In Brief

  • New research suggests that teen brains may be hard-wired toward drug-related cues, making it easier for them to get hooked on cocaine and harder for them to quit. The April Behavioral Neuroscience (Vol. 122, No. 2) study showed that compared with adult rats, adolescent rats required 75 percent more trials to suppress a preference for the place where they received a dose of cocaine. The findings may be useful in developing drug-abuse treatments for teens, researchers say.

  • A 25-year longitudinal study with 8,143 pairs of twins in May's Health Psychology (Vol. 27, No. 3) finds that not only are people with higher levels of neuroticism more likely to get sick, but the relationship between neuroticism and physical pain may be due to familial influences. While further research is needed to establish what constitutes this genetic predisposition, it's possible that people with high levels of neuroticism may be more physiologically reactive to stress in general, says lead author Susan Turk Charles, PhD, of the University of California, Irvine.

  • Foreign threats reduce Americans' acceptance of international multiculturalism and increase feelings of patriotism, according to a study in the August Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 95, No. 2). Researchers found that participants who read and wrote about the 9/11 terrorist attacks--a foreign threat--reported higher levels of national identity than those who read and wrote about the Columbine massacre--a domestic threat--and led the 9/11-primed participants to endorse policies that promote multiculturalism domestically and a corresponding intolerance for diversity internationally. The findings indicate that embracing one's national identity may help unite people during periods of strife, researchers say.

  • Witnessing kindness may boost lactation in new mothers, according to a study in the April issue of Emotion (Vol. 8, No. 2). Researchers at the University of Virginia found that mothers who watched a morally uplifting clip of an episode of Oprah were more likely to leak milk into a nursing pad, nurse their children and hug their children compared with mothers who watched stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The findings suggest that moral elevation may spur the release of oxytocin, the hormone associated with maternal bonding.

--A. Novotney