In Brief

Infants exposed to anesthesia during surgery may be at greater risk for learning disabilities, finds a study in April's Anesthesiology (Vol. 110, No. 4). Using data from more than 5,000 children born between 1976 and 1982, researchers from the Mayo Clinic found that infants who had been anesthetized two or more times before age 4 had a 60 percent increased chance of having difficulty in thinking, speaking, spelling or performing math calculations by age 19. Three or more exposures by age 3 doubled children's risk.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy appears to be an efficient and cost-effective treatment for depressed youth in community settings, finds research from Harvard University, published in this month's Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Vol. 77, No. 3). The study reports equally effective clinical outcomes and reduced use of medication and other services among children and teens after six months of CBT, as compared with more than nine months of usual clinical care that emphasized psychodynamic and family-focused treatments. More than 70 percent of youths recovered from their depressive disorders by the end of both treatments, but CBT was significantly briefer and 35 percent less costly.

The adult brain processes fractions effortlessly, finds new research in the April 8 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience (Vol. 29, No. 14). Using fMRI, neuroscientists at the University of Tübingen in Germany examined brain activity in the intraparietal sulcus and the prefrontal cortex and found that fractions automatically activated these regions, which are also responsible for processing whole numbers. The findings challenge the notion that children must work overtime in order to understand fractions and may encourage educators to develop teaching techniques that harness their native mathematical ability.

Where you live may affect your state of mind, says research published in this month's American Journal of Preventive Medicine (Vol. 36, No. 6). Using 13 years of data from large-scale Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys, researchers identified geographic areas with consistently high or low incidence of frequent mental distress, defined as 14 or more days of stress, depression and poor emotional health. The Appalachian and the Mississippi Valley regions had high and increasing mental distress and the upper Midwest reported low and decreasing mental distress.

Memory grows less efficient very early in Alzheimer's disease, according to research in the May Neuropsychology (Vol. 23, No. 3). In a study led by Alan D. Castel, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers had healthy younger and older adults, as well as adults with very early and early Alzheimer's disease study and then recall neutral words such as table, donkey and apple, which were each assigned different point values based on how important it was to remember that word. They found that the Alzheimer's groups were significantly less efficient than their healthy age peers at remembering items according to their values. It seems early on in the process of the disease, patients begin to lose their sense of remembering what's most important, which is an essential aspect of memeory and is central to life, the authors say.

Nearly one in 10 youth gamers are addicted to video games, according to a study by Iowa State psychology professor Douglas Gentile, PhD, published in May's Psychological Science (Vol. 20, No. 5). Gentile compared the video-game playing habits of 1,178 Americans age 8 to 18 to the symptoms for pathological gambling established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, and classified those who exhibited at least six of the 11 symptoms as pathological. These gamers played video games 24 hours a week—about twice as much as non-pathological gamers—and were also twice as likely to have been diagnosed with attention problems.

Living abroad makes you more creative, suggests research in the May Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 96, No. 5). Through a series of studies, social psychologists William Maddux, PhD, of the INSEAD Social Sciences Research Centre in Paris, and Adam Galinsky, PhD, of Northwestern University, found that the more time participants had spent living abroad, the more likely they were to find the best solutions to various problem-solving and negotiation tasks. These findings may be particularly significant as the world becomes more interconnected, the authors say.

Vision loss and depression among adults age 65 and older may lead to obesity, physical inactivity and overall poorer health, according to research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in May's Rehabilitation Psychology (Vol. 54, No. 2). Given that vision impairment affects 5.7 million older adults in the United States, and of those, 63 percent report some symptoms of depression, the researchers say these people need better care.

In every corner of the world, humans like to boogie down. But a new theory is emerging that "dancing" might not be a purely human trait. A report published online in Current Biology in April found that a cockatoo named Snowball head-bobbed and stepped to the rhythm of a Backstreet Boys song. Tellingly, when they adjusted the song's tempo, Snowball stayed in the groove, say researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and the Neuroscience Institute, also in San Diego. In another paper, also online in the same journal, researchers from Harvard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brandeis University searched YouTube for videos of animals "dancing" to music. When they looked at the animals' rhythmic accuracy, only those capable of vocal mimicry, such as cockatoos and parrots, consistently stayed in step. Both groups say their findings suggest that dancing and rhythmic movement evolved as a byproduct of vocal mimicry.

Research published in the April 1 Biological Psychiatry (Vol. 65, No. 7) suggests that a drug commonly used to treat alcohol and drug addiction may also curb the urges of compulsive stealers. Researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted an eight-week study of 25 men and women who spent an average of at least one hour a week stealing and found that people who took the drug Naltrexone reported significantly greater decline in stealing behavior compared to those who took a placebo.

—A. Novotney and M. Price