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Evidence for brain training effectiveness found lacking


Is it possible to maintain or even improve your thinking skills by completing relatively simple, repetitive games and tasks? That question provides the foundation for research on cognitive training, often referred to as brain training. Not only is this a very active research area it also represents a multi-million dollar industry. Those marketing brain training games or apps often refer to their own product being designed according to the latest research findings. However, the most comprehensive review of the evidence for the effect of brain training has just been published. And it doesn’t make a compelling case for the potential benefits often reported. Read more…

Children with Tourette syndrome show speech strengths


This week there has been an example of excellent reporting in the media about a study that looked at speech development in children with Tourette syndrome. The study compared children with Tourette syndrome and typically developing children on a word test where they had to sound out non-words (e.g. naichobave) and found that children with Tourette syndrome were faster at the task and no less accurate. What does this mean for understanding Tourette syndrome? Read more…

Meditation and holidays are good for you; so what?


It’s not uncommon for us to critique the media for inflating research stories, but this time I’d like to give credit for the non-reporting of a story that had all the ingredients for creative headlines. I am referring to a recent study published in the journal Translation Psychiatry, led by a research team at the University of California and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Read more…

Is Katla Volcano likely to erupt?


Katla volcano in the southern Iceland is one of the countries most active volcanoes. The volcano is located beneath the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap, thus eruptions have the potential to produce large amount of ash and glacial outburst floods (jökulhlaups), potentially repeating the problems experienced in 2010. Read more…

Talking Headlines with Akira O’Connor: how déjà vu research came to dominate the media


Dr Akira O’Connor is a lecturer at the School of Psychology & Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews. Akira uses different approaches, including functional imaging, to understand the neuronal basis of forming memories. In one particular project he studied how the brain perceives déjà vu and his work in this area has recently been the focus of media attention (e.g Medical Daily, and Digital Trends). An interesting aspect of the story is that his scientific results were presented at a research conference rather than following the usual route of a press release associated with a publication.

We asked Akira how his work made the headlines. Read more…

Growing out of ADHD?


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), characterised by pervasive inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity, is one of the most common childhood psychological disorders affecting around 3-5% of all children. Over the last week there have been headlines suggesting that ‘kids may outgrow ADHD‘ and ‘by age 18, most kids ADHD is gone‘ based on a UK research study. Let’s look at the evidence for this and examine this claim in the context of the broader literature. Read more…

Doomed – Should we be worried that NASA is sending a mission to investigate a potentially hazardous asteroid?

54353580 - asteroid on a collision course with earth.

NASA have recently announced a mission to send a probe to the asteroid Bennu (RQ36) which has an orbit that intersects with the Earth’s every 6 years. The fact that Bennu is considered as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” has led to quite a few overexcited articles playing up the idea that this rock could destroy life on Earth. So what are the chances and should we really be worried?

Read more…

The microbiome, the gift that keeps on giving…

13272275 - bacteria cells with selective focus

In recent years, stories about the microbiome have become pervasive. The microbiome is defined as all of the microorganisms in any environment, however many people usually think of a microbiome as all of the microorganisms that share the human body – be they bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi and protists. Studies have linked the microbiome to a range of conditions from autism to obesity and diabetes and beyond. Seldom does a week go by without a story in the news of a new scientific paper reporting how the microbiome is the underlying cause of a particular condition. There is a need to have a healthy degree of scepticism over the plethora of microbiome studies out there and a couple of years back, Prof Bill Hanage of Harvard Medical School wrote an excellent Comment in the journal Nature related to this. Moreover, the explosion of interesting microbiome studies in the literature has certainly encouraged a resurgence of interest in microbial ecology, a discipline that was seen as stuffy and outdated for many years until the microbiome came along. However, we need to remember that every centimetre of planet Earth is a microbial ecosystem be it a crumb of soil, the Sahara Desert or the human skin or gut – everywhere has a microbial ecology! Read more…

Could thumb sucking and nail biting prevent allergies in later life?

53522986 - vector illustration of a sleeping baby sucking his / her thumb

This blog post was written by Dr Harish Nair.

Parents have long fretted about their children sucking thumbs and biting nails, worried that this would cause infections in young children. The “hygiene hypothesis” proposed in 1989 has been used often to explain (unconvincingly) the role of infections in early childhood for preventing allergies including asthma and hayfever. Therefore, the story in the Independent, and the Telegraph that children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails suffer fewer allergies is not really novel. This story is based on a paper published in the journal Paediatrics earlier this month. The study was conducted in Dunedin (New Zealand) based on 1037 participants from a birth cohort recruited in 1972 – 1973, and followed up at various stages until age 38 years. Read more…

Explore our archive this summer

Research the Headlines

While we take a brief summer break at Research the Headlines, remember there’s a large archive of posts for you to explore. Using the category list on the right of our homepage, you can select articles on the subjects that interest you…from Astronomy to Robotics! Or why not dip into our Talking Headlines series in which we talk to researchers and journalists about their experiences of good and bad media reporting of research findings?

Or maybe you’d like to get some top tips for how you might better evaluate the latest headlines yourself. Fear not, our How to “Research the Headlines” series gives ten simple things for you to consider to help you get closer to the research behind the headlines.

We’re about halfway through our little break, so regular service will resume next month.