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Autism is a mental disorder that sets in between the ages of two and three years old. The disorder’s full name is Autism Spectrum disorder. The name indicates the gradient with how this disorder can occur. The symptoms of the disorder are decreased sociability and the inability to handle common noises. Not everyone with autism experiences the disorder in the same way, so it can be worse for some more than it is for others. Due to the early onset of the disorder it often leads to slowed development. The prevalence for the disorder is estimated by the CDC to be about one in 68 children within the United States. The disorder is often comorbid, seizures, sleep disturbances, and ADHD among other complications can be paired with Autism.

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)  have made some discoveries about Autism Spectrum Disorder in relation to genetic and neuronal circuit mechanisms. The research was headed by Matthew P. Anderson, who is the director of Neuropathology at BIDMC. The gene that the researchers studied was UBE3A. They had previously discovered that mice that were engineered with extra copies of this gene showed impaired sociability.

The point of the study was to deduce where in the brain the lack of sociability arises due to autism. They discovered that the affects of the UBE3A gene are far reaching, and interacts with up to 600 other genes. After more experimentation the researchers observed that larger doses of UBE3A  repressed Cerebellin genes. Cerebellin is a family of genes that physically interact with other autism genes to form glutamatergic synapses, which is where neurons communicate the neurotransmitter glutamate. By deleting Cerebellin 1 they were able to replicate the same sociability impairment causes by an excess of UBE3A. The researchers then discovered that by deleting UBE3A upstream from the Cerebellin genes that they could prevent seizure-induced social impairments.

The next step was mapping out the brain area where seizure-gene interactions occur. Surprisingly, they discovered that the interactions take place within the brain stem. They then pinpointed the ventral tegmental area as the more precise location. The final step was inhibiting the neurons that responds to drugs, but not the natural neurotransmitters in an attempt to switch the neurons on or off. In doing so they created a switch that could disable or magnify sociability.

Sources: Autism SpeaksScience DailyBeth Israel Deaconess Medical Center


WHO Recognizes Gaming Disorder as a Mental Health Condition





There are several issues surrounding gamers’ mental health when it comes to excess and other risky aspects. The long asked question of “Can gamers become addicted to video games?” has been answered by the World Health Association (WHO) quite recently.

The WHO is going to be adding Gaming Disorder to its International Classification of Diseases in 2018. According to New Scientist, the WHO will officially recognize obsessive gaming disorders as a mental health condition

I know this might seem like the World Health Organisation just aims to push the “All gamers are meanies” agenda. However, that is far from the case as representatives from the Association have made clear that there is a clear difference between a gaming addict and a gamer.

According to a current draft, the criteria include making gaming a priority “to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests”, and continuing this despite the risk of it being detrimental to your health – such as lack of sleep and sustenance. However, this behavior must be observed for at least a year before diagnosis can be confirmed.

In other words, if you play games like Super Mario Odyssey or Cuphead for a few hours and take breaks to drink water or move around, then you simply don’t have an addiction. However, not even I can deny that there are some sick individuals out there who have gone to awful lengths to satisfy their gaming cravings.

“Health professionals need to recognize that gaming disorder may have serious health consequences,” Vladimir Poznyak at the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse told New Scientist.

Now, there are some bad parts of this problem, namely the fact that people will make a stigma out of this. Subsequently, there’s a fear that people will mistakenly label a common gamer as an addict because they play games for more than 20 minutes. Considering the world we live in loves to pin us with Alt-Right terrorists, this isn’t really an unfounded claim.

Then there’s the problem about how while the WHO has been calling out gamers and their activities. Nobody in the organization wants to admit there is a problem with smartphone users and apps. This is a major concern as well because there are also people who have done outlandish actions for games like Farmville or even the smartphones themselves.

There are multiple factors that play a role into whether or not to call a gamer an addict. So we shouldn’t panic too much about this new measurement taken by the WHO.

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Study: App Notifications Worsen the Mood of the User





Do you find phone notifications annoying? I certainly do, mostly because they get in the way of my song when I’m listening to music. And when you have multiple apps, all you need is a bit of data connection to ruin your day. And now, a study corroborates that smartphone alerts end up worsening the mood of the user.

Researchers at the Nottingham Trent University in the UK studied the effect on mood in 50 participants who received thousands of digital alerts over a five-week period. Out of more than half a million notifications, they found that 32 per cent resulted in negative emotions.

What are the factors that cause such a negative impact? Well, the context behind the alerts is usually related to non-human activity. A few examples are general phone updates and Wi-Fi availability. The research group found out that Work related notifications also affect people’s mood in a negative way. The problem only worsens when these notifications are received in bulk.

“These digital alerts continuously disrupt our activities through instant calls for attention,” researcher at Nottingham Trent University Eiman Kanjo, said to The Telegraph. “While notifications enhance the convenience of our life, we need to better-understand the impact their obsessive use has on our well-being,”

So, how was the procedure done? The research group created an app called NotiMind. Which the volunteer participants downloaded shortly after. The app collected details relating to the phones digital notifications, as well as participants self-reported moods at various points in the day over a five-week period.

Not everything is doom and gloom though, as there was some positive results when it came to notifications from friends. Especially when the participants received various messages at once. The reason for this is because these notifications created a sense of belonging and feelings of connection to a social group.

So, that’s what the report says. People usually get annoyed by the fact that notifications interrupt the important occasions in life. Often, I hate to be reminded that I didn’t turn my Wi-Fi off and get a notification saying that there’s a network nearby. But hey, maybe someday we can filter out these alerts so that we can focus on the important things.

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Science Suggests That Playing Pokemon Go Makes You Happier




Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go was a surprise hit. It was a Pokemon game so it was expected that it would get some hype, but not to the point of becoming a global phenomenon. People that would never consider themselves gamers were downloading the app and hunting for pokemon to add to their collection in the most wildly successful augmented reality game ever. Recent research shows that there might be a reason people keep logging in and chasing after the next catch: Pokemon Go apparently makes people happier, and happier people are more likely to play Pokemon Go.

A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed a group of 399 adults last summer and came to the conclusion that playing the game “was associated with various positive responses (increased positive affect, nostalgic reverie, friendship formation, friendship intensification, and walking), most of which predicted enhanced well-being”

Participants were asked various questions, an overview of which we’ve listed below:

“Questions [were asked] about [subjects’] emotional and social lives and levels of physical activity before segueing into Pokemon. More than 40 percent of their respondents turned out to be Pokemon Go players, and those people were more likely to be exercising — walking briskly, at least — and more likely to be experiencing positive emotions and nostalgia. […] They were also more social. Players were more likely than non-players to be making new friends and deepening old friendships”

So it seems like your Pokemon Go obsession may actually be a good thing. Getting outside, exercising lightly, forming new friendship and spending more time with existing friends may allow for your Pokemon to make a happier you.

The player base of Pokemon Go has dropped drastically since the research on the game was conducted, but the developer seems committed to supporting the game and adding new features with hopes to recapture some of that hype. The most recent update is an Easter themed event which adds Pokemon in findable eggs.

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