Laura’s Psychology Blog

One Professor’s Observations of the World of Psychology….   

September 25, 2012

readings in psychology for 25 september 2012 @PsychScience

Happiness is enjoying sports together.

Here is what I am reading today:

“Feeling sociable or reckless? You might have toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by the microscopic parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which the CDC estimates has infected about 22.5 percent of Americans older than 12 years old. Researchers tested participants for T. gondii infection and had them complete a personality questionnaire. They found that both men and women infected with T. gondii were more extroverted and less conscientious than the infection-free participants. These changes are thought to result from the parasite’s influence on brain chemicals, the scientists write in the May/June issue of the European Journal of Personality.”

“Around 10 years ago, Malcolm MacLeod got interested in forgetting.

For most people, the tendency to forget is something we spend our time cursing. Where are my keys? What am I looking for in the refrigerator again? What is that woman’s name?”

“…Thomas Ågren, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Psychology under the supervision of Professors Mats Fredrikson and Tomas Furmark, has shown, that it is possible to erase newly formed emotional memories from the human brain. When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process.”

“…”Symptoms such as pelvic pain and abdominal bloating may be a sign of ovarian cancer but they also can be caused by other conditions. What’s important is to determine whether they are current, of recent onset and occur frequently,” said lead author M. Robyn Andersen, Ph.D., a member of the Hutchinson Center’s Public Health Sciences Division. Previous research by Andersen and colleagues has found that about 60 percent of women with early-stage ovarian cancer and 80 percent of women with advanced disease report symptoms that follow this distinctive pattern at the time of diagnosis. “

“In an early study in The FASEB Journal, nutrition scientists and obstetricians at Cornell University and the University of Rochester Medical Center found that higher-than-normal amounts of choline in the diet during pregnancy changed epigenetic markers — modifications on our DNA that tell our genes to switch on or off, to go gangbusters or keep a low profile — in the fetus. While epigenetic markers don’t change our genes, they make a permanent imprint by dictating their fate: If a gene is not expressed — turned on — it’s as if it didn’t exist.”

“A published study by researchers from the West Virginia University School of Public Health and Injury Control Research Center found that suicide has now passed motor vehicle traffic crashes as the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States. Additionally, the disease rate has been declining while the injury rate has been rising.”

“The paper, published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental, is the first meta-analytic review examining the effects of Gingko biloba on healthy people across all age groups. The researchers led by Professor Keith Laws found zero impact on the cognitive functions whatever the age of the people, the dose taken or the length of time of taking Gingko biloba supplements.”

“Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, WSU geneticist Patricia Hunt and colleagues at WSU and the University of California, Davis, report seeing reproductive abnormalities in rhesus monkeys with BPA levels similar to those of humans. By using an animal with the most human-like reproductive system, the research bolsters earlier work by Hunt and others documenting widespread reproductive effects in rodents.”

 

June 7, 2012

readings in psychology for 7 june 2012

One of my two daughter-colleagues (Karen) making a presentation at West Virginia University

Here is what I am reading today:

“Scientists have traditionally sought the evolutionary origins of human speech in primate vocalizations, such as monkey coos or chimpanzee hoots. But unlike these primate calls, human speech is produced using rapid, controlled movements of the tongue, lips and jaw. Speech is also learned, while primate vocalizations are mostly innately structured. New research published in Current Biology by W. Tecumseh Fitch, Head of the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, supports the idea that human speech evolved less from vocalizations than from communicative facial gestures.”

“In 2005, psychological scientist and competitive athlete Jessi Witt of Purdue University played on the U.S. National Ultimate Frisbee team, which won the gold medal at the World Games. Her interest in sports extended to her professional work and in this study, she and her co-authors explored visual perception and sports performance.”

“Psychiatrist and author, Allen J. Frances, believes that mental illnesses are being over-diagnosed. In his lecture, Diagnostic Inflation: Does Everyone Have a Mental Illness?, Dr. Frances outlines why he thinks the DSM-V will lead to millions of people being mislabeled with mental disorders.”

““This is really striking because in studying changes in heart rate variability, we are looking at a measurement that tells us a lot about the way the autonomic nervous system affects the heart,” says Luigi Fontana, MD, PhD, the study’s senior author. “And that system is involved not only in heart function, but in digestion, breathing rate and many other involuntary actions. We would hypothesize that better heart rate variability may be a sign that all these other functions are working better, too.””

“Mothers who use marijuana as teens — long before having children — may put their future children at a higher risk of drug abuse, new research suggests.”

“Maternal blood sampled at about 18 weeks into the pregnancy and a paternal saliva specimen contained enough information for the scientists to map the fetus’ DNA. This method was later repeated for another expectant couple closer to the start of their pregnancy. The researchers checked the accuracy of their genetic predictions using umbilical cord blood collected at birth.”

May 8, 2012

readings in psychology for 8 May 2012 #APS2012

Coming to the Association of Psychological Sciences Convention in Chicago? CLICK on the picture to see who is!

Here is what I am doing today:

“In a look at how major stressors during childhood can change a person’s biological risk for psychiatric disorders, researchers at Butler Hospital have discovered a genetic alteration at the root of the association. The research, published online in PLoS ONE on January 25, 2012, suggests that childhood adversity may lead to epigenetic changes in the human glucocorticoid receptor gene, an important regulator of the biological stress response that may increase risk for psychiatric disorders.

“Like their healthy peers, children with disabilities may spend too much time in front of a video screen. For children with cerebral palsy (CP), this leads to an even greater risk of being overweight or developing health issues such as diabetes or musculoskeletal disorders. A group of scientists has found that video games such as Nintendo’s Wii offer an enjoyable opportunity to promote light to moderate physical activity in children with CP, and may have a role to play in rehabilitation therapy. Their research is published online today in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.”

“Researchers in Spain have found that at least some of the individuals claiming to see the so-called aura of people actually have the neuropsychological phenomenon known as “synesthesia” (specifically, “emotional synesthesia”). This might be a scientific explanation of their alleged ability.”

“A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has shown that an extra copy of a brain-development gene, which appeared in our ancestors’ genomes about 2.4 million years ago, allowed maturing neurons to migrate farther and develop more connections.”

“A study carried out by researchers from Spain, the Netherlands and Argentina suggests that in a work environment, sexual competition affects women more than men. However, a rival’s social skills provoke jealousy and professional envy equally in both sexes.”

“”Previous studies in mice have demonstrated that low doses of BPA alter the developing mammary gland and that these subtle changes increase the risk of cancer in the adult,” says Patricia Hunt, a geneticist in Washington State University’s School of Molecular Biosciences. “Some have questioned the relevance of these findings in mice to humans. But finding the same thing in a primate model really hits uncomfortably close to home.””

March 10, 2012

readings in psychology for 10 March 2012

Roger and me enjoying a fun time in Laguna Beach, California

Here is what I am reading today:

“How do we recognize a face? To date, most research has answered “holistically”: We look at all the features — eyes, nose, mouth — simultaneously and, perceiving the relationships among them, gain an advantage over taking in each feature individually. Now a new study overturns this theory. The researchers — Jason M. Gold and Patrick J. Mundy of the Indiana University and Bosco S. Tjan of the University of California Los Angeles — found that people’s performance in recognizing a whole face is no better than their performance with each individual feature shown alone. “Surprisingly, the whole was not greater than the sum of its parts,” says Gold. The findings appear in the journal Psychological Science, which is published by the Association for Psychological Science.”

“UT Southwestern Medical Center investigators have identified a genetic manipulation that increases the development of neurons in the brain during aging and enhances the effect of antidepressant drugs.”

“A new study in Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans, researchers report.”

February 12, 2012

readings in psychology for 12 february 2012

Italian Wedding Soups celebrates the wonderful marriage of delightfully delicious ingredients!

Here is what I am reading today:

“Cultural differences between the West and East are well documented, but a study shows that concrete differences also exist in how British and Chinese people recognize people and the world around them. Easterners really do look at the world differently to Westerners, according to new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).”

“Researchers have found a way to study how our brains assess the behavior — and likely future actions — of others during competitive social interactions. Their study, described in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to use a computational approach to tease out differing patterns of brain activity during these interactions, the researchers report.”

Cambridge scientists have, for the first time, created cerebral cortex cells – those that make up the brain’s grey matter – from a small sample of human skin.  The researchers’ findings, which were funded by Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Wellcome Trust, were published today in Nature Neuroscience.”

“Placebos reduce pain by creating an expectation of relief. Distraction — say, doing a puzzle — relieves it by keeping the brain busy. But do they use the same brain processes? Neuromaging suggests they do. When applying a placebo, scientists see activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. That’s the part of the brain that controls high-level cognitive functions like working memory and attention — which is what you use to do that distracting puzzle.”

“A painless bit of electrical current applied to the brain helped some people play a video game, and someday it might help Alzheimer’s disease patients remember what they’ve learned, a small study suggests. “

“A research team in Taiwan has succeeded in isolating two nerve cells in fruit fly brains that are believed to be the major players in allowing for the formation of long term memories. Furthermore, they’ve also found the genes that appear to be essential in creating related proteins that allow such memories to be saved. They have published a paper describing their work in Science.”

“The goal of our project is to provide a window into the brain of the man who helped establish the scientific study of memory and unfailingly forgot the enormously generous contribution he made to medical research. “

“Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered a startling feature of early brain development that helps to explain how complex neuron wiring patterns are programmed using just a handful of critical genes. The findings, published in Cell, may help scientists develop new therapies for neurological disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and provide insight into certain cancers.”

“Drivers who consume cannabis within three hours of driving are nearly twice as likely to cause a vehicle collision as those who are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol claims a paper published recently on the British Medical Journal website.”

“Whether or not you know any high school students that actually get nine hours of sleep each night, that’s what U.S. federal guidelines currently prescribe.”

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Quote to Ponder

It is not a lack of love,
but a lack of friendship
that makes unhappy marriages
-------- Nietzsche

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