When you hear the word “apple”, do you picture a Red Delicious apple or a green Granny Smith? Or neither, because you can't conjure up a visual image of an apple (or of anything else, for that matter)? Aphantasia is the inability to generate visual images, which can be a congenital condition or acquired after brain injury (Farah, 1984). The most striking aspect of this variation in mental life is that those of us with imagery assume that everyone else has it, while those without are flabberg........ Read more »
It's becoming easier than ever to research the genetic roots of different ethnic groups and these findings can be framed differently to either emphasise that groups are similar or different. For example, a BBC headline from 2000 stated "Jews and Arabs are 'genetic brothers'" while a 2013 Medical Daily headline claimed "Genes of most Ashkenazi Jews trace back to indigenous Europe, not Middle East". As political leaders have started citing this kind of evidence to promote their particular agenda, ........ Read more »
Kimel, S., Huesmann, R., Kunst, J., & Halperin, E. (2016) Living in a Genetic World: How Learning About Interethnic Genetic Similarities and Differences Affects Peace and Conflict. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(5), 688-700. DOI: 10.1177/0146167216642196
Can I just get it out of the way? May the 4th be with you.OK. The results from Mark Strom & Jonathan Silverberg  caught my eye recently and further evidence of a 'correlation' between asthma and developmental and/or behavioural outcomes. This time around it was "caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children" and how the appearance of asthma, hay fever and/or food allergy might show some important relationships with something like speech disorder. This follows other, similar work from........ Read more »
Strom MA, & Silverberg JI. (2016) Asthma, hay fever and food allergy are associated with caregiver-reported speech disorders in US children. Pediatric allergy and immunology : official publication of the European Society of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology. PMID: 27091599
We usually think of laughter as a sound of joy and mirth, but in certain contexts, such as when it accompanies an insult, it takes on a negative meaning, signaling contempt and derision, especially in a group situation. Most of us probably know from experience that this makes insults sting more, now a study in Social Neuroscience has shown the neural correlates of this effect. Within a fraction of a second, the presence of a laughing crowd changes the way that the brain processes an insult.Marte........ Read more »
Otten, M., Mann, L., van Berkum, J., & Jonas, K. (2016) No laughing matter: How the presence of laughing witnesses changes the perception of insults. Social Neuroscience, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2016.1162194
Machine learning, when machines, er.. learn, is of growing interest to the autism research field. The names Wall and Duda have filled quite a few posts on this blog (see here and see here for example) on this topic and their suggesting that applying machine learning algorithms to something like autism screening and detection could cut down on time taken and resources used.As per the publication of the paper by Daniel Bone and colleagues  it appears that others working in autism research are a........ Read more »
Bone D, Bishop S, Black MP, Goodwin MS, Lord C, & Narayanan SS. (2016) Use of machine learning to improve autism screening and diagnostic instruments: effectiveness, efficiency, and multi-instrument fusion. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines. PMID: 27090613
Vaccines don't cause autism, but because the brain is so complex, we still don't know how much of it works so figuring out the real causes (as in more than one) of autism has been slow going. Well, researchers have identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but in this case it is one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.... Read more »
Sonia Afroz, Julie Parato, Hui Shen Sheryl, & Sue Smith. (2016) Synaptic pruning in the female hippocampus is triggered at puberty by extrasynaptic GABAA receptors on dendritic spines . eLife. info:/
Most people who know a little bit about chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) will probably understand the potential importance of the findings reported by Leonard Jason and colleagues  (open-access available here). Suggesting that there may be "four groupings of patients" when it comes to how we "name and define the illnesses", this research group who surveyed over 500 people "in the United States, Great Britain, and Norway" report on one of the biggest challenge........ Read more »
Jason LA, McManimen S, Sunnquist M, Brown A, Furst J, Newton JL, & Strand EB. (2016) Case definitions integrating empiric and consensus perspectives. Fatigue : biomedicine, health , 4(1), 1-23. PMID: 27088059
Generally seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. However, in a new article, a biology researcher delves into observations on the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking over the centuries.
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Romero Jr., A. (2016) The influence of religion on science: the case of the idea of predestination in biospeleology. Research Ideas and Outcomes. DOI: 10.3897/rio.2.e9015
Working to orient oneself to the symmetries available in mathematical situations seems like one appropriate remedy to what I've called "left-to-rightism," or "cinemathematics"—a syndrome that makes us teach concepts like the equals sign (unwittingly) in a left-to-right way, such that students take away (unwittingly) the misconception that the equals sign indicates that some answer is to follow, rather than that two expressions are equal. Some recent research points........ Read more »
Tsang, J., Blair, K., Bofferding, L., & Schwartz, D. (2015) Learning to “See” Less Than Nothing: Putting Perceptual Skills to Work for Learning Numerical Structure. Cognition and Instruction, 33(2), 154-197. DOI: 10.1080/07370008.2015.1038539
Insomnia, fun fact those of us who have served or are serving in the military have a much higher incidence of sleep problems. So if you are like me and have ever been prescribed something to help you sleep, you know that there are some unwanted side effects. For instance the time I lost memory of a whole day of interacting with people to the ambien I had taken the night before, not fun. Thankfully Danish researchers found that the level of salts in the brain plays a critical role in whether we a........ Read more »
Ding, F., ODonnell, J., Xu, Q., Kang, N., Goldman, N., & Nedergaard, M. (2016) Changes in the composition of brain interstitial ions control the sleep-wake cycle. Science, 352(6285), 550-555. DOI: 10.1126/science.aad4821
In a new Nature paper, Berkely neuroscientists Alexander G. Huth and colleagues present a 'semantic atlas' of the human brain. Huth et al. have mapped which brain areas respond to words, according to the semantics (meanings) of each word. It turns out that these maps are highly similar across individuals - which could have implications for 'mind reading' technology.
Huth et al. recorded brain activity with fMRI while seven volunteers listened to over two hours of audio narrative (taken fr... Read more »
Huth AG, de Heer WA, Griffiths TL, Theunissen FE, & Gallant JL. (2016) Natural speech reveals the semantic maps that tile human cerebral cortex. Nature, 532(7600), 453-8. PMID: 27121839
Whilst the package inserts of the various drugs that modern medicine has at its disposal provides important information on potential mode of action, there is a growing realisation that drugs generally have quite a few more molecular targets than are perhaps listed. Take for example the quite commonly used (in some parts of the world anyway) compound called melatonin that in some instances can provide almost miraculous relief when it comes to sleeping issues under certain circumstances. A d........ Read more »
Yuan L, Liu S, Bai X, Gao Y, Liu G, Wang X, Liu D, Li T, Hao A, & Wang Z. (2016) Oxytocin inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation in microglial cells and attenuates microglial activation in lipopolysaccharide-treated mice. Journal of neuroinflammation, 13(1), 77. PMID: 27075756
The whole of human intelligence, right at your fingertips. Sure it might not make the layman an engineer or physicist, but if we want to learn about a particular topic the internet can give us that information. But you better hold on tight before you lose it. New research finds retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.
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Jiang, T., Hou, Y., & Wang, Q. (2016) Does micro-blogging make us “shallow”? Sharing information online interferes with information comprehension. Computers in Human Behavior, 210-214. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2016.02.008
by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room
It’s time to run down some articles that are curious, but not substantial enough to justify a full blog post. Once again, we have kept a few pearls in our virtual filing cabinet, and have combined them here for your curiosity and possibly entertainment. This is one of those combination posts that will offer you […]
The Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) Scale
Red, redux: Men won’t pay attention to Tammy in red
Does this mean we need to pay no attention to 1 in 10 research f........ Read more »
Roberts, J., & David, M. (2016) My life has become a major distraction from my cell phone: Partner phubbing and relationship satisfaction among romantic partners. Computers in Human Behavior, 134-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.058
Is spending time looking back on our lives good for our mental health? A lot of research suggests it is, but these studies have been cross-sectional, making it hard to form a clear causal story – for example, perhaps being happier makes it more likely that people will reminisce. On the other hand, there are therapeutic trials that show purposeful reminiscence can bring about clinically meaningful decreases in depression. Now, a longitudinal investigation in Applied Cognitive Psychology provide........ Read more »
Hallford, D., & Mellor, D. (2016) Autobiographical Memory and Depression: Identity-continuity and Problem-solving Functions Indirectly Predict Symptoms over Time through Psychological Well-being. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 30(2), 152-159. DOI: 10.1002/acp.3169
They say you should never mix business and pleasure but in reality many of us find that we become friends with the people who we work with. No wonder, when you consider the hours spent together and the deep bonds formed through collaboration and sharing the highs and lows of the job.A new study in Personnel Psychology is among the first to examine the effects on job performance of having more "multiplex relationships" – colleagues you work with directly who are also your friends outside of wor........ Read more »
Methot, J., Lepine, J., Podsakoff, N., & Christian, J. (2016) Are Workplace Friendships a Mixed Blessing? Exploring Tradeoffs of Multiplex Relationships and their Associations with Job Performance. Personnel Psychology, 69(2), 311-355. DOI: 10.1111/peps.12109
"Children with higher urinary DMP [dimethylphosphate] concentrations may have a twofold to threefold increased risk of being diagnosed with ADHD [attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder]."So said the results presented in the paper by Yu and colleagues  who looking at "97 doctor-diagnosed ADHD cases and 110 non-ADHD controls who were 4-15 years of age" examined urine and blood samples for various factors including "biomarkers of OP [organophosphate] pesticide exposure." Th........ Read more »
Yu CJ, Du JC, Chiou HC, Chung MY, Yang W, Chen YS, Fuh MR, Chien LC, Hwang B, & Chen ML. (2016) Increased risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticide in Taiwanese children. Andrology. PMID: 27070915
"Parents ultimately wanted therapists to produce positive outcomes for their children and were willing to sacrifice other desired qualities, as long as the therapy program was effective."and"The SLPs [Speech-Language Pathologists] expressed strong support for evidence-based practice (EBP) and indicated that they thought parents expected their children would be provided with evidence-based interventions."Those quotes come from two papers recently published in the same journal; the first........ Read more »
Edwards, A., Brebner, C., Mccormack, P., & Macdougall, C. (2016) “More than blowing bubbles”: What parents want from therapists working with children with autism spectrum disorder. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1-13. DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2015.1112835
Trembath, D., Hawtree, R., Arciuli, J., & Caithness, T. (2016) What do speech-language pathologists think parents expect when treating their children with autism spectrum disorder?. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1-9. DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2016.1139625
Why does one person who tries cocaine get addicted, while another might use it and then leave it alone? Why do some people who kick a drug habit manage to stay clean, while others relapse? And why do some families seem more prone to addiction than others? According to a new study, the road to answering these questions may have a lot to do with specific genetic factors that vary from individual to individual.
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Flagel, S., Chaudhury, S., Waselus, M., Kelly, R., Sewani, S., Clinton, S., Thompson, R., Watson, S., & Akil, H. (2016) Genetic background and epigenetic modifications in the core of the nucleus accumbens predict addiction-like behavior in a rat model. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201520491. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1520491113
Happiness. It’s something we all strive for, but how do we measure it — as a country? A global community? Not so surprisingly, researchers are turning to social media to answer these questions and more. In a newly published study, computer scientists used two years of Twitter data to measure users’ life satisfaction, a component of happiness.
... Read more »
Yang, C., & Srinivasan, P. (2016) Life Satisfaction and the Pursuit of Happiness on Twitter. PLOS ONE, 11(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0150881
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