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Buying life experiences to impress others removes happiness boost

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SF State study suggests consumer motivation affects happiness gained from experiential purchases

Spending money on activities and events, such as concert tickets or exotic vacations, won't make you happier if you're doing it to impress others, according to findings published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

Research has shown that consumers gain greater happiness from buying life experiences rather than material possessions, but only if they choose experiences for the right reasons says the new study.

"Why you buy is just as important as what you buy," said Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. "When people buy life experiences to impress others, it wipes out the well-being they receive from the purchase. That extrinsic motivation appears to undermine how the experiential purchase meets their key psychological needs."

The study builds on Howell's previous findings, which suggest that people who buy life experiences are happier because experiential purchasing helps fulfill psychological needs that are vital for human growth and well-being. These include the need to feel competent, autonomous -- or self-directed -- and connected to others.
2 + 2 = 4

Research Shows Wisdom May Indeed Increase With Age

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You can seek out new environments that support your insights and creativity, experts say.
Editor's note: CNN contributor Amanda Enayati ponders the theme of seeking serenity: the quest for well-being and life balance in stressful times.

Google "the aging brain" and you will find a largely sobering landscape of cognitive deterioration.

("Funny," said the dashing older gentleman I tried to interview for this piece. "I don't remember being absent-minded.")

But turn the kaleidoscope of our knowledge about the aging brain and a far more interesting picture emerges.
Chalkboard

Loneliness in Older Individuals Linked to Functional Decline, Death

Loneliness in individuals over 60 years of age appears associated with increased risk of functional decline and death, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

In older persons, loneliness can be a common source of distress and impaired quality life, according to the study background.

Carla M. Perissinotto, M.D., M.H.S., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues examined the relationship between loneliness and risk of functional decline and death in older individuals in a study of 1,604 participants in the Health and Retirement Study.

The participants (average age 71) were asked if they felt left out, isolated or a lack of companionship. Of the participants, 43.2 percent reported feeling lonely, which was defined as reporting one of the loneliness items at least some of the time, according to the study results.
Magic Wand

Musical brain patterns could help predict epileptic seizures

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The research led by Newcastle University's Dr Mark Cunningham and Professor Miles Whittington and supported by the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research, indicates a novel electrical bio-marker in humans.

The brain produces electrical rhythms and using EEG - electrodes on the scalp - researchers were able to monitor the brain patterns in patients with epilepsy. Both in patients and in brain tissue samples the team were able to witness an abnormal brain wave noticeable due to its rapidly increasing frequency over time.

Comparing these to a musical 'glissando', an upwards glide from one pitch to another, the team found that this brain rhythm is unique to humans and they believe it could be related to epilepsy.

Dr Cunningham, senior lecturer in Neuronal Dynamics at Newcastle University said: "We were able to examine EEG collected from patients with drug resistant epilepsy who were continually monitored over a two week period. During that time we noticed patterns of electrical activity with rapidly increasing frequency, just like glissandi, emerging in the lead-up to an epileptic seizure."

"We are in the early days of the work and we want to investigate this in a larger group of patients but it may offer a promising insight into when a seizure is going to start."
Health

Mindful Multitasking: Meditation First Can Calm Stress, Aid Concentration

Need to do some serious multitasking? Some training in meditation beforehand could make the work smoother and less stressful, new research from the University of Washington shows.

Work by UW Information School professors David Levy and Jacob Wobbrock suggests that meditation training can help people working with information stay on tasks longer with fewer distractions and also improves memory and reduces stress.

Their paper was published in the May edition of Proceedings of Graphics Interface.

Levy, a computer scientist, and Wobbrock, a researcher in human-computer interaction, conducted the study together with Information School doctoral candidate Marilyn Ostergren and Alfred Kaszniak, a neuropsychologist at the University of Arizona.

"To our knowledge, this is the first study to explore how meditation might affect multitasking in a realistic work setting," Levy said.

Comment: For more information about an easy to use approach to Meditation check out the Eiriu Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program here.

Info

Thoughts of Death Make Only the Religious More Devout

Thinking about death makes Christians and Muslims, but not atheists, more likely to believe in God, new research finds, suggesting that the old saying about "no atheists in foxholes" doesn't hold water.
Cemetery
© Josef Zima, Shutterstock
Graves in a Jewish cemetery.
Agnostics, however, do become more willing to believe in God when reminded of death. The only catch is that they're equally as likely to believe in Buddha or Allah as the Christian deity, even though all the agnostics in the study were American and thus more likely to be exposed to Christian beliefs.

The findings confirm that while religion can help people deal with death, we all manage our own existential fears of dying through our pre-existing worldview, the researchers report in an upcoming issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"These studies offer an improved understanding of how and why religious individuals tend to believe so strongly in their own religion's gods yet deny the gods of competing religions," the researchers wrote.
Info

A Father's Love Holds One of The Greatest Powers To Influence A Child's Development

A father's love contributes as much -- and sometimes more -- to a child's development as does a mother's love. That is one of many findings in a new large-scale analysis of research about the power of parental rejection and acceptance in shaping our personalities as children and into adulthood.

Fathers Love
© PreventDisease.com
A previous study by researchers at the University of Arizona showed just how important dad's job as a role model actually is. That study showed that girls who receive lower quality fathering tend to engage in more risky sexual behavior in adolescence.

"In our half-century of international research, we've not found any other class of experience that has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does the experience of rejection, especially by parents in childhood," says Ronald Rohner of the University of Connecticut, co-authored the new study in Personality and Social Psychology Review. "Children and adults everywhere -- regardless of differences in race, culture, and gender -- tend to respond in exactly the same way when they perceived themselves to be rejected by their caregivers and other attachment figures."

Looking at 36 studies from around the world that together involved more than 10,000 participants, Rohner and co-author Abdul Khaleque found that in response to rejection by their parents, children tend to feel more anxious and insecure, as well as more hostile and aggressive toward others. The pain of rejection -- especially when it occurs over a period of time in childhood -- tends to linger into adulthood, making it more difficult for adults who were rejected as children to form secure and trusting relationships with their intimate partners. The studies are based on surveys of children and adults about their parents' degree of acceptance or rejection during their childhood, coupled with questions about their personality dispositions.
Info

Neuroscience: The Mind Reader

Mind Reader
© John Hryniuk
Adrian Owen still gets animated when he talks about patient 23. The patient was only 24 years old when his life was devastated by a car accident. Alive but unresponsive, he had been languishing in what neurologists refer to as a vegetative state for five years, when Owen, a neuro-scientist then at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues at the University of Liège in Belgium, put him into a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine and started asking him questions.

Incredibly, he provided answers. A change in blood flow to certain parts of the man's injured brain convinced Owen that patient 23 was conscious and able to communicate. It was the first time that anyone had exchanged information with someone in a vegetative state.

Patients in these states have emerged from a coma and seem awake. Some parts of their brains function, and they may be able to grind their teeth, grimace or make random eye movements. They also have sleep - wake cycles. But they show no awareness of their surroundings, and doctors have assumed that the parts of the brain needed for cognition, perception, memory and intention are fundamentally damaged. They are usually written off as lost.

Owen's discovery1, reported in 2010, caused a media furore. Medical ethicist Joseph Fins and neurologist Nicholas Schiff, both at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, called it a "potential game changer for clinical practice"2. The University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, soon lured Owen away from Cambridge with Can$20 million (US$19.5 million) in funding to make the techniques more reliable, cheaper, more accurate and more portable - all of which Owen considers essential if he is to help some of the hundreds of thousands of people worldwide in vegetative states. "It's hard to open up a channel of communication with a patient and then not be able to follow up immediately with a tool for them and their families to be able to do this routinely," he says.

Many researchers disagree with Owen's contention that these individuals are conscious. But Owen takes a practical approach to applying the technology, hoping that it will identify patients who might respond to rehabilitation, direct the dosing of analgesics and even explore some patients' feelings and desires. "Eventually we will be able to provide something that will be beneficial to patients and their families," he says.

Still, he shies away from asking patients the toughest question of all - whether they wish life support to be ended - saying that it is too early to think about such applications. "The consequences of asking are very complicated, and we need to be absolutely sure that we know what to do with the answers before we go down this road," he warns.
Magic Wand

When being scared twice is enough to remember

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Diagram showing location of the amygdala in the human brain; there is one on each side.
One of the brain's jobs is to help us figure out what's important enough to be remembered. Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have achieved some insight into how fleeting experiences become memories in the brain.

Their experimental system could be a way to test or refine treatments aimed at enhancing learning and memory, or interfering with troubling memories. The results were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers set up a system where rats were exposed to a light followed by a mild shock. A single light-shock event isn't enough to make the rat afraid of the light, but a repeat of the pairing of the light and shock is, even a few days later.

"I describe this effect as 'priming'," says the first author of the paper, postdoctoral fellow Ryan Parsons. "The animal experiences all sorts of things, and has to sort out what's important. If something happens just once, it doesn't register. But twice, and the animal remembers."
Yoda

How Barbara Arrowsmith-Young rebuilt her own brain

© Sarah Lee for the Guardian
Arrowsmith-Young’s methods are now employed in 35 schools across Canada and the US.
She realised that part of her brain was not functioning properly so she devised a series of cognitive exercises to develop it. The results changed her life - and now she has helped thousands of children with learning disabilities

It's the kind of memory that stays with you. When she was in first grade, Barbara Arrowsmith-Young's Ontario primary school teacher told her mother - in her presence - that she had some kind of "mental block", and would never be able to learn. Now that she has helped more than 4,000 learning-disabled children overcome precisely that kind of diagnosis, of course, she can laugh at it. But she didn't at the time.

Arrowsmith-Young, now 61, talks fluently and passionately and with great erudition. She has a masters degree in school psychology. She has just published a groundbreaking, widely praised and enthralling book called The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. But back at school - indeed, up until she was in her mid-20s - she was desperate. Tormented and often depressed. She didn't know what was wrong.

On the one hand, she was brilliant. She had near-total auditory and visual memory. "I could listen to the six o'clock news, and reproduce it word-for-word at 11pm. I could open a book, read the first sentence, the second, the third, visualise them. I could memorise whole exercise books." On the other hand, she was a dolt. "I didn't understand anything," she says. "Meaning just never crystallised. Everything was fragmented, disconnected."
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