Science of the Spirit


Can your blood type affect your memory?

Bags of Blood
© Wikipedia
Bags of blood collected during donation.
People with blood type AB may be more likely to develop memory loss in later years than people with other blood types, according to a study published in the September 10, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

AB is the least common blood type, found in about 4 percent of the U.S. population. The study found that people with AB blood were 82 percent more likely to develop the thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia than people with other blood types. Previous studies have shown that people with type O blood have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, factors that can increase the risk of memory loss and dementia.

The study was part of a larger study (the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke, or REGARDS Study) of more than 30,000 people followed for an average of 3.4 years. In those who had no memory or thinking problems at the beginning, the study identified 495 participants who developed thinking and memory problems, or cognitive impairment, during the study. They were compared to 587 people with no cognitive problems.

Are you more ethical in the morning?

Night Owl
© Thinkstock
If you're a night owl, you're probably grouchy if you're awake at 6:30 a.m. Now, research shows that you're also more likely to cheat at that hour. Likewise, early birds face the same dilemma at midnight.

"Even within the same day, a given person could be ethical at one point in time and unethical at another point in time," the authors wrote.

While earlier research indicated that people become more ethical throughout the day, this study also took into account people's natural circadian rhythms over two experiments.

First, participants were paid depending on the number of matrix puzzles they said they solved. The sessions were held in the morning, and night owls were more likely to over-report their numbers.

Stress kills: Even small stressors may be harmful to men's health

© Shutterstock
Older men who lead high-stress lives, either from chronic everyday hassles or because of a series of significant life events, are likely to die earlier than the average for their peers, new research from Oregon State University shows.

"We're looking at long-term patterns of stress - if your stress level is chronically high, it could impact your mortality, or if you have a series of stressful life events, that could affect your mortality," said Carolyn Aldwin, director of the Center for Healthy Aging Research in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Her study looked at two types of stress: the everyday hassles of such things as commuting, job stress or arguments with family and friends; and significant life events, such as job loss or the death of a spouse.

Both types appear to be harmful to men's health, but each type of stress appears to have an independent effect on mortality. Someone experiencing several stressful life events does not necessarily have high levels of stress from everyday hassles, Aldwin said. That is determined more by how a person reacts to the stress.

Comment: The Éiriú Eolas breathing and meditation program helps access and release layers of mental, emotional and physical toxicity and deal efficiently with chronic stress and its harmful effects.


Faces seem more alive when socially disconnected

marry a robot
© Toru Hanai

Feeling socially disconnected may lead us to lower our threshold for determining that another being is animate or alive
, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"This increased sensitivity to animacy suggests that people are casting a wide net when looking for people they can possibly relate to - which may ultimately help them maximize opportunities to renew social connections," explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Katherine Powers of Dartmouth College.

These findings enhance our understanding of the factors that contribute to face perception, mind perception, and social relationships, but they could also shed light on newer types of relationships that have emerged in the modern age, Powers argues, including our relationships with pets, online avatars, and even pieces of technology, such as computers, robots, and cell phones.

Feeling socially connected is a critical part of human life that impacts both mental and physical health; when we feel disconnected from others, we try to replenish our social connections.

Comment: Abstract of the study:
Social Connection Modulates Perceptions of Animacy, Psychological Science, 2014


"Intelligence" genes still elusive

IQ genetics inconclusive
© Jirsak/Shutterstock
Researchers found 69 genes that correlate with higher educational attainment — and three of those also also appear to have a direct link to slightly better cognitive abilities.
Study of more than 100,000 people finds three genetic variants for IQ - but their effects are maddeningly small.

Scientists looking for the genes underlying intelligence are in for a slog. One of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition has turned up inconclusive findings, and experts concede that they will probably need to scour the genomes of more than 1 million people to confidently identify even a small genetic influence on intelligence and other behavioural traits.

Studies of twins have repeatedly confirmed a genetic basis for intelligence, personality and other aspects of behaviour. But efforts to link IQ to specific variations in DNA have led to a slew of irreproducible results. Critics have alleged that some of these studies' methods were marred by wishful thinking and shoddy statistics. A sobering editorial in the January 2012 issue of Behavior Genetics declared that "it now seems likely that many of the published findings of the last decade are wrong or misleading and have not contributed to real advances in knowledge".

Comment: Research paper: Rietveld, C. A. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2014)
Supporting information here.


Why time flies as we age - 'It flew by!'

We all heard it from our parents growing up and thought it sounded preposterous at the time: "What happened to last year? It flew by!" they would yell to each other at champagne-soaked New Year's Eve parties. That's because when you're a kid, time seemed to move incredibly slowly. My birthday is only a month from Christmas but I remember when I was 7 that those four weeks felt like eons - now it's all I can do to even bother celebrating my birthday, since it feels like I still have tinsel in my hair.

While we can't put our finger on an exact year when "time speeds up" it happens to most of us - and for real reasons. The first, and largest, is due to what psychologists call the Habituation Hypothesis. For very good reason, our brains want to conserve energy (compared to other animals, human brains use a lot of calories to run). So, once we have gotten used to something - a route to work, doing the dishes or getting dressed in the morning, for example - we start to do it on autopilot, and cease noticing many of the small things that make one day different from another. This makes time seem to pass much more quickly, since fewer unique moments are being recorded by your brain.

When you are a small child, everything is new, and most days are a learning experience, so your brain is rarely on "auto" and you notice much more, leading to time seeming much slower. The more attention that is paid to each moment, the slower time seems to pass (which makes sense, if you think about it).

There are physical reasons time perception changes too: Dopamine levels drop as we age, which affects our sense of time. And heart rate even has an impact. According to a 2013 research paper in the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, "...variations in prospective timing are caused by two factors: the pulse rate of an internal pacemaker and the amount of attention directed to the passage of time."

Shared pain brings people together

What doesn't kill us may make us stronger as a group.
What doesn't kill us may make us stronger as a group, according to findings from new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

The research suggests that, despite its unpleasantness, pain may actually have positive social consequences, acting as a sort of "social glue" that fosters cohesion and solidarity within groups:

"Our findings show that pain is a particularly powerful ingredient in producing bonding and cooperation between those who share painful experiences," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Brock Bastian of the University of New South Wales in Australia. "The findings shed light on why camaraderie may develop between soldiers or others who share difficult and painful experiences."

Bastian and colleagues Jolanda Jetten and Laura J. Ferris of the University of Queensland examined the link between pain and social bonding in a series of experiments with undergraduate students.

In the first experiment, the researchers randomly assigned 54 students to perform either a painful task or a similar, relatively painless, task in small groups. The students submerged their hand in a bucket of water and were tasked with locating metal balls in the water and placing them into a small underwater container. For some, the water was painfully cold, while for others the water was room temperature.

A second task required the students to either perform an upright wall squat (which is typically painful) or to balance on one leg, with the option of switching legs and using balance aids to avoid fatigue.

Intelligence predicts effectiveness of a psychopath's mask of sanity: New research

© University of Huddersfield
Carolyn Bate has had her psychology dissertation accepted by academic journal Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology
A breakthrough by a talented University of Huddersfield student has shown for the first time that people with psychopathic tendencies who have high IQs can mask their symptoms by manipulating tests designed to reveal their personalities. It raises the possibility that large numbers of ruthless risk-takers are able to conceal their level of psychopathy as they rise to key managerial posts.

Carolyn Bate, aged 22, was still an undergraduate when she carried out her groundbreaking research into the links between psychopathy and intelligence, using a range of special tests and analysing the data. She wrote up her findings for the final-year project in her BSc Psychology degree. Not only was she awarded an exceptionally high mark of 85 per cent, her work has also been accepted for publication by the peer-reviewed Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology - an unusual distinction for an undergraduate.

Carolyn, who has now graduated with First Class Honours, said that her project was triggered when she read about research which showed that while one per cent of the population were categorised as psychopaths, the figure rose to three per cent in the case of business managers.

"I thought that intelligence could be an explanation for this, and it could be a problem if there are increased numbers of psychopaths at a high level in business. The figure could be more than three per cent, because if people are aware they are psychopathic they can also lie - they are quite manipulative and lack empathy. This could have a detrimental effect on our everyday lives," said Carolyn, who added that some researchers have suggested that episodes such as the Wall Street Crash could be blamed on the numbers of psychopaths among decision makers.

She points out that, despite the media's invariably lurid use of the term, there are various categories of psychopath and they are not all prone to physical violence.

"The ones who are at the top of businesses are often charming and intelligent, but with emotional deficits, as opposed to psychopaths who are quite erratic and tend to commit gruesome crimes and are often caught and imprisoned."

Sufficient intelligence to fake their emotional response

To test her ideas, Carolyn assembled 50 participants, mostly from among students, who underwent a series of tests - conducted in strict confidence - beginning with an appraisal of IQ levels using a standard procedure. Then they completed the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale, which established which participants had either Factor One or Factor Two psychopathic tendencies.

Comment: From the article "Beware the Corporate Psychopath":
The best advice if you suspect that you're dealing with a psychopath?

Avoid contact as much as possible, document everything, follow-up on all details and keep superiors in the loop. It's tempting to trust people who appear to be too good to be true, but remember that often they are.
The concept of psychopathy is crucial in understanding our world. To understand the ramifications of psychopaths wielding power in society, check out the book "Political Ponerology".


What depression does to your brain: Hyper-connected cognitive and emotional networks

© Alyssa L. Miller
Young adults who have experienced depression have hyper-connected cognitive and emotional networks, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago scanned the brains of 30 adults between the ages of 18 and 23 while they were in a resting state (Jacobs et al., 2014).

The participants had previously experienced depression but were otherwise healthy and not taking any medication.

Their fMRI scans were compared with those of 23 controls who had not experienced serious depression.

They found that people who'd experienced depression had hyper-connectivity in areas of the brain which have been associated with rumination.

Rumination involves running personal problems over and over in your head without coming up with a solution.

Comment: Meditation has been shown to help with ruminating thoughts. Try the Eiriu-Eolas breathing and meditation program (for free) here for more relaxed, wakeful inner attention.


What is keeping your kids up at night? Turning off electronics helps everyone sleep better

© Joel Benjamin
Sleep, or lack thereof, and technology often go hand in hand when it comes to school-aged kids.
Sleep, or lack thereof, and technology often go hand in hand when it comes to school-aged kids. Nearly three out of four children (72%) between the ages of 6 and 17 have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms while sleeping, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey. Children who leave those electronic devices on at night sleep less -- up to one hour less on average per night, according to a poll released by the foundation earlier this year.

Dr. Jill Creighton, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children's Hospital says the key to a successful school year starts with Z's. So parents, how can you power down your kids at night and make bedtime easier? Dr. Creighton shares her tips. "First -- develop a nighttime routine," says Dr. Creighton. Whether it's a bath, reading a book or listening to soothing music, these actives will have a better impact on your child to help them relax before going to sleep.

Second -- Power off! "The hour before bed should be a no-electronics zone," says Dr. Creighton. Studies show that the light from backlit electronics (like tablets, smartphones and video games) can disrupt our ability to fall -- and stay -- asleep. Dr. Creighton says designate a spot in your home for electronics to be plugged in, then have your kids start their bedtime routine by plugging in one hour before lights out. Ban hand-held devices from the bedroom. "The burst of light from a phone (even if it's just to check the time) can break a sleep cycle," says Dr. Creighton. "A regular alarm clock is best."

Comment: To be consistent it would also help to turn off any wireless routers, as wireless radiation is interpreted by our bodies, as light.

See also:
Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep

Comment: For more information on the importance of healthy sleeping habits check out the Cassiopaea forum thread :Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival

Also see:
Take control of your sleep, before it takes control of you
Missing sleep may hurt your memory
A bad night's sleep could age your brain by five YEARS
Your lack of sleep makes your brain more vulnerable to toxins