Can getting a heart transplant change your personality?

By Seriously Science | July 31, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/charlottedownie

Photo: flickr/charlottedownie

You might think that in this day and age, we would be past seeing the heart–an organ that pumps blood–as a center of a person’s personality. However, the authors of this study regularly dealt with real patients who worried that their personalities would change after a heart transplant. In fact, they report that some patients refuse hearts from the opposite sex, and others experience anxiety about their sense of self after having a heart transplant.  To get a better handle on this phenomenon, the researchers surveyed heart transplant recipients to find out whether they thought their personalities changed after the surgery. The short answer? No. (Except for three people, who reported a distinct change in personality that they did not attribute to the life-changing experience of getting a new heart.) But our favorite response is from this patient: “’I love to put on earphones and play loud music, something I never did before. A different car, a good stereo-those are my dreams now. And I have thoughts now that I never had before.’ (remark: patient: 45 year old man, donor 17 year old boy).”

Does changing the heart mean changing personality? A retrospective inquiry on 47 heart transplant patients.

“Heart transplantation is not simply a question of replacing an organ that no longer functions. The heart is often seen as source of love, emotions, and focus of personality traits. To gain insight into the problem of whether transplant patients themselves feel a change in personality after having received a donor heart, 47 patients who were transplanted over a period of 2 years in Vienna, Austria, were asked for an interview. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: duh, feelings shmeelings

Study finds that like yawning, sniffing is contagious.

By Seriously Science | July 30, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/stevendepolo

Photo: flickr/stevendepolo

Here’s another entry to add to our list of contagious behaviors (which currently includes yawning and driving like an old person): sniffing. In this study, the researchers had participants sit in an “odor clean room” and watch the movie Perfume, which contains “28 movie sniff events (MSEs) where a character takes a sniff” in the first 60 minutes of the film. While the movie was playing, the researchers measured how often the subjects sniffed within 7 seconds of hearing and/or seeing a sniff in the movie compared to all other sniffing. They found that the subjects sniffed along with the characters in the movie, and especially when the sniff was heard without seeing what was being sniffed. The authors speculate that this mirror sniffing could be an evolutionary adaptation, because when you see someone else sniff, “there is ‘something important in the air,’ and we better find out what it is.” Sniff-ty!

Mirror sniffing: humans mimic olfactory sampling behavior.

“Ample evidence suggests that social chemosignaling plays a significant role in human behavior. Processing of odors and chemosignals depends on sniffing. Given this, we hypothesized that humans may have evolved an automatic mechanism driving sniffs in response to conspecific sniffing. To test this, we measured sniffing behavior of human subjects watching the movie Perfume, which contains many olfactory sniffing events. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: smell you later

Yes, dogs really can feel jealous.

By Seriously Science | July 29, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/dolkin

Photo: flickr/dolkin

As we’ve recently learned, toddlers can feel schadenfreude. So how about dogs? Well, no one’s tested them for schadenfreude (yet), but in this study, the researchers found that dogs experience  a related emotion: jealousy. To test this, they watched dogs’ reactions when their owners paid attention to either a stuffed dog or a jack o’ lantern (a control). They found that the dogs displayed more jealous behaviors, such as snapping at the object and getting between their owner and the object, with the stuffed dog. The authors could tell that the dogs thought the toy dogs were real because “86% of the dogs sniffed the anal region of the toy dog during the experiment or post-experiment phases.” What more proof do you need?

Jealousy in Dogs

“It is commonly assumed that jealousy is unique to humans, partially because of the complex cognitions often involved in this emotion. However, from a functional perspective, one might expect that an emotion that evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers might exist in other social species, particularly one as cognitively sophisticated as the dog. The current experiment adapted a paradigm from human infant studies to examine jealousy in domestic dogs. Read More

Cheaters might not always win, but they do get a “cheater’s high”.

By Seriously Science | July 28, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Craig Sunter

Image: Flickr/Craig Sunter

I don’t know about you, but I was definitely told as a small child that I shouldn’t cheat or lie because, among other reasons, it would make me feel bad. Well, according to this scientific study, that’s just one more childhood myth we can lay to rest alongside the Easter bunny and tooth fairy. In fact, even though study participants predicted they would feel guilty, engaging in unethical behavior actually made them feel good, an effect the authors call the “cheater’s high”. The experiment used to test this is pretty clever and involved using carbon copy paper to tell if volunteers cheated to make extra money (see bonus quote below for a complete description). Follow-up studies indicated that it was not just those who naturally tend toward cheating that get the “cheater’s high” (people still felt good when somebody else did the cheating for them), and the “high” wasn’t simply due to getting extra cash–participants got the rush when cheating on an “Intelligence” test, even when there was no financial incentive. So there you have it: not only does unethical behavior result in financial and other gains, it is rewarding in and of itself. Yet another hurdle to overcome when teaching your children morals.

The cheater’s high: the unexpected affective benefits of unethical behavior.

“Many theories of moral behavior assume that unethical behavior triggers negative affect. In this article, we challenge this assumption and demonstrate that unethical behavior can trigger positive affect, which we term a “cheater’s high.” Read More

Flashback Friday: Ant fetish. Yup, it’s a thing.

By Seriously Science | July 25, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/mendhak

Photo: flickr/mendhak

You know the saying “to each his own”? Well, that definitely applies to fetishes. From getting hit by by a car driven by a woman to getting turned on by photos from an online dermatology atlas, we’ve covered many case studies describing unusual sexual desires. But this one might take the cake – a description of a young man with formicophilia, which is defined as “the sexual interest in being crawled upon or nibbled by small insects, such as ants.” At last, someone who likes ants in his pants… literally!

Transcultural sexology: formicophilia, a newly named paraphilia in a young Buddhist male.

Children whose species-specific, juvenile sexual rehearsal play is thwarted or traumatized are at risk for developing a compensatory paraphilia. The case of a Buddhist male exemplifies the cross-cultural application of this principle. His syndrome, formicophilia, was endogenously generated without reference to or influence by commercial pornography. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, WTF?

Does singing along to your favorite songs make you a worse driver?

By Seriously Science | July 24, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Aka Hige

Image: Flickr/Aka Hige

You’re speeding down the highway, belting out the lyrics of your favorite song. Seems like a harmless way to while away the miles–but can singing along to your favorite tunes harm more than your passenger’s ears? To test whether singing makes people worse drivers, these scientists put people into a driving simulator and measured their performance while just driving, driving and listening to music, or while singing along. Turns out that singing did interfere with driver’s ability to avoid hazards… but no more than just listening to music. So when the driving gets tough, good drivers get silent.

A simulator study of the effects of singing on driving performance.

“This study aimed to investigate how singing while driving affects driver performance. Twenty-one participants completed three trials of a simulated drive concurrently while performing a peripheral detection task (PDT); each trial was conducted either without music, with participants listening to music, or with participants singing along to music. Read More


The case of the appendicitis that turned out to be broccoli.

By Seriously Science | July 23, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/darwinbell

Photo: flickr/darwinbell

Think broccoli is a harmless, tasty vegetable that’s a good source of fiber and vitamin C? Think again! According to this article, lurking under that unassuming green exterior is a villain capable of masquerading as appendicitis. Apparently, if you somehow swallow a large enough piece of broccoli, it can become lodged in the intestine. The resulting symptoms resemble appendicitis and required surgery for one unfortunate patient (see photo below of the offending floret… if you dare). Nice try, broccoli.

Rare appendicitis-like syndrome: the case of the obstructing broccoli.

“The diagnosis of acute appendicitis can be somewhat obscure in a patient that presents with right lower quadrant abdominal pain. The advancement and ease of imaging have made CT scanning readily available in the emergency department. Management can be challenging when the patient has a high likelihood of appendicitis based on clinical suspicion and negative CT scan. The purpose of this case report is to demonstrate how an obstructing bezoar caused an appendicitis-like syndrome in a patient with negative CT scan and clinical diagnosis of acute appendicitis. Read More

Scientists explain the amazing process by which bees make hexagonal honeycombs.

By Seriously Science | July 22, 2014 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Karunakar Rayker

Image: Flickr/Karunakar Rayker

Ever wonder how bees make all those hexagons in their honeycombs? It’s not one wall at a time, which might be your first guess. Need a hint? The holes in the honeycomb don’t actually start out as hexagons! In fact, according to this study, the bees make each hole as a circular tube in a precise staggered organization (Figure 1, below). The heat formed by the activity of the bees softens the wax, which creeps along the network between the holes. The wax hardens in the most energetically favorable configuration, which happens to be the rounded hexagonal pattern that honeycomb is famous for. Sweet!

Honeybee combs: how the circular cells transform into rounded hexagons.

“We report that the cells in a natural honeybee comb have a circular shape at ‘birth’ but quickly transform into the familiar rounded hexagonal shape, while the comb is being built. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, rated G

Does she want a hookup or a relationship? The answer is in her gaze.

By Seriously Science | July 21, 2014 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/altoexyl

Photo: flickr/altoexyl

It’s a common scenario in the dating world: two people begin a relationship, and it quickly becomes apparent that one person is looking to commit while the other just wants
some nookie. Well, what if there were a scientific way to tell whether that hottie at the bar is interested in you for your body or your mind? According to this study, a person’s intentions are hidden in their gaze. The researchers tracked the eyes of subjects prompted to think about love versus lust, and they found that people focused more on faces in photos when they were thinking about love, but more on bodies in photos when they were thinking about lust (see figure below). So there you have it: according to science, if a lady spends the whole evening looking at your body, she might not be interested in a long-term relationship.

Love Is in the Gaze: An Eye-Tracking Study of Love and Sexual Desire.

“Reading other people’s eyes is a valuable skill during interpersonal interaction. Although a number of studies have investigated visual patterns in relation to the perceiver’s interest, intentions, and goals, little is known about eye gaze when it comes to differentiating intentions to love from intentions to lust (sexual desire). To address this question, we conducted two experiments: one testing whether the visual pattern related to the perception of love differs from that related to lust and one testing whether the visual pattern related to the expression of love differs from that related to lust. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Flashback Friday: Finally, a male contraceptive: behold the ball cozy!

By Seriously Science | July 18, 2014 10:18 am

Image: flickr/Whatsername?

Birth control is often spoken of as a “women’s issue,” but it shouldn’t be. Men are equally involved in producing a baby, and there are a few male-centric birth control options (i.e., condoms) available. But there’s definitely room for new male contraceptives–especially ones that aren’t permanent and don’t require last-minute application. And that’s where the polyester comes in. Apparently, simply wearing a polyester sling around the scrotum can produce sperm-free semen (azoospermia), presumably from the heat (what’s sweatier than polyester?) and the electrostatics. The sling must be worn for months before it’s effective, and it takes another couple of months to reverse the effects. But hey, a polyester ball cozy sounds better than an unwanted pregnancy to me!

Contraceptive efficacy of polyester-induced azoospermia in normal men.

“Every 2 weeks, a physician at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in Egypt examined 14 32-47 year old male volunteers wearing a polyester scrotal sling day and night for 12 months to determine if polyester fabrics can act as a contraceptive in men.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: how is babby formed?

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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
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