Showing posts from May, 2016

Got Stress? You'll React Differently, From Male to Female

Big surprise. Men and women react differently to stress.

Researchers focused on an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which has a number of functions, among them helping the body adjust to stressful situations, controlling hunger and satiety, and regulating blood glucose and energy production.

When stress hits, cells in the hypothalamus step up production of a receptor. It was known that this receptor contributes to the rapid activation of a stress-response sympathetic nerve network – increasing heart rate, for example. But since this area of the brain also regulates the body’s exchange of materials, the team thought that the receptor might play a role in this, as well.  The receptor is expressed in around half of the cells that arouse appetite and suppress energy consumption.

After some pretty complicated experiments involving mice and the receptor, researchers found that male and female bodies may exhibit significant differences in the ways that materials are exc…

Be Careful How You Argue With Your Partner: Your Heart, or Back, Could Be Affected

Which would you rather have, a bad heart or a bad back?

Marital spats can cause either, or both.  Partners who get it all out are at risk of high blood pressure and chest pains while those who go silent and inside themselves can anticipate back problems.

Those who rage with frustration during a marital spat have an increased risk of cardiovascular problems such as chest pain or high blood pressure later in life, according to new research from Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, reports.

Conversely, shutting down emotionally or “stonewalling” during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles, according to the study, published online in the journal Emotion.

It’s well known that negative emotions may harm physical health, but it turns out that not all negative emotions have equal consequences. Using 20 years of data, and controlling for such factors as age, education, exercise, smoking, alc…

Paper or Screen? For Learning, It Matters

I admit I do it.  But then, I was the last one to give up my typewriter for a desktop back when the newsroom switched over.

I'm talking about reading on paper vs. on a screen.  I know a lot of people -- maybe most of America -- prefers e-books but I just can't shake the need to hold something in my hands when I'm reading.

Now a new study says how you read may just affect how you learn.  The study suggests that it’s not only what you read, but how you read it that matters, according to 
Reading on paper versus on a digital screen may impact what you end up absorbing from the text, according to a study by Dartmouth researchers. This research is being presented at the Association for Computing Machinery conference in San Jose, California, this week, and has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. 
"In the study, people who used computer screens for learning did better when it came to understanding concrete details, but they had more difficult…

Can Too Much Sex Be Bad For You? Maybe Yes, For Females (Beetles, That Is)

Ok, so we're talking about beetles here, but a new study has found that sexual conflict between males and females can lead to changes in the shape of their genitals, according to research on burying beetles by scientists at the University of Exeter, as reported by

Genital shape varies enormously across the animal kingdom compared, for instance, to body shape. One reason for this may be that the shapes of male and female genitalia co-evolve as a result of sexual conflict. Dr Megan Head, one of the authors of the new study said: "It takes two to tango, so when changes in shape in one sex leads to corresponding changes in the other sex, this is known as co-evolution."

Sexual conflict over mating occurs because, while having lots of sex is usually good for a male -- as it increases the number of offspring he is likely to produce -- it is not so good for a female because she only needs to mate a few times to fertilize all her eggs. In addition too mu…

Grit Don't Mean Spit When It Comes to Success

That's right.  All the guts and grit and get-up-and-go you have may turn out not to matter so much in the long run, according to a new study.

Seems it's been over-hyped, say researchers.   There are many paths to success, but the significance of grit in helping you reach that goal has been greatly overstated, says an Iowa State University psychologist at

The study found no evidence that grit is a good predictor of success. While some educators are working to enhance grit in students, researchers say there’s no indication that it’s possible to boost levels. And even if it were possible, it might not matter.

Grit is defined as perseverance and commitment to long-term goals. The research – often associated with University of Pennsylvania professor Angela Duckworth, who first studied grit – is relatively new, compared to the decades of work on performance indicators such as conscientiousness and intelligence. Researchers say their analysis of almost 100 inde…

Manager Try to Inspire You? She May Harm You, Instead

This may surprise you.  I know it did me.

But singing the company song in a circle or going to camp with your colleagues, like they used to do at IBM,  may just not be good for you.

They did it to instill spirit in workers, but now a new study says inspirational managers may actually harm employees.

"Managers who inspire their staff to perform above and beyond the call of duty may actually harm their employees’ health over time, according to researchers from the University of East Anglia," reports.

The findings suggest that constant pressure from these "transformational leaders" may increase sickness absence levels among employees. They also indicate that some vulnerable employees in groups with transformational leaders may, in the long term, have increased sickness absence rates if they ignore their ill-health and frequently show up for work while ill, known as "presenteeism."

Transformational leaders are defined as those who encoura…

How Happy You Are With Your Mate Depends on the Rest of the Dating Pool

Well, big duh.

Relationship satisfaction depends on the mating pool, according to a new study, as reported by

Relationship satisfaction and the energy devoted to keeping a partner are dependent on how the partner compares with other potential mates, a finding that relates to evolution’s stronghold on modern relationship psychology, according to a study at The University of Texas at Austin.

 UT Austin psychology researcher Daniel Conroy-Beam and his collaborators developed a method to test how mate preferences influence behavior and emotions in relationships in the study “What predicts romantic relationship satisfaction and mate retention intensity: mate preference fulfillment or mate value discrepancies?” he writes in Evolution & Human Behavior.

Who hasn't been there?  You want to go to the prom but the only guy you think will ask you is kind of a big jerk.  But you'll go with him, anyway.  And then he doesn't ask you!  This happened to me.

“Few de…

If You Could Read My Mind . . .Maybe Someday It Could Happen

What if you could read your partner's mind?  Some of us might not like what we find there, but now a new study is saying that "mapping" the brain might help us do it.

What mapping does is to decode the brain, according to researchers as reported at 

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have built a "semantic atlas" that shows in vivid colors and multiple dimensions how the human brain organizes language. The atlas identifies brain areas that respond to words that have similar meanings.

In a brain imaging study, neural activity was recorded while  volunteers listened to stories from the "Moth Radio Hour." The results show that at least one-third of the brain's cerebral cortex, including areas dedicated to high-level cognition, is involved in language processing.

One study found that different people share similar language maps: "The similarity in semantic topography across different subjects is really s…

Help! The House Is On Fire! Do You Trust the Messenger?

I'll never forget the day my son's high school had a bomb scare.  I happened to get a text from a neighborhood group that something was going on at the school.  Perhaps because I'm a journalist, I immediately called our local newspaper to see what was going on.

Thankfully, it was a hoax, but now a new study says that I'm in the minority.  In a crisis, we're far more likely to look to others to second-guess what authorities have to say, when it's an environmental or health scare, according to

And the authorities want to know why. Given the rapidly changing reality of digital alternatives to any single information source, government agencies, medical professionals, and others increasingly want to understand what motivates people to seek, or to avoid seeking, information about threats and crises.

 For their study, researchers used data from 1,000 randomly selected Dutch citizens who were interviewed by phone about their responses to eight “ficti…

How Do We Make Decisions? In a Very Important But Small Part of Our Brain

So you can't decide.  Pinot or Chardonnay?  A Lexus or a BMW?  The man who makes seven figures a year but likes to stay home and watch home movies or the guy who barely can pay the rent but takes you out on his motorcycle with the wind dancing through your hair?

Tough decisions, maybe.  But a small part of your brain is very instrumental in making them, according to 

Choosing what shirt to buy, what to order for lunch or whether to go with the hearty red wine or the lighter white all involve assigning values to the options. A small brain structure plays a central role in the many decisions like this we make each day. But it hasn’t been clear how a limited number of neurons in this small part of the brain can support an unlimited number of choices.

Now, studying how macaque monkeys choose between juice drinks, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that some of the neurons in a part of the brain assign value to the opt…

See An Accident? Watch Others Follow Your Stare

Admit it.  When you see someone stumble and fall, you can't help looking.  People seeing you looking will look, too.

It's called "gaze following," and although it's been demonstrated in dozens of species, researchers have theorized that it may develop in a unique way in humans, because it plays a critical role in learning and socialization.

Researchers, who have studied this in monkeys, believe it has deep evolutionary roots, according to

"Even though it seems like it's a very simple thing, this is a foundational social and cognitive skill that humans have. And there has been little research on how this skill develops in other species," says Alexandra Rosati, Assistant Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology and the first author of the study. 

 "This is the largest study ever looking at gaze-following in monkeys. We followed how this skill developed through their whole lifespan and examined the psychological mechanisms t…

Can't Find It and It's Right in Front of You? Blame Your Brain

You know the expression, "out of sight, out of mind"?

Well, we're actually talking about "in sight, out of mind."  How many times are you looking for something, staring right at it -- and not seeing it?  And no, it's not just that you are losing your mind.

A research team from the University of California, Berkeley, is making new discoveries about how the brain organizes visual perception, including how it leaves things out even when they're plainly in sight. And they've come up with a rough map of the frontal cortex’s role in controlling vision, according to

The frontal cortex is often seen as our “thinking cap,” the part of the brain scientists associate with thinking and making decisions. But it’s not commonly connected with vision. Some people believe that the frontal cortex is not involved, say researchers. Their new research adds to previous evidence that it is, however.

The lack of association with that part of the brain…

Take Tylenol and Turn Cantankerous

Who knew?  When you take Tylenol, you stop caring about other people.

Well, not exactly.  But close.  But a new study has found that when you take acetaminophen, you don’t feel others’ pain as much.
Turns out when we're seeking relief from pain, we may also be decreasing our empathy for both the physical and social aches that other people experience, according to 
Researchers at The Ohio State University found, for example, that when participants who took acetaminophen learned about the misfortunes of others, they thought these individuals experienced less pain and suffering,when compared to those who took no painkiller.

“These findings suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen,” says Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study and a former Ph.D. student at Ohio State, now at the National Institutes of Health.  “Acetaminophen can reduce empathy as well as serve as a painkiller.”

Acetaminophen – the main…

Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty? Choose Wisely for a Long Life

Do you see the glass as half-empty or half-full?

If it's the former, you might want to reconsider.  A new survey has found that those having a positive attitude could be evolutionarily advantageous, according to Cornell researchers who simulated generations of evolution in a computational model, reports.

The web quotes the researchers as saying that these findings offer scientific support to the ancient philosophical insights from China, Greece and India, which encourage cultivating long-term contentment or life satisfaction rather than grasping at the fleeting joy of instant gratification.

Hmm. Guess they've met many millennials.

“In an evolutionary sense, you have to evaluate your life on the basis of more than what happened just now,” says Shimon Edelman, professor of psychology and a co-author of the study.

 It took having cancer, for me, to learn to live in the moment.  I was very lucky. My cancer was not invasive and here I am, 12 years later, even …

Who Bounces Back Best from Job Loss?

I've been there.

I lost two jobs in a row in my 20's.  Neither was really my fault (in one case, I accused a vp of sexual harassment) and in the second, my boss accidentally stepped on the toes of her boss when hiring me.  But there I was, out of my second job in less than six months.

Fortunately, I went on to have success at my next job and this was just a bitter memory.  But why do some people recover from job loss, while others don't?

A new study by Syracuse University provides a deeper understanding of why some people recover after losing their work identity, while others languish and develops interventions that facilitate recovery from job loss, according to

“It can be a devastating loss of identity when someone loses a job they’ve held for decades,” says Trenton Williams, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Whitman School. “For some, the loss might come in the form of an injury, such as a professional athlete, but for others, such as an …

Wait Before You Retweet That. You're Probably Going to Forget It.

How's this for crazy?

Chances are, you don't remember what you just retweeted.

Now we're not talking about the normal memory lapses -- where you put the keys, your glasses and your toddler (just kidding).  But reports that retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.

 I can totally relate.

"Most people don’t post original ideas any more. You just share what you read with your friends,” says Qi Wang, professor of human development in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University. “But they don’t realize that sharing has a downside. It may interfere with other things we do.”

Wang and colleagues in China conducted experiments showing that “retweeting” interfered with learning and memory, both online and off.

At computers in a laboratory setting, two groups were presented with a series of messages from Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. After …