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Notes: HealthNews RoundUp - 2nd Week of November, 2019

Girls’ Brain Math Center Equals Boys’



A just published study from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University disproves the urban myth that boys surpass girls in mastery of mathematics or math-based science.  The psychologists studied 104 children 3 to 8 years of age .


Using MRI, the researchers determined the subjects’ math brain function while observing a video about counting and addition.    The scans were compared with each other but also with those from adults who watched the same math videos.


The conclusions:  no girl-boy differences in brain function, development, or maturity while thinking about math principles. 


These results plus previous work showing gender-equal ability to use math should encourage girls as well as boys to seek careers in math and science.


Kersey, A.J., Csumitta, K.D. & Cantlon, J.F. Gender similarities in the brain during mathematics development. npj Sci. Learn. 4, 19 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41539-019-0057-xx


Math science #girls #MRI

Math, science, girls, MRI



Only Children More Frequent Unhealthy Eaters



Children without siblings are nearly 5 times more likely to demonstrate unhealthy eating patterns compared with those having brothers and sisters.  University of Oklahoma nutritionists reviewed food consumption diaries from 67 families to determine a Healthy Eating Index for each.


Healthy eating habits are not diminished by time away from home in daycare or pre-school.  Less nutritious eating occurs when mother herself suffers from weight problems and when the family spends added time snacking in front of the TV.


If you have an only child, be cautious about his or her diet.  Eliminate the junk food, fill the fridge with carrots, apples, and grapes, end reduce time eating in front of TV.


Chelsea L. Kracht, Susan B. Sisson, Emily Hill Guseman, Laura Hubbs-Tait, Sandra H. Arnold, Jennifer Graef, Allen Knehans. Family Eating Behavior and Child Eating Patterns Differences Between Children With and Without Siblings. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2019; 51 (10): 1188 DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2019.08.004


#Onlykids #healthyfood #overweight #obesity

Onlykids, healthyfood, overweight, obesity




Unpredictable Music Most Memorable



The most pleasurable, emotion-evoking music contains unpredictable yet somehow expected chords and riffs that trigger primitive pleasure centers in our brains.  This from a German study of over 1000 chords taken from 745 pop songs and presented to nearly 80 subjects.  


Each chord was computer rated for its uncertainty attributes and by the participants for its pleasurability.  Subjective pleasure rose with unpredictability, and functional MRI imaging confirmed that deviation from the expected proved most capable of triggering the brain’s pleasure, reward, and memory centers.


The investigators speculate that pleasurably-unpredictable may be a winning combination for all art forms.  In fact, we have known for a long time that “variety is the spice of life.”


Vincent K.M. Cheung, Peter M.C. Harrison, Lars Meyer, Marcus T. Pearce, John-Dylan Haynes, Stefan Koelsch. Uncertainty and Surprise Jointly Predict Musical Pleasure and Amygdala, Hippocampus, and Auditory Cortex Activity. Current Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.09.067


#Pleasure #music #chords #riffs #memorablesong 

Pleasure, music, chords, riffs, memorable song



Arctic VR Snuffs Out Burning Pain



Immersion in 360 virtual reality scenes of the frozen Arctic helps those exposed to painful stimuli cope with both the acute and continuing pain.  Surgical investigators from London’s Imperial College report these findings from a preliminary study of 15 participants.


Acute pain was produced by a small electric shock.  Continuing pain at the same site was triggered by capsaicin, the burning chemical in chill peppers.  Watching frozen ocean water and enormous icebergs suppressed both acute and chronic pain sensations.  Photos of the same scenes were ineffective.


Other experiments show that VR can successfully reduce dental pain.  These current experiments will be expanded in hopes of developing reliable, non-drug pain suppression techniques.


Sam W. Hughes, Hongyan Zhao, Edouard J. Auvinet, Paul H. Strutton. Attenuation of capsaicin-induced ongoing pain and secondary hyperalgesia during exposure to an immersive virtual reality environment. PAIN Reports, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000790


#Pain #virtualreality #VR #opioidepidemic

Pain, virtualreality, VR, opioidepidemic



Plants Don’t Improve Indoor Air



If you’ve been turning your home or apartment into a nursery in hopes of purifying the air you breathe, don’t bother.  Engineers from Philadelphia’s Drexel University critically reviewed the past 30 years’ literature on this topic.


It turns out that the very toxins that plants would be clearing from the air, so-called volatile organic compounds or VOCs, are cleared far more efficiently by natural air circulation through the home than by any resident plants.  The NASA studies that suggested a role for home greenery were conducted in sealed chambers with no ventilation.


So grow plants indoors to enhance your home’s beauty.  To keep the air clean, let fresh, outdoor air circulate freely.


Bryan E. Cummings & Michael S. Waring. Potted plants do not improve indoor air quality: a review and analysis of reported VOC removal efficiencies. Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, 2019 DOI: 10.1038/s41370-019-0175-9


#Plants #cleanair #VOC #airpollution #ventilation

Plants, cleanair, VOC, airpollution, ventilation



Physical Activity Guards Against Fractures



From the “use it or lose it department,” a University of Buffalo study credits physical activity with lowering the incidence of nasty hip and extremity fractures.  The investigators focused their interest on more than 77,000 post-menopausal women followed over a 14 year period.


Clocking at least 35 minutes a day of recreational and ordinary household movement triggers an 18% reduced risk of hip fracture.  The benefit increases with a greater intensity and duration of activity, but any and all activities put healthy stresses on your bones which in turn strengthens them.


Women and men, the young as well as our seasoned citizens do benefit….. so get moving and keep moving on a regular basis.


Michael J. LaMonte, Jean Wactawski-Wende, Joseph C. Larson, Xiaodan Mai, John A. Robbins, Meryl S. LeBoff, Zhao Chen, Rebecca D. Jackson, Andrea Z. LaCroix, Judith K. Ockene, Kathleen M. Hovey, Jane A. Cauley. Association of Physical Activity and Fracture Risk Among Postmenopausal Women. JAMA Network Open, 2019; 2 (10): e1914084 DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.14084


#Activity #fractures #hip #bones

Activity, fractures, hip, bones



Your Dislike of Veggies May Be Genetic



You know vegetables are healthy, but you avoid their bitter tastes like the plague.  A freshly minted study from the University of Kentucky explains that your extreme aversion may be due to you having two copies of the bitter taste gene.


The researchers studied the food preferences and genetics of 175 participants.  Those with two copies of the bitter taste gene were more than 2.5 times as likely to be in the group of vegetable haters.   Those with one copy of the bitter gene ate more veggies but not as many as those without a bitter gene.


If you find veggies bitter, experiment mixing them with foods you love.


#Vegetables #bitter #genetics

Vegetables, bitter, genetics



Open Monitoring Meditation Helps You Self-Correct



Just 20 minutes of open monitoring meditation can improve your ability to quickly catch errors while you can do something about them.  That’s true, even if you never meditated before.


Michigan State University psychologists report this finding after testing some 200 volunteers.  Half were taught an open meditation technique while the controls just rested quietly with closed eyes prior to a computer task.  The open monitoring meditation group detected their errors on that computer task 20% more effectively than controls.


Open monitoring meditation prescribes an unfocused, broad awareness of your mind’s internal dialog.  By encouraging expansive thinking, it feeds your creativity as well as self-editing error detection.  Get a meditation phone app and try it. 


Lin, Eckerle, Peng, Moser. On Variation in Mindfulness Training: A Multimodal Study of Brief Open Monitoring Meditation on Error Monitoring. Brain Sciences, 2019; 9 (9): 226 DOI: 10.3390/brainsci9090226


#Meditation #correction #creativity #openmonitoring

Meditation, correction, creativity, openmonitoring



Blood Relatives More Unhealthy Than Life Partners



Your parents, siblings, and others hanging on your family tree may be more important to your health than your spouse or significant other.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, think ahead!


UT Southwestern family medicine researchers studied some 2800 middle-aged adults over a 20 year period.  They tabulated the incidence of illness as a function of the participants’ various relationships.


Those experiencing more intra-family squabbles have significantly more illness.  Intimate partner relationships had no such effect.  On the other hand, supportive family relationships improve disease outcomes.


Holidays are the time to cement good family relationships or to initiate them.  Either way, your life may depend on it.  Think transplant.  


Sarah B. Woods, Jacob B. Priest, and Patricia N. E. Roberson. Family Versus Intimate Partners: Estimating WhoMatters More for Health in a 20-Year Longitudinal Study. Journal of Family Psychology, 2019 DOI: 10.1037/fam0000600


#Family #partner #illness

Family, partner, illness




Gamers Suffer Pro-athlete Level Stress



Competitive esport players face the same intense psychological pressure as professional athletes in other sports. Psychologists at Britain’s University of Chichester studied a group of elite gamers and uncovered some 51 stress factors that impact them.


The two most onerous are strategic communications with teammates and performances before a live audience.  In order to suppress fears about miscommunications, gamers either become aggressive with one another or avoid interchanges.  The eplayers mention no specific strategies for managing stage fright.


The investigators conclude that electronic gamers require not only psychological support when they falter due to the stress, but also the necessary mental and physical bulking up even before the play begins.


Matthew J. Smith, Phil D.J. Birch, Dave Bright. Identifying Stressors and Coping Strategies of Elite Esports Competitors. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 2019; 11 (2): 22 DOI: 10.4018/IJGCMS.2019040102


#Esports #gaming #stress #communication #stagefright

Esports, gaming, stress, communication, stagefright



More Of Us Can’t Sleep



Sleep problems affect as many as 70 million Americans.  The problem is worsening over the past 4 years as 5 million more of us generally considered to be healthy sleepers have a problem falling asleep and nearly 8 million more of us cannot remain asleep.


Investigators at Iowa State University studied sleep pattern data from about 165,000 subjects.  Though the results failed to definitely pinpoint a cause, they speculate that technology is playing a key role.  That includes smartphone use before bedtime and electronic notifications interrupting sleep. 


Sleep is critical for the daily rejuvenation of our bodies and their component cells.  Though technology interrupts it, newer wearables permit evaluation of sleep quality in order to effect improvement



Garrett C. Hisler, Diana Muranovic, Zlatan Krizan. Changes in sleep difficulties among the U.S. population from 2013 to 2017: results from the National Health Interview Survey. Sleep Health, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.sleh.2019.08.008


#insomnia #sleep #smartphones

insomnia, sleep, smartphones




Our Clothing Is Poisoning Marine Life And Us



Microplastics from yoga outfits, sweat-wicking suits, and fleece vests are turning up in Pacific Ocean oysters and clams.  Marine biologists from Portland State University surveyed some 300 oysters and clams from 15 sites along the Oregon coast.


Plastic material was found in nearly all of the sampled marine organisms with an average of 11 microplastics per oyster and 9 per clam.  Almost all plastics were microfibers likely from clothing as more of them were found in oysters during the spring than in the summer.


Microplastics are invading our world as plastic bags and bottles as well as synthetic fabrics break down.  We are literally poisoning ourselves and our children.  You know the solutions!



Britta R. Baechler, Elise F. Granek, Matthew V. Hunter, Kathleen E. Conn. Microplastic concentrations in two Oregon bivalve species: Spatial, temporal, and species variability. Limnology and Oceanography Letters, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/lol2.10124


#Plastics #pollution #clothing #oysters #clams

Plastics, pollution, clothing, oysters, clams




Reprise-Music Can Block Creativity



It’s generally thought that background music stirs creativity.  Not so says a study from several universities in the UK and Sweden just published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.


A total of 84 university students and staff were presented with tests of creative ability, so-called Compound Remote Associate Tasks or CRAT for short.  Subjects were exposed to instrumental music only, songs with completely unfamiliar foreign language lyrics, or hit songs with familiar lyrics.  The control sounds were library background buzz and absolute quiet.


The study results showed that the familiar songs with lyrics negatively impacted creativity the most followed by instrumentals and then foreign language songs.  Test performances were the same in absolute silence and in the low din of the library.


The researchers hypothesize that the changing state of sound is most responsible for reducing creativity as the music reduces the performance of verbal working memory.  I personally love listening to music while writing.  If you do too, we may both be blunting our creative energies.  Some sacrifices are worth making, but knowledge is power.



Emma Threadgold, John E. Marsh, Neil McLatchie, Linden J. Ball. Background music stints creativity: Evidence from compound remote associate tasks. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 2019; DOI: 10.1002/acp.3532


#creativity #distraction #insight #music #quiet

creativity, distraction, insight, music, quiet




Reprise-Which Exercise Helps You Live The Longest



You and I have talked many times about the fact that exercise, almost any exercise other than reaching for a donut, will help you live longer.  Now a study from Denmark published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings pinpoints just which forms of exercise will add extra years to your life.


The investigators reviewed data from more than 8500 participants in the Copenhagen City Heart Study.  Although 12% of that group were total couch potatoes, 75% of those remaining participated in at least one form of physical activity.


When the data was tallied, it turns out that playing tennis seems to add the most extra years to your life at nearly 10 years.  Following that we have badminton at 6 years, soccer at nearly 5 years, cycling at nearly 4 years, swimming, jogging, and calisthenics at 3 years.   Bringing up the rear was health club exercise at 1.5 years.  Remember that this study merely reports an association between longer life and different types of recreational activity.


It appears that social interaction as well as aerobic activity adds the most years.  Exercising with others may well be the most beneficial as it not only burns calories but it may curb stress.


#exercise #sports #longevity #tennis #badminton #soccer #cycling #swimming #jogging

exercise, sports, longevity, tennis, badminton, soccer, cycling, swimming, jogging



Reprise-How To Get Deep, Healthy Sleep



Deep sleep, the slow wave, non-REM variety, is the best sleep for literally cleansing your brain according to a new study from the University of Rochester.  The scientists studied the effects of deep sleep in a mouse model inducing that state with the unique combination of general anesthetics ketamine and xylazine.


The combination of deep slow wave sleep and the low level cardiovascular activity that accompanies it triggers the so-called glymphatic system, the brain’s unique plumbing apparatus that flushes waste from our brain cells.  This essential purging fails to occur during sleep deprivation and is also less likely to occur as we age when it becomes more difficult to achieve deep sleep.   


Other studies suggest that the onset of Alzheimer’s is associated with less deep sleep and this may be due to poor glymphatic system activity.


You can help yourself get deep sleep at any age with the following tips.  Before bedtime: no eating, caffeinated beverages, exercise, blue light exposure.  While you sleep: keep room cool @ 60-68 degF; keep your nose clear with saline mist; keep air humidified.  Always: maintaining a regular wake-sleep schedule.



University of Rochester Medical Center. "Not all sleep is equal when it comes to cleaning the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily #27 February 2019.


#deepsleep #nonREMsleep #slowwavesleep #braincleansing #sleepdeficit #glymphatic

deepsleep, nonREMsleep, slowwavesleep, braincleansing, sleepdeficit, glymphatic

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