Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Challenge Worthy of Him

The Associated Press ran a story about a brilliant 13-year-old Noah Egler, who has Asperger's syndrome. Instead of being ashamed of something that made him different from his peers, they encouraged him to assert his curiosity and challenge himself in ways that your typical school system cannot.

Although he was half the age of medical students at the summer program at the Indiana University Northwest medical school, he was not at all out of place.

Noah summed up himself with these words: "I'm technically a nerd, and I hang out with other people who are technically nerds."

His interests are quite wide-ranging, and like many other Aspies, he becomes an expert in the subjects that engage his attention. They include chemistry, mechanics, electronics, cooking, karate, and (what could possibly turn into his career) computerized prostheses, in other words, robotic limbs for amputees.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Scientific Explanation for - Beer Goggles!

io9 has the article:

It's a fairly well-known idea that people start looking better and better the more one drinks alcohol. But is there actually a scientific reasoning behind this? It might all have to do with a little something called bilateral symmetry....

...There are many different forms of symmetry, including radial, spherical, and bilateral, which is the one that humans possess. All this means is that it is possible to cut an organism in half so that one side is identical or the mirror image of the other. The different types of symmetry are determined by how many different possible ways one could create these symmetric counterparts. In humans and other organisms with bilateral symmetry, there's only one possible line of symmetry, which is known as the sagittal plane, which runs right down the vertical center of our bodies. (Obviously, we're only talking about external appearances here - our insides aren't symmetric.)

Right, so that's the quick and dirty version of what biological symmetry is. But what does that have to do with booze? Well, it's thought that we and other organisms have a strong evolutionary preference for the appearance of symmetry, and this means people who are considered attractive are often those who display a high degree of bilateral symmetry. And, as NCBI ROFL reports, researchers at London's Roehampton University hypothesized that a reduced ability to judge this symmetry brought on by the general visual impairment of alcohol might well account for the phenomenon that people seem more attractive when one is drunk. It's really that they simply seem more symmetrical - or, perhaps more accurately, less asymmetrical....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Psychologist Speaks Out Against Vets Who Use PTSD as an Excuse for Criminal Behavior

Psychology Today has an article by Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., with the title "Criminal Behavior Is Not a Symptom of PTSD."

At least once a month, there seems to be a new case in the media depicting a veteran who has been convicted of a serious crime such as drug trafficking, child pornography, theft, rape, and even murder. In many of these cases, a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder is cited by the veteran's attorney as the cause of the behavior.

So, can PTSD cause criminal behavior? Yes and no. There is no doubt that PTSD can cause a person to make bad choices that lead to antisocial behaviors. Increased use of alcohol or drugs can lead to driving while intoxicated, domestic violence, and petty theft to support their drug or alcohol use. Increased physiological arousal, which causes the service member to always be on-guard, can lead to violent behavior that is out of proportion to a perceived threat. There are even cases in which combat veterans with PTSD have been found not guilty of murder when they were put in a situation, which reminded them of a previous stressful combat experience, and they felt they were defending themselves against an enemy combatant....

At this point, some of you may be considering my views as unsympathetic or even cynical. This is not the case. I have a great deal of sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of veterans with PTSD, some of which have found themselves in trouble with the law. My issue is with the numerous bogus claims by individuals who insist that PTSD caused them to download child pornography, sexually assault a female after a night at the bar, or rob a convenience store. In my opinion, it's insulting to those suffering from this disabling condition and feeds the stigma that combat veterans with PTSD are unstable, dangerous, and crazy.

Let's not make PTSD a scapegoat for crime. Instead, let's direct our efforts at better understanding this disorder and improving treatments so that veterans can lead more satisfying and rewarding lives. However, as a student of human behavior I am well aware that people are experts at finding ways to shift responsibility for their actions, particularly those actions that will bring about unwanted consequences.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

North Carolina Faces a Mental Health Dilemma of Charlotte, NC has a gut-wrenching story of how the state of North Carolina faces a sharp reduction in federal funds because too many people with mental illness have been put up in adult care homes, which are custodial in nature and do not provide psychiatric treatment. After years of "kicking the can down the road," the state, which faces a $2.7 billion budget shortfall, lacks the money to build community-based mental health centers and inpatient facilities, adult care homes are worried about going out of business if Medicaid money is cut off, and families of mental patients are concerned that their relatives may be forced into the streets.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Study Confirms Our Gut Feeling About Narcissists

The Daily Mail (U.K.) ran an article about how narcissists can smooth-talk their way to the top but are unable to live up to their high opinion of their leadership abilities.

They may be charming, confident and climb the job ladder with ease, but when they reach the top, narcissists are actually not very good at their roles.

Such people are often too self-obsessed to do their jobs properly, according to a study.

Those who love themselves and have vast self-confidence often impress others with their self-belief, dominance and authority, leading them to climb the career ladder effortlessly....

Scientists at the University of Amsterdam proved their theory by conducting an experiment involving 150 people, split into groups of three.

One of the three was randomly assigned as group leader as part of a task intended to choose a job candidate.

Information about the candidate was handed out, some to a single member, some to the entire group.

The group was told that all three members could contribute advice, but that their leader was ultimately responsible for any decisions.

The study was designed to see how narcissistic leaders could hold back information about candidates, a tactic that could result in a less skilled person given the job, thereby damaging the company.

Questionnaires given to 'employees' and 'leaders' revealed that employees hailed narcissistic leaders as the most effective.

But they were wrong....

The results are published in the journal Psychological Science.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Popular Drugs to Go Generic Soon

WebMD reports:

...Within six months of a drug losing its patent, 80% of patients begin using its generic form. According to the IMS Institute’s most recent annual report, the average co-pays for generic drugs in 2010 were just over $6 as compared with nearly $24 for brand-name medications. That represents a huge potential savings for consumers....

So which drugs can you soon expect to see in generic form? Cholesterol lowering Lipitor; the anti-biotic Levaquin; Concerta, which treats symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Protonix for the treatment of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and Zyprexa, which is used to treat symptoms of schizophrenia, all go off patent this year.

In 2012, the antidepressant Lexapro; Viagra for erectile dysfunction; Plavix, which prevents blood clots; and asthma medication Singulair are just a few of those losing their patents. For a full list you can see this report from market research firm, EvaluatePharma.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good News: Epidemic of PTSD Failed to Materialize After 9-11

USA Today reports that 10 years after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, the American public has proved more resilient than psychologists expected. Their assessment is tempered by the realization that not all the long-term effects of this man-made disaster are in. The article goes on to say that many variables affect the general population, including life events that predispose a person to post-traumatic stress, closeness to the scene of the terrorist attacks, emotional reaction to events, and how much of a feeling of closure one had to the news that Osama bin Laden had been cornered and killed.