TIME Race

Minorities Face Significant Barriers to Home Ownership in the U.S., Report Says

'It's clear that the housing playing field remains strikingly unequal in this country'

Minorities continue to face significant barriers to home ownership in the U.S., according to a new report.

The report, released by online real estate database Zillow, shows a significant disparity in home ownership, property values and home loan approval rates between white and minority communities.

Read More: The Long, Tangled Roots of the Michael Brown Shooting

More than 25% of loan applications by black applicants in the U.S. are denied, compared with 10% of their white counterparts, the report found. Additionally, nearly three in four white Americans own their homes, compared to less than half of black and Hispanic Americans.

The value of homes owned by minorities also tended to be less stable. While prices in white neighborhoods have largely recovered from the economic downturn of 2008, home prices in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods remain well below peak levels.

“It’s clear that the housing playing field remains strikingly unequal in this country,” Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said in a statement.

TIME Research

Energy Drinks May Drive Kids to Distraction

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A new study finds a link between consumption of energy drinks and hyperactivity and inattention

Middle schoolers who consume sweetened energy drinks are 66% more at risk for hyperactivity than other kids, according to a new study.

To assess the effect of a variety of beverages on middle schoolers, Yale School of Public Health researchers surveyed 1,649 students in 5th, 7th, and 8th grade about their beverage consumption and assessed their levels of hyperactivity and inattention.

“Despite considering numerous types of beverages in our analyses (eg, soda, fruit drinks), only energy drinks were associated with greater risk of hyperactivity/inattention,” the authors write in the study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Unlike soda and juice, energy drinks often contain ingredients like guarana and taurine. The researchers say it could be the effect of these ingredients mixed with caffeine that causes problems.

“Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, sugar and other ingredients that work synergistically with caffeine. Caffeine may be contributing to this association because the caffeine content of energy drinks is far greater on average than that of soda,” the authors write.

It’s important to note that the researchers could not determine that the energy drinks caused the hyperactivity and inattentiveness in the kids. The American Beverage Association has guidelines for energy drink companies that recommend against marketing their products to children and not selling in K-12 schools.

However, a January report from U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shows most energy drink companies will market to young people under age 18, which the senators object to arguing there are safety concerns for teenagers as well.

“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks,” study author Jeannette Ickovics, director of CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) at the Yale School of Public Health said in a statement.

 

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Science-Backed Ways to Remember Anything

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Our ability to memorize is taking a back seat to convenience, but there must be a balance between the two

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This post is in partnership with The Muse. The article below was originally published on The Muse.

In this age of smart phones, smart TVs, smart watches, smart glasses—the list is becoming endless—the only thing that seems to be getting duller may be our own brains.

Think of all the things we used to be forced to memorize, which have become relics of a quaint and incomprehensible past. Can you imagine actually memorizing someone’s phone number anymore? And we all know that person who can’t find his own friend’s house without staring at his GPS.

Our ability to memorize is taking a back seat to convenience, and if you’re like me, you’ve noticed the detrimental effects.

It’s not all bad—professor of psychology Daniel Wegner has argued that new technology and search engines may be becoming helpful “virtual extensions of our memory” (sort of like what you do when you leave it to your significant other to remember important dates).

But there are disturbing consequences. A 2013 poll from The Trending Machine National showed that Millennials age 18-34 are “significantly more likely than seniors ages 55 or older to forget what day it is (15% vs. 7%), where they put their keys (14% vs. 8%), forget to bring their lunch (9% vs. 3%), or even to take a bath or shower (6% vs. 2%).”

A balance between memory and convenience must be achieved, and it is clearly time to fight back.

Here are three tips based on new scientific research that you can use to gain back control over your memory.

1. Associate Your Memories With Physical Objects

Here’s a common memory problem that can cause you huge embarrassment at the office: forgetting someone’s name. Whether you’re meeting a new employee or on the phone with an important client, finding a way to remember names can be the difference between making a great impression or committing a serious social blunder.

Next time you meet someone, try to associate his or her name with a physical object, like signs, buildings, billboards—basically anything that you can see, feel, or touch counts. Essentially, you’re connecting something tangible with more abstract information such as names, numbers, dates, or appointments, making them easier to remember.

So, if you meet Pete, for example, and he’s got a pen in his pocket, think of him as Pen Pete. The possibilities for object association with abstract information is nearly infinite, so get creative. (In my case, the more ridiculous my associations are, the more memorable they become.)

You’re probably used to using this physical object strategy when trying to remember directions—“turn left at the big red sign.” This is a natural association that has worked beautifully for the entirety of human existence. So why not apply it elsewhere?

2. Don’t Just Memorize by Repetition—Also Pay Attention to Nuance

Everyone is familiar with the old saying, “practice makes perfect.” Interestingly, scientists have found that while repetitive practice can enhance your ability to remember the “big picture” outline of an object, it is detrimental to remembering the minute details.

New research suggests that, although developing “muscle memory” is an efficient method for memorizing information and learning new tasks in a general way, it will impair your ability to memorize and learn in a thorough manner.

Think about it: If you’ve ever memorized a presentation without actually understanding what you’re saying, you know what happens. You either can’t remember what you’re supposed to say, or you come off sounding like a robot. God forbid that you get interrupted and can’t find your place again.

When it comes to memorization, rote repetition is not enough. Repetition needs to be complemented by an understanding of the details to successfully present in a way that commands your audience.

So what should you do? Practice repetitively—but ensure that your repetition is supported by a solid foundation of understanding.

3. Doodle Like Crazy

This will seem counterintuitive to some of you, but my fellow doodlers have known this truth for a long time—doodling while ingesting non-visual information helps to increase memory retention rate significantly.

A 2009 study in Applied Cognitive Psychology demonstrated that people who were asked to doodle while listening to a list of names were able to recall 29% more of the names on average over non-doodlers. Doodles don’t even have to be related to the topic at hand. Per The Wall Street Journal, “Jesse Prinz draws people’s heads to help himself pay attention during lectures and the speeches at conferences he attends.”

How can doodling be this effective? Studies suggest that the act actually helps you to remain more focused and retain more information because it helps your brain retain a baseline of activity that may otherwise vanish during a dry lecture or speech. In other words, doodling keeps you awake and focused!

So next time you’re in a meeting, bust out a writing utensil and start drawing—though you may want to sit toward the back!

As we continue our journey into the 21st century, improving technology will only make the world even more convenient. We’ll have to remember less and even begin to rely heavily on automation in every facet of our lives.

While it would be easy to settle in to all of this convenience, aim to keep your memory sharp and your wits about you.

More from The Muse:

TIME psychology

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Men, Backed By Research

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Scientific studies show:

— Being too rich and good-looking can actually hurt a man. Then again, marriage may be a bad deal for handsome guys.

— You can predict how many women a man has slept with by how funny he is.

— Yes, most TV commercials make men look like morons.

— Companies pay women more if a male CEO has a daughter.

— Poor and hungry men prefer heavier women. Rich and full guys like skinny girls.

— Attractive TV anchors make men unable to remember the news.

— What’s the chance that a man’s kids are not really his, biologically?

— Punching things does make men feel better.

— If men’s jobs didn’t affect their ability to attract women they’d be far less ambitious.

— Men fake orgasms too.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Research

See the Human Body Under a Microscope

Closer than you thought possible

'Science is Beautiful'
‘Science is Beautiful’

The new book ‘Science is Beautiful’ shows how the human body can be alluring even in minutia.

TIME Research

E-Cigs Weaken Immune Systems in Mice, Study Says

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Latest study underscores the need for more research into electronic cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes can weaken the immune response in mice, putting them at higher risk for infections like the flu or strep, a new study finds.

The researchers exposed mice to e-cig vapor at comparable concentrations to human users for two weeks. The researchers then exposed the mice to strep and flu, comparing their responses to mice that hadn’t been exposed to the e-cig vapor. The results showed that the mice exposed to e-cig vapor had weakened immune defenses in their lungs and were more susceptible to the infections. The mice exposed to the flu virus were more likely to contract the illness and to die from it.

MORE: What to Know About the Science of E-cigarettes.

The study looked only at mice, not at humans, but the results underscore the need for further research into the effects of e-cigarettes on humans. “E-cig exposure as an alternative to cigarette smoking must be rigorously tested in users for their effects on immune response and susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections,” wrote the authors of the study published in the peer-reviewed journal, PLOS ONE. Lead author Thomas Sussan is a scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

TIME Research

There’s a Smartphone Attachment That Will Test for HIV in 15 Minutes

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The device has the potential to save millions of lives

A team of researchers from Columbia University have developed a device that can be plugged into a smartphone and used to quickly test for HIV and syphilis.

The mobile device tests for three infectious-disease markers in just 15 minutes by using a finger-prick of blood, and draws all the power it needs from the smartphone, Science Daily reports.

The accessory costs an estimated $34 to make and is capable of replicating tests done in a laboratory using equipment that costs many thousands of dollars.

Samuel K. Sia, head researcher and associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia, described the smartphone accessory as “full laboratory quality.”

Because it can be easily used in remote and impoverished areas, like rural Africa, it is hoped the small but effective smartphone accessory will save millions of lives from sexually transmitted diseases.

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

23andMe Finds Genes for Motion Sickness

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The personal genomics company 23andMe has identified 35 genetic factors tied to motion sickness, according to a new study published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics.

In what the company says is the first ever genome-wide study looking at motion sickness, 23andMe was able to determine several genes that may be tied to the nausea associated with movement in a car or on a boat. Motion sickness affects around one in three people, and prior research has suggested that it could be hereditary.

The researchers, who are employed by 23andMe (or have been in the past) and own stock options in the company, used genetic data from more than 80,000 23andMe customers. They found that many of these genetic factors were involved in balance, eye and ear development and the nervous system. Overall, the effect appeared to be stronger in women.

Read more: Genetic Testing Company 23andMe Finds New Revenue With Big Pharma

The study also found links between risk for motion sickness and a greater likelihood of having migraines, morning sickness and vertigo.

It’s still unclear what the actual drivers are, and even if a person has the gene variants linked to motion sickness, it doesn’t mean they will definitely have the condition. Genome-wide association studies like the one performed by 23andMe can only find correlations, but they’re still useful strategies for finding at-risk genes.

TIME Cancer

Lung Cancer Now Kills More Women Than Breast Cancer in Developed Countries

The lingering effects of the tobacco epidemic are partly driving the shift

For years, breast cancer has been the leading cause of cancer death among women in developed countries, but according to a new report on the incidence of cancer worldwide from the American Cancer Society, lung cancer now surpasses it.

A combination of early breast cancer detection efforts and the lingering effects of the tobacco epidemic drove the shift, says lead report author Lindsey Torre, an American Cancer Society researcher. The study, which was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and used data from 2012, reported that lung cancer killed 209,000 women in developed countries in 2012, while 197,000 women died of breast cancer.

“We know now that in a lot of developed countries among women, smoking is on the decline,” says Torre, noting that new lung cancer infections today are the result of habits formed decades ago. “The good news is that we can probably expect to see these lung cancer mortality rates peak and start to decline as times go by.”

Read more: The Cancer Breakthrough With Big Implications

The report emphasized the growing incidence of cancer in the developing world. Lung cancer was the leading killer of men in developing countries and breast cancer the leading cause of death for women.

In part, these growing numbers can be attributed to an aging population, a trend that is affecting the world at large. And as the developing world continues to westernize, people in developing countries are increasingly likely to smoke, be overweight and rarely engage in psychical activity, Torre says.

“We’re seeing the burden of cancer shift to developing countries, so they’re taking on an increasing portion of the global cancer burden,” she says.

Cancer killed 8.2 million people worldwide and 1.6 million in the United States in 2012.

TIME

You Asked: Why Does My Eye Twitch?

Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Your eye spasms, decoded

Little lid spasms are common, but they can sometimes be a sign of trouble.

A slight tremor of the eyelid—the type that shows up without warning but scrams just as suddenly—is usually no cause for concern, explains Dr. Wayne Cornblath, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center. “I think everybody has these once in a while,” Cornblath says. “You rub it, and it eventually stops.”

He’s talking about the kind of whispery muscle spasm that happens in one eyelid (or just a portion of the lid, to be precise). It can be a nuisance, but it usually goes away on its own within a few days, if not a few minutes.

To get rid of eye twitches, you might want to cut back on the caffeine. Too much of it seems to be a trigger, says Cornblath. While the exact mechanisms are a bit of a mystery, research from York University in Canada has shown that caffeine prompts the release of excitatory neurotransmitters like serotonin and noradrenaline. “Caffeine is a stimulant, and it increases reactivity within the muscles and nerves,” Cornblath explains. That may go some way toward explaining how caffeine causes occasional bouts of eyelid quivering, he says.

Getting too little sleep also seems to have an effect, though the reasons why are less clear. “Research has shown a correlation, and we know that getting more sleep can help, but we don’t know why,” Cornblath says. The same can be said for muscle spasms in general, which are quite common but confound explanation. “You hear about low potassium or dehydration, but there doesn’t seem to be much hard evidence,” Cornblath says.

Stress may also play a role, says Dr. Rebecca Taylor, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. When you’re frazzled, you produce more epinephrine—a fight-of-flight molecule that primes your body for action. This heightened state of muscle arousal may manifest itself in small contractions or spasms, like the one in your eyelid, Taylor says.

In rare cases, when people address these sleep and stress issues and the twitch persists, Cornblath says a single treatment of Botox resolves the problem. Botox temporarily “shuts off” the connection between muscles and nerves, he explains.

Eyelid spasms are usually benign. But that’s not necessarily the case if the twitch spreads, Cornblath and Taylor both say. “If you’re experiencing spasms lower in your face or neck, that’s another story,” Cornblath says.

It’s not as common, but having a spasm in one side of your face—hemifacial spasm—is definitely something to talk to a doctor about, Taylor says. So is another condition, called a bletharospasm, where the whole eyelid closes or blinks involuntarily. There are a handful of potential explanations for both of them, and an eye doctor can help you figure out what’s going on, she recommends.

Back to that irksome little lid twitch: if it lasts for months, get it checked out. But in most cases, it’ll be gone in the blink of an eye.

Read next: Why Am I Cold All The Time?

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