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Study shows early cognitive problems among those who eventually get Alzheimer's

People who study or treat Alzheimer's disease and its earliest clinical stage, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), have focused attention on the obvious short-term memory problems. But a new study suggests that people on the road to Alzheimer's may actually have problems early on in processing semantic or knowledge-based information, which could have much broader implications for how patients function in their lives.

Terry Goldberg, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and director of neurocognition at the Litwin Zucker Center for Research in Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, NY, said that clinicians have observed other types of cognitive problems in MCI patients but no one had ever studied it in a systematic way. Many experts had noted individuals who seemed perplexed by even the simplest task. In this latest study, published in this month's issue of theAmerican Journal of Psychiatry, investigators used a clever series of tests to measure a person's ability to process semantic information.

Do people with MCI have trouble accessing different types of knowledge? Are there obvious semantic impairments that have not been picked up before? The answer was "yes."

In setting out to test the semantic processing system, Dr. Goldberg and his colleagues needed a task that did not involve a verbal response. That would only confuse things and make it harder to interpret the results. They decided to use size to test a person's ability to use semantic information to make judgments between two competing sets of facts. "If you ask someone what is bigger, a key or an ant, they would be slower in their response than if you asked them what is bigger, a key or a house," explained Dr. Goldberg. The greater the difference in size between two objects, the faster a person -- normal or otherwise -- can recognize the difference and react to the question.

Yoda

Martha Stout demolishes Kevin Dutton's book on the 'wisdom' of psychopaths

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Another 'punk rock' psychologist?
The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, by Kevin Dutton

Years ago, as a student, I attended some lectures by a prominent anthropologist who regaled his listeners with odd and engaging stories about a group of indigenous people he had lived among in a far-flung corner of the planet. The tales stuck in the mind. Indeed, some of them were so amazing that I came away from his talks sure that counterintuitive but vital truths about human behavior had just been revealed. Only during the final lecture was I granted an inkling that these truths might not bear much relationship to reality. Fairly gleeful in her disdain, one of his indentured graduate assistants whispered to me that, in the field, the anthropologist had offered his subjects chocolate bars in exchange for stories about themselves - the more fantastic the stories, the more plentiful the candy. Avidly scrawling notes, his audience had become an illustration of how easily the foreign and the fascinating can assume the aura of science.

Though I have no reason to think chocolate was involved, I am concerned that a similar phenomenon may occur among readers of The Wisdom of Psychopaths by Kevin Dutton, a research psychologist at the University of Oxford. Dutton's eye-catching thesis is this: "Psychopathy is like sunlight. Overexposure can hasten one's demise in grotesque, carcinogenic fashion. But regulated exposure at controlled and optimal levels can have a significant positive impact on well-being and quality of life." Psychopathy, proposes Dutton, is "personality with a tan."

Hearts

Kindness facilitates happiness and acceptance for children

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© momentsformommy.blogspot.com
Children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers, suggests new research from the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Riverside.

Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, a professor in UBC's Faculty of Education, and co-author Kristin Layous, of the University of California, Riverside, say that increasing peer acceptance is key to preventing bullying.

In the study, published December 26 by PLOS ONE, researchers examined how to boost happiness in students aged 9 to 11 years. Four hundred students from Vancouver elementary schools were asked to report on their happiness and to identify which of their classmates they would like to work with on school activities. Half of the students were asked by their teachers to perform acts of kindness -- like sharing their lunch or giving their mom a hug when she felt stressed -- and half were asked to keep track of pleasant places they visited -- like the playground or a grandparent's house.

Info

Bullying may alter gene expression, study finds

© Dreamstime
Bullying may leave long-lasting scars on kids' DNA in addition to their psyche, new research suggests.

A small study found that bullied kids are more likely to have changes in the expression of a gene involved in mood regulation compared with their identical twin siblings who were not bullied.

"Since they were identical twins living in the same conditions, changes in the chemical structure surrounding the gene cannot be explained by genetics or family environment," researcher Isabelle Ouellet-Morin said in a statement. "Our results suggest that victimization experiences are the source of these changes."

Ouellet-Morin, who is affiliated with King's College London and the Université de Montréal, and her team looked at 28 pairs of identical twins born between 1994 and 1995. Data had been collected on these children through the British Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Twin Study. In each of these 28 pairs, one twin had been a victim of bullying while the other had not.

People

Decision to give a group effort in the brain

© Unknown
A monkey would probably never agree that it is better to give than to receive, but they do apparently get some reward from giving to another monkey.

During a task in which rhesus macaques had control over whether they or another monkey would receive a squirt of fruit juice, three distinct areas of the brain were found to be involved in weighing benefits to oneself against benefits to the other, according to new research by Duke University researchers.

The team used sensitive electrodes to detect the activity of individual neurons as the animals weighed different scenarios, such as whether to reward themselves, the other monkey or nobody at all. Three areas of the brain were seen to weigh the problem differently depending on the social context of the reward. The research appears Dec. 24 in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Using a computer screen to allocate juice rewards, the monkeys preferred to reward themselves first and foremost. But they also chose to reward the other monkey when it was either that or nothing for either of them. They also were more likely to give the reward to a monkey they knew over one they didn't, preferred to give to lower status than higher status monkeys, and had almost no interest in giving the juice to an inanimate object.

Calculating the social aspects of the reward system seems to be a combination of action by two centers involved in calculating all sorts of rewards and a third center that adds the social dimension, according to lead researcher Michael Platt, director of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

The orbital frontal cortex, right above the eyes, was activated when calculating rewards to the self. The anterior cingulate sulcus in the middle of the top of the brain seemed to calculate giving up a reward. But both centers appear "divorced from social context," Platt said. A third area, the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACCg), seemed to "care a lot about what happened to the other monkey," Platt said.

Galaxy

What have we learned from December 21, 2012?

From the perspective of being the manager at a spiritual bookstore witnessing the New Age 2012 craze at ground zero in West Los Angeles, I feel it incumbent to take the opportunity to lay out some observations regarding this period in time because all too often, I meet people like this:


Hello and Namasté dear New Agers,

Well... Here we are.
Dec 21st, 2012 has come and gone.

Are you "enlightened" yet?
Was there a "global awakening"?
Are you still in a human suit, marooned in Monkey Land, where governments kill, steal, and oppress? Where cultures distract and ensnare you with lies and myths to coerce your obedience through empty promises, convolution, illusory Left/Right paradigms, and fear?

Yep.

So, do you realize what it means?
It means these MANY YEARS of flashy "You Create Your Own Reality" and New Age marketing leading up to the "Awakening/ Ascension of 2012″ was a MANUFACTURED LIE. The planets were never going to "align" and there was never going to be a worldwide global enlightenment on Dec 21, 2012.
"Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It's seeing through the facade of pretence. It's the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true."

~ Adyashanti

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Trust your gut: Intuition in the context of very structured, multi-step decision-making

The clock is ticking and you still haven't decided what to get that special someone in your life for the holidays. When it comes to those last-minute gift-buying decisions for family and close friends, intuition may be the best way to think your way through to that perfect gift.

When faced with tough decisions, some people like to "trust their gut" and go with their intuition. Others prefer to take an analytical approach.

Boston College Professor Michael G. Pratt, an expert in organizational psychology, says new research shows intuition can help people make fast and effective decisions, particularly in areas where they have expertise in the subject at hand.

When it comes to holiday shopping, it might help to draw on the expertise you've accumulated about your family, and friends.

"We often ask ourselves, 'What does that special someone want for Christmas?' Maybe the better question to ask is 'What do I know about this person?" said Pratt, a professor in the Carroll School of Management. "The chances are you know a lot. You know a lot about your parents and your children, and your close friends. What we've found is that kind of deep expertise helps to support decisions we make when we trust our gut."

Info

Research debunks the IQ myth

After conducting the largest online intelligence study on record, a Western University-led research team has concluded that the notion of measuring one's intelligence quotient or IQ by a singular, standardized test is highly misleading.

The findings from the landmark study, which included more than 100,000 participants, were published today in the journal Neuron. The article, "Fractionating human intelligence," was written by Adrian M. Owen and Adam Hampshire from Western's Brain and Mind Institute (London, Canada) and Roger Highfield, Director of External Affairs, Science Museum Group (London, U.K).

Utilizing an online study open to anyone, anywhere in the world, the researchers asked respondents to complete 12 cognitive tests tapping memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and lifestyle habits.

"The uptake was astonishing," says Owen, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging and senior investigator on the project. "We expected a few hundred responses, but thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds from every corner of the world."

The results showed that when a wide range of cognitive abilities are explored, the observed variations in performance can only be explained with at least three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component.

Music

Why music moves us

© Russ Toro, LiveScience Contributor
People use the same types of features to capture emotion in both movement and music across cultures, a new study finds
Universal emotions like anger, sadness and happiness are expressed nearly the same in both music and movement across cultures, according to new research.

The researchers found that when Dartmouth undergraduates and members of a remote Cambodian hill tribe were asked to use sliding bars to adjust traits such as the speed, pitch, or regularity of music, they used the same types of characteristics to express primal emotions. What's more, the same types of patterns were used to express the same emotions in animations of movement in both cultures.

"The kinds of dynamics you find in movement, you find also in music and they're used in the same way to provide the same kind of meaning," said study co-author Thalia Wheatley, a neuroscientist at Dartmouth University.

The findings suggest music's intense power may lie in the fact it is processed by ancient brain circuitry used to read emotion in our movement.

"The study suggests why music is so fundamental and engaging for us," said Jonathan Schooler, a professor of brain and psychological sciences at the University of California at Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study. "It takes advantage of some very, very basic and, in some sense, primitive systems that understand how motion relates to emotion."

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Study: Watching porn tied to short-term memory loss

© dpa
Las Vegas - Watching excessive amounts of online pornography can adversely affect a person's short-term memory and decision-making ability.

In the first study of its kind, German scientists linked the brain's ability to complete a task, reason, and understand concepts with people's viewing of pornographic images. The 28 heterosexual men in the University of Duisburg-Essen study were tasked with viewing a combination of pornographic and non-pornographic pictures while also trying to keep their order straight.

The men - an average age of 26 - viewed the pictures and were asked to touch a "yes" or "no" key to indicate whether the mixed sexual and non-sexual images had been seen four slides before. The study found a significantly greater amount of wrong answers from the men who viewed more of the pornographic images.

The men who saw slideshows of clean images scored an average of 80 percent correctly, while men who were viewing the pornographic images only scored 67 percent correctly.

Comment: Porn May 'Shut Down' Part of Your Brain