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  • July 28, 2014
  • 07:55 PM
  • 7 views

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder & Eating Disorders: Is There a Link?

by Tetyana in Science of Eating Disorders


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, is a common childhood disorder. ADHD can often persist into adolescence and adulthood. The prevalence of ADHD is thought to be between 6-7% among children and adolescents and ~5% among adults (Willcutt, 2012).
Increasingly, evidence from multiple studies has pointed to comorbidity between ADHD and eating disorders (EDs). For example, one study found that young females with ADHD were 5.6 times more likely to develop clinical (i.e., diagnosable according to DSM-5) or subthreshold (i.e., sub-clinical) bulimia nervosa (BN) (Biederman et al., 2007). Another study found that found that 21% of female inpatients at an ED unit had six or more ADHD symptoms (Yates et al., 2009).
However, most previous studies are limited by the fact that they assessed comorbidity between ADHD and EDs among patients. This limits our ability to generalize these findings to community samples, where many may experience symptoms of the disorders at subthreshold levels. Moreover, most studies focused on bingeing/purging behaviours and did not investigate differences between ADHD subtypes.
In the current study, Jennifer Bleck …

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... Read more »

  • July 28, 2014
  • 03:10 PM
  • 15 views

This Month In Blastocystis Research (JUL 2014)

by Christen Rune Stensvold in Blastocystis Parasite Blog

A new study from Colombia sees Blastocystis as a quasi-ubiquitous organism.... Read more »

  • July 28, 2014
  • 02:44 PM
  • 17 views

Watch ALL the neurons in a brain: Ahrens and Freeman continue their reign of terror

by neuroecology in Neuroecology

Okay, not quite all of them. But it looks like Misha Ahrens and Jeremy Freeman are going to continue their reign of terror, imaging the whole zebrafish brain as if it’s no big deal. Yeah they’ve got almost every neuron of a vertebrate, so what? Besides figuring out that not shooting light at the eyes might […]... Read more »

Freeman, J., Vladimirov, N., Kawashima, T., Mu, Y., Sofroniew, N., Bennett, D., Rosen, J., Yang, C., Looger, L., & Ahrens, M. (2014) Mapping brain activity at scale with cluster computing. Nature Methods. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3041  

Vladimirov, N., Mu, Y., Kawashima, T., Bennett, D., Yang, C., Looger, L., Keller, P., Freeman, J., & Ahrens, M. (2014) Light-sheet functional imaging in fictively behaving zebrafish. Nature Methods. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3040  

  • July 28, 2014
  • 01:13 PM
  • 22 views

A New Hepatitis C Treatment offers Hope

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Well this might seem weird, but today is world hepatitis day. I guess I should qualify weird with the fact that it’s only weird because no one really knows. What […]... Read more »

  • July 28, 2014
  • 09:14 AM
  • 25 views

Glasses-Free Computers

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

Looking at computers with eyeglasses strains your eyes, so scientists are making computers that help your eyes out.... Read more »

Huang, F., Wetzstein, G., Barsky, B., & Raskar, R. (2014) Eyeglasses-free display. ACM Transactions on Graphics, 33(4), 1-12. DOI: 10.1145/2601097.2601122  

  • July 28, 2014
  • 09:05 AM
  • 39 views

The mistakes that lead therapists to infer psychotherapy was effective, when it wasn't

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

How well can psychotherapists and their clients judge from personal experience whether therapy has been effective? Not well at all, according to a paper by Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues. The fear is that this can lead to the continued practice of ineffective, or even harmful, treatments.The authors point out that, like the rest of us, clinicians are subject to four main biases that skew their ability to infer the effectiveness of their psychotherapeutic treatments. This includes the mistaken belief that we see the world precisely as it is (naive realism), and our tendency to pursue evidence that backs our initial beliefs (the confirmation bias). The other two are illusory control and illusory correlations - thinking we have more control over events than we do, and assuming the factors we're focused on are causally responsible for observed changes.These features of human thought lead to several specific mistakes that psychotherapists and others commit when they make claims about the effectiveness of psychological therapies. Lilienfeld's team call these mistakes "causes of spurious therapeutic effectiveness" or CSTEs for short. The authors have created a taxonomy of 26 CSTEs arranged into three categories.The first category includes 15 mistakes that lead to the perception that a client has improved, when in fact he or she has not. These include palliative benefits (when the client feels better about their symptoms without actually showing any tangible improvement); confusing insight with improvement (when the client better understands their problems, but does not actually show recovery); and the therapist's office error (confusing a client's presentation in-session with their behaviour in everyday life).The second category consists of errors that lead therapists and their clients to infer that symptom improvements were due to the therapy, and not some other factor, such as natural recovery that would have occurred anyway. Among these eight mistakes are a failure to recognise that many disorders are cyclical (periods of recovery interspersed with phases of more intense symptoms); ignoring the influence of events occurring outside of therapy, such as an improved relationship or job situation; and the influence of maturation (disorders seen in children and teens can fade as they develop).The third and final category of errors are those that lead to the assumption that improvements are causes by unique features of a therapy, rather than factors that are common to all therapies. Examples here include not recognising placebo effects (improvements stemming from expectations) and novelty effects (improvements due to initial enthusiasm).To counter the many CSTEs, Lilienfeld's group argue we need to deploy research methods including using well-validated outcome measures, taking pre-treatment measures, blinding observers to treatment condition, conducting repeated measurements (thus reducing the biasing impact of irregular everyday life events), and using control groups that are subjected to therapeutic effects common to all therapies, but not those unique to the treatment approach under scrutiny. "CSTEs underscore the pressing need to inculcate humility in clinicians, researchers, and students," conclude Lilienfeld and his colleagues. "We are all prone to neglecting CSTEs, not because of a lack of intelligence but because of inherent limitations in human information processing. As a consequence, all mental health professionals and consumers should be sceptical of confident proclamations of treatment breakthroughs in the absence of rigorous outcome data."_________________________________ Lilienfeld, S., Ritschel, L., Lynn, S., Cautin, R., & Latzman, R. (2014). Why Ineffective Psychotherapies Appear to Work: A Taxonomy of Causes of Spurious Therapeutic Effectiveness Perspectives on Psychological Science, 9 (4), 355-387 DOI: 10.1177/1745691614535216 --further reading--When therapy causes harmPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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  • July 28, 2014
  • 07:45 AM
  • 29 views

Plastic bags responsible for outrageous lack of cute pink piglets

by Stephanie Swift in mmmbitesizescience

Most of us now subscribe to the idea that plastic bags are bad for the environment. Hence, droves of people turn up at their local supermarket with a sturdy jute bag in tow. Now, there’s evidence that the items that … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • July 28, 2014
  • 06:56 AM
  • 18 views

Model Predicts Carbon Components’ Performance as Electrodes

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Rice University have created a theoretical model that predicts how carbon components will perform as anodes in lithium-ion batteries.... Read more »

  • July 28, 2014
  • 04:24 AM
  • 44 views

Prenatal and neonatal blood mercury levels and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Acknowledging that some topics have the ability to furrow brows when it comes to autism research, mercury and autism is becoming something of a frequent talking point on this blog as a function of a whole slew of articles appearing in the peer-reviewed domain. If I were to [very tentatively] summarise the collected literature so far, it would be to say something like:Mosaic of mercury @ Wikipedia (i) there is quite a bit more research to be done on some sources of mercury being 'linked' to cases of autism i.e. air pollution, fish consumption (see here),and(ii) the body burden of mercury for some on the autism spectrum is elevated (see here) compared to other groups and potentially linked to "a decreased ability to excrete mercury due to a combination of lowered reduced glutathione, emergence of oxidative stress, and excessive use of oral antibiotics" according to the review by Francesca Gorini and colleagues [1] (open-access).I know some people may not like hearing that summary but that's my interpretation of the various reviews and meta-analyses conducted so far. I should add that I'm not though passing any specific comment on whether mercury 'causes' autism bearing in mind what we know about the developmental consequences of exposure.The paper by Vincent Yau and colleagues [2] looking at maternal serum and infant newborn bloodspot levels of mercury adds to that literature with their conclusion: "levels of total mercury in serum collected from mothers during mid-pregnancy and from newborn bloodspots were not significantly associated with risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder]". I believe we had seen this data presented before at the 2011 IMFAR conference too (see here).A few details first:Based on data obtained from the EMA (Early Markers of Autism) study, a cohort "identified from the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS)" records, mid-pregnancy maternal serum samples and the wonderful resource that is the neonatal bloodspots related to some 84 children diagnosed with an ASD were analysed for total mercury content (inorganic and organic mercury). Blinded results were compared with 159 population controls (asymptomatic) and 49 children diagnosed with a learning (intellectual) disability or developmental delay.ICP mass spectrometry was the name of the analytical game, which as I've talked about before, is one of the methods of choice when it comes to the analysis of the metallome. Archived blood spot samples were subject to laser ablation as a function of their mounting. Results: "Maternal serum and infant blood mercury levels were significantly correlated among all study groups". In other words, maternal mercury burden seemed to be associated with neonatal offspring burden (albeit with a correlation coefficient ~0.4 which is OK but not exactly great).Further: "Results for mercury levels in newborn blood samples were similar" across the groups. Ergo, at birth, levels of total mercury from neonatal bloodspots "were not significantly associated with risk of ASD". That's not to say that there weren't some differences in average levels of blood mercury levels across the groups, just that such differences were not deemed to elevate the risk of ASD overall.Like quite a lot of the science in this area, there are several ways you could interpret these results. You could, for example say that the maternal burden of mercury during pregnancy was not associated with offspring risk of autism. You could also say that 'at or shortly after birth' (remember those words), blood mercury levels do not seem to correlate with the risk of autism. Therefore mercury is not a factor in relation to autism as per other results in this area [3]. You could say those things, as you might for several other variables supposedly related to autism... vitamin D for example? (see here and then see here).But you might also consider the bank of research which has reported elevated levels of mercury in various biofluids and tissues particularly focused on slightly older infants and children with autism as illustrative of something potentially important: increasing exposure to mercury with age. Take for example the paper by Majewska and colleagues [4] and their findings reporting: "Autistic children significantly differed from healthy peers in the concentrations of mercury in hair: younger autistics had lower levels, while older - higher levels than their respective controls". The results from Hertz-Picciotto and colleagues [4] (open-access here) also implied that behaviour might play a role in blood mercury levels: "Interestingly, although few children had Hg amalgams, those who did and who also either chewed gum or had bruxism appeared to have experienced sufficient release of inorganic Hg to be measurable in blood". I say this noting that not every child with autism has mercury amalgams, as neither do they all partake in teeth grinding.The Yau results make an important contribution to the issue of mercury and autism in terms of maternal contribution and mercury load at birth. As part of some further investigations, and bearing in mind that participants in the EMA initiative might also be involved in other State initiatives (beincharge!), I would like to see further follow-up of participants and if and how their mercury load might have changed as they matured. Analysis of other parameters mentioned in that Gorini review paper - such as glutathione measures for example - might also offer some important accompanying data on whether excretion factors are part of the issue here and what might be done to help relieve any excess burden of the troublesome heavy metal that is mercury. Oh, and given that genetic factors might also play some role in mercury accumulation as per the findings by Llop and colleagues [5] (open-access), there may also be more research to do here too...----------[1] Gorini F. et al. The Role of Heavy Metal Pollution in Neurobehavioral Disorders: a Focus on Autism. Review Journal of Autism... Read more »

Yau VM, Green PG, Alaimo CP, Yoshida CK, Lutsky M, Windham GC, Delorenze G, Kharrazi M, Grether JK, & Croen LA. (2014) Prenatal and neonatal peripheral blood mercury levels and autism spectrum disorders. Environmental research, 294-303. PMID: 24981828  

  • July 27, 2014
  • 02:17 PM
  • 50 views

Holy Grail of Battery Design: A lithium anode

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Technology has been racing forward at an ever increasing rate. Unfortunately, anyone who owns a smartphone will tell you that the battery life doesn’t match the advancements. That is probably […]... Read more »

  • July 26, 2014
  • 01:18 PM
  • 93 views

Save the Neurons: Fighting the Effects of Parkinsons

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Possibly one of the most famous cases of parkinson’s is Michael J. Fox. More than just the “shakes” parkinson’s can cause a whole host of other problems mentally and physically […]... Read more »

  • July 26, 2014
  • 05:59 AM
  • 83 views

Temperatures make our global warming opinions change like the weather

by Andy Extance in Simple Climate

Our experience of current warmth can override our scientific knowledge in driving beliefs about climate change, which is part of the reason we struggle to take the resulting risks seriously, underlines Columbia University’s Elke Weber. ... Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 05:39 PM
  • 127 views

Small Things, Big Problem: Microplastics Uptake in Shore Crabs

by Melissa Chernick in Science Storiented

Lately I've been gearing up for some nano-particle research, and so I've been doing a lot of reading about very small things. While perusing the literature, I came across a paper published online in Environmental Science and Technology that takes a look at microplastics.Let’s start with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a very good example of this type of marine pollution. This huge collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean is created by an ocean gyre, a stable circular ocean current that draws in debris where it is trapped and builds up. The collected debris is our litter – plastics and other material that are not biodegradable. They can’t escape the gyre, they just collect. And as they sit out there swirling around, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics.Microplastics are defined as those plastic particles less than 5 mm in length, and these small particles are a huge marine pollution problem. They are classified into two groups: (1) primary microplastics that are created at the microscale for use in products like cosmetics and drugs and (2) secondary microplastics that are products of the breakdown of larger items. As a whole, they are persistent and widespread – we’re talking worldwide, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is just the most well-known aggregation. These microplastics are very abundant, we’re talking 1,000-100,000 particles per cubic meter of seawater! And there is growing evidence of the danger these tiny materials are having on marine life, everything from turtles to sea birds to fish and even zooplankton.A new study by Watts et al. takes look at the uptake of these microplastics in the shore crab (Carcinus maenas). Previous studies have shown that an important prey species of the shore crab, the common mussel (Mytilus edulis), accumulates microplastics as it filters the water for food (“ventilation”). In laboratory conditions, the direct transfer of microplastics from mussels to crabs has been shown, but then again, it has also been shown that crabs uptake microplastics as they pull water through their gills. So what exactly is going on here? How are these crabs exposed and are they able to clear the microplastics from their bodies?This is one of those studies where I just love to describe the methods. The first thing the researchers had to do was to assess the ability of the crabs to uptake microplastics (in the form of 8-10 um polystyrene microspheres) through their gills. To do this, they fitted the crabs with masks designed to allow measurements of ventilation. Yep, they put little masks on crabs. Picture that. I love science. Next they assessed the ability of the crab to take up microspheres in their food by exposing mussels and then turning them into “jellified mussel homogenate” to then feed to the crabs. I wonder which undergrad had the lovely job of making gelatin mussel popsicles? To see if the microplastcs were cleared, they let the crabs sit in their tanks and tested the abundance of microspheres in the water during water changes every 2 days for 22 days, sampling periodically. During each stage of the experiment, they measured the abundance of microspheres in the gut and gill tissues, fecal material, and hemolymph (like blood). Using fluorescent microscopy and Coherent Raman scattering microscopy (CRS; a multiphoton microscopy that produces label-free contrast of both the target sample and the surrounding biological matrix), they were able to look at the location of the microplastics within the tissues.The researchers found that the masked crabs took up 31,000-62,000 microspheres (0.39-7.7% of the initial exposure concentration) into their gills after only 16 hours. But this uptake was not even across the gills, with greater uptake in the posterior gills. The crabs where able to expel some of the spheres, but slowly, still expiring microspheres 21 days after being exposed. Imaging the gills showed the microspheres to be associated with the gill epidermis. The feeding experiment showed all crabs to have microspheres in their foregut and later in their fecal material. The residence time of these microspheres was short, but still took longer to excrete than regular food waste, up to 14 days. Microscopy showed microspheres associated with the internal setae of the foregut lining. But, neither the ventilation experiment nor the feeding experiment showed any microspheres in the hemolymph.Back to the question of what’s going on here? The shore crabs did take up microplastics in both types of exposure, but residence time is the key. They were able to clear the microplastics they got through dietary means, but they were still trying to clear microplastics they took up during ventilation almost a month later. The authors constructed a model to explain the mechanism of the movement of the microplastics. They found that the crabs tended to exhibit an asymmetry in microplastic uptake in the gills, which they attributed to the pumping mechanism of the scaphognathite being more dominant on one side of the gill chamber. Also, the posterior gills have a larger surface area than the anterior gills so they are more likely to take up microplastics into their lamellae. The crabs were unable to dislodge the tiny particles by normal gill cleaning actions. It is interesting that no microspheres were found in the hemolymph at any of the sampling points in either experiment. That suggests that there is no movement of the particles. It is likely that the particle size they used (10 um) was a little bit too large as it has been shown that sizes of 0.5 um are able to translocate in these crabs. This idea of particle size is something I’ve been seeing with increasing frequency within the nano-particle literature, along with polymer type, shape, and coatings. To that I would add that species is probably also in the mix as gills in crabs and fish are structured differently, and nano-particles have been shown to move in to organs like the liver in fish.Studies like this are interesting because they show how very small things can become a very large problem affecting multiple tissues of the same organism up to multiple levels of a trophic cascade. I mean, think about it, even we humans could be affected. After all, we consume a lot of crab. How many microplastics are you ingesting when you stop at the crab shack for a quick lunch?Watts AJ, Lewis C, Goodhead RM, Beckett SJ, Moger J, Tyler CR, & Galloway TS (2014). Uptake and Retention of Microplastics by the Shore Crab Carcinus maenas. Environmental science & technology PMID: 24972075I know I used some technical terms, if you need some help with crustacean anatomy check out Invertebrate Anatomy OnLine.(image via UGA Evolution 3000H)... Read more »

Watts AJ, Lewis C, Goodhead RM, Beckett SJ, Moger J, Tyler CR, & Galloway TS. (2014) Uptake and Retention of Microplastics by the Shore Crab Carcinus maenas. Environmental science . PMID: 24972075  

  • July 25, 2014
  • 01:47 PM
  • 119 views

Fighting the Obesity Epidemic with X-box [No, not that one]

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Despite all the efforts, people are losing the war on obesity. There is probably a number of factors involved, genetics, underlying medical problems, most of all diet, but in any […]... Read more »

Williams KW, Liu T, Kong X, Fukuda M, Deng Y, Berglund ED, Deng Z, Gao Y, Liu T, Sohn JW.... (2014) Xbp1s in Pomc Neurons Connects ER Stress with Energy Balance and Glucose Homeostasis. Cell metabolism. PMID: 25017942  

  • July 25, 2014
  • 12:00 PM
  • 125 views

The Friday Five 07/25/14

by Bill Sullivan in The 'Scope

Five of the coolest news stories from the past week... Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 11:12 AM
  • 95 views

Spotted at last: “Homo economicus”?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Are we selfish? Economists like to say that, to a first approximation, we are. In other words, that we tend to seek to maximize our own rewards, in a more or less rational manner. The trouble is that this theory (at least, a straightforward interpretation of it) doesn’t describe how people behave in many situations. […]The post Spotted at last: “Homo economicus”? appeared first on Neuroskeptic.... Read more »

Yamagishi T, Li Y, Takagishi H, Matsumoto Y, & Kiyonari T. (2014) In Search of Homo economicus. Psychological science. PMID: 25037961  

  • July 25, 2014
  • 11:02 AM
  • 90 views

Risk Factors For Sleep Disturbance After Traumatic Brain Injury

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Sleep disturbance following traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common clinical challenge.Hypersomnia and insomnia can both been seen in the TBI population.The risk factors related to TBI-related sleep disturbance are not well known. Identification of risk factors can provide insight into clinical assessment and management.Lijun Hou and colleagues recently examined risk factors related to subjective sleep complaints in a series of 98 TBI subjects.The study sample include adults admitted to a one of two Chinese hospitals following a initial episode of TBI. For enrollment, subjects were required to have evidence of a brain imaging abnormality on CT after their TBI.Subjects were interviewed by phone one to four years following TBI and administered three questionnaires including:Pittsburgh Sleep Quality IndexEpworth Sleepiness ScaleHospital Anxiety and Depression Scale The key findings from this study included:Severity of TBI ratings for the sample were mild (70%), moderate (15%) and severe (15%)Prevalence of sleep disturbance was 38% in the sample overallSleep disturbance rates increased with increasing TBI severity with rates of 30% in the mild TBI group, 53% in the moderate TBI group and 57% in the severe TBI groupThe predominant risk factor for hypersomnia was severity of TBI. Those with severe TBI were most likely to have hypersomniaRisk factors for insomnia included post-TBI headache and dizziness complaints and post-TBI anxiety and depression symptomsThis study was unable to identify specific brain CT findings as risk factors for later sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbance rates were similar for subjects with frontal lobe injury and those with injury to other brain regions. The authors conclude sleep disturbance is a common complication of TBI and often is not diagnosed and not treated.A weakness of this study is the relatively small sample size and the use of self-report measures rather than sleep laboratory confirmed sleep disturbance.Insomnia after TBI may be part of a broader presentation of an anxiety disorder or mood disorder. Clinicians should screen TBI patients for presence of psychiatric disorders when a insomnia is present.Hypersomnia following severe TBI may contribute to significant morbidity. Pharmacological interventions for hypersomnia such as modafanil are available and may be part of a multidisciplinary treatment program.Readers with more interest in this research can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the reference below.Photo of a tricolor heron is from the author's files.Follow the author on Twitter at WRY999.Hou L, Han X, Sheng P, Tong W, Li Z, Xu D, Yu M, Huang L, Zhao Z, Lu Y, & Dong Y (2013). Risk factors associated with sleep disturbance following traumatic brain injury: clinical findings and questionnaire based study. PloS one, 8 (10) PMID: 24098425... Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 10:23 AM
  • 85 views

How our judgments about criminals are swayed by disgust, biological explanations and animalistic descriptions

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We expect of our jurors and judges calm, reasoned evaluation of the evidence. Of course we know the reality is rather different - prejudice and emotional reactions will always play their part. Now two new studies add insight into the ways people's legal judgements depart from cool objectivity.Beatrice Capestany and Lasana Harris focused on two main factors - the disgust level of a crime, and whether or not the perpetrators' personality was described in biological terms. Seventeen participants were presented with pairs of crime vignettes, with each crime in a pair matched for severity in terms of US Federal sentencing guidelines, but one crime high in disgust value, the other low. For example, one vignette described a man pulling a gun on a love rival, taking aim and missing. The matching vignette described a man who stabbed his boss with scissors, once in the neck and once in the back, causing serious blood loss.Each vignette concluded with a personality description that was either trait-based (e.g. Gerald has an impulsive personality) or biological (e.g. Terry has a gene mutation that makes him impulsive). These contrasting personality descriptions were always irrelevant to the crime - so, in the aforementioned impulsivity examples, the crime in question was pre-meditated.Capestany and Harris found that participants recommended more serious punishments for crimes that were more disgusting. This sounds like emotion clouding judgment. But in a sense, greater disgust made participants more reliable decision makers because when disgust levels were high, the participants' recommendations more closely matched Federal sentencing guidelines. Perhaps, the researchers surmised, this is because the US legal system is rooted in historical moral judgments that were guided by disgust reactions.Capestany and Harris also scanned the brains of their participants. This revealed greater engagement of brain regions involved in logical reasoning when participants were presented with crimes higher in disgust. In other words, a stronger emotional reaction to the crime actually led to greater activation of neural areas involved in logic.When it came to the influence of the personality descriptions, participants judged criminals to be less culpable when they'd been described in biological terms, presumably because biological factors are perceived as deterministic and reduce the sense that the criminal has control over their behaviour. The brain scans showed greater recruitment of logical reasoning centres when vignettes included trait (non-biological) descriptions of the criminal's personality, so perhaps participants jumped to conclusions when given biological information."Biological personality descriptions dehumanise the person, reducing them to a mechanistic, biological organism and not a human being whose mental states are highly unique and salient during responsibility judgments," the researchers said.Another way that a suspect can be dehumanised is by describing their actions in animalistic terms. This is what happened in the the UK with the real life case of Raoul Moat in 2010, after he shot three people in England. He was described in the media as a "brute" and like "an animal in the wild" when he went on the run.A team led by Eduardo Vasquez has investigated people's sentencing decisions when criminal acts are described in animalistic terms (e.g. "... the perpetrator slunk onto the victim's premises ... He roared at the victim before pounding him with his fists") versus in non-animalistic terms, but with wording matched for seriousness (e.g. "the perpetrator stole onto the victim's premises ... He shouted at the victim before punching him with his fists").Seventy-six participants recommended more serious sentences (one to two years extra duration) for criminals whose behaviour was described in animalistic terms. A follow-up study suggested this was because criminals described in animalistic terms were predicted to be more likely to re-offend.Vasquez and his colleagues said their results "add to a growing body of literature examining the consequences of dehumanisation". They admitted that the implications for actual trials are unclear - after all, the descriptions they used are rarely heard in court. Nonetheless, they said there could be real-life relevance: "Media reports influence legal proceedings and most people rely on the media for information about criminal justice... People exposed to these [animalistic] descriptions may vote for harsher policies to address crime."_________________________________ Capestany, B., & Harris, L. (2014). Disgust and biological descriptions bias logical reasoning during legal decision-making Social Neuroscience, 9 (3), 265-277 DOI: 10.1080/17470919.2014.892531Vasquez, E., Loughnan, S., Gootjes-Dreesbach, E., & Weger, U. (2014). The animal in you: Animalistic descriptions of a violent crim... Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 10:07 AM
  • 98 views

BHD causes pneumothoraces during childhood in rare cases

by Lizzie Perdeaux in BHD Research Blog

Birt-Hogg-Dubé Syndrome is caused by inactivating mutations in the FLCN gene, characterised by skin lesions on the face and upper body; lung cysts and predisposition to pneumothorax; and kidney cancer. Although symptoms typically appear in the third and fourth decade … Continue reading →... Read more »

Johannesma PC, van den Borne BE, Gille JJ, Nagelkerke AF, van Waesberghe JT, Paul MA, van Moorselaar RJ, Menko FH, & Postmus PE. (2014) Spontaneous pneumothorax as indicator for Birt-Hogg-Dubé syndrome in paediatric patients. BMC pediatrics, 171. PMID: 24994497  

  • July 25, 2014
  • 09:45 AM
  • 110 views

Some Bees Are Busier Than Others

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It may be time to leave “busy as a bee” with other dubious animal similes like “happy as a clam” and “drunk as a skunk.” That’s because some bees, it turns out, aren’t all that busy. A small group of hive members do the bulk of the foraging, while their sisters relax at home. But […]The post Some Bees Are Busier Than Others appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

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