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Study finds it actually is better (and healthier) to give than to receive

Those who help others derive significant health benefits not available to recipients.

A five-year study by researchers at three universities has established that providing tangible assistance to others protects our health and lengthens our lives.

This, after more than two decades of research failed to establish that the same benefits accrue to the recipients of such help.

Principal investigator Michael J. Poulin, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo, says, "This study offers a significant contribution to the research literature on the relationship between social environment and health, and specifically to our understanding of how giving assistance to others may offer health benefits to the giver by buffering the negative effects of stress."

Poulin, along with colleagues at Stony Brook University and Grand Valley State University, produced the study, "Giving to Others and the Association Between Stress and Mortality," which was posted online Jan. 17 by the American Journal of Public Health, which will publish the study in an upcoming print issue.

The authors point out that although it is established that social isolation and stress are significant predictors of mortality and morbidity, 20 years of studies and meta-analytical review have failed to establish that receiving social support from others buffers recipients against mortality after exposure to psychosocial stress.

Eye 1

SOTT Talk Radio: Are Psychopaths Cool? Uncovering the predators among us

In this third SOTT Talk Radio show broadcast live on Sunday February 3rd, 2013, SOTT.net editors Joe and Niall were again joined by Jason Martin, along with special guests Laura Knight-Jadczyk and Harrison Koehli, editor of Red Pill Press, publisher of the underground classic, Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil, Adjusted for Political Purposes. Together they discussed arguably the most important topic of our time: psychopaths and their influence in our world.

The 'virtues' of CEOs, political leaders, heart surgeons, soldiers and others possessing 'psychopathic qualities' is being heavily promoted through the mainstream media, academia and popular culture. References to psychopaths in TV shows like Dexter and movies like Seven Psychopaths would seem to suggest that psychopaths are not only generally known about and understood, but are also appealing to ordinary people.

But are psychopaths really cool? And what is a psychopath anyway? How many of them are out there and how long have they been around us? Everyone has an opinion about psychopaths, but are we all talking about the same thing? Bestselling books like Kevin Dutton's Wisdom of Psychopaths encourage people to 'unlock their inner psychopath'; does that mean we are all potentially psychopaths?


Sherlock

Where evil lurks: Neurologist discovers 'dark patch' inside the brains of killers and rapists

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Dr Gerhard Roth demonstrates where the 'evil patch' can be identified in the brains of those inclined to violence
A German neurologist claims to have found the area of the brain where evil lurks in killers, rapists and robbers.

Bremen scientist Dr Gerhard Roth says the 'evil patch' lies in the brain's central lobe and shows up as a dark mass on X-rays.

He discovered it when investigating violent convicted offenders over the years for German government studies.

We showed these people short films and measured their brain waves,' he said.

'Whenever there were brutal and squalid scenes the subjects showed no emotions. In the areas of the brain where we create compassion and sorrow, nothing happened.'

The dark mass at the front of the brain, he says, appears in all scans of people with records for criminal violence.

People 2

Study debunks notion that men and women are psychologically distinct

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© Shutterstock
A first-of-its-kind study to be published in the February issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has dealt a devastating blow to the notion that men and women are fundamentally different when it comes to how they think and act.

"Although gender differences on average are not under dispute, the idea of consistently and inflexibly gender-typed individuals is," Bobbi J. Carothers of Washington University in St. Louis and Harry T. Reis of the University of Rochester explained in their study. "That is, there are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous."

Analyzing 122 different characteristics from 13,301 individuals in 13 studies, the researchers concluded that differences between men and women were best seen as dimensional rather than categorical. In other words, the differences between men and women should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than a sign of consistent differences between two distinct groups.

Bulb

Walking through doorways causes forgetting, new research shows

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© Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon
Doorways
We've all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find.

New research from University of Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky suggests that passing through doorways is the cause of these memory lapses. "Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an 'event boundary' in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away," Radvansky explains.

"Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized."

The study was published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Conducting three experiments in both real and virtual environments, Radvansky's subjects - all college students - performed memory tasks while crossing a room and while exiting a doorway.

Info

How active is the brain in a coma?

© Chronis Jons/Getty Images
New technology could help foster a primitive form of communication with patients who are minimally conscious.
A new type of brain scan is giving neurologists insight into what is happening in the brains of patients who appear to be in comas.

When doctors recently tested former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon brain with a functional MRI, they found "robust" brain activity when he was shown pictures of his family and heard his son's voice. A stroke and brain hemorrhage left Sharon in a coma seven years ago.

While the findings don't change the prognosis of many patients, doctors are excited because the technology could foster a primitive form of communication with patients who are minimally conscious. It could also help prevent and correct misdiagnosis of patients who appear to be in comas, but are actually in a "locked-in" state.

"It's like watching the top of the ocean and thinking you can understand what goes on under the waves," said Dr. Peter Nakaji, a neurosurgeon at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, of the bedside techniques commonly used in clinics. He and others are hopeful that new techniques could provide a glimpse into the deeper realms of the brain.

The fMRI technology has been used in brain mapping research since the early 1990s, helping detect the onset of Alzheimer's and providing key information to brain surgeons about where to operate, but researchers in the United Kingdom and Belgium made a breakthrough discovery by applying the technology to patients who could not communicate at the bedside.

Robot

You'll probably cross paths with a psychopath today

Chances are, you will encounter a psychopath somewhere on the Fraser Coast today.

It might be your next-door neighbour; it could be your boss.

Psychopaths walk freely among us and most of us don't even realise it.

When people think of psychopaths, most think of mass murderers or serial killers.

But most psychopaths will not become serial killers - and most appear to be charming, intelligent and completely normal.

Many psychopaths are high achievers, drawn to positions of prestige, which means the psychopath you know could be found in a boardroom or in government.

A study conducted by New York psychologist Paul Babiak suggested that one out of every 25 business leaders could be psychopathic.

Mr Babiak said a person could live with someone and be married for 20 years and have no idea that person was a psychopath.

Hearts

The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure: 7 habits that stimulate your vagus nerve and keep you calm, cool, and collected


Early anatomical drawing of the vagus nerve.
When was the last time that you had to perform gracefully in a high-pressure situation? How did you handle it? Did you choke or did you have grace under pressure? Researchers continue to confirm that daily habits of mindset and behavior can create a positive snowball effect through a feedback loop linked to stimulating your vagus nerve. In this entry I will show you 7 habits that will stimulate healthy 'vagal tone' and allow you to harness the power of your vagus nerve to help you stay calm, cool, and collected in any storm.

Healthy vagal tone is indicated by a slight increase of heart rate when you inhale, and a decrease of heart rate when you exhale. Deep diaphragmatic breathing - with a long, slow exhale - is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure, especially in times of performance anxiety. A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. A low vagal tone index is linked to inflammation, negative moods, loneliness, and heart attacks.

Comment: The breathing and meditation techniques of the Éiriú Eolas program are geared towards stimulating the vagus nerve so that you, the practitioner, can enjoy the healing and life affirming results of the Vagusstuff.


People

Working alone won't get you good grades

Students who work together and interact online are more likely to be successful in their college classes, according to a study published Jan. 30 in the journal Nature Scientific Reports and co-authored by Manuel Cebrian, a computer scientist at the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego.

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© UCSD Jacobs
A graph showing interactions between 82 students during the last week of a course. High performing students are in dark blue and form a core where the highest density of persistent interactions can be observed. Mid-performing students are in red and low-performing student sin green. Persistent interactions are shown in thick blue edges, while dotted thin grey edges indicate transient interactions.
Cebrian and colleagues analyzed 80,000 interactions between 290 students in a collaborative learning environment for college courses. The major finding was that a higher number of online interactions was usually an indicator of a higher score in the class. High achievers also were more likely to form strong connections with other students and to exchange information in more complex ways. High achievers tended to form cliques, shutting out low-performing students from their interactions. Students who found themselves shut out were not only more likely to have lower grades; they were also more likely to drop out of the class entirely.

"Elite groups of highly connected individuals formed in the first days of the course," said Cebrian, who also is a Senior Researcher at National ICT Australia Ltd, Australia's Information and Communications Technology Research Centre of Excellence. "For the first time, we showed that there is a very strong correspondence between social interaction and exchange of information - a 72 percent correlation," he said "but almost equally interesting is the fact that these high-performing students form 'rich-clubs', which shield themselves from low-performing students, despite the significant efforts by these lower-ranking students to join them. The weaker students try hard to engage with the elite group intensively, but can't. This ends up having a marked correlation with their dropout rates."

Snakes in Suits

What Is a Psychopath? Definition and basic criteria

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First a bit of terminological history, to clear up any confusion about the meanings of "sociopath," "psychopath," and related terms. In the early 1800s, doctors who worked with mental patients began to notice that some of their patients who appeared outwardly normal had what they termed a "moral depravity" or "moral insanity," in that they seemed to possess no sense of ethics or of the rights of other people. The term "psychopath" was first applied to these people around 1900. The term was changed to "sociopath" in the 1930s to emphasize the damage they do to society. Currently researchers have returned to using the term "psychopath." Some of them use that term to refer to a more serious disorder, linked to genetic traits, producing more dangerous individuals, while continuing to use "sociopath" to refer to less dangerous people who are seen more as products of their environment, including their upbringing. Other researchers make a distinction between "primary psychopaths," who are thought to be genetically caused, and "secondary psychopaths," seen as more a product of their environments.

The current approach to defining sociopathy and the related concepts is to use a list of criteria. The first such list was developed by Hervey Cleckley (1941), who is known as the first person to describe the condition in detail. Anyone fitting enough of these criteria counts as a psychopath or sociopath. There are several such lists in use. The most commonly used is called the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R), developed by Robert Hare and his colleagues. An alternative version was developed in 1996 by Lilienfeld and Andrews, called the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI). The book that psychologists and psychiatrists use to categorize and diagnose mental illness, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (DSM IV) contains a category for something called "antisocial personality disorder" (APD), while the World Health Organization delineates a similar category it calls "dissocial personality disorder." These are much broader categories than that of psychopathy. The category of psychopath is seen as included within this category but considerably smaller so that only roughly 1 in 5 people with APD is a psychopath (Kiehl and Buckholtz, 2010).

Comment: A 'psychopathic trait' not belonging to a psychopath can't really be considered a 'psychopathic trait'. This is not to say that ordinary people do not behave in pathological ways that are, in that moment, outwardly indistinguishable from a psychopath's behaviour. But it's important for people to realise that the inner landscape of a psychopath is so totally different from theirs that it marks them apart as a different species from humans.

So 'ruthlessness', 'cunning', 'charisma', etc. are all traits that in certain situations are extremely beneficial for ordinary people to have. Sometimes it is essential to our survival that we be selfish in looking after our interests, or that we become violent to protect ourselves and our loved ones, or that we project overconfidence as part of playing a role.

While these are not 'psychopathic traits' per se, they may, when taken together with much other data, suggest that someone is in fact a psychopath.

The study of psychopathy is still a new science and much remains to be explored. SOTT Talk Radio will be discussing this issue on Sunday 3rd of February 2013.