Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

August 9, 2014

readings in psychology for 9 august 2014 #PsychScience #psychology

Walking around my neighborhood with Google Glass testing out their map function! Awesome!

Walking around my neighborhood with Google Glass testing out their map function! Awesome!

Here is what we are reading today:

“”There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day, particularly in the morning, is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism,” said senior study author Phyllis Zee, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist. “Workers are a group at risk because they are typically indoors often without access to natural or even artificial bright light for the entire day. The study results confirm that light during the natural daylight hours has powerful effects on health.”

Zee is the Benjamin and Virginia T. Boshes Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.”

“However, new research led by Michigan State University psychology professor David Z. Hambrick suggests that, unfortunately for many of us, success isn’t exclusively a product of determination — that despite even the most hermitic practice routine, our genes might still leave greatness out of reach.”

“Jia-huai Wang, PhD, who led the work at Dana-Farber and Peking University in Beijing, is a corresponding author of a report published in the August 7 online edition of Neuron that explains how one guidance protein, netrin-1, can either attract or repel a brain cell to steer it along its course. Wang and co-authors at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Hamburg, Germany, used X-ray crystallography to reveal the three-dimensional atomic structure of netrin-1 as it bound to a docking molecule, called DCC, on the axon of a neuron. The axon is the long, thin extension of a neuron that connects to other neurons or to muscle cells.”

“Last month, a great white shark nearly killed a surfer off the California coast. Stopping such attacks is tricky: Slaying sharks angers environmentalists, and, according to research, it doesn’t actually reduce the attack rates. Shark nets, meanwhile, kill large numbers of by-catch, such as dolphins, seals, manatees, rays, turtles, and birds. So officials in Recife, Brazil, sought another solution to address the abnormally high numbers of shark attacks—55 incidents resulting in 19 deaths between 1992 and 2011—along a 20-kilometer stretch of the country’s shoreline.”

“”Uric acid may play a direct, causative role in the development of metabolic syndrome,” said first author Brian J. DeBosch, MD, PhD, an instructor in pediatrics. “Our work showed that the gut is an important clearance mechanism for uric acid, opening the door to new potential therapies for preventing or treating type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.”

Recent research by the paper’s senior author, Kelle H. Moley, MD, the James P. Crane Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and her collaborators has shown that a protein called GLUT9 is an important transporter of uric acid.”

“Writing in the August 7 early online edition ofNeuron, lead scientist Paul Lu, PhD, of the UC San Diego Department of Neurosciences and colleagues said the human iPSC-derived axons extended through the white matter of the injury sites, frequently penetrating adjacent gray matter to form synapses with rat neurons. Similarly, rat motor axons pierced the human iPSC grafts to form their own synapses.

The iPSCs used were developed from a healthy 86-year-old human male.”

“”We are finding that developmental pathways that appear to be quiescent during adulthood are transiently reactivated to allow new memory formation to occur,” says Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and senior author of the paper.

The first author of the paper is postdoctoral fellow Brian Dias, PhD, and co-authors include undergraduates Jared Goodman, Ranbir Ahluwalia and Audrey Easton, and post-doctoral researcher Raul Andero, PhD.”

If you ask a child which is the world’s fastest animal, they may tell you anything from cheetah, falcon or swift, to sailfish. If you ask a neuroscientist what is the fastest spiking neuron, you probably won’t even get an answer right away. A few might offer that the neurons that form the auditory nerve can track a sound waveform with spikes at up to 1000hz—for a little while at least. Others might note that cells in several brainstem complexes can blast away at over half that speed for much longer periods of time when stabilizing the eyeballs. But if you continue to press them, they might respond with the familiar manta: “fast-spiking parvalbumin-positive interneurons””

“An international team, led by Dr David Llewellyn at the University of Exeter Medical School, found that study participants who were severely Vitamin D deficient were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The team studied elderly Americans who took part in the Cardiovascular Health Study. They discovered that adults in the study who were moderately deficient in vitamin D had a 53 per cent increased risk of developing dementia of any kind, and the risk increased to 125 per cent in those who were severely deficient.”

“Gerlinde Metz, senior author of the article, says: “We show that stress across generations becomes powerful enough to shorten pregnancy length in rats and induce hallmark features of human preterm birth. A surprising finding was that mild to moderate stress during pregnancy had a compounding effect across generations. Thus, the effects of stress grew larger with each generation.””

August 3, 2014

readings in psychology for 3 august 2014 #PsychScience #psychology #biopsych

Ronnie makes taking a selfie very challenging!

Ronnie makes taking a selfie very challenging!

Here his what I am reading today:

“”A fundamental aspect of the human experience is the desire to punish harmful acts, even when the victim is a perfect stranger. Equally important, however, is our ability to put the brakes on this impulse when we realize the harm was done unintentionally,” said Rene Marois, the Vanderbilt University professor of psychology who headed the research team. “This study helps us begin to elucidate the neural circuitry that permits this type of regulation.””

“”These animals ate fat and sugar, and did not gain weight, while their control littermates did,” said lead author Sabrina Diano, professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine. “We showed that the PPAR gamma receptor in neurons that produce POMC could control responses to a high-fat diet without resulting in obesity.””

“The research titled ‘Flexibility of the father’s brain’ was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

‘Shifts in society and culture have led to increases in men’s involvement in the care of infants,’ writes researcher Dr Sarina Saturn of Oregon State University.”

“”Our results suggest that use of contemporary oral contraceptives [birth control pills] in the past year is associated with an increased breast cancer risk relative to never or former oral contraceptive use, and that this risk may vary by oral contraceptive formulation,” said Elisabeth F. Beaber, PhD, MPH, a staff scientist in the Public Health Sciences Division of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.”

“During brain development, nerve fibers grow and extend to form brain circuits. This growth is guided by molecular cues (Fig. 1), but exactly how these cues guide axon extension has been unclear. Takuro Tojima and colleagues from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute have now uncovered the signaling pathways responsible for turning growing nerve fibers, or axons, toward or away from guidance cues.”

“introducing eNeuro: a new open access neuroscience journal committed to scientific excellence and innovation in publishing.

“Nadine Gogolla and her colleagues in the laboratory of Takao Hensch at Harvard University have now searched for common neural circuit alterations in mouse models of autism. They concentrated on the insular cortex, a brain structure that contributes to social, emotional and cognitive functions. ‘We wanted to know whether we can detect differences in the way the insular cortex processes information in healthy or autism-like mice’, says Nadine Gogolla, who was recently appointed Leader of a Research Group at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology.”



July 27, 2014

readings in psychology for 27 july 2014 #PsychScience #psychology

Having one's own brain scanned for the students requires a certain level of bravery. What if they saw a hamster running in a wheel?

Having one’s own brain scanned for the students requires a certain level of bravery. What if they saw a hamster running in a wheel?

Here is what I am reading today:

“When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active.

But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on?

Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.”

Willem Eijzenga, of The Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, and colleagues evaluated the effect of a questionnaire in assessing psychosocial problems during cancer genetic counseling. All participants completed the questionnaire and were randomly assigned to either an intervention group (127 counselees), in which counselors received the results of the questionnaire before the session, or a control group (119 counsels).”

“Principal investigators and co-leaders of Tulane’s Circadian Cancer Biology Group, Steven Hill (left) and David Blask (right), and team members Robert Dauchy and Shulin Xiang.”

““We weren’t looking to explain anything about choice bias to start off with,” said lead author Jeffrey Cockburn, a graduate student in the research group of senior author Michael Frank, associate professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences. “This just happened to be the behavioral phenomenon we thought would emerge out of this credit assignment model.””

“In interviews with 33 boys between the ages of 14 and 16, researchers found that most said they wanted a relationship with a girl for the closeness and trust. Very few boasted about sexual conquests or saw sex as a “main goal” in starting a relationship with a girl.

“In our culture, we have lots of assumptions about how guys behave,” said lead researcherDr. David Bell, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.”

Coming soon from Cengage! My 3rd edition

Coming soon from Cengage! My 3rd edition

“It’s a bit more complicated than scientists originally thought, according to a study recently published in the journal Neuroscience by ASU researcher Sabrina Segal.

When people experience a traumatic event, the body releases two major stress hormones: norepinephrine and cortisol. Norepinephrine boosts heart rate and controls the fight-or-flight response, commonly rising when individuals feel threatened or experience highly emotional reactions. It is chemically similar to the hormone epinephrine – better known as adrenaline.”

“The study, “Neural correlates of dueling affective reactions to win-win choices,” was published July 14 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Shenhav conducted the research as a graduate student at Harvard University, along with Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience Randy Buckner, the study’s senior author.”

“There were no differences in the genes that the children were born with, the study found; instead, the differences were seen in the extent to which the genes had been turned on or off. “This link between early life stress and changes in  may uncover how early childhood experiences get under the skin and confer lifelong risk,” notes Seth D. Pollak, professor of psychology and pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who directed the study.”


July 20, 2014

coming soon! my new edition Discovering Behavioral Neuroscience an Introduction to Biological Psychology #BioPsych #Neuroscience #PsychScience #Psychology

I am very proud of my latest edition! (Cengage has all the details)

I am very proud of my latest edition! (Cengage has all the details)

If you are familiar with the first and second editions of this textbook, you know that we like to pick colorful visuals that portray the biology behind the behavior. For this third edition, we selected an image of a “brainbow” of the hippocampus of a transgenic mouse. Brainbows are constructed by promoting the expression of different ratios of red, green, and blue fluorescent proteins by individual neurons. This imaging process has assisted researchers interested in mapping the connectome, or the neural connections of the brain. The brainbow technique was developed in 2007 by researchers under the direction of Joshua Sanes and Jeff Lichtman.

My books were written with my love of the subject and an attention to currency, detail and the direction of the field. I endeavor to teach students at the level I find them.  My books are used around the world based on their clarity and the importance of making complex concepts easily understandable. Meeting the unique needs of the gifted in presenting complex concepts and ensuring those with challenges are not left behind are major efforts in my writing. The great Psychologist William James said it best when it comes to teaching:

“…in teaching, you must simply work your pupil into such a state of interest in what you are going to teach him that every other object of attention is banished from his mind; then reveal it to him so impressively that he will remember the occasion to his dying day; and finally fill him with devouring curiosity to know what the steps in connection with the subject are.” –William James (1899, p. 10)

 James’ goals for the classroom instructor might seem lofty to some, but many of us who teach neuroscience have enjoyed the peak experience of seeing students “turn on” to the material in just the way James describes.

This is an exciting time to be a neuroscientist. Every day, science newsfeeds announce some new and dramatic breakthroughs in our knowledge about the nervous system and the human mind. Important questions raised in the past now have definitive answers. In 1890, James also commented that “Blood very likely may rush to each region of the cortex according as it is most active, but of this we know nothing” (vol. 1, p. 99). With today’s technology, it is safe to say we now know much more than “nothing” about this phenomenon James described. 

I hope you will become as fond of my book as I am!


July 18, 2014

readings for 18 july 2014 #PsychScience #psychology

Filed under: a current story,Biological Psychology,General Psychology,Psychology — Laura Freberg @ 10:05 am
Do YOU recognize this scene or the video game it represents? Yes, Zelda of course!

Do YOU recognize this scene or the video game it represents? Yes, Zelda of course!

Here is what I am reading today:

“Cognitive improvements in the intervention group were made on all measures surveyed, including memory, planning abilities, and speed of mental processing.  Miia Kivipelto, the lead investigator, and a prominent expert on lifestyle factors related to dementia, said at a press briefing: “It’s a proof of concept study giving the first evidence from a large, long-term, multi-domain randomized controlled trial really showing that we can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment in an older at-risk individual.”  A seven-year followup study is slated to begin next year.”

“”This paper represents an important next step beyond previous studies that have broadly outlined strategies for sustainably feeding people,” said lead author Paul West, co-director of the Institute on the Environment’s Global Landscapes Initiative. “By pointing out specifically what we can do and where, it gives funders and policy makers the information they need to target their activities for the greatest good.””

“”Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings of desire toward strangers,” noted lead author Stephanie Cacioppo, director of the UChicago High-Performance Electrical NeuroImaging Laboratory. Cacioppo co-authored the report, now published online in the journal Psychological Science, with colleagues from UChicago’s Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, and the University of Geneva.”

“The “Walk to Victory over Paralysis” is a treadmill walkathon, which will benefit the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network® (NRN). – See more at:”

The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, demonstrate that mobile games can be used to reliably conduct research in psychology and neuroscience, reproducing well-known findings from laboratory studies. The small size of standard laboratory studies means they can be limited in their ability to investigate variability in the population at large. With data sent in from many thousands of participants, the scientists at UCL can now investigate how factors such as age and education affect cognitive functions. This new way of doing science enables questions to be addressed which would not previously have been practical.

Writing in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers explained: “Smartphone users represent a participant pool far larger and more diverse than could ever be studied in the laboratory. By 2015, there will be an estimated two billion smartphone users worldwide. In time, data from simple apps could be combined with medical, genetic or lifestyle information to provide a novel tool for risk prediction and health monitoring.””

“The research team, led by Professor Daniel Freeman, found that worrying, low self-esteem, anxiety and experiencing a range of unsettling changes in perceptions most likely led to the feelings of paranoia.”

“”Controlling glucose is a dominant problem in our society,” says Ronald M. Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and corresponding author of the paper. “And FGF1 offers a new method to control glucose in a powerful and unexpected way.””

“We now know that this is both wildly wrong and wildly dangerous. A sliced mushroom may look like an ear, but that doesn’t mean you should eat it to cure your earache (choose the wrong mushroom and you can add 24 hours of talking to furniture to your troubles). But as we shall see, the doctrine of signatures, when properly applied, has in fact been for some cultures an indispensable tool in medicine.”


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

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