Weekend reads: Why left-handers are better than right-handers

Interesting stories and studies from the past week

August 16, 2013

The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments.

Juliette Mullin's reads

Some good news for parents of troubled teens. New research from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that rule-abiding teenagers are less likely to become successful entrepreneurs than equally smart peers who engage in illicit activities. In a review of surveys and Census data, economists found that self-employed workers with incorporated companies were nearly three times more likely than salaried workers to have engaged in risky activity in their youth.

How Yelp affects your point of view. A new study published in Science finds that people are heavily influenced by positive opinions that other people post online. However, they are much less sway by negative reviews.

The beverage of choice for ED patients. About one in three injury-related ED visits involve alcohol, and Johns Hopkins researchers apparently wanted to know more about the beverages that leave so many needing emergency care. They surveyed ED patients and found that the No. 1 brand of choice was Budweiser, which accounts for 9.1% of the national beer market, but 15% of the ED patient alcohol "market."

Paige Bashuck's reads

Remember Oprah? Psychologists update 'face recognition' dementia test. A test commonly used to detect prosopagnosia or "face blindness" associated with a brain injury, stroke, or dementia has finally been updated to give patients born in the last 40 years a better chance of doing well. The test—which asks patients to identify faces of famous celebrities, athletes, and politicians—still had Japanese Emperor Hirohito and Indian Prime Minister Nehru on it before this year. Now the test features Oprah, Brad Pitt, and President George W. Bush. Take the test.

Grab an Egg McMuffin if you are trying to conceive. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome—a condition that encourages the body to produce too much insulin—should increase their calories at breakfast to boost their fertility, according to a University of Tel Aviv study. Physicians say that about five million U.S. women have confirmed cases of the syndrome, but many more may be undiagnosed. Women with the syndrome who ate bigger breakfasts in the study experienced a 50% increase in ovulation after 90 days. 

Hanna Jaquith's reads

DNA may help find the real Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa has inspired endless theories about the woman behind the mysterious smile. Many experts believe the model was a young woman named Lisa Gherardini del Giocondo, whose husband commissioned the painting in the early 1500s. Researchers last week cracked open a tomb in Florence that holds the remains of Giocondo's sons. They will use her sons' DNA to determine whether remains uncovered at a nearby convent are Gherardini's.

The science behind left-handers. August 13th marked International Left-Handers' Day, which TIME honored by outlining the everyday advantages of being a lefty. For example, the 10% of us who are left handed have more symmetry between the right and left sides of their brains compared with right-handers, which can have implications for everything from language to motor skills. Because left-handers' skills are more randomized, they are more likely to bounce back from a stroke than right-handers. But research shows that there are some drawbacks to being a lefty: a greater vulnerability to depression and anger, for example.

Dan Diamond's reads

How old are your ears? This self-administered hearing test from ASAPScience plays a whining pitch, starting at a level that everyone who's "both alive and not hearing impaired" should be able to hear, before cranking the dial up to ever-higher frequencies that can only be heard by the ever-younger, or at least people with young-seeming ears.

Make sure to set the video resolution to 1080p—otherwise you'll mistakenly conclude, as I did at first, that you have the ears of a 23-year-old.

Why your brain gets hooked on caffeine. The drug basically blocks a molecule in our brain—adenosine—for a few hours, keeping us from getting tired and allowing our adrenaline and dopamine levels to rise. Which means that caffeine really isn't a stimulant on its own, but "a substance that lets our natural stimulants run wild," Joseph Stromberg writes for Smithsonian.com's "Surprising Science" blog. However, the brain builds up tolerance by creating more adenosine receptors, which is why coffee drinkers build up tolerance too—but you can reset your brain back to normal, and break your addiction, by staying away from caffeine for about two weeks.

Chinese zoo pretends that a hairy dog is actually a lion. There's no health care connection here. Unlike the zookeepers, I'm not going to pretend this story is anything but what it is: Absolutely ridiculous.

The purported 'lion'

(Apparently the fluffy dog was just the tip of the zoological iceberg.)

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