Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Truth or consequences? The negative results of concealing who you really are on the job

 

 

Caption: Clayton R. Critcher is an assistant professor of marketing at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

From the 8 October 2013 EurkAlert

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY’S HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS – Most know that hiding something from others can cause internal angst. New research suggests the consequences can go far beyond emotional strife and that being forced to keep information concealed, such as one’s sexual orientation, disrupts the concealer’s basic skills and abilities, including intellectual acuity, physical strength, and interpersonal grace—skills critical to workplace success.

“With no federal protection for gays and lesbians in the work place, our work suggests that the wisdom of non-discrimination laws should be debated not merely through a moral lens, but with an appreciation for the loss of economic productivity that such vulnerabilities produce,” says Clayton R. Critcher, assistant professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. Critcher, a member of the Haas Marketing Group, conducts research on consumer behavior and social psychology, including questions of self and identity.

Critcher’s paper, “The Cost of Keeping it Hidden: Decomposing Concealment Reveals What Makes it Depleting,” forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General and co-authored with Melissa J. Ferguson of Cornell University, details multiple negative consequences of concealment. The findings, says Critcher, stem from the difficulty of having to constantly monitor one’s speech for secret-revealing content that needs to be edited out.

The researchers conducted four studies, each of which was a variation on a single paradigm. When participants arrived at the study, they learned they would be taking part in an interview. Following a rigged drawing, all participants learned they were assigned to be an interviewee. Another supposed participant—who, in reality, was an actor hired by the experimenter—was the interviewer.

Some participants were given special instructions about what they could reveal in the interview. In three of the four studies, some participants were told they should make sure not to reveal their sexual orientation while answering the questions. For example, participants were told that in answering questions, instead of saying “I tend to date men who …,” the participants could say, “I tend to date people who ….”

After the interview, participants thought they were moving on to an unrelated study. In actuality, this second part of the experiment was related, offering researchers the opportunity to measure whether participants’ intellectual, physical, or interpersonal skills were degraded by concealment. The studies revealed the variety of negative effects of concealment.

In one study, participants completed a measure of spatial intelligence that was modeled after items on military aptitude tests. Participants randomly assigned to conceal their sexual orientation performed 17% worse than those who went through the interview without instructions to conceal. In another experiment, participants tasked with hiding their sexual orientation exhibited reduced physical stamina, only able to squeeze an exercise handgrip for 20% less time than those in a control condition. Additional studies revealed that concealment led people to show less interpersonal restraint. For example, the participants responded to a “snarky” email from a superior with more anger than politeness.

During another test, participants demonstrated poorer performance on a “Stroop task,” a commonly-used measure of executive cognitive function.

In consequent experiments, participants’ abilities were assessed both before and after the interview. This permitted the experimenters to more directly observe that merely going through an interview does not affect one’s strength of cognitive control, but going through an interview while having to conceal one’s sexual orientation led to significant declines.

In addition, the researchers varied whether questions focused on participants’ personal or dating life, or on topics for which one’s sexual orientation would never be revealed. Concealment caused similarly sharp declines in both cases.

“Environments that explicitly or implicitly encourage people to conceal their sexual orientation—even when employers adopt a ‘Don’t Ask’ policy—may significantly harm workers,” says Critcher, “Establishing a workplace climate that supports diversity may be one of the easiest ways to enhance workplace productivity.”

 

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Watch Clayton Critcher talk about his research: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2bSRNjd5Yo&feature=youtu.be

See full paper: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23796042

 

 

 

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, 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

Brain imaging provides window into consciousness

A fMRI scan showing regions of activation in o...

Image via Wikipedia

Brain imaging provides window into consciousness

Study uses fMRI scans to attempt communication with severely brain-injured patients, suggests cognitive functioning may not be recognized at bedside

[Editors note: My great uncle was in a coma for 10 years. His wife insisted that he was aware of his surroundings to some degree and could hear her.
We all just smiled and yes, Aunt Jenny…even though we agreed amongst ourselves that she was mistaken..Now I think she was probably right to a great degree]

From the February 25, 2011 Eureka news alert

NEW YORK (Feb. 25, 2011) — Using a sophisticated imaging test to probe for higher-level cognitive functioning in severely brain-injured patients provides a window into consciousness — but the view it presents is one that is blurred in fascinating ways, say researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in the Feb. 25 online edition of the journal Brain.

In a novel study of six patients ranging in their function from minimally conscious state to the locked-in syndrome (normal cognitive function with severe motor impairment), the researchers looked at how the brains of these patients respond to a set of commands and questions while being scanned with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

They found there was a wide, and largely unpredictable, variation in the ability of patients to respond to a simple command (such as “imagine swimming — now stop”) and then using that same command to answer simple yes/no or multiple-choice questions. This variation was apparent when compared with their ability to interact at the bedside using voice or gesture.

Some patients unable to communicate by gestures or voice were unable to do the mental tests, while others unable to communicate by gestures or voice were intermittently able to answer the researchers’ questions using mental imagery. And, intriguingly, some patients with the ability to communicate through gestures or voice were unable to do the mental tasks.

The researchers say these findings suggest that no exam yet exists that can accurately assess the higher-level functioning that may be, and certainly seems to be, occurring in a number of severely brain-injured patients — but that progress is being made. [editors emphasis]

“We have to abandon the idea that we can rely on a bedside exam in our assessment of some severe brain injuries. These results demonstrate that patients who show very limited responses at the bedside may have higher cognitive function revealed through fMRI,” says the study’s corresponding author, Dr. Nicholas D. Schiff, professor of neurology and neuroscience and professor of public health at Weill Cornell Medical College and a neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

While progress has been made in elucidating the range of brain function in those who are severely injured, Dr. Schiff urges caution. “Although everyone wants to use a tool like this, fMRI is not yet capable of making clear measurements of cognitive performance. There will be a range of possible responses reflecting different capabilities in these patients that we have to further explore and understand,” he says.

The new study tested three levels of communication in steps that required increasing cognitive capacity, says Dr. Henning Voss, who is the study’s senior investigator and associate professor of physics in radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “While we could not unambiguously establish communication in these brain-injured patients, our research is helping us identifying problems specific to this patient population,” Dr. Voss says. “We got a clear picture about where and how to look for this kind of brain activity in response to certain commands.”

Ethical Imperative

“Thousands of people suffer debilitating brain injuries every year, and there is a clear ethical imperative to learn as much as possible about their ability to communicate,” says the study’s lead author, Jonathan Bardin, a third-year neuroscience graduate student at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“These findings caution us against giving too much weight to negative results and open our eyes to the diversity of responses one might expect from the wide-ranging group of severely brain-injured people,” he says.

The potential implications of these kinds of consciousness studies are significant, says co-author Dr. Joseph Fins, the E. William Davis, Jr., M.D. Professor of Medical Ethics, chief of the Division of Medical Ethics, and professor of medicine, professor of public health, and professor of medicine in psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Beyond facilitating communication with these patients, these studies should communicate to society at large this population is worthy of our collective attention.

“A vast majority of severely brain injured patients around the country are receiving substandard care because they are improperly diagnosed, not given adequate rehabilitation, and often end up in nursing homes. We all want this to change,” adds Dr. Fins, who is also director of medical ethics and chairman of the ethics committee at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

fMRI Reveals Consciousness’s Complexity

The Weill Cornell study is a continuation of research into how fMRI can establish a line of communication with brain-injured patients in order to understand if they can benefit from rehabilitation, and to gauge their level of pain and other clinical parameters that would improve care and quality of life.

Research collaborators in Cambridge, England, and Liege, Belgium, published earlier demonstrations in 2006 and 2010 that severely brain-injured patients could respond to commands or questions. The present studies extend the earlier findings and represent an important confirmation of such measurements by independent scientists.

In the current study, the dissociations observed and the wide range of communication capacities in the patient subjects studied provide unique insights. In the first step, the six patients, as well as 14 control participants, were asked a command that formed the basis for further communication. The control volunteers were asked to imagine performing their favorite sports, the patients to imagine themselves swimming.

Then, in the three patients who could do this, and in all of the controls, the researchers asked them to use the same imagined activity to respond to one or two options in a simple two-part question. In the third multiple-choice task, they were shown a face card from a deck of playing cards, then asked to respond when either the face or suit of the card was named.

The scans showed a number of “dissociations” in these patients — “surprising instances in which patients’ imaging responses diverged from their behavior,” Bardin says.

One patient could generate the mental imagery but not use it to answer questions — although he could communicate accurately with gestures. Another patient, who can speak, could not carry out the mental imagery task. A third patient who could imagine swimming on command showed dramatically varied brain response patterns when tested over time.

“The patients participating in this study often have multiple or widespread brain injuries affecting not only local brain areas but the whole brain network on a wide scale,” Dr. Voss says. “Even if we knew precisely all the injuries involved in a subject, our still-limited understanding of the brain networks involved in communication makes it impossible to accurately predict remaining cognitive and communicative skills in many cases. If there is no normal communication possible, fMRI can reveal cognitive capacities on several levels.”

“This is a reality check, in essence, because there is a wide range of cognitive abilities in these patients, and the implications on the extreme ends of the spectrum are important,” Dr. Schiff says. “There are people whose personal autonomy is abridged because they don’t have a good motor channel to express themselves despite their clear mind and opinions and desires about themselves and the world. And there are people who are without cognitive capacity, but because there is a misinterpretation of what is possible, there is a willingness to hold out hope.

“Not all minimally conscious patients are the same, and not all patients with locked-in syndrome are the same,” Dr. Schiff says.

Going forward, the research group, along with others in the field, is planning a major multicenter trial of fMRI along with European and Canadian colleagues supported by The James S. McDonnell Foundation to better understand both its promise and limitation in gauging cognitive abilities in severely brain-injured patients.

 

 

 

 

February 25, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strength training for seniors provides cognitive function, economic benefits: VCH-UBC study

From the December 13 2010 Eureka news alert

A one-year follow-up study on seniors who participated in a strength training exercise program shows sustained cognitive benefits as well as savings for the healthcare system. The research, conducted at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, is published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study is the first to examine whether both cognitive and economic benefits are sustained after formal cessation of a tailored exercise program. It builds on the Brain Power Study, published in the January 2010 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, which demonstrated that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly progressive strength training improved executive cognitive function in women aged 65- to 75- years- old. Executive cognitive functions are cognitive abilities necessary for independent living.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | Consumer Health, Health News Items | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brain Can Compensate for Cognitive Damage

From a November 3, 2010 Health Day news item

By Robert Preidt

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) — Undamaged areas of the brain can compensate for damage in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which is important for memory and attention, a new study finds….

…”Our results show that the neural changes observed in movement recovery after motor cortex damage expand to cognitive domains and apply to a dynamic model of memory and attention compensation by the intact, undamaged cortex,” lead author Dr. Bradley Voytek, University of California at Berkeley, said in a journal news release.

“We demonstrate that brain recovery can manifest itself as transient changes in information processing occurring on a sub-second timescale after the injured brain has been challenged to perform,” he said, adding that this supported “a dynamic and flexible model of [nervous system] plasticity.”

The study appears in the Nov. 4 issue of Neuron

[This article is available online only through paid subscription. Ask a reference librarian at any public, academic, or medical library for how to get a copy. The library may charge a fee for a copy of this article]

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Nov. 3, 2010.

November 5, 2010 Posted by | Health News Items | , , | Leave a comment

   

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