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Health

Personality decided at birth, say scientists

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© Bay of Plenty Times
Pessimism and shyness is one of four categories scientists investigated.
Personality types are linked with structural differences in the brain - which could explain why one child grows up to be impulsive and outgoing while another becomes diligent and introspective.

Anatomical differences between the brains of 85 people have been measured and linked with the four main categories of personality types as defined by psychiatrists using a clinically recognised system of character evaluation.

The researchers said the brain differences are structural and can be measured as variations in the size of specific regions of the brain that appear to be linked with each of the four personality types.

Brain scans that measure differences in volume down to an accuracy of less than one cubic millimetre found, for instance, that people defined as novelty-seeking personalities had a structurally bigger area of the brain above the eye sockets, known as the inferior part of the frontal lobe.

Pills

Canadians Use More Prescription Drugs than Ever Before

A report released by a drug-tracking firm reveals that prescription drug use among Canadians was higher in 2008 than in any previous year. The report, released on March 26 by IMS Health, a worldwide pharmaceutical-tracking company, assesses pharmaceutical use by tracking the number of prescriptions dispensed by pharmacists annually.

IMS estimates that Canadians spent $21.4 billion on prescription medications in 2008, up from $20.2 billion in 2007. Pharmacists in 10 Canadian provinces filled 453 million prescriptions in 2008, up 7.1% over the previous year. For 33.2 million Canadians, that's an average of nearly 14 prescriptions per citizen.

Health

Cancer disparities: Environment over genetics

While cities have shown considerable racial disparities in cancer survival, those racial disparities virtually disappear among smaller populations, such as neighbourhoods within that city. The finding comes from a new analysis published in the May 15, 2009 issue of Cancer.

The study examined breast and prostate cancer survival rates at different geographic levels, and the results suggest that there are significant societal factors at the root of cancer-related racial disparities.

Previous research has shown that considerable health disparities exist relating to race, ethnicity, geographic location and other factors. While researchers have been striving to understand the causes of such disparities in survival from some cancers, including cancers of the breast and prostate, the potential roles of innate factors, such as genetic differences, versus modifiable factors, such as socioeconomic differences, remain unclear.

People

Is porn damaging your emotional health?

Thanks to the internet, porn has become central to our lives, with serious consequences for our sexual and emotional health

Andrea Dworkin, the anti-porn activist, rose to fame in the 1980s arguing that if we did not limit pornography most men would objectify women more intensively and treat them less as people than as porn stars. The floodgates would open; rape and other sexual transgressions would follow.

Since then the advent of the internet and, more importantly, broadband in most Western homes has meant that pornography has left the space that it once occupied of being a marginal, adult, private pursuit and has saturated a mainstream public arena. The whole world has become pornographised. A decade ago the "outing" of men's use of porn was often a scandal. But in the fallout from Jacqui Smith's expense claims, and the exposure of her husband, Richard Timney, for watching pay-per-view pornographic films, there has been no particular outrage about his use of porn. The scandal has been more that public funds settled the bill.

The unspoken assumption now is that everyone - at least, most men - use porn. A survey of British teenagers for Channel 4 revealed this week that 28 per cent learnt about sex from porn. Young men and women are indeed being taught what sex is, how it looks, what its etiquette and expectations are, by pornographic training. This is a giant shift for our species' imprinting about sex. For most of our history erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. But today, for the first time in human history, the power and allure of the images have supplanted that of real naked women.

People

Specialized Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Available For People With PTSD And Serious Mental Illness

Sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are receiving specialized treatment from UMDNJ-University Behavioral HealthCare as a part of a National Institute of Mental Health study in collaboration with Dartmouth Medical School whose researchers adapted the treatment for people with serious mental illness.

Steven Silverstein, Ph.D., director and Stephanie Marcello, Ph.D., both of the Division of Schizophrenia Research, are implementing the new therapy, which is based on principles of cognitive behavior therapy. The treatment process includes relaxation training, helpful information about how stress causes the symptoms, and "cognitive restructuring" or techniques that people learn to help replace anxiety-arousing thoughts with more realistic appraisals about themselves and the level of danger in their environments. Treatment is closely coordinated with clients' clinicians.

Family

Save Yourself From Loneliness -- Adopt a family

Editor's note: Recently a family of three moved in with Jeanine Wais-Sullivan, 70, when they lost their house in Richmond. Widowed two years ago after 35 years of marriage, Wais says the new living arrangement has helped her feel less alone and it allows her to help a struggling family who has become her own. Words from the Wise is a series of columns by ethnic elders. Wais talked to NAM writer, Carolyn Ji Jong Goossen.

My husband passed away two years ago - we were married 35 years. It was after he stopped smoking and drinking that he had a heart attack. Before he died, he was in the hospital for a month and a half suffering from diabetes, congestive heart failure, and low blood pressure.

Soon after his death, I found an opportunity to gain a new family by helping one: Lidia Gomez Ramirez, her husband, Pedro Ramirez, and their son, Johnny, moved in with me in December 2007.

Control Panel

Canadian lab a world leader in using technology to treat mental illness

A Quebec university has made virtual therapy a reality by using computer wizardry to treat phobias, depression and addiction while forging Canada's reputation as a world leader in the emerging field of cyberpsychology.

The Universite du Quebec en Outaouais lab first began using virtual reality to study and treat simple phobias. A decade into the venture, its researchers are now targeting pathological gambling, eating disorders, schizophrenia, agoraphobia, sex offender treatment and, soon, post-traumatic stress disorder in Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

They're collaborating with therapists, clinics and hospitals across Canada and internationally and they say their lab boasts the only fully immersive virtual reality vault dedicated solely to clinical psychology.

"This is a truly unique network," said Martin Drapeau, a clinical psychologist with Montreal's McGill University, whose psychotherapy research group is partnered with the lab.

"There's nothing like this in the world. Stephane Bouchard is one of the leaders in this area."

Heart

Science unlocks secrets of our deepest love

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© cassiopaea.org
The secrets of unconditional love, one of the most mysterious emotions, are being uncovered by scientists tracing the unique brain activity it creates.

They have found that the emotion, experienced as a desire to care for another person without any thought of reward, emerges from a complex interplay between seven separate areas of the brain.

Such brain activity has only limited overlap with the cerebral impulses seen in romantic or sexual love, suggesting it should be seen as an entirely separate emotion.

Red Flag

Fear Factor: New bird flu cases suggest the danger of pandemic is rising

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© Unknown
First the good news: bird flu is becoming less deadly. Now the bad: scientists fear that this is the very thing that could make the virus more able to cause a pandemic that would kill hundreds of millions of people.

This paradox - emerging from Egypt, the most recent epicentre of the disease - threatens to increase the disease's ability to spread from person to person by helping it achieve the crucial mutation in the virus which could turn it into the greatest plague to hit Britain since the Black Death. Last year the Government identified the bird-flu virus, codenamed H5N1, as the biggest threat facing the country - with the potential to kill up to 750,000 Britons.

Comment: The key message in the article lies in one word in the title: 'suggest.' The actual news is that this strain of "bird flu" doesn't kill. But note how this was twisted to imply that it's bad news!


Blackbox

Praying to God is like talking to a friend

Is prayer just another kind of friendly conversation? Yes, says Uffe Schjødt, who used MRI to scan the brains of 20 devout Christians. "It's like talking to another human. We found no evidence of anything mystical."

Schjødt, of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, and colleagues, asked volunteers to carry out two tasks involving both religious and "secular" activities. In the first task, they silently recited the Lord's Prayer, then a nursery rhyme. Identical brain areas, typically associated with rehearsal and repetition, were activated.

In the second, they improvised personal prayers before making requests to Santa Claus. Improvised prayers triggered patterns that match those seen when people communicate with each other, and activated circuitry that is linked with the theory of mind - an awareness that other individuals have their own independent motivations and intentions (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, DOI: link).