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.

Mice.

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:

Another year of meditation!

1 Jan

So today I have completed another 365 days of meditation. My Insight Time app says I have completed 733 consecutive days of meditation and a total of 1,794 days with at least one session. The number of consecutive days would have been greater, but I fell out of sync when I traveled to India two years ago and crossed the International Date Line.

Over the year my practice has shifted towards non-directive meditation.

Happy New Year!

Nelson Enterprises

29 Dec

I am the proud owner of a large collection of magic books. Perhaps, my most prized book is a copy of a Nelson Enterprises catalog from the 1960s.

Nelson Enterprises was a magic store located in downtown Columbus that specialized in mentalism, magic that mimics psychic phenomenon. Just reading the catalog will make you skeptical about paranormal claims.

For sometime, I had thought about scanning my copy and putting it online, but now I find the public library in Columbus has beat me to it. Read and be amazed!

You can read about Robert Nelson here.

Does music or chess enhance cognitive skills?

27 Dec

The idea that playing chess and studying music improves cognition in other domains, such as math, is called far transfer. It is a very seductive idea with a strong intuitive appeal. “Teach the kids chess and it will improve their academic performance.”

A recent meta-analysis published in Current Directions of Psychological Science, casts doubt on this popular belief. The paper is both persuasive and well written and I encourage educators to read it. Here is the abstract:

Chess masters and expert musicians appear to be, on average, more intelligent than the general population. Some researchers have thus claimed that playing chess or learning music enhances children’s cognitive abilities and academic attainment. We here present two meta-analyses assessing the effect of chess and music instruction on children’s cognitive and academic skills. A third meta-analysis evaluated the effects of working memory training—a cognitive skill correlated with music and chess expertise—on the same variables. The results show small to moderate effects. However, the effect sizes are inversely related to the quality of the experimental design (e.g., presence of active control groups). This pattern of results casts serious doubts on the effectiveness of chess, music, and working memory training. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings; extend the debate to other types of training such as spatial training, brain training, and video games; and conclude that far transfer of learning rarely occurs.

In an era of scarce educational resources, teachers in fields like art and music often defend their place in the curriculum by using far transfer arguments. Music we are told will improve math scores. This research calls into question these kinds of claims.

Art and music belong in the curriculum because they are valuable in their own right. Not everything needs to justified by how it affects math scores.

%d bloggers like this: