Thursday, October 31, 2013

Self-Driving Vehicles

According to John Markoff  in an article in The New York Times,  Mobileye Vision Technologies has created a self-driving system for an Audi A7 car. Reportedly this self-driving system is capable of driving in a single lane at freeway speeds, as well as identifying traffic lights and automatically slowing, stopping and then returning to highway speeds. But by blending advanced computer-vision techniques with low-cost video cameras, the company is hoping to demonstrate how quickly autonomous driving can be commercialized without the expense of laser range-finders called lidars and other advanced systems. I'm thinking about how that would actually work. Would you, as the driver, be using your brain to just read a book or watch a movie on your iPad or would you still need your brain to monitor what the self-driving system was doing? Whatever, this technology may be available sooner than expected . . .

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stroke and Stem Cell Therapy

According to Kurzweil News, stroke is the third largest cause of death and the single largest cause of adult disability in the developed world. A trial is being conducted at the Institute of Neurological Sciences, Southern General Hospital, Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board, using neural stem cell treatment in ischemic stroke patients. Phase one results are encouraging in that no cell-related or immuinological adverse affects have been identified. The PISCES study, as has come to be known, is the world’s first fully-regulated clinical trial of a neural stem cell therapy for disabled stroke patients. Meanwhile, plans are proceeding for a Phase II trial which will examine the efficacy of stem cell treatment in stroke patients and an application is expected to be submitted to the UK regulatory authorities in early July. If approved, the Phase II trial is scheduled to commence later this year. It will be a controlled multi-center trial involving around 20 patients initially, all of whom will have suffered a stroke within a few weeks. This will be interesting to follow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sleep Deprivation #5

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center recently released study results that were published in Science Translational Medicine. Scientists have puzzled over what sleep really does for the brain and for brain-body health. Turns out that sleep clears the brain of toxins, the same type of damaging molecules that have been associated with loss of brain function and that have been found to contribute to Alzheimer's disease. (Wouldn't it be amazing if adequate sleep turned out to be linked with prevention of Alzheimer's or at least the slowing of development of symptoms?) By-products of neural activity accumulate when you are awake; sleep cleans up the brain and gets rid of these by-products. Studies with mice showed that during sleep the brain's "plumbing system" appears to "open,"allowing fluid to flow rapidly through the brain. (This doesn't occur at the same rate during waking hours.)  The dulling of memory skills often associated with aging may actually be related to a lack of sleep.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cheating, Part 2

Research has concluded that members of a species were more or less likely to cheat based on the relative size of the brain’s neocortex. (See Why We Cheat by Fang and Casadevall.)  No surprise—based on a relatively large neocortex—studies have shown that humans are surprising quick to cheat if the environmental circumstances are conducive to cheating. Moreover, cheating can spread through copycat behavior. This type of infectiousness, sometimes referred to a social contagion, may help explain the high prevalence of cheating in relatively small groups of people. For example, 125 Harvard students were recently under investigation for cheating on a final examination. (More than half these students were told to withdraw from school for up to a year as punishment.) Seeing someone else cheat without apparent consequences strongly encourages others to do the same. In another study, subjects were three times as likely to cheat when an assistant posing as a cheating student was also present. Unchecked dishonesty can even promote the perception that one must cheat to remain competitive.  Fortunately, not everyone is equally likely to cheat, however.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Cheating, Part 1

In a recently released book entitled Why We Cheat authors Fang and Casadevall assert that “cheating” is not limited to human beings. Cheating has been documented around the world “wherever there is competition for limited resources.” In the animal kingdom the bigger the brain, the more likely that members of the species will cheat; cheating being a way of gaining advantage over others without incurring the cost of the effort. For example, deception has been observed among primates (e.g., female juvenile baboons in Ethiopia were seen to mate with juvenile males while hiding behind rocks in order to conceal their actions from the alpha male baboon. Studies in 2004 showed that the relative size of the brain’s neocortex predicted the degree to which primates practiced deception: the larger the neocortex size in a species, the more likely the members of that species were to use dishonest tactics for social manipulation.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

General Anesthetic and Dementia Risk

Medical News Today recently reported on study findings presented at the 2013 annual congress of the European Society of Anesthesiology or ESA. Researchers followed a group of participants aged 65 and older for ten years. They found that participants who had been exposed to one general anesthetic during that time had a 35 percent increased risk of developing a dementia when compared to those who had not exposed to general anesthesia. POCD (postoperative cognitive dysfunction) could be associated with dementia several years after the exposure to general anesthetic. According to lead researcher Dr. Francois Sztark, recognition of POCD recognition is essential in the perioperative management of elderly patients. Sztark has suggested that long-term follow-up of these patients is important. My bias is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which played into my decision to have a spinal anesthetic (rather than a general anesthetic) with both of my hip-replacement surgeries. I am fortunate not only that this type of surgery could be done with spinal anesthetic but also that my surgeon (Dr. William Bowen) was amenable to a spinal. A win-win for my brain! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Creativity and Disorderly Environment

A recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, has released results showing that different environments are linked to different outcomes. The title of the abstract was:  “Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity.” I’m sure you already can guess that the word disorder gave me pause because so often in brain-function research one word can describe either an author’s preference or dis-ease. Left-brainers often describe my frontal-right organizing style of “stacking” in my office as “messy.” Anyway, researchers did three experiments:

1.    Participants in an orderly room (as compared to those in a disorderly room) chose healthier snacks and donated more money.

2.    Participants in a disorderly room were more creative than participants in an orderly room.

3.    Participants in an orderly room preferred an option labeled as classic while those in a disorderly room preferred an option labeled as new.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nature-Deficit Disorder

Do you suffer from a nature-deficit disorder? Do you know someone who does? M. Sanjayan, Ph.D., lead scientist for The Nature Conservancy, as coined the term to describe a lack of interaction with nature. In one study, the farther you live from green space, the likelier you are to be in poorer health. A Japanese study found that people's blood pressure, resting heart rate, and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) were all significantly lower after a 15-minute walk in nature as compared with a 15-minute city walk. Another study showed 37 percent spike in the number of natural killer cells—key immune system cells—after women spent a few hours out in the woods. The cure for nature-deficit disorder—not to mention a host of other ailments—might reside in a simple walk out in nature. Take time for one. Make time for one. It could improve your health.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Alzheimer's and Your Brain, part VI

More and more studies are showing that lifestyle plays a huge role in retarding the onset of symptoms of aging and in preventing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, more than half the factors that impact your rate of aging can be partially (if not completely) impacted positively by your own choices. (Refer to my book: Aging-Proofing Your Brain—21 factors within your partial or complete control, available on One of these factors is your mindset. Do you have a positive mindset and style of communication with yourself and with others? If the answer is no, set about changing that immediately. I call this the 20:80 Rule strategy. When confronted with negative stress (distress), 20% of the effect to your brain and body can be attributed to the event itself; 80% is related to your mindset and to the weight you give to the event. You may not be able to do much about the 20%; you can do almost everything about the 80% because you create those perceptions. A positive mindset is linked with positive electromagnetic (Em) energy generated and released by your neurons; positive Em energy helps your brain and body organs function more effectively. You’re the only person who can do this for you and my brain’s opinion is that it is worth the effort.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Alzheimer's and Your Brain, part V

Studies have shown that to a large degree individuals who exhibited very little cognitive-function decline prior to death showed brains on post-mortem that had few, if any, brain lesions. This is good news in that it appears possible to prevent brain damage at least for most people and to a large degree. One of the best prevention strategies is to create and live a high-level-healthiness lifestyle. Two key prevention strategies are:

  1.  Physical exercise – physical exercise has been shown to benefit the brain in a myriad of different ways. It can increase the rate of blood flow through the brain, bringing helpful micronutrients to the neurons and glial cells and removing toxic substances and waste products. During the course of each week do some resistance exercises, balance exercises, and aerobic exercises (moderate levels of exercise interspersed with spurts of more energetic exercise may be the most effective). Walking, swimming, biking, and so on can be helpful. Do whatever you can and do something every day.

  1. Mental exercise – challenge your brain daily for a minimum of 30 minutes. Learn something new, solve brain-aerobic exercises, and so on. I joined  You may want to access the hundreds of free brain-aerobic exercises available on my website  Read aloud for ten minutes every day. Do something and start now! These exercises are believed to help strengthen your brain and may prevent some of the tangles associated with Alzheimer’s or perhaps help your brain to be more resistant to them. The brain loves variety and novelty. Travel, read, play games, socialize, volunteer . . . the sky is the limit for options.

Part VI of VI tomorrow

Monday, October 21, 2013

Alzheimer's and Your Brain, part IV

Many people would be willing to implement preventive strategies in their lifestyle if there was a chance these strategies could help them avoid Alzheimer’s or retard the onset of symptoms. Fortunately, research has identified some of these preventive strategies; strategies that have shown the plasticity of the brain and its capacity for healing. In fact, some believe that your brain is the greatest healing organ on the planet. How do you tap into your brain’s healing abilities? By getting serious about developing and implement healthier nutritional and lifestyle choices. Here are a few strategies that have been recommended:

  • Avoid refined sugar in whatever form you find it
  • Make sure you obtain adequate amounts of B12 and Vitamin D3
  • Minimize the use of gluten and simple carbohydrates (bread, pasta)
  • Increase the intake of vegetables making sure some are raw
  • Move toward embracing a Mediterranean style of nutritional intake
  • Include healthy fats such as coconut oil, olives and virgin olive oil, nuts such as pecans and other raw or dry-roasted nuts, avocado, and so on
  • Minimize saturated fats, red meats, the skin on chicken, and fried foods, etc.

Part V of VI tomorrow

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Alzheimer's and Your Brain, part III

How does severe emotional stress increase your risk for developing symptoms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease? Likely because the stress results in your body releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin, designed to trigger the stress response of flight or fight in response to the stressful events. You need cortisol to respond to stress appropriately. When the stressors are severe and chronic, however, your body can swing out of balance. One of the functions of cortisol involves regulating the inflammatory response, which actually suppresses immune system function in favor of saving resources for either fighting or fleeing. Therefore, chronic stress (or the presence of unmanaged negative stress), increases your risk of becoming sick. Medical News Today reported earlier this year on research presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Miami, Florida, which showed that ruminating on a stressful incident can increase levels of a marker of inflammation in your body: C-reactive protein. Inflammation has been found to be a hallmark of most diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and now Alzheimer’s.

Part IV of VI tomorrow

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Alzheimer's and Your Brain, part II

Argentine researchers have linked severe emotional stress or grief during two years prior to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. According to lead author, Dr. Edgardo Reich:

"Stress, according to our findings, is probably a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. Although I rule out stress as monocausal in dementia, research is solidifying the evidence that stress can trigger a degenerative process in the brain and precipitate dysfunction in the neuroendocrine and immune system. It is an observational finding and does not imply direct causality. Further studies are needed to examine these mechanisms in detail."

What does this mean? Remember the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? To me this means that you are wise to avoid negative stressors whenever possible. When the negative stressors are unavoidable, you are wise to create and implement effective stress-management techniques to minimize the impact to brain and body. And there are many stress-management techniques that can be implemented. Reframing (altering the way you perceive the stressor), refocusing (choosing to think different and more empowering thoughts), and reselecting (making careful decisions about with whom, when, and for how long you are going to hang out with specific individuals on your own discretionary time) are just a few of them.

Part III of VI tomorrow

Friday, October 18, 2013

Alzheimer's and Your Brain, part I

For many people the word “Alzheimer’s” triggers fears similar to the word “Cancer.” In fact, some projections estimate that Alzheimer's will affect one in four Americans in the next 20 years, which is more than current prevalence statistics for obesity and diabetes. Nearly 5.4 million Americans (including one in every eight persons over the age of 65) are afflicted with some level of Alzheimer’s. Although there is yet no “cure” for this brain disease, studies point to the importance of prevention strategies. Recent studies have shown connections between stress and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Findings of research in Argentina, for example, indicated that stress is likely a trigger for initial symptoms of dementia. The study found that 72 percent of Alzheimer's patients had experienced severe emotional stress or grief during the two years preceding their diagnosis (compared with only 26 percent in the control group). Participants in the Alzheimer’s group identified most of the stressors as involving:

·         Bereavement; death of a spouse, partner, or child
·         Violent experiences, such as assault or robbery or car accidents
·         Financial problems, including shock related to retirement funds
·         Diagnosis of a family member’s severe illness

Part II of VI tomorrow

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Glial Cells Part 2

At a workshop earler this year held at the US National Science Foundation in Arlington, Virginia, glial experts reportedly came to some unanimous conclusions. For example:

·         Neurons working alone provide only a partial explanation for complex cognitive processes

·        The complex branching structure of glial cells and their slower chemical signaling (as opposed to electrical signaling) make them better suited than neurons to some specific cognitive processes. Such processes include the integration of information from spatially distinct parts of the brain including learning or the experiencing of emotions. These types of processes take place over hours or days or weeks rather than in seconds or milliseconds.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Your Amazing Glia

More is being figured out about the brain’s glial cells, the one’s I call personal assistants. Each neuron may have as many as nine of these personal assistants, which means that the human brain contains billions and billions more glial cells as compared to the approximate number of 100 billion neurons. These glia are non-electric, which means they cannot be probed in research as can the electrical-signaling neurons. Glial cells were first described in the mid-1800’s but were thought initially to be just connective tissue. Not so. Glia apparently:

·         Sense and control neuronal activity
·         Assist in the formation of memories
·         Play a key role in brain injury
·         May be at the root of some disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia

More tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Future of Longevity

Have you heard of the New America Foundation (  It is an American non-profit, nonpartisan public policy institute and think tank. Last Friday they held a meeting in Washington DC entitled “The Future of Longevity.” According to the advertised promo:

Human longevity is drastically increasing. In the coming years, it seems possible that we will live out our extra years or even decades in vitality and good health. But will we be able to keep pace? In an age of rapid technological and scientific progress, our communities, politics, and economic institutions are underprepared for the coming challenge of longer human lives. If the average lifespan extends to 100 or even 150, what will it mean for marriage, the work force, and personal financial planning? What about the economy and entitlement programs? How can we plan now for increased human longevity and its inevitable impact on society and policy?

Good questions!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sublimation and Creativity

Experiments by Kim, Zeppenfeld, and Cohen have provided what may be the first experimental evidence for sublimation, suggesting a cultural psychological approach to defense mechanisms. According to the article published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Protestant men and women (but not Catholic or Jewish males and females) appeared more likely to sublimate taboo sexual feelings and desires into creative artwork such as collages, poems, cartoon captions, and sculptures. And it appeared to be the forbidden or suppressed nature of the emotion (e.g., anger or unacceptable sexual desires or damnation-related words) that gave the emotion its creative power.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Einstein's Brain

Previous studies of Einstein’s brain have revealed that specific portions were unusually large and intricately folded. The parietal lobes, for example, had unusually grooves and ridges. A region known to be linked to musical talent was highly developed in Einstein's brain (he played piano and violin.) And his prefrontal cortex—linked to planning, focused attention, and perseverance in the face of challenges—is also greatly expanded. ScienceShot recently released an article entitled “Einstein’s Secret? A Well-Connected Brain.” It reported that the thickness of Einstein’s corpus callosum, the larges band of connecting fibers in the brain, was greater than average as compared to a control group of both elderly and young subjects. The authors posit that in Einstein’s brain, more nerve fibers connected key regions such as the two sides of the prefrontal cortex, which are responsible for complex thought and decision-making. Combined with previous evidence that parts of the physicist’s brain were unusually large and intricately folded, the researchers suggest that this feature helps account for his extraordinary gifts. A cutaway photo of his brain is included in the article.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"A Tick Up His Nose..."

The English language has many sayings such as, “Hard nosed” or “Her nose is out of joint” or “She cut off her nose to spite her face” and so on. Here’s a new one: “He’s got a tick up his nose.” Do you have one? If yes, you may be part of a very minuscule, elite group of individuals, one of whom sneezed his out during an airline layover. In this case, veterinary Epidemiologist Tony Goldberg at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, had just spent a few weeks in Uganda’s Kibale National Park studying chimpanzees and how the diseases they carry might make the jump to humans. The day after returning home, Goldberg pulled a tick out of his nose, eventually identifying his nostril-travel companion as belonging to the genus Amblyomma. However, its genetic sequence didn’t match anything in any known databases. “So it could be a known species of tick that hasn’t been genetically characterized yet or a completely new species,” Goldberg said. He reported his analysis in the latest issue of The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Check out the link below for a picture of this hitch-hiking tick, which actually looks rather unattractive to my way of thinking. Oh the joys of epidemiological travel and research.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Forest Bathing and Your Brain

Are you familiar with the term forest bathing. Reportedly, forest bathing can do wonderful, healthful things for your body. It comes from the Japanese term shinrin-yoku. No surprise, cutting edge research in this area is coming from Japan. Researchers at Tokyo's Nippon Medical School have provided some quantifiable evidence related to the benefits of forest bathing. In one study, women who spent two to four hours in the woods on two consecutive days experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells. Just think how that can benefit your brain!You might not have 2-4 hours available during the week, but how about on the weekend? And you might not have a “forest” next door, but there will likely be some location where you can get outside among some trees. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Four Main Cerebral Functions

There are many ways to describe the human brain and a plethora of metaphors. Naturally, there is a great deal of discussion about differences:  between genders, between individual brains, between the two cerebral hemispheres, and also between the cerebral cortex. James Zull PhD is Professor of Biology and Biochemistry and Director of UCITE research and author of The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning. According to Dr. Zull, the biggest differences in brain function (after right-left hemisphere differences), involve the front and back cortical systems of the cerebrum. The cerebral cortex has four major functions and if any of those are missing, you are missing a nervous system. The four major functions are:

·         Sensing
·         Moving (motor)
·         Integrating (two types)

Integrating is one of the most crucial aspects of how brains learn and involves the interplay of the front and back cortex regions of the brain. The frontal cortex is involved in creating ideas, transforming ideas into actions, and then taking action, while the back cortex is involved with information, data, and memories.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Zinc

A recent study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry has provided some interesting information that, if replicated in humans, could shed helpful light on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These diseases have been linked to defective proteins clumping together in the brain. Apparently, shape is everything when it comes to proteins. The correct shape allows some proteins to carry atoms or molecules about a cell, others to provide essential cellular scaffolding or identify invading bacteria for attack. When proteins lose their shape due to high temperature or chemical damage, they stop working and can clump together, a hallmark of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The UW researchers discovered a stressor that decreases protein stability and causes clumping: a shortage of zinc, an essential metal nutrient. Apparently, zinc ions play a key role in creating and holding proteins in the correct shape. This may be just one more example of how the brain malfunctions when components get out of balance for some reason.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sleep Deprivation #4

Are you cheating yourself of the amount of sleep your brain and body really need? Studies have shown that in order to function effectively, most people need at least seven or eight hours of good sleep each 24 hours. Unfortunately, many Americans are sleep-deprived, trying to get along with a measly five or six hours. Lack of adequate sleep can adversely impact brain function and affect body systems (heart, kidneys). It can also impact mood, reaction time, sensitivity to pain, and metabolism (e.g., lack of sleep can increase metabolism).  Even a few restless nights with inadquate amounts of sleep or the cummulative lack of several hours sleep during a week, can lead to weight gain. Christopher Winters, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Sleep Center, says that new studies confirm that people who want to control their weight need to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. He also suggests paying special attention to your food cravings on the occasions when you cannot get a good night's sleep (.e.g, traveling). Awareness, after all, is the first step on the continuum of positive change. Are you unwittingly getting too little sleep?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Takotsubo, Part Two

In some of the cases involving an individual with reported or suspected Takotsubo (or broken heart syndrome) the person survived in the short term although long-term prognosis is unclear. I take this as just another example of the close connection between the neurons in the brain and the neurons in the heart. It points out the potential value of having developed good stress-management techniques and of having a good support system available in times of severe stress.

Recently a friend of mine sent me a copy of a Boston Globe article about an as-yet-unexplained death, although an autopsy is pending. You may find the story interesting if you've not already read it. Life is wonderful and sad, exciting and poignant . . .

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Takotsubo or Broken Heart Syndrome

Society often speaks poetically and sometimes blithely of a “broken heart” but as is so often the case with metaphors there is some basis in fact. Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or broken heart syndrome or stress cardiomyopathy is the term that describes a heart event in the absence of any significant coronary artery stenosis. It comes from the Japanese: “tako-tsubo” means “fishing pot for trapping octopus,” because the ballooning of the patient’s heart’s left ventricle in this situation resembles that shape. Several cases have been cited in the literature and it has been suggested that emotional stress may have precipitated the symptoms that mimic acute coronary syndrome at least in some instances. These included:

·         Acute emotional stress after the death of a relative
·         Acute emotional stress due to anticipating imminent death of a close friend
·         Severe emotional stress due to financial instability
·         Severe occupation-related emotional stress

Part 2 tomorrow

Saturday, October 5, 2013

CTE, NFL, and the Brain

Many people have had concerns for years about the potential for repetitive brain injuries connected to many differing types of sports. Mohammad Ali’s reported cumulative brain damage following years in the ring is just one example. And most people are aware of the connection between NFL players and football-related brain damage. A pilot study at UCLA using brain scans and former NFL players has shown signs of a crippling disease in living players. Known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, it is a neurodegenerative disease linked to memory loss, depression, and dementia. Now, ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru have written a book about football and brain injuries, to be released in October of this year. And FRONTLINE is producing a documentary based on their research. Reportedly, League of Denial airs Oct. 8 on FRONTLINE. My brain's opinion is that prevention is better than cure. With some forethought, some CTE at least should be preventable.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Gender, Competition, and Business

Some studies have shown that the male brain generally is more hierarchical, goal oriented, and competitive as compared to the female brain. So how does this play out in the business world? An article published in the Journal of Labor Economics entitled “Performance Gender Gap: Does Competition Matter?” reported on studies by Evren Ors, Frédéric Palomino, and Eloïc Peyrache. These researchers discovered that in terms of competition, apparently a performance gender gap does exist. In a real-world setting with important payoffs at stake, study results were in line with the evidence from experimental research that finds that females tend to perform worse in more competitive contexts. This may have real consequences in the business world, as the women who had performed significantly better than the same men on France’s pass/fail, less-competitive national baccalauréat exam two years earlier, preformed more poorly than those same males on the highly competitive entrance exam for French business school HEC Paris. This meant that the pool of admitted candidates contained fewer females. Once admitted to HEC Paris, however, the females tended to outperform their male classmates. It appears that the entrance tournament-like-competitive contests favored the male brain over the female brain.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Epigenetics and Cocaine

I find Epigenetics, also known as cellular memory, to be a fascinating topic. It not only may create transmissible memories to biological offspring but also can alter the way the genes themselves are expressed. NIDA Notes recently reported on studies by Dr. Fair M. Vassoler and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Ghazaleh Sadri-Vakili at Massachusetts General Hospital. Researchers found that male rats’ cocaine exposure affects their offspring’s drug responses. “The 'sires’ cocaine exposure induced epigenetic alterations to one or more of their genes, and the sires transmitted the alterations to their offspring via their sperm. Epigenetic alterations change the expression of a gene without changing the underlying DNA sequence. The gene produces the same protein as it did before alteration, but in greater or lesser quantities than before.” Here’s the link.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gender Differences #2

The human brain apparently isn’t designed to multi-task effectively. Nevertheless, females have learned to use rapidly alternating shifts of attention in order to get done what they perceive they need to get done. Not only that, female brains often juggle between two, three, or four unrelated topics. Females can talk about several differing topics in one conversation and use multiple voice tones to emphasize points in the discussion or even to change the subject. According to Allan and Barbara Pease’s book: The Definitive Book of Body Language, males often have difficulty even identifying these voice tones. What does this mean? Males may lose the plot when communicating with females. In many cultures, females provide most of the childcare. Obviously, at least for the first few years, the mother or other female care-provider must rely on nonverbals to communicate with the child. Thus they learn to read body signals early on. These experiences probably help females to hone their perceptive abilities, sometimes referred to as women’s intuition.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gender and Perception #1

I love studies about male-female differences. The conclusions often not only make sense based on life-experience, they provide underpinnings for observations about each gender. Some of these interesting differences were included in Allan and Barbara Pease’s book: The Definitive Book of Body Language. Here are a few examples.

1.      Who is more perceptive, males or females? Harvard University psychologists showed short films, with the sound turned off, of a man and woman communicating, and participants were asked to decode what was happening based on facial expressions. The research showed that women read the situation accurately 87 percent of the time, while the men scored only 42 percent accuracy. Female intuition is particularly evident in women who have raised children. For the first few years, the mother relies almost solely on the nonverbal channel to communicate with the child and this is why women are often more perceptive negotiators than men, because they practice reading signals early.

2.      How about evaluating behavior? Studies using Magnetic Resonance Imaging brain scans (MRI) showed that females have between fourteen and sixteen brain areas that help to evaluate others' behavior versus four to six areas in the male brain. This helps to explain how a woman who is attending a dinner party can usually quickly figure out the state of the relationships of other couples at the party.