Tag Archives: study

Jogging Creates The Most Brain Cells

The New York Times reports on a new study that had rats try three different kinds of workouts:

  1. Aerobic: running on a treadmill or wheel
  2. Resistance: climbing on a wall with weights attached, to simulate weight training
  3. High Intensity Training (HIT): running very fast, interrupted with periods of not doing that

They then measured how many new brain cells appeared after seven weeks of the routine, and found out that from most to least by group, it was aerobic, HIT, and then resistance — with the resistance group basically having no new brain cells. The HIT group had some, but not nearly as much as the aerobic group. Moral of the story: jogging makes you smarter.

See also:

via The New York Times

Louisville, KY Is Sorta The Epicenter of Unhappiness In America

The map below shows people’s happiness levels in the United States: red means most unhappy, yellow is neutral, blue is most happy. As you can see, the biggest area of unhappiness is in Indiana and Kentucky, right around where Louisville is. But more so, there’s a kind of concentric pattern to the entire map.

City and Rural Area Happiness Controlling for Characteristics

Around Indiana and Kentucky, there’s a circle of mostly orange in which lie Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Ohio: level two of the inferno. Around that, there’s another circle that’s on average happier — mostly oranges and yellows, some greens, but also some reds: Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New England.

Finally, there’s the happy outer rim, the thick fourth level which is mostly blues and greens: the entire Rockies from the Dakotas and Montana down through Colorado and New Mexico to Texas and rest of the South. If you kept going, you could imagine the ring continuing in the Atlantic, looping around through Canada — upper Quebec and Ontario — before meeting itself at the US border again.

Things go downhill again on the west coast, but there’s too little data there to say what’s going on. Perhaps that’s a small part of a larger ring that goes through Mexico and the Caribbean, the mid-Atlantic and the Northwest Passage. Or perhaps that ring is mostly yellow because happiness levels, having reached a peak in the fourth circle of (un)happiness started to go down again. Or maybe, we’re looking at the third ring of a different epicenter of unhappiness, colliding with the American one. Reading tea leaves is not easy.

wave interference


The happiness data comes from a survey conducted by the CDC between 2005 and 2009. The researchers that created the map are from Harvard and the University of British Columbia.

See also:

From Unhappy Cities (PDF), via Lifehacker

A Can Of Soda A Day Keeps Your Last Years Away

Researchers from UCSF looked at roughly 5,000 adults with no diabetes or heart problems and asked themselves how sugary beverages affect lifespan. They analyzed drinkers of normal, sugary sodas, of sugary flat drinks, of diet sodas, and of 100% fruit juice drinks. To figure out lifespan, they looked at telomeres, which are endcaps on chromosomes, and which have been shown to correlate with how long a person lives. Those with shorter telomeres tend to age faster, die earlier and have more cancer. And it turned out that people who drink sugary sodas regularly, have shorter telomeres.

Warning label on a can of soda

Diet sodas didn’t seem to have any correlation with telomere length, though there are other problems with them. Non-carbonated sugary sodas had no correlation either. Regularly drinking fruit juice correlated with longer telomeres, though eating the actual fruit, instead, has the added benefit of healthy fiber. But for sugary sodas, extrapolating additional aging from how much the telomeres were shorter, the study found that drinking 8oz per day (about two-thirds of a can) shortened lifespan by 1.9 years, and 20oz shortened it by 4.6 years — the same amount as smoking.

See also:

From American Journal of Public Health, via Time

Cellphone Use Does Not Cause More Car Crashes

More research has come out against the common belief that being on your phone while driving will make you more likely to crash a car. This time, they took advantage of the cellphone call spike that happens at 9pm on weekdays, which is when it generally becomes free to place calls: if talking on the phone led to more crashes, then there would also be a spike in car accidents just after 9pm. There was no such thing.

Crash Rate for California from 8pm to 10pm in Preperiods (1995 to 1998) and Postperiods (2005) (Monday to Thursday)

In lab simulations, it’s been shown that any kind of cellphone use (talking hands-free or not, texting, etc) is always more impairing than driving while drunk or high on marijuana. Real-life data does not seem to support the lab results, though. In their paper (PDF), the researchers also brought up two important points that we’ve seen before:

  1. Despite the exponential increase in cellphones over the past two decades, car crashes haven continued to decrease
  2. Laws banning cell phone use have no effect on accidents

Cellular Ownership and Crashes Per Vehicle Mile Traveled in the United States for 1988 to 2005

It’s also worth mentioning another study from 2012 showing that bad drivers will always drive badly: if they can’t be distracted by cell phones, they will find or make another distraction to keep them from being bored. Thankfully, self-driving cars are just years away at this point.

See also:

From Carnegie Mellon University (PDF), via Slashdot

Your Feet Pronating While Running Is In Fact Not An Issue

Danish scientists published a study on 900+ novice runners, whose feet they measured and classified to see how much they over- or underpronated. They gave them all the same, neutral shoe — with no pronation correction — and had them run as much as they wanted for a year. In the meantime, they noted all the injuries the runners suffered. What we’ve been told by running shoe stores lately is that pronation causes more injuries, but this study proved the opposite: the runners with neutral feet had slightly more injuries than the pronated ones.



Other researchers agree. “This is an excellent study,” says Bryan Heiderscheit, an associate professor of biomechanics and director of the running clinic at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. The research reinforces a widespread belief among scientists studying running “that pronation doesn’t play much of a role” in injury risk, he says.

The runners all had the same shoes, which didn’t correct pronation, and the pronaters suffered less injuries. Ergo, corrective shoes are nothing but snake oil. Instead, you should just buy comfortable shoes, because many of the injured runners said their shoes weren’t.

See also:

From The British Journal of Sports Medicine, via The New York Times and Lifehacker

Multitaskers Are Impulsive Risk-Takers… Who Are Also Bad At Multitasking

That’s the conclusion of a study at the University of Utah, that measured four of their subjects’ traits: how good at multitasking they thought they were, how good they actually were, how impulsive they were and how much they liked seeking thrills. First finding: the ones that thought they were good at multitasking were actually worse at it. (Scientists tested multitasking ability by asking their guinea pigs to do math while remembering words.) In other words, if you’re proud to be a multitasker, you probably fall in this group.

Scott May daredevil stunt show. Photo by John Wright.

Scott May daredevil stunt show. Photo by John Wright.


Secondly, the people who thought they were good at multitasking were impulsive and sought out risks just for the thrills. Why? Because they can’t help “multitasking”: impulsivity and risk-taking also indicate lower self-control, which means that this group is not as much made up of multitaskers as A.D.D-ers. Not the real disorder, but the 21st century word for being scatterbrained: when they see a shiny new toy, they can’t help but play with the new toy too — due to the lack of self control. After that happens a few times, they find themselves spinning seven plates at once and call it multitasking — even though they suck at it.

Now, the study was done on college kids, and since everyone can get better at anything with enough practice, maybe by the time they’re middle-aged, the impulsive people are actually great at multitasking, and probably even less impulsive simply because they’re older. This logic is supported by a previous study that showed bilingual people are a lot better at multitasking while driving, because they have more experience jugging multiple pieces of information, via thinking in two languages.

Speaking of multitasking while driving, it’s worth mentioning that the study had a no-texting-while-driving slant to it. The NPR article covering the matter repeated the fact that texting while driving is more distracting than being drunk while driving. They also mentioned how everyone is texting and driving now, which would make you think there are all kinds of texting-related accidents, since half of us are basically driving around drunk. Unfortunately for the fear-based media, the insurance industry’s own data shows that accident rates have actually dropped since everyone started texting. Which really makes you think about the worth of these studies.

See also:

From Plos One, via NPR

Divorce And Drinking

Scientists had a lot of data on some 20,000 people in a Norwegian county, so they did a study looking at how alcohol consumption affected their marriages. The percentage of subjects that got divorced:

  • 5.8% of couples in which both people were light drinkers
  • 13.1% of couples in which the husband was a heavy drinker, but the wife wasn’t
  • 17.2% of couples in which both people were heavy drinkers
  • 26.8% of couples in the wife was a heavy drinker, but the husband wasn’t

Moral of the story: don’t drink that much, but however much you drink, make sure your spouse is on the same page. Ditto goes for smoking. Also, be generous, committed, and good in bed. And it wouldn’t hurt to live in Utah.

Photo by Tetra Pak

Photo by Tetra Pak


See also:

From Alcoholism, via LA Times and Neatorama

Get Drunk More Quickly With Diet Soda

Finally, a study that tells you how to save money at the bar: people who used diet sodas as mixers, as opposed to sugary ones, got 18% more drunk. The researchers gave two groups of eight people the same amount of alcohol, but one group had diet mixers. That group’s peak breath alcohol level was 0.091, whereas the sugary group’s was only .0.077. Which, if they decided to drive, that diet soda would’ve been the difference between a DUI and not — the legal limit is 0.08 in all 50 states.


The scientists’ explanation is that sugar helps your body absorb the alcohol more slowly — the same reason you get drunk more slowly on a full stomach than an empty one. So, drink regular Coke if you wanna be more sober, but diet Coke otherwise. (Though, keep in mind that diet soda is not particularly good for you. Soda water probably works just as well, since it has no sugar.) And if you’re driving, get a breathalyzer, because none of the study subjects felt impaired. They even make ones for the iPhone now.

The study will be out in the April issue of Alcoholism.

See  also:


To Lose More Weight, Eat Early, Not Late

(That’s right: the headline does rhyme.) Research done in Spain seems to indicate that advice like having a big breakfast and not eating late dinners are actually not old wives’ tales. The study followed 420 fat people (equal numbers of each gender) for 20 weeks: half of them were early eaters, that ate their big meal before 3pm, and half were late eaters. This was a weight loss study, so they all ate a paltry 1400 calories per day, and got similar levels of exercise and sleep. But, the ones that ate early, lost 30% more weight: 22 lbs vs 17 lbs for the late eaters.

The scientists don’t really know why, or if it’s even a causal relationship — a third factor, say… nervous pacing, could’ve caused both the early eating and faster weight loss. But if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s worth giving it a try; after all, what you believe about weight loss has a significant impact on how effective it is.

See also:


The Elderly Are Forgetful Because They Don’t Sleep Well

A study from UC Berkeley shows that the quality of sleep in older people is a lot worse than in younger, healthy people and that this prevents memories from being moved from short-term to long-term memory. The study was done on 18 people in their 20s and 15 people in their 70s: scientists made them memorize some new words, then measured their sleep statistics, and finally quizzed them in the morning while getting an fMRI. The quality of sleep in the elderly was 75% that of younger people, and their recall was 55%. (The summary doesn’t say, but hopefully the scientists calculated their statistics properly, and didn’t just discover that old people forget and, independently, that they also don’t sleep well.) The decline in sleep quality is correlated to age-related deterioration in the frontal lobe, which normally generates slow brain waves during sleep.


If lack of quality sleep is the cause of memory loss, then the issue might apply also to younger people who are also forgetful — perhaps because they don’t sleep enough or have sleep apnea. As for older people, there are ways to improve quality of sleep: pills, electrical stimulation of the brain, or, best of all: blueberries, vitamins and exercise. Also, it’s worth mentioning that in 2011, scientists at Stanford figured out that a protein in the blood caused forgetfulness in older mice.

See also:


From UC Berkeley, via Slashdot