I recently read Dreaming in Hindi, Katherine Russell Rich’s memoir of her year in India learning Hindi. Rich intersperses quirky anecdotes of learning and culture shock with scientific insights about learning a second language. I was excited see her mention two of my favorite studies on language and thought.
Psychologists and philosophers have long debated whether language shapes the way we think. While the most drastic viewpoint – that thought can’t exist without language -- has fallen out of favor, psychologists still study more subtle effects.
The first study has to do with gender in language. Many languages assign genders to words. For example, in Spanish, the word for “key” is feminine, while the German word for” key” is masculine. Gender for the most part is arbitrary and varies from language to language, which allows for some interesting experiments.
Psychologist Lera Boroditsky and colleagues asked Spanish and German speakers to provide descriptive adjectives for different objects. Interestingly, people produced adjectives that were consistent with gender stereotypes. For example, German speakers described keys as hard, heavy, jagged, metal, and useful, while Spanish speakers described them as golden, intricate, little, lovely, and shiny. For the word “bridge,” which is feminine in German and masculine in Spanish, the opposite happened. Germans described bridges as beautiful, elegant, fragile, and peaceful, while Spanish speakers said they were big, dangerous, long, and strong.
(Methodological note: the masculinity or femininity of adjectives was determined by a separate group of English speakers, blind to the study’s purpose, who rated these adjectives on masculinity and femininity. It's kind of amusing to see which words received which rating.)
In a second experiment, Boroditsky looked at language and the conception of time. English speakers primarily speak of time in horizontal terms. For example, we talk about moving meetings forward, or pushing deadlines back. Mandarin speakers, on the other hand, use up/down metaphors as well. So a Mandarin speaker would refer to the previous week as “up week” and next week as “down week.”
Boroditsky performed an experiment to see whether priming people to think either vertically or horizontally would affect their ability to think about time. Participants first answered a question about horizontally or vertically placed objects. For example, they saw two worms in a row and had to say whether the black worm was in front. Or they’d see two vertically stacked balls and say whether the black ball was above the white ball. Then the participants answered a question about time (“ Does March come before April”, etc.).
They found that English speakers were quicker to answer questions about time after answering horizontal spatial questions, while Mandarin speakers were quicker after vertical spatial questions. This reminds me of the scaffolded mind idea, in which concrete experiences provide a way to understand abstract concepts.
What do these studies say to me as a writer? It's interesting to see how subtle aspects of language affect the way we think. It argues for thinking like poets and valuing each word were not just a dictionary meaning, but all the other layers of associations and meanings that come with it. I don’t think it’s worth obsessively wondering about subconscious associations, but it’s certainly something interesting to think about.
Dreaming in Hindi was given to me as a review copy, and I would now like to pass it onto one of you. If you would like to enter the drawing, there are two ways you can do it. Either:
1. Retweet this post and paste the link in the comments or
2) 2. If you're an RSS subscriber, there is a secret code on the bottom of this entry. Send an e-mail to liviablackburne [at] gmail.com with a secret code as the SUBJECT LINE.
I will draw a winner next Monday.
Boroditsky, L. (2001). Does Language Shape Thought?: Mandarin and English Speakers' Conceptions of Time Cognitive Psychology, 43 (1), 1-22 DOI: 10.1006/cogp.2001.0748
Dreaming in Hindi Giveaway Code: Udiapur
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Boroditsky, L. (2001) Does Language Shape Thought?: Mandarin and English Speakers' Conceptions of Time. Cognitive Psychology, 43(1), 1-22. DOI: 10.1006/cogp.2001.0748
I have been interested in the genetics and environmental factors involved in aggression since working with Dr. Remi Cadoret at the University of Iowa in the 1990s. We published an early study in adoptees that found an interaction between a biological background of antisocial personality and an adverse childhood environment in an additive effect in adoptee agression. Adoptees with a biological relative with antisocial personality (usually fathers) were more aggressive when there were raised in an adverse environment during childhood and adolescence.Jim Fallon, Ph.D. neurobiologist at the University of California recently summarized some of this neuroscience issues in this area in a TED talk titled: "Exploring the Mind of a Killer". This six and one half minute presentation is summarized in my notes here:Fallon was asked by colleague to examine brains of psychopathic killersHe was blind to identity of the killers at the time of analysisMurder risk seems to be linked to interactions between environment and geneticsThere are also epigenetic effects-biological damage to the genesMurders had damage to the orbital cortex--seen in all murders in his studyA high risk gene is the MAOA gene--sex-linked you only get effect in males from motherMAOA-monoamine oxidase A affects serotonin metabolismGene expression is increased with severe adverse traumatic environment during the period of early childhood through adolescenceIncreased violence in the environment expressed through generationsToughness seen as a protective factor preferred by some women in mates--this effect may concentrate the genetic effectDr. Fallon was surprised when he learned of his own genetic backgroundHis cousin was Lizzi Borden the female murderer and he also had a distant grandmother killed who murdered a sonSeven male murderers have been identified on his father's sidePET scanning study completed on his own family with genetic analysisLed him to suspect bad news to come in his family--he doesn't know when it will pop upI ran across an interesting piece from NPR by Dr. Michael Stone who developed a hierarchy of evilness among psychopathic individuals. This scale ranks 22 levels of evilness. Charles Manson ranked 15 on the scale of 22 levels (with 22 the worst) and Jeffrey Dahmer topped out at the most evil level. I ran a Pub Med search and have not been able to find a scientific reference to this scale. If a reader runs into the citation please comment as I would appreciate the citation.It's gratifying that some of the research conducted by Dr. Cadoret in being supported by additional studies of the genetics of violence, murder and antisocial personality. I will be posting more on this issue in the next Brain Posts where I focus on the epidemiology, genetics, imaging and medical care needs of this important public health problem. Cadoret RJ, Yates WR, Troughton E, Woodworth G, & Stewart MA (1995). Genetic-environmental interaction in the genesis of aggressivity and conduct disorders. Archives of general psychiatry, 52 (11), 916-24 PMID: 7487340Gunter TD, Vaughn MG, & Philibert RA (2010). Behavioral genetics in antisocial spectrum disorders and psychopathy: a review of the recent literature. Behavioral sciences & the law, 28 (2), 148-73 PMID: 20422643... Read more »
Cadoret RJ, Yates WR, Troughton E, Woodworth G, & Stewart MA. (1995) Genetic-environmental interaction in the genesis of aggressivity and conduct disorders. Archives of general psychiatry, 52(11), 916-24. PMID: 7487340
Gunter TD, Vaughn MG, & Philibert RA. (2010) Behavioral genetics in antisocial spectrum disorders and psychopathy: a review of the recent literature. Behavioral sciences , 28(2), 148-73. PMID: 20422643
Predator-prey interactions are often viewed as evolutionary arms races; while predators improve their hunting behaviors and their ability to sneak up on their prey, the prey improve upon their abilities to detect and escape from their predators. The problem, of course, is that there is a trade-off between maintaining vigilance - the attention necessary to be consistently aware of others in the environment takes quite a bit of physical and mental energy - and doing all the other things that an animal must do, such as finding its own food. As a result of this trade-off, many social species, especially mammalian and avian species, have developed alarm calls. Alarm calls are specific vocalizations that signal the presence of a danger in the environment to nearby conspecifics, and sometimes contain additional information about the type of threat or predator.
As we've discussed before, subsequent to the introduction of predatory birds, howler monkeys on Barro Colorado Island near Panama rapidly developed an alarm call specific for those birds that indicated the presence of an avian predator; something like "danger from above!" That is, they did not merely adapt an already existing alarm call to the new predator, they developed an entirely new one.
In certain cases, prey species have developed the additional ability to eavesdrop on the alarm calls of other species, gaining access to an additional source of information relevant to the presence of danger in the environment. This ability could be the consequence of a learned association between the alarm calls of another species and the presence of the predator, or it could be due to certain auditory properties common to the alarm calls of both species, and innate. More research is required to tease apart these possibilities. However, until recently, it was thought that the ability to identify and react to the alarm calls of other species was only possible in species that already had vocal communication. Several years ago, however, researchers from Princeton University observed this behavior in an unlikely species - a non-vocal reptile - the Galapagos marine iguana (amblyrhynchus cristatus).
Figure 1: The Galapagos Marine Iguana.
Read the rest of this post... | Read the comments on this post...... Read more »
Vitousek MN, Adelman JS, Gregory NC, & Clair JJ. (2007) Heterospecific alarm call recognition in a non-vocal reptile. Biology letters, 3(6), 632-4. PMID: 17911047
So a few things. 1) Sorry I’m late today with my post. 2) Sorry for the quality of the post. 3) I have a good reason… I’m heading over The Philipinnes on the third of the next month for a week and I’m working frantically to get all my assignments done before that date. Chief [...]... Read more »
Dewall CN, Macdonald G, Webster GD, Masten CL, Baumeister RF, Powell C, Combs D, Schurtz DR, Stillman TF, Tice DM.... (2010) Acetaminophen reduces social pain: behavioral and neural evidence. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 21(7), 931-7. PMID: 20548058
Ketamine is a drug of many talents. Used medically as an anesthetic in animals and, sometimes, in humans, it's also become widely used recreationally despite, or perhaps because of, its reputation as a "horse tranquilizer".Ketamine's also a hot topic in research at the moment for two reasons: it's considered an interesting way of provoking the symptoms of schizophrenia, and it's also shown promise as a fast-acting antidepressant.Anyway, most ketamine research to date has been done in either humans or in rodents, but New York pharmacologists Zakhary et al decided to see what it does to fish. So they put some ketamine in the fishes water and saw what happened: A Behavioral and Molecular Analysis of Ketamine in Zebrafish.They found that a high dose, 0.8%, just made the fish unconscious. Well, it is an anesthetic. But a low dose (0.2%) had rather more complex effects. It sent them literally loopy - they started swimming around and around in circles, usually in a clockwise direction. Control zebrafish swam about and explored their tanks without any circling behaviours.They also examined the effect of ketamine on the "hypoxic stress" response, i.e. what happens when you take the fish out of water (only for 20 seconds, so it doesn't cause any real harm.) Normal fish struggle and gasp for water in this situation, unsurprisingly. Ketamine strongly inhibited this.So what? Well, it's hard to say what this might mean. It would be great if the zebrafish turned out to be a useful experimental model for investigating the effects of ketamine and similar drugs, because they're much easier to work with than rodents (for one thing, it's a lot easier to just put a drug in a fish tank than to inject it into a mouse.)However, it remains to be seen whether swimming in circles is a useful analog of the human effects of ketamine. Ketamine can make people act in some pretty stupid ways, but walking around in little circles is extreme even by K-head standards...Link: I've blogged about ketamine before: I'm On K, You're On K.Zakhary SM, Ayubcha D, Ansari F, Kamran K, Karim M, Leheste JR, Horowitz JM, & Torres G (2010). A behavioral and molecular analysis of ketamine in zebrafish. Synapse (New York, N.Y.) PMID: 20623473... Read more »
Zakhary SM, Ayubcha D, Ansari F, Kamran K, Karim M, Leheste JR, Horowitz JM, & Torres G. (2010) A behavioral and molecular analysis of ketamine in zebrafish. Synapse (New York, N.Y.). PMID: 20623473
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone we saw was ready for self management and committed to putting everything in place? Wouldn’t it be even better if we could tell who was and who wasn’t going to drop out? Then we could focus treatment on people who were ready for treatment, and help those who are … Read more... Read more »
Glombiewski, J A, Hartwich-Tersek, J, & Rief,W. (2010) Attrition in Cognitive-behavioral Treatment of Chronic Back Pain. Clinical Journal of Pain, 26(7), 593-601. info:/
In Western countries, scores on IQ tests have been rising for several decades - the Flynn effect, named after the political scientist James Flynn. Now Sallie Baxendale at the Institute of Neurology has provided evidence that a similar effect has occurred for the standardised memory tests that are used by clinical neuropsychologists, a finding with implications for the diagnosis of memory problems in contemporary patients.
Baxendale focused on the Adult Memory and Information Processing Battery (AMIPB) - 'the most commonly used memory battery amongst clinical neuropsychologists in the UK' - published in 1985, and its successor, the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust Memory and Information Processing Battery (BMIOB), published in 2007. The two tests feature different wording and design but they both make equivalent demands: learning and recalling lists of words, and learning and recalling abstract line drawings.
Baxendale compared the performance of the two participant samples that provided the original normative data (the 'norms') for the two tests. These are the healthy participants, spanning four age ranges, whose average performance provides the benchmark for assessing patients. The normative data for the AMIPB was provided in 1985, or thereabouts, by 184 British people aged 18 to 75; the normative data for the BMIPB was collected in 2007 or thereabouts from 300 British people aged 16 to 89.
On one hand, there was little evidence of any difference in average performance on verbal learning and recall between the 1985 and 2007 samples (the exceptions were verbal learning in the 31-45 years age range and verbal recall in the oldest age range, both of which were superior in the 2007 sample). By contrast, visual learning and recall were both superior in the 2007 sample compared with the 1985 sample, at all four age ranges: 16-30; 31-45; 46-60; and 61-75. This is consistent with the traditional Flynn effect, which is most pronounced for non-verbal intelligence tests.
Baxendale said her findings have implications for diagnosis because present-day patients may, pre-trauma or pre-illness, have had elevated non-verbal learning and recall scores in comparison to the old normative data. Therefore, such patients could be impaired relative to their own healthy baseline, and yet appear unaffected compared with the out-of-date normative data. 'This may present a confound for neuropsychologists concerned with the lateralising and localising significance of memory test profiles,' Baxendale said.
Baxendale, S. (2010). The Flynn effect and memory function. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32 (7), 699-703 DOI: 10.1080/13803390903493515
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Image via Wikipedia Autism is a spectrum disorder , better referred to as ASD, It has been known for some time that differences like autism are, multi-dimensional and not readily reducible to a single set of mechanisms or genetic causes. In the past we have discussed how the disorder may be related to structural differencesRating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)... Read more »
Ecker, C., Marquand, A., Mourao-Miranda, J., Johnston, P., Daly, E., Brammer, M., Maltezos, S., Murphy, C., Robertson, D., Williams, S.... (2010) Describing the Brain in Autism in Five Dimensions--Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Assisted Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Using a Multiparameter Classification Approach. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(32), 10612-10623. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5413-09.2010
As we grapple to understand why so many men seem to get so depressed but then do nothing positive about it, Fields and Cochran (2010) alternatively challenge health service providers to think more about what they are doing, or not, to assist depressed men.... Read more »
Fields, A., & Cochran, S. (2010) Men and Depression: Current Perspectives for Health Care Professionals. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. DOI: 10.1177/1559827610378347
When attempting to communicate effectively with the public about a science-related debate, which is more important, framing the message or conveying science-based facts about the topic? A forthcoming study (Word) at the Journal of Communication by Northwestern University researchers James Druckman and Toby Bolsen sheds new light on this long standing question.
As I will be highlighting at this blog, previous research consistently finds that the public typically form opinions in the absence of factual information, instead relying on mental short-cuts based on personal experience, values, and the selective presentation—or “framing”--of an issue.
Frames influence perceptions and decisions because they focus on just one dimension of a complex topic over another, in the process communicating why an issue matters, why it might be personally relevant, and why a related action might lead to specific benefits or risks.
Understanding and applying research on framing is particularly relevant to engaging the public on emerging issues such as nanotechnology and genetic engineering, but it also applies to communicating about entrenched policy debates such as climate change. For example, in a recent study I conducted with Ed Maibach and colleagues, we find that when climate change is re-framed as a health problem rather than an environmental one, this re-interpretation is evaluated favorably and positively by a broad cross-section of Americans. A frame in essence switches the train of thought for an audience, leading to a different set of attributions and conclusions.
Framing is an unavoidable aspect of human communication. There is no such thing as unframed information. On science-related issues, this idea is difficult to grasp for some advocates and scientists who still view communication through the lens of what scholars call the “deficit model” which assumes that opinion formation is a direct consequence of knowledge (or alternatively ignorance). If the public only better understood the facts of a scientific topic they would more likely view the issue as scientists do and controversy would go away.
There is no question that deliberate decisions to selectively frame an issue can be used to deceive, but they can also be used to more effectively explain and engage audiences, boosting interest, attention, and learning. As an example, in a recently published book chapter, I discussed the audience research approach that the National Academies used in framing the structure of a report on the teaching of evolution in schools (PDF).
A second example is our recent research on the potential to re-frame climate as a health problem. Not only does this new focus likely increase personal significance and relevance among Americans but it also communicates about objectively real and scientifically well-documented health risks that the public should know about. It also starts to promote greater attention to adaptation policies and strategies--such as evacuation procedures, water and agricultural sanitation policies, improved housing, cooling stations during heat waves, and new transportation infrastructures-- that are needed to protect people and communities and that also result in healthier and higher quality lives.
Frames vs. Facts on Nano and GMOs
The forthcoming study by James Druckman and Toby Bolsen provides new understanding and data on how frames influence public perceptions and decisions about emerging areas of science. Later today, I will post an interview with Druckman about his research (read it here). In the rest of this post, I discuss and provide background on the study.
Druckman and Bolsen were interested in understanding whether the inclusion of facts--specifically reference to the findings of a scientific study---added additional power and influence to the framing of nanotechnology and genetically modified food.
These issues--like many science debates--are often debated and talked about in terms of benefits and risks, typically in very general terms without much reference to actual scientific research. Does providing more precise information about scientific findings relative to benefits and risks matter to public judgments or are more general assertions what really drive perceptions?
Importantly, Druckman and Bolsen also wanted to know whether after a frame was set on an issue, how did subjects then interpret information about scientific studies on the topic? Were subjects open to re-considering their views or did they interpret the studies as fitting with their pre-conceived opinion?
On election day in 2008, Druckman and Bolsen assembled 20 teams of students to conduct exit polls of 621 voters in the Chicago region, querying voters on their perceptions of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and genetically-modified foods (GMOs). For the interviews, voters were randomly assigned to separate frame and issue conditions.
For different groups of voters, CNTs or GMOS were defined using either a “fact” free frame or fact-based frame, with an emphasis on either benefits or risks. In the case of CNTs, respondents were read the following introduction followed by one of the following frames, depending on their assigned experimental condition. A similar method was used on GMOs (see the paper for more details):
One of the most pressing issues facing the nation—as has been clear from the election—concerns the limitations to our energy supply (e.g., with regard to coal, oil and natural gas). One approach to addressing this issue is to rely more on carbon nanotubes or CNTs. CNTs are tiny graphite with distinct chemical properties. They efficiently convert sunlight into electricity, and thus, serve as an alternative to coal, oil, and natural gas. The uncertain long-term effects of CNTs are the subject of continued study and debate.
Fact Free Benefits of Nanotechnology
Most agree that the most important implication of CNTs concerns how they will affect energy cost and availability. A recent study on cost and availability showed that CNTs will double the efficiency of solar cells in the coming years.
Fact Free Risks of Nanotechnology
Most agree that the most important implication of CNTs concerns their unknown long-run implications for human health. A recent study on health showed that mice injected with large quantities of CNTs reacted in the same way as they do when injected with asbestos.
Fact-based Benefits of Nanotechnology
A recent study on cost and availability showed that CNTs will double the efficiency of solar cells in the coming years.
Fact-based Risks of Nanotechnology
A recent study on health showed that mice injected with large quantities of CNTs reacted in the same way as they do when injected with asbestos.
Subjects were asked on a 7 point scale to express their level of support or opposition for either CNTs or GMOs depending on the frame condition. Other questions measuring pre-existing levels of scientific knowledge, demographic background, and generalized views about science were asked and used as controls in their analysis.
After completing the interviews on Election Day, participants were re-contacted 10 days later. At this time, depending on their frame condition, they were presented with reminder information about CNTs and GM foods. Then, for each technology, respondents evaluated the “effectiveness” of three distinct factually based scientific studies “in providing information or making an argument” (on 7-point scales with higher scores indicating increased effectiveness). Respondents also rated the extent to which each study opposed or supported the technology (on 7-point scales with higher scores indicating increased effectiveness), and re-reported their overall support for each technology.
In their analysis Druckman and Bolsen find that on both issues, frames that emphasize general statements about either the benefits or the risks of the technology influenced perceptions, with slightly stronger effects for the risk conditions. Yet importantly, when frames included “facts” that reference specific findings from scientific studies, the inclusion did not significantly enhance the power of the frames.
As they conclude, contrary to the strong emphasis of the deficit model on promoting scientific literacy as the key to communication, referencing facts adds little to how framing influences individuals’ opinions about new technologies.
Finally, when they analyzed the results of the follow-up interviews, they found that how subjects evaluated information presented about research on the technologies was strongly influenced by their pre-existing views. In other words, much like a strong Democrat or Republican tends to view even favorable news coverage as reinforcing their pre-existing opinion of an opposing party's cand... Read more »
Maibach, E., Nisbet, M., Baldwin, P., Akerlof, K., & Diao, G. (2010) Reframing climate change as a public health issue: an exploratory study of public reactions. BMC Public Health, 10(1), 299. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-299
Schizophrenia is generally thought of as the "most genetic" of all psychiatric disorders and in the past 10 years there have been heroic efforts to find the genes responsible for it, with not much success so far.A new study reminds us that there's more to it than genes alone: Social Risk or Genetic Liability for Psychosis? The authors decided to look at adopted children, because this is one of the best ways of disentangling genes and environment.If you find that the children of people with schizophrenia are at an increased risk of schizophrenia (they are), that doesn't tell you whether the risk is due to genetics, or environment, because we share both with our parents. Only in adoption is the link between genes and environment broken.Wicks et al looked at all of the kids born in Sweden and then adopted by another Swedish family, over several decades (births 1955-1984). To make sure genes and environment were independent, they excluded those who were adopted by their own relatives (i.e. grandparents), and those lived with their biological parents between the ages of 1 and 15. This is the kind of study you can only do in Scandinavia, because only those countries have accessible national records of adoptions and mental illness...What happened? Here's a little graph I whipped up:Brighter colors are adoptees at "genetic risk", defined as those with at least one biological parent who was hospitalized for a psychotic illness (including schizophrenia but also bipolar disorder.) The outcome measure was being hospitalized for a non-affective psychosis, meaning schizophrenia or similar conditions but not bipolar.As you can see, rates are much higher in those with a genetic risk, but were also higher in those adopted into a less favorable environment. Parental unemployment was worst, followed by single parenthood, which was also quite bad. Living in an apartment as opposed to a house, however, had only a tiny effect.Genetic and environmental risk also interacted. If a biological parent was mentally ill and your adopted parents were unemployed, that was really bad news.But hang on. Adoption studies have been criticized because children don't get adopted at random (there's a story behind every adoption, and it's rarely a happy one), and also adopting families are not picked at random - you're only allowed to adopt if you can convince the authorities that you're going to be good parents.So they also looked at the non-adopted population, i.e. everyone else in Sweden, over the same time period. The results were surprisingly similar. The hazard ratio (increased risk) in those with parental mental illness, but no adverse circumstances, was 4.5, the same as in the adoption study, 4.7.For environment, the ratio was 1.5 for unemployment, and slightly lower for the other two. This is a bit less than in the adoption study (2.0 for unemployment). And the two risks interacted, but much less than they did in the adoption sample.However, one big difference was that the total lifetime rate of illness was 1.8% in the adoptees and just 0.8% in the nonadoptees, despite much higher rates of unemployment etc. in the latter. Unfortunately, the authors don't discuss this odd result. It could be that adopted children have a higher risk of psychosis for whatever reason. But it could also be an artefact: rates of adoption massively declined between 1955 and 1984, so most of the adoptees were born earlier, i.e. they're older on average. That gives them more time in which to become ill.A few more random thoughts:This was Sweden. Sweden is very rich and compared to most other rich countries also very egalitarian with extremely high taxes and welfare spending. In other words, no-one in Sweden is really poor. So the effects of environment might be bigger in other countries.On the other hand this study may overestimate the risk due to environment, because it looked at hospitalizations, not illness per se. Supposing that poorer people are more likely to get hospitalized, this could mean that the true effect of environment on illness is lower than it appears.The outcome measure was hospitalization for "non-affective psychosis". Only 40% of this was diagnosed as "schizophrenia". The rest will have been some kind of similar illness which didn't meet the full criteria for schizophrenia (which are quite narrow, in particular, they require 6 months of symptoms).Parental bipolar disorder was counted as a family history. This does make sense because we know that bipolar disorder and schizophrenia often occur in the same families (and indeed they can be hard to tell apart, many people are diagnosed with both at different times.)Overall, though, this is a solid study and confirms that genes and environment are both relevant to psychosis. Unfortunately, almost all of the research money at the moment goes on genes, with studying environmental factors being unfashionable.Wicks S, Hjern A, & Dalman C (2010). Social Risk or Genetic Liability for Psychosis? A Study of Children Born in Sweden and Reared by Adoptive Parents. The American journal of psychiatry PMID: 20686186... Read more »
Wicks S, Hjern A, & Dalman C. (2010) Social Risk or Genetic Liability for Psychosis? A Study of Children Born in Sweden and Reared by Adoptive Parents. The American journal of psychiatry. PMID: 20686186
'No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted' - that's the concluding catchphrase of a one-minute video called 'evolution' made by Dove a few years ago to show how cosmetics and computer trickery are used to create the unrealistic portrayals of female models on advertising billboards. Now a team of researchers at the University of the West of England, led by Emma Halliwell, have tested whether viewing this short video can buffer young girls against the negative effects of looking at images of ultra-thin female models. Past research found such a benefit when adult women viewed a similar video but this is the first time the idea has been investigated with young girls.
One hundred and twenty-seven girls, aged ten to thirteen, from two schools in the South of England, were recruited for what they thought was an evaluation of 'attitudes to health, appearance and magazines'. In keeping with the cover story, tests of body satisfaction and esteem were embedded among other questionnaires to try to conceal the true purpose of the study.
Consistent with past research, girls who looked at thin models subsequently reported lower body satisfaction and confidence compared with girls who looked at pictures of landscapes. The key finding was that this negative effect was not seen among the girls who watched the Dove video first, before looking at the ultra-thin models. The body self-esteem and confidence of these girls was just the same as among girls who watched the video and then looked at pictures of landscapes.
'Theoretically, we assume that the intervention disrupted the upward social comparisons that many young girls make when viewing idealised media images,' the researchers concluded. 'Moreover, we propose that the comparison is avoided because the media models have been construed as artificial and, therefore, an inappropriate comparison target.' Halliwell and her team added that future research will be needed to test the truth of this reasoning and also to test whether the benefits of watching the evolution video, or others like it, can be sustained over time.
Halliwell E, Easun A, & Harcourt D (2010). Body dissatisfaction: Can a short media literacy message reduce negative media exposure effects amongst adolescent girls? British journal of health psychology PMID: 20687976
Link to Dove's Evolution video.
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Halliwell E, Easun A, & Harcourt D. (2010) Body dissatisfaction: Can a short media literacy message reduce negative media exposure effects amongst adolescent girls?. British journal of health psychology. PMID: 20687976
Recently I had to float an idea to my girlfriend that I knew she would not be receptive to. In the next few weeks I have to deliver news to the Assassins’ League about some impending changes. I know some individuals won’t care, some might be excited, and some will definitely object. I need to [...]... Read more »
Erwin, D., & Garman, A. (2010) Resistance to organizational change: linking research and practice. Leadership , 31(1), 39-56. DOI: 10.1108/01437731011010371
Sminia, H., & Van Nistelrooij, A. (2006) Strategic management and organization development: Planned change in a public sector organization. Journal of Change Management, 6(1), 99-113. DOI: 10.1080/14697010500523392
A new student by McNall and Stanton in the Journal of Business and Psychology examines electronic monitoring of employee vehicle location.... Read more »
McNall, L., & Stanton, J. (2010) Private Eyes Are Watching You: Reactions to Location Sensing Technologies. Journal of Business and Psychology. DOI: 10.1007/s10869-010-9189-y
More than 50 years after the publication of CP Snow's seminal Two Cultures, interdisciplinary partnerships between science and other academic "cultures" are being urged once again. Today, urgency is not focused on the Cold War but rather the challenge of engaging society on climate change and other environmental problems.
In an open access article published this month at the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, I joined with several colleagues to describe the potential for partnerships that involve interdisciplinary "four culture" initiatives across universities and community-based institutions.
The essay is based on the insights, revelations, and conclusions from the 16 member Columbia River Quorum, which was composed of scientists, scholars, and professionals - four representatives from each of what we describe as the four academic "cultures" - who met in Oregon in 2009 for the first of what we hope will be many similar summits across the world (see photo below). The goal of that meeting was to identify and build synergies by which members of traditionally separate disciplinary cultures -- specifically the environmental sciences, philosophy and religion, the social sciences, and the creative arts and professions -- can accomplish collaboratively what none are capable of doing alone.
In the essay, we propose specific strategies for catalyzing these inter-disciplinary partnerships with the goal of creating a new communication infrastructure around the issue of climate change. These strategies include a bold proposal to pool "public impact" money from individual research grants at the university level to be re-invested by a "four culture" expert committee in local and regional public engagement initiatives. It also includes a call for a digital news community--a Chronicle of Higher Ed focused on climate change education and communication--that would serve as a catalyst for identifying and diffusing best practices and partnerships.
One of the organizers of the Four Cultures summit in Oregon was Mark Hixon, professor of Marine Conservation Biology at Oregon State University. In an interview I did with Hixon, he reflects on the origins of the summit and his outlook on the urgent need for Four Culture initiatives on climate change communication and education at universities across the country. Along with the interview, I have posted a photo and a list of the participants in the summit.
What motivated you to organize the Columbia River Quorum?
My Oregon State University (OSU) philosopher / writer colleague and friend, Kathy Moore, and I were sharing lunch, lamenting on the increasingly bad news regarding the state of the global environment and the lack of substantial remedial action by the United States regarding climate disruption. We focused on the need for our society's response to accelerate past the exponentially increasing rate of environmental degradation if all the Earth's children and grandchildren are to enjoy healthy lives.
Where did the idea come from?
The need for an accelerated response by society to climate disruption and other pressing environmental issues stimulated the idea that we need new synergies. Natural science has done a wonderful job documenting environmental threats, yet that knowledge alone has not stimulated an adequate response within our nation. Needed are all four academic cultures -- natural sciences, social sciences, philosophy and religious studies, and communication and creative arts -- to fully engage with each other to create those synergies. Once that need became clear to us, hosting a quorum with representatives from each of the four cultures was the logical next step.
Over the course of the weekend, what things did you come to realize?
In March 2009, Kathy's organization, OSU's Spring Creek Project, hosted 4 members of each of the 4 academic cultures at a beautiful retreat in the Columbia River Gorge (see photo below). The energy of the weekend was exciting and truly palpable. Ideas flowed like the great flood that carved the Gorge! I realized then that the time was right for these new synergies to develop -- that together we in academia truly can help to bring about "the great turning" in new, more integrated, and more effective ways.
If you were to emphasize two take away conclusions from the experience for environmental scientists, what would they be?
First, let go of the entrenched worldview that our role as environmental scientists is ONLY to provide data to society regarding climate disruption and other environmental threats -- that providing data ALONE will stimulate society to respond to these threats. That partial and isolated role has failed and will continue to do so.
Second, engage with social scientists and non-scientist colleagues, indeed, with the public at large regarding these important issues that affect us all. In short, do not abdicate your citizenship -- actively engage in changing the world!
Why do you think some scientists might have reservations about interdisciplinary partnerships focused on public engagement?
There are many reported reasons: (1) the perceived lack of time and energy as we focus exclusively on teaching, research, and university administration, (2) the ineffective worldview that our role is only to provide information, (3) the false belief that our credibility as scientists will dissolve if we fully engage as citizens, etc. I personally reject all these excuses, and I highly recommend that all scientists read Michael Nelson's recent papers on these issues [attached -- check with Michael to see if you can provide download links].
What do you think are steps that can be taken at the university and disciplinary level to encourage greater "Four Culture" partnerships?
Traditional university organizational structures are insufficiently integrated and often terribly isolating, especially between the sciences and the liberal arts. At OSU, two recent efforts building on the Spring Creek Project are fostering new synergies among the four academic cultures. First, the once fully separate colleges of science and liberal arts have been folded into a single division of arts and sciences. Second, a new environmental humanities initiative, the interdisciplinary Three Rivers Institute, has been formed to foster integration among human values, science, and environmental leadership.
If colleagues at another university wanted to organize their own Four Culture quorum, what advice would you give them?
Go for it! Start with a simple foursome of one member from each culture, then build from there. I truly believe that people are ready for revolutionary integration. All four cultures have been working for changing the world in positive ways, largely in parallel, isolated, and often (but certainly not always) ineffective. The time is ripe for new synergies that will accelerate our society's response to pressing environmental threats.
Members of the Columbia River Quorum (March 2009): Back row: Bob Frodeman, Scott Sanders, Steve Vanderheiden, Andreas Schmittner, Hank Green, Fred Swanson, Charles Goodrich, Kathie Olsen, John Bliss, Mark Hixon. Front row: Kathy Moore, Carly Johnson, Michael Nelson, Pam Sturner, Alison Deming, Michaela Hammer. Missing: Eban Goodstein and Matt Nisbet.
Nisbet, M., Hixon, M., Moore, K., & Nelson, M. (2010). Four cultures: new synergies for engaging society on climate change Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 8 (6), 329-331 DOI: 10.1890/1540-9295-8.6.329
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Nisbet, M., Hixon, M., Moore, K., & Nelson, M. (2010) Four cultures: new synergies for engaging society on climate change. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 8(6), 329-331. DOI: 10.1890/1540-9295-8.6.329
Nearly everyone has heard of developmental dyslexia – a learning disorder characterized by poor reading skills despite otherwise sufficient schooling – but have you heard of developmental dyscalculia? Many people have not. Here is part 4 in a week-long series on this lesser-known learning disorder. Case-studies of patients with various brain lesions have demonstrated the [...]... Read more »
Isaacs EB, Edmonds CJ, Lucas A, & Gadian DG. (2001) Calculation difficulties in children of very low birthweight: a neural correlate. Brain : a journal of neurology, 124(Pt 9), 1701-7. PMID: 11522573
Molko N, Cachia A, Rivière D, Mangin JF, Bruandet M, Le Bihan D, Cohen L, & Dehaene S. (2003) Functional and structural alterations of the intraparietal sulcus in a developmental dyscalculia of genetic origin. Neuron, 40(4), 847-58. PMID: 14622587
Dehaene, S, Piazza, M, Pinel, P, & Cohen, L. (2003) Three Parietal Circuits for Number Processing. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 487-506. info:/
You can think of a lot such as technical procedures or washing your hands. For residents it’s obvious. Mostly learning the technical procedure of an operation. During long operations I used to count the number of stitches. Once during a vascular operation the chief surgeon out of the blue asked what vessel it was they’re [...]
Related posts:Bedside teaching, Computer Based Learning and Wiki in Medical Education
Personalized Medical Education
Empathy for the Mentally Ill in Medical Education
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Irani, J., Greenberg, J., Blanco, M., Greenberg, C., Ashley, S., Lipsitz, S., Hafler, J., & Breen, E. (2010) Educational value of the operating room experience during a core surgical clerkship. The American Journal of Surgery, 200(1), 167-172. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2009.06.023
Some months ago, Jonathan Green and his colleagues simultaneously published (in the Lancet) and presented (at IMFAR 2010) their multi-site RCT of an early autism intervention. In conducting and reporting the Pre-school Autism Communication Trial, they have made autism research history. They have done so simply by applying to autistics scientific standards that are well-established in non-autism non-ABA areas. The upshot is an autism early intervention trial whose results are worth serious consideration and which is unprecedented in this respect. Via the PACT website, you can find the Lancet paper reporting the PACT RCT, the peer-reviewed PACT intervention "manual" (which refers to another, more detailed manual), the PACT RCT protocols, references for related papers including a 2004 pilot RCT, a list of investigators and funders, and so on. I've previously written about the PACT as an anomaly in autism intervention research. The PACT entails an early autism intervention that was not widely promoted as effective or essential before it was fairly tested. That is a first in the history of autism research. It may also be the largest RCT of any kind of autism intervention ever published (if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will tell me). In short the PACT RCT is an internationally-registered multi-site trial of a manualized intervention targeting the parents of preschool (ages 2-5yrs) autistic children. The PACT intervention spans one year and involves 12 twice-monthly 2hr clinic-based sessions followed by 6 monthly sessions. Parents are expected to apply what they learn, in interacting with their autistic child, for half an hour per day. For the PACT RCT, 152 children who met criteria for the specific diagnosis of autism were randomly assigned to receive either the PACT intervention plus treatment as usual or TAU alone. PACT and TAU children were well-matched at intake across several measures, including in other treatments received. Parents were not as well matched. A detailed description of the PACT intervention is here. Dr Green and colleagues were successful both in recruiting an unprecedentedly large number of preschool autistic children for an RCT--in fact, expectations for recruitment were exceeded--and in minimizing drop-outs. In the Lancet, you will find an outstandingly clear CONSORT flowchart of participants as well as an intention to treat analysis and mixed results. Results favouring the PACT group were mainly in the area of parent-child interaction, as assessed through videos. The PACT group also outperformed the TAU children in parent-reported vocabulary and social measures, results carefully downplayed by Green et al. due to the parents not being blinded to intervention status. Post-treatment-only measures of adaptive behaviour reported by teachers did not differ between groups. The main measure was the ADOS used as a scale, and here too there was no result. In my view, using the ADOS as the main measure is a major error but an informative one. The ADOS, as used here (awkward tweaks and all), has thresholds only and doesn't work like a scale. And where is the evidence that lower ADOS scores in very young autistic children are related to better later outcomes? On the other hand, the strong design of the PACT RCT is such that it calls into question what exactly the ADOS is measuring--a result which deserves a lot of attention.Using ADOS thresholds, 27% of the 146 children who completed their assigned treatment had migrated from the specific diagnosis of autism to the lower-threshold "ASD" category, while an additional 6% no longer met criteria for any autistic spectrum diagnosis. No group differences were found. These findings lend perspective to the widely-publicized diagnostic category results from another recent RCT involving a small sample of much younger children receiving more than two years of intervention.As with all studies, it's possible to list a range of flaws, potential concerns, and caveats. The ADOS is not only wrongly used as a measure, it is incorrectly used to stratify the sample for randomization. The ADI-R is used in a slightly unconventional way, possibly to accommodate children who otherwise would be excluded by its limitations. There was no screening ergo no exclusion for genetic syndromes, which arguably makes the findings more difficult to interpret. There was poor agreement between raters for two of the three parent-child interaction measures, which in my view is fascinating and telling: nonautistic raters were not good at agreeing about what child initiation and shared attention consist of, when a child is autistic. If you look at the Lancet paper, depending on how your brain works, you should rapidly find at least one minor error in the data (I can't help it...). The PACT intervention itself has questionable aspects. The fundamental idea is sound: train parents to better respond to their autistic children's communication. But the PACT is a rigidly developmental six-step approach based on how nonautistics develop. In addition, and like so many other autism interventions, the PACT imposes extreme rationing of information and materials. Everything is cleared and shut away except a few toys or items. Anything in which autistics regardless manage to show strong interest will be taken away and replaced with something less interesting. What this does to an autistic child's communication and learning is not considered. The PACT explicitly requires every effort to identify and cater to the parents' different ways of learning, but no such consideration is extended to the autistic children. The above is not-close-to-complete list of the PACT's strengths, many of them unique, and its weaknesses--which due to its strengths serve as important information for the future of autism intervention research. Because the trial is so strongly designed compared to the rest of the literature, it is that much more important to learn from and build on it. This may not serve the interests of various lobby groups or service providers or political leaders or advocates, but it will serve the interests of autistics. Here is a suggestion from Dr Green and colleagues in the Lancet:These findings suggest that the optimistic results from other studies should be reassessed.Yes--good experimental design means that you risk not having your biases confirmed. But taking this risk is currently the only demonstrated way to fairly test interventions and treatments, and for this reason, the only way to conduct ethical research. There is a Lancet editorial about the PACT RCT, written by two NIH scientists. Here is one thing they point out:Thus, in a field in which minimum study standards have made it difficult to even look for literature to answer what works for autism, this study is an achievement.Here is another, and they get the last word:This study furthers the field by setting a new bar for the minimum standards of rigorous methodology needed in trials that have potentially far-reaching service and policy implications.References:Green, J., Charman, T., McConachie, H., Aldred, C., Slonims, V., Howlin, P., Le Couteur, A., Leadbitter, K., Hudry, K., & Byford, S. (2010). Parent-mediated communication-focused treatment in children with autism (PACT): a randomised controlled trial The Lancet, 375 (9732), 2152-2160 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60587-9... Read more »
Green, J., Charman, T., McConachie, H., Aldred, C., Slonims, V., Howlin, P., Le Couteur, A., Leadbitter, K., Hudry, K., & Byford, S. (2010) Parent-mediated communication-focused treatment in children with autism (PACT): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 375(9732), 2152-2160. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60587-9
Spence, S., & Thurm, A. (2010) Testing autism interventions: trials and tribulations. The Lancet, 375(9732), 2124-2125. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60757-X
The human visual system includes two pathways, magnocellular and parvocellular, deriving from two types of retinal ganglion cells that project to different layers of the lateral geniculate nucleus. ...
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Sperling, A., Lu, Z., Manis, F., & Seidenberg, M. (2005) Deficits in perceptual noise exclusion in developmental dyslexia. Nature Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1038/nn1474
I previously posted a study that found melatonin to be an effective treatment for insomnia among children with autism. This post has been accessed via Google search more than any other Brain Posts. It is apparent that many people are interested in the potential role of melatonin in treating sleep problems in children.There have been several research and clinical guideline manuscripts that address this issue. A review of sleep disorders in children was published in Clinical Evidence in 2007. The review noted that sleep disorders affect up to 20-30% of children and include dysomnias (i.e. difficulty falling or staying asleep) and parasomnias (i.e. sleep terrors and sleepwalking).Melatonin is an over-the-counter drug suggesting it is a safe drug representing a natural product. However, any drug use in children requires caution. First, a sleep problem may be an indication of a medical or psychiatric disorder and deserves evaluation. Second, there is very limited data about long-term safety of melatonin in children. Additionally, there is limited information about dosing in children.The Clinical Evidence review summarized the key points about melatonin in children:"Melatonin may improve sleep onset and sleep time compared with placebo in healthy children, but we don't know if it is beneficial in children with disabilities, if it improves parasomnias, or what its long-term effects might be."A survey of U.S. based pediatricians found that approximately 40% used medication for children reporting insomnia or sleep onset delay. Twenty-five percent recommended melatonin for children but less that 2% had recommended it for children less than 2 years of age and less than 7% had recommended it for children between 2 and 5 years of age. More pediatrians had recommended over-the-counter antihistamines (i.e. Benadryl) than melatonin.A survey of U.S. based child psychiatrists found one-third had recommended melatonin for children or adolescents. Other classes of prescription medications were commonly recommended by pediatricians and child psychiatrist for insomnia including alpha agonists (clonidine) and sedating antidepressants (trazodone).A recently published study by van Geijlswijk and colleagues from the Netherlands examined the issue of dosage in chilhood sleep onset insomnia. They examined three doses of melatonin (.05 mg/kg, .1 mg/kg and .15 mg/kg). A typical boy aged six would be 20 kg resulting in doses of 1 mg, 2 mg and 3 mg in the study. A typical boy aged twelve would weight about 40 kg resulting in doses of 2 mg, 4 mg and 6 mg in the study.No improvement in sleep parameters was noted in this study for higher doses of melatonin. The authors concluded that the lowest dose of .05 mg/kg is effective when given at least 1 to 2 hours before the desired bedtime.In summary, children with significant sleep problems should receive a comprehensive medical evaluation by a physician. Non-drug behavioral therapies can be effective for treating many of the sleep problems found in this age group. Melatonin is one medication treatment option that is being used by pediatricians and child psychiatrists in treating sleep problems in children and adolescents.Photo of Baby Ducks Courtesy of Yates PhotographyMontgomery P, & Dunne D (2007). Sleep disorders in children. Clinical evidence, 2007 PMID: 19450298Owens JA, Rosen CL, & Mindell JA (2003). Medication use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: results of a survey of community-based pediatricians. Pediatrics, 111 (5 Pt 1) PMID: 12728122Owens JA, Rosen CL, Mindell JA, & Kirchner HL (2010). Use of pharmacotherapy for insomnia in child psychiatry practice: A national survey. Sleep medicine, 11 (7), 692-700 PMID: 20621556van Geijlswijk IM, van der Heijden KB, Egberts AC, Korzilius HP, & Smits MG (2010). Dose finding of melatonin for chronic idiopathic childhood sleep onset insomnia: an RCT. Psychopharmacology PMID: 20668840... Read more »
Owens JA, Rosen CL, & Mindell JA. (2003) Medication use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: results of a survey of community-based pediatricians. Pediatrics, 111(5 Pt 1). PMID: 12728122
Owens JA, Rosen CL, Mindell JA, & Kirchner HL. (2010) Use of pharmacotherapy for insomnia in child psychiatry practice: A national survey. Sleep medicine, 11(7), 692-700. PMID: 20621556
van Geijlswijk IM, van der Heijden KB, Egberts AC, Korzilius HP, & Smits MG. (2010) Dose finding of melatonin for chronic idiopathic childhood sleep onset insomnia: an RCT. Psychopharmacology. PMID: 20668840
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