Researchers predict capacity to learn language based on brain anatomy

Based on the size of Heschl’s Gyrus (HG), a brain structure that typically accounts for no more than 0.2 percent of entire brain volume, the researchers found they could predict — even before exposing study participants to an invented language — which participants would be more successful in learning 18 words in the “pseudo” language. [...] According to Warrier, Northwestern research professor of communication sciences and disorders, the researchers were surprised to find the HG important in second language learning. “The HG, which contains the primary region of the auditory cortex, is typically associated with handling the basic building blocks of sound — whether the pitch of a sound is going up or down, where sounds come from and how loud a sound is — and not associated with speech per se,” she said. [...] In a behavioral study, Wong’s group found that musical training started at an early age contributed to more successful spoken foreign-language learning. The study participants with musical experience also were found to be better at identifying pitch patterns before training.


95% of e-Cigarette Users Find It Helpful in Quitting

Emphysema Lung - Serious Yuckage.

Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Public Health polled 81 users and former users of the devices, finding that although the majority was happy with them, several concerns remain unaddressed. [...]

Almost all of the respondents (95%) had found e-cigarettes at least somewhat helpful to stop smoking. However, users were concerned about potential toxicity. Poor quality, lack of reliability and frequent failures were also mentioned by several of the people surveyed.

That’s some pretty impressive feedback. I don’t personally smoke, but I could see how being better able to control your dose could help. Then again, because e-cigarettes are generally cheaper than a pack of cigs I might imagine that it could potentially increase the amount of smoking (conceivably).

Though, anecdotally, a lot of forums seem to suggest that in practice this often isn’t what happens (thankfully) — obligatory forum comments:

“My way of quitting is changing. And I think that I can do that with the e-cig.

I love mine. I have gone from 5 packs per week to maybe 2-3. I did it without the cravings, without “needing” something. I hope to be completely tobacco cigarette free soon. And eventually I want to get down to nicotine free cartridges.” [...]

“I’ve been tobacco-free for four months with my “e-cig”. These are a blessing to nicotine addicts. No fire, no smoke, no smell. I feel great, no longer cough in the morning.”

It’s important to note e-Cigarettes aren’t approved as “smoking cessation devices.” Most of the forum threads I’m reading seem to suggest that it reduced how “winded they are,” coughing, and being able to cut their dosage a bit. I think the logic is there — after all, if you did switch to e-cigarettes from regular tobacco you’re at least cutting back on a large portion of the chemicals even if you are still inhaling nicotine. Nicotine, however, itself is still carcinogenic. Most people seem to suggest that they were able to immediately switch from burning to the e-cigarette method over night, which while probably still a step in the right direction, is still maintaining a health damaging habit.

Unfortunately, there is some legal ambiguity on the front for e-Cigarettes. Hopefully we’ll see solid research instead of a swift ban.

95% Quote Source

e-Cigarette Users Find It Helpful in Quitting

Redheads require more anesthesia

Bask in the weirdness of this one:

Little known fact: Anesthetic requirement is increased in redheads. – “Red hair seems to be a distinct phenotype linked to anesthetic requirement in humans that can also be traced to a specific genotype.”

Weird just weird. Did I mention weird? Let’s talk about it. Comment if you think this is weird. If you don’t comment, I’ll assume you’re a redhead, and can’t respond because you’re testing your anesthetic-dose-requirement… Naughty, naughty.

    Weekends make people… happier. (now proven with SCIENCE)

    ‘Weekend effect’ makes people happier regardless of their job, study says – “From construction laborers and secretaries to physicians and lawyers, people experience better moods, greater vitality, and fewer aches and pains from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, concludes the first study of daily mood variation in employed adults to be published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.”

    In other news water is wet, etc. etc. The study used a pager that reminded people to report how they felt for the study, both physically and mentally. Regardless of socioeconomic status people generally reported feeling better on the weekends!

    Deep brain stimulation of the habenula aids depression sufferer

    Deep brain stimulation successful for treatment of severely depressive patient – “Scientific studies have shown that the habenula is hyperactive in depression, the idea was to downregulate this structure by deep brain stimulation. [...] The brain pacemaker was switched off and was not reactivated for a few days, and the depression promptly returned. A few weeks after reactivation, the patient completely recovered again.The neurosurgeons in Heidelberg and the psychiatrists in Mannheim now want to build on this positive experience and are planning a clinical study in which the habenula stimulation is to be implemented for severely depressive patients at five psychiatric-neurosurgery centers in Germany.”

    Really the only thing my brain parsed out of this text is the word “habenula” and it’s apparent association with depression.

    Lack of sleep increases risk of suicidal ideation — in teens

    Earlier bedtimes may help protect adolescents against depression and suicidal thoughts – Results show that adolescents with parental set bedtimes of midnight or later were 24 percent more likely to suffer from depression (odds ratio = 1.24) and 20 percent more likely to have suicidal ideation (OR=1.20) than adolescents with parental set bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier. This association was appreciably attenuated by self-reported sleep duration and the perception of getting enough sleep

    Neuro Vocab Word(s) of the Day: Jamais Vu

    Jamais vu – I’ve discovered a new vu. Thanks, wikipedia. – “In psychology, the term jamais vu (from the French, meaning “never seen”) is used to describe any familiar situation which is not recognized by the observer. Often described as the opposite of déjà vu, jamais vu involves a sense of eeriness and the observer’s impression of seeing the situation for the first time, despite rationally knowing that he or she has been in the situation before. [...] Chris Moulin, of Leeds University, asked 92 volunteers to write out “door” 30 times in 60 seconds. At the International Conference on Memory in Sydney last week he reported that 68 percent of his guinea pigs showed symptoms of jamais vu, such as beginning to doubt that “door” was a real word. Dr Moulin believes that a similar brain fatigue underlies a phenomenon observed in some schizophrenia patients: that a familiar person has been replaced by an impostor. Dr Moulin suggests they could be suffering from chronic jamais vu.[2]“

    Can you say “om”?

    Success and setbacks for cocaine vaccine

    Cocaine addicts take cocaine vaccine, then go broke – “After the vaccine, doing cocaine was a very disappointing experience for them,” said Kosten, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
    Nobody overdosed, but some of them had 10 times more cocaine coursing through their systems than researchers had encountered before, according to Kosten. He said some of the addicts reported to researchers that they had gone broke buying cocaine from multiple drug dealers, hoping to find a variety that would get them high. “

    I’m way more entertained than I probably should be.

    Neural Plasticity and “Training” The Aging Brain

    How to Train the Aging Brain – An article on neural plasticity from NY Times – “While it’s tempting to focus on the flaws in older brains, that inducement overlooks how capable they’ve become. Over the past several years, scientists have looked deeper into how brains age and confirmed that they continue to develop through and beyond middle age. [...] The brain, as it traverses middle age, gets better at recognizing the central idea, the big picture. If kept in good shape, the brain can continue to build pathways that help its owner recognize patterns and, as a consequence, see significance and even solutions much faster. [...] With a brain already full of well-connected pathways, adult learners should “jiggle their synapses a bit” by confronting thoughts that are contrary to their own. Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different.”

    I’d argue that memorization of disconnected facts shouldn’t be the focus of youthful education pursuits, either.

    Heavy Metal Correlates of Mental Disorders

    Blood Lead Levels and Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder – It appears lead may cause, or greatly increase the risk of developing depression and/or panic disorder: “Persons with blood lead levels in the highest quintile had 2.3 times the odds of major depressive disorder (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.13-4.75) and 4.9 times the odds of panic disorder (1.32-18.48) as those in the lowest quintile. Cigarette smoking was associated with higher blood lead levels and outcome, but models that excluded current smokers also resulted in significantly increased odds of major depression (P = .03 for trend) and panic disorder (P = .01 for trend) with higher blood lead quintiles.”

    Hmmm. Filtered water for the win?  I have read elsewhere that certain water sources have higher levels of led than is truly safe. Though, I must admit, I’ve not personally taken the plunge to getting any fancy-smancy new-fangled water filtration. It’s on the to-do list. I know the simple brita filters aren’t *enough* in some respects.