Subway Riders' Quirks Studied
Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde | This American Life
The seating calculations of subway riders - where and when they choose to sit, though not necessarily why - were the subject of an observational study.
Fascinating study that, as they say in the article, seems pretty intuitive to people who take public transit often.
The DIY Couturier: 21 Tips to Keep Your Shit Together When You're Depressed.
Dr. Benjamin Gilmer (left) gets a job at a rural clinic. He finds out he’s replaced someone — also named Dr. Gilmer (picture) — who went to prison after killing his own father. But the more Benjamin’s patients talk about the other Dr. Gilmer, the more confused he becomes. Everyone loved the old Dr. Gilmer.
I don’t want to give away the ending, but this is a fascinating story that all people interested in psychology, psychiatry, medicine, and criminal justice will enjoy.
The surprising science of happiness
A while ago, I penned a fairly angry response to something circulating on the internet – the 21 Habits of Happy People. It pissed me off beyond belief, that there was an inference that if you weren’t Happy, you simply weren’t doing the right things.
I’ve had depression for as long as I can…
For anyone who struggles with depression: read this. Really.
A great TED talk on why what we think will make us happy or sad, and what actually does, can be surprisingly disparate.
So, this exists. I’m not into clinical psych, but this is still awesome.
DiPietro and colleagues (DiPietro, Irizarry, Costigan, & Gurewitsch, 2004) applied time-series analysis to longitudinal data from mother–fetus pairs and found that, beginning at 20 weeks of gestation until term, fetal movement stimulated rises in maternal heart rate and skin conductance. Currently the pathway through which fetal movements might determine maternal sympathetic arousal is unknown. However, it is unlikely that this occurs through conscious perception of these movements. (At term, women detect as few as 16% of fetal movements.) Given that the influence does not operate through conscious channels, DiPietro et al. propose that the most likely local mechanism is through perturbations of the uterine wall. They further suggest that the sympathetic activation in response to the fetal movement signal may begin to prepare the woman for the new demands of motherhood by redirecting maternal resources away from competing but less relevant environmental demands. This finding raises the additional provocative question of whether the degree of prenatal synchrony between mother and fetus might set the stage for postnatal mother–infant interaction.
In the life span of the human female, no other naturally occurring hormone exposures are more extreme than those experienced during the perinatal period. Other, less extreme endocrine events, such as puberty and menopause, are associated with changes in human brain structure and function. Almost nothing is known about how the hormone exposures linked to reproductive experience influence the brain and behavior of human mothers. Rodent models have confirmed that reproduction produces neurological changes that persist throughout the life span and that these changes are not confined to those areas of the brain directly involved in maternal behaviors. For example, alterations have been observed also in brain regions associated with emotion (amygdala) and memory (hippocampus).
The existence of hormonal control of onset and maintenance of maternal behavior in nonhuman species (largely rodents) is well established. What little is known about humans is largely consistent with this literature, suggesting that in humans, too, the hormone exposures of pregnancy prime the maternal brain for the challenges of motherhood. Specifically, there are a small number of studies demonstrating that prenatal estrogen, cortisol, and oxytocin exposures influence the quality of early postpartum maternal care and the ability to respond to infant signals.
Species from rats to humans show a decline in physiological and behavioral responses to stress during pregnancy. Late in gestation, women exhibit a dampened cortisol response to HPA challenge and show decreased blood pressure, heart rate, and catecholamine responses to psychological and physical challenges. In parallel to these physiological changes, pregnant women also experience diminished psychological responses to stress. There is reason to believe that the down-regulation of stress responding during pregnancy serves an adaptive purpose, providing some protection for mother and fetus from the adverse effects of stress. It has been shown that early exposures to stress are more likely to result in preterm birth than are later exposures, and women who do not show the normative, protective decrease in stress responding during pregnancy are at increased risk for preterm delivery.
Up to 80% of women report impaired cognitive function during pregnancy. This observation is supported by empirical investigations of memory function during pregnancy. A meta-analysis of the 17 studies published over the last decade indicated deficits in two components of memory during pregnancy that persist into the postpartum period: recall memory and the executive component of working memory.
The human fetus has evolved mechanisms to acquire information about the environment and guide its development. The human placenta is both a sensory and effector organ that incorporates and transduces information from its maternal environment into the fetal-developmental program. The fetal–placental unit’s detection of stress signals from the maternal environment (e.g., cortisol) ‘informs’ the fetus that there may be a threat to survival. This information primes or advances the placental clock, resulting in earlier delivery and escape from the hostile environment. Concurrently, the fetus adjusts its developmental trajectory, modifying its nervous system to ensure survival.
There is evidence that maternal cortisol and psychological distress during the prenatal period are associated with delayed cognitive development, at least through adolescence. The first study showing that a mother’s elevated pregnancy-specific anxiety (i.e., anxiety about her pregnancy and the health of her fetus) early in her pregnancy was associated with reduced gray matter volumes in her 6- to 9-year-old children was recently published. The affected regions were those associated with higher cognitive functions including reasoning, planning, attention, working and recall memory, language, and social and emotional processing.
Given a choice between a smaller immediate reward and a larger later reward, adolescents, more than adults, will require larger later rewards and shorter times of waiting before choosing against the immediate reward. Perhaps this is related to the protracted maturation of the frontal lobes, which allow us to ‘time travel’ in the sense of imagining the future consequences of different courses of action without having to carry out the behaviors in the physical world.
Although, based on group averages, there are statistically robust differences between male and female brains, there is nothing on an individual MRI brain scan to confidently discern whether it is from a man or a woman. As an analogy, height for adult men is significantly greater than height for adult women. However, because there are so many women taller than many men, height alone would not be a very useful way to determine someone’s sex.