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Sun, 23 Oct 2016
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Health & Wellness


Others May Know Us Better than We Know Ourselves, Study Finds

© iStockphoto/Stas Perov
Since at least the days of Socrates, humans have been advised to "know thyself." And through all the years, many, including many personality and social psychologists, have believed the individual is the best judge of his or her own personality.
Since at least the days of Socrates, humans have been advised to "know thyself." And through all the years, many, including many personality and social psychologists, have believed the individual is the best judge of his or her own personality.

Now a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis has shown that we are not the know-it-alls that we think we are.

Simine Vazire, Ph.D., Washington University assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences, has found that the individual is more accurate in assessing one's own internal, or neurotic traits, such as anxiety, while friends are better barometers of intellect-related traits, such as intelligence and creativity, and even strangers are equally adept as our friends and ourselves at spotting the extrovert in us all, a psychology domain known as "extroversion."

"I think that it's important to really question this knee-jerk reaction that we are our own best experts," says Vazire. "Personality is not who you think you are, it's who you are. Some people think by definition that we are the experts on our personality because we get to write the story, but personality is not the story -- it's the reality. So, you do get to write your own story about how you think you are, and what you tell people about yourself, but there still is reality out there, and, guess what? Other people are going to see the reality, regardless of what story you believe."


Why children born by IVF may be more at risk of autism and childhood cancers

The night my daughter was born, I was filled with conflicting emotions. I had dreamed, hoped and prayed for a baby and now here she was, at last. While I was overjoyed, I still could not believe that this longed-for, perfect child was actually mine. Caroline, now 15, will always be extra special to me because I never thought I'd be lucky enough to have her. After years of tests to find out why I was not getting pregnant, followed by invasive medical treatment and devastating miscarriages, my beautiful baby, my own miracle, had entered the world.

Nowadays, the IVF treatment I underwent to conceive her is almost commonplace, but back then women like me still felt like pioneers. The birth of the first IVF baby, Louise Brown, had happened only a dozen years earlier. I didn't know anyone who had had a test-tube baby, as they were then called, and the whole experience felt like a leap in the dark. I was undeterred though: like most infertile women, I was driven by an all-consuming need to hold my own child in my arms, whatever the cost.

Comment: There's nothing in any way "miraculous" about forcing nature to your will.


Stress Raises Risk of Mental Decline in Older Diabetics, Study Shows

Stress raises the risk of memory loss and cognitive decline among older people with diabetes, research suggests.

University researchers studied more than 900 men and women aged between 60 and 75 with type-2 diabetes.

Evaluating brain function

Scientists evaluated mental abilities with a range of tests, including memory function and how quickly participants processed information.

They compared this with general intelligence levels, using vocabulary tests, to work out whether brain function in participants had diminished over time.

They found that brain function slowed in participants with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.


Why Symptoms of Schizophrenia Emerge in Young Adulthood

In reports of two new studies, researchers led by Johns Hopkins say they have identified the mechanisms rooted in two anatomical brain abnormalities that may explain the onset of schizophrenia and the reason symptoms don't develop until young adulthood. Both types of anatomical glitches are influenced by a gene known as DISC1, whose mutant form was first identified in a Scottish family with a strong history of schizophrenia and related mental disorders. The findings could lead to new ways to treat, prevent or modify the disorder or its symptoms.

In one of the studies, published in the March issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers examined DISC1's role in forming connections between nerve cells. Numerous studies have suggested that schizophrenia results from abnormal connectivity. The fact that symptoms typically arise soon after adolescence, a time of massive reorganization of connections between nerve cells, supports this idea.

The scientists began their study by surveying rat nerve cells to see where DISC1 was most active. Unsurprisingly, they found the highest DISC1 activity in connections between nerve cells. To determine what DISC1 was doing in this location, the researchers used a technique called RNA interference to partially shut off DISC1 activity. Consequently, they saw a transient increase and eventual reduction in size and number of dendritic spines, spikes on nerve cells' branch-like extensions that receive input from other nerve cells.


Treadmill Training Could Help Tots Walk

Using a treadmill could help infants with prenatal complications or who were injured at birth walk earlier and better, according to a University of Michigan researcher.

Prenatal injuries can often result in self-correcting or fixable neuromotor delays, but sometimes toddlers get a more serious diagnosis, such as cerebral palsy, says Rosa Angulo-Barroso, associate professor of movement science at the U-M School of Kinesiology. Some of those diagnoses may come much later, or in mild cases, never, she says.

Angulo-Barroso and colleagues followed 15 infants at risk for neuromotor delays for two years and tested their changes in physical activity and treadmill-stepping in their homes. The infants were assisted using the treadmill by their parents.


Obesity and Physical Inactivity Poses Arthritis Risk, Especially for Women

Researchers from the Toronto Western Research Institute noted a higher prevalence of arthritis and arthritis-attributable activity limitations (AAL) in the U.S. versus the Canadian population. The authors attribute the higher prevalence of arthritis and AAL to a greater level of obesity and physical inactivity in Americans, particularly women.

Full findings of this study are published in the March issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

Arthritis is the leading cause of physical disability, and one of the most frequently reported chronic conditions in the U.S. and Canada. Those in mid to late life are particularly vulnerable to this disabling condition, which is expected to increase in both countries due to the aging baby boomer population. According to a 2005 figure from the National Arthritis Data Workgroup more than 21% of American adults (46 million) have arthritis or another rheumatic condition and over 60% of arthritis patients are women. The 2008 Canadian Community Health Survey reported 15.3% (4.3 million) of Canadians have some form of arthritis, with more women then men affected.


The Most Frequent Error in Medicine

The most frequent error in medicine seems to occur nearly one out of three times a patient is referred to a specialist. A new study found that nearly a third of patients age 65 and older referred to a specialist are not scheduled for appointments and therefore do not receive the treatment their primary care doctor intended.

According to a new study appearing in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, only 71 percent of patients age 65 or older who are referred to a specialist are actually scheduled to be seen by that physician. Furthermore, only 70 percent of those with an appointment actually went to the specialist's office. Thus, only 50 percent (70 percent of 71 percent) of those referred to a specialist had the opportunity to receive the treatment their primary care doctor intended them to have, according to the findings by researchers from the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine.


Singing "Rewires" Damaged Brain

© Getty Images
Teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists.

By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech.

If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead.

Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.

An ongoing clinical trial, they said, has shown how the brain responds to this "melodic intonation therapy".


Genetic Link between Misery and Death Discovered by UCLA Study

In ongoing work to identify how genes interact with social environments to impact human health, UCLA researchers have discovered what they describe as a biochemical link between misery and death. In addition, they found a specific genetic variation in some individuals that seems to disconnect that link, rendering them more biologically resilient in the face of adversity.

Perhaps most important to science in the long term, Steven Cole, a member of the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and an associate professor of medicine in the division of hematology-oncology, and his colleagues have developed a unique strategy for finding and confirming gene-environment interactions to more efficiently probe what he calls the "genetic haystack."

The research appears in the current online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Bad Guys

McCain Bill Threatens Access to Vitamins and Supplements

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) has introduced a new bill called The Dietary Supplement Safety Act (DSSA) of 2010 (S. 3002), that, if enacted, would severely curtail free access to dietary supplements. Cosponsored by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the bill would essentially give the FDA full control over the supplement industry.

Most of the industrialized world has incredibly restrictive laws governing supplements. People worldwide often purchase supplements from the U.S. because they are freely available at low costs.

All of this could change, however, if DSSA passes. DSSA would change key sections of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C), undoing protections in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994, effectively eliminating free access to supplements.