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March 26, 2013

Does therapy as it is actually practiced in America help people?

Therapy works when applied correctly. But many therapists in America don't follow the prescribed paths. Looking for Evidence That Therapy Works - NYTimes.com
Instead, many patients are subjected to a kind of dim-sum approach — a little of this, a little of that, much of it derived more from the therapist’s biases and training than from the latest research findings. And even professionals who claim to use evidence-based treatments rarely do. The problem is called “therapist drift.” “A large number of people with mental health problems that could be straightforwardly addressed are getting therapies that have very little chance of being effective,” said Glenn Waller, chairman of the psychology department at the University of Sheffield and one of the authors of the meta-analysis. A survey of 200 psychologists published in 2005 found that only 17 percent of them used exposure therapy (a form of C.B.T.) with patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, despite evidence of its effectiveness. In a 2009 Columbia University study, research findings had little influence on whether mental-health providers learned and used new treatments. Far more important was whether a new treatment could be integrated with the therapy the providers were already offering. The problem is not confined to the United States. Two years ago, Dr. Waller studied C.B.T. therapists in Britain treating adults with eating disorders to see what specific techniques they used. Dr. Waller found that fewer than half did anything remotely like evidence-based C.B.T. “About 30 percent did something like motivational work, and 25 percent did something like mindfulness,” said Dr. Waller. “You wouldn’t buy a car under those conditions.”

March 25, 2013

Ten dinosaur myths you should unlearn before talking to four-year-olds

10 Dinosaur Myths That Need To Go Extinct | Tor.com
3: Big dinosaurs had butt brains Some dinosaurs—such as the mighty sauropods and the armored Stegosaurus—had extra-large cavities in their hips. The wide spaces were associated with the neural canal, where the spinal cord passes, and so 19th century paleontologist Othniel Charles Marsh speculated that the space housed a “posterior braincase” that helped the dinosaurs coordinate their legs and tails. But paleontologists now know that no dinosaur had a second brain. First, many different kinds of vertebrates have a slight expansion of the spinal cord in the vicinity of their limbs. This slight swelling of the nervous system helps regulate limb movement. But Stegosaurus and sauropods had even larger expansions that probably housed a strange feature called a glycogen body. This kind of tissue, seen in the hips of birds, might store energy-rich carbohydrates, although zoologists still aren’t entirely sure if this is the case. One thing is for sure, though—dinosaurs did not have brainy butts.

The first thing they do is peel off their mother's skin and eat it

Go home, evolution. You are drunk. New skin-eating amphibian discovered
This new species, named Microcaecilia dermatophaga, is the first species of caecilian to be discovered in French Guiana for 150 years, and is one of only four species whose young are known to feed in this way. Its name, which means 'little skin-eating caecilian', refers to this unusual child-rearing strategy. 'What we've found is another species that's a skin-feeder, but most importantly, it's another species that's quite distantly related to other skin-feeders we've found, meaning that skin-feeding is probably an ancestral characteristic for caecilians,' says Dr Emma Sherratt from Harvard University, who discovered them during her PhD when she was working at the Natural History Museum, London.

March 20, 2013

Women abused as children likelier to bear autistic child

Women abused as children likelier to bear autistic child - health - 20 March 2013 - New Scientist
Women abused in childhood are more likely to have children with autism, a new epidemiological study suggests. The finding adds a disturbing new dimension to the heated debate over the condition's underlying causes. Andrea Roberts of the Harvard School of Public Health suspected that there might be a link between childhood abuse and having an autistic child: women abused early in life are more likely to smoke, suffer from gestational diabetes and have premature babies – all factors that may affect fetal brain development. To investigate, Roberts and her colleagues turned to the Nurses' Health Study II, which includes almost 55,000 women who had indicated if they had a child with autism spectrum disorder and also answered a questionnaire about their experience of abuse as a child. This allowed the researchers to develop a scale rating all the women for the intensity of abuse in their childhood. There was a clear link between the "dose" of abuse received and the risk of having an autistic child. "The associations get stronger as the level of abuse increases," Roberts says.