News in Brief
There was found to be a significant association between a variant in the gene LINGO1 and Parkinson’s Disease and Benign Essential Tremor suggesting that this gene may be involved in both conditions. The gene variant is identified with approximately 5% of people with either condition. A gene sequencing process mrFAST (micro-read Fast Alignment Search Tool) has demonstrated utility in detecting duplicated genome sequences and the researchers have noted an increased number of copy number variants in genes which are located in a segment of the genome which underwent significant duplication in the ape/human ancestor. The process has implications for detection of diseases in which copy number variants need to be estimated and has also been used in the 1000 Genome Project.
An interesting study provided evidence that early stages of the visual perception process were influenced by cue associated emotions and memories. Subjects were presented with faces showing different expressions and the subject’s rating of the emotions in the expressions was correlated with the activation of their own facial muscles when the same faces were re-presented after having been modified to exhibit a neutral expression. Some evidence that reminiscence therapy can improve memory in the elderly is provided from a review of reminiscence therapy studies that was published in Scientific American Mind which also looks at other outcome measures. It will be interesting to see the results of a meta-analysis once further studies are available.
A comparison of longitudinal and retrospective studies provides evidence that people underestimate their experience of mental illnesss retrospectively. An American study of physician-patient interactions in primary care practices in Baltimore found a significant difference in communication-related outcome measures between white and black patients in areas including psychosocial interactions in consultations relating to blood pressure control. The researchers suggest that interventions focusing on doctor-patient communication may influence ‘racial disparities in the care of patients with high blood pressure’ although such research may have benefits in other areas of health care. The BMA has released a new document on ‘the effect of alcohol marketing on young people‘ and there has been wide reporting on this in the media.
In a fascinating anthropological study of the fairy tales Little Red Riding Hood shows that this fairy tale probably has a very ancient origin. There were subtle differences across the world – for instance in China the wolf is replaced with a tiger. The most closely related versions to the modern European were those from Nigeria and Iran. There are many forms of analysis of fairy tales including psychoanalysis (see here, here and here for instance. A study published in Science (n-192) and using a public goods game paradigm (used in the study of group behaviour) provided evidence that using a reward strategy for ‘good behaviour’ produced better outcome (e.g. contributions to the group) than with the use of punishment for ‘bad behaviour’. Evidence has been found that a species of New World Monkey – the Cotton Topped Tamarin are able to distinguish between ‘affiliate’ and ‘fear’ music produced by other monkeys. Such studies are useful for debates in Evolutionary Psychology.
An application – healthii – has been developed with the intention of improving the well-being of people engaged in social networking online. A recent trial on Twitter at the end of August and the findings should be reported in the near future. A Twestival Local (a local festival on twitter) is taking place (see the site here) to raise money for charity. There are two types of festival – one is global and the other involves individual cities which are identified on the map here. This shows one of the many extraordinairy ways in which Twitter is impacting on society globally.
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