TIME psychology

Research Shows These 5 Simple Things Can Help You Live to 100

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Research

This Is the Reason You Keep Forgetting Stuff

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Just seeing or hearing something isn't going to help you remember it

A new study coming out of Penn State suggests that individuals are better at remembering details when they anticipate having to recall them in the future.

“We found that in some cases, people have trouble remembering even very simple pieces of information when they do not expect to have to remember them,” said Brad Wyble, assistant professor of psychology at Penn State.

The researchers arrived at their conclusion after quizzing individuals about information they had just been shown. Participants often answered questions about their memories with ease when they anticipated what they would have to remember. However, when individuals were asked about information they had not specifically homed in on, they often were unable to remember the details accurately.

According to Wyble, the results from their experiments suggests that people’s expectations play a vital role in determining what they will be able to recall accurately.

“It seems like memory is sort of like a camcorder,” said Wyble. “If you don’t hit the ‘record’ button on the camcorder, it’s not going to ‘remember’ what the lens is pointed at.”

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

Study Questions Link Between Asthma and City Living

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Poverty may be the greater factor as we spend more time inside

Research has long connected living in urban areas with a high risk for asthma. And it makes sense: Cities are polluted and pollution exposure is linked to a greater risk for asthma.

That’s why a new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, is so surprising. The findings, which come from a study of 23,000 U.S. children, show that income and race are much greater risk factors for asthma than where a child lives. The greatest predictors of asthma risk, according to this research, are poverty and being African American or Puerto Rican.

“We didn’t go in looking to make this point at all,” says lead study author Dr. Corinne Keet, an assistant professor of pediatrics at John’s Hopkins Children’s Center. “We were somewhat surprised to find that living in a city didn’t seem to be a risk factor for asthma.”

To reach these findings, the researchers looked at data from 23,065 children, ages 6 to 17, who were part of the 2009-2011 National Health Interview Survey, and calculated the prevalence of asthma among the group. Their results showed that the prevalence of asthma among inner-city children was 12.9%, and 10.6% in non-inner city neighborhoods. But when the researchers accounted for race, ethnicity, geographic areas, sex and age, it was no longer significant.

Keet says she thought of looking into this while writing a grant proposal. She wanted to toss in a line about how inner-city children have more asthma, and couldn’t find the nation-wide evidence to back it up. She enlisted Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, another Johns Hopkins professor of pediatrics who has done several studies looking at the link between urban living and asthma. Keet learned from Matsui, who is a senior author of the study, that studies making the connection have primarily looked at individual cities, and that there was very little data looking at the effect nationwide.

The new findings still support pollution as a cause for asthma, but it suggests that indoor pollution may be doing more of the harm.

“A lot of what may make a difference is what happens inside the home than outside the home, especially as we spend so much time indoors these days,” says Keet. Allergen exposure from old housing materials, cockroaches and mice, mold pollution, cleaning supplies, and tobacco smoke may be heavy contributors.

Keet says other factors, like being born prematurely and second-hand smoke exposure, are also associated with both poverty and asthma. In addition, stress has been fingered as a possible contributor to asthma risk, and poverty is certainly a stressor for many families. When it comes to the race connection, Keet cites some research that has found genetic factors, especially among African ancestry, that’s associated with a greater risk. However, it’s very difficult to disentangle the genetics from the effects of other factors like socioeconomic status.

“[The study] turns 50 years of hypothesizing on its head,” says Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved in this study. “It seemed to follow logically that pollution in urban areas would contribute to asthma more so than in rural areas. I am more surprised by the rural numbers. But any young child who would have any wheezing episode should be seen and evaluated since pediatric asthma is not uncommon.”

It’s important to note that the new study was designed to look at overall prevalence of asthma, and not at the severity of a child’s asthma is. The researchers are already embarking on another study that looks at hospital and emergency room visits associated with asthma. Keet says they suspect that urban living may indeed exacerbate asthma.

“I think the takeaway is for policy makers — making sure we are not ignoring these pockets outside of cities,” says Keet. “A lot of work with great results has focused on children living in cities, and we just need to make sure we are not forgetting anyone else.”

TIME psychology

10 Things Most Parents Are Dead Wrong About: Backed By Research

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 147,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

How To Stop Being Lazy And Get More Done – 5 Expert Tips

6 Things The Most Productive People Do Every Day

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

This Orangutan Has Learned to Talk (Kind Of)

But don't worry, Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't about to happen anytime soon

Researchers from Indianapolis Zoo and the University of Amsterdam have found that at least one orangutan living in captivity can produce sounds that qualify as “faux speech.”

The orangutan in question is 50-year-old Tilda, a Bornean female who resides at the Cologne Zoo in Germany. Researchers have discovered that she can produce consonant and vowel sounds in order to communicate with her keepers at feeding time, USA Today reports.

When she sees her keepers, Tilda claps her hands, emits a series of clicks or produces low guttural sounds. While the rapid sounds are unintelligible to humans, researchers were surprised to learn that the speechlike rhythms are deliberate.

“[It is] perhaps one of the best pieces of evidence thus far that great apes are capable of vocal learning, that is, that they exert sufficient control over all the elements of their vocal tract in sufficient degree to learn how to produce new calls from humans,” said Adriano Lameira, the study’s lead author.

Scientists now question what are the learning processes involved and whether other orangutans could master similar skills.

[USA Today]

TIME Research

A Rough Childhood Can Literally Age You Says a New Study

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Researchers say childhood adversity and psychiatric disorders may be linked to cellular changes that cause aging

Childhood trauma and psychiatric conditions may cause individuals to experience accelerated aging, according to research published last week.

In a study featured in Biological Psychiatry, scientists say they may have found evidence to suggest there is a link between aging at the cellular level and trauma or stress disorders.

To complete the study, researchers recruited 299 adults and separated them into different groups based on their experiences with childhood adversity, depression, anxiety or substance abuse.

The participants then had their DNA analyzed to study the lengths of their telomeres and any alterations to mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). Telomere shortening and higher mtDNA content can serve as a yardstick to measure cellular aging.

“Results of the study show childhood adversity and lifetime psychopathology were each associated with shorter telomeres and higher mtDNA content,” read the report.

These effects were seen particularly in adults who had battled with major depression and anxiety disorders, along with parental loss or childhood maltreatment.

“Identifying the changes that occur at a cellular level due to these psychosocial factors allows us to understand the causes of these poor health conditions and possibly the overall aging process,” said Audrey Tyrka, associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University.

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

Here’s What Alcohol Advertising Does To Kids

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Booze ads reach kids far younger than the legal drinking age

Alcohol advertising that reaches children and young adults helps lead them to drink for the first time—or, if they’re experienced underage drinkers, to drink more, according to a study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“It’s very strong evidence that underage drinkers are not only exposed to the television advertising, but they also assimilate the messages,” says James D. Sargent, MD, study author and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. “That process moves them forward in their drinking behavior.”

The study found that young people were only slightly less likely than their older counterparts to have seen an alcohol ad. While 26% of young adults between the ages of 21 and 23 had seen a given alcohol advertisement, 23% of 15 to 17 year olds said they’d seen the same one. Researchers also found that young people who could accurately identify alcoholic products and who said they liked the ads were more likely to try drinking or to drink more.

Based on the findings, Sargent says that alcohol manufacturers should self-regulate more to limit the number of children they reach. The tobacco industry, which has volunteered not to buy television ads or billboards, could serve as model for alcohol manufacturers, he says.

“Alcohol is responsible for deaths of people during adolescence and during young adulthood,” says Sargent. “It seems to me that the industry should be at least as restrictive as the tobacco industry.”

“The spirits industry is committed to responsible advertising directed to adults and adheres to a rigorous advertising and marketing code,” said Lisa Hawkins, vice president of Public affairs at the Distilled Spirits Council, in a statement. The Distilled Spirits Council is a trade association that represents alcoholic beverage companies.
TIME climate change

2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record

'Climate change is perhaps the major challenge of our generation'

2014 was the hottest year since temperature record keeping began in 1880, scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Friday. The average global surface temperature hit 58.24 F (14.58 C), easily surpassing the previous record, set in 2005 and 2010, by 0.07 degrees.

“Climate change is perhaps the major challenge of our generation,” NASA scientist Michael Freilich warned in on a conference call. “Our changing climate presents us with vast opportunities as well as the potential for profound societal impacts.”

Every continent experienced record high temperatures in some area. Alaska, the west coast of the United States, Europe, Australia and Siberia were among the areas that saw particularly intense temperature rises. Other regions, like the U.S. Northeast, saw relatively low temperatures. Overall, the average global land temperature was nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher in 2014 than the average temperature in the 20th century.

Though a temperature rise of a few degrees may seem insignificant, University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd likens the disparity to “the difference between a low-grade fever and one just a few degrees higher that can have an impact on the body.”

“If you are younger than 29-years old, you haven’t lived in a month that was cooler than the 20th century average,” he said in a statement. February 1985 was the last time where average global temperatures for the month were colder than they were for the 20th century on average.

Environmental activists and scientists used the announcement as an opportunity to counter claims that climate change has slowed or stopped in recent years. These claims cite data showing that temperatures have risen at a slower rate since the turn of the century than in past decades.

“Why do we keep getting so many record-warm years?” NASA scientist Dr. Gavin Schmidt asked in an interview with the New York Times. “It’s because the planet is warming. The basic issue is the long-term trend, and it is not going away.”

“Today’s news is a clear and undeniable warning for all of us—nations, businesses, cities, and individuals—that we need to cut climate pollution and prepare for what’s coming,” said Lou Leonard, vice president for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund, in a statement.

Gavin Schmidt described determining the cause of any temperature rise as a “complicated finger printing,” but said that it’s clear that greenhouse gases added to the climate by humans are a major contributor to the warming.

While last year’s record may be alarming in itself, scientists pointed out that long-term trends are equally alarming. Nine out of the ten warmest years on record occurred in the 21st century. “The key thing we’re talking about here is not just 2014, but the long-term trends,” said Schmidt on a conference call. “We may anticipate further record highs into the years to come.”

TIME Research

Yes, Closing Your Eyes Really Does Help You Recall Things Better

It works for both visual and audio memories

A new study suggests that closing one’s eyes actually does help an individual recall things in more accurate detail.

According to research findings published in the journal Legal and Criminological Psychology, subjects who participated in a recent study at the U.K.’s University of Surrey had more accurate recollections of visual and audio memories when they closed their eyes during testing.

The survey also found that individuals who had better rapport with their interviewers scored higher on tests, reports the BBC.

Closing one’s eyes will “help people visualize the details of the event they are trying to remember,” lead researcher Robert Nash told the BBC. He added that it could “help focus on audio information, too.”

[BBC]

TIME toxins

How Plastics From Your Clothes Can End Up in Your Fish

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The key remains in your washing machine

You wouldn’t eat the tiny plastic fibers that come off your fleece jacket, would you? Research released last week suggests we might be eating the fish that do. This study—the first of its kind—found that Great Lakes fish are swallowing micro-plastic fibers that have found their way into the waste stream from washing machines. And the fish that ingest them include species sought after by Great Lakes anglers, among them: brown trout, cisco—also known as “lake herring”—and perch.

“Every one of the 18 species we sampled showed some plastic and the majority of this was fibers,” explained Sherri Mason, professor of chemistry and environmental sciences program coordinator at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Mason and Laura Kammin, pollution prevention program specialist with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, sampled 17 different southern Lake Michigan fish species for the presence of microplastics. None of the species they examined were free of contamination.

The fibers, they explained, get sluiced down the drain when synthetic fabrics, often made up of plastic, go through the wash. Washing machines don’t typically have filter traps and the tiny fibers also slip through wastewater treatment. Because they are made of plastic polymers designed to resist environmental degradation, they do just that—persist in the environment rather than degrading quickly as might bio-based fibers, like cotton or wool. Fish then ingest the fibers when they feed. When we eat those fish, we’ll be eating those fibers too.

The fibers “get enmeshed in their GI [gastrointestinal] tracts,” explained Kammin, where they can pose physical and physiological hazards. If these fibers are so tiny—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines “micro” to be 5 millimeters or less (around the length of a typical housefly)—why does it matter if fish are eating them?

As it turns out, these tiny fibers can pose physical hazards as they get ingested and lodged in the gut, the researchers say. And, as Chelsea Rochman, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California Davis who specializes in microplastic pollution research, explains this debris brings chemical contaminants that can potentially harm fish, among them endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins and potential carcinogens. The plastics–whether fragments of larger plastics, microbeads or the fibers Kammin and Mason have found–are made of chemicals that, at any size, may pose health hazards to aquatic organisms and humans alike.

These microplastics also “act as a sponge” and can “transfer a cocktail of chemicals” to fish and other aquatic species, says Rochman. This means that these fibers and other plastic debris are also delivering chemical contaminants into our food web.

In their research off the California coast, Rochman and her colleagues have found metals (including lead and cadmium, known neurotoxins) and flame retardants—polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)—that have been used widely in both hard plastics and upholstery foams and are known to be persistent pollutants. They have also found polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds associated with fossil fuels and a variety of adverse health effects, and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The researchers have also found evidence that plastic debris is affecting endocrine hormone activity in fish.

Other researchers in the U.K. and on the U.S. East Coast have found similar results in examining microplastics: evidence that such fibers and fragments had absorbed PBDEs, metals, PCBs and other contaminants that can be passed up the food web to humans. The European researchers also found microplastic fibers and fragments in commercially grown shellfish, including mussels and oysters destined for dinner plates. Eat one of those shellfish and you’ll be eating whatever that mollusk has.

Although she hasn’t published the research yet, Rochman says that she and colleagues have found microplastics in seafood sold in markets in the U.S. and Indonesia. The fish sampled from the U.S. market, she says, had plastic fragments and fibers in it—just like those found by the Great Lakes researchers. So it seems increasingly clear that if we want seafood free from chemical contaminants we need water free of both invisible toxics and the ubiquitous plastic debris that’s acting as a pollutant delivery system.

Next steps for Kammin and Mason will be analyzing chemicals in the plastics they’ve found and their health effects. They also plan to expand their freshwater research to rivers and streams.

What can be done to stem the tide of this debris? The solution, say Kammin, Mason, and Rochman, will have to be upstream–where these fibers are getting into the water in the first place. Perhaps doing less laundry, they say. Or, we could all start wearing more natural fibers. But, more realistically, washing machine filters are probably needed. In the meantime, some of our seafood may come with a sprinkle of microplastic.

This article originally appeared on Civil Eats.

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