Chapter 16. None

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Dhruv Khullar My patient and I both knew he was dying. Not the long kind of dying that stretches on for months or years. He would die today. Maybe tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the next day. Was there someone I should call? Someone he wanted to see? Not a one, he told me. No immediate family. No close friends. He had a niece down South, maybe, but they hadn’t spoken in years. For me, the sadness of his death was surpassed only by the sadness of his solitude. I wondered whether his isolation was a driving force of his premature death, not just an unhappy circumstance. Every day I see variations at both the beginning and end of life: a young man abandoned by friends as he struggles with opioid addiction; an older woman getting by on tea and toast, living in filth, no longer able to clean her cluttered apartment. In these moments, it seems the only thing worse than suffering a serious illness is suffering it alone. Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. Those without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23003 - Posted: 12.22.2016

By Sara Reardon The din of what sounds like a high-pitched cocktail party fills the lab of neuroscientist Xiaoqin Wang at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. But the primates making the racket are dozens of marmosets, squirrel-sized monkeys with patterned coats and white puffs of fur on either side of their heads. The animals chatter to each other, stopping to tilt their heads and consider their visitors with inquisitive expressions. Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) are social and communicative in captivity, unlike the macaque that is more commonly used as a model primate. And in January, Wang and his colleagues revealed that marmosets are also the only non-human animal that can hear different pitches, such as those found in music and tonal languages like Chinese, in the same way people can1. This makes the marmoset the closest proxy researchers have to the human brain when it comes to hearing and speech, says Quianjie Fu, an auditory researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved with the paper. Until recently, researchers have relied on songbirds for such work, but the birds’ brains are so different from human ones that the insights they provide are limited. Wang hopes that marmosets will improve researchers’ understanding of the evolution of communication and help them refine devices such as cochlear implants for deaf people. © 2016 Scientific American

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 23000 - Posted: 12.20.2016

By Vik Adhopia, CBC News Every eight minutes someone in Canada has a stroke. But the odds of survival are getting better because of a new emergency intervention being offered at 22 hospitals across Canada. Spencer Higdon, 63, successfully received the procedure at Toronto Western Hospital in April after suddenly collapsing in his bathroom. "I was stepping into the shower and I dropped like a tonne of bricks." he said. When he regained consciousness he knew he'd had a stroke. "I couldn't move my right leg, my right arm, I couldn't speak, and I had difficulty moving my head." Physicians confirmed he'd had an ischemic stroke — a blood clot in his brain. Unless the blockage was cleared within a few hours, his paralysis would likely be permanent, or worse, he'd die. Higdon later learned from one of the treating physicians that because of the position of the clot in the brainstem, the consequences of his stroke could have been devastating. "She said it's called 'locked-in syndrome,' where your brain works just fine but nothing else in your body moves. You're lying in a bed and the only way to communicate is through your eyes. And that just horrified me." The procedure used to remove Higdon's clot, known as a thrombectomy, involves feeding a tiny catheter into an artery near the groin, all the way up into the brain and through the blockage. The device is expanded to grab the clot. Then it's pulled out, allowing the blood to flow again. Advanced imaging equipment helps navigate the catheter. For Higdon, the entire procedure took eight minutes, a record for the stroke team at Toronto Western. ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 22999 - Posted: 12.20.2016

By Catherine Matacic Have you ever wondered why a strange piece of music can feel familiar—how it is, for example, that you can predict the next beat even though you’ve never heard the song before? Music everywhere seems to share some “universals,” from the scales it uses to the rhythms it employs. Now, scientists have shown for the first time that people without any musical training also create songs using predictable musical beats, suggesting that humans are hardwired to respond to—and produce—certain features of music. “This is an excellent and elegant paper,” says Patrick Savage, an ethnomusicologist at the Tokyo University of the Arts who was not involved in the study. “[It] shows that even musical evolution obeys some general rules [similar] to the kind that govern biological evolution.” Last year, Savage and colleagues traced that evolution by addressing a fundamental question: What aspects of music are consistent across cultures? They analyzed hundreds of musical recordings from around the world and identified 18 features that were widely shared across nine regions, including six related to rhythm. These “rhythmic universals” included a steady beat, two- or three-beat rhythms (like those in marches and waltzes), a preference for two-beat rhythms, regular weak and strong beats, a limited number of beat patterns per song, and the use of those patterns to create motifs, or riffs. “That was a really remarkable job they did,” says Andrea Ravignani, a cognitive scientist at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium. “[It convinced me that] the time was ripe to investigate this issue of music evolution and music universals in a more empirical way.” © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 22997 - Posted: 12.20.2016

By GINA KOLATA As concern rises over the effect of continuous use of headphones and earbuds on hearing, a new paper by federal researchers has found something unexpected. The prevalence of hearing loss in Americans of working age has declined. The paper, published on Thursday in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery, used data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, which periodically administers health tests to a representative sample of the population. The investigators, led by Howard J. Hoffman, the director of the epidemiology and statistics program at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, compared data collected between 1999 and 2004 with data from 2011 and 2012, the most recent available. Hearing loss in this study meant that a person could not hear, in at least one ear, a sound about as loud as rustling leaves. The researchers reported that while 15.9 percent of the population studied in the earlier period had problems hearing, just 14.1 percent of the more recent group had hearing loss. The good news is part of a continuing trend — Americans’ hearing has gotten steadily better since 1959. Most surprising to Mr. Hoffman, a statistician, was that even though the total population of 20- to 69-year-olds grew by 20 million over the time period studied — and the greatest growth was in the oldest people, a group most likely to have hearing problems — the total number of people with hearing loss fell, from 28 million to 27.7 million. Hearing experts who were not associated with the study said they were utterly convinced by the results. “It’s a fantastic paper,” said Brian Fligor, an audiologist with Lantos Technologies of Wakefield, Mass., which develops custom earpieces to protect ears from noise. “I totally believe them.” © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 22996 - Posted: 12.17.2016

Joy Ho The hipbone's connected to the leg bone, connected to the knee bone. That's not actually what those body parts are called, but we'll forgive you if you don't sing about the innominate bone connecting to the femur connecting to the patella. It just doesn't have the same ring to it. When the ancient Greeks were naming body parts, they were probably trying to give them names that were easy to remember, says Mary Fissell, a professor in the Department of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins. "Sure, there were texts, but the ancient world was very oral, and the people learning this stuff have to remember it." So the Greek scholars, and later Roman and medieval scholars, named bones and organs and muscles after what they looked like. The thick bone at the front of your lower leg, the tibia, is named after a similar-looking flute. And although you or I might get confused when a paleoanthropologist writes about the foramen magnum (which translates to "really big hole") a native Latin speaker would know exactly what to look for — the really big hole where your brain attaches to your spine. Sometimes the names get a little bit more abstract. Take the tragus, a tiny flap of skin on the outer ear. It's named after goats not because it looks like them, but because some people have tufts of hair on the tragus like goats do on their chins. "I'm fascinated by the struggle of translating sensory experiences to words, and that's what these early anatomists were doing. Sometimes in the names or descriptions you can almost feel the struggle of someone seeing this object and trying to reduce it to words,"says Fissell. © 2016 npr

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 22995 - Posted: 12.17.2016

Older folks tend not to engage as much in risky behavior as teenagers and young adults do. You might call that wisdom or learned experience. But this also may be a result of older brains having less gray matter in a certain spot, according to a new study. Researchers found that adults who were less inclined to take risks had less gray matter in the right posterior parietal cortex, which is involved in decisions that entail risk. In the study, the researchers asked volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 88 to play a game involving risk. The participants were allowed to choose between a guaranteed gain, such as pocketing $5, or an uncertain gain, such as a lottery to earn between $5 and $120 with varying chances of winning or losing. As the researchers expected, those participants who chose the guaranteed gain — that is, no risk — tended to be older than those who opted for the lottery. It wasn’t a perfect correlation, but it was close. One could call this old-age wisdom. Yet when the researchers analyzed brain scans of these volunteers obtained through an MRI technique called voxel-based morphometry (VBM), they found that lower levels of gray matter, even more than age, best accounted for risk aversion. These results suggest that the brain changes that occur in healthy aging people may be behind more decision-making patterns and preferences than previously thought, the researchers noted in their findings, published Dec. 13 in the journal Nature Communications. © 1996-2016 The Washington Post

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 22993 - Posted: 12.17.2016

By PHIL BARBER SAN FRANCISCO — Paraag Marathe’s structured, analytical mind has served him well in the offices of Silicon Valley and the National Football League. He figured that he could lean on those traits the first time he spoke publicly about his sister, Shilpa, and how anorexia had taken her life. But composure failed Marathe in 2011, six years after Shilpa’s death, while he spoke to survivors and grieving family members at an event for Andrea’s Voice, a nonprofit foundation that tries to promote education about eating disorders and their treatments. “Not only did I break down a little bit during that speech,” said Marathe, 39, the San Francisco 49ers’ chief strategy officer and executive vice president for football operations. “It was also one of those weird moments afterwards. I emotionally collapsed in the arms of somebody there who had lost her daughter.” The memories were back. Marathe had watched his brilliant sister succumb to self-destructive thoughts and starve herself. He had seen Shilpa wither to less than 50 pounds in the last years of her life, had felt the shame and puzzlement that her condition brought to his family. Fueled by regret — why had he not noticed sooner, and why wasn’t he more assertive in trying to help Shilpa? — Marathe has found his voice. He will patiently tell you that 30 million Americans are believed to suffer from eating disorders, and that medical insurance plans rarely cover treatment of the condition. He will remind you that anorexia has the highest fatality rate among mental illnesses — about 10 percent, according to a 2011 meta-analysis published in Archives of General Psychiatry and cited by the National Institute of Mental Health. Eating-disorder caregivers and advocates welcome Marathe’s help in shattering the myth that anorexia afflicts only well-to-do white girls and women. The illness claims men, too, and frequently remains a taboo subject in less affluent or nonwhite families, said Kristina Saffran of Project HEAL, an organization that raises money to cover care from diagnosis to recovery. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Anorexia & Bulimia
Link ID: 22992 - Posted: 12.15.2016

By Kai Kupferschmidt New York City is known for its strange sights. But on 12 July, even locals were shocked by what they saw: more than 30 people staggering around a Brooklyn block with empty stares, shuffling their arms and feet and occasionally groaning. What sounds like the opening of a horror movie was suspected from the start to be the work of a synthetic cannabinoid. Now, a new analysis, out today in The New England Journal of Medicine, confirms those suspicions. But it has also raised scientific ire over its prolific use of the word “zombie.” Developed by academics and pharma companies to study cannabinoid receptors in the human body, synthetic cannabinoids act on the same receptor on brain cells as cannabis. The compounds, which can be up to 100 times more potent than cannabis, are a rapidly growing class of drugs, usually dissolved in liquid and sprayed on leaves to be smoked. There are hundreds of different compounds, and though they are quickly made illegal in many places, new ones appear every year. To find out what was responsible for the Brooklyn episode, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), started with a foil-wrapped pouch of herbs found on one of the patients, labeled “AK-47 24 Karat Gold.” When they analyzed a sample, they found it contained the substance AMB-FUBINACA, a powerful synthetic cannabinoid similar to a compound first patented by Pfizer in 2009. The researchers also found breakdown products of AMB-FUBINACA in the blood of eight patients. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 22991 - Posted: 12.15.2016

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. and PAM BELLUCK Babies born to Zika-infected mothers are highly likely to have brain damage, even in the absence of obvious abnormalities like small heads, and the virus may go on replicating in their brains well after birth, according to three studies published Tuesday. Many types of brain damage were seen in the studies, including dead spots and empty spaces in the brain, cataracts and congenital deafness. There were, however, large differences among these studies in how likely it was that a child would be hurt by the infection. One study, published by The Journal of the American Medical Association, assessed 442 pregnancies registered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between January and September in the continental United States and Hawaii, most of them in returning travelers. That report found that 6 percent had birth defects. None of those birth defects occurred in infants born to women infected in the second or third trimester. By contrast, in a study of 125 Zika-infected women in Rio de Janeiro done by Brazilian and American scientists and released by The New England Journal of Medicine, almost half of pregnancies had “adverse outcomes,” ranging from fetal deaths to serious brain damage. Of the 117 infants born alive, 42 percent had “grossly abnormal” brain scans or physical symptoms, the authors said. Other studies from Colombia, Brazil and French Polynesia have suggested that brain damage rates are between 1 and 13 percent. But each one uses different measurements of brain damage and different definitions of which mothers to include, so the question remains unanswered. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 22990 - Posted: 12.15.2016

By Claire Asher We pride ourselves on our big brains, but when it comes to figuring out whether people or other animals with particularly big brains do better than others, the evidence has been lacking. Now, for the first time, a study in red deer is showing that bigger brained mammals tend to be more successful in the wild, and that brain size is a heritable trait that they can pass on to their offspring. Corina Logan from the University of Cambridge and her team have looked at the skulls of 1314 red deer (Cervus elaphus) from the Isle of Rum. The complete life histories of the deer are well known thanks to the Isle of Rum Red Deer Project, which has been collecting data on the island for more than 40 years, spanning seven deer generations. “This kind of study has not been conducted before because it requires long-term data from a large number of individuals,” says Logan. Heritable heads The team found that the ratio of skull volume to body size was highly heritable, explaining 63 per cent of variation between individuals. Female deer with larger skulls lived significantly longer and raised more offspring to adulthood, though it’s not clear yet why bigger brains are advantageous to females. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 22987 - Posted: 12.14.2016

Abby L. Wilkerson The new class I was teaching — “Composing Disability: Crip Ecologies” — was one of several first-year writing seminars offered at George Washington University. Given the focus, it was likely to be a challenge for at least some of the students. And it was presenting a particular challenge to me. Even before the class began, I was anxious. I have depression, and I wondered: Should I acknowledge it in the class? Would the students benefit if I did? I wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing, for everyone’s sake, before taking the leap. But I was not at all certain. The idea of disclosing in the classroom made me feel conflicted and vulnerable. Though the World Health Organization identifies depression as “the leading cause of disability,” not everyone with depression identifies herself as disabled. One of the central meanings of disability for me is “crip” pride — resistance to medical notions of disability as a defect and related social stigmas. My depression has given me unasked-for gifts, including a sensitivity to others’ suffering. But let’s face it — on some level, depression is suffering. How could I reconcile this with the fierce crip attitude in others that I’ve so admired? In class, how would the dull weight of depression sit with the “crip” in the course title? If I were going to do this, I needed to get it right. And I wasn’t sure how. Though I have suffered severe depression in the past, these days, my episodes tend to be milder and less frequent. Some days, I feel fine. But I might soon begin feeling melancholy — yet still able to laugh, think clearly, sleep at night and enjoy my life. Then one morning, for no discernible reason, I wake up mired in mud, my body now freight to be pushed through daily routines. The rhythm of life is suddenly ground down almost to nothing. I feel somehow both numb and raw, skin thin, laid open. Everything that matters is now far-off in the distance. Other people seem remote, existing in some parallel universe. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 22985 - Posted: 12.14.2016

Laura Sanders Fewer teenagers in the United States used drugs in 2016 than in previous decades. The positive news comes from an annual survey of almost 45,500 U.S. students in grades eight, 10 and 12. “There’s a lot of good news here,” says pediatrician Sharon Levy of Boston Children’s Hospital. Public health messages from pediatricians, educators and others seem to be sinking in, she says. “I think that’s fabulous. Substance use is one of the most important — yet modifiable — behavioral health issues of adolescents.” Adolescents’ use of many of the substances, including alcohol and cigarettes, hit an all-time low since the survey, known as the Monitoring the Future study, began collecting data 42 years ago. Heroin, methamphetamines, inhalants and stimulants also hit lows this year. E-cigarettes have been particularly concerning as more adolescents gave the new devices a try, reaching a high in 2015 (SN: 5/28/16, p. 4). For the first time, the number of students who vape is declining, the survey found. In 2015, 16.3 percent of 12th-graders reported vaping in the last 30 days. In 2016, that fell to 12.5. Similar declines were evident among eighth- and 10th-graders. In a happy surprise, misuse of prescription opioid use decreased in the last five years among 12th-graders. The drop was “a big surprise,” particularly against a backdrop of a much wider opioid epidemic in the general population (SN: 9/3/16, p. 14), Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Bethesda, Md., said December 13 at a news briefing. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 22984 - Posted: 12.14.2016

Answer by Paul King, Director of Data Science, on Quora: There are hundreds of surprising, perspective-shifting insights about the nature of reality that come from neuroscience. Every bizarre neurological syndrome, every visual illusion, and every clever psychological experiment reveals something entirely unexpected about our experience of the world that we take for granted. Here are a few to give a flavor: 1. Perceptual reality is entirely generated by our brain. We hear voices and meaning from air pressure waves. We see colors and objects, yet our brain only receives signals about reflected photons. The objects we perceive are a construct of the brain, which is why optical illusions can fool the brain. Recommended by Forbes 2. We see the world in narrow disjoint fragments. We think we see the whole world, but we are looking through a narrow visual portal onto a small region of space. You have to move your eyes when you read because most of the page is blurry. We don't see this, because as soon as we become curious about part of the world, our eyes move there to fill in the detail before we see it was missing. While our eyes are in motion, we should see a blank blur, but our brain edits this out. 3. Body image is dynamic and flexible. Our brain can be fooled into thinking a rubber arm or a virtual reality hand is actually a part of our body. In one syndrome, people believe one of their limbs does not belong to them. One man thought a cadaver limb had been sewn onto his body as a practical joke by doctors. 4. Our behavior is mostly automatic, even though we think we are controlling it.

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 22980 - Posted: 12.13.2016

By GINA KOLATA Dr. Frank Sacks, a professor of nutrition at Harvard, likes to challenge his audience when he gives lectures on obesity. “If you want to make a great discovery,” he tells them, figure out this: Why do some people lose 50 pounds on a diet while others on the same diet gain a few pounds? Then he shows them data from a study he did that found exactly that effect. Dr. Sack’s challenge is a question at the center of obesity research today. Two people can have the same amount of excess weight, they can be the same age, the same socioeconomic class, the same race, the same gender. And yet a treatment that works for one will do nothing for the other. The problem, researchers say, is that obesity and its precursor — being overweight — are not one disease but instead, like cancer, they are many. “You can look at two people with the same amount of excess body weight and they put on the weight for very different reasons,” said Dr. Arya Sharma, medical director of the obesity program at the University of Alberta. Not only can that explain why treatment is so difficult and results so wildly variable, but it can explain why prevention efforts often fail. After trial and error, here are six stories from people who finally found diets, drugs and other methods that helped them keep the weight off. If obesity is many diseases, said Dr. Lee Kaplan, director of the obesity, metabolism and nutrition institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, there can be many paths to the same outcome. It makes as much sense to insist there is one way to prevent all types of obesity — get rid of sugary sodas, clear the stores of junk foods, shun carbohydrates, eat breakfast, get more sleep — as it does to say you can avoid lung cancer by staying out of the sun, a strategy specific to skin cancer. One focus of research is to figure out how many types of obesity there are — Dr. Kaplan counts 59 so far — and how many genes can contribute. So far, investigators have found more than 25 genes with such powerful effects that if one is mutated, a person is pretty much guaranteed to become obese, said Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, head of the department of clinical biochemistry and medicine at Cambridge University. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 22976 - Posted: 12.12.2016

Carl Zimmer Primates are unquestionably clever: Monkeys can learn how to use money, and chimpanzees have a knack for game theory. But no one has ever taught a nonhuman primate to say “hello.” Scientists have long been intrigued by the failure of primates to talk like us. Understanding the reasons may offer clues to how our own ancestors evolved full-blown speech, one of our most powerful adaptations. On Friday, a team of researchers reported that monkeys have a vocal tract capable of human speech. They argue that other primates can’t talk because they lack the right wiring in their brains. “A monkey’s vocal tract would be perfectly adequate to produce hundreds, thousands of words,” said W. Tecumseh Fitch, a cognitive scientist at the University of Vienna and a co-author of the new study. Human speech results from a complicated choreography of flowing air and contracting muscles. To make a particular sound, we have to give the vocal tract a particular shape. The vocal tracts of other primates contain the same elements as ours — from vocal cords to tongues to lips — but their geometry is different. That difference long ago set scientists to debating whether primates could make speechlike sounds. In the 1960s, Philip H. Lieberman, now a professor emeritus of Brown University, and his colleagues went so far as to pack a dead monkey’s vocal tract with plaster to get a three-dimensional rendering. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 22975 - Posted: 12.10.2016

By Michael Price The famed parrot Alex had a vocabulary of more than 100 words. Kosik the elephant learned to “speak” a bit of Korean by using the tip of his trunk the way people whistle with their fingers. So it’s puzzling that our closest primate cousins are limited to hoots, coos, and grunts. For decades, monkeys’ and apes’ vocal anatomy has been blamed for their inability to reproduce human speech sounds, but a new study suggests macaque monkeys—and by extension, other primates—could indeed talk if they only possessed the brain wiring to do so. The findings might provide new clues to anthropologists and language researchers looking to pin down when humans learned to speak. “This certainly shows that the macaque vocal tract is capable of a lot more than has previously been assumed,” says John Esling, a linguist and phonetics expert at the University of Victoria in Canada, who was not involved with the work. The study’s lead author, William Tecumseh Sherman Fitch III, an evolutionary biologist and cognitive scientist at the University of Vienna, says the question of why monkeys and apes can’t speak goes back to Darwin. (Yes, Fitch is the great-great-great-grandson of U.S. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman.) Darwin thought nonhuman primates couldn’t talk because they didn’t have the brains, he says. But over time, anthropologists instead embraced the idea that the primates’ vocal tracts were holding them back: They simply lacked the flexibility to produce the wide range of vowels present in human speech. That remains the “textbook answer” today, Fitch says. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 22974 - Posted: 12.10.2016

By Sam Wong Size matters. Bigger genitals mean more mating success for male mosquito fish, a relative of the guppy. But the development of longer male organs prompts females to evolve bigger brains to help them escape overeager mates. Mating among mosquito fish is far from romantic. The male makes no effort to court partners, instead sneaking up and attempting to copulate by force up to a thousand times a day. It uses a modified anal fin, the gonopodium, to deliver sperm into the female. In this sort of mating system, the relationship between males and females can resemble that between predators and prey, which commonly involve an evolutionary arms race where adaptations on one side are closely matched by changes on the other. For example, big-brained predators tend to prey on big-brained prey, as the two try to outsmart each other. Séverine Buechel and colleagues at Stockholm University in Sweden wondered if a similar arms race was going on between male and female mosquito fish. Do females evolve bigger brains to defend against sneaky males, and do males evolve bigger brains in response? To test this, the team looked at what happened to brain size when males were bred to have longer gonopodia. Male mosquito fish have long gonopodia compared with related species in which coercion is not the dominant mating strategy, and males with longer gonopodia tend to be more successful at mating. The researchers found that breeding more well-endowed males led to bigger-brained females. But there was no arms race: male brains didn’t get bigger at the same time. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Evolution
Link ID: 22973 - Posted: 12.10.2016

By Jason G. Goldman In her widely celebrated 1978 book Illness as Metaphor Susan Sontag wrote that when medical experts attribute psychological causality to biological disease, they “assign to the luckless ill the ultimate responsibility both for falling ill and for getting well.” The latest salvo in the ongoing debate over the extent to which psychological factors can explain physiological outcomes comes from a study published today, which finds optimistic women are less likely to die of a variety of illnesses—from cancer to heart failure to infectious disease. Researchers from Harvard University's T. H. Chan School of Public Health turned to a 40-year survey-based study begun in 1976 of American female nurses, most of whom were white, called the “Nurses’ Health Study.” They extracted data on the women's personalities from the 2004 and 2008 surveys and compared it with mortality rates for the same women between 2006 and 2012. Altogether, they collected information from more than 70,000 individuals. To assess optimism, the study asked participants to rate on a five-point scale the extent to which they agreed with six statements such as, “in uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” “When comparing the top 25 percent most optimistic [women] to the bottom 25 percent, they had about a 30 percent reduced risk of mortality,” says study leader Eric Kim of Harvard. Those relationships remained, albeit less robustly, even after the researchers adjusted the predictions to account for sociodemographic factors and health-related behaviors. Kim is quick to point out that this does not necessarily mean optimism leads to healthier lifestyles, only that there is a statistical association. Still, he and his colleagues argue that because personality traits are somewhat malleable, optimism-based interventions could be a fairly simple, low-cost way to improve public health. © 2016 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 22969 - Posted: 12.09.2016

Between email and cell phones, many of us feel like we're at work 24/7. The concept of workplace burnout is not that old. NPR's Planet Money team has the story of the man who coined the term. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: If you're the type of person who checks your work email right before bed and just as you wake up the next day, you might know the word burnout, but you may not know the story behind it. Noel King from NPR's Planet Money podcast tells us about the man who coined the term burnout and then found a sort of solution. NOEL KING, BYLINE: In the early '70s, Herbert Freudenberger had a successful psychology practice on New York's Upper East Side. He was a serious, driven man. He'd survived the Holocaust and moved to the U.S. as a kid. Here's his daughter Lisa Freudenberger. Her dad died in 1999. LISA FREUDENBERGER: His childhood kind of stopped at 7 or 8 because he had then had to grow up pretty quickly and survive in a new country. KING: In the States, he was taken in by an aunt who was cruel to him. She made him sleep in an attic. In his teens, he ran away and lived on the street for a while. Herbert grew up to become someone who was always pushing himself to help more people. That's why in addition to his practice on the Upper East Side, he opened a clinic on the Bowery - New York's Skid Row. He worked with drug addicts. © 2016 npr

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 22968 - Posted: 12.09.2016