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Brain and Mind News Roundup

It's time to do a round-up of some of the latest brain and mind-related news. Did you know you can treat Alzheimer's disease with show tunes? Oh, and you probably have brain parasites from your cat. Those are just two of the items you'll find in the short reports that follow. You'll also see how smart some of your favorite celebrities are, and why women may have a disadvantage in the workplace even when their work is equal to their male counterparts.

Fight Dementia With Show Tunes

How do you improve your brain function when you have Alzheimer's disease? Try singing show tunes! At least that's what the latest research suggests. Suggested tunes include songs from 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'The Sound of Music' and 'Oklahoma!' But you have to sing along; listening did not appear to have the same positive effects.

Treat Depression With Metaphors?

In a report on the latest research on metaphorical thinking (yes, I'm not the only one who is interested in the ways metaphors affect us), I found an interesting experiment. Fifty participants wrote about their negative emotions each day, and they were split into two groups. One group was told to be literal, writing things like "I felt anxious or confused," while the other was told to be more metaphorical; "I felt like a leaf in the wind."

Symptoms of depression and negative emotion ratings were recorded at the start of the experiment and again at the end, a week later. Both were reduce only in the group that used metaphors. Apparently adopting a more metaphorical style of thinking can help alleviate negative feelings.

I was surprised by this, because it seems that writing the more dramatic ""I felt like a leaf in the wind" would evoke a stronger negative emotional state than "I felt confused." But perhaps that is only the immediate effect (something else to study), while longer-term the non-literal approach makes it easier to drop the bad feelings.

Smart Stars

It isn't really surprising that there are some smart celebrities out there. Intelligence can be applied to any endeavor after all. But it is interesting to see just how intelligent some famous people are, and which ones. So here are some celebrities with high IQ scores according to

Shakira: 140
Matt Damon: 160
Asia Carrera: 156
Arnold Schwarzenegger: 135
Sharon Stone: 148
Conan O'Brien: 160
Clair Danes: 140
James Woods: 184
David Duchovny: 147
Natalie Portman: 140
Dolph Lundgren: 160
Madonna: 140
Meryl Streep: 143
Ashton Kutcher: 160
Nicole Kidman: 138
Quentin Tarantino: 160
Lisa Kudrow: 160
Rowan Atkinson: 178

Who would have guessed Phoebe from "friends" and Mr. Bean were so smart?

The Cat Got My Brain

I probably have a parasite in my brain. Toxoplasma gondii is its name, and about 30 percent of the people on the planet have it, according to a recent article on We get it from cats (I have two), and cats get it from other cats by way of mice and rats, which, when infected, are sexually attracted to the smell of cats, and so run to them to be eaten. It's a strange world.

But is this protozoan dangerous? The evidence is mixed. Most people seem to have no symptoms at all, but studies do show an increase in schizophrenia cases coinciding with the rise in cat ownership around the start of the last century.

Brain Equality

According to Science Daily, recent research suggests that the brains of men and women are not so different, as once thought. Consider the belief that women have a larger hippocampus and therefore are more emotionally expressive and more easily develop interpersonal skills and verbal memory. The studies that suggested this apparently were based on small samples, but recent research at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science finds that there is no difference in the size of the hippocampus between the sexes.

Meta-analyses of other studies have disproved other gender-based differences in brains.

But What About Creative Equality?

Research done at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business suggests that whether or not men and women's brains are similar, the perception that they are different may have some pretty profound effects. In this case it was discovered that even when men and women produced identical work, men were perceived as more creative.

It does seem to depend on the nature of the work, however; There was no difference in perceptions of male and female fashion designers, for example. It's assumed that this is because fashion designing is "stereotypically associated with women." On the other hand, work done by architects was judged to be more creative by study participants if it was said to be done by a man.

There is no evidence that people are aware of this bias they have, which makes it difficult to overcome. Sorry to end on such a discouraging note, but good luck to all of you creative women.

Photo Credit (Brain Areas): Allan Ajifo on Flickr

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