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Head out to the ski slopes, for happiness' sake Are you contemplating a skiing holiday? The all-out pleasure and enjoyment you experience on a pair of skis or a snowboard is positively priceless to enhance your overall happiness. This is true even if you only get to go out on the slopes once in a blue moon, say researchers.
Imaging shows long-term impact of blast-induced brain injuries in veterans Using a special type of magnetic resonance imaging, researchers have found that soldiers who suffered mild traumatic brain injury induced by blast exposure exhibit long-term brain differences, according to a new study.
MRI technique reveals low brain iron in ADHD patients Magnetic resonance imaging provides a noninvasive way to measure iron levels in the brains of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to a new study. Researchers said the method could help physicians and parents make better informed decisions about medication.
Air pollution, genetics combine to increase risk for autism Exposure to air pollution appears to increase the risk for autism among people who carry a genetic disposition for the neurodevelopmental disorder, according to newly published research.
Novel rehabilitation device improves motor skills after stroke Using a novel stroke rehabilitation device that converts an individual's thoughts to electrical impulses to move upper extremities, stroke patients reported improvements in their motor function and ability to perform activities of daily living.
Athletes and the words for actions Is it true, as some scientists believe, that to understand words like "spike" (in the volleyball sense) the brain has to "mentally" retrace the sequence of motor commands that accomplish the action? According to a study just published, the high-level motor expertise of subjects modulates the involvement of the brain motor areas in understanding the actions. The effect of experience is a novelty that challenges some recent hypotheses, making the theoretical picture more complex.
Parents' work hours in evenings, nights, weekends disadvantage children A comprehensive review of studies on parents' work schedules and child development spanning the last three decades shows that parents' work schedules in evenings, nights and weekends, so called "nonstandard work schedules" or "unsociable work hours", may have negative consequences for children. When parents work such hours, children tended to have more behavioral problems, poorer cognitive ability, and were more likely to be overweight or obese than children in families where parents mostly worked during the daytime hours and week day.
Immune system may play crucial role in mental health Considering inflammation has helped neuroscientists cast a broader net when searching for causes of and possible treatments for mental illness, mood disorders and neurodevelopmental conditions.
Hungry Games: How Does Hunger Affect Your Politics? How does hunger affect your political views? The effect is powerful, but research suggests our charitable talk may be "cheap." read more
One Way and Another: New and Selected Essays by Adam Phillips – review Adam Phillips's literary approach to psychoanalysis is as addictive as it is insightfulHow should we read psychoanalysis? Many of its great theorists – Sigmund Freud, Donald Winnicott, Jacques Lacan – trained as doctors, and their successors tend to follow the rigid formulae of academic papers. However, for Adam Phillips, a practising psychoanalyst who is also a perceptive literary critic, it is "more illuminating" to consider psychoanalysts as poets "rather than failed or aspiring scientists".This attitude is characteristic of how, since the publication of On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored 20 years ago, Phillips has distinguished himself from most psychoanalytical writing. He is fond of playfully addressing subjects (freedom, boredom) that he feels his colleagues have neglected, and in a form – the literary essay – far removed from clinical studies. After 17 books, this collection brings together pieces that span Phillips's career, arranged chronologically, although it excludes his writing on literature.Apart from an ill-fitting essay on the photographer Diane Arbus, the focus is on psychoanalysis: its history, methods and above all its preoccupations, among them desire, memory and narcissism. The book is crammed with quotes and references that Phillips often employs ingeniously. In The Dream Horizon, he compares Giorgio Vasari's writing about art in the 16th century to the way we talk about dreams, "offering strange descriptions to evoke the character of a work not known by the listener". His prose is always elegant – if occasionally long-winded – and throws up striking phrases: the bored child is described as "a sprawl of absent possibilities".Phillips is devoted to Freud and is a lucid expositor of his ideas, especially in The Master-Mind Lectures. He does not put forward theories of his own, though, and for all his flashiness and erudition, there is something modest about his approach. He is interested in some of the more mundane areas of human behaviour and accepts the limits of his understanding: "the only thing the psychoanalyst can't afford to do," he writes, "is to have too much of a sense that he knows what he is doing."The closest Phillips comes to prescription – or even self-help – is urging modesty on his readers. We need not, he insists, strive to know ourselves completely, nor be "too convinced of our pleasures" when we wish for things. Instead, we should submit to chance and live as if "our lives are subject to accident". Phillips thinks we make too much of happiness; he is a champion of frustration, which is his great subject. In Punishing Parents, a recent essay that is one of the book's highlights, he writes that the parent who punishes a child's tantrum teaches him or her that "rage and frustration create nothing but rage and frustration", when they should be making that frustration more bearable.Reading Phillips can itself be a frustrating experience. His work is dotted with tantalising questions that are never answered. He might end an essay with one of these, or finish abruptly on an aphorism – "our eagerness for repetition can be self-blinding" – just when you think a riddle is about to be solved. Writing, for Phillips, seems to be a kind of improvisation in which, as he has said, "things are being worked out, not resolved". He repeatedly considers ideas or phrases from a different angle – the "another" way of the book's title – and teases out new meanings, sometimes brilliantly.Such lively intelligence wins over the reader and makes Phillips's work addictive. It is best to approach it as he urges us to read psychoanalysts: rather than worrying about whether they're right, "we can just argue instead about whether their words are persuasive, eloquent, evocative or beautiful". On those counts he mostly succeeds. You won't mistake him for a scientist.EssaysPsychologyDaniel Cohentheguardian.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
Out of Time: The Pleasures and the Perils of Ageing, by Lynne Segal – review Lynne Segal offers a powerful manifesto for dealing with the march of timeThe mighty Simone de Beauvoir published Old Age in 1970, when she was in her early 60s. A troubled, anguished and angry testimony, it detailed her profound dismay at the sagging of the body; the loss of looks (her own and the admiring glances of others), the absence of desire and the unwilling and uncomfortable contemplation of mortality. Not for her the basic philosophy of Woody Allen: "Old age isn't so bad, when you consider the alternative."In contrast, Lynne Segal's thoughtful analysis of ageing offers a far more combative, zestful approach. It asks: when suffering from "temporal vertigo", absorbing at once all the ages you have ever been, and dealing with the inevitable loss of loved ones, how do you accept the physical ravages and build on the experiences of the past, to live fully in the present? What does it mean to age well?Segal, now in her 60s, is a socialist feminist and anniversary professor of psychology and gender studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. For the past 30 years, she has fearlessly taken on some of the loopier ideas of feminism and contributed significantly to a more optimistic agenda for sexual politics. In books such as Is the Future Female?, Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men and Straight Sex: The Politics of Desire, she challenged the kind of essentialism that believes that women are somehow "nicer" than men and that, as sections of the sisterhood argued, men are incapable of change.Social conditioning is, obviously, particularly potent when it comes to the business of growing old. And here is Segal's first challenge. Whom does she define as old? "Late midlifers"? "Early elderly"? At what point does an individual cease being surprised at the wrinkled, chipmunked face in the mirror and begin the period of critical self-reflection that surely must be one of the perks of ageing? What's certain is that the number of years that have passed is no guide in itself; as the writer Penelope Lively says in Moon Tiger: "Chronology irritates me."Madonna wearily refuses to age, while women are now bearing children in a decade when their mothers were ploughing through the menopause. Old age for Dante began at 45; for Hippocrates, it meant the 50s. Now, 10 million Britons are over 65 and soon centurions will be the norm.How we age is influenced by society's attitudes and currently "youthism" reigns, but it is also dictated by events in the shape of disease, desertion and unexpected isolation and deprivation. A fifth of those over 65 live in poverty, the majority of them women.Segal's book is worth buying alone for the vim with which she sees off the "dim-witted" arguments of coalition minister David Willetts and historian Francis Beckett, among others, who insist that the baby-boomers have stolen all the booty and forfeited their children's future. Neoliberals, not the baby-boomers, have done the damage, Segal argues, and there are better ways to share the diminished spoils – a tax on corporate wealth, for one.To help construct her guide for a "good" old age, Segal calls on an army of poets, writers, academics and activists, perhaps too many, when it's her voice the reader may seek. Her recommendations include remaining politically active (she quotes the inestimable John Berger, in his 80s: "...one protests... in order to save the present moment, whatever the future holds"); valuing interdependency; treasuring connections with those who are younger; seeking out joy and ignoring all instructions to opt for invisibility and celibacy.Until her 40s, Segal and her son lived in a collective in her large house in north London. Then she cohabited more conventionally with her male partner; she was 15 years older and he left her for a younger woman. Now, she has a female partner. Segal quotes from June Arnold's novel, Sister Gin, in which Su, in her 50s, falls for Mamie, a woman in her 80s. "My darling's face has been walked on by life," Su says, as a valediction, not a complaint.Most of the cast that Segal rallies to explore her theme share an experience of beauty and/or fame, among them the poet Robert Frost ("No memory having starred/ Atones for later disregard/ or keeps the end from being hard"). The majority of those growing older will face other challenges. For millions, especially, perhaps, feminists, paid work, a career, has played a significant part in providing motivation and in forging an identity. Will retirement mean an erosion of a core sense of self? Or, looking back, is it possible to build on aspects of yourself you were never encouraged to value?Segal quotes the remarkable Lou Andreas-Salomé, who, among her many achievements, became a psychoanalyst after the age of 60. "All my life I have done nothing but work," she said, near death. "And really, when you come to think of it... why?"A question that could revolutionise ageing and that deserves an answer long before one runs out of time.SocietyAgeingPsychologyYvonne Robertstheguardian.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
Self-indulgence and the License to Sin We often know that what we want may not be good for us, but that doesn't stop many of us from indulging anyhow. Research on the license to sin and hedonic overconsumption shows that even if you're good at inhibiting your impulses, it doesn't take much to trigger your out-of-control desire to splurge. read more
This column will change your life: don't know what to do next? Wait and see 'When an old technique's not working, stay watchful. Contemplate alternative techniques, explore likely scenarios and focus on general readiness'My favourite bit of "meta-advice" – advice on how to deal with the advice that rains down on us from friends, books, columns like this – comes from the novelist Rick Moody. He happened to be talking about writing routines, a topic with which I'm dangerously obsessed, but his wisdom applies to any work, and to relationships and life in general. "The insight I offer you is this," he told the Writeliving blog. "There's no one process, and as soon as I imagine some approach to generating work is foolproof, it becomes suddenly worthless to me, and I have to start over." If, like me, you're always fiddling with your work systems, reorganising your stuff, testing new tricks for cultivating habits... take comfort. One tactic works for a while, then the self-sabotaging part of your brain gets wise to what you're doing, and the cycle begins again. The problem isn't that you've failed to find the One True Secret of productivity, happiness or love. The problem is believing you ever might.Indeed, there's one view of psychology according to which everything we do to make ourselves miserable – every dysfunctional behaviour, from minor to destructive – begins as an approach that once worked well, often in childhood, then passed its sell-by date. We're not idiots who choose unhappiness; rather, we develop coping mechanisms that make sense at the time. The psychotherapist Suzanne Lachmann recalls a typical patient whose mother was "so volatile that [the patient] never knew if she'd come home to find all her belongings strewn across the front lawn... As a result, [she] developed her own set of rules to navigate these situations, remaining on guard at all times." That's a pro-sanity strategy – until suddenly it isn't. Unfortunately, we often then respond by pursuing the old approach more vigorously. We're like drivers stuck in mud, accelerating and wondering why there's no forward motion.This trap is what Donald Sull, a London Business School professor, calls "active inertia". Companies do it, too: time and again, he's watched established firms respond terribly to industry changes. They don't adapt nimbly, but nor do they pause to take stock. Instead, "stuck in the modes of thinking and working that brought success in the past, market leaders simply accelerate their tried-and-true activities. In trying to dig themselves out of a hole, they just deepen it." One case study is Laura Ashley, which thrived in the 60s as an alternative to miniskirts and knee-high boots, but floundered as the demand for stylish workplace womenswear grew. Panicking, the firm hired a string of new bosses – the televangelist Pat Robertson even joined the board – but just drew nearer to collapse. It was only much more recently that it made the changes necessary to move on.What's the answer? This may be a rare case in which business school insights are truly useful outside business. Sull recommends "active waiting". When an old technique's not working, stay watchful. Contemplate alternative techniques, explore likely scenarios and focus on general readiness. (Can't figure out where to go with a relationship? That's OK; for now, try paying attention to exercise and sleep.) There's no shame in not yet knowing what the right next approach will be, and no single path to unbroken happiness anyway. Take it from a man named Moody.oliver.burkeman@theguardian.comtwitter.com/oliverburkemanHealth & wellbeingPsychologyOliver Burkemantheguardian.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
Four-Legged Support Research suggests that owning a pet is a great way to feel more socially fulfilled, even for people who already have a number of meaningful relationships in their lives.read more
Programe for parents of preschoolers getting results The results indicated that completion of the HOPE-20 program generated significant improvement in children's mastery of preschool concepts and language skills, reduced the children's behavior problems, lowered the stress of their parents, and fostered the parents' sense of competence.
Program for parents of preschoolers getting results A new study from Hong Kong shows that completion of the HOPE-20 program generated significant improvement in children's mastery of preschool concepts and language skills, reduced the children's behavior problems, lowered the stress of their parents, and fostered the parents' sense of competence.
Online IQ tests: are they valid? | Dean Burnett Dean Burnett: There are many IQ tests available for free online, but do they tell us anything useful?Dean Burnett
The Paradox of Procreation We wondered if busyness and work stress led to less frequent sex, which led to perceived infertility problems. We found that most researchers have looked at it another way: does the stress of trying to conceive reduce sexual desire and satisfaction?read more
Memories 'geotagged' with spatial information Using a video game in which people navigate through a town delivering objects, a team of neuroscientists has discovered how brain cells that encode spatial information form "geotags" for specific memories and are activated immediately before those memories are recalled. Their work shows how spatial information is incorporated into memories and why remembering an experience can bring to mind other events that happened in the same place.
Follow your gut down the aisle, new study says Although newlyweds may not be completely aware of it, they may know whether their march down the aisle will result in wedded bliss or an unhappy marriage, according to new study.