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Better Lie Detectors
Source: www.sciencentral.com/12. September 06
Having a foolproof lie detector has been a goal for centuries. As a ScienCentral News video explains, an old method of looking at brain activity might give us a new way to spot liars.
Pants on Fire?
One of the memorable moments in the film "Meet the Parents" was Ben Stiller's profusely sweating brow as he sat strapped into a polygraph during his soon-to-be father-in-law's invasive questioning. Sweating, along with blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate are all physiologic conditions measured by polygraphs, with the idea being that they might reveal deception-induced anxiety.
Now, rather than focusing on the potential end-result of lying, Temple University scientists Scott Faro and Feroze Mohamed are developing a way to detect deception by looking directly at people's brain activity using MRI brain scanners.
"We are going to the source, we are going to the region of the brain which is actually formulating a response," says Mohamed, the MRI physicist on the team.
As Faro and Mohamed point out, because polygraphs only measure end-result changes in the sympathetic nervous system, tricking a polygraph might be achieved by simple relaxation. On the flipside, just being anxious about the test can generate a false positive.
In fact, say the researchers, false positives are common. "About 25 percent of the time, if you're innocent, the polygraph is going to say that you're either guilty or it's indeterminate," says Faro, professor and vice-chairman of radiology at Temple.
MRI Lie Detector Researchers
In this preliminary study, the researchers wanted to see whether brain scans can even pick up a significant difference between brain activity during lying versus when telling the truth. The researchers had six of eleven volunteers fire a gun, then lie and say they didn't. The other five could truthfully say they didn't fire the gun. All the volunteers were then given functional MRI and polygraph tests during which they denied having fired the gun.
As they reported in The Journal of Radiology, the brain scans revealed unique areas that only lit up during lying. However, the researchers point out that there is never going to be one telltale spot in the brain that automatically indicates a lie. "There really is no one lying center," says Faro. "There are multiple areas in the brain that activate because there's a lot of processes that have to take place."
Instead, Faro and Mohamed say that developing this method into a viable lie-detection system will depend on discovering complex patterns of brain behavior linked to lying. One of the most important of these is that the brain has to work much harder to lie than to tell the truth.
"In the group that lied there were two times the number of areas throughout the brain that showed activation compared to the group that was telling the truth," says Faro. He explains that this is caused by the fact that to lie you have to actively suppress memories that are triggered by the question. That takes more effort than simply asserting the truth.
Mohamed says that one of the most interesting parts of the study was coming up with "an ecologically valid design, as close to true life as possible." The researchers reasoned that lying about a real activity might produce a host of different responses in the brain, rather than just lying about known facts (such as falsely responding to questions like, "What is your name?").
"Because you actually had not just the memory of a gun firing, but you also had the tactile sense of feeling the gun, of hearing the explosion of the bullet, of smelling the gun powder. So we tried to really create a true-life scenario of memory, of reaction, of awareness that would correlate with a true criminal-type event," says Faro.
MRI Lie Detector Mohamed
Faro and Mohamed say a lot more research is needed, but they believe this method could one day be more accurate than a polygraph. Although they're not yet certain whether it will be possible to trick the MRI, they say it's harder to change what your brain is doing than suppress your nervous responses.
"I think it will be very, very hard for somebody to cheat," says Mohamed.
In fact, Faro hopes that this technology will usher in a new era of accuracy in lie detection, which could be applied in areas from preventing insurance fraud to freeing falsely-accused prisoners.
"We have a lot of research that needs to be performed, but I think that in the near future - the next year or two, there will be some very positive results, and I'm very confident that this or a form of this test will be the new gold standard," says Faro.
Because when you're a liar, it's your brain that's on fire.
Faro and Mohamed's research was published in the February 2006 volume of the Journal of Radiology and was internally funded by Temple and Drexel Universities.
ScienCentral News video about the better lie detector
The Journal of Radiology
New University of Leicester study identifies links between musical tastes and lifestyle
Source: www.alphagalileo.org/12 September 2006
The music we listen to can tell a lot more than you might think about what kind of people we are, according to research findings by a University of Leicester psychologist.
Now, Dr Adrian North is extending his research worldwide. He is looking for 10,000 people from all over the world to take part in an online survey at www.musicaltastetest.com, stating their preference from over 50 musical styles and completing a questionnaire.
The survey, funded by the British Academy, will help Dr North and his team determine to what extent people's musical tastes can be predicted on the basis of basic demographic information, such as age, sex and earnings.
Dr North said, "Although we know a lot about musical preference, musicaltastetest.com is the largest ever academic survey of who likes what. Nothing on this scale has ever been attempted before."
Related research by Dr North about to be published in the journal Psychology of Music shows that a person's musical preference tells a great deal about their lifestyle and interests. Over 2,500 people in the UK were asked to state which musical styles they liked most, and then complete a questionnaire about their living arrangements, political and moral beliefs, travel, personal finances, education, employment, health, media preferences, and leisure time interests.
When it comes to relationships, beliefs and breaking the law, fans of different musical styles gave very different responses, with fans of hip-hop and dance music standing out in particular.
37.5% of hip-hop fans and 28.7% of dance music fans had had more than one sexual partner in the past five years, (compared with, for example, 1.5% of country fans).
They were also the least likely to be religious, least likely to recycle, least likely to favour the development of alternative energy sources, least likely to favour raising taxes in order to improve public services, and least likely to favour the retention of a National Health Service.
In addition, they were more likely to have broken the law. 56.9% of dance music fans and 53.1% of hip hop fans admitted to having committed a criminal act (compared, for example, to just 17.9% of fans of musicals).
Hip hop and dance music fans were more likely to have tried a range of illegal drugs. However, about a quarter of the classical music and opera fans admitted to having tried cannabis, and 12.3% of opera fans had tried magic mushrooms.
On questions concerning money, education, employment and health, fans were separated along the lines of socio-economic status. Fans of classical music and opera had lifestyles indicative of the middle and upper classes.
They had an average annual income of £35,000 before tax, whereas dance music fans earned only £23,311. Classical music and opera fans also paid a much higher proportion of their credit card bills each month than fans of dance music (75% and 49% respectively).
They were also more likely to have been educated to a higher level. 6.8% of opera fans had a PhD, compared to none of the chart pop fans. When it comes to eating, fans of classical music, opera and jazz tended to spend rather more money on food and preferred to drink wine to a greater extent than fans of other musical styles.
Results also showed that fans of different musical styles often had different tastes in the media. Viewers of BBC1 are more likely to be fans of rock or classical music, whereas ITV1's viewers are more likely to listen to disco and pop music. Readers of broadsheet newspapers are more likely to listen to classical and rock music, compared to readers of the tabloids, who prefer dance music, pop and music from the sixties.
Dr North added: "Surprisingly, there have been very few studies on how people's age, sex, socioeconomic status, and personality relate to the music they enjoy listening to.
Moreover, this limited amount of research has focussed almost exclusively on North America. This is despite the fact that music is enjoyed by people all around the world and, in addition, there are numerous stereotypes about the types of people who listen to certain musical styles that may or may not be true (e.g. goths are depressed, classical music fans are upper-class, jazz fans are like the presenter of The Fast Show's 'Jazz Club' etc.).
"Musicaltastetest.com aims to recruit over 10,000 people to paint the first worldwide picture of who likes what."
To Fight Stuttering, Doctors Look at the Brain
By ANDREW POLLACK
When called upon in class, he would sometimes answer in the voice of Elmer Fudd or Donald Duck because he didn't stutter when imitating someone. He found easier-to-say synonyms for words that stymied him. And he almost never made phone calls because he stumbled over a phrase for which there was no substitute: his own name.
Now Dr. Maguire, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Irvine, wants to cure the ailment that afflicts him and an estimated three million Americans. He is searching for a drug to treat stuttering, organizing clinical trials and even testing treatments on himself.
He could be getting closer. In May, Indevus Pharmaceuticals announced what it called encouraging results from the largest clinical trial ever of a drug for stuttering. Even larger trials are still needed, which could take two or three years.
But if they succeed, the drug, pagoclone, could become the first medical treatment approved for stuttering.
That is just part of a transformation of stuttering -- in the medical view -- from what was once widely considered a nervous or emotional condition to a neurological one that is at least partly genetic. Using brain scans, DNA studies and other modern techniques, scientists -- many of whom stutter themselves -- are slowly shedding light on a condition that has flustered its victims as far back as Moses, who some scholars believe was a stutterer because he told the Lord that he was "slow of speech and of a slow tongue" and had his brother Aaron speak for him.
"This is a total paradigm shift in the last 10 years," said Dr. Maguire, who helped design the Indevus trial and was an investigator in it. "When I was in medical school, I learned nothing about stuttering."
Still, much remains to be learned about the causes of stuttering and how to treat it. It is estimated that about 1 percent of the population worldwide stutters, though that figure may be high. Men who stutter outnumber women by a ratio of about 4 to 1, for reasons not known.
In most cases, stuttering begins between ages 2 and 6, when a child is just learning to speak. But three quarters of such children will stop stuttering within a few years without any intervention, said Ehud Yairi, emeritus professor of speech and hearing science at the University of Illinois, who stutters himself. Other children benefit from speech therapy.
Those who stutter say the condition -- marked by repetitions of syllables, long silences and the contortion of the face as a person seems to try to force the words out -- can exact a terrible emotional toll. Many talk of jobs or promotions not received, of relationships broken or not pursued. Some structure their entire lives to avoid having to speak unnecessarily or to avoid being teased.
"Stuttering is one of the last diseases it's still O.K. to make fun of," said Ernie Canadeo, an advertising executive from Oyster Bay, N.Y., who stutters.
Alan Rabinowitz, a noted wildlife conservationist, has told of how when called upon by a teacher in elementary school, he once avoided answering by stabbing his hand with a pencil so he would be taken to the hospital.
Still, many people overcome -- if not totally cure -- their stuttering, either through therapy or just the passage of time. Winston Churchill stuttered. So did Marilyn Monroe.
Others who have coped with the problem include the author John Updike, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the actor James Earl Jones, the newsman John Stossel, the singer Carly Simon and the sportscaster Bill Walton. Throughout history, various theories have been advanced for stuttering, including sexual fixations, emotional disorders, nervousness, and persistence into adult life of infantile nursing activities, according to the book "Knotted Tongues: Stuttering in History and the Quest for a Cure" by Benson Bobrick (Simon & Schuster, 1995).
One of the more popular theories from a few decades ago was that parents caused stuttering by reacting negatively to the repetitions that normally occur when children first learn to talk.
But a consensus is growing that stuttering is a neurological condition, though its exact nature is not clear. Emotional stress can make stuttering worse, however.
Brain imaging studies have shown that the brains of people who stammer behave differently from those of people who don't when it comes to processing speech.
Luc De Nil, chairman of the department of speech and language pathology at the University of Toronto, said that in people who don't stutter, speech processing is largely handled in the brain's left hemisphere. With stutterers, there is an unusually large amount of activity in the right hemisphere.
Dr. Maguire said studies that he and others had done also suggest there is an excess of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brains of those who stutter.
Stuttering also appears to be at least partly genetic. About half of the people who get treatment for stuttering have an immediate family member who also stutters, said Dennis Drayna, a geneticist at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Scientists believe there are many genes that can contribute to stuttering, each one perhaps having a small effect. That has made it more difficult to find the genes.
But Dr. Drayna and his colleagues got a big break when a man from Cameroon wrote to an online forum on stuttering a few years ago. The man was part of a prominent family in which 48 of 106 adults stuttered, suggesting that the gene responsible for the family's stuttering was inherited by changes in one gene.
Studying the DNA from that family, Dr. Drayna and his colleagues have narrowed the search to a stretch of Chromosome 1 containing 50 to 60 genes. Another study using families from Pakistan with large numbers of stutterers found a region on Chromosome 12, and that specific gene is close to being identified, Dr. Drayna said. Other studies have found other chromosomal regions.
If the cause of stuttering has baffled scientists, so has its treatment. A 16th-century Italian physician prescribed nosedrops to "dehumidify" the brain, according to Mr. Bobrick's book. An American Indian tribe made stutterers spit through a hole in a board to drive the devil from their throats.
Most people who are treated for stuttering nowadays undergo various types of speech therapy. Some therapies teach speech techniques, like elongating vowels or speaking slowly. Others emphasize reducing the anxiety and fear of speaking.
"Adults can be significantly helped," said Peter Ramig, a professor of speech language pathology at the University of Colorado, who stutters. "But it would be very unusual to see documented cases of adults who stutter being cured."
Some stutterers have been helped by devices. The best known is the SpeechEasy, which fits in the ear like a hearing aid and feeds the voice back to the speaker with a tiny delay and at a slightly different pitch. This is said to simulate the choral effect, in which people don't stutter when speaking or singing in unison with others. The device costs about $5,000, and 6,000 have been sold since 2001, according to the manufacturer, the Janus Development Group of Greenville, N.C.
Specialists say that the device helps some people but not others and that the effects can wear off.As for drugs, there have been some studies over the years using medications developed to treat other conditions. Dr. Maguire ran small trials of two schizophrenia drugs, Risperdal, from Johnson & Johnson, and Zyprexa, from Eli Lilly. Both drugs showed some effectiveness, but neither company took the drug into larger trials.
That has frustrated Dr. Maguire, who said pharmaceutical companies could be missing a big market. In the past, some critics have accused pharmaceutical companies of taking conditions like anxiety or inattentiveness, which the critics say are not clearly illnesses, and turning them into medical problems so they could sell drugs. But stuttering, Dr. Maguire said, is clear cut.
One obstacle is that stuttering has been primarily treated by speech therapists, who can't prescribe drugs and might object to the condition being treated as a medical one. "There are many people who simply have a bias against it and don't think it's a good idea,'' said J. Scott Yaruss, a speech therapist at the University of Pittsburgh.
Another is that side effects might be worth risking for a serious disease like schizophrenia but not for stuttering.
Zyprexa has been linked to weight gain and diabetes. Dr. Maguire himself has taken Zyprexa for seven years and says it has greatly helped his fluency. He has gained 20 pounds in that time but believes he would have gained some of it anyway because he was approaching middle age.
Pagoclone, the newest candidate, was initially tested as a treatment for panic disorder and anxiety. Results were mixed, and Pfizer, which had the rights to the drug, returned them to Indevus.
But in those trials a few people who stuttered said their speech improved during the trial. So Indevus got a patent covering the use of the drug for stuttering and began the clinical trial, in which 88 patients got the drug and 44 a placebo.
The participants were videotaped in conversation and reading, both before starting on the drug or a placebo and four and eight weeks afterward. Evaluators, blinded to whether the patient was on the drug or the placebo when the video was made, counted the proportion of syllables stuttered and the duration of the three longest stutters. In a separate measure, clinicians evaluated the speech of their patients.
In most cases, those who got the drug did better than those who got the placebo by a statistically significant amount. As evaluated by the clinicians, 55 percent of those who got the drug improved after eight weeks, compared with 36 percent on the placebo. The most common side effects were headache and fatigue.
Still, until the results are published in a journal the company will not reveal how big the improvement was for people, or whether it was enough to make a real difference in their lives.
It's also not quite clear how the drug is working, whether it is merely reducing anxiety or has some other effect on speech. The drug activates a receptor in the brain called GABA that is associated with a calming effect.
Indevus has not said whether it will continue to pursue pagoclone for stuttering because it is outside its focus of urology and gynecology. It is also testing pagoclone as a treatment for premature ejaculation.
The company, under a previous name, Interneuron Pharmaceuticals, developed Redux, a diet drug that became part of the fen-phen combination. Wyeth, which sold the drug, withdrew it from the market after it was linked to heart valve problems.
Claire Byrne of Fountain Valley, Calif., who is taking pagoclone as part of an extension of the clinical trial, said, "I definitely think it's helping me." Another woman taking it said, "It's left me feeling a little bit more free, and I engaged in more speaking situations."
Dr. Maguire is more enthusiastic. On a conference call for securities analysts held by Indevus, he said some patients taking the drug had finally gotten jobs they wanted or were able to approach others and go out on a date. "It's almost an awakening, people coming out of their shells, so to speak."
J. Scott Yaruss
Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State
By Adrian M. Owen, Martin R. Coleman, Melanie Boly, Matthew H. Davis, Steven Laureys and John D. Pickard
Source: www.sciencemag.org/8 September 2006
Vol. 313. no. 5792, p. 1402
We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to demonstrate preserved conscious awareness in a patient fulfilling the criteria for a diagnosis of vegetative state.
When asked to imagine playing tennis or moving around her home, the patient activated predicted cortical areas in a manner indistinguishable from that of healthy volunteers.
To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Adrian Owen , E-mail: adrian.owen(at)mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk
"Schädel-Hirnpatienten in Not"
I'm not ignoring you; I'm thinking. Gazing into the middle distance improves your concentration
By Lucy Heady
Source: www.nature.com/5 September 2006
Teachers everywhere can be heard shouting "look at me when I'm talking to you".
But research presented today at the British Association's Festival of Science in Norwich, UK, suggests that they should be doing exactly the opposite.
When posed with a conundrum, it is normal for adults and older children to look away, staring in an unfocused way out of the window or at a patch of the carpet.
This aimless gaze isn't necessarily thanks to an attitude of indifference or indolence, but instead might be helping the brain to concentrate.
Researchers at the University of Stirling in Scotland took a group of 25 five-year-olds and trained them to look away when they were being asked a question. The effect was a significant increase in correct answers to mental arithmetic questions, says Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon, who led the research.
She declined to give details as the work is in press with the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.
Further experiments by the same group showed that the difficulty of both looking at a face and thinking about maths is so extreme it can cause a physiological response.
In one study, around 30 adults were asked to perform a task requiring concentration, such as counting backwards from 100 in increments of 7, while staring at a human face.
The combination of mental effort and emotional confusion caused the subjects to break out in a sweat.
The sweatiest subjects, Doherty-Sneddon adds, were men being tested by a female researcher.
We are so distracted by the barrage of emotional information transmitted in faces that it stops us from thinking clearly, Doherty-Sneddon says.
So does this mean that teachers should be encouraging their students to look away from them?
Doherty-Sneddon certainly thinks so. "I do this with my own kids while they're doing their homework" she says. "If they're looking at me then I know they're not concentrating."
British Association's Festival of Science in Norwich, UK
Sound understanding of indoor acoustics could make hearing easier
An innovative technique that, for the first time, accurately measures exactly how sound behaves in `real-world' situations is now under development - and could improve acoustics in buildings ranging from concert halls to railway stations.
The potential impact of the technique, which could also assist in the development of more effective hearing aids, will be described at this year's BA Festival of Science in Norwich.
The technique is designed to pinpoint precisely how indoor environments respond to music and speech while those areas are in everyday use. This opens up the prospect of basing acoustic design on more realistic information about the way sound behaves than has previously been possible.
It may also contribute to the development of hearing aids that adapt the way they process sound according to the acoustic environment they are in, providing a much better listening experience for hearing aid users than is currently achievable.
The conventional way of measuring acoustics has been to make a short blast of noise (e.g. a gunshot), record it and analyse how it dies away (or `decays'). The noise has to be very loud so that the environment's effect on it can be assessed across the full range of sound, from very loud to very quiet - only in this way can comprehensive information on an environment's acoustic performance be obtained. However, gunshot noise poses a risk to hearing and is unpleasant to listen to. This means that measurements taken in unoccupied areas are the norm even though these do not accurately indicate `real' acoustic performance - when people are present, moving and talking etc.
Now, engineers at the University of Salford are exploring whether music played at an average level of audibility, or even the conversation of people in the indoor environment being tested, could be used instead of the loud, short blast of noise. The work is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Exploiting the major advances in computing power and sophistication achieved in the IT sector in recent years, the team is developing groundbreaking computer programmes capable of isolating snippets or phrases from normal music or speech, analysing their decay and extrapolating this data so it provides an accurate indication of an environment's effect on sound. Since loud test sounds are not required, this approach avoids the need to vacate the environment when testing takes place, enabling more realistic acoustic data to be gathered.
Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford University, is leading this pioneering research and will be discussing progress at the BA Festival on 8th September.
"Our work could deliver a step-change in understanding how rooms behave acoustically," says Professor Cox. "It could help eliminate a lot of guesswork on the effect that actual usage of indoor environments will have on their acoustics."
The research could lead to changes within around 5-10 years in the way that indoor environments are designed and constructed. In visual terms, most changes are unlikely to be obvious.
"The key differences could be in altering the way that building materials absorb or reflect sound by treating them prior to incorporation in a building," says Professor Cox. "There's a long way to go but the potential impact, in terms of improving quality of life for millions of people, is obvious."
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Music - the key to feeling good?
The Department of Psychology at the University of Helsinki is co-ordinating a wide-ranging EU-funded research project, Tuning the brain for music, or Braintuning, for short. The purpose of the project is to gain a deeper insight into the relationship between music, emotions and brain functions.
The project has received EU funds totalling ¤2.5 million.
The Braintuning project aims to find out, among other things, why music has such a profound effect on our emotional life and how enjoying music and the emotions invoked by music are manifested in our brain functions.
Another fascinating line of research focuses on how individual differences in musical preferences and emotions inspired by music can be explained.
In addition to the structure of music, the emotions invoked by it are also influenced by the listener's personality and the listening environment.
Certain regularities in the links between music and emotions are well known. A fast tempo piece in a major key is often felt to be happy and glad by Western adults, but different ways of playing can produce interpretations conducive to different emotions.
A particular piece, when played in a certain way may sound aggressive, while played in another way, it may sound calming.
The University of Helsinki will focus particularly on how permanent music emotions and preferences are and how much of them can be explained by cognitive brain functions.
Answers to these questions are sought with the help of the latest methods in brain research, listening experiments as well as interview- and observation-based research methods.
The Braintuning project will last three years.
In addition to the Universities of Helsinki and Jyväskylä in Finland, participants include the Universität Leipzig, the Université de Montréal, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan in Stockholm and the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan.
Research: Christina M. Krause
Department of Psychology at the University of Helsinki
Department of Psychology, Cognitive Science
General outline of "Milieus of Creativity" Second "Knowledge and Space" Symposium at Heidelberg's Villa Bosch Studio, 6 - 9 September 2006
From 6 - 9 September 2006, the second "Knowledge and Space" symposium will be taking place at Heidelberg's Villa Bosch Studio, this time on the subject matter of "Milieus of Creativity".
The series of symposia, which is to encompass a total of ten events, is being financed by Heidelberg's Klaus Tschira Foundation.
Against the background of the current debate on the "Knowledge Society" and "Knowledge Economy", questions pertaining to creativity and milieus of creativity have come to the fore as the research focus of numerous disciplines in recent years.
Psychologists and cognitive scientists, economists, geographers and spatial planners, philosophers, sociologists and physicists will be conducting an interdisciplinary dialogue about what they understand by creativity and about the milieus in which it can be cultivated.
The first day of the conference, entitled "Creativity and Problem-Solving - A Clarification of Concepts", will serve to summarise the insights of psychological and cognitive research. At the same time, both the basic neurological principles of creative thought and action and the emergence of creativity in the context of social interaction will be addressed.
To read more about the program please go to
Knowledge & Space
General outline of "Milieus of Creativity"
Klaus Tschira Stiftung
Arthur I. Miller
Scott G. Isaksen
Feelings matter less to teenagers
Source: www.alphagalileo.org/07 Sep 2006
Teenagers take less account than adults of people's feelings and, often, even fail to think about their own, according to a UCL neuroscientist. The results, presented at the BA Festival of Science today, show that teenagers hardly use the area of the brain that is involved in thinking about other people's emotions and thoughts, when considering a course of action.
Many areas of the brain alter dramatically during adolescence. One area in development well beyond the teenage years is the medial prefrontal cortex, a large region at the front of the brain associated with higher-level thinking, empathy, guilt and understanding other people's motivations.
Scientists have now found that, when making decisions about what action to take, the medial prefrontal cortex is under-used by teenagers. Instead, a posterior area of the brain, involved in perceiving and imagining actions, takes over.
Dr Sarah-Jayne Blakemore of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, giving the BA Festival's BAYS lecture, said:
"Thinking strategies change with age. As you get older you use more or less the same brain network to make decisions about your actions as you did when you were a teenager, but the crucial difference is that the distribution of that brain activity shifts from the back of the brain (when you are a teenager) to the front (when you are an adult).
"The fact that teenagers underuse the medial pre-frontal cortex when making decisions about what to do, implies that they are less likely to think about how they themselves and how other people will feel as a result of their intended action.
"We think that a teenager's judgement of what they would do in a given situation is driven by the simple question: `What would I do?'. Adults, on the other hand, ask: `What would I do, given how I would feel and given how the people around me would feel as a result of my actions?' The fact that teenagers use a different area of the brain than adults when considering what to do suggests they may think less about the impact of their actions on other people and how they are likely to make other people feel."
In the study, teenagers and adults were asked questions about the actions they would take in a given situation while their brains were being scanned using fMRI.
For example, `You are at the cinema and have trouble seeing the screen. Do you move to another seat?' A second set of questions asked what they would expect to happen as a result of a natural event eg. `A huge tree comes crashing down in a forest. Does it make a loud noise?'
Although teenagers and adults chose similar responses, the medial pre-frontal cortex was significantly more active in adults than in teenagers when questioned about their intended actions. Teenagers, on the other hand, activated the posterior area of the brain known as the superior temporal sulcus - an area that's involved in predicting future actions based on past actions.
While children start to think about other people's mental states at around age five, this new data shows that the neural basis of this ability continues to develop and mature well past early childhood.
A second piece of research presented at the festival shows that teenagers are also less adept at taking someone else's perspective and deciding how they would feel in another person's shoes.
Participants aged eight to 36 years were asked how they would feel and how they would expect someone else to feel in a series of situations. Adults were far quicker than teenagers at judging emotional reactions - both how they would feel and how a third party might feel in a given situation. For example, `How would you feel if you were not allowed to go to your best friend's party?' or `A girl has just had an argument with her best friend. How does she feel?'
Dr Blakemore said: "It seems that adults might be better at putting themselves in other people's mental shoes and thinking about the emotional impact of actions - but further analysis is required. The relative difficulty that teenagers have could be down to them using a different strategy when trying to understand someone else's perspective, perhaps because the relevant part of the brain is still developing. The other factor to consider is that adults have had much more social experience."
"Whatever the reasons, it is clear that teenagers are dealing with, not only massive hormonal shifts, but also substantial neural changes. These changes do not happen gradually and steadily between the ages of 0-18. They come on in great spurts and puberty is one of the most dramatic developmental stages."
BA Festival of Science
The University of Granada publishes a book about the representation of prosodemes in alphabetic writing
El canto del lenguaje is the title of the extensive research carried out by Professor Jesús Luque Moreno in the field of word prosody and sentence prosody.The fundamental areas of this research, which has been published by the Editorial Universidad de Granada with the title "El canto del lenguaje. Representación de los prosodemas en la escritura alfabética" (The song of language. Representation of prosodemes in alphabetic writing), are the following:
The SAMAG group (Studium de antiquis musicis artibus Granatense) , which is headed by Professor Jesús Luque Moreno, from the Department of Latin Philology of the University of Granada, focuses its work in this field of study.
"This book refers to music, which involves language, which itself is prosody. It also implies the music of language, in other words, language singing, and especially the process of this linguistic discipline in Greco-Roman culture", declares Luque Moreno.
According to the UGR researcher, "this issue is at the very crux of relations between singing and speech, music and language. Formerly, these links were closer for us than nowadays, due to the characteristics of that music (which was closer to the speech than is currently the case) and the characteristics of that language (closer to music than our language, due to tonal and durational questions).
The book, with more than 350 pages, is divided into two main chapters on word prosody and sentence prosody.
It also includes an epilogue which deals with the question of Prosody between grammar and music
Jesús Luque Moreno
Stress in the City: Urbanization and ist Effect on the Stress Physiology in European Blackbirds
By Jesko Partecke, Ingrid Schwabl, and Eberhard Gwinner
Ecology: Vol. 87, No. 8, pp. 1945-1952
Animals colonizing cities are exposed to many novel and potentially stressful situations. There is evidence that chronic stress can cause deleterious effects.
Hence, wild animals would suffer from city life unless they adjusted their stress response to the conditions in a city.
Here we show that European Blackbirds born in a city have a lower stress response than their forest conspecifics.
We hand-raised urban and forest-living individuals of that species under identical conditions and tested their corticosterone stress response at an age of 5, 8, and 11 months.
The results suggest that the difference is genetically determined, although early developmental effects cannot be excluded.
Either way, the results support the idea that urbanization creates a shift in coping styles by changing the stress physiology of animals.
The reduced stress response could be ubiquitous and, presumably, necessary for all animals that thrive in ecosystems exposed to frequent anthropogenic disturbances, such as those in urban areas.
University of Leicester study to investigate how fear and anxiety are formed in the brain
Source: www.alphagalileo.org/31 August 2006
About 25 per cent of us will experience the effects of anxiety disorders at some point in our lives, with sometimes dire repercussions for friends, family and our own well-being. Yet little is known about the molecular mechanisms in the brain which contribute to stress-induced anxiety.
A neuroscientist at the University of Leicester has recently been awarded major EU funding amounting to ¤1.7m over four years to investigate how fear and anxiety are formed in the brain, in a project that could lead to more efficient ways of treating stress-related conditions.
Dr Robert Pawlak, a researcher in the University's Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, has received the prestigious Marie Curie Excellence Grant to support his research project which will look at the mechanisms in the brain that lead to anxiety.
Fear memories are encoded as changes in neuronal connections called synapses, in a process known as plasticity. Dr Pawlak and his colleagues have recently shown that proteases (proteins that cut other proteins) play a critical role in this process and significantly contribute to fear and anxiety related to stress.
Dr Pawlak commented: "Understanding neural bases of stress, fear and anxiety is of immense importance to modern society. The most dramatic form, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterised by cognitive impairment, depression, fear, anxiety, and may eventually lead to suicide.
"Understanding the neural mechanisms of PTSD, depression and anxiety disorders could reduce the personal and societal impact through development of more efficient therapies. This project looks at cellular mechanisms involved in experience-induced neuronal plasticity underlying learning, fear and anxiety."
Dr Blair Grubb, Head of the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology, added: "EU Marie Curie Excellence Grants are extremely competitive and it is a major achievement that Robert Pawlak has made a successful application so early on in his independent research career.
"Robert is one of a number of neuroscientists working in this department and this grant award adds significantly to our research profile in this general area. The proposed research programme will make a major contribution to our understanding of how stress leads to fear and anxiety."
Neural correlates of a mystical experience in Carmelite nuns
By Mario Beauregarda and Vincent Paquettea
Volume 405, Issue 3 , 25 September 2006, Pages 186-190
Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ireland Ltd All rights reserved
The main goal of this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study was to identify the neural correlates of a mystical experience.
The brain activity of Carmelite nuns was measured while they were subjectively in a state of union with God.
This state was associated with significant loci of activation in the right medial orbitofrontal cortex, right middle temporal cortex, right inferior and superior parietal lobules, right caudate, left medial prefrontal cortex, left anterior cingulate cortex, left inferior parietal lobule, left insula, left caudate, and left brainstem.
Other loci of activation were seen in the extra-striate visual cortex. These results suggest that mystical experiences are mediated by several brain regions and systems.
Now in the Recovery Room, Music for Hearts to Heal By
Source: James Estrin/The New York Times/August 28, 2006
When George Moran woke up on Tuesday, he thought he had died and gone to heaven.
It was not such an outlandish idea. Mr. Moran, 39, a music teacher in Long Valley, N.J., had had a cardiac valve repaired that morning at Morristown Memorial Hospital. During the surgery, his heart had to be stopped for 90 minutes, and he was placed on a heart-lung machine. Soon after, he recalled, there was an attractive woman walking around, playing a small harp.
Luckily, these celestial aspects of the recovery room did not send Mr. Moran into palpitations. Instead, researchers suspect, the gentle arpeggios of the harpist might have helped regulate his heart rate, blood pressure and breathing, aiding his recovery.
Two hours a day, Alix Weisz, a harpist from Chester, N.J., strolls through the hospital's Cardiac Post-Anesthesia Care Unit to test that premise. The recovery room staff monitors changes in patients' vital signs every 15 minutes while she plays, and for an hour before and after.
Results will be collected as part of a four-week study, one of several around the country trying to measure the health benefits of music in hospitals.
One research project by a doctor at the Carle Heart Center in Urbana, Ill., has suggested that harp music in particular helped stabilize irregular heartbeats.
With the Morristown study, which is financed by a local trust and still under way, evidence that music helps patients heal there is still anecdotal. But many patients and nurses say they have looked forward to Ms. Weisz's visits.
"When I was coming out of it, I was filled with tubes -- a throat tube, an oxygen tube -- and it was very hard to breathe," Mr. Moran said. "You feel you're going to gag. The music calmed my body and allowed me to stop thinking about what was going on. It allowed me to feel more relaxed and rested."
Ms. Weisz has her own guidelines for playing her instrument of peace.
"I try not to play anything recognizable, because there might be an unwanted emotional response, like if I played music a guy broke up with his girlfriend in Atlantic City to," she said. She relies on chants, lullabies, and Celtic airs and ancient standards from books like "The Healer's Way: Soothing Music for Those in Pain."
She plays quietly and slowly, and she said she tries not to glance over at the monitors above the beds, to see if any pulse rates are decreasing. While many of the patients in the recovery room are still anesthetized and unresponsive, she said Mr. Moran had given her the thumbs up while she played.
"Sometimes people say, `Wow, I had a feeling I was in a big field,' and that's what we want these people to do, to think about where they're going to be, where they're going in life, and how this is just an episode," she said, gesturing at the ashen patients on beds surrounded by intravenous drips and beeping machines.
As part of the study, nurses are also taking note of their own stress levels when the music is playing.
One nurse, Lisa Gingerella, recalled how one of her recent patients was very confused and agitated the day after his surgery.
"Alix came, and he fell asleep, and his blood pressure and heart rate dropped dramatically -- he slept all afternoon," she said, adding that the music also has a similarly soothing effect on her.
"She calms me the heck right down," Ms. Gingerella said. "I want to take her home, or have her playing in the car on the way home."
The unit's nursing manager, Lynn Emond, said she has noticed that her staff is much quieter when Ms. Weisz is playing.
Thomas Kroncke, 55, stayed in the recovery room on Monday after an aortic valve replacement and, like Mr. Moran, has graduated to a regular room. Mr. Kroncke said he noticed how the harpist soothed and quieted the post-op unit.
"You really didn't notice the hustle and bustle," he said. "I felt if I could just be feeling this calm and relaxed this soon after surgery, things are only going to get better."
Morristown Memorial Hospital
Carle Heart Center in Urbana,
"The Healer's Way: Soothing Music for Those in Pain." (soundfile)
Cows also 'have regional accents' Cows moo with a regional twang
Cows have regional accents like humans, language specialists have suggested.
They decided to examine the issue after dairy farmers noticed their cows had slightly different moos, depending on which herd they came from.
John Wells, Professor of Phonetics at the University of London, said regional twangs had been seen before in birds.
The farmers in Somerset who noticed the phenomenon said it may have been the result of the close bond between them and their animals.
Farmer Lloyd Green, from Glastonbury, said: "I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl.
"I've spoken to the other farmers in the West Country group and they have noticed a similar development in their own herds.
"It works the same as with dogs - the closer a farmer's bond is with his animals, the easier it is for them to pick up his accent."
Prof Wells felt the accents could result from their contemporaries.
He said: "This phenomenon is well attested in birds. You find distinct chirping accents in the same species around the country.
"This could also be true of cows.
"In small populations such as herds you would encounter identifiable dialectical variations which are most affected by the immediate peer group."
Dr Jeanine Treffers-Daller, reader in linguistics at the University of the West of England in Bristol, agreed that the accent could be influenced by relatives.
She said: "When we are learning to speak, we adopt a local variety of language spoken by our parents, so the same could be said about the variation in the West Country cow moo."
John Wells Homepage
John Wells Wikipedia
Cow moo recordings
Dr Jeanine Treffers-Daller
Killer whales are capable of vocal learning
By Andrew D. Foote, Rachael M. Griffin, David Howitt, Lisa Larsson, Patrick J.O. Miller and A. Rus Hoelzel
The production learning of vocalizations by manipulation of the sound production organs to alter the physical structure of sound has been demonstrated in only a few mammals.
In this natural experiment, we document the vocal behaviour of two juvenile killer whales, Orcinus orca, separated from their natal pods, which are the only cases of dispersal seen during the three decades of observation of their populations.
We find mimicry of California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) barks, demonstrating the vocal production learning ability for one of the calves.
We also find differences in call usage (compared to the natal pod) that may reflect the absence of a repertoire model from tutors or some unknown effect related to isolation or context.
Increases in deep ocean ambient noise in the Northeast Pacific west of San Nicolas Island, California
By Mark A. McDonald, John A. Hildebrand and Sean M. Wiggins
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America -- August 2006 -- Volume 120, Issue 2, pp. 711-718#
Recent measurement at a previously studied location illustrates the magnitude of increases in ocean ambient noise in the Northeast Pacific over the past four decades.
Continuous measurements west of San Nicolas Island, California, over 138 days, spanning 2003-2004 are compared to measurements made during the 1960s at the same site.
Ambient noise levels at 30-50 Hz were 10-12 dB higher (95% CI=2.6 dB) in 2003-2004 than in 1964-1966, suggesting an average noise increase rate of 2.5-3 dB per decade.
Above 50 Hz the noise level differences between recording periods gradually diminished to only 1-3 dB at 100-300 Hz.
Above 300 Hz the 1964-1966 ambient noise levels were higher than in 2003-2004, owing to a diel component which was absent in the more recent data.
Low frequency (10-50 Hz) ocean ambient noise levels are closely related to shipping vessel traffic.
The number of commercial vessels plying the world's oceans approximately doubled between 1965 and 2003 and the gross tonnage quadrupled, with a corresponding increase in horsepower.
Increases in commercial shipping are believed to account for the observed low-frequency ambient noise increase. ©2006 Acoustical Society of America
Sound Surveillance System
Sean M. Wiggins
John A. Hildebrand
Mark A. McDonald - Whale Acoustics
Analgesic effect of TV watching during venipuncture
By Carlo Valerio Bellieni, Duccio M Cordelli, Morena Raffaelli, Beatrice Ricci, Guido Morgese and Giuseppe Buonocore
Material and methods:
Fachzeitschrift Archives of Disease in Childhood
Binaural and cochlear disparities
By Philip X. Joris, Bram Van de Sande , Dries H. Louage , and Marcel van der Heijden
Source: www.pnas.org/ August 14, 2006
Published online before print August 14, 2006
Binaural auditory neurons exhibit "best delays" (BDs):
They are maximally activated at certain acoustic delays between sounds at the two ears and thereby signal spatial sound location.
BDs arise from delays internal to the auditory system, but their source is controversial. According to the classic Jeffress model, they reflect pure time delays generated by differences in axonal length between the inputs from the two ears to binaural neurons.
However, a relationship has been reported between BDs and the frequency to which binaural neurons are most sensitive (the characteristic frequency), and this relationship is not predicted by the Jeffress model.
An alternative hypothesis proposes that binaural neurons derive their input from slightly different places along the two cochleas, which induces BDs by virtue of the slowness of the cochlear traveling wave.
To test this hypothesis, we performed a coincidence analysis on spiketrains of pairs of auditory nerve fibers originating from different cochlear locations. In effect, this analysis mimics the processing of phase-locked inputs from each ear by binaural neurons.
We find that auditory nerve fibers that innervate different cochlear sites show a maximum number of coincidences when they are delayed relative to each other, and that the optimum delays decrease with characteristic frequency as in binaural neurons.
These findings suggest that cochlear disparities make an important contribution to the internal delays observed in binaural neurons.
Philip X. Joris
Exposure to Degrading Versus Nondegrading Music Lyrics and Sexual Behavior Among Youth
By Steven C. Martino, Rebecca L. Collins, Marc N. Elliott, Amy Strachman, David E. Kanouse, and Sandra H. Berry
Source: pediatrics.aappublications.org/2 August 2006
PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 2 August 2006, pp. e430-e441 (doi:10.1542/peds.2006-0131)
Early sexual activity is a significant problem in the United States. A recent survey suggested that most sexually experienced teens wish they had waited longer to have intercourse; other data indicate that unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are more common among those who begin sexual activity earlier.
Popular music may contribute to early sex. Music is an integral part of teens' lives.
The average youth listens to music 1.5 to 2.5 hours per day. Sexual themes are common in much of this music and range from romantic and playful to degrading and hostile.
Although a previous longitudinal study has linked music video consumption and sexual risk behavior, no previous study has tested longitudinal associations between the content of music lyrics and subsequent changes in sexual experience, such as intercourse initiation, nor has any study explored whether exposure to different kinds of portrayals of sex has different effects.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS.
We conducted a national longitudinal telephone survey of 1461 adolescents. Participants were interviewed at baseline (T1), when they were 12 to 17 years old, and again 1 and 3 years later (T2 and T3).
At all of the interviews, participants reported their sexual experience and responded to measures of more than a dozen factors known to be associated with adolescent sexual initiation.
A total of 1242 participants reported on their sexual behavior at all 3 time points; a subsample of 938 were identified as virgins before music exposure for certain analyses.
Participants also indicated how frequently they listened to each of more than a dozen musical artists representing a variety of musical genres.
Data on listening habits were combined with results of an analysis of the sexual content of each artist's songs to create measures of exposure to 2 kinds of sexual content: degrading and nondegrading.
We measured initiation of intercourse and advancement in noncoital sexual activity level over a 2-year period.
Multivariate regression analyses indicated that youth who listened to more degrading sexual content at T2 were more likely to subsequently initiate intercourse and to progress to more advanced levels of noncoital sexual activity, even after controlling for 18 respondent characteristics that might otherwise explain these relationships.
In contrast, exposure to nondegrading sexual content was unrelated to changes in participants' sexual behavior.
Listening to music with degrading sexual lyrics is related to advances in a range of sexual activities among adolescents, whereas this does not seem to be true of other sexual lyrics.
This result is consistent with sexual-script theory and suggests that cultural messages about expected sexual behavior among males and females may underlie the effect.
Reducing the amount of degrading sexual content in popular music or reducing young people's exposure to music with this type of content could help delay the onset of sexual behavior.
Steven C. Martino
Mozart Therapy for Bereaved Elephant
Source: AFP/www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/June 30, 2006
ZAGREB - Suma, a 45-year-old elephant and long-time resident of the Zagreb Zoo, was bereaved and inconsolable after her pachyderm partner of tens years died of cancer.
Until she heard Mozart.
"Suma became very depressed after her roomie Patna died in early May," head of Zagreb Zoo Mladen Anic told AFP on Thursday.
"She was refusing to eat, became uncommunicative, showed all the signs of a serious depression."
Then, by sheer accident, Suma's keepers discovered that the healing power of Mozart extends to the animal kingdom too.
Earlier this month, the zoo the zoo organized a concert of classical music just opposite Suma's dwelling, Anic explained.
At the sight of five musicians preparing themselves to start a concert, Suma became very nervous and aggressive, peppering the intruders with little stones that she blew out of her trunk.
"But as soon as the concert started what we saw was really fascinating. Suma leaned against the fence, closed her eyes and listened without moving the entire concert," he said. Besides Mozart, she took in pieces by Vivaldi and Schubert too.
When zoo authorities realized that classical music seemed to help Suma cope with her grief, they bought a stereo and installed it so she could get a daily dose of music therapy.
The elephant especially adores Mozart, Anic said, but is also partial to the strains of Vivaldi and Bach.
"We are so glad that we can provide -- at what is a rather advanced age for elephants -- things that Suma really enjoys," Anic said.
Milan Pernek, Email: email@example.com
Landscapes and human behavior - The North Desert Village landscaping experiment
On Arizona State University's (ASU) Polytechnic campus, graduate student families in the cluster of six houses abutting lush lawns and ornamental bushes spend time together talking while their kids play outside.
Meanwhile, the families in a nearby cluster of six homes barely know each other. But that may be in part because their homes sit on native Sonoran desert, not nearly as conducive to recreation as the lush microclimate researchers created in the first neighborhood. Social scientists and biophysical ecologists are finding that environmental surroundings may play a significant role in human social interaction, serving either as a social lubricant as in the first case, or as a barrier.
David Casagrande (Western Illinois University) and Scott Yabiku (ASU) and colleagues are part of the Central Arizona-Phoenix long term ecological research project.
In 2004 and early 2005, the researchers installed residential landscapes at 24 of about 152 virtually identical housing units in the "North Desert Village" of ASU's campus. The scientists selected five "mini neighborhoods" (groups of six houses) and altered four of them, leaving the fifth as a control with no landscaping. The four landscaping styles were:
* mesic: shade trees and turf grass, dependent upon flood irrigation for their high water demands
* oasis: a mixture of high and low water-use plans and sprinkler-irrigated turf grass
* xeric: low water-use plants (both native and non-native), individually drip-watered
* native: Sonoran Desert plants and no supplemental water
"We wanted to explore how the surrounding landscape affects people, both in terms of their perceptions and their behavior," explains Yabiku. "Since human behavior ultimately transforms the environment, the feedback people get from their surroundings is important to understand."
The spectacular growth of Phoenix--which doubled twice in population size in the past 35 years--gives researchers a unique opportunity to monitor human-induced ecological transformations.
"Experimental approaches are rarely used in studies of human-environment interactions,' says Casagrande. "By combining research approaches from both the social and biophysical sciences, we can gain new insights into how peoples' surroundings affect them."
The study will run until at least 2010, but the results thus far suggest that even those individuals who grew up in the arid environment of Arizona prefer a more lush landscape conducive to recreation and social networking. In addition to the social interactions resulting from the different landscape designs, the researchers are also looking into residents' level of ecological knowledge, overall environmental values, and perceptions of landscapes. Yabiku and Casagrande hypothesize that residents' knowledge of flora and fauna will increase more in the mesic than in the native desert cluster.
Forscher Scott Yabiku
Ecological Society of America
Music for Pain
Source: www.sciencentral.com/ 08.08.06
A dose of music can be a prescription for pain relief. As this ScienCentral News video explains, a new systematic study of music for pain finds that while music won't replace painkillers, it can boost their effectiveness.
Marion Good loves to play music in her spare time. But as a professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, she also prescribes it for pain relief.
Her interest in researching music for pain began when as a nurse on a neurology unit she worked with patients suffering from back pain. "I would bring music into the room -- soft quiet music. Their faces just relaxed ... pretty soon they fell asleep," she says. "I had to tiptoe out of the room and come back an hour or two later to pick up my tape recorder."
Good has been testing music with post-operative patients for more than 15 years. "I found that music does reduce pain up to about 31 percent in my studies in addition to medication," she says.
Now the conclusion of a systematic analysis combining 51 clinical studies is music to her ears. The Cochrane Review of Evidence-Based Healthcare found that patients exposed to music rate their pain as less intense and even use lower doses of painkillers.
On a zero to 10 scale, patients reported an average .5 drop in their pain due to music. "It's not a huge amount," Good says, "but that's an average and for some people, it will be more, and for some it will be less." Since music has no side effects, she points out, there's no risk to trying it.
The review found that it didn't matter if patients chose their own music or were prescribed certain music. But Good thinks that for chronic pain like cancer pain, patients are more likely to keep using it if it's music they like.
Good's latest study, conducted with Sandra Siedlecki of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and published in The Journal of Advanced Nursing, found that patients with chronic pain who added music for pain relief got other benefits too.
"We found that music reduced pain, reduced anxiety, reduced depressive symptoms and reduced pain disability," she says.
The study focused on people with chronic non-malignant pain or CNMP, which typically does not go away with traditional treatments. According to the study, the pain can mix with depression, disability, and feelings of powerlessness. "Although frequently prescribed, the usefulness of medications such as opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, muscle relaxants, neuroleptics and antidepressants, is limited by the adverse side effects," Good and Seidlecki write in the study.
While the Cochrane review cautions that music should not replace traditional primary treatments for pain, Good hopes this evidence will get other healthcare providers to think of music therapy as a complement to traditional treatment.
Aware of Good's findings, her colleague Jane Suresky added music to her own care for her knee replacement surgeries. She says it's helped her to wean off her pain medication and cope with physical therapy. For her first knee replacement, in 2004, she used Good's prescribed music, while for her recent second knee, she purchased an MP3 player and programmed it with her own music. "Having that experience, I was better able to be a more active participant in terms of my own recovery this time," says Suresky. She even listened to her digital music player on the way to the hospital.
"I had to give it up once I got to the pre-operative area," she says, "and I barely turned it over because I wanted it when I was finished."
Both Good and Suresky teach their nursing students about the benefits of music, relaxation and other complementary therapies,
"This will be consumer-driven in the future," Good says. "People will start asking for complementary therapies such as music to relieve their pain."
Or like Suresky, they'll just bring their own. Suresky says that the music she uses to treat her pain fits her mood. "If I'm really stressed, I'll probably listen to some classical music ... If I'm going out walking with the walker, and I want to move a little bit more, I put my Cuban music on."
Good's research was published in the June 2006 edition of The Journal of Advanced Nursing and funded by the Frances Payne Bolton Alumni Association, Case Western Reserve University, Sigma Theta Tau, and the National Institute of Nursing Research.
Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Cochrane Review of Evidence-Based Healthcare
Absolute Coding of Stimulus Novelty in the Human Substantia Nigra/VTA
By Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düzel
Source: www.sciencedirect.com/3 August 2006
Novelty exploration can enhance hippocampal plasticity in animals through dopaminergic neuromodulation arising in the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA).
This enhancement can outlast the exploration phase by several minutes.
Currently, little is known about dopaminergic novelty processing and its relationship to hippocampal function in humans.
In two functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, SN/VTA activations in humans were indeed driven by stimulus novelty rather than other forms of stimulus salience such as rareness, negative emotional valence, or targetness of familiar stimuli, whereas hippocampal responses were less selective.
SN/VTA novelty responses were scaled according to absolute rather than relative novelty in a given context, unlike adaptive SN/VTA responses recently reported for reward outcome in animal studies. Finally, novelty enhanced learning and perirhinal/parahippocampal processing of familiar items presented in the same context.
Thus, the human SN/VTA can code absolute stimulus novelty and might contribute to enhancing learning in the context of novelty.
Nico Bunzeck (University College, London)
Scientists develop artwork that changes to suit your mood
Computer scientists from Bath and Boston have developed electronic artwork that changes to match the mood of the person who is looking at it
Source: Press Release/University of Bath/03 August 2006
Using images collected through a web cam, special software recognises eight key facial features that characterise the emotional state of the person viewing the artwork.
It then adapts the colours and brush strokes of the digital artwork to suit the changing mood of the viewer.
For example, when the viewer is angry the colours are dark and appear to have been applied to the canvas with more violent brush strokes.
If their expression changes to happy, the artwork adapts so that the colours are vibrant and more subtly applied.
The project forms part of on-going research looking to develop a range of advanced artwork tools for use in the computer graphics industry.
This has already resulted in software which produces highly-detailed artistic versions of photographs, and allows designers to create animations directly from digital footage.
"The programme analyses the image for eight facial expressions, such as the position and shape of the mouth, the openness of the eyes, and the angle of the brows, to work out the emotional state of the viewer," said Dr John Collomosse from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath.
"It does all of this in real time, meaning that as the viewer's emotions change the artwork responds accordingly.
"This results in a digital canvas that smoothly varies its colours and style, and provides a novel interactive artistic experience.
"This kind of empathic painting only needs a desk top computer and a webcam to work, so once you have the programme and have calibrated it for the individual viewer, you are ready to start creating personalised art based on your mood.
"The empathic painting is really an experiment into the feasibility of using high level control parameters, such as emotional state, to replace the many low-level tools that users currently have at their disposal to affect the output of artistic rendering."
The empathic painting project was carried out with Maria Shugrina and Margrit Betke from the University of Boston.
The images used in the project were created by the researchers using advanced artistic rendering techniques which give the computer-generated artwork the appearance of having been painted onto canvas.
The research was recently presented at the fourth International Symposium on Non-Photorealistic Animation and Rendering (NPAR) conference in Annecy as part of the International Animation Festival. http://www.npar.org/2006/
For further information, please contact:
Empathic painting project
John Collomosse's research page
Department of Computer Science, University of Bath
International Animation Festival NPAR 2006
Virtual realities against pain
Source: www.alphagalileo.org/21 July 2006
The feeling of pain produced during medical treatment can be reduced through sophisticated virtual reality helmets, a simple computer game and the determined predisposition of the patient.
According to research psychologists at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), this type of distraction even reduces the dosage of sedatives.
Their research suggests putting greater emphasis on methodology and on psychological aspects of this technique in order to improve its property.
For over a decade, the technique of distraction has been researched and successfully applied in clinical practice in order to reduce pain associated with certain medical procedures.
The use of distraction is based on the assumption that there is an important psychological element in the perception of pain, with the amount of attention given to the harmful stimulus affecting the perception of the pain.
Distraction techniques are based on the patient's limited capacity for attention, resulting in a reduction in the patient's attention to the stimulus and therefore a reduction in the stimulus itself.
It was assumed that the ideal distractor would require an optimum amount of attention involving various senses (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic), an active emotional involvement, and participation from the patient to compete with the signals of the harmful stimuli.
The advanced distraction techniques (ADTs) recently developed use 3D images combined with dynamic audio stimuli, making the techniques more likely to meet the requirements of an ideal distractor than the traditional distraction methods such as watching a film or playing a simple computer game.
The ADTs simulate real-life situations, and the possibilities are infinite. For example, until now users could choose between taking a flight, driving, downhill skiing, exploring buildings and many more activities.
In this study, peer-reviewed publications on ADTs and pain have been reviewed to determine the clinical effectiveness and importance of using these techniques as analgesic.
The results suggest that the ADTs can significantly reduce the pain associated with medical treatment.
The use of analgesic was clinically revealing in most cases, especially in patients with very high or unbearable levels of pain.
It was found that levels of anxiety were reduced during the exposure, and the side effects, such as "simulator sickness", were hardly observed at all.
Although some studies continue to focus mainly on the technological aspects and the effectiveness of ADTs, greater consideration is being given to psychological aspects.
Several personality traits (such as absorption and dissociation) have been identified as important factors for determining the level of involvement of the users, possibly modulating the effectiveness of technological progress.
For example, some patients perceive a reduction in their visual field (due to the video helmet) and a loss of awareness of the activities of the medical practitioner, as well as a loss of control, leading to an increase in anxiety and pain; other patients see it as positive that they cannot see and perceive what the medical practitioner is doing.
We can conclude that ADTs are very useful as analgesic, and can reduce the amount of analgesic administered.
This new field of study can begin to move forward beyond its current initial phase by placing more emphasis on methodology and psychological aspects.
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB)
DEPARTAMENT DE PSICOLOGIA CLíNICA I DE LA SALUT
Specification of auditory sensitivity by Drosophila TRP channels
By Martin C Göpfert, Jörg T Albert, B Nadrowski & A Kamikouchi
Source: www.nature.com/2 July 2006
Ears achieve their exquisite sensitivity by means of mechanical feedback: motile mechanosensory cells through their active motion boost the mechanical input from the ear.
Examination of the auditory mechanics in Drosophila melanogaster mutants shows that the transient receptor potential (TRP) channel NompC is required to promote this feedback, whereas the TRP vanilloid (TRPV) channels Nan and Iav serve to control the feedback gain.
The combined function of these channels specifies the sensitivity of the fly auditory organ.
Correspondence should be addressed to
Martin C Göpfert, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fruchtfliege Drosophila melanogaster
Botanical Institute University of Cologne