As you might already know, it’s pretty easy to give people false memories. It’s why “past life regression” sometimes seems to work, and why even eyewitness testimony can be called into question in court. Here, a group of scientists attempted to introduce false beliefs to make college students wary of the Disney character Pluto. To do so, they used survey results to make some of the subjects think they were likely to have had a creepy encounter with someone dressed up as Pluto: “For Bad Pluto subjects, the profile first described a number of likely childhood fears (loud noises, receiving public displays of affection, and getting into trouble) and then informed subjects that on the basis of their profile, the following excerpt might be relevant to them. The excerpt was in the form of a newspaper article that told of a Pluto character who abused hallucinogenic drugs and ‘developed a habit of inappropriately licking the ears of many young visitors with his large fabric tongue’ in the 1980s and 1990s.” They found that the people who thought that Pluto had ‘violated’ them were less willing to pay for a Pluto souvenir, while those who were made to think that the ear-licking incident was positive were willing to pay more. That’s okay, Pluto — just like Mickey, I can’t be mad at ya!
“We exposed college students to suggestive materials in order to lead them to believe that, as children, they had a negative experience at Disneyland involving the Pluto character. A sizable minority of subjects developed a false belief or memory that Pluto had uncomfortably licked their ear. Read More
Analysis of crime scenes involves a lot more tedium than shows like CSI would have you believe. That’s because it’s vital that the relative positions of all potential evidence are accurately measured and recorded. Traditionally, such distances are measured using expensive scanners, lasers, or even plain old tape measures. But with single stroke of brilliance, these forensic scientists are proposing a new method that might just make all that painstaking data collection a thing of the past. They propose taking advantage of the detailed object mapping used by the Xbox Kinect interactive gaming system. They compare its measuring capabilities to that of proven scanning systems, and as long as you keep the Kinect within three meters of the target, it works pretty well. How long do you think it will be before we see this on CSI?
“Kinect sensor appears as a low-cost option for 3D modeling. This manuscript describes a methodology to test the applicability of Kinect to crime scenes. Read More
Pop quiz: When is putting superglue in someone’s ear a good idea? If you answered “Never!” then you are…wrong! That’s because superglue is one of the only ways that doctors can remove smooth, round objects that get wedged in people’s ears (see the first article below). But other than that, yes, putting superglue in your ear is a terrible idea. It’s particularly bad because it sticks so well to skin–which you already know if you’ve ever accidentally superglued your index finger to your thumb. So how do doctors get the sticky stuff out? Well, according to the second article below, they can use warm 3% hydrogen peroxide to safely remove superglue without injuring delicate ear tissue. While I would never attempt that with my own ears, perhaps it might help the next time I superglue something to my finger?
“Foreign bodies of the external auditory canal are a common and challenging problem. Several techniques have been described and utilized to remove the many objects placed in ears. The tightly wedged smooth round foreign body remains one of the most difficult to remove. A new method, using a cyanoacrylate adhesive (Super Glue) was used successfully to remove a soy bean in a 16-year-old male. The glue was placed on the blunt end of a cotton swab, which was then introduced into the canal to make contact with the bean. Removal was easy, safe, and effective. This procedure avoided the morbidity associated with many well known techniques, eg, the use of forceps, and may have prevented removal under general anesthesia.”
“The ability of superglue (a cyanoacrylate adhesive) to bond strongly and quickly to skin presents considerable problems when it is inserted into the ear. A case of a patient who inadvertently self-administered Bostik superglue into her left external auditory meatus is reported. The superglue was removed successfully, in the form of a cast, with warm three per cent hydrogen peroxide without damaging the meatus or the typanic membrane. The use of hydrogen peroxide to remove superglue from the ear has not been described previously.”
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Nasal leech infestation: report of seven leeches and literature review.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: “Here’s egg in your eye”: a prospective study of blunt ocular trauma resulting from thrown eggs.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Top 5 insensitive titles!
We’ve heard of intractable hiccups (which can be cured, FYI, by digital rectal massage), but here’s a new one: intractable sneezing. This article reports the case of a young girl who sneezed up to 2,000 times a day for 3 months. She did not get better despite being seen by numerous doctors and being treated with everything from antihistamines to corticosteroids, leading the doctors to believe it was probably psychological. Or maybe she was just allergic to sneezing?
“We report a case of hysterical, intractable paroxysmal sneezing in an adolescent girl. The patient had been observed by two pediatricians, an allergist, an emergency room physician, and a chiropractor. She had been treated with antihistamines, epinephrine, corticosteroid nasal spray, and a 1-week course of an oral corticosteroid without improvement. She was referred for evaluation of an allergic etiology before continuing her workup with a computed tomographic head scan. The patient had been sneezing almost daily for 3 mo up to 2000 times a day. Read More
You know what they say about huge animals, don’t you? They have huge balls… of earwax! Take blue whales, for example: according to this study, they carry around 10-inch long plugs of earwax. The earwax accumulates in concentric layers over the entire lifetime of the whale, with the oldest layers towards the center and the newest closest to the skin (see figure below). And because earwax is hydrophobic, it can absorb fat-soluble compounds, including some hormones and pollutants. These two properties allow scientists to “read” these earwax plugs and trace the life histories of the whales, including times of stress (via cortisol levels) and exposure to contaminants such as mercury. Although the earwax can only be retrieved from dead whales (the sample used in this study came from a whale who died after being hit by a ship), studying these plugs will allow scientists to learn about the pollutants that whales are exposed to. Come on–that’s probably the coolest thing about earwax you’ve learned today!
“Lifetime contaminant and hormonal profiles have been reconstructed for an individual male blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus, Linnaeus 1758) using the earplug as a natural aging matrix that is also capable of archiving and preserving lipophilic compounds. Read More
I don’t know about you, but I find Twitter to be the most frustrating form of social media. (Perhaps it’s simply because I’m just not pithy enough to limit myself 140 characters.) And on top of that, now we learn that Twitter might actually be bad for your mental health. If you are worried you might be in danger of “Twitter psychosis,” you might want to compare your Twitter activity to that of this patient: “Approximately 1 year before admission, she had started to “twitter” excessively. Sometimes, she would spend several hours a day reading and writing messages, neglecting her social relationships and, sometimes, even meals and regular sleeping hours.” The doctors treating this patient suspect that reading and trying to interpret hundreds of extremely short messages, many from spammers, induced the psychosis she experienced (see below for more details). #tweetatyourownrisk
“The authors believe that the amount of symbolic language (caused by the limitation of 140 characters per Twitter message), the automated spam responses with seemingly related content, and the general interactive features of Twitter might combine several aspects that could induce or further aggravate psychosis.”
“The authors report the development of psychosis in a young woman coinciding with excessive use of the online communication system Twitter and the results of an experimental account to argue that Twitter may have a high potential to induce psychosis in predisposed users.” Read More
Does the science world have its own version of the Kardashians? According to this article (written by a British geneticist Neil Hall, who himself has >1500 Twitter followers), certain scientists have way more Twitter followers than should be warranted by their publication records. To measure this effect, he invented the “Kardashian index”, which is a metric similar to the h-index; however, instead of productivity, it measures the “discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record.” Certain scientists have very high “K-index” scores–that is, they’re “renowned for being renowned.” For those people, Hall says,”[the K-index] can also be an incentive – if your K-index gets above 5, then it’s time to get off Twitter and write those papers.”
“In the era of social media there are now many different ways that a scientist can build their public profile; the publication of high-quality scientific papers being just one. While social media is a valuable tool for outreach and the sharing of ideas, there is a danger that this form of communication is gaining too high a value and that we are losing sight of key metrics of scientific value, such as citation indices. Read More
Everyone has their number — how many people you were “with” before your current relationship. This number is usually not revealed to one’s partner… for good reason! But even if you don’t tell, can it still impact your relationship? In this study, the researchers surveyed married, cohabitating, and dating couples to find out whether couples with different levels of sexual experience were more or less happy. As you might have guessed, many couples were pretty well-matched in terms of their sexual experience. However, those couples with very different numbers reported significantly lower levels of satisfaction with and commitment to their relationship. So, you might be wondering, how do most couples end up with matching levels of experience if they don’t talk about it? The authors speculate that “because sexual experience is correlated with religiosity, social–political attitudes, and other variables, it is possible that as couples match on these variables, they also indirectly are matching on sexual experience.”
“The present study examined heterosexual romantic partners’ number of intercourse partners prior to the initiation of their relationship to determine if a significant positive correlation (matching) occurred between partners, and if this matching was associated with their level of love, satisfaction with, and commitment to the relationship. One hundred and six couples who were dating, cohabitating, or married participated in this study. Read More
If you are one of the unlucky who get carsick, you probably know quite well that being the driver is much less nauseating than being a passenger. But why is this the case? Prior to this study, some scientists thought it had to do with mismatching information from different senses (your eyes may say you are not moving, but your body says differently), and some thought it was due to overstimulation of the inner ear. In this study, researchers from the Israeli Naval Hyperbaric Institute separated different aspects of the experience by having pairs of participants sit in a specially built “nauseogenic” rotating car. In some cases, the subjects’ heads were even yoked together using customized helmets (see Figure 1 below), allowing one person to control the head movements and rotations of the other. The scientists found that being in control of movement seemed to be important in reducing motion sickness — with all other stimuli being equal, the passengers still felt sicker. Teacups, anyone?
“The central hypothesis of the work is that the dimension of control-no control plays an important role in motion sickness. Although it is generally agreed that having control over a moving vehicle greatly reduces the likelihood of motion sickness, few studies have addressed this issue directly, and the theoretical explanation for this phenomenon is not completely clear. In this study, we equated groups differing in controllability for head movement, vision, activity, and predictability, which have often been suggested in the literature as explanations for the driver’s immunity to motion sickness. Read More
Lucid dreaming occurs when you become aware that you are dreaming, and if you can control your dream experience, it can be really fun. Sadly, while there are ways to improve your chances of lucid dreaming, including keeping a dream diary and testing whether you might be dreaming with “reality checks“, lucid dreaming can still be difficult to achieve. Fortunately, neuroscientists are interested in figuring out how to promote lucid dreaming because it offers them a unique way to study differences in brain activities while waking and sleeping. In this study, the researchers developed a method to trigger lucid dreaming in subjects that uses low-power electrical currents of specific frequencies applied directly to the head. Now all we need is a home-use version or DIY plans–but until then, we’d love to hear your favorite lucid dreaming tricks and experiences!
“Recent findings link fronto-temporal gamma electroencephalographic (EEG) activity to conscious awareness in dreams, but a causal relationship has not yet been established. Read More