Universe 25 – A paradise lost
Utopia, depending on who you ask you almost certainly will get a different answer on what the perfect world would look like. No, not what the world COULD be, but what the perfect world would look like. If you could snap a finger and alter the very fabric of reality to create the perfect world, it would almost certainly look very different than the world someone else would create. Maybe that’s why paradise is best left to novelists. Still, what would happen if we could create a general paradise? This is a story of mice and men.(more…)
‘I miss you so much’: How Twitter is broadening the conversation on death and mourning
Death and mourning were largely considered private matters in the 20th century, with the public remembrances common in previous eras replaced by intimate gatherings behind closed doors in funeral parlors and family homes. But social media is redefining how people grieve, and Twitter in particular — with its ephemeral mix of rapid-fire broadcast and personal expression — is widening the conversation around death and mourning.
The mysterious fart
Everyone does it …no, not poop, but fart. Passing gas, fuming, crop dusting, cracking a rat — no matter what you call it — everyone fart, but why? Researchers have published an article devoted to the review of gaseous neurotransmitters of microbial origin and their role in the human body.
When it comes to empathy, don’t always trust your gut
Ever feel like someone is hiding something? Or maybe you suddenly feel like you can’t trust a co-worker. The feeling may seem logical, but is empathy the result of gut intuition or careful reasoning? Research suggests that, contrary to popular belief, the latter may be more the case.
Extreme beliefs often mistaken for insanity
In the aftermath of violent acts such as mass shootings, many people assume mental illness is the cause. After studying the 2011 case of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, researchers are suggesting a new forensic term to classify non-psychotic behavior that leads to criminal acts of violence.
Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps
A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules. The study used a free smartphone app that reduces jetlag to gather robust sleep data from thousands of people in 100 nations. The researchers examined how age, gender, amount of light and home country affect the amount of shut-eye people around the globe get, when they go to bed, and when they wake up.
New learning procedure for neural networks
Rustling leaves, a creaking branch: To a mouse, these sensory impressions may, at first, seem harmless — but not if a cat suddenly bursts out of the bush. If so, they were clues of impending life-threatening danger. Researcher Robert Gütig has now found how the brain can link sensory perceptions to events occurring after a delay.
Sex change hormonal treatments alter brain chemistry
Hormonal treatments administered as part of the procedures for sex reassignment have well-known and well-documented effects on the secondary sexual characteristics of the adult body, shifting a recipient’s physical appearance to that of the opposite sex. New research indicates that these hormonal treatments also alter brain chemistry.
Parents influence children’s play of violent video games
Parents who are more anxious and emotional can impact the amount of violent video games their children play, according to new consumer research from Iowa State University. Russell Laczniak, a professor of marketing and the John and Connie Stafford Professor in Business, says given the harmful effects of violent video games, he and his colleagues wanted to better understand how parents influence children’s behavior.
American placebo – An increase in the placebo response, but only in America?
A new study finds that rising placebo responses may play a part in the increasingly high failure rate for clinical trials of drugs designed to control chronic pain caused by nerve damage. Surprisingly, however, the analysis of clinical trials conducted since 1990 found that the increase in placebo responses occurred only in trials conducted wholly in the U.S.; trials conducted in Europe or Asia showed no changes in placebo responses over that period.
Gut bacteria population, diversity linked to anorexia nervosa
Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine found that people with anorexia nervosa have very different microbial communities residing inside their guts compared to healthy individuals and that this bacterial imbalance is associated with some of the psychological symptoms related to the eating disorder.
Coincidence or conspiracy? Studies investigate conspiracist thinking
In pop culture, conspiracy believers — like FBI agent Fox Mulder on The X Files or professor Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code — tend to reject the notion of coincidence or chance; even the most random-seeming events are thought to result from some sort of intention or design. And researchers have suggested that such a bias against randomness may explain real-world conspiracy beliefs. But new research from psychological scientists shows no evidence for a link between conspiracist thinking and perceptions of order, design, or intent.
Breaking the anxiety cycle
A woman who won’t drive long distances because she has panic attacks in the car. A man who has contamination fears so intense he cannot bring himself to use public bathrooms. A woman who can’t go to church because she fears enclosed spaces. All of these people have two things in common: they have an anxiety disorder. They’re also parents.
What motivates ‘Facebook stalking’ after a romantic breakup?
Social networking makes it easy to monitor the status and activities of a former romantic partner, an often unhealthy use of social media known as interpersonal electronic surveillance (IES) or, more commonly, “Facebook stalking.” Psychological and relationship factors and how individuals cope with the termination of a romantic relationship can help predict their use of online surveillance, according to a new study.
Genetic analysis supports prediction that spontaneous rare mutations cause half of autism
A team led by researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has published a new analysis of data on the genetics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). One commonly held theory is that autism results from the chance combinations of commonly occurring gene mutations, which are otherwise harmless. But the authors’ work provides support for a different theory.
Students in credit crisis
New research from the USA suggests that college students are well aware that they should be personally responsible for their finances, including their card obligations, but this awareness rarely correlates with limiting the debts they accrue during their time in higher education.
Female mice sing for sex
They don’t use gondolas or croon like Sinatra. But scientists have known for a long time that male mice belt out something like love songs to females when the time seems right to them. What they didn’t know – until a University of Delaware researcher developed a sophisticated array of microphones and a sound analysis chamber – was that female mice were singing back.
Guilting teens into exercise won’t increase activity
Just like attempts at influencing hairstyles or clothing can backfire, adults who try to guilt middle-schoolers into exercising won’t get them to be any more active. The study found students who don’t feel in control of their exercise choices or who feel pressured by adults to be more active typically aren’t.
The science of stereotyping: Challenging the validity of ‘gaydar’
“Gaydar” — the purported ability to infer whether people are gay or straight based on their appearance — seemed to get a scientific boost from a 2008 study that concluded people could accurately guess someone’s sexual orientation based on photographs of their faces. In a new paper researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison challenge what they call “the gaydar myth.” William Cox, an assistant scientist in the Department of Psychology and the lead author, says gaydar isn’t accurate and is actually a harmful form of stereotyping.
Common antidepressant may change brain
A commonly prescribed antidepressant may alter brain structures in depressed and non-depressed individuals in very different ways, according to new research. The study – conducted in nonhuman primates with brain structures and functions similar to those of humans – found that the antidepressant sertraline, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) marketed as Zoloft, significantly increased the volume of one brain region in depressed subjects but decreased the volume of two brain areas in non-depressed subjects.
Feeling blue and seeing blue: Sadness may impair color perception
The world might seem a little grayer than usual when we’re down in the dumps and we often talk about “feeling blue” — new research suggests that the associations we make between emotion and color go beyond mere metaphor. The results of two studies indicate that feeling sadness may actually change how we perceive color. Specifically, researchers found that participants who were induced to feel sad were less accurate in identifying colors on the blue-yellow axis than those who were led to feel amused or emotionally neutral.
Researchers help identify neural basis of multitasking
What makes someone better at switching between different tasks? Looking for the mechanisms behind cognitive flexibility, researchers have used brain scans to shed new light on this question. By studying networks of activity in the brain’s frontal cortex, a region associated with control over thoughts and actions, the researchers have shown that the degree to which these networks reconfigure themselves while switching from task to task predicts people’s cognitive flexibility.
Confidence in parenting could help break cycle of abuse
To understand how confidence in parenting may predict parenting behaviors in women who were abused as children, psychologists have found that mothers who experienced more types of maltreatment as children are more critical of their ability to parent successfully. Intervention programs for moms at-risk, therefore, should focus on bolstering mothers’ self-confidence–not just teach parenting skills, the researchers said.
Predicting who will murder his wife or his family
Murderers who kill intimate partners and family members have a significantly different psychological and forensic profile from murderers who kill people they don’t know, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study that examined the demographics, psychiatric history and neuropsychology of these individuals.
Want a better relationship and a better sex life?
If men take up more of the child-care duties, splitting them equally with their female partners, heterosexual couples have more satisfaction with their relationships and their sex lives, according to new research by sociologists. The group used data from more than 900 heterosexual couples’ responses in the 2006 Marital Relationship Study (MARS).
Don’t touch that dial: TV’s subliminal influence on women’s perception of pregnancy and birth
In an era where popular culture is increasingly recognized for its impact on lay understanding of health and medicine, few scholars have looked at television’s powerful role in the creation of patient expectations, especially regarding pregnancy and birth.
‘Memory region’ of the brain also involved in conflict resolution
The hippocampus in the brain’s temporal lobe is responsible for more than just long-term memory. Researchers have for the first time demonstrated that it is also involved in quick and successful conflict resolution.
Don’t I know that guy? Neuroscientists pinpoint part of the brain that deciphers memory from new experience
You see a man at the grocery store. Is that the fellow you went to college with or just a guy who looks like him? One tiny spot in the brain has the answer. Neuroscientists have identified the part of the hippocampus that creates and processes this type of memory, furthering our understanding of how the mind works, and what’s going wrong when it doesn’t.
How influential are peer reactions to posts on Facebook news channels?
An experiment to determine the effects of positive and negative user comments to items posted by media organizations on Facebook news channels showed, surprisingly, that the influence of user comments varied depending on the type and number of user comments. Negative comments influenced the persuasiveness of a news article, while positive comments did not, and a high number of likes did not have the expected bandwagon effect.
The stomach is the way to a woman’s heart, too
You’ve heard that romance starts in the kitchen and not in the bedroom. Well, researchers at Drexel University finally have the science to support that saying – but not the way you might think. Researchers found that women’s brains respond more to romantic cues on a full stomach than an empty one. The study explored brain circuitry in hungry versus satiated states among women who were past-dieters and those who had never dieted.
Scientists discover what controls waking up and going to sleep
Fifteen years ago, an odd mutant fruit fly caught the attention and curiosity of Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian rhythms expert at Northwestern University, leading the neuroscientist to recently discover how an animal’s biological clock wakes it up in the morning and puts it to sleep at night. The clock’s mechanism, it turns out, is much like a light switch.
Good for the relationship: A reframing of sexting
The practice of sexting may be more common than generally thought among adults. More than eight out of 10 people surveyed online admitted to sexting in the prior year, according to new research.
Excessive workout supplement use: An emerging eating disorder in men?
In an effort to build better bodies, more men are turning not to illegal anabolic steroids, but to legal over-the-counter bodybuilding supplements to the point where it may qualify as an emerging eating disorder, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention.
Women and fragrances: Scents and sensitivity
Researchers have sniffed out an unspoken rule among women when it comes to fragrances: Women don’t buy perfume for other women, and they certainly don’t share them. Like boyfriends, current fragrance choices are hands off, forbidden–neither touch, nor smell. You can look, but that’s all, says BYU industrial design professor and study coauthor Bryan Howell.
What’s that!? Brain network that controls, redirects attention identified
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have found that key parts of the human brain network that give us the power to control and redirect our attention–a core cognitive ability–may be unique to humans. The research suggests that the network may have evolved in response to increasingly complex social cues.
Intellectual pursuits may buffer the brain against addiction
Challenging the idea that addiction is hardwired in the brain, a new study suggests that even a short time spent in a stimulating learning environment can rewire the brain’s reward system and buffer it against drug dependence. Scientists tracked cocaine cravings in more than 70 adult male mice and found that those rodents whose daily drill included exploration, learning and finding hidden tasty morsels were less likely than their enrichment-deprived counterparts to seek solace in a chamber where they had been given cocaine.
Restraint and confinement still an everyday practice in mental health settings
Providers of mental-health services still rely on intervention techniques such as physical restraint and confinement to control some psychiatric hospital patients, a practice which can cause harm to both patients and care facilities, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo. The study found that almost one in four psychiatric patients in Ontario hospitals are restrained using control interventions, such as chairs that prevent rising, wrist restraints, seclusion rooms or acute control medications.
Women’s faces get redder at ovulation, but human eyes can’t pick up on it
Previous studies have shown that men find female faces more attractive when the women are ovulating, but the visual clues that allow this are unclear. Now, new research investigating whether it might be to do with subtle changes in skin colour has shown that women’s faces do increase in redness during ovulation, but the levels of change are just under the detectable range of the human eye.
The fear you experience playing video games is real, and you enjoy it
With the advent of video games, a frequently asked question has been whether we get as engrossed in them emotionally as we do when we see a scary movie. The answer is yes and many game players enjoy the fear caused by the zombies, disfigured humans and darkness they often encounter, the researchers found.
Rare neurons enable mental flexibility
Behavioral flexibility — the ability to change strategy when the rules change — is controlled by specific neurons in the brain, Researchers have confirmed. Cholinergic interneurons are rare — they make up just one to two percent of the neurons in the striatum, a key part of the brain involved with higher-level decision-making. Scientists have suspected they play a role in changing strategies, and researchers at OIST recently confirmed this with experiments.
Brain scan can predict who responds best to certain treatment for OCD
Tens of millions of Americans — an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the population — will suffer at some point in their lifetimes from obsessive-compulsive disorder, a disorder characterized by recurrent, intrusive, and disturbing thoughts (obsessions), and/or stereotyped recurrent behaviors (compulsions). Left untreated, OCD can be profoundly distressing to the patient and can adversely affect their ability to succeed in school, hold a job or function in society.
Commenters exposed to prejudiced comments more likely to display prejudice themselves
Comment sections on websites continue to be an environment for trolls to spew racist opinions. The impact of these hateful words shouldn’t have an impact on how one views the news or others, but that may not be the case. A recent study found exposure to prejudiced online comments can increase people’s own prejudice, and increase the likelihood that they leave prejudiced comments themselves.
Manning up: men may overcompensate when their masculinity is threatened
From the old Charles Atlas ads showing a scrawny male having sand kicked in his face to sitcom clichés of henpecked husbands, men have long faced pressure to live up to ideals of masculinity. Societal norms dictating that men should be masculine are powerful. And new research finds that men who believe they fall short of those ideals might be prompted to reassert their masculinity in small but significant ways.
Liar, Liar: Children with good memories are better liars
Children who benefit from a good memory are much better at covering up lies, researchers from the University of Sheffield have discovered. Experts found a link between verbal memory and covering up lies following a study which investigated the role of working memory in verbal deception amongst children.
Study links heartbeat to female libido
Sexual dysfunction in women can be linked to low resting heart rate variability, a finding that could help clinicians treat the condition, according to a study by psychologists from The University of Texas at Austin.
How ‘science popularizers’ influence public opinion on religion
Two prominent scientists with drastically different views on the relationship of science and religion – Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins – have an equally different influence on these views among people who are unfamiliar with their work, according to new research from Rice University and West Virginia University.
Why good people do bad things
Honest behavior is much like sticking to a diet. When facing an ethical dilemma, being aware of the temptation before it happens and thinking about the long-term consequences of misbehaving could help more people do the right thing, according to a new study. This is the first study to test how the two separate factors of identifying an ethical conflict and preemptively exercising self-control interact in shaping ethical decision-making.