Ever wanted to crack the mysteries of the brain? Dreamed of discovering the cause of mental illness?Well, now, you can - or, at any rate, you can try - and you can do it from the comfort of your own home, thanks to the new Stanley Neuropathology Consortium Integrative Database.Just register (it's free and instant) and you get access to a pool of data derived from the Stanley Neuropathology Consortium brain collection. The collection comprises 60 frozen brains - 15 each from people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression, and 15 "normals".In a Neuropsychopharmacology paper announcing the project, administrators Sanghyeon Kim and Maree Webster point out thatData sharing has become more important than ever in the biomedical sciences with the advance of high-throughput technology and web-based databases are one of the most efficient available resources to share datasets.The Institute's 60 brains have long been the leading source of human brain tissue for researchers in biological psychiatry. Whenever you read about a new discovery relating to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, chances are the Stanley brains were involved. The Institute provide slices of the brains free of charge to scientists who request them, and they've sent out over 200,000 to date.Until now, if you wanted to find out what these scientists discovered about the brains, you'd have to look up the results in the many hundreds of scientific papers where the various results were published. If you knew where to look, and if you had a lot of time on your hands. The database collates all of the findings. That's a good idea. To ensure that they get all of the results, the Institute have another good idea:Coded specimens are sent to researchers with the code varying from researcher to researcher to ensure that all studies are blinded. The code is released to the researcher only when the data have been collected and submitted to the Institute.The data we're provided get about these brains is quite exciting, if you like molecules, comprising 1749 markers from 12 different parts of the brain. Markers include levels of proteins, RNA, and the number and shape of various types of cells.It's easy to use. While waiting for my coffee to brew, I compared the amount of the protein GFAP76 in the frontal cortex between the four groups. There was no significant difference. I guess GFAP76 doesn't cause mental illness - so darn. So much for my Nobel Prize bid theory. But then I found that levels of GFAP76 were very strongly correlated with levels of another protein, "phosphirylated" (I think they mean "phosphorylated") PRKCA.In the paper, Kim and Webster used the Database to find many differences between normal brains and diseased brains, including increased levels of dopamine in schizophrenia, and increased levels of glutamate in depression and bipolar. And decreased GAD67 proteins in the frontal cortex in bipolar and schizophrenia. And decreased reelin mRNA in the frontal cortex and cerebellum in bipolar and schizophrenia. And...This leaves open the vital questions of what these differences mean, as I have complained before. And the problem with giving everyone in the world the results of 1749 different tests, and letting us cross-correlate them with each other and look for differences between 4 patient groups, is that you're making possible an awful lot of comparisons. With only 15 brains per group, none of the results can be considered anything more than provisional, anyway - what we really need are lots more brains.But this database is still a welcome move. This kind of data pooling is the only sensible approach to doing modern science, and it's something people are advocating in other fields of neuroscience as well. It just makes sense to share results rather than leaving everyone to do there own thing in near-isolation from each other, now that we have the technology to do so. In fact, I'd say it's a... no-brainer.Kim, S., & Webster, M. (2009). The Stanley Neuropathology Consortium Integrative Database: a Novel, Web-Based Tool for Exploring Neuropathological Markers in Psychiatric Disorders and the Biological Processes Associated with Abnormalities of Those Markers Neuropsychopharmacology, 35 (2), 473-482 DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.151... Read more »
Kim, S., & Webster, M. (2009) The Stanley Neuropathology Consortium Integrative Database: a Novel, Web-Based Tool for Exploring Neuropathological Markers in Psychiatric Disorders and the Biological Processes Associated with Abnormalities of Those Markers. Neuropsychopharmacology, 35(2), 473-482. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2009.151
Help me, somebody help meI wonder where I amEverything's Gone Green----New OrderEdward Wild begins his comprehensive review on déjà vu in neurology with a definition from the unorthodox1 Dr. Vernon Neppe:V M Neppe proposed a definition of déjà vu in 1983 as “any subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of a present experience with an undefined past”. The definition is precisely worded and provides useful insights into the phenomenon.The word “any” is intended to convey aetiological neutrality, implying that the experience need not originate from any particular pathological entity, or indeed any cause at all.The “subjectively inappropriate” nature of déjà vu is critical to its understanding, as it implies insight into the unusual nature of the experience. The subject simultaneously seems to recognise a situation, yet knows that recognition to be impossible. Taking this further, the definition implies (though does not state) that the subject will try to explain the sense of familiarity and struggle to pinpoint its source but, frustratingly, cannot do so.The most commonly occurring instances of déjà vu in neurology are in people with temporal lobe epilepsy (Vignal et al., 2006). The famous neurologist John Hughlings-Jackson was the first to describe the "dreamy state" in 1888 (actual PDF!):The variety of epilepsy alluded to is one in which (1) the so-called "intellectual aura" (I call it "dreamy state") is a striking symptom. This is a very elaborate or "voluminous" mental state. One kind of it is "Reminiscence"; a feeling many people have had when apparently in good health... Along with this voluminous mental state, there is frequently a "crude sensation" ("warning") of (a) smell or (b) taste; (or, when there is no taste, there may be movements, chewing, tasting, spitting, implying (?) an epileptic discharge beginning in some part of the gustatory centres), or (c), the "epigastric" or some other "systemic" sensation. ...the "dreamy state" sometimes occurs without any of the crude sensations mentioned...Given the conflicting results of brain stimulation studies in epileptic patients (Mullan & Penfield, 1959;2 Halgren et al., 1978; Gloor et al., 1982; Bancaud et al., 1994), there has been a debate over which structures are most critical for eliciting the "dreamy state", and whether the spread of electrical discharge to temporal neocortex is necessary. Vignal et al. (2006) conclude thusly:In the dreamy state, the recalled memory can be recent or remote. The mechanism involved does not appear to be different for these two types, in that the discharge involves only the MTL structures [not temporal neocortex]. This permanent role for the hippocampus and amygdala tends to invalidate the model of memory consolidation proposed by Squire and Alvarez (1995)...Déjà vécu and visual memories involving recent and remote memories can be explained by the role of the amygdala, the hippocampus and rhinal cortex, whether right or left-sided, in the mechanisms of episodic autobiographical memory. The connections between these structures organize the content and the elaboration of the dreamy state for both remote childhood and recent memories.These authors also point out that there is a continuum between déjà vécu (the more encompassing term meaning having lived through something before) and visual memory, both of which can occur during spontaneous seizures.An interesting case study of déjà vu in a patient without temporal lobe epilepsy was reported by Kovacs et al. (2009). The patient, a 22 year old woman, was undergoing deep brain stimulation (DBS) to treat dystonia, a painful movement disorder involving involuntary muscle contractions and contorted posture. Due to a perinatal injury, she developed hemidystonia in her right arm. A stimulating electrode was implanted in the left internal globus pallidus (GPi), one of the output nuclei of the basal ganglia. Numerous papers have demonstrated that DBS in the GPi is effective in relieving the symptoms of dystonia.Fig. 1 (Kovacs et al., 2009). Localization of the stimulating electrode: (A) coronal MP-RAGE, (B) coronal FLAIR, (C) sagittal MP-RAGE. Visual inspection and application of the electronic version of the Schaltenbrand stereotactic atlas verified that the contact responsible for DV [déjà vu] was situated between the GPi and the underlying white matter. The electrode did not hit the mesial temporal structures.When stimulation at the deepest contact was turned on, the patient reported déjà vu phenomena:Preoperatively the patient had never experienced DV. Immediately after turning on the DV-inducing stimulation, she experienced an unusual and obscure feeling. In addition to discomfort and a slight disturbance, the subject had an intact sense of reality; she was able to observe what was going on around her and to maintain verbal and behavioral responsiveness. We defined this period as the standby state for DV (SSDV). The SSDV persisted until stimulation of contact 0 was turned off or the amplitude of stimulation was lowered below 2.7 V.During SSDV, she experienced impulse DV episodes lasting 4–5 seconds. On these occasions she felt that the situation seemed familiar. No visual or auditory illusions or hallucinations accompanied the DV. In addition, the patient felt neither the ability to predict the future nor unreality about current circumstances.A SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) scan was performed during one of the DV stimulation sessions. Like its more expensive cousin PET (positron emission tomography), SPECT measures cerebral blood flow, albeit with lower spatial resolution than PET. Structures in the right medial temporal lobe (contralateral to the stimulating electrode) showed greater blood flow during DV (as did other regions):Compared with the baseline, SPECT during DV revealed right-sided hyperperfusion of the hippocampus, parahippocampal gyrus, fusiform gyrus, cerebellum, and temporal sup... Read more »
Some knowledge about yourself is private knowledge that only you possess. Clearly, other people will not be able to use your private knowledge, when they formulate a judgment about something you did. So why do researchers find that people use their private knowledge as input, when anticipating how others view them?...... Read more »
Chambers JR, Epley N, Savitsky K, & Windschitl PD. (2008) Knowing too much: using private knowledge to predict how one is viewed by others. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 19(6), 542-8. PMID: 18578843
Earworms are those songs that get lodged in your cranium, playing over and over and over. There's been surprisingly little published research on the phenomenon, although that hasn't stopped popular science writers like Oliver Sacks from speculating about it. There's an 'expert' in the form of Professor James Kellaris at the University of Cincinnati, but his investigations all appear to be unpublished. That hasn't stopped Kellaris' university from hosting a website devoted to earworms. And there's also an online earworm exhibition at San Francisco's Exploratorium.Now two British psychologists, Philip Beaman and Tim Williams, have decided its time to fill the empirical void and serve up some actual data on earworms. They surveyed just over one hundred railway travellers, students and visitors to a public garden about their earworm experiences, and they also asked 12 other participants to keep diary records for four weeks about their earworms.Beaman and Williams found, contrary to the speculation, that earworms don't seem to be more common in people with musical expertise, although a study that actually targets musicians is needed to verify this. Instead, they found that it is people who judge music to be of more importance who are more likely to get a song stuck in their head.Previous commentators have also tended to highlight the unpleasantness of earworms and compared them to the intrusive thoughts associated with obsessive compulsive disorder. However, the new research found that only a minority of earworms (33 per cent in the diary study) were described by participants in this way. Very few earworms recurred in the same day and most were usually gone by the next day. However, earworms did seem similar to intrusive thoughts in relation to attempts to banish them. Participants reported that most strategies, such as trying to think of another song, actually made the original earworm worse. Other findings related to the typical length of earworm episodes - approximately 27 minutes was the verdict from the diary study, and several hours was the survey result. Finally, what about the idea that some specific songs are more prone to becoming earworms than others? The researchers found little evidence for this. Different participants named and shamed different earworm songs and each individual participant tended to report a range of different songs, rather than pointing to repeat offending by the same recalcitrant tune. Instead, earworm potential appeared to be determined by amount of exposure to a tune combined with that tune's relative simplicity and repetitiveness._________________________________Beaman CP, & Williams TI (2009). Earworms ('stuck song syndrome'): Towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts. British journal of psychology (London, England : 1953) PMID: 19948084
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Beaman CP, & Williams TI. (2009) Earworms ('stuck song syndrome'): Towards a natural history of intrusive thoughts. British journal of psychology (London, England : 1953). PMID: 19948084
Some of you may know that I’ve just had surgery, and I’m gently recovering from the comfort of my own home over the next few weeks. Posts on here will be intermittent but I find myself considering aspects of pain management from a ‘patient’s’ perspective today as it’s about 5 days since surgery and my [...]... Read more »
Leegaard, M., Nåden, D., & Fagermoen, M. (2008) Postoperative pain and self-management: women’s experiences after cardiac surgery. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 63(5), 476-485. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04727.x
Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my fascination with Carol Dweck and her entity versus incremental theory of intelligence/ability that I have blogged about extensively in the past. To recap, people (children usually in her studies) can have a fixed entity view of intelligence that it is a stable trait whihc can/does not [...]Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
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Dweck, C., Chiu, C., & Hong, Y. (1995) Implicit Theories and Their Role in Judgments and Reactions: A Word From Two Perspectives. Psychological Inquiry, 6(4), 267-285. DOI: 10.1207/s15327965pli0604_1
Carol, Dweck S; Daniel, Molden C. (2008) Self-Theories: The Construction of Free Will. Are We free, 44-65. info:/
Sherman, Haidt & Coan (2009) have found evidence that exposure to cute stimuli improves fine motor performance. In brief, subjects were exposed to images of cats/dogs or puppies/kittens and then they played the children’s game, Operation. Both studies reported in this paper found that exposure to cuteness increased subjects’ ability to successfully play Operation. Sherman [...]... Read more »
Compelling empirical evidence for the use of learning styles in education and training simply does not exist.... Read more »
According to a study just out in the American Journal of Psychiatry, starting depressed people on two antidepressants leads to much better results than starting them on just one - Combination of Antidepressant Medications From Treatment Initiation for Major Depressive Disorder. But how reliable is it?Currently accepted practice is to prescribe one antidepressant to begin with, and if the patient doesn't feel better after about 6 weeks, to either change to a different antidepressant (switching) or add a second drug while continuing the first (augmentation).But in clinical trials and also in "real life", the proportion of depressed people who achieve "remission", meaning that they're fully or almost fully recovered, with their first antidepressant is rarely more than 1 in 3. Some antidepressants may be slightly better than others as first-line treatments, but any such differences are small.Maybe two mediocre drugs combined would provided good effects? In this study, Blier et al. took 105 depressed people and gave them either one antidepressant or two. The one antidepressant was fluoxetine (Prozac) 20mg, and the two was mirtazapine 30mg and either fluoxetine 20mg, venlafaxine 225mg, or buproprion 150mg. The study was double-blind; patients didn't know which drug(s) they were on. There was no placebo group, however.Mirtazapine (Remeron) is an antidepressant which is commonly used as an add-on treatment in depression, because it can be safely combined with most other drugs. So it makes sense to use mirtazapine, but take note: this study was "supported by Organon Pharmaceuticals", who make... mirtazapine.What happened? All three combinations of two antidepressants were equally effective, and all three were considerably better than just Prozac alone, in the initial 6 week phase of the trial. The difference was massive by the standards of antidepressants - about 5 Hamilton scale points, considerably larger than the average benefit of an antidepressant over placebo.There was also a 6 month follow-up phase to the study in which everyone who had been taking two antidepressants had one of them replaced by placebos, so everyone ended up only taking one drug (either fluoxetine or mirtazapine). Discontinuing one antidepressant seemed to cause relapse in about 40-50% of the people who were taking two, as opposed to a 25% relapse rate in the people who started on just fluoxetine and kept taking it. If you believe it, this is further evidence that two drugs are better than one, although the total sample size was just 66 for this bit, and I'm not sure I do.What are we to make of all this? This study joins a previous one finding that mirtazapine plus paroxetine is better than either drug alone as a starting treatment. But that paper was also by Blier et al and it was "fully funded by Organon Pharmaceuticals" although apparently "The sponsor had no role in the study design, in the collection and interpretation of the data, in the preparation of this report, and in the decision to publish this manuscript".Personally, I'm not so much troubled by the industry sponsorship in these studies as I am by the nature of the add-on treatment, mirtazapine. Mirtazapine is an unusual drug, with a pharmacological profile very different to that of most antidepressants. Notably, it's a powerful hypnotic - it makes you sleep - and it increases appetite. Patients on mirtazapine in the present study put on over 2kg in 6 weeks.Why does this matter? Because the two scales used to rate depression in this study, the Hamilton Scale and the Montgomery-Asberg Scale, both count reduced appetite and sleeplessness as symptoms of depression. If you're on mirtazapine, you're unlikely to have either problem - you'll be more worried about the exact opposite, insatiable hunger and drowsiness. So mirtazapine could reduce your total score on these scales even if it didn't change your mood. I have no idea to what extent this is a factor in these results, but it could be important.So, are two drugs better than one? Should antidepressants come with a side-order of mirtazapine as standard? Maybe. But it's far from proven.Blier, P., Ward, H., Tremblay, P., Laberge, L., Hebert, C., & Bergeron, R. (2009). Combination of Antidepressant Medications From Treatment Initiation for Major Depressive Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Study American Journal of Psychiatry DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09020186... Read more »
Blier, P., Ward, H., Tremblay, P., Laberge, L., Hebert, C., & Bergeron, R. (2009) Combination of Antidepressant Medications From Treatment Initiation for Major Depressive Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Study. American Journal of Psychiatry. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2009.09020186
You know you're bored when you start shading in the squares of your notebook. Apparently it's a habit that could be helping you to concentrate. In a neat little experiment, Jackie Andrade asked forty participants to listen to a monotone two and a half minute phone message about arrangements for a party. They were told the message would be dull, that there was no need to memorise it, but that they should write down the names of the people who would be able to attend the party. Crucially, half the participants were also told to 'doodle' as they listened, by shading in the squares and circles of their note-paper.Afterwards, the doodlers had noted fractionally more of the correct names (7.8 on average vs. 7.1 - a statistically significant difference). What's more, moments later, the doodlers also excelled in a surprise memory test of the guests' names and the places mentioned in the message, recalling 29 per cent more details than the non-doodlers.Andrade said more research is obviously needed to find out how doodling helps us maintain our attention. However, her theory is that by using up slightly more mental resources, doodling helps prevent the mind from wandering off the boring primary task into daydream land. This study is part of an emerging recognition in psychology that secondary tasks aren't always a distraction from primary tasks, but can sometimes actually be beneficial. _________________________________Andrade, J. (2010). What does doodling do? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24 (1), 100-106 DOI: 10.1002/acp.1561
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Facing a difficult surgery to remove that pesky medial sphenoid wing meningioma? Be sure your neurosurgeon looks at pictures of cute kittens and puppies before scrubbing up. Or so implies a goofy study by Sherman et al. (2009):Infantile physical morphology—marked by its “cuteness”—is thought to be a potent elicitor of caregiving, yet little is known about how cuteness may shape immediate behavior. To examine the function of cuteness and its role in caregiving, the authors tested whether perceiving cuteness can enhance behavioral carefulness, which would facilitate caring for a small, delicate child. In 2 experiments, viewing very cute images (puppies and kittens)—as opposed to slightly cute images (dogs and cats)—led to superior performance on a subsequent fine-motor dexterity task (the children’s game “Operation”). This suggests that the human sensitivity to those possessing cute features may be an adaptation that facilitates caring for delicate human young. [NOTE: and perhaps surgical patients.]"Operation"? But why?Standard laboratory dexterity tasks score performance as the number of objects successfully moved per second. Because cuteness may not make people faster (only more careful), we used a similar task that was not time dependent: the classic children’s game “Operation” (Hasbro, Pawtucket, RI), in which participants use tweezers to remove small objects (body parts) from confined spaces. This task is similar to standard fine-motor dexterity tasks, but performance can be quantified without reference to speed. Because positive actions directed toward a child likely require physical gentleness, we also used a grip-strength gauge as a measure of physical weakness/gentleness.In Experiment 1, participants were 40 female freshman at the University of Virginia who were assigned to one of two groups. The experiment involved playing Operation before and after looking at images of high cuteness (puppies and kittens) or low cuteness (dogs and cats). And as the authors predicted, subjects in the high cuteness condition showed greater improvement after viewing the pictures than did those in the low cuteness condition (p=.05).Experiment 2 did a better job of balancing the images on factors that were ignored in Exp. 1, such as interesting, enjoyable, and exciting. Male undergrads were included as well, to make sure the effect wasn't limited to cooing 18 year old girls. Again, participants in the high cuteness group showed greater improvement than those in the other group at the p=.05 level. The girls and the boys did not differ on this "cuteness effect."Why is this important?This is the first investigation to document that immediate shifts in carefulness—indexed here by fine-motor performance—can be elicited by cuteness cues. This suggests that two factors—the importance of physical contact in early mammalian development and the extremely delicate nature of human young—may have exerted evolutionary pressures favoring those who could respond to the presence of cues colloquially described as “cute” with increased carefulness.No overinterpretation of data here, nope, none at all... Move along, move along.Reference,Sherman, G., Haidt, J., & Coan, J. (2009). Viewing cute images increases behavioral carefulness. Emotion, 9 (2), 282-286 DOI: 10.1037/a0014904
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When most people think of testosterone, words like “aggression,” “dominance,” and “violence” usually come to mind. Those words are memetically linked with testosterone the way “expensive” is linked with diamonds, and most of us have adopted the linkage without thinking much about it. Collectively, we’ve adopted a “folk hypothesis” about testosterone–a generalized presupposition grounded in folk wisdom assumed to be correct.
What makes folk hypotheses noteworthy is that they’re hard to challenge–not because they are fact-based, but because they are so deeply entrenched in collective thinking. So I was intrigued to come across a study in the journal Nature that takes on the testosterone folk hypothesis directly, and also manages to illustrate something important about the power of belief.
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Abbott, A. (2009) Testosterone link to aggression may be all in the mind. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/news.2009.1131
Suppose your organization is interviewing candidates for an important job. Would it be better for one trusted person to have an extended interview with them, or for several people to talk to them for less time? How many people would you need to conduct the interviews? Would three be enough? Would ten be too many? If ten is good, wouldn't twenty be even better?
We've discussed thin-slicing studies before -- the idea that a few brief exposures to an individual can give just as accurate an impression of key traits as much more extended interactions. For judging sexual preference in men, a 10-second exposure to pictures of faces isn't any better than a 50-millisecond exposure. For evaluating teaching ability, a few 10-second movie clips are nearly as good as an entire semester in class.
But these studies didn't vary the number of times judges were exposed to the images or video clips. Could seeing more small bits of information about an individual could help people make more accurate judgments? A team led by Peter Borkenau recognized that the vast quantities of data collected in the 1990s for the German Observational Study of Adult Twins (GOSAT) could be used to answer that question. The GOSAT recruited 300 pairs of twins, who underwent detailed personality and intelligence testing, and were also extensively interviewed and videotaped. Borkenau's team wasn't interested in the twins' similarities and differences, so they analyzed the data twice, once for each group of 300 unrelated individuals, then averaged the results together.
Each twin's personality was also rated by two acquaintances, the experimenter who guided their session, and a confederate who had participated in six videotaped sessions with them. The twins were videotaped for a total of fifteen sessions, doing things like introducing themselves, recalling objects they had just seen, telling jokes, and reading newspaper headlines.
Each these 15 video clips were then shown to judges who rated them on 20 personality traits and intelligence, using a five-point scale (e.g. 1 = "unintelligent" and 5 = "intelligent"). Each judge saw only one clip from each individual, and each clip was viewed by four judges. Altogether, 1.26 million ratings were made by the judges. So does the rating of just one clip of an individual correlate to that person's actual personality score from the personality tests? Yes it does, but the strength of the correlation varies depending on what trait is being measured. This graph shows the results:
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Borkenau, P., Mauer, N., Riemann, R., Spinath, F., & Angleitner, A. (2004) Thin Slices of Behavior as Cues of Personality and Intelligence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(4), 599-614. DOI: 10.1037/0022-35220.127.116.119
With our political leaders giving serious consideration to adopting population well-being, or 'happiness', as their ultimate goal (rather than economic prosperity), there is a greater need than ever to ensure that our scientific measures of the concept are valid. Prior research in this area has tended to involve asking large samples of people how satisfied they are with their lives. But how do we know that their answers are really trustworthy and accurate? Now Andrew Oswald and Stephen Wu have cross-checked an enormous sample of subjective well-being data from the USA to see if it matches up with economists' estimates of where people ought to be happiest based on quality-of-life data for different US states. Their encouraging finding is that there is a most impressive correspondence between the two data sets. Indeed Oswald told the Digest that he almost didn't believe his computer screen when the results came up. The likelihood of the two sets of data corresponding so well by chance is '1 in 10,000' he told me.Oswald and Wu obtained subjective well-being data for over 1.3 million US citizens using the United States Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System. This allowed them to arrive at average well-being or 'happiness' estimates for the different states in the US. They then compared these estimates with quality-of-life data published by Stuart Gabriel in 2003. He and his colleagues looked at about 25 factors, including weather, crime, and commuting time. Whereas a magazine might give these factors equal weighting and calculate a State's desirability by summing its scores across the 25 factors, Gabriel's team used average house prices and wages to ascertain the importance of each factor to potential residents. If a State's house prices and wages remained high despite a wet climate, for example, this would suggest that rain is less important than other factors. Crucially, the subjective data matched the economists' league table of states. People seem to be happier in those places that the economists have identified as having a high quality of life.'The study's finding suggests that subjective well-being data contain genuine information about the quality of human lives,' the researchers concluded.So, which states in the US were the most and least happy? Top of the happiness league were Louisiana and Hawaii. Bottom were Connecticut and New York. California didn't fare much better. Commenting on California and New York's dismal showing, Oswald said: 'Many people think these states would be marvellous places to live in. The problem is that if too many individuals think that way, they move into those states, and the resulting congestion and house prices make it a non-fulfilling prophecy.'_________________________________AJ Oswald, & S Wu (2009). Objective confirmation of subjective measures of human well-being: Evidence from the USA. Science.
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AJ Oswald, & S Wu. (2009) Objective confirmation of subjective measures of human well-being: Evidence from the USA. Science. info:/
by Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD in Child-Psych
Caring for children with autism, especially those with severe autism, is often extremely challenging for the entire family. Some children with autism require continuous monitoring throughout their childhoods and beyond, and the costs associated with the most common interventions and assessments can place major strains on the family’s resources. While some studies have found that mothers of children with [...]... Read more »
Sawyer, M., Bittman, M., La Greca, A., Crettenden, A., Harchak, T., & Martin, J. (2009) Time Demands of Caring for Children with Autism: What are the Implications for Maternal Mental Health?. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-009-0912-3
I recently stumbled upon the Psychology Today blog of Roy F Baumeiester and went through some lively blog posts that were exchanged between him and other PT bloggers especially John Bargh on the issue of free will. Thoise exchanges are worth reading by themselves and are highly recommeneded.
This post meanwhile is not about whether free will exists or not [...]Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
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Baumeister, R., Masicampo, E., & DeWall, C. (2009) Prosocial Benefits of Feeling Free: Disbelief in Free Will Increases Aggression and Reduces Helpfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin_id, 35(2), 260-268. http://psp.sagepub.com/cgi/doi/10.1177/0146167208327217
Vohs, K., & Schooler, J. (2008) The Value of Believing in Free Will: Encouraging a Belief in Determinism Increases Cheating. Psychological Science, 19(1), 49-54. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02045.x
The relationship between personality and political preferences is not the simple relation between conservatism and negative personality traits on the one hand and liberalism and positive personality traits on the other hand. Personality is understood as the combination of innate dispositions and personal experiences that guides behavior in a stable and predictive manner. Behavior is [...]
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Verhulst, B., Hatemi, P., & Martin, N. (2009) The nature of the relationship between personality traits and political attitudes. Personality and Individual Differences. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2009.11.013
No more pain (no more pain)No more pain (no more pain)No drama (no more drama in my life, no ones gonna make me hurt again)No more in my lifeNo More Drama-----Mary J. BligeWomen who are victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), cognitive impairments (Twamley et al., 2009), and alterations in brain activity when anticipating aversive or threatening events (Simmons et al., 2008).In a neuroimaging study, 15 women with IPV-related PTSD were compared to 15 non-traumatized control women in a task that cued the presentation of either positive or aversive images (Simmons et al., 2008). The authors hypothesized that the women with PTSD would show exaggerated neural responses in the insula in anticipation of negative stimuli. This brain region is implicated in interoceptive awareness of bodily states (Craig, 2009), and is responsive to scenes and expressions of disgust (Stark et al., 2007).Figure 1 (Simmons et al., 2008). Anticipation Task. The fMRI task combined a continuous performance task with the interspersed presentation of affective stimuli. Subjects were asked to press the left or right button on a touch pad on the basis of the shape on the screen. Subjects were instructed before the task that a switch from a blue to a green shape accompanied by a low tone would indicate that a positive image was going to appear on the screen. In contrast, a switch from a blue to a red shape accompanied by a high tone signaled an impending negative image.A priori regions of interest (ROIs) were selected in bilateral anterior insula and right anterior/middle insula. These ROIs showed greater activation in anticipation of negative vs. positive images in both groups. Furthermore, the PTSD group showed greater signal change than controls in the right anterior/middle insula, as shown below.Figure 3 (Simmons et al., 2008). Anticipation of negative images versus positive images leads to increased activation in bilateral anterior insula (A shows right-sided activation and B shows left-sided activation) and (C) right anterior/middle insula, which was significantly more active in IPV relative to NTC subjects. Additional connectivity analyses suggested that correlations between activation in the insular regions and the amygdala were weaker in the IPV-PTSD group. The authors speculate that:...the increased activation in anterior/middle insula observed in IPV subjects with PTSD, in particular on the left side, might represent a neural substrate linking emotional distress, anticipatory processing, and autonomic arousal, which can advance action planning to reduce exposure to the aversive stimuli. Therefore, the anterior/middle insula activation might be interpreted as a “warning signal” that is associated with the anticipation of aversive symptoms such as hyperarousal. This interpretation is supported by the strong functional connectivity between anterior/middle insula and amygdala observed in the current study...Hyperarousal takes its toll on cognition, however, as demonstrated in another experiment that assessed neuropsychological functioning in a group of women with IPV-PTSD, who showed slower cognitive processing speed than controls (Twamley et al., 2009):We speculate that the cognitive slowing seen in PTSD may be attributable to reduced attention due to a need to allocate resources to cope with psychological distress or unpleasant internal experiences. A goal for the future is to see whether appropriate clinical treatment ameliorates this deficit. Overall, however, the best strategy is to stop the violence before it occurs. WHO, CDC, and womenshealth.gov have information on the prevention of intimate partner violence. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Feel free to list addition resources in the comments.ReferencesCraig AD. How do you feel--now? The anterior insula and human awareness. (2009). Nat Rev Neurosci. 10:59-70.SIMMONS, A., PAULUS, M., THORP, S., MATTHEWS, S., NORMAN, S., & STEIN, M. (2008). Functional Activation and Neural Networks in Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Related to Intimate Partner Violence. Biological Psychiatry, 64 (8), 681-690. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.05.027Stark R, Zimmermann M, Kagerer S, Schienle A, Walter B, Weygandt M, Vaitl D. (2007). Hemodynamic brain correlates of disgust and fear ratings. Neuroimage 37:663-73.TWAMLEY, E., ALLARD, ... Read more »
SIMMONS, A., PAULUS, M., THORP, S., MATTHEWS, S., NORMAN, S., & STEIN, M. (2008) Functional Activation and Neural Networks in Women with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Related to Intimate Partner Violence. Biological Psychiatry, 64(8), 681-690. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2008.05.027
TWAMLEY, E., ALLARD, C., THORP, S., NORMAN, S., HAMI CISSELL, S., HUGHES BERARDI, K., GRIMES, E., & STEIN, M. (2009) Cognitive impairment and functioning in PTSD related to intimate partner violence. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 15(06), 879. DOI: 10.1017/S135561770999049X
Routinely, I enjoy crapping on the common biological explanations of various mental illnesses (e.g., monoamine hypothesis). However, this does not mean that I do not believe in the importance biology plays in the development of mental illness.To say that a specific mental illness is the result of a "chemical imbalance" or one "bad gene" is ridiculous. The problem with biological explanations of mental illness is that they neglect the psycho/social aspects of illness development (they are also poorly support by research too!).Since I'm a psychologist, I pay attention to stress. I believe stress to the be the glue that binds biology and psychology together. This is because stress or more importantly, psychological stress, has a biological mechanism that has both short-term and long-term effects on the body and brain. Certain aspects of the physiology of stress act as "transcription factors," that is, they regulate gene expression. This means the effects of stress can be felt acutely (i.e., in the short-term) or many years later (e.g., the average time span between onset of sexual abuse and the development of clinical depression is 11.5 years, 1).This poses an interesting question: can the age at which one experience "stress" predict both the onset and type of mental illness? That's what Lupien et al. (2) wanted to answer in an interesting paper that was published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience earlier this year.Before I delve into their hypothesis, I am required by law to describe the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (see below).This is how it works. You perceive a stressor (e.g., all the women with whom you were having extra-marital affairs, suddenly decide to tell their "stories" to TMZ), your hypothalamus releases corticotropin release hormone (CRH). CRH stimulates its neighbor, the pituitary gland, to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which finds its way down your blood stream and stimulates the adrenal glands to release glucocorticoids (steroids) as well as catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine).After this, many wonderful things occur: your wife attacks you with a golf club; your blood sugar spikes, blood pressure and heart rate increase, which delivers a rush of blood and oxygen to your thigh muscles. This enables you to run to your SUV, which you crash 5 feet from your drive way. Now the stressor is gone (i.e., you release a statement on your website indicating that you need to do some "soul searching"); the glucocorticoids bind to certain receptors (i.e., GRs & MRs), and the system shuts down and returns back to its homeostatic baseline.Lupien et al. reviewed the relevant literature on the effects of stress (e.g., chronic stress, abuse, etc) and neurological development during the following life phases: prenatal, postnatal, adolescence, and adulthood. What they found is summarized below. "How the effects of chronic or repeated exposure to stress (or a single exposure to severe stress) at different stages in life depend on the brain areas that are developing or declining at the time of the exposure."(Paraphrased for simplicity) prenatal stress (defined as maternal stress or exogenous steroids during pregnancy) affects the development of many of the brain regions that are involved in regulating the HPA axis (i.e., hippocampus, frontal cortex, and amygdala)."Postnatal stress has varying effects: exposure to maternal separation during childhood leads to increased secretion of glucocorticoids, whereas exposure to severe abuse is associated with decreased levels of glucocorticoids. Thus, glucocorticoid production during childhood differentiates as a function of the environment.""From the prenatal period onwards...some areas undergo rapid growth during a particular period. From birth to 2 years of age the hippocampus is developing; it might therefore be the brain area that is most vulnerable to the effects of stress at this time. By contrast, exposure to stress from birth to late childhood might lead to changes in amygdala volume, as this brain region continues to develop until the late 20s. During adolescence...there is an important increase in frontal volume. Consequently, stress exposure during this period should have major effects on the frontal cortex." "In adulthood and during aging the brain regions that undergo the most rapid decline as a result of aging (amygdala, frontal cortex, hippocampus) are highly vulnerable to the effects of stress hormones. Stress during these periods can lead to the manifestation of incubated effects of early adversity on the brain or to maintenance of chronic effects of stress."What all that psychobabble means is this: certain brain regions (i.e., amygdala, hippocampus, & frontal cortex) are more vulnerable to stress during certain developmental stages (e.g., the hippocampus is most vulnerable before age two). What the authors are postulating is that these areas, when affected by stress, can be use to predict the nature of the psychopathology that will result from exposure to stress at different ages. Or in their words:"Exposure to adversity at the time of hippocampal development could lead to hippocampus dependent emotional disorders, which would be different from disorders arising from exposure to adversity a times of frontal cortex development."This sounds very interesting! Is there any evidence to support it? They list two studies (3, 4). "The first reported that women who experienced trauma before the age of 12 years had increased risk for major depression, whereas women who experienced trauma between 12 and 18 years of age more frequently developed PTSD. The second study reported that repeated episodes of sexual abuse were associated with reduced hippocampal volume if the abuse occurred early in childhood, but with reduced prefrontal cortex volume if the abuse occurred during adolescence."This does seem to support their hypothesis. However, if you read those two studies, you'll find that it is not as clean cut as these authors suggest. Also, other variables were not discussed such as temperament and genetics, sex and gender, SES, and culture. The research is also murky on what constitutes a "prefrontal" disorder versus a "hippocampal" disorder (not to mention the many anatomical overlaps between psychiatric diagnoses). In spite of those limitations, it is an interesting hypothesis that is worth exploring. To read an excellent book on this subject, check out Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.Lupien, S., McEwen, B., Gunnar, M., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10 (6), 434-445 DOI: 10.1038/nrn2639... Read more »
Lupien, S., McEwen, B., Gunnar, M., & Heim, C. (2009) Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445. DOI: 10.1038/nrn2639
Do you look younger than your age? If so you have reasons to cheer! According to a new study as per Kaare et al, the perceived age is directly related to the actual ageing and inversely related to your telomere length.
It is well established that telomere length is a good indicator of ageing and also plays a crucial role in [...]Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
Related posts:IQ variations across time and space : the why and wherefore? Mind Hacks has two posts on IQ: one focusing on...Fairness in your genes? I recently came across an economist article that pointed to...... Read more »
Christensen, K., Thinggaard, M., McGue, M., Rexbye, H., Hjelmborg, J., Aviv, A., Gunn, D., van der Ouderaa, F., & Vaupel, J. (2009) Perceived age as clinically useful biomarker of ageing: cohort study. BMJ, 339(dec11 2). DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b5262
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