The tradgey of Tony Rosato

18 Jan

Yesterday, I heard a talk by a retired corrections officer. He told us that a large percentage of the incarcerated people he dealt with were not not criminals but suffered from mental illness. It reminded me of how poorly equipped we are to help people with psychiatric issues.

This point was made again when I read The New York Times obituary for comedian Tony Rosato. Rosato’s successful career was derailed because he suffered from Capgras syndrome, a devastating psychiatric disorder.

Mr. Rosato, who refused to acknowledge his mental illness, did not plead guilty and spent the next two years in a maximum-security facility awaiting trial.

News media reports attributed the gap between Mr. Rosato’s arrest and trial to a combination of his intractability and the punitive approach of the Canadian authorities. “Tony Rosato will have spent more time in custody on a harassment charge than any other convicted prisoner in Canada has ever spent on the same charges,” his lawyer, Daniel Brodsky, told The Toronto Star before his trial finally began in 2007. A judge found Mr. Rosato guilty of criminal harassment that September. He was remanded to a psychiatric hospital, where he was found to have Capgras syndrome, a rare mental illness characterized by the delusion that loved ones have been replaced by impostors.

Cognitive benefits of midlife exercise

16 Jan

From The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, “Midlife Physical Activity and Cognition Later in Life: A Prospective Twin Study.” Here is the abstract:

Background: Physical activity has been associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline but the nature of this association remains obscure. Objective: To study associations between midlife physical activity and cognition in old age for a prospective cohort of Finnish twins. Methods: Physical activity in the Finnish Twin Cohort was assessed using questionnaire responses collected in 1975 and 1981. After a mean follow-up of 25.1 years, the subjects’ (n = 3050; mean age 74.2; range 66–97) cognition was evaluated with a validated telephone interview. Both participation in vigorous physical activity, and the volume of physical activity, divided into quintiles, were used as predictors of cognitive impairment. Metrics collected by TELE were used to categorize participants as: cognitively impaired, suffering mild cognitive impairment, or cognitively healthy. Results: Participation in vigorous physical activity compared to non-participation for both 1975 and 1981 was associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in individual-based analyses (fully adjusted OR 0.50, 95% CI 0.35–0.73). Pairwise analyses yielded similar but statistically non-significant associations. In terms of the volume of physical activity, the most active quintile of individuals (OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.46–1.04) had a reduced risk of cognitive decline compared with the most sedentary quintile in the fully adjusted model although no clear dose-response was found. Conclusion: Vigorous midlife physical activity was associated with less cognitive impairment but without a clear dose-response association between the volume of physical activity and cognition.

13 Jan

An interesting paper about school schedules and student performance, published in The Review of Economics and Statistics, “How the Time of Day Affects Productivity: Evidence from School Schedules.” Here is the abstract:

Increasing the efficiency of the school system is a primary focus
of policymakers. I analyze how the time of day affects students’ productivity
and if efficiency gains can be obtained by rearranging the order of tasks they
perform throughout the school day. Using a panel data set of nearly 2 million
sixth- through eleventh-grade students in Los Angeles County, I perform
within-teacher, class type, and student estimation of the time-of-day effect
on students’ learning as measured by GPA and state test scores. I find that
given a school start time, students learn more in the morning than later in
the school day. Having a morning instead of afternoon math or English class
increases a student’s GPA by 0.072 (0.006) and 0.032 (0.006), respectively.
A morning math class increases state test scores by an amount equivalent
to increasing teacher quality by one-fourth standard deviation or half of the
gender gap. Rearranging school schedules can lead to increased academic
performance.

At first this would seem contrary to the evidence that suggests that later school start times seem to benefit students, but the author addresses this:

My study is also related to the school start time literature.
Research has indicated that due to changing sleep patterns
during adolescence, academic gains can be achieved by starting
school later. Carrel, Maghakian, and West (2011) use
random assignment of college classes and find that having one
hour earlier start times decreases students’ GPA by 0.031 to
0.076 standard deviations. Similarly, Dills and HernandezJulian
(2008) find that even when controlling for course
and student characteristics, students perform worse in earlier
classes. Edwards (2012) uses variation in school start times
produced by staggered busing schedules and finds that starting
school an hour later increases test scores by 2 percentage
points.
Some have interpreted the finding that later school start
times increase students’ academic performance as implying
that given a school start time, students perform better
in the afternoon than in the morning (Carrel et al., 2011;
Dills & Hernandez-Julian, 2008). However, this hypothesis
has not been tested empirically. The common conclusion is
that later start times increase students’ achievement because
students are less sleep deprived. However, this says nothing
about how teaching and learning ability change throughout
the day. School start times affect the average learning in a day
but not differential learning throughout the day. Therefore,
the results of this paper and the school start time literature
estimate slightly different effects.

New York Times on psychedelic microdosing

11 Jan

Over the weekend The New York Times published this piece on LSD microdosing: “How LSD Saved One Woman’s Marriage”:

Ayelet Waldman, a novelist and former federal public defender, recalled the sunny spring morning she rolled out of bed in her Berkeley, Calif., home and experienced the most curious sensation: She felt alive.As her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, slept and her teenage son and daughter slumped over the breakfast table, Ms. Waldman did not feel a trace of morning surliness, or of the suffocating depression that had dogged her for months. Rather, she says, with the perkiness of a morning-show host, she chirped about the loveliness of the blue skies and hummed upbeat ditties as she whipped up banana-strawberry smoothies. She even offered to braid her daughter’s hair. It was all so out of character that her children spoke up.“Mom, are you on acid?” her daughter asked sarcastically. Ms. Waldman froze. It was not yet the moment, she decided, to answer “yes.

Ms. Waldman had discovered microdosing, an illegal but voguish drug regimen in which devotees seek to enhance creativity, focus and mental balance by ingesting regular, barely perceptible doses of hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms.

In the 1960s early research on LSD and other psychedelic drugs suggested that they might be useful in treating a number of psychological problems, including alcoholism. There was even one study that suggested that psilocybin might reduce criminal recidivism. However, this line of research was stopped when LSD became illegal and was regarded as a national scourge. Now, thankfully, that trend is reversing and there is more interest in studying the potential benefits of these drugs.

Mnemonic trick for converting between Fahrenheit and Celsius

9 Jan

From the always interesting Benny Lewis:

“Academic cheating and time perspective”

6 Jan

A paper in the most recent Learning and Individual Differences, “Academic cheating and time perspective: Cheaters live in the present instead of the future”:

The goal of this research was to explore the relationship pattern of individual differences in time perspective and the frequency of self-reported academic cheating behavior among Hungarian high school students (N1 = 252, Mage = 16.46, SDage = 1.16; N2 = 371, Mage = 16.56, SDage = 1.18). According to the results of structural equations modeling, Future time perspective had a negative direct relationship with cheating, while Present hedonistic time perspective had a direct positive relationship with cheating. Moreover, academic motivations mediated the relationships between time perspectives and academic cheating. Future time perspective had direct negative relationship with amotivation and direct positive relationship with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Considering the malleability of time perspective, we claim both academic motivations and cheating can be influenced by time perspective.

Shades of the marshmallow experiment.

What Mike Boyd learned in a year

4 Jan

Boing-Boing alerted me to Mike Boyd’s Youtube channel. He describes his mission this way:

My name is Mike Boyd and a while ago I made a video documenting my process of learning a new skill in a really short amount of time. That idea seemed to resonate with people, so I decided to learn a bunch of other skills. Every month I pick a new challenge and try to conquer it as quickly as possible. Hopefully this content inspires you to learn something new too. Leave a comment telling me what you think and let me know if you have a suggestion for a new challenge. Enjoy the videos! 🙂

All very much in line with what I preach here at Peakmemory.me. In this video Mike demonstrates the skills he learned in 2016:

I had never heard of the brain bike (and I am supposed to keep track of these things). While I don’t know if it really helps your brain, it does look like it would be an interesting challenge.

How many products come with a disclaimer like this?:

YOU CANNOT RIDE THIS BIKE. Seriously, you’re purchasing an unridable bicycle (at least initially). Part of the fun is figuring out how long it will take you to learn how to ride it. When I only did it for 5 minutes a day it took 8 months. I’ve seen people do nothing but the bike be able to ride it in an hour or so. There seems to be some sort of correlation with sticking with it and “powering through” the hard part. If you decide to give it a shot, I would LOVE to know your age and how long it took you so I can add your data to the mix. Smarter Every Day LLC and Barney are not responsible for any injuries sustained from trying to ride this bike. If you DO decide to attempt it at your own risk, wear a helmet.

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