Appreciating that the title of this post potentially offers the opportunity to write a long (very long) post, today I'm specifically focusing on two papers. The first by Janet Cummings and colleagues  discussing health service use "among youth with and without an autism spectrum disorder (ASD)" concluded that yes, young people with autism were more likely to experience health service use than not-autism control populations. Importantly however, was the suggestion that this group were "less likely to receive important preventive services including flu shots and other vaccinations."The second paper to bring into discussions is that from Paul Carbone and colleagues  who examined "the prevalence of hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) in children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD)." ACSC in case you did not click on the highlighted link, refers to chronic conditions "for which it is possible to prevent acute exacerbations and reduce the need for hospital admission through active management, such as vaccination; better self-management, disease management or case management; or lifestyle interventions."Based on data derived from a '2009 Kids' Inpatient Database' researchers concluded that hospitalisations for ACSC were quite a bit more frequent than for those with either other chronic conditions outside of autism or those without any chronic conditions at all. Indeed compared with that 'no chronic conditions at all' group, those with autism were more likely to be admitted for a variety of issues including "a mental health condition, epilepsy, constipation, pneumonia, dehydration, vaccine-preventable diseases, underweight, and nutritional deficiencies."Without over-analysing the results of these collected investigations, the primary issues presented seem to be: (a) that people diagnosed on the autism spectrum are more likely to use healthcare services than non-autism controls, and (b) although many of the 'ailments' for which treatment is sought have been previously recognised in the research and clinical literature, the idea of preventative medicine, and the potential benefits that it can bring, is still to some degree missing when looking at the wider picture of health and wellbeing with autism in mind.Preventative medicine casts a wide net in terms of what is covered. Having previously discussed important lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise when it comes to the autism spectrum on this blog (see here and see here for example) I've been particularly interested in how science can offer some solutions for issues such as getting people more physically active or recognising the value of a balanced diet (and where certain dietary extremes can eventually lead). Discussions about bowel issues in relation to autism have also been ramped up in recent years as science cottons on to what many people have been saying: functional and pathological bowel issues are over-represented when it comes to a diagnosis on the autism spectrum (see here).The associated findings that rates of "vaccine-preventable diseases" may be increased in some of the analysed cohorts with autism and/or that immunisation as part of a strategy of preventative medicine might be diminished are worrying trends. I know this area still attracts some discussion alongside more general debates about vaccines for example  but as part of the arsenal of initiatives to improve public and 'personal' health, one might see such findings as part of a wider issue with health inequality when it comes to autism. Indeed, if one looks to the future and the idea that autism is not generally a life-limiting condition (at least not for many), one wonders what the long-term future holds for older adults with autism in light of the potential seriousness of something like influenza for older populations (see here) for example?Music to close and Axis of Awesome talk number 1 hits...---------- Cummings JR. et al. Health Services Utilization Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2015 Nov 7. Carbone PS. et al. A Comparison of Ambulatory Care Sensitive Hospitalizations Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Acad Pediatr. 2015 Nov-Dec;15(6):626-635. Suryadevara M. et al. Pediatric provider vaccine hesitancy: An under-recognized obstacle to immunizing children. Vaccine. 2015 Oct 31. pii: S0264-410X(15)01552-2.----------Cummings JR, Lynch FL, Rust KC, Coleman KJ, Madden JM, Owen-Smith AA, Yau VM, Qian Y, Pearson KA, Crawford PM, Massolo ML, Quinn VP, & Croen LA (2015). Health Services Utilization Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders PMID: 26547921Carbone PS, Young PC, Stoddard GJ, Wilkes J, & Trasande L (2015). A Comparison of Ambulatory Care Sensitive Hospitalizations Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Academic pediatrics, 15 (6), 626-635 PMID: 26547543... Read more »
Cummings JR, Lynch FL, Rust KC, Coleman KJ, Madden JM, Owen-Smith AA, Yau VM, Qian Y, Pearson KA, Crawford PM.... (2015) Health Services Utilization Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders. Journal of autism and developmental disorders. PMID: 26547921
Carbone PS, Young PC, Stoddard GJ, Wilkes J, & Trasande L. (2015) A Comparison of Ambulatory Care Sensitive Hospitalizations Among Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorder. Academic pediatrics, 15(6), 626-635. PMID: 26547543
Everyday I walk to the Stabile Research Building to drink espresso and sit in my cozy — although oversaturated with screens — office. Oh, and to chat about research with great people like Arturo Araujo, David Basanta, Jill Gallaher, Jacob Scott, Robert Vander Velde and other Moffitters. This walk to the office takes about 30 […]... Read more »
Jansson, F. (2015) What games support the evolution of an ingroup bias?. Journal of theoretical biology, 100-10. PMID: 25794651
Researchers have found anxiety around the arrival of a new baby is just as common as postnatal depression, and the risks for men are nearly as high as for women. Mental health researcher Dr Liana Leach reviewed 43 separate studies and found anxiety before and after a child arrives is just as prevalent as depression, affecting around one in ten men, around half the rate for women.... Read more »
Leach, L., Poyser, C., Cooklin, A., & Giallo, R. (2016) Prevalence and course of anxiety disorders (and symptom levels) in men across the perinatal period: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 675-686. DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2015.09.063
I don't want to spend too long on the findings reported by Danielle Stutzman & Julie Dopheide  talking about how: "Treatment with acetylcysteine improved ASD [autism spectrum disorder] symptoms, including irritability and aggression, in a teenage patient" but it is a blog-worthy paper.Describing the experiences of a "7-year-old Hispanic male with ASD and intellectual disability" who was hospitalised due to some rather 'challenging behaviours', the authors noted how the addition of acetylcysteine (often called N-acetlycysteine or NAC for short) seemed to have some pretty interesting positive effects on this young boy's behaviour. Not least also that the use of NAC "was well tolerated, with no observed or reported adverse effects." The authors go on to speculate that within the context of other reports on the use of NAC either alone or as an adjunct medicine, there may be quite a bit more to see with autism in mind, as well as providing some important information about relevant biological pathways in relation to specific 'types' of autism.I've talked about NAC and autism before on this blog, both within the context of group studies (see here) and under more individual 'N=1' conditions (see here) including with the word 'adjunct' in mind (see here). Within the context of issues that seem to come under the heading of 'challenging behaviours' (bearing in mind the variety of factors that such a description covers) there does appear to be some promising stories coming out of the use of NAC which might have all the be more importance given the lack of good therapeutic interventions for such behaviours.I'm not at this point going to speculate too much about exactly how and why NAC seems to 'help' when it comes to some challenging behaviours for some people on the autism spectrum. I will suggest that set within the context of studies on glutathione and some autism (see here) there may be some further research to do. That, and not being afraid to look at NAC in relation to something like schizophrenia (see here), and I dare say that there could be surprises for NAC in relation to some autism in future times...Music to close, and in amongst some recent discussions about 'Where are all the climate change songs?' a gem from The Pixies about a monkey...---------- Stutzman D. & Dopheide J. Acetylcysteine for treatment of autism spectrum disorder symptoms. Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2015 Nov 15;72(22):1956-9.----------Stutzman D, & Dopheide J (2015). Acetylcysteine for treatment of autism spectrum disorder symptoms. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 72 (22), 1956-9 PMID: 26541950... Read more »
Stutzman D, & Dopheide J. (2015) Acetylcysteine for treatment of autism spectrum disorder symptoms. American journal of health-system pharmacy : AJHP : official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 72(22), 1956-9. PMID: 26541950
"Premature mortality was markedly increased in ASD [autism spectrum disorder] owing to a multitude of medical conditions."So said the study by Tatja Hirvikoski and colleagues  and findings that although making uncomfortable reading, highlight how we have some way to go when it comes to addressing important health inequalities as and when a label of autism or ASD is given.Drawing on Swedish data including over 27,000 people diagnosed with an ASD between 1987 and 2009 compared against population information for some 2.6 million "gender-, age- and county of residence-matched controls", researchers examined the frequency of all-cause and cause-specific mortality rates across the groups. During their observation period some 0.9% of controls died compared with 2.6% of those on the autism spectrum. As per the opening sentence, this difference was described as "markedly increased" by the authors. Other important details are also provided as per the idea that gender and "general intellectual ability" might be moderating factors when it comes to the mortality patterns described with autism in mind.Realising that behind every statistic is a person and a family and a wider social group, I was not surprised by the Hirvikoski findings. Increased rates of early mortality when discussed in the context of autism have been talked about before on this blog (see here). In that previous case it was the findings reported by Deborah Bilder and colleagues  as the headline paper and their results based on data from the 1980s Utah/UCLA autism epidemiologic study. Then, as this time, "the presence of comorbid medical conditions and intellectual disability" played their part.There is an obvious need for continued need for research in this important area. Preferential screening is also perhaps implied based on the known over-representation of conditions like epilepsy or seizures disorder(s) when it comes to autism (see here) and onwards the potential for states such as SUDEP. Indeed, recognising that a diagnosis of autism may place someone at elevated risk of various medical comorbidity (see here) really needs to be talked about a lot more as per what seems to be happening when it comes to schizophrenia (see here) in the context of health inequalities leading to early mortality.Just before I go, I'd also like to refer you back to a post I wrote previously talking about 'issues' with screening and diagnosing certain medical comorbidity (see here) with autism in mind and how attending physicians might need to show a little medical creativity to ensure that diagnosis is both timely and accurate...--------- Hirvikoski T. et al. Premature mortality in autism spectrum disorder. Br J Psychiatry. 2015 Nov 5. Bilder D. et al. Excess mortality and causes of death in autism spectrum disorders: a follow up of the 1980s Utah/UCLA autism epidemiologic study. J Autism Dev Disord. 2013 May;43(5):1196-204.----------Hirvikoski T, Mittendorfer-Rutz E, Boman M, Larsson H, Lichtenstein P, & Bölte S (2015). Premature mortality in autism spectrum disorder. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science PMID: 26541693... Read more »
Around the world many health services are moving towards generic (non-branded) medicines as a way to reduce costs. Where does psychology come into this? Well, we know that, thanks to the placebo effect, people's expectations about a treatment can influence the effects that treatment has on them. We also know, thanks to research conducted over the last decade, that people expect branded medicines to be more effective and to have fewer side effects than their generic counterparts. A new study in Health Psychology is one of the first to explore whether this matters – specifically, it looks at whether a generic painkiller is less effective than its chemically identical branded counterpart. Kate Faasse and her colleagues recruited 87 undergrads, most of them were female, who answered an advert seeking people who suffer frequent headaches (at least one per fortnight). The participants were given four doses of Ibuprofen to use in the coming weeks as and when they suffered a headache, and to keep a diary of the relief the medicine brought them, and any side-effects they experienced. Crucially, two of the doses were branded as Neurofen, while the other two were generic in plain packaging. Unbeknown to the participants, one of the branded doses was actually a placebo, as was one of the generic doses.When it came to the active doses, there was no difference between the branded and generic Ibuprofen – both were equally effective at pain relief and the students reported the same amount of side-effects for each. However, with the placebo doses, the branded medicine was more effective than the generic at pain relief and was associated with fewer side effects than the generic medicine.Although these findings imply that branding makes no difference to an active pain relief medicine, they do show how branding exerts a placebo effect in terms of pain relief and reduced side-effects. This placebo effect was not detectable beyond the actions of the active medicine. But Faasse and her colleagues explained that this branding-related placebo effect could have real-life significance for other types of medicine for which the actions of the drug are less easy for patients to monitor or detect (as compared with pain relief), such as blood pressure medication or anti-depressants, meaning that the patients' beliefs about the drug might be more important. We'll need more research to test this.The researchers said: "The additional placebo effect associated with branding has the potential to enhance medication effectiveness, which may subsequently be lost during a switch to a generic alternative"._________________________________ Faasse, K., Martin, L., Grey, A., Gamble, G., & Petrie, K. (2015). Impact of Brand or Generic Labeling on Medication Effectiveness and Side Effects. Health Psychology DOI: 10.1037/hea0000282 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Faasse, K., Martin, L., Grey, A., Gamble, G., & Petrie, K. (2015) Impact of Brand or Generic Labeling on Medication Effectiveness and Side Effects. Health Psychology. DOI: 10.1037/hea0000282
For anyone that has followed this blog down the years you'll probably have noticed that I'm quite a big fan of the inclusion of the science of metabolomics on to the autism research menu (see here for example).Looking at the myriad of chemical footprints left behind by an almost incomprehensible number of cellular processes, metabolomics offers some real promise to autism in terms of teasing apart phenotypes and as a valuable partner to other -omics sciences in ascertaining the relevance or not of specific biological pathways. All of this set within the context of the plural autisms and the important role of comorbidity (see here).It is therefore with metabolomics again in mind that I bring to your attention the paper by Binta Dieme and colleagues  who weren't joking when they talk about a "multiplatform analytical methodology" with autism in mind. That multiplatform approach included "1H- and 1 H-13C-NMR-based approaches and LC-HRMS-based approaches (ESI+ and ESI- on a HILIC and C18 chromatography column)." If all that sounds like gibberish, the watchwords are NMR - Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy - and LC-HRMS - Liquid chromatography–high resolution mass spectrometry - two of the gold-standard analytical techniques for detecting and identifying compounds of interest in this realm of biology. Some of the other details such as HILIC columns are all to do with how one goes about separating out the individual components of a complicated biological medium like urine as well as some further details about what the authors did to detect them. I might add that this authorship group have some previous form in this area of the autism research landscape (see here).Based on the analysis of urine samples initially from 22 children with autism and 24 not-autism controls (a training group), researchers talked about the results they obtained from the various metabolomic approaches employed including processing of results by OPLS-DA (orthogonal partial least squares discriminant analysis). I don't want to bore you with the ins-and-outs of what OPLS-DA means (yeah, as if I know!) but suffice to say its all about how one classifies the multitude of data one generates via such analytical methods. This data and analyses were then used to generate a set of compounds (pattern of compounds) potentially predictive of whether or not it could classify a urine sample from someone with autism from a urine sample from someone without autism. Samples from a separate group of participants - "8 autistic children and 8 controls" - were used to 'test' the predictions generated. The authors report that the OPLS-DA model generated "showed an enhanced performance... compared to each analytical modality model, as well as a better predictive capacity (AUC=0.91, p-value 0.006)." AUC by the way, refers to area under the curve and is a term associated with a ROC (receiver operating characteristic). In this respect, the Dieme paper seemed to do pretty well at classifying samples according to autism or not-autism status bearing in mind the relatively small participant group numbers.Just in case you're not confused enough, there are a few other details about the Dieme paper and findings that are worthy of comment. So: "Metabolites that are most significantly different between autistic and control children (p<0.05) are indoxyl sulfate, N-〈-Acetyl-L-arginine, methyl guanidine and phenylacetylglutamine." Indoxyl sulfate is a particularly interesting compound for quite a few reasons. Not only is the source material for this compound one of the those oh-so-interesting aromatic amino acids, tryptophan (y'know serotonin, melatonin and all that jazz) but the compound itself is described as a uremic toxin . Without wishing to make connections where none may exist, uremic compounds in relation to autism have been discussed before on this blog as per the Elaine Hsiao findings on bacteria and leaky gut in a mouse model of autism (see here) and some chatter about p-cresol and autism (see here and see here). If there is an overlapping factor potentially uniting these findings, it would have to be a possible role for those trillions of wee beasties that call our gut home - the gut microbiome. I might also briefly mention the arginine finding too in relation to a related tryptophan observation for some autism... BH4 (see here).As I mentioned at the start of this post I am a fan of this area of research area and its potential for furthering knowledge about autism. Larger datasets and perhaps a focus outside of just zooming in on the label of autism are perhaps elements that are needed to aid investigations in this area, alongside a more general combinatorial -omic initiative with a systems biology slant (see here).Music and I've played this before but here it is again... Weapon Of Choice by Fatboy Slim (a favourite video of my brood).---------- Dieme B. et al. Metabolomics study of urine in autism spectrum disorders using a multiplatform analytical methodology. J Proteome Res. 2015 Nov 5. Vanholder R. et al. The uremic toxicity of indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate: a systematic review. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014 Sep;25(9):1897-907.----------Dieme B, Mavel S, Blasco H, Tripi G, Bonnet-Brilhault F, Malvy J, Bocca C, Andres CR, Nadal-Desbarats L, & Emond P (2015). Metabolomics study of urine in autism spectrum disorders using a multiplatform analytical methodology. Journal of proteome research PMID: 26538324... Read more »
Dieme B, Mavel S, Blasco H, Tripi G, Bonnet-Brilhault F, Malvy J, Bocca C, Andres CR, Nadal-Desbarats L, & Emond P. (2015) Metabolomics study of urine in autism spectrum disorders using a multiplatform analytical methodology. Journal of proteome research. PMID: 26538324
by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room
The growing body of research on genetic variations and their relation to crime may leave you uncertain about how to best defend your client charged with a violent crime. Do you encourage jurors to support an insanity defense by using a genetic defense or does that route backfire and leave jurors seeing your client as […]
Teaching people about neuroscience can make them softer on crime!
The “Nerd Defense”: Redux
Automatism and the Ambien Defense
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Cheung BY, & Heine SJ. (2015) The Double-Edged Sword of Genetic Accounts of Criminality: Causal Attributions From Genetic Ascriptions Affect Legal Decision Making. Personality . PMID: 26498975
"Are you on the autistic spectrum? Take the test" read a recent media headline.Commenting on the findings reported by Emily Ruzich and colleagues , the headline is followed by some pretty bizarre text about how the study "has confirmed that men are more likely to be autistic than women."I have to take some exception to this sentence, as I quote from the Ruzich findings: "In a sample of nearly half a million individuals, we found a moderate effect of sex on AQ [Autism-Spectrum Quotient], with males scoring higher than females by an average of 2.5 points." As per other discussions about the Ruzich research (see here) scores on the AQ reflect the presentation of autistic traits not the likelihood of 'being diagnosed autistic'. That and the fact that their findings were geared towards the idea that sex/gender and occupational path might be correlated with AQ scores and I'm not entirely sure that accuracy is at the forefront of that particular headline and media article.Stepping back a little, some people might know that the AQ represents something of a potential 'screening' instrument when it comes to autism and Asperger syndrome (AS) . I have emphasised the word 'screening' because screening is something quite independent from 'assessment' when it comes to autism and the often detailed investigation(s) needed to arrive at an accurate diagnosis of something like autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). If you want a little more information about how assessment for autism might run here in the UK, take a look at the NICE guidance on the topic specifically with adults in mind (see here), paying particular attention to the sentence: "Comprehensive (diagnostic, needs and risks) assessment of suspected autism."I've been interested in the AQ for a while on this blog and the large, and growing, peer-reviewed evidence base that has utilised the instrument (see here). Appreciating the strengths of the AQ, I am still a little wary about what is being measured by the AQ especially when one considers research such as that from Lugnegård and colleagues  (discussed in this post) and the idea that: "significant overlap of AQ scores... reduces the discriminating power of the AQ in the separation of schizophrenia from AS." In other words, with the requirement for further study, does a high score on the AQ denote something like Asperger syndrome or could it be also picking up people who might be more readily considered to be on the schizophrenia spectrum (to coin a phrase) bearing in mind how said spectrums might be colliding?Hopefully without coming across as having a 'bee in my bonnet' I was similarly taken to comment on the findings reported by Heather Westwood and colleagues  (open-access) and their systematic review and meta-analysis of the available peer-reviewed literature when it came to AQ in cases of the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa (AN). As per previous research (see here), there is something of a growing recognition that some of the signs and symptoms of autism might also cross over into AN following a trend in looking at autistic traits crossing diagnostic labels (see here and see here). Westwood et al surveyed the literature and reported that those with AN may indeed present with: "significant difficulties with social skills, communication and flexibility that present in a manner characteristic of autistic traits." Importantly, and bearing in mind their acknowledgement of the Lugnegård findings, they conclude however that: "the results do not allow for conclusions to be drawn regarding whether a proportion of those with AN also have an underlying ASD [autism spectrum disorder]" as a function of the sole reliance on the AQ among other factors.I appreciate that in these days of pop psychology and the increased use of 'Dr Google' people want to find out as much as they can about themselves and their behaviour and/or health. I'm no exception to that trend in some of my googling habits either. Media headlines however about how simple screening instruments can 'tell' if someone is on the autism spectrum can seriously undervalue what it means to be on the autism spectrum and to have a clinical label of autism, with all the strengths and struggles that includes. Of course there is cross-over when it comes to the presentation of autistic traits in the general population and the blurred boundaries that distinguish between clinically relevant (as in clinically affecting a person's life) and something a little less life-changing. I do think however that we all need to be a little more cautious using the term autism or autistic spectrum, save any charges of diluting its impact...Music: Muppets and giant crumpets? "Mad for it!"---------- Ruzich E. et al. Sex and STEM Occupation Predict Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Scores in Half a Million People. PLoS One. 2015 Oct 21;10(10):e0141229. Baron-Cohen S. et al. The autism-spectrum quotient (AQ): evidence from Asperger syndrome/high-functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. J Autism Dev Disord. 2001 Feb;31(1):5-17. Lugnegård T. et al. Asperger syndrome and schizophrenia: Overlap of self-reported autistic traits using the Autism-spectrum Quotient (AQ). Nord J Psychiatry. 2015 May;69(4):268-74. Westwood H. et al. Using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient to Measure Autistic Traits in Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2015; Nov 5.----------Westwood, H., Eisler, I., Mandy, W., Leppanen, J., Treasure, J., & Tchanturia, K. (2015). Using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient to Measure Autistic Traits in Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2641-0... Read more »
Westwood, H., Eisler, I., Mandy, W., Leppanen, J., Treasure, J., & Tchanturia, K. (2015) Using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient to Measure Autistic Traits in Anorexia Nervosa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-015-2641-0
Our achievements as a species owe a debt to our willingness to cooperate. But we all vary in how we solve the social dilemma – whether in any given situation we choose to favour self-interest or cooperation. This issue has long fascinated researchers, who delight in testing people’s choices in hypothetical setups involving prisoners’ loyalty to each other or the sharing of community resources. But these setups have struggled to give us a clear picture of how personality tips people one way or another: for example, are extraverts more cooperative by instinct than introverts?A new paper published in Philosophical Transactions B suggests that we need to use the right frame: the context surrounding a dilemma affects how it’s tackled by different personality types. Extraverts act more exploitatively in social dilemmas than introverts, the research shows, but only when they think they can get away with it.The 177 undergraduate participants tackled a setup called the Public Goods Game, where they had to decide whether to hang onto their tokens or put them into a public pot, where they would swell in value before being shared between the game’s four players, collaborating over a computer network. If everyone invests, each player is better off, but such collaboration is not guaranteed so a token in the hand is still arguably worth more to a player than his or her share of the future public pot. Extra realism came from the fact that each player’s end-of-game tally of tokens was converted into real money once the study was over.Kari Britt Schroeder and her colleagues found that over ten rounds of this game, extraverts were more likely to hold back tokens for themselves. But then the researchers shifted the rules so that now following each of the next ten rounds participants got to see how everyone else had invested during that round, and they also had the chance to assign other players negative tokens, which cost the giver one token but taxed the recipient three. In this punishment stage, extraverts were more generous than introverts, tending to put more of their tokens into the public pot.The researchers expected to find these effects of personality on cooperation. Extraversion is known to make gaining rewards more appealing, creating a temptation to free-ride even though it may not be morally "right". But when the possibility of punishments kicks in, free-riding loses its appeal, and extraverts see more reward in banding together. Or perhaps the disincentive is the loss of social standing implied by being fined by others, as extraverts are particularly keen on positive attention. Regardless of the cause, the experiment shows that the larger context totally reconfigures the effect personality has on cooperation.Clearly the same goes for real life. Most social dilemmas don’t take place in a vacuum; they require a context, often an institution armed with more or less power to discipline anti-social behaviour. You can’t be punished for selfish behaviour in the park, but you can be at work – unless, maybe, your father is the boss. So researching social dilemmas with more consideration of this institutional weight will hopefully be the key to a better understanding of who in a given context is likely to be more prone to selfish temptation ... and perhaps help us figure out a way forward through the social dilemmas that the 21st century poses to us._________________________________ Schroeder, K., Nettle, D., & McElreath, R. (2015). Interactions between personality and institutions in cooperative behaviour in humans Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370 (1683) DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0011 --further reading--How can we increase altruism towards future generations?In search of the super-humane (those who identify with all of humanity)How the threat of violence can make us nice to each otherPost written by Alex Fradera (@alexfradera) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Schroeder, K., Nettle, D., & McElreath, R. (2015) Interactions between personality and institutions in cooperative behaviour in humans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1683), 20150011. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0011
Calm down, it's not that funny! When you're trying to understand a complex phenomenon, a sensible approach is to pare things back as far as possible. For a new study, published recently in the Journal of Memory and Language, psychologists have applied that very principle to test a popular theory of humour.The theory states that, fundamentally, we are most often amused when we are surprised by, and then resolve, an apparent incongruity: a word that didn't mean what we originally thought, say, or a person not being who we first expected and so on (also known as expectancy violation). It can be difficult to test this theory because in real life jokes and funny situations so many other factors come into play (such as cultural knowledge or people's reputations), layered atop this fundamental mechanism. To test the theory in its purest terms, Chris Westbury and his colleagues have explored the possibility that some nonsense words are inherently funnier than others at least in part because they are simply just less expected.The researchers first established that some nonsense words are consistently rated as funnier than others. To do this, they used a computer programme to generate thousands of random nonsense words and then asked nearly a thousand students to rate them for funniness. To make sure the nonsense words were viable and pronounceable, the programme was computed to make sure that every three letters in each nonsense word actually appeared in a real English word. Any words that sounded the same as actual real words (but spelt differently) were removed.The first key finding was that there was a significant amount of consistency in the students' ratings – that is, some nonsense words were consistently rated as funny (such as blablesoc), while others were consistently rated as unfunny (such as exthe). This was true even after all the rude-sounding nonsense words were removed, an important step since the researchers didn't want implied meanings to contaminate the results. Among the rude-sounding words were whong, dongl, focky, and clunt, which consistently attracted the highest humour ratings before being removed.Next, to specifically test the theory that humour is often based on resolved incongruities, the researchers created a new list of nonsense words and calculated the entropy of each – this essentially means quantifying how unlikely each word was; that is, how far removed it is from being a real word. The researchers predicted that the less entropy in a nonsense word (i.e. the less "wordy" it was), the funnier it would be, because it would more strongly challenge people's expectation for what counts as a real word. Among the lowest entropy words used in the study included subvick, quingel, and probble, while among the highest entropy words were tatinse, retsits and tessina (rude-sounding words were again removed).Two experiments supported the researchers' predictions: when comparing the humorousness of pairs of nonsense words, 56 participants consistently gave higher funniness ratings to the lower entropy word, and also when simply rating the nonsense words for their humour value, lower entropy words tended to receive higher ratings. The researchers said these results are entirely in line with the expectation violation theory: "Nonwords [are sometimes] funny because they violate our expectations of what a word is," they said. As to why we find unexpected events, including nonsense words, funny, perhaps even chuckling a little out loud, Westbury and his team said their findings can be interpreted in line with a recent evolutionary account of humour:"... it has proven adaptive across evolutionary time for us to be structured in a way that makes us involuntarily let conspecifics [friends and family] know about anomalies that we have recognised are not at all dangerous, since anomalies are generally experienced as frightening."The researchers added that as well as supporting the resolved incongruity theory of humour, their results also have some potential applied uses. For example, testing patients reactions to nonsense words could provided a very sensitive and subtle measure of their sense of humour, which can be impaired by brain damage or illness. "The effect may also have practical effects in product naming," they said. "If it can be shown that the computable funniness of a name is a relevant factor in consumer behaviour. We predict that consumers will strongly prefer (funny nonsense words) 'whook' or 'mamessa' to (unfunny nonsense words) 'turth' or 'suppect' for a new product name."_________________________________ Westbury, C., Shaoul, C., Moroschan, G., & Ramscar, M. (2016). Telling the world’s least funny jokes: On the quantification of humor as entropy Journal of Memory and Language, 86, 141-156 DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2015.09.001--further reading--How many psychologists does it take to explain a joke? Psychologist magazine feature.Why it's apt - psycho-acoustically speaking - that Darth Vader wasn't called Barth VaberPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Westbury, C., Shaoul, C., Moroschan, G., & Ramscar, M. (2016) Telling the world’s least funny jokes: On the quantification of humor as entropy. Journal of Memory and Language, 141-156. DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2015.09.001
You might be wondering what Pinocchio and Captain Hook have in common. Well, they are both from children’s stories, they both have prosthetics, they have issues with being honest, and they both experience interesting maritime adventures. But there is something else too: they are both annoyed by a continuous ticking sound that follows them everywhere. For Pinocchio it is Jiminy Cricket who bothers him while for Hook the crocodile is ticking merrily away. I can hear you saying: “So? What’s the point? These are fairy tales. We are grownups, we live in the real world!” Right, so let’s look at the real world equivalent to these bothersome sounds.... Read more »
Okamoto, H., Stracke, H., Stoll, W., & Pantev, C. (2009) Listening to tailor-made notched music reduces tinnitus loudness and tinnitus-related auditory cortex activity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(3), 1207-1210. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0911268107
Pantev C, Rudack C, Stein A, Wunderlich R, Engell A, Lau P, Wollbrink A, & Shaykevich A. (2014) Study protocol: Münster tinnitus randomized controlled clinical trial-2013 based on tailor-made notched music training (TMNMT). BMC neurology, 40. PMID: 24581050
Pantev, C., Wollbrink, A., Roberts, L., Engelien, A., & Lütkenhöner, B. (1999) Short-term plasticity of the human auditory cortex. Brain Research, 842(1), 192-199. DOI: 10.1016/S0006-8993(99)01835-1
Sanchez, T., & Rocha, C. (2011) Diagnosis and management of somatosensory tinnitus: review article. Clinics, 66(6), 1089-1094. DOI: 10.1590/S1807-59322011000600028
"Being upset is a warmer, close-up feeling, not a chilly distant feeling like laughing at people" from Margaret Atwood's The Heart Goes LastGenerally speaking, being in a bad mood isn't just no fun, it also isn't good for you – people who feel negative emotions like anger, anxiety and sadness a lot of the time tend to have poorer social lives and suffer worse physical health in the long run, suggesting that dark moods take a toll. But a new study published in Emotion shows how this isn't a uniform truth. Bad moods don't have an adverse effect on everyone to the same degree. The crucial difference seems to be how much people see that there can be value, meaning and even satisfaction in bad moods – those who appreciate this tend to suffer fewer ill effects from the supposedly darker sides of their psyche.Gloria Luong and her colleagues interviewed 365 German participants (aged 14 to 88) about their attitudes to negative and positive emotions, and about their mental and physical health (physical health was measured subjectively by self-report and also objectively by a grip strength test). The researchers also monitored the participants' mood states over a three-week period using smart phones. Six times a day during nine days in a 3-week period, the participants were prompted by the phones to indicate how good or bad they were feeling at that time (the participants gave ratings of how much they were feeling various positive and negative mood states, such as their joy and enthusiasm and their anger and disappointment, among others, and the researchers took averages of these to calculate their overall amount of positive or negative mood).Just as the researchers predicted, the links between people's frequency of bad moods and negative outcomes (in terms of mental and physical health) varied depending on the attitudes they held toward negative emotion. Those participants who had negative attitudes toward bad moods tended to pay a price: the more negative moods they experienced, the poorer their mental and physical health, both in the moment and longer term (for example, based on their number of health complaints). However, among the participants who had a more positive attitude toward bad moods, these links were mostly reduced, or in some cases even absent completely.There are different ways to interpret these results: for example, perhaps not suffering from the ill effects of bad moods helps people not to have such a negative view of bad moods. But Luong and her team favour a different account. They think recognising the value and meaning of negative moods and emotions probably helps prevent those dark mood states from taking such an adverse toll, possibly by "dampening the magnitude and/or duration of the concomitant physiological arousal and psychological distress associated with negative affect [affect is another word for emotion]." Future research will need to test this and other explanations.It's worth noting, there were some exceptions to the protective effect of valuing negative moods. For example, even among participants who held negative moods in a positive light, the more negative moods they felt, the lower their life satisfaction tended to be. The researchers speculate this may be because when making such a sweeping judgment about their lives, people use an internal gauge of their mood levels as one way to reach an answer, even if, on reflection, they recognise the value and meaning of those negative moods.Another caveat is that this research was conducted exclusively in Germany. Past research has already revealed cultural differences that are relevant to this topic – for example, German people are less motivated to avoid negative emotions than Americans, and some cultures are actually fearful of too much happiness – so we need more research to see if the current findings apply in other cultural contexts.These notes of caution aside, the research raises the empowering possibility that negative feelings needn't always take such a toll, not if we can learn to see the value and meaning they may have (for example, recognising that anger can sometimes be empowering, that sadness can be poignant and bring us closer to one another, and so on). If this effect can be replicated in future research, it may pave the way for mental health interventions based on this principle of seeing the positive side of bad moods._________________________________ Luong, G., Wrzus, C., Wagner, G., & Riediger, M. (2015). When Bad Moods May Not Be So Bad: Valuing Negative Affect Is Associated With Weakened Affect–Health Links. Emotion DOI: 10.1037/emo0000132 --further reading--Other people may experience more misery than you realiseWhat's the difference between a happy life and a meaningful one?How happiness campaigns could end up making us sadderWhy do people like listening to sad music when they're feeling down?Why do we sometimes like getting sad together?The unexpected benefits of anxietyPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fo... Read more »
Luong, G., Wrzus, C., Wagner, G., & Riediger, M. (2015) When Bad Moods May Not Be So Bad: Valuing Negative Affect Is Associated With Weakened Affect–Health Links. Emotion. DOI: 10.1037/emo0000132
"Decision makers, clinicians, and researchers developing interventions for children with ASDs [autism spectrum disorders] should consider how secondary conditions may impact obesity and related activities."That was the conclusion reached in the study by Kathryn Corvey and colleagues  looking to: "examine obesity, overweight, physical activity, and sedentary behavior among children and youth with and without ASD using nationally representative data and controlling for secondary conditions, including intellectual and learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delay, and other mental, physical, and medical conditions, as well as medication use."Detailing results based on information gathered from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health whereby households of some 65,000 children between the ages of 6 and 17 years were quizzed about various physical and emotional health related matters, researchers specifically focused on some 1300 children with a reported diagnosis of ASD. Various confounding variables including those 'secondary conditions' were taken into account in their quite detailed analyses.Results: following a trend noted in other peer-reviewed research (see here), the authors reported that a diagnosis of ASD was associated with elevated odds of being obese. But... when it came to adjusting their analyses for the presence of some of those secondary conditions "ASD diagnosis was no longer associated with obesity."This is interesting stuff. In line with some of the shifts in thinking about autism these days - including plurality, comorbidity clusters and the idea of differing developmental trajectories - the Corvey results imply that more care is needed before making sweeping generalisations about how 'all' autism is linked to obesity or related issues. This comes at a time when other research has talked about the timing of weight issues when it comes to autism . Allied to previous research more generally looking at obesity in learning disability  the message is becoming a little clearer that a variety of factors 'around' autism might be the important risk issues for something like obesity or being overweight including various social factors linked to physical activity levels too (see here).Quite recently I've also become rather interested in the peer-review research related to ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) and obesity (see here) and some of the clues emerging there that are potentially relevant to some autism. Allied to what is known about the 'anthropometric' effects of certain types of medication used by some on the autism spectrum (see here), and it appears that risk of obesity and being overweight in relation to autism is at last getting the 'no sweeping generalisations needed' handling that it truly deserves.Music: Pick A Part That's New - Stereophonics.---------- Corvey K. et al. Obesity, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors in Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Matern Child Health J. 2015 Oct 29. Hill AP. et al. Obesity and Autism. Pediatrics. 2015. Nov 2. de Winter CF. et al. Overweight and obesity in older people with intellectual disability. Res Dev Disabil. 2012 Mar-Apr;33(2):398-405.----------Corvey K, Menear KS, Preskitt J, Goldfarb S, & Menachemi N (2015). Obesity, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors in Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Maternal and child health journal PMID: 26515467... Read more »
Corvey K, Menear KS, Preskitt J, Goldfarb S, & Menachemi N. (2015) Obesity, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors in Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Maternal and child health journal. PMID: 26515467
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have reported measurements of dopamine release with unprecedented temporal precision in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. The measurements, collected during brain surgery as the conscious patients played an investment game, demonstrate how rapid dopamine release encodes information crucial for human choice.... Read more »
Kenneth T. Kishida, Ignacio Saez, Terry Lohrenz, Mark R. Witcher, Adrian W. Laxton, Stephen B. Tatter, Jason P. White, Thomas L. Ellis, Paul E. M. Phillips, & P. Read Montague. (2015) Subsecond dopamine fluctuations in human striatum encode superposed error signals about actual and counterfactual reward. Proceedings of the natural sciences academy of the United States of America. info:/10.1073/pnas.1513619112
Three years ago we wrote about the goodness of fit for the guilt-prone with the presiding juror position. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, there were a number of reasons supporting them in that role. And today, new research gives us another reason the guilt-prone may be more skilled at leadership—they are more able to identify […]
The GASP scale: A new measure of guilt and shame proneness
Should you want guilt-prone leaders for that jury?
Do we want convicted felons to express guilt and shame, or no?
... Read more »
Treeby MS, Prado C, Rice SM, & Crowe SF. (2015) Shame, guilt, and facial emotion processing: initial evidence for a positive relationship between guilt-proneness and facial emotion recognition ability. Cognition , 1-8. PMID: 26264817
In the liberal worldview, conservatives are notoriously narrow-minded – and for years we’ve had the science to prove it. Meta-analyses published in 2003 and 2010 of dozens of studies using different measures revealed a consensus on "the rigidity of the right" – that is, people who hold more right-wing views tend to be more close-minded. Case closed? Or should we be open to other perspectives, such as the one offered in a new article published recently in Political Psychology. Produced by a research team lead by Lucian Conway of the University of Montana, it shows how classic measures of close-mindedness may be bedevilled by topic bias. When the subject matter is switched out, it’s the left who’re locked-in.The study reports on two measures of close-mindedness, the first being dogmatism: taking simplistic, inflexible viewpoints. Researchers usually measure dogmatism using a well-established scale developed by social psychologist Milton Rokeach in 1960, but Conway’s team scrutinised this scale and noted that the wording of its items is coloured by opinion and ideologically charged topics. They suspected that this makes the scale prone to being distorted by people’s attitudes on particular matters, rather providing a fair measure of their dogmatism on a more abstract level.To get round this, the researchers asked 475 undergraduates to complete either the original Rokeach scale, or one of two amended versions with items that repeatedly and explicitly referenced religion or the environment. To take one example, an item from the Rokeach scale asks people to say whether they agree that “a group which tolerates too much difference of opinion among its own members cannot exist for long” (agreeing would be taken as a sign of dogmatism) whereas in the amended versions the reference to a group became specifically a “religious group” or “environmental group” (and this kind of religious or environmental context was applied consistently through the two alternative versions of the dogmatism scale).Higher scorers on dogmatism on the original Rokeach tended to have more conservative worldviews, replicating the well-known effect that right-wingers tend to be more fixed in their views. The same was true with the religious version, with very similar correlations. But crucially, for the environmental version, the correlation actually went in the reverse direction: liberals were more dogmatic than conservatives. In other words, it’s not necessarily the case that conservatives are uniformly more stubborn minded than liberals, rather it depends on the topic at hand.The researchers also investigated people’s tendency to put forward complex arguments, specifically their willingness to give legitimacy to opposing viewpoints. While we may think liberals are the ones more likely to weigh up many points of view, perhaps to a woolly-thinking fault, this data showed the same pattern: whether we favour nuance depends on the topic we’re looking at. Two large studies (involving over 2000 students) asked people to write a short essay on one of a variety of topics, with the essays then rated by trained coders. The researchers found that while conservative students were more one-sided than their more liberal peers on some issues – censorship or the question of whether "people should find out if they are sexually suited before marriage" – they were actually more nuanced than them on others, such as smoking, or whether the death penalty should be abolished.The researchers also turned their eye to a face-off that would seem to epitomise "qualification vs. Manichean" thinking styles: the US Presidential Candidates Debates between John Kerry and George W Bush that took place in 2004. Yet analysis of paragraphs sampled from the three debates suggested the speakers were similarly complex in their arguments. By digging into the topics discussed, the same pattern arises again: on certain topics – Iraq, abortion, education – Kerry was more nuanced. But on others, such as stem cells or affirmative action, Bush was.Liberals reading this may well feel that Kerry, or the liberal students above, were correct to be absolute on the topics they were, because there is no room for debate on these issues. But that’s the point: conservatives feel the same about their domains. The question is whether we can therefore make claims about generalised narrow-mindedness. Now, we ought to recognise that there are measures unaddressed by this study that contribute to the evidence for rigidity of the right, such as their reportedly higher need for closure and dislike of highly complex or ambiguous art. But regardless of whether such arguments are also prone to the current content critique, or immune to it, we should pause before making unilateral, simplistic claims about the unilateral simplicity of conservatives._________________________________ Conway, L., Gornick, L., Houck, S., Anderson, C., Stockert, J., Sessoms, D., & McCue, K. (2015). Are Conservatives Really More Simple-Minded than Liberals? The Domain Specificity of Complex Thinking Political Psychology DOI: 10.1111/pops.12304 --further reading--Think less and become more conservativeWhy conservatives are happier than liberalsComparing Obama's and Romney's speech styles and the way the... Read more »
Conway, L., Gornick, L., Houck, S., Anderson, C., Stockert, J., Sessoms, D., & McCue, K. (2015) Are Conservatives Really More Simple-Minded than Liberals? The Domain Specificity of Complex Thinking. Political Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/pops.12304
Nativity Kylo?The question posed in the title of this post reflects some interesting data published by Mark Strom & Jonathan Silverberg  who reported that: "Pediatric eczema may be associated with increased risk of speech disorder" on the basis of their analysis of data for some 350,000 children "from 19 US [United States] population-based cohorts."Taking into account various variables such as "sociodemographics and comorbid allergic disease" authors determined that among the 19 cohorts, the majority (12) showed some kind of connection between eczema and elevated odds of speech disorder. Further, when pooled together, the prevalence of speech disorder among those children with eczema was 4.7% compared with a figure of 2.2% for those children without eczema.One other detail to impart from the Strom/Silverberg study was how eczema plus other labels was also linked to risk of speech disorder as per the sentence: "children with both eczema and attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity or sleep disturbance had vastly increased risk of speech disorders than either by itself."Allowing for the fact that correlation is not necessarily the same as causation and that as the authors admit: "Further, prospective studies are needed to characterize the exact nature of this association" these are interesting data strengthened by the large number of participants included for study. A quick trawl of the research literature in this area suggests that childhood speech disorders may very well be associated with additional health problems  although not necessarily just rooted in something like eczema.The possibility that a physical ailment like eczema might have implications for a developmental condition like childhood speech disorder is a tantalising one. I've covered the preliminary idea of a 'skin-brain axis' before on this blog (see here) on the basis of data like that reported by Yaghmaie and colleagues  talking about atopic dermatitis and various developmental/psychiatric labels. More generally, allergic disease in infancy has been linked to various neurodevelopmental outcomes (see here) with again, the requirement for quite a bit more investigation of this possible association. Indeed, even the 'big data' of Taiwan has something to say on this topic (see here).As to any mechanism, well, outside of the suggestion of shared genetic risk between something like eczema and speech (and language) issues, the idea that the immune function (a cardinal mechanism of eczema) might play a much greater role in our health and wellbeing than merely the somatic is becoming more mainstream in these days of immune system and psychiatry intersecting (see here). The more general idea that immune features such as inflammation might be able to 'interact' with psychology is a whole new frontier of medicine (see here) and one that should be incorporated into any future research strategy. The other potentially important question outside of any aetiological association is whether or not early treatment of eczema including attending to some of the possible triggers  might also have important implications for the risk of developing speech disorders?Music: Blur - Trimm Trabb.---------- Strom MA. & Silverberg JI. Eczema Is Associated with Childhood Speech Disorder: A Retrospective Analysis from the National Survey of Children's Health and the National Health Interview Survey. J Pediatr. 2015 Oct 28. pii: S0022-3476(15)01140-3. Keating D. et al. Childhood speech disorders: reported prevalence, comorbidity and socioeconomic profile. J Paediatr Child Health. 2001 Oct;37(5):431-6. Yaghmaie P. et al. Mental health comorbidity in patients with atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Feb;131(2):428-33.----------Strom MA, & Silverberg JI (2015). Eczema Is Associated with Childhood Speech Disorder: A Retrospective Analysis from the National Survey of Children's Health and the National Health Interview Survey. The Journal of pediatrics PMID: 26520915... Read more »
Strom MA, & Silverberg JI. (2015) Eczema Is Associated with Childhood Speech Disorder: A Retrospective Analysis from the National Survey of Children's Health and the National Health Interview Survey. The Journal of pediatrics. PMID: 26520915
What is happiness, and how do we find it? There are 93,290 books on happiness at Amazon.com. Happiness is Life's Most Important Skill, an Advantage and a Project and a Hypothesis that we can Stumble On and Hard-Wire in 21 Days.The Pursuit of Happiness is an Unalienable Right granted to all human beings, but it also generates billions of dollars for the self-help industry.And now the search for happiness is over! Scientists have determined that happiness is located in a small region of your right medial parietal lobe. Positive psychology gurus will have to adapt to the changing landscape or lose their market edge. “My seven practical, actionable principles are guaranteed to increase the size of your precuneus or your money back.”The structural neural substrate of subjective happiness is the precuneus.A new paper has reported that happiness is related to the volume of gray matter in a 222.8 mm3 cluster of the right precuneus (Sato et al., 2015). What does this mean? Taking the finding at face value, there was a correlation (not a causal relationship) between precuneus gray matter volume and scores on the Japanese version of the Subjective Happiness Scale.1Fig. 1 (modified from Sato et al., 2015). Left: Statistical parametric map (p < 0.001, peak-level uncorrected for display purposes). The blue cross indicates the location of the peak voxel. Right: Scatter plot of the adjusted gray matter volume as a function of the subjective happiness score at the peak voxel. [NOTE: Haven't we agreed to not show regression lines through scatter plots based on the single voxel where the effect is the largest??]“The search for happiness: Using MRI to find where happiness happens,” said one deceptive headline. Should we accept the claim that one small region of the brain is entirely responsible for generating and maintaining this complex and desirable state of being? NO. Of course not. And the experimental subjects were not actively involved in any sort of task at all. The study used a static measure of gray matter volume in four brain Regions of Interest (ROIs): left anterior cingulate gyrus, left posterior cingulate gyrus, right precuneus, and left amygdala. These ROIs were based on an fMRI activation study in 26 German men (mean age 33 yrs) who underwent a mood induction procedure (Habel et al., 2005). The German participants viewed pictures of faces with happy expressions and were told to “Look at each face and use it to help you to feel happy.” The brain activity elicited by happy faces was compared to activity elicited by a non-emotional control condition. Eight regions were reported in their Table 1.Table 1 (modified from Habel et al., 2005).Only four of those regions were selected as ROIs by Sato et al. (2015). One of these was a tiny 12 voxel region in the paracentral lobule, which was called precuneus by Sato et al. (2015).Image: John A Beal, PhD. Dept. of Cellular Biology & Anatomy, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport.Before you say I'm being overly pedantic, we can agree that the selected coordinates are at the border of the precuneus and the paracentral lobule. The more interesting fact is that the sadness induction of Habel et al. (2005) implicated a very large region of the posterior precuneus and surrounding regions (1562 voxels). An area over 100 times larger than the Happy Precuneus.Oops. But the precuneus contains multitudes, so maybe it's not so tragic. The precuneus is potentially involved in very lofty functions like consciousness and self-awareness and the recollection of autobiographical memories. It's also a functional core of the default-mode network (Utevsky et al., 2014), which is active during daydreaming and mind wandering and unconstrained thinking. But it seems a bit problematic to use hand picked ROIs from a study of transient and mild “happy” states (in a population of German males) to predict a stable trait of subjective happiness in a culturally distinct group of younger Japanese college students (26 women, 25 men).Cross-Cultural Notions of HappinessIsn't “happiness” a social construct (largely defined by Western thought) that varies across cultures?... Read more »
Habel, U., Klein, M., Kellermann, T., Shah, N., & Schneider, F. (2005) Same or different? Neural correlates of happy and sad mood in healthy males. NeuroImage, 26(1), 206-214. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2005.01.014
Sato, W., Kochiyama, T., Uono, S., Kubota, Y., Sawada, R., Yoshimura, S., & Toichi, M. (2015) The structural neural substrate of subjective happiness. Scientific Reports, 16891. DOI: 10.1038/srep16891
This past Friday was a busy day for a lot of the folks in Integrated Mathematical Oncology here at the Moffitt Cancer Center. Everybody was rushing around to put the final touches on a multi-million dollar research center grant application to submit to the National Cancer Institute. Although the time was not busy for me, […]... Read more »
Gambetta, D., & Hertog, S. (2009) Why are there so many Engineers among Islamic Radicals?. European Journal of Sociology, 50(02), 201. DOI: 10.1017/S0003975609990129
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