|Stem cell combination therapy improves traumatic brain injury outcomes
||A combination stem cell therapy utilizing umbilical cord cell and growth factor treatment improves traumatic brain injury outcomes in animal models and could offer hope for millions, including US war veterans with traumatic brain injuries, new research shows. The researchers concluded that additional studies of this combination therapy are warranted in order to better understand their modes of action.
|Surgery after major stroke also improves survival odds in elderly patients
||Patients who are over the age of 60 and have suffered a major stroke due to blockage of the middle cerebral artery benefit from hemicraniectomy -- removal of part of the skull located above the affected brain tissue. These patients' chances of survival increase two-fold. However, patients who have been operated on often survive with severe disabilities, while patients who do not undergo the surgery generally die quickly.
|What’s Wrong with Grit?
||Grit is all over the news these days—the “latest fad in schools, ” according to author Alfie Kohn. With research suggesting that grit is linked to academic success, many policy makers, school leaders, and educators are crossing their fingers that this might be the silver bullet needed to give a boost to struggling students.
Yet a closer examination of the actual research on grit reveals that there are many missing pieces to the grit puzzle. And if we’re not careful, encouraging our students to be “gritty” or, perhaps even worse, grading them on their level of grit—as they do at KIPP charter schools—may do more harm than good.
Leading grit researcher Angela Duckworth defines grit as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” In a nutshell, her research has found that students with high levels of grit are more successful in both academic and non-academic pursuits.
But there’s a lot more to grit then just identifying a goal and going for it. Before a school races to make grit a key factor in student success, here are a few important things to consider:
1. We don’t know how to teach it, and Duckworth is the first to admit this. So how can schools expect students to develop something that they’re not sure they can teach and students can learn, let alone grade them on it? It’s an unfair proposition for both students and teachers alike.
Part of the challenge is that it’s not known whether a person’s level of grit can change. Grit is understood by researchers to be a stable personality trait, possibly part of the trait of “conscientiousness.” What this means is that a person’s level of grit generally remains the same over time.
Yet while developmental psychologists agree that a child’s personality becomes more stable as he or she goes through certain developmental stages, research on personality traits in adults suggests that these traits may actually change gradually over the lifespan. However, much is predicated on other factors, such as environment, the process of identity development, and interactions with other people.
In other words, we can change—but the questions remain: when, how, how much, and how fast?
So without a deeper understanding of child development, it is unrealistic to assume we can teach a student to increase his or her level of grit in a math class over the course of a semester and then maintain that level for the remainder of his or her school career. And, unfortunately, most teachers and school leaders do not have a strong grounding in child development, as shown in a recent report on teacher preparation programs by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
Still, some researchers who are trying to figure out if grit can be taught suggest that we look at children’s motivation. This leads us to the next point.
2. Grit requires passion for long-term goals. Not a lot of students come to school with this in place. So the next question is whether or not schools can help students create these goals. And the answer is… maybe.
Researchers who created a program to help students cultivate hope found that the first step was having students figure out what goals were important to them—not to their parents or their teachers. Otherwise, students had a hard time staying motivated to reach their goals.
And not just any goal will do. One study found that students who score higher in grit linked their personal goals (“I want to become an engineer”) with outcomes that benefit the greater good (“because it will help people”). This same study showed that helping students define what the authors called “beyond-the-self” outcomes at the beginning of a semester led to a higher GPA. Whether or not this meant that students raised their grit levels is unknown—again, the research is just not there yet.
But for students who may come into our classrooms with high levels of grit—and even for those who don’t—helping them shape their goals to serve more than just themselves may help motivate them to achieve those goals, especially when school seems tedious.
3. The interplay of grit and emotions. Grit involves two psychological resources: self-discipline and self-control, both of which require the ability to manage emotions and thoughts. Yet the research on grit rarely, if ever, mentions the importance of emotions—and this is where the dark side of grit comes in.
According to a U.S. Department of Education report on grit, “persevering in the face of challenges or setbacks to accomplish goals that are extrinsically motivated, unimportant to the student, or in some way inappropriate for the student may potentially induce stress, anxiety, and distraction, and have detrimental impacts on students’ long-term retention, conceptual learning, and psychological well-being.”
In other words, encouraging or forcing students to be “gritty” may, in some situations, do more harm than good.
Leading emotion researcher Richard Davidson tells us that emotions and cognition work together in a very seamless way to help us persevere on tasks. And yet when the going gets tough and emotions like fear or anger arise, many of us lack the emotional intelligence to know how to deal with those emotions.
Research states that there are two ways we regulate our difficult emotions: cognitive reappraisal or suppression.
Cognitive reappraisal means that we reframe the situation that caused the negative emotion. For example, a student who does poorly on a test may reframe the situation as an opportunity to learn from mistakes and improve. People who use this method generally have more positive emotions, closer relationships, and overall well-being.
Emotion suppression means just that: pushing away rather than dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions. Long term, this method of emotion regulation can lead to higher levels of negative emotions, anxiety, and depression. People who regularly suppress their emotions also have fewer close relationships and social support. And, pertinent to education, researchers have found that emotional suppression is higher amongst adolescents than adults.
This forces us to ask the question: Are students who demonstrate high levels of grit—particularly when pressured by parents and teachers—dealing with their emotions in a positive or negative way? And what about students with a history of complex trauma, who may use emotional suppression as a method of survival? What happens when schools grade them on their ability to push through their personal challenges to succeed academically without giving them the resources for how to do that? The research on grit does not provide any answers yet, especially considering that the majority of studies have only been conducted with high-performing students at elite schools.
It is up to parents and teachers to help students find healthy ways to manage their emotions, so that this potential dark side of grit does not rear its ugly head.
In the end, I doubt that grit is just a “fad.” Even though we may not know a whole lot about it yet, we do know that it plays an important role in helping us achieve what we want out of life.
But it’s only one piece of the puzzle of human development. Cultivating other qualities such as meaning and purpose, empathy, compassion, hope, forgiveness, and gratitude are also part of being human—and, given their long history, probably aren’t going away anytime soon.
|Fake laughter doesn't fool the brain, research reveals
||As the world celebrates International Day of Happiness today (Thursday, 20 March), can we tell whether people are truly happy just from their laugh? "During our study, when participants heard a laugh that was posed, they activated regions of the brain associated with mentalizing in an attempt to understand the other person's emotional and mental state," the authors state.
|Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?
||The adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder posits a subjective interpretation of physical attractiveness. Yet there is strong consensus between observers as to which individuals are beautiful. To what extent are evaluations of beauty agreed-upon within and across cultures? And insofar as there is general agreement in rating beauty, what explains this consensus?read more
|Diabetes in Middle Age May Lead to Brain Cell Loss Later in Life
||People who develop diabetes and high blood pressure in middle age are more likely to have brain cell loss and other damage to the brain, as well as problems with memory and thinking skills, than people who never have diabetes or high blood pressure or who develop it in old age, according to a new study. Middle age was defined as age 40 to 64 and old age as age 65 and older.
|How to Build Character
||Looking at the Best Picture nominees from the most recent Academy Awards it was clear that stories about overcoming adversity resonate with people. It's always inspiring to be reminded that we can grow and develop throughout our lives. I recently had the chance to speak with filmmaker Tiffany Schlain, whose latest film is The Science of Character. read more
|Social groups alleviate depression
||Building a strong connection to a social group helps clinically depressed patients recover and helps prevent relapse, according to a new study. While past research has looked at the importance of social connections for preventing and treating depression, it has tended to emphasize interpersonal relationships rather than the importance of a sense of group identity. In addition, researchers haven't really understood why group therapy works. "Our work shows that the 'group' aspect of social interaction is critical," the authors note.
|The aging brain needs REST: Role of gene regulator
||A gene regulator active during fetal brain development, called REST, switches back on later in life to protect aging neurons from various stresses, including the toxic effects of abnormal proteins. The researchers in a new study also showed that REST is lost in critical brain regions of people with Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment.
|Study describes first maps of neural activity in behaving zebrafish
||In a new study, neuroscientists describe the first activity maps at the resolution of single cells and throughout the entire brain of behaving zebrafish.
|Why MS sufferers like me need the highs and lows of unrealistic optimism | Peter Thompson
||Statins may not be the miracle cure we keep looking for. But, just as when I was diagnosed, I believe science will be my salvationAnother day, another bit of exciting news about a medical breakthrough. For a multiple sclerosis patient like me, the course of a day can see you raised from a height of happiness and expectation at a headline to a low brought on by qualification and small print. In some ways, the greatest breakthrough would be a pill that protects one against those highs and lows. Meanwhile one has to fall back on an ability to read between the lines, differentiate journalistic hyperbole from medical realism, and come to a conclusion that allows for hope but prepares for disappointment.Today's news is that certain statins, taken in high dose, may help to slow down the progress of MS in its later stages. At first glance this seems like two marauding birds killed with one very cheap stone. As a 53-year-old man who enjoys a sausage roll, I have been worrying more about my cholesterol levels recently than about the symptoms of my MS, and here comes a pill that promises to deal with both. Suddenly, fears that I had about the side-effects of statins are dissipated by the hopes that one has about the side-effects of statins. Where before I had rejected the idea of going on a drug like that every day for the rest of my life, now I can't wait to get down to the GP to get put on the trial dose.Four times the normal? What the hell? Make it eight times, please, and how does it fit in with the extra vitamin D3 I am taking, and the extra folic acid and vitamin B12, and cod-liver oil by the spoonful, and all the other things that have been recommended by medical personnel and friends?But underneath all this optimistic clutching at straws there is the recognition that one has an illness, an illness that is not going to go away, that is probably going to get worse and that – even if this new miracle cure proves to be true – will slow the shrinking of the brain only from 0.6% to 0.3% a year. On the other hand, never have three-thousandths of the trillions of neurons and nerve cells in my brain seemed so valuable and worth preserving.And this is the problem: the unrealistic optimism that is an essential part of human character drives us to believe in miracle cures, whether they be statins, the lottery, or the spittle of a supposed messiah. Life without the highs and lows of hope and dashed expectations would hardly be a life worth living.When writing about my diagnosis in the Guardian some years ago, I said that science was not my god, but it may be my salvation. That remains my position today, and I think it is often the position of many people with many different diseases and illnesses. Underneath the pills and lotions and new-age quackery that our pains and aches lead us towards, there is an undertow, an underpinning and an imagined certainty that – as with all those other diseases that were once so common and are now so rare – ours too will one day be a distant memory. Maybe not to us, but, as Brecht once put it: to those who come later.Multiple sclerosisHealthHealth & wellbeingPsychologyPeter Thompsontheguardian.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
|Lost sleep leads to loss of brain cells
||Sleep loss may be more serious than previously thought, causing a permanent loss of brain cells, research suggests.
|Neuroscience 'used and abused' in child rearing policy
||Influential policy-informing 'evidence' that children's brains are irreversibly 'sculpted' by parental care is based on questionable evidence. The study highlights that mothers, in particular, are told that if they are stressed while pregnant or suffer postnatal depression, they will harm their baby's brain. 'Telling parents that acts of love are important because they are 'brain-building' inevitably raises the question of how much cuddling, talking and singing is enough?' the authors state.
|How to Lucid Dream Tonight
||Lucid dreaming is a topic of conversation that very often gets the tongues wagging. There are wikiHow guides on how to do it, scientists have debated it on many occasions, and many people have given it a bash, yet still it is a relatively unknown concept. I don’t care about warnings, show me the techniques! […]
|5 Habits Proven to Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's and Dementia
||Adopting just one of these healthy habits reduces the rate of dementia by one-quarter.â†’ Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Related articles:10 Simple Habits Proven to Make You Happier
Habits and The Unexpected Benefits of Weak Self-Control
Irregular Bedtimes Reduce Children's Cognitive Performance
The Myth of Cognitive Decline: Elderly Know More and Use it Better
Boosting Your Brainpower in Old Age: Do Scientists Really Think Mental Workouts Can Help?
|Non-academic young people take brain stimulants more frequently than students
||Three per cent of young men in Switzerland take cognitive enhancement drugs at least once each year. Students hope this consumption will improve their exam performance, while their non-academic contemporaries seek primarily to remain awake for longer. "Brain stimulants", "Neuroenhancers" and "Smart Pills" – the terms used for chemical-induced cognitive enhancement are numerous. While these substances are actually intended for use in the treatment of attention disorders, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, they are often taken for other purposes.
|A majority prefers letting computers decide
||When individuals engage in risky business transactions with each other, they may end up being disappointed. This is why they'd rather leave the decision on how to divvy up jointly-owned monies to a computer than to their business partner. This subconscious strategy seems to help them avoid the negative emotions associated with any breaches of trust, according to a new study.
|The Wisdom of Crowds and the Search for Flight MH370
||Can the Wisdom of Crowds effect be used to solve the mystery of Flight MH370? Are the masses more intelligent than the experts?read more
|Medical marijuana research for PTSD clears major hurdle
||A researcher at the University of Arizona is a step closer to studying how medical marijuana affects veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
|Protein family that helps the brain form synapses surveyed by researchers
||How does nature make the different types of synapses that connect neurons? And how are synaptic defects linked to cognitive disorders? A Nobel Prize winning researcher used new instruments to identify more than 450 isoforms of the neurexins, a family of proteins thought to help define synaptic form and function. The findings illuminate basic brain functions and will lead to better understanding of autism, schizophrenia and related conditions.