Health & WellnessS


Our big brain still prefers to do one thing at a time

Confident multi-taskers of the world, could we have your attention?

Think you can juggle phone calls, e-mail, instant messages and computer work to get more done in a time-starved world?

Several research reports, both recently published and not yet published, provide evidence of the limits of multi-tasking. The findings, according to neuroscientists, psychologists and management professors, suggest many people would be wise to curb their multi-tasking behavior when working in an office, studying or driving a car.

These experts have some basic advice. Check e-mail messages once an hour, at most. Listening to soothing background music while studying may improve concentration. But other distractions - most songs with lyrics, instant messaging, television shows - hamper performance. Driving while talking on a cell phone, even with a hands-free headset, is a bad idea.


Are You Right Eyed Or Left Eyed?

A person has two hands, two legs, two eyes, two cerebral hemispheres. But it is only at first sight that a human being is a symmetric creature. Firstly, we have a leading hand, the right one with the majority of people, secondly, we have a leading eye. Thirdly, the brain is functionally asymmetric: the left hemisphere (with the right-handers) is mainly connected with abstract-logical thinking and to a larger extent - with speech, the right hemisphere - with image sensitivity.

Coming back to eyes, the right eye is the leading one among the two thirds of people, and the left one among one third of people. Special tests have been developed to determine this. Do these individual differences influence the visual information perception process, for example, perception of texts, on the left and on the right? Investigations carried out at the Institute of Cognitive Neurology of the Modern University for the Humanities will help to answer this question.

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Toddlers engage in 'emotional eavesdropping' to guide their behavior

Little children never cease to amaze. University of Washington researchers have found that 18-month-old toddlers engage in what they call "emotional eavesdropping" by listening and watching emotional reactions directed by one adult to another and then using this emotional information to shape their own behavior.

Writing in the March-April issue of the journal Child Development, which is being published today, Betty Repacholi and Andrew Meltzoff of the UW Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences say the research indicates infants understand other people's emotional states at a very young age.

"This may be a precursor to 'reading' other people's minds by understanding their emotional and psychological states," said Repacholi, an assistant professor of psychology.


Early child care linked to increases in vocabulary, some problem behaviors in 5th and 6th grades

The most recent analysis of a long-term NIH-funded study found that children who received higher quality child care before entering kindergarten had better vocabulary scores in the fifth grade than did children who received lower quality care.

The study authors also found that the more time children spent in center-based care before kindergarten, the more likely their sixth grade teachers were to report such problem behaviors as "gets in many fights," "disobedient at school," and "argues a lot."

However, the researchers cautioned that the increase in vocabulary and problem behaviors was small, and that parenting quality was a much more important predictor of child development than was type, quantity, or quality, of child care.

The study appears in the March/April 2007, issue of Child Development.

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Blueberries Contain Chemical That May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

A compound found in blueberries shows promise of preventing colon cancer in animals, according to a joint study by scientists at Rutgers University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The compound, pterostilbene, is a potent antioxidant that could be developed into a pill with the potential for fewer side effects than some commercial drugs that are currently used to prevent the disease. Colon cancer is considered the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, the researchers say.


Researchers Discover A Physiological Indicator Of Vulnerability To Temptation

We've all had our moments of weakness when trying to control ourselves; eating that donut on your diet, losing your temper with your kids, becoming upset when you're doing your best not to. It isn't like we plan on these lapses in judgment. It's more like they just sort of happen.

There is scientific evidence that explains this phenomenon of everyday life. Self regulation, our strength to inhibit impulses, make decisions, persist at difficult tasks, and control emotions can be spent just like a muscle that has been lifting heavy weights. When we spend our strength on one task (trying to control your emotion around a petulant boss), there is less to spend on others (avoiding the Ben & Jerry's when we get home).

The funny thing about being vulnerable to saying, eating, or doing the wrong thing is that humans are typically unaware that they are in a moment of weakness, unlike the strain and fatigue we feel in our muscles after a workout. Fortunately, new research conducted by University of Kentucky psychologists Suzanne Segerstrom and Lise Solberg Nes suggest that there may be a biological indicator to tell us when we are working hard at resisting temptation and consequently when we are vulnerable to doing things contrary to our intentions.


Boys more likely with early-stage embryo transfer

Women undergoing assisted reproduction may be interested to learn that transfer of a "blastocyst-stage" embryo increases their odds of having a boy.

Blastocytes are the multiplying ball of cells that eventually implants in the uterus to become an embryo.

During in vitro fertilization, the most advanced embryos are typically selected for transfer. Findings from laboratory studies have indicated that these embryos are usually male. But whether this difference actually results in more boys than girls being born was unclear.

Dr. Alan B. Copperman, from the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, and colleagues assessed the sex-ratio of 1,284 offspring derived from either embryo transfer at day 3 or from blastocyst-stage transfer.

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Odors can make learning spatial information faster

Memory and sleep are intricately linked in the learning process. Studies on rats have shown that spatial information such as the path through a maze is stored in the hippocampus region of the brain. This has also been shown in humans, and the ability to memorize information has been strongly linked to sleep for some time. However, there are competing models on what the hippocampus and slow wave sleep are doing to reinforce memories. On one side, researchers believe that the hippocampus repeatedly relives the learning experience, and that slow wave sleep serves to keep the learning process covert. The other main contender, called downscaling, involves the slow wave sleep suppressing other synaptic activity so that the new connections are reinforced. Although these ideas are similar in that the activities of the hippocampus and slow wave sleep are nearly identical, they have rather different implications in their role. The problem is that the studies that are used to determine the role of the hippocampus and sleep are passive observational studies of how the brain responds to learning tasks, which makes it very difficult to sort out cause and effect.


Mass. Girl's Overdose Raises Questions

HULL, Mass. - In the final months of Rebecca Riley's life, a school nurse said the little girl was so weak she was like a "floppy doll." The preschool principal had to help Rebecca off the bus because the 4-year-old was shaking so badly. And a pharmacist complained that Rebecca's mother kept coming up with excuses for why her daughter needed more and more medication. None of their concerns was enough to save Rebecca.


Teenage girls more at risk from 'cyber-bullying'

Teenage girls are becoming more at risk of 'cyber-bullying', a new study has claimed.

Those who were bullied in this way - by text message or e-mail - are also more likely to have fewer friends and are more likely to feel lonely at school, the report by Nathalie Noret of York St John University and Professor Ian Rivers of Queen Margaret's University Edinburgh.

The report, which was presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference at the University of York on Wednesday, was based on results from a survey of nearly 15,000 secondary school pupils over a period of five years.