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Thu, 20 Sep 2018
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Genetic studies uncover potentially two subtypes of neuroticism: 'Depressed affect' and 'worry'

worried face
© Westend61/Getty
Nearly 600 genes associated with neuroticism have been identified in the biggest study of its kind so far. The research shows that neuroticism has two different subtypes which are coded by different sets of genes, and is a big step in our understanding of the underlying biology of personality.

The research, led by Danielle Posthuma of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, looked at the genomes and personality questionnaires of nearly half a million people from several countries.

Neuroticism is one of the "big five" personality traits. We already knew that people who score highly for neuroticism - an important risk factor for schizophrenia and depression - are more likely to worry and be moody, anxious and guilty.

The team found around 600 genes that were involved in neuroticism, and that the personality trait seemed to be made up from two different clusters of genes. Each cluster appears to contribute to a separate subtype of neurotic behaviour.

These were dubbed 'depressed affect' - the tendency to experience frequent mood changes and feel lonely, and 'worry' - a tendency to be anxious and fret about what other people think of you. Full-blown neuroticism seemed to arise from a mix of the genetic signals from both clusters.

Brain

The first memories of 40% of people are made up, study finds

Babies
© Shutterstock
Two-fifths of people have a fictional first memory based on fragments of early experiences, psychologists have found.

Scientists questioned participants in a survey that identified more than 2,000 individuals claiming to have memories from the age of two or younger.

Current research suggests that memories cannot be formed before about three-and-a-half years. Yet 893 of those taking part in the survey said they had memories extending to before their first birthday.

The researchers studied the content, language, nature and descriptive detail of the early memory descriptions. They found that the memories were fictional patchworks based on fragments of early remembered experiences combined with facts derived from photos and family conversations.

Comment:


Brain

Thoughts can change the physical structure of your brain

brain
The way people think and act not only affects the way the brain operates, but also its shape, according to researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH). They found that each brain has physical properties as unique as fingerprints that can alter over time.

Studies have shown that thoughts alone can improve vision, fitness, and strength. The placebo effect, as observed with fake operations and sham drugs, for example, works because of the power of thought. Expectancies and learned associations have been shown to change brain chemistry and circuitry which results in real physiological and cognitive outcomes, such as less fatigue, lower immune system reaction, elevated hormone levels, and reduced anxiety.

Reasoning, spatial skills and speed of thought begin to decline around 20s to early 30s. As you age, your brain goes through changes that can slow down your thinking: It loses volume, the cortex becomes thinner, the myelin sheath surrounding the fibers of your neurons begins to degrade, and your brain receptors don't fire as quickly.

Some brain areas, including the hippocampus, shrink in size depending on thought patterns. The myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers wears down, which can slow the speed of communication between neurons. Some of the receptors on the surface of neurons that enable them to communicate with one another may not function as well as they once did. These changes can affect your ability to encode new information into your memory and retrieve information that's already in storage.

Comment: See also: New study links brain cortex shape to personality traits


Brain

Neurotheology: What happens to the brain during spiritual experiences?

spiritual experiences
© Athit Perawongmetha
A devotee in a state of trance is calmed by volunteers at a Buddhist temple in Nakhon Pathom Province, Thailand.
The field of neurotheology uses science to try to understand religion, and vice versa.

"Everyone philosophizes," writes neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg in his latest book, The Metaphysical Mind: Probing the Biology of Philosophical Thought. We all speculate about the meaning of all kinds of things, from everyday concerns about dealing with a co-worker to our ultimate beliefs about the purpose of existence. Accompanying solutions we find to these problems, there's a range of satisfied feelings, from "ah-ha" or light-bulb moments upon solving an everyday problem to ecstatic feelings during mystical experiences.

Since everyday and spiritual concerns are variations of the same thinking processes, Newberg thinks it's essential to examine how people experience spirituality in order to fully understand how their brains work. Looking at the bigger questions has already provided practical applications for improving mental and physical health.

SOTT Logo Radio

The Health & Wellness Show: Dudes in Distress: The State of Men and Boys in the West

boys adrift
Lately, there has been lots of talk about the gender gap. For most people the gender gap refers to disparities in treatment between men and women with the focus solely being on female inequality. The truth is that male inequality has been thoroughly ignored and boys and men are losing out. Males are falling behind in various aspects of society including education, employment and health. They make up the majority of suicides, high school dropouts, the homeless and workplace fatalities all the while being excoriated in misandrist attacks for their 'toxic masculinity'. Is it any wonder that men, marked as disposable, are deciding to go their own way? And if the patriarchy reigns supreme, why are males in such dire straits?

Join us for this episode of The Health and Wellness Show where we'll discuss the state of men and boys in the West and the continuous whittling away of their status in society by radical feminists and the efforts to combat this trend. For contrast, we'll also take a look at some actual toxic males who give a bad name to all the good guys out there.

Running Time: 01:23:35

Download: OGG, MP3


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People 2

Several things you don't know about yourself

knowing yourself
Your "self" lies before you like an open book. Just peer inside and read: who you are, your likes and dislikes, your hopes and fears; they are all there, ready to be understood. This notion is popular but is probably completely false! Psychological research shows that we do not have privileged access to who we are. When we try to assess ourselves accurately, we are really poking around in a fog.

Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin, who specializes in human self-perception and decision making, calls the mistaken belief in privileged access the "introspection illusion." The way we view ourselves is distorted, but we do not realize it. As a result, our self-image has surprisingly little to do with our actions. For example, we may be absolutely convinced that we are empathetic and generous but still walk right past a homeless person on a cold day.

The reason for this distorted view is quite simple, according to Pronin. Because we do not want to be stingy, arrogant, or self-righteous, we assume that we are not any of those things. As evidence, she points to our divergent views of ourselves and others. We have no trouble recognizing how prejudiced or unfair our office colleague acts toward another person. But we do not consider that we could behave in much the same way: Because we intend to be morally good, it never occurs to us that we, too, might be prejudiced.

Music

Music lessons can improve language skills

Alma Deutscher prodigy music child opera
© BBC documentary screenshot
Many studies have shown that musical training can enhance language skills. However, it was unknown whether music lessons improve general cognitive ability, leading to better language proficiency, or if the effect of music is more specific to language processing.

Previous research at McMaster University discovered that very early musical training benefits children even before they can walk or talk.

We now know through controlled treatment outcome studies that listening to and playing music is a potent treatment for mental health issues. 400 published scientific papers have proven the old adage that "music is medicine."

A new study from MIT has found that piano lessons have a very specific effect on kindergartners' ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words. However, the piano lessons did not appear to confer any benefit for overall cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, attention span, and working memory.

"The children didn't differ in the more broad cognitive measures, but they did show some improvements in word discrimination, particularly for consonants. The piano group showed the best improvement there," says Robert Desimone, director of MIT's McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the senior author of the paper.

House

Study shows that people who live in rural areas are happier than those who live in big cities

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A recent study conducted on those who live rurally as opposed to those who live in big cities suggests that people residing in rural areas are in fact happier. The reason? It might surprise you, but it shouldn't.

The Canadian study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Vancouver School of Economics and McGill University. The goal of the study was to find out the happiness levels of 400,000 Canadians. Using the responses and by cross-referencing them with other survey data, they were able to identify which factors actually bring happiness to people. Rural people are happier than city dwellers.

Why? Because simply: their lives are more simple. According to Natural News, it wasn't even close either. Those who live more rurally are about eight times happier than their city-dwelling counterparts. This was measured using responses from the participants when they were asked to rate "how satisfied" they are with their lives. On a scale of one to 10, the average score ranged from 7.04 to 8.94.

Cross

More women looking to become 'consecrated virgins'

PaintingWomanBirds
© Ofra Amit illustradoresaragoneses.blogspot.com
There has been 'rapid' growth in interest in taking vows of lifelong celibacy, Catholic Church says

An increasing number Catholic women are taking life-long chastity vows in order to "dedicate themselves" to God, according to the Vatican. The Holy See has issued new guidance on consecrated virginity in response to growing interest across the world in the little-known spiritual "vocation".

Consecrated virgins are unmarried women who pledge to remain celibate for their entire lives, eschewing romantic or sexual relationships to devote themselves exclusively to being mystical "brides of Christ". Unlike nuns, they take on no role within the church. Instead of joining a religious order, they continue to live in their own homes and work in conventional jobs.

There are thought to be up to 5,000 consecrated virgins across the world, including an estimated 200 in the UK. While rare and little-known even within the church, the lifestyle is considered to be Christianity's oldest form of total devotion to God, with roots in ancient Rome.

During the Middle Ages, the practice all but disappeared following the emergence of communal forms of consecration, such as convents.

Comment: It seems to be 'a time of choices' for humanity to find ways of coping in a rapidly changing world.


Cowboy Hat

6 ways nice people master conflict

Mastering conflict
© Hans Neleman/Getty
When you're a nice person, conflict can be a real challenge. Not that mean people are any better at conflict; they just enjoy it more.

Research from Columbia University shows that how you handle conflict can make or break your career. The researchers measured something scientifically that many of us have seen firsthand - people who are too aggressive in conflict situations harm their performance by upsetting and alienating their peers, while people who are too passive at handling conflict hinder their ability to reach their goals.
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© unknown
The secret to effective handling of conflict is assertiveness - that delicate place where you get your needs met without bullying the other person into submission. Assertive people strike a careful balance between passivity and aggression (that is, they never lean too far in either direction).

How To Handle Conflict Assertively

It's easy to think that nice people are too passive. While that's often true, unchecked passivity can boil over into aggression. So there are plenty of very nice people out there who have exhibited both extremes of the assertiveness spectrum.

To be assertive, you need to learn to engage in healthy conflict. Healthy conflict directly and constructively addresses the issue at hand without ignoring or trivializing the needs of either party. The strategies that follow will get you there.

Consider the repercussions of silence. Sometimes it's hard to muster the motivation to speak up when the likelihood is high that things will turn ugly. The fastest way to motivate yourself to act is to fully consider the costs of not speaking up - they're typically far greater than not standing up for yourself. The trick is that you need to shift your attention away from the headache that will come with getting involved to all of the things you stand to gain from your assertiveness.