Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

October 27, 2011

readings in psychology for 27 october 2011

Here we are walking to our Farmer’s Market!

What’s on my reading list for today:

“A genetic variant that makes small tweaks in an important brain protein may cause aging to hit some people’s brains harder than others.

Pilots’ performance on a flight simulator test generally declines slightly with age. But a new study shows that pilots with a particular version of a gene called BDNF have a faster drop than others. Researchers also observed a decline in the size of an important learning and memory center in the brains of those with the variant, Ahmad Salehi of the Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University, and colleagues report online October 25 in Translational Psychiatry. “

“Newborn mice that are exposed to bisphenol A develop changes in their spontaneous behavior and evince poorer adaptation to new environments, as well hyperactivity as young adults, according to researchers at Uppsala University. Their study also revealed that one of the brain’s most important signal systems, the cholinergic signal system, is affected by bisphenol A and that the effect persisted into adulthood.”

“Children who are persistently aggressive, defiant, and explosive by the time they’re in kindergarten very often have tumultuous relationships with their parents from early on. A new longitudinal study suggests that a cycle involving parenting styles and hostility between mothers and toddlers is at play.”

“Like a bridge that spans a river to connect two major metropolises, the corpus callosum is the main conduit for information flowing between the left and right hemispheres of our brains. Now, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found that people who are born without that link — a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC — still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains.”

“Psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist describes the real differences between the left and right halves of the human brain. It’s not simply “emotion on the right, reason on the left,” but something far more complex and interesting. A Best of the Web talk from RSA Animate.”

“after receiving citalopram, a serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) , during this critical period, long-distance connections between the two hemispheres of the brain showed stunted growth and degeneration. The animals also became excessively fearful when faced with new situations and failed to play normally with peers – behaviors reminiscent of novelty avoidance and social impairments seen in autism. The abnormalities were more pronounced in male than female rats, just as autism affects 3-4 times more boys than girls.”

“A few years ago, researchers quizzed more than thirty surgeons and surgical residents on their video- game habits, identifying those who played video games frequently, those who played less frequently, and those who hardly played at all. Then they put all the surgeons through a laparoscopic surgery simulator, in which thin instruments akin to extremely long chopsticks are inserted into one or more small incisions through the skin along with a small camera that is inserted into an additional small opening. Minimally invasive surgery like this frequently is used for gallbladder removal, gynecologic procedures, and other procedures that once involved major cutting and stitching and could require hours on an operating table.”

October 24, 2011

readings in psychology for 24 October 2011

Do YOU speak FACEBOOK? More and more of my generation have been joining us on facebook to share stories from days-gone-by and family.

Here is what I am reading today:

Reporting in the current online edition of the journal Human Brain Mapping, senior author Jennifer G. Levitt, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA; first author Xua Hua, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher; and colleagues found aberrant growth rates in areas of the brain implicated in the social impairment, communication deficits and repetitive behaviors that characterize autism.

Autism is thought to affect one in 110 children in the U.S., and many experts believe the numbers are growing. Despite its prevalence, little is known about the disorder, and no cure has been discovered.”

a story too sweet not to post!

“The team, based at McGill University in Montreal, University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the UCL Institute of Child Health in London looked for gene methylation associated with social and economic factors in early life. They found clear differences in gene methylation between those brought up in families with very high and very low standards of living. More than twice as many methylation differences were associated with the combined effect of the wealth, housing conditions and occupation of parents (that is, early upbringing) than were associated with the current socio-economic circumstances in adulthood. (1252 differences as opposed to 545).”

““We think when you’re under pressure, that your attention goes inward naturally. Suddenly it means so much, you want to make sure everything’s working properly,” says Rob Gray, of the University of Birmingham, the author of the new article. And that is exactly when things go wrong. Something about paying attention to what you’re doing makes it not work right.”

“In what is described as the largest study on the subject to date, Danish researchers found no evidence that the risk of brain tumours was raised among 358,403 mobile phone subscribers over an 18-year period. The number of people using mobile phones is constantly rising with more than five billion subscriptions worldwide in 2010. This has led to concerns about potential adverse health effects, particularly tumours of the central nervous system.”

“A half-dozen amputees from a Camp Pendleton unit that suffered more casualties than any other in the war in Afghanistan will be in the nation’s capital next week to compete as hand cyclists in the 36th annual Marine Corps Marathon. “We’re going to do it for all the friends we lost,” said Lt. Cameron West, who lost his right leg and two fingers and suffered other injuries in a roadside bomb explosion in Helmand province in October 2010. “It’s going to be good for the soul.”

“While most studies have concluded that a cold climate led to the short lower legs typical of Neandertals, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that lower leg lengths shorter than the typical modern human’s let them move more efficiently over the mountainous terrain where they lived. The findings reveal a broader trend relating shorter lower leg length to mountainous environments that may help explain the limb proportions of many different animals.”

“Health prevention strategies to help Canadians achieve their optimal health potential could add a decade or more of healthy years to the average lifespan and save the economy billions of dollars as a result of reduced cardiovascular disease, says noted cardiologist Dr. Clyde Yancy.”

“Although portions of the visible world come in through one eye only, the brain instantaneously takes all that information and creates a coherent image. As far as we know, we “see” with both eyes at once. Now a new study suggests that the brain may know which eye is receiving information — and can turn around and tell that eye to work even harder.”

October 18, 2011

readings in psychology for 18 October 2011

My daughter Kristin's 10 Year West Point Reunion. CLICK on the photo for a larger picture

Here is what I am reading today:

“So many consumer electronics have touchscreens these days, and we tend to take them for granted. Sure, they might break or crack, but they’ve gotten considerably more durable over the years. That’s thanks in large part to innovation by a team at Corning, manufacturers of Gorilla Glass.”

“The study, “Aggressive Driving: A Consumption Experience,” is thought to be the first to comprehensively examine how personality, attitude and values contribute to aggressive driving behaviors. Driving is one of the most common consumptive behaviors, and aggressive driving causes a third of all accidents that involve personal injuries and two thirds of all fatal accidents in the United States.”

“In a research project, trained cyclists were asked to race against an avatar on a computer screen which they believed was moving at the rate of the cyclist’s personal best.

However, the avatar was actually going at a speed one per cent faster than the cyclist’s fastest time. Despite this, the cyclists, who could also see themselves as an avatar cycling the virtual course, were able to match their opponent, going faster than they ever had before.”

“It is well known that eating disorders are common among teens and college students. Heavy alcohol consumption is another well-known unhealthy habit of this age group. A new study from the University of Missouri shows that when college students combine these two unhealthy habits, their long-term health may be affected. “Drunkorexia” is a new term coined by the media to describe the combination of disordered eating and heavy alcohol consumption.”

“Having grown up in New York City in the mid-nineties, I was spareth’d the rod of classroom corporal punishment.  Wrist slapping, spankings, canings – these were methods of discipline I saw in movies and read about in books, often inflicted on slight, well-meaning cockney schoolboys.  But when my old French teacher, Madame G, launched her fingernails-on-the-chalkboard assault, French class became third-period waterboarding.  Far worse than the occasional verbal scolding, “time out,” or shameful walk to the principal’s office, there was something to be said for the gripping discomfort caused by the hellish timbre of keratin on slate”


October 17, 2011

readings in psychology for 17 October 2011

Roger waited in line for hours on Friday to upgrade my iPhone to the 4s. That is what love is.

Here is what I am reading today:

“Digital solutions company Filter created this recreation of the original Level One of the Super Mario video game using colored Post-It Notes. The installation can be seen in the windows on the 6th floor of the building, located on Pike Street between 4th and 5th avenues in downtown Seattle.”

“Scientists have developed a way to use PET scans to test if drugs are helping mice that have been genetically engineered to have a form of attention deficit. In the brain of the altered mouse (right), low dopamine levels result in a brighter image.”

“Being a good dad far outweighs having a successful career, according to a nationwide survey of U.S. men. The study, which surveyed nearly 1,000 men across the United States who are in relationships with women, suggests that fathers and non-fathers alike see fatherhood as a package deal — they consider things like work and leisure important, too. But those elements complement being a parent rather than compete with it.”

“California’s governor has chosen a day to dub as Steve Jobs Day: Oct. 16, the same date Apple will hold a memorial at Stanford University.”

“If the iPhone 4S has one standout feature, it is the Siri personal assistant. You ask Siri to do things by speaking to it, and it can call anyone in your contact list, send them a text message or email, set up a meeting, play a song, set up a reminder for yourself, get directions, or just ask a question. It is a conversation starter in more ways than one. Siri is the kind of feature that makes you want to whip out your phone to show a friend or a total stranger.”

From THINKgeek: We hate going to events that require nametags. We don’t like encouraging strangers to talk to us. Plus, we always forget to take the damn thing off when we walk out of whatever it was that required the nametag, so we’re headed home, stopping by the grocery store, accidentally encouraging the produce manager to address us by name. Which is just creepy.

“The lead researcher, Marion Jalabert, Dr François Georges, and the multidisciplinary research team used in vivo electrophysiology, tract-tracing experiments, and targeted neuronal inactivation to successfully capture morphine activity in dopaminergic rat neurons. The project was made possible by collaboration between two groups with their own domain of expertise – in vivo electrophysiology by Georges’ team in Bordeaux and neuroanatomy by Michel Barrot’s group in Strasbourg.”

“”In babies born preterm, the more the cerebral cortex grows early in life the better children perform complex tasks when they reach six years old,” said study author A. David Edwards, DSc, of Imperial College in London. “The period before a full-term birth is critical for brain development. Problems occurring at this time have long-term consequences, and it appears that preterm birth affects brain growth.””


October 13, 2011

readings in psychology for 13th october 2011

Over the years, I have been an advisor to many clubs. Being around students is fun, it is one of the perks of the job!

Here is what I am reading today:

“Staining performed by Konrad Talbot, PhD, targeting a marker for nerve cells involved in inhibition are shown in cross sections of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain known to be affected in schizophrenia and involved in memory and cognition. In normal mice (top; A and B) a number of inhibitory cells are found. This staining is reduced in mice with reduced dysbindin….”

“Neurons within the cerebellum are responsible for the construction of motor memory, which is associated with the learning of physical activities and behaviors”

Personally, I like the Luna Lovegood ‘Spectrespecs!

“This finding, described online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sheds light on what researchers call “theory of mind” abilities—our intuitive skill for figuring out what other people think, intend, and believe. One key aspect of such abilities in terms of social interactions is to be able to figure out what others think of us—in other words, to know what our social reputation is. It is well known that social reputation usually has a very powerful influence on our behavior, motivating us to be nice to others.”

“Melatonin, best known for its role in sleep regulation, delayed the onset of symptoms and reduced mortality in a mouse model of Huntington’s disease, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, show for the first time that certain receptors for the hormone reside in the mitochondria, and that there are fewer of them both in affected mice and human brains.”

“Previous studies have found that health outcomes improve during an economic downturn. Job loss means less money available for potentially unhealthy behaviors such as excessive drinking, according to existing literature on employment and alcohol consumption. A new study by health economist Michael T. French from the University of Miami and his collaborators has concluded just the opposite–heavy drinking and alcohol abuse/dependence significantly increase as macroeconomic conditions deteriorate.”

“New research to be published Oct. 13 confirms The Beatles’ lyrical hypothesis and finds that “the kind of thing that money just can’t buy” is a happy and stable marriage”

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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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