Are all evening-types doomed?

17 Jan

An interesting interview with Royette Tavernier of Wesleyan University, about her work on sleep and chronotype:

Empirical evidence indicates that US children and adults alike are getting less sleep than previous generations. This is a critical issue because of the importance of adequate and good-quality sleep for physical, cognitive, psychological, and interpersonal functioning. Furthermore, this pattern of increasing sleep debt coincides with increases in several physical and psychological health ailments, including depression, anxiety, and obesity.

Here is a paper she co-authored with the interesting title: “Are all evening-types doomed? Latent class analyses of perceived morningness–eveningness, sleep and psychosocial functioning among emerging adults”

400 failed Alzheimer’s drugs

15 Jan

An article in The Washington Post examines why it is so hard to find an effective drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease:

These setbacks pile on to an already depressing situation: more than 400 failed clinical trials since the last Alzheimer’s drug — which only treats the symptoms of the disease, temporarily — was approved more than a decade ago.


Alzheimer’s is a formidable foe for a number of reasons. The brain isn’t easy to access, and much about how it works remains mysterious, even as scientific knowledge has moved forward. Doctors can’t take easy, repeat biopsies to see whether a drug is working.

Trials are long and expensive. It has become increasingly clear that it is necessary to treat patients early in the disease, and then wait to see if the disease is prevented or slowed.

Patients, though they are affected in heartbreaking ways, typically are unable to act as advocates for more funding or research when they are in the throes of the disease — unlike cancer or AIDS patients.

Does extra virgin olive oil prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

12 Jan

Sound too good to be true? It probably is. Here is a post on the topic by Joy Victory:

To deconstruct how this went off the rails, let’s start with the university news release sent to journalists: “Temple study: Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory & protects brain against Alzheimer’s.”

That’s a headline that surely got journalists’ attention. It’s not until after two very long opening paragraphs extolling the virtues of the nearly magical powers of extra virgin olive oil that we find out who, exactly this was tested on.


Andrew Gelman gives his take:

I looked briefly at the published research article and am concerned about forking paths, type M errors, and type S errors. Put briefly, I doubt such strong results would show up in a replication of this study.

Psychology podcast on children’s imaginary friends

10 Jan

An InExact Science is a podcast sponsored by the Association for Psychological Science. I just listened to this episode about children’s imaginary friends and I highly recommend it.

How a study gets misrepresented

8 Jan

So I was looking at a blog post “This 5-Minute Visualization Technique Can Change The World,” when I came across this claim:

Visualization is a tool that helps us imagine things into being. Studies show that envisioning a brighter future can help boost our happiness in the present,

I am always skeptical about claims like “studies show” until I have actually looked at the cited studies. Here is the abstract for the referenced study, I have underlined the relevant sentence:

Theoretical conceptions on happiness have generally considered two broad perspectives: hedonic enjoyment and eudaemonia. However, most research on how to improve people’s happiness has focused primarily on the enhancement of hedonic happiness. In this longitudinal experimental study we test the differential impact of two positive exercises—Best Possible Selves and the Lottery Question—on hedonic and eudaemonic happiness. The hypothesis that the practice of the Best Possible Selves exercise would increase hedonic happiness was confirmed. This effect was immediate and maintained a week after the exercise. Furthermore, this exercise also increased eudaemonic happiness. However, its effect decreased after a week. Contrary to what was expected the Lottery Question exercise decreased both eudaemonic happiness and hedonic happiness over time. We discuss implications of this study for the literature on positive psychological and behavioral interventions to increase happiness.

Technically the blog post is not wrong, the visualization did increase happiness “in the present.” but the author failed to mention that it decreased happiness over time.

How good are you at estimating the passage of time?

5 Jan

I found this pretty interesting. Some researchers have suggested that the ability to count inhales and exhales might be a good measure of mindfulness.

[Hap tip to BoingBoing]

Is Alzheimer’s caused by brain atherosclerosis?

3 Jan

Please  understand that this explanation if one of a number of competing hypotheses. Dr. Greger makes his case here:

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