Summary of “A New Connection between the Gut and the Brain”

Over the last decade, studies across human populations have reported the association between salt intake and stroke irrespective of high blood pressure and risk of heart disease, suggesting a missing link between salt intake and brain health.
Interestingly, there is a growing body of work showing that there is communication between the gut and brain, now commonly dubbed the gut-brain axis.
Five years ago, a couple of studies showed that high salt intake leads to profound immune changes in the gut, resulting in increased vulnerability of the brain to autoimmunity-when the immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues by mistake, suggesting that perhaps the gut can communicate with the brain via immune signaling.
Now, new research shows another connection: immune signals sent from the gut can compromise the brain’s blood vessels, leading to deteriorated brain heath and cognitive impairment.
Surprisingly, the research unveils a previously undescribed gut-brain connection mediated by the immune system and indicates that excessive salt might negatively impact brain health in humans through impairing the brain’s blood vessels regardless of its effect on blood pressure.
The researchers used mice, and found that immune responses in the small intestines set off a cascade of chemical responses reaching the brain’s blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the cortex and hippocampus, two brain regions crucial for learning and memory.
The impairment in learning and memory was clear even in the absence of high blood pressure; they observed that the gut is reacting to the salt overload and directing immune signals that lay the basis for deterioration throughout the brain’s vital vascular complex and compromise cognitive function.
These results motivate research on how everyday stressors to our digestive systems and blood vessels might change the brain and how we see, and experience, the world.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Six Main Stories, As Identified by a Computer”

This may not seem like anything special, Vonnegut says-his actual words are, “It certainly looks like trash”-until he notices another well known story that shares this shape.
Vonnegut had mapped stories by hand, but in 2016, with sophisticated computing power, natural language processing, and reams of digitized text, it’s possible to map the narrative patterns in a huge corpus of literature.
It’s also possible to ask a computer to identify the shapes of stories for you.
That’s what a group of researchers, from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide, set out to do.
Using a collection of fiction from the digital library Project Gutenberg, they selected 1,737 English-language works of fiction between 10,000 and 200,000 words long.
They did this by training the machine to take all the words of the book, section by section, and measure the average happiness of a given bag of words based on how an individual word scored.
The researchers assigned individual happiness scores to more than 10,000 frequently-used words by crowdsourcing the effort on the website Mechanical Turk.
This portion of the research is fascinating in and of itself: The 10 words that people ranked as happiest were laughter, happiness, love, happy, laughed, laugh, laughing, excellent, laughs, and joy.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous”

“So I’d have one drink,” he says, “And the first thing on my mind was: I feel better now, but I’m screwed. I’m going right back to where I was. I might as well drink as much as I possibly can for the next three days.”
Numerous clinical trials have confirmed that the method is effective, and in 2001 Sinclair published a paper in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism reporting a 78 percent success rate in helping patients reduce their drinking to about 10 drinks a week.
They’ve tried not drinking, and controlling their drinking, without success-their cravings are too strong.
His ideas came to be illustrated by a chart showing how alcoholics progressed from occasionally drinking for relief, to sneaking drinks, to guilt, and so on until they hit bottom and then recovered.
Researchers at the National Council on Alcoholism charged that the news would lead alcoholics to falsely believe they could drink safely.
If Betty Ford and Elizabeth Taylor could declare that they were alcoholics and seek help, so too could ordinary people who struggled with drinking.
These changes gradually bring about a crucial shift: instead of drinking to feel good, the person ends up drinking to avoid feeling bad. Alcohol also damages the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for judging risks and regulating behavior-one reason some people keep drinking even as they realize that the habit is destroying their lives.
In a follow-up study two years later, the patients had fewer days of heavy drinking, and more days of no drinking, than did a group of 20 alcohol-dependent patients who were told to abstain from drinking entirely.

The orginal article.

Summary of “5 Common Mental Errors That Sway Your Decision Making”

We are all irrational, and we all make mental errors.
In recent decades researchers have uncovered a wide range of mental errors that derail our thinking.
Psychologists and behavioral researchers love to geek out about these different mental mistakes.
Instead, let’s talk about the mental errors that show up most frequently in our lives and break them down in easy-to-understand language.
Here are five common mental errors that sway you from making good decisions.
The Availability Heuristic refers to a common mistake that our brains make by assuming that the examples which come to mind easily are also the most important or prevalent things.
Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information.
Once you understand some of these common mental errors, your first response might be something along the lines of, “I want to stop this from happening! How can I prevent my brain from doing these things?”.

The orginal article.

Summary of “One of the fathers of AI is worried about its future”

What do you make of the idea that there’s an AI race between different countries?
We could collectively participate in a race, but as a scientist and somebody who wants to think about the common good, I think we’re better off thinking about how to both build smarter machines and make sure AI is used for the wellbeing of as many people as possible.
The potential for AI to be useful in the developing world is even greater.
Are you worried about just a few AI companies, in the West and perhaps China, dominating the field of AI? Yes, it’s another reason why we need to have more democracy in AI research.
What are you most excited about in terms of new AI research?
I think we need to consider the hard challenges of AI and not be satisfied with short-term, incremental advances.
We need long-term investments and I think academia is the best place to carry that torch.
We don’t really have good algorithms for this, but I think if enough people work at it and consider it important, we will make advances.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Low-carb diet: does cutting carbs really help keep weight off?”

It’s probably the most contentious question in the dieting wars: How much do carbs really matter when it comes to weight loss?
They instead argue that most studies show low-carb diets aren’t better than any other diet when it comes to keeping weight off.
The carbohydrate-insulin hypothesis For the study, which cost $12 million to complete, researchers wanted to look at whether maintaining weight loss over 20 weeks would be easier on a low-carb, moderate-carb, or high-carb diet.
They did this because we know that most people can lose weight on any kind of diet – but the hard part is keeping that weight off.
So people on the low-carb diet burned more than 200 extra calories each day, while people on the moderate-carb diet burned about an extra 100 calories per day, and people on the high-carb diet didn’t burn any extra calories.
In most diet studies, where people aren’t fed every calorie by researchers, the low-carb diet performs about the same as other diets when it comes to weight loss.
In other words, when you just ask people to stick to a low-carb diet for weight loss, they lose about the same amount of weight as people following higher-carb diets.
In my years of reporting on diet and obesity I know one thing to be true: The same diets can have drastically different results for different people, and people can’t keep weight off if they’re on a diet that feels impossible.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Elon Musk fears artificial intelligence”

Elon Musk is usually far from a technological pessimist.
“As AI gets probably much smarter than humans, the relative intelligence ratio is probably similar to that between a person and a cat, maybe bigger,” Musk told Swisher.
To many people – even many machine learning researchers – an AI that surpasses humans by as much as we surpass cats sounds like a distant dream.
AI scientists at Oxford and at UC Berkeley, luminaries like Stephen Hawking, and many of the researchers publishing groundbreaking results agree with Musk that AI could be very dangerous.
Musk wants the US government to spend a year or two understanding the problem before they consider how to solve it.
From Musk’s perspective, here’s what is going on: Researchers – especially at Alphabet’s Google Deep Mind, the AI research organization that developed AlphaGo and AlphaZero – are eagerly working toward complex and powerful AI systems.
Bostrom makes the case in Superintelligence that AI systems could rapidly develop unexpected capabilities – for example, an AI system that is as good as a human at inventing new machine-learning algorithms and automating the process of machine-learning work could quickly become much better than a human.
In a conversation with Musk and Dowd for Vanity Fair, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman said, “In the next few decades we are either going to head toward self-destruction or toward human descendants eventually colonizing the universe.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Acting like an extravert has benefits, but not for introverts”

Regardless of their usual disposition, people tend to report feeling happier and more authentic whenever they are behaving more like an extravert.
Before we all start doing our best extravert impressions in pursuit of greater happiness a team of researchers led by the psychologist Rowan Jacques-Hamilton at the University of Melbourne urge caution, writing in a paper at PsyArXiv: ‘Until we have a well-rounded understanding of both the positive and negative consequences of extraverted behaviour, advocating any real-world applications of acting extraverted could be premature and potentially hazardous.
‘ The advantages were to a large extent mediated by participants acting more extraverted more often – though, interestingly, not by being in more social situations: ie, by changing the quality of their social interactions, not the quantity of them.
The story does not end there, because the researchers also looked specifically at the introverts in their sample to see whether the apparently cost-free positive benefits of the ‘act extraverted’ intervention also manifested for them.
Although previous research has suggested that both introverts and extraverts alike benefit just the same from acting more extraverted, this was not the case here.
Jacques-Hamilton and his team said that these were perhaps their most important findings – ‘dispositional introverts may reap fewer wellbeing benefits, and perhaps even incur some wellbeing costs, from acting more extraverted’.
This group’s failure to report more pleasure in retrospect could, after all, reflect a memory bias – perhaps mirroring earlier research, which showed that introverts do not expect that acting extraverted would make them feel good.
It’s possible that a less intense version, together with support and guidance to make any behavioural changes become habitual, could help even strong introverts enjoy the benefits of acting more extraverted.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Study: Laying Off Pot Improved Teens’ Learning”

Study: Laying Off Pot Improved Teens’ Learning : Shots – Health News When researchers convinced a group of young people to stop smoking pot, their cognition quickly improved.
A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry finds that when adolescents stop using marijuana – even for just one week – their verbal learning and memory improves.
The study contributes to growing evidence that marijuana use in adolescents is associated with reduced neurocognitive functioning.
At the same time, the percentage of teens who believe that regular marijuana use poses a great risk to their health has dropped sharply since the mid-2000s.
One study noted that after 2012, when marijuana was legalized in Washington state, the number of eighth graders there that believed marijuana posed risks to their health dropped by 14 percent.
Researchers are particularly concerned with use of marijuana among the young because THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, most sharply affects the parts of the brain that develop during adolescence.
Because the study lasted only four weeks, it’s impossible to draw conclusions about the long term effects of marijuana usage for young people, such as how marijuana directly affects academic performance or sleep patterns or mood.
In the meantime, Lisdahl says the findings from the new study – that abstinence from marijuana is associated with improvements in adolescents’ learning and memory – sends a positive message.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Sailors Who Hunt Garbage for Science”

Partway through the three-week, all-women’s sailing trip Penn was leading from Hawaii to Vancouver, she found her garbage.
Penn is one of the founders of Exxpedition, a running series of all-women’s research trips aboard a 72-foot sailboat called Sea Dragon.
The crew consists of seasoned sailors and scientists as well as volunteers with no sailing or science experience who want to know more about the proliferation of plastic on the high seas.
The goal of their trips? To improve our understanding of plastic pollution in our seas and our bodies, with the hope of cleaning these entwined messes up before we poison ourselves to death.
More research needs to be done on these health impacts for humans, as well as how plastic moves through the ocean and the food chain.
The three-week Pacific trip was the eleventh research cruise Exxpedition has undertaken since its first trip across the Atlantic in 2014.
While swimming in shark-infested waters is about as hardcore as it gets for any trip, Penn said they face a host of challenges while doing their research, which consists not only of tagging plastic to track it but collecting samples for chemical analysis.
The trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, provided a wealth of data to scientists working on various ocean issues at the University of Hawaii, Colorado School of Mines, King’s College in London, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the awesomely-named BC Cetacean Sightings Network.

The orginal article.