|Mathematical beauty activates same brain region as great art or music
||People who appreciate the beauty of mathematics activate the same part of their brain when they look at aesthetically pleasing formula as others do when appreciating art or music, suggesting that there is a neurobiological basis to beauty.
|Two Parents with Alzheimer's Disease? Disease May Show up Decades Early on Brain Scans
||People who are dementia-free but have two parents with Alzheimer's disease may show signs of the disease on brain scans decades before symptoms appear, according to a new study.
|What If Your Ambivalence Can't Be Resolved?
||There's a common belief that with the right mind set virtually all conflicts are resolvable. But in many instances, making such an assumption is simply unrealistic: a fiction, a fantasy. As a therapist, over the years I've encountered many situations in which a client was struggling mightily with ambivalence. And no simple resolution to their dilemma existed.read more
|New pathway for fear discovered deep within brain
||Fear is primal. In the wild, it serves as a protective mechanism, but for humans, fear is more complex. A normal amount keeps us safe. But too much fear, like PTSD, can prevent people from living healthy lives. Researchers are working to understand how the brain translates fear into action. Today, scientists announce the discovery of a new neural circuit that links the site of fear memory with a brain area that controls behavior.
|Possibility of Selectively Erasing Unwanted Memories
||Could memories of drug abuse or trauma be selectively erased?For some people--those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse problems--erasing unwanted memories is more than just an idle wish.
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â†’ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
|Sanfilippo B: Promising new therapy for devastating genetic disorder
||A promising new therapy has -- for the first time -- reduced damage to the brain that can be caused by Sanfilippo B (MPS IIIB), a rare and devastating genetic disease.
|Is Gestalt Therapy Ok?
||Gestalt Therapy, one of today-s popular psychotherapy approaches, is founded by psychotherapist Dr. Fritz Perls. The following well-known Gestalt prayer written by Dr. Perls in the 1960s captures the spirit of this therapeutic approach:
|Where to Find Love on Facebook
||What’s the most popular emotion in the world? Well, on Facebook at least, the answer is clear: It’s love.
How do we know that? Because the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center worked with Facebook to develop a new set of animated emoticons to express a broad range of 16 feelings, from sadness to awe to amusement to that queen of emotions, love. They were called “finches,” in honor of the birds studied by Charles Darwin.
In what nation are Facebook users most likely to express love through a finch? The answer may surprise you.
Love is a finch
People use emoticons everyday in online communications: They’re fun little graphics that allow us to infuse a written message with some extra feeling: a smile : ), a raised eyebrow smirk ; /, or a clownish frown :(
They’ve become so ubiquitous to compensate for the limitations that come with texting, emails, IMs, status updates, or tweets: These forms of communication preclude important signals that we always use when talking face-to-face, like expressions, tone of voice, gesticulations, and posture.
But the classic emoticon is a blunt instrument. Static yellow circles or keyboard character-features pale in comparison with the richness of real live emotion signals we use to understand each other every day.
In an effort to expand the palette of different feelings that people can share through emoticons, researchers from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (including Emiliana, one of the co-authors of this article) worked with engineers at Facebook and a talented illustrator from Pixar, Matt Jones, to create a new, richer set of emoticons based on Darwin’s careful descriptions in his pivotal 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.
The scientists delivered research-based phrases like this one to the rest of the team: “Sadness: The eyelids droop as the inner corners of the brows rise and, in extreme sadness, draw together. The corners of the lips pull down, and the lower lip may push up in a pout.”
Based on these phrases, Jones created sketches for a new class and range of emoticons, which were turned into clever little animations and built into Facebook’s Sticker Store, for people to use for free anytime they wanted to send a message on Facebook—the Finches.
From Russia with love
To understand the use and impact of these emoticons, researchers from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley and the University of Cambridge in the UK have looked at how many finch emoticons of every kind were sent on any given day from every geographical market that uses Facebook.
The research team plotted these patterns onto a geographical map. The most popular finch, they found, was love—which is appropriate, given that Valentines Day is coming up.
The map above represents 122 countries, showing the percentage of love fiches used within each country—the redder a country is, the more love its citizens expressed through a finch, relative to the other finches.
Around the world, love represented almost 15 percent of the 16 finches available. But the most hot-blooded country—the darkest red—is the one currently hosting the Winter Olympics: Russia.
It’s not that Russians are more loving than Canadians because they send more love finches. It’s that, given the choice of many emoticons to use, the Russians are choosing the one for love more frequently than the other emotions. In contrast, Canadians are choosing to send a more equal number of love finches alongside ones that express other emotions.
Why might this be the case? That needs more research.
How many finches does it take to make you happy?
But the analyses done to date might tell us something about Russians and Canadians—and reveal patterns that square with a great deal of emotion research.
For example, it turns out that using a more balanced proportion of emoticons—the Canadians are a good example—is associated with greater overall happiness.
“More expression is good, but not more positivity,” says Alex Kogan, a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, who analyzed the patterns.
In other words, it’s not just a willingness to express emotions that is associated with happiness—those emotions need to be diverse, according to Kogan’s study of finch use. Too much of one feeling or another seems to be bad.
Russia actually lacks this emotional diversity, to its detriment. “While Russia is high on love,” says Kogan, “it’s not particularly high on life satisfaction from other measures—in fact, it tends to be pretty low!”
Not surprisingly, stability seems to also be a good thing. “Nations where there is more variability from day to day in terms of amount of emotional expression—people do worse in life satisfaction,” says Kogan.
So don’t stop sending those love finches, Russia. But remember to balance them out with some bemusement, surprise, anger, and sadness.
|Novel compound keeps Parkinson's symptoms at bay in mice
||Scientists report that they have developed a novel compound that appears to protect mice against developing movement problems associated with Parkinson's disease (PD). The research could one day in the future translate into a therapy that could halt the progression of PD.
|Depressed girls suffer most: Adolescents with psychiatric problems also likely to suffer chronic pain
||Seven out of 10 adolescents with mental health problems also suffer from chronic physical pain. Depressed girls suffer the most.
|Texas ban on same-sex marriage challenged in federal court
||A federal judge will hear a challenge to Texas' ban on same-sex marriage.
|Women face high sexual assault rates globally
||An estimated 1 in 14 women worldwide is sexually assaulted by someone other than a partner, a new study has found.
|Are money-making moms less happy?
||New survey finds moms who didn't choose to be breadwinners less satisfied.
|From netball team to psychopath: the strange descent of Joanna Dennehy
||She grew up with no apparent problems but within a few years she was a sadomasochist, drifter and addict. What happened?Joanna Dennehy could be charming, a good friend, and attractive to both men and women. But if she did not get her way, she was prone to explosive, frightening outbursts of temper and violence. She would punch and lash out at those closest to her and friends and lovers got used to getting out of the way quickly.Over a fortnight in early spring last year, Dennehy went much, much further, killing three men, possibly only because she had been annoyed by their unwanted attention or grown bored by them after casual sexual liaisons. Having tasted and apparently been thrilled by violence, she went in search of more and only narrowly failing to murder two other men before she was caught.Doctors who have examined Dennehy before and after her killing spree have diagnosed a range of conditions. A year before she struck she was found to have a psychopathic anti-social personality disorder that manifested itself in anger, aggression, impulsivity and irresponsibility. She did not care about the safety of others, felt no remorse when causing harm, and was a skilled deceiver and manipulator. Like many who have a severe anti-social personality disorder, Dennehy has frequently been in trouble with the law and has a long history of serious drug and alcohol abuse. Her sexual preferences disturbed some of her many partners – men and women – but added to her allure for others. After her arrest she was diagnosed as having paraphilia sadomasochism: deriving sexual pleasure from both giving and receiving pain and humiliation. She did not hide her tendencies, often wearing a pair of handcuffs attached to her trousers. She was a consumer of violent pornography and an habitual self-harmer, cutting her body, sometimes even during intercourse.All that said, her murderous spree in the spring of last year was a huge shock to her friends, her very respectable home counties family and to police. Though she had significant mental health problems and a criminal record, there was nothing to suggest she should suddenly murder three times and try to kill twice more.Born in August 1982 in St Albans, Hertfordshire, Dennehy grew up in nearby Harpenden. Her father, Kevin, worked as a security guard, while her mother, Kathleen, was a shop manager. She has a younger sister called Maria, who had a successful career in the army and went on to run her own IT company. Denneny has claimed that she was abused as a child but there is no evidence of this, and her family and friends insist she was always treated well.Her childhood sounds comfortable and ordinary. As a little girl she shared a bunk bed with Maria, who was two years her junior, and they were so close that they invented their own secret language. Dennehy was fond of her dolls and as she grew up loved make-up, doing her hair and fashionable clothes. Friends say their parents were strict with the girls and protective but never overbearing.At first Dennehy did well at Roundwood Park School in Harpenden. Bright and capable, her parents hoped she would go on to university and become a lawyer and even paid for extra tuition for her. She played for school hockey and netball teams.It all began to go badly wrong in her mid-teens. She started skipping lessons and associating with a crowd of older boys. When she was about 15 she fell for a man called John Treanor, who was five years her senior, and ran away with him. Her family were frantic. The pair were eventually found living rough on wasteland close to the family home and there was a reconciliation.But by this time Dennehy had begun taking drugs and drinking, even turning up to school high or drunk. Aged 16 she left home for good, only returning occasionally when she needed money.Dennehy and Treanor set up home first a few miles up the road in Luton, then in Milton Keynes. While she was still in her teens, she had two children. She became permanently estranged from her parents following the birth of her first child when she told her parents that they would have pay to see their grandchild.The relationship with Treanor was stormy. She cheated on him with men and women. She was a poor mother, telling friends she had never wanted children. Dennehy would leave home for days or weeks on end, then return and ask for forgiveness.They tried a fresh start, moving to East Anglia, but her drinking got worse. She worked as a labourer on farms and would sometimes be paid in alcohol rather than cash. She harmed herself, cutting her arms, body and neck with razor blades and etched a tattoo of a star under her right eye herself.While Joanna's decline accelerated, her sister Maria was serving with British troops in Afghanistan. After her tour of Helmand, she traced her sister and Treanor to an address in Cambridgeshire. But Dennehy made it clear she wanted nothing to do with her family.Her violent tantrums became worse. She would kick and punch Treanor when she was drunk. She began to carry a dagger in one of her boots and told friends she often felt like killing someone. Afraid that she would use the dagger on him, Treanor left in 2009, taking the children with him.Dennehy's behaviour went from bad to worse. She drifted from address to address in East Anglia, stealing and sometimes turning to prostitution to fund her drug and drink habit. She served time in prison and received some treatment for her mental health problems.In February 2012 – just over a year before the murders – Dennehy spent a few days in Peterborough city hospital, where she was diagnosed as having an anti-social personality disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. After her arrest she was examined by a consultant forensic psychiatrist, Frank Farnham, while she was being held at Bronzefield prison in Surrey. He said she had paraphilia sadomasochism. Those with the condition experience sexual excitement from acts involving the infliction of pain, humiliation or bondage. Dennehy liked to give – and receive – pain.It is also clear that she revelled in her notoriety, jumping for joy when police appealed for help finding her and describing herself as a "monster" while on the run. She boasted that she had killed eight men in all – including her father, two people in a house fire and two in a hit-and-run. Her father is very much alive and no evidence has been produced so far that she has murdered more than three men.Strictly speaking, she is not a serial killer – criminologists say there has to be a "cooling off" period between murders and would classify her as a "multiple murderer or "spree killer". She will join the likes of Rosemary West and Myra Hindley as one of Britain's most infamous female murderers but detectives and academics see her as a one-off."This case is unique and unprecedented," said David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University. "Serial killers disengage from the process of killing and revert to their normal life. There was never any sense of her disengaging. She seems to have constantly been in the moment of killing." Wilson, who has studied the case closely, said this could have been due to a number of factors, including her use of drugs and alcohol, and the relationship she had with Gary Stretch, who helped her dispose of her victims' bodies and went on the run with her.Wilson suggests this created a syndrome called folie í deux, or shared psychosis. "It creates a world in which even the most extraordinary ideas and behaviours are seen as being permissible. So often it is the woman who follows the world view of the more dominant male partner. In this case Dennehy was the dominant partner and Stretch accommodated her world view."CrimePsychologyPeterboroughSteven Morristheguardian.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
|Elevated brain aluminium, early onset Alzheimer's disease in an individual occupationally exposed to aluminium
||Research has shown for the first time that an individual who was exposed to aluminium at work and died of Alzheimer's disease had high levels of aluminium in the brain. While aluminium is a known neurotoxin and occupational exposure to aluminium has been implicated in neurological disease, including Alzheimer's disease, this finding is believed to be the first record of a direct link between Alzheimer's disease and elevated brain aluminium following occupational exposure to the metal.
|Sometimes – unfortunately – being an asshole is the way to get ahead
||Oliver Burkeman: From Tom Perkins to Tim Armstrong, high-profile obnoxiousness is everywhere. And with good reason, sadly: there's evidence that acting dislikeably can boost your statusOliver Burkeman
|I spent 20 years of my life trying to 'prove myself'. What a mistake | Elad Nehorai
||Life is the opposite of fixed. Life is a verb. An action. A motion. It took me way too long – and therapist visits – to figure that outI was sitting in my therapist's office. I had screwed up again. I don't even remember what it was, but I remember how I felt.It was a year since I had been released from a mental hospital, and months after returning to some of my past addictions. I was confused, lost, and feeling absolutely pathetic.I remember how those words were starting to come out with him, just word after word of how bad I felt, how lost ... and he just sat quietly listening.But I could feel there was something more, something deeper, and it kept coming close to my lips and then disappearing. I needed so badly to get it out.So I stopped myself. I looked at him. I took a deep breath."I'm afraid ... I'm afraid that I'm a bad person."I knew the words were real because I felt this immediate recognition of truth inside of me. Yes, this was my fear, what I was so afraid of. He asked me why. I explained how time after time, I screwed up, I hurt people with my screwups, and that I never seemed to really recover from my failures. The only answer that I could come up with was that I was inherently flawed. That there was something wrong with me, something broken.When I look back on that day, what I realize is that this was the first step in a larger realization of the way I looked at the world, and how I looked at myself. When I review my life, I am amazed at how I spent so much of it worrying about the possibility that there was something "wrong" with me.Despite going to "gifted" classes, I never seemed to be interested in school. I had anger problems, I would let out my frustrations on my parents with yelling, with huge fights. I was addicted to practically everything that was "bad" for me, from video games to gambling to pot. As the years progressed, I just got more sucked in.In my mind, there was a case being built against me. Even though I wasn't religous, I subconsciously imagined some divine detective gathering evidence every time I screwed up. Soon, I was convinced, the evidence would be so stacked against me that I would simply have to accept it: I was bad.Of course, those thoughts never consciously entered my mind until that day in the therapist's office. But there were indications. I always seemed to be much more worried about what people thought of me than how I actually acted. I would sometimes obsess over a tiny mistake, verbally abusing myself for it, calling myself names and generally hating myself. Often, I would judge friends and people close to me just as harshly. If they hurt me, something I judged as "wrong", it would be almost impossible for me to let it go. I would drop them, convincing myself I had left the "bad" people.And so my life went. Judging myself and others by what I felt was inherently within us: a goodness or a badness. A completeness or a brokenness. That day in the therapist's office, after I told him about my ultimate fear: that I too was a bad person, he started questioning me. He asked me, "Define you."I tried and I tried. I came up with about a million definitions, but he refuted them all. There was no way to define me. No way to pin down what I was. I was just ... a soul."You keep trying to pin down this 'you'," he told me, "But that's no way to live. You are indefinable. And your life is spent just trying to be the best of that indefinable self." He's a deep guy.It took me some time to wrap my head around what he said. Maybe it was only recently that I truly grasped it. But he laid a seed in my mind. The seed grew into a full-on realization. The realization that when we live our lives like they are already defined, like someone set our soul in stone and all we have time left to do is prove to the world that this soul is worthy ... then we are missing out on the most important fact of life.The fact that the world, including us, is in constant motion. From the particles that make up physical reality, to the planets themselves, to our own physical selves. Physical reality is constantly evolving, constantly growing, constantly changing. There is no way to completely pin it down, to grab a hold of it and make it all stop and say, "This is the state it will always be in!" And the same is true with us.I spent 20 years of my life trying to prove to myself that I was worthy. I saw every failure as a sign that I was worthless. Part of the evidence against my soul. I saw every success as something I had to grab onto, hold onto for dear life for whenever the court case was brought against me.Relationships were the same way. Instead of spending my time loving friends and family, giving to them, I was always building a case for and against them, weighing whether they deserved my attention.This is no way to live, this "judgment". And it's not just about morality. It's about reality. Judgment implies a fixed-state of things. It implies no change. It implies lack of growth. But life is the opposite of fixed. Life is a verb. An action. A motion.And so are we. Until our bodies are dead, frozen and decomposing in the ground, we are creations in motion. When we accept this reality, we can accept ourselves. We can focus on our actions.As this realization has oozed its way into my mind, I've learned to embrace failure as a part of my ever-evolving attempts to grow into a better person. I've learned to realize that love is a verb, that my wife and I grow together, and aren't defined by any one negative interaction. I've learned to stop trying to impress people.I've learned that I am a verb. And the more I embrace that, the more I focus on the verbs of life and the less I focus on defining it.DepressionAgeingPhilosophyPsychologyElad Nehoraitheguardian.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
|What would Superman do about the latest news on video games? | Ally Fogg
||Whether you game as Voldemort or Superman can affect your behaviour, apparently, but applying such research to real life is fraught with problemsVideo gaming has never been my primary vice. I did wrestle for a year or two with an addiction to Mario Kart, but it left me with few consequences other than over-developed thumbs and a filthy habit of throwing my banana skins out of the sunroof when driving.The impact of gaming on personality is in the news again this week. Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that just five minutes spent playing a game as either a hero (Superman, to be precise) or a villain (Lord Voldemort) had a significant impact on behaviour when in a subsequent test a person had to administer helpings of either chocolate sauce or chilli sauce to a stooge. Five minutes spent as Superman meant extra chocolatey loveliness; Voldemort heralded a mouthful of spicy torture for the unfortunate muggle.The way in which this was reported in press headlines would make for an interesting social sciences thesis of its own. The buoyant Business Standard chirruped that "Playing Superman may turn you into a real life superhero" while, perhaps inevitably, the Daily Mail portended: "Playing the villain in video games makes you CRUEL".What this experiment teaches us, above all, is that we should be very careful in how and what we learn from experiments. First there is the cultural specificity. Most of what we claim to know about humanity we learned by prodding 19-year-old, white, North American middle-class psychology undergraduates, who may not be entirely typical, and this is no exception. More significantly, the experimental conditions which force subjects to play either hero or villain simply do not exist in our everyday lives.It might suit experimental psychologists and tabloid journalists to imagine that video-game characters can be easily categorised as good or evil, but that is not how they are experienced by those playing. The modern, open-world video game places the player at the heart of his or her own ethical vortex. Just as in life, we are all the heroes of our own adventures, and whether a course of action is good or evil is often entirely dependent on circumstance. I can think of no better illustration of this than my own son, who boasted to me recently of how he had adopted a dog in one of his sword'n'sorcery games. A group of shady characters had kicked this beloved pet, and my lad couldn't stop playing until he had hunted them down and mercilessly slaughtered every one of them with extreme prejudice. I was so proud. He says he'd like to work for the RSPCA when he's older, but may settle as a hitman for the Sicilian mafia. Such are the fine lines of applied moral philosophy.Applying the findings of experimental psychology to the real world is similarly fraught. There is a cavernous gap between the purpose of experimental research and its reporting in the media. Experiments are an essential tool in constructing models to understand how our minds work. Very rarely do they describe how human beings, in all our messy, unpredictable glory, behave in the real world. Studies designed to illuminate one small theoretical detail of social psychology are too often amplified into grand theories of human behaviour. All the while, other factors which may be vastly more influential, but harder to squeeze into an easily budgeted, modestly experimental design are forgotten. There is near-endless scope for short, fun, media-friendly experiments into the short-term impacts of video games, violent movies or pornography. Demonstrating the long-term impacts on behaviour of low-quality housing, structural economic inequality or emotional and physical neglect and abuse is a different matter entirely.Our viewing and playing habits are a legitimate and endlessly intriguing topic of investigation, but too often they serve a similar role to the evil spirits of medieval times – an explanation for behaviour that owes more to convenience than accuracy.In one particular respect, the latest study is refreshing. It allows for the possibility that mass media and entertainment platforms can affect us for the better, rather than being a purely negative effect. It would be pleasing to imagine that the much-vaunted decline in interpersonal violence of recent years can be accounted for by generations who have grown up inspired by the examples of Mario the plumber or Lara Croft. The more probable if prosaic truth is that there is less violence because an entire generation is perched on its voluminous arse playing video games. I think that is progress, of sorts.GamesPsychologyUnited StatesAlly Foggtheguardian.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
|Positive Thinking Leads to Economic Decline
||Expressions of positive thinking about the future"”in inaugural addresses from 1933 to 2009 and newspaper articles from 2007 to 2009"”reliably predicted economic decline.read more
|In praise of grey matter | Editorial
||Research emerges to prove that, as Bertie Wooster always suspected, grey matter matters"How is the grey matter, Jeeves," pleads Bertie Wooster, appealing for aid to get a friend out of a fix – "surging about pretty freely?" Always keenly aware that his manservant was more cerebrally endowed than himself, Bertie also fretted that his quotient of the grey stuff would not be sufficient to dabble in publishing (until he figured out that a cheque book could be used to hire Substantia grisea from elsewhere). Now research emerges to prove that Wooster couldn't, after all, have been thick as a plank, because – as he always suspected – grey matter matters. People with one gene, found scientists at King's College London, had a thinner cortex in the left hemisphere (and thus less of the so-called grey tissue, which, in the living, retains a pink hue) and also fared worse in trying to solve tricky problems. All this accounts for 0.5% of observed variation in intelligence, leaving 99.5% still to be sorted out. But then Jeeves is still going to need something to do.NeuroscienceKing's College LondonPG WodehousePsychologyGeneticsEditorialtheguardian.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