Parenting, Cats, and Mice
With the past weekend being Father’s Day, it seems appropriate to have Newsflux riddled with tips and information about parenting and children. Don’t worry, we also have something for you adults. And even a little something for married couples. See what recent brain science has discovered.
The best articles, research, technology and discoveries in brain news.
The Empathetic Brain
Differences in personality are easy to see. Seeing how our brains differ physically? That’s a bit tougher. With new technology, though, scientists are finding out that how we think influences our brain structure.
The article reports that scientists have found brain differences between people who empathize emotionally and people who empathize rationally. Basically, whether you’re the type of person who might cry at a scene from titanic -emotional- or someone who counsels a patient – rational. They have found that certain areas are more dense with gray matter, depending on the type of empathetic person you are.
This is interesting, but is it important?
Because we use empathy in our everyday lives, one could argue yes. We use it for emotional intelligence to navigate social situations, for communication, and for understanding. Scientists plan a follow up study to see to what extent people can train their empathy. Or on the flip side, if people can lose it.
Happy Mice, Happy Life
Recently, researchers have been using a method to manually “turn on” neurons in the brain. They have used the method to research memory formation and study brain function.
Using this method, they have taken a look at a common ailment. That of depression.
Well, not exactly. It was depression in mice. The research is exploratory in nature, and mice are generally the first step in helping us understand associations in brain function. But many times it gives us excellent clues to what is happening in our human brains.
Scientists found that by activating memories with positive experiences, they could do two things. First, they could pull mice out of a stress induced depression. And secondly, when the memory was activated over the course of 5 days, it caused the mice to be more resilient against stress-induced depression.
While this line of research hasn’t reached human testing, its implications are important. Not only in understanding how positive and negative experiences affect us biologically, but also how we might be able to fight depression on different fronts.
Good Memory, Good Liar
We all know parents are inclined to gush about how smart their kids are. It seems those parents may have a handful of trouble in the coming years. A new study has shown that kids with a better working memory are also better at lying.
Kids were allowed to play a trivia game and told not to look at the answer on the back of the card. Using hidden cameras, they noted which kids couldn’t resist taking a peek. Later, they were confronted about the cheating to see who would fib.
The scientists found that kids who could lie well, had better verbal memory on followup tests. Interestingly, they also found there was no link between visual memory and their ability to lie.
The authors of the study noted that having a good verbal memory correlated with better cover up stories about their behavior. So while parents can brag about how smart their kids are, it may end up being a double edged sword.
Tips, tricks, and hacks for getting the most out of your brain.
Believe in Your Kids!
A study out of Baylor has found that the beliefs the parents have about their kids can have real life consequences. More specifically, how parents compare their children can have consequences on their child’s school performance..
Just to emphasize the point of the study. It wasn’t the actual “parenting” that affected the children’s grades. It was the parents belief about their children. While this might sound a little too good to be true, beliefs have been shown to affect behavior, thoughts, and actions. Even if you aren’t fully aware of it.
Researchers began the study by asking the parent’s beliefs about their children. They found that, on average, the child that was seen to be more capable in school, performed better the following school year.
The advice from the scientists of the study?
“…parents should focus on recognizing the strengths of each of their children and be careful about vocally making comparisons in front of them.”
Anxiety is Contagious
In other recent findings, scientists have discovered that a child’s anxiety may be learned from their parents.
Using data from a large database of twins, the researchers noticed that a child’s anxiety is less a result of passed down genes, and more of an environmental factor.
While there are no specific guidelines mentioned in the article on how to best avoid this happening, the authors state:
“Parents who are anxious can now be counseled and educated on ways to minimize the impact of their anxiety on the child’s development.”
Too Much TV for Kids
Growing up, my parents would always tell me how TV would rot my brain. Well congrats, mom and dad. You seem to have nailed that one.
Using MRI brain imaging techniques scientists were able to see how an abundance of TV affects the brain physically.
While it doesn’t really “rot” the brain, there are significant changes. Previous studies have found that watching too much TV reduces verbal IQ and increases aggression. The new study from Japan not only confirms this, but identifies the specific brain regions that are affected.
If you want the nitty-gritty details you can check out the article. But if you want you’re kids to have a leg up in life, tell them to get outside or read a book!
3 More Tips on Being a Good Parent
One of the most stressful things as a parent is making sure that your kids grow up to be healthy functioning adults. This can be rough, especially when it feels like you don’t always have your own life totally under control.
This article has 3 more tips for you parents backed with science – as always. Some of you may already be aware of the wisdom it imparts, but hey, it’s always nice to have a reminder. And you can feel more confident knowing that science has your back.
Formula for a Happy Marriage
Now that you’ve gotten some tips on raising your kids, let’s talk marriage.
Not necessarily about your marriage, but other people’s marriages. A research team has compiled the wisdom and advice of long married couples and applied a bit of scientific method. All in the name of love.
In total, the team spoke with over 300 individuals that had been married from 30 to 50 years. Although some of the advice spelled out in the article might seem like common sense – such as communication and teamwork – it can serve as a good reminder of what goes into a good partnership.
The article lists the top 5 lessons learned from the extensive study.
Incentives are a popular method to encourage certain types of behavior. If you are trying to use monetary incentives to coerce someone into a healthier lifestyle, it may not always be effective.
To test incentives, scientists had people watch a video while eating as many jelly beans as they wanted. Half way through the video, some participants were given money to stop eating the sweets, while others were given money to keep eating the jelly beans. Finally, a third group was offered no incentive.
Two days later, the experiment was repeated with the same participants. Only this time no one received any type of incentive. The only group that was found to change their behavior, was the group that was paid to stop. In the follow up experiment, this group were found to eat less jelly beans than the other two groups.
The scientists said their findings are consistent with other incentive induced behavior. They conclude that monetary incentives for healthier lifestyles works best when trying to stop a negative behavior, instead of trying to promote positive choices.
The Power of Cat Videos
The internet is made up of two types of people. People that use it to find information. And people that use it to watch cat videos.
Okay, it’s probably not that black and white. But let’s be honest. There’s a lot of cat pictures and videos out there. As it turns out, maybe that’s not so bad.
I’m not sure who funded the research, but scientists were paid to study the effects of watching cat videos on the internet. What they discovered is that it actually has some benefits. These include an overall boost in energy, positive emotions, and fewer negative feelings after having watched the furry animal videos.
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