Showing posts from 2014

Your Child Likely to Share His Toy? Maybe, Say Experts

Did you know there are places in our children's brains that tell whether they will be generous or not?

According to a new study, University of Chicago developmental neuroscientists have found specific brain markers that predict generosity in children. Those neural markers appear to be linked to both social and moral evaluation processes, reports.

Although young children are natural helpers, their perspective on sharing resources tends to be selfish.  I remember when my son was little, I don't remember too many times when he gave away his prized Lego figures to his friends, or vice versa. More likely, it was snatch and grab, and then screaming. 

"We know that generosity in children increases as they get older,” said study co-author Jean Decety, the Irving B. Harris Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the university.   “The results of this study demonstrate that children exhibit both distinct early automatic and later more controlled patterns of neura…

Express Your Religion at Work? Go for it, Experts Say

Who knew?  Employees who are open about religion are happier, this from a new study, as reported by

The study also found that it may be beneficial for employers to not only encourage office Christmas parties but also celebrate holidays and festivals from a variety of religions, according to a Kansas State University researcher.

Researchers discovered that employees who openly discuss their religious beliefs at work are often happier and have higher job satisfaction than those employees who do not.

"For many people, religion is the core of their lives," said study author Sooyeol Kim, doctoral student in psychological sciences. "Being able to express important aspects of one's life can influence work-related issues, such as job satisfaction, work performance or engagement. It can be beneficial for organizations to have a climate that is welcoming to every religion and culture."

Now, I find this hard to believe.  I'm sure the study did n…

Christmas and Materialism? A Good Fit

It's the Christmas season and materialism is rearing its ugly head.

According to two psychologists who studied the subject, materialism tends to be associated with treating others in more competitive, manipulative and selfish ways, as well as with being less empathetic. It 's associated with people making a lot of money and being able to buy a lot of things.  And did you know that TV makes us more materialistic?

"Research shows two sets of factors that lead people to have materialistic values," says Tim Kasser, Ph.D., a professor of psychology Knox College in Galesburg, IL. "First, people are more materialistic when they are exposed to messages that suggest such pursuits are important, whether through their parents and friends, society, or the media. Second, and somewhat less obvious -- people are more materialistic when they feel insecure or threatened, whether because of rejection, economic fears, or thoughts of their own death,"

 I have a shoppin…

Does Your Kid Lie? Don't Punish Him, Researchers Say

I remember the last time my son lied to me.  Actually, it was last night.  He went in to take a shower and ran the water, then came out.  This morning I noticed that the tab that releases the shower spray wasn't up, the way it always is when he showers (and then splashes down all over me when I get in our shower tub to take mine).

"Did you take a shower?" I demanded.

"Ye-e-e-e-s," he said in that nasty teenage voice, when they're angry you're asking (and afraid you've caught them). 

Of course I can't prove it but he hates taking a shower (what is it with boys?) and would do just about anything to get out of it.

So what did I do?  The usual.  Nothing.  I took him at his word, even though I knew he most likely was not telling the truth.

Now a new study is saying that maybe I did the right thing, after all.  Researchers have found that punishing kids for lying just doesn't work.

If you want your child to tell the truth, it’s best not to threate…

Torn Meniscus? There's Hope. Thank a Sheep.

This is going to make my husband very happy.

The news today that meniscus -- that pesky knee tissue that rips so easily -- can now be regrown using a 3D printed imprint.

Say what?  I fail to see how a piece of paper produced in a computer printer can do anything more than, well, rip itself.  But researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have devised a way to replace the knee’s protective lining, called the meniscus, using a personalized 3D-printed implant, or scaffold, infused with human growth factors that prompt the body to regenerate the lining on its own, according to

The therapy, successfully tested in sheep, could provide the first effective and long-lasting repair of damaged menisci, which occur in millions of Americans each year and can lead to debilitating arthritis.

My husband, a star athlete in his youth, tore his meniscus about 15 years (and 5,000,000 complaints) ago, forcing him to give up his beloved tennis (where he was an eternal tournament …

Almost Half of US Kids Exposed to Violence, Traumatic Situations in Their Homes

This is truly shocking.

Almost half the kids in this country have been exposed to violence or a traumatic situation in their families in their childhoods.

According to, nearly 50% of all children in the United States are exposed to at least one social or family experience that can lead to traumatic stress and have an impact on their healthy development – be it having their parents divorce, a parent die or living with someone who abuses alcohol or drugs – increasing the risk of negative long-term health consequences or of falling behind in school, suggests new research led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

 Growing up, parents were expected to hit their kids, some with belts, others (like my mom) with whatever was handy!  And we've all heard the outcry, right or wrong, against Adrian Peterson.  Today we know better, supposedly.  But looking at the results of this study, clearly, it still happens.

 The good news is, maybe we're handling i…

Religion and Marriage, Mixed. Can It Work?

I admit, this distressed me.

Adolescents who attend religious services with one or both of their parents are more likely to feel greater well-being, according to research published by the American Psychological Association. Ours does not.

Now,our son, who is 13, might have a better excuse than most.  His father is Jewish, his mother, Christian, and though he was bar-mitzvahed, he also celebrates Christmas (Christmas Eve in church) and Easter.  My rules.  (He was also baptized, but my husband doesn't really know what that means.  Just blame it on my Catholic cousins who taught me that those babies who aren't, and die, go to Purgatory, and even though it's undoubtedly untrue, I wasn't taking any chances).

The study looked at how spiritual beliefs or behaviors have appeared to strengthen generally happy marriages and how a person’s religious and/or spiritual functioning may influence that of his or her family members.

Sadly, once kids have their bar mitzvahs, many if …

Bigger Baby at Birth? Probably Do Better in School, Too, New Study Says

My son weighed one ounce less than nine pounds when he was born, a week early.  The doctors took him at 39 weeks because they were afraid he'd be 10 or 11 pounds if he went full-term.

Now a new study is saying that a higher birth weight can mean better performance in school.

It's really a no-brainer, in the end. It’s no secret that low-birth-weight babies face significantly greater risks for certain health problems early on, such as respiratory distress or infection. Now, a new study from researchers at the University of Florida (UF) and Northwestern University shows that lower weights at birth also have an adverse effect on children’s performance in school, which is likely due to the early health struggles small babies often face.

Studying birth and school records of almost 2 million children in Florida from 1992 to 2002, researchers found the higher the weight at birth, the better children performed on reading and math tests in school. I'm bragging, I admit, but …

How They See Faces May Positively -- or Negatively -- Influence People with ASD

It doesn't explain why Adam Lanza slaughtered 20 first graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary almost two years ago to the day, but a new study has found that autism changes the way that people with the disorder see faces.

The way people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) gather information – not the judgment process itself – might explain why they gain different perceptions from peoples’ faces, according to a new study from Hôpital Rivière-des-Prairies and the University of Montreal, as reported by

"The evaluation of an individual's face is a rapid process that influences our future relationship with the individual," said Baudouin Forgeot d'Arc, lead author of the study. "By studying these judgments, we wanted to better understand how people with ASD use facial features as cues. Do they need more cues to be able to make the same judgment?" 

When photographic images of neutral faces were presented to two groups, the judgment…

Jogging Keeps You Young

It's the greatest news I've heard in a while.

Jogging keeps you young.

But then I read the article through and sure enough, it was a bit of a come-on.  Turns out that  those who run at least 30 minutes, three times a week were less likely to experience age-related physical decline in " walking efficiency" than those who simply walked.

Big deal.

Though, I suppose, when I'm 80, that will mean a lot.

“What we found is that older adults who regularly participate in high aerobic activities—running in particular—have what we call a lower metabolic cost of walking than older, sedentary adults. In fact, their metabolic cost of walking is similar to young adults in their 20s,” said Justus Ortega, a Kinesiology Professor at Humboldt State and director of HSU’s Biomechanics Lab. 

Now that, I'll buy.

But here's the kicker. Decline in walking ability is a key predictor of morbidity in older adults.

I've been jogging for over 30 years, most recently at a clip peopl…

Does Having Authority Really Depress Women?

Now I'm really depressed.

A new study finds that job authority increases depression in women, and decreases them in men.

Can't we ever catch a break?!

“Women with job authority — the ability to hire, fire, and influence pay — have significantly more symptoms of depression than women without this power,” said Tetyana Pudrovska, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and the lead author of the study, at “In contrast, men with job authority have fewer symptoms of depression than men without such power.”

I guess I could see why.  Women -- or at least I -- agonize over difficult decisions like having to tell someone they're not performing, or firing them.  I won't say men do it without even thinking about it, but I bet it's quite different for them.

Maybe it's because we tend to have the empathic skills (or are too sensitive?).

According to Pudrovska, women without job authority exhibit s…

New Infectious Disease. Depression?

How about this?

A new study has found that depression may actually be a form of an infectious disease.

Major depressive disorder (MDD) should be re-conceptualized as an infectious disease, according to Turhan Canli, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and Radiology at Stony Brook University.

Dr.Canli suggests that major depression may result from parasitic, bacterial, or viral infection and has done experiments that illustrate possible pathways by which these microorganisms could contribute to the etiology of MDD..

MDD remains highly prevalent disease with some 15 to 20 percent of the population experiencing MDD at some point. Recurrence is common, and pharmacological treatments have not changed. Because the causal aspects of the disease are not clearly defined, research to find causes remains paramount to help improve treatments, according to

Here's why he thinks so: first, he points out that patients with MDD exhibit illness behavior such as loss of energ…

Exercise a Lot? Expect to Gain Weight

It was one of the worst days of my life.

Last week I learned that exercise may make you gain weight.  That's right.  I said, gain.  Not lose.

I had been wondering about that for a while, as, last summer, when I ramped up my exercise routine - running, swimming, doing the elliptical, all in the same day -- I began putting on the pounds.

I couldn't believe it.  Someone suggested I wasn't eating enough (yeah, right).  But I didn't start losing weight until I scaled back my exercise in the fall.

Now a new study is saying it wasn't all in my head.  (Or the scale.)  I was right.  Gretchen Reynolds writes at The New York Times that this provocative new study shows that a substantial number of people who take up an exercise regimen wind up heavier afterward than they were at the start, with the weight gain due mostly to extra fat, not muscle.

Say what?

A recent review of studies related to exercise and weight control found that in most of the studies, people lost bare…

Do Men Know Directions Better Than Women?

The more things change, the more things, well, change.

A new study has found that men evolved better navigation ability than women because men with better spatial skills – the ability to mentally manipulate objects – can roam farther and have children with more mates.

Welcome to the 21st century.

The study was done on two African tribes so I don't know how much of that really relates to this part of the world, judging from my husband -- and most of the men I know -- navigation ability?  Better suggest they can make dinner while helping with homework and writing a dissertation, all at the same time. 

My husband can't turn on the oven and put dinner in, at the same time.  But anyway. 

By testing and interviewing dozens of members of the Twe and Tjimba tribes in northwest Namibia,  men who did better on a spatial task not only traveled farther than other men but also had children with more women, according to the study.

And the real deal is, they're supposedly better t…

Dream You Can't Find Your Car? Now Not Thought a Sign of Impending Alzheimer's

I had it again last night.

The dream where I park my car, then go back to find it and it's gone.  I wander around and around but never find it again.

Now a new study has me thinking I'm developing Alzheimer's.

Well, not really.  But researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have induced this all-too-common human experience – or a close version of it – permanently in rats and from what is observed, hope they can perhaps derive clues about why strokes and Alzheimer's disease can destroy a person’s sense of direction, according to

Scientists have developed a micro-surgical procedure that makes it possible to remove the area of the rat’s brain that contains grid cells and show what happens to this hard-wired navigational system when these grid cells are wiped out. One effect, not surprisingly, is that the rats become very poor at tasks requiring internal map-making skills, such as remembering the location of a resting plat…

Wealth? It Comes Not Just from the Job

Do genetic factors or environmental factors influence employee proactivity?

A scientist recently studied identical twins to find out, according to And he found that it's a little of both.

I've always been a very hard worker, frequently if not always getting writing assignments done before deadline.  However, in my haste I often make small mistakes.  I go looking for work when I'm not busy (and managed to really tee off a boss who thought it made him look bad, at a top Fortune 500 companies, who proceeded to make my life miserable for a year, until I got away from him).

But that's another story -- though it didn't help my self confidence any, which I'd always had a problem with, at work, never feeling quite good enough.  Actually, that very impression permeated my life, and maybe that's another reason I've always been desperate to seek, and do, work. 

"It's more like nature and nurture rather than nature versus nurture," say…

Can Love Ever Be Mean? Yes, Sort of

This is a little spooky.  A new study has found that love can sometimes make us mean.

Say what?

The study found that, under certain circumstances, feelings of warmth, tenderness and sympathy can in fact predict aggressive behaviors, according to a recent study by two University at Buffalo researchers.  Love and compassion go hand-in-hand, or do they?  The study attempted to find out.

It turns out it’s not about anger or feeling personally threatened, says study author Michael J. Poulin.

 Apparently, it's all about hormones that lead to increased "approach behaviors," says Poulin, a professor of psychology, according to  “People are motivated by social approach or getting closer to others.”

But Poulin adds that people approach one another for many reasons, including aggression, so it stands to reason that if compassion is linked to the action of these hormones and these hormones are linked to social approach behaviors, they might help account for the…

Election Day is the Saddest Day of the Year

You win some, you lose some.  But did you know that Dannel Malloy may not feel that elated that he was re-elected as governor of Connecticut?

That's because a new study has found that winning elections barely improves the happiness of those from the winning political party, and that losing, not surprisingly, reduces self-reported happiness and increases sadness substantially, according to

I'm sure that's how Tom Foley feels this morning, after conceding defeat to his hated rival.

The researchers used thousands of daily online survey responses from CivicScience, a market research and data intelligence company, to compare the happiness and sadness reported by those who identify with political parties in the days surrounding the 2012 presidential election.

The sadness effect lasted for about a week, but eventually partisan losers recovered.

“One of our main findings is that the pain of losing the 2012 presidential election dominated the joy of winning it…

Craving M&Ms? Tap Your Forehead


Thinking how many pounds that 12-oz bag of M&Ms is going to pad onto you may cause you to  reconsider.

That's what new research is saying, according to  Turns out the idea that the brain can control eating behavior, and considering the long-term consequences of your food choices may help control food cravings. Two research studies have showed the way you think about food can have an impact on appetite, and many others on the relationship between the brain and eating behavior.

Scientists at Brown University used functional MRI scans to watch participants' brains as they reviewed pictures of enticing foods, like pizza, French fries and ice cream. Through the scans researchers were able to evaluate different strategies to reduce the desire to eat. They found that thinking about the long-term negative impact of eating these foods may be an effective way to reduce appetite.

"We found that simply thinking in a different way affects how the brain…

Can You Make Your Kid Smarter?

My husband and I argue all the time about trying to do things to make our kid smarter.  He thinks anything less than an "A" is, well, a disgrace.  (Of course, he still remembers the SAT scores of his high school friends -- and we're talking bell bottoms and platform shoes the first time around, here).   I, on the other hand, always an average student, don't think grades matter all that much.

Hey, you're talking to someone who got 380 on her math SAT -- and I'm not living under a bridge somewhere!

Larry's on our son all the time about his homework, and what he learned in school today and is desperate to help Phillip bring his "B" in honors algebra up to an "A" (never mind that it's a high school course and 8th graders are taking it), and for a short time made him take a course of study through Johns Hopkins in math for gifted students.  And -- here I'm going to brag -- he has turned out pretty smart.

But it had nothing to do wi…

Are Your Fantasies 'Normal' When It Comes to Sex?

Does your partner like to be spanked?  Do you?  Hope for sex with two women (or men)?  Like to dress up as a maid for your man?

If you do, you're, well, perfectly normal, according to a new study, reports.

In a sampling of over 1,500 Quebec adults (usually college students are used!), results showed that people had all kinds of sexual fantasies.  But most of them were normal.

What weren't?  "Clinically, we know what pathological sexual fantasies are: they involve non-consenting partners, they induce pain, or they are absolutely necessary in deriving satisfaction. But apart from that, what exactly are abnormal or atypical fantasies? To find out, we asked people in the general population, as simple as that," the Web site quotes Christian Joyal, lead author of the study. "And as we suspected, there are a lot more common fantasies than atypical fantasies."

The study found that the nature of sexual fantasies are varied among the general popul…

Scatching Makes It Itch More

It's probably happened to you.  A mosquito bite starts itching, and the minute you scratch, it itches more.  It may sound like an oxymoron but scratching actually does make it itch more.

According to a new study by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that scratching causes the brain to release serotonin, which intensifies the itch sensation, reports.

 Scientists have known for decades that scratching creates a mild amount of pain in the skin, the Web site quotes senior investigator Zhou-Feng Chen, PhD, director of Washington University’s Center for the Study of Itch. That pain can interfere with itching — at least temporarily — by getting nerve cells in the spinal cord to carry pain signals to the brain instead of itch signals.

“The problem is that when the brain gets those pain signals, it responds by producing the neurotransmitter serotonin to help control that pain,” Chen explained. “But as serotonin spreads from the…

Maggots Gross You Out? You Could Be a Conservative

Would you believe that our brain's response to disgusting images can tell whether we're a Republican or Democrat?

I didn't say disgusting images of Republicans (sorry, all you conservatives out there!), but apparently, a new study has found, how much your brain responds to pictures of maggot infestations, rotting carcasses, unidentifiable gunk in the kitchen sink, could predict whether you are liberal or conservative.

 Say what? 

An international team of scientists led by Virginia Tech reports that the strength of a person’s reaction to repulsive images can forecast their political ideology, according to

“Disgusting images generate neural responses that are highly predictive of political orientation even when those neural responses don’t correspond with an individual’s conscious reaction to the images,” the Web site quotes Read Montague, a Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute professor who led the study. “Remarkably, we found that the brain’s resp…

New Link Between Diet and Cancer

Diet.  Inflammation.  Cancer.

There's a link. 

A connection between inflammation and cancer has been found, and diet and nutrition contribute to not only colitis but colitis-associated colon cancer. Chronic inflammation appears to play a key role in the development of cancer, along with heart disease and diabetes. Now a new study presented today suggests that eating a diet high in sugar, saturated fats and others foods that promote inflammation increases the risk of premature death from any cause, including cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

A connection between inflammation and cancer has been recognized for over a hundred years, according to  This connection is particularly evident in colon carcinogenesis, because patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have a higher incidence of colon cancer than the general population.

The Web site reports that a new study has found that there's increasing evidence that inflammation contributes to the ear…

Missing the Boy as the Man Emerges

Missing The Boy as the Man Emerges
Here's what I miss about having a teenage boy.

More Women, More Sex, Less Prostate Cancer

Back in the 70s, when free love was everywhere, no one thought much about having multiple partners.  Then in the 80s, with the ugly appearance of AIDS, that pretty much went away.  In the years since, the 70s never really came back.  People were more responsible and chose partners appropriately.

But now a shocking new study has found that the more female sexual partners a man has had, the lower his risk of prostate cancer.

Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for men with many male sexual partners.  

According to, compared to men who have had only one partner during their lifetime, having sex with more than 20 women is associated with a 28% lower risk of one day being diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to researchers at the University of Montreal and INRS - Institut Armand-Frappier. However, having more than 20 male partners in one's lifetime is associated with a twofold higher risk of getting prostate cancer, compared to those who have never slept…

Is Positive Thinking a Negative?

Can positive thinking be bad for us?

A new study says it can.  

According to The New York Times, it in fact may have the opposite effect.  A survey it cited asked some women who wanted to lose weight to imagine themselves succeeding and looking good, while other women were asked to imagine cheating on the diet.  Guess which group succeeded?  The ones who imagined themselves cheating.

Experts say this happens because once we imagine something positive, we think the work is done.  I, for one, can dispute that.  I've imagined myself in a bikini for years and I've succeeded at losing 20 pounds.  However, that bikini?  Maybe too much positive thinking.

Anyway, while experts acknowledges that dreaming about the future does calm us down, and measurably reduces our blood pressure, it can also "drain you of the energy you need to take action in pursuit of your goals."

I'd have to say I'm somewhere in between optimist and pessimist.  Overall, I have a pretty good outl…

Guess Who's Most Civil? Millennials!

We're used to thinking of them as selfish, and coming back home to roost.

But Millennials are more hopeful than we are about civility in society.

According to, "Although Americans are unanimous about the bleak state of civility, the Millennial generation seems less convinced of a more uncivil future. Nearly one in four Millennials (23 percent) – two to four times the percentage of other generations – believe civility will improve in the next few years. In their relatively short lifetimes, Millennials have experienced more uncivil behavior than any other generation, yet they are America’s most hopeful adults when it comes to tomorrow’s civility"

Who knew?

“The Millennial generation – 83 million people strong – is an economic and game-changing powerhouse that outnumbers the generations that came before it,” the Web site quotes Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick. “The only adult generation to have grown up with cyber-bullying is also the only g…

Uncertainty? Guess What? It's Motivating

A new study has found that uncertainty can be motivating.

Say what?  For years experts have thought that uncertainty was disconcerting and was hurting the markets and the economy.

But now they're seeing that, when they compared the time, money and effort that people put into wining a certain reward versus an uncertain reward, they found that the uncertain reward was more motivating.

The researchers ran several experiments that established this motivation. For example, in one study they asked college students to drink a large amount of water in two minutes. Some were told they would receive $2 for completing the task, while others were told they would receive either $1 or $2. They found that more people finished the water to receive the uncertain amount of money

Here's why: making the unknown known — that is, figuring out what is in a wrapped package or finding out which reward one has earned — is a positive experience. Because people are excited to find out what they …

We're Making Lots of Mistakes When Giving Our Kids Meds

Pretty scary.  A new study says most of us make mistakes when giving our kids medicine.

One child is affected every eight minutes, usually by a well-meaning parent or caregiver unintentionally committing a medication error, according to

The most common medication mistakes in children under the age of six occur in the children’s home, or another residence and school. The most common medicines involved are painkillers and fever-reducers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, the Web site reports.

“This is more common than people may realize,” said Huiyun Xiang, MD, MPH, PhD, director of the Center for Pediatric Trauma Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, principal investigator at the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy. “The numbers we report still underestimate the true magnitude of these incidents since these are just cases reported to national poison centers.”

Instances in which these mistakes can occur include caregivers giving one child the s…

Soda with 250 Calories? Walk Five Miles to Burn it Off

I remember hearing that you have to walk a football field to burn off one M&M. (Not true.)

But not too far from it.

Adolescents who saw printed signs explaining the number of miles they would need to walk to burn off the calories in a sugary drink were more likely to leave the store with a lower calorie beverage, a healthier beverage or a smaller size beverage, according to new Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health research.

The study says this adds to the growing evidence suggesting that simply showing calorie counts on products and menus isn’t enough to break Americans from their bad eating habits. With calorie counts expected on menus in chain restaurants with more than 20 outlets by early next year the Affordable Care Act, the researchers say policymakers may need to rethink how that information is communicated.

 “People don’t really understand what it means to say a typical soda has 250 calories,” says study leader Sara N. Bleich, PhD, an assoc…