Weekend reads: Why do narcissists brag so much? Blame a brain deficit

Interesting stories and studies from the past 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.

Josh Zeitlin's reads

Combating the next Ebola. An independent panel of experts says the World Health Organization badly mismanaged its response to the Ebola virus, and is calling for several changes to help prevent future outbreaks. The panel wrote, "The world simply cannot afford another period of inaction until the next health crisis."

Twin swap. Susan Dominus writes for the New York Times about how a Colombian hospital accidentally split up two sets of identical twins, swapping one twin for the other. The 'new' pairs were then raised as fraternal twins—and have been reunited with their biological brothers. 

Is your patient a vampire? According to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Critical Social Work, people who self-identify as vampires—and feel they require other people's blood to increase their energy—are hesitant to discuss their blood desires with their doctors or therapists. Lead study author D.J. Williams, director of social work at Idaho State University, says self-identifying vampires fear clinicians would react with disgust, ridicule, or by diagnosing them with mental health issues.

Josh's recent posts:

Sam Bernstein's reads

The neurological basis of narcissism. Narcissists often claim to have high self-esteem, but their behavior suggests otherwise. Why boast if you are confident to begin with? Christian Jarrett writes in New York Magazine about a new study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience that may help explain why. Researchers used advanced brain-scanning technology, called diffusion tensor imaging, to measure the connectivity between regions of the brain in people who showed narcissistic tendencies. Turns out narcissists have weaker connections between the part of the brain associated with thinking about ourselves and the part related to rewards and positive feelings. Boasting and bragging may be a way to compensate for the deficit, researchers say.

Meet the trillions of machines that make you—you. It is a convenient psychological fiction that we all possess a permanent integrated self. In reality, we are all made up of trillions of microscopic machines. Tim Flannery, writing in the New York Review of Books, profiles two books that explore the origin of these organisms and how they work. Fair warning, those more than a decade out of medical school may have to do some googling to keep up—but it is a thought-provoking read.

The computing revolution continued. We write about technology at lot on the Daily Briefing. Wearables, big data, and innovative apps, all make regular appearances. But all this innovation is really driven by one thing—smaller, faster, and more efficient microchips. Some worry the cheap-computing gravy train could come to an end as we reach the physical limits of purely silicon-based chips. Luckily, IBM announced a new chip this week that promises at least a few more years of progress. Its building blocks are just seven nanometers (about 50% smaller those most on the market today) and the chip is built on a silicon-germanium wafer. Breathe a sigh of relief, your iPhone 10 is still in the pipeline.

Sam's recent posts:

Dan Diamond's reads

Do no harm: Why don't hospitals prevent central line infections? At Vox, Sarah Kliff dives deep into the issue of preventable infections, asking why more hospitals don't take the obvious, essential steps to curb central line infections. (We didn't manage to squeeze this story into this week's Daily Briefing—there was so much news—but we'll likely be covering it on Monday.)

Jason Pierre-Paul lost his finger. Did ESPN violate HIPAA by reporting it? Pierre-Paul, a star NFL player, mangled his hand in a fireworks accident last weekend. His surgery has become one of the biggest stories of the NFL off-season—and also one of the most high-profile patient data breaches in years.

Dan's recent posts:

In EAB Daily Briefing

Notable reads from our sister publication this week.

What rich kids study in college: Students from wealthy families are more likely to take a financial risk and study less "pragmatic" subjects such as arts, English, and history, writes Joe Pinsker for The Atlantic.

GOP senator who chairs ed committee: It's a 'myth' that college is unaffordable: Sen. Lamar Alexander argued in the Wall Street Journal that higher education is not too expensive for the masses, while suggesting five ways to improve access.

Are overbearing parents to blame for growing levels of student anxiety?: A growing body of research shows a correlation between "helicopter" parenting and depression in college students, writes Julie Lythcott-Haims in Slate.


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