PsychNews: Oct. 3 – 9

1. A Brain Scientist Explains Leadership

    “Your personality consists of your character, which includes traits acquired through your experiences, and your temperament, which is traits arising from your biology. I think we have evolved four primary types of biological temperament, each associated with a range of traits. The personality type that I call the “Explorer” is primarily expressive of dopamine; what I call the “Director” is expressive of testosterone, the “Builder” is expressive of serotonin, and the “Negotiator” is expressive of estrogen and oxytocin. All these temperament types are found in both men and women and in every culture and race.”

2. 95 Million Patients With Depression Remain Untreated

    “75% of people with neurological, mental and substance abuse disorders remain untreated worldwide, according to estimates by WHO (World Health Organization). This includes almost 95 million people with depression and over 25 million with epilepsy. WHO hopes that its simplified new treatment guidelines, called The Intervention Guide may help promote better management of depression, substance abuse disorders, epilepsy, well as a number of mental disorders in a general practice setting.”

3. How Meditation Reshapes Your Brain

    “Richard Davidson is one of the foremost researchers of meditation’s effects on the brain. A Harvard Ph.D graduate and a friend of the Dalai Lama, he was chided early in his career for wanting to study something as unscientific as meditation. But in 2004 he became an overnight scientific celebrity for discovering that Buddhist monks exhibit vastly different brainwaves during meditation than normal people. Brainwaves are produced as the billions of neurons in our brains transmit action potentials down their axons to the synapses where they trigger the release of neurotransmitters. These action potentials are essentially electrical charges that are passed from neuron to neuron. By placing sensors on the scalp, researchers can detect not the individual firings of neurons—they are far too small and numerous to differentiate—but the sum total of this electrical activity, dubbed brainwaves for their cyclical nature.”

4. Do Financial Decisions Get Better With Age?

    “According to the study ‘The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Life-Cycle with Implications for Regulation’, the average person’s peak financial decision making age is around 53 years old. The authors of this study surveyed the life-cycle patterns of financial mistakes using a database that measures ten different types of credit behavior. The financial mistakes noted included suboptimal use of credit card balance transfer offers, misestimating the value of one’s house, and excess interest rates and fee payments. The study found that middle-aged adults make fewer financial mistakes than younger and older adults.

    According to the study, our ability to make sound financial decisions increases sharply in our 20s and 30s, levels off and peaks in our 50s, then begins to fall sharply in our 70s and 80s – the so called “inverted U”. The learning curve associated with gaining financial knowledge is believed to be the reason for the rise in our early years, while declining cognitive function is believed to be the reason for the drop in our later years.”

5. Train your brain to focus on positive experiences.

    “The clas­sic line in neural psy­chol­ogy is, ‘As neu­rons fire together they wire together.’ The seem­ingly imma­te­r­ial and ephemeral flow of the thoughts and feel­ings through your mind leaves behind traces in your brain. So the take­away point is to be very thought­ful about what you think about all day long. A lot of us think about crud all day long. We’re wor­ry­ing about this, we’re plan­ning that, we’re obsess­ing over some­thing bad that might hap­pen that hasn’t even hap­pened, what­ever. Or we’re think­ing about what a loser we are, how we just never get any­where in life, or peo­ple don’t love us, or we get mistreated—and there’s a place for that if it’s productive. But much of the time, we’re just run­ning those movies in the men­tal sim­u­la­tor. The prob­lem is, as we run those movies, they’re leav­ing behind traces of neural struc­ture that are neg­a­tivis­tic, depres­sive, pes­simistic, and very self-critical.”

6. What makes a group smart.

    “Being the smartest guy in the room doesn’t necessarily mean your team is going to be the strongest. In a recent study, researchers found that having super-smart group members did not have a significant effect on how well the group did on brainstorming ideas, solving word games and math problems or completing small projects.

    Instead, groups did better when they had members with higher levels of ‘social sensitivity’ – empathy, or ‘how well group members perceive each other’s emotions,’ said study author Christopher Chabris, a psychology professor at New York’s Union College. And the people likeliest to display such a trait were women. A group’s ‘collective intelligence,’ or its ability to do well on a broad range of tasks, often lined up with how many women were in the group. The best-performing groups also had members that cooperated well. Members of such groups let each other talk more often – individuals didn’t try to hog the conversation.”

7. Neurons Cast Votes To Guide Decision-Making

    “We know that casting a ballot in the voting booth involves politics, values and personalities. But before you ever push the button for your candidate, your brain has already carried out an election of its own to make that action possible. New research from Vanderbilt University reveals that our brain accumulates evidence when faced with a choice and triggers an action once that evidence reaches a tipping point.

    The researchers presented monkeys with a simple visual task of finding a target on a screen that also included distracting items. The researchers found that neurons processing visual information from the screen fed that information to the neurons responsible for movement. These movement neurons served as gatekeepers, suppressing action until the information they received from the visual neurons was sufficiently clear. When that occurred, the movement neurons then proceeded to trigger the chosen movement.”

8. Dangerous Idea #32: Implant Memory Chips In Our Brain

    “‘There seem to be really important functions to forgetting,’ says Dr. Ellen McGee, a medical ethicist and retired Long Island University C.W. Post professor. While McGee focuses her research on the ethical implications of using any type of neural interfacing, she says it is unclear that a memory-enhancing device will be good for humans…

    ‘We have memories that cause us trauma,’ says McGee, ‘We have memories that make us guilty. We have memories that if we were flooded with them, might keep us from being able to act in the present, and to enjoy the present. So, it’s not clear how humans with ‘total recall’ would function.'”

9. The brain and creativity, an excerpt from the documentary documentary “My brilliant brain.”

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