Clock Changes And Mini-Brains: The Week’s Best Psychology Links

Our weekly round-up of the best psychology coverage from elsewhere on the web

In the UK, the clocks went back last weekend and we’re now faced with dark, gloomy evenings. But around the world, many countries have decided that the time has come to abolish clock changes. And there are good reasons for doing so, Beth Malow tells Diana Kwon at Scientific American: changing the clocks throws our circadian rhythms out, which can affect our sleep and stress response

People who generally do more “media multitasking” — using social media while watching TV, for instance — showed more lapses of attention during a recall task in a recent study, reports Kat Eschner at Popular Science. The results suggest that media multitasking could be related to poorer concentration and memory — but as the story notes, there are plenty of unanswered questions about the direction of causality, as well as the suitability of the measures used in this kind of work.

There is a relatively rare subtype of dementia called “autoimmune dementia”, caused by antibodies binding to brain tissue. It may often be misdiagnosed, writes David Cox at The Observer — but the good news is that, once identified, it is treatable.

A study of UK MPs and councillors reveals the extent to which politicians have to engage in “emotional labour”, writes researcher James Weinberg at The Conversation. For instance, the majority of those surveyed said that they frequently had to be artificially friendly or act nice to others, no matter how they were treated themselves. Consistent with findings from other professions, women seemed to end up taking on more of this emotional labour than men.

A new tool for studying the human brain has recently been added to the neuroscientist’s toolbox: brain organoids, rudimentary brain-like structures grown in the lab from stem cells. But the use of these “mini-brains” also brings up tricky ethical issues. At Nature, Sara Reardon asks at what point a collection of brain cells becomes conscious.

Meanwhile, optogenetics, in which neurons can be activated using light, continues to produce scientific insights — in rodents, at least. It’s been much more challenging to use the technique in primate studies, however, which are an important step towards developing optogenetics-based therapies for humans. But researchers hope a new open data initiative will help, writes Kelly Servick at Science.

One last interesting neuroscience study from this week: scientists have created a brain-computer interface by attaching electrodes onto a stent, which they then threaded into a blood vessel in the brain. The technology enabled patients with paralysis to click a cursor on a computer, reports Adam Rogers at Wired, allowing them to text and shop online.

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