Laura’s Psychology Blog

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

March 1, 2014

readings in psychology for 1 march 2014 @PsychScience

 

springIShere

 

Well, spring is finally here… in California!

Here is what we are reading today:

“Google Glass, the tech giant’s experimental eyewear-based computer, may soon give epidemiologists a faster and more reliable way to track infections and other diseases. Researchers report online today in ACS Nano that they’ve created an app that allows Google Glass wearers to snap pictures of common immunology-based diagnostic tests and immediately beam those images back to a central computer server.”

“A couple weeks earlier a team of researchers led by Diana Reiss and Preston Foerder, then at City University New York, had visited Kandula’s home at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. They placed sticks and sturdy cubes around the yard and strung a kind of pulley system similar to a laundry line between the roof of the elephant house and a tree….”

“For human beings, feelings of romantic love and sexual desire are often intertwined in complex ways. Recent work by neuroscientists, however, has pointed out ways these two feelings are actually different.”

“Bill Watterson went back to the drawing board for one more round.

The celebrated but reclusive Calvin and Hobbes creator agreed to illustrate the movie poster for a feature-length documentary about comics titled Stripped. The film tells the story of the decline of newspapers and how it’s affecting the medium of strip comics. Watterson also gave a rare audio interview for the film.”

“Professors Pradeep G. Bhide and Jinmin Zhu have found evidence that ADHD associated with nicotine can be passed across generations. In other words, your child’s ADHD might be an environmentally induced health condition inherited from your grandmother, who may have smoked cigarettes during pregnancy a long time ago. And the fact that you never smoked may be irrelevant for your child’s ADHD.”

“Bisphenol A is a chemical that is used in a wide variety of consumer products and exhibits hormone-like properties. Fetuses, infants, children or adults exposed to the chemical have been shown to exhibit numerous abnormalities, including cancer, as well as reproductive, immune and brain-behavior problems.”

“So the scientists turned to human embryonic stem cells. Co-authors Dr. Zev Rosenwaks, director and physician-in-chief of the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine and director of the Stem Cell Derivation Laboratory of Weill Cornell Medical College, and Dr. Nikica Zaninovic, assistant professor of reproductive medicine, generated stem cell lines from donated embryos that tested positive for fragile X syndrome.”

“”One of the major problems with the nervous system is that it doesn’t regenerate very well after injury,” said Chay Kuo, M.D., Ph.D., the George W. Brumley assistant professor of cell biology, neurobiology and pediatrics. “Neurons don’t multiply, so when they’re injured, there’s a loss of function. We’d like to know how to get it back.”"

“The researchers were looking for these noncoding genes, Kosik continued, because as organisms become more complex through evolution, the number of these noncoding genes has greatly expanded. “But the coding genes—the ones that make proteins—have really not changed very much,” he said. “The action has been in this noncoding area and what that part of the genome is doing is controlling the genes.”"

“If you don’t listen closely to what patients with Wernicke’s aphasia are saying, you might not notice that it makes very little sense. Their speech “sounds” normal. 

Wernicke’s aphasia affects comprehension, usually for both written and oral language. Patients with this condition cannot repeat sentences they hear. They can’t understand what they hear. Surprisingly, they do not seem upset about their deficits.”

“A new study by Professor Jeff Bowers and colleagues at the University of Bristol argues that highly selective neural representations are well suited to co-activating multiple things, such as words, objects and faces, at the same time in short-term memory.”

“”Phantom-limb pain is very common in amputees,” said study researcher Max Ortiz Catalan, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, in Sweden. “Unfortunately, today there is no single treatment that works for everybody.”"

February 20, 2014

readings in psychology for 20 february 2014 #PsychScience

ronnie and dad

Here is what we are reading today:

“”The voice is an amazingly flexible tool that we use to construct our identity,” says lead author Molly Babel, a professor in the Department of Linguistics. “Very few things in our voices are immutable, so we felt that our preferences had to be about more than a person’s shape and size.”"

“Our junk mail is stamped with messages saying “open immediately, do not discard.” We are targeted by advertising telling us to “buy now.” None of the sources of these messages has any authority whatsoever over us, yet being social creatures, we often comply anyway. Compliance occurs when a person goes along with a request made by someone who has no authority.”

“here’s a new piece of work for The Dali Museum in Florida, with an app that lets you “compete” against Dali himself in an old ‘staring contest’… You can challenge some other people too, including the likes of Andy Warhol. It’s a little bit quirky. And there is a 2 hour demo if you really want to take the challenge! (slightly weird…)”

“When you’re tired, these neurons in the brain shout loud and they send you to sleep,’ says Professor Gero Miesenböck of Oxford University, in whose laboratory the new research was performed.”

“Dr. Richard Kramer of the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues have invented “photoswitch” chemicals that confer light sensitivity on these normally light-insensitive ganglion cells, restoring light perception in blind mice. An earlier photoswitch required very bright ultraviolet light, making it unsuitable for medical use. However, a new chemical, named DENAQ, responds to ordinary daylight. Just one injection of DENAQ into the eye confers light sensitivity for several days.”

“”In the immediacy of what we’re doing we have this small working memory capacity where we can hang on to a few things that are going to be useful in a few moments, and that’s where output gating is crucial,” said study senior author David Badre, professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown.

From the perspective of cognition, said lead author and postdoctoral scholar Christopher Chatham, input gating—choosing what goes into working memory—and output gating allow people to maintain a course of action (e.g., finish that Bluetooth call) while being flexible enough to account for context in planning what’s next.”

“Prions, the protein family notorious for causing “mad cow” and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, can play an important role in healthy cells. “Do you think God created prions just to kill?” mused Nobel laureate Eric Kandel. “These things must have evolved initially to have a physiological function.” His work on memory helped reveal that animals make and use prions in their nervous systems as part of an essential function: stabilizing the synapses that constitute long-term memories.”

“The study led by Dr Nicholas Walsh, lecturer in developmental psychology at the University of East Anglia, used brain imaging technology to scan teenagers aged 17-19. It found that those who experienced mild to moderate family difficulties between birth and 11 years of age had developed a smaller cerebellum, an area of the brain associated with skill learning, stress regulation and sensory-motor control. The researchers also suggest that a smaller cerebellum may be a risk indicator of psychiatric disease later in life, as it is consistently found to be smaller in virtually all psychiatric illnesses.”

“Human beings are extremely social animals. We are highly motivated to stay on the “good side” of our social groups.

Groups typically make rules for conduct, which we refer to as social norms. Social norms provide rules for many different types of behavior, from dressing appropriately for the workplace to elevator “etiquette” in which we move to the back and avoid eye contact with other passengers.”

 

February 12, 2014

readings in psychology for 12 february 2014 @PsychScience

Sometimes we just want to chase Geese!

Sometimes we just want to chase Geese!

Here is what I am reading today:

“Many people complain about having the “winter blues.” After weeks of snow, sleet, and slush, it can be difficult to maintain a cheerful attitude.

In some cases, people go beyond the normal “blues” and experience symptoms that will be diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).”

Some have been spotted as high as 30 feet up a tree!

“Left-handers are often excluded from study cohorts in neuroscience and neurogenetics in order to reduce variance in the data. However, recent investigations have shown that the inclusion or targeted recruitment of left-handers can be informative in studies on a range of topics, such as cerebral lateralization and the genetic underpinning of asymmetrical brain development. Left-handed individuals represent a substantial portion of the human population and therefore left-handedness falls within the normal range of human diversity; thus, it is important to account for this variation in our understanding of brain functioning. We call for neuroscientists and neurogeneticists to recognize the potential of studying this often-discarded group of research subjects.”

“Nature marks the anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin’s On The Origin Of Species 150 years ago, with a special on biodiversity. As nations prepare progress reports on their pact to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010, International Year of Biodiversity, Pavan Sukhdev urges governments to secure the flows of nature’s ‘public goods’. Meanwhile, William R. Turner and colleagues argue that natural ecosystems be made abulwark against climate change, Robert J. Smith and colleagues propose that local agencies need to set the conservation research agenda and Douglas Erwin calls upon paleontologists to create models of the root causes of biodiversity. Features examine Brazil’s forests and species barcodes, and there’s a profile of ecosystem services advocate Gretchen Daily.”

“t seems simple: People are more likely to cooperate if everyone plays fair. But a new study suggests that fairness itself arises from an unlikely source: spite. Researchers made a mathematical model based on the so-called ultimatum game. In it, two players are offered a reward, and the first player makes an offer for how it should be split up. If the second player agrees, then they divide it accordingly. But if the second player refuses, then neither gets the reward.”

“A 2012 study by researchers led by Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel concluded there was no algorithm that could predict a successful match, notwithstanding the claims of online dating firms.

“No compelling evidence supports matching sites’ claims that mathematical algorithms work,” said the study published in the journalPsychological Science in the Public Interest.”

meditation and love

“”When we truly, selflessly wish for the well-being of others, we’re not getting that same rush of excitement that comes with, say, a tweet from our romantic love interest, because it’s not about us at all,” said Judson Brewer, adjunct professor of psychiatry at Yale now at the University of Massachusetts.

Brewer and Kathleen Garrison, postdoctoral researcher in Yale’s Department of Psychiatry, report their findings in a paper scheduled to be published online Feb. 12 in the journal Brain and Behavior.”

 

 

 

February 5, 2014

reading in psychology for 5 february 2014 @PsychScience

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 6.28.00 PM

Here’s what we are reading today:

“The last thing you’d expect to see out your airplane window is a bumblebee cruising by. But a new study suggests that the insects might be capable of such high-altitude jaunts. Researchers trapped six male bumblebees (pictured) living at an altitude of 3250 meters in Sichuan, China, and placed them, one at a time, in a plexiglass flight chamber.”

“Nine years after an accident caused the loss of his left hand, Dennis Aabo Sørensen from Denmark became the first amputee in the world to feel – in real-time – with a sensory-enhanced prosthetic hand that was surgically wired to nerves in his upper arm. Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL (Switzerland) and SSSA (Italy) developed the revolutionary sensory feedback that allowed Sørensen to feel again while handling objects. A prototype of this bionic technology was tested in February 2013 during a clinical trial in Rome under the supervision of Paolo Maria Rossini at Gemelli Hospital (Italy). The study is published in the February 5, 2014 edition of Science Translational Medicine, and represents a collaboration called Lifehand 2 between several European universities and hospitals.”

“”Our study shows that within three minutes of meeting in real life, women find more dominant, wider-faced men attractive for short-term relationships, and want to go on another date with them,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Katherine Valentine of Singapore Management University.

According to Valentine, there’s considerable academic debate about whether physical dominance is advantageous in mating – that is, actually attractive to women. At the same time, researchers have been exploring facial width-to-height ratio (fWHR) as a possible physical indicator of male dominance.”

“Rather, the memory rewrites the past with current information, updating your recollections with new experiences.

Love at first sight, for example, is more likely a trick of your memory than a Hollywood-worthy moment.

“When you think back to when you met your current partner, you may recall this feeling of love and euphoria,” said lead author Donna Jo Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “But you may be projecting your current feelings back to the original”

“According to Yerkes researchers Larry Young, PhD, and Bill Hopkins, PhD, co-authors of the study, receptive joint attention is important for developing complex cognitive processes, including language and theory of mind, and poor joint attention abilities may be a core feature in children with or at risk of developing ASD.”

“Video gaming is a highly pervasive activity, providing a multitude of complex cognitive and motor demands. Gaming can be seen as an intense training of several skills. Associated cerebral structural plasticity induced has not been investigated so far”

“The Black Death didn’t just wipe out millions of Europeans during the 14th century. It left a mark on the human genome, favoring those who carried certain immune system genes, according to a new study. Those changes may help explain why Europeans respond differently from other people to some diseases and have different susceptibilities to autoimmune disorders.

Geneticists know that human populations evolve in the face of disease. Certain versions of our genes help us fight infections better than others, and people who carry those genes tend to have more children than those who don’t. So the beneficial genetic versions persist, while other versions tend to disappear as those carrying them die. This weeding-out of all but the best genes is called positive selection. But researchers have trouble pinpointing positively selected genes in humans, as many genes vary from one individual to the next.”

January 29, 2014

readings in psychology for 29 january 2014 @PsychScience

A puppy makes all the difference!

A puppy makes all the difference!

Here is what I am reading today:

“Humans are very social. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had neither fearsome claws or teeth, so posed little threat to other species. Groups of humans working together, however, can be formidable. We defend our groups, sometimes viciously, against the threat of “them.” Distinctions as trivial as the sports team for whom you cheer have been the basis of killings.”

“”Our group has been fascinated with circadian rhythms for over 10 years now, as they represent a marvelous example of robust control at the molecular scale in nature,” said Frank Doyle, chair of UCSB’s Department of Chemical Engineering and the principal investigator for the UCSB team. “We are constantly amazed by the mechanisms that nature uses to control these clocks, and we seek to unravel their principles for engineering applications as well as shed light on the underlying cellular mechanisms for medical purposes.”"

“The study, led by Professor Daniel Freeman at the University of Oxford, tested 60 adult women from the general population who were prone to having ‘mistrustful thoughts’. The participants experienced an underground tube ride virtual reality simulation. They experienced the same ‘journey’ twice, with the only difference being a reduction in height of about a head (25cm). In both instances, the other virtual passengers were programmed to be ‘neutral’, and not a cause of fear in the participants.”

“During his lifetime, Henry G. Molaison (H.M.) was the best-known and possibly the most-studied patient of modern neuroscience. Now, thanks to the postmortem study of his brain, based on histological sectioning and digital three-dimensional construction led by Jacopo Annese, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego, scientists around the globe will finally have insight into the neurological basis of the case that defined modern studies of human memory.”

“Star Trek’s food replicator may soon become more science fact than science fiction. Back in May, 2013, NASA — as it sets its sights on manned missions to Mars — revealed that it was teaming up with Systems & Materials Research Consultancy (SMRC) on a 3D printer that can produce… food, and more specifically, pizza. SMRC actually won a six-month, $125,000 Small Business Innovation Research Grant from NASA to explore the feasibilty of utilizing 3D-printed food for lengthy space operations.”

Rosie Ensor, Claire Hughes, and their colleagues at University of Cambridge tackled this question by testing children over the course of eight years. They first visited the homes of two-year-olds during a family meal and recorded how often the mother and child used ‘thought words’ such as know, forget, think, idea, interest, and understand. One year later, they administered standard false-belief tests and a verbal comprehension test to each child.

“Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.”

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It is not a lack of love,
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-------- Nietzsche

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