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  • February 8, 2016
  • 01:59 PM
  • 12 views

We can build it better: Synthetic biopathway turns agriculture waste into ‘green’ products

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have engineered a new synthetic biopathway that can more efficiently and cost-effectively turn agricultural waste, like corn stover and orange peels, into a variety of useful products ranging from spandex to chicken feed.

... Read more »

Tai, Y., Xiong, M., Jambunathan, P., Wang, J., Wang, J., Stapleton, C., & Zhang, K. (2016) Engineering nonphosphorylative metabolism to generate lignocellulose-derived products. Nature Chemical Biology. DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2020  

  • February 8, 2016
  • 12:41 PM
  • 14 views

Why Ask for Directions? (A Guest Post)

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

by Anna Schneider For the iconic monarch butterfly, the shorter days in fall mean it’s time to pack up and head south to a warmer climate! Just like clockwork, the Eastern population of monarch butterflies makes a 2000 mile journey to their winter paradise roosts in central Mexico. The journey in itself is one of the greatest migrations among all animals. But here’s the catch: none of these butterflies has made this trip before. Several generations of monarchs have come and gone over the course of a summer, but the generation born in late August and early September are genetically prepared for months of survival without feeding or breeding. But their predecessors didn’t exactly leave them with a map. How do they know where to go? Do they have a map and compass inside their heads? The answer: yes! Well, sort of… Think about this: if you were lost in the woods and needed to find south, what would you do? Here’s a hint: look up! The sun can be a great resource when you’re lost, and I’m not talking about just asking it for directions. As the Earth rotates on its axis throughout the day, the sun appears to travel overhead. By knowing approximately what time of day it is, you can determine the cardinal directions. Monarchs use specialized cells or organs called photoreceptors that respond to light to establish the position of the sun.Representation of time compensated sun compass orientation used by monarchs; Image created by Anna Schneider.Until recently, it was thought that monarchs simply used the photoreceptors on the top portion of their compound eyes, called the dorsal rim. Past studies have shown that the signals are passed from the photoreceptors on to the “sun compass” region in their brains and the butterflies change direction based on that information. Like most animals, it was assumed that their internal clock was located inside their brains. However, recent research has demonstrated that individuals whose antennae have been painted or removed altogether become disoriented when placed in flight simulators. These monarchs do not adjust for the time of day when trying to fly south. When those same antennae that were removed were placed in a petri dish, they continued to respond to light and showed signs that they continued the pattern of time. This indicates that antennae and the brain are both needed for the monarchs to correctly determine their direction.Diagram of features on the head of a monarch butterfly; Image created by Anna Schneider.Now, estimating which way is South might be fine and dandy on a bright sunny day, but what happens when it’s cloudy? Not a problem for these super-insects! In another recent study, researchers tethered monarchs to flight simulators and altered the magnetic field conditions to see what would happen. When the magnetic field was reversed so magnetic North was in the opposite direction, the butterflies altered their bearings and flew exactly opposite as well. This suggests that monarchs could have some sort of way to detect the earth’s magnetic field, called magnetoreception, which could enhance the photoreception capabilities. Many of the mechanisms behind the migration of these incredible creatures are yet to be discovered, but much progress has been made in the past decade. So next time you see a monarch butterfly, take a second look. There is more than meets the eye.Sources: Gegear, R., Foley, L., Casselman, A., & Reppert, S. (2010). Animal cryptochromes mediate magnetoreception by an unconventional photochemical mechanism Nature, 463 (7282), 804-807 DOI: 10.1038/nature08719 Guerra, P., Gegear, R., & Reppert, S. (2014). A magnetic compass aids monarch butterfly migration Nature Communications, 5 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5164 Merlin, C., Gegear, R., & Reppert, S. (2009). Antennal Circadian Clocks Coordinate Sun Compass Orientation in Migratory Monarch Butterflies Science, 325 (5948), 1700-1704 DOI: 10.1126/science.1176221 Steven M. Reppert. The Reppert Lab: Migration. University of Massachusetts Medical School: Department of Neurobiology. ... Read more »

  • February 8, 2016
  • 08:00 AM
  • 17 views

Rare Variant Studies of Common Disease

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

Not so long ago, there was a hope in the research community that common genetic variation, i.e. variants present at minor allele frequencies >5% in human populations, might explain most or all of the heritability of common complex disease. That would have been convenient, because such variants can be genotyped with precise, inexpensive, high-density SNP […]... Read more »

  • February 8, 2016
  • 07:26 AM
  • 20 views

How the home crowd affects football referees' decisions

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

One of the most thorough investigations into referee bias has found that they tend to award harsher foul punishments to the away team. The new results, published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, suggest that experienced referees are just as prone to this bias as their less experienced colleagues.Andrés Picazo-Tadeo and his team analysed data from 2,651 matches played in the First Division of La Liga, the Spanish Football League between the 2002/3 and 2009/10 seasons, inclusive. Unlike previous research, they were careful to consider the referees' foul decisions separately from the awarding of penalty cards (given as punishment for serious fouls). It's been shown before that referees tend to award more free kicks and cards in favour of the home team, but this is not strong evidence for a home team bias because it's possible that away teams simply tend to commit more fouls. The new research specifically looks not just at the distribution of referees' foul decisions between home and away teams, but it also examines separately how harshly referees punish any fouls.In fact, the research uncovered no difference in the number of fouls that referees attributed to home and away teams. But after a foul, referees tended to punish away teams more harshly with more yellow and red cards, and this was especially the case when the home crowd was larger. The presence of a running track between the pitch and the crowd made no difference, and as mentioned, neither did referee experience. The basic result complements a recent lab study that also found that simulated crowd noise influenced referees to punish fouls more severely.Picazo-Tadeo and his colleagues speculate that perhaps referees' initial foul decisions are made relatively automatically, in the heat of unfolding play, thus making them immune to social pressure from the home crowd. In contrast, after play has halted, the referee has time to decide on the severity of the infringement and here the noise of the crowd may sway their thinking – indeed, they may even, without realising they are doing it, use the noise of the crowd as a cue for the seriousness of the foul. This would inevitably bias their decisions against the away team because of the noisy protests of the larger home crowd whenever one of their players was the victim of a foul.An important caveat is that although the study took account of the number of fouls made by each team, the researchers don't have any objective measure (beyond the referees' card decisions) of the actual seriousness of the fouls committed. It's possible that away teams tend to commit more serious fouls than home teams, which if true would undermine the results.Notwithstanding this possibility, the researchers said their results suggest that local supporters can influence referee decisions after a foul has been called. "One recommendation for supporters is that they should exert more social pressure in the moments immediately after a referee indicates that the away team has committed a foul," they said. Meanwhile, they recommended that referee training incorporate lessons on how to ignore irrelevant cues, such as crowd noise._________________________________ Picazo-Tadeo, A., González-Gómez, F., & Guardiola, J. (2016). Does the crowd matter in refereeing decisions? Evidence from Spanish soccer International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-13 DOI: 10.1080/1612197X.2015.1126852 --further reading--Football fouls more likely to be given when play heads leftRace and foul judgments in football - it's not black and whitePost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!

... Read more »

Picazo-Tadeo, A., González-Gómez, F., & Guardiola, J. (2016) Does the crowd matter in refereeing decisions? Evidence from Spanish soccer. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 1-13. DOI: 10.1080/1612197X.2015.1126852  

  • February 8, 2016
  • 04:31 AM
  • 27 views

A student with proper sleep performs better in school

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Point:

Decreased or disturbed sleep can result in poor performance of students in school.

Published in:

Journal of Sleep Research

Study Further:

In a study, researchers from Norway (and their collaborators) worked on the affect of sleep duration and its pattern on the academic performance of adolescents in the age range of 16 years to 19 years. Researchers surveyed 7798 adolescents, of whom 53.5% were girls. In the survey, researchers asked them about sleep duration, its efficiency, sleep deficit, as well as bedtime differences between weekend and weekdays. School performance (grade point average (GPA)) of students was taken from official registers in schools.

Researchers found that students with short sleep duration and sleep deficit have more chances of getting poor grades. They also reported that weekday bedtimes were significantly related to performance of students, i.e. adolescents with the habit of going to bed between 22:00 and 23:00 hours got best GPAs. Students’ academic performance also declined because of delayed sleep schedule during weekends.

“The demonstrated relationship between sleep problems and poor academic performance suggests that careful assessment of sleep is warranted when adolescents are underperforming at school,” researchers wrote in the paper.

Sources:

Hysing, M., Harvey, A., Linton, S., Askeland, K., & Sivertsen, B. (2016). Sleep and academic performance in later adolescence: results from a large population-based study Journal of Sleep Research DOI: 10.1111/jsr.12373... Read more »

  • February 8, 2016
  • 02:54 AM
  • 26 views

"People with ASD had lower odds of employment in the community"

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The title of this quite brief post refers to an important finding detailed by Derek Nord and colleagues [1] who, when analysing data from the "2008–09 National Core Indicators Adult Consumer Survey", concluded that there were some important inequalities when it came to employment rates for those diagnosed on the autism spectrum.Employment rates and work opportunities for people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a hot topic at the moment. The Nord findings build upon report after report published in the peer-reviewed domain and beyond basically telling everyone what was already quite widely known: "despite their capacity and willingness to work, [people with autism / autistic people] face significant disadvantages in the labour market." [2] Like many others, I am happy to see that things are [slowly] changing insofar as increasingly more resources being put into highlighting this issue and most importantly, the translation of talk into action. But such change is not happening everywhere for everyone and, as if to prove a point...Appreciating that the autism spectrum includes a whole tapestry of skills and disabilities that might affect both the ability and desire to seek employment (and no, not everyone with autism automatically wants to work in IT or engineering), there is still quite a lot more to do in this area. Things like making the job application and interview a little more 'friendly' is a good start (see here) and also not assuming that getting someone a job is the end of the process [3] no matter how many 'feel good' boxes this might tick. Indeed, I'm particularly interested in the factors that are linked to the sustainability of employment and how making the workplace 'work' for people on the autism spectrum might be a key part of the benefits employment can bring to the person themselves, their family and society in general.Now, about making the labour market also 'work' for parents of children with autism too (see here)...----------[1] Nord DK. et al. Employment in the community for people with and without autism: A comparative analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. 2016; 24: 11-16.[2] Baldwin S. et al. Employment activities and experiences of adults with high-functioning autism and Asperger’s Disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Oct;44(10):2440-9.[3] Holwerda A. et al. Predictors of sustainable work participation of young adults with developmental disorders. Res Dev Disabil. 2013 Sep;34(9):2753-63.----------Nord, D., Stancliffe, R., Nye-Lengerman, K., & Hewitt, A. (2016). Employment in the community for people with and without autism: A comparative analysis Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 24, 11-16 DOI: 10.1016/j.rasd.2015.12.013... Read more »

  • February 7, 2016
  • 03:07 PM
  • 49 views

The molecular link between psychiatric disorders and type 2 diabetes

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

There may be a genetic connection between some mental health disorders and type 2 diabetes. In a new report, scientists show that a gene called “DISC1,” which is believed to play a role in mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and some forms of depression, influences the function of pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

... Read more »

Jurczyk A, Nowosielska A, Przewozniak N, Aryee KE, DiIorio P, Blodgett D, Yang C, Campbell-Thompson M, Atkinson M, Shultz L.... (2016) Beyond the brain: disrupted in schizophrenia 1 regulates pancreatic β-cell function via glycogen synthase kinase-3β. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 30(2), 983-93. PMID: 26546129  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 03:49 PM
  • 54 views

Brain plasticity assorted into functional networks

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Plasticity of the brain, what does that even mean? Well the good news is that it isn’t just a marketing ploy, the brain needs to be “plastic” because we need to be able to adapt. Frankly speaking, the brain still has a lot to learn about itself. Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have made a key finding of the striking differences in how the brain’s cells can change through experience.

... Read more »

  • February 6, 2016
  • 02:57 PM
  • 30 views

Zika Virus, Microcephaly and Brazil

by thelonevirologist in Virology Tidbits

As discussed before, Zika Virus (ZIKV) is an emerging arbovirus, spread by Aedes Agypti and Aedes albopictus, which was first isolated in 1947 in Uganda from a Macaca monkey with the first human case being detected in Nigeria (1954). In subsequent decades sporadic cases linked to ZIKV have been reported in Africa and Asia, with a first epidemic reported in 2008 (Yap/Federated States of Micronesia) and a larger one in French Polynesia and Oceania 2013-2014 with the first cases in the Americas were identified in Natal/Brazil in March 2015 in samples from patients displaying dengue-like symptoms. Here the connection of ZIKV infection with microcephaly is critically discussed.... Read more »

SMITHBURN KC, & BUGHER JC. (1953) Ultrafiltration of recently isolated neurotropic viruses. Journal of bacteriology, 66(2), 173-7. PMID: 13084555  

Diagne CT, Diallo D, Faye O, Ba Y, Faye O, Gaye A, Dia I, Faye O, Weaver SC, Sall AA.... (2015) Potential of selected Senegalese Aedes spp. mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) to transmit Zika virus. BMC infectious diseases, 492. PMID: 26527535  

DICK GW, KITCHEN SF, & HADDOW AJ. (1952) Zika virus. I. Isolations and serological specificity. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 46(5), 509-20. PMID: 12995440  

Zanluca C, de Melo VC, Mosimann AL, Dos Santos GI, Dos Santos CN, & Luz K. (2015) First report of autochthonous transmission of Zika virus in Brazil. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, 110(4), 569-72. PMID: 26061233  

Schuler-Faccini L, Ribeiro EM, Feitosa IM, Horovitz DD, Cavalcanti DP, Pessoa A, Doriqui MJ, Neri JI, Neto JM, Wanderley HY.... (2016) Possible Association Between Zika Virus Infection and Microcephaly - Brazil, 2015. MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report, 65(3), 59-62. PMID: 26820244  

Musso D, Roche C, Robin E, Nhan T, Teissier A, & Cao-Lormeau VM. (2015) Potential sexual transmission of Zika virus. Emerging infectious diseases, 21(2), 359-61. PMID: 25625872  

Oster, A., Brooks, J., Stryker, J., Kachur, R., , ., Mead, P., Pesik, N., & Petersen, L. (2016) Interim Guidelines for Prevention of Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus — United States, 2016. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 65(5), 1-2. DOI: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6505e1er  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 01:16 PM
  • 41 views

"Troubling Oddities" In A Social Psychology Data Set

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A potential case of data manipulation has been uncovered in a psychology paper. The suspect article, Why money meanings matter in decisions to donate time and money, came out in 2012 from University of Arizona psychologists Promothesh Chatterjee, Randall L. Rose, and Jayati Sinha.

This study fell into the genre of 'social priming', specifically 'money priming'. The authors reported that making people think about cash reduces their willingness to help others, while thinking of credit cards has... Read more »

Pashler, H., Rohrer, D., Abramson, I., Wolfson, T., & Harris, C. (2016) A Social Priming Data Set With Troubling Oddities. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 38(1), 3-18. DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2015.1124767  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 09:52 AM
  • 35 views

Do songbirds perceive melody different from humans?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Last week a fascinating study appeared in PNAS on melody cognition in sparrows (Sturnus vulgaris). It provides an alternative interpretation to the widespread believe that songbirds have a strong bias to rely on absolute pitch (AP) for the recognition of melodies (e.g. Hulse et al., 1992).... Read more »

Hulse, S., Takeuchi, A., & Braaten, R. (1992) Perceptual Invariances in the Comparative Psychology of Music. Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 10(2), 151-184. DOI: 10.2307/40285605  

Bregman, M., Patel, A., & Gentner, T. (2016) Songbirds use spectral shape, not pitch, for sound pattern recognition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201515380. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1515380113  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 07:42 AM
  • 37 views

Domestic Dog

by Jason Organ in Eatlemania!

The Eatles are cleaning the skull of a domestic dog. Come read about osteoporosis research in the Organ Lab at Indiana University School of Medicine... Read more »

Allen MR, Territo PR, Lin C, Persohn S, Jiang L, Riley AA, McCarthy BP, Newman CL, Burr DB, & Hutchins GD. (2015) In Vivo UTE-MRI Reveals Positive Effects of Raloxifene on Skeletal-Bound Water in Skeletally Mature Beagle Dogs. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 30(8), 1441-4. PMID: 25644867  

Allen MR, McNerny EM, Organ JM, & Wallace JM. (2015) True Gold or Pyrite: A Review of Reference Point Indentation for Assessing Bone Mechanical Properties In Vivo. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 30(9), 1539-50. PMID: 26235703  

  • February 6, 2016
  • 03:27 AM
  • 63 views

Sleep as a target of antibiotic use in chronic fatigue syndrome?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The primary finding from the study was evidence of an improvement in several objective sleep parameters in participants in whom the increased colonization of lactic acid producing organisms was resolved after antibiotic treatment."Those were the words written by Melinda Jackson and colleagues [1] (open-access) who, during an open-label trial, looked at whether administration of an antibiotic (erythromycin 400 mg) over the course of 6 days might have some important effects on elements of sleep in a patient group diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Yes, sleep did seem to be [positively] affected was the finding. The suggested mode of action of antibiotic administration was linked to colonisation "with gram-positive faecal Streptococcus (determined by stool analysis and suggestive of abnormal gut functioning)" onwards to the idea that the those trillions of wee beasties that inhabit us all might show some specific connection to elements in cases of CFS.From an initial study population of 70 recruited for study, data for 22 participants (who completed the trial and met study inclusion criteria) were reported on. Those 22 all had "increased colonization of Streptococcus sp. (defined as >3×105 cfu/g of faecal sample)" as a pre-requisite to taking part in the trial based on the results of a "faecal microbiota analysis (FMA)." Actigraphy and sleep diaries were kept for a week before antibiotic use, during use and for 8 days after. Various facets of CFS symptoms were also examined during points of the study.Bearing in mind some 'malfunctions' affecting actigraphy results, the authors describe some interesting findings. First and foremost, is the idea that not everyone who took erythromycin showed the same profile (behavioural or biochemical). The authors talk about "responders" to the intervention (music to my ears) on the basis that: "Thirteen of the patients showed a reduction in Streptococcus counts after treatment, whereas four patients showed an increase level of Streptococcus and four patients had no change at the end of the trial." Outside of the idea that there may be some significant individual variation in the effects of antibiotics on gut flora (remembering the idea of 'swallowing a grenade'), questions abound as to why some people did not seem to be so affected by this strain of antibiotics whilst others did. Further: "While 13 participants showed a reduction in Streptococcus only 7 of these had a significant change as defined by a percentage distribution post-therapy of less than 6% of Streptococcus after antibiotic treatment." Mmm, indeed.Second, and linked back to the idea of 'responders' and 'non-responders' on the basis of microbiological results are the findings that there were: "more improvement in actigraphic sleep with treatment in responders compared to non-responders from baseline to post-treatment 2." Indeed, we are told that responders tended to increase their total sleep time by about 40 minutes between baseline and end of study, whereas: "non-responders slept an average of 15 min less from baseline to post-treatment 2."Finally, and quite importantly: "No significant change in any of the subjective measures was observed between baseline and the two follow-up points for responders versus non-responders." The subjective measures in question were linked to things like self-reported fatigue, mood and the such like. The authors have suggested that there may be some 'correlation' between a subscale on 'vigour' and "Streptococcus viable count" but when you're talking about 7 participants as your responder group, one has to be mighty careful of making too many sweeping generalisations.Although this is a preliminary study, I'd like to think that the Jackson findings might eventually be worked up into a larger, more methodologically sound research agenda encompassing a placebo arm and the like. We know for example, that sleep patterns can be affected by CFS and that at least subjective measures of sleep may affect the presentation of elements of CFS [2]. That children and adolescents with CFS may be particularly vulnerable to sleep disturbances [3] is an area in specific need of further investigation. Moves therefore to improve sleep measures in CFS are perhaps to be welcomed mindful of the idea that persistent use of antibiotics is not exactly a great long-term strategy particularly in these days of growing antibiotic resistance. I could offer a possible alternative to antibiotic use that has been initially tried with CFS in mind (see here) but again, more research is indicated first and perhaps also some PR! Still, the focus on the gut microbiota and CFS/ME continues at a pace (er, maybe a should rephrase that) and with the promise of much, much more to come.I'll also be talking about the paper by Collin and colleagues in the not-too-distant future so watch this space...----------[1] Jackson ML. et al. Sleep quality and the treatment of intestinal microbiota imbalance in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A pilot study. Sleep Sci. 2015 Nov;8(3):124-33.[2] Russell C. et al. Subjective But Not Actigraphy-Defined Sleep Predicts Next-Day Fatigue in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Prospective Daily Diary Study. Sleep. 2015 Dec 22. pii: sp-00453-15.[3] Snodgrass K. et al. Sleep Disturbances in Pediatric Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Review of Current Research. J Clin Sleep Med. 2015 Jul 15;11(7):757-64.----------Jackson ML, Butt H, Ball M, Lewis DP, & Bruck D (2015). Sleep quality and the treatment of intestinal microbiota imbalance in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A pilot study. Sleep Science (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 8 (3), 124-33 PMID: 26779319... Read more »

  • February 5, 2016
  • 04:24 PM
  • 72 views

Would You Stick Pins In A Voodoo Doll of Your Child?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Well? Would you...?

This was the question faced by the participants in a rather extraordinary series of studies described in a new paper from Illinois psychologists Randy J. McCarthy and colleagues. In total, 1081 parents with children aged under 18 were presented with an outline of a person, and asked to imagine that it was their own child. They were told to think of a time when their child made them angry. Finally, they were asked how many pins they would like to stick into the "doll" in or... Read more »

McCarthy RJ, Crouch JL, Basham AR, Milner JS, & Skowronski JJ. (2016) Validating the Voodoo Doll Task as a Proxy for Aggressive Parenting Behavior. Psychology of violence, 6(1), 135-144. PMID: 26839734  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 03:27 PM
  • 67 views

Man-made underwater sound may have wider ecosystem effects

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Underwater sound linked to human activity could alter the behaviour of seabed creatures that play a vital role in marine ecosystems, according to new research from the University of Southampton. The study found that exposure to sounds that resemble shipping traffic and offshore construction activities results in behavioural responses in certain invertebrate species that live in the marine sediment.

... Read more »

  • February 5, 2016
  • 03:00 PM
  • 66 views

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better for Hurdling Obstacles

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Although lizards mostly scurry on all fours, certain species can run on two legs when the mood strikes. What's the benefit to this human-like running style? For one thing, it seems to let lizards get over obstacles without slowing down. They just have to make sure not to tip over.

Georgia Southern University biologist Lance McBrayer and graduate student Seth Parker studied running in a handsome little reptile called Sceloporus woodi, or the Florida scrub lizard. McBrayer says there's been... Read more »

  • February 5, 2016
  • 12:34 PM
  • 45 views

Abnormalities in later cognitive stages of beat processing?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

Beat deafness, a recently documented form of congenital amusia, provides a unique window into functional specialization of neural circuitry for the processing of musical stimuli: Beat-deaf individuals exhibit deficits that are specific to the detection of a regular beat in music and the ability to move along with a beat.... Read more »

Phillips-Silver, J., Toiviainen, P., Gosselin, N., Piché, O., Nozaradan, S., Palmer, C., & Peretz, I. (2011) Born to dance but beat deaf: A new form of congenital amusia. Neuropsychologia. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.02.002  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 09:09 AM
  • 62 views

Greenland ice sheets losing ability to absorb meltwater

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Greenland has long held sea-level rise at bay, absorbing melted water into spongy upper layers. But new research has found that icy covers to these layers are preventing water absorption and driving water into the oceans.... Read more »

Machguth, H., MacFerrin, M., van As, D., Box, J., Charalampidis, C., Colgan, W., Fausto, R., Meijer, H., Mosley-Thompson, E., & van de Wal, R. (2016) Greenland meltwater storage in firn limited by near-surface ice formation. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2899  

  • February 5, 2016
  • 07:10 AM
  • 12 views

Cross-cultural studies of toddler self-awareness have been using an unfair test

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

There's a simple and fun way to test a toddler's self-awareness. You make a red mark (or place a red sticker) on their forehead discreetly, and then you see what happens when they look in a mirror. If they have a sense of self – that is, if they recognise themselves as a distinct entity in the world – then they will see that there is a strange red mark on their face and attempt to touch it or remove it.This is called the "mirror self-recognition test" (it's used to test self-awareness in animals too) and by age two most kids "pass" the test, at least in Western countries. Several studies have suggested that the ability to pass the test is delayed, sometimes by years, in non-Western cultures, such as rural India and Cameroon, Fiji and Peru. But now a study in Developmental Science says this may be because the mirror test is culturally biased. Using a more physical and social self-awareness test, Josephine Ross at the University of Dundee and her colleagues actually find more precocious performance in a non-Western (Zambian) group of toddlers.The researchers tested 33 mother-child pairs in Ikelenge, Zambia (a rural culture that emphasises the important of interdependence); 31 in Dundee, Scotland (a typical Western culture that emphasises independence and autonomy); and 22 in Istanbul, Turkey (a mixed culture that emphasises both autonomy and interdependence). The children were all aged between 15 and 18 months.The researchers first filmed the mothers and their children playing and looked for differences in their parenting style: whether it was more "distal" involving more talk and less physical contact, which is typical of Western cultures, or more "proximal", with more physical contact, which is more typical of non-Western interdependent cultures. During play, the mothers put a red sticker on their child's head. Then the children were given the mirror self-recognition test. The Scottish children showed the highest pass rate (47 per cent) followed by the Turkish children (41 per cent) and the Zambian children (15 per cent), consistent with past research.Next, the researchers used a different test of self-awareness that actually originates in the writings of the great developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. The children were asked to push a toy trolley toward their mother while they were standing on a mat that was attached to the bottom of the trolley. To succeed they must realise that their body is holding down the mat and step off it to push the trolley.Whereas the mirror test is about recognising that the self has a distinct visual identity (a concept consistent with Western notions of an independent, autonomous self), the trolley test is more about realising that the self is a physical object like other objects. There is also a more social, collaborative element to the test because it involves pushing the trolley towards another person. The researchers reasoned that children raised in a more interdependent culture would excel at the task and that's exactly what they found. Fifty per cent of the Zambian children passed the test, compared with 57 per cent of the Turkish and 23 per cent of the Scottish.The measures of parenting style that the researchers looked at did not explain much of the cultural variance in performance, but they said that might be because they looked at the wrong things, such as eye contact and physical proximity and future research will need to explore other factors, such as mothers' attitudes towards teaching their children interdependence versus autonomy.The Zambian children were less familiar with mirrors than the other children, but they were given the chance to explore one before the self-awareness test, and anyway, past research has shown that performance on the test is not related to mirror experience. The Zambian children were also more precocious walkers than the other children, which you might think would explain their superior performance (compared with the Scottish kids) on the trolley test, but in fact performance on the trolley test was not related to walking ability. In short, the researchers favour the idea that the cultural differences on the two tests are due to the distinct perspectives on the self that are encouraged in the different cultures, rather than to familiarity with the test equipment or simple physical skill. "Whatever the explanation for the cultural difference," the researchers said, "this study highlights the necessity of recognising that the measurement of self-awareness is inextricably bound with the context of our development. More care needs to be taken in measuring self-awareness if valid cross-cultural comparisons are to be made."_________________________________ Ross, J., Yilmaz, M., Dale, R., Cassidy, R., Yildirim, I., & Suzanne Zeedyk, M. (2016). Cultural differences in self-recognition: the early development of autonomous and related selves? Developmental Science DOI: 10.1111/desc.12387 --further reading--Cross-cultural reflections on the mirror self-recognition testStudy uncovers dramatic cross-cultural differences in babies' sitting abilityPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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  • February 5, 2016
  • 05:28 AM
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People who prioritise time over money are happier

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

A lot of has been written about how focusing too much on materialistic ambitions, at the expense of relationships and experiences, can leave us miserable and unfulfilled. In a new paper published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, a team of psychologists at the University of British Columbia in Canada argue that there's another important distinction to be made – between how much we prioritise time versus money. Those who favour time tend to be happier, possibly because this frees them to enjoy pleasurable and meaningful activities, although this has yet to be established. The researchers led by Ashley Whillans first devised a quick and simple way to measure this difference in people. They asked just over 100 students to say whether they prioritised having more time or having more money, and to help them appreciate the distinction the researchers presented them with vignettes of two people – one who prioritises time:Tina (male names were used for male participants) values her time more than her money. She is willing to sacrifice her money to have more time. For example, Tina would rather work fewer hours and make less money, than work more hours and make more money. And one who prioritises money:Maggie values her money more than her time. She is willing to sacrifice her time to have more money. For example, Maggie would rather work more hours and make more money, than work fewer hours and have more time.The students answered this question twice, three months apart and their two choices were highly consistent, which supports the idea that people's prioritisation of time versus money is a stable trait.In several further studies involving thousands more students and adult members of the general public in Canada and the US, Whillans and her colleagues showed that people's answer to this one simple question correlated with their choices over various fictional scenarios, such as: whether they wanted to apply for a hypothetical higher salary/longer hours job or a lower salary/shorter hours alternative; whether they'd prefer a more expensive apartment with a shorter commute, or a cheaper alternative (to save money) and make a longer commute; and whether they actually chose a smaller cash reward for taking part in the study, versus a larger value reward token toward a time-saving service (such as a cleaner).What's more, across the studies, people who said they prioritised time tended to report being happier. This was true based on various ways of measuring happiness and wellbeing, and the association held even after holding constant many other factors, such as people's salary, education, hours of work and age and gender. The researchers also measured people's materialism and the association between happiness and favouring time over money remained after taking this into account.The researchers said that this relationship between prioritising time and being happier was "small but robust" – about half the size of the impact on happiness of things like being married and having more wealth. In an example of exemplary scholarship, the researchers make clear every factor they measured, every participant who was excluded and why, and the recruitment stopping rule for each study (i.e. how it was decided when to stop recruiting more participants). And perhaps most important, all their data is freely accessible via the Open Science initiative.As so often, it's worth remembering that this data was only recorded at a single point in the lives of the participants, so it's not yet been established that having more a time-centric orientation versus money-centric actually causes greater happiness – as the researchers acknowledge, it's possible that being happier allows people to see the value in saving time to do fun things. As well as longitudinal research (that follows people's priorities and happiness over time), future studies could also establish how people's time vs. money priorities change in response to important life events such as having children or retirement (the current data suggest that older people tend to favour time), and whether it's possible to deliberately change one's orientation."Although causality cannot be inferred," the researchers concluded, "these data point to the possibility that valuing time over money is a stable preference that may provide one path to greater happiness."_________________________________ Whillans, A., Weidman, A., & Dunn, E. (2016). Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated With Greater Happiness Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550615623842 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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Whillans, A., Weidman, A., & Dunn, E. (2016) Valuing Time Over Money Is Associated With Greater Happiness. Social Psychological and Personality Science. DOI: 10.1177/1948550615623842  

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