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January 30, 2009, 5:57 AM CT

Who might be interested in whom

Who might be interested in whom
When it comes to assessing the romantic playing field -- who might be interested in whom -- men and women were shown to be equally good at gauging men's interest during an Indiana University study involving speed dating -- and equally bad at judging women's interest.

Scientists expected women to have a leg up in judging romantic interest, because theoretically they have more to lose from a bad relationship, but no such edge was found.

"The hardest-to-read women were being misperceived at a much higher rate than the hardest-to-read men. Those women were being flirtatious, but it turned out they weren't interested at all," said main author Skyler Place, a doctoral student in IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences working with cognitive science Professor Peter Todd. "Nobody could really read what these deceptive females were doing, including other women."

Place's study, reported in the recent issue of the journal Psychological Science, focused on the ability of observers to judge romantic interest between others because this ability has evolutionary benefits when it comes to finding a mate. Decisions that other people around us make, said Place, can influence or inform our own choices.

"So, if you walk into a room and there's 20 people you've never met before, being able to know which individuals might be available and which are clearly smitten by others can make you more efficient in finding your own romantic interest to pursue," he said.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 29, 2009, 6:11 AM CT

Preterm birth and autism

Preterm birth and autism
Recent studies have suggested that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appears to be more prevalent among children born very prematurely. The early symptoms of ASD are also linked to other conditions correlation to preterm births, such as cerebral palsy, which can make it difficult to correctly screen children for ASD. Because of this, scientists have begun to explore the relationship between preterm birth, cognitive and developmental impairments, and ASD. Two articles soon would be published in The Journal of Pediatrics explore this possible connection between preterm birth and ASD.

Dr. Karl Kuban and his colleagues from Boston University, Wake Forest University, and Harvard University studied 988 children born between 2002 and 2004 who participated in the ELGAN (Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborn) study, a large, multi-center study that enrolled more than 1500 infants born at least three months prematurely. They wanted to explore whether children born preterm are more likely to screen positive on the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT), a survey administered to a caregiver regarding a child's behavior. Pediatricians typically wait to formally diagnose ASD until after a child's third birthday. In this study, however, the caregivers of the infants completed the M-CHAT when the children were 24 months of age. The scientists observed that 21% of the preterm children screened positive for ASD.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 28, 2009, 6:24 AM CT

Stress disrupts human thinking

Stress disrupts human thinking
new neuroimaging study on stressed-out students suggests that male humans, like male rats, don't do their most agile thinking under stress. The findings, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that 20 male M.D. candidates in the middle of preparing for their board exams had a harder time shifting their attention from one task to another than other healthy young men who were not under the gun.

Prior experiments had observed that stressed rats foraging for food had similar impairments and that those problems resulted from stress-induced changes in their brain anatomy. The newly released study, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the stressed students' brains, is a robust example of how basic research in an animal model can lead to high-tech investigations of the human brain.

"It's a great translational story," says Bruce S. McEwen, head of the Harold and Margaret Milliken Hatch Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University, who worked on the project with colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical College. "The research in the rats led to the imaging work on people, and the results matched up remarkably well".

The work holds good news too, for both rats and humans: Their brains recuperate quickly. Less than a month after the stress goes away, they are back to normal. "The message is that healthy brains are remarkably resilient and plastic," McEwen says.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 27, 2009, 6:25 AM CT

Differences in thinking styles

Differences in thinking styles
Consumers approach problems, products, and websites differently as per distinct thinking styles, says a newly released study in the Journal of Consumer Research

Authors Thomas P. Novak and Donna L. Hoffman (both University of California, Riverside) say consumers tend to think either rationally or experientially and marketers should design experiences for consumers that allow a good fit between the style and the task.

The authors describe rational thinking as "logical, effortful, and analytic," and experiential thinking as "associative, lower effort, and holistic." Examples of rational activities include work, carefully considered decisions, and goal-directed tasks, while experiential activities include playing, browsing, and impulse buying.

The authors developed a measure called the Situation-Specific-Thinking-Style measure (SSTS), which measured and predicted study participants' performance on many tasks, including vocabulary and geometry problems (rational) or activities such as suggesting ways to improve toys or websites (experiential).

"We observed that people who reported thinking rationally performed better on rational tasks, and people who reported thinking experientially performed better on experiential tasks," explain the authors. "In addition, the 'wrong type' of thinking actually hurt performance. People who approached a vocabulary or an IQ test problem in an experiential, intuitive manner actually had fewer correct answers than those who approached the problem logically."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 26, 2009, 11:40 PM CT

'Happiness gap' in the US narrows

'Happiness gap' in the US narrows
Happiness inequality in the U.S. has decreased since the 1970s, as per research published this month in the Journal of Legal Studies

The study, by University of Pennsylvania economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, observed that the American population as a whole is no happier than it was three decades ago. But happiness inequalitythe gap between the happy and the not-so-happyhas narrowed significantly.

"Americans are becoming more similar to each other in terms of reported happiness," says Stevenson. "It's an interesting finding because other research shows increasing gaps in income, consumption and leisure time".

The happiness gap between whites and non-whites has narrowed by two-thirds, the study found. Non-whites report being significantly happier than they were in the early part of 1970s, while whites are slightly less happy. The happiness gap between men and women closed as well. Women have become less happy, while men are a little more cheerful.

One demographic area where the happiness gap increased was in educational attainment. People with a college diploma have gotten happier, while those with a high school education or less report lower happiness levels.

Stevenson and Wolfers used data collected from 1972 to 2006 through the University of Chicago's General Social Survey. Each year, participants were asked, "Taken all together, how would you say things are these dayswould you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 23, 2009, 6:06 AM CT

Do video games make you socially crippled?

Do video games make you socially crippled?
A newly released study connects young adults' use of video games to poorer relationships with friends and family and the student co-author expresses disappointment at his own findings.

Brigham Young University undergrad Alex Jensen and his faculty mentor, Laura Walker, publish their results Jan. 23 in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence

The research is based on information collected from 813 college students around the country. As the amount of time playing video games went up, the quality of relationships with peers and parents went down.

"It appears to be that young adults remove themselves from important social settings to play video games, or that people who already struggle with relationships are trying to find other ways to spend their time," Walker said. "My guess is that it's some of both and becomes circular".

For the record, Walker did not stand in the way of her family's wish for a Nintendo Wii. Jensen had hoped to find some positive results as justification for playing Madden NFL.

Study participants reported how often they play video games. They also answered a battery of questions measuring relationship quality, including how much time, trust, support and affection they share with friends and parents.

But the scientists say video games do not themselves mean "game over" for a relationship because the connection they found is modest.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 21, 2009, 10:54 PM CT

Altered brain activity in schizophrenia

Altered brain activity in schizophrenia
Schizophrenia may blur the boundary between internal and external realities by overactivating a brain system that is involved in self-reflection, and thus causing an exaggerated focus on self, a new MIT and Harvard brain imaging study has observed.

The traditional view of schizophrenia is that the disturbed thoughts, perceptions and emotions that characterize the disease are caused by disconnections among the brain regions that control these different functions.

But this study, appearing Jan. 19 in the advance online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, observed that schizophrenia also involves an excess of connectivity between the so-called default brain regions, which are involved in self-reflection and become active when we are thinking about nothing in particular, or thinking about ourselves.

"People normally suppress this default system when they perform challenging tasks, but we observed that patients with schizophrenia don't do this," said John D. Gabrieli, a professor in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT and one of the study's 13 authors. "We think this could help to explain the cognitive and psychological symptoms of schizophrenia."

Gabrieli added that he hopes the research might lead to ways of predicting or monitoring individual patients' response to therapys for this mental illness, which occurs in about 1 percent of the population.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 20, 2009, 7:25 PM CT

Socially active and not easily stressed?

Socially active and not easily stressed?
A newly released study shows that people who are socially active and not easily stressed appears to be less likely to develop dementia. The research is reported in the January 20, 2009, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involves 506 older people who did not have dementia when first examined. The group was given questionnaires about their personality traits and lifestyle. The personality questions identified people with different degrees of neuroticism, a term meaning easily distressed. The questions also measured extraversion, or openness to talking to people. Those who were not easily distressed were calm and self-satisfied, whereas people who were easily distressed were emotionally unstable, negative and nervous. Outgoing people scored high on the extraversion scale and were socially active and optimistic in comparison to people with low extraversion who were reserved and introspective.

The lifestyle questionnaire determined how often each person regularly participated in leisure or organizational activities and the richness of their social network. Participants were followed for six years. During that time, 144 developed dementia.

The study observed that people who were not socially active but calm and relaxed had a 50 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared with people who were isolated and prone to distress. The dementia risk was also 50 percent lower for people who were outgoing and calm in comparison to those who were outgoing and prone to distress.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 7:18 PM CT

What is the key to a healthy lifestyle?

What is the key to a healthy lifestyle?
The main factors influencing the amount of physical exercise people carry out are their self-perceived ability and the extent of their desire to exercise. A study of 5167 Canadians, published in the open access journal BMC Public Health, has shown that psychological concerns are the most important barriers to an active lifestyle.

Sai Yi Pan, from the Public Health Agency of Canada, led a team of scientists who carried out a study which examined data from a nationwide series of telephone interviews. She said "Our findings highlight the need for health promotion programs to enhance people's confidence and motivation, as well as providing education on the health benefits of physical activity".

One interview question asked participants how confident they were that they could regularly do a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (PA) three or four times a week and a total of 60 minutes of light PA each day. This 'self-efficacy' score was consistently found to be correlation to higher PA across gender, age group, education level and family income level. As per the authors, "Confidence in one's personal ability to carry out exercise plays a central role in the direction, intensity and persistence of health-behavior change. People who have higher PA self-efficacy will perceive fewer barriers to PA, or be less influenced by them, and will be more likely to enjoy PA".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 6:52 PM CT

Does increasing taxes on alcohol slow down drinking?

Does increasing taxes on alcohol slow down drinking?
With a number of local and national governments presently considering proposals to hike alcohol taxes, a newly released study published online in the February edition of Addiction journal finds that the higher the alcohol prices less likely people will drink. And when they do drink, they drink less. After analyzing 112 studies spanning nearly four decades, scientists documented a concrete association between the amount of alcohol people drink and its cost.

"Results from over 100 separate studies reporting over 1000 distinct statistical estimates are remarkably consistent, and show without doubt that alcohol taxes and prices affect drinking," said Alexander C. Wagenaar, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and health policy research at the University of Florida College of Medicine, and the senior author of the study. "When prices go down, people drink more, and when prices go up, people drink less".

The consistency of the association between cost and consumption indicates that using taxes to raise prices on alcohol could be among the most effective deterrents to drinking that scientists have discovered, beating things like law enforcement, media campaigns or school programmes, said Wagenaar.

The study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also determined that tax or price increases affect the large population of drinkers, including heavy drinkers also as light drinkers, including teens as well as adults.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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