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June 1, 2009, 4:55 AM CT

Longer high-stakes tests may result in a sense of mental fatigue

Longer high-stakes tests may result in a sense of mental fatigue
Spending hours taking a high-pressure aptitude test may make people feel mentally fatigued, but that fatigue doesn't necessarily lead to lower test scores, as per new research published by the American Psychological Association. If anything, performance might actually improve on a longer test, the study found.

"The experience of fatigue during testing does not appear to be, in and of itself, detrimental to test performance," said co-authors Phillip Ackerman, PhD, and Ruth Kanfer, PhD.

The study, in the June Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, stemmed from concerns that when taking longer tests over several hours in one sitting, students would feel increasingly fatigued, and, in turn, perform worse. High-stakes tests are typically used for admission to college and to regulated professions such as medicine, law and accounting.

Cognitive fatigue -- a sense of being mentally worn out or exhausted -- is actually only partly determined by the length of the test, as per the research. Some people simply seem to feel it more than others in situations that demand prolonged concentration and mental effort.

In the study, 239 freshman college students from the Atlanta area took three different versions of the SAT Reasoning Test. Under conditions simulating the actual exam, with start times of 8 A.M. on three consecutive Saturdays, the students completed tests specially constructed for three different durations: 3.5, 4.5 and 5.5 hours. (The current SAT is 3.75 hours of testing over a 4.5-hour session. In this study, the short version of the test had one less of the verbal, math and writing sections; the long version had one more of each. Otherwise, the tests were the same.) Students received a cash bonus if they beat their prior SAT scores.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 27, 2009, 9:12 PM CT

Risks of Dementia drug treatment

Risks of Dementia drug treatment
Geriatrics professor Sudeep Gill leads new study investigating side effects of dementia drugs.

Photo by Jeff Drake
Side effects linked to several commonly-prescribed dementia drugs appears to be putting elderly Canadians at risk, says Queen's University Geriatrics professor Sudeep Gill.

Cholinesterase inhibitors (Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl) are often prescribed for people with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias because they increase the level of a chemical in the brain that seems to help memory. Eventhough such drugs are known to provoke slower heart rates and fainting episodes, the magnitude of these risks has not been clear until now.

"This is very troubling, because the drugs are marketed as helping to preserve memory and improve function," says Dr. Gill, who is an Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care Career Scientist, working at Providence Care's St. Mary's of the Lake Hospital in Kingston. "But for a subset of people, the effect may be the exact opposite."

In a large study using province-wide data, Dr. Gill and colleagues discovered that people who used cholinesterase inhibitors were hospitalized for fainting almost twice as often as people with dementia who did not receive these drugs. Experiencing a slowed heart-rate was 69 per cent more common amongst cholinesterase inhibitor users. In addition, people taking the dementia drugs had a 49 per cent increased chance of having permanent pacemakers implanted and an 18 per cent increased risk of hip fractures.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 24, 2009, 8:47 PM CT

Opposites attract: how genetics influences humans

Opposites attract: how genetics influences humans
New light has been thrown on how humans choose their partners, a scientist will tell the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics today (Monday May 25). Professor Maria da Graa Bicalho, head of the Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility Laboratory at the University of Parana, Brazil, says that her research had shown that people with diverse major histocompatibility complexes (MHCs) were more likely to choose each other as mates than those whose MHCs were similar, and that this was likely to be an evolutionary strategy to ensure healthy reproduction.

Females' preference for MHC dissimilar mates has been shown in a number of vertebrate species, including humans, and it is also known that MHC influences mating selection by preferences for particular body odours. The Brazilian team has been working in this field since 1998, and decided to investigate mate selection in the Brazilian population, while trying to uncover the biological significance of MHC diversity.

The researchers studied MHC data from 90 married couples, and compared them with 152 randomly-generated control couples. They counted the number of MHC dissimilarities among those who were real couples, and compared them with those in the randomly-generated 'virtual couples'. "If MHC genes did not influence mate selection", says Professor Bicalho, "we would have expected to see similar results from both sets of couples. But we observed that the real partners had significantly more MHC dissimilarities than we could have expected to find simply by chance".........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 24, 2009, 8:46 PM CT

Interpreting head movements

Interpreting head movements
May 21, 2009 It is well known that people use head motion during conversation to convey a range of meanings and emotions, and that women use more active head motion when conversing with each other than men use when they talk with each other.

When women and men converse together, the men use a little more head motion and the women use a little less. But the men and women might be adapting because of their gender-based expectations or because of the movements they perceive from each other.

What would happen if you could change the apparent gender of a conversant while keeping all of the motion dynamics of head movement and facial expression?.

Using new videoconferencing technology, a team of psychology experts and computer researchers led by Steven Boker, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia were able to switch the apparent gender of study participants during conversation and observed that head motion was more important than gender in determining how people coordinate with each other while engaging in conversation.

The researchers observed that gender-based social expectations are unlikely to be the source of reported gender differences in the way people coordinate their head movements during two-way conversation.

The scientists used synthesized faces known as avatars in videoconferences with nave participants, who believed they were conversing onscreen with an actual person rather than a synthetic version of a person.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 24, 2009, 8:43 PM CT

People by nature are universally optimistic

People by nature are universally optimistic
At the country level, optimism is highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand and lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranks number 10 on the list of optimistic countries.

Credit: University of Kansas/Gallup

Despite calamities from economic recessions, wars and famine to a flu epidemic afflicting the Earth, a newly released study from the University of Kansas and Gallup indicates that humans are by nature optimistic.

The study, to be presented Sunday, May 24, 2009, at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco, found optimism to be universal and borderless.

Data from the Gallup World Poll drove the findings, with adults in more than 140 countries providing a representative sample of 95 percent of the world's population. The sample included more than 150,000 adults.

Eighty-nine percent of individuals worldwide expect the next five years to be as good or better than their current life, and 95 percent of individuals expected their life in five years to be as good or better than their life was five years ago.

"These results provide compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon," said Matthew Gallagher, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas and lead researcher of the study.

At the country level, optimism is highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark, and New Zealand and lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranks number 10 on the list of optimistic countries.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 5, 2009, 8:38 PM CT

Drinkers Not Only Zone Out But.....

Drinkers Not Only Zone Out But.....
A newly released study out of the University of Pittsburgh suggests that a moderate dose of alcohol increases a person's mind wandering, while at the same time reducing the likelihood of noticing that one's mind has wandered.

The paper, titled "Lost in the Sauce: The Effects of Alcohol on Mind Wandering," explores this phenomenon and is published in this month's issue of "Psychological Science."

The study provides the first evidence that alcohol disrupts an individual's ability to realize his or her mind has wandered, suggesting impairment of a psychological state called meta-consciousness. These findings suggest that distinct processes are responsible for causing a thought to occur, as opposed to allowing its presence to be noticed.

Led by University of Pittsburgh professor of psychology Michael Sayette, scientists Erik Reichle, associate professor and chair of Pitt's cognitive program in psychology, and Jonathan Schooler, professor of psychology at University of California, Santa Barbara, studied a group of men-half of whom had consumed alcohol and half of whom had been given a placebo. After 30 minutes, the participants began reading a portion of Tolstoy's "War and Peace" from a computer screen. If they caught themselves zoning out-having no idea what they had just read or thinking about something other than the text-they pressed a key on the keyboard. They also were prompted at intervals, to see if they could be "caught" mind-wandering before they realized it themselves.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 5, 2009, 5:11 AM CT

Possible and actual autism diagnosis

Possible and actual autism diagnosis
"Timely identification and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can impact a child's development and is the key to opening the door to the services and therapies available to children with autism," says Paul Shattuck, Ph.D., assistant professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. "Unfortunately, our research shows that the average age of autism diagnosis is nearly six years old, which is three to four years after diagnosis is possible".

Shattuck is the main author of an article on the timing of ASD identification in the current issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

He and co-author of studys used data from 13 sites around the country that were funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to collect information from the health and education records of eight year olds with a wide variety of developmental problems in 2002.

Shattuck's research observed that females were identified later than males and that early diagnosis was commonly associated with a more severe or obvious cognitive impairment. There were no disparities in the age of diagnosis by race when the data are pooled from all 13 sites. However, in further analyses reported elsewhere, Shattuck and his colleagues have observed that Black and Hispanic children who meet diagnostic criteria for autism are much less likely to actually have a documented diagnosis in their records.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 4, 2009, 5:08 AM CT

Tthinking about the positive

Tthinking about the positive
In a newly released study, cognitive researchers have shown that when aware of both a negative and positive stereotype correlation to performance, women will identify more closely with the positive stereotype, avoiding the harmful impact the negative stereotype unwittingly can have on their performance.

The study, led by Robert J. Rydell, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, focused on women and math ability. While studies -- including this one -- have shown that women will perform worse on mathematical tasks if simply made aware of the negative stereotype that women are weaker at math than men, this is the first study to examine the influence of concurrent and competing stereotypes, one negative and one positive.

The study also demonstrates how the negative stereotype encroached on working memory, thus leaving less brain power for the mathematical task at hand. The positive stereotypes had no such effect, however, and when coupled with the negative stereotype erased its drain on working memory.

"This research shows that because people are members of multiple social groups that often have contradictory performance stereotypes (for example, Asian females in the domain of math), making them aware of both a positive group stereotype and a negative stereotype eliminates the threat and underperformance that is commonly seen when they dwell only on their membership in a negatively stereotyped group," Rydell said. "People seem motivated to align themselves with positively stereotyped groups and, as a byproduct, can eliminate the worry, stress and cognitive depletion brought about by negative performance stereotypes, increasing actual performance."........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

May 1, 2009, 5:06 AM CT

Maternal depression and sleep disturbance in infants

Maternal depression and sleep disturbance in infants
A study in the May 1 issue of the journal SLEEP suggests that babies born to mothers with depression are more likely to suffer from significant sleep disturbances at 2 weeks postpartum that continue until 6 months of age. Findings of the study are of particular importance, as sleep disturbances in infancy may result in increased risk for developing early-onset depression in childhood.

Results indicate that infants born to mothers with depression had significant sleep disturbances in comparison to low-risk infants; the high-risk group had an hour longer nocturnal sleep latency, shorter sleep episodes and lower sleep efficiency than infants who were born to mothers without depression. Eventhough average sleep time in a 24 hours did not differ by risk group at eight two or four weeks, nocturnal total sleep time was 97 minutes longer in the low-risk group at both recording periods. High-risk infants also had significantly more daytime sleep episodes of a shorter average duration.

Prior studies have observed that levels of cortisol, a hormone that is linked to stress, is increased during pregnancy and after delivery in depressed mothers, indicating that the mother's hormone level may affect the infant's sleep.

As per the main author, Roseanne Armitage, PhD, director of the Sleep and Chronophysiology Laboratory at the University Of Michigan Depression Center, while maternal depression does have a negative effect on infants' sleep, the damage appears to be reversible.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source

April 29, 2009, 5:29 AM CT

Accumulation of visceral fat and depression

Accumulation of visceral fat and depression
Numerous studies have shown that depression is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, but exactly how has never been clear.

Now, scientists at Rush University Medical Center have shown that depression is linked with the accumulation of visceral fat, the kind of fat packed between internal organs at the waistline, which has long been known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The study is posted online and would be reported in the recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine

"Our results suggest that central adiposity which is usually called belly fat is an important pathway by which depression contributes to the risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes," said Lynda Powell, PhD, chairperson of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush and the study's principal investigator. "In our study, depressive symptoms were clearly correlation to deposits of visceral fat, which is the type of fat involved in disease".

The study included 409 middle-aged women, about half African-American and half Caucasian, who were participating in the Women in the South Side Health Project (WISH) in Chicago, a longitudinal study of the menopausal transition. Depressive symptoms were assessed using a common screening test, and visceral fat measured with a Computerized axial tomography scan. Eventhough waist size is often used as a proxy for the amount of visceral fat, it is an inaccurate measure because it includes subcutaneous fat, or fat deposited just beneath the skin.........

Posted by: JoAnn      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. Archives of psychology news blog

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