Showing posts from October, 2013

The Sinister Side of Mental Illness

First, hope all the little ghosts and goblins in your life have a safe, fun Halloween.  My grandkids are of an age to dress as something clever and cute, and to show up looking for whatever sugary treat they can mooch off this old  goat.

Second, a bumper sticker most of us have seen at more than one writer's conference:

"Writer's block is that condition when the voices in your head stop talking to you."
The article below explains this odd reference. 

Third, let me apologize to all my left-handed friends for making a joke I'm sure they've heard far too often, and for posting the almost as tasteless note under two, above.  The article below will explain my egregious but typical lapses of taste.

Hey, do you know that. . .

Lefties are significantly more likely to suffer schizophrenia?
According to a new report out of Yale, it seems that lefties are significantly more likely to suffer disorders such as schizophrenia.   Another way to put their conclusion, according to Y…

Post Traumatic Growth: Surviving -- Then Thriving

"Some survivors of traumatic events develop new priorities, closer relationships, an increased appreciation of life, a greater sense of personal strength, and experience heightened spirituality." I served in Vietnam, but was one of the fortunate to come home in one piece and with few problems.  Yes, it took quite a few years to de-militarize myself, and I did have a bit of survivors guilt.  Then a fellow vet asked me if I did what I was ordered to do.  If I had, what did I have to feel so (expletive deleted) guilty about? That question started me on a path working through those feelings.

This is to explain to any non-vet readers ~ only a relatively small proportion of combat veterans suffer full-blown Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. As with anything, there are a range of reactions to traumatic events such as combat. including people who actually learn better coping skills and appear happier and better adjusted for the experience, a phenomena called Post Traumatic Growth.

How Poverty Molds the Brain

". . .children in high-income families are exposed to 30 million more words than children from families on welfare."
Groundbreaking research nearly two decades ago linking a mother's educational background to her children's literacy and cognitive abilities stands out among decades of social science studies demonstrating the adverse effects of poverty.

Now new research conducted at Northwestern University has taken that finding in a neuroscientific direction: linking poor processing of auditory information in the adolescent brain to a lower maternal educational background.

"These adolescents had noisier neural activity than their classmates, even when no sound was presented," said Nina Kraus, the Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology and Communication Sciences at Northwestern and corresponding author of the study.

In addition, the neural response to speech for the adolescents from a lower maternal educational background was erratic over repeated st…

All Girl Getaways Throughout the Life-Cycle

"The importance of a girls' getaway (is) to reconnect intimate friendships which have an important influence on female identities."
Some of my buddies and I joke about the all-girl getaways our ladies take once or twice a year.  Our joke is that it is our job to stay close to the phone, bail money in hand.  Just in case.

Over the years they have had some wonderful adventures, though they only came close to arrest once - for riding bicycles on a horse path in an exclusive, up scale resort.  (The private security guards drove Beemers, even.)

Recently, an article published in Annals of Leisure Research detaied  the different purposes and effects for those participating in girlfriend getaways over the life course and the relationship to the life-cycle of the women.

The basis of the article was a study conducted by the authors featuring 79 women of different race, social class, nationality and marital and familial status. They were interviewed about their experiences of an al…

Depression Links Partner Violence & Food Insecurity

How does domestic violence effect the entire family?  If your characters are in a violent relationship, this study should help you structure the family situation in a more believable way.  In short, violence in the family causes rationing and a lack of balanced nutrition in the family.
*  *  *  *  *
Women who experience physical, mental or sexual abuse at the hands of their partners have an increased likelihood of being food insecure. That's according to a new study out of the University of Houston Texas Obesity Research Center (TORC), which may prove valuable to those creating interventions for those populations.

"The bridge between the two issues is depression," said assistant professor and TORC researcher Daphne Hernandez. "Our study found that women experiencing intimate partner violence are more likely to be depressed, which impacts their ability to ensure a food-secure household."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Core Food Security Modul…

Why Groups Haze Newcomers: Behind the Ritual

"Hazing exists around the world."
It happens in military units, street gangs and even among athletes on sports teams. In some cultures, the rituals mark the transition from adolescence to adulthood. And in fraternities and sororities, it's practically a given.

With a long history of seemingly universal acceptance, the practice of hazing is an enduring anthropological puzzle. Why have so many cultures incorporated it into their group behavior?

Aldo Cimino, a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara, seeks to answer that question in the online edition of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

"Hazing exists in radically different cultures around the world, and the ethnographic record is replete with examples of initiation rites that include hazing," said Cimino. "It is a practice that cultures continually rediscover and invest themselves in. The primary goal of my research is to understand why."

The Human Mind May be Designed to Haz…

Good News for Writers: On The Coffee Front!

Some days you just don't want to deal with what if's and worst cases.

Some days, and this is one, I just want to sit and enjoy a hot cuppa at my favorite little cafĂ© while writing some witty conversation or edit an important blog post.

You know the myth, the one about how J.K.R. wrote the first of her avalanche best sellers mornings in a little coffee emporium after dropping children off at school.  She'd get a hot cup of coffee, and write until time to pick up the little monsters.

For any writer with a similar habit of working with a cup of java or joe next to the right or left hand, here's the good, no, make that the most excellent news:
Oct. 22, 2013 — Coffee consumption reduces risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, by about 40 percent, according to an up-to-date meta-analysis published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, the official clinical practice journal of the American Gastroenterological Association. Further, som…

Brains Process the Pain of Villains More Than the Pain of People We Like

I've always assumed that when watching a movie or reading a novel, I empathize more with the hero.

No, according to new research out of  USC the part of the brain associated with empathizing with the pain of others is activated more strongly by watching the suffering of hateful people as opposed to likable people.

What does this say about us?  Did I really feel more empathy for Darth Vader or Sauron?  Hitler?  W?

Oy freaking vey.

Well, actually, when I re-read the release, it seems that the part of the brain that processes empathy is more activated while watching a villain suffer because we want to make sure the bad guy is truly down and out.  It doesn't mean that I have more empathy for Snidely Whiplash than Dudley Do-Right as I feared for a moment. Phew.

Here's the story:

A counterintuitive findings from a new USC study show that the part of the brain that is associated with empathizing with the pain of others is activated more strongly by watching the suffering of hateful peo…

How Violence or Trauma Effects Your Characters

In so many adventure novels and screenplays, the hero has a lifetime of violent confrontations and trauma.  Yet, he or she seems fairly normal, filled with energy and vigor.  Reference, if you will the James Bond movies of, in alphabetical order ~
George Baker Pierce Brosnan Christopher Cazenove Sean Connery Timothy Dalton Bob Holness Michael Jayston George Lazenby Roger Moore Barry Nelson David Niven Toby Stephens Until the most recent movies of Daniel Craig, Bond is always on top of things, flip, and a healthy, horny womanizer who sleeps soundly and well ~ despite several lifetimes of lost loves and mind-boggling violence.  It's a popular franchise, but believable?  Not really.

The common result of trauma in a person's life is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSS), and one of the primary symptoms of is sleeplessness, as experienced by one in every two American soldiers who have been deployed in recent military operations. So says Dr. Adam Bramoweth of the Department of Veterans Affairs (…

How to Get Them Lost in Your Narrative

"The one who tells the story rules the world." ~ Hopi proverb
A particular type of viewer enjoys stories with plots, characters, and imagery that allow them to get lost in the narrative, according to a new study  scheduled to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research in February, 2014.

"Stories have the power to change people's behavior," write authors Tom van Laer (ESCP Europe Business School), Ko de Ruyter (Maastricht University), Luca M. Visconti (ESCP Europe Business School), and Martin Wetzels (Maastricht University).

"Contemporary examples include the persuasive power of Latin American telenovelas, which influence family planning choices and enrollment in adult literacy programs, as well as Internet users sharing written stories, photos, and videos about themselves and their market experiences."

A telenovela is a limited-run serial dramatic programming popular in Latin American, Portuguese, Filipino, Spanish, and North American Spanish-langua…

Learning to be Funny: Comedy College

Oct. 15, 2013 — There is a science to crafting a good bit and delivering a one-liner that sets off a roar of laughter from the audience. And like any skill, Peter Orazem and Gavin Jerome believe it's one students in their Comedy College course at Iowa State University can learn -- no joke, they can learn to be funny.

"I get the question all the time, 'Can you teach someone to be funny? Either you're funny or you're not, right?' No, comedy is like any other skill, like welding, carpentry or brain surgery. There are tricks, techniques and formulas that if you study them, you will be funnier," said Jerome, a professional entertainer who has partnered with Orazem to teach the course.

Orazem, a University Professor of economics at Iowa State University, is living proof. He continues to master the skill he first developed as a student in one of Jerome's comedy workshops. And he admits his routine has come a long way since learning some of the tricks and techn…

What's in a kiss? Science Offers a Clue...

Kissing Helps Us Find the Right Partner  – And Keep Them
What's in a kiss? A study by Oxford University researchers suggests kissing helps us size up potential partners and, once in a relationship, may be a way of getting a partner to stick around.

"Kissing in human sexual relationships is incredibly prevalent in various forms across just about every society and culture," says Rafael Wlodarski, the DPhil student who carried out the research in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University. "Kissing is seen in our closest primate relatives, chimps and bonobos, but it is much less intense and less commonly used.

"So here's a human courtship behavior which is incredibly widespread and common and, in extent, is quite unique. And we are still not exactly sure why it is so widespread or what purpose it serves."

To understand more, Rafael Wlodarski and Professor Robin Dunbar set up an online questionnaire in which over 900 adults answered question…