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Can you boost your brain power through video? Watching video of simple tasks before carrying them out may boost the brain's structure, or plasticity, and increase motor skills, according to a new study. Brain plasticity is the brain's ability to flex and adapt, allowing for better learning. The brain loses plasticity as it ages.
5 Psychological Studies that Require a Second Look Lessons learned from some of the psychological research in my laboratory. Not all published studies are equal in their contribution. Some studies should raise skepticism instead of confidence. This is my fair, naked assessment of science"”the good, bad, and the ugly.read more
Rebuilding After Affair Trauma Susan has been cheated on by her husband. She is broken. It-s so difficult for her to make it through each day. She struggles with finding energy to get out of bed each morning. Physically, she is very listless, trying to hold her self together. Her recurring post-affair memories and thoughts leave her feeling even more drained and stuck in a broken-spirit spiral.
Researchers discover how ALS spreads The fatal neurodegenerative disease ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, has been under investigation by researchers, and in particular, how it spreads. New findings suggest that transmission can be blocked, and that misfolded non-mutant SOD1 can be transmitted from region to region in the nervous system, offering a molecular explanation for the progressive nature of the spread. ALS is a disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There are approximately 140,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide each year.
Surprising differences in brain activity of alcohol-dependent women discovered The brain activity of alcohol-dependent women were compared in a recent study to women who were not addicted. Results found stark and surprising differences. "We see that the network dynamics of alcohol-dependent women may be really different from that of healthy controls in a drinking-related task," said a researcher. "We have evidence to suggest alcohol-dependent women have trouble switching between networks of the brain." The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study patterns of brain network activation. The findings indicate that the anterior insular region of the brain may be implicated in the process, suggesting a possible new target of treatment for alcohol-dependent women.
Are You an I-Family or a WE-Family? Say goodbye to parenting as you may have known it. As children grow, shifting from an "I-family" to a "WE-family" can make your family stronger and more resilient. Are you up the challenge of "family-think" parenting?read more
Making Music Dramatically Improves Young Children's Behaviour Children become 30 times more helpful after making music compared with listening to a story.Both singing and playing a musical instrument can improve young children's behaviour, according to a recent study. The study found that children who'd been making music were more helpful to each other and had better problem-solving skills than those who'd listened to a story... Continue reading - - > → Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Psychologist on a mission to give every child a Learning Chip Prof Robert Plomin wants educators to take notice of genes, and has a new big idea – personalised learning, discovers Peter WilbyTo talk about genes and their links to IQ and educational achievement is to risk accusations of elitism, fascism and racism. When the American professor Arthur Jensen published a paper in 1969 concluding that 80% of variance in IQ scores was attributable to genes, not environment – and attempts to boost African-American scores through pre-school intervention were therefore bound to fail – angry students besieged his office in California. The renowned psychologist Hans Eysenck, who backed Jensen, was punched on the nose while lecturing at the London School of Economics.The controversy exploded again in the 1990s when the Harvard psychology professor Richard Herrnstein and political scientist Charles Murray published their book The Bell Curve, which stated that US blacks had an average IQ of 85 against 103 for whites and that, once this was taken into account, many racial differences in educational attainment and career achievement disappeared. Welfare polices that encouraged poor women to have babies, the book argued, risked lowering average American IQ.Behind all such controversies lay the shadow of Nazi attempts to breed a master race. And teachers have always been suspicious of supporters of nature against nurture because they seem to imply that a child's fate is predetermined and anything schools do is pointless.When Michael Gove's former adviser, Dominic Cummings, claimed in a 250-page paper leaked last year that genes accounted for more of the variation between GCSE scores than schools, teachers, neighbourhoods or even families, another row ensued, particularly when, shortly afterwards, Boris Johnson observed that human beings were "very far from equal in raw ability".Genetics today, however, presents a kinder, more compassionate face. Cummings based his claims about GCSE scores on a paper written, with several colleagues, by Robert Plomin, research professor in behavioural genetics at King's College Institute of Psychiatry in London. Based on comparisons of more than 11,000 identical and non-identical twins, it reported that genes account for just over 50% of the variations in GCSE scores overall and 60% in science subjects. Plomin was repeatedly cited in Cummings's rambling paper, which proposed genetic screening to identify those capable of the scientific innovation needed to compete economically against rising Asian powers.Born in Chicago but a UK resident since 1994, Plomin recently gave five lectures at the Department for Education, one of them attended by Gove. But, he tells me, "I'm very much on the left side of things" and adds that he's a Labour party member: "I shouldn't be because I'm not a British citizen, but they still take my money".In a newly published book, G is for Genes, he and Kathryn Asbury, an educational psychology lecturer at York University, propose "a wish list" of 11 policy ideas. Several should raise cheers from Guardian-reading teachers: free, high-quality pre-school education for disadvantaged children from age two; a reduced national curriculum; more freedom for teachers; an individual education plan for every child; free or subsidised horse-riding, piano or ballet lessons for children from poor homes. The book also suggests, at least implicitly, that Plomin opposes grammar schools and externally imposed targets. And if schools alone don't make much difference, all the fuss about identifying "failing" schools and turning them into academies hardly sounds worth it. Moreover, as Plomin puts it, "why mortgage your house to pay those private school fees?"All in all, Plomin, charming and fast-talking, sounds terribly child-centred and not at all Goveian. "Children differ in how they learn," he says. "The teacher standing in front of the class and lecturing to kids and getting them to chant their times tables – all that goes against what we suggest."How does this square with his belief that genes account for most of the differences between children? Plomin turns the usual way of looking at such things on its head. It's not that environment doesn't matter, he says; it matters a lot. But the more successful we are at equalising environments, the more genes account for the differences between us. Genes don't explain so much variation in cognitive ability or test scores when children are very young, because their environments differ so widely. But as they go through school, where environments are to some extent equalised, genes count for more and more. If we could somehow put children through identical schooling – sending them all to Eton or, conversely, to an inner-city "sink" school – the contribution of genes might approach 100%. "In this light," Plomin and Asbury write, "causing an increase in heritability ... can reasonably be seen as an achievement of which teachers and parents should be proud, rather than a sign of determinism to be mistrusted and feared."As for differences between races and social classes in IQ and achievement, Plomin steers clear, arguing that differences between groups are small compared to differences between individuals within them. Besides, he says, "within a group, genes may explain a lot but the difference between that group and another could be wholly down to environment if one of them is discriminated against or kept in poverty."Plomin knows he's playing with fire. In the wake of The Bell Curve row, he signed, with 51 other leading researchers including Eysenck and Jensen, a statement in the Wall Street Journal that largely endorsed the data in the book, though not the authors' conclusions. He says he doesn't regret signing. As he wrote in 1996, genes gave him a stubborn nature, while family nurture "gave me a strong dose of self-esteem", allowing him to "take the heat".He was born in 1948 in a one-bedroom, rented flat. His father worked on the assembly line at a car factory, later becoming a layout engineer. "Neither parent went to college and there were no books in our house." But his parents encouraged him to go to the public library where, aged 10, he found an illustrated book on evolution. When he produced it during a science lesson at his Catholic school, he was suspended, turning him almost overnight into an atheist.For most of his formative years, he spent more time earning than studying. He delivered chickens, shovelled snow and, eventually, because he could type, assisted the research director of an educational association. He went to college only because he was paid to go. After trying philosophy, where the lecturer kept talking about the essence of "deskness", he wanted something more empirical, so he chose psychology. His interest in behavioural genetics developed at graduate school in Texas, then a leading centre for the subject. After completing a PhD, for which he began studying twins, and working at universities in Colorado and Pennsylvania, he moved to England with his third wife, a British-born developmental psychologist and now also a King's College professor.Though he is rated among the world's top psychologists, Plomin, until recently, was little known outside academia. Now he's on a mission. The education world, he thinks, doesn't take enough notice of genes. Learning about genetics should be part of teacher training, he says, so that teachers understand how to draw out individual talents. His big idea is personalised learning. He's against all labels: dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, gifted and so on. Every child has special needs, he argues. Schools should therefore offer the widest possible choice of subjects and extra-curricular activities, even if it means them being very large.Eventually, Plomin says, DNA analysis will give each child a Learning Chip (his capitals) as "a reliable genetic predictor" of strengths and weaknesses. "It's wholly accepted that preventative medicine is the way to go," he says. "Why not preventative education? We wait for problems such as reading disability to develop. Children go to school, they fail, they get diagnosed, they're given special resources but by then it's too late. They've only ever experienced failure and it's like putting Humpty Dumpty back together. Once you have the genes, you could predict difficulties and hopefully prevent them."This is where Plomin's work runs back into controversy. That's not only because it recalls the dystopia of the late Michael Young's The Rise of the Meritocracy – where biennial IQ tests put children on different occupational tracks – but also because many scientists say a learning chip isn't possible. Specific genes that explain anything have mostly proved elusive. Geneticists call it the "missing heritability" problem. Oliver James, a London-based psychologist, author and broadcaster, says: "It's been shown again and again that DNA cannot explain more than a small proportion of the differences between people." Steve Jones, emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, says: "Hundreds of different genes have been found behind the variation in height. But put them all together and you still explain only a fifth of the variation. There's no way you can make a gene-chip for height. So how the hell can you make one for IQ?"Plomin doesn't deny the problem. "I've been looking for these genes for 15 years and I don't have any," he says. The best he and other researchers can do is look at variations in gene sequences. These, he claims, do explain differences in ability and achievement, but only about half of what twin studies show. So it looks as though heritability, after all, explains only 20% to 40% of variance, putting environment back in the driving seat. Plomin thinks this is because the studies include only the most common genes. If rare variants can be included, he believes, the missing heritability problem will disappear.Others are sceptical. "They're looking at patterns in tea-leaves," says James. "They can find correlations, but they can't prove that specific genes cause anything."Moreover, some geneticists argue that twin studies are flawed because they assume that non-identical twins share an environment in the same way that identical twins do. But that, the critics say, isn't true: the environment for monozygotic twins is a distinct one, even before birth when they share a placenta. Even close relatives often can't tell them apart and they tend to develop strong emotional bonds and sometimes identity confusion. "If one goes to the library all the time," says Jones, "the other will. How you get that out of the equation I just don't understand." In other words, researchers tend to attribute to twins' genes what ought to be attributed to their peculiar shared environment.But Plomin won't easily give up his faith in twin studies, to which he has devoted most of his life. He says he has no intention of retiring. "It's such an exciting time in genetics. I want to be there to find out whether we win or lose." And what if the genes he's looking for are never found? There is only slight hesitation. "I will still believe that heritability is true." Whether it's nature or nurture, he's certainly stubborn.PsychologyTeachingSchoolsPsychologyGeneticsChildrenEducation policyPeter Wilbytheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Ellen Page has super powers, but why is this newsworthy? | Dean Burnett Dean Burnett: when a celebrity confesses to being a super-powered mutant, why is this such a big deal these days?Dean Burnett
To Spread Excellence You Need Excellence To Spread Photo Credit: Flickr In the book Scaling Up Excellence (which I recently reviewed), Stanford professors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao said this: “To spread excellence, you need to have some excellence to spread” (Sutton & Rao, 2014, p. 181). This sentence captures something that is actually quite simple: if you don’t have some excellence, don’t […]
Bullying's mental health toll may last years The negative physical and mental effects tied to bullying among children and teens may accumulate throughout the years.
Outside the Olympics, pressure on gay Russians grows The Games have conferred a kind of immunity for sexual minorities within the well-defended boundaries of the Olympic grounds.
How well do football helmets protect players from concussions? A new study finds that football helmets currently used on the field may do little to protect against hits to the side of the head, or rotational force, an often dangerous source of brain injury and encephalopathy. "Protection against concussion and complications of brain injury is especially important for young players, including elementary and middle school, high school and college athletes, whose still-developing brains are more susceptible to the lasting effects of trauma," said study co-author. The study found that football helmets on average reduced the risk of traumatic brain injury by only 20 percent compared to not wearing a helmet.
William James on Attention and the Road to Mastery "Anything you may hold firmly in your imagination can be yours." "• William JamesWilliam James, the American philosopher and psychologist, wrote over 100 years ago that: "One of the most extraordinary facts about our life is that,.... Continue reading - - > → Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
5 Decisions That Silence George Washington's Critics On the day that America recognizes the original "Mr. President's" birth, cynics might wonder how the slave-owning George Washington became known as the nation's greatest leader despite being an ungifted orator, a mediocre military strategist, and not a particularly profound thinker. These 5 decisions give us an answer. read more
Why does the brain remember dreams? Some people recall a dream every morning, whereas others rarely recall one. In a new study, research shows that the temporo-parietal junction, an information-processing hub in the brain, is more active in high dream recallers. Increased activity in this brain region might facilitate attention orienting toward external stimuli and promote intrasleep wakefulness, thereby facilitating the encoding of dreams in memory.
Six Neurotoxic Industrial Chemicals Linked to Rise In Brain Disorders "...children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognised toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements, and damaging societies..."The rise in disorders like autism, ADHD and dyslexia could be linked to the industrial use of neurotoxic chemicals, according to new research published in The Lancet.... Continue reading - - > → Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld – review This pseudo-scientific account of why certain ethnic groups prosper is a joke"The discipline will always be found most valuable," Samuel Smiles wrote in Self-Help, "which is acquired by resisting small present gratifications to secure a prospective greater and higher one." This is just one of many points on which the Victorian moralist and his spiritual successor, Amy Chua, are in perfect agreement."The present moment by itself is too small, too hollow," Chua concludes in her latest self-help briefing, The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success, co-written with her husband and fellow Yale professor Jed Rubenfeld. "We all need a future, something beyond and greater than our own present gratification, at which to aim or to which we feel we've contributed." Maybe the popularity of the acronym Yolo really does mean there are millions of people for whom this insight will constitute, as Chua believes, a kind of epiphany. For stoics who have trudged doggedly towards the final pages of The Triple Package, an ability to defer pleasure may well be what kept them going. But if Chua's homiletic provides a humdrum conclusion to a book that has been promoted as wildly controversial and surprising, well, as Smiles modestly admitted in 1859, the secret of worldly success is not, in fact, all that obscure, "as the proverbs of every nation abundantly testify".Among Smiles's examples of his own message, distilled, were: no pains, no gains; take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves; and, from the Old Testament, "go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise". To which we can now add the "Tiger motherish" insight, chosen at random from a final chapter in which every line merits its own sampler: "a life that doesn't include hard-won accomplishment and triumph over obstacles may not be a satisfying one".The preachy tone, although it may delight Mormons who are in many ways the stars of The Triple Package, is alas typical of a book that attempts to elevate Chua's bestselling wind-up Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother into a grand and instructive formula, but without any of the earlier manual's delicious evidence of her horrible but super-effective child-rearing techniques (her victims go to Harvard and Yale). As extended, on the back of extended anthropological conjecture, into the three habits of highly effective minorities, Chua's revised programme itemises as key to a cultural group's material success (1) a superiority complex, (2) a sense of insecurity and (3) a capacity for impulse control.Droll anecdotes from her last book, in which she threatened to burn her children's toys or told them they were "garbage", have duly been replaced, in this more ambitious apologia, with long lists of top and less top cultural groups and their associated quirks, repetitive enough to inspire guilty nostalgia for old, one-package classifications that seldom got more complicated than vulgar Yank, cowardly Frog, lazy Egyptian, and so forth.In the absence of objective measurements such as a giant marshmallow test pitting proud Cubans against, it's alleged, less special-feeling (and therefore poorer) Hispanics, the authors perhaps had no choice, if they were not to jettison the racial element, except to advance their argument, as befits the Bernard Mannings of academe, via elderly tropes and gags, along with anonymous anecdotes from, say, "one 23-year-old Indian-American professional" or "a Vietnamese American girl". Certainly the book would be duller without its Jewish jokes (the mother turns away from her daughter's inauguration as president: "You see that girl up there? Her brother's a doctor") and random cultural tags, which range from Ayn Rand to US sitcom Shahs of Sunset, often with little care for consistency. That the achievements of Bellow and Roth, for example, are seldom associated with another cited stereotype, "Jewish American princesses", only goes to show the authors say, that "Jewish insecurity has been lessening on several fronts".But there must be a significant loss of respect when "the popular Miami blogger, radio host and YouTube personality Pepe Billette", having been quoted, at length, on the proud Cuban character, turns out to be not merely "a puppet, whose real identity is a mystery", but a puppet who is critical of Cuban conceit. It would be one thing, after all, to build a grand theory of UK success on jokes featuring the conventional behaviour in a pub of an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman, quite another to invoke that typical English gentleman Basil Brush on our national reserve. And then contradict him. "The truth is," our cultural scholars press on, "that Pepe expressed a sentiment probably shared by most Cuban Americans."Much of the book, inevitably, is spent anticipating the objection that the authors' intellectually disreputable stereotyping racially denigrates groups that have failed to prosper, being insufficiently like the hyper-demanding Chinese mother or regal Nigerian-American: "the Yoruba boast an illustrious royal lineage". Here, the super-triple-package Mormons come to Chua's rescue, not being an ethnic group but still illustrating, with their astonishing wealth and self-denial, her theory, as previously detailed in Battle Hymn, that most of US society, white and black, but not Chinese, is impulsive and ruinously obsessed with self-esteem.Not to worry, Chua and Rubenfeld soothe inferior types, lots of things about the triple package aren't nice to be around: "If insecurity is a spur to Jewish success, it comes at a high price." Perhaps a greater deterrent for individuals thinking of taking the triple package route to success, for that is the ostensible point of this exercise, is a self-help programme that self-combusts as soon as it starts to work. There's a design flaw, even for people with the right blood type. What happens to the status-conscious Iranians or "famously entrepreneurial" Lebanese once success allows these titans to conquer the insecurity that forms, the authors insist, a crucial element of the triple package? Then again, Amy Chua has done all right without it.SocietyParents and parentingPsychologyCatherine Bennetttheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Types of Hugs and Their Alternatives The Way We Hug Hugging is something we all do at some point in our lives: for some it is a daily greeting, while others reserve embraces for special occasions; but what does hugging tell us about body language and how many types of hug exist in the spectrum of human behavior? The Importance Of […]
NICU parents suffer PTSD symptoms Prolonged uncertainty about their infant's survival can trigger fear, anxiety, grief, depression, changes in appetite and sleep, and social withdrawal.