From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 13-Aug-2014
Source Newsroom: Florida State University Citations Human Nature


Newswise — TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The metaphor of a ticking biological clock is often used to refer to a woman’s growing urge to conceive before her childbearing years are over.

Now, two Florida State University researchers have discovered that there is more truth to the phrase than one might think: The sound of a ticking clock can affect reproductive timing attitudes and lead some women to want to start a family at an earlier age.

Psychology graduate student Justin H. Moss and Professor Jon K. Maner completed two experiments to test the influence of a subtle environmental factor — the ticking of a small white kitchen timer — on people’s attitudes about reproductive timing. They outlined their findings in a paper, “The Clock Is Ticking: The Sound of a Ticking Clock Speeds Up Women’s Attitudes on Reproductive Timing,” in the Springer journal Human Nature.

“The very subtle sound of a ticking clock changed the timing with which women sought to have children and the traits they sought in potential partners — both central aspects of women’s mating-related psychology,” Moss said.

In the first experiment, 59 men and women were asked questions about the age at which they would like to marry and start a family. The experiment assessed whether the presence of a small kitchen timer would lead people of various childhood socioeconomic backgrounds to want to have children sooner or press the snooze button on their biological clocks.

In the second experiment, the researchers examined the extent to which 74 participants would alter the characteristics they sought in potential mates in order to have children sooner.

Their findings suggest that priming the idea of the passage of time through the sound of a ticking clock can influence various aspects of women’s reproductive timing. The effect was especially noticeable among women with lower childhood socioeconomic status. They wanted to get married and have their first child at a younger age than women with more resources. They also lowered the priority that they placed on men’s social status and long-term earning potential.

However, the effect of the clock did not do the same for men — a result that was not surprising to the researchers, who noted that the reproductive lives of men are not as limited because they are able to father children well into old age.

Reproductive timing refers to the time frame and the specific years during which people begin to focus their energy and resources towards bearing and caring for their offspring.

The findings support previous research that suggests reproductive timing is greatly influenced by a person’s childhood years, his or her socioeconomic background and other subtle environmental factors.

“The ticking clock serves as a reminder that women’s reproductive potential is limited,” Moss said. “The study also illustrates that the way people respond to reproductive threat in adulthood is calibrated by their socioeconomic experiences in childhood.”

The findings are important for another reason, Maner said.

“Although most people like to think that personal decisions are a matter of their own free will, sometimes they are instead influenced by a person’s unconscious mind,” Maner said.

“Very subtle things going on around us can affect very personal decisions — like when to have children — without us even realizing it.”



From FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Released: 11-Aug-2014
Source Newsroom: Dick Jones Communications                                          Citations Society for Personality &Social Psychology Research conference

Newswise — Posting adorable couple photos and saccharine-sweet shout-outs to your significant other on Facebook is one thing.

But new research from Albright College has revealed that some lovebirds are using the popular social media platform for more nefarious purposes, including bragging about their romantic relationship and keeping tabs on their partner’s activities.

Albright assistant professor of psychology Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., working with now Albright alumna Amanda Havens, surveyed Facebook users in romantic relationships and found that those satisfied with their relationship are more likely to use Facebook to post couple photos and details of their relationship, as well as affectionate comments on their partner’s wall.

Individuals high in Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem (RCSE) – an unhealthy form of self-esteem that depends on how well your relationship is going – are also more likely to post affectionate content. But these individuals also felt the need to brag about their relationship to others and even monitor their boyfriend or girlfriend’s Facebook activities. And for those high in RCSE, having something go wrong in the relationship is an even bigger blow to their self-esteem than it would be for someone low in RCSE, said Seidman.

“These results suggest that those high in RCSE feel a need to show others, their partners and perhaps themselves that their relationship is ‘OK’ and, thus, they are OK,” said Seidman.

For this study, participants were asked to complete a survey about their Facebook behaviors and motivations. Researchers also measured the Big Five personality traits, which include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. The findings were presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference in Austin, Texas, and the Association for Psychological Science conference in San Francisco, Calif., earlier this year.

According to the researchers, individuals high in neuroticism are also more likely to use Facebook to monitor their partner and show off their relationship.

“This is what we expected, given that neurotic individuals are generally more jealous in their romantic relationships,” said Seidman, who suggests these individuals may use Facebook as a way to lessen their fears of rejection and anxiety within the relationship.

What researchers did no

t expect is that extraverts – of whom past research has shown generally have more Facebook friends and are more active users – are less likely to monitor their partners or make affectionate posts. Introverts, however, are more likely to post affectionate content and are more likely to snoop on their significant other.



In an Ecosystem within Us, Microbes Evolved to Sway Food Choices

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne HambletonReleased: 15-Aug-2014           Citations BioEssays, August 2014   journal BioEssays
Source Newsroom: University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)


Newswise — It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us — which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold — may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.

In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — our digestive tracts — they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.

“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper.”

“There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”

Fortunately, it is a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said.

“It’s a whole ecosystem, and it is evolving on the time scale of minutes.”

There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.

Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.

“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” said Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology.

In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.

Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?

The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.

“Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating,” the authors wrote.

The authors met and first discussed the ideas in the BioEssays paper at a summer school conference on evolutionary medicine two years ago. Aktipis, who is an evolutionary biologist and a psychologist, was drawn to the opportunity to investigate the complex interaction of the different fitness interests of microbes and their hosts and how those play out in our daily lives. Maley, a computer scientist and evolutionary biologist, had established a career studying how tumor cells arise from normal cells and evolve over time through natural selection within the body as cancer progresses.

In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.

“Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health,” she said.

The co-authors’ BioEssays study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Bonnie D. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the Institute for Advanced Study, in Berlin.

UC San Francisco (UCSF), now celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding, is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences, as well as a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

See you Sunday. Jeanne



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