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UnDisciplined: The Occupational Therapist And The Evolutionary Biologist

This week on UnDisciplined, we're talking about stress, but from two very different scientific points of view. 

First, we're joined by a researcher who uncovered a startling recent increase in deaths by suicide among people with an Autism diagnosis. Then, we'll chat with a scientist who helped reveal that stressors experienced by ancestors could help bolster the immune response of future generations. 

Anne Kirby is an assistant professor in the division of occupational therapy at the University of Utah. Her study, published in January in the journal Autism Research, examined the suicide risk among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, revealing that the risk of suicide in those with ASD has increased in recent years. 

Gail McCormick is part of a team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University who study the fascinating evolutionary relationship between lizards and fire ants. Her most recent study in the journal Experimental Biology revealed that descendants of animals who were frequently exposed to stress had a better immune response to stressors in their own lives. 

Matthew LaPlante has reported on ritual infanticide in Northern Africa, insurgent warfare in the Middle East, the legacy of genocide in Southeast Asia, and gang violence in Central America. But a few years back, something donned on him: Maybe the news doesn't have to be brutally depressing all the time. Today, he balances his continuing work on more heartbreaking subjects by writing books about the intersection of science, human health and society, including the New York Times best-selling Lifespan with geneticist David Sinclair and the Nautilus Award-winning Longevity Plan with cardiologist John Day. His first solo book, Superlative, looks at what scientists are learning by studying organisms that have evolved in record-setting ways, and his is currently at work on another book about embracing the inevitability of human-caused climate change with an optimistic outlook on the future.