What makes your brain happy and why you should do the opposite
Why do we routinely choose options that don’t meet our short-term needs and undermine our long-term goals? Why do we willingly expose ourselves to temptations that undercut our hard-fought progress to overcome addictions? Why are we prone to assigning meaning to statistically common coincidences? Why do we insist we’re right even when evidence contradicts us? In WHAT MAKES YOUR BRAIN HAPPY AND WHY YOU SHOULD DO THE OPPOSITE (Prometheus Books $19), science writer David DiSalvo reveals a remarkable paradox: what your brain wants is frequently not what your brain needs. In fact, much of what makes our brains “happy” leads to errors, biases, and distortions, which make getting out of our own way extremely difficult.
New Scientist says, “David DiSalvo takes us on a whistle-stop tour of our mind’s delusions. No aspect of daily life is left untouched: whether he is exploring job interviews, first dates or the perils of eBay, DiSalvo will change the way you think about thinking… an enjoyable manual to your psyche that may change your life.”
DiSalvo’s search includes forays into evolutionary and social psychology, cognitive science, neurology, and even marketing and economics—as well as interviews with many of the top thinkers in psychology and neuroscience today. From this research-based platform, the author draws out insights that we can use to identify our brains’ foibles and turn our awareness into edifying action. Joseph T. Hallinan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Why We Make Mistakes”, calls DiSalvo’s book “the Swiss Army knife of psychology and neuroscience research—handy, practical, and very, very useful. It boils down the latest findings into simple easy-to-understand lessons you can apply to your daily life.”
Ultimately, DiSalvo argues, the research does not serve up ready-made answers, but provides us with actionable clues for overcoming the plight of our advanced brains and, consequently, living more fulfilled lives…
- The Dangers of Listening to Your Brain (my.psychologytoday.com)
- Why It’s Important to Tackle Brain Myths Head On (psychologytoday.com)
- The Neuroscience of Emotions (learningwithscience.wordpress.com)
- Changing The Brain to Enhance Well-Being, Happiness (psychcentral.com)
- Changing brains for the better; article documents benefits of multiple practices – UW Madison (news.wisc.edu)
- How to Stop Sabotaging Your Own Success (cnbc.com)
New Knowledge Path [Resource Guide]: Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Challenges in Children and Adolescents.
The MCH Library at Georgetown University presents a new knowledge path, Emotional, Behavioral, and Mental Health Challenges in Children and Adolescents. The knowledge path points to a selection of resources that analyze data, describe effective programs, and report on policy and research aimed at improving access to and quality of care for children and adolescents with emotional, behavioral, and mental heath challenges.
View the path online at http://www.mchlibrary.info/KnowledgePaths/kp_Mental_Conditions.html.
A new set of companion resource briefs are available, as follows:
Child Maltreatment http://www.mchlibrary.info/guides/maltreatment.html
Substance Use http://www.mchlibrary.info/guides/substanceuse.html
Suicide Prevention http://www.mchlibrary.info/guides/suicide.html
MCH Library at Georgetown University
Web site: http://mchlibrary.info
Douglas Gentile is painfully aware of how research on the effects of video games on kids is often oversimplified to say that games are either “good” or “bad.” The associate professor of psychology at Iowa State University has had his own research typecast on the “bad” side with studies on violent video game’s effects and video game addiction, even though he’s also done studies demonstrating the benefits of games.
A new article by Gentile appearing in the journal Child Development Perspectives argues that existing video game literature can’t be classified in black and white terms.
Instead, there’s a vast grey area when considering the multiple dimensions of video game effects on children and adolescents.
Gentile writes that there are at least five dimensions on which video games can affect players simultaneously – amount of play, content of play, game context, structure of the game, and the mechanics of game play. …
- Careful with Violent Video Games (brain4biz.wordpress.com)
- Can focus on Video Games and Visual Effects enhance STEM education efficiency? (computinged.wordpress.com)
- Video games effective treatment for stroke patients: study (eurekalert.org)
- Video Memory Game Shown to Boost Kids’ Brain Power (news.yahoo.com)
- Training Via Video Game Shown to Boost Kids’ Brain Power (nlm.nih.gov)
One group of nerve cells in the brain controls the fear behaviour (right). This can be suppressed by a second group of nerve cells (left) — but the fear is only masked, and has not disappeared completely. (Credit: Carlos Toledo/Bernstein Center Freiburg)
ScienceDaily (Mar. 20, 2011) — Fear is a natural part of our emotional life and acts as a necessary protection mechanism. However, fears sometimes grow beyond proportions and become difficult to shed. Scientists from Freiburg, Basel and Bordeaux have used computer simulations to understand the processes within the brain during the formation and extinction of fears.
In the current issue of the scientific journal PLoS Computational Biology [full text of article], Ioannis Vlachos from the Bernstein Center Freiburg and colleagues propose for the first time an explanation for how fears that were seemingly overcome are in reality only hidden
The reason for the persistency of fears is that, literally, their roots run deep: Far below the cerebral cortex lies the “amygdala,” which plays a crucial role in fear processes. Fear is commonly investigated in mice by exposing them simultaneously to a neutral stimulus — a certain sound, for example — and an unpleasant one. This leads to the animals being frightened of the sound as well. Context plays an important role in this case: If the scaring sound is played repeatedly in a new context without anything bad happening, the mice shed their fear again. It returns immediately, however, if the sound is presented in the original, or even a completely novel context. Had the mice not unlearned to be frightened after all?
To increase physical activity, focus on how, not why
Behavior strategies, such as self-monitoring and goals, motivate best, MU study finds
Vicki Conn is an associate dean for research and Potter-Brinton professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.
COLUMBIA, Mo. – Most people know that exercise is important to maintain and improve health; however, sedentary lifestyles and obesity rates are at all-time highs and have become major national issues. In a new study, University of Missouri researchers found that healthy adults who received interventions focused on behavior-changing strategies significantly increased their physical activity levels. Conversely, interventions based on cognitive approaches, which try to change knowledge and attitudes, did not improve physical activity.
“The focus needs to shift from increasing knowledge about the benefits of exercise to discussing strategies to change behaviors and increase activity levels,” said Vicki Conn, associate dean for research and Potter-Brinton professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. “The common approach is to try and change people’s attitudes or beliefs about exercise and why it’s important, but that information isn’t motivating. We can’t ‘think’ ourselves into being more active.”
Behavior strategies include feedback, goal setting, self-monitoring, exercise prescription and stimulus or cues. Self-monitoring, any method where participants record and track their activity over time, appears to significantly increase awareness and provide motivation for improvement, Conn said.
“Health care providers should ask patients about their exercise habits and help them set specific, manageable goals,” Conn said. “Ask them to try different strategies, such as tracking their progress, scheduling exercise on their phones or calendars, or placing their pedometers by their clothes. Discuss rewards for accomplishing goals.”
The study, featured in the American Journal of Public Health, incorporated data from 358 reports and 99,011 participants. The researchers identified behavioral strategies were most effective in increasing physical activity among healthy adults. Successful interventions were delivered face-to-face instead of mediated (i.e. via telephone, mail, etc.) and targeted individuals instead of communities.
“The thought of exercise may be overwhelming, but slowly increasing activity by just 10 minutes a day adds up weekly and is enough to provide health benefits,” Conn said. “Even small increases in physical activity will enhance protection against chronic illnesses, including heart disease and diabetes. Preventing or delaying chronic disease will reduce complications, health care costs and overall burden.”
Previously, Conn completed a meta-analysis of interventions for chronically ill patients and found similar results. Conn found that interventions were similarly effective regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
The study, “Interventions to increase physical activity among healthy adults: Meta-analysis of outcomes,” is featured in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Public Health. Conn’s research is funded by a more than $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
This is James P. Evans, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In the ten years since the human genetic code was mapped, expectations among scientists, health care industry, policy makers, and the public have remained high concerning the promise of genomics research for improving health.
But a new commentary by four internationally prominent genetic medicine and bioethics experts cautions against the dangers of inflated expectations – an unsustainable genomic bubble – and it offers ways to avoid it while still realizing “the true – and considerable – promise of the genomic revolution.”
“This commentary is an attempt to bring some balance to the hopes and claims that swirl around the issue of genomic medicine. It is a cautionary essay that tries to extol the real and formidable potential of genomic medicine but also attempts to counter what we see as exaggerated claims, said lead author medical geneticist James P. Evans, MD, PhD, Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics and Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Our fear is that if we are uncritical and naïve in our enthusiasm for these exciting technologies we risk both diversion of precious resources and premature implementation which could hurt patients – as well as a backlash which will hurt our field,” Evans warns.
The commentary appears in the February 18, 2011 issue of the journal Science. Co-authors with Evans are Eric M. Meslin, PhD, director, Center for Bioethics, Indiana University, Indianapolis; Theresa M. Marteau, PhD, FMedSci, professor of health psychology, Kings College, London, UK; and Timothy Caulfield, LL.M., F.R.S.C., Canada Research Chair in Health Law & Policy, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta.
“Breathtaking” is how the authors describe the progress already made in genomic research. But, they caution, the considerable promise of genomics must be evaluated through a realistic lens. Advances in individualized medicine, or pharmacogenetics for example, still require the importance of human behavior in health outcomes: the most powerful predictor of a drug’s efficacy depends less on genetics than whether the patient takes the drug.
Among the reasons they cite making genomics the persistent recipient of “hyperbole” and inflated expectations, some are tied to impatience for practical applications, market forces and unbridled (but uncritical) enthusiasm. The news media also is named for “playing an obvious role in the creation of unrealistic hopes.”
“These forces act together to produce a kind of “cycle of hype” that drive overly optimistic representations of the research,” said co-author Timothy Caulfield.
In their short-list of recommendations for avoiding inflation of the “genomic bubble, Evans and co-authors offer the following: (1) reevaluate funding priorities to stress behavioral and social science research aimed at behavior change for improving health; (2) foster a realistic understanding “of the incremental nature of science and the need for statistical rigor,” within the scientific community and that the media make more responsible claims for genomic research; (3) maintain a focus on developing high-quality evidence before integrating good ideas into medical practice.
“By highlighting the risks of continuing to promise results from genomic science, we were hoping to draw attention to a more sustainable approach to reaping the benefits from genomic science,” said co-author Eric Meslin.
The authors assert their belief that the current age of genomics will provide great benefits to human health “Ours is not a call to gut existing research or too-rigidly tie funding to degree of disease burden … The pursuit of our common goal – improved human health – demands that we take a hard look at disease causation and order our priorities accordingly.”
Related Web sites and articles
The Genomic Revolution (exhibit by the American Museum of Natural History) is an online Web site with videos
The Genomic Revolution: Unveiling the Unity of Life [online book]
Genome Revolution FOCUS (a Duke University Library Guide)
Genomic Links (online resources for professionals, teachers, and all)
Drug Abuse Treatment Rates on the Rise: U.S. Report
A 15% drop for alcohol abuse while cases of marijuana, prescription painkiller abuse rise
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 29 (HealthDay News) — Admissions for alcohol abuse treatment have remained the same in parts of the Midwest and South while dropping elsewhere in the United States, while treatment rates for illegal drugs are increasing across the country, especially for marijuana abuse, according to a new report.
The report, issued by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), includes these findings:
- The overall rate of substance abuse admissions in the United States remained stable from 1998 to 2008, at about 770 admissions per 100,000 people.
- Admissions for alcohol use dropped by about 15 percent nationally, but stayed stable in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska.
- Admission rates for marijuana use rose by 30 percent nationwide, and were highest in the eight states listed above and in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
- An earlier SAMHSA report revealed that admission rates for abuse of opiates other than heroin — including some prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin — rose by 345 percent from 1998-2008. The new report says admission rates for painkiller abuse rose in every part of the country and were highest in the New England states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) and in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.
- The admission rate for treatment of methamphetamine abuse was 53 percent higher in 2008 than in 1998, although it’s down from its peak in 2005.
- Admissions for cocaine abuse fell by 23 percent nationally.
“This study provides insight into the regional nature of substance abuse by highlighting the shifting trends in the reasons for admission to substance abuse treatment,” SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in an agency news release.
SOURCE: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, news release, Dec. 23, 2010
The full report is available at: http://wwwdasis.samhsa.gov/teds08/teds2k8sweb.pdf. It provides detailed charts and tables showing the admission rates for a wide variety of substances for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico for each year over the course of this 11 year period. It also provides data by Census divisions — groups of states delineated by the Census Bureau. These materials allow easy analyses of changing admission trends for any state or region of the country.
The SAMHSA Web site includes numerous links with information about its products and services, as
- Treatment locators for substance abuse and mental health issues
- Prevention programs, services, and information
- Information and services for military families
- Health care reform initiatives
- Housing programs and assistance for the recovering homeless
- Statistics relating to mental health and drug abuse
- A trauma and justice page focusing on increasing support for recovery programs in place of criminal justice programs
- At NIDA for Teens, learn how drugs affect the body and hear from teens who’ve struggled with addiction. This interactive web site has quizzes, videos, games, and a blog that shows the science behind drug abuse.
March 30, 2011
- Alcohol And Marijuana Were The Most Commonly Abused Substances By Those Referred To Treatment From Probation Or Parole (addictionts.com)
- ER Visits from Ecstasy Jump 75% from ’04 to ’08 (scienceblog.com)
- The Adolescent Brain and Substance Abuse | Drug Addiction Treatment (shammond.typepad.com)
- Medical Marijuana Might Slow Thinking Among MS Patients
- White House launches battle on prescription drug abuse (cnn.com)
- High rates of substance abuse exist among veterans with mental illness (eurekalert.org)
- Teen drug abuse: 14 mistakes parents make (cbsnews.com)
- SAMHSA Press Release on Block Grant Changes (asapnys.wordpress.com)
- Adults Represent A Majority Of Inhalant Treatment Admissions (addictionts.com)
- Marijuana Use May Hurt Intellectual Skills In MS Patients
- ADHS Establishes Rules For Medical Marijuana Program
- How Support Groups Can Aid in Addiction Treatment (everydayhealth.com)
- ‘New Ecstasy’ Poses Major Health Risks, Reveals Research, UK (Medical News Today, 3 April 2011)
- Nearly All American Adults With Untreated Alcohol Use Disorders Don’t Think They Need Treatment (addictionts.com)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Efforts to prevent suicides among U.S. war veterans are failing, in part because distressed troops do not trust the military to help them, top military officials said on Thursday.
Poor training, a lack of coördination and an overstretched military are also factors, but a new 76-point plan lays out ways to improve this, Colonel John Bradley, chief of psychiatry at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, told a conference.
Each branch of the services — the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines — rushed to create a suicide prevention program, but there was no coördination. The report recommends that the defense secretary’s office take over coördination of suicide prevention efforts.
On-the-ground prevention training often failed because those running the sessions did not understand their importance, Bradley said.
“They are mocked and they are probably harmful,” he said.
According to the report, available at http://www.health.mil/dhb/default.cfm, 1,100 servicemen and women committed suicide in 2005 to 2009 — one suicide every day and a half. The Army’s suicide rate doubled in that time.
Librarian Karen Estrada publishes Milhealth’s Directory of Military Health Information
Her recent postings on military suicides
**Complex Puzzle of Military Suicides: Is it Really? (a personal observation)
**Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit on Life posting at the site’s home page
http://www.army.mil Army releases new video to combat suicides. 17 July 2010. By Alexandra Hemmerly-Brown. Available at: http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/07/17/42436-army-releases-new-video-to-combat-suicides/?ref=news-home-title0 [Accessed 19JUL2010].
National Institutes of Health. MedlinePlus, the Magazine. Winter 2010. Preventing Suicides in the Military. pp 5-6. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/magazine/issues/pdf/MLP_Winter_2010.pdf [Accessed 19 July 2010].
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February 17, 2011 12:00:00 AM EST