Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Being a greedy guts can make you more stupid

Neuroscientists in Germany have found that not only does getting fat age your brain quicker but also affects your problem solving and speed of thinking.

And it’s slightly worse for women than men and for people with paunches, rather than for people who put on weight elsewhere on their bodies e.g. their hips.

The findings, by Veronica Witte and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, might help to explain why overweight and obese people face a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life.

They brain-scanned almost 3,000 adults and got them to complete a series of cognitive tests. They found that being overweight seemed to alter the structure of the brain. Basically people with a higher BMI score or a broader waist to to hips comparison had less brain tissue and performed worse in quick-thinking tests.

They can’t prove that obesity changes the brain as they didn’t do a study over a long period and it could be that as people lose white matter in their brains they also lose some control functions and over-eat.

However the scientists believe that “low grade” inflammation that stems from fat cells may gradually eat away sensitive parts of the brain.

Dementia is now the most common cause of death in Britain and effects almost a million people.

Do you need a better reason to eat healthily and exercise?

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10,000 steps has no scientific basis. Another health myth bites the dust

Public Health chiefs have announced that you are better off going for a brisk walk than trying to achieve 10,000 steps a day.

They think the 10,000 steps idea came from a pedometer manufacturer in Japan and has no scientific basis.

In terms of people getting the full health benefits they really need to make sure that they exercise to a moderate intensity. That includes walking, gardening and housework as long as it makes you breathe faster and raises your heart rate.

Two and a half hours a week or half that if you do vigorous exercise such as running. As 20% of middle-aged adults only do half an hour a week there is a long way to go. Starting with a daily ten-minute brisk walk – half the official guidance – would be a good start.

Previous posts on exercise


Cleaning up the rivers in Burnley

Parking round the back of the shops in the town centre I spotted these stone monuments.

They are commemorating the clean up of the River Brun (from which Burnley takes its name). The river runs through the town centre, mostly hidden from view but can be seen if you know where to look.

The poem about the Brun, by George Hindle in 1896, refers to the “radiant sun”. I’ve not seen much of that in Burnley lately!


Helmshore Textile Museum part 2

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I wrote about the textile museum in a previous post and included photographs of the machinery in use at the time. However I was also interested in its social history and the interesting additions to our everyday language.

The museum also includes displays of the mill offices and the quality control machines, a typewriter and a clocking-in machine.DSC02118DSC02121DSC02119DSC02120

When I started work in the 1960s and worked in old mills which had been converted for modern use we still had those type-writers and clocking in machines.

(They even had them during war-time e.g. in the factories building Zeppelins in Friederichshaven, Germany).

And clocking-in machines were still widely used in the 1990s in many businesses.

There were also lots of rules to follow e.g. no swearing, no smoking (for obvious safety reasons), and no sharing the lavatory! Workers were also told how often they should wash and bathe themselves.

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Back in…

View original post 673 more words


Finland leapfrogs neighbours to claim top spot in happiness league

According to the UN’s annual report on happiness and well-being Finland is the happiest place on earth.

What’s not to like? Saunas, the Northern Lights, Moomins, Angry Birds, friendly people, Lapland, reindeers and Father Christmas (if you believe?).

And don’t forget heavy metal bands. A Finnish friend sent me a Nightwish CD swearing it was the national music of Finland. (Read more about them and hear them here).

The fact that it’s dark for half the year in the North and Summers are short doesn’t seem to bother the hardy Finns that much.

I’ve visited a couple of times to Helsinki and Espoo and apart from the difficulty in buying alcohol it seems a wonderful place. I’ve also flown to Lithuania via Helsinki on a number of occasions and it never closes (well once it did),and the airline crews are really helpful.

Finnair is my favourite airline – even though you don’t get free Lapin Kulta beer in economy anymore – and Helsinki is probably my favourite airport. Did I mention that the reindeer stew is very tasty too? And those liquorice and caramel toffees? And my Finnish felt boots I bought in Lithuania are perfect for this cold weather.

So congratulations on topping the list of 156 countries surveyed for the annual UN report. As usual the Scandinavians all feature in the top ten (along with several other countries that enjoy snow – is that significant?). In fact the same countries appeared in last year’s top ten but in a different order.

I described the methodology in last year’s blog on this topic here.

  1. Finland
  2. Norway (in top spot last year)
  3. Denmark
  4. Iceland
  5. Sitzerland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Sweden
  10. Australia

War-Torn countries and sub-Saharan Africa feature at the bottom of the table.

How did the UK do? We came in at 19th place, the same as last year, and the US dropped to 18th from 14th.


Illegal schools should be shut down immediately & all home-educated kids registered

There has been a surge in the number of illegal schools and out-of-hours tuition centres according to the Department for Education.

Many of these are faith schools which teach almost exclusively religious texts – and they include all religions.

Ofsted has found over 350 illegal schools and have managed to inspect 200 of them. Fifty of these have been issued with warning notices and twelve are under criminal investigation.

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, has again called for tougher powers to regulate and close illegal schools. Something councils have been calling on the government for some time to give them more powers but the government – or more likely their PC civil servants – are worried about upsetting religious groups.

Councils are convinced that many children being taken out of school to be  home-educated are actually being sent to these illegal schools.

Last year Spielman was quoted as saying “It is clear that weaknesses in current legislation allow some organisations to teach school-aged children religious texts full-time, while avoiding registration and proper scrutiny. Action is needed now to protect the children who attend these places”

The new education secretary has promised to get tough on this issue as there is growing concern that children are at risk of being radicalised, trafficked, abused, or growing up ignorant without a proper education.

And it’s not just illegal schools but children who are home educated or home schooled. A bill to require all children to be registered and tracked once they reach school age will be debated in the House of Lords next month. Last year there were 30,000 children known to be home educated, double the numbers five years previously. And that’s just those the authorities know about.

The education department says “Unregistered schools are illegal and unsafe. There are clear powers in place for local authorities and the police to intervene where children are being put at risk or not receiving suitable education. We expect them to use the and will support them to do so”.

So why do councils feel helpless and Ofsted restricted in what it can inspect? Hackney Council recently found almost thirty unregistered yeshivas in the borough educating between 1,000 and 1,500 boys from the Haredi Orthodox Jewish community.

Last year a senior officer in the Metropolitan Police said “segregated, isolated communities, unregulated education and home schooling are a breeding ground for extremists and future terrorists“. This is just one aspect of radicalisation. Judges appear to be going soft on convicted terrorists allowing them shorter or no prison sentences because they have children. Yes judge let’s give them back to their parents so they can influence them even more!

  • I hope the bill goes through despite opposition from do-good liberals (including luvvie self-publicists who boast about home education and are prepared to go to prison for their beliefs) who demand the right to educate their kids themselves. They are being selfish and denying their children the opportunity of a good education with recognised standards.
  • I also firmly believe that we shouldn’t have any faith schools at all. They are decisive and produce selfish children


Brits are fatties and lie about it!

Brits are eating 50% more food than they admit to according to latest research from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Apparently we are exceeding the official health recommendations by the equivalent of one Big Mac a day.

Men are consuming 3.119 calories – not the 2,065 they own up to. And women are consuming 2,393 instead of the 1,570 they own up to.

The researchers used the National Diet & Nutrition Survey. Amazingly they found that a third of people in the survey actually claimed to be eating less than they would need to stay alive. People say that they are eating less than in the 1970s but it’s just not true as rising obesity levels illustrate.

This time the researchers used gold standard biological measurements of how energy is metabolised on a subset of the 4,500 in the survey. They then compared what this group said they ate and what the test results showed and extrapolated those finding across the whole sample.

Its’ clear you can’t trust self-report surveys when it comes to eating habits (or I suspect exercise habits as well).

See earlier posts on obesity