Mental health, public health, global health. New and interesting developments in technology and the arts. Meditation research. And occasionally cute animals.


For Christians, Dawkins and the Qur'an leave a bad taste in the mouth, literally

Many studies have shown that moral disgust is “embodied”. Contemplation of taboo deeds really does leave people physically sickened. Now Ryan Ritter and Jesse Preston have extended this literature to show that religious beliefs that contradict one’s own also leave a bad taste in the mouth, literally.

The neuroscience of batman, or how the human brain performs echolocation

Over the last few years it’s become apparent that humans, like bats, can make effective use of echolocation by emitting click sounds with the tongue and listening for the echoes that result. Now a team led by Lore Thaler at the University of Western Ontario has conducted the first ever investigation into the neural correlates of this skill.

Scientists Find Networks Can Get Schizophrenic

Computer networks may have more human characteristics than we know. Researchers at the university of Texas found that computer networks can show a kind of virtual schizophrenia, if they can’t forget fast enough.

The project was based on a virtual computer model designed to simulate the excessive release of dopamine in the human brain. The network was able to learn a natural language was used to investigate what happens to language as the result of eight different types of neurological dysfunction. The results of the simulations were compared by Ralph Hoffman, professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine, to what he saw when studying human schizophrenics.

Psychologists Put "Character" Under the Microscope--and it Vanishes

The second part, assuming people are willing to let go of their long-held view, is that character shouldn’t be “taught” using a simple strategy of providing rules and examples. You can’t just tell Johnny to be good, or not to steal and assume that he will know how, or even be able, to do this by willpower alone. Moral education needs to be more skill-based. That is, we would advise parents to tell their kids not only what the goal is, but also how to get there — what tricks to expect their minds will engage in and what strategies they can use to keep their character moving in the direction they want. Because in the end, it’s not about “Are you a good person in general” — it’s about “Are you a good person right now.”

Self-Restraint Leads Us to Prefer Aggression

Past studies have shown that exerting self-control may increase irritability and anger. But the new research found that the increased aggression brought on by self-restraint has a much broader effect.

People with Tourette Syndrome Show Strong Cognitive Control

Brain training in the news!

Tourette syndrome. You might think that someone who exhibits the physical and verbal tics of Tourette has less control of hismind than do non-Tourette people.

Well, here’s a surprise. Studies show that children with Tourette actually have greater cognitive control than do their peers. The researchers think that the enhanced control is the effect of spending so much time and energy attempting to subdue Tourette-related behaviors. The work is in the journal Current Biology.

Live worm during political TV debates could be a threat to democracy

It seems like sports pundits and political commentators are engaged in a private competition to see who can make the most use of the latest graphical wizardry. Whilst the former ‘draw’ in white pen over video stills of matches, a recent political toy is to present a live ‘worm’ during election debates, depicting the fluctuating average emotional ratings recorded by a group of undecided voters. The horizontal squiggle, which appears on-screen during the debate, veers upwards when the group like what they hear and slopes downwards when they don’t.

Ambidextrous people easier to influence emotionally

People who are relatively ambivalent about which hand they use may also have moods that are more susceptible to suggestion.

So says Ruth Propper at Montclair State University, New Jersey, and colleagues, who discovered that “inconsistent-handers” – those who favour neither their right nor left hand – are more easily persuaded to feel a certain way than consistent right-handers.

Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks

Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.

Distraction, noise cause overeating

…Beegah says he usually does not eat this way. At home he wouldn’t think of loading up on triple portions of fatty foods for breakfast. But traveling, being on the go, it turns out Beegah’s brain isn’t processing food the same way as it would if he were having a quiet meal in his own kitchen. The sensory overload can really throw off judgment or inure us to the sensation of feeling full. Scientists are just beginning to understand how this disruption works.

The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.

Michael Rich, professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston

From Growing Up Digital

The Brains of Our Fathers: Does Parenting Rewire Dads?

Since there’s no clear physical connection between a father and his child — at least not like the one seen with mom and baby — researchers are starting to look deep in the brain for better clues to understand the power of this relationship. A recent wave of studies are starting to bear fruit: We are now learning that in the first few days after birth, changes occur in the brains of both the dad and the baby, depending on whether the father is around or not. Perhaps neuroscientists have finally cornered the elusive father-child bond, and found the b iological hook that makes sure a father sticks around after birth.

Brain training improves acting skills

In training, each actor watched a simulation of a theatre auditorium, as if on stage, while wearing electrodes on their scalp. The lights and sounds of the simulation were programmed to change in response to the wearer’s brain activity. Each actor was told to control their brainwaves to take the lights and crowd noise to a given level. The brain activity needed to achieve this was somewhere between slow-wave activity, associated with sleep, and fast-wave activity, associated with alert wakefulness.

"It’s the natural relaxed state of focused attention," says Gruzelier. It’s what actors refer to as "listening"; what you need to achieve a Judy Dench-class performance, he adds.

Dreams Make You Smarter, More Creative, Studies Suggest

Here’s more evidence that sleep, including napping, can make you smarter: REM sleep—in which dreams are most vivid—may improve memory, boost creativity, and help you better plan for the future, new research shows.

Can money buy happiness?

Wealthy people have a bad rep. Sure, there are philanthropists like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who have given billions of their net worth away and have made the world a better, healthier, safer place. But, sadly, they are an exception. American families who make over $300,000 a year donate to charity a mere 4 percent of their incomes. The statistic should not be surprising, as studies by University of Minnesota psychologist Kathleen Vohs and her collaborators have shown that merely glimpsing dollar bills makes people less generous and approachable, and more egocentric.