Google vs Alzheimer’s

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Internet searches MIGHT have a positive effect on brain functions of middle-aged adults. Here’s a snippet (emphasis mine):

UCLA scientists have found that for computer-savvy middle-aged and older adults, searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings demonstrate that Web search activity may help stimulate and possibly improve brain function. The study, the first of its kind to assess the impact of Internet searching on brain performance, is currently in press at the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and will appear in an upcoming issue.

“Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function,” said principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA who holds UCLA’s Parlow-Solomon Chair on Aging.

For the study, the UCLA team worked with 24 neurologically normal research volunteers between the ages of 55 and 76. Half of the study participants had experience searching the Internet, while the other half had no experience. Age, educational level and gender were similar between the two groups.

Study participants performed Web searches and book-reading tasks while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which… tracks the intensity of cell responses in the brain by measuring the level of cerebral blood flow during cognitive tasks.

All study participants showed significant brain activity during the book-reading task, demonstrating use of the regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities…

Internet searches revealed a major difference between the two groups. While all participants demonstrated the same brain activity that was seen during the book-reading task, the Web-savvy group also registered activity in the… areas of the brain which control decision-making and complex reasoning.

…researchers found that during Web searching, volunteers with prior experience registered a twofold increase in brain activation when compared with those with little Internet experience. The tiniest measurable unit of brain activity registered by the fMRI is called a voxel. Scientists discovered that during Internet searching, those with prior experience sparked 21,782 voxels, compared with only 8,646 voxels for those with less experience.

…the Internet’s wealth of choices requires that people make decisions about what to click on in order to pursue more information, an activity that engages important cognitive circuits in the brain.

“A simple, everyday task like searching the Web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older,” Small said.

Small added that the minimal brain activation found in the less experienced Internet group may be due to participants not quite grasping the strategies needed to successfully engage in an Internet search, which is common while learning a new activity.”With more time on the Internet, they may demonstrate the same brain activation patterns as the more experienced group,” he said.

Link

There are a few caveats though, the study didn’t differentiate between the levels of prior internet searching knowledge (maybe one was a power googler while another might’ve only searched for porn before). One more caveat, the participants in the study may have been through ‘self-selecting bias’.

Does anyone know if Google funded this study? It Seems that a good way to increase the web search market share is to reel in those baby boomers into searching as a preventive measure against Alzheimer’s disease.

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Blog Action Day 08

Blog Action Day 08.

Today is Blog Action Day, where bloggers unite to give voice to the issue of poverty.

The message is simple when someone is hungry you give them food, If someone wants to work you help him find work. It is because we recognize the fact that we cannot be truly happy in a world where too many people are suffering in extreme poverty.

This cry may not be heard, this cry may not be heard above the pleas of people from developed nations, because of the financial crisis that the world is going through.

We should not, we cannot allow our cries to go unheard. Each hour, each minute, each second someone dies, a future becomes dark and a promise remains just…

Strangely Comforting–Now we’re getting somewhere — Crooked Timber

I do not know why the highlighted words moved me, maybe it is because it brought to mind dreams of a lost youth allowed to be revisited with the wisdom that often comes with age, vaguely hinting at a second chance. Makes me reminisce about Casablanca, It’s irrational, yes but sometimes the human mind makes connections that really aren’t there but the mind still insists!

It’s fascinating to wonder how Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling must feel about all this. Having long abandoned their youthful leftism, they have suddenly been forced by circumstances to implement something that looks superficially like socialism, and might even lead to a genuine restructuring of society (utopian I know, but who would have thought a month ago that we would have been wondering what to do with a nationalised finance sector). At the very least, Brown and Darling must have found it easier to adapt to the sudden collapse of the existing order than those who have never imagined anything else.

Now we’re getting somewhere — Crooked Timber.

funny—Andy Borowitz: Krugman Could Turn into Massive Douchebag, Colleagues Fear

One day after the Nobel committee announced that Paul Krugman had won the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics, colleagues of Mr. Krugman voiced concerns that winning the coveted award could turn him into an egregious douchebag.

At The New York Times, where Mr. Krugman is an op-ed page columnist, and at Princeton University, where he is a professor of economics, co-workers of the newly-minted Nobel laureate were reportedly bracing for the worst.

“I think it’s safe to say that Paul had pretty high self-esteem before the Nobel thing went down,” said one of Mr. Krugman’s Princeton associates, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “But now he’s walking around like he’s Jay-Z or something.”

The first ominous sign, according to the associate, came at a meeting of the economics department this morning, when Mr. Krugman showed up with a coffee mug reading, “No. 1 Economist.”

Andy Borowitz: Krugman Could Turn into Massive Douchebag, Colleagues Fear.

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Bert Sperling Answers Your Best Places To Live Questions – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

Nods head in agreement!

Unfortunately, I hear all the time from singles that their work usually lasts until 8 p.m. (or later), and there’s barely enough time to grab some dinner and a drink before collapsing into bed and starting the routine again the next morning. Despite all the possibilities to meet new people, the reality seems to be that a single in a big city is confined to a narrow set of acquaintances and co-workers; sort of like dying of thirst in the middle of an ocean.

Bert Sperling Answers Your Best Places To Live Questions – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog.

Why Cant Religion Be Pay to Play? – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

Many European countries do it differently. When you move to a town in Germany, for example, you are asked to state your religion at the city office. Unless you say none, you are then assessed a surtax of 8 percent on your income tax liability, and the funds are paid directly to your religious community.

With a progressive income tax, this means that the rich pay a greater share of their incomes to support religious institutions than the poor do.

No need to go harassing delinquent members; it’s pay to play.

Why Cant Religion Be Pay to Play? – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog.

Congratulations Paul Krugman! – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

More than any other recent Nobelist, Krugman is no stranger to the general public. I’m sure that his other role as a New York Times columnist and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration will be the lede in discussions of this prize. But the prize is given for scientific research, and economists of all political stripes agree that Krugman’s economic writings are Nobel-worthy.

Even so, Krugman’s broader role is not, and should not, be irrelevant. Over the past decade or so, he has been a determined crisis chaser, offering useful insights on topics like the Asian financial crisis, Latin America, and, well, the United States.

Indeed, his real-time analysis of the current crisis has been important and helpful in shaping the policy debate.

The risk of real-time policy advice is that you risk being wrong; the upside is that you may actually affect the policy debate while it is going on. Krugman has the courage to be on the right side of this risk-reward tradeoff, even as too many economists prefer being slow, correct, but irrelevant to being fast, mostly right, and extremely relevant.

Whether you like his Times columns or not, you have to admire Krugman’s tenacity. He personifies the true public intellectual, and even when he writes a column that irritates you, at least you know it involves careful thought and a true dedication to the public debate.

Beyond his column, he’s also a popular textbook author, and was one of the first economists to understand the power of the web as a way of communicating to a broader audience.

In fact, only 40 minutes after the prize was awarded, Krugman’s blog was updated with a wry message: “A funny thing happened to me this morning …”

There’s no way that Krugman will remember this, but I remember clearly the first time I met him.

In the summer following my first year of graduate school, I attended an S.S.R.C.-run workshop designed to reconnect aspiring economists with real-world economics. Krugman was a speaker at the workshop. After his talk, he spent the evening around a fireplace enjoying a few beers and sharing his career wisdom with the gathered graduate students. These sorts of investments in the economics profession don’t occur in the public eye, and they require a real belief in the power of economics.

Congratulations Paul!

Congratulations Paul Krugman! – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog.