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Two studies reveal benefits of mindfulness for middle school students

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Two new studies from MIT suggest that mindfulness — the practice of focusing one’s awareness on the present moment — can enhance academic performance and mental health in middle schoolers. The researchers found that more mindfulness correlates with better academic performance, fewer suspensions from school, and less stress.

“By definition, mindfulness is the ability to focus attention on the present moment, as opposed to being distracted by external things or internal thoughts. If you’re focused on the teacher in front of you, or the homework in front of you, that should be good for learning,” says John Gabrieli, the Grover M. Hermann Professor in Health Sciences and Technology, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

The researchers also showed, for the first time, that mindfulness training can alter brain activity in students. Sixth-graders who received mindfulness training not only reported feeling less stressed, but their brain scans revealed reduced activation of the amygdala, a brain region that processes fear and other emotions, when they viewed images of fearful faces.

Together, the findings suggest that offering mindfulness training in schools could benefit many students, says Gabrieli, who is the senior author of both studies. 

“We think there is a reasonable possibility that mindfulness training would be beneficial for children as part of the daily curriculum in their classroom,” he says. “What’s also appealing about mindfulness is that there are pretty well-established ways of teaching it.”

In the moment

Both studies were performed at charter schools in Boston. In one of the papers, which appears today in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, the MIT team studied about 100 sixth-graders. Half of the students received mindfulness training every day for eight weeks, while the other half took a coding class. The mindfulness curriculum, created by the nonprofit program Calmer Choice, was designed to encourage students to pay attention to their breath, and to focus on the present moment rather than thoughts of the past or the future.

Students who received the mindfulness training reported that their stress levels went down after the training, while the students in the control group did not. Students in the mindfulness training group also reported fewer negative feelings, such as sadness or anger, after the training.

About 40 of the students also participated in brain imaging studies before and after the training. The researchers measured activity in the amygdala as the students looked at pictures of faces expressing different emotions.

At the beginning of the study, before any training, students who reported higher stress levels showed more amygdala activity when they saw fearful faces. This is consistent with previous research showing that the amygdala can be overactive in people who experience more stress, leading them to have stronger negative reactions to adverse events.

“There’s a lot of evidence that an overly strong amygdala response to negative things is associated with high stress in early childhood and risk for depression,” Gabrieli says.

After the mindfulness training, students showed a smaller amygdala response when they saw the fearful faces, consistent with their reports that they felt less stressed. This suggests that mindfulness training could potentially help prevent or mitigate mood disorders linked with higher stress levels, the researchers say.

Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, says that the findings suggest there could be great benefit to implementing mindfulness training in middle schools.

“This is really one of the very first rigorous studies with children of that age to demonstrate behavioral and neural benefits of a simple mindfulness training,” says Davidson, who was not involved in the study.

Evaluating mindfulness

In the other paper, which appeared in the journal Mind, Brain, and Education in June, the researchers did not perform any mindfulness training but used a questionnaire to evaluate mindfulness in more than 2,000 students in grades 5-8. The questionnaire was based on the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, which is often used in mindfulness studies on adults. Participants are asked to rate how strongly they agree with statements such as “I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.”

The researchers compared the questionnaire results with students’ grades, their scores on statewide standardized tests, their attendance rates, and the number of times they had been suspended from school. Students who showed more mindfulness tended to have better grades and test scores, as well as fewer absences and suspensions.

“People had not asked that question in any quantitative sense at all, as to whether a more mindful child is more likely to fare better in school,” Gabrieli says. “This is the first paper that says there is a relationship between the two.”

The researchers now plan to do a full school-year study, with a larger group of students across many schools, to examine the longer-term effects of mindfulness training. Shorter programs like the two-month training used in the Behavioral Neuroscience study would most likely not have a lasting impact, Gabrieli says.

“Mindfulness is like going to the gym. If you go for a month, that’s good, but if you stop going, the effects won’t last,” he says. “It’s a form of mental exercise that needs to be sustained.”

The research was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the Poitras Center for Psychiatric Disorders Research at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico. Camila Caballero ’13, now a graduate student at Yale University, is the lead author of the Mind, Brain, and Education study. Caballero and MIT postdoc Clemens Bauer are lead authors of the Behavioral Neuroscience study. Additional collaborators were from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Transforming Education, Boston Collegiate Charter School, and Calmer Choice.


Source: http://news.mit.edu/2019/mindfulness-mental-health-benefits-students-0826

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Optimal Dynamics nabs $22M for AI-powered freight logistics

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Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Optimal Dynamics, a New York-based startup applying AI to shipping logistics, today announced that it closed a $18.4 million round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Optimal Dynamics says that the funds will be used to more than triple its 25-person team and support engineering efforts, as well as bolster sales and marketing departments.

Last-mile delivery logistics tends to be the most expensive and time-consuming part of the shipping process. According to one estimate, last-mile accounts for 53% of total shipping costs and 41% of total supply chain costs. With the rise of ecommerce in the U.S., retail providers are increasingly focusing on fulfilment and distribution at the lowest cost. Particularly in the construction industry, the pandemic continues to disrupt wholesalers — a 2020 Statista survey found that 73% of buyers and users of freight transportation and logistics services experienced an impact on their operations.

Founded in 2016, Optimal Dynamics offers a platform that taps AI to generate shipment plans likely to be profitable — and on time. The fruit of nearly 40 years of R&D at Princeton, the company’s product generates simulations for freight transportation, enabling logistics companies to answer questions about what equipment they should buy, how many drivers they need, daily dispatching, load acceptance, and more.

Simulating logistics

Roughly 80% of all cargo in the U.S. is transported by the 7.1 million people who drive flatbed trailers, dry vans, and other heavy lifters for the country’s 1.3 million trucking companies. The trucking industry generates $726 billion in revenue annually and is forecast to grow 75% by 2026. Even before the pandemic, last-mile delivery was fast becoming the most profitable part of the supply chain, with research firm Capgemini pegging its share of the pie at 41%.

Optimal Dynamics’ platform can perform strategic, tactical, and real-time freight planning, forecasting shipment events as far as two weeks in advance. CEO Daniel Powell — who cofounded the company with his father, Warren Princeton, a professor of operations research and financial engineering — says that the underlying technology was deployed, tested, and iterated with trucking companies, railroads, and energy companies, along with projects in health, ecommerce, finance, and materials science.

“Use of something called ‘high-dimensional AI’ allows us to take in exponentially greater detail while planning under uncertainty. We also leverage clever methods that allow us to deploy robust AI systems even when we have very little training data, a common issue in the logistics industry,” Powell told VentureBeat via email. “The results are … a dramatic increase in companies’ abilities to plan into the future.”

The global logistics market was worth $10.32 billion in 2017 and is estimated to grow to $12.68 billion USD by 2023, according to Research and Markets. Optimal Dynamics competes with Uber, which offers a logistics service called Uber Freight. San Francisco-based startup KeepTruckin recently secured $149 million to further develop its shipment marketplace. Next Trucking closed a $97 million investment. And Convoy raised $400 million at a $2.75 billion valuation to make freight trucking more efficient.

But 25-employee Optimal Dynamics investor Mike Droesch, a partner at BVP, says that demand remains strong for the company’s products. “Logistics operators need to consider a staggering number of variables, making this an ideal application for a software-as-a-service product that can help operators make more informed decisions by leveraging Optimal Dynamics industry leading technology. We were really impressed with the combination of their deep technology and the commercial impact that Optimal Dynamics is already delivering to their customers,” he said in a statement.

With the latest funding round, a series A, Optimal Dynamics has raised over $22 million to date. Beyond Bessemer, Fusion Fund, The Westly Group, TenOneTen Ventures, Embark Ventures, FitzGate Ventures, and John Larkin and John Hess also contributed .

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/05/13/optimal-dynamics-nabs-22m-for-ai-powered-freight-logistics/

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Code-scanning platform BluBracket nabs $12M for enterprise security

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Code security startup BluBracket today announced it has raised $12 million in a series A round led by Evolution Equity Partners. The capital will be used to further develop BluBracket’s products and grow its sales team.

Detecting exploits in source code can be a pain point for enterprises, especially with the onset of containerization, infrastructure as code, and microservices. According to a recent Flexera report, the number of vulnerabilities remotely exploitable in apps reached more than 13,300 from 249 vendors in 2020. In 2019, Barracuda Networks found that 13% of security pros hadn’t patched their web apps over the past 12 months. And in a 2020 survey from Edgescan, organizations said it took them an average of just over 50 days to address critical vulnerabilities in internet-facing apps.

BluBracket, which was founded in 2019 and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California, scans codebases for secrets and blocks future commits from introducing new risks. The platform can monitor real-time risk scores across codebases, git configurations, infrastructure as code, code copies, and code access and resolve issues, detecting passwords and over 50 different types of tokens, keys, and IDs.

Code-scanning automation

Coralogix estimates that developers create 70 bugs per 1,000 lines of code and that fixing a bug takes 30 times longer than writing a line of code. In the U.S., companies spend $113 billion annually on identifying and fixing product defects.

BluBracket attempts to prevent this by proactively monitoring public repositories with the highest risk factors, generating reports for dev teams. It prioritizes commits based on their risk scores, minimizing duplicates using a tracking hash for every secret. A rules engine reduces false positives and scans for regular expressions, as well as sensitive words. And BluBracket sanitizes commit history both locally and remotely, supporting the exporting of reports via download or email.

BluBracket offers a free product in its Community Edition. Both it and the company’s paid products, Teams and Enterprise, work with GitHub, BitBucket, and Gitlab and offer CI/CD integration with Jenkins, GitHub Actions, and Azure Pipelines.

BluBracket

Above: The Community Edition of BluBracket’s software.

Image Credit: BluBracket

“Since our introduction early last year, the industry has seen through Solar Winds how big of an attack surface code is. Hackers are exploiting credentials and secrets in code, and valuable code is available in the public domain for virtually every company we engage with,” CEO Prakash Linga, who cofounded BluBracket with Ajay Arora, told VentureBeat via email.

BluBracket competes on some fronts with Sourcegraph, a “universal code search” platform that enables developer teams to manage and glean insights from their codebase. It has another rival in Amazon’s CodeGuru, an AI-powered developer tool that provides recommendations for improving code quality. There’s also cloud monitoring platform Datadog, codebase coverage tester Codecov, and feature-piloting solution LaunchDarkly, to name a few.

But BluBracket, which has about 30 employees, says demand for its code security solutions has increased “dramatically” since 2020. Its security products are being used in “dozens” of companies with “thousands” of users, according to Linga.

“DevSecOps and AppSec teams are scrambling, as we all know, to address this growing threat. By enabling their developers to keep these secrets out of code in the first place, our solutions make everyone’s life easier,” Linga continued. “We are excited to work with Evolution on this next stage of our company’s growth.”

Unusual Ventures, Point72 Ventures, SignalFire, and Firebolt Ventures also participated in BluBracket’s latest funding round. The startup had previously raised $6.5 million in a seed round led by Unusual Ventures.

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/05/13/code-scanning-platform-blubracket-nabs-12m-for-enterprise-security/

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Data governance and security startup Cyral raises $26M

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Data security and governance startup Cyral today announced it has raised $26 million, bringing its total to date to $41.1 million. The company plans to put the funds toward expanding its platform and global workforce.

Managing and securing data remains a challenge for enterprises. Just 29% of IT executives give their employees an “A” grade for following procedures to keep files and documents secure, according to Egnyte’s most recent survey. A separate report from KPMG found only 35% of C-suite leaders highly trust their organization’s use of data and analytics, with 92% saying they were concerned about the reputational risk of machine-assisted decisions.

Redwood City, California-based Cyral, which was founded in 2018 by Manav Mital and Srini Vadlamani, uses stateless interception technology to deliver enterprise data governance across platforms, including Amazon S3, Snowflake, Kafka, MongoDB, and Oracle. Cyral monitors activity across popular databases, pipelines, and data warehouses — whether on-premises, hosted, or software-as-service-based. And it traces data flows and requests, sending output logs, traces, and metrics to third-party infrastructure and management dashboards.

Cyral can prevent unauthorized access from users, apps, and tools and provide dynamic attribute-based access control, as well as ephemeral access with “just-enough” privileges. The platform supports both alerting and blocking of disallowed accesses and continuously monitors privileges across clouds, tracking and enforcing just-in-time and just-enough privileges for all users and apps.

Identifying roles and anomalies

Beyond this, Cyral can identify users behind shared roles and service accounts to tag all activity with the actual user identity, enabling policies to be specified against them. And it can perform baselining and anomaly detection, analyzing aggregated activity across data endpoints and generating policies for normal activity, which can be set to alert or block anomalous access.

“Cyral is built on a high-performance stateless interception technology that monitors all data endpoint activity in real time and enables unified visibility, identity federation, and granular access controls. [The platform] automates workflows and enables collaboration between DevOps and Security teams to automate assurance and prevent data leakage,” the spokesperson said.

Cyral

Existing investors, including Redpoint, Costanoa Ventures, A.Capital, and strategic investor Silicon Valley CISO Investments, participated in Cyral’s latest funding round. Since launching in Q2 2020, Cyral — which has 40 employees and occupies a market estimated to be worth $5.7 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets — says it has nearly doubled the size of its team and close to quadrupled its valuation.

“This is an emerging market with no entrenched solutions … We’re now working with customers across a variety of industries — finance, health care, insurance, supply chain, technology, and more. They include some of the world’s largest organizations with complex environments and some of the fastest-growing tech companies,” the spokesperson said. “With Cyral, our company was built during the pandemic. We have grown the majority of our company during this time, and it has allowed us to start our company with a remote-first business model.”

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VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/05/13/data-governance-and-security-startup-cyral-raises-26m/

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Data governance and security startup Cyral raises $26M

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Join Transform 2021 this July 12-16. Register for the AI event of the year.


Data security and governance startup Cyral today announced it has raised $26 million, bringing its total to date to $41.1 million. The company plans to put the funds toward expanding its platform and global workforce.

Managing and securing data remains a challenge for enterprises. Just 29% of IT executives give their employees an “A” grade for following procedures to keep files and documents secure, according to Egnyte’s most recent survey. A separate report from KPMG found only 35% of C-suite leaders highly trust their organization’s use of data and analytics, with 92% saying they were concerned about the reputational risk of machine-assisted decisions.

Redwood City, California-based Cyral, which was founded in 2018 by Manav Mital and Srini Vadlamani, uses stateless interception technology to deliver enterprise data governance across platforms, including Amazon S3, Snowflake, Kafka, MongoDB, and Oracle. Cyral monitors activity across popular databases, pipelines, and data warehouses — whether on-premises, hosted, or software-as-service-based. And it traces data flows and requests, sending output logs, traces, and metrics to third-party infrastructure and management dashboards.

Cyral can prevent unauthorized access from users, apps, and tools and provide dynamic attribute-based access control, as well as ephemeral access with “just-enough” privileges. The platform supports both alerting and blocking of disallowed accesses and continuously monitors privileges across clouds, tracking and enforcing just-in-time and just-enough privileges for all users and apps.

Identifying roles and anomalies

Beyond this, Cyral can identify users behind shared roles and service accounts to tag all activity with the actual user identity, enabling policies to be specified against them. And it can perform baselining and anomaly detection, analyzing aggregated activity across data endpoints and generating policies for normal activity, which can be set to alert or block anomalous access.

“Cyral is built on a high-performance stateless interception technology that monitors all data endpoint activity in real time and enables unified visibility, identity federation, and granular access controls. [The platform] automates workflows and enables collaboration between DevOps and Security teams to automate assurance and prevent data leakage,” the spokesperson said.

Cyral

Existing investors, including Redpoint, Costanoa Ventures, A.Capital, and strategic investor Silicon Valley CISO Investments, participated in Cyral’s latest funding round. Since launching in Q2 2020, Cyral — which has 40 employees and occupies a market estimated to be worth $5.7 billion by 2025, according to Markets and Markets — says it has nearly doubled the size of its team and close to quadrupled its valuation.

“This is an emerging market with no entrenched solutions … We’re now working with customers across a variety of industries — finance, health care, insurance, supply chain, technology, and more. They include some of the world’s largest organizations with complex environments and some of the fastest-growing tech companies,” the spokesperson said. “With Cyral, our company was built during the pandemic. We have grown the majority of our company during this time, and it has allowed us to start our company with a remote-first business model.”

VentureBeat

VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative technology and transact. Our site delivers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you lead your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:

  • up-to-date information on the subjects of interest to you
  • our newsletters
  • gated thought-leader content and discounted access to our prized events, such as Transform 2021: Learn More
  • networking features, and more

Become a member

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Source: https://venturebeat.com/2021/05/13/data-governance-and-security-startup-cyral-raises-26m/

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