|A first step in learning by imitation, baby brains respond to another's actions
||Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery for adults, but for babies it's their foremost tool for learning. Now researchers have found the first evidence revealing a key aspect of the brain processing that occurs in babies to allow this learning by observation.
|Babies remember melodies heard in womb, study suggests
||Brains of babies who heard melody before birth react more strongly to tune after birth and at four months, scientists sayNewborn babies can remember melodies played to them while they were in the womb, according to a study.Scientists found that the brains of babies who heard a specific melody just before birth reacted more strongly to the tune immediately after they were born and at four months.In the study involving 24 women in the final few months of pregnancy, half were asked to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to their foetuses for five days a week. The scientists then played the tune to the babies after they were born and measured their brain activity using electroencephalography.Their results, published in the journal PLoS One, showed that the babies who were played the song in the womb had a stronger electrical response in their brain to the song after birth, when compared with a control group of babies."Even though our earlier research indicated that foetuses could learn minor details of speech, we did not know how long they could retain the information," said Eino Partanen, at the cognitive brain research unit of the University of Helsinki. "These results show that babies are capable of learning at a very young age, and that the effects of the learning remain apparent in the brain for a long time."The difference between the two groups was only apparent when the original music was played, rather than a version with changed notes.The scientists speculate that unpleasant or noisy sounds heard in the womb might have adverse effects: "It seems plausible that the adverse pre-natal sound environment may also have long-lasting detrimental effects. Such environments may be, for example, noisy workplaces and, in the case of pre-term infants, neonatal intensive care units."ReproductionPsychologyHuman biologyPregnancyParents and parentingAlok Jhatheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
|On the Seasonality of Getting to Second Base and More
||A player who can be counted on to play better in the post-season is, therefore, one who was not playing his best during the regular season.read more
|MS study correlates negative effect of warmer weather on cognitive status
||Scientists correlated fMRI findings with the negative impact of outdoor temperature on cognitive functioning in multiple sclerosis. This study in Brain Imaging & Behavior corroborates the group's previous study that established that people with MS performed worse on cognitive tasks during warmer outdoor temperatures. This new study extends previous research by demonstrating a link between brain activity and outdoor temperature.
|Pain in infancy alters response to stress, anxiety later in life
||Early life pain alters neural circuits in the brain that regulate stress, suggesting pain experienced by infants who often do not receive analgesics while undergoing tests and treatment in neonatal intensive care may permanently alter future responses to anxiety, stress and pain in adulthood, medical researchers have discovered.
|Five Reasons Why Humans Need Halloween
Did I scare you?
No? Let’s try this: Scientists currently predict global sea levels could rise up to 1.5 meters by 2100, a process that could drown cities and trigger widespread human famine and wildlife extinction.
Scared? You should be—and hopefully that little stab of fear and dread compels you to make some lifestyle changes and influences your votes.
But I don’t want to talk about doomsday. I’m here to talk about Halloween. And my real point is that real fear does not feel good. So why are we so prone to giggling at this kind of fright-based Halloween tomfoolery?
The answer, says the research, is that we need holidays like Halloween and Dia de los Muertos because they ritualize our fears, mainly of death. “Halloween rituals turn horror into play, death into levity, gore into laughter,” says UC Berkeley psychologist (and GGSC co-founder) Dacher Keltner.
So Halloween isn’t just a way to sell candy and inappropriately sexy Halloween costumes. Here are five scientifically validated reasons for you to treat-or-treat.
1. It’s a ritual and rituals keep us together.
Think, for a moment, about how often you interact with your neighbors. If you’re the average American, you probably don’t know most of the people on your block.
If you have kids, trick-or-treating is a great way to get to know the neighbors. Even if you don’t have kids, putting a goblin out on the lawn and sitting on your stoop with a bucket of candy might enhance your block-level social capital. There are stacks of empirical studies that say this kind of social connection makes you happier, kinder, and healthier—and that these benefits can spread from person to person. As Steve Almond writes in his marvelous book Candyfreak, “There’s something incredibly liberating about a holiday that encourages children to take candy from strangers.”
The rituals of Halloween also make people pay more attention to candy, and paying attention makes candy taste better, according to one recent study. This leads us to our next item…
2. We need candy.
My nine-year-old son actually provided this as the main reason why humans need Halloween—“I need candy, Daddy!”—and my own extremely scientific survey confirms that 10 out of 10 kids like candy.
I assumed that there must be a good evolutionary reason for this—and some googling did turn up evidence to support my son’s claim. For example, an ounce of dark chocolate every day can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, and chocolate has been shown to boost mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain like endorphins and serotonin.
I could cite more science, but you know what? I’d eat chocolate even if it depressed the heck out of me, and so would my son. So, on behalf of my family: Thank you, Halloween, for the treats!
3. We actually like safe, moderate levels of stress.
Most holidays contain some level of ritual—and varying degrees of stress.
Take Thanksgiving, that special time of the year when you get to sit across from your mother-in-law and hear about all the ways you weren’t fit to marry her precious child. Halloween also entails some stress, and we are often willing pay for stressors like jumping with fright in a haunted house.
Thus Thanksgiving and Halloween triggering similar shots of cortisol—but we’re talking about two very different kinds of stress, and one kind is definitely better than the other. Why would we pay for Halloween thrills and dread Thanksgiving dinner? To explain why some kinds of stress are good for you, here’s a brilliant scientist (with a scary beard):
4. We need to pretend.
This is another reason cited by my son, who this year is dressed as Finn the Human from the cartoon Adventure Time. If you must know, I will dress as his bro, Jake the Dog.
But he dresses up and pretends all year long, and I go along with him—even when his imagination takes us to dark places.
University of Oregon psychologist Marjorie Taylor has found that kids often create pretend characters who do sinister, mean, and even violent things. “Like adults who think things through before they act, this gives children an opportunity to play it through before they encounter the situation in real life,” Taylor once told me. “If something is bothering you, you can control it or manipulate it in the world of pretending. That’s a way of developing emotional mastery.”
5. Death can be fun!
We can all agree that death sucks. But I think we can also agree that if we’re going to die, we may as well eat a lot of candy before we go.
Halloween is one of many “memento mori” traditions designed to make death just a little bit more fun—and provide an age-appropriate hint to children about an inescapable fact of life, which is that life ends.
This has emotional benefits. As Oliver Burkemen notes in his essay “The Positive Power of Negative Thinking,” one study found that walking through a graveyard made people 40 percent more likely to help a stranger than walking down an ordinary block; another found that visualizing death can lead us to become more grateful for the things we have in life.
Ultimately, the playfulness of Halloween helps us to prepare for things that are genuinely scary, like climate change. Trick-or-treating is a little light exercise that builds up the emotional strength we need to face our fears.
|6 Purely Psychological Effects of Washing Your Hands
||Wash your hands, wash your mind: recover optimism, feel less guilty, less doubtful and more...â†’ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
|Brain regions can be specifically trained with video games
||Video gaming causes increases in the brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning as well as fine motor skills. This has been shown in a new study. The positive effects of video gaming may also prove relevant in therapeutic interventions targeting psychiatric disorders.
|Understanding the difference between 'human smart' and 'computer smart'
||Considering 798 to be an odd number is endemic to human cognition, reveals a new study. A common assumption in the cognitive sciences is that thinking consists of following sets of rules (as it does in a computer). A recent research argues that unlike digital computers, which are designed to follow rules, the computations performed by the neural networks that make up our brain are inherently context dependent. People sometimes make seemingly strange mistakes like thinking that 798 is an odd number despite knowing how to identify odd and even numbers.
|What makes creativity tick?
||Neuroscientists have created a quick but reliable test that can measure a person's creativity from single spoken words.
|What happens when the lightbulb turns on? Measuring a person's creativity from single spoken words
||Neuroscientists have created a quick but reliable test that can measure a person's creativity from single spoken words. The "noun-verb" test is so simple it can be done by virtually anyone anywhere -- even in an MRI machine, setting the stage for scientists to pinpoint how the brain comes up with unusually creative ideas. While some believe ingenuity is spontaneous, the researchers suspect there's a lot of hard work going on in the brain even when the proverbial light bulb turning on feels effortless.
|Teenagers, young adults diagnosed with cancer at increased risk of suicide
||Teenagers and young adults are at increased risk of suicide after being diagnosed with cancer according to a study published. A study of nearly eight million Swedes aged 15 and over found that among the 12,669 young people diagnosed with cancer between the age of 15 and 30, there was a 60 percent increased risk of suicide or attempted suicide. The risk was highest (150 percent) in the first year after diagnosis.
|The Tower of Psychobabble
||We sure could use more names for the common patterns of everyday psychological behavior, but such names are dangerous to have floating around. No sooner do they become established than we start abusing them. Hence, our wariness about psychobabble, which has a long and venerable history.read more
|How poverty molds the brain
||Groundbreaking research nearly two decades ago linking a mother's educational background to her children's literacy and cognitive abilities stands out among decades of social science studies demonstrating the adverse effects of poverty. Now new research has taken that finding in a neuroscientific direction: linking poor processing of auditory information in the adolescent brain to a lower maternal educational background.
|News that is better or worse than expected influences health decisions
||Patients who are unrealistically optimistic about their personal health risks are more likely to take preventive action when confronted with news that is worse than expected, while unrealistic pessimists are less likely to change their behavior after receiving feedback that is better than expected.
|Eyetrack study captures men's -- and women's -- objectifying gazes
||A new study used eye-tracking technology to map the visual behavior of men and women as they looked at images of women with different body types.
|How cancer affects relationships
||Dealing with the illness as a team was associated with greater intimacy, according to a recent study.
|Study shows men really do ogle women's bodies
||Men do look at women's bodies more than their faces, according to a new study that used eye-tracking technology to prove what many women have long observed.
|Hurricane Sandy: Dealing with the psychological scars one year later
||October 29 marks the one-year anniversary of the superstorm, and some people will be reliving the trauma they experienced when the hurricane first hit.
|When friends become bullies
||Bullying among friends can lead to difficulty forming new personal relationships.