Blog

Joy from giving outlives joy from getting

In this season of giving and getting, the findings are in. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

According to two new studies conducted by researchers with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, giving to others rather than to ourselves makes us happier.

Have you ever noticed that your enjoyment in a repeated activity or event decreases over time no matter how wonderful it is? When this happens, you are experiencing what researchers call hedonic adaptation. The joy of having our own desires met is always fleeting. Perhaps surprisingly, however, giving to others creates a more lasting happiness.

“If you want to sustain happiness over time, past research tells us that we need to take a break from what we’re currently consuming and experience something new,” says study co-author Ed O’Brien, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, in a release from the Association for Psychological Science. “Our research reveals that the kind of thing may matter more than assumed: Repeated giving, even in identical ways to identical others, may continue to feel relatively fresh and relatively pleasurable the more that we do it.”

In the first experiment, 96 college student participants were given $5 each day for five days. The students were told to spend the money on exactly the same thing each day. Some of the participants were randomly assigned to spend the money on themselves, while some were assigned to spend the money on others – maybe an online donation to the same charity each day or even cash placed in a tip jar at the same café.

Participants self-reported at the end of each day how they felt about the money they had spent, and how they rated their overall happiness.

The results of the daily spending challenge showed a clear pattern. While participants began with very similar levels of happiness, the students who had spent money on themselves felt decreasingly happy over the five-day period. Conversely, participants who gave their money to someone else, however, continued to feel the same level of joy on the fifth day as they did on the first day.

In the second experiment, 502 participants played 10 rounds of a word puzzle game online. For each round won, they earned a nickel, which they could either keep or donate to a favorite charity. Participants self-reported after each round the degree of joy they felt from winning.

As in the first experiment, those who gave their winnings to others retained higher levels of happiness for longer periods than those who kept their winnings for themselves. This was true even after researchers accounted for other explanations involved in charitable giving, such as the time and effort it takes to donate.

“We considered many such possibilities, and measured over a dozen of them,” says O’Brien. “None of them could explain our results; there were very few incidental differences between ‘get’ and ‘give’ conditions, and the key difference in happiness remained unchanged when controlling for these other variables in the analyses.”

Researchers think that there might be an explanation. When we focus on outcomes, like getting paid, we are in comparison mode. This makes us lose out on the subtle feelings of each individual experience and leads to a feeling of “never enough.” On the other hand, each act of giving removes the comparison aspect and so has a fresh, new feel every time.

The authors say their findings prompt more ideas for future research. If giving boosts feelings of social connection and belonging, would the results hold true with larger amounts of money, if the money were being given to friends or strangers or if the prosocial behavior involved something other than money?

“Right now we’re testing repeated conversation and social experiences, which also may get better rather than worse over time,” O’Brien explains.

Aim high: Do everything in your control to become your best self

The world is full of paradoxes. One of the biggest is the tradeoff between having high and low expectations.

On the one hand, we need to expect to win at life, otherwise; what’s the point of even trying? But on the other hand, we can’t be discouraged when we lose.

The two different concepts are perfectly explained by the following two quotes.

  1. “You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” – Zig Ziglar
  2. “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”― Alexander Pope

The first quote says we should expect to win, the second one says we shouldn’t expect to win. So which attitude do you pick?

This is a hard concept to wrap your head around. It took me years to find a balance that worked for me.

The Importance Of A Positive Attitude

You need a positive attitude if you want to win. All kinds of successful people from different fields will tell you that.

There’s no point in “trying.” When you do something, you must do it well, and expect to win. I think that’s the attitude many winners share.

But you and I both know that your attitude is only one part of the equation. Without putting in the work, you must realize that you will not win. You can have all the talent in the world, if you don’t put it to work, you will never reach your full potential.

Winning, becoming good at your job, getting recognition – it all requires a lot of work. To reach our full potential, we must prioritize learning over pleasure.

That means we can’t become great and go out every weekend, watch movies every night, play video games, go shopping, and just hang out on the couch.

The Danger Of Low Expectations

But expecting to win can also be harmful if you’re not mentally strong. I’ve always been an optimistic person. That attitude has helped me a lot in life.

However, in my early twenties, I almost got discouraged to reach for my goals. Time and time again, I was disappointed by failure. Especially when I got out of college, I tried to start many different businesses. And everything failed except for the business I started with my dad.

Naturally, I felt like I couldn’t do it on my own. Look back, it was too early for me. But those high expectations almost made me give up. I’m glad I kept going and stayed positive.

The problem is not whether you fail or not. It’s about this: What do you want to do about it?

Cry and moan and say, “Why does this happen!!” We all know that’s not helpful. Instead, we must be indifferent to outcomes.

But still, I do think we must expect to win at everything in life: Your career, relationships, and money. Aim high and do everything in your control to become your best self. That’s the most useful way to spend your time.

Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday

I like this idea from Jordan Peterson, who talks about comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, in his book 12 Rules For Life.

When you focus on yourself, there’s no disappointment about external factors.

You do everything you can, and if you lose, you will do better next time. Nothing can destroy you.

And if you fail? So what? Being sad or disappointed when things don’t turn out the way you expected is completely normal. I still don’t like to fail. But what’s not normal is blaming others or yourself.

Here’s the thing: Don’t take yourself nor life too seriously. We all know that blaming others is what fools do. You only create resentment and hatred by blaming other people for your losses in life.

But sadly, many honest, self-aware, and positive people blame themselves. And that’s also wrong.

Expect The Best From Yourself – Not From “The World”

In short, this is what I’ve learned about high and low expectations:

  • Have high expectations from yourself. Put in the work. Aim for becoming your best self.
  • Have zero expectations from “the world.” Don’t expect other people to hand you anything.
  • Understand that you don’t control externals. Never blame yourself for bad outcomes.
  • But do blame yourself for not giving it your all. That’s something you control.

There are always people who say, “But what about this or that?” And I often say that I don’t know. Because it’s naïve to say you have the answers.

We’re all trying to make sense out of our careers, relationships, and most importantly: Our own actions.

It’s a never-ending process. We do. We fail. We learn. But we never give up.

Australian couple pleads guilty to causing infant child serious injury from extreme vegan diet

A couple who fed their daughter an extreme vegan diet have admitted causing her serious injury.

The mother and father, aged 32 and 34 respectively, who cannot be named for legal reasons fed the girl oats and rice milk.

The girl’s diet was so restricted that she developed rickets, a degenerative bone disease caused by malnourishment.

The couple’s 19-month-old daughter is now in foster care with her two older brothers, aged four and six.

The mother and father pleaded guilty to failing to provide for a child, causing serious injury.

After the girl was admitted to hospital in March this year, her mother told a hospital dietitian her entire family followed a vegan diet.

She said her daughter would generally have one cup of oats with rice milk and half a banana in the morning.

She said she would give her a piece of toast with jam or peanut butter for lunch, The Daily Telegraph reported.

For dinner, she said her daughter would be offered tofu, rice or potatoes. But she said the girl was a ‘fussy eater’ so she might just have oats again.

This diet resulted in severe deficiencies in nutrients across the board for the infant, including a lack of calcium, phosphate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, iron and zinc.

WHAT IS RICKETS?

  • Rickets is a preventable bone disease that affects infants and young children and causes soft and weakened bones
  • The disease is caused by a lack of Vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus
  • Rickets can be caused by diet, nutritional deficiencies or inadequate sunlight exposure

Source: Better Health Victoria

Her levels of vitamin D – which can cause bone disease if found to be too low – were ‘undetectable’.

The infant had fractures scattered throughout her tiny body and her bones were so brittle doctors believed they could have been broken by ‘normal handling’.

The treatment of the girl was only brought to the attention of doctors in March this year, when doctors attended to the infant after she suffered a seizure.

One doctor described her as ‘floppy’ and noted how the diminutive one-and-a-half year old didn’t crawl or talk during the month in care.

Hospital staff initially respected the parents wishes to keep the infant on a vegan diet, but grew concerned when the mother outlawed soy, worried it was full of ‘hormones’.

Even after a week in hospital care, the parents exchanged text messages denying their daughter’s lack of growth was a result of malnutrition.

Soon after, police spoke to the father at the hospital, asking him why he wasn’t concerned that his daughter never grew.

Even at more than a year old, the child weighed only 4.9kg, barely double of what she weighed when she was a newborn.

‘(He) thought she was a girl and different to boys – she was petite,’ court documents say.

After an investigation into the girl’s medical history, doctors found an absence of immunisations, no follow-up check-ups after she was born and no birth certificate or Medicare number.

The child and her siblings have been put in foster care and are doing much better.

Within just six months, the girl has put on six kilograms and is crawling and standing on her own.

But doctors say it is still ‘imperative’ she continue therapy and is constantly monitored to help manage developmental delays.

The parents, meanwhile, have been in and out of court.

After pleading guilty to failing to provide for a child and causing serious injury, charges of reckless grievous bodily harm were withdrawn.

They will return to the Downing Centre District Court on January 16 for sentencing.

Let there be light! Scientists find brain circuit that could explain seasonal depression

Before light reaches these rods and cones in the retina, it passes through some specialized cells that send signals to brain areas that affect whether you feel happy or sad.

Omikron /Getty Images/Science Source

Just in time for the winter solstice, scientists may have figured out how short days can lead to dark moods.

Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether you are happy or sad.

When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed.

“It’s very likely that things like seasonal affective disorder involve this pathway,” says Jerome Sanes, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University.

Sanes was part of a team that found evidence of the brain circuit in people. The scientists presented their research in November at the Society for Neuroscience meeting. The work hasn’t been published in a peer-reviewed journal yet, but the researchers plan to submit it.

A few weeks earlier, a different team published a study suggesting a very similar circuit in mice.

Together, the studies offer a strong argument that seasonal mood changes, which affect about 1 in 5 people, have a biological cause. The research also adds to the evidence that support light therapy as an appropriate treatment.

“Now you have a circuit that you know your eye is influencing your brain to affect mood,” says Samer Hattar, an author of the mouse study and chief of the section on light and circadian rhythms at the National Institute of Mental Health. The finding is the result of a decades-long effort to understand the elusive link between light and mood. “It is the last piece of the puzzle,” Hattar says.

The research effort began in the early 2000s, when Hattar and David Berson, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University, were studying cells in the retina.

At the time, most scientists thought that when light struck the retina, only two kinds of cells responded: rods and cones. But Hattar and Berson thought there were other light-sensitive cells that hadn’t been identified.

“People used to laugh at us if we say there are other photoreceptors distinct from rods and cones in the retina,” Hattar says.

The skeptics stopped laughing when the team discovered a third kind of photoreceptor that contained a light-sensitive substance called melanopsin not found in rods and cones. (The full name of these cells, if you’re interested, is intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells, or ipRGCs.) These receptors responded to light but weren’t part of the visual system.

Instead, their most obvious function was keeping the brain’s internal clock in sync with changes in daylight. And many scientists assumed that this circadian function also explained seasonal depression.

“People thought that the only reason you get mood problems is because your clock is misaligned,” Hattar says.

Other potential explanations included speculation that reduced sunlight was triggering depression by changing levels of serotonin, which can affect mood, or melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood. But the evidence for either of these possibilities has been weak.

Hattar and Berson were pretty sure there was a better reason. And, after years of searching, they found one.

In September, Hattar’s team published a study about mice suggesting a direct pathway between the third kind of photoreceptor in the retina and brain areas that affect mood.

When these cells were present, an artificially shortened cycle of light and dark caused a version of depression in a mouse. But when the team removed the cells with gene-editing tools, the mouse didn’t become depressed.

Sanes knew about the research, in part because he and Berson are neuroscientists at Brown. And he was so intrigued by the discovery of the new pathway between retina and brain in mice that he decided to see whether something similar was going on in human brains.

Sanes’ team put young adults in an MRI machine and measured their brain activity as they were exposed to different levels of light. This allowed the team to identify brain areas that seemed to be receiving signals from the photoreceptors Hattar and Berson had discovered.

Two of these areas were in the front of the brain. “It’s interesting because these areas seem to be the areas that have been shown in many studies to be involved in depression and other affective disorders,” Sanes says.

The areas also appeared to be part of the same circuit found in mice.

The finding needs to be confirmed. But Hattar is pretty confident that this circuit explains the link between light exposure and mood.

So now he’s trying to answer a new question: Why would evolution produce a brain that works this way?

“You will understand why you would need light to see,” he says, “but why do you need light to make you happy?”

Hattar hopes to find out. In the meantime, he has some advice for people who are feeling low: “Try to take your lunch outside. That will help you adjust your mood.”

Body maps show schizophrenia may effect how one experiences emotion

Colorful figures of the human body are helping Vanderbilt University researchers understand how people experience emotion through their bodies and how this process is radically altered in people with schizophrenia.

Sohee Park, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology, and Ph.D. student Lénie J. Torregrossa compared individuals with schizophrenia with matched control participants, asking each to fill in a “body map” in a way that correlates to the way they physically experience emotion. They used a computerized coloring task to locate where participants feel sensations when they experience, for example, anger or depression.

The outcomes differed radically between groups, with the control group showing distinct maps of sensations for 13 different emotions, indicating specific patterns of increased arousal and decreased energy across the body for each emotion. However, in individuals with schizophrenia, there was an overall reduction of bodily sensation across all emotions.

The study also found that individuals with schizophrenia don’t differentiate on their body maps for varying emotions. That may pose a problem for them in identifying, recognizing and verbalizing their emotions or trying to understand the emotions of others.

Torregrossa said the research will allow the team to move forward in developing ways to help people with schizophrenia process emotions, which, in turn, could improve interpersonal relationships.

“The main outcome of this research is that we have a better understanding of why people with schizophrenia might have trouble interacting with others,” she said. “What we can do now is help them learn to attend to physiological sensations arising from their bodies and use them to process emotions.”

Explore further: Gender and schizophrenia

More information: Lénie J Torregrossa et al, Anomalous Bodily Maps of Emotions in Schizophrenia, Schizophrenia Bulletin (2018). DOI: 10.1093/schbul/sby179

The lonely Americans: Research finds 76% of people surveyed show serious signs of loneliness

Folks feeling lonely as the holidays approach have a lot of company, a new study suggests.

Loneliness appears to be widespread among Americans, affecting three out of every four people, researchers have found.

Further, loneliness appears to spike at specific times during adulthood. Your late 20s, mid-50s and late 80s are times when you are most at risk of feeling lonely.

Wisdom appeared to be a strong factor in avoiding feelings of loneliness, the researchers said. People who had qualities of wisdom — empathy, compassion, control over their emotions, self-reflection — were much less likely to feel lonely.

The extent of loneliness detected in the study was a “surprise, because this was a normal population,” said senior researcher Dr. Dilip Jeste, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience with the University of California, San Diego. “This was not a group of people at high risk for emotional problems.”

On the other hand, the peaks of loneliness discovered in the study made sense to Jeste.

“These are three periods of life that are full of stress for different reasons,” Jeste said.

For this study, Jeste and his colleagues surveyed 340 average adults, aged 27 to 101, living in San Diego. Each person’s loneliness was measured using several different measures, including a 20-point loneliness scale developed at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

About 76 percent of people showed serious signs of loneliness based on results from the UCLA questionnaire, with 54 percent gauged as moderately lonely and 22 percent ranked as highly lonely.

Loneliness might not mean what you think it means, however.

“There’s a misperception that loneliness means social isolation,” Jeste said. “Loneliness is subjective. It is what you feel. The definition of loneliness is distress because of a discrepancy between actual social relationships and desired social relationships. There’s a discrepancy between what I want and what I have.”

Thus, people can feel lonely even if they are married and have a network of friends, if in their hearts they feel like it’s not enough, Jeste explained.

That said, highly lonely people were more likely to be single, live alone and have a personal income less than $35,000, the investigators found.

The observed peak time periods for loneliness reflected ages that can be challenging in a person’s life, Jeste noted:

  • The late 20s are a time when people are making choices that will affect the rest of their lives, such as their career, their choice of life partner and where they will settle. “It really puts a lot of responsibility on you,” Jeste said. “It’s a really difficult period. And when you compare yourself to others, you might feel you aren’t doing as well as your peers.”
  • The mid-50s are when people tend to experience a mid-life crisis, as signs of aging highlight the fact that their time on Earth is limited. “You see some of your friends dying, sometimes family members,” Jeste said. “You become aware of your mortality for the first time.”
  • The late 80s are a time of increased helplessness. Half of people at this age have dementia, and their physical abilities are in decline. “Often you’ve lost your spouse, and you don’t have many people left around you, either family or friends,” Jeste said.

People suffering from loneliness tended to have more depression, anxiety and stress in their lives, the study authors added.

And according to Craig Sawchuk, chair of Integrated Behavioral Health at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., loneliness and its accompanying emotional turmoil can harm a person’s physical health.

People who are lonely can tend to become homebodies, Sawchuk said. He was not involved with the study but was familiar with the findings.

“If we’re finding loneliness increases, you might see an increase in sedentary lifestyle as well,” which can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems, Sawchuk said. “These mental effects do have a wear and tear on us physically.”

Wisdom appears to serve as a buffer against loneliness, with specific components that provide important context in dealing with those feelings.

For example, Jeste suggested, people better able to control their emotions can more capably handle anxiety related to loneliness, and those who self-reflect have a greater understanding of why they feel lonely.

Spirituality and empathy help a person feel more connected with others, he added. “You know you are part of a much larger cosmos. You are never alone,” Jeste said. “There is something else besides you that will always be there.”

Julianne Holt-Lunstad is a professor of psychology and neuroscience with Brigham Young University in Utah. She said that while self-understanding is important, people fighting feelings of loneliness should not underestimate the importance of getting out there and interacting with others who share their values or interests.

Social connection can be thought of as a fundamental need for human beings, like food and water, Holt-Lunstad added. If so, loneliness is similar to hunger and thirst — a motivator for people to meet that need.

“If it’s the motive to seek out social connection or that recognition we are lacking that connection, it seems like that should be a part of the solution rather than just trying to suppress the symptoms,” she said.

But since loneliness is subjective, the solution to overcoming those feelings will be completely personal to each individual, Holt-Lunstad noted. For example, she pointed to one study that found getting involved in social groups ranked high both as what had worked for people and what had not worked to combat loneliness.

“The solution might not be the same for everybody,” Holt-Lunstad said.

The new study was published online Dec. 18 in the journal International Psychogeriatrics.

Jaded: Voters have high tolerance for politicians who lie, even those caught doing it

In a modern democracy, peddling conspiracies for political advantage is perhaps not so different from seeding an epidemic.

If a virus is to gain a foothold with the electorate, it will need a population of likely believers (“susceptibles” in public-health speak), a germ nimble enough to infect new hosts easily (an irresistible tall tale), and an eager “Amen choir” (also known as “super-spreaders”).

Unleashed on the body politic, a falsehood may spread across the social networks that supply us with information. Facebook is a doorknob slathered in germs, Twitter a sneezing coworker, and Instagram a child returning home after a day at school, ensuring the exposure of all.

But if lies, conspiracies and fake news are really like germs, you might think that fact-checking is the cure, and truth an effective antidote.

If only it were that easy.

New research offers fresh insights into the stubborn role of ideology in maintaining support for those who peddle falsehoods, and the limited power of fact-checking to change voters’ minds. Even in the face of immediate and authoritative corrections, we humans don’t budge easily, or for long, from established opinions about politics, politicians and the coverage they receive.

And some of us – in particular, those who endorse conservative positions – are quicker to believe assertions that warn of grim consequences or of sinister forces at work.

The findings of three new studies suggest that fact-checkers had better be persistent, and that their expectations of changing people’s minds had better be modest.

But the research also suggests that if fact-checkers wants the truth to matter, they should not be shy about touting the value of their services.

Arguably, the need for fact-checking has never been greater. The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” which maintains a running tally of the president’s false statements, has counted 6,420 false or misleading statements made by the president through Oct. 30, including more than 4,400 this year. A Fact Checker poll released this week has found that more than 6 in 10 Americans believe fact-checkers when they conclude that Trump has made a false claim – meaning that more than one-third of them do not.

Is credulity, and a vague mistrust of fact-checkers, unique to Americans, or is it a broader attribute of humans? It may be a bit of both.

In a study published Tuesday and conducted with a sample of 370 Australians, researchers found that the veracity of a political candidate’s claims does matter to voters – sometimes. When Australian subjects were shown an array of politicians’ false statements corrected by fact-checking, they reduced their belief of those assertions. When they were shown fact-checked true statements, whether attributed to a politician on the right or one on the left, their belief in the assertions increased as well.

This fact-checking changed subjects’ views about which politicians they supported, but only slightly – only when false statements outnumbered true statements by a ratio of 4-to-1. When false statements and true statements were attributed to a candidate in equal numbers – four falsehoods in balance with four true statements – Australian subjects didn’t change their opinions at all.

Study co-author Adam J. Berinksy, a political scientist at MIT, said he considered those results a bit less depressing than what he found when he tried the same experiment on American subjects. When the authors presented fact-checked assertions from Donald Trump and former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Americans, “the magnitude of the overall effect was minute,” even when false statements outweighed true ones by the same 4-to-1 margin.

Those results, which are not yet published, suggest that, although both Americans and Australians are capable of distinguishing fact from fiction (with help from fact-checkers), they are loath to alter their overall view of their favored candidate accordingly.

“They seem to be saying, ‘He may be a liar, but he’s my liar,’ ” Berinsky said.

Also “slightly depressing,” he added, was the short shelf life of a fact-check: A week after subjects in both countries saw politicians’ assertions corrected for truthfulness, they had forgotten virtually all of what they had learned.

But Berinsky said he took heart in Australians’ willingness to adjust their assessments of lying politicians even a little bit.

“I mainly study U.S. politics and am used to a world in which fact-checking doesn’t work very well, where people are really stuck in their lane and politicians are seemingly immune to any kind of facts,” he said. “It’s good to know there are countries in which this still can work.”

The findings echoed those of a report published last week in PLOS One, which demonstrated that the inclusion of fact-checking in an experimental news feed made subjects hungrier and more confident news consumers. It also made them more inclined to trust “mainstream media outlets.”

But there was a hitch: In addition to being very small, subjects’ shifts in attitude became evident only when their news feeds included an occasional “defense of journalism” article. Usually, these were opinion pieces that countered attacks on the profession.

“Without defense of journalism, fact checking had no effect on any of these outcomes,” Raymond J. Pingree, a professor of mass communications at Louisiana State University, and his coauthors concluded.

Self-identified Republicans in the study started out lower than Democrats in their trust of mainstream media, their confidence in their own ability to decide what is true in politics, and their intention to use a mainstream news portal in the future. But after a week of plying them with specialized news feeds, Pingree’s team found that people across the political spectrum responded well to the combination of fact checking and defense-of-journalism pieces.

If you’re starting to see a light at the end of the partisan tunnel, however, consider a third study published this week. It tested the idea that people are more inclined to believe unproven conspiracy theories when their party is out of power, a notion sometimes called the “conspiracy belief is for losers” hypothesis.

The study was led by UCLA anthropologist Daniel Fessler, who found that people whose political stances aligned them with American conservatism were far more likely than liberals to embrace falsehoods that warned of grim consequences.

Americans who hew to more progressive political stances were certainly credulous as well, the UCLA team found. But they were no more likely to believe a scary falsehood – say, that a drunken airline passenger could pry open a plane’s door in midair – than they were to buy into the far less terrifying myth that you can burn more calories by exercising on an empty stomach.

But were these inclinations real and enduring, or could they be explained by the fact that, when the experiment was run in October 2015 and September 2016, conservatives had been out of the White House for several years?

Fessler and Theodore Samore, a graduate student in UCLA’s anthropology department, repeated the experiment in 2016, after Donald Trump had won the presidential election, and in 2017, after Georgia Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore in a special election for a Senate seat. After Trump’s triumph, the researchers reasoned, conservatives should feel empowered and confident. After Jones’ victory, they presumed, liberals would likely feel hopeful once more.

But their original findings did not change: As they moved further right on the ideological spectrum, people were consistently more likely to believe frightening false claims, and found them more credible than emotionally neutral falsehoods. The results were published last week in PLOS One.

“It seems there’s just a fundamental difference in how credulous people are about hazards as a function of their orientation,” Fessler said. “How positively people feel about their party’s future doesn’t matter.”

That dynamic has worrisome implications: When believers of ominous warnings succeed at the polls, “they have the megaphone that power brings,” Fessler said. “And they use that – whether cynically or genuinely I can’t tell – to issue additional proclamations of danger.”

This, he said, has been President Trump’s stock in trade – foreign powers are taking advantage of the United States, dangerous hordes are storming the borders, and we need to build a wall to keep would-be invaders at bay.

“That cycle is very difficult to break,” Fessler said. What’s more, warning people who are inclined to believe that kind of narrative that they’re being lied to seems more likely to reinforce the conspiracy theory than to induce a change of heart.

“I do worry,” he said.

Melissa Healy is a health and science reporter with the Los Angeles Times writing from the Washington, D.C., area. She covers prescription drugs, obesity, nutrition and exercise, and neuroscience, mental health and human behavior. She’s been at The Times for more than 30 years, and has covered national security, environment, domestic social policy, Congress and the White House.

Scientists succeed in destroying HIV infected cells, suggest it will lead to a ‘cure’ for AIDS

Teams at the Institut Pasteur in Paris announced on Thursday they had succeeded in their work to destroy cells infected with HIV.

Their work, published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism, offers hope of a cure for AIDS patients.

Up to now, there has been no cure for AIDS, but instead, the disease has been treated by antiretrovirals.

These drugs block the infection and have saved many lives since they were discovered in the 90s, but they do not eliminate HIV cells from the body.

Patients are forced to take antiretrovirals for life because the drugs do not destroy the reserves of the infection stored in immune Cd4 T cells.

Researchers noticed the virus didn’t infect all the Cd4 T cells but didn’t understand why.

In the study, they managed to identify the characteristics of Cd4 T lymphocytes which are most likely to be infected by the virus, allowing it to spread.

Experiments showed the higher the metabolic activity of the cell, the higher its glucose consumption, and the more likely it is to be infected with HIV.

Scientists were able to block the activity of the lymphocytes, making them resistant to infection and eventually eliminating HIV.

In the lab, lymphocytes have been able to block HIV infection.

Institut Pasteur said in a statement: “This work represents an important step toward the consideration of a possible remission through the elimination of reservoir cells.”

“This is an interesting first step but we are not at the stage where it can be applicable to humans in the near future,” said Jean-Michel Molina, professor of infectious diseases at Saint-Louis hospital in Paris.

“We need to continue research and this publication is an additional hope,” he went on.

But he said the work was “extremely important because it provides very interesting information about the reservoir cells of the virus that, in people on tri-therapy, persist despite the treatment, and that force people to take the treatment throughout their lives.”

HIV and AIDS are estimated to have caused around 35 million deaths worldwide since they were identified in the early 1980s.

This latest breakthrough comes a month after researchers found a new HIV drug eliminates up to 99% of the virus within four weeks of treatment.

The groundbreaking Gammora drug kills HIV-infected cells in human subjects without harming healthy cells.

Just 6 months of walking may reverse cognitive decline, study says

Worried about your aging brain? Getting your heart pumping with something as simple as walking or cycling just three times a week seems to improve thinking skills, new research says. Add a heart-healthy diet, and you maximize the benefits, possibly shaving years off your brain’s functional age, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.

“Our operating model was that by improving cardiovascular risk, you’re also improving neurocognitive functioning,” said lead study author James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University. “You’re improving brain health at the same time as improving heart health.”

Many experts “are already convinced about the benefits of lifestyle interventions to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular dementia,” said Dr. Richard Isaacson, who directs the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine. “But for those who are not, this study is a randomized, clinical trial that illustrates the benefits.

“You can do something today for a better brain tomorrow,” said Isaacson, who was not involved in the research.

Diet, exercise or nothing at all

The study was a first, said Blumenthal, who has long studied the effects of diet and exercise on depression and overall cardiac health.

“I don’t think there is another study that looked at the separate and combined effects of exercise and diet in slowing cognitive decline in patients who are vulnerable to develop dementia in later life,” he said.

The study enrolled 160 adults who had high blood pressure or other risks for cardiovascular disease, who never exercised and who had verified cognitive concerns such as difficulty making decisions, remembering or concentrating. Participants were an average age of 65, two-thirds female and equally divided between whites and minorities. Anyone diagnosed with dementia or unable to exercise was excluded.

Researchers randomly divided participants into four groups for the six-month study. One group started the DASH diet, short for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. DASH is a widely respected heart-healthy diet that cuts salt, fatty foods and sweets while emphasizing vegetables, fruits and whole grains. This group received nutritional guidance on how to stick to the diet but was not encouraged to change their couch-potato habits.

A second group exercised but was not encouraged to diet. For the first three months, this group was supervised at a cardiac rehab facility where they did non-strenuous exercise three times a week: They warmed up for 10 minutes and then did 35 minutes of continuous walking or stationary cycling. During the last three months of the study, this group exercised at home, filling out compliance logs that were monitored by research staff.

The third group did both: They exercised three times a week and followed the DASH diet. The fourth group received only advice on reducing their cardiovascular risk during a 30-minute call with a health educator but was told not to change their diet and exercise habits.

Before starting their assigned path, participants underwent a battery of cognitive tests, a treadmill stress assessment and a dietary analysis. In addition, their blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids were recorded. The tests were repeated at the conclusion of the study.

Change in only six months

The group who only exercised saw significantly greater improvements in their executive functioning skills than the group who did no exercise.

“The results showed that controlled aerobic activity within a very short period of time can have a significant impact on the part of the brain that keeps people taking care of themselves, paying their bills and the like,” Isaacson said. “Not only can you improve, but you can improve within six months!”

Blumenthal noted, “Remember, these are older adults who are completely sedentary and have verified cognitive impairments. We had no dropouts, and everyone was able to sustain the exercise program and do it on their own. That was great.”

The group who followed the DASH diet with no exercise didn’t show a statistically significant improvement in thinking skills, but both Blumenthal and Iscaason stressed that they only missed it by a small margin.

“I would be cautious in saying diet didn’t help, because I believe it likely did,” Isaacson said. “While the brain sits in a separate compartment, it’s still part of the body, so everything that affects body will also affect the brain.”

However, it was the group who combined exercise and the DASH diet who saw the greatest benefit. This group averaged nearly 47 points on the overall tests of executive thinking skills, compared with 42 points for those who only exercised and about 38 points for those who were told not to change their diet and exercise habits.

In fact, the group that both dieted and exercised reversed their brain’s aging by nine years.

Here’s how that worked, Blumenthal said: At the start of the study, the group’s average executive functional score was 93 years, a whopping 28 years older than their average chronological age of 65.

But after just six months of exercising and following the DASH diet, their executive function improved by nine years, bringing their mental age down to 84.

The control group’s executive function declined by six months, or the length of the trial, which was to be expected with no interventions, Blumenthal said.

No improvement in memory

Unfortunately, there was no improvement in memory for any of the groups. That’s not surprising, Isaacson said.

“We can positively improve executive function with lifestyle interventions more quickly, but memory takes longer to respond,” he said. “It could be that if this study had continued for 18 months or used a different type of brain diet, memory too would have improved.”

What’s needed now, Isaacson added, are additional studies: “If we could get multiple centers together to do multisite studies, we will learn more.”

Because those who combined diet and exercise saw the greatest improvements, it may be that multiple lifestyle changes, not just diet and exercise, are needed to maximize success, Blumenthal said.

What’s important, he said, is that “adopting a healthy lifestyle can improve your risk, improve neurocognitive functioning, and it’s not too late to start. Even in older people with some indication that their brains are compromised, they also benefit as well.”