Neuroscience and Social Sciences

One of the most positive developments in American culture over the last few years is the increased awareness of bullying in school. Though I was a geek in high school (and proudly remain one today), I mostly hung out with other geeks, so bullying wasn't much of a problem for me*.

But that's not the case for a large number of American kids. According to the CDC, 20% of high school students report being bullied on school property; 16% report being bullied electronically. 

One would think that bullying would stop after high school. One would also think that adults are more mature and considerate once they are in the workplace. But, one would be wrong.

A new CDC report shows...

If you enjoy the wonders of medical research, this is proving to be a very interesting week.

In just two days we've learned that German researchers discovered a key factor that explains why pancreatic cancer is as aggressive and deadly as it is. And now, there's another eye-opening discovery on the same continent, one that may someday lead to ways to improve sleep patterns, providing solutions for jet-lag sufferers and drowsy, night-shift workers alike.

English researchers in Edinburgh have "found a new group of cells in the retina that directly affect the biological clock by sending signals to a region of the brain which regulates our daily (circadian) rhythms."...

Depression and anxiety, as well as severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia, have become more openly discussed in society. Yet, one aspect of mental health remains largely in the shadows: Nightmares.

Not just the product of children's over-active imaginations, about 5% of adults experience frequent nightmares. A study published in 2001 demonstrated that men who suffered from frequent nightmares were more likely to commit suicide than those who did not. However, the study included war veterans, a group who suffers more frequently from nightmares compared to the general population, most likely as a result of PTSD.

So, a new team of researchers wanted to separate veterans from civilians and ...

Is science political? If you consider climate change, you will find vast divisions of thought, frequently along ‘party lines’, much like you will with drug discovery. On the other hand, there is little political wrangling about oxidative phosphorylation or T-cells.

A new paper in Nature Human Behavior explores the political dimensions of science utilizing a fascinating technique. Anyone who has used Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble to order books knows that they make recommendations based upon your purchases. These recommendations are based on sales. The researchers made use of that feature in looking at what science books were acquired by the two traditionally cited political distinctions, liberal and...

Yes, we know — dogs are warm and friendly and want nothing more than to spend time interacting with their human companions. Cats, on the other hand, have a chillier reputation. Supposedly they're independent, untrainable, and more attached to their homes than the people they share it with.  Well, some recent research suggests that cats have been maligned — they like people more than we (and cat haters in particular) might think.

Dr. Kristyn R. Vitale Shreve from Oregon State University and colleagues assessed the preferences of cats from shelters and of those from households, because, they said, the belief that Felis silvestris catus is not a particularly sociable or trainable animal may be based on "a lack of knowledge of what stimuli cats prefer, and thus may be most...

An interesting thing happened on the way to verifying claims that an emerging technology can assist in concussion prevention and recovery: a resulting phone call with the firm's CEO delivered clarity, transparency and admission of a PR misstep that served to cast his company in a better light than previously thought.

Such is the case for Dr. Henry Mahncke and BrainHQ, which wants to be recognized as the leader in web- and app-based cognitive training to promote brain health. With just a few established players in this digital space thus far – and his contention that his competitors don't have the goods and are prone to making unsupported claims – he wants to reinforce his position that BrainHQ is "the only evidence-based company in this field."

Sounds good to us, because...

Politics makes utter fools out of otherwise rational people. The vitriol aimed at President George W. Bush by his political opponents caused psychiatrist and political commentator Charles Krauthammer to coin the tongue-in-cheek term "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It caught on. Pundits subsequently seized upon the terms "Obama Derangement Syndrome" and "Trump Derangement Syndrome."

Now, it appears as if some psychologists want to give these satirical diagnoses an air of medical authority. An article in Kaiser Health News, which was (unbelievably) reprinted by...

If the average person is asked to assess their own driving skills, most will give themselves an above average rating. By definition, half of all drivers are below average, but most people lack the self-awareness to realize this due to a cognitive bias known as illusory superiority.

Every year since 2008, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has conducted a survey in which they determine drivers' attitudes and behaviors in regard to traffic safety. They have confirmed what most of us already suspected: You're a terrible, hypocritical driver. 

The report summarizes its findings bluntly:

[T]he current traffic safety culture... might be characterized most appropriately as...

Are you your dog? Is your dog you? Or, elements of your personality traits anyway. Researchers set out to explore these and other queries.

Can we extrapolate from this new science to apply these questions to your human children?

Faculty from the University of Vienna’s Department of Behavioral Biology in Austria sought to explore the human-dog dyad (aka a group of two -units, entities, humans, animals) suggesting owner and dog social characteristics impact each other’s stress responses and thereby influence coping capacity. Recognizing the human role is more influential, they investigated “intra-individual cortisol variability” (iCV) which is regulated and adjusted by interactions that range from contentious to emotionally supportive. Heart rate (HR) and its fluctuations...

The Brookings Institute recently released a study on what it terms the Privacy Paradox, which argues that our concerns about privacy are not monolithic, but contextual.

What does that mean? For illustration, they use the experience of an adolescent male purchasing condoms. Having had to do so in a time when condoms were behind the counter, I can concur that privacy and its accompanying embarrassment were key concerns as I waited until there was a male pharmacist at the counter.

To find out how that impacts product purchases, Benjamin Wittes and Emma Kohse used Google surveys to ask about buying behavior for products where there might be privacy...