“Over the past two decades, the international biomedical research community has demonstrated increasingly sophisticated ways to allow a person’s brain to communicate with a device, allowing breakthroughs aimed at improving quality of life, such as access to computers and the internet, and more recently control of a prosthetic limb.
The state of the art in brain-system communications has employed invasive techniques that allow precise, high-quality connections to specific neurons or groups of neurons. These techniques have helped patients with brain injury and other illnesses. However, these techniques are not appropriate for able-bodied people. DARPA now seeks to achieve high levels of brain-system communications without surgery, in its new program, Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3).
Noninvasive neurotechnologies such as the electroencephalogram and transcranial direct current stimulation already exist, but offer nowhere near the precision, signal resolution, and portability required for advanced applications by people working in real-world settings …“We’re asking multidisciplinary teams of researchers to construct approaches that enable precise interaction with very small areas of the brain, without sacrificing signal resolution or introducing unacceptable latency into the N3 system,” Emondi said. The only technologies that will be considered in N3 must have a viable path toward eventual use in healthy human subjects…
DARPA is being similarly proactive in considering the ethical, legal, and social dimensions of more ubiquitous neurotechnology and how it might affect not only military operations, but also society at large. Independent legal and ethical experts advised the agency as the N3 program was being formed, and will continue to help DARPA think through new scenarios that arise as N3 technologies take shape … As the research advances, published N3 results will further facilitate broad consideration of emerging technologies.”
Synopsis: The Biological Technologies Office (BTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is hosting a Proposers Day for the potential proposer community in support of a planned Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for the Next-Generation Non-Surgical Neurotechnology (N3) program. The Proposers Day will be held on April 3, 2018, at the DARPA Conference Center in Arlington, VA. Advance registration is required. The event will be webcast to provide limited interaction for those who would like to participate remotely. See Special Notice Attachment for full details.
“The pitches always sounded promising: A new software app could track glucose levels for people with diabetes or soothe the brains of insomniacs. Most pharma executives would politely smile and nod, but then park their money somewhere else.
Backed by a growing body of evidence, software is itself becoming a prescription for diseases ranging from depression to heart disease, and drug companies are starting to take notice. In the past couple years, many have quickly ramped up their investments in digital startups, infusing software-based therapies into pipelines once dominated by traditional medicines.
These products, known broadly as digital therapeutics, deliver treatment to patients through video games, smartphone apps, and sensors buried in pills or attached to medication dispensers. They are designed to stimulate changes in behavior — and in some cases brain function — to help patients control a variety of illnesses and chronic conditions.” Keep reading article.
The Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA Study) is the largest ADHD treatment study ever conducted — nearly 600 7–9-year-old children with ADHD were randomly assigned to one of four interventions:
1) Carefully monitored medication treatment;
2) Intensive behavior therapy;
3) Medication Treatment combined with Behavior Therapy; or
4) Community Care (parents obtained whatever treatment they desired).
After 14 months, results indicated that children receiving carefully monitored medication treatment or medication treatment plus intensive behavior therapy had lower levels of ADHD symptoms and somewhat better overall adjustment compared to those receiving intensive behavioral treatment alone or regular community care.
Ten months after study treated had ended, children who had received intensive medication treatment — either alone or in combination with behavior therapy — were still doing better than those who received intensive behavior therapy only or community care. The magnitude of the relative benefits, however, had been reduced by about 50% compared tot the initial outcome assessment. And, when participants were assessed again a year later, no group differences based on initial treatment assignments were found; the same was true when participants were evaluated again several years later during adolescence. Thus, the initial benefits associated with carefully monitored medication treatment had evaporated; this is not surprising given that many participants had stopped taking medication and the care with which this treatment was provided during the treatment phase of the study was no longer available.
The researchers continued to follow the sample annually through age 18 and then on a reduced schedule to age 25. During the annual assessments, information on treatments received in the prior year was obtained; participants were considered to have received medication treatment if they had taken the equivalent of at least 10 mg of methylphenidate on at least half the days during the year. Based on this annual medication use data through age 18, 3 medication use groups were formed:
a) Consistent, i.e,. those who had met the minimum threshold during each year;
b) Inconsistent, i.e., those meeting the minimum threshold in some but not all years; and
c) Negligible, i.e., below the minimum threshold in all years.
The Latest Results
At the most recent follow-up assessment when participants were 25, self- and parent-reported ADHD symptoms were obtained. In addition, the researchers measured participants’ height. This data was also collected on a group of comparably aged young adults from the same communities who had not been diagnosed with ADHD in childhood, i.e., comparison subjects.
Consistency of medication use — Only 14.3% of participants used medication consistently through age 18; remember, this does not reflect optimal medication treatment but only that a minimum threshold was met each year. Twenty-three percent had not met this threshold in any year and the remaining 69% were in the Inconsistent use group, with the threshold met for some years but not others.
Persistence of symptoms — Relative to comparison subjects, participants with ADHD maintained substantially higher ADHD symptoms over time based on the average of their self-report and their parents’ report. The magnitude of this difference was large and indicates substantial persistence of ADHD symptoms into young adulthood. Symptoms reported by parents were significantly higher than symptoms reported by participants themselves.
Are ADHD symptoms in young adulthood related to patterns of medication use through adolescence?The clear answer to this question was NO. Regardless of whether participants were Consistent, Inconsistent, or Negligible users of ADHD medication through adolescence, their self- and parent-reported ADHD symptoms were quite similar. There was thus no indication that consistent medication treatment over a number of years had any persistent impact.
Is there an association between persistent medication use and adult height? — This association was found. Students in the Consistent and Inconsistent medication treatment groups had average heights — combined across these groups — that were about an inch shorter than those in the Negligible treatment group. And, participants in the Consistent Group were nearly an inch shorter on average than those in the Inconsistent group, i.e., nearly 2 inches shorter than those in the Negligible group.
Three broad conclusions can be drawn from this study.
First, there was substantial persistence of ADHD symptoms into adulthood. Although not mean youth with ADHD continue to struggle with ADHD as adults, this is not a condition that most children simply outgrow. Rather, it is likely to be a chronic condition that must be managed effectively over time. Keeping effective treatment in place over many years, while extremely challenging, may often be necessary.
Second, although the benefits of medication treatment on ADHD symptoms dissipate, the impact on adult stature persists. Consistent medication treatment through adolescence was not linked to reduced symptoms in young adulthood; unfortunately, however, it was associated with reduced adult height . The impact on height was not trivial, with average differences between Consistent and Negligible medication treatment groups of roughly 2 inches. One implication of this finding is that reducing medication dose, which can be done when medication is combined with behavior therapy, could be an effective way to mitigate adverse height outcomes.
While these are interesting and important findings, caution is required in drawing certain conclusions. It would be erroneous to conclude that medication treatment has no long-term benefits as only core ADHD symptoms were examined. It remains possible that benefits on other important outcomes not examined here, e.g., educational attainment, work history, etc., were associated with consistent medication treatment. It is also true that medication treatment after the 14-month treatment portion of the study ended was no longer managed and monitored as it had been.
These data also provide don’t address whether adults who continued to take medication were benefiting from it. The findings reported here highlight that enduring medication benefits should not be expected; instead, whatever benefits this treatment provides while in place will likely dissipate when it stops.
Finally, while it is tempting to conclude that stimulant medication treatment was the cause of reduced adult stature, the design of the study does not fully allow support this conclusion. It is possible that some other factor that contributed to some participants taking medication more consistently, e.g., more severe symptoms, also explains the reduced height attainment in this group.
These limitations and uncertainties not withstanding, several ‘take home’ messages are important.
First, relatively few youth with ADHD use medication consistently over their development, even though it is the treatment that currently has the strongest empirical support for reducing symptoms.
Second, many with ADHD will continue to struggle with ADHD symptoms into adulthood, even though some show significant reductions in core symptoms over time.
Third, although medication helps control symptoms in the short-term, it is not a cure. Even long-term treatment provided in community settings does not seem to yield persistent benefits on core symptoms.
Fourth, we don’t know whether optimal medication treatment maintained over many years would have a greater impact. Unfortunately, the study required to answer this question will probably never be done.
Finally, parents and clinicians need to balance the need for persistent treatment in some children with the likely consequences of reduced adult height. Whether or not this is an important concern may depend on the height a child would have otherwise attained.
Because height reduction would likely be linked to cumulative exposure to stimulant medication over time, working to find the lowest effective dose is a good practice. In many cases, this can be achieved by combining medication treatment with other behavior therapy and/or other approaches.
– Dr. David Rabiner is a child clinical psychologist and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He publishes the Attention Research Update, an online newsletter that helps parents, professionals, and educators keep up with the latest research on ADHD.
“For the elderly, the loss of a driver’s licence could mean the end of independence and the beginning of a decline in health, with far-reaching consequences in their daily lives…New assistive driving technologies seem like an obvious solution in the years to come, but buying new vehicles can be too expensive; while options like going for adult driving lessons can be too great a blow to some seniors’ pride. Now, scientists claim that there’s another option available to help older drivers maintain their abilities on the road.
Cognitive training games like those available from companies like Posit Science or Cognifit claim to be able to make you a better driver through online exercises that take only minutes a day to complete…they offer exercises that specifically target mental abilities like attention, processing speed, and navigation, which directly affect a person’s driving abilities, rather than merely showing an increase in general motor skills…Researchers found that the use of brain training games designed to improve speed of processing had the greatest effect on participants, reducing the risk of at-fault accidents by almost 50 per cent over a six-year follow-up period. They also found that participants who did speed of processing training were 40 per cent less likely to cease driving over the subsequent three years than those who were in the control group.
“And you have to keep in mind people were doing between ten and 18 hours of training,” said Ross, “and we’re finding those effects – that’s huge.”
While the results of brain training seem promising, it’s important for potential users to be discerning — not all brain training is created equally…Users need to determine what skills they as an individual need to improve, then find a program that fits, and is backed by reputable research. SharpBrains, an independent brain science applications market research firm, is one resource that can be useful, offering a ten point checklist to help evaluate whether a brain training program is right for you.
Above all, Ross recommends that potential users do their research before committing to any one product – much like physical exercise, cognitive training is not a one-size- fits-all situation.”
When writing a song or a piece of prose, I often choose to let my mind wander, hoping the muse will strike. If it does, it not only moves my work along but feels great, too!
That’s why I was troubled by studies that found an association between mind-wandering and problems like unhappiness and depression—and even a shorter life expectancy. This research suggests that focusing one’s thoughts on the present moment is linked to well-being, while spacing out—which I personally love to do—is not.
Now, new studies are bringing nuance to this science. Whether or not mind-wandering is a negative depends on a lot of factors—like whether it’s purposeful or spontaneous, the content of your musings, and what kind of mood you are in. In some cases, a wandering mind can lead to creativity, better moods, greater productivity, and more concrete goals.
Here is what some recent research says about the upsides of a meandering mind.
Mind-wandering can make you more creative
It’s probably not a big surprise that mind-wandering augments creativity—particularly “divergent thinking,” or being able to come up with novel ideas.
In one study, researchers gave participants a creativity test called the Unusual Uses Task that asks you to dream up novel uses for an everyday item, like a paperclip or a newspaper. Between the first and second stages, participants either engaged in an undemanding task to encourage mind-wandering or a demanding task that took all of their concentration; or they were given a resting period or no rest. Those participants who engaged in mind-wandering during the undemanding task improved their performance much more than any of the other groups. Taking their focus off of the task and mind-wandering, instead, were critical to success.
“The findings reported here provide arguably the most direct evidence to date that conditions that favor mind-wandering also enhance creativity,” write the authors. In fact, they add, mind-wandering may “serve as a foundation for creative inspiration.”
As a more recent study found, mind-wandering improved people’s creativity above and beyond the positive effects of their reading ability or fluid intelligence, the general ability to solve problems or puzzles.
Mind-wandering seems to involve the default network of the brain, which is known to be active when we are not engaged directly in tasks and is also related to creativity.
So perhaps I’m right to let my focus wander while writing: It helps my mind put together information in novel and potentially compelling ways without my realizing it. It’s no wonder that my best inspirations seem to come when I’m in the shower or hiking for miles on end.
Mind-wandering can make you happier…depending on the content
The relationship between mind-wandering and mood may be more complicated than we thought.
In one study, researchers pinged participants on a regular basis to see what they were doing, whether or not their minds were wandering, and how they were feeling. As in an earlier experiment, people tended to be in a negative mood when they were mind-wandering. But when researchers examined the content of people’s thoughts during mind-wandering, they found an interesting caveat: If participants’ minds were engaged in interesting, off-task musings, their moods became more positive rather than more negative.
As the authors conclude, “Those of us who regularly find our minds in the clouds—musing about the topics that most engage us—can take solace in knowing that at least this form of mind-wandering is associated with elevated mood.”
It may be that mood affects mind-wandering more than the other way around. In a similar study, researchers concluded that feeling sad or being in a bad mood tended to lead to unhappy mind-wandering, but that mind-wandering itself didn’t lead to later bad moods. Earlier experiments may have conflated mind-wandering with rumination—an unhealthy preoccupation with past failures that is tied to depression.
“This study suggests that mind-wandering is not something that is inherently bad for our happiness,” write the authors. Instead, “Sadness is likely to lead the mind to wander and that mind-wandering is likely to be [emotionally] negative.”
A review of the research on mind-wandering came to a similar conclusion: Mind-wandering is distinct from rumination and therefore has a different relationship to mood.
Can we actually direct our mind-wandering toward more positive thoughts and away from rumination? It turns out that we can! One study found that people who engaged in compassion-focused meditation practices had more positive mind-wandering. As an added bonus, people with more positive mind-wandering were also more caring toward themselves and others, which itself is tied to happiness.
Mind-wandering may improve job performance
Taking a break from work can be a good thing—perhaps because our minds are freer to wander.
Mind-wandering is particularly useful when work is mind-numbing. In one study, participants reported on their mind-wandering during a repetitive task. Participants who engaged in more mind-wandering performed better and faster, decreasing their response times significantly. The researchers speculated that mind-wandering allowed people to go off-task briefly, reset, and see data with fresh eyes—so that they didn’t miss sudden changes.
In another study, researchers aimed to figure out what parts of the brain were implicated in mind-wandering and discovered something unexpected. When their frontal lobes were stimulated with a small electrical current to boost mind-wandering, people’s performance on an attention task slightly improved.
Of course, not every job calls for mind-wandering. A surgeon or a driver should stay focused on the task at hand, since mind-wandering could be detrimental to both. On the other hand, even for them it might be rejuvenating to take a mind-wandering break after their workday is over, leading to more focused attention the next time around.
Mind-wandering may help us with goal-setting
It seems like mind-wandering would be detrimental when it comes to planning for the future. In fact, some research suggests mind-wandering can improve goal-setting.
In a recent neuroscience experiment, participants did an undemanding task and reported on the content of their thoughts as researchers scanned their brains with fMRI. Afterwards, they wrote for 15 minutes about personal goals or TV programs (the control group). Then, they repeated these two tasks—the undemanding one and writing about goals or TV.
Analyzers unaware of the study’s purpose were asked to assess the concreteness of participants’ goal-setting and TV program descriptions. The result? People with wandering minds—who probably started musing about what they really wanted in life after the first writing session—ultimately came up with more concrete and higher-quality goal descriptions in the second session. Over the course of the experiment, their brains also showed an increase in connectivity between the hippocampus and the pre-frontal cortex—areas implicated in goal-setting.
Research has also found that, the more people engage in mind-wandering during a task, the more they are willing to wait for a reward afterwards. According to the researchers, this suggests that mind-wandering helps delay gratification and “engages processes associated with the successful management of long-term goals.”
On the other hand, some research suggests mind-wandering makes us less “gritty”—or less able to stay focused on our goals to completion—especially if it is spontaneous rather than deliberate. So, it may be important to consider where you are in the process of goal creation before deciding mind-wandering would be a good idea.
None of this suggests that mind-wandering is better for us than being focused. More likely, both aspects of cognition serve a purpose. Under the right circumstances, a wandering mind may actually benefit us and possibly those around us. The trick is to know when to set your mind free.
— Jill Suttie, Psy.D., is Greater Good‘s book review editor and a frequent contributor to the magazine. Based at UC-Berkeley, Greater Good highlights ground breaking scientific research into the roots of compassion and altruism. Copyright Greater Good.
Please join us next week in celebrating Brain Awareness Week 2018 (March 12–18th), the annual global campaign organized by the Dana Foundation to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research.
You can attend some of the many activities worldwide (here’s the BAW’s International Calendar of events), and also enjoy and share some of our most popular articles and brain teasers:
“The National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched 110 new brain research projects in the fiscal year ending last September (2017) with the first portion of the $1.5 billion over 10 years it will hopefully receive from the 21st Century Cures Act, which spread a total of $4.8 billion over four NIH programs. That is money over and above the NIH annual appropriation from Congress. The other three “Innovation Funds” are: Precision Medicine, Cancer Moonshot, and Regenerative Medicine.
The $1.5 billion in new Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neuro-technologies (BRAIN) research money seems particularly important given the announcement in January that Pfizer was ending its Alzheimer’s research program after years of fruitless development efforts, which have plagued other companies as well…A prime example is the “All of Us” initiative, which is the primary focus of the Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI). While the FDA is using Cures money to aggregate patient post-marketing data, the NIH will be collecting patient data in order to learn about medical conditions and to assemble a critical mass of potential clinical trial participants. The NIH is partnering with five companies to create a participant technology center.
“Getting all these partners on board would have been nearly impossible had not the Cures Act included something called Other Transactions Authority for PMI, making it possible for NIH to move forward with unprecedented speed and flexibility to carry out beta testing of all the many components, and now a planned launch in the spring of 2018,” NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on November 30, 2017. “It will also be a platform where many clinical trials can also get started because these participants will have been pre-consented for contact to see if they would be interested in taking part in a clinical trial, say, for diabetes or Alzheimer’s risks.”
Everyone’s talking about yesterday’s Academy Awards—and so we thought we’d give out our own version of the Oscars, the Greater Goodies.
Whereas the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes achievements in acting, directing, editing, and so on, the Greater Good staff picked our winners for their ability to illustrate specific keys to human well-being, such as growth mindset, resilience, purpose, and forgiveness.
Some of the movies are action-filled blockbusters, like Wonder Woman or Star Wars: The Last Jedi; others are quiet independent films like The Florida Project and Lady Bird. We hope the Greater Goodies help you see all of these films in a new light—and perhaps you can apply their insights to your own life.
The Purpose Award: Coco
By now, it’s well-recognized that, broadly speaking, Pixar Animation Studios produces two kinds of films: the one that sells a lot of toys (like the Cars and Monsters franchises) and the kind that use animation and storytelling to resonate with grown-ups.
The 2017 film Coco falls into the grown-up camp: The young, talented guitar hero travels between the worlds of the living and the dead in order to uncover clues about his family’s old and complicated relationship with music. The story has plot twists that even few adults will see coming, and ultimately the film unites several themes straight out of Greater Good, such as finding forgiveness for those we think have harmed us (spoiler: those people aren’t always who we think they are).
Coco Trailers & Film Clips | Disney - YouTube
But we are giving Coco a Greater Goody because it reveals the power of long-term, meaningful goals to shape our lives. Miguel, the 12-year-old protagonist, is driven to become a musician. Thanks to a tragedy, Miguel must keep his love for music a secret from his family—until he tells them that he wishes to play at the Día de Muertos talent show. When his abuelita breaks his guitar and forbids him to play, Miguel announces that he no longer wants to be a part of the family and runs away.
Desperate to play in the talent show that evening, Miguel breaks into the mausoleum of a town musical legend to borrow his guitar. This triggers a series of transformations that brings Miguel to the land of the dead.
According to psychologist William Damon, “purpose is a part of one’s personal search for meaning, but it also [includes] the desire to make a difference in the world, to contribute to matters larger than the self.” For Miguel, his intention to become a musician is guided by his yearning to connect to his ancestors, and this goal leads him to resolve a longstanding misunderstanding about his ancestors, ensuring that their true identities are known and their memories survive.
When he returns to his (living) family, Miguel’s love for music becomes a means to connect his family members across time and distance. “Our love for each other will live on forever in every beat of my proud corazón,” he sings. — Maryam Abdullah and Jesse Antin
The Growth Mindset Award: The Last Jedi
The latest episode in the ongoing Star Wars saga is all about failure.
The most interesting thing you can say about failure in The Last Jedi is we don’t see a lot of nice, safe blunders, where everyone learns a valuable lesson afterward. No, these are bloody, emotionally devastating failures, of a kind that many people cannot live with. Poe Dameron’s mistakes kill hundreds of his comrades. Luke Skywalker fails Kylo Ren in every way a mentor can, which leads directly to the deaths of his best friend Han Solo and (literally) millions of other people—a failure that he unsparingly links to the history of the Jedi Order. Even the villains can’t catch a break: Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux, and Ren himself all fail at some point. Yes, Ren rises to rule the First Order—only to be humiliated on the battlefield by Skywalker.
How each of these characters responds to failure reveals a lot about them. When defeated, Ren breaks out his lightsaber and mindlessly destroys whatever’s within reach. His counterpart, Rey, embodies a different approach, one of our favorite social-scientific constructs here at Greater Good: the growth mindset. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point,” writes psychologist Carol Dweck.
“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” — Jedi Master Yoda
When we met Rey in the previous movie, The Force Awakens, she was a lost and emotionally needy kid. In The Last Jedi, she is learning from her mistakes and she is starting to discover what she is truly capable of. Though she is the galaxy’s most powerful Jedi since Anakin Skywalker, Rey is also humble, in a way that makes her distinctly different from the other (ahem, male) heroes of Star Wars. “I need someone to show me my place in all of this,” she tells Luke at one point. “I felt something. It awakened, but now I need to know how to wield it.” We spend much of the movie watching Rey train and strive to understand herself.
As usual, it falls to Jedi Master Yoda to sum up the message of the movie: “Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” — Jeremy Adam Smith
The Common Humanity Award: Wonder
Auggie Pullman was born with a craniofacial condition. In Wonder, we see him make the transition from a sweetly protected, home-schooled, medical-procedure-laden life to the unpredictable and socially intense environment of a very well-intentioned private middle school—and ultimately inspire the whole place for the better.
Wonder - School Tour Full Scene (HD) - YouTube
In the beginning, Auggie’s challenge is overwhelming awkwardness. People startle at first glance, then respond with anything from saccharine kindness to fear to demeaning hostility. To Auggie, all of it feels like an unwanted spotlight. When his doting elder sister Via, just starting high school herself, attempts to commiserate with him by sharing her own troubles, he shouts: “Bad days? Bad days? Do people avoid touching you? When people accidentally touch you, do they call it the plague?”
A couple of enlightened adults and kids at the school, however, shift the tide. The embarrassing-dad-joke school principal Mr. Tushman wins over Auggie’s trust with dorky humility and a common interest in science. His hipster history teacher sets an authentic and heartfelt tone with matter-of-fact kindness and assigned reflections on humanistic philosophical principles. Classmates Jack and Summer, somehow sensing the unfairness and injustice he faces, see and truly befriend Auggie for who he is. Other schoolmates fall in line, no longer treating Auggie like he’s weird. The once-harsh school bullies even end up defending Auggie from bigger bullies, and they come to embrace him as their “little guy.”
When Auggie wins the big end-of-the-year, person-who-changed-the-world-for-the-better school award at graduation, it’s a tearful testament to the power of common humanity. — Emiliana Simon-Thomas
The Resilience Award: Call Me by Your Name
When 17-year-old Elio Perlman first meets doctoral student Oliver, they don’t seem to like each other very much—and when they part, it’s in pain. Call Me by Your Name is about what happens in between those two events, as Elio and Oliver fall in love amid the crumbling, sun-drenched beauty of Lombardy, Italy.
Along the way, we learn a great deal about resilience. In the seven-minute scene that closes the movie, a devastated Elio sits staring into a fire as tears roll down his face—but we know he’s going to be fine. Why?
Mainly because Elio is far from isolated. His father knows before Elio does that he is falling in love with Oliver. Rather than intervening or lecturing, Dr. Perlman watches and waits—and keeps up the connection to his son, even when the teenager pulls away.
“Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot,” he says at one point, knowing that sooner or later we all take a hit. In their striking final scene together, father approaches son with the truth as compassionately as possible, revealing that he knew about the affair and gently encouraging Elio to gain some perspective. “He was good, and you were both lucky to have found each other, because…you too are good,” he says. He adds:
I may have come close, but I never had what you two have. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.
It’s the very connection with his father that helps Elio weather heartbreak, but the content of Dr. Perlman’s message matters, too. Suffering is a part of life, he tells his son—and so is joy, pleasure, and love. We grow stronger when we allow ourselves to feel and remember all of it. — Jeremy Adam Smith
The Socially Intelligent Power Award: The Darkest Hour
At the beginning of The Darkest Hour—and there’s really no nice way to say this—Prime Minister Winston Churchill is an entitled, ruling-class jerk. He’s nasty to people with less power than him, detached from their suffering, and unable to persuade others because he cannot put himself in their shoes. As he shouts to an underling: “Will you stop interrupting me while I am interrupting you!”
In many ways, this Churchill embodies the way Greater Good Science Center’s cofounder Dacher Kelter conceives of power. “The skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power,” he writes in his essay, “The Power Paradox.” Keltner’s solutions are the ones Churchill must adopt in order to save the troops at Dunkirk: He learns to listen and to empathize, however imperfectly.
In the film’s telling, Churchill is surrounded by men who are very much like himself: rich, high-born, educated, powerful. These men, it turns out, are much more sympathetic to fascism that the rest of the British public, and they continually urge Churchill to make peace with Hitler and Mussolini.
The film pivots around a scene (apparently apocryphal) when Churchill ventures into the London Underground to talk about the war with working-class women and men. Through a series of questions, he discovers they are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stop fascism. This focus-group knowledge strengthens his resolve, but he must still find the skills to persuade the king, his cabinet, and parliament to fight back against the Axis powers instead of surrendering.
The rest, as they say, is history. Churchill is no doubt deficient as a poster child for our conception of power as something that must be exercised with empathy and accountability. And yet, no other film in the past year made the case for socially responsible power quite so forcefully. Churchill is flawed—and his heroism arises from his triumph over his own worst instincts.
As Churchill’s wife Clementine tells him: “You are strong because you are imperfect. You are wise because you have doubts.” — Jeremy Adam Smith
The Empathy Award: The Florida Project
The children of The Florida Project
In the gritty, documentary-like Florida Project, precocious six-year-old children run through fields and abandoned buildings around a motel-slum where they live, called “The Magic Castle.” Director Sean Baker juxtaposes their irrepressible energy and joy with scenes of poverty and chaos, all within a mile of Disney World. Through this vivid, haunting portrayal of a community of families living in the run-down Magic Castle, the film explores empathy on several levels.
“I can always tell when adults are about to cry,” says young Moonee to her friend Scooty. They are secretly watching Moonee’s mother, who sells perfume and her body in order to survive. Throughout the film, we wonder how much of her mother’s desperate life Moonee understands—and this moment reveals that she understands and feels more than she probably should.
Moonee has at least one adult in the film who tries to take care of her. Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe plays a somewhat ineffectual hotel manager, Bobby, who watches over the single mothers and children in the building with an empathic, protective gaze. Bobby doesn’t say a lot, and so Dafoe must convey his empathy through his eyes, gestures, and actions. You feel both his compassion and his helplessness as he bears witness to the struggles of the kids on the property (while likely grappling with his own private and personal failures).
There are only a few movies that have moved me so deeply that I sobbed after watching them. This was one. This is a filmmaker who represents people living in poverty with balance, truthfulness, and imaginative vision. Baker doesn’t strive to elicit sympathy or pat-on-the-head pity; he leads us to feel deeply with these characters—through the children’s eyes, most of all. — Amy L. Eva
The Forgiveness Award: Lady Bird
How can a movie that focuses on the conflicts between a mother and her teenage daughter fill us with inspiration? Lady Bird does it.
In the film, the protagonist Lady Bird—a name she gives herself—discovers her own identity and goals by taking creative risks, testing friendships, and exploring her budding sexuality. Conflict arises when her distraught mother finds it difficult to support her choices. The movie is filled with scenes when mother and daughter argue past each other, not able to embrace their clear connection.
The movie touches on many of Greater Good‘s themes—but especially the importance of forgiveness. In one instance, Lady Bird dates and falls in love with a boy whom she later finds out is gay. While angrily confronting him over his deception, he collapses in tears, expressing his fears of coming out to his Catholic parents. As Lady Bird comforts him, you see forgiveness dawning, paving the way for them to remain friends.
In another instance, Lady Bird befriends a group of popular girls at school to get closer to a boy she likes. This creates tension between her and her best friend, who is not popular and resents being pushed aside. Eventually, Lady Bird realizes it’s not fun to have to pretend you’re someone you’re not, and she misses her old friend. After seeing her mistake and asking for forgiveness, the two reconcile and repair their relationship—even attending the prom together.
Meanwhile, the conflict between mother and daughter continues to boil throughout the film. At one point, Lady Bird tells her mother, “I just wish… I wish that you liked me.” To which her mother replies, “Of course I love you.” In that gap between “like” and “love,” we see how mother and daughter misunderstand each other—a scene punctuated with a closed door and the mother’s hesitation to knock at that door and try again.
But, as Lady Bird learns to see her mother’s struggles, she comes to realize that her mother’s resistance to change is a cover for love and concern. At the end, Lady Bird forgives her mother and openly thanks her for her many sacrifices. — Jill Suttie
The Nonviolent Heroism Award: The Shape of Water
In an ordinary American movie, Colonel Richard Strickland would be the hero.
He’s the hard-charging chief of security at a top-secret government facility at the height of the Cold War. Unfortunately, he is tragically deformed by a system that does not value life, human and otherwise.
Instead of Strickland, the hero of The Shape of Water is a mute cleaning woman named Elisa Esposito. She develops a secret connection with an amphibious creature that Strickland drags back from a South American black lagoon—one that blossoms into an unlikely transspecies romance.
THE SHAPE OF WATER | Summoning A Water God | FOX Searchlight - YouTube
Esposito is powerless and marginal in this alternate America. But when the nameless creature is threatened with vivisection, she joins forces with two friends and a dissident Soviet spy to get him home. There is some violence in The Shape of Water, but none of the incidents are heroic. American and Soviet agents kill each other in ways that feel senseless and lonely, while the true heroes of the film—a mute Latina, a black janitor, and a gay commercial artist—achieve their aims through cooperation and nonviolence.
The Shape of Water doesn’t always make sense. (For example, what’s up with that sex scene in the bathroom?) And yet, like many of director Guillermo del Toro’s films, it’s driven by intense dream-logic and vivid images. This makes it feel more like a fable, a type of story that uses non-human creatures to convey a specific moral.
What is the moral of the movie? In The Creature from the Black Lagoon—the 1954 horror film that inspired this one—the entire plot depends on a two-fisted straight white guy rescuing the girl from a monstrous fish-man. In The Shape of Water, someone very much like that guy (Strickland) is the villain, and his defeat allows the creature and “the girl” (Esposito, actually a grown woman) to finally come together.
In this way, the film teaches that we should respond to differences with curiosity, not fear. The moral of the story is clear, simple, and more important than ever: Love is stronger than violence and hate. — Jeremy Adam Smith
The Community and Diversity Award: Wonder Woman and Black Panther (tie)
Though one movie comes from the Marvel Universe and the other from DC, Black Pantherand Wonder Woman have one big thing in common: They are both about the relationship of homogenous, isolated utopian communities to the wider, more complicated world.
The superpowered Wonder Woman comes from Themyscira, home to an immortal race of Amazons who appear to spend their endless days swinging swords, shooting arrows, and riding horses. They were created by the god Zeus to protect humanity, but it seems they’ve become just a bit too comfortable in their paradise.
Black Panther is set in Wakanda, a geographically isolated region in Central Africa that was hit, once upon a time, by a magic meteor. The benevolent radiation from its metal mutates the flora, fauna, and possibly the people; this spurs scientific and engineering development that makes Wakanda the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. No one knows this because—as in the case of Themyscira—Wakanda develops physical camouflage and a policy of radical isolation in order to avoid European colonization.
Themyscira and Wakanda both illustrate how important community is to human well-being—and in many ways, these really are good societies whose members feel safe, cared for, and connected to each other. But both utopias pay a cost for their stability: They start to fall apart when outside influences arrive in the form of Captain Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman and Killmonger in Black Panther.
In this way, these two superhero movies have a lot to say about the tension between community and diversity. And in the end, they both make the same choice. Wakanda decides to end its isolation, grow beyond itself, and work to make the rest of the world a better place. Wonder Woman decides that she cannot stay on Themyscira. Instead, she becomes a part of “man’s world,” kicking and punching evil wherever she finds it. As T’Challa, the king of Wakanda, says at the thoughtful conclusion of Black Panther:
Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: More connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.
Black Panther and Wonder Woman want to change the world—but the really interesting question is this: How will the world continue to change their homelands? — Jeremy Adam Smith
What films would you honor for revealing what’s best in humanity?
Please join us in getting ready to celebrate Brain Awareness Week 2018 (March 12–18th), the annual global campaign organized by the Dana Foundation to increase public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research.
3. Physical exercise and increased fitness promote brain functioning through a variety of mechanisms, such as increased brain volume, blood supply and growth hormone levels. In particular, cardiovascular exercise seems to bring the greatest brain benefits.
4. Chronic stress reduces and can even inhibit neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons), and impair memory, mental flexibility and decision-making. So it’s good to see growing evidence that meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback can empower everyone to self-regulate physiological stress.
5. Mental stimulation strengthens the connections between neurons (synapses), improving neuron survival and cognitive functioning and building your cognitive reserve–which helps your brain better cope with normal aging and even with Alzheimer’s pathology.
6. The only leisure activity that has been associated with reduced cognitive function is watching television. Why? Well, routine, passive activities do not challenge the brain. Exercising the brain requires trying new and effortful things, generating new thoughts and strategies and lessons learned.
What counts in terms of brain health and mental fitness is not reading this article–or any other–but practicing smart behaviors every day. Revisit the fact above that really grabbed your attention and make a decision to try something new to celebrate Brain Awareness Week.
(A) The wearable device placed on the brachial biceps muscles. (B, C) The wearable device, which is connected to the self-adhesive patch, containing the recording electrodes and the ground electrode. (D) Remote control of the device. (Epileptic seizure Detector Developed by IctalCare). Credit: Neurology.
“A new study demonstrates the feasibility of using a wearable electromyography device to detect tonic-clonic seizures…The Neurology paper was among the first to demonstrate its results prospectively, using a pre-specified cut-off for determining that a GTCS is occurring. And at nine seconds, its latency in doing so (from the time of onset as measured by an independent observer) is also among the fastest described so far, the study authors and independent experts noted…
The new paper comes on the heels of two other studies on wearable EMG for seizure detection…Altogether, they demonstrate the growing feasibility of incorporating wearable seizure-detection devices into clinical practice — both to quantify for physicians how well patients are responding to medication, and to help caregivers respond quickly to ongoing seizures.
With a sensitivity of 93.8 percent, the device detected 30 of 32 GTCS over a total recording time of 3,735.5 hours. The rate of false alarms was 0.67 per day, but two-thirds of the patients had no false alarms. For 24 of 71 patients (34 percent) who did experience a false alarm, the most common reason was due to physical exercise, which accounted for 68 percent of all false alarms. Only two false alarms occurred during sleep.
Dr. Beniczky said the overall rate of 0.67 false alarms per day “still needs to be improved. It’s not such a problem for patients, because it happens almost entirely during the day, so they can stop the alarm when it happens. But it is not good enough if we want a truly automatic device.”
OBJECTIVE: To determine the accuracy of automated detection of generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) using a wearable surface EMG device.
METHODS: We prospectively tested the technical performance and diagnostic accuracy of real-time seizure detection using a wearable surface EMG device. The seizure detection algorithm and the cutoff values were prespecified. A total of 71 patients, referred to long-term video-EEG monitoring, on suspicion of GTCS, were recruited in 3 centers. Seizure detection was real-time and fully automated. The reference standard was the evaluation of video-EEG recordings by trained experts, who were blinded to data from the device. Reading the seizure logs from the device was done blinded to all other data.
RESULTS: The mean recording time per patient was 53.18 hours. Total recording time was 3735.5 hours, and device deficiency time was 193 hours (4.9% of the total time the device was turned on). No adverse events occurred. The sensitivity of the wearable device was 93.8% (30 out of 32 GTCS were detected). Median seizure detection latency was 9 seconds (range -4 to 48 seconds). False alarm rate was 0.67/d.
CONCLUSIONS: The performance of the wearable EMG device fulfilled the requirements of patients: it detected GTCS with a sensitivity exceeding 90% and detection latency within 30 seconds.
CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE: This study provides Class II evidence that for people with a history of GTCS, a wearable EMG device accurately detects GTCS (sensitivity 93.8%, false alarm rate 0.67/d).