|Gene family linked to brain evolution implicated in severity of autism symptoms
||The same gene family that may have helped the human brain become larger and more complex than in any other animal also is linked to the severity of autism. The gene family is made up of over 270 copies of a segment of DNA called DUF1220. DUF1220 codes for a protein domain -- a specific functionally important segment within a protein. The more copies of a specific DUF1220 subtype a person with autism has, the more severe the symptoms, according to a new paper.
|Homeless with TBI more likely to visit ER
||Homeless and vulnerably housed people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury at some point in their life are more likely to visit an emergency department, be arrested or incarcerated, or be victims of physical assault, new research has found. "Given the high costs of Emergency Department visits and the burden of crime on society, these findings have important public health and criminal justice implications," the researchers write.
|Darwin, Dillard, and Dukkha
||Biologists and Buddhists alike know that the living world is gorgeous and wonderful - but that it is also filled with pain and suffering. And natural selection, sometimes brutal and always amoral, is behind both life's glory and its misery.read more
|4 Benefits of Professional Supervision
||Are you in a leadership position in your profession? Where do you discuss your ideas, debrief from a stressful day, analyse challenges and increase your self-awareness? Are you uncertain of what to do next in your career? Professional supervision provides you the opportunity to manage your situation through critical reflection and self-discovery. Here are 4 […]
|Bedside optical monitoring of cerebral blood flow shows promise for individualized care in stroke patients
||Using a device to noninvasively and continuously monitor cerebral blood flow (CBF) in acute stroke patients, researchers are now learning how head of bed (HOB) positioning affects blood flow reaching the brain following stroke. Most patients admitted to the hospital with an acute stroke are kept flat for at least 24 hours in an effort to increase CBF in vulnerable brain regions surrounding the damaged tissue.
|Slowing down Alzheimer's: Researchers discover potential way
||A way to potentially halt the progression of dementia caused by accumulation of a protein known as tau has been discovered by researchers. Normally, tau protein is involved in microtubule formation, which acts as a brain cell's transportation system for carrying nutrients in and waste out. In the absence of tau protein, brain cells become dysfunctional and eventually die.
|The scientific quest to prove bisexuality exists
||People are using science to show that someone can be truly attracted to both a man and a woman.
|Justices may decide if vendors can snub gay weddings
||A photography case pits two constitutional rights against each other: freedom of speech and equal protection.
|Mindfulness meditation may reduce drug user relapse
||New study suggests that meditation techniques may help prevent addiction relapses.
|Tooth loss linked to depression, anxiety
||Tooth loss from caries and periodontal disease is an outcome from complex, chronic conditions. Several biopsychosocial factors are involved, including accessing care. Individuals reporting dental anxiety may avoid dental care; and individuals with depression may be negligent in self-care. In this study, researchers examined a potential association of tooth loss with depression and anxiety.
|Mysterious Brain Region That is Vital to How You Decide
||Whether you're choosing between job offers or deciding which car or house to buy, this region is probably involved.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:Beauty in Art and Mathematics Activates The Same Brain Region
Unique Human Brain Area Identified that Separates Us From Monkeys
Family Problems In Childhood Affect Brain Development
Autism: Vital Link Found Between Vitamin D and Serotonin Production
How New Ideas Change Your Brain Cells
|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.