Story links for NightLife April 29

Does Frequent Sex Lead to Better Relationships? Depends on How You Ask

Young married couple kissNewlywed couples who have a lot of sex don’t report being any more satisfied with their relationships than those who have sex less often, but their automatic behavioral responses tell a different story, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“We found that the frequency with which couples have sex has no influence on whether or not they report being happy with their relationship, but their sexual frequency does influence their more spontaneous, automatic, gut-level feelings about their partners,” says psychological scientist Lindsey L. Hicks of Florida State University, lead author on the research.

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Can positive memories help treat mental health problems?

Young laughing woman imagining somethingResearchers from the University of Liverpool have published a study highlighting the effectiveness of using positive memories and images to help generate positive emotions.

It has been suggested that savouring positive memories can generate positive emotions. Increasing positive emotion can have a range of benefits including reducing attention to and experiences of threat.

The study, supervised by Dr Peter Taylor from the University’s Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, investigated individuals’ emotional reactions to a guided mental imagery task focussing on positive social memory called the ‘social Broad Minded Affective Coping (BMAC)’ technique.

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Who gets hooked on drugs? Rat study finds genetic markers that influence addiction

Why does one person who tries cocaine get addicted, while another might use it and then leave it alone? Why do some people who kick a drug habit manage to stay clean, while others relapse?

In these images of rat brains, differences in gene expression of genes for fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2, top set) and dopamine 2 receptor (D2, bottom sett) can be seen in rats of two breeds before (left) and after (right) cocaine exposure. The addiction-prone bHR rats differed significantly in several ways from the timid bLR rats. CREDIT Flagel Lab, University of Michigan

In these images of rat brains, differences in gene expression of genes for fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2, top set) and dopamine 2 receptor (D2, bottom sett) can be seen in rats of two breeds before (left) and after (right) cocaine exposure. The addiction-prone bHR rats differed significantly in several ways from the timid bLR rats.
CREDIT: Flagel Lab, University of Michigan

And why do some families seem more prone to addiction than others?

The road to answering these questions may have a lot to do with specific genetic factors that vary from individual to individual, a new study in rats suggests.

Of course, an animal study can’t explain all the factors that contribute to differences in addiction among humans. But the findings reveal new information about the roles played by both inherited traits and addiction-related changes in the brain.

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Gut feeling: ONR research examines link between stomach bacteria, PTSD

Dr. John Bienenstock (left) and Dr. Paul Forsythe in their lab. The researchers are studying whether bacteria in the gut can be used to cure or prevent neurological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression. CREDIT (Photo courtesy of Dr. John Bienenstock and Dr. Paul Forsythe)

Dr. John Bienenstock (left) and Dr. Paul Forsythe in their lab. The researchers are studying whether bacteria in the gut can be used to cure or prevent neurological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or depression.
(Photo courtesy of Dr. John Bienenstock and Dr. Paul Forsythe)

Could bacteria in your gut be used to cure or prevent neurological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety or even depression? Two researchers sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) think that’s a strong possibility.

Dr. John Bienenstock and Dr. Paul Forsythe–who work in The Brain-Body Institute at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada–are investigating intestinal bacteria and their effect on the human brain and mood.

“This is extremely important work for U.S. warfighters because it suggests that gut microbes play a strong role in the body’s response to stressful situations, as well as in who might be susceptible to conditions like PTSD,” said Dr. Linda Chrisey, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, which sponsors the research.

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Vocal signals reveal intent to dominate or submit, study finds

photodune-5545922-beautiful-voice-xs (1)You may not win friends, but a new study finds that you can influence people simply by lowering the pitch of your voice in the first moments of a conversation.

The study, reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, found that people whose voices went down in pitch early on in an interaction were more likely to be seen as dominant and influential than those whose vocal pitch went up early in conversation. Those viewed as dominant also were more likely to convince others to go along with their ideas than those seen as less dominant.

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UBC study finds psychedelic drugs may reduce domestic violence

This is UBC Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh. CREDIT UBC

This is UBC Assoc. Prof. Zach Walsh.
CREDIT: UBC

Psychedelic drugs may help curb domestic violence committed by men with substance abuse problems, according to a new UBC study.

The UBC Okanagan study found that 42 per cent of U.S. adult male inmates who did not take psychedelic drugs were arrested within six years for domestic battery after their release, compared to a rate of 27 per cent for those who had taken drugs such as LSD, psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms) and MDMA (ecstasy).

The observational study followed 302 inmates for an average of six years after they were released. All those observed had histories of substance use disorders.

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Fatty diets lead to daytime sleepiness, poor sleep

Lethargic man yawning as he struggles to wake upUniversity of Adelaide researchers have found that men who consume diets high in fat are more likely to feel sleepy during the day, to report sleep problems at night, and are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

This is the result of the Men Androgen Inflammation Lifestyle Environment and Stress (MAILES) study looking at the association between fatty diets and sleep, conducted by the University of Adelaide’s Population Research and Outcome Studies unit in the School of Medicine and the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men’s Health.

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Measuring happiness on social media

University of Iowa computer scientists found that Twitter users' feelings of satisfaction with their lives remained steady over time, consistent with traditional social sciences research on subjective well-being. CREDIT Photo by Lesly B. Juarez.

University of Iowa computer scientists found that Twitter users’ feelings of satisfaction with their lives remained steady over time, consistent with traditional social sciences research on subjective well-being.
CREDIT: Photo by Lesly B. Juarez.

Chao Yang, lead author on the study and a graduate of the UI Department of Computer Science, says this study is different from most social media research on happiness because it looks at how users feel about their lives over time, instead of how they feel in the moment.

“In countries like Bhutan, they are not satisfied with current measures of success like GDP, so they are measuring the Gross National Happiness Index,” Yang says. “They want to know how well their people are living; we saw an opportunity there.”

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When inhaling media erodes attention, exhaling provides focus

photodune-9298788-tired-woman-relax-xs

People who often mix their media consumption — texting while watching TV, or listening to music while reading — are not known for being able to hold their attention on one task. But sharpening their focus may be as simple as breathing.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have shown that heavy media multitaskers benefited from a short meditation exercise in which they sat quietly counting their breaths.

“In general, people perform better after this mindfulness task,” says Thomas Gorman, first author of the study, which was published April 18 by the journal Scientific Reports. “But we found a significant difference for heavy media multitaskers. They improved even more on tests of their attention.”

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