21 January 2017

Video Games Help Men to Cope with Stress

A new study conducted by University College London reveals that video games are one of the most popular ways for men to cope with stress. The hobby has been maligned in the mainstream media with undue and unwarranted coverage of 'GamerGate', with much of the gaming media themselves promoting the narrative that the players themselves are holding back the medium with allegations of misogyny and sexism. But this new study aims to demonstrate how men and women show significant differences in therapy, coping behavior and help-seeking. It notes that men in general are less inclined than women to seek help for their psychological needs.


It indicates that a significant percentage of male participants (29%) listed video games as a main coping strategy, with women trailing behind slightly at 18%. In contrast, more than half (52%) of female participants listed prescription pills to deal with hard times, with only 27% of men listing it as a coping method. Both genders rate “talking with friends” as their primary way to cope. The research serves as a strong rebuke to those who claim that video games carry no social purpose, especially for men and a significant percentage of women, many of whom play online video games for both social interaction and relaxation.

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17 January 2017

A Wolverine-Inspired Material

Scientists, including several from the University of California, Riverside, have developed a transparent, self-healing, highly stretchable conductive material that can be electrically activated to power artificial muscles and could be used to improve batteries, electronic devices, and robots. The findings, which represent the first time scientists have created an ionic conductor, meaning materials that ions can flow through, that is transparent, mechanically stretchable, and self-healing. The material has potential applications in a wide range of fields. It could give robots the ability to self-heal after mechanical failure; extend the lifetime of lithium ion batteries used in electronics and electric cars; and improve biosensors used in the medical field and environmental monitoring.


This project brings together the research areas of self-healing materials and ionic conductors. self-healing materials repair damage caused by wear and extend the lifetime, and lower the cost, of materials and devices. Researchers developed an interest in self-healing materials because of his lifelong love of Wolverine, the comic book character who has the ability to self-heal. Ionic conductors are a class of materials with key roles in energy storage, solar energy conversion, sensors, and electronic devices. Ionic conductors can be used to power artificial muscles and to create transparent loudspeakers -- devices that feature several of the key properties of the new material but none of these devices additionally had the ability to self-heal from mechanical damage.

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15 January 2017

Glia and Not Neurons Most Affected By Brain Aging

The difference between an old brain and a young brain isn’t so much the number of neurons but the presence and function of supporting cells called glia. Researchers who examined postmortem brain samples from 480 individuals ranging in age from 16 to 106 found that the state of someone’s glia is so consistent through the years that it can be used to predict someone’s age. The work lays the foundation to better understand glia’s role in late-in-life brain disease.


The investigators next took a preliminary look at whether these changes in gene expression could relate to changes in brain cell populations. Based on a comparison of tissue samples from 3 young and 3 old brains, they found that the number of oligodendrocytes decreases with age in the frontal cortex. They further established that this likely corresponds with decreased expression of oligodendrocyte specific genes. Other types of cells had more complicated patterns of change.

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09 January 2017

Why Psychology Lost Its Soul: Everything Comes from the Brain

Psychology is the study of behaviour. To carry out their work of modifying behaviour, such as in treating addiction, phobia, anxiety and depression, psychologists do not need to assume people have souls. For the psychologists, it is not so much that souls do not exist, it is that there is no need for them. It is said psychology lost its soul in the 1930s. By this time, the discipline fully became a science, relying on experimentation and control rather than introspection. Some of the most notable proponents have been philosophers, such as Plato (424-348 BCE) and René Descartes in the 17th century. Plato believed we do not learn new things but recall things we knew before birth. For this to be so, he concluded, we must have a soul. In the 1960s, Nobel laureate Roger Sperry showed that the mind and our consciousness are divisible, therefore disproving that aspect of Descartes’ theory. Sperry studied patients whose corpus callosum, the superhighway connecting the right and left hemispheres, had been severed by surgery aiming to control the spread of epileptic seizures.


The surgery blocked or reduced the transfer of perceptual, sensory, motor and cognitive information between the two hemispheres. Sperry showed each hemisphere could be trained to perform a task, but this experience was not available to the untrained hemisphere. That is, each hemisphere could process information outside the awareness of the other. In essence, this meant the operation produced a double consciousness. Rather than endowing rats with souls, psychologists stripped humans of theirs. In 1949, psychologist D.O. Hebb claimed the mind is the integration of the activity of the brain. Many neurophilosophers have come to the same conclusion as the psychologists, with Patricia Churchland more recently claiming there is no ghost in the machine. If the soul is where emotion and motivation reside, where mental activity occurs, sensations are perceived, memories are stored, reasoning takes place and decisions are taken, then there is no need to hypothesise its existence. There is an organ that already performs these functions: the brain.

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05 January 2017

Mimicking Biological Movements with Soft Robots

Designing a soft robot that can bend like a finger or knee may seem simple but the motion is actually incredibly complex. The design is so complicated because one actuator type is not enough to produce complex motions. The method developed by the team uses mathematical modeling of fluid-powered, fiber-reinforced actuators to optimize the design of an actuator to perform a certain motion.


The team used this model to design a soft robot that bends like an index finger and twists like a thumb when powered by a single pressure source. The new methodology will be included in the Soft Robotic Toolkit, an online, open-source resource developed at SEAS to assist researchers, educators and budding innovators to design, fabrication, model, characterize and control their own soft robots.

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