Thursday, August 25, 2016

Optimism and Cognition

Does an optimistic mindset have anything to do with your cognitive ability? In the past, although anecdotal studies have linked optimism with positive health behaviors, they were not specifically geared to evaluating cognition in older adults. Researchers decided to evaluate data from the Health and Retirement Study in an attempt to determine whether optimism was associated with cognitive impairment in older adults. The researchers discovered that an optimistic mindset was prospectively linked with a reduced risk of developing cognitive impairment. Therefore, developing an optimistic mindset may be one way to slow down or not prevent cognitive impairment in older adults. The questions then become individually: Do you look at the glass half full or half empty? Do you look for the positive aspects in any given situation or immediately identify whatever is negative? Do you put on a happy face each morning as you begin the day? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Handedness – the Bottom Line

As a parent and/or care provider and/or teacher, what would be an appropriate position to take regarding handedness? My brain’s opinion is to void imposing your handedness on any child with whom you come into contact. Allow the brain to do what the brain wants to do in terms of handedness, because the brain knows how it was wired, and there does appear to be an energy advantage when handedness follows its brain’s wiring. Strategies? Place utensils and pencils and crayons and toys in front of the child in the midline and allow the child to select which hand to use. If the child consistently leans toward the left hand, find a left-hander to interact with the child from time to time so the child has a model of someone who has a similar handedness.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Creature Handedness, 2

Recently I was in Australia, again enjoying seeing some of the creatures that are indigenous only to that continent. Marsupials, for example. According to some sources, true handedness would not be expected in the average marsupial because these creatures (unlike placental mammals) lack a corpus callosum. In the wild, however, kangaroos favor left-handedness for everyday tasks. Studies showed this was especially true for red kangaroos and eastern gray kangaroos. Bennett’s wallabies, showed left-handed use for activities that required fine manipulation and right-handed use for activities that required physical strength. I was interested to learn that chickens (definitely not marsupials) seem to favor the left eye when it comes to social recognition tasks. Toads reportedly favor the right front foot when it comes to removing stuff stuck to their bodies. And more polar bears appear to be left-pawed than right-pawed. Hmm-m.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Creature Handedness

 Actually, to be more accurate I probably should say creature pawedness. Although approximately ninety percent of all humans are right-handed, cats, rats, and mice that show handedness seem to be equally split between right- and left-pawedness. A decade of research by primatologist Bill Hopkins has shown that apes, like humans, also have hand preferences, but apparently handedness differs by type of ‘apes.’ For example, at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, a third of the chimpanzees are lefties and the rest have a right-handed preference. In another study, ten out of twelve gorillas used their right hand as the dominant one, all six gibbons used their left, while orangutans used either hand equally. In yet another study, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos showed a right-handed preference, while orangutans evidenced left-handedness. My guess is that it may be a combination of genetics along with epigenetics, including how the parents taught their offspring, what was role modeled to them, perhaps even birth order, and whether researchers did the studies on subjects in the wild or in captivity.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lexophilia and Lexophiles, 2

This is #2 in the Lexophilia and Lexophiles series. Enjoy!

1.   This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
2.   I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I simply cannot put it down.
3.   I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words
4.   Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations, of course.
5.   I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
6.   Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils? 
7.   When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
8.   Just try writing with a broken pencil. It’s pointless.

9.   What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Brain and Handedness, 4

Some studies have linked left-handedness with an increased risk for auto-immune diseases and schizophrenia as well as a higher risk for being a genius. Left-handers tend to have an especially fine use of the right cerebral hemisphere and are more likely to excel in architecture and fine arts. They may also be more impacted by fear since the protective emotions of fear, anger, and sadness, tend to be more aligned with the right hemisphere. This means they may also find it easier to ‘get angry’ when upset. A report on research by Professor Daniel M. Abrams and graduate student Mark J. Panaggio of Northwestern University was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface (2012). Their mathematical model showed that handedness may reflect the balance between cooperation and competition: cooperation favors same-handedness while competition favors the unusual. Indeed, the model they developed accurately predicted a greater than fifty percent left-handedness among top baseball players and well above the general population rate of ten percent for other sports (e.g., boxing, hockey, fencing, and table tennis). 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Brain and Handedness, 3

How soon can handedness be identified? Researchers who studied fetal handedness concluded that handedness during gestation was a very accurate predictor of handedness once the baby was born. Something on the order of ninety-seven percent of toddlers demonstrated a handedness preference. Right-handers tend to use the left cerebral hemisphere more efficiently and may excel in math and science and verbal fluency. Left-handers on the other hand have an especially fine use of the right hemisphere, males even more than females. Many famous individuals were reportedly left-handed, including: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Queen Elizabeth the II and her grandson Prince William, Bill Clinton, Barak Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an estimated fifty percent of famous entertainers, many artists, and a host of sports figures. If you are interested, Wikipedia provides an extensive list of left-handers along with their pictures. More tomorrow