The behavioural reasons why guide dogs sometimes end their working lives early, and what it means for pet dogs.A study by Geoffrey Caron-Lormier (University of Nottingham) et al looks at twenty years of data from Guide Dogs (UK). During this time, 7,770 working guide dogs, who had worked with blind or partially sighted people, were withdrawn from service. By far the most common reason was retirement, which applied to 6,465 dogs (83%). The authors looked at the reasons why other dogs were withdra........ Read more »
Caron-Lormier, G., Harvey, N., England, G., & Asher, L. (2016) Using the incidence and impact of behavioural conditions in guide dogs to investigate patterns in undesirable behaviour in dogs. Scientific Reports, 23860. DOI: 10.1038/srep23860
It happens to all of us – we're meant to be focused on the page in the book, but our mind is turned inwards thinking about other stuff (Must remember to charge my phone, What time did I say I'd meet Sarah?) Thankfully a new study in Memory and Cognition identifies a straightforward way to reduce how much your mind wanders off topic when you're studying. You just need to ensure the materials you're learning are in your sweet spot – not too easy and not too difficult.For one experiment, Judy X........ Read more »
Xu, J., & Metcalfe, J. (2016) Studying in the region of proximal learning reduces mind wandering. Memory , 44(5), 681-695. DOI: 10.3758/s13421-016-0589-8
I have to say that I initially felt slightly uncomfortable reading the study results published by Jillian Austin and colleagues  providing "preliminary validation for the use of autism disclosure cards in buffering negative judgment." Uncomfortable because, despite the fact that it is human nature for people to stop, stare and perhaps question something when it seems 'out of the ordinary', the idea that when children with autism specifically 'misbehave' in a public place their parents need to........ Read more »
Austin JE, Zinke VL, & Davies WH. (2016) Influencing Perception About Children with Autism and their Parents Using Disclosure Cards. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. PMID: 27241346
Scientific work is unfairly perceived by many people as a solitary, even lonely enterprise, concerned with abstracted goals rather than helping others. While some scientific work calls for a quiet room (at the least, noise-cancelling headphones), the reality is that the enterprise as a whole involves plenty of communal aspects, from collaboration and discussions to teaching and mentoring. In new research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers from the University of Miami hav........ Read more »
Clark, E., Fuesting, M., & Diekman, A. (2016) Enhancing interest in science: exemplars as cues to communal affordances of science. Journal of Applied Social Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12392
Heavy metal band Black Label Society on stage Brazil, via Flickr/FockaListening to songs about death and dressing yourself in t-shirts featuring skulls and demons might seem like a strange way to combat existential angst. Nonetheless, a new study in Psychology of Popular Media Culture shows that listening to heavy metal helps fans of the genre deal with their own mortality. This is likely because to fans, heavy metal represents so much more than a genre, it embodies a way of life and a sense of ........ Read more »
Kneer, J., & Rieger, D. (2016) The memory remains: How heavy metal fans buffer against the fear of death. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 5(3), 258-272. DOI: 10.1037/ppm0000072
I'm cautious about the findings reported by Daniel Blockmans & Philippe Persoons  talking about how long-term use of the stimulant medication methylphenidate (MPH) might be something to consider for at least some people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Cautious because the sole use of a questionnaire looking "for possible improvement of concentration difficulties and fatigue" following the use of MPH on this research occasion is not exactly a top tier scientific method...Non........ Read more »
Blockmans D, & Persoons P. (2016) Long-term methylphenidate intake in chronic fatigue syndrome. Acta clinica Belgica, 1-8. PMID: 27351244
In the latest research, the authors found that a blocked schedule (presenting examples from one category at a time) outperformed an interleaved schedule (interspersing examples from all the categories) for category learning when the examples to be classified were more highly discriminable. This result was consistent across the two experiments in the study (p = 0.055 and p = 0.04). Importantly, however, although interleaving was a better strategy for learning categories of lower discriminability,........ Read more »
Noh, S., Yan, V., Bjork, R., & Maddox, W. (2016) Optimal sequencing during category learning: Testing a dual-learning systems perspective. Cognition, 23-29. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.06.007
Human intelligence is being defined and measured for the first time ever. Researchers have been recently undertaken to quantify the brain's dynamic functions, and identify how different parts of the brain interact with each other at different times - namely, to discover how intellect works.
... Read more »
Zhang, J., Cheng, W., Liu, Z., Zhang, K., Lei, X., Yao, Y., Becker, B., Liu, Y., Kendrick, K., Lu, G.... (2016) Neural, electrophysiological and anatomical basis of brain-network variability and its characteristic changes in mental disorders. Brain. DOI: 10.1093/brain/aww143
A quote to begin: "The AQ's [Autism Spectrum Quotient] utility for screening referrals was limited in this sample. Recommendations supporting the AQ's role in the assessment of adult ASD [autism spectrum disorder], e.g. UK NICE guidelines, may need to be reconsidered."Taken from the paper published by Ashwood and colleagues , the findings from this team don't make for great reading if you happen to be a fan of the AQ as a potential screening instrument for adult autism. Indeed,........ Read more »
Ashwood KL, Gillan N, Horder J, Hayward H, Woodhouse E, McEwen FS, Findon J, Eklund H, Spain D, Wilson CE.... (2016) Predicting the diagnosis of autism in adults using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) questionnaire. Psychological medicine, 1-10. PMID: 27353452
Where is the periaqueductal gray?
The periaqueductal gray, or PAG, is an area of gray matter found in the midbrain. The PAG surrounds the cerebral aqueduct (hence the name periaqueductal) and occupies a column of brainstem that stretches about 14 mm long. There are no obvious visible anatomical divisions within the PAG, but researchers have divided the PAG into four columns based on differences in connectivity and function: the dorsomedial, dorsolater........ Read more »
Behbehani, M. (1995) Functional characteristics of the midbrain periaqueductal gray. Progress in Neurobiology, 46(6), 575-605. DOI: 10.1016/0301-0082(95)00009-K
"The cause of ME/CFS [myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome] is unknown, but gut dysbiosis could be contributing to some of the symptoms and their severity. Developing therapeutic interventions aimed at reducing local inflammation, restoring gastrointestinal tract immunity and integrity and modifying the intestinal microbiome may ameliorate ME/CFS symptoms in a number of affected patients."Those were the important conclusions reported by Ludovic Giloteaux and colleagues [1........ Read more »
Giloteaux L, Goodrich JK, Walters WA, Levine SM, Ley RE, & Hanson MR. (2016) Reduced diversity and altered composition of the gut microbiome in individuals with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Microbiome, 4(1), 30. PMID: 27338587
In a new article I evaluate a recently developed test for music listening skills. To my great surprise the test behaves very well. This could open the path to better understand the psychology underlying music listening. Why am I surprised? I got my first taste of how difficult it is to replicate published scientific results […]... Read more »
Kunert R, & Scheepers C. (2014) Speed and accuracy of dyslexic versus typical word recognition: an eye-movement investigation. Frontiers in psychology, 1129. PMID: 25346708
Kunert R, Willems RM, & Hagoort P. (2016) Language influences music harmony perception: effects of shared syntactic integration resources beyond attention. Royal Society open science, 3(2), 150685. PMID: 26998339
Kunert R, Willems RM, & Hagoort P. (2016) An Independent Psychometric Evaluation of the PROMS Measure of Music Perception Skills. PloS one, 11(7). PMID: 27398805
Law LN, & Zentner M. (2012) Assessing musical abilities objectively: construction and validation of the profile of music perception skills. PloS one, 7(12). PMID: 23285071
Nichols SA, McLeod JS, Holder RL, & McLeod HS. (2009) Screening for dyslexia, dyspraxia and Meares-Irlen syndrome in higher education. Dyslexia, 15(1), 42-60. PMID: 19089876
When the dust settles on the tragedy of the latest mass shooting, gun clubs usually see a spike in their memberships as people look to arm and defend themselves. At the same time, many others argue for greater gun controls, and from their perspective, recreational target shooting is very much part of the problem, not the answer.Anecdotally, this is borne out by the many killers who often turn out to have been target shooters. Indeed, in Germany after the teenage perpetrators of two spree atrocit........ Read more »
Erle, T., Barth, N., Kälke, F., Duttler, G., Lange, H., Petko, A., & Topolinski, S. (2016) Are target-shooters more aggressive than the general population?. Aggressive Behavior. DOI: 10.1002/ab.21657
Hot on the heels of a recent post about a study to watch for (see here) details of yet another "randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial" have been published in the form of the trial protocol by Hajar Mazahery and colleagues .This time around the aim is to "investigate the effect of vitamin D, n-3 LCPUFAs [omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids] or a combination of both on core symptoms of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" and hopefully with it, the generat........ Read more »
Mazahery H, Conlon C, Beck KL, Kruger MC, Stonehouse W, Camargo CA Jr, Meyer BJ, Tsang B, Mugridge O, & von Hurst PR. (2016) Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acid supplements in children with autism spectrum disorder: a study protocol for a factorial randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Trials, 17(1), 295. PMID: 27334138
Eyes shut tight, face contorted into a grimace. Are they ecstatic or anguished? Ignorant of the context, it can be hard to tell. Recent research that involved participants looking at images of the facial expressions of professional tennis players supported this intuition – participants naive to the context were unable to tell the difference between the winners and losers.From a scientific perspective, the problem with the tennis study is that the findings might have been affected by the player........ Read more »
Wenzler, S., Levine, S., van Dick, R., Oertel-Knöchel, V., & Aviezer, H. (2016) Beyond Pleasure and Pain: Facial Expression Ambiguity in Adults and Children During Intense Situations. Emotion. DOI: 10.1037/emo0000185
"Gastrin-releasing peptide was safe and well tolerated by most subjects and may be effective for core symptoms of autism."So said the results of the study - open trial - by Michele Michelin Becker and colleagues  continuing a research theme from this author  on the potential need for further scientific scrutiny when it comes to the use of gastrin-releasing peptides (GRP) and autism. Emphasising again that results were based on the use of an open trial (everyone knew what was bein........ Read more »
Becker MM, Riesgo RS, Roesler R, Bosa C, Ohlweiler L, Backes B, Endres RG, Zanon RB, Marchezan J, & Schwartsmann G. (2016) Improvement in Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children With the Use of Gastrin-Releasing Peptide: An Open Trial. Clinical neuropharmacology. PMID: 27332629
In a startling discovery that raises fundamental questions about human behavior, researchers have determined that the immune system directly affects - and even controls - creatures' social behavior, such as their desire to interact with others. So could immune system problems contribute to an inability to have normal social interactions?
... Read more »
Filiano, A., Xu, Y., Tustison, N., Marsh, R., Baker, W., Smirnov, I., Overall, C., Gadani, S., Turner, S., Weng, Z.... (2016) Unexpected role of interferon-γ in regulating neuronal connectivity and social behaviour. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature18626
Dog safety education for children works, according to a systematic review of existing research.The CDC estimates that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by a dog every year. Children are at high risk, and bites to children are often more severe than those to adults. Bites to the head and neck are more common than for adults because children are smaller.The CDC says “Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old. Children are more likely than adults........ Read more »
Shen, J., Rouse, J., Godbole, M., Wells, H., Boppana, S., & Schwebel, D. (2016) Systematic Review: Interventions to Educate Children About Dog Safety and Prevent Pediatric Dog-Bite Injuries: A Meta-Analytic Review. Journal of Pediatric Psychology. DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsv164
If you were sat in a dark room and the lights flickered off every few seconds, you'd definitely notice. Yet when your blinks make the world go momentarily dark – and bear in mind most of us perform around 12 to 15 of these every minute – you are mostly oblivious. It certainly doesn't feel like someone is flicking the lights on and off. How can this be?A new study in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance has tested two possibilities – one is that after each bl........ Read more »
Irwin, D., & Robinson, M. (2016) Perceiving a Continuous Visual World Across Voluntary Eye Blinks. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. DOI: 10.1037/xhp0000267
Not so long ago I blogged about the research paper from Faezeh Ghalichi and colleagues  (see here) describing the result of their relatively small scale (non-blinded, not placebo-controlled) trial on the use of a gluten-free diet (GFD) with a cohort of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).The results, taking into account certain methodological issues, were generally quite favourable when it came to the analysed behavioural measurements used and importantly on the presence........ Read more »
Faezeh Ghalichi, Alireza Ostadrahimi, Ayyoub Malek, & Jamal Ghaemmaghami. (2016) The effect of gluten free diet on markers of celiac disease and association with behavioral symptoms in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Progress in Nutrition, 18(2). info:/
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