Body-mind meditation can boost attention and health, lower stress

Yi-Yuan Tang, Ph.D.

Yi-Yuan Tang, Ph.D.

Meditation has long been promoted as a way to feel more at peace. But research from a Texas Tech University faculty member shows it can significantly improve attention, working memory, creativity, immune function, emotional regulation, self-control, cognitive and school performance and healthy habits while reducing stress.

Yi-Yuan Tang, the presidential endowed chair in neuroscience and a professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, has developed a novel method of mindfulness meditation called Integrative Body-Mind Training (IBMT).

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Biologists home in on paleo gut for clues to our evolutionary history

Close-up of Mixed-Breed monkey between Chimpanzee and Bonobo smiling, 8 years oldFor all the anxiety today about the bacteria in our gut being under constant assault by antibiotics, stress and bad diets, it turns out that a lot of the bacteria in our intestines have been with us for at least 15 million years, since we were pre-human apes.

A new comparison of the gut microbiomes of humans, chimps (our closest ancestor), bonobos and gorillas shows that the evolution of two of the major families of bacteria in these apes’ guts exactly parallels the evolution of their hosts.

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Researchers discover altruism is favored by chance

Food For HungryWhy do we feel good about giving to charity when there is no direct benefit to ourselves, and feel bad about cheating the system? Mathematicians may have found an answer to the longstanding puzzle as to why we have evolved to cooperate.

An international team of researchers, publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that altruism is favoured by random fluctuations in nature, offering an explanation to the mystery as to why this seemingly disadvantageous trait has evolved.

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Is fiction good for you? How researchers are trying to find out

Girl readingIt’s assumed that reading fiction is good for your mental health, but evidence linking Jane Eyre or Anna Karenina to a broadened mind has been mostly anecdotal. In a Review published on July 19 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, a psychologist-novelist delves into that issue, arguing that reading or watching narratives may encourage empathy. By exploring the inner lives of characters on the page, readers can form ideas about others’ emotions, motives, and ideas, off the page.

This intersection between literature and psychology has only taken off in the last few years, says Keith Oatley, a Professor Emeritus of the University of Toronto Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development. “There’s a bit of a buzz about it now,” he says. “In part, because researchers are recognizing that there’s something important about imagination.” The field’s recent turn toward brain imaging studies has also made the academic climate open to these ideas, he adds.

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In gauging and correcting errors, brain plays confidence game, new research shows

decisionThe confidence in our decision-making serves to both gauge errors and to revise our approach, New York University neuroscientists have found. Their study offers insights into the hierarchical nature of how we make choices over extended periods of time, ranging from medical diagnoses and treatment to the strategies we use to invest our money.

“What is challenging about comprehending why we make certain choices over long periods is to determine the true causes of the outcomes of our decisions,” explains Braden Purcell, an NYU post-doctoral fellow and the lead author the study, which appears in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “When we make a mistake, it might mean we were simply unlucky or it could indicate a deeper flaw in our overall strategy. For instance, if a patient’s health gets worse, should the doctor just try another treatment or should she revise the original diagnosis altogether? Our findings map out a framework of how we make such evaluations.”

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Same genes could make us prone to both happiness and depression

Depressed girl sittingThe same genes that make us prone to depression could also make us prone to positivity, two psychology researchers have suggested.

Professors Elaine Fox, from Oxford University, and Chris Beevers from the University of Texas at Austin reviewed a number of studies for their paper in Molecular Psychiatry. They say that there is a need to combine studies in mental health genetics with those that look at cognitive biases.

Professor Beevers said: ‘Cognitive biases are when people consistently interpret situations though particular mental ‘filters’ — when people have a cognitive bias that emphasises negative aspects or thoughts, they are more at risk of mental health disorders. There is a lot of research about these biases, and a lot of research about genes that may make people susceptible to mental ill health. However, we suggest that it could make more sense to bring together these two areas of research.’

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Do women experience negative emotions differently than men?

"Not everyone's equal when it comes to mental illness. Greater emotional reactivity in women may explain many things, such as their being twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders compared to men," Adrianna Mendrek, a researcher at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and professor at Université de Montréal (University of Montreal) CREDIT: Greg Kerr, CC BY 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/b33XC2

“Not everyone’s equal when it comes to mental illness. Greater emotional reactivity in women may explain many things, such as their being twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders compared to men,” Adrianna Mendrek, a researcher at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and professor at Université de Montréal (University of Montreal)
CREDIT: Greg Kerr, CC BY 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/b33XC2

Women react differently to negative images compared to men, which may be explained by subtle differences in brain function. This neurobiological explanation for women’s apparent greater sensitivity has been demonstrated by researchers at the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal) and the University of Montreal, whose findings were published today in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

“Not everyone’s equal when it comes to mental illness,” said Adrianna Mendrek, a researcher at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal and lead author of the study. “Greater emotional reactivity in women may explain many things, such as their being twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders compared to men,” Mendrek added, who is also an associate professor at the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychiatry.

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Fruit and veg give you the feel-good factor

This image shows Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick. CREDIT: Andrew Oswald

This image shows Andrew Oswald, University of Warwick.  CREDIT: Andrew Oswald

University of Warwick research indicates that eating more fruit and vegetables can substantially increase people’s later happiness levels.

Published in the prestigious American Journal of Public Health, the study is one of the first major scientific attempts to explore psychological well-being beyond the traditional finding that fruit and vegetables can reduce risk of cancer and heart attacks.

Happiness benefits were detected for each extra daily portion of fruit and vegetables up to 8 portions per day.

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Why you’d better never have to ask the way when visiting the Northern Territory in Australia

The way that different languages convey information has long fascinated linguists, anthropologists, and sociologists alike. Murrinhpatha, the lingua franca spoken by the majority of Aboriginal people in the Moyle and Fitzmaurice rivers region of Australia’s Northern Territory has many interesting features, with the absence of verbal abstract directions a prominent one among them.

And if a language doesn’t have terms to denote specific space concept, how can speakers communicate the direction of one location with respect to another?

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Opposites attract — unless you’re in a relationship

CoupleIf we are in a relationship we are more likely to be attracted to faces resembling our own, but for single people, opposites attract.

Relationship status affects who and what we find attractive, found a study published inFrontiers in Psychology.

Dr Jitka Lindová of Charles University in the Czech Republic and her team showed a series of photographs of faces to university students and asked them to rate their attractiveness. The photographs were digitally manipulated so that the resemblance to the student was modified.

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