Links for Tony Delroy Show June 24

Providing bite count feedback helps lower calorie intake

A subject is outfitted with a wearable bite count feedback device. CREDIT: Clemson University

A subject is outfitted with a wearable bite count feedback device.
CREDIT: Clemson University

New wearable technology is helping to provide novel weight loss tools. One way is by providing bite count feedback, which allows users to keep track of the number of bites during a meal.

Researchers at Clemson University wanted to analyze how providing bite count feedback might influence eaters in different situations and determine its efficacy in the presence of environmental cues linked to overeating. The study found that people who received bite count feedback ate less and reduced their overall intake during a meal. The full results are published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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New equation reveals how other people’s fortunes affect our happiness

This is the updated equation to predict happiness, where t is the trial number, w0 is a constant term, other weights w capture the influence of different event types, 0 ? γ ? 1 is a forgetting factor that makes events in more recent trials more influential than those in earlier trials, CRj is the certain reward if chosen instead of a gamble on trial j, EVj is the average reward for the gamble if chosen on trial j, and RPEj is the RPE (reinforcement prediction error) on trial j contingent on choice of the gamble. The RPE is equal to the reward received minus the expectation in that trial EVj. If the CR was chosen, then EVj = 0 and RPEj = 0; if the gamble was chosen, then CRj = 0. The variables in the equation are quantities that the neuromodulator dopamine has been associated with in previous neuroscience studies. The additional term w4 relates to advantageous inequality (guilt) when the reward received by the subject Rj exceeds the reward received by the other player Oj, and w5 relates to disadvantageous inequality (envy) when Oj exceeds Rj. CREDIT: Robb Rutledge, UCL

This is the updated equation to predict happiness, where t is the trial number, w0 is a constant term, other weights w capture the influence of different event types, 0 ? γ ? 1 is a forgetting factor that makes events in more recent trials more influential than those in earlier trials, CRj is the certain reward if chosen instead of a gamble on trial j, EVj is the average reward for the gamble if chosen on trial j, and RPEj is the RPE (reinforcement prediction error) on trial j contingent on choice of the gamble. The RPE is equal to the reward received minus the expectation in that trial EVj. If the CR was chosen, then EVj = 0 and RPEj = 0; if the gamble was chosen, then CRj = 0. The variables in the equation are quantities that the neuromodulator dopamine has been associated with in previous neuroscience studies. The additional term w4 relates to advantageous inequality (guilt) when the reward received by the subject Rj exceeds the reward received by the other player Oj, and w5 relates to disadvantageous inequality (envy) when Oj exceeds Rj.
CREDIT: Robb Rutledge, UCL

A new equation, showing how our happiness depends not only on what happens to us but also how this compares to other people, has been developed by UCL researchers funded by Wellcome.

The team developed an equation to predict happiness in 2014, highlighting the importance of expectations*, and the new updated equation also takes into account other people’s fortunes.

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that inequality reduced happiness on average. This was true whether people were doing better or worse than another person they had just met. The subjects played gambles to try to win money and saw whether another person won or lost the same gambles. On average, when someone won a gamble they were happier when their partner also won the same gamble compared to when their partner lost. This difference could be attributed to guilt. Similarly, when people lost a gamble they were happier when their partner also lost compared to when their partner won, a difference that could be attributed to envy.

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At any skill level, making art reduces stress hormones

A piece of art created by a study participant using both markers and modeling clay. They said the experience was "therapeutic, relaxing [and] thoughtful." CREDIT: Courtesy of Girija Kaimal.

A piece of art created by a study participant using both markers and modeling clay. They said the experience was “therapeutic, relaxing [and] thoughtful.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Girija Kaimal.

Whether you’re Van Gogh or a stick-figure sketcher, a new Drexel University study found that making art can significantly reduce stress-related hormones in your body.

Although the researchers from Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions believed that past experience in creating art might amplify the activity’s stress-reducing effects, their study found that everyone seems to benefit equally.

“It was surprising and it also wasn’t,” said Girija Kaimal, EdD, assistant professor of creative arts therapies. “It wasn’t surprising because that’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting. That said, I did expect that perhaps the effects would be stronger for those with prior experience.”

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Public’s moral inconsistencies create dilemma for programming driverless cars

Trolly problem of self-driving car. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the 24 June 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Jean-Francois Bonnefon at University of Toulouse in Toulouse, France, and colleagues was titled, "The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles." CREDIT: Iyad Rahwan

Trolly problem of self-driving car. This material relates to a paper that appeared in the 24 June 2016, issue of Science, published by AAAS. The paper, by Jean-Francois Bonnefon at University of Toulouse in Toulouse, France, and colleagues was titled, “The social dilemma of autonomous vehicles.”
CREDIT: Iyad Rahwan

When it comes to autonomous cars, people generally approve of cars programmed to sacrifice their passengers to save others, but these same people are not enthusiastic about riding in such “utilitarian” vehicles themselves, a new survey reveals.

This inconsistency, which illustrates an inherent social tension between wanting the good of the individual and that of the public, persisted across a wide range of survey scenarios, revealing just how difficult it will be to make underlying programming decisions for autonomous cars – something that should be done well before these cars become a global commodity, the study’s authors note. Autonomous vehicles, or AVs, have the potential to benefit the world by eliminating up to 90% of traffic accidents, but not all crashes will be avoided, and some crash scenarios will require AVs to make difficult ethical decisions.

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Senior moments explained: Older adults have weaker clutter control

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A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology finds that older people struggle to remember important details because their brains can’t resist the irrelevant “stuff” they soak up subconsciously. As a result, they tend to be less confident in their memories.

Researchers looked at brain activity from EEG sensors and saw that older participants wandered into a brief “mental time travel” when trying to recall details. This journey into their subconscious veered them into a cluttered space that was filled with both relevant and irrelevant information. This clutter led to less confidence, even when their recollections were correct. Cluttering of the brain is one reason older people are more susceptible to manipulation, the researchers say. The study appears online in the journal Neuropsychologia.

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Australia 20 years after gun reform — no mass shootings, declining firearm deaths

Hand holds bag with gun marked evidence of a crime

“The absence of mass shootings in Australia in the past two decades compares to 13 fatal mass shootings in the 18 years prior to these sweeping reforms,” says the University of Sydney’s Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman, who led the study with colleagues Philip Alpers and Macquarie University’s Professor Mike Jones.

The introduction of Australia’s unprecedented gun laws followed the mass firearm shooting in April of 1996, when a man used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 19 others in Port Arthur, Tasmania.

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Dose of nature is just what the doctor ordered

CREDIT: The University of Queensland

CREDIT: The University of Queensland

People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don’t, according to new research by Australian and UK environmental scientists.

A study led by The University of Queensland (UQ) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) suggests people might need a minimum “dose of nature”.

UQ CEED researcher Dr Danielle Shanahan said parks offered health benefits including reduced risks of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety and depression.

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Take a picture, you’ll enjoy it more

Camera Phone PhotographerWhile you might think photo-taking would detract from the enjoyment of everyday activities, research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that people who take photos of their experiences usually enjoy the events more than people who don’t.

“To the best of our knowledge, this research is the first extensive investigation examining how taking photos affects people’s enjoyment of their experiences,” wrote Kristin Diehl, PhD, of the University of Southern California; Gal Zauberman, PhD, of Yale University; and Alixandra Barasch, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania. “We show that, relative to not taking photos, photography can heighten enjoyment of positive experiences by increasing engagement.”

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Precise control of brain circuit alters mood

MoodsBy combining super-fine electrodes and tiny amounts of a very specific drug, Duke University researchers have singled out a circuit in mouse brains and taken control of it to dial an animal’s mood up and down.

Stress-susceptible animals that behaved as if they were depressed or anxious were restored to relatively normal behavior by tweaking the system, according to a study appearing in the July 20 issue of Neuron.

“If you ‘turn the volume up’ on animals that hadn’t experienced stress, they start normal and then they have a problem,” said lead researcher Kafui Dzirasa, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and neurobiology. “But in the animals that had experienced stress and didn’t do well with it, you had to turn their volume up to get them back to normal. It looked like stress had turned the volume down.”

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