Loneliness and isolation linked to heightened risk of heart disease/stroke

Lonesome flowerLoneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 per cent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease–the two leading causes of illness and death in high income countries–finds an analysis of the available evidence, published online in the journal Heart.

The size of the effect is comparable to that of other recognised risk factors, such as anxiety and a stressful job, the findings indicate.

Loneliness has already been linked to a compromised immune system, high blood pressure, and ultimately, premature death, but it’s not clear what impact it might have on heart disease and stroke risk.

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Dartmouth study measures bias in how we learn and make decisions

Alireza Soltani, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, and his colleagues studied bias that is relevant for learning in situations where rewarding outcomes are rare, such as gambling. CREDIT: Dartmouth College

Alireza Soltani, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, and his colleagues studied bias that is relevant for learning in situations where rewarding outcomes are rare, such as gambling.
CREDIT: Dartmouth College

Thinking about drawing to an inside straight or playing another longshot? Just remember that while human decision-making is biased by potential rewards, what we know about individual cues that help us to make those decisions is biased toward failure, a Dartmouth College study finds.

The study appears in the journal Nature Communications. A PDF is available on request.

“The type of bias we measured is relevant for learning in situations where rewarding outcomes are rare, for example during gambling,” says lead author Alireza Soltani, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences. “It would be interesting to study this behavior in pathological gamblers since certain cues are learned to be way more predictive than they are.”

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One antidepressant shown to control weight during 2-year study

Dr. Arterburn is a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. CREDIT: Group Health Research Institute

Dr. Arterburn is a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.
CREDIT: Group Health Research Institute

Group Health researchers have found that bupropion (marketed as Wellbutrin) is the only antidepressant that tends to be linked to long-term modest weight loss.

Previously, Group Health researchers showed a two-way street between depression and body weight: People with depression are more likely to be overweight, and vice versa. These researchers also found that most antidepressant medications have been linked to weight gain.

Prior research on antidepressants and weight change was limited to one year or shorter. But many people take antidepressants–the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States–for longer than a year. So for up to two years the new study followed more than 5,000 Group Health patients who started taking an antidepressant. The Journal of Clinical Medicine published it: “Long-Term Weight Change after Initiating Second-Generation Antidepressants.”

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Fewer Romantic Prospects May Lead to Riskier Investments

RiskEncountering information suggesting that it may be tough to find a romantic partner shifts people’s decision making toward riskier options, according to new findings from a series of studies published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Environmental cues indicating that one will have a relatively difficult time finding a mate can drive people to concentrate their investment choices into a few high-risk, high-return options,” says psychological scientist Joshua Ackerman of the University of Michigan, lead author on the research. “This is true even when the decisions people are making are not explicitly relevant to romantic outcomes.”

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Story links for NightLife April 15

Are humans the new supercomputer?

Computer gamingToday, people of all backgrounds can contribute to solving serious scientific problems by playing computer games. A Danish research group has extended the limits of quantum physics calculations and simultaneously blurred the boundaries between man and mac.

The saying of philosopher René Descartes of what makes humans unique is beginning to sound hollow. ‘I think — therefore soon I am obsolete’ seems more appropriate. When a computer routinely beats us at chess and we can barely navigate without the help of a GPS, have we outlived our place in the world? Not quite. Welcome to the front line of research in cognitive skills, quantum computers and gaming.

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How LSD can make us lose our sense of self

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) hallucinogenic drug, molecularWhen people take the psychedelic drug LSD, they sometimes feel as though the boundary that separates them from the rest of the world has dissolved. Now, the first functional magnetic resonance images (fMRI) of people’s brains while on LSD help to explain this phenomenon known as “ego dissolution.”

As researchers report in the Cell Press journal Current Biology, these images suggest that ego dissolution occurs as regions of the brain involved in higher cognition become heavily over-connected. The findings suggest that studies of LSD and other psychedelic drugs can produce important insights into the brain. They can also provide intriguing biological insight into philosophical questions about the very nature of reality, the researchers say.

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The 6 elements of an effective apology, according to science

112987_webThere are six components to an apology – and the more of them you include when you say you’re sorry, the more effective your apology will be, according to new research.

But if you’re pressed for time or space, there are two elements that are the most critical to having your apology accepted.

“Apologies really do work, but you should make sure you hit as many of the six key components as possible,” said Roy Lewicki, lead author of the study and professor emeritus of management and human resources at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

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Researchers generate clean energy using bacteria-powered solar panel

These are nine biological-solar (bio-solar) cells connected into a bio-solar panel. The panel has generated the most wattage of any existing small-scale bio-solar cells - 5.59 microwatts CREDIT: Seokheun "Sean" Choi

These are nine biological-solar (bio-solar) cells connected into a bio-solar panel. The panel has generated the most wattage of any existing small-scale bio-solar cells – 5.59 microwatts
CREDIT: Seokheun “Sean” Choi

Researchers have taken the next step in the evolution of bacteria-powered energy.

For the first time ever, researchers connected nine biological-solar (bio-solar) cells into a bio-solar panel. Then they continuously produced electricity from the panel and generated the most wattage of any existing small-scale bio-solar cells – 5.59 microwatts.

“Once a functional bio-solar panel becomes available, it could become a permanent power source for supplying long-term power for small, wireless telemetry systems as well as wireless sensors used at remote sites where frequent battery replacement is impractical,” said Seokheun “Sean” Choi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in Binghamton University’s Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science, and co-author of the paper.

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Sorry kids, seniors want to connect and communicate on Facebook, too

Senior Computing FunOlder adults, who are Facebook’s fastest growing demographic, are joining the social network to stay connected and make new connections, just like college kids who joined the site decades ago, according to Penn State researchers.

“Earlier studies suggest a positive relationship between bonding and bridging social capital and Facebook use among college students,” said Eun Hwa Jung, a doctoral candidate in mass communications. “Our study extends this finding to senior citizens.”

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