Ocean temperatures predict US heat waves 50 days out

Scientists have found a way of predicting an increased chance of a summer heat wave. CREDIT: NSF Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER Site

Scientists have found a way of predicting an increased chance of a summer heat wave.
CREDIT: NSF Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER Site

The formation of a distinct pattern of sea surface temperatures in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean can predict an increased chance of summer heat waves in the eastern half of the U.S. up to 50 days in advance.

The pattern is a contrast of warmer-than-average water coming up against cooler-than-average seas. When it appears, the odds that extreme heat will strike during a particular week — or even on a particular day — can more than triple, depending on how well-formed the pattern is.

read more

Personality traits can be revealed by movement, study shows

Graceful ballerina standing in first position in front of mirror in the ballet studioA pioneering new study has revealed how an individual’s movement can give a unique insight into their inherent personality traits.

The ground-breaking study could open up new pathways for health professionals to diagnose and treat mental health conditions in the future.

A team of experts, including from the University of Exeter, has shown that people who display similar behavioural characteristics tend to move their bodies in the same way.

The new study suggests that each person has an individual motor signature (IMS), a blueprint of the subtle differences in the way they move compared to someone else, such as speed or weight of movement for example.

read more

Does a common parasite play a role in rage disorder?

Man and Cat in AngerIn recent years, a common parasitic infection – as many as a third of the world’s population may have it – has been linked to a range of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, as well as behavioral dysregulation such as suicide attempts and car accidents. Now a new study has linked it to repeated bouts of rage, a disorder known as intermittent explosive disorder (IED).

The study, released March 23 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found that people with IED are more than twice as likely to have been exposed to a common parasite than healthy individuals with no psychiatric diagnosis.

read more

Uncertainty can cause more stress than inevitable pain

Danger of death Electric shockKnowing that there is a small chance of getting a painful electric shock can lead to significantly more stress than knowing that you will definitely be shocked, finds a new UCL study funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

The study, published in Nature Communications, found that situations in which subjects had a 50% chance of receiving a shock were the most stressful while 0% and 100% chances were the least stressful. People whose stress levels tracked uncertainty more closely were better at guessing whether or not they would receive a shock, suggesting that stress may inform judgements of risk.

read more

The secret to a better shopping trip

Shopping list

Researchers at four universities partnered on a study to answer this question. They observed more than 700 consumers in different scenarios, and their findings are available online in theJournal of Consumer Psychology. Their results suggest that shoppers should bring a list to minimize the chances of returning home only to find they forgot something.

In one experiment, the investigators gave people a list of 10 to 20 fruits and vegetables. Half of the participants received a list with familiar items such as apples, bananas and broccoli, while the list for the other half included uncommon items like beetroots, coconuts and figs.

read more

Mindfulness meditation eases chronic low back pain

Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, led research on mindfulness-based stress reduction for back pain. CREDIT: Group Health Research Institute

Daniel C. Cherkin, PhD, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, led research on mindfulness-based stress reduction for back pain.
CREDIT: Group Health Research Institute

Meditation long has been practiced as a way to calm the mind, and possibly achieve enlightenment. Now, new research conducted by Group Health Research Institute shows that quieting the mind may be a non-drug alternative to help decrease chronic low back pain.

A team of researchers at Group Health Research Institute, a division of Group Health, explored alternatives to pain medication in treating low back pain, a chronic and costly condition that plagues eight in 10 Americans at some point in their lives.

read more

The non-driving millennial? Not so simple, says new research

Are we headed toward a future with fewer cars? Not necessarily, says UVM geographer Meghan Cope. Her new study suggests that infrastructure and land use still govern young people's decisions to drive. CREDIT: Amanda Waite

Are we headed toward a future with fewer cars? Not necessarily, says UVM geographer Meghan Cope. Her new study suggests that infrastructure and land use still govern young people’s decisions to drive. CREDIT: Amanda Waite

It’s a well worn media trope. 21st century millennials are leading the way to a green transportation future, moving to cities, riding public transit, biking and walking – and often delaying car purchases indefinitely, to Detroit’s growing dismay.

The reality is more complex, says a new study by University of Vermont researchers recently published in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers. Since the public discussion is mostly about the driving habits of post-college age 20-somethings who have moved to cities, the researchers decided to trace backward to see if there is evidence of high school age teens changing their behavior.

read more

A world map of Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry in modern humans

This map shows the proportion of the genome inferred to be Denisovan in ancestry in diverse non-Africans. The color scale is not linear to allow saturation of the high Denisova proportions in Oceania (bright red) and better visualization of the peak of Denisova proportion in South Asia. CREDIT: Sankararaman et al./Current Biology 2016

This map shows the proportion of the genome inferred to be Denisovan in ancestry in diverse non-Africans. The color scale is not linear to allow saturation of the high Denisova proportions in Oceania (bright red) and better visualization of the peak of Denisova proportion in South Asia. CREDIT: Sankararaman et al./Current Biology 2016

Most non-Africans possess at least a little bit Neanderthal DNA. But a new map of archaic ancestry–published March 28 in Current Biology–suggests that many bloodlines around the world, particularly of South Asian descent, may actually be a bit more Denisovan, a mysterious population of hominids that lived around the same time as the Neanderthals. The analysis also proposes that modern humans interbred with Denisovans about 100 generations after their trysts with Neanderthals.

The Harvard Medical School/UCLA research team that created the map also used comparative genomics to make predictions about where Denisovan and Neanderthal genes may be impacting modern human biology. While there is still much to uncover, Denisovan genes can potentially be linked to a more subtle sense of smell in Papua New Guineans and high-altitude adaptions in Tibetans. Meanwhile, Neanderthal genes found in people around the world most likely contribute to tougher skin and hair.

read more

The conflict between science and religion lies in our brains

science versus religion concept compassThe conflict between science and religion may have its origins in the structure of our brains, researchers at Case Western Reserve University and Babson College have found.

Clashes between the use of faith vs. scientific evidence to explain the world around us dates back centuries and is perhaps most visible today in the arguments between evolution and creationism.

To believe in a supernatural god or universal spirit, people appear to suppress the brain network used for analytical thinking and engage the empathetic network, the scientists say. When thinking analytically about the physical world, people appear to do the opposite.

read more

Exercise may slow brain aging by 10 years for older people

Senior Exercises to MusicExercise in older people is associated with a slower rate of decline in thinking skills that occurs with aging. People who reported light to no exercise experienced a decline equal to 10 more years of aging as compared to people who reported moderate to intense exercise, according to a population-based observational study published in the March 23, 2016, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“The number of people over the age of 65 in the United States is on the rise, meaning the public health burden of thinking and memory problems will likely grow,” said study author Clinton B. Wright, MD, MS, of the University of Miami in Miami, Fla., and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our study showed that for older people, getting regular exercise may be protective, helping them keep their cognitive abilities longer.”

read more