Weekend reads: Are you really a good multitasker?

Interesting stories and studies from across the week

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.

Paige Hill's picks

Think you are good at multi-tasking? Think again. University of Utah researchers asked students to rate themselves on how well they multitask. They then tested the students' ability to solve math problems while remembering random letters and found that those who thought they were best at multitasking were actually the worst. Lead researcher David Sanbonmatsu says that individuals do not multitask because they excel at it, but because they "can't focus on the task that's most important to them."

If you are looking for an excuse to not run this winter, do not read this article. Jezebel writer Brent Rose spoke with running expert Jack Daniels (yes, that is his name) about the health risks of running when temperatures drop below freezing. Turns out there are few excuses for not getting out there. Daniels says your lungs will not freeze and even running with a head cold is ok, too. Rose includes a link to an article on how to scientifically not slip on ice while your run. Fun!

iRobot boosts medical tech company's financial standings. In just six hours after RP-VITA gained FDA approval, parent company iRobot's shares began trading sharply higher, Forbes reports. The telemedicine robot allows physicians to roam around a hospital checking on patients through the magic of an iPad application. Check out the Daily Briefing’s earlier coverage on the military-developed robot that is changing the face of medicine.

Dan Diamond's picks

How reading this article will make you feel smarter and happierAbout 45,000 books now purport to offer self-help, ranging from advice on living healthier to eating better and developing positive habits. New York Magazine examines the industry's rise, noting that so many recent best-sellers focus on brain science.

Do you think smokers should pay more for health insurance? New provisions under the Affordable Care Act would allow insurers to hike individuals' premiums for tobacco use. Some experts say that development is overdue—smoking leads to higher health costs, after all—but consumer advocates warn that many low-income smokers would be priced out of purchasing coverage and remain uninsured. Either way, I found this to be an interesting debate (full disclosure: I wrote the article).

Juliette Mullin's picks

There's an app for that—but be wary. University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers have found that smartphone apps misdiagnose nearly one in three melanomas. "[W]e have to make sure that patients aren’t being harmed by tools that delivery inaccurate results," the researchers write in JAMA Dermatology.

How we prevent "catastrophic care" in America. In 2009, David Goldhill caused a stir in the health care community with an Atlantic essay explaining how the U.S. health care system killed his father. He is now expanding his thoughts on the issue in a new book, titled "Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father—And How We Can Fix It." Forbes has a "lightly edited" excerpt from the new book.

Neeraj Hotchandani's picks

What Watson and Crick missed. Sixty years after the landmark discovery of the double helix, University of Cambridge scientists have found a four-stranded "quadruple helix" in human cells. Researchers say the finding may prove helpful in the fight against cancer, the Huffington Post reports.

With 100 million trees gone, mortality rates spike. We all know trees remove air pollutants. The U.S. Forest Service has even put a dollar value on the cleaning service provided by urban-area trees: $3.8 billion. But there may be a deeper link between our health and the health of these giant plants: A curious new study links the infestation the emerald ash borer in 15 northern states—which decimated 100 million trees—to more than 20,000 additional mortalities from cardiovascular and lower respiratory illnesses.

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