Wednesday, September 30, 2015

IQ: Brain scans confirm what has long been known from twin studies

Intelligent people's brains are wired differently: Researchers say 'smart minds' are more likely to be happy, well educated and earn more

High achievers have brains that are wired differently from those with fewer intellectual or social abilities, researchers have claimed.

Scientists who analysed brain scan data on 461 volunteers found some had 'connectome' patterns linked to classically positive aspects of life, such as having a good memory and vocabulary, feeling satisfied, and being well educated.

People at the other end of the connectome scale were more likely to display negative traits including anger, rule-breaking, substance use and poor sleep quality.

The findings are among the first to emerge from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), a £20 million collaboration between Oxford University and Washington and Minnesota universities in the US.

As the study unfolds, data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans conducted on 1,200 healthy volunteers will be coupled with lifestyle and behaviour tests and questionnaires.

The Oxford team used 461 of the scans to create an averaged map of brain functioning across the participants.

Then, we looked at how much all of those regions communicated with each other, in every participant.'  The result was a 'connectome' for every individual - a detailed description of the extent to which the 200 separate brain regions communicate with each other.

Specific connectome variations were found to correlate with a range of behavioural and demographic measures.

A strong connectivity pattern that included symmetrical peaks on both sides of the brain in five particular regions was seen as 'positive'.

The correlation shows that those with a connectome at one end of scale score highly on measures typically deemed to be positive, such as vocabulary, memory, life satisfaction, income and years of education.

Meanwhile, those at the other end of the scale were found to exhibit high scores for traits typically considered negative, such as anger, rule-breaking, substance use and poor sleep quality.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, echo what psychologists refer to as the 'general intelligence g-factor', said the scientists.

First proposed in 1904, the 'g-factor' is supposed to summarise an individual's abilities in different cognitive tasks but has been criticised for failing to reflect the true complexity of what goes on in the brain.

Prof Smith said: 'It may be that with hundreds of different brain circuits, the tests that are used to measure cognitive ability actually make use of different sets of overlapping circuits.

'We hope that by looking at brain imaging data we'll be able to relate connections in the brain to the specific measures, and work out what these kinds of test actually require the brain to do.'



Does This Explain TRUMP?

The new Bloomberg Politics poll conducted by Iowa-based Selzer & Company (9/18-21; 1,001 adults) at least partially explains Donald Trump’s apparent sudden appeal.  Asking pointed questions about how the respondents perceive various issues provides supporting data as to why Trump’s message is striking chords with many prospective voters.

In a previous Update, we discussed the Bloomberg/Selzer Democratic primary ballot test (375 likely Democratic primary voters – a sample too small to adequately draw national conclusions).  This new data reveals that a bare majority would now choose a Dem candidate other than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Additionally, their underlying issue questions provide us a relatively sound base from which to analyze potential voting patterns.

The key questions surround America’s greatness, a subject that has become the theme of Trump’s national campaign.  From his slogan “let’s make America great again”, it becomes obvious that Mr. Trump no longer thinks the country is heading toward its apex.  According to the Bloomberg/Selzer data, the majority of respondents share that opinion.  Their question is reproduced below, with response percentages in adjoining parenthesis:

Do you think the United States today is:

Greater than it has ever been  (6%)
Equally great as it has been in the past  (20%)
Falling behind  (47%)
Failing  (25%)
Not sure  (2%)

Adding the categories, we see that almost three-quarters of the respondents, 72%, believe the country is either “falling behind” or “failing”.  This is the sentiment that Trump is channeling.

Their follow-up question provides even more interesting information (asked of those who responded negatively to the previous query):

What do you think are the ONE or TWO biggest threats to American greatness? (Multiple responses accepted, so total may exceed 100%.)

Moral decay   (32%)
Our own lagging work ethic  (27%)
The rise of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State  (26%)
The concentration of the nation’s wealth among very few individuals  (25%)
Competition from China and other countries  (21%)
People living in the country illegally  (12%)
Not sure  (5%)

These responses tell us why Trump is doing so well with the substantial number of people who feel America has declined.  Though their reasons are very evenly spread over a large and diverse issue field, the underlying feeling driving their response is captured in the sentiment that the country isn’t as good as our history dictates.  Trump, seizing upon this sentiment with his theme of “making America great again” harnesses a feeling that virtually all of the people who are negative about politics possess, regardless if their driving issue is moral decay, ISIS, China, wealth re-distribution, or immigration.

Another tenet of this campaign appears, particularly on the Republican side, as a desire to elect a person who has not previously held elective office.  The fact that Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, together, consistently poll a sizable majority of Republican voters underscores this view.

The Bloomberg/Selzer survey provides us information to better gauge the electorate’s position, and the reasoning driving their decisions may be different than first surmised:

All other things being equal, which of the following is a more attractive candidate for president at this time:

A government outsider who has been a leader in the field, handling complex issues and managing teams to get things done  (37%)

A governor who has been a government executive, has worked with a legislature, and who is responsible for balancing a budget  (27%)

A U.S. senator who has involvement with national security and international relations and diplomatic issues   (27%)

Not sure  (9%)

Comparing the recent Republican polling results, one would have expected the outsider response to poll much stronger on the Bloomberg Politics survey.  Surprisingly, combining the Governor and Senator question actually gives the insiders a clear majority.  This tells us that the heavy pull against the particular candidates with elective experience may actually be directed against them individually as opposed to the political position(s) they hold or once held.



Redistribution: The Unconquerable Delusion

“A pope that mentions Dorothy Day is a pope that rocks,” tweeted Neera Tanden of the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Tanden might have wished to reel back that praise if she had known that Day, though a prominent pacifist and socialist, was also a fervent opponent of abortion, birth control, Social Security and the sexual revolution.

It’s fitting that Pope Francis should have invoked Dorothy Day among his pantheon of great Americans — she’s a symbol of where leftists always go wrong. This pope is going wrong in the same way. The left’s delusions of “social justice” seem indomitable — impervious to evidence.

The pope lauded Day for “her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, (which) were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints.”

Let’s assume that Day’s motives were as pure as Pope Francis described: Does having the right motives excuse everything?

Day’s interpretation of the Gospel led her to oppose the U.S. entry into World War II, which arguably would have led to a world dominated by Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and Imperial Japan. How would that have worked out for the poor and the oppressed?

Though her social views were heterodox for a leftist, Day was a supporter of Fidel Castro and found very kind things to say about North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh. She visited Leonid Brezhnev in the Kremlin and leant her moral support to other communist regimes despite their persecution of Catholics and others.

Of Castro, Day said, “I am most of all interested in the religious life of the people and so must not be on the side of a regime that favors the extirpation of religion. On the other hand, when that regime is bending all its efforts to make a good life for the people … one cannot help but be in favor of the measures taken.”

According to “The Black Book of Communism,” between 1959 and the late 1990s, more than 100,000 (out of about 10 million) Cubans spent time in the island’s gulag. Between 15,000 and 19,000 were shot. One of the first was a young boy in Che Guevara’s unit who had stolen a little food. As for quality of life, it has declined compared with its neighbors. In 1958, Cuba had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Today, as the liberal New Republic describes it:

“The buildings in Havana are literally crumbling, many of them held upright by two-by-fours. Even the cleanest bathrooms are fetid, as if the country’s infrastructural bowels might collectively evacuate at any minute.

"Poverty in Cuba is severe in terms of access to physical commodities, especially in rural areas. Farmers struggle, and many women depend on prostitution to make a living. Citizens have few material possessions and lead simpler lives with few luxuries and far more limited political freedom.”

This left-leaning pope (who failed to stand up for the Cuban dissidents who were arrested when attempting to attend a mass he was conducting) and our left-leaning president have attributed Cuba’s total failure to the U.S.

It’s critically important to care about the poor — but if those who claim to care for the poor and the oppressed stand with the oppressors, what are we to conclude?

Much is made of Pope Francis' Argentine origins — the fact that the only kind of capitalism he’s experienced is of the crony variety. Maybe. But Pope Francis is a man of the world, and the whole world still struggles to shake off a delusion — namely, that leftists who preach redistribution can help the poor.

Has this pope or Obama taken a moment to see what Hugo Chavez’s socialist/populist Venezuela has become? Chavez and his successor (like Castro, like Lenin, like Mao) promised huge redistribution from the rich to the poor. There have indeed been new programs for the poor, but the economy has been destroyed. The leader of the opposition was just thrown in jail. Meanwhile, the shops have run out of flour, oil, toilet paper and other basics.

If you want moral credit for caring about the poor, when, oh when, do you ever have to take responsibility for what happens to the poor when leftists take over?

We know what actually lifts people out of poverty: property rights, the rule of law, free markets. Not only do those things deliver the fundamentals that people need to keep body and soul together, but they accomplish this feat without a single arrest, persecution or show trial.



Fast food doesn't make you fat

The CDC says so.  See the summary of their research report below.  The final sentence is the kicker

In 2011–2012, children and adolescents aged 2–19 consumed an average 12.4% of their daily calories from fast food. Adolescents aged 12–19 consumed twice the average daily percentage of calories from fast food than did younger children. The percentage of calories from fast food differed by age and race and Hispanic origin. Overall, non-Hispanic Asian children and adolescents consumed a lower percentage of calories from fast food compared with the other race and Hispanic groups. Previous studies have reported that acculturation to the U.S. lifestyle plays an important role in the adoption of unhealthy behaviors, such as fast food consumption, in Asian-American and other immigrant groups (4,5). In 2011–2012, a greater percentage of non-Hispanic Asian children and adolescents were foreign-born (27.4%), compared with Hispanic (19.7%), non-Hispanic white (2.5%), and non-Hispanic black (1.9%) children and adolescents (data not shown). This analysis found no significant differences in fast food consumption by poverty status or weight status among children and adolescents.



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