From the article
If you know something’s bad for you, why can’t you just stop? About 70% of smokers say they would like to quit. Drug and alcohol abusers struggle to give up addictions that hurt their bodies and tear apart families and friendships. And many of us have unhealthy excess weight that we could lose if only we would eat right and exercise more. So why don’t we do it?
NIH-funded scientists have been searching for answers. They’ve studied what happens in our brains as habits form. They’ve found clues to why bad habits, once established, are so difficult to kick. And they’re developing strategies to help us make the changes we’d like to make.
“Habits play an important role in our health,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Understanding the biology of how we develop routines that may be harmful to us, and how to break those routines and embrace new ones, could help us change our lifestyles and adopt healthier behaviors.”
Habits can arise through repetition. They are a normal part of life, and are often helpful. “We wake up every morning, shower, comb our hair or brush our teeth without being aware of it,” Volkow says. We can drive along familiar routes on mental auto-pilot without really thinking about the directions. “When behaviors become automatic, it gives us an advantage, because the brain does not have to use conscious thought to perform the activity,” Volkow says. This frees up our brains to focus on different things.
Habits can also develop when good or enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers. This can set up potentially harmful routines, such as overeating, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse, gambling and even compulsive use of computers and social media.
“The general machinery by which we build both kinds of habits are the same, whether it’s a habit for overeating or a habit for getting to work without really thinking about the details,” says Dr. Russell Poldrack, a neurobiologist at the University of Texas at Austin. Both types of habits are based on the same types of brain mechanisms.
“But there’s one important difference,” Poldrack says. And this difference makes the pleasure-based habits so much harder to break. …
- Breaking Bad Habits (mayorshealthline.wordpress.com)
From the 28 January 2012 article
Academic publishing is a very good game indeed if you can manage to get into it. As the publisher the work is created at the expense of others, for free to you. There are no advances, no royalties, to pay. The editing, the checking, the decisions about whether to publish, these are all also done for free to you. And the market, that’s every college libarary in the world and they’re very price insensitive indeed….
There’s not much new about this analysis and investors in Reed Elsevier, the owners of Elsevier, either do or should know all of this.
However, there’s something happening that might change this, for Reed Elsevier shareholders, quite delightful position. That is, a revolt of the academics who provide both the papers and the readership.
A start was made by British mathematician Tim Gowers, in a blog post here. That wasn’t the very start, but it looks like one of those pebbles that starts the avalanche rather than the one that just tumbles down the hillside. And there’s a great deal to be said for a scientific post which references Spike Milligan‘s superb book, Adolf Hitler, My Part in his Downfall.
“I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly. I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and that is my main reason for writing this post,”
There is now a petition running for academics to sign up to this, here….
- Could LexisNexis and Thomson Reuter legal publishing model go up in smoke? (kevin.lexblog.com)
- Elsevier Publishing Boycott Gathers Steam Among Academics (chronicle.com)
- Death to Elsevier! (freethoughtblogs.com)
- Death to Elsevier! (scienceblogs.com)
- Boycott Elsevier (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
- The cost of knowledge (terrytao.wordpress.com)
- On Elsevier (michaelnielsen.org)
- Scientists Organize Elsevier Boycott (science.slashdot.org)
- Boycott Elsevier (blogs.discovermagazine.com)
- Elsevier Snapped by Price Elasticity (arnoldit.com)
- The boycott Elsevier movement (marginalrevolution.com)
- Lists of Elsevier journals to boycott (rrresearch.fieldofscience.com)
From the Kaiser Health Reform Source Web page
Confused about how the new health reform law really works? This short, animated movie — featuring the “YouToons” — explains the problems with the current health care system, the changes that are happening now, and the big changes coming in 2014. Learn more about how the health reform law will affect the health insurance coverage options for individuals, families and businesses with the interactive feature “Illustrating Health Reform: How Health Insurance Coverage Will Work.”
- Kaiser Foundation – Illustrating Health Reform: How Health Insurance Coverage Will Work (bespacific.com)
- Health Reform Hits Main Street – Video (aa47.wordpress.com)
- Health Care Reform explained in three minutes (brickcity.wordpress.com)
- Wham! Bang! Pow! Health reform? (wrnihealthcareblog.wordpress.com)
From the 28 January 2012 blog item
There’s power in numbers. That was the consensus in the workshops I visited this Friday at the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission’s Data Day in Boston.
The name “Data Day” may not conjure up visions of dramatic reversals of public policy. But the community advocates and data experts at the conference knew otherwise. Here are two stories they told about how data can change how we judge people and situations – both socially and legally.
- Assistant Professor Gia Barboza of Northeastern University did a pilot study demonstrating that employing young people could reverse trends toward illegal and violent behavior. Lack of job opportunities correlates with depression and aggression. “This job kept me off the street,” said one of her interviewees. Barboza told news@Northeastern that “when you think about the long-term costs associated with incarceration, it’s much more efficient to fund organizations that employ these youth and provide them with skills that help them achieve their long-term goals.” This conclusion could apply to green jobs programs.
- Derrick Jackson, a columnist at the Boston Globe, said that data can bring “sanity” to public policy about justice and the environment. For example, he said, data helped to eliminate a double standard in sentencing urban and suburban young people who used cocaine. He said environmentalists should tell stories about climate change using data and use these stories to drive policy changes.
There are many ways environmental organizations can use data to change conversations. The Knight Foundation funded a data-sharing project which bridged divides between environmental justice groups. Projects like this one can yield local stories for both traditional and social media. What chemicals are in your neighborhood’s backyard?
Although the EPA’s approach to reporting potential flooding may seem dry, reports on climate change indicators in the United States can also provide story ideas for journalists. If climate change produces floods or disrupts the growing season, superimposing those maps on maps of crop production could yield interesting results – especially for crops grown in low-lying areas. In some states, the answer to the question “What’s for dinner?” may be very different in a few years from what it is today.
- New Data-Driven Methods For Understanding Climate Change (chimalaya.org)
- Research reveals new data-driven methods for understanding climate change (physorg.com)
From the 31 January blog item at ScienceRoll
Last week, I gave a presentation about how people with mental conditions and their doctors use the web and social media at the Congress of Psychiatry and I saw a great idea when walking around after my talk. The comics book shown below (Microchip in the brain) is used for educating people dealing with schizophrenia. It guides the patient through a whole story describing the symptoms, issues at the doctor visit and other important topics.
As I checked it online, there are other great comic books focusing on different conditions. Such high quality educational materials can be a huge help both for patients and their relatives.
- Comic books and psychiatry (frontierpsychiatrist.co.uk)