in plants is a promising technology for further HEV vaccine investigations. Here, we reported for a rapid high-yield transient expression of a recombinant protein in plants suitable for vaccine production as well as a diagnostic reagent. Acknowledgments -The authors’ research on HEV is supported with grants from the Project PlantaSYST under the Widening Program, H2020 as well as under the UK Biotechnological and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Institute Strategic Programme Grant ‘Understanding and Exploiting Plant and Microbial Secondary Metabolism’ (BB/J004596/1). The authors want to thank Prof. George Lomonossoff (JIC, Norwich, UK) for his contribution.

Keywords: hepatitis E virus, plant molecular farming, transient expression, vaccines

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9 Cross-sectional Developmental Trajectories of Executive Function and Relations to Theory of Mind in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Authors: Evangelia-Chrysanthi Kouklari, Evdokia Tagkouli, Vassiliki Ntre, Artemios Pehlivanidis, Stella Tsermentseli, Gerasimos Kolaitis, Katerina Papanikolaou


Executive Function (EF) is a set of goal-directed cognitive skills essentially needed in problem-solving and social behavior. Developmental EF research has indicated that EF emerges early in life and marks dramatic changes before the age of 5. Research evidence has suggested that it may continue to develop up to adolescence as well, following the development of the prefrontal cortex. Over the last decade, research evidence has suggested distinguished domains of cool and hot EF, but traditionally the development of EF in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been examined mainly with tasks that address the “cool” cognitive aspects of EF. Thus, very little is known about the development of “hot” affective EF processes and whether the cross-sectional developmental pathways of cool and hot EF present similarities in ASD. Cool EF has also been proven to have a strong correlation with Theory of Mind (ToM) in young and middle childhood in typical development and in ASD, but information about the relationship of hot EF to ToM skills is minimal. The present study’s objective was to explore the age-related changes of cool and hot EF in ASD participants from middle childhood to adolescence, as well as their relationship to ToM. This study employed an approach of cross-sectional developmental trajectories to investigate patterns of cool and hot EF relative to chronological age within ASD. Eighty-two participants between 7 and 16 years of age were recruited to undertake measures that assessed cool EF (working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning & inhibition), hot EF (affective decision making & delay discounting) and ToM (false belief and mental state/emotion recognition). Results demonstrated that trajectories of all cool EF presented age-related changes in ASD (improvements with age). With regards to hot EF, affective decision-making presented age-related changes, but for delay discounting, there were no statistically significant changes found across younger and older ASD participants. ToM was correlated only to cool EF. Theoretical implications are discussed as the investigation of the cross-sectional developmental trajectories of the broader EF (cool and hot domains) may contribute to better defining cognitive phenotypes in ASD. These findings highlight the need to examine developmental trajectories of both hot and cool EF in research and clinical practice as they may aid in enhancing diagnosis or better-informed intervention programs.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, developmental trajectories, executive function, theory of mind

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8 Assessment the Home Musical Environment in Greek Families: Validation of the [email protected] Questionnaires

Authors: Nina Polytimou, Christina Anagnostopoulou, Orianna Bairaktari, Katerina Drakoulaki, Fabia Franco


A growing body of research has recently revealed a beneficial role of formal musical training on early cognitive and linguistic development. The majority of these studies have focused on musical training given in formal settings such as classrooms. For children under the age of 5 however, music is experienced informally through singing songs, dancing and playing musical games with a lot of these activities taking place in the home environment. Given the spontaneous enjoyment that children show for such activities, informal musical engagement between young children and their caregivers may hold potential for fostering cognitive and socio-emotional development. Given this promising potential, the [email protected] questionnaire has recently been developed in the UK to systematically assess the home musical environment in young families. Two versions are available, an Infant version for children aged 3 to 23 months and a Preschool version for children aged 2 to 5.5 years. Indeed, recent studies using the [email protected] have shown that this is associated with affective attachment between caregivers and their typically and atypically developing children in the USA, and with better language outcomes in infants and toddlers in the UK and Germany. With the aim of extending this research to other cultural contexts, the present study sought to adapt and validate the [email protected] in the Greek population. To this end, a large-scale online survey has been launched to collect responses from 200 Greek-speaking families on the musical activities they do at home with their children. Parents of infants are also being asked to complete a report evaluating their infants’ communicative development. Confirmatory factor analysis is being used to confirm the factor structure of the [email protected] in the Greek population. Correlational methods will also be used to investigate the validity and internal and test-retest reliability of the Greek [email protected] instrument. Furthermore, this study will test the hypothesis that the Greek [email protected] is associated with communicative development of infants between the ages of 8 to 18 months. This research provides the Greek population with a systematic instrument to assess musical engagement, a potentially significant aspect of the home environment, and generates insights for the use of cost-effective activities that may foster early learning across different cultures.

Keywords: home musical environment, language development, questionnaire validation, systematic assessment

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7 Reconceptualizing “Best Practices” in Public Sector

Authors: Eftychia Kessopoulou, Styliani Xanthopoulou, Ypatia Theodorakioglou, George Tsiotras, Katerina Gotzamani


Public sector managers frequently herald that implementing best practices as a set of standards, may lead to superior organizational performance. However, recent research questions the objectification of best practices, highlighting: a) the inability of public sector organizations to develop innovative administrative practices, as well as b) the adoption of stereotypical renowned practices inculcated in the public sector by international governance bodies. The process through which organizations construe what a best practice is, still remains a black box that is yet to be investigated, given the trend of continuous changes in public sector performance, as well as the burgeoning interest of sharing popular administrative practices put forward by international bodies. This study aims to describe and understand how organizational best practices are constructed by public sector performance management teams, like benchmarkers, during the benchmarking-mediated performance improvement process and what mechanisms enable this construction. A critical realist action research methodology is employed, starting from a description of various approaches on best practice nature when a benchmarking-mediated performance improvement initiative, such as the Common Assessment Framework, is applied. Firstly, we observed the benchmarker’s management process of best practices in a public organization, so as to map their theories-in-use. As a second step we contextualized best administrative practices by reflecting the different perspectives emerged from the previous stage on the design and implementation of an interview protocol. We used this protocol to conduct 30 semi-structured interviews with “best practice” process owners, in order to examine their experiences and performance needs. Previous research on best practices has shown that needs and intentions of benchmarkers cannot be detached from the causal mechanisms of the various contexts in which they work. Such causal mechanisms can be found in: a) process owner capabilities, b) the structural context of the organization, and c) state regulations. Therefore, we developed an interview protocol theoretically informed in the first part to spot causal mechanisms suggested by previous research studies and supplemented it with questions regarding the provision of best practice support from the government. Findings of this work include: a) a causal account of the nature of best administrative practices in the Greek public sector that shed light on explaining their management, b) a description of the various contexts affecting best practice conceptualization, and c) a description of how their interplay changed the organization’s best practice management.

Keywords: benchmarking, action research, critical realism, best practices, public sector

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6 Female Autism Spectrum Disorder and Understanding Rigid Repetitive Behaviors

Authors: Erin Micali, Katerina Tolstikova, Cheryl Maykel, Elizabeth Harwood


Female ASD is seldomly studied separately from males. Further, females with ASD are disproportionately underrepresented in the research at a rate of 3:1 (male to female). As such, much of the current understanding about female rigid repetitive behaviors (RRBs) stems from research’s understanding of male RRBs. This can be detrimental to understanding female ASD because this understanding of female RRBs largely discounts female camouflaging and the possibility that females present their autistic symptoms differently. Current literature suggests that females with ASD engage in fewer RRBs than males with ASD and when females do engage in RRBs, they are likely to engage in more subtle, less overt obsessions and repetitive behaviors than males. Method: The current study utilized a mixed methods research design to identify the type and frequency of RRBs that females with ASD engaged in by using a cross-sectional design. The researcher recruited only females to be part of the present study with the criteria they be at least age six and not have co-occurring cognitive impairment. Results: The researcher collected previous testing data (Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R), Child or Adolescent/Adult Sensory Profile-2, Autism/ Empathy Quotient, Yale Brown Obsessive Compulsive Checklist, Rigid Repetitive Behavior Checklist (evaluator created list), and demographic questionnaire) from 25 total participants. The participants ages ranged from six to 52. The participants were 96% Caucasion and 4% Latin American. Qualitative analysis found the current participant pool engaged in six RRB themes including repetitive behaviors, socially restrictive behaviors, repetitive speech, difficulty with transition, obsessive behaviors, and restricted interests. The current dataset engaged in socially restrictive behaviors and restrictive interests most frequently. Within the main themes 40 subthemes were isolated, defined, and analyzed. Further, preliminary quantitative analysis was run to determine if age impacted camouflaging behaviors and overall presentation of RRBs. Within this dataset this was not founded. Further qualitative data will be run to determine if this dataset engaged in more overt or subtle RRBs to confirm or rebuff previous research. The researcher intends to run SPSS analysis to determine if there was statistical difference between each RRB theme and overall presentation. Secondly, each participant will be analyzed for presentation of RRB, age, and previous diagnoses. Conclusion: The present study aimed to assist in diagnostic clarity. This was achieved by collecting data from a female only participant pool across the lifespan. Current data aided in clarity of the type of RRBs engage in. A limited sample size was a barrier in this study.

Keywords: autism spectrum disorder, camouflaging, rigid repetitive behaviors, gender disparity

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5 De-Securitizing Identity: Narrative (In)Consistency in Periods of Transition

Authors: Katerina Antoniou


When examining conflicts around the world, it is evident that the majority of intractable conflicts are steeped in identity. Identity seems to be not only a causal variable for conflict, but also a catalytic parameter for the process of reconciliation that follows ceasefire. This paper focuses on the process of identity securitization that occurs between rival groups of heterogeneous collective identities – ethnic, national or religious – as well as on the relationship between identity securitization and the ability of the groups involved to reconcile. Are securitized identities obstacles to the process of reconciliation, able to hinder any prospects of peace? If the level to which an identity is securitized is catalytic to a conflict’s discourse and settlement, then which factors act as indicators of identity de-securitization? The level of an in-group’s identity securitization can be estimated through a number of indicators, one of which is narrative. The stories, views and stances each in-group adopts in relation to its history of conflict and relation with their rival out-group can clarify whether that specific in-group feels victimized and threatened or safe and ready to reconcile. Accordingly, this study discusses identity securitization through narrative in relation to intractable conflicts. Are there conflicts around the world that, despite having been identified as intractable, stagnated or insoluble, show signs of identity de-securitization through narrative? This inquiry uses the case of the Cyprus conflict and its partitioned societies to present official narratives from the two communities and assess whether these narratives have transformed, indicating a less securitized in-group identity for the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Specifically, the study compares the official historical overviews presented by each community’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and discusses the extent to which the two official narratives present a securitized collective identity. In addition, the study will observe whether official stances by the two communities – as adopted by community leaders – have transformed to depict less securitization over time. Additionally, the leaders’ reflection of popular opinion is evaluated through recent opinion polls from each community. Cyprus is currently experiencing renewed optimism for reunification, with the leaders of its two communities engaging in rigorous negotiations, and with rumors calling for a potential referendum for reunification to be taking place even as early as within 2016. Although leaders’ have shown a shift in their rhetoric and have moved away from narratives of victimization, this is not the case for the official narratives used by their respective ministries of foreign affairs. The study’s findings explore whether this narrative inconsistency proves that Cyprus is transitioning towards reunification, or whether the leaders are risking sending a securitized population to the polls to reject a potential reunification. More broadly, this study suggests that in the event that intractable conflicts might be moving towards viable peace, in-group narratives--official narratives in particular--can act as indicators of the extent to which rival entities have managed to reconcile.

Keywords: conflict, identity, narrative, reconciliation

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