Tag Archives: New York Times

Let them eat clay?

30 Aug

If you haven’t seen Steven Colbert’s amazing take down of a product called the Vapshot. You need to stop reading and watch it immediately.



Colbert demonstrates the importance of critical thinking in assessing the safety of commercial products. I was thinking about this when I read this article in The New York Times about the new fad of clay eating.

Clay eating is potentially dangerous since some clays contain arsenic and lead.

I was struck by this claim made by Dr. Holly Phillips:

  “The ancient Greeks and Romans touted clay’s ability to boost the immune system.”

While the ancients may have had a notion of immunity, the concept of an immune system is modern.

Becoming a lawyer without law school

3 Aug

I am a big fan of adult learning projects. Here is an article from The New York Times about the several states that allow you to take the bar exam without going to law school:

” In Virginia, Vermont, Washington and California, aspiring lawyers can study for the bar without ever setting foot into or paying a law school. New York, Maine and Wyoming require a combination of law school and apprenticeship.”



Extreme memory

21 May

A New York Times article about the Extreme Memory Tournament.


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Sluggish cognitive tempo?

13 Apr

An article in yesterday’s New York Times announces a possible new disorder named sluggish cognitive tempo:

“some powerful figures in mental health are claiming to have identified a new disorder that could vastly expand the ranks of young people treated for attention problems. Called sluggish cognitive tempo, the condition is said to be characterized by lethargy, daydreaming and slow mental processing. By some researchers’ estimates, it is present in perhaps two million children.”

But many scientists express caution about this new construct:

“Yet some experts, including Dr. McBurnett and some members of the journal’s editorial board, say that there is no consensus on the new disorder’s specific symptoms, let alone scientific validity. They warn that the concept’s promotion without vastly more scientific rigor could expose children to unwarranted diagnoses and prescription medications”

A search of google scholar finds many papers on this topic. So, at this point, I reserve judgement until I am better informed.


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Visualization techniques embraced by athletes

25 Feb

An article in The New York Times tells us that:

“INCREASING numbers of athletes are turning to a sports psychology training technique known as visualization to sharpen their competitive edge. The technique involves mentally rehearsing for a competition, playing ”movies” in the mind over and over of a superb past performance or the ideal performance.”

Here is an interesting paper, from 2001, suggesting that visualization might be helpful in geriatric rehabilitation. This is the abstract:

“The challenge of geriatric rehabilitation continues to grow with decreasing Medicare reimbursement and societal access to therapy. Occupational and physical therapists must be proactive in developing strategies that optimize therapy outcomes for patients. Mental rehearsal is a complementary treatment technique that should be considered for facilitation of motor skill acquisition. This technique has been used extensively in sport, music, and dance performance. While it is not a viable substitute for physical practice, it most certainly can be helpful in motor learning enhancement. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of mental rehearsal: describe mental rehearsal, review the available research on the topic, consider possible mechanisms of action, and suggest its application to the geriatric patient population.”

Read More: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/J148v18n04_05

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Charles Blow on reading

31 Jan

New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote a nice piece on the central role that reading played in his life:

“It is no exaggeration to say that those books saved me: from a life of poverty, stress, depression and isolation.”

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Chess player regains ranking at age 41

12 Aug

Psychologists  have long been interested in chess and chess players. Some have even gone so far as to compare the role of chess in the cognitive sciences to the role that fruit flies play in genetics

Because it possible to rank and track the performance of chess players across their careers, chess provides an excellent arena for the study of how skill, training, and performance interact.

One important, observation is that chess masters usually play their best chess when they are younger, but as an article in yesterday’s New York Times points out, this is not always the case:

“Unlike in football, basketball or baseball — where players lose their skills as they age — in chess some older players experience a competitive renaissance and regain the form that made them champions.”


Demenita and anemia: Important finding; irresponsible reporting

2 Aug

A study published in the journal Nuerology reports that anemia, the name for a low red blood cell level,  may predict dementia in older adults. The author report a hazard ratio of 1.64, this means that an older person who receives a diagnosis of anemia is 1.64 as likely to develop dementia.

This in an important finding and does suggest that steps, such as vitamin B12 supplementation, might reduce the risk of dementia. However, the authors are quick to point out that this research is correlational and we can not say with certainty that treatment of anemia will reduce your risk of dementia until additional research is completed.

Some media, such as the New York Times, have covered this story accurately and responsibly. But other outlets have not. For example, U.S. Science News headlines the story this way:

“Eat steak to reduce risk of dementia, scientists claim”

In fact, the article actually contradicts itself advising you to eat steak at one point and advising you to eat a Mediterranean diet, which is a low in meat, at another. One site even advises you to eat liver to avoid dementia.

A meat centered diet is known to increase your risk of vascular dementia, so this is very dangerous advice. For good information on sources of B12 see this post by Dr. Greger.


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