Monday, October 31, 2016

Human Developmental Neurobiology


here is accumulating evidence that children with ADHD differ from other children in their response to positive reinforcement


Professor Gail Tripp




A central goal for our Unit is to clarify the nature and extent of altered sensitivity to positive reinforcement in children whose behaviour is consistent with a diagnosis of ADHD. Specifically we wish to determine (a) which aspects of reinforcement (e.g., frequency, delay, magnitude) differentially affect the behaviour of children with and without ADHD, and (b) whether altered sensitivity to reinforcement is a fundamental characteristic of ADHD, defines a subtype of the disorder, or is a more general characteristic of disordered behaviour. This work will be carried out here in our new Children’s Research Centre at OIST and with our collaborators at the University of Otago, New Zealand.
A second key goal for the unit, in collaboration with the Wickens Neurobiology Unit, is to elucidate the neurobiological basis underlying the altered sensitivity to positive reinforcement seen in children with ADHD. It is well established, through animal studies, that the neurotransmitter dopamine plays a crucial role in the processing of reinforcement and learning. We recently proposed a specific theory of altered dopamine functioning, the Dopamine Transfer Deficit hypothesis (DTD), regarding changes in dopamine signalling that might account for the altered sensitivity to positive reinforcement observed in children with ADHD. This theory makes specific and testable predictions about reinforcement sensitivity in children with ADHD and in animal models of the disorder. These specific predictions will be tested with children meeting criteria for ADHD as part of the Human Developmental Neurobiology Unit’s research activity and with animal models of the disorder in the collaborating Neurobiology Unit.
In the longer term the results of these studies will contribute to a greater understanding of the mechanisms underlying altered sensitivity to reinforcement and possibly ADHD. This knowledge will contribute to the development of more effective behavioural and pharmacological interventions for this chronic and debilitating disorder. The research findings may also offer new directions for identifying which children require assessment for ADHD.


Research Strategies
To achieve these goals we have established the Children’s Research Center at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University. Children participating in the Research Center’s activities will complete comprehensive assessments to identify their strengths and difficulties before engaging in a range of computerized tasks/activities to determine their sensitivity to different aspects of reinforcement. We also hope to establish Outreach Centers to enable us to include as many families as possible in our research activities.

https://groups.oist.jp/hdnu

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ouch! Avoiding Failure Leads to Missed Opportunities for Children with ADHD


23 Sep 2016


Growing up is a challenging task full of great achievements and missteps. Sometimes it is not clear what the best course of action might be, but people around us – parents and teachers – help by giving us feedback about our behaviour. Generally, we repeat the actions that get rewarded, and try not to engage in the ones that get reproved. However, it is hard to always make the best choice. 
Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are potentially more exposed to reproaches than typically developing children. Their difficulties with focusing, elevated activity levels and impulsive actions often get them into trouble with their parents, teachers and friends. This makes it important to find out how punishment affects the behaviour of children with ADHD. Are they more sensitive to punishment, or are they less sensitive to punishment? A team of researchers from Japan and New Zealand presented children with ADHD and typically developing children with a computer-based game that involved reward and punishment. The results of this study are published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
“When we first began this study, there had not been a lot of experimental research done,” said Prof Gail Tripp, one of the authors of the paper and director of the Human Developmental Neurobiology Unit at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST). “We need to be extremely careful about using punishment, especially when working with children. Some of our first attempts to study ADHD and punishment were not very successful, because the children simply abandoned the task when they kept losing points or did not get enough rewards.” 
This time, the researchers were able to develop a computer-based game that was engaging but still incorporated an element of punishment. Children with ADHD and typically developing children chose between playing two simultaneously available games. Both games were presented at the same time on a computer screen, and looked the same: a two by two grid in which a mix of fun characters and sad faces appeared after pressing a button on the screen. Four matching characters equalled a ‘win’, while four sad faces equalled a ‘loss’. Any other combination was a neutral outcome. The children could switch between playing the two games as often as they liked. 
Altogether, 210 children took part in the research, with 145 diagnosed with ADHD. All children were living in Japan or New Zealand and spoke English as their first language. “The chance of winning rewards was equal for the two games, but one of the games was designed to have a four times higher likelihood of losing: playing on that game, a child would be ‘punished’ more often than with the other one,” Tripp explained. In both games, when a child won, the computer gave him or her 10 points and played a simple animation; when a child lost, the computer took away 5 points and played a laughing sound. All children began with a positive balance of 20 points and the game continued until either they reached 400 points or completed 300 trials. Each child won a prize at the end of the game. The rewards were also arranged to discourage children from playing on one game exclusively or switching every time. A session lasted typically half an hour. The reason for such an extended game was to observe fairly stable performance over time. 
“What we actually saw was that both typically developing children and children with ADHD developed a preference – what we call ‘bias’ – for the less ‘punishing’ game,” Tripp said. “Both groups played the less punishing game more often. But over time, the children with ADHD found losing points and the laughter more punishing than typically developing children.” 
During the first 100 trials, there was no difference between the two groups of children. But later on, the preference for the less punishing alternative increased substantially in the children with ADHD, while the choices of the typically developing children were stable for the duration of the task. By the 200th trial, the children with ADHD were much less likely to play the more punishing game. The results suggest that children with ADHD avoid punishment more often over time than typically developing children. The latter seemed less distracted by punishment and kept their focus on winning.

This finding has important implications. “If a child with ADHD is reluctant in doing a task, or if the child gives up easily, it might be important for the parent or the teacher to check if the task has the appropriate balance of reward and punishment,” Tripp said. “We are not saying that the task has punishment built in, rather that the effort needed to do the task might be perceived as punishing by the child. The more effortful a task is, the more incentives a child is going to need to keep persisting, and simple but frequent rewards, such as smiles or words of encouragements, can help children with ADHD to stay on the task.” The same could be said for typically developing children, but this is especially important for children with ADHD, as they seem more sensitive to repeated experiences of punishment or failure, and are more likely to miss opportunities for success. 

https://www.oist.jp/news-center/news/2016/9/23/ouch-avoiding-failure-leads-missed-opportunities-children-adhd

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The 5 Questions That Parents Of College Students Should Ask

How to step back but stay connected to your emerging adult.

09/26/2016  
Sep 26, 2016

Elizabeth Fishel Next Avenue


The transition from home to college can be exciting as well as rocky for you and your college student child. So much is unfamiliar and unknown for both generations.
For parents, this transition means defining a whole different structure for your lives now that you no longer need to offer homework help or three square meals a day. For college students, it means creating everything from scratch in a brand-new place: residence, roommates, friends, higher academic requirements, and for many, figuring out how to combine school and a job. Freshman year can be the most challenging — more students drop out their first year of college than in any that follows — as new students try to adjust to all the unknowns of campus life.
You can play a crucial role on your student’s support team, especially freshman year.  From then on, your student’s need for attention and support will both ease and occasionally intensify. The task for you is to know when to step in and when to step back, when to offer support and when to let your children figure things out for themselves.
Here are five potentially tricky questions likely to crop up during your child’s college years and how best to handle them:


1. How much should you keep in touch?
Even if waiting for the phone to ring makes you feel like a teenager all over again, usually it’s best to follow your child’s lead and let him or her initiate the calls or texts to you at home. These can vary widely from a blizzard of texts on the way to and from classes to a random email or two every few days to an occasional call.
On your end, emails may be a less intrusive way to show you’re thinking of your son or daughter than a call or text that may come at just the wrong time. You’ll always be your child’s backup, but you want him or her to build self-reliance and develop new networks of friends whenever possible.
Once a pattern is set, if there’s a longer silence from campus than usual, consider sending a text asking what’s up and making a plan for a call. But silence can also mean your student is deep into classes and social life, which is a good thing. And for even the most independent students, an occasional care package can be a welcome taste of home.

2. What about money matters?
Money Management 101 is not on most college course lists, so it’s up to you to impart your family’s most important lessons and strategies. It might be a steep learning curve for your student. For 18 years, Mom and Dad have paid all, or most, of the bills. High school students often have part-time jobs, but most of them spend their wages on their own fun, not on groceries and heating costs. Even in college, at least for the first year or two, dorm life is a kind of semi-dependence, and parents are still in charge of providing for food and paying the electric bill.
Nevertheless, college students have to manage money for their other expenses, such as books, travel and weekend leisure. Where should that money come from? How much should parents provide?
Each family has its own customs and values around money. So ideally, you would have begun an open discussion before college started, working out a budget for the first semester and figuring out who’d pay how much. But once your child is in college, you two should review money questions on a regular basis. At the end of every semester, calculate how everything worked out financially and adjust next semester’s budget accordingly.
Of course, students who are paying their own way, as many are, also have the right and responsibility to manage their finances on their own. But in most cases, parents are contributing some, most or all of the money required, so they should be involved in how it is spent.
Keep in mind also that your children’s capacities are growing greater with every year of their twenties. The ultimate goal is for them to be able to handle life independently, including their finances. So, encourage them to take on as much financial responsibility as they seem ready for each year.

4. If your student is struggling academically, should you help?
You might have assisted your daughter a lot during high school, checking her math homework, typing occasional assignments and giving her advice on projects. Now that she’s at college, the academic demands may come as a rude awakening. College classes and the homework required can be a big jump up from even the best high schools — many professors give two hours of reading for every hour spent in class (that’s 30 hours of studying for 15 hours taking classes). It’s not at all unusual for students to be reeling from what’s required and take a while to adjust.
But now that your daughter’s in college, your homework help needs to end. If she’s still requesting your assistance, it might be part of the first-year transition that is difficult for many students, and it may be that after she gets used to college work, she’ll be able to do it on her own.
If she continues to feel unsure or overwhelmed by the workload, encourage her to make use of the resources available on campus. Most colleges have student enrichment centers that offer a variety of support: a writing center to help students organize their ideas and work on papers, a math lab to review theorems for a test even speed-reading classes to learn to plow through their required reading more efficiently. Professors are usually accessible during their office hours, and their teaching assistants make themselves available in small meetings outside of class. Make sure your daughter knows there’s no stigma in reaching out for help; in fact, it’s often the better path to an A.


5. What if your child can’t graduate in four years?
For some, college is a smooth academic and personal journey. Students take the first two years to investigate a wide range of courses and the last two specializing in their chosen field. If all goes well, they stay on track and graduate in four years.
But often, all does not go well. In these cases, the journey through college is not smooth and direct, but full of fits and starts and delays. Today it often takes five to six years for the typical student to get a “four-year” degree. Along the way, students may switch majors, transfer schools, decide to double major, spend a semester or a year abroad or take time off to work or reassess.
For concerned parents on the sidelines — often watching mounting tuition bills with dismay — it may help to realize that these changes are a normal part of the explorations of emerging  adulthood. Most students arrive at college unsure of what they want to study and what work they want to do. College is the place for exploring these Big Questions, and not every student can answer them in four years.
Changing paths or taking five or six years to finish a four-year degree does not mean your child is failing to grow up. It means he is sorting through the complex issues of identity and life purpose and doing his best to find a path that will feel like the right one and lead to gratifying and rewarding work.
Of course, it’s not unreasonable for parents to say, “We’ll pay for four years, but after that, you have to pay more (or all) of the rest.” Have an open discussion with your child about what you feel is appropriate and financially doable and how he or she can help contribute with work-study, a part-time job, or a student loan if necessary.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-5-questions-that-parents-of-college-students-should-ask_us_57e42909e4b0e80b1ba0ef03

Friday, October 28, 2016

Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits

Working at a clean and prim desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality, according to new research. But, the research also shows that a messy desk may confer its own benefits, promoting creative thinking and stimulating new ideas.
The new studies, conducted by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs and her fellow researchers at the University of Minnesota are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity,” Vohs explains. “We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.”
In the first of several experiments, participants were asked to fill out some questionnaires in an office. Some completed the task in a clean and orderly office, while others did so in an unkempt one — papers were strewn about, and office supplies were cluttered here and there.
Afterward, the participants were presented with the opportunity to donate to a charity, and they were allowed to take a snack of chocolate or an apple on their way out.
Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them, Vohs explains. Compared with participants in the messy room, they donated more of their own money to charity and were more likely to choose the apple over the candy bar.
But the researchers hypothesized that messiness might have its virtues as well. In another experiment, participants were asked to come up with new uses for ping pong balls.
Overall, participants in the messy room generated the same number of ideas for new uses as their clean-room counterparts. But their ideas were rated as more interesting and creative when evaluated by impartial judges.
“Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity,” says Vohs.
The researchers also found that when participants were given a choice between a new product and an established one, those in the messy room were more likely to prefer the novel one — a signal that being in a disorderly environment stimulates a release from conventionality. Whereas participants in a tidy room preferred the established product over the new one.
“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” Vohs concludes. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”
Surprisingly, the specific physical location didn’t seem to matter:
“We used 6 different locations in our paper — the specifics of the rooms were not important. Just making that environment tidy or unkempt made a whopping difference in people’s behavior,” says Vohs.
The researchers are continuing to investigate whether these effects might even transfer to a virtual environment: the Internet. Preliminary findings suggest that the tidiness of a webpage predicts the same kind of behaviors.
These preliminary data, coupled with the findings just published, are especially intriguing because of their broad relevance:
“We are all exposed to various kinds of settings, such as in our office space, our homes, our cars, even on the Internet,” Vohs observes. “Whether you have control over the tidiness of the environment or not, you are exposed to it and our research shows it can affect you.”
Co-authors on this research include Joseph Redden and Ryan Rahinel of the University of Minnesota. Redden discusses the new research in this video from the Carlson School of Management of the University of Minnesota.

Working at a clean and prim desk may promote healthy eating, generosity, and conventionality, according to new research. But, the research also shows that a messy desk may confer its own benefits, promoting creative thinking and stimulating new ideas.
The new studies, conducted by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs and her fellow researchers at the University of Minnesota are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
“Prior work has found that a clean setting leads people to do good things: Not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity,” Vohs explains. “We found, however, that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting.”
In the first of several experiments, participants were asked to fill out some questionnaires in an office. Some completed the task in a clean and orderly office, while others did so in an unkempt one — papers were strewn about, and office supplies were cluttered here and there.
Afterward, the participants were presented with the opportunity to donate to a charity, and they were allowed to take a snack of chocolate or an apple on their way out.
Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them, Vohs explains. Compared with participants in the messy room, they donated more of their own money to charity and were more likely to choose the apple over the candy bar.
But the researchers hypothesized that messiness might have its virtues as well. In another experiment, participants were asked to come up with new uses for ping pong balls.
Overall, participants in the messy room generated the same number of ideas for new uses as their clean-room counterparts. But their ideas were rated as more interesting and creative when evaluated by impartial judges.
“Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: Creativity,” says Vohs.
The researchers also found that when participants were given a choice between a new product and an established one, those in the messy room were more likely to prefer the novel one — a signal that being in a disorderly environment stimulates a release from conventionality. Whereas participants in a tidy room preferred the established product over the new one.
“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” Vohs concludes. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”
Surprisingly, the specific physical location didn’t seem to matter:
“We used 6 different locations in our paper — the specifics of the rooms were not important. Just making that environment tidy or unkempt made a whopping difference in people’s behavior,” says Vohs.
The researchers are continuing to investigate whether these effects might even transfer to a virtual environment: the Internet. Preliminary findings suggest that the tidiness of a webpage predicts the same kind of behaviors.
These preliminary data, coupled with the findings just published, are especially intriguing because of their broad relevance:
“We are all exposed to various kinds of settings, such as in our office space, our homes, our cars, even on the Internet,” Vohs observes. “Whether you have control over the tidiness of the environment or not, you are exposed to it and our research shows it can affect you.”
Co-authors on this research include Joseph Redden and Ryan Rahinel of the University of Minnesota. Redden discusses the new research in this video from the Carlson School of Management of the University of Minnesota.

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/tidy-desk-or-messy-desk-each-has-its-benefits.html



Thursday, October 27, 2016

The more you swear… The smarter you may be





The more you swear… The smarter you may be
Have you ever thought someone who swears like a trooper might be a bit daft and only do it because they simply can’t think of anything ‘smart’ to say?

Well, it turns out you could be dead wrong. That’s according to research published in the journal of Language Sciences, which states people who swear, may in fact be more intelligent.

Two researchers in the North East United States carried out a study where they asked people to name as many swear words as they could in 60 seconds. They then followed this by asking people in the same time to rank as many words as they could starting with ‘a’, ‘f’, or ‘s’ and again with animals.


The conclusion was those who knew the most amount of swear words, also performed better in other parts of their vocabulary… Meaning that people do NOT just swear because they cannot think of anything else to say, and if fact do so because they have the vocabulary to find the vulgar phrases they’re looking for


http://tenplay.com.au/news/national/august/studies-show-messy-people-and-those-who-swear-may-actually-be-smarter-and-more-creative

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Studies show messy people and those who swear may actually be smarter and more creative


Published: 26 August 2016





It’s the bullet proof excuse office slobs have been waiting for. “I’m not messy, I’m just creative”.
Well, that’s the line provided by new research published in the journal for the American Association for Psychological Science.
The run is… if you’re work space is crowded, stacked with towers of paper teetering on collapse, sitting atop a kaleidoscope of scribbles and random numbers written down on the twenty plus notepads that are always within reach, then it may encourage creative thinking.
However, on the other side of the coin, the “clean freaks” far from being sterile, clinical, and boring, may in fact be generous, more prone to practicing healthy living, while thinking conventionally.
The study was carried out on a number of participants, asked to complete tasks in either a clean, or messy environments. At the end, they were asked if they would like to give money to charity, and also if they’d like to take an apple or chocolate bar.
At the end of the exercise, while both groups completed their set tasks, judges found that work produced in the messy room was far more creative and displayed ‘out of the box’ thinking.  
And, those in the clean room were more inclined to donate and take the apple.
The research, spearheaded by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs, at the University of Minnesota found that “Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights.” 

http://tenplay.com.au/news/national/august/studies-show-messy-people-and-those-who-swear-may-actually-be-smarter-and-more-creative

Monday, October 24, 2016

Internet addiction linked to depression, anxiety, ADHD in college students


September 19, 2016


College students who screened positively for internet addiction had higher levels of functional impairment, depression and anxiety, attentional problems and ADHD symptoms, according to data presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress.


“Excessive use of the internet is an understudied phenomenon that may disguise mild or severe psychopathology; excessive use of the internet may be strongly linked to compulsive behavior and addiction; as the authors say, further study is needed in larger populations,” Jan Buitelaar, MD, PhD, a member of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology child and adolescent disorders treatment scientific advisory panel, said in a press release.
To assess internet addiction and its effects in college students, researchers surveyed 254 first-year undergraduate students at McMaster University on internet usage, depression, anxiety, impulsiveness and executive functioning. Study participants had a mean age of 18.5 years.
Overall, 12.5% met criteria for internet addiction according to the Internet Addiction Test and 42% met criteria according to the Dimensions of Problematic Internet Use.
Participants had the most difficulty controlling their use of video streaming services (55.8%), social networking (47.9%) and instant messaging tools (28.5%).
Participants who screened positively for internet addiction had significantly higher levels of functional impairment (P < .001), depression and anxiety symptoms (P < .001), greater executive functioning impairments (P < .001), greater levels of attentional problems (P < .001) and ADHD symptoms (P < .001).
Students with internet addiction spent more leisure time online, compared with those who did not meet internet addiction criteria.
Analysis of different dimensions of internet use indicated those with internet addiction were more likely to have difficulty controlling their use of instant messaging tools, compared with those without internet addiction (P = .01).
“We found that those screening positive on the [Internet Addiction Test] as well as on our scale, had significantly more trouble dealing with their day to day activities, including life at home, at work/school and in social settings. Individuals with internet addiction also had significantly higher amounts of depression and anxiety symptoms, problems with planning and time management, greater levels of attentional impulsivity as well as ADHD symptoms. This leads us to a couple of questions: firstly, are we grossly underestimating the prevalence of internet addiction and secondly, are these other mental health issues a cause or consequence of this excessive reliance on the internet?,” study researcher Michael Van Ameringen, MD, FRCPC, of McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, said in a press release. “This may have practical medical implications. If you are trying to treat someone for an addiction when in fact they are anxious or depressed, then you may be going down the wrong route. We need to understand this more, so we need a bigger sample, drawn from a wider, more varied population.” – by Amanda Oldt

Reference:
Van Ameringen M, et al. Internet addiction or psychopathology in disguise? Results from a survey of college-aged internet users. Presented at: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology Congress; September 17-20, 2016; Vienna.

http://www.healio.com/psychiatry/pediatrics/news/online/%7B949eed00-3010-430a-842b-05393d046c32%7D/internet-addiction-linked-to-depression-anxiety-adhd-in-college-students

Sunday, October 23, 2016

13 things successful people do on Sunday nights




Most people will tell you they don't love Sunday evenings.
In fact, a whopping 76% of American workers say they get the Sunday-night blues, according to a 2015 Monster survey.
Even if you love your job and typically look forward to getting back into the swing of things, "it's easy to feel a bit of trepidation on Sundays about the stresses waiting for you on Monday morning," writes Laura Vanderkam in her book "What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend."
Experts say there are certain things successful people do at the end of the weekend to combat those Sunday-night blues and prepare for the week ahead.
Here are 13 of them:
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They spend quality time with their families, friends, and significant others
Successful people know their weeks will be jammed and that they are likely to be unavailable, says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide." So they make the most of their Sunday nights by spending time with their loved ones. 
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They plan something fun
"This idea may be the most important tip," Vanderkam writes. "This extends the weekend and keeps you focused on the fun to come, rather than on Monday morning." 
Vanderkam quotes Caitlin Andrews, a librarian, who says her extended family gets together for dinner almost every Sunday, alternating houses. "It takes my mind off any Sunday night blues that might be coming on," Andrews says.
You might also make Sunday a movie or spa night, or you could join a Sunday-night bowling league.
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They organize and plan for the week ahead
Some successful people like to look at their calendars on Sunday night and set goals and deadlines for the coming week, career coach Marsha Egan says. The trick is to do this without stressing yourself out.
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They exercise
Take a walk, play a game of tennis, or go to a class at the gym, Egan suggests.
Vanderkam writes in her book that reality-TV producer Aliza Rosen does hot yoga at 6 p.m. on Sundays. "It's a great way for me to sweat out the toxins of the week and center myself for Monday," Rosen told Vanderkam.
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They eat something healthy
It might be tempting to wind down with a couple of glasses of your favorite Cabernet, but as licensed counselor and Urban Balance CEO Joyce Marter points out in an article for PsychCentral, alcohol is a depressant that will leave you feeling less energized in the morning.
"Instead, make a healthy meal and enjoy with some herbal tea or some seltzer water with lemon," she writes.
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http://www.businessinsider.com/what-successful-people-do-on-sunday-evening-2016-9/#-5

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Balance Exercise




Balance exercise is one of the four types of exercise along with strength, endurance and flexibility. Ideally, all four types of exercise would be included in a healthy workout routine and AHA provides easy-to-follow guidelines for endurance and strength-training in its Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.
They don’t all need to be done every day, but variety helps keep the body fit and healthy, and makes exercise interesting. You can do a variety of exercises to keep the body fit and healthy and to keep your physical activity routine exciting. Many different types of exercises can improve strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance. For example, practicing yoga can improve your balance, strength, and flexibility. A lot of lower-body strength-training exercises also will improve your balance.
Having good balance is important for many activities we do every day, such as walking and going up and down the stairs. Exercises that improve balance can help prevent falls, a common problem in older adults and stroke patients. They can also benefit those who are obese since weight is not always carried or distributed evenly throughout the body. A loss of balance can occur when standing or moving suddenly. Often we are not fully aware that we may have weak balance until we try balance exercises.
How much do I need?
Balance exercises can be done every day or as many days as you like and as often as you like. Preferably, older adults at risk of falls should do balance training 3 or more days a week and do standardized exercises from a program demonstrated to reduce falls. It’s not known whether different combinations of type, amount, or frequency of activity can reduce falls to a greater degree. If you think you might be at risk of falling, talk to your doctor.
Tai chi exercises also may help prevent falls. Balance, strength and flexibility exercises can be combined.
Try these balance exercises:
  1. See how long you can stand on one foot, or try holding for 10 seconds on each side.
  2. Walk heel to toe for 20 steps. Steady yourself with a wall if you need a little extra support.
  3. Walk normally in as straight a line as you can.
If you find standing on one foot very challenging at first, try this progression to improve your balance:
  • Hold on to a wall or sturdy chair with both hands to support yourself.
  • Next, hold on with only one hand.
  • Then support yourself with only one finger.
  • When you are steady on your feet, try balancing with no support at all.
Examples of balance exercises:
You can do balance exercises anytime or anywhere.
  • Try standing on one foot while working in the kitchen, waiting in line or brushing your teeth.
  • Walk heel to toe around the house or office.
  • Yoga and Tai Chi do not require expensive classes or equipment. Find an instructional book, DVD or website to get started at home. Local recreation centers and senior centers may also offer free or low-cost classes.
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What if I’m recovering from a cardiac event or stroke?
Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack. But regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack.
The AHA published a statement in 2014 that doctors should prescribe exercise to stroke patients since there is strong evidence that physical activity and exercise after stroke can improve cardiovascular fitness, walking ability and upper arm strength.

If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise to be sure you’re following a safe, effective physical activity program.

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Balance-Exercise_UCM_464001_Article.jsp#.V_MDQTKZO51

Monday, October 17, 2016

How medications can affect your balance





Medications make a difference — generally a positive one — in the lives of many people. But at the same time, all drugs carry side effects — and with many medications, one or more of those side effects can alter your balance. How? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common problems include vision changes, dizziness or lightheadedness, drowsiness, and impaired alertness or judgment. Some medications can even damage the inner ear, spurring temporary or permanent balance disorders.
Some of the commonly prescribed medications that can affect balance include:
  • antidepressants
  • anti-anxiety drugs
  • antihistamines prescribed to relieve allergy symptoms
  • blood pressure and other heart medications
  • pain relievers, both prescription and non-prescription
  • sleep aids (over-the-counter and prescription forms)
Sometimes the problem isn't a single drug, but a combination of medications being taken together. Older adults are especially vulnerable because drugs are absorbed and broken down differently as people age.

If you are concerned about how your medications may be affecting your balance, call your doctor and ask to review the drugs you're taking, their doses, and when you take them. It is never a good idea to just stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first.


http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-medications-can-affect-your-balance

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Is “You Can’t Change People” True?

Is “You Can’t Change People” True?
Being realistic about changing hearts and minds – theirs and yours.



Posted Apr 12, 2016



I changed my mind about something this week, having discovered an inconsistency in my thinking.
I’ve long thought it absurd to say you can’t change people, but I’ve also thought it absurd to say things like “Angry? Why would I be angry? I have no reason to be,” as though emotions are controlled by reason.
I now believe we can change people including their emotions and often by reasoning with them.
Can we change people? It depends what we mean by change. First, can people change? Well, obviously. For example, we get older. Can we change in every respect? Obviously not. We change in some respects and not in others.
Do we know what can and can’t change about ourselves? Not exactly. About changing ourselves, the serenity prayer captures the challenge neatly. We quest for the wisdom to know the difference between what we can and can’t change about ourselves. We quest because we don’t want to waste effort trying to change ourselves in ways we can’t change and we don’t want to miss opportunities to change ourselves in ways that we’d like to change.
If it were always obvious what we can and can’t change about ourselves, we wouldn’t need to quest for that wisdom. We’d already always know where to focus our effort on changing ourselves. Changing ourselves is speculative investment. Sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t. We quest for the wisdom by which to invest efficiently.
We do hear it said that people don’t change. Maybe what’s meant is that people can’t change in the ways that they can’t. But that’s empty circular reasoning signifying nothing. The question is what we can change, not whether we can change at all. 
About changing, we’re neither omnipotent nor impotent. We’re some-nipotent. We have some power to change ourselves. We’re also some-niscient about what we can change about ourselves. That is, we know some things about what we can change. We make educated guesses. We don’t know everything or nothing.
Second, can we change other people? It depends what we mean by changing them. How we interact with them changes them. Obviously, you alter other people’s behavior when you help or hurt them physically, mentally or materially.
People aren’t one-trick ponies. They have repertoires of behaviors. How we interact with others can change which behaviors within their repertoires they present. If someone is patient here and impatient there, how we interact with them may change whether they’re patient or impatient with us.
Perhaps what’s meant by “you can’t change people,” is that you shouldn’t try. It’s immoral to try to influence people. We hear the inverse of this argument when people say “Never care what others think or do to you.” Both are half-true nonsense masquerading as whole truths. We are social creatures, blends of independence and interdependence. We all guess where to be influenced and not influenced, and where to try to influence and not influence each other.
The argument that you can’t change other people is actually self-contradictory, meaning something like “let me persuade you that people are unpersuadable.”
We hear the half-true nonsense in the current anti-PC craze. By accusing people of being PC we try to persuade people to be less sensitive, less influenced by other people’s opinions, but in declaring PC a universal moral error, we pretend that we could live in a world where no one influences anyone. Usually we do it as a way of claiming our right to try to influence others without being influenced.
It’s like the current libertarian craze, motivated by “my freedom to say and do what I want, without getting hassled.” If you want your freedom to say and do what you want, expect the same from everyone else. The person who accuses others of being PC has his own PC sensitivities. He’s saying it’s politically incorrect for you to be politically correct. Anti-PC and libertarianism are often rationalizations for dishing it out without having to take it in.
"You can't change people; you can only love them" is the opposite half-true nonsense. It's a recipe for taking it in without ever allowing yourself to dish it out. 
To reconcile the self-serving self-contradiction of saying, “let me persuade you that no one can be persuaded,” I would say this: Let me persuade you that we are some-nipotent and some-niscient about our ability to change ourselves and others.
Does persuading others always work? Certainly not, and paradoxically, often it works least when we are intimate with the people we are trying to persuade. Trying to change others at close range can feel oppressive and threatening to them. It can change them but often in the wrong direction. They become more guarded against being persuaded precisely because at close range, persuasion is too powerful. This could explain why we hear “you can’t change people” most often espoused about spouses. What people might mean is “I dare not try to change my partner because it generates conflict.”
We also hear it from people after they leave their partners. They say, “from this relationship I learned that you can’t change people.” I’d say that’s an overcorrection. What you learned is that you were unsuccessful in trying to change your partner in the ways you tried. Taking that as evidence that you can’t change anyone ever is like concluding that all dairy products are hot after burning your tongue on hot cocoa.
It may be therapeutic to declare that all people are unchangeable. It may help us temper our tendency to try to change people. But it’s not accurate. Rather it’s us trying to change ourselves, to get ourselves to stop trying to change people. You can’t, won’t and shouldn’t stop. You will continue to place bets on how to persuade people to be different from how they are.
It’s true that we can’t change people the way we change an electronic device. We can’t upload new software or switch people on and off with a remote control. But that’s because electronic devices are deterministic cause-and-effect machines. We’re very different from determinate machines. People interpret. Interpretation is not cause and effect. For example, we interpret stop signs as reasons to stop. Stop signs don’t actually cause us to stop unless we crash into them.
This is why our bets on how to persuade people can fail or backfire. For example, sometimes we reward someone and rather than interpreting the reward as incentive to try harder, they interpret it as a sign that they can slack off and get complacent. Sometimes we discourage or punish someone, they interpret it not as a reason to give up but to try harder. We don’t have that problem with our electronic devices because as machines they don’t interpret. They’re just reliable cause-and-effect switch banks at least until they break.
Our efforts to change people will include both emotional and rational appeals. Changing people’s minds is also changing people’s hearts, and vice versa. In trying to change someone’s heart or feelings we will make appeals to reason.
We can’t help but think that some people are unreasonable or even stupid to feel the way they do. When their feelings have consequences for us, we will, and even should try to change their feelings, bringing to bear whatever we think might persuade them, including rational arguments not to feel the way they do.
Thoughts do change feelings and feelings do change thoughts, but not in some lockstep deterministic way since we’re not machines that can be switched reliably from one state to another.

I’m still skeptical when people say “Angry? Why would I be angry? I have no reason to be,” as though anger were deterministically controlled by reason. But I’ve changed my heart and mind about our attempts to reason people out of what they feel. We do reason with feelings and sometimes it works. 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ambigamy/201604/is-you-can-t-change-people-true

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Don't Push Kids into Single Sport Too Soon


Athletic specialization pre-puberty can have detrimental effects

by Ryan Basen
Staff Writer, MedPage Today


Specializing in a single sport, and engaging in intensive training for it, may cause prepubescent and adolescent athletes to suffer overuse injuries and burnout, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In a new clinical guideline, an AAP council advises clinicians on how to counsel young athlete patients and their parents regarding sports specialization and intensive training.
The council also called on the AAP, parents, pediatricians, and college athletic organizations to "advocate banning national ranking of athletes and college recruitments before the athletes' high school years."
"Current evidence suggests that delaying sport specialization for the majority of sports until after puberty will minimize the risks and lead to a higher likelihood of athletic success," wrote Joel S. Brenner, MD, MPH, of the AAP's Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness in Pediatrics, and colleagues.
"There is increased pressure to participate at a high level, to specialize in 1 sport early, and to play year-round, often on multiple teams. This increased emphasis on sports specialization has led to an increase in overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout," the authors noted.
The current report replaces a 2000 AAP policy statement, which was reaffirmed in 2014, and complements a 2007 AAP clinical report on overuse injuries, overtraining and burnout, which was reaffirmed in 2014.
In the new guideline, the council member suggested that pediatricians help counsel parents, young athletes, and coaches to understand that sports should be fun for athletes and help them develop life-long physical activity skills.
Also, participating in multiple sports at least until puberty decreases injury, stress, and burnout risk.
The authors noted that specializing beginning in late adolescence may help athletes achieve their goals in most sports, and that early sports diversification, and later specialization, makes athletes more likely to play sports and be physically fit over their lifetimes -- and possibly become elite athletes.
In addition, clinicians are encouraged to discuss athletes' goals if they are specializing, to determine if they are appropriate and realistic. Parents should be encouraged to closely monitor training and coaching within elite sports programs, and to familiarize themselves with the sport's best practices.
While playing a chosen sport, taking 1 or 2 days off weekly can decrease injury risk, they stated.
Participants should be advised to take of 3 months annually -- in 1-month increments -- from their chosen sport to help with physical and psychological recovery. However, they may participate in other physical activities during that time off, the council advised.

Finally, clinicians should closely monitor the physical and psychological growth and maturation, as well as nutritional status, of athletes pursuing intensive training.
The council found that even though athletes in early entry sports, such as gymnastics and figure skating, tend to peak before full physical maturation, there are still unanswered questions about the effects of specialization on these athletes' long-term health and well-being.
The authors also pointed out that it's not known what the exact amount of training athletes should strive for to succeed, and that the threshold to avoid injuries, burnout, and attrition has not been established. Also, niche programs that focus on technique or conditioning have not been shown to help athletes succeed, "despite their increased time and financial investment," they stated.
The council called for longitudinal studies of early specialization and intensive training that quantify injury and burnout rates, as well as data to confirm if and when young athletes should specialize.
Based on their literature review, the council found that "athletes who engaged in sport-specific training at a young age had shorter athletic careers.... Evidence is lacking that specialization before puberty is necessary to achieve elite status, and in fact, specialization before puberty is more likely to be detrimental."
The guideline will likely counter the belief held by many parents, coaches, and athletes that specializing maximizes a child's chances of becoming an elite athlete. Many parents and young athletes specialize because they want to earn college scholarships and/or become professional athletes, the council members noted, but only three to 11 in 100 high school athletes play at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) level, while one in 100 earn scholarships to do so. In addition, from three to 50 in 10,000 ever turn pro.
They pointed out that young people who show talent for a particular sport are ranked nationally as early as sixth grade.
"As colleges start to look at middle school and early high school athletes, more pressure is created for the athlete and parent to do everything possible to succeed," the council cautioned. "This situation may push athletes into playing year-round and possibly on multiple teams simultaneously to get more exposure and specializing in a single sport sooner for fear of missing their opportunity to impress a college coach. Given what is currently known out early sport specialization, this changing paradigm should be discouraged by society."


http://www.medpagetoday.com/orthopedics/sportsmedicine/59966

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The 7 Worst Pieces of Health Advice We Always Hear

BY
SUZANNAH WEISS

SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 9:00 AM





Most of us know not to believe every piece of health advice we read in the news. But some tips are so persistent they we hear them everywhere, even if they're dead wrong. And since medical knowledge changes over time, many of the healthy living tips we assume are cold hard facts are actually under debate within the medical community—or even considered downright bad. Here are the current trendy pieces of advice that professionals most vehemently disagree with.
1. Go easy on soy to prevent breast cancer.
You might've heard that foods like tofu and tempeh contain phytoestrogens, which mimic estrogen, potentially leading to cancer and hormonal imbalances. But while some forms of breast cancer are tied to estrogen-related problems, soy will not likely have this effect, says registered dietician Edwina Clark. In fact, soy has actually been shown to protect against cancer. Even on the off-chance that a lot of soy could be risky, consuming one or two servings a day definitely won't hurt you.
2. Eat a high-fat, low-carb diet to optimize workouts.
Some athletes are told to avoid carbs to perform at their peak, but this could actually be sabotaging them. "Carbohydrate remains the most important fuel during high-intensity exercise, and there are countless studies to prove it," says Clark. Lowering carbs may work for certain elite athletes during endurance training, but it's not something everyday people should be doing, especially without the guidance of a trainer.
3. Supplements don't work.
While you should aim to get all the nutrients you need from food, that's really hard to do when you don't have a dietitian planning your meals, and vitamins and other supplements can help pick up where your food leaves off. Registered dietitian Samantha Bielawski recommends multivitamins, Omega-3, magnesium, and probiotics.
4. Start your day with whole grains.
You might've heard that whole grains leave you feeling full, but they could actually have the opposite effect, says Bielawski. Since they make your blood glucose levels spike, they could lead you to crave carbs just hours into the morning. If you want a breakfast that holds you over until lunch, eggs are a better option.
5. Eat lots of small meals.
At some point over the past few years, it became popular to advocate eating many small meals or snacks throughout the day rather than just three meals. But while you can do this, it isn't best for everyone, and it's definitely not necessary. "Some people do better eating more frequently, while others do better eating their three square meals per day," Bielawski explains. "Some do better with occasional intermittent fasting. Do not force yourself into the often inconvenient routine of eating every two hours if that's not a sustainable option for your schedule."
6. You'll lose weight if you burn more calories than you consume.
Counting calories is not an effective weight-loss strategy, says Bielawski. "The caloric value on the label is not equal to the caloric value of the food once it’s in our body," she explains. For example, some foods can speed up or slow down your metabolism. Plus, if you plan to cut calories, you need to make sure you're still getting the nutrients you need and eating foods that leave you satisfied, or else you can end up in an unhealthy cycle of weight loss, weight gain, and general poor health.


7. Get outside to get your vitamin D.
While going out in the sun can up your vitamin D levels, the risks outweigh the benefits, says dermatologist Delphine J. Lee, M.D. "Ultraviolet light is a carcinogen, like cigarette smoke," she explains. "Think of it this way: if someone said you could get vitamin D or some other nutritional supplement from smoking a cigarette, would you take up smoking?" Instead, make sure to apply sunscreen when you're out in the sun, and if you're deficient in vitamin D, a supplement is a far safer option.

http://www.glamour.com/story/the-7-worst-pieces-of-health-advice-we-always-hear

Monday, October 10, 2016

7 Ways to Wake Up Without Coffee

7 Ways to Wake Up Without Coffee
BY

SEPTEMBER 7, 2016



Though coffee can have a lot of health benefits, not everyone wants to be dependent on it to feel awake and alive in the mornings. But as anyone who's tried to wean themselves off caffeine knows, the struggle is so, so real. If you're aiming to get up and moving without coffee, here are some ways you can jump-start your day with no cup in hand.
1. Let light in. Leaving your blinds open when you're sleeping or opening them soon after you wake up boosts your serotonin levels and provides Vitamin D to give you energy, says psychiatrist Dion Metzger, M.D. If you don't have enough windows for this to work, a, bright light should do the trick. You can also put one at your desk to help stay awake at work.
2. Eat protein-rich foods right when you get up. Foods with a lot of protein, like eggs and Greek yogurt, take longer than carbohydrate-heavy breakfasts to break down in the body, which means you get a boost and longer-lasting energy, says dietitian Rachael Link, MS, RD. Refined carbohydrates and sugar, on the other hand, can lead to an energy crash—exactly the opposite of what you want.
3. Get moving. Not everyone can muster up the energy to work out in the morning, but even just stretching in your bed can get your blood pumping and your body going, says psychotherapist Terry Matlen, ACSW, who works with ADHD patients with problems waking up. It's worth trying!
4. Accomplish minor to-dos. If starting work seems totally overwhelming without coffee, you can always start the day by wiping your furniture or doing some other mindless task. Once you've accomplished something, everything else will seem a bit easier, says Matlen. If even getting out of bed feels impossible, try checking your email from your phone.
5. Chew gum. Research has found that people perform better on tests and feel more awake after chewing gum. Chewing gum really can help wake you up, says Matlen.
6. Splash yourself with cold water. Taking a cold shower or even just washing your face with cold water can give you a jolt, says clinical psychologist Lauren Costine, Ph.D. Cold activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which leads to greater alertness. Drinking cold water can have a similar effect.
7. Put on your favorite music. Music releases dopamine and serotonin, which make you feel more energized, says Costine. To start off your day right away with this wake-up aid, you can download a musical alarm clock app.
So, if you thought it was impossible for you to get up without caffeine, there just might be hope. And even if you are an avid coffee drinker, these tips can make the span of time between your alarm and your first cup a little less painful.


http://www.glamour.com/story/7-ways-to-wake-up-without-coffee

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Effortless studying? Creating long-lasting memories while having fun

September 7, 2016
Source:
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Summary:

Imagine if playing a new video game or riding a rollercoaster could help you prepare for an exam or remember other critical information. A new study in mice shows this link may be possible.




Dr. Robert Greene (right), Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and Alex Sonneborn, in the UTSW neuroscience graduate program, stand next to a Zeiss Axoskop2, optogenetic stimulating and electrophysiology recording equipment that allows them to monitor and manipulate live neurons. Greene and Sonneborn are senior and lead authors, respectively, in a study that found attention-grabbing experiences trigger the release of memory-enhancing chemicals to help etch memories into the brain.
Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

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Imagine if playing a new video game or riding a rollercoaster could help you prepare for an exam or remember other critical information.
A new study in mice shows this link may be possible.
Attention-grabbing experiences trigger the release of memory-enhancing chemicals. Those chemicals can etch memories into the brain that occur just before or soon after the experience, regardless of whether they were related to the event, according to researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center's Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute.
The findings, published in Nature, hold intriguing implications for methods of learning in classrooms as well as an array of potential uses in the workplace and personal life, researchers said.
The trick to creating long-lasting memories is to find something interesting enough to activate the release of dopamine from the brain's locus coeruleus (LC) region.
"Activation of the locus coeruleus increases our memory of events that happen at the time of activation and may also increase the recall of those memories at a later time," said Dr. Robert Greene, the study's co-senior author and a Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences with the O'Donnell Brain Institute.
The study explains at the molecular level why people tend to remember certain events in their lives with particular clarity as well as unrelated details surrounding those events: for instance, what they were doing in the hours before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; or where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
"The degree to which these memories are enhanced probably has to do with the degree of activation of the LC," said Dr. Greene, holder of the Sherry Gold Knopf Crasilneck Distinguished Chair in Psychiatry, in Honor of Mollie and Murray Gold, and the Sherry Knopf Crasilneck Distinguished Chair in Psychiatry, in Honor of Albert Knopf. "When the New York World Trade Center came down on 9/11, that was high activation."
But life-changing events aren't the only way to trigger the release of dopamine in this part of the brain. It could be as simple as a student playing a new video game during a quick break while studying for a crucial exam, or a company executive playing tennis right after trying to memorize a big speech.
"In general, anything that will grab your attention in a persistent kind of way can lead to activation," Dr. Greene said.
Scientists have known dopamine plays a large role in memory enhancement, though where the chemical originates and how it's triggered have been points of study over the years.
Dr. Greene led a study published in 2012 that identified the locus coeruleus as a third key source for dopamine in the brain, besides the ventral tegmental area and the substantia nigra. That research demonstrated the drug amphetamine could pharmacologically trigger the brain's release of dopamine from the LC.
The latest study builds upon those findings, establishing that dopamine in this area of the brain can be naturally activated through behavioral actions and that these actions enhance memory retention.
The new study suggests that drugs targeting neurons in the locus coeruleus may affect learning and memory as well. The LC is located in the brain stem and has a range of functions that affect a person's emotions, anxiety levels, sleep patterns, memory and other aspects of behavior.
The study tested 120 mice to establish a link between locus coeruleus neurons and neuronal circuits of the hippocampus -- the region of the brain responsible for recording memories -- that receive dopamine from the LC.
One part of the research involved putting the mice in an arena to search for food hidden in sand that changed location each day. The study found that mice that were given a "novel experience" -- exploring an unfamiliar floor surface 30 minutes after being trained to remember the food location -- did better in remembering where to find the food the next day.
Researchers correlated this memory enhancement to a molecular process in the brain by injecting the mice with a genetically encoded light-sensitive activator called channelrhodopsin. This sensor allowed them to selectively activate dopamine-carrying neurons of the locus coeruleus that go to the hippocampus and to see first-hand which neurons were responsible for the memory enhancement.
They found that selectively activating the channelrhodopsin-labeled neurons with blue light (a technique called optogenetics) could substitute for the novelty experience as a memory enhancer in mice. They also found that this activation could cause a direct, long-lasting synaptic strengthening -- an enhancement of memory-relevant communication occurring at the junctions between neurons in the hippocampus. This process can mediate improvement of learning and memory.
Some next steps include investigating how big an impact this finding can have on human learning, whether it can eventually lead to an understanding of how patients can develop failing memories, and how to better target effective therapies for these patients, said Dr. Greene.
Dr. Greene and Dr. Richard G. Morris, Professor of Neuroscience at the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh, were co-senior authors of this study. Other UTSW colleagues who carried out experiments are Alex Sonneborn in the UTSW neuroscience graduate program and Dr. Caroline Smith.
The research is supported by funding from the European Research Council, UK Medical Research Council, the European Commission's 7th Framework 2011 ICT Programme for Future Emerging Technologies, Department Veterans Affairs, National Institutes of Health grant and NIDA-T32-DA7290 Basic Science Training Program in Drug Abuse.

Story Source:
Materials provided by UT Southwestern Medical Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160907135439.htm

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How to raise a genius: lessons from a 45-year study of super-smart children


A long-running investigation of exceptional children reveals what it takes to produce the scientists who will lead the twenty-first century.

  • Tom Clynes
07 September 2016




On a summer day in 1968, professor Julian Stanley met a brilliant but bored 12-year-old named Joseph Bates. The Baltimore student was so far ahead of his classmates in mathematics that his parents had arranged for him to take a computer-science course at Johns Hopkins University, where Stanley taught. Even that wasn't enough. Having leapfrogged ahead of the adults in the class, the child kept himself busy by teaching the FORTRAN programming language to graduate students.
Unsure of what to do with Bates, his computer instructor introduced him to Stanley, a researcher well known for his work in psychometrics — the study of cognitive performance. To discover more about the young prodigy's talent, Stanley gave Bates a battery of tests that included the SAT college-admissions exam, normally taken by university-bound 16- to 18-year-olds in the United States.

Bates's score was well above the threshold for admission to Johns Hopkins, and prompted Stanley to search for a local high school that would let the child take advanced mathematics and science classes. When that plan failed, Stanley convinced a dean at Johns Hopkins to let Bates, then 13, enrol as an undergraduate.
Stanley would affectionately refer to Bates as “student zero” of his Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), which would transform how gifted children are identified and supported by the US education system. As the longest-running current longitudinal survey of intellectually talented children, SMPY has for 45 years tracked the careers and accomplishments of some 5,000 individuals, many of whom have gone on to become high-achieving scientists. The study's ever-growing data set has generated more than 400 papers and several books, and provided key insights into how to spot and develop talent in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) and beyond.
“What Julian wanted to know was, how do you find the kids with the highest potential for excellence in what we now call STEM, and how do you boost the chance that they'll reach that potential,” says Camilla Benbow, a protégé of Stanley's who is now dean of education and human development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. But Stanley wasn't interested in just studying bright children; he wanted to nurture their intellect and enhance the odds that they would change the world. His motto, he told his graduate students, was “no more dry bones methodology”.



With the first SMPY recruits now at the peak of their careers1, what has become clear is how much the precociously gifted outweigh the rest of society in their influence. Many of the innovators who are advancing science, technology and culture are those whose unique cognitive abilities were identified and supported in their early years through enrichment programmes such as Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth — which Stanley began in the 1980s as an adjunct to SMPY. At the start, both the study and the centre were open to young adolescents who scored in the top 1% on university entrance exams. Pioneering mathematicians Terence Tao and Lenhard Ng were one-percenters, as were Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and musician Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga), who all passed through the Hopkins centre.
“Whether we like it or not, these people really do control our society,” says Jonathan Wai, a psychologist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program in Durham, North Carolina, which collaborates with the Hopkins centre. Wai combined data from 11 prospective and retrospective longitudinal studies2, including SMPY, to demonstrate the correlation between early cognitive ability and adult achievement. “The kids who test in the top 1% tend to become our eminent scientists and academics, our Fortune 500 CEOs and federal judges, senators and billionaires,” he says.






Such results contradict long-established ideas suggesting that expert performance is built mainly through practice — that anyone can get to the top with enough focused effort of the right kind. SMPY, by contrast, suggests that early cognitive ability has more effect on achievement than either deliberate practice or environmental factors such as socio-economic status. The research emphasizes the importance of nurturing precocious children, at a time when the prevailing focus in the United States and other countries is on improving the performance of struggling students (see ‘Nurturing a talented child’). At the same time, the work to identify and support academically talented students has raised troubling questions about the risks of labelling children, and the shortfalls of talent searches and standardized tests as a means of identifying high-potential students, especially in poor and rural districts.
“With so much emphasis on predicting who will rise to the top, we run the risk of selling short the many kids who are missed by these tests,” says Dona Matthews, a developmental psychologist in Toronto, Canada, who co-founded the Center for Gifted Studies and Education at Hunter College in New York City. “For those children who are tested, it does them no favours to call them 'gifted' or 'ungifted'. Either way, it can really undermine a child's motivation to learn.”





Start of a study
On a muggy August day, Benbow and her husband, psychologist David Lubinski, describe the origins of SMPY as they walk across the quadrangle at Vanderbilt University. Benbow was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins when she met Stanley in a class he taught in 1976. Benbow and Lubinski, who have co-directed the study since Stanley's retirement, brought it to Vanderbilt in 1998.
“In a sense, that brought Julian's research full circle, since this is where he started his career as a professor,” Benbow says as she nears the university's psychology laboratory, the first US building dedicated to the study of the field. Built in 1915, it houses a small collection of antique calculators — the tools of quantitative psychology in the early 1950s, when Stanley began his academic work in psychometrics and statistics.

His interest in developing scientific talent had been piqued by one of the most famous longitudinal studies in psychology, Lewis Terman's Genetic Studies of Genius3, 4. Beginning in 1921, Terman selected teenage subjects on the basis of high IQ scores, then tracked and encouraged their careers. But to Terman's chagrin, his cohort produced only a few esteemed scientists. Among those rejected because their IQ of 129 was too low to make the cut was William Shockley, the Nobel-prizewinning co-inventor of the transistor. Physicist Luis Alvarez, another Nobel winner, was also rejected.
Stanley suspected that Terman wouldn't have missed Shockley and Alvarez if he'd had a reliable way to test them specifically on quantitative reasoning ability. So Stanley decided to try the Scholastic Aptitude Test (now simply the SAT). Although the test is intended for older students, Stanley hypothesized that it would be well suited to measuring the analytical reasoning abilities of elite younger students.


Nurturing a talented child
“Setting out to raise a genius is the last thing we'd advise any parent to do,” says Camilla Benbow, dean of education and human development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. That goal, she says, “can lead to all sorts of social and emotional problems”.
Benbow and other talent-development researchers offer the following tips to encourage both achievement and happiness for smart children.
  • Expose children to diverse experiences.
  • When a child exhibits strong interests or talents, provide opportunities to develop them.
  • Support both intellectual and emotional needs.
  • Help children to develop a 'growth mindset' by praising effort, not ability.
  • Encourage children to take intellectual risks and to be open to failures that help them learn.
  • Beware of labels: being identified as gifted can be an emotional burden.
  • Work with teachers to meet your child's needs. Smart students often need more-challenging material, extra support or the freedom to learn at their own pace.
  • Have your child's abilities tested. This can support a parent's arguments for more-advanced work, and can reveal issues such as dyslexia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or social and emotional challenges.