Cognitive function and oral perception in independently-living octogenarians

Today, at the 43rd Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR), held in conjunction with the 38th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Association for Dental Research, Kazunori Ikebe, from Osaka University, Japan, will present a research study titled “Cognitive Function and Oral Perception in Independently-living Octogenarians.”In this study, researchers hypothesized that the decline of cognitive impairment is involved in oral perceptions since its preclinical stage. The aim of this study was to examine association of cognitive function with tactile and taste perceptions in independently-living 80-year-old elderly.The participants were community-dwelling and independently-living elderly (n=956, 80 years old) excluding those with dementia. Cognitive function was measured using the Japanese version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA-J) that was the assessment tool of mild cognitive impairment. Oral tactile perception was tested by oral stereognostic ability (OSA) with the test pieces comprised six shaped forms. Subjects were told they should use their tongue and palate to identify the shape. The correct identification of the shape was scored. Taste perception was evaluated by the whole mouth gustatory test with 1-ml of water solution included the four basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty and bitter). The concentration answered the taste correctly was taken as the recognition threshold.Multiple linear regression analysis was used to examine relationships between tactile and taste perceptions and cognitive function after controlling for gender and number of teeth. P-values<0.05 were considered to be statistically significant.</p>The OSA score was positively associated with number of teeth. On the other hand, taste thresholds of sour, salty and bitter were significantly lower in female than males. …

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Can the blind ‘hear; colors, shapes? Yes, show researchers

What if you could “hear” colors? Or shapes? These features are normally perceived visually, but using sensory substitution devices (SSDs) they can now be conveyed to the brain noninvasively through other senses.At the Center for Human Perception and Cognition, headed by Prof. Amir Amedi of the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences and the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Medicine, the blind and visually impaired are being offered tools, via training with SSDs, to receive environmental visual information and interact with it in ways otherwise unimaginable. The work of Prof. Amedi and his colleagues is patented by Yissum, the Hebrew University’s Technology Transfer CompanySSDs are non-invasive sensory aids that provide visual information to the blind via their existing senses. For example, using a visual-to-auditory SSD in a clinical or everyday setting, users wear a miniature camera connected to a small computer (or smart phone) and stereo headphones. The images are converted into “soundscapes,” using a predictable algorithm, allowing the user to listen to and then interpret the visual information coming from the camera.With the EyeMusic SSD (available free at the Apple App store at http://tinyurl.com/oe8d4p4), one hears pleasant musical notes to convey information about colors, shapes and location of objects in the world.Using this SSD equipment and a unique training program, the blind are able to achieve various complex. visual-linked abilities. In recent articles in Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience and Scientific Reports, blind and blindfolded-sighted users of the EyeMusic were shown to correctly perceive and interact with objects, such as recognizing different shapes and colors or reaching for a beverage (A live demonstration can be seen at http://youtu.be/r6bz1pOEJWg).In another use of EyeMusic, it was shown that other fast and accurate movements can be guided by the EyeMusic and visuo-motor learning. …

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We recognize less attractive faces best: How attractiveness interferes with recognition of faces

Psychologists at the University of Jena (Germany) have demonstrated that we tend to remember unattractive faces more than attractive ones. In the journal Neuropsychologia the psychologists write that attractive faces without particularly remarkable features leave a much less distinctive impression.Great eyes, full lips and harmonious features: actress Angelina Jolie is in possession of all of these. That she is regarded as the epitome of female attractiveness doesn’t come as a surprise for Dr. Holger Wiese of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (Germany). “Her features combine many factors which contribute to the attractiveness of a face,” the psychologist says. In his research, he mostly deals with the perception of faces. ”On the one hand we find very symmetrical and rather average faces appealing,” he explains. “On the other hand, people who are perceived as being particularly attractive stand out by additional traits, which distinguish them from the average.” Apart from being attractive, features like big eyes or a distinctively shaped mouth ensure a high recognition value. “We tend to remember those faces well,” according to Wiese.But this isn’t generally true for all attractive people – as Wiese and his colleagues, Carolin Altmann and Professor Dr. Stefan Schweinberger have shown in the new study. …

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Are you political on Facebook?

Social media and networks are ripe for politicization, for movement publicity, advocacy group awareness, not-for-profit fund-raising campaigns and perhaps even e-government. However, the majority of users perhaps see these tools as being useful for entertainment, interpersonal connections and sharing rather than politics. A research paper to be published in the Electronic Government, An International Journal reinforces this notion. The results suggest that the potential for political activism must overcome the intrinsic user perception that online social networks are for enjoyment rather than utility, political or otherwise.Tobias Kollmann and Christoph Stckmann of the E-Business and E-Entrepreneurship Research Group, at the University of Duisburg-Essen, and Ina Kayser of VDI — The Association of German Engineers, in Dsseldorf, Germany, explain that while social networks have become increasingly important as discussion forums, users are not at present motivated to accept political decisions that emerge from such discussions. As such, Facebook is yet to properly break through as the innovative means of political participation that it might become.The team roots this disjuncture in the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance where two opposing concepts cannot be rationalized simultaneously and an individual discards one as invalid in favour of the other to avoid the feeling of psychological discomfort. For example, users enjoy logging on to a social network, such as Facebook, so that they can share photos, play games and chat online with friends. This is inherently at odds, it does not resonate, with the idea of Facebook being useful as a tool for discussing and implementing the perhaps more important realm of human endeavour we know as politics.However, the team says, the advent of politically oriented Facebook games, such as “Campaigns” and “America 2049” blur the lines between the area of enjoyment and political discussion. Moreover, they point out that the boundaries were already blurred in terms of interpersonal discussions among some users where political discussion is facilitated by the network and also perceived as an enjoyable part of participation despite it falling in the “useful” camp. Indeed, the team’s data from several hundred randomly selected Facebook users would support the notion that the perception of mutual benefit arising from political participation on Facebook positively adds to the perception of usefulness as well as being enjoyable. They allude to the fact that the findings might apply equally well to other so-called “Web 2.0” tools on the Internet.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Inderscience. …

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Hate the sound of your voice? Not really

Sep. 12, 2013 — It turns out we really do like the sound of our own voice. We just may not realize it.A new study by Albright College has found that people unknowingly assessed their own recorded voice as sounding more attractive in comparison to how others rated their voices, which is considered a form of unconscious self-enhancement.”People generally tend to have an enhanced sense about themselves,” says Susan Hughes, associate professor of psychology. “Often people will think they have more attractive or possess better qualities than they actually do. This is sometimes used as a mechanism to build self-esteem or fight against depression.”The findings are included in a new article, “I Like My Voice Better: Self-Enhancement Bias in Perceptions of Voice Attractiveness,” to be published later this month in the scholarly journal Perception. The study is co-authored by Marissa Harrison, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Penn State University’s Harrisburg campus.For the study, 80 men and women assessed the voice attractiveness of an array of different voice recordings of people counting from one to 10. Unbeknownst to participants, researchers included three different samples of participants’ own voice recordings in the group. Researchers believe that most participants did not recognize or realize their own voices were included, yet rated their own voices as sounding more attractive than how other raters judged their voices. Participants also rated their own voices more favorably than they had rated the voices of other people.”Given this age of heightened narcissism, this study provides further evidence that individuals seem to inflate their opinions of themselves by thinking the sound of their own voices is more attractive,” says Hughes.The article suggests that participants may have also preferred their own voice due to a mere exposure effect and the tendency to like the familiar. This effect may have still been a factor even if participants were not overtly aware they were hearing their own voice, according to the study.Hughes, an expert in evolutionary psychology and voice perception, was surprised by the results, especially since many people report not liking the sound of their recorded voice. …

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Perception of marijuana as a ‘safe drug’ is scientifically inaccurate, finds review of teen brain studies

Aug. 27, 2013 — The nature of the teenage brain makes users of cannabis amongst this population particularly at risk of developing addictive behaviors and suffering other long-term negative effects, according to researchers at the University of Montreal and New York’s Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.”Of the illicit drugs, cannabis is most used by teenagers since it is perceived by many to be of little harm. This perception has led to a growing number of states approving its legalization and increased accessibility. Most of the debates and ensuing policies regarding cannabis were done without consideration of its impact on one of the most vulnerable population, namely teens, or without consideration of scientific data,” wrote Professor Didier Jutras-Aswad of the University of Montreal and Yasmin Hurd, MD, PhD, of Mount Sinai. “While it is clear that more systematic scientific studies are needed to understand the long-term impact of adolescent cannabis exposure on brain and behavior, the current evidence suggests that it has a far-reaching influence on adult addictive behaviors particularly for certain subsets of vulnerable individuals.”The researchers reviewed over 120 studies that looked at different aspects of the relationship between cannabis and the adolescent brain, including the biology of the brain, chemical reaction that occurs in the brain when the drug is used, the influence of genetics and environmental factors, in addition to studies into the “gateway drug” phenomenon. “Data from epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown an association between cannabis use and subsequent addiction to heavy drugs and psychosis (i.e. schizophrenia). Interestingly, the risk to develop such disorders after cannabis exposure is not the same for all individuals and is correlated with genetic factors, the intensity of cannabis use and the age at which it occurs. When the first exposure occurs in younger versus older adolescents, the impact of cannabis seems to be worse in regard to many outcomes such as mental health, education attainment, delinquency and ability to conform to adult role,” Dr Jutras-Aswad said.Although it is difficult to confirm in all certainty a causal link between drug consumption and the resulting behavior, the researchers note that rat models enable scientists to explore and directly observe the same chemical reactions that happen in human brains. Cannabis interacts with our brain through chemical receptors (namely cannabinoid receptors such as CB1 and CB2.) These receptors are situated in the areas of our brain that govern our learning and management of rewards, motivated behavior, decision-making, habit formation and motor function. …

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Multiple genes manage how people taste sweeteners

Aug. 20, 2013 — Genetics may play a role in how people’s taste receptors send signals, leading to a wide spectrum of taste preferences, according to Penn State food scientists. These varied, genetically influenced responses may mean that food and drink companies will need a range of artificial sweeteners to accommodate different consumer tastes.”Genetic differences lead to differences in how people respond to tastes of foods,” said John Hayes, assistant professor, food science and director of the sensory evaluation center.Based on the participants’ genetic profile, researchers were able to explain the reactions of subjects in a taste test when they sampled Acesulfame-K — Ace K — in the laboratory. Ace K is a human-made non-nutritive sweetener commonly found in carbonated soft drinks and other products. Non-nutritive sweeteners are sweeteners with minimal or no calories.While some people find Ace K sweet, others find it both bitter and sweet.The researchers, who reported their findings in the recent issue of the journal, Chemical Senses, said that variants of two bitter taste receptor genes — TAS2R9 and TAS2R31 — were able to explain some of the differences in Ace K’s bitterness.These two taste receptor genes work independently, but they can combine to form a range of responses, said Alissa Allen,doctoral student in food science, who worked with Hayes.Humans have 25 bitter-taste receptors and one sweet receptor that act like locks on gates. When molecules fit certain receptors like keys, a signal is sent to the brain, which interprets these signals as tastes — some pleasant and some not so pleasant, Allen said.In another study recently published in the journal Chemosensory Perception, Allen had 122 participants taste two stevia extracts, RebA — Rebaudioside A — and RebD — Rebaudioside D. Stevia is a South American plant that has served as a sweetener for centuries, according to the researchers. While the plant is becoming more popular as a natural non-nutritive sweetener, consumers have reported of tastes from stevia-based sweeteners, including bitterness.The researchers found that RebA and RebD bitterness varies greatly across subjects, but this was not related to whether or not participants found Ace K bitter. Likewise, variation in the TAS2R9 and TAS2R31 genes did not predict RebA and RebD bitterness. They also found that of the stevia extracts, the participants considered RebD to be much less bitter than RebA.While stevia is growing in acceptance as a natural replacement for other sweeteners, manufacturers do not use the whole leaf. …

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A hypnotic suggestion can generate true and automatic hallucinations

Aug. 13, 2013 — A multidisciplinary group of researchers from Finland (University of Turku and University of Helsinki) and Sweden (University of Skövde) has now found evidence that hypnotic suggestion can modify processing of a targeted stimulus before it reaches consciousness. The experiments show that it is possible to hypnotically modulate even highly automatic features of perception, such as color experience. The results are presented in two articles published in PLoS ONE and International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.The nature of hypnotically suggested changes in perception has been one of the main topics of controversy during the history of hypnosis. The major current theories of hypnosis hold that we always actively use our own imagination to bring about the effects of a suggestion. For example the occurrence of visual hallucinations always requires active use of goal directed imagery and can be experienced both with and without hypnosis.The study published in PLoS ONE was done with two very highly hypnotizable participants who can be hypnotized and dehypnotized by just using a one-word cue. The researchers measured brains oscillatory activity from the EEG in response to briefly displayed series of red or blue shapes (squares, triangles or circles). The participants were hypnotized and given a suggestion that certain shapes always have a certain color (e.g. all squares are always red). Participant TS-H reported constantly experiencing a change in color immediately when a suggested shape appeared on the screen (e.g. …

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Imagination can change what we hear and see

June 27, 2013 — A study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows, that our imagination may affect how we experience the world more than we perhaps think. What we imagine hearing or seeing “in our head” can change our actual perception. The study, which is published in the scientific journal Current Biology, sheds new light on a classic question in psychology and neuroscience — about how our brains combine information from the different senses.Share This:”We often think about the things we imagine and the things we perceive as being clearly dissociable,” says Christopher Berger, doctoral student at the Department of Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “However, what this study shows is that our imagination of a sound or a shape changes how we perceive the world around us in the same way actually hearing that sound or seeing that shape does. Specifically, we found that what we imagine hearing can change what we actually see, and what we imagine seeing can change what we actually hear.”The study consists of a series of experiments that make use of illusions in which sensory information from one sense changes or distorts one’s perception of another sense. Ninety-six healthy volunteers participated in total.In the first experiment, participants experienced the illusion that two passing objects collided rather than passed by one-another when they imagined a sound at the moment the two objects met. In a second experiment, the participants’ spatial perception of a sound was biased towards a location where they imagined seeing the brief appearance of a white circle. In the third experiment, the participants’ perception of what a person was saying was changed by their imagination of a particular sound.According to the scientists, the results of the current study may be useful in understanding the mechanisms by which the brain fails to distinguish between thought and reality in certain psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia. Another area of use could be research on brain computer interfaces, where paralyzed individuals’ imagination is used to control virtual and artificial devices.”This is the first set of experiments to definitively establish that the sensory signals generated by one’s imagination are strong enough to change one’s real-world perception of a different sensory modality” says Professor Henrik Ehrsson, the principle investigator behind the study.Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by Karolinska Institutet. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. …

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New theory: Emotions arise through the integration of perceptual and cognitive information

June 25, 2013 — A life without feelings — unimaginable. Although emotions are so important, philosophers are still discussing what they actually are. Prof. Dr. Albert Newen and Dr. Luca Barlassina of the Institute of Philosophy II at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have drawn up a new theory. According to this, emotions are not just special cases of perception or thought but a separate kind of mental state which arises through the integration of feelings of bodily processes and cognitive contents.They describe the model in the journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.Earlier theories of emotionAround the turn of the 20th Century, the psychologists William James and Karl Lange proposed that emotions are nothing other than perceptions of bodily states. According to the James-Lange theory, we do not tremble because we are scared, but rather we are scared because we tremble. “This theory does not, however, consider the cognitive content of many emotions,” says Albert Newen. If a student is anxious about an exam, then he is experiencing this anxiety because he thinks, for example, that the exam is important and that he will have a blackout. …

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Video gamers really do see more: Gamers capture more information faster for visual decision-making

June 11, 2013 — Hours spent at the video gaming console not only train a player’s hands to work the buttons on the controller, they probably also train the brain to make better and faster use of visual input, according to Duke University researchers.”Gamers see the world differently,” said Greg Appelbaum, an assistant professor of psychiatry in the Duke School of Medicine. “They are able to extract more information from a visual scene.”It can be difficult to find non-gamers among college students these days, but from among a pool of subjects participating in a much larger study in Stephen Mitroff’s Visual Cognition Lab at Duke, the researchers found 125 participants who were either non-gamers or very intensive gamers.Each participant was run though a visual sensory memory task that flashed a circular arrangement of eight letters for just one-tenth of a second. After a delay ranging from 13 milliseconds to 2.5 seconds, an arrow appeared, pointing to one spot on the circle where a letter had been. Participants were asked to identify which letter had been in that spot.At every time interval, intensive players of action video games outperformed non-gamers in recalling the letter.Earlier research by others has found that gamers are quicker at responding to visual stimuli and can track more items than non-gamers. When playing a game, especially one of the “first-person shooters,” a gamer makes “probabilistic inferences” about what he’s seeing — good guy or bad guy, moving left or moving right — as rapidly as he can.Appelbaum said that with time and experience, the gamer apparently gets better at doing this. “They need less information to arrive at a probabilistic conclusion, and they do it faster.”Both groups experienced a rapid decay in memory of what the letters had been, but the gamers outperformed the non-gamers at every time interval.The visual system sifts information out from what the eyes are seeing, and data that isn’t used decays quite rapidly, Appelbaum said. Gamers discard the unused stuff just about as fast as everyone else, but they appear to be starting with more information to begin with.The researchers examined three possible reasons for the gamers’ apparently superior ability to make probabilistic inferences. Either they see better, they retain visual memory longer or they’ve improved their decision-making.Looking at these results, Applebaum said, it appears that prolonged memory retention isn’t the reason. But the other two factors might both be in play — it is possible that the gamers see more immediately, and they are better able make better correct decisions from the information they have available.To get at this question, the researchers will need more data from brainwaves and MRI imagery to see where the brains of gamers have been trained to perform differently on visual tasks.This study, which appears in the June edition of the journal Attention, Perception and Psychophysics, was supported by grants from the Army Research Office (54528LS), the Department of Homeland Security (HSHQDC-08-C-00100), DARPA (D12AP00025-002) and Nike Inc.

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Asking for a precise number during negotiations can give you the upper hand

June 1, 2013 — With so much on the line for job seekers in this difficult economic climate, a lot of new hires might be wondering how — or whether at all — to negotiate salary when offered a new position. A recently published study on the art of negotiation by two professors at Columbia Business School could help these new hires — and all negotiators — seal a stronger deal than before.Research conducted by Professors Malia Mason and Daniel Ames and doctoral students Alice Lee and Elizabeth Wiley finds that asking for a specific and precise dollar amount versus a rounded-off dollar amount can give you the upper hand during any negotiation over a quantity.”What we discovered is there is a big difference in what most people think is a good strategy when negotiating and what research shows is a good strategy,” said Professor Mason. “Negotiators should remember that in this case, zero’s really do add nothing to the bargaining table.”The research, forthcoming in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, looks at the two-way flow of communication between 1,254 fictitious negotiators.The negotiators were placed in everyday scenarios such as buying jewelry or negotiating the sale of a used car. Some people were asked to make an opening offer using a rounded-off dollar amount, while other people were asked to use a precise dollar amount; let’s say for example $5,000 vs. $5,015.The results showed that overall, people making an offer using a precise dollar amount such as $5,015 versus a rounded-off dollar amount such as $5,000 were perceived to be more informed about the true value of the offer being negotiated. This perception, in turn, led precise-offer recipients to concede more value to their counterpart.In their negotiation scenarios, the professors concluded the person making a precise offer is successfully giving the illusion they have done their homework.When perceived as better informed, the person on the opposite end believes there is less room to negotiate.To determine whether people make round offers more often than not, the researchers looked at the real estate market. Research done on Zillow, the online real estate marketplace, showed the overwhelming majority of displayed prices were rounded numbers, and that only two percent of people listed their homes with precise dollar amounts.”The practical application of these findings — signaling that you are informed and using a precise number — can be used in any negotiation situation to imply you’ve done your homework,” Mason concluded.

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