Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Glancing at a grassy green roof significantly boosts concentration [news item]

Glancing at a grassy green roof significantly boosts concentration.

A green grassy roof in Toronto, a city renowned for its efforts to balance nature and urban space.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, gave 150 students a boring, attention-sapping task. The students were asked to press a key as a series of numbers repeatedly flashed on a computer screen, unless that number was three.

They were given a 40-second break midway through the task to view a city rooftop scene. Half the group viewed a flowering meadow green roof, the other half looked out onto a bare concrete roof.

After the break, students who glanced at the greener vista made significantly less errors and demonstrated superior concentration on the second half of the task, compared to those who viewed the concrete roof.

The green roof provided a restorative experience that boosted those mental resources that control attention, researchers concluded.

Read the entire news item here

July 25, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Motherhood permanently alters the brain and its response to hormone therapy later in life

Motherhood permanently alters the brain and its response to hormone therapy later in life.

EstrogrenMenopause

From the 25 May 2015 EurkAlert

Hormone therapy (HT) is prescribed to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause in women. Menopausal women are more likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but not other forms of dementia, and HT has been prescribed to treat cognitive decline in post-menopausal women with variable degrees of effectiveness. New research by Dr. Liisa Galea, at the University of British Columbia, suggests the form of estrogens used in HT and previous motherhood could be critical to explain why HT has variable effects. Research in women, and Dr. Galea’s research in animals, shows that one form of estrogens, called estradiol, which is the predominant form of estrogens in young women, had beneficial effects, while estrone, which is the predominant form of estrogens in older women, did not. Furthermore, the effects of estrone also depended on whether the rats had experienced motherhood: estrone-based HT impaired learning in middle-aged rats that were mothers, while it improved learning in rats that were not. Dr. Galea’s latest results were presented at the 9th Annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, on May 25th 2015 in Vancouver British Columbia.

“Our most recent research shows that previous motherhood alters cognition and neuroplasticity in response to hormone therapy, demonstrating that motherhood permanently alters the brain” says Dr. Liisa Galea.

Read the entire news release here

July 22, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[News release] Infections can affect your IQ

From the 21 May 2015 Aarhaus news release

New research shows that infections can impair your cognitive ability measured on an IQ scale. The study is the largest of its kind to date, and it shows a clear correlation between infection levels and impaired cognition.

“Infections can affect the brain directly, but also through peripheral inflammation, which affects the brain and our mental capacity. Infections have previously been associated with both depression and schizophrenia, and it has also been proven to affect the cognitive ability of patients suffering from dementia. This is the first major study to suggest that infections can also affect the brain and the cognitive ability in healthy individuals.”

“We can see that the brain is affected by all types of infections. Therefore, it is important that more research is conducted into the mechanisms which lie behind the connection between a person’s immune system and mental health,” says Michael Eriksen Benrós.

He hopes that learning more about this connection will help to prevent the impairment of people’s mental health and improve future treatment.

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article]What makes peaceful neighbours become mass murderers : Nature News & Comment

What makes peaceful neighbours become mass murderers : Nature News & Comment.

From the 11 May 2015 news item

It’s time to ask uncomfortable questions about the brain mechanisms that allow ‘ordinary’ people to turn violent, says Itzhak Fried.

What happens in the brains of people who go from being peaceable neighbours to slaughtering each other on a mass scale? Back in 1997, neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried at the University of California, Los Angeles, conscious of the recent massacres in Bosnia and Rwanda, described this switch in behaviour in terms of a medical syndrome, which he called ‘Syndrome E’ 2. Nearly 20 years later, Fried brought sociologists, historians, psychologists and neuroscientists together at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Paris to discuss the question anew. At the conference, called ‘The brains that pull the triggers‘, he talked to Nature about the need to consider this type of mass murder in scientific as well as sociological terms, and about the challenge of establishing interdisciplinary dialogue in this sensitive area.

What are the main features of the syndrome?

There was a myth that the primitive brain is held in check by our more-recently evolved prefrontal cortex, which is involved in complex analysis, and that the primitive, subcortical part takes over when we carry out brutal crimes such as repetitive murder. But I saw it the other way around. The signs and symptoms that I gathered in my research indicated that the prefrontal cortex, not the primitive brain, was responsible, because it was no longer heeding the normal controls from subcortical areas. I called it ‘cognitive fracture’ — the normal gut aversions to harming others, the emotional abhorrence of such acts, were disconnected from a hyper-aroused prefrontal cortex. I also proposed a neural circuitry in the brain that could perhaps account for this. In brief, specific parts of the prefrontal cortex become hyperactive and dampen the activity of the amygdala, which regulates emotion.

If mass murder happens because of activity in the brain, what does this say about personal responsibility?

Perpetrators of repeated killings have the capacity to reason and to solve problems — such as how best practically to kill lots of people rapidly. Proposing the existence of a syndrome does not absolve them of responsibility.

May 19, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] How poverty shapes the brain

From the 30 March 2015 ScienceBlog post

Family income is associated with children’s brain structure, reports a new study in Nature Neuroscience coauthored by Teachers College faculty member Kimberly Noble. The association appears to be strongest among children from lower-income families.

“We can’t say if the brain and cognitive differences we observed are causally linked to income disparities,” said Noble, who currently is both a TC Visiting Professor and Director of the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development Lab of Columbia University Medical Center, but will join TC’s faculty as Associate professor of Neuroscience and Education in July in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences. “But if so, policies that target poorest families would have the largest impact on brain development.”

The results do not imply that a child’s future cognitive or brain development is predetermined by socioeconomic circumstances, the researchers said.
Read more at http://scienceblog.com/77532/how-poverty-shapes-the-brain/#FpSAIVrhPFfM4hGJ.99

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] How negative stereotyping affects older people

From the 2 February 2015 University of Kent press release

Analysis of research on the effect of negative stereotypes on older people’s abilities has concluded these stereotypes are a major problem for the demographic.

Interview

Picture by Alan Cleaver. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

A research team at the University’s School of Psychology carried out a review and meta-analysis of Aged-Based Stereotype Threat (ABST).

They statistically analysed international evidence from 37 research studies, both published and unpublished. They concluded that older adults’ memory and cognitive performance is negatively affected in situations that signal or remind them of negative age stereotypes. These effects affect both men and women.

The research, funded by the Economic and Social Research council  (ESRC), was carried out by Ruth Lamont, working with Dr Hannah Swift and Professor Dominic Abrams. It further found that older people’s cognitive performance suffers more when the threat is induced by stereotypes rather than by facts.

 

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Flexible work schedules improve health, sleep | EurekAlert! Science News

Flexible work schedules improve health, sleep | EurekAlert! Science News.

From the 22 January 2015 press release

 

Giving employees more control over their work schedules may help curb sleep deficiency, according to health researchers.

“In the absence of sufficient sleep, we are not as attentive or alert, we process information more slowly, miss or misinterpret social and emotional cues and decision making is impaired,” said Orfeu M. Buxton, associate professor of biobehavioral health, Penn State. “For example, we may misjudge risks by undervaluing negative consequences and overvaluing potential rewards.”

About 30 percent of U.S. adults reported not regularly getting a sufficient amount of sleep, a 2012 Centers for Disease Control survey found. Sleep deficiency has been linked to increased risk of automobile crashes, chronic disease and early mortality. Improving adequate sleep within the population is a goal of Healthy People 2020, a federal initiative that sets national objectives and monitors progress concerning the health of the nation.

Buxton and colleagues looked to see if a workplace intervention, designed to increase family-supportive supervision and give employees more control over their work time, improved sleep quantity and quality. They report their results in an article published online today (Jan. 21) in the journal Sleep Health.

The researchers followed 474 employees as part of a Work, Family and Health Network study conducted at an information technology company, with about half of the employees serving as the control while the other half experienced the study intervention. Both employees and their supervisors participated.

The intervention was designed to reduce conflicts between work and personal life, and focused on two main cultural shifts: allowing employees to decide on when and where they worked and training supervisors to support their employees’ personal lives. Those who were assigned to the intervention were encouraged to be completely flexible about when and where they would work — at the office, from home or elsewhere — while still working the same number of hours as the control group. All of the participants wore a sleep-monitoring watch, a device that tracks movement to monitor periods of sleep.

 

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘[news article] Smart’ drugs won’t make smart people smarter, research concludes — ScienceDaily

‘Smart’ drugs won’t make smart people smarter, research concludes — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date: November 12, 2014
Source: University of Nottingham
Summary: It is claimed one in five students have taken the ‘smart’ drug Modafinil to boost their ability to study and improve their chances of exam success. But new research into the effects of Modafinil has shown that healthy students could find their performance impaired by the drug.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Older brains slow due to greater experience, rather than cognitive decline

From the 21 January 2014 press release at EurekAlert

What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? Traditionally it is thought that age leads to a steady deterioration of brain function, but new research in Topics in Cognitive Science argues that older brains may take longer to process ever increasing amounts of knowledge, and this has often been misidentified as declining capacity.

The study, led by Dr. Michael Ramscar of the University of Tuebingen, takes a critical look at the measures that are usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures are flawed, confusing increased knowledge for declining capacity.

Dr. Ramscar’s team used computers, programmed to act as though they were humans, to read a certain amount each day, learning new things along the way. When the researchers let a computer ‘read’ a limited amount, its performance on cognitive tests resembled that of a young adult.

However, if the same computer was exposed data which represented a lifetime of experiences its performance looked like that of an older adult. Often it was slower, not because its processing capacity had declined, but because increased “experience” had caused the computer’s database to grow, giving it more data to process, and that processing takes time.

“What does this finding mean for our understanding of our ageing minds, for example older adults’ increased difficulties with word recall? These are traditionally thought to reveal how our memory for words deteriorates with age, but Big Data adds a twist to this idea,” said Dr. Ramscar. “Technology now allows researchers to make quantitative estimates about the number of words an adult can be expected to learn across a lifetime, enabling the team to separate the challenge that increasing knowledge poses to memory from the actual performance of memory itself.”

“Imagine someone who knows two people’s birthdays and can recall them almost perfectly. Would you really want to say that person has a better memory than a person who knows the birthdays of 2000 people, but can ‘only’ match the right person to the right birthday nine times out of ten?” asks Ramscar.

“It is time we rethink what we mean by the aging mind before our false assumptions result in decisions and policies that marginalize the old or waste precious public resources to remediate problems that do not exist,” said Topics in Cognitive Science, Editors Wayne Gray and Thomas Hills.

 

 

 

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January 23, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost] Tip-of-the-tongue moments may be benign

The 2011 Association for Psychological Science...

The 2011 Association for Psychological Science convention, which featured a Wikipedia booth with information about the APS Wikipedia Initiative and the Wikipedia Ambassador Program (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 16 October 2013 EurekAlert

 

Despite the common fear that those annoying tip-of-the-tongue moments are signals of age-related memory decline, the two phenomena appear to be independent, according to findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Anecdotal evidence has suggested that tip-of-the-tongue experiences occur more frequently as people get older, but the relationship between these cognitive stumbles and actual memory problems remained unclear, according to psychological scientist and lead author Timothy Salthouse of the University of Virginia:

“We wondered whether these self-reports are valid and, if they are, do they truly indicate age-related failures of the type of memory used in the diagnosis of dementia?”

To find out, Salthouse and Arielle Mandell — an undergraduate researcher who was working on her senior thesis — were able to elicit tip-of-the-tongue moments in the laboratory by asking over 700 participants ranging in age from 18 to 99 to give the names of famous places, common nouns, or famous people based on brief descriptions or pictures.

Throughout the study, participants indicated which answers they knew, which they didn’t, and which made them have a tip-of-the-tongue experience.

Several descriptions were particularly likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment, such as: “What is the name of the building where one can view images of celestial bodies on the inner surface of a dome?” and “What is the name of the large waterfall in Zambia that is one of the Seven Wonders of the World?” Of the pictures of the politicians and celebrities, Joe Lieberman and Ben Stiller were most likely to induce a tip-of-the-tongue moment.

Overall, older participants experienced more of these frustrating moments than did their younger counterparts, confirming previous self-report data. But, after the researchers accounted for various factors including participants’ general knowledge, they found no association between frequency of tip-of-the-tongue moments and participants’ performance on the types of memory tests often used in the detection of dementia.

“Even though increased age is associated with lower levels of episodic memory and with more frequent tip-of-the-tongue experiences…the two phenomena seem to be largely independent of one another,” write Salthouse and Mandell, indicating that these frustrating occurrences by themselves should not be considered a sign of impending dementia.

 

###

 

For more information about this study, please contact: Timothy A. Salthouse at salthouse@virginia.edu.

This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and a Harrison Undergraduate Research Award from the University of Virginia.

The article abstract can be found online: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/10/08/0956797613495881.abstract?patientinform-links=yes&legid=sppss;0956797613495881v1

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article “Do Age-Related Increases in Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences Signify Episodic Memory Impairments?” and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

 

 

 

 

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Poor Concentration: Poverty Reduces Brainpower Needed for Navigating Other Areas of Life

Something I’ve suspected all along…now it seems to be quantified..

From the 29 August 2013 article at Science Daily

Poverty and all its related concerns require so much mental energy that the poor have less remaining brainpower to devote to other areas of life, according to research based at Princeton University. As a result, people of limited means are more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions that may be amplified by — and perpetuate — their financial woes.

Published in the journal Science, the study presents a unique perspective regarding the causes of persistent poverty. The researchers suggest that being poor may keep a person from concentrating on the very avenues that would lead them out of poverty. A person’s cognitive function is diminished by the constant and all-consuming effort of coping with the immediate effects of having little money, such as scrounging to pay bills and cut costs. Thusly, a person is left with fewer “mental resources” to focus on complicated, indirectly related matters such as education, job training and even managing their time.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that pressing financial concerns had an immediate impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests. On average, a person preoccupied with money problems exhibited a drop in cognitive function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ, or the loss of an entire night’s sleep.

“Stress itself doesn’t predict that people can’t perform well — they may do better up to a point,” Shafir said. “A person in poverty might be at the high part of the performance curve when it comes to a specific task and, in fact, we show that they do well on the problem at hand. But they don’t have leftover bandwidth to devote to other tasks. The poor are often highly effective at focusing on and dealing with pressing problems. It’s the other tasks where they perform poorly.”

The fallout of neglecting other areas of life may loom larger for a person just scraping by, Shafir said. Late fees tacked on to a forgotten rent payment, a job lost because of poor time-management — these make a tight money situation worse. And as people get poorer, they tend to make difficult and often costly decisions that further perpetuate their hardship, Shafir said. He and Mullainathan were co-authors on a 2012 Science paper that reported a higher likelihood of poor people to engage in behaviors that reinforce the conditions of poverty, such as excessive borrowing.

“They can make the same mistakes, but the outcomes of errors are more dear,” Shafir said. “So, if you live in poverty, you’re more error prone and errors cost you more dearly — it’s hard to find a way out.”

The researchers suggest that services for the poor should accommodate the dominance that poverty has on a person’s time and thinking. Such steps would include simpler aid forms and more guidance in receiving assistance, or training and educational programs structured to be more forgiving of unexpected absences, so that a person who has stumbled can more easily try again.

“You want to design a context that is more scarcity proof,” said Shafir, noting that better-off people have access to regular support in their daily lives, be it a computer reminder, a personal assistant, a housecleaner or a babysitter.

“There’s very little you can do with time to get more money, but a lot you can do with money to get more time,” Shafir said. “The poor, who our research suggests are bound to make more mistakes and pay more dearly for errors, inhabit contexts often not designed to help.”

 

Read the entire article here

 

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Repost]Cognitive performance is better in girls whose walk to school lasts more than 15 minutes

Back in the 60’s, it was about a 20 minute walk to grade school. Maybe I did as well as I did because of the walking?
Took the bus in high school, but maybe band practice  (including marching) was a fairly good substitute??

 

BloomsCognitiveDomain

This figure illustrates the cognitive process dimension of the revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy in the cognitive domain (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). It depicts the belief that remembering is a prerequisite for understanding and that understanding is a prerequisite for application.

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York, USA: Addison-Wesley Longman.

From the 24 July 2013 EurkAlert article

Cognitive performance of adolescent girls who walk to school is better than that of girls who travel by bus or car. Moreover, cognitive performance is also better in girls who take more than 15 minutes than in those who live closer and have a shorter walk to school.

These are some of the conclusions of a study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results come from findings of the nationwide AVENA (Food and Assessment of the NutritionalStatus of Spanish Adolescents) study, in which the University of Granada has participated together with the Autonomous University of Madrid, University of Zaragoza and the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid. They constitute the first international study that associates mode of commuting to school and cognitive performance.

The authors analysed a sample of 1700 boys and girls aged between 13 and 18 years (808 boys and 892 girls) in five Spanish cities (Granada, Madrid, Murcia, Santander and Zaragoza).

They studied variables of mode of commuting to school, cognitive performance, anthropometrics—like body mass index and percentage of overweight and obesity—and participants’ extracurricular physical activity. They also gathered data on their families’ socio-economic status using the mother’s level of educational achievement (primary school, secondary school or university) and the type of school (state-funded or private) that participants attended.

Information on mode of commuting to school came from a question asking participants how they usually travelled to school and giving the following response options: on foot, by bicycle, car, bus or subway, motorcycle, and others. They were also asked how long the journey to school took them.

Cognitive performance was measured by applying the Spanish version of an educational ability test. Participants completed this standardized test that measures intelligence and the individual’s basic ability for learning. The test assesses command of language, speed in performing mathematical operations, and reasoning.

In adolescence, the plasticity of the brain is greatest. The researchers affirm that, during adolescence, “the plasticity of the brain is greater than at any other time of life, which makes it the opportune period to stimulate cognitive function”. However, paradoxically, adolescence is the time of life that sees the greatest decline in physical activity, and this is greater in girls. Therefore, the authors of the study think that “inactive adolescents could be missing out on a very important stimulus to improve their learning and cognitive performance”.

“Commuting to school on foot is a healthy daily habit, which contributes to keeping the adolescent active during the rest of the day and encourages them to participate in physical and sports activities. This boosts the expenditure of energy and, all in all, leads to a better state of health”, say Palma Chillón, researcher in the Department of Physical and Sports Education of the University of Granada, and David Martínez-Gómez, of the Department of Physical and Sports Education and Human Movement (Faculty of Teacher Training and Education) of the Autonomous University of Madrid, who have both participated in the study.

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , | Leave a comment

Misinformation: Why It Sticks and How to Fix It

From the 19 September 2011 article at Science News Daily

The main reason that misinformation is sticky, according to the researchers, is that rejecting information actually requires cognitive effort. Weighing the plausibility and the source of a message is cognitively more difficult than simply accepting that the message is true — it requires additional motivational and cognitive resources. If the topic isn’t very important to you or you have other things on your mind, misinformation is more likely to take hold.

And when we do take the time to thoughtfully evaluate incoming information, there are only a few features that we are likely to pay attention to: Does the information fit with other things I believe in? Does it make a coherent story with what I already know? Does it come from a credible source? Do others believe it?

Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our preexisting political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief.

“This persistence of misinformation has fairly alarming implications in a democracy because people may base decisions on information that, at some level, they know to be false,” says Lewandowsky….

In their report, Lewandowsky and colleagues offer some strategies for setting the record straight.

  • Provide people with a narrative that replaces the gap left by false information
  • Focus on the facts you want to highlight, rather than the myths
  • Make sure that the information you want people to take away is simple and brief
  • Consider your audience and the beliefs they are likely to hold
  • Strengthen your message through repetition
  • The Penn State Medical Center Library has a great guide to evaluate health information on the Internet.

    The tips include

    • Remember, anyone can publish information on the internet!
    • If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
      If the Web site is primarily about selling a product, the information may be worth checking from another source.
    • Look for who is publishing the information and their education, credentials, and if they are connected with a trusted coporation, university or agency.
    • Check to see how current the information is.
    • Check for accuracy. Does the Web site refer to specific studies or organizations?

The Family Caregiver Alliance has a Web page entitled Evaluating Medical Research Findings and Clinical Trials
Topics include

  • General Guidelines for Evaluating Medical Research
  • Getting Information from the Web
  • Talking with your Health Care Provider


Additional Resources

 
And a Rumor Control site of Note (in addition to Quackwatch)
 National Council Against Health Fraud National Council Against Health Fraud is a nonprofit health agency fousing on health misinformation, fruad, and quackery as public health problems. Links to publications, position papers and more.

September 21, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

The biology of politics: Liberals roll with the good, conservatives confront the bad

 

The biology of politics: Liberals roll with the good, conservatives confront the bad

New study brings to light physiological, cognitive differences of political left and right

Excerpt from the 23 January 2012 Eureka news alert

 

 

English: Number of self-identified Democrats vs. self-identified Republicans, per state, according to Gallup, January-June 2010 [1].

   18+ point Democratic advantage
   10-17 point Democratic advantage
   3-9 point Democratic advantage
   2 point Democratic advantage through 2 point Republican advantage
   3-9 point Republican advantage
   10-17 point Republican advantage
   18+ point Republican advantage

 

 

 

 

From cable TV news pundits to red-meat speeches in Iowa and New Hampshire, our nation’s deep political stereotypes are on full display: Conservatives paint self-indulgent liberals as insufferably absent on urgent national issues, while liberals say fear-mongering conservatives are fixated on exaggerated dangers to the country.

A new study from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln suggests there are biological truths to such broad brushstrokes.

In a series of experiments, researchers closely monitored physiological reactions and eye movements of study participants when shown combinations of both pleasant and unpleasant images. Conservatives reacted more strongly to, fixated more quickly on, and looked longer at the unpleasant images; liberals had stronger reactions to and looked longer at the pleasant images compared with conservatives.

“It’s been said that conservatives and liberals don’t see things in the same way,” said Mike Dodd, UNL assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author. “These findings make that clear – quite literally.”

To gauge participants’ physiological responses, they were shown a series of images on a screen. Electrodes measured subtle skin conductance changes, which indicated an emotional response. The cognitive data, meanwhile, was gathered by outfitting participants with eyetracking equipment that captured even the most subtle of eye movements while combinations of unpleasant and pleasant photos appeared on the screen.

While liberals’ gazes tended to fall upon the pleasant images, such as a beach ball or a bunny rabbit, conservatives clearly focused on the negative images – of an open wound, a crashed car or a dirty toilet, for example.

Consistent with the idea that conservatives seem to respond more to negative stimuli while liberals respond more to positive stimuli, conservatives also exhibited a stronger physiological response to images of Democratic politicians – presumed to be a negative to them – than they did on pictures of well-known Republicans. Liberals, on the other hand, had a stronger physiological response to the Democrats – presumed to be a positive stimulus to them – than they did to images of the Republicans…

 

January 27, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Infographic: How Social Media affects our Brain?

 

From the 13 December blog posting at Assisted Living Today
   http://assistedlivingtoday.com/p/resources/social-media-is-ruining-our-minds-infographic/ 

Social media use across the globe has exploded. As more and more people flock to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, it’s becoming clear that social media is having a profound effect on not just our lives but on our brains too. Scientists are researching how social media impacts cognitive functions and development, like multitasking skills, our ability (or inability) to focus, how our brains are getting rewired,  to name a few. All of which appear to be drastically affected by social media participation. To help shed more light on this phenomenon, we’ve created this infographic: “How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds.” We encourage you to share it on your favorite social media sites (ironic, huh?). You also can embed the infographic on your website using the code below. We ask only that you credit us, Assisted Living Today the leader in finding top assisted living facilities, as the source.

How Social Media is Ruining Our Minds

 

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Elderly Can Be As Fast As Young In Some Brain Tasks

“If you look at aging research, you find some studies that show older people are not impaired in accuracy, but other studies that show that older people do suffer when it comes to speed.  What this model does is look at both together to reconcile the results.”

From a December 2011  Ohio State University news release 

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Both children and the elderly have slower response times when they have to make quick decisions in some settings.

But recent research suggests that much of that slower response is a conscious choice to emphasize accuracy over speed.

In fact, healthy older people can be trained to respond faster in some decision-making tasks without hurting their accuracy – meaning their cognitive skills in this area aren’t so different from younger adults.

Roger Ratcliff

“Many people think that it is just natural for older people’s brains to slow down as they age, but we’re finding that isn’t always true,” said Roger Ratcliff, professor of psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of the studies.

“At least in some situations, 70-year-olds may have response times similar to those of 25-year olds.”

Ratcliff and his colleagues have been studying cognitive processes and aging in their lab for about a decade.  In a new study published online this month in the journal Child Development, they extended their work to children.

Ratcliff said their results in children are what most scientists would have expected: very young children have slower response times and poorer accuracy compared to adults, and these improve as the children mature.

But the more interesting finding is that older adults don’t necessarily have slower brain processing than younger people, said Gail McKoon, professor of psychology at Ohio State and co-author of the studies.

“Older people don’t want to make any errors at all, and that causes them to slow down.  We found that it is difficult to get them out of the habit, but they can with practice,” McKoon said.

Researchers uncovered this surprising finding by using a model developed by Ratcliff that considers both the reaction time and the accuracy shown by participants in speeded tasks.  Most models only consider one of these variables.

“If you look at aging research, you find some studies that show older people are not impaired in accuracy, but other studies that show that older people do suffer when it comes to speed.  What this model does is look at both together to reconcile the results,” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff, McKoon and their colleagues have used several of the same experiments in children, young adults and the elderly….

Read the entire press release

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , , | 2 Comments

Human Brains Unlikely To Evolve Into A “supermind” As Price To Pay Would Be Too High

From the 8 December 2011 Medical News Today article

Human minds have hit an evolutionary “sweet spot” and – unlike computers cannot continually get smarter without trade-offs elsewhere, according to research by the University of Warwick.

Researchers asked the question why we are not more intelligent than we are given the adaptive evolutionary process.

Their conclusions show that you can have too much of a good thing when it comes to mental performance.

The evidence suggests that for every gain in cognitive functions, for example better memory, increased attention or improved intelligence, there is a price to pay elsewhere – meaning a highly-evolved “supermind” is the stuff of science fiction….

For instance, among individuals with enhanced cognitive abilities such as savants, people with photographic memories, and even genetically segregated populations of individuals with above average IQ, these individuals often suffer from related disorders, such as autism, debilitating synaesthesia and neural disorders linked with enhanced brain growth.

Similarly, drugs like Ritalan only help people with lower attention spans whereas people who don’t have trouble focusing can actually perform worse when they take attention-enhancing drugs.

Dr Hills said: “These kinds of studies suggest there is an upper limit to how much people can or should improve their mental functions like attention, memory or intelligence….

December 9, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

New research distinguishes roles of conscious and sub-conscious awareness in information processing

From the 30 November 2011 Eureka News Alert

What distinguishes information processing with conscious awareness from processing occurring without awareness? And, is there any role for conscious awareness in information processing, or is it just a byproduct, like the steam from the chimney of a train engine, which is significant, but has no functional role?

These questions — which have long puzzled psychologists, philosophers, and neurobiologists — were recently addressed in a study by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers and published by the journal Psychological Science.

December 1, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Former Football Players Prone to Late-Life Health Problems, Study Finds

Former football players experience more late-life cognitive difficulties and worse health than other former athletes and non-athletes. An MU study found that these athletes can alter their diet and exercise habits to improve their mental and physical health. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia)

From ScienceDaily (Nov. 9, 2011)

 — Football players experience repeated head trauma throughout their careers, which results in short and long-term effects to their cognitive function, physical and mental health. University of Missouri researchers are investigating how other lifestyle factors, including diet and exercise, impact the late-life health of former collision-sport athletes.

The researchers found that former football players experience more late-life cognitive difficulties and worse physical and mental health than other former athletes and non-athletes. In addition, former football players who consumed high-fat diets had greater cognitive difficulties with recalling information, orientation and engaging and applying ideas. Frequent, vigorous exercise was associated with higher physical and mental health ratings.

Read the entire news article

 

November 14, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychologists find skill in recognizing faces peaks after age 30

Psychologists find skill in recognizing faces peaks after age 30
Finding rebuts pervasive belief that all mental faculties top out in early adulthood

From the December 23, 2010 Eureka news alert

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 21, 2010 — Scientists have made the surprising discovery that our ability to recognize and remember faces peaks at age 30 to 34, about a decade later than most of our other mental abilities.

Researchers Laura T. Germine and Ken Nakayama of Harvard University and Bradley Duchaine of Dartmouth College will present their work in a forthcoming issue of the journal Cognition.***

While prior evidence had suggested that face recognition might be slow to mature, Germine says few scientists had suspected that it might continue building for so many years into adulthood. She says the late-blooming nature of face recognition may simply be a case of practice making perfect.

“We all look at faces, and practice face-watching, all the time,” says Germine, a Ph.D. student in psychology at Harvard. “It may be that the parts of the brain we use to recognize faces require this extended period of tuning in early adulthood to help us learn and remember a wide variety of different faces.”

Germine, Duchaine, and Nakayama used the web-based Cambridge Face Memory Test — available at http://www.testmybrain.org — to test recognition of computer-generated faces among some 44,000 volunteers ages 10 to 70. They found that skill at other mental tasks, such as remembering names, maxes out at age 23 to 24, consistent with previous research.

But on a face-recognition task, skill rose sharply from age 10 to 20, then continued increasing more slowly throughout the 20s, reaching a peak of 83 percent correct responses in the cohort ages 30 to 34.

A follow-up experiment involving computer-generated children’s faces found a similar result, with the best face recognition seen among individuals in their early 30s. After this, skill in recognizing faces declined slowly, with the ability of 65-year-olds roughly matching that of 16-year-olds.

“Research on cognition has tended to focus on development, to age 20, and aging, after age 55,” Germine says. “Our work shows that the 35 years in between, previously thought to be fairly static, may in fact be more dynamic than many scientists had expected.”

 

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January 3, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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