Post List

  • February 11, 2016
  • 02:44 AM

2% of UK 16-year olds with chronic fatigue [syndrome]?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome] affected 1.9% of 16-year-olds in a UK birth cohort and was positively associated with higher family adversity. Gender was a risk factor at age 16 years but not at age 13 years or in 16-year-olds without high levels of depressive symptoms."So said the findings reported by Simon Collin and colleagues [1] which also gained some media interest as per an entry on the BBC news website for example (see here). Based on data generated by the Children of the 90s research initiative (ALSPAC to you and me), researchers looked to estimate the prevalence of the condition in some 5,700 youth participants.I say looked to 'estimate the prevalence' of CFS but I don't think they formally screened/assessed for the condition on this occasion; rather sending out questionnaires to parents and youth regarding "unexplained disabling fatigue lasting ≥6 months." As per the introduction of SEID (see here) to CFS (and ME) such questioning addresses one aspect of CFS but not necessarily all. One also has to be slightly careful about spreading the label too liberally [2] so as not to dilute what CFS means to many, many people and potentially including many presentations under the current banner [3]. I'll say something further about this shortly.Authors reported an overall prevalence of chronic fatigue of ~2% in their cohort. This figure fell somewhat when "excluding children with high levels of depressive symptoms" to something like 0.6%. Further, when also looking at data "obtained from the National Pupil Database" and cross-linking it to findings, they found that authorised school absences were higher for those with CFS. This follows previous work from this research group already covered on this blog (see here). Finally, the authors talk about how being female and "family adversity" seemed to be more frequently associated with chronic fatigue. As far as I can ascertain however, no other measure (biological or genetic) was included in the study as it stands.Set within the context of 2015 seeing a real ramping up of research into CFS/ME (see here) and some rather public discussions on what may (or may not) be the best way to manage/treat the condition (see here), the Collin findings are an interesting addition to the research base. As per the accompanying press release, the idea that family adversity - that "included poor housing, financial difficulties and a lack of practical and/or emotional support for the mother" - seemed to play something of a role in the findings goes some way to "dispelling the commonly held view that CFS is a 'middle-class' illness or 'yuppie-flu'." The same authors have also talked about other factors linked to adolescent fatigue in other publications [4] but I'm minded to be a little careful around suggested ideas like "children whose mothers experience anxiety and/or depression between pregnancy and child's age 6 years have an increased risk of developing chronic disabling fatigue in early adolescence." I think many people have had quite enough of hearing about 'psychosomatic explanations' of CFS/ME (see here) and would perhaps prefer further concentration on more pertinent biological and/or genetic processes. I'd also like to see the term 'yuppie flu' stricken from any text where CFS/ME is also mentioned.Significantly more resources need to be put into looking at CFS/ME (including identification [5]) and what can be done to alleviate the condition particularly when one sees how much it can affect a person (see here and see here) and those around them. As per my previous ramblings on the topic (see here and see here) I'm pretty firmly sold on the idea that whilst psychology will (inevitably) be affected by a diagnosis, targeting the underlying genetics [6] and biology of the condition is the way forward (see here for example) mindful that there probably is no universal one-size-fits-all intervention for this 'spectral' condition.Just before I go, I do want to return to that point about what exactly comes under the banner of CFS/ME based on the Collin study findings and some other goings on. As per the example detailed by Jason et al [3], one has to be a little cautious about what one includes under labels such as SEID. To quote: "many individuals from major depressive disorder illness groups as well as other medical illnesses were categorized as having SEID" based on the lack of exclusionary criteria applied to this new label. I kinda get the impression that set within the viewpoint of CFS/ME being a 'psychological condition' still unfortunately prevalent in some quarters, conflating certain depressive illnesses with CFS/ME could be used to serve an important purpose when it comes to things like presenting certain intervention options above others. At the very least, it provides a handy distraction from looking at more objective biological information potentially pertinent to at least some of this patient group. We need to be very careful...I foresee 2016 as being another important year for CFS/ME and yes, I will be blogging about the recent Roberts study on mortality statistics and CFS/ME soon enough...----------[1] Collin SM. et al. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at Age 16 Years. Pediatrics. 2016 Jan 25. pii: peds.2015-3434.[2] Friedberg F. et al. Prolonged fatigue in Ukraine and the United States: Prevalence and risk factors. Fatigue. 2015;3(1):33-46.[3] Jason LA. et al. Unintended Consequences of not Specifying Exclusionary Illnesses for Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease. Diagnostics (Basel). 2015 Jun 23;5(2):272-86.[4] Collin SM. et al. Maternal and childhood psychological factors predict chronic disabling fatigue at age 13 years. J Adolesc Health. 2015 Feb;56(2):181-7.[5] Collin SM. et al. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is different in children compared to in adults: a study of UK and Dutch clinical cohorts. BMJ Open. 2015 Oct 28;5(10):e008830.[6] Schlauch KA. et al. Genome-wide association analysis identifies genetic variations in subjects with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Translational Psychiatry. 2016; 6: e730.----------... Read more »

Collin, S., Norris, T., Nuevo, R., Tilling, K., Joinson, C., Sterne, J., & Crawley, E. (2016) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at Age 16 Years. PEDIATRICS, 137(2), 1-10. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-3434  

  • February 10, 2016
  • 03:07 PM

Starting age of marijuana use may have long-term effects on brain development

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The age at which an adolescent begins using marijuana may affect typical brain development, according to researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. In a paper recently published, scientists describe how marijuana use, and the age at which use is initiated, may adversely alter brain structures that underlie higher order thinking.

... Read more »

  • February 10, 2016
  • 09:35 AM

Does 3D Make You Queasy? You Might Have Superior Vision

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Between the rise of 3D movies and virtual reality, more and more people are getting a chance to don goofy glasses or headsets and experience media in three dimensions. And many of those people are discovering something about themselves: 3D makes them ill. Sitting in the theater or on their own couch, they get a sensation like motion sickness. They might feel nausea, dizziness, or disorientation.

A new study suggests that these symptoms aren't weakness on the part of the viewer. People who... Read more »

  • February 10, 2016
  • 08:33 AM

Tip of the Week: The Cancer Genome Atlas Clinical Explorer

by Mary in OpenHelix

Accessing TCGA cancer data has been approached in a variety of ways. This week’s tip of the week highlights a web-based portal for improved access to the data in different ways. The Stanford Cancer Genome Atlas Clinical Explorer is aimed at helping identify clinically relevant genes in the cancer data sets. They note that the data […]... Read more »

  • February 10, 2016
  • 07:30 AM

Form Follows Function - It’s About Time

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

Animals have some interesting nocturnal/diurnal patterns, but can parasites have daytime and nighttime activity patterns? Here is a story of nocturnal owl monkeys, mosquitoes, and malaria parasites and the timing that makes owl monkeys the only primate susceptible to the human and primate forms of malaria.... Read more »

Kreysing, M., Pusch, R., Haverkate, D., Landsberger, M., Engelmann, J., Ruiter, J., Mora-Ferrer, C., Ulbricht, E., Grosche, J., Franze, K.... (2012) Photonic Crystal Light Collectors in Fish Retina Improve Vision in Turbid Water. Science, 336(6089), 1700-1703. DOI: 10.1126/science.1218072  

  • February 10, 2016
  • 06:49 AM

Researchers have analysed the somniloquies of the world's most prolific sleep talker

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Album artwork for Dion McGregor Dreams AgainThe "most extensive sleep talker ever recorded", according to a new article in Imagination, Cognition and Personality, is the late American songwriter Dion McGregor. McGregor's unusual sleeping behaviour – one commentator said he "sounds as if he were channeling Truman Capote on acid: flirtatious, slushy, disconnected from reality ..." – first became public in the 1960s when McGregor shared a New York apartment with a posse of other artists and creative types. His song-writing partner and flat-mate, Mike Barr, became so fascinated by McGregor's extensive somniloquies – most were over 100 words long – that he made more than 500 recordings of them, and they were released as a CD and book: The Dream World of Dion McGregor. Now a team of sleep experts led by Deirdre Barrett at Harvard Medical School have analysed 294 of these recordings to see how their content compares with typical dreams.The researchers coded McGregor's somniloquies for content using an established scale that is used for analysing dreams, and which includes checklists for characters, aggression, friendliness, sexual interaction, success, misfortune and good fortune. Then they used another scale that's for coding the bizarreness of dreams, including elements of discontinuity (sudden changes in time and place or identity), incongruity (contradictions, such as saying a building has only one entrance, and then saying the building was entered a different way), and uncertainty and vagueness.Compared with average dream scores on the scales, McGregor was more active in his somniloquies than most dreamers, while his sleep talk contained less aggression, less friendliness and less sex than usual dreams, fewer negative emotions, good fortune and success, but much more self-negativity and more female characters than is typical for men. His sleep talking was also less bizarre than the average dream, with fewer plot incongruities and contradictions.The researchers provide this example to show a typical element in McGregor's somniloquies, which while fantastical is not confused in plot or thought (unlike much typical dream content):Oh, that doesn’t complete my collection at all! No! Oh no! Well let’s see, I have a dodo, and a rock, and a phoenix . . . oh dear! A pterodactyl, yes, the unicorn, the griffin, dear, oh yes, well a mermaid doesn’t count, she’s out in the pool! No . . . well, if she ever gets out I’m gonna mate her with the centaur! Yes! What do you think?! Certainly! Well, I don’t know. What do you think? Well, if you don’t mate them you know they’ll die off! (Tzadik Records, 1999, “The Collection”)Album artwork for Dreaming Like MadWith Dion McGregorOther examples of content from McGregor's sleep talking include him going door to door asking women if they have their favourite dress on, a roll call of people entering a hot air balloon for a moon trip (which ends after an encounter with sharp-beaked storks) and playing a game of "food roulette" with "a Lazy Susan of poisoned eclairs".The researchers think there are two explanations for the differences between McGregor's somniloquies and typical dream content. One is that much sleep talking does not occur during dreams, and in fact people's brain waves during sleep talking are distinct from those usually seen during dreaming, featuring fewer waves in the alpha frequency range, which they explained could be a sign of more frontal brain activity. The researchers further describe this as "an unusual state midway between waking and sleeping" (backing this up, there is a McGregor interview in which he says a sleep researcher recorded his brain activity during sleep talking and found a mix of sleep and waking brain wave patterns).The other reason for the distinct content of McGregor's somniloquies, the researchers believe, is simply to do with his personal characteristics: he was they say a quirky character with a self-deprecating sense of humour, he was likely homosexual, and he had an obsession with actresses (this last point could help explain the preponderance of female characters in his dreams). This perspective is consistent with the "continuity hypothesis" of dream content – the idea that "our actions and thoughts in everyday life also determine what we will dream about".Surprisingly little is known about the psychology and neuroscience of sleep talking and so this case study provides an intriguing addition to the literature. "Of course Dion McGregor is only one subject, so we can not generalise," the researchers said, adding: "It would be interesting in future research to gather REM sleep-talking reports from a large sample of subjects to see if these differences from dream reports and continuities with waking traits consistently characterise talking from REM sleep." For his part, McGregor was much more interested in his waking creative works (he sold songs to Barbara Streisand, among others) than his sleep talking: "it's like being famous for wetting your bed," he said._________________________________ Barrett, D., Grayson, M., Oh, A., & Sogolow, Z. (2015). A Content Analysis of Dion McGregor's Sleep-Talking Episodes Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 35 (1), 72-83 DOI: 10.1177/0276236615574495 --further reading--... Read more »

Barrett, D., Grayson, M., Oh, A., & Sogolow, Z. (2015) A Content Analysis of Dion McGregor's Sleep-Talking Episodes. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 35(1), 72-83. DOI: 10.1177/0276236615574495  

  • February 10, 2016
  • 04:30 AM

Reduce the Risk of Injury with a New Pair of Shoes

by Kyle Harris in Sports Medicine Research (SMR): In the Lab & In the Field

A recreational runner with motion control running shoes was less likely to sustain an injury than a runner wearing standard running shoes. Runners with pronated feet may benefit the most from a motion control running shoe.... Read more »

  • February 10, 2016
  • 02:43 AM

Autism and the 'female camouflage effect'

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Two papers provide some blogging fodder today. The first is from Agnieszka Rynkiewicz and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) who introduces a concept that many people with an interest in autism might have considered: a 'female camouflage effect' in autism. The second paper is by C Ellie Wilson and colleagues [2] and continues the idea that sex/gender differences present in autism might have some important implications for diagnostic evaluation.Both these papers entertain the idea that although the history of autism has been very 'male-dominated' in light of the sex ratio for the label for example (see here), science and clinical practice is coming round to the idea that there may be important sex/gender differences in the presentation of core issues (see here) that might mean quite a few females have been 'over-looked' or 'under-identified' when it comes to autism. It's of increasing interest.Rynkiewicz et al set about to present "an innovative computerized technique to objectively evaluate the non-verbal modality of communication (gestures) during two demonstration tasks of ADOS-2 (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Edition)." ADOS, by the way, is one of the gold-standard assessment instruments designed with autism in mind (see here). As part of their really interesting report on "automated coding of non-verbal mode of communication (gestures)" and computation of a "Gesture Index (GI)" they compared results from boys and girls ("high-functioning" as they describe them) and whether "females with autism had a higher GI compared to males with autism."After data were crunched and the like, the authors concluded that: "High-functioning females with autism might present better on non-verbal (gestures) mode of communication than boys with autism." Further: "This may be because they are effective at camouflaging other diagnostic features." Potentially very important information indeed.The second paper by Wilson et al continues the theme that sex/gender might have a part to play on the manifestation of autism and onwards diagnostic evaluation. With the aim of reporting "sex differences in clinical outcomes for 1244 adults (935 males and 309 females) referred for autism spectrum disorder assessment", researchers found among other things that: "Males had significantly more repetitive behaviours/restricted interests than females." Onwards: "The sexes may present with different manifestations of the autism spectrum disorder phenotype and differences vary by diagnostic subtype."Variation in the presentation of repetitive and/or restricted behaviours/interests by sex has been talked about in the peer-reviewed research before [3]. As part of a wider suggestion of a specific female phenotype of autism potentially emerging (see here) (being careful with those generalisations) I'd like to think that a greater awareness of such issues could notably enhance the whole diagnostic system especially for females. Indeed, one area that I think would substantially benefit from a little more inspection of a potential 'female camouflage effect' in autism is that of the 'diagnosis' (although not formally noted in standardised texts) of pathological demand avoidance (PDA). At least one person has talked about female autism and the overlap with PDA (see here) and I'm minded to suggest that they might be on to something rather important.Oh, and since I'm on the topic of sex/gender and autism, I'm minded to bring in the paper by Katarzyna Chawarska and colleagues [4] talking about infant 'at-risk for autism' girls and social attention potentially pertinent to discussions on any female camouflage effect...----------[1] Rynkiewicz A. et al. An investigation of the 'female camouflage effect' in autism using a computerized ADOS-2 and a test of sex/gender differences. Mol Autism. 2016 Jan 21;7:10.[2] Wilson CE. et al. Does sex influence the diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorder in adults? Autism. 2016. Jan 22.[3] Van Wijngaarden-Cremers PJ. et al. Gender and age differences in the core triad of impairments in autism spectrum disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Autism Dev Disord. 2014 Mar;44(3):627-35.[4] Chawarska K. et al. Enhanced Social Attention in Female Infant Siblings at Risk for Autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2015. Dec 17.----------Rynkiewicz, A., Schuller, B., Marchi, E., Piana, S., Camurri, A., Lassalle, A., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2016). An investigation of the ‘female camouflage effect’ in autism using a computerized ADOS-2 and a test of sex/gender differences Molecular Autism, 7 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13229-016-0073-0Wilson CE, Murphy CM, McAlonan G, Robertson DM, Spain D, Hayward H, Woodhouse E, Deeley PQ, Gillan N, Ohlsen JC, Zinkstok J, Stoencheva V, Faulkner J, Yildiran H, Bell V, Hammond N, Craig MC, & Murphy DG (2016). Does sex influence the diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorder in adults? Autism : the international journal of research and practice PMID: 26802113... Read more »

Wilson CE, Murphy CM, McAlonan G, Robertson DM, Spain D, Hayward H, Woodhouse E, Deeley PQ, Gillan N, Ohlsen JC.... (2016) Does sex influence the diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorder in adults?. Autism : the international journal of research and practice. PMID: 26802113  

  • February 10, 2016
  • 02:19 AM

Technically good news for paralyzed people

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Points:

Newly developed paperclip sized, mind control device can be placed in the brain, and can be used to help the people with paralysis to walk again.

Published in:

Nature Biotechnology

Study Further:

Researchers from the University of Melbourne have developed a “REVOLUTIONARY” device, a “bionic spinal cord” that can be implanted in a blood vessel in the brain and can help patients of spinal cord injuries to move and walk without any outside assistance. The device would help patients in translating their thoughts into actions and helping in movement of bionic limbs, though the actual limbs would not be reactivated.

The device is of the size of a small paperclip. It consists of stentrode, which is a stent-based electrode, and needs minimal invasion, i.e. major brain surgery is not required to implant the device in the brain. It can record high-quality signals released from the motor cortex of the brain, and use those signals to move bionic limbs as, for example, patients would be able to move a wheelchair with the help of thoughts.

The device can help in moving bionic limbs (Image source: The stentrode device, described as a bionic spinal cord (Image source: University of Melbourne)
The device can help in moving bionic limbs (Image source: The stentrode device, described as a bionic spinal cord (Image source: University of Melbourne)
“What has been shown in other instances is that patients can learn over time to use their brain to move devices in a particular way that they choose to do,” Professor Clive May, a neurophysiologist at the Florey Institute, stated.

First human trials of the device will be done at The Royal Melbourne Hospital in 2017.

The research was funded by many organisations including the US Defence Department and the Australian Defence Health Foundation.


Oxley, T., Opie, N., John, S., Rind, G., Ronayne, S., Wheeler, T., Judy, J., McDonald, A., Dornom, A., Lovell, T., Steward, C., Garrett, D., Moffat, B., Lui, E., Yassi, N., Campbell, B., Wong, Y., Fox, K., Nurse, E., Bennett, I., Bauquier, S., Liyanage, K., van der Nagel, N., Perucca, P., Ahnood, A., Gill, K., Yan, B., Churilov, L., French, C., Desmond, P., Horne, M., Kiers, L., Prawer, S., Davis, S., Burkitt, A., Mitchell, P., Grayden, D., May, C., & O’Brien, T. (2016). Minimally invasive endovascular stent-electrode array for high-fidelity, chronic recordings of cortical neural activity Nature Biotechnology DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3428... Read more »

  • February 9, 2016
  • 11:30 PM

Lotka-Volterra, replicator dynamics, and stag hunting bacteria

by Artem Kaznatcheev in Evolutionary Games Group

Happy year of the monkey! Last time in the Petri dish, I considered the replicator dynamics between type-A and type-B cells abstractly. In the comments, Arne Traulsen pointed me to Li et al. (2015): We have attempted something similar in spirit with bacteria. Looking at frequencies alone, it looked like coordination. But taking into account […]... Read more »

Li, X.-Y., Pietschke, C., Fraune, S., Altrock, P.M., Bosch, T.C., & Traulsen, A. (2015) Which games are growing bacterial populations playing?. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12(108), 20150121. PMID: 26236827  

  • February 9, 2016
  • 05:40 PM

Alles in Ordnung? Reflections on German order

by Rahel Cramer in Language on the Move

Everyone who has learned a second language will have noticed that certain words and expressions cannot be translated easily from...... Read more »

  • February 9, 2016
  • 02:41 PM

Brain power: Wirelessly supplying power to the brain

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Human and animal movements generate slight neural signals from their brain cells. These signals obtained using a neural interface are essential for realizing brain-machine interfaces (BMI). Such neural recording systems using wires to connect the implanted device to an external device can cause infections through the opening in the skull. One method of solving this issue is to develop a wireless neural interface that is fully implantable on the brain.

... Read more »

  • February 9, 2016
  • 02:30 PM

Need a Charge: Go For a Walk!

by Jenny Ludmer in Rooster's Report

Talk about a power walk! A recent development by University of Wisconsin–Madison mechanical engineers suggest that you will one day get your charging needs right from your footsteps.... Read more »

  • February 9, 2016
  • 12:51 PM

How language changes the way you hear music

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

In a new paper I, together with Roel Willems and Peter Hagoort, show that music and language are tightly coupled in the brain. Get the gist in a 180 second youtube clip and then try out what my participants did. The task my participants had to do might sound very abstract to you, so let […]... Read more »

  • February 9, 2016
  • 12:00 PM

WATCH: Cockroach-Inspired Robots Could Save You

by Jenny Ludmer in Rooster's Report

The fear of cockroaches is so common there’s a name for it, katsaridaphobia. And yet, there are apparently scientists out there with nerves of steal. By working with these creepy critters, they’ve actually created a roach-inspired robot. Just like the real thing, it can slither through tiny cracks, and if it doesn’t scare the dickens out of you, it might just save your life one day.... Read more »

Kaushik Jayarama, & Robert J. Fulla. (2016) Cockroaches traverse crevices, crawl rapidly in confined spaces, and inspire a soft, legged robot. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1514591113

  • February 9, 2016
  • 08:28 AM

Bring Me Sunshine...

by AG McCluskey in Zongo's Cancer Diaries

The latest Public Health statement is about the dangers of suntanning. But what IS a suntan? And how could it lead to cancer...?... Read more »

NICE. (2016) Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits. National Institute for Health . info:/

Newton-Bishop, J., Chang, Y., Elliott, F., Chan, M., Leake, S., Karpavicius, B., Haynes, S., Fitzgibbon, E., Kukalizch, K., Randerson-Moor, J.... (2011) Relationship between sun exposure and melanoma risk for tumours in different body sites in a large case-control study in a temperate climate. European Journal of Cancer, 47(5), 732-741. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.10.008  

  • February 9, 2016
  • 08:11 AM

New research challenges the idea that women have more elaborate autobiographical memories than men 

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

The longest autobiographical narratives were produced by men talking to women Prior research has found that women elaborate more than men when talking about their autobiographical memories, going into more detail, mentioning more emotions and providing more interpretation. One problem with this research, though, is that it hasn't paid much attention to who is listening or whether the memories are spoken or written.This is unfortunate because findings like these can fuel overly simplistic gender-based assumptions – in this case, the idea that women have more elaborate and emotional autobiographical memories than men. A new study in the journal Memory reminds us, in the words of Robyn Fivush, that "autobiographical memory is not something we have but something we do in interaction". Specifically, the new research finds that the way people recall their memories depends on who is listening. In fact, when the listening researcher was a woman, the male participants provided more long-winded descriptions of their memories than the female participants.Azriel Grysman and Amelia Denney at Hamilton College, New York recruited 178 student participants (average age 19; 101 women) and asked them to describe "an episode in your life that was stressful to you", with further guidance that it must be a single event lasting no longer than a day, and that they should "try to imagine the event in as much detail as possible" before beginning their description, for which "there is no correct or incorrect length". Crucially, half the students performed this exercise alone in the psych lab with a female researcher, and half alone with a male researcher. Also, half described their memory out loud (they were told the researcher would simply nod periodically), while the others were instructed to type their memories into a computer.The researchers coded the length and content of all the memories which were about things like academic stress, arguments, injuries and the death of pets. Contrary to prior research, the longest autobiographical memories were those produced by male participants speaking to a female researcher. The actual content of men's memories didn't vary according to gender of the listener, nor whether they were writing or speaking. By contrast, the female participants' memories contained fewer mentions of internal states (people's emotions and feelings) when speaking or writing with a male researcher,  and they provided fewer opinions when verbally describing their memories as compared with typing them (regardless of the gender of the listener).We need to be aware that the results could be different if older and non-student participants were tested, and also if the memory prompt were different. There was also a confound in the study, in that the two male researchers who took turns to accompany the (predominantly White) participants were White, whereas the three female researchers were Asian-American and non-White Hispanic, although the researchers couldn't find any evidence that one or more of the researchers was having an influence on the results."The findings reported here emphasise the importance of context in autobiographical memory report," the researchers concluded. "The implications of these findings are that autobiographical memories include the constantly interacting influences of person, audience, and the experimental or conversational context."_________________________________ Grysman, A., & Denney, A. (2016). Gender, experimenter gender and medium of report influence the content of autobiographical memory report Memory, 1-14 DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2015.1133829 --further reading--Some perfectly healthy people can't remember their own livesTotal recall: The man who can remember every day of his life in detailRepression redux? It is possible to deliberately forget details from our pastPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free fortnightly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!

... Read more »

  • February 9, 2016
  • 06:27 AM

Baby can see, what an adult can’t

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Point:

Babies have an unusual ability to see those things and differences in pictures that are not visible to adults.

Published in:

Current Biology

Study Further:

In a study conducted by researchers from Japan, it has been reported that infants under 5 months of age have an ability to detect changes in pictures or images that are not visible to adults. However, this ability disappears rapidly, and infants in the age range of 5 months to 6 months are unable to detect image differences and surface changes. By the time, when an infant reaches 7 months of age, he or she starts perceiving surface properties.

This study shows that babies, below 5 months of age, can see far more details and differences in the form of colors and objects in pictures that adults cannot see. Many things that are almost similar to adults appear wildly different to babies – a process known as “perceptual constancy”. Researchers are of opinion that this “is acquired through postnatal learning.” However, the quality disappears within days after 5 months of age – probably to give place to other important abilities.

This ability of looking at minor details is considered as one of the qualities that disappear with time. Among other qualities are speech sounds in languages that are not, usually, audible by adults.


Yang, J., Kanazawa, S., Yamaguchi, M., & Motoyoshi, I. (2015). Pre-constancy Vision in Infants Current Biology, 25 (24), 3209-3212 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.053... Read more »

Yang, J., Kanazawa, S., Yamaguchi, M., & Motoyoshi, I. (2015) Pre-constancy Vision in Infants. Current Biology, 25(24), 3209-3212. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.053  

  • February 9, 2016
  • 02:47 AM

Decreased brain levels of vitamin B12 in autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I have to thank Dr Malav Trivedi for bringing my attention to some recent findings reported by Yiting Zhang and colleagues (including Malav) [1] (open-access) suggesting that: "levels of vitamin B12, especially its MeCbl [methylcobalamin] form, decrease with age in frontal cortex of control human subjects."Further, researchers reported: "abnormally lower total Cbl [cobalamin] and MeCbl levels in subjects with autism and schizophrenia, as compared to age-matched controls." Some media on the findings can also be read here.Working from the lab of Dr Richard Deth (quite a familiar name to this blog), researchers initially analysed a most precious sample medium (postmortem brain samples) obtained from various biobanks and including various patient groups. So alongside samples from 12 children with autism were samples from 9 people diagnosed with schizophrenia and some 43 'controls' with ages ranging between 19 weeks old and 80 years old. "Changes in Cbl species were compared with the status of methylation and antioxidant pathway metabolites" accompanied by data derived from a knock-out mouse model: "the influence of decreased GSH [glutathione] production on brain Cbl levels was evaluated in glutamate-cysteine ligase modulatory subunit knockout (GCLM-KO) mice in which GSH synthesis was impaired, leading to a brain GSH level decrease of 60–70%."Looking at postmortem frontal cortex brain samples, researchers reported that finding on levels of vitamin B12 - particularly the MeCbl vitamer -  decreasing with age. Bearing in mind the relatively small participant numbers included, the idea that lower brain tissue levels of total cobalamin and methylcobalamin were also present (almost unanimously) in the autism and schizophrenia groups could be important. I might at this point direct readers to previous discussions on vitamin B12 and autism on this blog (see here) including the research idea of supplementing (see here) with no medical advice given or intended.There are a few other details worth pointing out from the Zhang findings. Analysis of thiols in brain samples across the autism vs control group revealed some potentially interesting data. So, methionine levels were quite a bit lower in the autism group [significantly lower] as were levels of "the methyl donor S-adenosylmethionine (SAM)." Both these compounds form an important part of the whole 'methylation of DNA' process (see here) among other things.Glutathione, a compound that has seen its fair share of speculation with autism in mind (see here), was also on the research menu in the Zhang study. Interestingly and again bearing mind the small participant numbers, brain levels of this stuff were lower in the autism group as a whole but not significantly so when compared to controls. This finding might map on to other brain studies with autism in mind (see here). Likewise, cysteine (another potentially relevant compound to some autism) produced a similar finding.I would encourage readers to take some time looking at the Zhang paper. In conjunction with other results reporting on some important elements to the emerging story (see here) I believe there are further studies to be done applicable to the notion that: "impaired methylation may be a critical pathological component" for at least some autism (see here). Indeed, other research papers have also discussed this issue [2]. The idea that studies about human ageing may likewise be informative to autism (and schizophrenia) research also carries quite a lot of traction too.----------[1] Zhang Y. et al. Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PLoS One. 2016 Jan 22;11(1):e0146797.[2] Keil KP. & Lein PJ. DNA methylation: a mechanism linking environmental chemical exposures to risk of autism spectrum disorders? Environmental Epigenetics. 2016; 1-15.----------Zhang Y, Hodgson NW, Trivedi MS, Abdolmaleky HM, Fournier M, Cuenod M, Do KQ, & Deth RC (2016). Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PloS one, 11 (1) PMID: 26799654... Read more »

Zhang Y, Hodgson NW, Trivedi MS, Abdolmaleky HM, Fournier M, Cuenod M, Do KQ, & Deth RC. (2016) Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PloS one, 11(1). PMID: 26799654  

  • February 8, 2016
  • 03:00 PM

Can Pollen Be Used to Make Batteries?

by Jenny Ludmer in Rooster's Report

We all know pollen can terrorize your eyes and nose and make you miserable, but now scientists think it could do something pretty amazing: store energy. Yes, that’s right. By precisely processing the irritating stuff, pollen’s unique structures appear to be perfectly suited to store energy in batteries. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.... Read more »

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