Study links parental depression to brain changes and risk-taking in adolescents

University of Illinois professor Eva Telzer and graduate student Yang Qu linked parental depression to increases in risky behaviors and brain changes in adolescents. CREDIT: Photo by Joyce Seay-Knoblauch

University of Illinois professor Eva Telzer and graduate student Yang Qu linked parental depression to increases in risky behaviors and brain changes in adolescents.
CREDIT: Photo by Joyce Seay-Knoblauch

The study is reported in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

“This is the first empirical evidence to show that parental depression influences children’s behavior through the change in the adolescent’s brain,” said University of Illinois graduate student Yang Qu, who led the study with U. of I. psychology professor Eva Telzer.

“There are a lot of changes happening in the teen years, especially when we are thinking about risk-taking behaviors,” Telzer said.

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To reduce risk for Alzheimer’s, skip Lumosity and get onto the yoga mat

Senior Yoga - TranquilInner peace and a flexible body may not be the most valuable benefits that yoga and meditation have to offer, suggests new research by a UCLA-led team of neuroscientists.

The team found that a three-month course of yoga and meditation practice helped minimize the cognitive and emotional problems that often precede Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia — and that it was even more effective than the memory enhancement exercises that have been considered the gold standard for managing mild cognitive impairment.

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When you take acetaminophen, you don’t feel others’ pain as much

Baldwin Way is pictured. CREDIT: Ohio State University

Baldwin Way is pictured.
CREDIT:
Ohio State University

When you take acetaminophen (paracetamol in Australia) to reduce your pain, you may also be decreasing your empathy for both the physical and social aches that other people experience, a new study suggests.

Researchers at The Ohio State University found, for example, that when participants who took acetaminophen learned about the misfortunes of others, they thought these individuals experienced less pain and suffering,when compared to those who took no painkiller.

“These findings suggest other people’s pain doesn’t seem as big of a deal to you when you’ve taken acetaminophen,” said Dominik Mischkowski, co-author of the study and a former Ph.D. student at Ohio State, now at the National Institutes of Health.

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How face-to-face still beats Facebook

Social Media ConnectionSocial media may seem to be a way to make and maintain hundreds of friendships. But University of Oxford research, supported by Dorset bakers Thomas J. Fudge’s, suggests that the constraints that limit the number of friends we have offline also apply online. The study is published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

Offline, research has given rise to what’s called the Social Brain Hypothesis. This says that our brain’s ability to process multiple relationships creates a natural group size for humans of 100 – 200 people. This size is also constrained by the time required to maintain relationships – we only have so much time to devote to meeting or talking to people.

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Friends ‘better than morphine’

handsPeople with more friends have higher pain tolerance, Oxford University researchers have found.

Katerina Johnson, a doctoral student in the University’s Department of Experimental Psychology, was studying whether differences in our neurobiology may help explain why some of us have larger social networks than others.

She said: ‘I was particularly interested in a chemical in the brain called endorphin. Endorphins are part of our pain and pleasure circuitry — they’re our body’s natural painkillers and also give us feelings of pleasure. Previous studies have suggested that endorphins promote social bonding in both humans and other animals. One theory, known as ‘the brain opioid theory of social attachment’, is that social interactions trigger positive emotions when endorphin binds to opioid receptors in the brain. This gives us that feel-good factor that we get from seeing our friends.

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New study shows we are bad judges of friendship

Two FriendsMost of us think that friendship is a two-way street — but that’s true only half the time, according to research from Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Their new joint study says only half of your buddies would consider you their own friend. People have a very poor perception of friendship ties, and this limits their ability to influence their “friends,” according to the research, published in PLoS One on March 22, 2016.

If researchers can understand this limitation, companies and social groups that depend on social influence for collective action, information dissemination and product promotion could improve their strategies and interventions.

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Short-term language learning aids mental agility, study suggests

Learning foreign languagesMental agility can be boosted by even a short period of learning a language, a study suggests.

Tests carried out on students of all ages suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention, after only a week of study.

Researchers also found that these benefits could be maintained with regular practice.

A team from the University of Edinburgh assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.

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Natural antibodies could combat Tasmanian devil cancer

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcopilus Harrisii)

And the devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) could actually already hold the solution – natural antibodies found in the marsupial’s immune system.

Dr Beata Ujvari, from Deakin’s Centre for Integrative Ecology within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, investigated differences in molecules found in the devils’ immune systems, comparing those that had the cancer, known as the Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease, and those that didn’t.

We know from human and animal studies that certain natural antibodies are able to recognise and kill cancerous cells, so we wanted to see whether the presence of these molecules would also determine tumour development in Tasmanian devils,” Dr Ujvari said.

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For groups in conflict, genes matter

Photo by Shraddha Gupta Sasha Kimel, a visiting professor in the Psychology Department, has studied the effect of genetic information on groups in conflict. “We found evidence that if you make Arabs and Jews believe they are either genetically similar or different from another, that can impact their propensity for peace or conflict,” Kimel said.

Photo by Shraddha Gupta
Sasha Kimel, a visiting professor in the Psychology Department, has studied the effect of genetic information on groups in conflict. “We found evidence that if you make Arabs and Jews believe they are either genetically similar or different from another, that can impact their propensity for peace or conflict,” Kimel said.

Genetics could play an important role in the dynamics of human conflict, new research suggests.

A study led by Sasha Kimel, a visiting professor in Harvard’sPsychology Department and a former Harvard College Fellow, shows that giving groups in conflict information about their genetic similarities or differences can tilt them toward conflict or peacemaking. The findings are described in a May paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“We found evidence that if you make Arabs and Jews believe they are either genetically similar or different from another, that can impact their propensity for peace or conflict,” Kimel said. “The fact that emphasizing genetic similarities between these groups sometimes led to support for peace suggests that there may be something special about genes.

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Leonardo da Vinci’s DNA: Experts unite to shine modern light on a Renaissance genius

Cover of the special issue of the journal Human Evolution announcing the Leonardo Project. CREDIT: Human Evolution

Cover of the special issue of the journal Human Evolution announcing the Leonardo Project.
CREDIT: Human Evolution

A team of eminent specialists from a variety of academic disciplines has coalesced around a goal of creating new insight into the life and genius of Leonardo da Vinci by means of authoritative new research and modern detective technologies, including DNA science.

The Leonardo Project is in pursuit of several possible physical connections to Leonardo, beaming radar, for example, at an ancient Italian church floor to help corroborate extensive research to pinpoint the likely location of the tomb of his father and other relatives. A collaborating scholar also recently announced the successful tracing of several likely DNA relatives of Leonardo living today in Italy (see endnotes).

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