Psychology

Playground roughhousing has long been a tradition of children and adolescents, much to the chagrin of several generations of parents who worry that their child will be hurt or worse, become accustom to violence and aggression. But animal research may paint a different portrait of rough and tumble play; one that suggests that social and emotional development may rely heavily on such peer interaction.

Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) has suggested that the course and symptomatic expression of schizophrenia is relatively more benign in developing societies. However, a new study from Current Anthropology challenges this assumption, comparing biological and cultural indicators of schizophrenia in urban, Western societies with study data from the island of Palau, which has one of the highest rates of schizophrenia diagnosis in the world today.

“A 1% average worldwide population prevalence of schizophrenia is routinely interpreted in the medical literature as implying a uniform distribution,” write Roger J. Sullivan (California State University, Sacramento), John S. Allen (University of Southern California), and Karen L. Nero (University of Canterbury, New Zealand).

Sexual victimization can mean several things -- verbal coercion to have sex with an intimate partner, rape by a stranger, a woman fondled in a bar or forced intercourse when a woman is too intoxicated to consent or object.

Researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions report that 18 percent of young women recruited into a study experienced sexual victimization in a two-year period. Victimization was defined as unwanted sexual contact, verbally coerced sex, rape or attempted rape. Among this group, the majority (approximately 66 percent) stated that their victimization was perpetrated by an intimate partner.

ver wonder why some women seem to be more ill-tempered than others? University of Pittsburgh researchers have found that behaviors such as anger, hostility and aggression may be genetic, rooted in variations in a serotonin receptor gene. Indrani Halder, Ph.D., of the Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Program at the University of Pittsburgh, will present the findings today at the American Psychosomatic Society's Annual Meeting, held in Budapest, Hungary.

Previous studies have associated the hormone serotonin with anger and aggression in both humans and animals and have shown that increased serotonin activity is related to a decrease in angry and aggressive behaviors.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon, are associated with increased grey matter volume in areas of the brain commonly linked to mood and behavior according to a University of Pittsburgh study.

Findings will be presented today by Sarah M. Conklin, Ph.D., postdoctoral scholar at the Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine Program in the department of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh, at the American Psychosomatic Society’s Annual Meeting, held in Budapest, Hungary.

Animal research has shown that raising omega-3 intake leads to structural brain changes. In a separate study presented by Dr.

A few days ago on the Dean Edell radio show, I’m told, Dean Edell told his listeners that nicotine patches don’t cause any addiction problems; people just don’t get addicted to them. To anyone who has read The Shangri-La Diet this will sound eerily familiar: Dr. William Jacobs, a professor of psychiatry and addiction researcher at the University of Florida, told me that no one gets addicted to unflavored sugar water, although lots of people get addicted to Coke, Pepsi, and other forms of flavored sugar water.

Speed daters who romantically desired most of their potential partners were rejected quickly and overwhelmingly, according to a new Northwestern University study.

Conventional wisdom has long taught that one of the best ways to get someone to like you is to make it clear that you like them. Now researchers have discovered that this law of reciprocity is in dire need of an asterisk in the domain of romantic attraction.


To explore dynamics in the opening minutes of romantic attraction, researchers set up seven speed-dating sessions for students. Credit: Northwestern University.

Why do some individuals sacrifice their own self-interest to help others? The evolution and maintenance of cooperative behavior is a classic puzzle in evolutionary biology. In some animal societies, cooperation occurs in close-knit family groups and kin selection explains apparently selfless behavior.

Not so for the lance-tailed manakin. Males of this little tropical bird cooperate in spectacular courtship displays with unrelated partners, and the benefits of lending a helping wing may only come years down the line. Instead of fighting over females, pairs of male lance-tailed manakins team up to court prospective mates.


Adult male lance-tailed manakin on a branch.

Psychologists have been fond of stating in recent years that human happiness, or what psychologists call subjective well-being, is largely independent of our life circumstances. The wealthy aren’t much happier than the middle class, married people aren’t much happier than single people, healthy people aren’t much happier than sick people, and so on.

One might reasonably conclude, therefore, that changes in life circumstances would not have long-term effects on our happiness. This indeed has been the dominant model of subjective well-being: People adapt to major life events, both positive and negative, and our happiness pretty much stays constant through our lives, even if it is occasionally perturbed.

Do omega-3 fatty acids improve brain function? I blogged earlier that switching from olive oil (low omega-3) to walnut oil (high omega-3) and flaxseed-oil capsules (very high omega-3) caused my sleep, my balance, and maybe my mood to improve. If you are interested in duplicating what I did, here are details:

Supplies. I take (a) 2 tablespoons/day walnut oil (Spectrum Organic refined). Store locator at www.spectrumorganics.com will help you locate this. Total 240 calories. (b) 10 1000-mg capsules/day of flaxseed oil (Longs cold-pressed softgels). Longs drugstore house brand, which is only available at Longs drugstores. Total 100 calories.