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July 20, 2006

Deliberation is the ultimate thrill

Deliberation is the ultimate thrill

When life is short and dangerous, and resources are scarce,
there is a premium on quick response

The Journal of Psychiatric Research, Janine D. Flory, a psychologist
at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, led a team of
investigators who studied 351 healthy adults and 70 others with
impulse-related disorders like antisocial and borderline personality

The participants took a battery of tests to measure inhibition, appetite
for risk and the inclination to plan. Analyzing the responses to questions
intended to gauge thrill seeking like, "I like to explore a strange city or
section of town by myself, even if it means getting lost," and, "I like to
try foods I've never tried before," the researchers found that an appetite
for risk was associated with smoking in both groups.

But in the healthy volunteers, the appetite was also associated with
higher education. In previous studies, healthy risk seekers scored
highly for curiosity and openness to new experiences. On
measurements of instinctive planning — "I am better at saving
money than most people" and "I hate to make decisions based
on first impressions"— the researchers found that less deliberative
habits were related to heavy drinking in the healthy group and the
troubled group.


The people who can binge, gamble or try hard drugs and get away
with it have a native cunning when it comes to risk, this and other
studies suggest. They are prepared for the dangers like a mountain
climber or they sample risk, in effect, by semiconsciously hedging
their behavior — sipping their cocktails slowly, inhaling partly or
keeping one toe on the cliff's edge, poised for retreat.

"These are highly self-directed people," said C. Robert Cloninger, a
professor of psychiatry and genetics at Washington University in
St. Louis and author of Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being.
"They have goals and are resourceful in pursuing them."

Those who are upended by their own impulses, by contrast, are
more likely to trust their first impressions implicitly and absolutely.

This difference in ability to hedge or self-regulate is partly based
in genetic variation, experts say. In a study published in March,
investigators at the National Institute of Mental Health took blood
samples from 142 healthy volunteers and analyzed a gene called
MAOA. The gene directs the body to produce an enzyme that
reduces the activity of a brain chemical called serotonin, which
strongly influences mood. Earlier studies have linked variations
in this gene to impulsive aggression.

The researchers conducted M.R.I. scans on participants' brains
while they were performing tasks intended to measure impulse
control. In one of the tests, the participants watched as a
computer screen presented a series of arrows, boxes and
X's, three at a time, as a slot machine does.

The patterns appeared in quick succession, and the participants
were instructed to hit a button indicating which way the arrow
was pointing. They also had to restrain from hitting the button
when one particular pattern appeared. Their mistakes provided
a measure of how well they could restrain their reflexes.

[ NYT ]

July 6, 2006

Exercise vs sport

While it may seem logical for disciplined competitors to continue a
workout routine, experts say it takes significant reprogramming.

Exercise just seems to lack purpose or meaning.
It's pointless.

-- Tom Raedeke,
Associate professor of sport science at East Carolina University
in Greenville, N.C.

Part of the problem is that some athletes were more involved in
the game than in the exercise.

-- Bill Karper,
Associate professor of exercise and sport science at the University
of North Carolina at Greensboro.