science

‘To do nothing is sometimes a good remedy.’ –Hippocrates

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We all know that exercise can make us fitter and reduce our risk for illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. But just how, from start to finish, a run or a bike ride might translate into a healthier life has remained baffling.

Now new research reports that the answer may lie, in part, in our DNA. Exercise, a new study finds, changes the shape and functioning of our genes, an important stop on the way to improved health and fitness. […]

Epigenetics [is] a process by which the operation of genes is changed, but not the DNA itself. Epigenetic changes occur on the outside of the gene, mainly through a process called methylation. In methylation, clusters of atoms, called methyl groups, attach to the outside of a gene like microscopic mollusks and make the gene more or less able to receive and respond to biochemical signals from the body.

Scientists know that methylation patterns change in response to lifestyle. Eating certain diets or being exposed to pollutants, for instance, can change methylation patterns on some of the genes in our DNA and affect what proteins those genes express. Depending on which genes are involved, it may also affect our health and risk for disease. […]

The volunteers pedaled one-legged at a moderate pace for 45 minutes, four times per week for three months. […] More than 5,000 sites on the genome of muscle cells from the exercised leg now featured new methylation patterns. Some showed more methyl groups; some fewer. […]

Most of the genes in question are known to play a role in energy metabolism, insulin response and inflammation within muscles. In other words, they affect how healthy and fit our muscles — and bodies — become.

They were not changed in the unexercised leg.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

photo { David Hasselhoff, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, 2004 }

related { Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors }

Baby baby baby, look to the sky, seeking to find, the third eye

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Impending fatherhood can lower two hormones–testosterone and estradiol–for men, even before their babies are born, a new University of Michigan study found.

Other studies indicate that men’s hormones change once they become fathers, and there is some evidence that this is a function of a decline after the child’s birth. […]

Expectant mothers experience significant hormone changes throughout the transition to parenthood, but less has been known about the prenatal hormone changes among soon-to-be fathers.

Women showed large prenatal increases in all four hormones, while men saw declines in testosterone (which is associated with aggression and parental care) and estradiol (which is associated with caregiving and bonding). No changes were found in men’s cortisol (a stress hormone) or progesterone (which is associated with social closeness and maternal behavior).

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

sculpture { Duane Hanson, Old Man Playing Solitaire, 1973 }

Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open, and in despite I’ll cram thee with more food!

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In a recent study, Mann and some colleagues induced a bad mood in 100 college students by making them watch clips from sad movies. They then fed half the students their favorite comfort food, while the other students ate food they enjoyed, but wouldn’t consider comfort food.

Once the students had finished eating, the researchers asked the students how they felt. It turns out all the students felt better, regardless of what they had eaten.

In another experiment, Mann had half the kids eat comfort food, and the other half eat nothing. After a few minutes, both groups felt equally better. The comfort food had no effect on mood.

{ NPR | Continue reading }

photo { Tania Oldyork }

‘Let’s break shit.’ –Guy Vidra

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The Male Idiotic Theory (MIT) stipulates that the reason men are more prone to injury and death is simply because they “are idiots and idiots do stupid things“. Despite tons of anecdotal evidence confirming MIT, there’s never been a systematic analysis on sex differences in idiotic risk taking behaviour. Until now.

In a new study published in BMJ, researchers obtained 20 years worth of data from the Darwin Awards to tally up the sex of each year’s winner. For those not in the know, the Darwin Awards are given to people who die in such astonishingly stupid ways that “their action ensures the long-term survival of the species, by selectively allowing one less idiot to survive”. […]

Men made up a staggering 88.7 % of Darwin Award winners in 318 examined cases.

{ Neurorexia | Continue reading }

related { Males are more likely to die than females while in the womb }

They charged me 15 dollars. That’s how much it costs to only have 20 dollars.

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This research proposes that because rounded numbers are more fluently processed, rounded prices (e.g., $200.00) encourage reliance on feelings.

In contrast, because nonrounded numbers are disfluently processed, nonrounded prices (e.g., $198.76) encourage reliance on cognition.

Thus, rounded (nonrounded) prices lead to a subjective experience of “feeling right” when the purchase decision is driven by feelings (cognition).

Further, this sense of feeling right resulting from the fit between the roundedness of the price number and the nature of decision context can make positive reactions toward the target product more positive and negative reactions more negative, a phenomenon referred to as the rounded price effect in the current research.

Results from five studies provide converging evidence for the rounded price effect. Findings from the current research further show that merely priming participants with rounded (nonrounded) numbers in an unrelated context could also lead to the rounded price effect.

Finally, this research provides process support by showing that the rounded price effect is mediated by a sense of feeling right.

{ Journal of Consumer Research }

photo { Photo Frances McLaughlin-Gill, Woman wearing yellow coat, scarf, hat, gloves and skirt, 1947 }

‘Anaxagoras agrees with Leucippus and Democritus that the elements are infinite.’ –Aristotle

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New theories suggest the big bang was not the beginning, and that we may live in the past of a parallel universe.

[…]

Time’s arrow may in a sense move in two directions, although any observer can only see and experience one.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

photo { Tania Shcheglova and Roman Noven }

Is a dream autobiography or fiction?

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10 of The Most Counter-intuitive Psychology Findings Ever Published

1. Self-help Mantras Can Do More Harm Than Good

[…]

3. Criminals Show Cooperation and Prosocial Behaviour in Economic Games

[…]

5. We Make Many Decisions Mindlessly

[…]

6. Opposites Don’t Attract

[…]

10. Sometimes a Pregnant Woman’s Depression is Advantageous For Her Baby

{ BPS | full story }

‘In yer face turbo rave.’ –808 State

{ Guilt and expected guilt in the door-in-the-face technique | PDF | via Improbable }

‘When I don’t have red, I use blue.’ –Picasso

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Ivan Pavlov is best known as a founding figure of behaviorism who trained dogs to salivate at the sound of a bell. […] Pavlov didn’t use a bell, and for his real scientific purposes, couldn’t. English-speakers think he did because of a mistranslation of the Russian word for zvonok (buzzer). […]

Although one would expect that this investigator of reflexive reactions would think otherwise, he believed in free will. […]

He didn’t win his Nobel Prize (1904) for research on conditional reflexes, but rather for his studies of digestive physiology.

{ Oxford University Press | Continue reading | More: New Yorker }

‘I have no knowledge of myself as I am, but merely as I appear to myself.’ –Kant

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[P]eople who are depressed display some surprising advantages in their thinking skills. Depressed people:

1. process information more deeply.
2. are more accurate at complex tasks.
3. make better judgements on detail-oriented information.
4. make more accurate cost-benefit analyses.

The researchers developed a new questionnaire which measures ‘analytical rumination’, a mental process which is thought to be an ancient defence mechanism and the root of depression.

Analytical rumination is where people turn problems over in their heads to the exclusion of all else, trying to look for a solution.

They first examine the problem’s cause, then the things that need solving, any possible solutions plus the costs and benefits of each solution.

The symptoms of depression, which often include lethargy, difficulty sleeping, poor concentration and disinterest in other people or the external world, may actually be ways of saving energy while a person is focusing on the problem.

{ PsyBlog | Continue reading }

What are your unbreakable rules for yourself?

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Researchers in the US have used electrical brain stimulation to boost the vigilance of sleep-deprived military personnel working on an airforce base.

Experiments on 18- to 42-year old men and women on active duty found that half an hour of electrical brain stimulation improved their performance twice as much as caffeine, and the effect lasted three times as long.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading | via gettingsome }

‘What does a woman want?’ –Freud

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[T]he patient was a woman who, although she was being examined in my office at New York Hospital, claimed we were in her home in Freeport, Maine. The standard interpretation of this syndrome is that she made a duplicate copy of a place (or person) and insisted that there are two. […]

This woman was intelligent; before the interview she was biding her time reading the New York Times. I started with the ‘So, where are you?’ question. ‘I am in Freeport, Maine. I know you don’t believe it. Dr Posner told me this morning when he came to see me that I was in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. […] Well, that is fine, but I know I am in my house on Main Street in Freeport, Maine!’ I asked, ‘Well, if you are in Freeport and in your house, how come there are elevators outside the door here?’

The grand lady peered at me and calmly responded, ‘Doctor, do you know how much it cost me to have those put in?’ […]

Because of her lesion the part of the brain that represents locality is overactive and sending out an erroneous message about her location. The interpreter is only as good as the information it receives, and in this instance it is getting a wacky piece of information.

{ NeuroDojo | Continue reading }