Smartphone Apps With Benefits

Smartphone apps might seem like little more than fun time-wasters, but new work by scientists at Hunter College (part of the City University of New York) shows that an app they developed can significantly reduce anxiety among individuals with high levels of anxiety. The app is based on a psychological method known as attention-bias modification training (ABMT), in which a person trains their brain to ignore an anxiety-provoking stimulus and instead focus on something more pleasant. In the study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers had 75 individuals who reported high levels of anxiety use the app, which involved following two characters and quickly and accurately tracing their paths around the screen. The study subjects were then asked to give a short speech in front of the authors. The participants who used the ABMT-based app had significantly less anxiety than those who played a similar game. Although the results still have to be validated among individuals with clinical anxiety disorders, the researchers hope that these apps can form a useful adjunct to treatment for anxiety disorders and stress.

Read more: http://bit.ly/1mfNkSh
Journal article: Mental Health on the Go: Effects of a Gamified Attention-Bias Modification Mobile Application in Trait-Anxious Adults. Clinical Psychological Science, 2014. doi: 10.1177/2167702614522228
Image credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr

Smartphone apps might seem like little more than fun time-wasters, but new work by scientists at Hunter College (part of the City University of New York) shows that an app they developed can significantly reduce anxiety among individuals with high levels of anxiety. The app is based on a psychological method known as attention-bias modification training (ABMT), in which a person trains their brain to ignore an anxiety-provoking stimulus and instead focus on something more pleasant. In the study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers had 75 individuals who reported high levels of anxiety use the app, which involved following two characters and quickly and accurately tracing their paths around the screen. The study subjects were then asked to give a short speech in front of the authors. The participants who used the ABMT-based app had significantly less anxiety than those who played a similar game. Although the results still have to be validated among individuals with clinical anxiety disorders, the researchers hope that these apps can form a useful adjunct to treatment for anxiety disorders and stress.</p>
<p>Read more: http://bit.ly/1mfNkSh<br />
Journal article: Mental Health on the Go: Effects of a Gamified Attention-Bias Modification Mobile Application in Trait-Anxious Adults. Clinical Psychological Science, 2014. doi: 10.1177/2167702614522228<br />
Image credit: Phil Roeder/Flickr

Mobile App Helps Triple Your Reading Speed

A new app can increase the speed you consume and comprehend text by displaying words in the ORP (Optimal Reading Position) for the human field of view.

This isn’t a new idea. People have been employing similar methods using digital media for years, however I’d never tried this approach until seeing this app at work. I have to say I’m pretty impressed.

Even 250 words per minute would save most of us a lot of time.

See this link for more.

LS

Mini Neural Computer Discovered In The Brain

The branch-like projections at the end of neurons known as dendrites have been thought to be merely passive participants in the processing of information. However, scientists at the University of North Carolina have now found that dendrites play a very active role in information processing, and serve to increase the brain’s processing power.
From prior research, scientists knew that electrical spikes were generated in dendrites with the same molecules that generate them in axons. What remained in question was whether normal brain activity made use of dendritic spikes. Using tiny pipettes attached to dendrites in the brains of mice, the researchers “listened” to electrical activity in the dendrites and noticed and analyzed patterns. The team noted that dendrites spiked even when the axon did not. The results of their work show that dendrites act as “mini-computers” in the brain that assist with information processing.

Exciting News On The Fight Against AIDS

A team of researchers based at Johns Hopkins has decoded a system that makes certain types of immune cells impervious to HIV infection. The system’s two vital components are high levels of a molecule that becomes embedded in viral DNA like a code written in invisible ink, and an enzyme that, when it reads the code, switches from repairing the DNA to chopping it up into unusable pieces. The researchers, who report the find in the Jan. 21 early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say the discovery points toward a new approach to eradicating HIV from the body.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130121161751.htm

Biologists Genetically Engineer Algae for Cancer Therapy

Biologists at UC San Diego have succeeded in genetically engineering algae to produce a complex and expensive human therapeutic drug used to treat cancer.


The advance is the culmination of seven years of work to demonstrate that Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a green alga used widely in biology laboratories as a genetic model organism can produce a wide range of human therapeutic proteins in greater quantity and more cheaply than bacteria or mammalian cells. Bacteria cannot make these drugs since they are incapable of folding the proteins into the complex, three-dimensional shapes needed. Additionally, the drug cannot be made in mammalian cells as the toxin would kill them.

The engineered algae produces a complex, three-dimensional protein with two “domains” — one of which contains the antibody to target cancer cells and another containing a toxin that kills the bound cancer cells. Such “fusion proteins” are presently created by pharmaceutical companies in a complex, two-step process by first developing the antibody domain in a Chinese hamster cell. The antibody is purified, then chemically attached to a toxin outside of the cell after which the final protein is re-purified.

While producing this particular fusion protein in algae was fairly straightforward because it involved fusing two domains, this same method can likely be used in the future to engineer algae to produce more complex proteins with multiple domains. Read more here:

http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressreleases/biologists_engineer_algae_to_make_complex_anti-cancer_designer_drug

Vaccinate Your F*cking Children – Please!

Pertussis Outbreak Kills 3 More Babies

Caught this news item a couple of weeks ago and it made me feel extremely sweary.

Vaccines for children were on the decrease

Then this happened.

Whooping cough: Outbreak claims three more babies

 

This is what we’ve known would happen for a long time. This is what we knew would be the outcome of those f*cking anti-vaxers.

Children die!

It’s not just your children you’re putting at risk, it’s other people’s children.

Never heard of herd immunity? Look it up.

Only after there’s a fatal outbreak, do people realise that the consequences of our post-rational, self-indulgent, over-priviledged opinions are fatal.

Sure, attach validity to anyone’s opinion. Free thinkers invented life-saving techniques like… eh… vaccines. The world is a better place for people who challenge conventional wisdom, but not at the expense of people’s lives. Worse children who have no choice.

Even worse, other people’s children who have read and understood the literature and made an informed decision.

If you agree with everything I say, see a doctor. If you agree with nothing, see a homeopath – and please quarantine yourselves from the general population.

Vaccinate your f*cking children!

Please.LS

Crazy? Hysterical? Mad? Really?

A few months ago, when discussing Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Hale Bop cult, Heaven’s Gate, a highly respected neurologist and skeptic, Dr Steven Novella, made a comment alluding to the fact that “you could just tell he was mad, by the look behind his eyes.”

Now, I understand we all make short-cuts of language when speaking informally, but I was very tempted to write in to the SGU (for the first time), to highlight that I felt this was a particularly dated and crass term to level at anyone, especially for people so educated.

I have to admit Dr Novella is the man who inspired me to study neuroscience and eventually start this blog, so it pains me  to question a man I hold in such high esteem.

However, I feel that such catch-all terms as “mad” are comparable to the dated practice of describing people as hysterical. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but I wonder if anyone agrees that it would be beneficial if the influencers of society, as a whole, would attempt to move common thinking towards a situation where people recognise a cognitive deficit in someone’s character without writing them off as being “crazy, mad or hysterical”.

I realise this takes education, which some have no inclination to acquire, however if we reduce the use of such stigmatised terms, I feel we would be on the road to a better acceptance and understanding of mental deficits.

Am I mad?

LS