"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Foreboding Proteins: Look Away! 

So my first day of classes was yesterday. They all seem good, and despite an early SAS disaster, I'm pretty stoaked. Heart patients should also be excited, as yesterday the FDA approved the first fully implanted permanent artificial heart for use in patients. This is a huge step, which will hopefully extend and greatly improve the lives of patients with untreatable heart conditions.

Of course, it's also a major step in creating our future cyborg overlords, but hey. Look on the bright side.

It's harder to find a bright side for new evidence of nearly untreatable strains of TB. Researchers in the US, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa are finding strains of TB which are resistant to more than half of available treatments, granting the classification Extreme Drug Resistant (XDR) TB. This is really bad news. But, always look on the bright side: now that we're aware of the problem, we can step up research for new treatments, right?

Speaking of looking, don't look at me. At least not when you're thinking about what I'm saying. A study to be published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology will suggest that looking in the 'middle distance,' or staring off into space, helps people concentrate on numerical and arithmetic tasks. They tested 5-year olds as well as adults, so it would seem that the effect spans ages and educational levels.

Another study on study habits, this one from PNAS and woefully small (n = 14, which gives me zero confidence in the result), suggests that multi-tasking, such as watching TV or IM'ing, harms performance on learning tasks. But, el WaPo's characteristically condescending tone is not helpful: it derides kids who have study habits their parents don't like (listening to music, TV, etc.) and suggests that this study's evidence is much more convincing than it is. Similarly, the study was done on twenty-somethings, who did not necessarily grow up in such a media-rich environment. Previous studies have shown that kids today are better at multi-tasking than older generations are. Plus, the article's own example kids prove its point wrong: while the father "would rather have them study in silence," his preference is just that: his daughter studies while listening to music, and clearly does well in school (she's going to Columbia). If forced to study his way, she might not.

Then there's the study itself: the learning task was an object-sorting task (which involves both passive learning and motor activity), and instead of watching TV or IM'ing, subjects counted beeps while learning. Counting involves your working memory all the way through: you have to actively remember the last number in the beep sequence, and more likely involves the same (or more similar) brain processes as the learning task, whereas TV, radio, or IM may involve very different ones.

And finally, looking better. Researchers have found that peptide YY, released when we eat protein-containing foods, makes us feel more full and leads to weight loss. This explains some of the beneficial effects of the Atkins diet, but still doesn't recommend it. Not even a little.

PS: Foreboding. Last night I had a dream where I went to watch an execution, and as the ashes of the condemned were flung like confetti to the cheering mob, I was in back, watching a giant golden-colored wild horse be broken. My dream-companion said that he thought it was more beautiful untamed, and I agreed. Perhaps not the best dream to have my second morning of grad school?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?