Daily Archives: August 9, 2010

Background music can impair memory formation, study suggests

Health Day (via USA Today) reports:

Studying for an exam while listening to music is not smart, because background music can impair your ability to perform memory tasks, new research has found.

Study participants were asked to recall a list of eight consonants in the order they were presented…

The participants’ recall ability was poorest when listening to music, regardless of whether they liked or disliked it, and in changing-state conditions. The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in steady-state environments…

The study has been published online here in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology (free access to abstract; subscription required to access article).

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Computer scientists and biochemists harness brainpower – literally – to solve a longstanding molecular problem

Scientific American reports:

What if the brainpower used playing video games could be channeled toward something more productive, such as helping scientists solve complex biological problems?

A team of biochemists and computer scientists from the University of Washington (U.W.) in Seattle now reports that they have successfully tapped into this human problem-solving potential. Their competitive online game “Foldit,” released in 2008, enlists the help of online puzzle-solvers to help crack one of science’s most intractable mysteries—how proteins fold into their complex three-dimensional forms. The “puzzles” gamers solve are 3-D representations of partially folded proteins, which players manipulate and reshape to achieve the greatest number of points. The scores are based on biochemical measures of how well the players’ final structure matches the way the protein appears in nature.

In search of a vaccine for stress

Wired Magazine reports:

Chronic stress, it turns out, is an extremely dangerous condition…

While stress doesn’t cause any single disease — in fact, the causal link between stress and ulcers has been largely disproved — it makes most diseases significantly worse. The list of ailments connected to stress is staggeringly diverse and includes everything from the common cold and lower-back pain to Alzheimer’s disease, major depressive disorder, and heart attack. Stress hollows out our bones and atrophies our muscles. It triggers adult-onset diabetes and is a leading cause of male impotence. In fact, numerous studies of human longevity in developed countries have found that psychosocial factors such as stress are the single most important variable in determining the length of a life.

It’s not that genes and risk factors like smoking don’t matter. It’s that our levels of stress matter more.