Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Clinical Neuropsychology, Health and Prevention In Aging, Health Psychology, Human Development, Neuroscience, Physiology.

Description: We’ve known for a while about the positive effects of aerobic activity on slowing the aging process. The question hasn’t been addressed is the effect of light weight training not just on muscle mass but on brain health. This article describes a study by researchers at the University bridge calm your that examined this question directly.

Source: Lifting Weights, Twice a Week, May Aid the Brain. The New York Times Well Blog, Gretchen Reynolds

Date: October 21, 2015

Weight work and Brain

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Links: Article Link —

We know that exercise is good for the brain. But most of the research in this area is focused on aerobic activity such as running or walking. The brain like other matter in our body is negatively affected by time. Brain scan studies have consistently shown that by late middle age many of us begin to develop age-related holes or lesions in the white matter of our brain. While these changes appear to have little effect initially they eventually may start to affect our cognitive functioning. This particular study made use of a large sample of healthy women between the ages of 65 and 75 were enrolled in a large scale brain health study. In this study the researchers focused on 54 of these women whose brain scans showed existing white matter lesions. They studied these women’s gate, speed, and stability and then created three different groups using random assignment. One group engaged in late upper and lower body weight training once a week while a second group did the same thing twice a week. The third group was a control group and were provided a twice-weekly program of stretching and balance training. Each group continued their regime for a year and at the end of that year had their brains scanned again in their white matter lesions examined. The findings were clear, with women in the control group and those in the once a week weight training group showing increases in the size and number of white matter lesions as well as a significant slowing in their walking gates. Those would lift weights twice a week showed less shrinkage or chattering of their white matter and while there lesions had grown and multiplied somewhat this is not occurred nearly to the same extent as those in the other groups. While it is not clear what these differences translate into noticeable changes in cognitive functioning it is worth considering insuring that a light weight training component exists in the exercise regimes of aging individuals.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. How did the researchers investigate the question of whether weight training makes a difference in the brains of aging individuals?
  2. Why might it be important, and studies such as these, to investigate the question of dosage (that is, how much of a treatment is needed for effective be observed)?
  3. Why do you think the effects reported in this study occurred?

References (Read Further):

Bolandzadeh, N., Tam, R., Handy, T. C., Nagamatsu, L. S., Hsu, C. L., Davis, J. C., … & Liu‐Ambrose, T. (2015). Resistance Training and White Matter Lesion Progression in Older Women: Exploratory Analysis of a 12‐Month Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.


Cotman, C. W., Berchtold, N. C., & Christie, L. A. (2007). Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. Trends in neurosciences, 30(9), 464-472.


Erickson, K. (2015). Effects of exercise on the hippocampus and memory in older adults. In Proceedings of The Physiological Society. The Physiological Society.

Posted by & filed under Clinical Neuropsychology, Human Development, Neuroscience, Physical Development: Birth, Motor Skills, and Growth, Prenatal Development.

Description: We know that stimulation provided by postnatal experience and perhaps also through dream state sleep plays an important role in the development of neural connections in the newborn brain. With this in mind what would you predict about the complexity of neural connections in the brains of infants born 10 weeks early and who consequently had a higher degree of stimulation, at least prior to their originally projected birthdate?

Source: Premature Birth May Weaken Brain Connections, Study Reveals. Times Gazette, Ben Kochman

Date: October 20, 2015

Prematuruity and Brain connections

Photo Credit:

Links: Article Link —

Research has shown that infants born prematurely at a higher risk for motor problems cognitive difficulties in ADHD as well as anxiety and autism spectrum disorders. In an effort to investigate why this might be the case researchers in a paper presented at the neuroscience 2015 annual meetings of the Society for Neuroscience used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 76 infants born 10 or more weeks early to the brains of 58 full-term infants. Each infant was scanned in the first few days after their birth and the premature infants were also scanned within a couple of days of their originally projected due date. The largest finding was that the brain networks involved in indication, attention and emotion are less complex in the brains of the infant’s been born premature even at their projected due dates. Interesting to speculate as to why this might be and to think about what sorts of studies one might design to look into this question a little more deeply.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Describe the differences noted in the brains of infants born 10 or more weeks prematurely when compared with the brains of infants born close to their projected birthdates.
  2. What sorts of factors might contribute to these differences?
  3. What sorts of interventions might we suggest you would like to reduce or eliminate these differences?

References (Read Further):

Chen, L., Huang, X., He, N., Hu, X., Chen, Y., Li, Y., … & Gong, Q. (2015). Microstructural abnormalities of the brain white matter in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. J Psychiatry Neurosci, 1, 8872147.


Qiu, A., Mori, S., & Miller, M. I. (2015). Diffusion Tensor Imaging for Understanding Brain Development in Early Life. Annual review of psychology, 66, 853-876.


Travis, K. E., Leitner, Y., Feldman, H. M., & Ben‐Shachar, M. (2015). Cerebellar white matter pathways are associated with reading skills in children and adolescents. Human brain mapping, 36(4), 1536-1553.


Posted by & filed under Moral Development, Persuasion, Social Influence, Social Psychology, Social Psychology.

Description: By the time you read this the 2015 Canadian federal election will all be over but the balloting will already be a thing of the past. Perhaps you don’t want to think anymore about getting into political arguments with friends. However, if you’d wish to had any point during the recent protracted campaign that you just had a little more skill and political argumentation in this article is for you.

Source: How to Win Your Political Argument, Science Of Us, Jesse Singal

Date: October 18, 2015

Political Arguments

Photo Credit:

Links: Article Link —

Based on a number of psychological research studies by several psychological researchers this article provides a number of helpful tips for winning political arguments with friends and relatives and other adversaries. It includes helpful suggestions such as starting by forgetting facts as being in a way useful, looking for ways to have your opponent hang themselves, behaving in a nice rather than a not nice manner, finding ways to defuse the disgust that may underlie one or another of the positions for which you are arguing, and finally to change the frame of your argument so that it fits in a broader array of what are called all foundations of the basis on which people make emotional decisions. Understanding whether people are coming from can be very useful in seeking ways to move them toward your way of thinking particularly in political matters.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the ways suggested in the article to make your political arguments more effective?
  2. What is the relationship between rationality, emotionality and other factors when one is arguing in the political domain?
  3. What is Moral Foundations Theory and how might it help you make more persuasive political arguments? How might it help political speechwriters?

References (Read Further):

Feinberg, M., & Willer, R. (2013). The moral roots of environmental attitudes. Psychological Science, 24(1), 56-62.

Feinberg, M., Antonenko, O., Willer, R., Horberg, E. J., & John, O. P. (2013, October 7). Gut Check: Reappraisal of Disgust Helps Explain Liberal–Conservative Differences on Issues of Purity, Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0033727

Rozenblit, L., & Keil, F. (2002). The misunderstood limits of folk science: An illusion of explanatory depth. Cognitive Science, 26(5), 521-562.

Posted by & filed under Child Development, Human Development, Physical Development: Birth, Motor Skills, and Growth, Prenatal Development.

Description: While it might not surprise you to hear that research has consistently demonstrated a relationship between the maternal stress during pregnancy and later cognitive and emotional difficulties among the children born of those pregnancies what might you expect in the way of a possible relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy and the level of motor development and motor skill amongst children of those pregnancies up to 17 years after birth?

Source: Pregnancy Stress Affects Development Of Child’s Motor Skills: Study, Tech Times Ted Ranosa

Date: October 15, 2015


Maternal Stress

Photo Credit: Raul Hernandez Gonzalez | Flickr

Links: Article Link —

Research has consistently shown a relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy and sub- optimal development in the areas of mental cognitive and behavioural growth on the part of their children. The research paper described in this media article indicates that there also may be a relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy and later child motor development. In this large-scale Australian study, nearly 3000 mothers were asked questions early and late in their pregnancies regarding their level of stress and their experience of potentially stressful life events. After they gave birth their children’s motor skills and coordination development were assessed at 10, 14 and 17 years of age. The researchers found a significant negative relationship between level of maternal stress during pregnancy and their child’s subsequent motor and coordination development. This means that mothers experience higher levels of stress have children with comparatively lower levels of motor coordination at each of the three ages at which they were assessed. The researchers suggested that these findings could be related to the negative effects of maternal stress on the development of children’s cerebral cortex during the prenatal developmental period. They also indicate, however, that the source of deficits can be addressed through intervention and support provided the identified early.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is the relationship between maternal stress during pregnancy and subsequent child development? What developmental areas are affected?
  2. What sorts of things should we be thinking about providing in the way of advice, support, and services for pregnant women in light of findings such as those reported in this article?
  3. How much control do parents typically have in relation to their levels of stress, and what sorts of supports might be of assistance (and who should provide those supports)?

References (Read Further):

Beth Hands et al. (2015) The Impact of Maternal Gestational Stress on Motor Development in Late Childhood and Adolescence: A Longitudinal Study. Child Development, DOI: 10.1111/cdev.12449

Mulder, E. J. H., De Medina, P. R., Huizink, A. C., Van den Bergh, B. R. H., Buitelaar, J. K., & Visser, G. H. A. (2002). Prenatal maternal stress: effects on pregnancy and the (unborn) child. Early human development, 70(1), 3-14.

Feinberg, M. E., Roettger, M. E., Jones, D. E., Paul, I. M., & Kan, M. L. (2015). Effects of a psychosocial couple-based prevention program on adverse birth outcomes. Maternal and child health journal, 19(1), 102-111.

Bussières, E. L., Tarabulsy, G. M., Pearson, J., Tessier, R., Forest, J. C., & Giguère, Y. (2015). Maternal prenatal stress and infant birth weight and gestational age: A meta-analysis of prospective studies. Developmental Review, 36, 179-199.

Posted by & filed under Intelligence, Neuroscience.

Description: Very intelligent people are sometimes referred to as “eggheads” which entails a general suggestion that if they’re smart than they must have big brains which by extension would also require big heads making them look like eggheads. The research discussed in this article looks directly at this claim and suggests there is not a lot to it.

Source: University of Vienna. “Larger brains do not lead to high IQs, new meta-analysis finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 October 2015. < >.

Date: October 15, 2015

Brain size

Links: Article Link —

So are big headed people smarter than small headed people? Well if it is the size of one’s brain that makes one intelligent then there are species on the planet other than human beings such as whales and elephants that should be very much smarter than us given the size of their brains relative to the size of ours. The fact that this doesn’t seem to be true is also reflected in a large meta-analytic study described in this research article which drew together data from a large number of studies resulting in a pooled sample of 8000 individuals for whom IQ scores were available as well as detailed brain size information. The research report’s authors indicate having found a weak relationship between brain size, referred to as brain volume, and intelligence and indicate that the weakness of this relationship suggests that brain size alone is an insufficient predictor of intelligence. They also point out that while male brains on average a larger than female brains, there’s no systematic indication that male IQs are higher than female IQs. They go on to suggest that it is the structure found within the brain that it is much more significantly related to intelligence and to adaptation.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is there a relationship between brain size and intelligence and if so how strong is this relationship and doesn’t have any real world applicability?
  2. Why might it be that some species such as whales and elephants have larger brains than we do yet we can fairly confidently suggest that they are less intelligent than we are?
  3. What are some of the assumptions that might lead people, theorists, and even researchers, to think that there might be a relationship between brain size and intelligence?

References (Read Further):

Jakob Pietschnig, Lars Penke, Jelte M. Wicherts, Michael Zeiler, Martin Voracek. Meta-analysis of associations between human brain volume and intelligence differences: How strong are they and what do they mean? Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.09.017


Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Gender-Role Development Sex Differences, Human Development, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Intervention: Children and Adolescents, Legal Ethical Issues, Psychological Disorders, Sexual Disorders Gender Dysphoria, Stereotype Prejudice Discrimination.

Description: What was considered a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association until 1973? Would you be surprised to hear that it was homosexuality? Despite this, there is still some strong sentiment out there that what LGBTQ youth require is not understanding support or affirmation but therapy to convert them “back” to heterosexuality. This article describes a recently released report that talks about this important issue and offers advice to parents youth and professionals against the use of conversion therapy with LGBTQ youth.

Source: Reuters RPT-U.S. report calls for end to ‘conversion therapy’ for LGBTQ youth, Andrew M. Seaman

Date: October 15, 2015

LGBT Conversion

Photo Credit:

Links: Article Link —

The idea that a non-heterosexual sexual identity is a typical and in need of therapeutic intervention and change is been around for a long time. The report discussed in this article focuses specifically on conversion therapies which are “therapies” or other actions aimed at changing individual’s sexual orientation and shifting their gender identity in the direction of heterosexuality. The report draws on substantial amounts of research in pointing out that conversion therapies are “not effective, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and are not appropriate mental health treatments…. And furthermore, the practice is potentially harmful… [having been linked to] increases in depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and poor self-esteem”. The report suggests that bands need to be put in place against conversion therapy as is currently the case in four United States states.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is conversion therapy and who practices it?
  2. What sorts of ethical considerations arise in relation to the use of conversion therapy with LG BTQ youth especially in relation to help research evidence on this practice?
  3. What are some of the implications of this article and the report to which it refers for our parents, schools, communities, and peers want to be thinking about and responding to their LGBTQ children, students, citizens and friends?

References (Read Further):

SAMHSA (2015) Ending Conversion Therapy: Supporting and Affirming LGBTQ Youth. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Washington, DC.

Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (2012) The history of psychiatry and homosexuality. Accessed October 18, 2015,

Posted by & filed under Assessment: Intellectual-Cognitive Measures, Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Cognitive Development: The Information-Processing Approach, Consciousness, Language-Thought.

Description: It is quite common for those talking about the nature of human rationality to point out that a number of the shortcuts or heuristics that we use in analyzing information that the world is presenting us may in fact lead us in the direction of making decisions that are ultimately less rational. This review focuses on a book on this topic that suggests that we might want to reconsider this typically negative view of the nature of human rationality.

Source: PsycCritiques, (August 2015) In the Twilight of Probabilities: Link Below

SImply Rational

Date: August 31, 2015

Links: Review:

There is no denying that much of human decision-making is driven by utilities or heuristics that in a strict sense are somewhat less than rational in nature. It is quite common to point out how in matters of economics or simply in the matter of automobile selection human sometimes behave in ways that are not rational and make decisions that are potentially sub- optimal on the basis of built-in heuristics and biases. The author of the book that is the subject of this review asks us to step back a bit and to look at the context in which this thinking typically occurs. He points out that many of the decisions we are required to make throughout our regular lives are not the simple defined questions that we might find in laboratories that allow themselves to be dealt with using more formal rational processes but are rather what is sometimes described as messy and wicked problems due to their fundamental complexity and uncertainty. The author points out that the strategies we’ve developed for coping with uncertain situations to provide us with messy and wicked problems are in fact a large part of how we evolved or adapted to our current reality. He invites us to think of the real-life contexts in which decisions are made before we become too critical of the “natural” human cognitive processes.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What are some of the differences between the sorts of problems research participants are asked to confront in cognitive psychology laboratories in the sorts of problems those same individuals face in the outside world?
  2. From an adaptive perspective what are the strengths and weaknesses of utilities or heuristics human beings used to solve problems?
  3. How do you think we ought to think about the relationship between logical rationality and human adaptation to the world?

References (Further Reading):

Gigerenzer, Gerd (2015) Simply Rational: Decision Making in the Real World New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 312 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-939007-6.


Lieder, F., & Griffiths, T. L. (2015). When to use which heuristic: A rational solution to the strategy selection problem. In Proceedings of the 37th annual conference of the cognitive science society. Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.

Boudry, M., Vlerick, M., & McKay, R. (2015). Can evolution get us off the hook? Evaluating the ecological defence of human rationality. Consciousness and cognition, 33, 524-535.

Posted by & filed under Group Processes, Legal Ethical Issues, Persuasion, Social Influence, Social Psychology.

Description: The stories behind two of the most well-known and perhaps notorious social psychology experiments remain fascinating as well as topically applicable to the current human situation. Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment and Milgram’s study on the suppose it affects of punishment upon human learning are the basis of two recent documentary style films and both are well worth looking for.

Source: Film Websites and Film Festival Sites

Date: October 12, 2015

Links: Experimenter web site


Quiet Rage Web site Trailer

Much has been said about the ethical issues related to Milgram’s and Zimbardo’s experiments but in addition much is also been said about the questions raised by these two studies. Recently, documentary films focusing on these studies and the research psychologists who conceptualized and ran them to become available. Both films released this year and are currently making the rounds film festivals big and small from the Sundance festival to the Calgary film Festival. I have not had an opportunity yet to view these films but from what I’ve read they’re both worth viewing and would certainly be worth viewing with a group of other people interested in discussing their applications for psychology and for society. If you go to the film websites you can find updated information about the availability of these films on DVD and/or through theatrical release. We strongly encourage you to find them and watch them.

You could say we are puppets. But I believe that we are puppets with perception, with awareness. Sometimes we can see the strings. And perhaps our awareness is the first step in our liberation.

— Stanley Milgram

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Does the unethical nature of both of these studies have implications for how we ought to think about and view their results those results suggest about human nature and the human condition?
  2. What were the fundamental big questions that Zimbardo and Milgram sought out to address in their studies?
  3. What other sorts of studies or other investigative strategies might we try we are still interested in addressing the kinds of questions raised by Zimbardo and Milgram, especially if we wish to do so in an ethical manner?

References (Further Reading):

Zimbardo, P. (2007). The Lucifer effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. New York.

Griggs, R. A., & Whitehead, G. I. (2015). Coverage of Milgram’s Obedience Experiments in Social Psychology Textbooks Where Have All the Criticisms Gone?. Teaching of Psychology, 42(4), 315-322.




Posted by & filed under Abnormal Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Eating Disorders, Intervention: Children Adolescents, Neuroscience, Physiology, Research Methods, Treatment of Psychological Disorders.

Description: It turns out that individuals struggling with anorexia seem to have a narrower array of microbes in their gut than do people without the disorder. What might this observed relationship suggest?

Source: Today Health and Wellness

Date: October 6, 2015


Links: Article Link –

The Study:

In this study a small group of individuals struggling with anorexia were assessed at admission to a treatment facility and specifically had stool samples taken and assayed in order to determine the nature and complexity of the bacteria living in their gut. What was consistently found was that these individuals upon admission for treatment for anorexia had lower bacteria counts and less complexity in the types of bacteria found in their gut at admission. Further it was found upon discharge that the nature and complexity of the bacteria in their gut had increased significantly and move much closer to what would otherwise be considered normal levels. As you can imagine the authors speculate as to the nature and potential causal direction of this relationship will and whether or not it might suggest addition to the treatment of anorexia. While this might seem entirely correlational, has been quite a bit of work lately pointing to a relationship between the gut and the brain, referred to as the gut brain axis and suggesting what happens in the gut may have implications for what happens in the brain.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might face-to-face interaction as opposed to social media use, email or texting be associated with lower depression scores? What is it about face-to-face contact that promotes well-being?
  2. Given that the sample in this study is comprised entirely of adults over the age of 50, what questions, if any, does this give rise to when you think about whether or not the results of the study could be generalized across the entire population (all ages)?
  3. How might the results of the study be different if it had been conducted among a typical young adult undergraduate population? Or would you expect the results to be similar and why?

References (Further Reading):

Susan C. Kleiman, Hunna J. Watson, Emily C. Bulik-Sullivan, Eun Young Huh, Lisa M. Tarantino, Cynthia M. Bulik, Ian M. Carroll. The Intestinal Microbiota in Acute Anorexia Nervosa and During Renourishment. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2015; 1


Fetissov, S. O., & Dechelotte, P. (2011). The new link between gut–brain axis and neuropsychiatric disorders. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 14(5), 477-482.


Pärtty, A., Kalliomäki, M., Wacklin, P., Salminen, S., & Isolauri, E. (2015). A possible link between early probiotic intervention and the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later in childhood: a randomized trial. Pediatric research, 77(6), 823-828.

Posted by & filed under Aging Psychological Disorders, Aging-Psychological Disorders, Clinical Health Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Depression, Health and Prevention In Aging, Health Psychology, Successful Aging.

Description: Are all social contacts more or less equal in terms of what they do for us? The study described in this article looked at the relationships between the frequency of several types of social contact and symptoms of depression among people over 50 years of age. What do YOU think they found?

Source: Today Health and Wellness

Date: October 6, 2015

Depression and face to face

Photo Credit: shutterstock/

Links: Article Links –

The Study:

You’ve probably heard mention of the positive relationship between social contact and well-being particularly in an aging population. It’s also the case of the use of social media has provided a potentially large increase in the opportunities for social connection. Given this, what would you expect to find in a current study examining the relationship between social contact and levels of depression within a particular population? The study described in this article, and referenced below, looked at precisely this question in a group of individuals over the age of 50. What they found was that only face to face contact was related to symptoms of depression; specifically more face-to-face contact was associated with lower depressive symptomatology scores in this group. It is interesting to try and think about why this might be the case.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might face-to-face interaction as opposed to social media use, email or texting be associated with lower depression scores? What is it about face-to-face contact that promotes well-being?
  2. Given that the sample in this study is comprised entirely of adults over the age of 50, what questions, if any, does this give rise to when you think about whether or not the results of the study could be generalized across the entire population (all ages)?
  3. How might the results of the study be different if it had been conducted among a typical young adult undergraduate population? Or would you expect the results to be similar and why?

References (Further Reading):

Teo, A. R., Choi, H., Andrea, S. B., Valenstein, M., Newsom, J. T., Dobscha, S. K., & Zivin, K. (2015). Does Mode of Contact with Different Types of Social Relationships Predict Depression in Older Adults? Evidence from a Nationally Representative Survey. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. (link above).


McIntyre, E., Wiener, K. K., & Saliba, A. J. (2015). Compulsive Internet use and relations between social connectedness, and introversion. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 569-574.


de Vries, D. A., Peter, J., de Graaf, H., & Nikken, P. (2015). Adolescents’ Social Network Site Use, Peer Appearance-Related Feedback, and Body Dissatisfaction: Testing a Mediation Model. Journal of youth and adolescence, 1-14.