Daily Archives: November 10, 2012

More Benefits of Exercise and a Brain Centre for Nothingness! November 2012 2nd Edition

There is a study which looks at the benefits of exercise in Schizophrenia here. This was a small study in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica with just over 30 people with Schizophrenia in each arm of the study. One group were given aerobic exercise to do and the other group did other types of activity. The researchers found improvements in the symptoms seen in Schizophrenia. These symptoms were both positive (hallucinations for example) and negative (social withdrawal for example). With exercise, people significantly improved in their functioning which wasn’t seen in the other arm of the trial. These are remarkable results for a relatively simple approach such as exercise!

A study published in PLOS Medicine has found evidence for an average gain in lifespan of 4.5 years even for light physical activity. There are numerous studies showing cognitive and mood benefits of exercise (as well as the study in people with Schizophrenia above) but this adds to the picture of more general benefits*. The study involved the use of data from over 650,000 people. The researchers used the guidelines on activity levels from the US Department of Health and Human Services. They found that even if the activity levels didn’t meet the recommended levels there were still benefits in terms of increased life expectancy. In their analysis the researchers found that increasing activity levels increased the likelihood of living longer.

Umm gargling in Lemonade increases self-control. Yes that’s right – gargling in Lemonade. A slightly unusual methodology but the researchers in this ‘Psychological Science’ study recommend gargling in Lemonade as a way to increase self-control. They depleted the levels of self-control by asking participants to cross out all the e’s in a rather dry document. Then they tested the participants on their concentration. What they found was that if people were swishing some sugary Lemonade in their mouth they were able to concentrate better. If they had an artificially sweetened Lemonade solution in their mouth they performed less well. So the upshot of this study is that if people had a sugary drink and stopped themselves from drinking it they increased their self-control ‘reserves’. Practically speaking it might prove slightly difficult to use this approach in everyday activities without appearing slightly unusual.

Neuroscience

The British Neuroscience Association is holding a Neuroscience festival next year. Looks promising. There’s a section for Neuropsychiatry.

There’s an interesting article here on why being bilingual might offer advantages for thinking skills.

Collectively Unconscious is a brilliant new blog that takes a light-hearted look at the world of Neuroscience. In this post they report on research where the mysterious brain centre for nothingness has been located. But don’t let me spoil the fun – check out the original post.

Compliments can improve performance according to this PLOS One study. The researchers would give one group compliments. For another group they the subjects watch others being given compliments. In the third group the researchers would simply ask the subjects to monitor their own performance using a graph. The researchers found that on a simple exercise the group which were complimented performed best.

The power of intuition was shown in this Proceedings of the National Academy of Science study. This was a really interesting study. Basically the participants were asked to look at some numbers. Really quickly. Then they had to guess which group of numbers was larger. When the subjects were given a large group of numbers to compare in a ridiculously short amount of time – they ‘guessed’ it right 90% of the time. Whatever this ability is – the researchers simply referred to it as intuition. Interestingly this type of skill has been seen amongst people with Autism.

The gene HDAC4 is thought to play an important role in information processing based on the results from this study.

Employees tend to feel a strong sense of identity with their employers. In one study in the Journal of Managerial Psychology the researchers looked at ex-employees. They found that those who identified strongly with their employers had a higher self-esteem than those who identified less strongly.

Genetics is advancing quickly thanks to the use of genomes and multiple database as expanded on this article.

The Joint Academies have produced a rather intriguing document on the future of the workplace with the use of ‘enhanced cognition’. This basically means enhancing the cognition of the worker through various means. The report includes a look at the ethical issues that are raised and the technology that might support this.

Open Science

The Alzheimer’s Organisation in America has this instructive video for caregivers on Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Director of the National Institute of Health has this post on the connectome. Initial data from the human connectome has been released recently. Meanwhile Sir Tim Berners-Lee the founder of the internet has been asking for more open data!

The Canadian Medical Association has issued guidelines for the use of social media by Doctors.

 

Evolutionary Psychiatry

Early humans had developed advanced tools which may have helped them to hunt prey more effectively. This in turn may have led to the expansion and later success of humans. If so, this would suggest that evolutionary explanations for the successful adaptation of humans over other species may need to look more closely at tool making and tool use.

There is a write-up on the recent 1000 Genomes data release here.

There has been a very interesting find in Serbia. Lots of artifacts from 8000 years ago with lots of symbolism.

*Individual needs will vary and people should consult with their physician before engaging in an exercise program.

Appendix

News Round-Up 2008-2011

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

A Video Celebrating 10 Years of PubMedCentral

This is a nice video celebrating 10 years of PubMedCentral, an American repository of academic papers which is freely available to the global public. PMC was established over 11 years ago (the video was published last year). What is really interesting is that the idea for PMC was adapted from the work of a pioneering Physics community. This illustrates how strongly the underlying principles of science form firm foundations which unite disparate scientific communities. There was a UK PubMedCentral which has now been expanded into Europe PubMedCentral.

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.

Doing Science Using Open Data – Part 4: Is the UK Population Normally Distributed According to Age? (No)

In the first three parts of this series, I looked at UK mortality data which is freely available in conjunction with data from the UK census. I generated two hypotheses

H1: In the UK, deaths in the age group 45-64 years of age are 4 times higher than deaths in the age group 15-44 years of age.

H2: The increase in deaths described in H1 results from a larger population in the age group 45-64 than in the age group 15-44 years of age

H1 was generated from UK data and wasn’t tested any further. However H2 was partially tested (the dataset was incomplete) and appeared to be incorrect on further testing. A more convincing result would be obtained from statistical testing. Intuitively it seems quite obvious that H2 is false.

For ages 16-44 we got the following data

680,979
706,234
711,491
741,667
765,895
757,901
757,295
771,297
756,449
768,415
774,921
759,889
768,860
770,810
778,986
782,510
751,251
700,825
690,775
702,024
716,419
729,013
761,347
794,300
820,805
800,550
821,037
819,650
832,297

For ages 45-65 we got the following data

832,727
838,064
831,041
813,798
797,077
770,066
739,859
723,861
708,371
682,824
659,795
637,073
641,145
634,399
618,132
623,508
638,118
655,668
694,644
754,834
583,734

Now it is useful in comparing these populations to get an understanding of what they look like. I’ve graphed the two populations below. The red bars show the population in the age group 45-64 with increasing years (i.e 45, 46 etc). The blue bars show the age group 16-44 again with increasing years for successive bars.

In comparing the two populations we usually make assumptions about the populations. The most commonly discussed population distribution in statistics is the normal distribution.

A selection of Normal Distribution Probability Density Functions (PDFs), Author InductiveLoad, Public Domain

Clearly when we are looking at increasing age, these two populations are not normally distributed. If they were then the there would be a central peak with tapering on either side. Eyeballing the data reveals homogeneity in the age group 16-44 whilst there is a slight left sided skewing of the data in the 45-65 age group. However if we look at the original population data from the census we get the following

This graph was discussed briefly in the previous post. What is clear is that this is not a normal distribution. What is even more interesting is that this is not even a sample. This is the population based on the Census. In other words according to age, the UK population is not normally distributed. The Census doesn’t yet contain the data for the over 90 age group but there is a clear trend in the over 80 group even without this data. What is clear from the above is that the population is skewed to the left. This is hardly surprising as the lifespan is finite and age is a risk factor for mortality. What is also interesting about this graph though is that its not the nice idealised left skewed graph we might expect. Rather than beginning at a peak or trough, the graph begins at an intermediate level before passing through troughs and peaks followed by a steady decline at around age 45. This decline is broken up by a sharp increase in the mid-sixties. The graph might almost be described by the superposition of several distinct graphs.

Returning to our original question of comparing the two populations we can see that they do not come from a normally distributed population. The first group (16-44) comes from a part of the graph which varies between 300,000 and 400,000 people per age (in years). The second group (45-65) comes from the part of the graph which begins to show the downward trend in population per age (in years). The spike complicates matters slightly. Nevertheless we can see that they are not similar populations when we consider population as a function of age.

Appendix

Doing Science Using Open Data – Part 1

Doing Science Using Open Data – Part 2

Doing Science Using Open Data – Part 3

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk. Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.