Discovered: Multitasking isn't a myth, pigeons aren't as dumb as they look and act, anti-depressants and therapy don't really work, the Brits' criminal and pirate ancestors, better treatment for blindness prevention.
- Born to multi-task. Everyone likes to think they can juggle tasks, like Gchat and blog, for example, better than their cube-neighbors. But research has crushed those delusions, finding that most people's work suffers as a result of splitting time between multiple tasks -- until now. Looking at the brain activity of monkeys while the animals concentrated on multiple things, researchers at McGill found that their neurons split into two "spotlights" -- beams of concentration -- rather than one spotlight that jumped from task to task. To them, that means we have evolved to concentrate on two things simultaneously. "One implication of these findings is that our brain has evolved to attend to more than one object in parallel, and therefore to multi-task," explained researcher Martinez-Trujillo. Work Gchatters, celebrate: It's a real skill. [McGill]
- Pigeons understand rules about numbers. They might be the nastiest animals on the planet, but the winged rats aren't the dumbest. Lots of animals have demonstrated the ability to understand numbers, by counting. But pigeons have shown that they understand math's "abstract rules," something science thought only primates could do, a study published in this month's Science found. So you're saying animals that fly into windows, don't move for joggers or cars and spend their days with garbage are smart? We guess they're book smart, not street smart. [The New York Times]
- Depressing news for the depressed: Treatment doesn't really work. In a clinical trial on depression treatment, neither real medicine nor talk therapy outperformed fake pills, found research in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Whether taking Zoloft, sugar pills or attending therapy around 30 percent of the participants responded to the method. Considering all the fun side effects of anti-depressants, and the cost of therapy, placebo sounds like the best medicine of all. But that means no medicine at-all, which if you think about it, is depressing. [Reuters]
- The British have some interesting ancestors. One in 20 British are related to a criminal and one in 100 is related to a pirate, according to a survey of family trees by ancestry.co.uk. That explains the previously inexplicable British accents of movie pirates: Pirates of the Caribbean; Hook; Cutthroat Island (sounds British-ish?); Muppet Treasure Island -- all talk like Brits. Proof: [Telegraph]
- Better treatment to prevent blindness. For those not born without eyesight, the leading cause of blindness comes from an infection called trachoma. Luckily treatment is available for the afflicted. And now researchers out of University of California San Francisco have discovered they can treat twice the amount of patients with just as much medicine, finding that yearly applications work as well as bi-annual ones. "The idea is we can do more with less,” said researcher Dr. Bruce Gaynor. "We are trying to get as much out of the medicine as we can because of the cost and the repercussions of mass treatments." As multitaskers, we like this "more with less" concept. Science: Find us more stuff like this. [UCSF]