Being kind could help you live longer

What can kindness do for you? Give you a warm glow perhaps, or a feeling of well-being? While that may be true, scientists and academics at a new research centre say it can do much more - it can extend your life. The staff at UCLA's Bedari Kindness institute are ready for the jokes. "We look at the scientific point of view. We aren't sitting around in circles, holding hands. We're talking about the psychology, the biology, of positive social interactions," says Daniel Fessler, the institute's inaugural director. Ahead of World Kindness Day this week, what does it actually mean to be kind - and why is it important? This is what the experts want to examine. And they are deadly serious about it. After all, it could be a matter of life and death, they say. Mr Fessler's work...

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Ten habits that mentally strong people rely on

Despite West Point Military Academy's rigorous selection process, one in five students drop out by graduation day. A sizeable number leave the summer before freshman year, when cadets go through a rigorous program called "Beast." Beast consists of extreme physical, mental, and social challenges that are designed to test candidates' perseverance. University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth conducted a study in which she sought to determine which cadets would make it through the Beast program. The rigorous interviews and testing that cadets went through to get into West Point in the first place told Angela that IQ and talent weren't the deciding factors. So, Angela developed her own test to determine which cadets had the mental strength to conquer the Beast. She called it the "Grit Scale," and it was a highly accurate predictor of cadet success. The Grit Scale...

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Study: Autistic adults who were not diagnosed until later in life grew up believing they were ‘bad people’

Many over-50s who were diagnosed with autism late in life had grown up believing they were bad people, according to a new study published in the journal Health Psychology and Behavioural Medicine. Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University interviewed nine adults about their experiences of being diagnosed with autism in their 50s. The participants were aged between 52 and 54. As children, some participants recounted having no friends and being isolated from others, and as adults they could not understand why people treated them differently. Several had been treated for anxiety and depression. ...

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Researchers find new class of neurons that map memories

Researchers have uncovered a new class of brain cell that acts like the red pin on a Google map to tell you where you found things on past journeys. These neurons, dubbed memory-trace cells, are the place markers that record whether you had that mouth-watering gelati opposite the Trevi Fountain or just up the road from the Pantheon. On a more sombre note, they are clustered in a part of the brain that takes an early hit in the onset of Alzheimer's disease and may well explain the appalling degradation of memory seen in that illness. To unearth these very special neurons, the researchers, led by biomedical engineer Joshua Jacobs from Columbia University in the US, devised a clever video game, albeit one unlikely to rival Fortnite as a teen meme. Players ride a trolley along a road bounded on...

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SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: Meaning in Chaos: Exploring Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meaning (Chapter 2)

Dr. Jordan Peterson's 1999 classic Maps of Meaning contains much the raw material for his more recent lectures and writing. While a dense read at times, it's worth the effort. On this episode of MindMatters we take a look at the first sections in Chapter 2, which explore the universals of human experience: the unbearable present, the encounter with chaos, and its transformation into the ideal future. With examples from everyday life and neuropsychology, Peterson shows how we are hardwired to respond to novelty, constantly comparing our present state with our ideal future - however vague our notion of it may be. And how the inescapable presence of chaos and novelty mean we must constantly adapt our goals and the steps we take to reach them, constantly learning in the process and constantly transforming the present into the future. For...

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Stress hormone helps control the circadian rhythm of brain cells in rats

Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have shown how the brain's circadian rhythm in rats is, among other things, controlled by the stress hormone corticosterone - in humans called cortisol. This has been shown by means of a completely new method in the form of implanted micropumps. As day turns into night, and night turns into day, the vast majority of living organisms follow a fixed circadian rhythm that controls everything from sleep needs to body temperature. This internal clock is found in everything from bacteria to humans and is controlled by some very distinct hereditary genes, known as clock genes. In the brain, clock genes are particularly active in the so-called suprachiasmatic nucleus. It sits just above the point where the optic nerves cross and sends signals to the brain about the surrounding light level. From here, the suprachiasmatic...

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Being close to water is good for the mind, body and soul

After her mother's sudden death, Catherine Kelly felt the call of the sea. She was in her 20s and had been working as a geographer in London away from her native Ireland. She spent a year in Dublin with her family, then accepted an academic position on the west coast, near Westport in County Mayo. "I thought: 'I need to go and get my head cleared in this place, to be blown away by the wind and nature.'" Kelly bought a little house in a remote area and surfed, swam and walked a three-mile-long beach twice a day. "I guess the five or six years that I spent there on the wild Atlantic coast just healed me, really." She didn't understand why that might be until some years later, when she started to see scientific literature that proved what she...

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Neurofeedback training shown to rebalance brain circuits in those with depression

A new study has found that patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) who had recovered from symptoms were able to strengthen some of their brain connections, increasing their self-esteem. The research showed that connectivity between certain brain regions — previously found to be decreased when people with a history of depression feel guilt — could be strengthened in a single session of neurofeedback training. Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), captured before and after the procedure, to measure the difference. Using fMRI, the researchers found that people with depression, even when recovered from symptoms, showed less connectivity between two specific brain areas while experiencing feelings of guilt — the right anterior superior temporal (ATL) and the anterior subgenual cingulate (SCC). ...

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Dia De Los Muertos: Mexicans honor the souls of lost loved ones on Day of the Dead

Millions of Mexicans dressed up, paraded, and laid food and flowers for the souls of relatives who have passed away in celebration of the Day of the Dead on Saturday. Residents of the San Andres Mixquic area south of Mexico City adorned relatives' graves with flowers and lit candles as they gathered together in remembrance of those loved ones who have died. People donned special costumes and painted their faces for the commemorations, and festooned the streets with special Day of the Dead artwork. ...

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Caitlin Johnstone: Things are only going to get weirder

Things are getting stranger and stranger. If you would have told someone ten years ago that Dennis Rodman would one day be helping to negotiate peace between North Korea and President Donald Trump, they would have assumed you were describing some weird movie cooked up in the mind of Mike Judge or the South Park guys. But in this timeline it's an actual news story. Everything about the last few years has been weird. The mass media's behavior has been weird, Russiagate was weird, Ukrainegate is weird, a former presidential candidate accusing a current presidential candidate of working for the Kremlin was weird, people constantly accusing strangers on the internet of being Russian agents is weird, factions of the US government constantly leaking information against other factions of the US government is weird, the DNC getting caught rigging their primary...

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