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Are teenage brains wired differently?

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How patient is your teen? Well, a research study is being interpreted in the media as showing that teenager’s brains “are wired differently”  when it comes to the ability to be patient. The study, which looked at brain structure and function, while teens performed a decision making task, had the participants decide between an immediate small reward and a delayed larger reward. The teens had difficulties waiting for the larger payment, and the brain imaging findings suggested this was because structural connections between two key areas activated during decision making were not yet as strong in adolescents as they are in adults. So does this provide evidence that teenager’s brains are wired differently?

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The fertility merry-go-round: why obfuscating science and playing age-old gender stereotypes helps nobody

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Once again there are a number of newspapers covering a story about women’s fertility, many of which have the message of falling fertility after age 35 years. ‘Fertility warning to women over 37’ ran a Daily Mail headline. The Mirror said ‘Fertility warning: Women leaving it too late to have children because of ‘miracle’ celebrity babies’. What many of the stories fail to mention or convey adequately to the public is that the underpinning research focused on women over the age of 37 years, who were undergoing fertility treatment. Read more…

Better Living Through Chocolate?

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Of all the food and drink we take the most pleasure in imbibing, red wine and chocolate seem to gather the most scientific (and indeed pseudoscientific) attention with regards to supposed health benefits.  A number of chemicals common to both, for example the antioxidant flavonoids, have been lauded as offering anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-heart disease and antibacterial properties, and our desire to justify our dietary excesses means that any new studies are certain to provoke media interest.  The latest research from the University of Aberdeen has generated a series of stories claiming that eating chocolate adds years to your life, so should we really be reaching for the Kit Kats to prolong our existence? Read more…

Prior mental health problems predict perinatal depression

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A recent study that examined mental health in women over a 22 year period has suggested that prior mental health problems predict the development of depression during pregnancy or within 6 months of birth (perinatal period). The study suggests that a history of depression in adolesence and/or early adulthood puts women at a higher risk of developing depression in the perinatal period. The study attracted a broad range of media interest – so how did the media report on this finding? Read more…

Can eating chocolate help you lose weight?

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Of course not…

Back at the end of March last year, a wide selection of news outlets, including in the UK the BBC, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Star, all reported a new study published by German researchers which suggested that consumption of good quality chocolate as part of a controlled diet could aid weight loss. Read more…

“Watching 3D movies ‘helps improve brain power’”, leading cinema chain suggests

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If recent headlines are to be believed, watching 3D films might not only provide viewers with a more immersive cinema-going experience, they may also benefit cognitive performance. You might have seen headlines like the one above in the Guardian (though they omitted the “leading cinema chain suggests” part, more on that below), or similarly in the Express: “Want to increase your brain power? Watching a 3D movie makes you more intelligent”. But before you rush off to your local multiplex and upgrade your tickets for the latest release from 2D to 3D to give your brain an extra boost, let’s go beyond the headlines and take a closer look at the research. Read more…

Talking Headlines: with Mo Costandi

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Today we talk with someone who writes the headlines.

Mo Costandi is a freelance science writer with a background in neuroscience. He writes the popular and influential Neurophilosophy blog, hosted by The Guardian, and is the author of 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know, published by Quercus in 2013. Read more…

Mindfulness: Have we found the ultimate solution for depression?

mindfulness

I once delivered an undergraduate lecture on the history of the development of psychological therapies. I dressed up as a witch (not joking, you can find photographic proof here) as a way to remind students just now far we have gone from the ignorant time when mental health was understood in the context of witchcraft or the like. Thankfully nowadays, at least in the UK, we have a relatively strong respect for an evidence-based approach, by which treatment effectiveness is subjected to rigorous scientific scrutiny before implementation in routine clinical practice. Many people may not fully appreciate just how much intellectual dedication and financial investment are required to deliver a robust clinical trial. It is in this context that I was overjoyed to see how much positive media coverage a recent publication in the Lancet has attracted. Read more…

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