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Mindful individuals less affected by immediate rewards A new study shows that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions are less affected by positive feedback from others.
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Finding Humanity in Alien Eyes Humanity's past is littered with examples of extreme intergroup violence. Hints about how to nudge groups away from susceptibility to genocide may lie in the place where artistic intuition and scientific inquiry meet: how aliens are depicted in film, and how groups are perceived in a psychological model of stereotype more
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Jealousy: it's in your genes | Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman The green-eyed monster of jealousy may be hardwired into our DNA, but there is a lot we can do to keep it in under controlHow would you feel if you suspected your partner had enjoyed a one-night stand while away on holiday without you? What if, instead of having sex on the trip, you believed she or he had fallen in love with someone? In either case, if your partner will probably never see the other person again, would that make the situation any easier to cope with?Faced with either scenario, most of us would feel intensely jealous: it's a very basic, normal reaction. But does the universality of jealousy indicate that it might be genetically programmed?The first study to investigate the genetic influence on jealousy was recently published. Researchers put the questions at the top of this article to more than 3,000 pairs of Swedish twins. Fraternal twins share about 50% of their genes; identical twins share exactly the same genetic make-up. By comparing the answers given by each group of twins, the researchers were able to show that around one third of the differences in levels of jealousy across the population are likely to be genetic in origin.In both scenarios – fears about a partner sleeping with or falling in love with a stranger – women reported more jealousy than men. But the researchers also found a gender difference between relative reactions to the idea of sexual or emotional betrayal. Men were far more troubled by the thought that a partner had been sexually unfaithful than by potential emotional infidelity. Women tended to respond to each scenario with equal levels of jealousy.Why is this? The answer, according to some scientists, may lie in evolutionary pressures. For both men and women, reproduction is key. But men, unlike women, cannot be certain that they are the biological parent of their child, and so they are naturally more perturbed at the thought of sexual infidelity than they are about emotional infidelity – because it jeopardises the successful transmission of their genes. Women, though relatively less perturbed by the idea that their partner may have been sleeping around, are nevertheless dependent on their mate for their survival and that of their offspring.That's the theory. Given that we can't zip back in a time machine to human prehistory, it's an explanation that seems impossible to prove or disprove.Though genes appear to play a part in jealousy, the Swedish results also show that the kinds of things that happen to us in our lives – the way we're brought up, the people we're around, the events we experience – are far more important. Only one third of the variation in jealousy seemed to have a genetic origin, so the rest must have been down to environmental differences.But whether genetic or environmental, hardwired or learned, there's no doubting the ubiquity of jealousy. It's an emotion that almost everyone feels at some point, and a major cause of relationship problems. Although much of this jealousy is illusory, we all know that the eye (if nothing else) can wander. In Britain, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles found that 82% of men and 76% of women reported more than one lifetime partner, with more than a third of men and almost a fifth of women clocking up 10 or more. Some 31% of men and 21% of women said they had started a new relationship in the previous year, with 15% of men and 9% of women seeing more than one person at the same time.Occasionally, then, we have grounds to be worried: jealousy alerts us to a looming problem in our relationship. If your partner has been unfaithful in the past, naturally you'll worry that they might stray again in future. Much of the time, though, jealousy is pointlessly corrosive, making both partners miserable for no good reason. In these cases, how can we get the better of our jealousy? How can the "green-eyed monster" be tamed?Consider the evidence for your jealousy. What about the evidence that might contradict our fears? What would we tell someone if they came to us with the same worries? Have a chat with a trusted friend to get an independent perspective on how likely it is that your partner is deceiving you.Talk to your partner. When two people hold differing views of what's acceptable in the relationship – how much time to spend together, how frequently to keep in touch, whether it's okay to stay in contact with ex-partners and so on – misunderstanding and jealousy are always a risk. If you haven't agreed the ground rules for your relationship, make it a priority.Weigh up the pros and cons. People often believe that their jealousy – for all the pain it brings – actually helps them. So it's a good idea to draw up a list of the pros and cons, both of being jealous and of trusting your partner. On balance, which one seems the best option?Get to the bottom of your fears. What is it, do you think, that lies at the root of your jealousy? Do you dread being alone? Do you fear humiliation? When you've identified the fears fuelling your jealousy, think constructively about how you'd handle the situation.Set yourself some ground rules. We can find ourselves trapped in a vicious cycle: jealous behaviour feeds jealous thoughts, which in turn trigger more jealous behaviour. And so on. To break this cycle, it helps to set ourselves some ground rules. When you find yourself worrying about your partner's faithfulness, save those thoughts for a daily "worry period". Set aside 15 minutes each day, and postpone all your worrying until then.Concentrate on the good stuff. Jealousy skews our perspective. To counter it, we need to make a deliberate effort to view things more positively. That means focusing on the good parts of our relationship: the things about our partner and our life together that we like, the things that keep us coming back for more. Focus on the positive by doing more positive things together. And remember to have your own interests and activities that boost your self-esteem.Daniel Freeman is a professor of clinical psychology and a Medical Research Council Senior Clinical Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford. Jason Freeman is a psychology writer. On Twitter they are @ProfDFreeman and @JasonFreeman100. They are the authors of How to Keep Calm and Carry On: Inspiring Ways to Worry Less and Live a Happier LifePsychologyGeneticsReproductionBiologyHuman biologyRelationshipsDaniel FreemanJason © 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
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Can putting your child before yourself make you a happier person? While popular media often depicts highly-involved parents negatively as "helicopter parents" or "tiger moms, how does placing one's children at the center of family life really affect parental well-being? New research finds that parents who prioritize their children's well-being over their own are not only happier, but also derive more meaning in life from their child-rearing responsibilities.
New way to monitor induced comas After suffering a traumatic brain injury, patients are often placed in a coma to give the brain time to heal and allow dangerous swelling to dissipate. These comas, which are induced with anesthesia drugs, can last for days. During that time, nurses must closely monitor patients to make sure their brains are at the right level of sedation -- a process that scientists now describe as "totally inefficient." An automated system could offer better control of patients' brain states.
Study on incarcerated youth shows potential to lower anti-social behavior A first study of its kind demonstrates that mindfulness training can be used in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy to protect attentional functioning in high-risk, incarcerated youth.
Funeral Selfies: Grief or Gross? The Tumblr site Selfies at Funerals is raising more than eyebrows. Many claim that this is yet another example of a generation of narcissists. Technology shifts and adolescent development suggest other more
Dogs communicate different feelings with right or leftward tail wagging A dog can distinguish a happy, friendly pooch from an anxious, threatening one from the way it wags its tailDogs can tell how other dogs are feeling from the way their tails are wagging, according to researchers who monitored the animals' heart rate as they watched canine movies.The Italian team found that dogs had higher heart rates and became more anxious when they saw others wag their tails more to the left, but not when they wagged more to the right, or failed to wag at all.The curious form of communication is probably not intentional, or consciously understood, but is instead an automatic behaviour that arises from the structure of the brain, said Giorgio Vallortigara, director of the animal cognition and neuroscience lab at the University of Trento."It's not something they explicitly understand," Vallotigara told the Guardian. "It's just something that happens to them."Vallotigara traces the effect back to the way the two halves of the brain process different experiences. In a previous study, his team showed that when a dog had a positive encounter, such as seeing its owner, activity rose in the left side of the brain, which brought about more tail wagging to the right. But a negative experience, such as being confronted by an aggressive and unfamiliar dog, had the opposite effect: greater activity in the right side of the brain, and more tail wagging to the left.The effect is barely visible to the human eye because dogs tend to wag their tails too fast, but it can be seen with slow motion video, or in some larger breeds that wag their tails with less gusto. "In some cases, the bias is so extreme that you can see their tails touching the flank on one side but not on the other," said Vallotigara.In the latest study, the researchers wanted to find out whether the direction of tail wagging had any effect on other dogs. To get an answer, they fitted dogs with vests that recorded their heart rates, and played them movies of other dogs wagging their tails one way and then the other. To ensure the dogs reacted only to tail wagging, and not appearance, they repeated the experiment with dogs that appeared only as silhouettes."When dogs saw other dogs wagging their tails to the right, there was quite a relaxed reaction and no evidence of an increased heart rate. But when the wagging was to the left we saw an increase in heart rate and a series of behaviours typically associated with stress, anxiety and being more alert," Vallotigara said.The anxious animals held their ears up, panted, crouched a little and kept their eyes wide open. The study appears in the latest issue of Current Biology.Vallotigara said the effect was comparable to the apparent human preference for wider pupils. In one 1975 study, women were described in more appealing terms when their pupils were larger. Another study, from 2007, found that women's pupils got bigger when they looked at pictures of potential partners. In neither case were people aware that pupil size was sending out a signal, said Vallotigara.He said biases in tail wagging were hard to spot with the naked eye, but the finding might still help to improve animal welfare."This paper is extremely interesting from a dog owner's perspective," said Louise McDowell, a psychologist at Queen's University, Belfast, who studies how activity on different sides of the brain affect animal behaviour. "If a dog wags their tail to the left upon reunion with their owner, this may be a cause of serious concern, as it suggests that the right hemisphere is activated, which controls for negative emotional responses, including fear and withdrawal."Animal behaviourBiologyNeurosciencePsychologyDogsAnimalsPetsIan © 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
Direct link established between stimulus-response learning, substance abuse A neuroscientist has found that the region of the brain involved in stimulus-response learning is directly linked to the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. More specifically, she discovered that people who resorted to stimulus-response learning smoked more, had double the consumption of alcohol and were more likely to use cannabis.
The visual brain colors black and white images The perception and processing of color has fascinated neuroscientists for a long time, as our brain influences our perception of it to such a degree that colors could be called an illusion. One mystery was: What happens in the brain when we look at black-and-white photographs? Do our brains fill in the colors?
Brain researchers discover how retinal neurons claim best connections Scientists have discovered how retinal neurons claim prime real estate in the brain by controlling the abundance of a protein called aggrecan. The discovery could shed light on how to repair the injured brain.
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Keep the mornings honest, the afternoons for lying and cheating | Paul MacInnes A recently published Harvard study suggests that we're more likely to be economical with the truth when our brain gets tiredGood afternoon, how are you doing? I have to say your hair looks wonderful, and whatever perfume that is, it's delightful. In fact, it's precisely the same scent as Alexa Chung wears. Yes, she was telling me as much just last week when we were in that hot tub together in Berne waiting for Vladimir. Vladimir Putin. He's just hired me and Alexa as consultants in the campaign to preserve the Siberian tiger. Yeah, it's a really great job. I get paid in pelts.Sorry about that, couldn't help myself. You see it's past midday and I find it very easy not to lie. Sorry, I mean very difficult. Neither am I alone – or am I? – as results of a study at Harvard University this week have found that lying in the afternoon comes naturally to humans. And not just humans, but animals, fish and even trees."As ethics researchers, we had been running experiments examining various unethical behaviors, such as lying, stealing, and cheating," said ethics researchers Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith in a highly attentive press release. "We noticed that experiments conducted in the morning seemed to systematically result in lower instances of unethical behaviour."The main experiment was simple enough: participants were asked which side of a screen had more dots on it. Not a question notorious for inducing immoral behaviour, Kouchaki and Smith spiced it up a little by offering people money to say that there were more dots on the right hand side. This tactic proved notably more successful in the afternoon.Observations were further backed up by a second test, one that played hangman for the purposes of science. Two incomplete words – E_ _ _ C _ _ and _ _ RAL – were put in front of respondents and they were invited to fill in the blanks. In the morning, the most common completed words were "ethical" and "moral". In the afternoon, and this is no word of a lie, the most popular words were "entrails" and "Phillip Schofield". The conclusion is that whatever restraint people managed to put up against doing the wrong thing diminished as they got tireder. In the afternoon, our conscience went for a nap.Without wanting to come over all David Cameron about this, I'm not sure such information should be in the public domain. Imagine the effect it might have. The next time someone claims to be leaving the office to "pick up the kids", people will assume they're just knocking off early. If anyone comes back from a long lunch and – apropos of nothing – says "I definitely didn't have a drink" the conclusion will be "Oh yes you did, you soak". And as for freebie evening newspapers ... nobody will trust a word that's printed in them!The only hope now is that, because we know the afternoon to be a truth-free zone, we try and cram as much honesty into the morning as possible. Any of us well practised in the art of rowing with their partner will know it's better to speak those harsh but necessary home truths early in the morning rather than late at night. This rule will now just have to be extended to all human interactions without exception.One interesting detail of Kouchaki and Smith's study was that those most likely to feel guilty about lying were more prone to changing their behaviour. This is partly because those who don't feel guilt – those who, in the lingo, experience "moral disengagement" – were happier to just lie all day long. But it shows that even the most upstanding among us are not as resilient as they might like to think. As the old adage goes- all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to have a big lunch.PsychologyPaul © 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
Federal appeals court reinstates key restriction in Texas abortion law A federal appeals court ruled that most of Texas' tough new abortion restrictions can take effect immediately.
U.S. athletes still reluctant to admit head injuries Many young athletes do not admit when they have suffered a head injury despite increased awareness about the risks of concussions in children and teenagers.