Graying but grinning: Despite physical ailments, older adults happier

Dilip Jeste, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UC San Diego. CREDIT: UC San Diego Health

Dilip Jeste, M.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UC San Diego.
CREDIT: UC San Diego Health

While even the best wines eventually peak and turn to vinegar, a new study by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests a paradoxical trend in the mental health of aging adults: They seem to consistently get better over time.

“Their improved sense of psychological well-being was linear and substantial,” said senior author Dilip Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences and director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UC San Diego. “Participants reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade.”

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For arts nonprofits, attendance at events unlikely to influence donors

Mirae Kim, assistant professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs, says that arts nonprofits that perform better according to philanthropic standards are not necessarily rewarded with more contributions from individual donors. CREDIT: MU News Bureau

Mirae Kim, assistant professor in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs, says that arts nonprofits that perform better according to philanthropic standards are not necessarily rewarded with more contributions from individual donors.
CREDIT: MU News Bureau

Arts and cultural nonprofit organizations promote arts appreciation and strengthen communities by providing a wide range of arts programs in music, theater, visual arts and dance. These organizations rely on donations to exist. One way that the nonprofit sector currently measures these organizations’ successes is by the number of people who attend their programs. However, new research from the University of Missouri finds no evidence to support the idea that donors are influenced by high attendance numbers; in fact, large audience numbers may actually lead to fewer donations.

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‘Deeply unsettling’ weight discrimination in the workplace highlighted

Woman workingWomen face weight-based prejudice in the workplace – even when their body mass index (BMI) is within the healthy range, research led by a University of Strathclyde academic has found.

In the study, participants were asked to rate people for their suitability for jobs in the service sector, based on their appearance. Researchers found even marginal increases in weight had a negative impact on female candidates’ job prospects.

Professor Dennis Nickson, who is based at the University’s Department of Human Resource Management, said: “Many organisations in the service sector, such as shops, bars and hotels, seek to employ people with the right ‘look’ which will fit with their corporate image.

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Do teachers’ climate change beliefs influence students?

2015 was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The record-breaking year continues a long-term warming trend -- 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001. CREDIT Credits: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

2015 was the warmest year since modern record-keeping began in 1880, according to a new analysis by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The record-breaking year continues a long-term warming trend — 15 of the 16 warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001.
CREDIT: Credits: Scientific Visualization Studio/Goddard Space Flight Center

A North Carolina State University study of middle school science classes explored whether teachers’ beliefs about climate change influenced students’ perceptions.

“The answer is yes and no,” says Kathryn Stevenson, an assistant professor in NC State’s College of Natural Resources and lead author of a paper describing the study, published inPLOS ONE. “While students generally mirror a teacher’s belief that global warming is happening, when it comes to the cause of climate change, students reason for themselves and reach different conclusions than their teachers do.”

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Large human brain evolved as a result of ‘sizing each other up’

Planning A businessHumans have evolved a disproportionately large brain as a result of sizing each other up in large cooperative social groups, researchers have proposed.

A team led by computer scientists at Cardiff University suggest that the challenge of judging a person’s relative standing and deciding whether or not to cooperate with them has promoted the rapid expansion of human brain size over the last 2 million years.

In a study published in Scientific Reports today, the team, which also includes leading evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar from the University of Oxford, specifically found that evolution favours those who prefer to help out others who are at least as successful as themselves.

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No blue light, please, I’m tired — light color determines sleepiness versus arousal in mice

The color of light matters: blue light keeps mice awake longer, while green light puts them to sleep easily. CREDIT Flickr user Pilottage. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The color of light matters: blue light keeps mice awake longer, while green light puts them to sleep easily.
CREDIT: Flickr user Pilottage. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Light affects sleep. A study in mice published in Open Access journal PLOS Biology shows that the actual color of light matters; blue light keeps mice awake longer while green light puts them to sleep easily. An accompanying Primer provides accessible context information and discusses open questions and potential implications for “designing the lighting of the future”.

Light shining into our eyes not only mediates vision but also has critical non-image-forming functions such as the regulation of circadian rhythm, which affects sleep and other physiological processes. As humans, light generally keeps us awake, and dark makes us sleepy. For mice, which are mostly nocturnal, light is a sleep-inducer. Previous studies in mice and humans have shown that non-image-forming light perception occurs in specific photosensitive cells in the eye and involves a light sensor called melanopsin. Mice without melanopsin show a delay in their response to fall asleep when exposed to light, pointing to a critical role for melanopsin in sleep regulation.

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Heading for a fall

Watch Your StepThe link between overconfidence and poor decision making is under the spotlight in an international study by scientists from Monash University and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig.

People vary widely in their awareness of what they do and don’t know, or metacognitive ability, and in general are too confident when evaluating their performance. This often leads to poor decision making with potentially disastrous consequences, according to the report’s authors.

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‘Chemtrails’ not real, say leading atmospheric science experts

This is a condensation trail, or contrail, left behind an aircraft. Courtesy of Mick West.

This is a condensation trail, or contrail, left behind an aircraft. Courtesy of Mick West.

Some groups and individuals erroneously believe that the long-lasting condensation trails, or contrails, left behind aircraft are evidence of a secret large-scale spraying program. They call these imagined features “chemtrails.” Adherents of this conspiracy theory sometimes attribute this alleged spraying to the government and sometimes to industry.

The authors of this study, including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira, conducted a survey of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists, who categorically rejected the existence of a secret spraying program. The team’s findings, published by Environmental Research Letters, are based on a survey of two groups of experts: atmospheric chemists who specialize in condensation trails and geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution.

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Physicists confirm possible discovery of fifth force of nature

"If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe," says UCI professor of physics & astronomy Jonathan Feng, including what holds together galaxies such as this spiral one, called NGC 6814. CREDIT: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

“If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe,” says UCI professor of physics & astronomy Jonathan Feng, including what holds together galaxies such as this spiral one, called NGC 6814.
CREDIT: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt

Recent findings indicating the possible discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of a fifth fundamental force of nature, according to a paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters by theoretical physicists at the University of California, Irvine.

“If true, it’s revolutionary,” said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics & astronomy. “For decades, we’ve known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter.”

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This is your brain on sentences

These brain maps show how accurately it was possible to predict neural activation patterns for new, previously unseen sentences, in different regions of the brain. The brighter the area, the higher the accuracy. The most accurate area, which can be seen as the bright yellow strip, is a region in the left side of the brain known as the Superior Temporal Sulcus. This region achieved statistically significant sentence predictions in 11 out of the 14 people whose brains were scanned. Although that was the most accurate region, several other regions, broadly distributed across the brain, also produced significantly accurate sentence predictions. CREDIT: Andrew Anderson/University of Rochester

These brain maps show how accurately it was possible to predict neural activation patterns for new, previously unseen sentences, in different regions of the brain. The brighter the area, the higher the accuracy. The most accurate area, which can be seen as the bright yellow strip, is a region in the left side of the brain known as the Superior Temporal Sulcus. This region achieved statistically significant sentence predictions in 11 out of the 14 people whose brains were scanned. Although that was the most accurate region, several other regions, broadly distributed across the brain, also produced significantly accurate sentence predictions.
CREDIT: Andrew Anderson/University of Rochester

Researchers at the University of Rochester have, for the first time, decoded and predicted the brain activity patterns of word meanings within sentences, and successfully predicted what the brain patterns would be for new sentences.

The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure human brain activation. “Using fMRI data, we wanted to know if given a whole sentence, can we filter out what the brain’s representation of a word is–that is to say, can we break the sentence apart into its word components, then take the components and predict what they would look like in a new sentence,” said Andrew Anderson, a research fellow who led the study as a member of the lab of Rajeev Raizada, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester.

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