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April 2011



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Archive for April 1st, 2011


By Psych Central News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 1, 2011

If you ever wondered what social networking websites actually were for, researchers today have at least one answer. A new study shows that Facebook is actually the result of a Harvard psychology experiment that inadvertently gained popularity outside of the Introductory to Psychology class it was designed for.

“It was meant as a simple lab requirement for our undergraduate psychology students,” said Mark Zuckerberg, a professor of psychology at Harvard who masqueraded as the site’s CEO. “We never imagined they would turn it into an actual social networking website.”

The study began with a website that featured only a login page, a profile page, and a way to denote that other people in the class were friends. Researchers were interested in whether or not people in the class would immediately become competitive and try and gain as many friends as possible.

They hypothesized that humans are naturally competitive and once friendship numbers were public information, otherwise rationale adults would start behaving in a frenzied, competitive manner to obtain more and more friends.

In order to accommodate the competitive nature of subjects within the study, more friends were recruited from outside the Introductory to Psychology course.

“We quickly used up all the friends in the class, even at a class size of 1,200, it just wasn’t enough for the more competitive students. Luckily, Harvard is a big school,” said Zuckerberg.

After the Harvard campus was depleted, the researchers started adding local wildlife and dogs to the site, which they initially had generically named, “How Many Friends Can You Get?.com”

The name was changed first to “Bookface,” and then finally “Facebook” when the researchers saw how people enjoyed looking at faces in a book. “We never knew that books could contain so many pretty pictures,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The study started going awry when the students started befriending the campus rats.

“At some point, you have to know when to call it quits,” the researchers said.

Students around the Harvard campus began suffering from Facebook withdrawal and Facebook depression shortly after the experiment was shut down. A group of rogue students took over the site and reopened it to the general public a week later.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/04/01/facebook-revealed-to-be-psychology-experiment-gone-wrong/24944.html


ScienceDaily (Mar. 31, 2011) — Roughly 15% of children suffer from migraines, and approximately one-third of these affected children have migraines with aura, a collection of symptoms that can include weakness, blind spots, and even hallucinations. Although the causes of migraines are unclear, a new study in The Journal of Pediatrics suggests a connection between migraine headaches in children and a heart defect called patent foramen ovale, which affects 25% of people in the U.S.

Dr. Rachel McCandless and colleagues from the Primary Children’s Medical Center and the University of Utah studied children 6-18 years old who were diagnosed with migraines between 2008 and 2009. The 109 children enrolled in the study were treated at the Primary Children’s Medical Center, which serves kids from Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, and parts of Wyoming.

The researchers took two-dimensional echocardiograms of each child’s heart, looking for a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a common defect in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart. Although a PFO is not necessarily dangerous, it can allow unfiltered blood to bypass the lungs and circulate throughout the body. As Dr. McCandless explains, “Some adult studies have suggested a link between having a PFO and migraine headaches.”

Of the studied children who had migraines with aura, 50% also had a PFO; this is nearly double the PFO rate of the general population. However, only 25% of children who had migraines without aura had a PFO. Dr. McCandless and colleagues hypothesize that if a causal relationship can be established, closure of a PFO with a catheter device may help in the treatment of certain kinds of migraines, specifically migraines with aura. It is her hope that “our study will help guide future research about this difficult problem.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Rachel T. McCandless, Cammon B. Arrington, Douglas C. Nielsen, James F. Bale, L.LuAnn Minich. Patent Foramen Ovale in Children with Migraine Headaches. The Journal of Pediatrics, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.01.062


ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2011) — The death of parents entails an increase in their children’s risk of dying. This is shown in a new study performed by Mikael Rostila, a researcher at the Center for Health Equity Studies (CHESS) in Sweden, and Jan Saarela, a researcher at Ã…bo Akademi University in Finland. Those especially affected are younger children, and primarily if they lose their mother.

“Among children between 10 and 18 years of age, there’s an increased risk of death. Compared with children who have not lost their mother at these ages, their risk of dying is nearly doubled. But even children up to the ages of 40-50 are affected by their mother’s death, but in that case primarily over a longer term,” says Mikael Rostila. In other words, our parents are very important to us throughout our lives.

“The fact that it’s primarily the loss of a mother that impacts children can be explained in different ways. It may be so that the relation between mother and child is characterized by a stronger emotional contact, entailing that the child is affected more by the loss. Other studies have shown that mothers transfer material and economic resources to their children to a greater extent than fathers do, which may have a positive effect on their health,” says Mikael Rostila.

Somewhat surprisingly the findings of the study indicate that older children who lose a parent evince lower mortality than children whose parents are living.

“This may be because the parents’ final stage of life brings with it a great deal of anxiety and caring and many elderly parents are in ill health for an extended period. Paradoxically, their death can be a relief to the child in that the parent no longer has to suffer,” says Mikael Rostila.

The study also shows that death by accident or suicide, for example, has the greatest consequences for the health of children.

“This is rather to be expected in that the unexpected loss of a parent means that we find it more difficult to accept the loss. We have no time to prepare ourselves for the event. This entails a greater risk of winding up in a crisis or depression,” says Mikael Rostila.

Read in Full: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110323105313.htm


Anxiety has overtaken depression to become the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorder in the United States, with social anxiety its most frequent manifestation. Part of the cause of extreme social anxiety is thought to be related to bad experiences – being laughed at in class, blushing in front of friends, choking on a first date – so that a person learns to fear social situations. But that’s unlikely to be the whole story. Social anxiety runs in families suggesting some people have an innate predisposition for the disorder. The authors of a new study believe they’ve identified, for the first time, a neural correlate of this vulnerability.


Wen Zhou and colleagues scanned the brains of nineteen women while they were exposed to the smell of two types of men’s sweat, a floral scent, and the human steroid (and putative pheromone) androstadienone. One of the male sweat types was sexual, the other was neutral, and they were collected from men’s armpits as they watched either a sexual film or an educational documentary. The women weren’t told what the different smells were or where they came from.


Human sweat is known to convey social signals. For example, it’s been shown that people can tell a person’s emotional state purely from the smell of their sweat. The key findings in this new study are that the two types of sweat, compared to the other odours, led to increased activation in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) of the women’s brains, and that the level of this activation was related to the women’s amount of self-reported trait social anxiety. The women didn’t have any psychiatric diagnoses but the higher they scored on a measure of trait social anxiety (e.g. they said they felt uncomfortable in large groups), the less activation they exhibited in their OFC when exposed to the men’s sweat.


It’s important to emphasise that most of the women (nearly 90 per cent) didn’t realise the smells were from humans, and the smells had no effect on their in-the-moment mood or anxiety levels. Consistent with this, the different smells didn’t differentially affect the amygdala, a bilateral subcortical structure associated with fear processing. What the study appears to be showing is that subconscious social signals trigger increased OFC activity compared with nonsocial smells, and that the level of this activity is moderated by trait social anxiety.



Read in Full: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2011/03/sweaty-work-in-hunt-for-brain-basis-of.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BpsResearchDigest+%28BPS+Research+Digest%29

Misreading Faces Tied To Child Social Anxiety

Article Date: 01 Apr 2011 – 3:00 PDT

Children suffering from extreme social anxiety are trapped in a nightmare of misinterpreted facial expressions: They confuse angry faces with sad ones, a new study shows.

“If you misread facial expressions, you’re in social trouble, no matter what other social skills you have,” says Emory psychologist Steve Nowicki, a clinical researcher who developed the tests used in the study. “It can make life very difficult, because other people’s faces are like a prism through which we look at the world.”

It’s easy to assume that a socially anxious child would be especially sensitive to anger. “It turns out that they never learn to pick up on anger and often make the error of seeing it as sadness,” Nowicki says. “It sets up a very problematic interaction.”

Some socially anxious children long to interact with others, he says, and may try to comfort someone they think is sad, but who is actually angry. “They want to help, because they’re good kids,” Nowicki says. “I’ve seen these kids trying to make a friend, and keep trying, but they keep getting rebuffed and are never aware of the reason why.”

The study was co-authored by Amy Walker, a former undergraduate student at Emory, now at Yeshiva University, and will be published in the Journal of Genetic Psychology.

Read in Full: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/220974.php