Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence

From the 11 April Eureka News Alert

What is usually seen as pathology may aid survival of the species

Worrying may have evolved along with intelligence as a beneficial trait, according to a recent study by scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and other institutions. Jeremy Coplan, MD, professor of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate, and colleagues found that high intelligence and worry both correlate with brain activity measured by the depletion of the nutrient choline in theGlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, Sackler Institute of Columbia University, NIH/National Institute of Mental Health, National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, Psychiatric Institute subcortical white matter of the brain. According to the researchers, this suggests that intelligence may have co-evolved with worry in humans.

“While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be,” said Dr. Coplan. “In essence, worry may make people ‘take no chances,’ and such people may have higher survival rates. Thus, like intelligence, worry may confer a benefit upon the species.”

In this study of anxiety and intelligence, patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) were compared with healthy volunteers to assess the relationship among intelligence quotient (IQ), worry, and subcortical white matter metabolism of choline. In a control group of normal volunteers, high IQ was associated with a lower degree of worry, but in those diagnosed with GAD, high IQ was associated with a greater degree of worry. The correlation between IQ and worry was significant in both the GAD group and the healthy control group. However, in the former, the correlation was positive and in the latter, the correlation was negative. Eighteen healthy volunteers (eight males and 10 females) and 26 patients with GAD (12 males and 14 females) served as subjects.

Previous studies have indicated that excessive worry tends to exist both in people with higher intelligence and lower intelligence, and less so in people of moderate intelligence. It has been hypothesized that people with lower intelligence suffer more anxiety because they achieve less success in life.

The results of their study, “The Relationship between Intelligence and Anxiety: An Association with Subcortical White Matter Metabolism,” was published in a recent edition of Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, and can be read at

The study was selected and evaluated by a member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), placing it in their library of the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine.

April 13, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Scant Evidence That Insect Bite Remedies Work

Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mos...

Stegomyia aegypti (formerly Aedes aegypti) mosquito biting a human. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 11 April 2012 article at Medical News Today

A UK review in the April Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) says there is scant evidence that over-the-counter remedies for simple insect bites work, suggesting that in most cases, no treatment at all is enough.

The DTB concludes:

“There is little evidence for the efficacy of treatments for simple insect bites. The symptoms are often self limiting and in many cases, no treatment may be needed.”

Most of the insect bites inflicted on people in the UK are from midges, mosquitoes, flies, fleas and bedbugs, looking for a blood meal.

When they bite, these insects inject saliva into the wound, causing a reaction, such as itching and inflammation.

Some bites can result in infection, an eczema flare-up, or anaphylactic shock. Clearly these reactions warrant appropriate treatment, says DTB, but that is not what their review is about: their beef is with the over-the-counter medications used to treat the vast majority of milder reactions: the itching, swelling, pain, and secondary problems that come from scratching.

For instance, steroid creams have been shown to help people with eczema, but there is no evidence they are effective for the sort of itching and inflammation you get from an insect bite, says DTB.

Also, there is no evidence that steroid tablets work for severe localized and systemic reactions to insect bites, despite the fact they are recommended for this….

…There is little evidence that antiseptics and astringents relieve itching or burning, although there is some evidence that dilute ammonium solution (counter-irritant) helps, says DTB.

As for creams that contain painkillers or anaesthetics like lidocaine, benzocaine, sometimes with antihistamines and antiseptics, DTB says they are “marginally effective and occasionally cause sensitisation”.

DTB suggests that applying a cloth soaked in cold water to the wound is often the most effective way to treat a simple insect bite.

The review does not include treatments for bites from ticks, mites and lice.


April 13, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , | Leave a comment

The Misperception of Sexual Interest

Summary from the 2011 Psychological Science article at

In the current study (N = 199), we utilized a speed-meeting methodology to investigate misperceptions of sexual interest. This method allowed us to evaluate the magnitude of men’s overperception of women’s sexual interest, to examine whether and how women misperceive men’s sexual interest, and to assess individual differences in susceptibility to sexual misperception. We found strong support for the prediction that women would underestimate men’s sexual interest. Men who were more oriented toward short-term mating strategies or who rated themselves more attractive were more likely to overperceive women’s sexual interest. The magnitude of men’s overperception of women’s sexual interest was predicted by the women’s physical attractiveness. We discuss implications of gender differences and within-sex individual differences in susceptibility to sexual misperception.

April 13, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Evolutionary Psychology of Crime

From the January 2012 Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical criminology  article at

Evolutionary psychology provides a powerful set of tools for understanding human behavior, including criminal behavior and responses to criminal behavior. One set of tools entails furnishing hypotheses about the underlying psychological mechanisms that could plausibly be part of the causal chain leading to criminal behavior and responses to it. Because all psychological mechanisms require environmental input for their activation, these hypotheses include a specification of circumstances in which criminal behavior is likely to be enacted or inhibited. A somewhat different set of the tools, also potentially quite valuable, is that evolutionary psychology provides heuristic value, guiding criminologists to examine domains previously unexplored or to uncover elements in the causal chain that otherwise might be missed by existing criminology theories. By introducing evolutionary explanations, Durrant and Ward (this volume) provide a valuable service in opening the door for both sets of tools provides by evolutionary psychology in the understanding criminal behavior.

According to evolutionary psychology, all human behavior, criminal or otherwise, is a product of psychological mechanisms (instantiated in the brain) combined with environmental input that activates them or inhibits their activation. Consider calluses. Explanatory understanding the thickness and distribution of calluses on the human skin within individuals over time and across individuals and cultures at any point in time requires (1) knowledge that humans have evolved callus-producing adaptations whose proper function is to protect the underlying physiological and anatomical structures beneath the skin, and (2) knowledge that the environmental input of repeated friction to skin is required for activating the callus-producing mechanisms. Evolutionary psychology, in short, is fundamentally an interactionist framework.

April 13, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Violence prevention, health promotion coming together: Projects creating healthier neighborhoods

From the April 2012 edition of The Nation’s Health

byTeddi Dineley Johnson
In Louisville, Ky., some liquor retailers are taking down alcohol ads that once covered their exterior walls. In Chula Vista, Calif., long-vandalized utility boxes are being painted and transformed into works of art. And in a Denver neighborhood, youths at risk for gang violence are sowing seeds of hope in a community garden.

On the surface, the three scenarios might appear to lack a common thread, but joining them is an emerging public health movement that brings practitioners in the fields of violence prevention, healthy eating and active living together to transform their communities in ways that will foster health and safety.

At its core, the work aims to get to the root cause of why some people are not going outside to exercise and not eating healthy foods, said Mighty Fine, MPH, CHES, a public health practice manager in APHA’s Center for Professional Development.

“Promoting healthy eating and physical activity are front and center on the nation’s public health agenda, but people who feel unsafe in their communities are less likely to go outside for walks, take their children to parks or use community centers or services such as public transportation,” Fine said. “And to make matters worse, grocery stores are reluctant to locate in communities in which people feel unsafe, which limits residents’ access to healthy foods.”

Until recently, the connection between violence and health outcomes has not been intuitively apparent to the public health community, and the lack of attention has prevented some people from living a healthy lifestyle, Fine said….

April 13, 2012 Posted by | Nutrition, Public Health | , , | Leave a comment

Want to address local health related issues? Consider finding a volunteer opportunity through VolunteerMatch

Many (most??) of my postings here address problems, concerns, and challenges related to health. However, I am hopeful that while many won’t “go away”, we do have the power to alleviate many of them. One way to be part of these efforts is to volunteer.

Recently I have started to volunteer at the local Area Office on Aging. This agency is wonderfully connected to the community, including outreach efforts. The volunteers here are valued for their skills as customer service, event planning, and document/brochure creation. Mundane tasks as envelope staffing are kept to a minimum. Presently I am assisting in interviewing folks to see what programs they may be eligible for to meet their nutrition and medical needs. It can be a bit exhausting at times, but it is always rewarding.

Do you have the time and/or inclination to address health or social issues in your community? Either a weekly commitment or periodically at events? is a great place to start.
The advanced search allows you to limit your search by

  • Geographical area
  • Keywords and skills
  • Organization and Preferred Partners (as American Red Cross)
  • Thirty (30) Opportunity Interest Areas including Emergency/Safety, Environment, Health & Medicine, Crisis Support, Disaster & Emergency, and Homelessness/Housing
  • Age (Great For area) – Kids, Teens, 55+



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April 13, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , | Leave a comment


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