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Sat, 30 Jul 2016
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Putting a Name to a Face May Be Key to Brain's Facial Expertise

Our tendency to see people and faces as individuals may explain why we are such experts at recognizing them, new research indicates. This approach can be learned and applied to other objects as well.

"This new research adds to the evidence that the brain processes faces differently because of our expertise with them. It also tells us what it is about our experience with faces that leads us to treat them holistically," Isabel Gauthier, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University and one of the study's co-authors, said. "This knowledge may be useful in the development of training protocols for individuals with difficulties in face perception, such as individuals with autism spectrum disorders."

The research is currently in press at Psychological Science. Gauthier's co-authors are Alan Wong, who completed the study as his doctoral thesis in psychology at Vanderbilt, and Thomas Palmeri, associate professor of psychology. Wong is now an assistant professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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Brain Detects Happiness More Quickly than Sadness

Our brains get a first impression of people's overriding social signals after seeing their faces for only 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds). Whether this impression is correct, however, is another question. Now an international group of experts has carried out an in-depth study into how we process emotional expressions, looking at the pattern of cerebral asymmetry in the perception of positive and negative facial signals.

The researchers worked with 80 psychology students (65 women and 15 men) to analyze the differences between their cerebral hemispheres using the "divided visual field" technique, which is based on the anatomical properties of the visual system.

"What is new about this study is that working in this way ensures that the information is focused on one cerebral hemisphere or the other", J. Antonio Aznar-Casanova, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at the University of Barcelona (UB), tells SINC.

The results, published in the latest issue of the journal Laterality, show that the right hemisphere performs better in processing emotions. "However, this advantage appears to be more evident when it comes to processing happy and surprised faces than sad or frightened ones", the researcher points out.

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New Cortex Study Uncovers How We Recognize What is True and What is False

A recent neuroimaging study reveals that the ability to distinguish true from false in our daily lives involves two distinct processes. Previous research relied heavily on the premise that true and false statements are both processed in the left inferior frontal cortex. Carried out by researchers from the Universities of Lisbon and Vita-Salute, Milan, the June Cortex study found that we use two separate processes to determine the subtle distinctions between true and false in our daily lives. Deciding whether a statement is true involves memory; determining one is false relies on reasoning and problem-solving processes.

The study examines the impact of true and false sentences on brain activity with a feature verification task and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Participants were asked to read simple sentences composed of a concept-feature pair (e.g. 'the plane lands') and to decide whether the sentence was true or false. Importantly, true and false statements were equated in terms of ambiguity, and exactly the same concepts and features were used across the two types of sentences. False statements differentially activated the right fronto-polar cortex in areas that have been previously related to reasoning tasks. The activations related to true statements involved the left inferior parietal cortex and the caudate nucleus bilaterally. The former activation may be hypothesized to reflect continued thematic semantic analysis and a more extended memory search. The caudate activation may also reflect this search and matching processes as well as the fact that recognizing a sentence as true is in itself a positive reward for the subject, as this area is also involved in processing reward-related information.

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Scientists Discover Possible Link Between Missing DNA and Neuroblastoma, a Deadly Childhood Cancer

Discovering for the first time that copy number variation or CNV, where a strip of DNA is duplicated or missing, may increase risk of developing cancer, US scientists found a link between a particular CNV and neuroblastoma, a deadly cancer that mostly affects children.

The study was led by Dr John M Maris, chief of Oncology and director of the Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and is published in the 18 June issue of the journal Nature. Maris is also on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and scientists from several other research centres worked on the research with him.

The discovery is particularly remarkable because it is the first to show that repeated or deleted strips of genetic code may be linked to cancer as opposed to variations in the code sequence or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs or "snips").

Using a grammatical comparison, a CNV would be a repeated or missing word in a phrase while an SNP would be one or more words spelled incorrectly.

Maris said the finding opens the door to studying how CNVs might increase cancer risk.

Arrow Up

Meditation May Boost Short-Term Visual Memory

A certain type of meditation may help the brain retain images for short periods, says a new study on visual-spatial abilities.

When people view an object, they usually retain a clear picture of it in their visual short-term memory for only a few seconds before the details fade. An experiment by George Mason University researchers, though, found that people who practice Deity Yoga (DY) do much better at visual-spatial tasks shortly after they meditate.

The study's authors, writing in a recent issue of Psychological Science, said the finding may have "many implications for therapy, treatment of memory loss and mental training."

Practitioners of DY meditation zero in on an image of their deity, conjuring up a vivid, three-dimensional mental picture of it while honing in on the deity's emotions and environment.

Comment: One of the most effective breathing techniques to aid in these results can be found here.


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False test results seen in maternal screening

A massive effort to test pregnant women for a deadly germ they can spread to their babies has yielded a bad surprise - a high rate of wrong test results that led some infants to miss out on treatment.

A study found the test missed more of the infections than would normally be expected. If the mothers had tested positive for the Group B strep bacteria, they would have been given antibiotics during labor to cut the chances of infecting their infants.

Attention

$788,000 Paid to Doctor Accused of Faking Study

Medtronic said on Wednesday that it had paid nearly $800,000 over an eight-year period to a former military surgeon who has been accused by the Army of falsifying a medical journal study involving one of the company's products.

The surgeon, Dr. Timothy R. Kuklo, claimed in the study that the use of a Medtronic bone growth product called Infuse had proved highly beneficial in treating leg injuries suffered by American soldiers in Iraq.

The British medical journal that published the article retracted it this year after an internal Army investigation found that Dr. Kuklo had forged the names of four other doctors on the study and had cited data that did not match military records.

Pills

Stimulants for ADHD Shown to Cause Sudden Death in Children



A new study, published Monday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, confirms what I've been warning about for years in my scientific books and articles. The stimulants used to treat children for so-called ADHD can cause sudden cardiac arrest and death in kids. The study was published by the journal online in advance of regular publication in the near future. On Monday, I had the opportunity to comment on the study on Good Morning America. Here is more detail.

The stimulant group of drugs includes amphetamines like Adderall and Dexedrine and methylphenidate products such as Ritalin, Concerta, and Focalin. The study focused on Ritalin because at the time it was more commonly used than the amphetamines, although amphetamines are probably even more toxic to the heart.

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Traditional Chinese Food Ingredients Prevent Breast Cancer

Two foods commonly eaten as part of the traditional Chinese diet can reduce a woman's risk of breast cancer by as much as 90 percent, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth, and published in the International Journal of Cancer.

Researchers compared consumption of mushrooms and green tea between two groups of Chinese women, one with breast cancer and one without. They found that women who ate at least 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of fresh mushrooms per day had a 64 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer than those who did not eat as much. Those who also regularly drank green tea reduced their risk by a total of 90 percent. Dried mushrooms also reduced breast cancer risk, although they were not as effective as fresh ones.

The protective benefit of mushrooms and green tea remained significant even after researchers adjusted for other breast cancer risk factors, including weight, exercise, smoking and education level.

Breast cancer rates are four to five times lower in China than in most Western countries, a fact widely attributed to a different lifestyle.

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SSRI's Prescribed for Autistic Children Make them Worse

Despite the fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any prescription medications to treat the symptoms of autism and related disorders, drugs are frequently -- and increasingly -- being given to autistic children, according to a study in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. An especially popular medication for autistic kids is the antidepressant citalopram, sold under the brand name Celexa, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which interferes with the way the brain regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin.