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I write about the process of scientific discovery, peer review, funding for research and highlight selected new scientific articles in biomedical research and the social sciences.
When you get an infection, your immune system responds with an influx of inflammatory cells that target the underlying bacteria or viruses. These immune cells migrate from your blood into the infected tissue in order to release a cocktail of pro-inflammatory proteins and help eliminate the infectious threat. During this inflammatory response, the blood vessel barrier becomes “leaky.” This allows for an even more rapid influx of additional immune cells. Once the infection resolves, th........ Read more »
Gong, H., Rehman, J., Tang, H., Wary, K., Mittal, M., Chatturvedi, P., Zhao, Y., Komorova, Y., Vogel, S., & Malik, A. (2015) HIF2α signaling inhibits adherens junctional disruption in acute lung injury. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 125(2), 652-664. DOI: 10.1172/JCI77701
Daniella Kupor and her colleagues at Stanford University have recently published the paper "Anticipating Divine Protection? Reminders of God Can Increase Nonmoral Risk Taking" which takes a new look at the link between invoking the name of God and risky behaviors. The researchers hypothesized that reminders of God may have opposite effects on varying types of risk-taking behavior. For example, risk-taking behavior that is deemed ‘immoral' such as taking sexual risks or chea........ Read more »
Kupor DM, Laurin K, & Levav J. (2015) Anticipating Divine Protection? Reminders of God Can Increase Nonmoral Risk Taking. Psychological Science. PMID: 25717040
Does morality depend on the time of the day? The study "The Morning Morality Effect: The Influence of Time of Day on Unethical Behavior" published in October of 2013 by Maryam Kouchaki and Isaac Smith suggested that people are more honest in the mornings, and that their ability to resist the temptation of lying and cheating wears off as the day progresses. In a series of experiments, Kouchaki and Smith found that moral awareness and self-control in their study subjects decreased in the........ Read more »
Gunia, B., Barnes, C., & Sah, S. (2014) The Morality of Larks and Owls: Unethical Behavior Depends on Chronotype as Well as Time of Day. Psychological Science, 25(12), 2272-2274. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614541989
To celebrate Valentine's Day (as a geeky scientist), I decided to search the "Web of Science" database for published articles with the phrase "Valentine's Day" in the title.The article with the most citations was "Market-resistance and Valentine's Day events" published in the Journal of Business Research in 2009, by the authors Angeline Close and George Zinkhan. The title sounded rather interesting so I decided to read it. The authors reported the res........ Read more »
Have you ever wondered how the content of your dreams differs from that of your friends? How about the dreams of people raised in different countries and cultures? It is not always easy to compare dreams of distinct individuals because the content of dreams depends on our personal experiences. This is why dream researchers have developed standardized dream questionnaires in which common thematic elements are grouped together. These questionnaires can be translated into various languages and used........ Read more »
The 2010 floods were among the worst that Pakistan has experienced in recent decades. Sadly, the country is prone to recurrent flooding which means that in any given year, Pakistani farmers hope and pray that the floods will not be as bad as those in 2010. It would be natural to assume that recurring flood disasters force Pakistani farmers to give up farming and migrate to the cities in order to make ends meet. But a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change by Valerie Mueller ........ Read more »
Mueller V, Gray C, & Kosec K. (2014) Heat Stress Increases Long-term Human Migration in Rural Pakistan. Nature Climate Change, 182-185. PMID: 25132865
Paying bills, filling out forms, completing class assignments or submitting grant proposals – we all have the tendency to procrastinate. We may engage in trivial activities such as watching TV shows, playing video games or chatting for an hour and risk missing important deadlines by putting off tasks that are essential for our financial and professional security. Not all humans are equally prone to procrastination, and a recent study suggests that this may in part be due to the fact that t........ Read more »
Tu, Y., & Soman, D. (2014) The Categorization of Time and Its Impact on Task Initiation. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(3), 810-822. DOI: 10.1086/677840
Reading literary fiction can be highly pleasurable, but does it also make you a better person? Conventional wisdom and intuition lead us to believe that reading can indeed improve us. However, as the philosopher Emrys Westacott has recently pointed out in his essay for 3Quarksdaily, we may overestimate the capacity of literary fiction to foster moral improvement. A slew of scientific studies have taken on the task of studying the impact of literary fiction on our emotions and thoughts. Some of t........ Read more »
Johnson, D., Huffman, B., & Jasper, D. (2014) Changing Race Boundary Perception by Reading Narrative Fiction. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 36(1), 83-90. DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2013.856791
A study of the prevalence of mental illness published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in 2005 estimated that roughly half of all Americans will have been diagnosed with a mental illness by time they reach the age of 75. This estimate was based on the DSM-IV criteria for mental illness, but the newer DSM-V manual will be released in 2013 and is likely to further expand the diagnosis of mental illness. The DSM-IV criteria had made allowance for bereavement to avoid diagnosing people who were........ Read more »
Kyaga, S., Landén, M., Boman, M., Hultman, C., Långström, N., & Lichtenstein, P. (2013) Mental illness, suicide and creativity: 40-Year prospective total population study. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 47(1), 83-90. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.09.010
Two scientific papers that were published in the journal Nature in the year 2000 marked the beginning of engineering biological circuits in cells. The paper "Construction of a genetic toggle switch in Escherichia coli" by Timothy Gardner, Charles Cantor and James Collins created a genetic toggle switch by simultaneously introducing an artificial DNA plasmid into a bacterial cell. This DNA plasmid contained two promoters (DNA sequences which regulate the expression of genes) and two rep........ Read more »
Geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid ("Shared sorrow is half the sorrow") is a popular German proverb which refers to the importance of sharing bad news and troubling experiences with others. The therapeutic process of sharing takes on many different forms: we may take comfort in the fact that others have experienced similar forms of sorrow, we are often reassured by the empathy and encouragement we receive from friends, and even the mere process of narrating the details of what is troubling........ Read more »
High, A., Oeldorf-Hirsch, A., & Bellur, S. (2014) Misery rarely gets company: The influence of emotional bandwidth on supportive communication on Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 79-88. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.037
Beware of what you share. Employers now routinely utilize internet search engines or social network searches to obtain information about job applicants. A survey of 2,184 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted by the online employment website CareerBuilder.com revealed that 39% use social networking sites to research job candidates. Of the group who used social networks to evaluate job applicants, 43% found content on a social networking site that caused them to not hire a ca........ Read more »
DiLillo, D., & Gale, E. (2011) To Google or not to Google: Graduate students' use of the Internet to access personal information about clients. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 5(3), 160-166. DOI: 10.1037/a0024441
The recent study "The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults: The Synapse Project" published in the journal Psychological Science by the psychology researcher Denise Park and her colleagues at the University of Texas at Dallas is an example of an extremely well-designed study which attempts to tease out the benefits of participating in a structured activity versus receiving formal education and acquiring new skills. The researchers assigned subjects with a mean age ........ Read more »
Park DC, Lodi-Smith J, Drew L, Haber S, Hebrank A, Bischof GN, & Aamodt W. (2014) The impact of sustained engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the synapse project. Psychological science, 25(1), 103-12. PMID: 24214244
Temporal order can be assessed in a rather straightforward experimental manner. Research subjects can be provided sequential auditory clicks, one to each ear. If the clicks are one second apart, nearly all participants can correctly identify whether or not the click in the right ear came before the one in the left ear. It turns out that this holds true even if the clicks are only 100 milliseconds (0.1 seconds) apart. The threshold for being able to correctly assign a temporal order to such brief........ Read more »
von Steinbüchel N. (1998) Temporal ranges of central nervous processing: clinical evidence. Experimental brain research, 123(1-2), 220-33. PMID: 9835412
The recent study "Silent Listeners: The Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook" conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University monitored the public disclosure (information visible to all) and private disclosure (information visible to Facebook friends) of personal data by more than 5,000 Facebook users during the time period 2005-2011. ... Read more »
Fred Stutzman, Ralph Grossy, & Alessandro Acquistiz. (2012) Silent Listeners: The Evolution of Privacy and Disclosure on Facebook. Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality. info:/
Land grabbing refers to the large-scale acquisition of comparatively inexpensive agricultural land in foreign countries by foreign governments or corporations. In most cases, the acquired land is located in under-developed countries in Africa, Asia or South America, while the grabbers are investment funds based in Europe, North America and the Middle East. The acquisition can take the form of an outright purchase or a long-term-lease, ranging from 25 to 99 years, that gives the grabbing entity e........ Read more »
Research projects evolve in a fortuitous manner, often guided by a convergence of novel observations, intuition, helpful colleagues and unique personal circumstances. It is precisely this constellation that prompted two cardiologists to study the mitochondrial networks in lung cancer cells.... Read more »
Jalees Rehman, Hannah J. Zhang, Peter T. Toth, Yanmin Zhang, Glenn Marsboom, Zhigang Hong, Ravi Salgia, Aliya N. Husain, Christian Wietholt, & Stephen L. Archer. (2012) Inhibition of mitochondrial fission prevents cell cycle progression in lung cancer. FASEB Journal. DOI: 10.1096/fj.11-196543
When we observe an interaction between two other human beings (Person A and Person B), we sometimes draw conclusions about the personality traits or character of these two individuals. For example, if we see that Person A is being rude to Person B, we may be less likely to trust Person A, even though we are merely "third-party" evaluators. i.e. not directly involved in the interaction. Multiple studies with humans have already documented such third-party social evaluation, which can ev........ Read more »
Anderson, J., Kuroshima, H., Takimoto, A., & Fujita, K. (2013) Third-party social evaluation of humans by monkeys. Nature Communications, 1561. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2495
The concept “superiority illusion” refers to the fact that people tend to judge themselves as being superior to the average person when it comes to positive traits such as intelligence, desirability or other personality traits. This is mathematically not possible, because in a normally distributed population, most people cannot be above average. The “superiority illusion” belongs to a family of positive illusions, such as the “optimism bias”, which is characte........ Read more »
Yamada, M., Uddin, L., Takahashi, H., Kimura, Y., Takahata, K., Kousa, R., Ikoma, Y., Eguchi, Y., Takano, H., Ito, H.... (2013) Superiority illusion arises from resting-state brain networks modulated by dopamine. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1221681110
Whether we cruise the internet, turn on the TV or simply open up our email Inbox, we are bound to encounter advice regarding obesity and weight loss. The problem is that a lot of the circulated opinions about obesity and weight gain are only poorly supported by medical and scientific evidence. The recent paper “Myths, Presumptions, and Facts about Obesity” published in the New England Journal of Medicine on January 31, 2013 by Krista Casazza and colleagues investigates popular notion........ Read more »
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