What Percentage of Your Brain do You Use?

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5 Reasons Alcohol Makes You Fat

It’s not the carbs or sugar that go to your waistline, it’s the booze.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

Alcohol's empty calories quickly go towards fat.

Alcohol’s empty calories quickly go towards fat.

Alcoholic beverages don’t feature nutrition labels the way that other foods we eat do. The food police might rail against sugar, fats, and over-processing. But nutritionist Nicole Senior, allied with the University of Sydney that invented the glycemic index, points to alcohol as “the pink elephant in the room.”

At the very least, alcohol poses a five–fold challenge for those trying to watch their waistline. Continue reading

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How Facial Botox Changes Your Brain—Literally

Unintended consequences make the cosmetic procedure far from benign.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

Lesser wrinkling, but at what cost?

Lesser wrinkling, but at what cost?

The injection of Botox to reduce facial lines and wrinkles has long been assumed to be purely cosmetic in nature. Hollywood’s rush to it has normalized the procedure and even given it an air of frivolity.

New research, however, has revealed an unintentional and rather dramatic consequence: Botox injections in the forehead rearrange the brain’s sensory map of the hands. The scary part is that clients typically come back for regular injections, because the paralysis the toxin induces lasts only two to three months. The unanswered question is whether repeated treatments over a period of years results in permanent changes to one’s brain.

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Why We’re All Overwhelmed Today

It’s no wonder: We ask Stone Age brains to manage Digital Age data streams.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

Overextended, Overcommitted, and Overwhelmed

Overextended, Overcommitted, and Overwhelmed

We all face the paradox: We want to unplug and push back against modern life’s demands on our time and attention. We want a breather. Yet we continue to flit from task to task and endure countless interruptions while bemoaning time wasted and productivity that could be a lot better. We say we’re sick of Instagram and Twitter, or that we’re going on a Facebook diet to limit the time we spend staring at screens. Perhaps we’ve promised ourselves that we’re going to delete our accounts altogether.

And yet we don’t.

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10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Some subjects are worth mastering in order to succeed as adults.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

10 Lessons Learned the Hard WayAfter leading IBM for six decades Thomas Watson Jr. was asked what lessons he had learned from making bad decisions. “Good judgment,” he said, “comes from experience. And experience comes from bad judgment.”

His adage illustrates the rule that error is a powerful teacher. The human brain learns best by monitoring its mistakes and trying not to repeat them.

But what if one never learned certain lessons to begin with? Then everyday life can be a source of great stress.

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Why Millennials Can’t Anticipate or Fend For Themselves

Helicopter parents prevent children from coping with setbacks and disappointment.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

Why Millennials Can’t AnticipateNews alert: People in their 20s do not consider themselves adults. Reports abound that Millennials have trouble balancing school, socializing, homework, and laundry. Given that I earned my MD at the age of 24, this picture is hard to understand for cohorts of my generation. Nonetheless, reporters such as Brooke Donatone writing in Salon tell of college students who fall apart if their parents don’t keep track of their schedules.

In 2002 psychologist Jeffrey Arnett coined the term “emerging adult.” We now see that he was prescient. Both the Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal have reported that Millennials bring their parents to job interviews. Companies such as LinkedIn and Google host take–your–parents–to–work days. Adulthood, and the responsibilities that normally come with it, has been thoroughly turned upside down.

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Deterrence: Bad Feelings Motivate Us More Than Pleasant Ones

Deterrence is strong motivation for diplomacy, credit cards, and personal choice.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

deterenceI got a refresher course in deterrence during a visit to the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, Arizona. Titan II was the largest nuclear missile the United States ever built. During the cold war, 54 of these six–story behemoths stood alert in underground silos.

The last remaining bunker in Tucson is massive, a marvel of 1960s engineering, and now a National Historic Landmark. In elementary school I went through air raid drills in which we crouched beneath our desks. At home I was responsible for keeping our basement bomb shelter stocked.

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Shielding Children from Hard Truths Hurts Rather Than Helps

To teach resilience and build character, don’t hide hard reality from kids.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

sheildingWell-meaning parents sometimes try to shield their kids from unpleasant facts. They assume that the tough details of reality will upset the children and inflict grave harm. But evidence to the contrary shows how mistaken they are. Efforts to sugarcoat reality or shield children from harsh truths unintentionally hamper their ability to learn from misfortune and develop the resilience that makes negotiating adult life easier.

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Sleep: The Clean-Up Crew of a Dirty Mind

A good night’s sleep literally clears your head.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

When you throw a party, you don’t clean up until everyone’s gone home.

sleep_MRI Active

Sleep is a VERY active state, not passive at all.

The brain parties every moment you are awake. While it’s being lively it makes a mess, like partiers everywhere. All living cells metabolize energy. As they burn fuel they leave behind residue and toxic wastes—the equivalent of empty glasses, smelly ashtrays, and dirty dishes that a host must face when the action is over and things have died down.

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What color is Tuesday? Exploring synesthesia

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Making a TED-Ed lesson: Synesthesia and Playing Cards

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Lessons for Patient and Physician in the Art of Dying and the End of Life

Here is a feature essay I wrote for The Washingtonian Magazine about teaching Lessons in the Art of Death and Dying to student doctors at George Washington University Medical School.

In my dad’s day, doctors knew how to comfort the sick. I had to feel my way through his teachings.

In my dad’s day, doctors knew how to comfort the sick. I had to feel my way through his teachings.

In the 1950s I went with my father on house calls. Nearly every home seemed to have a sick room, and an invalid in need of comfort. In the 1970s no one taught me how to handle fraught, terrifying situations at the end of life. Today, a majority of Americans die alone in hospitals and nursing homes, out of view. The blessing of a peaceful death is something too few people experience. The best way to die is in the room of your choice, surrounded by people of your choice, holding the hand of your choice.

Read it here: Lessons In the Art of Dying

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The Next America – Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown

Here is my review of Paul Taylor’s “The Next America” at the New York Journal of Books:

Next America Cover

“Generations are more different from each other now than at any time in living memory. The multigenerational household now sees boomers and boomerangers living under the same roof as they once did in the 1940s and 1950s.”

Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC, has written a data-rich profile suggesting where America is headed in terms of generational demographics. Along the way he compares us to other nations, and illustrates rapidly changing attitudes among younger generations about America’s presumed supremacy in the coming world.

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Touched by The Moon

People sleep fitfully during the full moon. Other things happen, too.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

moon

Sleeping in moonlight can affect your well-being.

Folklore has clung to the idea that the Moon affects people—usually for the worse. Our language still harbors words such as “lunacy,” “lunatic,” or “moonstruck” (the latter notion turned into a film with Cher and Nicholas Cage). At the idea’s outer reaches is the lycanthrope who, rather than sleeping peacefully during the full moon, turns into a werewolf instead and wreaks havoc.

The idea of lunar influence on human affairs has never been proven. Until now the possibility had never been subjected to scientific scrutiny, so it is a welcome surprise that The Economist reports a new study in Current Biology about the Moon’s possible influence on human behavior.

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Can Fish Oil Help Preserve Brain Cells?

By fillet or capsule, omega-3s really do help the brain.

[Cross-posted at The Fallible Mind, my blog at Psychology Today]

Fish-oil

Fish beats fowl if you want to feed your brain cells.

Fish has had a reputation as a “brain food” for generations because of its high concentration of two important omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The benefit of fish comes mostly from these essential acids that the body cannot produce on its own. Although omega–6 fatty acids are abundant in Western diets, our body cannot use them to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids. We have to eat them instead.

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Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want

Here is my review of Nicolas Epley’s “Mindwise” at the New York Journal of Books:

mindwise_cover

“. . . about the innate knack everyone has to reason about the minds of others. . . . Mind reading lets you cooperate with those you should trust and avoid those you shouldn’t. It allows you to track your reputation in the eyes of others.”

Even though Americans’ desire to read minds vies with that for time travel, Nicholas Epley’s Mindwise is not a book about telepathy, ESP, or psychic reading. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion actually asked citizens what superpowers they’d like to have. Even so, Mindwise will not disappoint.

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