Recent shows and podcasts of interest.
All in the Mind
An exploration of all things mental, All in the Mind is about the brain and behavior, and the fascinating connections between them.
The Digital Human (BBC Radio 4)
Aleks Krotoski charts how digital culture is moulding modern living. Each week join technology journalist Aleks Krotoski as she goes beyond the latest gadget or web innovation to understand what sort of world we’re creating with our ‘always on’ lives.
NeuroPod is the neuroscience podcast from Nature, produced in association with the Dana Foundation. Each month, join us as we delve into the latest research on the brain, from its molecular makings to the mysteries of the mind. We’ll also be bringing you the latest news from neuroscience conferences around the globe, along with special reports on hot areas in neuroscience.
Thanks to Mind Hacks for these links.
According to a study presented Saturday, May 4, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Washington, DC, nearly 43 percent of high school students of driving age who were surveyed in 2011 reported texting while driving at least once in the past 30 days.
“Texting while driving has become, a ‘national epidemic,’” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, and using a phone while driving significantly increases the risk of accidents in this age group. The specific act of texting while driving has been found to raise the risk of a crash by 23 times, leading many to conclude that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the national survey every two years to monitor six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability and social problems among U.S. youths. For the first time, the 2011 survey included a question about texting while driving: “During the past 30 days, on how many days did you text or e-mail while driving a car or other vehicle?”
Survey results showed that males were more likely to text while driving than females (46 percent vs. 40 percent), and the prevalence of texting increased with age (52 percent of those over 18 years; 46 percent of 17-year-olds; 33 percent of 16-year-olds; and 26 percent of 15-year-olds).
Furthermore, teens who reported texting while driving were more likely to engage in other risky behaviors such as driving under the influence of alcohol, having unprotected sex and using an indoor tanning device.
The authors suggest that “By identifying associated high-risk behaviors such as these, it is our hope that we can develop more effective mechanisms to reduce texting while driving.”
According to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, half of all U.S. adults now have a mobile connection to the web through either a smartphone or tablet, significantly more than a year ago. A survey of 9,500 adults from late June to early August, found that nearly a quarter of U.S. adults, 22%, now own a tablet device-double the number from a year earlier. Another 3% of adults regularly use a tablet owned by someone else in their home. And nearly a quarter of those who don’t have a tablet, 23%, plan to get one in the next six months. Even more U.S. adults (44%) have smartphones, according to the survey, up from 35% in May 2011.
The findings have “major implications for how news will be consumed and paid for,” says Pew. About 20 percent of the mobile news users surveyed said they paid for an online subscription in the last year.
News remains an important part of what people do on their mobile devices-64% of tablet owners and 62% of smartphone owners say they use the devices for news at least weekly, tying news statistically with other popular activities such email and playing games on tablets and behind only email on smartphones (not including talking on the phone). This means fully a third of all U.S. adults now get news on a mobile device at least once a week.
There has been a steady increase in the use of therapy for psychological disorders in virtual environments (VE) and using computer-assisted treatment over the last decade. Do the same guidelines and ethical standards apply as they do in the in-person world? A study published in Telemedicine and e-Health has taken on this challenge.
Virtual reality (VR) platforms for the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders are becoming more widely accepted. These approaches range from immersive environments (with head-mounted displays) that may include sensory stimuli such as audio and olfactory stimuli, designed to give patients the sensation of being completely inserted into a virtual environment to to desktop three-dimensional virtual environments where participants interact in the form of avatars that are controlled by the participant through the mouse and keyboard.
VR has been used in the treatment of a number of psychological issues such as, stress management and pain management or disorders like, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, some autism spectrum disorders, cognitive impairment and treatment and diagnosis of neurological conditions such as stroke and brain injury. The most widely used and successful VR application is VR exposure therapy used to treat phobias and trauma related disorders like PTSD.
Yellowlees and colleagues reviewed the literature on VR treatment and point out that while VEs have great potential for use in the provision of mental health services, “further research is needed to assess the safety of VR approaches and identify any risk factors for patient populations that may be incompatible with this modality of treatment. There is evidence that some general safety issues exist with exposure to some VR applications, both physical and psychological nature but the evidence is mostly anecdotal and empirical research is limited in this area. Treatment via VR may be less clinically appropriate for some patient populations than others.
The authors reviewed the current standards and ethical principles including security, privacy and confidentiality issues for treatment via telemedicine and drafted the Clinical Guideline Recommendations for Mental Health Treatment in Virtual Environments. The authors state that the rights and responsibilities of treatment apply equally even if the person is represented by an avatar in a virtual environment. They argue “that the rights of avatars are analogous to those of the individual controlling it, so that then logically we must treat the avatar as an extension of the self. Thus, treatment standards and ethical guidelines for patients seeking treatment in a VE should mirror those of typical clinical practice in the in-person world. In any clinical setting, clinicians must follow the laws of their field and other existing guidelines.”
A new book entitled “Hooked on Games” is a story of a physician with a research background in neuroscience, who battled his own addictions with video games and the consequences that had on his life.
According to Associated Press and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of people wandering into ditches, on-coming cars, and each other while staring at electronics has quadrupled. While the Internet has numerous hilarious videos, such as one man walking into a real-life black bear while walking in his neighborhood, distracted walking is a serious problem, and is implicated in the 4.2% rise in pedestrian fatalities in 2010.
An estimated 1,152 people were sent to the emergency room last year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The commission thinks the actual number may be much higher, since emergency-room patients don’t always report that they were distracted. If they do, doctors don’t always note the fact on official records. The stories of distracted texting as saddening as they are hilarious. Some highlights from the data:
A 24-year-old woman who walked into a telephone pole while texting;
A 28-year-old man who was walking along a road when he fell into a ditch while talking on a cellphone
A 12-year-old boy who was looking at a video game when he was clipped by a pickup truck as he crossed the street
A 53-year-old woman who fell off a curb while texting and lacerated her face.
Philadelphia officials tried to bring light to the situation by painting an “e-lane” for texting pedestrians on April Fool’s, but the lesson was overshadowed by the sidewalk’s ironic popularity. “The sad part is we had people who, once they realized we were going to take the e-lane away, got mad because they thought it was really helpful to not have people get in their way while they were walking and texting,” said Rina Cutler, deputy mayor for transportation.
“We are where we were with cellphone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn’t have the data,” Jonathan Atkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Assn., told the Associated Press. The trouble is, most of us think that we can walk and text just fine. After all what is the worst that can happen? We might annoy the person behind us because we slowed down a bit, or worst case scenario, we gently bump into someone? That’s a risk many of us are willing to take for the privilege of telling our dinner date we are “here!” three minutes before actually walking in the door.
After three pedestrians in Fort Lee, N.J., died while texting, the city started issuing $85 tickets to distracted walkers. Anomaly or the start of a trend? It’s hard to know. In the meantime, if you insist on moving while you text, consider an app that lets you see the ground in front of you.
One of the easiest ways to learn a new game is to watch someone else play it – and interestingly enough, computers can do the same. A computer scientist has published a paper detailing how systems can successfully win at boardgames after watching two minute-long videos of humans playing.
Łukasz Kaiser, who studies logic and games at Paris Diderot University in France, has developed software that learns to play games such as Connect 4 and noughts-and-crosses by watching videos of humans playing.
Using visual recognition software while processing video clips of people playing these games including games endings with wins, ties or those left unfinished — the system would recognize the board, the pieces and the different moves that lead to each outcome. A unique algorithm then enabled the system to examine all viable moves when playing and, using data gathered from all possible outcomes, calculate the most appropriate move.
Kaiser chose to use games as a primary learning tool because they are, a natural model of many real-world interaction scenarios, making these results signiﬁcant in a broader context. The system is not yet sophisticated enough to understand games where rules for winning are linked to rules for moving, such as in chess, but Kaiser is working on that.
Systems that are able to learn from visual observations are of central importance in many fields, especially in autonomous robotics and interactive computer vision. While there is a great amount of work dealing with object recognition and visual scene interpretation, only a few systems with the capacity for learning higher-level concepts have been presented thus far.
Two recent articles in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science explored trends in technology that are changing the questions psychological scientists are asking and the ways they ask them. The technologies specifically discussed are Facebook and smartphones.
A Review of Facebook Research in the Social Sciences assesses the impact of Facebook on social life. Since Facebook is a relatively recent phenomenon, uncertainty still exists about the most effective ways to do Facebook research. The authors conducted a comprehensive literature search, identifying 412 relevant articles, which were sorted into 5 categories: descriptive analysis of users, motivations for using Facebook, identity presentation, the role of Facebook in social interactions, and privacy and information disclosure. The literature review serves as the foundation from which to assess current findings and offer recommendations to the field for future research on Facebook and online social networks more broadly.
Smartphones and Psychology
An article on smartphones and psychology research describes that by 2025, when most of today’s psychology undergraduates will be in their mid-30s, more than 5 billion people on our planet will be using ultra-broadband, sensor-rich smartphones far beyond the abilities of today’s iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries. Although smartphones were not designed for psychological research, they have the ability to collect vast amounts of data, easily and quickly, from large global samples. Participants who download the right “psych apps,” for their smartphones, can record where they are, what they are doing, and what they can see and hear and can run interactive surveys, tests, and experiments through touch screens and wireless connections to nearby screens, headsets, biosensors, and other peripherals.
This article reviews previous behavioral research using mobile electronic devices, outlines what smartphones can do now and will be able to do in the near future. It discusses some limitations and challenges of smartphone research, and compares smartphones to other research methods. Smartphone research will require new skills in app development and data analysis and will raise tough new ethical issues, but smartphones could transform psychology research even more profoundly than PCs and brain imaging did.
A recently published book called “iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us,” focuses on some of the mental health challenges linked to heavy technology use including how social media sites may encourage narcissism or how constantly checking our wireless mobile devices can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
According to the book, iDisorder: changes to your brain’s ability to process information and your ability to relate to the world due to your daily use of media and technology resulting in signs and symptoms of psychological disorders – such as stress, sleeplessness, and a compulsive need to check in with all of your technology.
It also discusses how technology addiction can lead to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and how the volume of medical data that is available online has created some “cyberchondriacs.” Interestingly, it suggests how the constant use of technology may be rewiring our brains. The author cites a study that demonstrates the impact on memory called the “Google effect,” that is, an inability to remember facts brought on by the realization that they are all available in a few keystrokes via Google.
Each chapter also discusses what can be done to combat each techno-disorder and offers parents advice on how to manage their children’s techno-addiction.