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Posts Tagged ‘pacific standard’

Research highlighted at Pacific Standard sometimes strikes me as a little lightweight, but I am happy to endorse a study that Tom Jacobs covered recently, because I have some personal experience. It’s about the benefits of both cultural activities and Internet usage for older people.

Jacobs writes, “A new British study of people age 50 and older finds a link between health literacy — defined as ‘the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information’ — and two specific behaviors: Regular use of the Internet, and participation in cultural activities.

“ ‘Loss of health literacy skills during aging is not inevitable, a research team led by Lindsay Kobayashi of University College London writes in the Journal of Epidemiology and Health. ‘Internet use and engagement in various social activities, in particular cultural activities, appear to help older adults maintain the literary skills required to self-manage health.’

“The study used data on 4,368 men and women age 50 or older who participated in the English Longitudinal Study on Aging. Their health literacy was measured two years after they joined the project, and again five years later, by having them read a fictitious medicine-bottle label and then answer four reading-comprehension questions.”

I am over 50, enjoy cultural events and the Internet, and understand most medicine bottle labels. So there you go. It’s all true.

Get the key details at Pacific Standard.

Photo: Popova Valeriya/Shutterstock 

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A busy holiday here in New England with both our kids, their spouses, and the two grandsons. Every time we thought we were nearly done opening presents, one or more of us needed a nap.

The distaff side produced a chicken masala (with rice, nuts, raisins, cilantro, coconut, and chutney from Swaziland via the Servv catalog), creamed spinach, salad, and pear crumble.

Meanwhile, here’s a Christmas-y story from South America …

“In 2001, when Argentina’s economy was near collapse and property prices plummeted, UCLA art prof Fabian Wagmister bought a 15,000-square-foot abandoned warehouse in Buenos Aires. When he finally set out to clear the remaining debris from the building last year, he uncovered more than 100,000 Christmas ornaments piled in one of the back rooms.

“What to do with a trove of metallic bulbs, plastic wreaths, and bags of fake snow for a sunny Argentine Christmas?

“Re-gift them, of course,” writes Elise Hennigan at Pacific Standard.

“ ‘As artists we were immediately taken by the powerful expressive potential of the materials,’ says Wagmister.

“Now the director of the University of California, Los Angeles’s Center for Research in Engineering, Media, and Performance (REMAP), Wagmister invited a team of ten artists, researchers, and programmers from Los Angeles to distribute the ornaments to the surrounding community …

“Starting on December 15, the team invited community groups to visit the warehouse, one among many lining a historically working-class district that has seen an influx of technology companies. There, the researchers have encouraged participants to develop projects that will use the ornaments to express their identities, struggles and aspirations. On December 23, the groups took to the streets and decked the halls accordingly.” More.

 Photograph: Pacific Standard
Some of the found ornaments going up around Argentina’s capital

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Tom Jacobs alerted me to a piece he published at Pacific Standard, a publication that reports on studies in the social sciences.

Newly published research, he says, provides some support for the notion that children by nature want to help others.

“ ‘From an early age, humans seem to have genuine concern for the welfare of others,’ concludes a research team led by Robert Hepach of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. …

“But how exactly do you discover a toddler’s motivation? The researchers took a novel approach: by looking straight into his or her eyes.

“They note that our pupils enlarge in response to emotionally stimulating sights, and deduced this could provide an indication of what specifically prompts kids to perk up and take notice. Are they aroused by the sight of someone in need—or, perhaps, by the realization that they could play the hero by helping?

“Their experiment featured 36 2-year-olds, who viewed a scene in which an adult needed help reaching for a can or crayon. One-third of the children were allowed by their parents to help the person in need (almost all did so); another third were held back from providing assistance.”

Curious? Read more.

(By the way, the same institute was behind some research that Alan Alda featured on the PBS show The Human Spark, here.)

Photograph: Two-year-old meeting his cousin’s need for conversation.

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Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard reports on new research into the benefits of music for children.

“Music education produces myriad benefits,” he writes, “strengthening kids’ abilities in reading, math, and verbal intelligence. New British research suggests it may also teach something less tangible, but arguably just as important: The ability to empathize.

“In a year-long program focused on group music-making, 8- to 11-year old children became markedly more compassionate, according to a just-published study from the University of Cambridge. The finding suggests kids who make music together aren’t just having fun: they’re absorbing a key component of emotional intelligence.”

The research team was led by Tal-Chen Rabinowitch of the university’s Centre for Music and Science. Read more.

Photograph: Pete Pahham/Shutterstock

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It says here, at Pacific Standard, that learning a second language translates into clearer thinking. No surprises there, but good to have evidence.

In Providence this week, a certain baby I know is showing an affinity for more than one language. His mother thinks he finds his father’s Swedish soothing, especially when sung in a low voice.

While the baby is tuning in to Swedish and English, his parents are studying a language called Basic Baby. It’s the world’s oldest language. In its simplest form, it involves crying: “You’re doing this wrong — try a different tack.” Or silence: “You’re doing this right.” At higher levels, it gets more complex. For example, you may be doing something right, but there is still crying: “This digestive business feels totally weird.”

Basic Baby is not too hard to learn if you (a) pay attention, (b) realize that you will figure it out eventually. It was your own first language. If you are  rusty, maybe you just need to bone up a bit.

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Thank you ArtsJournal.com for another good link!

Tom Jacobs at Pacific Standard offers new evidence from the National Endowment for the Arts that arts education is associated with better overall student performance.

“Students from the lower end of the socioeconomic ladder,” he writes, “tend to do less well in school than those from more upscale families. But newly published research identifies one sub-group of these youngsters who tend to exceed expectations: those who participate heavily in the arts.

“ ‘At-risk teenagers or young adults with a history of intensive arts experiences show achievement levels closer to, and in some cases exceeding, the levels shown by the general population studied,’ a team of scholars writes in a new National Endowment for the Arts Research Report. ‘These findings suggest that in-school or extracurricular programs offering deep arts involvement may help to narrow the gap in achievement levels among youth.’ ” Read more.

Doesn’t surprise me that the arts can do that. But I think the key word here may be intensive. What do you think?

Photograph: Richard Thornton/Shutterstock

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Mice find Verdi and Mozart more healing than Enya. Tom Jacobs at Miller-McCune (now called Pacific Standard) explains.

“Writing in the Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery,” he says, “a team of Japanese researchers led by Dr. Masanori Nimi describe an experiment in which a group of 8- to 12-week-old mice underwent heart transplants. The rodents were randomly assigned to one of five groups: those exposed to opera (a recording of Verdi’s La Traviata, conducted by Sir Georg Solti); instrumental music by Mozart; New Age music (The Best of Enya); no music; or ‘one of six different sound frequencies.’

“After one week, the mice whose personal soundtrack featured Enya, one of the sound frequencies, or no music at all ‘rejected their grafts acutely,’ the researchers report. …

“In contrast, those exposed to Verdi or Mozart ‘had significantly prolonged survival.’ …

“In explaining the results, the researchers point to the immune system. They report exposure to classical music generated regulatory cells, which suppress immune responses and are thus vital to preventing rejection of a transplanted organ. …

“In any event, this provides more evidence that classical music has a health-inducing impact on the body.” Read more.

Hmmm. You want to suppress your immune system when you have a transplant because you don’t want your body to reject an organ from a donor. But suppose you want a strong immune system for some other reason? Would classical music be bad for you (or a mouse) in that case? Hard to get my head around that one.

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