Brilliant Bats And Creative Outsiders: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

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Bats are apparently able to imitate specific sounds, an ability shown by just a few other mammals and some birds. The bats’ calls were recorded, and the sound manipulated before being played back to them. Within a month, the bats had learned to copy the sounds in exchange for a food reward, reports Layal Liverpool at New Scientist. Studying vocal production in other animals can help psycholinguists understand the evolution of human speech.

A new drug candidate for the treatment of schizophrenia has shown promising results in a clinical trial. The compound SEP-363856, developed by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, reduced symptoms in patients who were early in the course of schizophrenia, repots Kelly Servick at Science. This appeared to include a decrease in negative symptoms like blunted emotion, which are notoriously difficult to treat, although further research is needed to confirm these findings.

Being considered a “weirdo” or outsider clearly has its downsides — but it may also boost your creativity, writes Olga Khazan at The Atlantic. Various studies have found that people who do not fit into a particular group tend to show greater creative thinking.

We know that our mental health is influenced by our interactions with family members — so a new programme seeks to treat childhood anxiety indirectly, by providing sessions for parents instead of children themselves. Recent trials suggest that Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions may be as effective as CBT at treating children’s anxiety, reports Shayla Love at Vice.

How might social isolation affect our mental and physiological health? Ian Sample talks to Carmine Pariante in The Guardian’s “Science Weekly” podcast to find out.

Of course, there’s one career where regular social isolation is part of the job description: astronaut. At BBC Future, Tiffanie Wen gets some tips from an astronaut who spent months on the International Space Station and an engineer who lived in a dome in Hawaii to simulate life on Mars.

During the pandemic, pornography use has increased — perhaps not a huge surprise, given that we know people turn to porn to cope with negative feelings and boredom, writes Joshua B. Grubbs at The Conversation. “For most users, pornography is probably just another distraction – one that might actually help “flatten the curve” by keeping people safely occupied and socially distanced,” he writes.

Finally, social media has been ablaze with people reporting experiencing vivid, coronavirus-related dreams. But why are so many of us having these dreams? There are a number of causes, reports Will Pritchard at Wired: partly, these kinds of dreams are natural response to stress and trauma, but they may also reflect the simple fact that many of us are getting more sleep (and particularly REM sleep) than before.

Compiled by Matthew Warren (@MattbWarren), Editor of BPS Research Digest