High Blood Pressure and Dementia

21 Apr

Dr. Greger has the details:

Prisoner’s Dilemma Videos

19 Apr

Last night I was teaching the prisoner’s dilemma to my students. Turns out there are a lot of entertaining videos on the topic. For example:

My students found these especially enjoyable:

For a more serious look at the background:

Rolling Stone on hallucinogens

17 Apr

Mac McClelland discusses recent research on the possible benefits of hallucinogens:

Currently – legally – we’re in the midst of a psychedelic renaissance. New York University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Zurich, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Alabama and the University of California-Los Angeles have all partnered with the psilocybin-focused Heffter Research Institute, studying the compound for smoking cessation, alcoholism, terminal-cancer anxiety and cocaine dependence; the biotech-CEO-founded Usona Institute funds research of “consciousness-expanding medicines” for depression and anxiety at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 2000, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), a nonprofit based in Santa Cruz, California, has been funding clinical trials of MDMA for subjects with PTSD, mostly veterans, but also police, firefighters and civilians. In November, the FDA approved large-scale Phase III clinical trials – the last phase before potential medicalization – of MDMA for PTSD treatment. MAPS, which has committed $25 million to achieving that medicalization by 2021, also supports or runs research with ayahuasca (a concoction of Amazonian plants), LSD, medical marijuana and ibogaine, the pharmaceutical extract of the psychoactive African shrub iboga. The organization is additionally funding a study of MDMA for treating social anxiety in autistic adults, currently underway at UCLA Medical Center. Another study, using MDMA to treat anxiety in patients with life-threatening illnesses, has concluded.

“If we didn’t have some idea about the potential importance of these medicines, we wouldn’t be researching them,” says Dr. Jeffrey Guss, psychiatry professor at NYU Medical Center and co-investigator of the NYU Psilocybin Cancer Project. “Their value has been written about and is well known from thousands of years of recorded history, from their being used in religious and healing settings. Their potential and their being worthy of exploration and study speaks for itself.”

A future worth fighting for

14 Apr

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)

My numerology paper published

12 Apr

Just off the presses “A Test of Numerology: Do Birth Numbers Predict Nobel Prize Winners?” published in The Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis. Here is the abstract:

This paper tests a claim made by numerologists – the belief that the digits of a person’s birth date summed to a single integer, called the birth number, has predictive power. In order to test this claim the birth number was calculated for persons winning Nobel Prizes between the years 1901 and 2010. The distribution of birth numbers for prize winners did not differ significantly from chance (χ2 = 4.92, df = 8, p = 0.77). The distribution of birth numbers between winners of different prize categories also did not differ significantly from chance (χ2= 28.9, df = 40, p = .90). These results provide no support for the claims of numerology

You can find the paper here.

Tip of Tongue: Dreamland Edition

12 Apr

Last night I dreamed that I had a tip of the tongue experience. Tip of the tongue states are situations where you forget some piece of information, but have a strong sense that you actually know it. Often the information comes to you later in the absence of any outside reminder, strong evidence that the information was there all along.

In my dream, I could not recall the name of a university administrator I was meeting with. I experienced it just like a real TOT state. On waking, I not only remembered the dream, but I also had no problem recalling the administrator’s name. The TOT experience was completely confined to my dream.

This reminds me a bit of the phenomenon of state dependent memory, where a person’s physiological state serves as a memory cue. For example, some people will learn a fact well drunk, forget it when sober, but recall it again when inebriated. This was a central plot point in Chaplain’s film, City Lights.

Manipulatives may hinder learning

10 Apr

Walk into an early elementary school classroom and you are likely to see lots of manipulatives. From Popsicle sticks to Cuisenaire rods we have a strong intuitive sense that these objects should help children learn mathematics.

Not so fast, says Sara Fulmer over at The Learning Scientist;

Although manipulatives can increase students’ attention, this attention may not benefit their learning. In fact, the very aspect of manipulatives that capture students’ attention—bright colors, visual appeal, realistic features—may be their downfall. Manipulatives that are more visually interesting or realistic can increase off-task behavior, such as building or sorting (1). This is especially true if students interact with that object in other contexts, such as during play time or outside of the classroom.

Students who learn with manipulatives can become too reliant on the object and context, and as a result, have difficulty transferring their knowledge to new contexts, different testing formats, or to abstract representations (e.g., algebraic expressions) of the problem

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