Mindfulness Meditation Heightens a Listener’s Musical Engagement

Jan. 30, 2013 — When De’Anthony Thomas returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, says University of Oregon researcher Frank Diaz, Thomas put Ducks fans into a heightened zone of engagement for watching the game, not unlike what was experienced by music students who were first exposed to a brief session of mindfulness meditation before hearing an opera passage.


As a high school orchestra and band educator in Florida, Diaz had flirted with yoga and light meditation in a quest to heighten music engagement. He noticed, anecdotally, a connection to improved attention by his students. Now a professor in the UO School of Music and Dance, Diaz is exploring how mindfulness meditation may enhance both music engagement and performance. He began the research while a doctoral student at Florida State University.

In a study appearing online ahead of publication in the journalPsychology of Music, he reports a rise of focused engagement for student participants who listened to a 10-minute excerpt of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme” after listening to a 15-minute recording of a segment produced by the Duke University Center for Mindfulness Research. Mindfulness is an ancient technique that helps direct a person’s consciousness into the present. In this case, listeners were reminded to focus on physical sensations or their breathing if their attention drifted.

The 132 student participants were divided into four groups. Those undergoing mindfulness preparation were then additionally divided into subgroups that were tested for two types of peak experiences, a highly emotional experience known as aesthetic response, and flow — the listeners’ effortless engagement or how much “in the zone” they were as they listened to the music.

Control groups, which did not hear the mindfulness recording, were tested either for aesthetic or flow responses. Subjects were tested for real time responses using a Continuous Response Digital Interface developed in the late 1980s at Florida State University. The device allows subjects to turn a dial, rather than speaking, in response to how music moves them as they listen. The dial’s movement was recorded.

Overall, 97 percent of the participants had either one or several moments of flow or aesthetic response. Of the 69 subjects who engaged in mindfulness, 64 percent thought the technique had enhanced their listening experience.

There was a discrepancy between the subjects’ responses gathered in real time and summative data — how they reacted by turning the dial while listening vs. how they recalled their experience at the end of the experiments. Diaz said that the real time responses more accurately captured the attention being devoted to the music, and that the mindfulness technique helped drive participants into the zone of readiness to listen to music they’ve heard many times before.

“It tends to take habituated responses and renews them. It’s almost like a reset button,” Diaz said. “For musicians, if you’re a symphony player, you’ve probably played ‘Beethoven’s No. 9′ 10,000 times. Your response is so habituated that you don’t get any pleasure out of it anymore. The cool thing about La Boheme is that it has been used in music-related studies for years, and we have these patterns documented over time by people studying responses to music. That lets you compare past and present with a new group.”

The study, he said, has potential ramifications for music education. “Attention can be modified,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be done chemically or by changing the environment. Human beings have the capacity to learn to self-regulate their attention, and when you do that it increases the quality of typical, everyday experiences. Listening to music mindfully can be a powerful way of increasing your quality of life. We really found significant increases in the participants’ aesthetic and flow experience. Some were intense. They were really in the zone.”

The paper by Diaz is among a growing number of research projects devoted to understanding how meditative techniques such as mindfulness affect the brain and improves health and behavior.

In the current issue of SCAN (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience), UO psychologist Michael Posner and Yi-Yuan Tang of Texas Tech University noted in an editorial that the numbers of research papers published on mindfulness have grown from 28 in 2001 to 397 in 2011.

Posner and Tang have collaborated on a series of projects that look at brain changes involved in a mindfulness technique called integrative body-mind training that is practiced in parts of China. Tang, who had served as a visiting professor at the UO, remains affiliated with the UO psychology department as a research professor. The pair’s editorial provides an overview of research findings in recent years and how mindfulness may apply in the mental health and medical fields.

Also in SCAN, a four-member research team that includes UO psychologist Elliot T. Berkman studied mindfulness meditation using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In a study of 31 participants, Berkman showed that the focused-breathing aspect of mindfulness meditation activated an attention network that includes the brain’s parietal and prefrontal structures.

“This research is contributing to our overall understanding of how the brain works,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, UO vice president for research and innovation, and dean of the graduate school. “Examining these alternative means of enhancing brain activity has the potential to benefit society in a number of ways, and may lead to new treatments for mental illness, brain injuries and other disorders.”

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byUniversity of Oregon.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


University of Oregon (2013, January 30). Mindfulness meditation heightens a listener’s musical engagement. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130132415.htm
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Surprising Connections Between Our Well-Being and Giving, Getting, and Gratitude

Jan. 19, 2013 — We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is good for our general health and well-being. But new research is highlighting a more surprising benefit of good sleep: more feelings of gratitude for relationships.


 

“A plethora of research highlights the importance of getting a good night’s sleep for physical and psychological well-being, yet in our society, people still seem to take pride in needing, and getting, little sleep,” says Amie Gordon of the University of California, Berkeley. “And in the past, research has shown that gratitude promotes good sleep, but our research looks at the link in the other direction and, to our knowledge, is the first to show that everyday experiences of poor sleep are negatively associated with gratitude toward others — an important emotion that helps form and maintain close social bonds.”

Social psychologists are increasingly finding that “prosocial” behavior — including expressing gratitude and giving to others — is key to our psychological well-being. Even how we choose to spend our money on purchases affects our health and happiness. And children develop specific ways to help others from a very young age. Gordon and other researchers will be presenting some of these latest findings at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual meeting January 19 in New Orleans.

Sleeping to feel grateful

A large body of research has documented that people who experience gratitude are happier and healthier. In three new studies, Gordon and Serena Chen, also of the the University of California, Berkeley, explored how poor sleep affects people’s feelings of gratitude.

In the first study, people who experienced a poor night’s sleep were less grateful after listing five things in life for which they were appreciative than were people who had slept well the night before. The researchers adapted the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which measures sleep quality and number of hours slept, among other variables, to evaluate the previous night’s sleep.

In the second study, participants recorded their sleep from the previous night for two weeks and their feelings of gratitude. The researchers found a decline in gratitude associated with poor sleep, and those participants reported feeling more selfish those days.

The final study looked at heterosexual couples and found that people tend to feel less grateful toward their romantic partners if either they or their partners generally sleep poorly. “In line with this finding, people reported feeling less appreciated by their partners if they or their partner tends to sleep poorly, suggesting that the lack of gratitude is transmitted to the partner,” Gordon says.

“Poor sleep is not just experienced in isolation,” Gordon says. “Instead, it influences our interactions with others, such as our ability to be grateful, a vital social emotion.”

Giving away money to feel wealthy

Just as expressing gratitude confers benefits, so too does giving to others. New research shows that people all around the world — from Canada to Uganda, from South Africa to India — derive more happiness from spending money on others than they do on themselves.

“For the first time, we show that giving away money or spending it on others confers the ironic psychological benefit of increasing the giver’s sense of wealth,” says Michael Norton of Harvard Business School and co-author with Elizabeth Dunn of the University of British Columbia of the upcoming book Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending. In a suite of new, not-yet published, studies, Norton and colleagues showed that charitable giving makes people feel wealthier.

This research follows on other recent work published inPsychological Science by Norton and colleagues that shows that giving time to others — from helping with homework to shoveling a neighbors’ driveway — actually makes people feel that they have more time. “In fact, giving time away alleviates people’s sense of time famine even more than receiving unexpected windfalls of free time.”

That people feel wealthier from spending money on others may explain why poor individuals tend to give away a higher fraction of their income than members of the middle class do. In one study, researchers reported that Americans earning less than $20,000 a year give a higher percentage of their income to charity than others earning up to $300,000 a year.

“Our results suggest when the poor give money away, that very act might mitigate their feelings of poverty,” Norton says. “More broadly than this specific benefit, our investigation contributes to the growing body of research documenting the benefits of prosocial behavior, which include greater happiness, reduced mortality, and better immune function.”

Buying experiences to feel happy

In related research, psychologists are finding that spending money on experiential purchases, such as vacations, concerts, and meals out, tends to bring us more happiness than material purchases, such as clothing, jewelry, or electronic gadgets. Amit Kumar and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University are investigating one potential explanation for this difference: that experiences prompt storytelling more than possessions do.

In new research, they asked participants to recall either a significant experiential purchase or a significant material purchase. They then asked them how much they had talked about the purchase they recalled, and questions related to the satisfaction they derived from their purchase. Participants rated a higher satisfaction for experiences than for possessions, which was because they were more likely to talk about the experiences with other people.

In another experiment, the researchers measured what happens when people cannot talk about their purchases. They asked participants if they would be willing to pay a price to be able to talk about a beach vacation (experiential purchase) or an electronic good (material purchase). “Participants were more likely to switch from a better purchase that they could not talk about to a lesser purchase that they could talk about in the experiential condition than in the material one,” Kumar says.

“Well-being is likely to be enhanced by shifting the balance of spending in our consumer society away from material goods and towards experiential ones,” Kumar says. “This research also suggests that there are benefits to be had not only by nudging people to choose experiences over possessions, but also by encouraging people to share stories about their experiences.”

Knowing what is best to help others

The roots for how we give to others form at a very young age. Children, it turns out, are very sophisticated givers — not only coming to someone’s aid when needed but also coming up with the best strategy for doing so, often independent of an adult’s instruction.

In new research, Kristina Olson of Yale University and Alia Martin have found that children often will act, thinking they know better than others what is best for them or others. In a series of experiments, the researchers investigate whether 3-year-old children will help someone by ignoring the specific request and instead offering a better alternative.

In one study, for example, when an experimenter asks the child for a specific marker, but the child knows that marker does not work, the child will instead offer up a better marker. In another study, a pre-recorded child asks the child participant to give her a piece of chocolate via a tube that supposedly connects them. If the participant knows that chocolate makes the other child sick, the participant will decide to give her fruit snacks instead.

“Perhaps most provocatively, children will selectively decide not to help in this way if they don’t like the person,” Olson says. “For example, if an experimenter has previously been mean, children won’t warn the adult of a potential harm — such as something sharp in the container they are reaching in — but will if the experimenter was not mean.”

“These results suggest that children are able to help adults and peers already by the preschool years in rather complex ways, even when the beneficiary is misguided about what he or she wants,” Olson says. “Children don’t just blindly do as they are requested, but rather consider a person’s goal and consider alternative possible ways to achieve that goal.”

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided bySociety for Personality and Social Psychology.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2013, January 19). Surprising connections between our well-being and giving, getting, and gratitude. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130119185025.htm

Children Who Spend Three-Quarters of Their Time in Sedentary Behavior Have Up to Nine Times Poorer Motor Coordination Than Active Peers

ScienceDaily (Aug. 13, 2012) — Children who spend more than three-quarters of their time engaging in sedentary behaviour, such as watching TV and sitting at computers, have up to nine times poorer motor coordination than their more active peers, reveals a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

(Credit: YMCA of the East Bay, Oakland, CA)

 

The study, involving Portuguese children, found that physical activity alone was not enough to overcome the negative effect of sedentary behaviour on basic motor coordination skills such as walking, throwing or catching, which are considered the building blocks of more complex movements.

“Childhood is a critical time for the development of motor coordination skills which are essential for health and well-being,” said lead author Dr Luis Lopes, from the University of Minho. “We know that sedentary lifestyles have a negative effect on these skills and are associated with decreased fitness, lower self-esteem, decreased academic achievement and increased obesity.”

Dr Lopes’ team studied 110 girls and 103 boys aged nine to ten from 13 urban elementary schools. The children’s sedentary behaviour and physical activity were objectively measured with accelerometers (a small device that children attach to their waist that quantifies movement counts and intensities) over five consecutive days. Motor coordination was evaluated with the KTK test (Körperkoordination Test für Kinder), which includes balance, jumping laterally, hopping on one leg over an obstacle and shifting platforms.

The tests were supplemented with a questionnaire for parents to assess health variables, before the authors compiled the results into three models to calculate odd ratios for predicting motor coordination. These were adjusted for physical activity, accelerometer wear time, waist to height ratio and home variables.

On average the children spent 75.6% of their time being sedentary, but the impact on motor coordination was found to be greater on boys than girls.

Girls who spent 77.3% or more of their time being sedentary were 4 to 5 times less likely to have normal motor coordination than more active girls. However, boys who were sedentary for more than 76% of their time were between 5 to 9 times less likely to have good or normal motor coordination than their active peers.

“It is very clear from our study that a high level of sedentary behaviour is an independent predictor of low motor coordination, regardless of physical activity levels and other key factors” said Lopes. “High sedentary behaviour had a significant impact on the children’s motor coordination, with boys being more adversely affected than girls.”

Until now there has been little research into the links between sedentary behaviour and motor coordination, but these findings reveal that physical activity did not counteract the negative effects that high levels of sedentary behaviour had on motor coordination.

“The results demonstrate the importance of setting a maximum time for sedentary behaviour, while encouraging children to increase their amount of physical activity,” concluded Lopes. “We hope that our findings will make a valuable contribution to the debate on child health and encourage future investigations on this subject.”


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byWiley, via AlphaGalileo.


Journal Reference:

  1. Luís Lopes, Rute Santos, Beatriz Pereira, Vítor Pires Lopes. Associations between sedentary behavior and motor coordination in childrenAmerican Journal of Human Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22310
Citation:

Wiley (2012, August 13). Children who spend three-quarters of their time in sedentary behavior have up to nine times poorer motor coordination than active peers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815082723.htm

Dermatologists’ Tips to Reduce the Signs of Aging

ScienceDaily (Aug. 14, 2012) — Getting better results from your anti-aging products can be as easy as following simple tips from dermatologists.

“People often think that the more expensive a product is, the more effective it will be,” said board-certified dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, MD, FAAD, founding director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals in New York City. “That’s not always the case. People need to shop smart since there are some very effective, affordable products in the skin care aisles of their local stores.”

To get the most from age-fighting products, Dr. Taylor recommends people also follow these tips:

1. Wear sunscreen every day since the sun’s rays can accelerate signs of aging. Use a sunscreen or facial moisturizer that offers broad-spectrum protection and has an SPF of at least 30. Be sure to apply sunscreen to all skin that is not covered by clothing.

2. Do not tan. Getting a tan from the sun or a tanning bed exposes you to harmful UV rays that can accelerate aging, causing wrinkles, age spots, a blotchy complexion and even skin cancer.

3. Moisturize. Moisturizing traps water in the skin, which can help reduce the appearance of some fine lines and make your complexion look brighter and younger.

4. Test products, even those labeled “hypoallergenic.” To test, dab a small amount of the product on your inner forearm twice a day for four to five days. If you do not have a reaction, it is likely safe for you to apply to your face.

5. Use the product as directed. Active ingredients can do more harm than good when too much is used. Applying more than directed can cause clogged pores, a blotchy complexion, or other unwanted effects.

6. Stop using products that sting or burn unless prescribed by a dermatologist. Irritating the skin makes signs of aging more noticeable.

o Some products prescribed by a dermatologist may cause stinging or burning. When under a dermatologist’s care, this can be safe and effective.

7. Limit the number of products. Using too many products on your skin, especially more than one anti-aging product, tends to irritate the skin. This often makes signs of aging more noticeable.

“It’s very important that people allow time for the product to work. While a moisturizer can immediately plump up fine lines, most products take at least six weeks to work and sometimes it can take three months,” said Dr. Taylor. “See a dermatologist if after following these tips you still do not see the expected results,” said Dr. Taylor.

 


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byAmerican Academy of Dermatology (AAD), via Newswise.


Citation:

American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) (2012, August 14). Dermatologists’ tips to reduce the signs of aging. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 16, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120814085330.htm

Why Do Older Adults Display More Positive Emotion? It Might Have to Do With What They’re Looking at

ScienceDaily (Aug. 8, 2012) — Research has shown that older adults display more positive emotions and are quicker to regulate out of negative emotional states than younger adults. Given the declines in cognitive functioning and physical health that tend to come with age, we might expect that age would be associated with worse moods, not better ones.

(Credit: quietwaterscoaching.com)


 

So what explains older adults’ positive mood regulation?

In a new article in the August issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researcher Derek Isaacowitz of Northeastern University explores positive looking as one possible explanation: older adults may be better at regulating emotion because they tend to direct their eyes away from negative material or toward positive material.

Isaacowitz presents evidence indicating that, compared to younger adults, older adults prefer positive looking patterns and they show the most positive looking when they are in bad moods, even though this is when younger adults show the most negative looking.

Research conducted by Isaacowitz and colleagues indicates that there is actually a causal relationship between positive looking and mood: for adults with good attentional abilities, positive looking patterns can help to regulate their mood.

Although older adults prefer to focus on positive stimuli, the research shows that they aren’t necessarily missing any salient or important information.

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided byAssociation for Psychological Science.

 


Journal Reference:

  1. D. M. Isaacowitz. Mood Regulation in Real Time: Age Differences in the Role of LookingCurrent Directions in Psychological Science, 2012; 21 (4): 237 DOI:10.1177/0963721412448651
Citation:

Association for Psychological Science (2012, August 8). Why do older adults display more positive emotion? It might have to do with what they’re looking at. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120808132715.htm

Early Relationships, Not Brainpower, Key to Adult Happiness

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2012) — Social connection is a more important route to adult well-being than academic ability.

Social connection is a more important route to adult well-being than academic ability. (Credit: © Rido / Fotolia)


Positive social relationships in childhood and adolescence are key to adult well-being, according to Associate Professor Craig Olsson from Deakin University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, and his colleagues. In contrast, academic achievement appears to have little effect on adult well-being. The exploratory work, looking at the child and adolescent origins of well-being in adulthood, is published online in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies.

We know very little about how aspects of childhood and adolescent development, such as academic and social-emotional function, affect adult well-being — defined here as a combination of a sense of coherence, positive coping strategies, social engagement and self-perceived strengths.

Olsson and team analysed data for 804 people followed up for 32 years, who participated in the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study (DMHDS) in New Zealand. They explored the relative importance of early academic and social pathways to adult well-being.

In particular, they measured the relationship between level of family disadvantage in childhood, social connectedness in childhood, language development in childhood, social connectedness in adolescence, academic achievement in adolescence and well-being in adulthood. Social connectedness in childhood is defined by the parent and teacher ratings of the child being liked, not being alone, and the child’s level of confidence. Social connectedness in adolescence is demonstrated by social attachments (parents, peers, school, confidant) and participation in youth groups and sporting clubs.

The researchers found, on the one hand, a strong pathway from child and adolescent social connectedness to adult well-being. This illustrates the enduring significance of positive social relationships over the lifespan to adulthood. On the other hand, the pathway from early language development, through adolescent academic achievement, to adult well-being was weak, which is in line with existing research showing a lack of association between socioeconomic prosperity and happiness.

The analyses also suggest that the social and academic pathways are not intimately related to one another, and may be parallel paths.

The authors conclude: “If these pathways are separate, then positive social development across childhood and adolescence requires investments beyond development of the academic curriculum.”

 

Link:

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=122939&CultureCode=en

Journal Reference:

  1. Craig A. Olsson, Rob McGee, Shyamala Nada-Raja, Sheila M. Williams. A 32-Year Longitudinal Study of Child and Adolescent Pathways to Well-Being in Adulthood. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2012; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-012-9369-8

Citation:

Springer Science+Business Media (2012, August 2). Early relationships, not brainpower, key to adult happiness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/08/120802092222.htm

 

Mindfulness Training May Improve Health and Well-Being of Pregnant Women and Their Newborns, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Aug. 2, 2012) — First-time mothers who pay attention to their emotional and physical changes during their pregnancy may feel better and have healthier newborns than new mothers who don’t, according to research to be presented at American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention.

(Credit: The Sun)


“These findings continue more than 40 years of research that has made clear that whether you are mindless or mindful makes a big difference in every aspect of your health and well-being –from competence to longevity,” Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University and a pioneer in researching mindfulness, said in an interview. Langer is a past recipient of APA’s Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest.

For Langer’s recent study, researchers trained women pregnant with their first child in mindfulness with instructions to notice subtle changes in their feelings and physical sensations each day, she said. When compared with two other groups of first-time pregnant mothers who did not have the mindfulness training, these women reported more well-being and positive feelings and less emotional distress. “They had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction during this period of their pregnancy and up to at least a month after birth,” Langer said. “And this also had a positive impact on their deliveries and overall health of the newborns.”

Teaching mindfulness through attention to variability may be helpful for many disorders, including asthma, depression and learning disabilities, to name a few, according to Langer.

“Noticing even subtle fluctuations in how you feel can counter mindlessness, or the illusion of stability. We tend to hold things still in our minds, despite the fact that all the while they are changing. If we open up our minds, a world of possibility presents itself,” she said.

Author of the popular books “Mindfulness,” “The Power of Mindful Learning,” “On Becoming an Artist: Reinventing Yourself Through Mindful Creativity,” and most recently, “Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility,” Langer is known for her work on the illusion of control, aging, decision-making and mindfulness theory.

In her lecture, Langer will describe her research to test possibilities rather than find out what is typical. “Psychologists have traditionally studied the ‘norm’ rather than exceptions that could show that we are capable of far more than we currently realize,” she said. Among other research, she will describe her work showing how a change in mindset has resulted in weight loss and improved vision and hearing, and how subtle differences in choice of words can improve health.

Langer first demonstrated the psychology of possibilities in her landmark 1981 “counterclockwise” experiment in which a group of elderly men spent time immersed in a retreat created to reflect daily life in the 1950s and where they were told to speak of the past in the present tense. Men in a comparison group reminisced for the week and were given no instructions regarding verb tense. The experimental group showed greater improvement in vision, strength, joint flexibility, finger length (their arthritis diminished and they could straighten their fingers more) and manual dexterity. On intelligence tests, 63 percent of the experimental group improved their scores, compared to 44 percent of the control group, Langer said.

BBC television recently replicated the study with British celebrities in a program that has been viewed in Great Britain, Australia, India and Hong Kong. It’s currently being replicated with local celebrities in Germany and the Netherlands, Langer said.

“It is important for people to realize there can be enhanced possibilities for people of all ages and all walks of life,” Langer emphasized. “My research has shown how using a different word, offering a small choice or making a subtle change in the physical environment can improve our health and well-being. Small changes can make large differences, so we should open ourselves to the impossible and embrace a psychology of possibility.”

Presentation: “The Psychology of Possibility,” Ellen J. Langer, PhD, Session 2254, American Psychological Foundation Arthur W. Staats Lecture on Unifying Psychology, Aug. 3.

 

Link:

http://www.newswise.com/articles/psychology-of-possibilities-can-enhance-health-happiness-research-says

Citation:

American Psychological Association (APA) (2012, August 2). Mindfulness training may improve health and well-being of pregnant women and their newborns, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 4, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/08/120802092210.htm

 

The Longer You’re Awake, the Slower You Get

ScienceDaily (July 27, 2012) — Anyone that has ever had trouble sleeping can attest to the difficulties at work the following day. Experts recommend eight hours of sleep per night for ideal health and productivity, but what if five to six hours of sleep is your norm? Is your work still negatively affected? A team of researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have discovered that regardless of how tired you perceive yourself to be, that lack of sleep can influence the way you perform certain tasks.


 

This finding is published in the July 26, 2012 online edition of The Journal of Vision.

“Our team decided to look at how sleep might affect complex visual search tasks, because they are common in safety-sensitive activities, such as air-traffic control, baggage screening, and monitoring power plant operations,” explained Jeanne F. Duffy, PhD, MBA, senior author on this study and associate neuroscientist at BWH. “These types of jobs involve processes that require repeated, quick memory encoding and retrieval of visual information, in combination with decision making about the information.”

Researchers collected and analyzed data from visual search tasks from 12 participants over a one month study. In the first week, all participants were scheduled to sleep 10-12 hours per night to make sure they were well-rested. For the following three weeks, the participants were scheduled to sleep the equivalent of 5.6 hours per night, and also had their sleep times scheduled on a 28-hour cycle, mirroring chronic jet lag. The research team gave the participants computer tests that involved visual search tasks and recorded how quickly the participants could find important information, and also how accurate they were in identifying it. The researchers report that the longer the participants were awake, the more slowly they identified the important information in the test. Additionally, during the biological night time, 12 a.m. -6 a.m., participants (who were unaware of the time throughout the study) also performed the tasks more slowly than they did during the daytime.

“This research provides valuable information for workers, and their employers, who perform these types of visual search tasks during the night shift, because they will do it much more slowly than when they are working during the day,” said Duffy. “The longer someone is awake, the more the ability to perform a task, in this case a visual search, is hindered, and this impact of being awake is even stronger at night.”

While the accuracy of the participants stayed the fairly constant, they were slower to identify the relevant information as the weeks went on. The self-ratings of sleepiness only got slightly worse during the second and third weeks on the study schedule, yet the data show that they were performing the visual search tasks significantly slower than in the first week. This finding suggests that someone’s perceptions of how tired they are do not always match their performance ability, explains Duffy.

This research was supported by NIH grant P01 AG09975 and was conducted in the BWH CCI, part of the Harvard Catalyst Clinical and Translational Science Center (UL1 RR025758-01), formerly a GCRC (M01RR02635). Development and implementation of the visual search task was supported in part by NIH grant R21 AT002571. JFD was supported in part by the BWHBRI Fund to Sustain Research Excellence; MM was supported by fellowships from the La-Roche and Novartis Foundations (Switzerland) and Jazz Pharmaceuticals (USA); SWC was supported in part by a fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

 

Link:

http://www.brighamandwomens.org/about_bwh/publicaffairs/news/pressreleases/PressRelease.aspx?sub=0&PageID=1231

Journal Reference:

  1. Marc Pomplun,    Edward J. Silva,    Joseph M. Ronda,    Sean W. Cain,    Mirjam Y. Münch,    Charles A. Czeisler,    and Jeanne F. Duffy. The effects of circadian phase, time awake, and imposed sleep restriction on performing complex visual tasks: Evidence from comparative visual search. The Journal of Vision, July 26, 2012 DOI: 10.1167/12.7.14

Citation:

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (2012, July 27). The longer you’re awake, the slower you get. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120727111317.htm

Being in Awe Can Expand Time and Enhance Well-Being

ScienceDaily (July 19, 2012) — It doesn’t matter what we’ve experienced — whether it’s the breathtaking scope of the Grand Canyon, the ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis, or the exhilarating view from the top of the Eiffel Tower — at some point in our lives we’ve all had the feeling of being in a complete and overwhelming sense of awe.


Awe seems to be a universal emotion, but it has been largely neglected by scientists — until now.

Psychological scientists Melanie Rudd and Jennifer Aaker of Stanford University Graduate School of Business and Kathleen Vohs of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management devised a way to study this feeling of awe in the laboratory. Across three different experiments, they found that jaw-dropping moments made participants feel like they had more time available and made them more patient, less materialistic, and more willing to volunteer time to help others.

The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe’s ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to brings us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.

Now that’s awesome.

 

Link:

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/being-in-awe-can-expand-time-and-enhance-well-being.html

Journal Reference:

  1. Melanie Rudd, Jennifer Aaker and Kathleen Vohs. Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Psychological Science, 2012

Citation:

Association for Psychological Science (2012, July 19). Being in awe can expand time and enhance well-being. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 21, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120719161901.htm

Coastal Populations Are Healthier Than Those Inland, UK Study Finds

ScienceDaily (July 16, 2012) — A new study from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Exeter, has revealed that people living near the coast tend to have better health than those living inland.


Researchers from the Centre used data from the UK’s census to examine how health varied across the country, finding that people were more likely to have good health the closer they live to the sea. The analysis also showed that the link between living near the coast and good health was strongest in the most economically deprived communities.

The study used data from the 2001 census for England, which brought together responses from over 48 million people. Researchers looked at the proportion of people who reported their health as being “Good” (rather than “Fairly Good or “Not Good”) and then compared this with how close those respondents lived to the coast. They also took into account the way that age, sex and a range of social and economic factors (like education and income) vary across the country.

The results show that on average, populations living by the sea report rates of good health more than similar populations living inland. The authors were keen to point out that although this effect is relatively small, when applied to the whole population the impacts on public health could be substantial. Along with other studies the results of this work suggest that access to ‘good’ environments may have a role in reducing inequality in health between the wealthiest and poorest members of society.

Previous research has shown that the coastal environment may not only offer better opportunities for its inhabitants to be active, but also provide significant benefits in terms of stress reduction. Another recent study conducted by the Centre in collaboration with Natural England found that visits to the coast left people feeling calmer, more relaxed and more revitalised than visits to city parks or countryside. One reason those living in coastal communities may attain better physical health could be due to the stress relief offered by spending time near to the sea.

Lead author of the study, Dr Ben Wheeler said “We know that people usually have a good time when they go to the beach, but there is strikingly little evidence of how spending time at the coast can affect health and wellbeing. By analyzing data for the whole population, our research suggests that there is a positive effect, although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect. We need to carry out more sophisticated studies to try to unravel the reasons that may explain the relationship we’re seeing. If the evidence is there, it might help to provide governments with the guidance necessary to wisely and sustainably use our valuable coasts to help improve the health of the whole UK population.”

Dr Mathew White said “While not everyone can live by the sea, some of the health promoting features of coastal environments could be transferable to other places. Any future initiatives will need to balance the potential benefits of coastal access against threats from extreme events, climate change impacts, and the unsustainable exploitation of coastal locations.”

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Benedict W. Wheeler, Mathew White, Will Stahl-Timmins, Michael H. Depledge. Does living by the coast improve health and wellbeing? Health & Place, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2012.06.015

 

The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry (2012, July 16). Coastal populations are healthier than those inland, UK study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 18, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120716191439.htm