TIME Reproductive Health

Activists Release Second Video Slamming Planned Parenthood Fetal Tissue Donations

The Center for Medical Progress is criticizing Planned Parenthood in a new video

The group that accused Planned Parenthood of illegally selling fetal tissue for medical research released a second secretly taped video on Tuesday, claiming to show a doctor from the national reproductive health nonprofit discussing the issue.

The edited eight-minute video, released by anti-abortion activists at the Center for Medical Progress, shows two unseen people posing as representatives of a fetal tissue procurement company and speaking with Dr. Mary Gatter, a member of Planned Parenthood’s Medical Directors’ Council. The video, reportedly shot on Feb. 6 of this year, appears to show Gatter and the representatives discussing the price of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has acknowledged donating fetal tissue to researchers following abortions but has denied receiving any payments beyond reimbursement for its costs, which is legal.

The Center for Medical Progress alleges that the video the group released Tuesday shows Gatter “haggling” over the price of the fetal tissue.

“The money is not the important thing for me,” Gatter said in the video, according to the Center for Medical Progress. “But it has to be big enough that it makes it worthwhile for me.”

Planned Parenthood released a statement condemning the video as “highly edited” and calling the activists who filmed it “widely discredited.”

“What the video released today shows is a Planned Parenthood medical provider, who has dedicated her career to ensuring that women have access to the best health care, stating over and over again that she follows all laws and medical standards,” Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood of America, said in a statement. “The video was heavily edited in attempt to support false and outrageous claims, but the fact remains that there is nothing in these videos to suggest any violation of law or improper activity.”

Tuesday’s video follows an initial one released by the Center for Medical Progress on July 14, which drew widespread attention to Planned Parenthood’s longtime practice of donating fetal tissue to scientists for research. Republican presidential contenders called for an investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices, but many in the medical community say fetal tissue research is both legal and important.

TIME Research

This May Be How Acupuncture Tamps Down Stress

Acupuncture needles
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Rats who got acupuncture showed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression than stressed-out rats who didn't get treatment

Acupuncture may work by targeting the same pathways that stress travels along, according to a new study in rats from Georgetown University Medical Center and published in the journal Endocrinology.

Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, a nurse anesthetist, licensed acupuncturist and associate professor in the department of nursing and the department of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center, noticed that the acupuncture patients coming to her for pain were reporting improvement of symptoms unrelated to their pain, like chronic stress, depression, sleep and appetite.

“There was nothing in the literature about acupuncture for PTSD and chronic stress,” she says, so she decided to study it. To find out if acupuncture was affecting chronic stress, Eshkevari and a team of researchers looked at what happened in a key pathway in dealing with stress for both humans and rats: the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). It’s the same pathway targeted by some anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants, Eshkevari says, and the HPA is involved in the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

In the experiment, the researchers compared four groups of rats: one group was stressed and given acupuncture; another group was stressed and given sham acupuncture (at a non-acupuncture point to make sure any results weren’t due to a placebo effect); a third group was stressed and didn’t get any acupuncture; and a final control group just hung out without any interventions.

First, the researchers decided to look at an acupuncture point called stomach 36; according to Chinese medicine, it’s a potent point associated with stress, stomach issues and pain, and in humans, it’s located right below the knee behind the tibia bone. The rat equivalent of stomach 36 is on the hind paw near the knee, Eshevari says.

Because most people who get acupuncture come in for treatment after a stressful event, Eshkevari says, she wanted to expose the rats to stress before treatment. She put them in a bucket of ice that made their legs cold for about an hour, then let the rats acclimate to room temperature before their 20-minute-long acupuncture sessions.

“It took me months to figure out how to do acupuncture on an awake rat,” says Eshkevari. It would have been easier to anesthetize them, but Eshkevari didn’t want to affect stress hormone levels. So she cut up her husband’s tube socks to hold the rats during treatment. “It was only big enough for them to crawl in to their hind legs, so their hind paws would be hanging out,” she says. She put the rats in the socks, quickly inserted the needles and connected them to the electrodes for their 20-minute sessions.

After 11 days of stress and acupuncture, Eshkevari put the rats to the test. When placed in an open box, less anxious rats will more readily explore; anxious rats will sit in the corner. And in a forced swim test, rats are dropped in a bucket and forced to swim; the quicker they give up, the higher they score in depression.

The rats who had acupuncture at the stomach 36 point had levels of cortisol in their blood comparable to the control rats that weren’t stressed—and lower cortisol levels than the other stressed-out rats, including the rats who received sham acupuncture. Likewise, the stressed-out rats who didn’t receive acupuncture showed more anxiety, depression and hopelessness through the behavioral tests, while the acupuncture-treated rats behaved a lot more like the normal rats that hadn’t been exposed to anything, Eshkevari says. “In this model, acupuncture can allay some of the untoward effects of stress,” she explains.

To make sure the acupuncture was affecting the pathway they thought it was, the researchers gave the rats a drug to block the HPA pathway, then retested the rats of behavioral measures. The effect went away.

“That’s how we know that the acupuncture not only worked, but it worked via the pathway we’re hypothesizing it works,” Eshkevari says.

The study is in rats, not in humans, and Eshkevari says that it’s certainly not enough to prove that the mechanism works exactly the same way in humans. “It would be very interesting and much more useful to do these experiments on human models of stress,” she says.

Still, she believes it’s an important preliminary step. “I had a sense anecdotally from the patients,” she says. “Now I feel like we have some evidence that this does work, the placebo is controlled for, and when we block the pathway it stops working. We know this is a potential mechanism. Now I can more confidentially try to translate that to humans.”

TIME Reproductive Health

Why We Still Need Fetal-Tissue Research

Planned Parenthood President Feldt
Mario Tama—Getty Images

Two sting videos that claim to implicate Planned Parenthood in the illegal practice to selling fetal tissue for a profit prompted a Congressional investigation of the organization. But it doesn’t mean that research on fetal tissue is wrong. Or that it should be stopped.

The first video released in mid-July that was secretly made by the Center for Medical Progress, a group that includes well known anti-abortion activists, centered around one question: What happens to the fetuses that result from abortions performed at Planned Parenthood? A second surreptitiously filmed video by the same group was released Tuesday. Its central question: Whether Planned Parenthood profits from the sale of such tissue. (The group insists it does not.)

Fetal tissue is valuable for medical research; the National Institutes of Health spent $76 million on fetal research in 2014, and fetal tissue has contributed to vaccines for polio, rubella and chicken pox. While recent efforts to transplant fetal tissue to treat conditions like Parkinson’s haven’t been as consistently successful, it’s still critical to scientific progress.

In the video, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior director of medical services, notes that the fees Planned Parenthood charges are within laws that govern fetal tissue procurement; the fees cover the expenses of handling, storing and shipping the material, not for the material itself. But in calling for the Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood’s practices, House Speaker John Boehner said: “When an organization monetizes an unborn child — and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video — we must all act.”

But there’s a blurring of the ethical and political lines here that is both intentional — and intentionally misleading. It’s one that’s always shadowed anything involving fetal tissue in this country. Fetal tissue research was initially allowed under specific conditions and approval by a government Ethics Advisory Board (EAB). During the 1980s, however, as controversy over the source of the fetal tissue — mostly abortions, and primarily elective ones — became increasingly politicized, a moratorium was placed on fetal tissue studies, and the EAB was disbanded. The restriction was lifted in 1993, but the work continued to be a challenge.

The ethical and political conflicts erupted again in 1998, when researchers studying excess IVF embryos and fetuses from elective abortions made breakthroughs in understanding stem cells, the pre-cells of everything that develops in the human body. The promise represented by these stem cells, which because of their developmental potential can possibly be manipulated to replace diseased or ailing cells, raised anew the questions of whether studying tissues from unused embryos and aborted fetuses was ethically — and politically — acceptable.

MORE: Why Planned Parenthood Provides Fetal Cells to Scientists

The resulting debate hampered stem cell research in the U.S. for nearly a decade, after the George W. Bush Administration prevented federal research money from being used to study excess embryos that couples had donated after IVF. Researchers wanting to pursue this work had to find private funding or leave the country, which some did. President Obama lifted the restriction in 2009 — and now, the controversy has erupted again. And as in times past, science is getting muddied by politics.

“This video is primarily aimed not at fetal tissue research but at Planned Parenthood,” says David Magnus, director of the Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics. “I don’t think this is about the use of tissue that is already discarded. I think it’s about abortion itself. The fact that it’s not clear whether there is any actual problem in terms of [Planned Parenthood’s] behavior highlights the fact that this is politically motivated.” Several Republican presidential candidates have also criticized Planned Parenthood’s practices, invoking the organization’s “disregard for the culture of life” and it’s “penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life.”

There’s no evidence on the video that Planned Parenthood makes a profit from fetal tissue. Nucatola is recorded as saying the organization pays anywhere from $30 to $100 per specimen, and that those fees cover administrative and handling costs, not the cost of the tissue itself. (Those costs are far lower than what other companies that broker exchange of tissues from hospitals and abortion clinics to those who want to study them charge.)

Women who decide to have abortions are asked after they make their decision about whether they want to donate the fetus to research. But not every woman is even given the choice. Similar to marijuana laws, in which there is a disconnect between federal and state policies governing its legality, federal law allows donation of fetal tissue if there is no payment involved, and it doesn’t influence the woman’s decision to have an abortion, while state policies may differ.

“State and local policies, as best I can tell, are patchwork, and there is no consistency across states with regard to how [fetal] tissues are used, whether or not they are allowed to be used, etcetera,” says Debra Mathews, assistant director for science programs at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University. According to the Guttmacher Institute, six states currently prohibit fetal tissue research on aborted fetuses; three states have introduced similar statues that were struck down. And adding to the confusion, some states prohibit experimentation on “live” fetuses, attempting to make distinctions between the state of the fetus following the procedure.

Such opaque policies, and the highly contentious nature of discussing anything involving fetuses, makes it nearly impossible to fully inform women and discuss their choices in an objective way. With embryonic stem cell research, which involves use of embryos that couples donate for research, Mathews notes that there were discussions about the ethical and moral questions involved. “I don’t know that we have had robust conversations about fetal tissue,” she says. “It’s very difficult to talk about. Abortion politics in this country make it very difficult to have discussions about the use of these tissues.”

And that’s led to a situation that’s far from open when it comes to the fate of fetal tissue from abortions. “There is important research, good research, involving fetal tissues,” says Mathews. “But we have not been transparent about it. In so far as this increases the transparency, and helps us to have a conversation about the research being done, and folks are following the rules that do exist, I think that’s important.”

MORE: Here’s What Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards Had to Say to David Koch

That may be nearly impossible, however, if conservative politicians continue to corral abortion positions and fetal research positions into the same ethical pen. Magnus notes that those opposed to abortion can still support fetal tissue research, and that the two stances aren’t as mutually exclusive from an ethical perspective. “The analogy is often made of organ procurement. ‘I’m not in favor of car accidents or people shooting each other. But if tragedies happen, and somebody is shot or there is a car accident, then being able to have something good come out of that is seen largely as a good thing.’”

One question the Congressional investigation will consider is whether the decision to donate the tissue influences the way in which abortions are performed at Planned Parenthood — if it does, that too is unlawful. But it would only be unethical if it compromises the health of the woman in any way. In the video, Nucatola discusses the fact that the way the abortion is performed should be the same for every woman, regardless of whether she agreed to donate the fetal tissue or not. But she does admit that “some people will actually try to change the presentation [of the fetus]” and that “you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, …we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part…and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact.”

Planned Parenthood’s president Cecile Richards issued an apology for the tone of the discussion, acknowledging that “This is unacceptable, and I personally apologize for the staff member’s tone and statements.”

But Richards defends the way that Planned Parenthood performs abortions as ethical and legal. “Our donation programs, like any other high-quality health care providers, follows all laws and ethical guidelines. [Women and families’] commitment to life-saving research, developing treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is important and compassionate. And it should be respected, not attacked,” she said in a video responding to the allegations.

But as long as the dialogue about the science and the medical potential of fetal research is entwined in the political debate over abortion, that respect — and the lives that can potentially be saved from these studies — will be hard to come by.

TIME mental health

There’s a New Treatment for Severe Depression—With Fewer Side Effects

Brief pulses of electricity have fewer side effects than one prolonged jolt

One of the most common ways to treat for severe depression has been electroconclusive therapy (ECT), where electric currents are passed through the brain to trigger brief, intentional seizures to stabilize brain chemistry.

New research published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests, however, that a new method—ultra-brief pulse right unilateral, or (RUL) ECT—may have fewer negative side effects, like confusion, and memory and heart problems.

The study used data from 689 patients with a median age of 50 from six countries. “Our analysis of the existing trial data showed that ultra-brief stimulation significantly lessened the potential for the destruction of memories formed prior to ECT, reduced the difficulty of recalling and learning new information after ECT and was almost as effective as the standard ECT treatment,” saud Colleen Loo, professor at the University of New South Wales.

While ECT sends a single, controlled electric current to the brain’s prefrontal cortex—shown to be underperforming in patients suffering from severe depression—(RUL) ECT sends brief pulses of electricity, reducing total stimulation of the prefrontal cortex by one-third.

Loo noted that more research is needed, but emphasized the study’s promising outlook on not only being more efficient and safer for patients but also reducing the stigma depressed patients suffer.

“This new treatment, which is slowly coming into clinical practice in Australia, is one of the most significant developments in the clinical treatment of severe depression in the past two decades,” she said in a press release. “We are still working hard to change the broader medical profession’s and general public’s perception of ECT, which has struggled to shake off the tarnished image given to it by popular movies such as the 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

TIME mental health

Study Finds That Women Slip Into Dementia Faster Than Men

Senior woman covering face with her hands
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The study has no medical implications quite yet

Women who develop slight memory deficits and mental decline slide faster toward dementia than men, according to a new study presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington.

Researchers were quick to note that the study’s findings aren’t reflective of a difference in brain chemistry between genders and have no medical implications just yet. “All we can say at this point is that there appears to be a faster trajectory for women than men” in the direction of dementia, said P. Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences and lead author of the study.

The study used cognitive test scores from 398 participants of both genders who were primarily in their 70s. After controlling for outside variables like education and genetics, the researchers found that women’s test scores fell by an average of two points per year, compared to just one point for men. This wasn’t the only negative effect for women: their standard of life—how they performed at home, work, and with family—also fell faster than men.

A vast majority—nearly two-thirds of the five million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease—are women, which scientists note can be traced to the fact that women live longer, but the reasons for their decline have remained indeterminate.

[New York Times]

 

TIME Heart Disease

Why You (Yes, You) Need to Learn CPR

Two new studies says CPR saves lives — no mouth-to-mouth with strangers required.

New research shows bystanders who offer CPR to a person in need can improve survival rates and reduce neurological issues, such as brain damage, that can result from cardiac arrest.

The new study, published in the journal JAMA, looked at 4,961 cardiac arrest cases between the years 2010 to 2013 in North Carolina. During that time period, the state launched a campaign called The HeartRescue Project, which encourages bystander chest-compression CPR—the new gold-standard form of resuscitation—and the use of automated external defibrillators. There was a greater likelihood for both survival and survival with positive neurological outcomes among people who received CPR from a bystander.

The data also shows that during the time frame, the number of people with cardiac arrest who got bystander CPR and use of defibrillators by first responders increased from around 14% in 2010 to 23.1% in 2o13. The researchers only observed an increase in positive neurological outcomes among patients who received bystander CPR, underling the importance of the procedure.

Prior research has shown chest compressions alone—which is different from the CPR many people have been taught—can save brain damage and lives. (See how to do it with this video from the American Heart Association.)

The study is limited since it was observational, but the researchers still conclude that during the period, the number of people that received bystander CPR increased—as did their survival rates. In an email to TIME, study author Dr. Carolina Malta Hansen of the Duke Clinical Research Institute said that while they can’t give a definitive reason for the association, it’s possible that when a bystander steps in, a person receives CPR much faster than if a bystander doesn’t, and that could make a difference.

A second study also published Tuesday in JAMA looked at 167,912 patients with bystander-witnessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrest between 2005 and 2010. During the time period, they found that the number of events increased, as did the rate of bystander chest compression and bystander defibrillation (many public places have defibrillators on site). Additional defibrillation from first responders also went up. The researchers also noticed an association between these higher rates and a small increase in the likelihood that people survived without neurological damage.

Some of the study authors of the first study have received funding from medical device companies, and the North Carolina program was funded by the Medtronic Foundation. The researchers say the funders had no other role in the study.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Research-Backed Habits of People Who Never Skip a Workout

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Here's all the motivation you'll need to move

The first few weeks of a new fitness routine, you couldn’t be more stoked. You practically pop out of bed to hit the gym—rain or shine, snow or sleet. And then life happens. A colleague calls an early-morning meeting. A nasty cold strikes. You start to feel deflated, and your willpower fades.

Sound familiar? It’s a “vicious cycle of failure,” according to Michelle Segar, PhD, director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan. For 20 years, she’s been studying motivation to figure out why so many of us struggle to keep it—especially when it comes to healthy habits.

Her new book, No Sweat ($17, amazon.com), reveals how to make one of those key habits, exercise, a part of your life—for good. (Hint: It involves banishing “should” thoughts.) Here, Segar, who also coaches clients, shares five simple tips that make perfect sense:

Count everything—and add it up

Physical activity doesn’t have to be time-consuming or intense to count as exercise. “Many of the things you’re already doing qualify as healthy movement,” says Segar. So give yourself credit for crossing the parking lot (2 minutes), walking the dog (10 minutes), playing tag with your kids (15 minutes), gardening (20 minutes), even pushing a cart around the grocery store (25 minutes). “Virtually all of my clients have told me that the notion that ‘everything counts’ has been transformative for them,” Segar adds. “It makes them feel successful every time they move, which leads to higher energy levels all day long.”

Focus on the now

Once you start counting all the physical activity in your day, you realize it’s possible to squeeze in a little more (without changing into workout clothes). “Rather than thinking, I don’t have time, you start thinking, I can fit this in!” Segar explains. Whenever you have a small pocket of time—even if its just five minutes—ask yourself, What can I do right now? You might end up jogging the stairs 10 times, or knocking out a series of ab moves on the floor.

Do what feels good

“Our brains are hardwired to respond to immediate gratification, and to do what makes us feel good,” says Segar. This is one of the reasons we tend to give up on chore-like workouts. Segar’s advice: Choose a type of movement that feels good to you, and you will want to choose it again and again—whether it’s as simple as hiking or as trendy as Buti yoga (think power yoga fused with tribal dance and plyometrics). Research backs up this advice: A Portuguese study from 2011 found that enjoying exercise was among the strongest predictors of whether a person continued exercising and maintained weight loss for the next three years.

Take ownership of your fitness

There are a lot of voices proclaiming that you “should” exercise—from your friends and family to your doctor and the media. But the most important voice is your own, says Segar: “Research suggests that a behavior change is more likely to ensue when you’ve identified what you really want from it.” You may be seeking better moods or stress relief, or maybe you just want to catch up with your workout buddy—it doesn’t matter, as long as you know what you’re after. (Not sure? Segar’s book can help you identify goals that will really work for you.)

Make one change at a time

Many of us feel so excited about “getting healthy” that we try to do multiple things at once, Segar says. “We decide to simultaneously work out more, learn to meditate, and start a new diet—and that’s a recipe for burnout.” Try focusing on just exercise first, Segar says. And above all else, remember to keep it fun, because that is the true secret to lasting motivation. As Segar puts it, “Do the physical movement you want to do, when you want to do it, for the amount of time your life allows.” That’s the best way to keep from lapsing altogether.

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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TIME medicine

Dad Bod Is Explained By Science In a New Study

A first-of-its kind study to follow men for up to 20 years from adolescence shows that dads do get a little squishier after the kids

According to Clemson student Mackenzie Pearson, who wrote a viral essay essay on the appeal of the dad bod, it’s a physique that’s a “nice balance between a beer gut and working out,” the result of going to gym but indulging in a few pizzas once in a while and being okay with that. (Think John Hamm, and Chris Pratt before he went Jurassic.)

And according to scientists, Pearson and her demographic have pretty much nailed it. The source of that “more human, natural and attractive” body is unique to fathers and can be traced to simply having kids.

In a study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, Dr. Craig Garfield, a pediatrician at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and his colleagues dove into a database of 10,263 men beginning when they were 12 years old and followed them for up to 20 years. They looked specifically at how body mass index (BMI), a combination of height and weight, changed over time as the men either became fathers or did not, and for those who did, whether they were what the researchers called resident fathers who lived with their children, or non-residents who lived separately.

Read more Why We Accept ‘Dad Bod’ on Rich Men

Whether or not they lived with their kids, becoming a father was linked to around a four pound increase in weight over the study period, while remaining child-free was associated with a 1.4 pound weight loss for a six-foot-tall man.

“It’s a unique look at the influence that a social phenomenon, becoming a father, has on a biological marker, namely BMI,” says Garfield. “It really plants fatherhood as a potential social determinant of health for men.”

That’s a critical finding, especially since men, and in particular young men, are typically less proactive about taking care of their health. Garfield notes that while many men will quit smoking and drink less and otherwise try to become healthier when they become fathers, there may be other factors associated with caring for kids that counteract those good intentions, such as being surrounded by more kid-friendly, high calorie foods and snacks, as well as their leftovers.

“From my own point of view, we wouldn’t have as many pizzas in the house if the kids weren’t around, and we wouldn’t have the brownies my wife makes if the kids weren’t around,” says Garfield. “Having kids around changes not only the food in the house and what is available to you for meal, but also for snacks. It also changes whether you are able to find time to get out and exercise and get enough sleep and take care of yourself.”

Read more Dadbod, Mombod and Our Pretty Bad Bod Prob

Dads, of course, are not alone in experiencing these effects of parenthood. But this is the first study to tease out specifically the effects of fatherhood on weight gain over time. Since men are less likely to be seeing doctors regularly, if they are joining their partners during prenatal visits or pediatric visits, says Garfield, those are good opportunities to talk to them about their own eating, exercise and sleep habits to make them aware of the sneaky way that pounds can creep up on dads and potentially affect their health (even if the look seems to have its own kind of physical appeal).

Read next: For the Dad Who Is Confident About How He Looks in Swim Trunks

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TIME HIV/AIDS

A Woman Born HIV-Positive Is in Remission Despite Stopping Treatment Years Ago

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Doctors believe early rather than continuous treatment with antiretrovirals is key

The first case of a woman in long-term HIV remission despite not receiving treatment for many years has been documented in France.

The 18-year-old was HIV-positive at birth and given antiretroviral drugs as a child, but her family decided to cease the treatment when she reached the age of 6. Twelve years have passed and today her viral load is too low to be measured. Doctors can’t figure out why the women’s HIV has stalled.

“With this first, highly documented case of this young woman, we provide the proof of concept that long-term remission is possible in children, as in adults,” Dr. Asier Sáez-Cirión, from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, told the BBC.

“However, these cases are still very rare,” he said.

Some experts believe that early treatment is the key to future remission, but large-scale studies still need to be conducted to nail down this theory.

Although there is still much to learn, predicting HIV remission has been the subject of studies in the past. Sáez-Cirión previously led a research group of 14 patients who had no sign of the virus re-emerging after coming off antiretroviral drugs. Thirteen years passed and the patients’ viral loads remained low.

[BBC]

TIME Research

Know-It-Alls More Likely To Accept Falsehoods as Fact, Study Shows

It's called "overclaiming"

People who consider themselves experts in a given topic are more likely to claim knowledge of made-up “facts” about that topic, a new study shows.

Researchers conducted a series of experiments to assess how likely people were to believe fictions presented as fact. In one of the experiments, for example, the researchers had 100 people rate their level of knowledge for personal finance by describing their familiarity with 15 different financial terms.

What the participants didn’t know was that some of the terms were fake. For instance, the researchers used made-up words like “pre-rated stocks”, “fixed-rate deduction”, and “annualized credit.” They found that the people who claimed they were personal finance experts were more likely to identify the fake words as genuine financial jargon. The researchers conducted similar tests for other topics and discovered similar results.

“The more people believed they knew about finances in general, the more likely they were to overclaim knowledge of the fictitious financial terms,” said study author Stav Atir, a psychological scientist at Cornell University in a statement. “The same pattern emerged for other domains, including biology, literature, philosophy, and geography.”

The researchers argue that the findings, which are published in the journal Psychological Science, indicate failures among people to acknowledge gaps in their own expertise. The authors suggest that people may be less willing to educate themselves about topics they think they know everything about, even when they should.

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