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October 29, 2007, 9:48 PM CT

What's the brain got to do with education?

What's the brain got to do with education?
Quite a lot - as per teachers in a recent survey commissioned by The Innovation Unit and carried out by scientists at the University of Bristol. Eventhough current teacher training programmes generally omit the science of how we learn, an overwhelming number of the teachers surveyed felt neuroscience could make an important contribution in key educational areas. The research was undertaken to inform a series of seminars between educationalists and neuroresearchers organised by the Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Dr Sue Pickering and Dr Paul Howard-Jones, at Bristol University's Graduate School of Education, asked teachers and other education professionals whether they thought it was important to consider the workings of the brain in educational practice. Around 87 per cent of respondents felt it was. Teachers considered both mainstream and special educational teaching could benefit from the neuroscientific insights emerging from modern scanning techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

The scientists also investigated where teachers got their knowledge about neuroscience from and what impact, if any, it was having on their classroom practice. Some teachers already use so-called 'brain-based''teaching methods in their classrooms. These include initiatives such as Brain Gym and methods intended to appeal to different brain-based learning styles (e.g. visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning - or VAK). Eventhough the scientific basis of these methods is highly contentious, a number of teachers said they had found them very useful, especially when children were less receptive to more traditional teaching methods. One respondent said such approaches "improved the success of the teaching and learning" and led to "happier children who are more engaged in the activities".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 29, 2007, 7:42 PM CT

Ten minutes of talking has a mental payoff

Ten minutes of talking has a mental payoff
Spending just 10 minutes talking to another person can help improve your memory and your performance on tests, as per a University of Michigan study would be reported in the February 2008 issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

"In our study, socializing was just as effective as more traditional kinds of mental exercise in boosting memory and intellectual performance," said Oscar Ybarra, a psychology expert at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and a lead author of the study with ISR psychology expert Eugene Burnstein and psychology expert Piotr Winkielman from the University of California, San Diego.

In the article, Ybarra, Burnstein and his colleagues report on findings from two types of studies they conducted on the relationship between social interactions and mental functioning.

Their research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

In one study, they examined ISR survey data to see whether there was a relationship between mental functioning and specific measures of social interaction. The survey data included information on a national, stratified area probability sample of 3,610 people between the ages of 24 and 96. Their mental function was assessed through the mini-mental exam, a widely used test that measures knowledge of personal information and current events and that also includes a simple test of working memory.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 28, 2007, 3:56 PM CT

Dealing with Stress as a Treatment for Alcohol Abuse

Dealing with Stress as a Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
A researcher at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) is initiating a study of "mindfulness-based stress reduction," a technique often used in behavioral medicine for stress reduction but not before as an adjunct in the therapy of alcohol use disorders.

"By adapting and applying mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR in alcoholism therapy, we hope to develop an increased ability to cope with stress and enhanced psychological well-being among alcohol-dependent individuals," said Gerard J. Connors, Ph.D. "For people who often deal with stress in their lives by turning to alcohol, this could be a very positive alternative".

Connors is a clinical psychology expert and principal investigator on the study as well as the director of RIA. He also is a professor in the Department of Psychology in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and research professor in the Department of Psychiatry in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The four-year investigation on MBSR will be conducted with support from a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The MBSR intervention provides intensive training in mindfulness practices and their applications for daily living and coping with stress. MBSR emphasizes self-observation and self-responsibility, which is expected to facilitate the alcohol-dependent individual's management of the stressors that place the person at increased risk for drinking.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 25, 2007, 10:22 PM CT

Recognizing someone's name but forgetting how you met them

Recognizing someone's name but forgetting how you met them
New research from The University of Western Ontario suggests the sometimes eerie feeling experience when recognizing someone, yet failing to remember how or why, reveals important insight into how memory is wired in the human brain.

In research published recently in one of the world's most-cited multidisciplinary scientific publications, "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA," Western psychology graduate student Ben Bowles and psychology professor Stefan Kohler have observed that this feeling of familiarity during recognition relies on a distinct brain mechanism and does not simply reflect a weak form of memory.

"Recognition based on familiarity can be contrasted with recognition when we spontaneously conjure up details about the episode in which we encountered the person before, such as where we met the person or when it happened," explains Kohler.

The authors report that a rare form of brain surgery that can be highly effective for therapy of epilepsy can selectively impair the ability to assess familiarity.

"It is counterintuitive but makes a lot of sense from a theoretical perspective that familiarity can be affected, while the ability to recollect episodic detail is completely spared," adds Kohler.

The research is based on Bowles' Master's thesis and was supported by a grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to Dr. Kohler. It has important implications for understanding memory deficits in neurology, including in Alzheimer's disease.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 23, 2007, 10:23 PM CT

Cannabis a double-edged sword

Cannabis a double-edged sword
A new neurobiological study has observed that a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, is an effective anti-depressant at low doses. However, at higher doses, the effect reverses itself and can actually worsen depression and other psychiatric conditions like psychosis.

The study, reported in the October 24 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, was led by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University and Le Centre de Recherche Fernand Seguin of Hpital Louis-H. Lafontaine, affiliated with l'Universit de Montral. First author is Dr. Gobbi's McGill PhD student Francis Bambico, along with Noam Katz and the late Dr. Guy Debonnel* of McGill's Department of Psychiatry.

It has been known for a number of years that depletion of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain leads to depression, so SSRI-class anti-depressants like Prozac and Celexa work by enhancing the available concentration of serotonin in the brain. However, this study offers the first evidence that cannabis can also increase serotonin, at least at lower doses.

Laboratory animals were injected with the synthetic cannabinoid WIN55,212-2 and then tested with the Forced Swim test a test to measure depression in animals; the scientists observed an antidepressant effect of cannabinoids paralleled by an increased activity in the neurons that produce serotonin. However, increasing the cannabinoid dose beyond a set point completely undid the benefits, said Dr. Gobbi.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 22, 2007, 8:42 PM CT

Faced with Death, Our Minds Turn to Happier Thoughts

Faced with Death, Our Minds Turn to Happier Thoughts
Philosophers and researchers have long been interested in how the mind processes the inevitability of death, both cognitively and emotionally. One would expect, for example, that reminders of our mortality--say the sudden death of a loved one--would throw us into a state of disabling fear of the unknown. But that doesn't happen. If the prospect of death is so incomprehensible, why are we not trembling in a constant state of terror over this fact?

Psychology experts have some ideas about how we cope with existential dread. One emerging idea--"terror management theory" --holds that the brain is hard-wired to keep us from being paralyzed by fear. As per this theory the brain allows us to think about dying, even to change the way we live our lives, but not cower in the corner, paralyzed by fear. The automatic, unconscious part of our brain in effect protects the conscious mind.

But how does this work? Psychology experts Nathan DeWall of the University of Kentucky and Roy Baumeister of Florida State University ran three experiments to study existential dread in the laboratory. They prompted volunteers to think about what happens physically as they die and to imagine what it is like to be dead. It's the experimental equivalent of losing a loved one and ruminating about dying as a result.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 19, 2007, 4:52 AM CT

When Less is More: Too Much Happiness May Be Too Much

When Less is More: Too Much Happiness May Be Too Much
Are you happy? Well don't try to be happier; you might become less happy. That is the gist of a multi-cultural study published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The study by University of Virginia psychology professor Shigehiro Oishi and his colleagues at three other institutions observed that, on average, European-Americans claim to be happy in general - more happy than Asian-Americans or Koreans or Japanese - but are more easily made less happy by negative events, and recover at a slower rate from negative events, than their counterparts in Asia or with an Asian ancestry. Conversely, Koreans, Japanese, and to a lesser extent, Asian-Americans, are less happy in general, but recover their emotional equilibrium more readily after a setback than European-Americans.

"We observed that the more positive events a person has, the more they feel the effects of a negative event," Oishi said. "People seem to dwell on the negative thing when they have a large number of good events in their life.

"It is like the person who is used to flying first class and becomes very annoyed if there is a half-hour delay. But the person who flies economy class accepts the delay in stride".

Oishi, a social psychology expert who grew up in Japan and then moved to the United States at 23, is interested in comparing how people from East Asia and the United States respond to the daily events of life.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 17, 2007, 9:32 PM CT

Feeling sleepy is all in your genes

Feeling sleepy is all in your genes
Genes responsible for our 24 hour body clock influence not only the timing of sleep, but also appear to be central to the actual restorative process of sleep, as per research reported in the online open access journal BMC Neuroscience. The study identified changes in the brain that lead to the increased desire and need for sleep during time spent awake.

"We still do not know why we benefit from sleep, or why we feel tired when we are 'lacking' sleep, but it seems likely that sleep serves some basic biological function for the brain such as energy restoration for brain cells or memory consolidation." Explains Dr Bruce O'Hara of the University of Kentucky, one of the neuroresearchers who conducted the research. "We have observed that clock gene expression in the brain is highly corcorrelation to the build-up of sleep debt, while prior findings have linked these genes to energy metabolism. Together, this supports the idea that one function of sleep is correlation to energy metabolism".

To explore the correlation between the expression of clock genes and sleep, three inbred strains of mice with different genetic make-ups were utilized, and which had previously been shown to differ in their response to sleep deprivation by lead author, Dr. Paul Franken of Stanford University and Lausanne University. In this study, mice were first sleep deprived during the daytime period when mice normally sleep then allowed recovery sleep. Changes in gene expression for three clock genes were examined throughout the brain during both phases. Clock gene expression generally increased the more the mice were kept awake and decreased when sleep was allowed, supporting that these genes play a role in the regulation of the need for sleep. Generally, the expression of the clock-genes Period-1 and Period-2, increased at a faster rate in mouse strains with the poorest quality of recovery sleep suggesting that the detailed dynamic changes in expression may underlie individual differences in sleep length and sleep quality. The changes in gene expression were also shown to occur in a number of different brain regions supporting the idea that sleep is a global brain function.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 17, 2007, 8:29 PM CT

Height affects how people perceive their quality of life

Height affects how people perceive their quality of life
Your height in adult life significantly affects your quality of life, with short people reporting worse physical and mental health than people of normal height. This large, peer evaluated study, which appears in Clinical Endocrinology, shows that adult height is associated with how good a person thinks their health is. Short people judge their state of health to be significantly lower than their normal height peers do.

The data for this study came from the 2003 Health Survey for England, carried out by the UK Department of Health(1). In this survey, participants filled out a health-related quality of life (HRQoL) questionnaire and a nurse measured their height. Researchers, led by Senior Health Economist Torsten Christensen at Novo Nordisk A/S in Denmark, used this data to assess the relationship between height and HRQoL. A persons health-related quality of life refers to their perceived physical and mental health over time. The questionnaire does not measure how good a persons health actually is; it measures how good a person thinks their health is. The questionnaire examined five areas of well-being: mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort, and anxiety/depression. The scientists controlled the results in the study for the effects of other well-known indicators of HRQoL such as age, gender, body weight, long-standing illness and social class. In total, this study used the results from 14 416 respondents.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 17, 2007, 8:12 PM CT

Young toddlers think in terms of the whole object

Young toddlers think in terms of the whole object
Seeing through a child's eyes can help parents better introduce new words to young toddlers, as per research from Purdue University.

"This new research shows that as young toddlers learn language, they are more likely to focus on objects rather than parts," said George Hollich, an assistant professor of psychological sciences. "Because of this bias, children automatically assume you are talking about an object. So, when labeling more than just an object, adults need to do something special such as pointing at the part while saying its word or explaining what the item does".

For example, when introducing a young toddler to a dog, the child automatically thinks of the object as a dog. If adults want to talk about the dog's tail or its bark, then they need to be more explicit when communicating with the child. If adults do not make this effort, it can hinder the child's understanding, said Hollich, who also is director of Purdue's Infant Language Lab.

The study appears in the fall issue of the journal Developmental Psychology. Hollich studied 12- and 19-month-olds because their vocabularies are still in the beginning stages of development. Forty-eight children took part in the study. During the experiments, the young toddlers were introduced to familiar objects, such as a cup with a lid and a shoe with laces, as well as two made up objects that were wood cutouts and could be separated. One part of these wood cutouts was designed to be more attractive to a child. Even with the part's visual appeal, Hollich found the children paid more attention to the entire object than to the part.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness.

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