From daredevil to chicken: Scientists find off-switch for risky behavior

Whether you prefer to play it safe or wade into risky business for larger payoffs, your decision process may largely depend on a tiny bundle of cells deep in your noggin.

By tagging and tweaking those cells in the brains of high-rolling rats, researchers were able to turn them from ballsy to cautious decision-makers. More specifically, the rodents switched their preference away from pulling a lever that released a jackpot of sugary treats 25 percent of the time to another lever that served up smaller-sized treats 100 percent of the time.

Source: From daredevil to chicken: Scientists find off-switch for risky behavior

I’m sure my parents would have loved to have this for me as a kid. And as an adult I suppose.

This Video Explains How Stress Breaks Down Your Brain

If you think there’s a possibility of Alzheimer’s for you, please make sure you make plans with regard to health, etc. before things get bad and you can’t make those decisions anymore. Things easily become a big mess in those situations.

How Puberty May Stop Us From Making Asinine Decisions

The pre-pubescent penchant for shenanigans is undeniable. But how our developing brains grow out of letting us make dopey decisions is still up for debate.

Researchers have speculated that the adolescent brain eventually gets better at shoving down those hankerings to commit acts of stupidity. But now a study on primates suggests that the brain may mature by getting better at forming alternate strategies.

Source: How puberty may stop us from making asinine decisions

Puberty replaces childish urges with… other urges.

Sleep Drug Modafinil Affirmed by Scientists as a Safe and Effective Brain Booster

Off-license users of modafinil—a drug developed to treat various sleep disorders—have known for some time that it doubles as a surprisingly effective cognitive enhancer, and with very few side effects. A new systematic review shows it’s true, raising some important ethical questions about the use of smart drugs.

Source: Sleep Drug Modafinil Affirmed by Scientists as a Safe and Effective Brain Booster

Interesting news, but I can’t help but think of one of my favourite books: Flowers for Algernon

New Study, Also Everyone You Know: Dudes Lie When They Feel Weak

Dudes like to feel like dudes, and some would argue, they need to feel like dudes—or else. So the surest route to provoking a certain sort of dude to dude out is to question his dudeness in any way. It’s a truth as old as time and as obvious as its passing, but now, a very validating study has backed up the truth of dude overcompensation in a fairly hilarious way.

Source: New Study, Also Everyone You Know: Dudes Lie When They Feel Weak

The cultural implications are interesting…  However, I wonder how much of this is an instance of statistical significance vs. colloquial significance.

Consider this: an average increase of 3/4’s of an inch could be a large proportion of men simply rounding up (I’ll be honest, I don’t remember my exact height off hand, so I’m sure I’ve done that), or a small proportion of men greatly exaggerating their height.

One would tell us something about men, as a group. The other would tell us something about a particular kind of masculinity. They’re both looking into, obviously.

What Is It Like To Follow your Heart, When You Have Two Of Them?

…when neuroscientist Agustin Ibanez met Carlos, he suspected even odder effects were to come. By changing the man’s heart, Ibanez thought, the doctors might have also changed their patient’s mind: Carlos would now think, feel and act differently as a result of the implant.

How come? We often talk about “following the heart”, but it is only recently that scientists have begun to show that there is literal truth in the cliche; the heaving lump of muscle contributes to our emotions and the mysterious feelings of “intuition” in a very real way. Everything from your empathy for another person’s pain to the hunch that your spouse is having an affair may originate from subtle signals in your heart and the rest of your body.

…So the folklore may be right: people who are in touch with their heart are more likely to be swayed by their instincts – for good or bad.

Source: The mind-bending effects of feeling two hearts

This is dis-heart-ening news.  It’s an extremely interesting read, but I can’t help but feel a little more self-conscious about reaching for the heart rate monitor… 😉

I’m surprised at the mindfulness based therapy, but no mention of yoga?  Granted, there’s a huge spectrum of yoga classes, even within a particular style dependent on the instructor.

Girl Scout Cookies Can Be Bought Online as of Dec. 12/14

No word on if they accept bitcoins.

The Digital Cookie online platform, which will kick off nationwide on Dec. 12, won’t replace traditional door-to-door and booth sales, Soper said.

Instead, it will teach participants the five skills associated with the cookie program — goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics — with a digital spin.

…Each girl has her own site, but you can’t search for your local troop on the Web and find a direct link to each scout’s digital store. The girls are encouraged only to share the Web address of their store with people they know in real life. They are also asked to take safety precautions like using just their first name and not sharing personal information.

Source: Girl Scouts taking their cookie sales online for the first time

The article highlights the thought that went into making this safe for girls.  According to ArsTechnica, someone has the title of “chief digital cookie officer”:

If you aren’t directly nagged by a scout with a digital sale offer, consider grabbing the non-profit’s Girl Scout Cookie Finder app for either iOS or Android.

Scouts are encouraged to raise all their activity funds through cookie sales and other fundraisers (they’re allowed to do things like car washes, too). The point of that being to teach skills in planning, money management, etc. I know of one troop who planned a trip, then figured how much that would cost and set cookie sales goals accordingly. The girls decided what they wanted to do, figured out how to make that happen, then did all the work – exactly what a youth program should do.

Study: Hunger Associated with Advantageous Decision Making

Three experimental studies examined the counter-intuitive hypothesis that hunger improves strategic decision making, arguing that people in a hot state are better able to make favorable decisions involving uncertain outcomes. Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that participants with more hunger or greater appetite made more advantageous choices in the Iowa Gambling Task compared to sated participants or participants with a smaller appetite. Study 3 revealed that hungry participants were better able to appreciate future big rewards in a delay discounting task; and that, in spite of their perception of increased rewarding value of both food and monetary objects, hungry participants were not more inclined to take risks to get the object of their desire. Together, these studies for the first time provide evidence that hot states improve decision making under uncertain conditions, challenging the conventional conception of the detrimental role of impulsivity in decision making.

Source: Always Gamble on an Empty Stomach: Hunger Is Associated with Advantageous Decision Making

Casinos have cheap, all-you-can-eat buffets for a obvious reasons I suppose.

Related read: Study Confirms Hangry: You’re Not Yourself When You’re Hungry