Those brain-training apps have no effect cognitive function

Researchers at University of Pennsylvania tested a commercial brain-training program called Lumosity, and found it had "no effect on decision-making" and "no effect on cognitive function beyond practice effects on the training tasks."

From Penn Medicine News:

The researchers recruited two groups, each with 64 healthy young adults. One group was asked to follow the Lumosity regimen, performing the executive function games for 30 minutes a day, five days a week for 10 weeks. The other group followed the same schedule but played online video games instead. Both groups were told that the study was investigating whether playing online video games improves cognition and changes one’s decision-making.

The researchers had two assessments of decision-making that participants completed before and after the training regimen. To assess impulsive decision-making, the participants were asked to choose between smaller rewards now and larger rewards later. To assess risky decision-making, they were asked to choose between larger rewards at a lower probability versus smaller rewards at a higher probability. The researchers found that the training didn't induce any changes in brain activity or decision-making during these tasks.

The participants were also asked to complete a series of cognitive tests that were not part of the training to see if the program had any effect on their general cognitive abilities. While both groups showed improvement, the researchers found that commercial brain training didn't lead to any more improvement than online video games. Furthermore, when they asked a no-contact group, which didn’t complete commercial brain training or video games, to complete the tests, the researchers found that the participants showed the same level of improvement as the first two groups, indicating that neither brain training nor online video games led to cognitive improvements beyond likely practice effects.

Lumosity charges $15/month or $80/year for full access to its program.

‘Game of Thrones’ fans abandoning huskies at an alarming rate

Siberian Husky, and Alaskan Malamute rescues are overflowing with dogs named Nymeria and Ghost. Thanks, Games of Thrones!

Siberian huskies, the strong, wolf-like dogs originally bred for sled-pulling in the Arctic, have along with some of other wolf-esque breeds like the Alaskan malamute been gaining huge popularity in the US and the UK the last several years, due in large part to the influence of Game of Thrones — and before that, the Twilight movie franchise. The Daily Mail reported on the problem of large numbers of abandoned huskies showing up in British shelters three years ago, and here in the Bay Area, the phenomenon continues — and as the Chronicle reports, the dogs often show up in shelters with weird GOT-inspired names like Ghost, Nymeria, and Grey Wind.

The dogs are likened to the Stark clan's direwolves, and it seems that far too many people are buying or adopting huskies hoping to add some Stark-like swagger to their homes, only to find out these dogs are a heavy-shedding handful.

Angelique Miller, president of Northern California Sled Dog Rescue, tells the Chronicle that her numbers of monthly intakes of abandoned dogs has more than doubled, and she's seeing about 45 new dogs per month. "These people, they watch these shows and think how cool these dogs are. People can't even tell the difference between a husky and a wolf because they're always asking us at adoption fairs if these dogs are wolves — and it's clearly a husky. They're just following the trend of what they think is cute."

She says in the past there have been upticks of abandoned dogs connected to movie releases like Snow Dogs and Eight Below, but clearly the biggest influence is now GOT — with many owners who sought out huskies as pets after the show premiered in 2011 now recognizing that they can't take care of the dogs anymore because they require too much exercise and grooming.

San Francisco Animal Care & Control also reports seeing a lot of huskies come through, as has Bay Area Siberian Husky Club (BASH).

Via SFist

(GIF via Giphy)

Mystro is an app aiming to bring in more bacon for Uber and Lyft drivers

 It’s tough out there for on-demand drivers, and every second en route counts if they want to hit that bonus or just bring enough home to make the rent. Mystro hopes to put 33 percent more money per year in the pockets of Uber and Lyft drivers through an app that helps drivers continuously pick up the most profitable rides in the shortest amount of time, based on the filters each driver sets. Read More

Apple Pay is coming to Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the UAE and more banks

 Apple has been announcing a bunch of news about Apple Pay recently. The company is expanding its mobile payment feature more aggressively. As announced in yesterday’s earnings call, Apple Pay is coming to the UAE, Denmark, Finland and Sweden before the end of the year. Apple hasn’t shared any specific information about those new countries. For instance, the company hasn’t… Read More

In Breakthrough, Scientists Edit a Dangerous Mutation From Genes in Human Embryos

Scientists for the first time have successfully edited genes in human embryos to repair a common and serious disease-causing mutation, producing apparently healthy embryos, according to a study published on Wednesday. From a report: Now, an international team of scientists reports they have, for the first time, figured out a way to successfully edit the DNA in human embryos -- without introducing the harmful mutations that were a problem in previous attempts elsewhere. "It's a pretty exciting piece of science," says George Daley, dean of the Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the research. "It's a technical tour-de-force. It's really remarkable." The research is ultimately aimed at helping families plagued by genetic diseases. The new experiment used a powerful new gene-editing technique to correct a genetic defect behind a heart disorder that can cause seemingly healthy young people to suddenly die from heart failure. The experiment corrected the defect in nearly two-thirds of several dozen embryos, without causing potentially dangerous mutations elsewhere in the DNA. None of the embryos were used to try to create a baby. But if future experiments confirm the techniques are safe and effective, the scientists say the same approach could be used to prevent a long list of inheritable diseases.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Medical expert says you’ve been taking antibiotics the wrong way

Whenever I am prescribed antibiotics, I faithfully take all the pills. I've always been told that's the way to prevent antibiotic resistance. Brad Spellberg, the chief medical officer for the Los Angeles County and University of Southern California Medical Center, says this is bullshit.

It is absolutely false that continuing to take antibiotics after you feel completely better will reduce the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Quite to the contrary, it will very likely promote the emergence of antibiotic resistance!

Spellberg says the reason we are in an epidemic of antibiotic resistance is because "75 percent or more of antibiotic use is unnecessary." He says that if you do have to take antibiotics, "give your doctor a call and ask if you can safely stop therapy" when you feel much better.

The article has other interesting points, too. Well worth a read.

Image: Rob Brewer

Memoir of a pre-teen helping a man become Playgirl’s Playmate of the Year

There have been many scenarios post the fall of the second temple for a young Jewish boy to try and get out of studying for his Bar Mitzvah, but in his debut book, my friend Lou Cove tells a story that seems almost as big of a fiction as the bible itself. The book is called Man of the Year, and it's a memoir about 12-year-old Louis’ swapping Hebrew study to spend time on a campaign to help his father’s friend become Playgirl’s playmate of the year in 1979, all while living in provincial Salem, Mass. And what is more, the candidate, Howie Gordon, not only wins but goes on to become one of the great male adult film stars during the golden age of pornography.

Lou went on to raise millions of dollars for non-profit organizations, using this experience as a formative guidepost.

For those of you unfamiliar with Playgirl, think about Playboy magazine, but for women and filled with photos of guys showing their junk. When Howie Gordon posed for the magazine, he was the first to break the erection-barrier…posing fully-masted in his Mr. November 1978 pictorial. By the time he and his wife came to Salem, he already had bigger (harder?) ambitions of winning the competition for Playgirl Man of the Year. All he needed was a campaign manager.

And while Howie’s story is so very compelling, Man Of The Year is definitely Lou’s story. He shares his experience of moving with his family from exciting New York to a seemingly more-boring Salem, how his father’s friend Howie and new bride Carly moved in with them and shared with the family (at the Thanksgiving table) Howie’s Playmate ambitions, Lou’s excitement of having Howie take on the role as XXX Mary Poppins (with his more modern take on spoonfuls of sugar), hand watching his parent’s marriage collapse as he hit the campaign trail to help Howie.

Man of the Year is a story of tensions. It tackles a very racy subject matter while refusing to be an exploitation piece. Lou’s parents wrestle with a their more open dialogue around personal freedoms and the lifestyle of a dear friend that pushes their comfort zone. And while Howie brings this new, taboo ideology of free love and expression to Lou’s family, his openness is in direct tension to Lou’s parents’ attempt at hiding the Truth of their falling out of love and out of their pact at keeping their nuclear family together.

Lou lives right in the middle of these narratives. He is a young person dealing with very adult issues, while still being so very juvenile. Lou decides not to study for his Bar Mitzvah, an act that is discussed during the course of the book, and yet this idea of living in both the world of the adult and of the child is so quintessentially the Bar Mitzvah experience. He idolizes Howie. He feeds off of Howie's zest for life and his charisma. Howie, who takes him on the campaign trail and flies him out to visit after he moves back to Berkeley, accepts him. But when confronted with his parents’ divorce and the reality that Howie is not the savior who will ultimately be the replacement for a broken family, he is left in tears, afraid, alone.

Man of the Year is an excellent document of a family existing during a groovy time in America’s history, during the post-hippie-pre-AIDS era, when the Vietnam war over and the country was finding itself. It lightly handles big ideas all from the eyes of a twelve year old, and Lou does it very convincingly. This is SO not the story of the everyman, which makes it so strange that the reader can identify so much with the main character’s experiences….except maybe when that main character is a pre-teen trying to convince a liquor store owner to hang a flier in his store about making a naked man famous.

Man of the Year by Lou Cove (Amazon)

Hyperloop One’s next step is to test airlocks for pod entry and exit

 I spoke to CEO Rob Lloyd about how Hyperloop One got to today’s 192 mph XP-1 pod speed record, and what happens now, both for further technical testing and from a business perspective. The next step for the testing facility, aside from increasing speed incrementally until it can reach the top achievable velocity of 250 mph on the current 1620-foot length of test track, is building and… Read More