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Tue, 27 Oct 2020
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Bulb

'Might have been' key in evaluating behavior

"What might have been" or fictive learning affects the brain and plays an important role in the choices individuals make - and may play a role in addiction, said Baylor College of Medicine researchers and others in a report that appears online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

These "fictive learning" experiences, governed by what might have happened under different circumstances, "often dominate the evaluation of the choices we make now and will make in the future, " said Dr. P. Read Montague, Jr., professor of neuroscience at BCM and director of the BCM Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and the newly formed Computational Psychiatry Unit. "These fictive signals are essential in a person's ability to assess the quality of his or her actions above and beyond simple experiences that have occurred in the immediately proximal time."

Using techniques honed in previous experiments that studied trust, Montague and his colleagues used an investment game to test the effects of these "what if" thoughts on decisions in 54 subjects. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure blood flow changes in specific areas of the brain, they precisely measured responses to economic instincts.

These blood flow changes in the brain reflect alterations in the activity of nerve cells in the vicinity. In this case, they measured the brain's response to "what could have been acquired" and "what was acquired." This newly discovered "fictive learning" signal was measured, localized and precisely parsed from the brain's standard reward signal that reflects actual experience.

Magic Wand

Russian readers learn to read more accurately and faster

Children whose mother tongue is Russian and who acquired literacy in their home language before entering first grade received higher grades on reading skills tests than their peers who speak only Hebrew or those who speak Russian but have not learned how to read it. This was revealed in a study recently completed at the University of Haifa. The researcher, Dr. Mila Schwartz, pointed out that because of the linguistic complexity of the Russian language, it can be deduced that knowing how to read and write Russian will give children an advantage when learning to read other languages.

The research, which was conducted under the direction of Dr. Mark Leikin and Prof. David Share, evaluated 129 first graders that were divided into three groups: bilingual Hebrew and Russian speakers who had acquired literacy skills in Russian before being exposed to Hebrew reading skills; bilingual children who spoke but had not learned how to read Russian; and monolingual Hebrew speakers. The research involved administering tests which evaluated the children's language skills at the beginning of first grade and tests that evaluated their reading and writing skills at the end of first grade.

The results revealed that children who acquired Russian reading skills before learning to read Hebrew showed a distinct advantage over the other groups in their ability to distinguish between sounds and greater fluency and accuracy in reading. The research did not find any differences in the reading skills of monolingual Hebrew speakers and bilingual Hebrew and Russian speakers who did not read Russian. According to Dr. Schwartz, this result supports the existing theories that bilingualism alone does not enhance development of reading skills but that reading skill acquisition is easier when a child already knows how to read another language.

Vader

Spanish anaesthetist jailed for Hepatitis infection of 275 patients

A Spanish court Tuesday handed down an almost 2,000-year jail term to an anaesthetist found guilty of infecting 275 patients with the Hepatitis C virus, four of whom died.

Juan Maeso, 65, a former chief anaesthetist at the La Fe de Valence maternity unit in eastern Spain, will in effect serve a maximum 20 years in prison, as per Spanish law.

The former doctor, who was a drug addict and a Hepatitis C carrier, was found guilty of infecting 275 people in four hospitals in the Valencia region between 1988 and 1997, after a trial which opened in September 2005.

Sheeple

Mars experiment might help Earthling insomniacs

An experiment aimed at finding ways to help astronauts adapt to life on Mars could end up helping insomniacs on Earth, researchers said on Monday.

Health

Pretty pills: The dark side of the latest underground beauty trend

Just imagine if you could transform your looks by popping a pill.
No need to spend hours in the gym in pursuit of a perfect body; no fake tans, sunbeds or hours baking on the beach to get a tan; and you could say goodbye to facials and expensive anti-ageing treatments.

Just swallow a tablet with breakfast and you're done.

Magic Wand

Oklahoma Professors Develop Cancer Protein

NORMAN, Okla. - Two professors at the University of Oklahoma say they've developed a protein that can stop the spread of certain cancer cells without damaging normal cells.

Wolf

How to deal with a psychopathic 'Frankenboss'

Beyond the good, the bad and the ugly are the toxic.

Bosses, that is.

Since most of us are going to be in the workplace from age 23 to 65, we're guaranteed to run into one. Or two.

In some industries, you might bounce from a bad boss to a worse one and back again. You need deft armor and an exit strategy to protect yourself. Now.

Ambulance

Record numbers on anti-depressants

The number of prescriptions for anti-depressants has hit an all-time high, a mental health charity has revealed.

More than 31 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were written [in Britain] last year - a rise of 6 per cent on the year before, according to Mind.


Question

China denies epidemic killing children

Chinese authorities are denying reports that at least 26 children have died from a mysterious illness in the east of the country while local media accuses the Government of covering up an epidemic.

Newspaper and internet reports from Shandong province say that "many" children are dead and hundreds of others have fallen ill from a mysterious illness that has swept through Linyi city since late April.

Attention

Britain becomes a Prozac nation

The number of Britons prescribed antidepressants is at a record high, despite official warnings that many patients may not need them.

More than 31 million prescriptions were written by doctors for antidepressant drugs last year, figures published today reveal, with the use of drugs such as Seroxat and Prozac increasing by 10 per cent. The findings, which show a big increase on previous years, come despite growing concerns over the country's excessive reliance on chemical treatments and over their possible side-effects.

The exact number of people taking pills for depression is not known but is thought to be several million, with many taking the medications over long periods on repeat prescriptions.