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Sat, 03 Dec 2016
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Shape Perception in Brain Develops by Itself

Tests with westerners and African nomads suggest that brain has innate sense of geometry; incidental result: baby likely can do without ubiquitous shape sorter

Despite minimal exposure to the regular geometric objects found in developed countries, African tribal people perceive shapes as well as westerners, according to a new study.

The findings, published online this week in Psychological Science, suggested that the brain's ability to understand shapes develops without the influence of immersion in simple, manufactured objects.

"In terms of perceiving the world ... either genetics or the natural world will give you the right type of experiences," said lead author Irving Biederman, an expert on perception who holds a named chair in neuroscience at the University of Southern California's College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Blackbox

Are Better Brains Better?

Penn neuroscientists Martha Farah and Anjan Chatterjee believe the answer is more complicated than you think.

It was somehow appropriate that it started with a clock-radio alarm. There were two overarching constants in Chris Miner's life: Every slumber was a product of pure exhaustion and every awakening was rude. It wasn't his private equity job. That merely consumed the daylight and dinner hours. It was the fact that getting home at nine or ten at night marked the beginning of a second shift. Ever since he'd started studying for the GMAT for business school, which meant an additional few hours of intellectual exertion with little more than his commute as a spell of rest, Miner felt like a circuit breaker full of shorts.

So he remembers the morning he first heard about modafinil the way a man lost in the forest remembers the sound of a search party's shotgun blast. A news segment about the drug, marketed under the brand name Provigil as a treatment for narcolepsy and excessive daytime drowsiness associated with obstructive sleep apnea, detailed recent experimental evidence of its effects on healthy subjects. The take-home lesson was enticing. Modafinil not only boosted their mental alertness and stamina, it also appeared to enhance their performance on several learning- and memory-related tasks.

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Preschoolers Demand Explanations

Curiosity plays a big part in preschoolers' lives. A new study that explored why young children ask so many "why" questions concludes that children are motivated by a desire for explanation.

The study, by researchers at the University of Michigan, appears in the November/December 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers carried out two studies of 2- to 5-year-olds, focusing on their "how" and "why" questions, as well as their requests for explanatory information, and looking carefully at the children's reactions to the answers they received from adults. In the first study, the researchers examined longitudinal transcripts of six children's everyday conversations with parents, siblings, and visitors at home from ages 2 to 4. In the second study, they looked at the laboratory-based conversations of 42 preschoolers, using toys, storybooks, and videos to prompt the children, ages 3 to 5, to ask questions.

By looking at how the children reacted to the answers they received to their questions, the researchers found that children seem to be more satisfied when they receive an explanatory answer than when they do not. In both studies, when preschoolers got an explanation, they seemed satisfied (they agreed or asked a new follow-up question). But when they got answers that weren't explanations, they seemed dissatisfied and were more likely to repeat their original question or provide an alternative explanation.

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Bicarbonate of Soda Used to Cure Stage Four Prostate Cancer?

Bicarbonate of soda or baking soda to cure cancer? The amazing abundance of alternative cancer cures is more than most of us know, close to 400! The more notorious alternative cancer cures are the ones that get attacked viciously by the Medical Monopoly. Those cures are the ones that begin to develop into public practices that threaten their monopoly.

Then there are those inexpensive non-toxic remedies that slip by the Medical Monopoly virtually unnoticed. Some become like folk medicines that can be administered individually. This type of application worked for Vernon Johnston. He used baking soda and molasses as the driving force to recover from aggressive stage 4 prostate cancer, which had even metastasized into his bone matter!

His Brother's Advice

After Vernon was diagnosed, Vernon's brother Larry told him to work on raising his pH because cancer cannot thrive in a high or alkaline pH. Larry recommended cesium chloride to raise Vernon's pH levels into a high alkaline level physiologically. Cesium chloride is another one of those alternative cancer remedies that are not well known.

Cesium treatment protocols used by doctors in conjunction with ozone or DMSO had a 50% cure rate. But this unimpressive cure rate, albeit better than orthodox treatments, included patients who had received some or all of the surgery, radiation and toxic chemotherapy that the AMA could offer.

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How Modernization Affects Children's Cognitive Development

Societal and technological changes have taken place at a dizzying pace over recent decades. A new cross-cultural study aimed to determine whether these dramatic changes have had an effect on the thinking skills that are learned over the course of childhood.

The study, by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, and Pitzer College, is published in the November/December 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

Using previously collected data from the late 1970s, the researchers looked at almost 200 children ages 3 to 9 in Belize, Kenya, Nepal, and American Samoa. When the data were collected, these four communities differed in the availability of resources that are typically associated with modernity, such as having writing tablets and books, electricity, a home-based water supply, a radio and TV set, and a car.

Children in communities with more modern resources performed better in some areas of cognitive functioning, such as certain types of memory and pattern recognition, and they took part in more complex sequences of play. The researchers note that these differences don't mean that children from more modern communities are more advanced intellectually; rather, the findings reflect the cognitive skills that are valued and promoted in the communities where the children live.

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African-American Teens' Mental Health may be Boosted by Ethnic Pride

Most adolescents who belong to an ethnic minority group wrestle not only with their self-esteem (like most teens), but also with identity issues unique to their ethnic group, such as dealing with social stigma. A new study tells us that young people's ethnic pride may affect their mental health.

The study, carried out by researchers at Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, and Walden University, appears in the November/December 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers studied more than 250 African American youths from urban, low-income families in an effort to assess the unique effects of racial identity and self esteem on mental health. They found that when young people's feelings of ethnic pride rose between 7th and 8th grades, their mental health also improved over that period, regardless of their self-esteem. Even for those with low self-esteem, the investigators found, a sense of pride in their ethnic group served as a buffer to some mental health problems. Racial identity was a stronger buffer against symptoms of depression for boys than for girls.

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Friends Find it Harder to Forgive, Study Says

You may hurt the ones you love but 'forgive and forget' is much more likely to apply in intimate relationships than it is to your friends, according to research results from The Australian National University, being released as part of National Psychology Week.

The study by Clinical Psychology PhD Candidate Jodie Burchell, suggests that although the people that are closest to you have the greatest capacity to hurt your feelings, over time people feel less hurt from events occurring in an intimate relationship than they do from those involving close friends.

Her work aims to build on studies that have suggested evolutionary selection favoured those emotions that increased our ancestors' chances of surviving and subsequently reproducing. Recent research has suggested that hurt feelings have evolved to signal that a person's inclusion in a group or relationship is in danger. Ms Burchell's study is investigating whether the closeness of the relationship with the perpetrator of the hurtful event predicts how hurt a person reports feeling.

"The study found that no matter the event - whether it caused low or high hurt - people felt most hurt by those they were in close relationships with," said Ms Burchell.

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Shedding Light on Brain's Response to Distress, Unexpected Events

In a new study, psychologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) are able to see in detail for the first time how various regions of the human brain respond when people experience an unexpected or traumatic event. The study could lead to the creation of biological measures that could identify people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or identify PTSD sufferers who would benefit from specific treatments.

In the study, UAB researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to see how activity in the parts of the brain associated with fear, learning and memory respond when research participants were startled by a loud static sound and when they were able to correctly predict when the sound would occur.

"When the noise is unexpected, the brain's response is larger," said UAB psychologist David Knight, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study, which is currently in press online and will appear in the January 2010 issue of the journal NeuroImage. "But when participants are able to predict when they are going to hear the unpleasant static noise, you can see the regions of the brain quiet down so that a smaller emotional response is produced.

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Researchers have Immune Cells Running in Circles

University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine researchers have identified the important role a protein plays in the body's first line of defense in directing immune cells called neutrophils toward the site of infection or injury.

Their results are described online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Neutrophils are white blood cells that are activated by chemical cues to move quickly to the site of injury or infection, where they ingest bacteria. When alerted to infection, neutrophils move by changing shape, developing a distinct front and back, sending a "foot" out in front of them, and "crawling" toward the site of infection.

Hoping to better understand the role of a protein called p55 or MPPI that they had previously identified as highly expressed in neutrophils, the UIC researchers bred the first mice that completely lacked this protein.

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High Blood Pressure and Markers of Inflammation in Blood More Common in Offspring of Parents with Alzheimer's Disease

High blood pressure, evidence of arterial disease and markers of inflammation in the blood in middle age appear more common in individuals whose parents have Alzheimer's disease than in individuals without a parental history of the condition, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Previous twin studies estimate that as much as 60 percent of the risk for Alzheimer's disease is under genetic control, according to background information in the article. Other research has identified several vascular and inflammatory risk factors in midlife that may be associated with the later transition into cognitive decline related to Alzheimer's disease.

Eric van Exel, M.D., Ph.D., of VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, and colleagues compared some of these vascular and inflammatory factors, such as high blood pressure and levels of pro-inflammatory proteins known as cytokines in the blood, between 206 offspring of 92 families with a history of Alzheimer's disease and 200 offspring of 97 families without a parental history. Researchers measured blood pressure; obtained blood samples to assess genetic characteristics and levels of cholesterol, along with cytokines and other inflammation-related substances; and collected sociodemographic characteristics, medical history and information about diet, exercise and stress levels.