Lack of sleep, already considered a public health epidemic, can also lead to errors in memory, finds a new study by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of California, Irvine.
The study, published online in the journal Psychological Science, found participants deprived of a night’s sleep were more likely to flub the details of a simulated burglary they were shown in a series of images.
Distorted memory can have serious consequences in areas such as criminal justice, where eyewitness misidentifications are thought to be the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the United States.
“We found memory distortion is greater after sleep deprivation,” said Kimberly Fenn, MSU associate professor of psychology and co-investigator on the study. “And people are getting less sleep each night than they ever have.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls insufficient sleep an epidemic and said it’s linked to vehicle crashes, industrial disasters and chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
The researchers conducted experiments at MSU and UC-Irvine to gauge the effect of insufficient sleep on memory. The results: Participants who were kept awake for 24 hours – and even those who got five or fewer hours of sleep – were more likely to mix up event details than participants who were well rested.
“People who repeatedly get low amounts of sleep every night could be more prone in the long run to develop these forms of memory distortion,” Fenn said. “It’s not just a full night of sleep deprivation that puts them at risk.”
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About 60 miles from the site of the deadly 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima prefecture, inside a former silicon chip manufacturing facility owned by the Japanese computer company Fujitsu, a small team of highly trained engineers are working on one of the company’s hottest new products.
Fujitsu’s marketing team claims it’s already proving a hit with their oldest—and youngest—consumers. It’s so popular, in fact, it’s probably just the first in a long line of related Fujitsu products. The product is lettuce. Like the giant monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001, this new head of lettuce is simultaneously a product of this factory’s past and the future.
Fujitsu is a space-age R&D innovator with sprawling, specialized factories. But several of its facilities, including this one, went dark when the company tightened its belt and reorganized its product lines after the 2008 global financial crisis. Now in the aftermath, it has retrofitted this facilities to serve tomorrow’s vegetable consumers, who will pay for a better-than-organic product, and who enjoy a bowl of iceberg more if they know it was monitored by thousands of little sensors.
When a patient talks with a psychological therapist, what changes occur in the patient’s brain that relieve mental disorders? UCLA psychology professor Michelle Craske says the honest answer is that we don’t know. But, according to Craske and two colleagues, we need to find out.
Mental health disorders — such as depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder and eating disorders — affect 1 in 4 people worldwide. Psychological treatments “hold the strongest evidence base for addressing many such conditions,” but they need improvement, according to a study by Craske, Cambridge University professor Emily Holmes and MIT professor Ann Graybiel.
Their article was published online July 16 in the journal Nature.
For some conditions, such as bipolar disorder, psychological treatments are not effective or are in their infancy, the life scientists report, and a “culture gap” between neuroscientists and clinical scientists has hindered the progress of mental health treatments. The authors call on scientists from both disciplines to work together to advance the understanding and treatment of psychological disorders.
Psychological treatments, they say, have not benefitted much from the dramatic advances neuroscience has made in understanding emotions and behavior. The reason may be that neuroscientists and clinical scientists “meet infrequently, rarely work together, read different journals, and know relatively little of each other’s needs and discoveries,” write Craske, a faculty member in the UCLA College, and her colleagues.
The authors advocate steps for closing the culture gap: First, uncover the mechanisms of existing psychological treatments. There is, they note, a very effective behavioral technique for phobias and anxiety disorders called exposure therapy; patients learn that what they fear is not as harmful as they think, and their fears are greatly reduced by the repeated presence of the object of their fear.
Second, the paper states, neuroscience is providing “unprecedented” insights that can relieve dysfunctional behavior — practitioners can use those insights to create new and improved psychological treatments. Third, the authors urge, the next generation of clinical scientists and neuroscientists should work more closely together. They propose a new umbrella discipline they call “mental health science” to marry the benefits of both disciplines.
"There is enormous promise," they conclude. "Psychological treatments are a lifeline to so many — and could be to so many more."
An international team of researchers identified a pathogenic mechanism that is common to several neurodegenerative diseases. The findings suggest that it may be possible to slow the progression of dementia even after the onset of symptoms.
The relentless increase in the incidence of…
— Emmanuel Saez, UC Berkeley Professor of Economics (via ucresearch)
A chimpanzee will wait more than two minutes to eat six grapes, but a black lemur would rather eat two grapes now than wait any longer than 15 seconds for a bigger serving.
It’s an echo of the dilemma human beings face with a long line at a posh restaurant. How long are they willing to wait for the five-star meal? Or do they head to a greasy spoon to eat sooner?
A paper published today in the scientific journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B explores the evolutionary reasons why some primate species wait for a bigger reward, while others are more likely to grab what they can get immediately.
"Natural selection has shaped levels of patience to deal with the types of problems that animals face in the wild," said author Jeffrey R. Stevens, a comparative psychologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the study’s lead author. "Those problems are species-specific, so levels of patience are also species-specific."
Studying 13 primate species, from massive gorillas to tiny marmosets, Stevens compared species’ characteristics with their capacity for “intertemporal choice.” That’s a scientific term for what some might call patience, self-control or delayed gratification.
He found the species with bigger body mass, bigger brains, longer lifespans and larger home ranges also tend to wait longer for a bigger reward.
Chimpanzees, which typically weigh about 85 pounds, live nearly 60 years and range about 35 square miles, waited for a reward for about two minutes, the longest of any of the primate species studied. Cotton-top tamarins, which weigh less than a pound and live about 23 years, waited about eight seconds before opting for a smaller, immediate reward.
The findings are based partially on experiments Stevens performed during the past ten years with lemurs, marmosets, tamarins, chimpanzees and bonobos at Harvard’s Department of Psychology and at the Berlin and Leipzig zoos in Germany. In those experiments, individual animals chose between a tray containing two grapes that they could eat immediately and a tray containing six grapes they could eat after waiting. The wait times were gradually increased until the animal reached an “indifference point” when it opted for the smaller, immediate reward instead of waiting.
Stevens combined those results with those of scientists who performed similar experiments with other primates. He scoured primate-research literature to gather data on the biological characteristics of each species.
In addition to characteristics related to body mass, Stevens analyzed but found no correlation with two other hypotheses for patience: cognitive ability and social complexity.
"In humans, the ability to wait for delayed rewards correlates with higher performance in cognitive measures such as IQ, academic success, standardized test scores and working memory capacity," he wrote. "The cognitive ability hypothesis predicts that species with higher levels of cognition should wait longer than those with lower levels."
But Stevens found no correlation between patience levels and an animal’s relative brain size compared to its body size, the measure he used to quantify cognitive ability.
Researchers also have argued that animals in complex social groups have reduced impulsivity and more patience to adapt to the social hierarchies of dominance and submission. But Stevens did not find correlations between species’ social group sizes and their patience levels.
Stevens said he believes metabolic rates may be the driving factor connecting patience with body mass and related physical characteristics. Smaller animals tend to have higher metabolic rates.
"You need fuel and you need it at a certain rate," he said. "The faster you need it, the shorter time you will wait."
Metabolic rates also may factor in human beings’ willingness to wait. Stevens said human decisions about food, their environment, their health care and even their finances all relate to future payoffs. The mental processes behind those decisions have not yet been well identified.
"To me, this offers us interesting avenues to start thinking about what factors might influence human patience," he said. "What does natural selection tell us about decision making? That applies to humans as well as to other animals."
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