Musical training improves brain function of adults, children
More research has found that children and adults who become trained in music may have better executive brain function than those who never took up an instrument.
In the study, scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital recruited 12 children between ages 9 and 12 who had never learned how to play an instrument, along with 15 same-aged children who had played a musical instrument for at least two years in regular private lessons. They also recruited 15 professional adult musicians and 15 non-musician adults. The researchers then had the participants take a series of cognitive tests and analyzed their brains, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The results, published in the journal PLOS One, revealed differences in the mechanisms that occurred in the brains of the participants while taking the cognitive tests. Compared to the non-musicians, both the musically trained children and adult musicians showed improvements in executive brain function as well as higher activation in the areas of the prefrontal cortex—the area of the brain responsible for cognitive behavior and decision-making.
The study suggests that music programs in schools may be worth keeping, researchers said. The researchers said their study may also have implications for children and adults who have problems with executive brain function, such as children with ADHD or the elderly.
Texting support makes smokers more likely to quit
People who are trying to quit smoking may have a better success rate when receiving support through a text-messaging service, according to a new study.
Scientists at George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. tested the effects of a text-messaging service on people who were trying to quit smoking. The service, developed by GWU behavioral scientist Lorien Abroms, is called text2quit and works by sending constant reminders, encouraging messages and by allowing the users to distract themselves with interactive tools. About 500 participants were recruited, half of whom participated in text2quit and the other half whom received a booklet on smoking cessation from the National Cancer Institute titled “Clearing the Air.” The researchers then collected data on the participants’ progress after one, three and six months.
The results, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, did not show a high overall success rate from either the text-message service or the booklet. However, while only 5 percent of the people who received the booklet were able to quit, 11 percent of the people who used text2quit ended up smoke-free after six months. The researchers concluded that text programs like text2quit may be an effective tool due to the immediacy of support during times of weakness.
Smart glasses help nearly blind people function
People who are nearly blind may benefit from wearing “smart glasses,” according to the first public tests being conducted by Researchers at Oxford University in the UK.
The glasses do not work by actually improving the wearer’s vision; rather, it works to help the wearer make the most of his or her vision. The glasses present the wearers with information about what is surrounding them, captured by a frame-mounted camera. The wearer carries a pocket-sized computer, to which the camera sends its footage, which then enhances nearby objects and sends them to the lenses of the glasses.
In the study, the research team recruited 30 volunteers with poor vision. The participants were asked to walk through a venue while wearing the glasses while the researchers controlled the lighting and the placement of various obstacles. The researchers received positive feedback from many participants, who said that the glasses helped them make the most of their vision affected by various debilitating and degenerative eye conditions.
Researchers said that the smart glasses may help people who are legally blind or have low vision—that’s more than 3.3 million American adults and around 100,000 people in the UK—by allowing them to gain more independence and freedom and have an improved quality of life.
Indoor tanning raises cancer risk before 50
A new study has found that people who use indoor tanning devices may have an increased risk of developing skin cancer before the age of 50, particularly those who begin before age 20.
Scientists at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College analyzed data on 657 people with basal cell carcinoma (BCC)—the most common form of skin cancer—between ages 25 and 50, and 452 people in the same age range without skin cancer. About 46 percent of the people with BCC said they had used an indoor tanning device, such as a sunlamp, tanning bed or tanning booth, at some point in their lives, compared with 36 percent of the participants without BBC. Additionally, about 41 percent of the participants with BCC reported having had at least 20 painful sunburns in their life, compared with 29 percent of the participants without BCC.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggest that the link between indoor tanning and skin cancer is particularly strong in young people, researchers said. They added that other factors could have affected the study’s outcome, but that adolescents need to be educated about the dangers of indoor tanning.
Standing at meetings may boost productivity
Standing during meetings may actually help people be more productive at work, according to a new study.
The research, conducted by scientists at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis, was inspired by changes in the university’s workspace such as the addition of standing desks. The researchers divided participants into two teams, one of which was placed in a room with chairs and a table and other in a room with no seats. The teams then spent 30 minutes producing a recruitment video for the university. While the teams worked, the researchers observed teamwork, quality of the videos and overall productivity.
The results of the study, published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, showed that the team members of the standing group were more open to sharing their ideas, produced better quality videos and were more enthusiastic during the work session when compared to the team that sat down during their meetings. Researchers concluded that the study suggests that the way people in the workplace approach their work and each other may be affected by the physical space in which they work.