Friday, 6 September 2013

Link feast

In case you missed them - 10 of the best psychology and neuro links from the past week (or so):

Our social lives have a huge impact on the behaviour of our genes, with social isolation leaving us prone to infection. But crucially, it's how we feel about our situation that matters. According to researcher Steve Cole, quoted in a superb new Pacific Standard feature article by David Dobbs: "If you feel like you’re well supported even though there’s nobody else in sight; if you carry relationships in your head; if you come at the world with a sense that people care about you, that you’re valuable, that you’re okay; then your body is going to act as if you’re okay...".

Find out what happened when Mary H K Choi self-experimented with tDCS (zapping her brain with weak electrical currents) in this witty and honest article for Aeon magazine.

A study published in Nature this week (and covered on the Digest) generated a lot of excitement after apparently showing that a driving video game boosted the multi-tasking skills (and other mental abilities) of elderly participants. For a forensic assessment of the study's methodological strengths and weaknesses, check out this HI-BAR ("had I been a reviewer") commentary from Daniel Simons.

BBC One broadcast a documentary "The Woman Who Woke Up Chinese" about foreign accent syndrome. There are five days left to view it on iPlayer. (More from the Digest archive).

Apparently, if you swear more often in everyday life, swearing when you're hurt will give you less pain relief - just one of many intriguing insights in a feature article about the psychology of swearing by Richard Stephens for The Psychologist magazine.

"The really curious thing about minds and brains is that the truth about them lies not somewhere in the middle but simultaneously on both extremes." Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker reviewed a series of new neuroskeptical books.

Your brain is mechanical, which is why boxers can be knocked out by a punch. More importantly, understanding the mechanical forces at work in the brain could lead to new forms of treatment. This was the most exciting neuroscience article I've read for ages - it's by Anil Ananthaswamy for New Scientist and is free to access for one more week if you register with their website.

A new study (pdf) appeared to show that people judging musical performance rely on performers' looks more than the sound they produce. However, Tom Stafford's smart analysis shows that this interpretation is an oversimplification, and in fact: "It remains completely plausible that most of us, most of the time, judge music on how it sounds, just like we assumed before this research came out."

Wowsers - scientists grow mini brains from stem cells! Thankfully Ed Yong gives us a calm, clear low-down on what exactly the research involved and what it means for the future.

In her inaugural post for the Guardian's new HeadQuarters blog, Molly Crockett explains the psychology and neuroscience underlying people's vulnerability to exploitation by loan companies.
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Post compiled by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

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