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Brain holds key link to weight gain, sexual behaviour

"The activity in a region of the brain associated with reward can predict who will gain weight or have sex in the next six months," writes Stephanie Pappas for "The nucleus accumbens, buried deep in the brain, has been linked to both pleasure and addiction. Now, a new study finds that young women whose nucleus accumbens reacts strongly to pictures of appealing food are more likely to gain weight in the next six months, compared with women with more muted responses. Likewise, when the nucleus accumbens responds more strongly to sexual imagery, women are more likely to be sexually active within the next six months. 'This study is nice in a sense in that it's one of the first ones to actually tie your brain responses to more long-term measures of behaviour,' [said]study researcher Bill Kelley, a psychologist at Dartmouth University … In the long run, Prof. Kelley added, the brain's reward system is likely to be only a piece of the puzzle. How good a person is at overriding that system through willpower will matter too, he said."

Your better side

"Are you ready for your next photo shoot?" writes Rick Nauert for "If so, be sure to position so that your left cheek is close to the camera. These suggestions come from a new Wake Forest University study that suggests images of the left side of the face are perceived and rated as more pleasant than pictures of the right side of the face. Investigators believe the findings may be due to the fact that we present a greater intensity of emotion on the left side of our face. Kelsey Blackburn and James Schirillo have published their findings online in Springer's journal Experimental Brain Research. Human emotions are often judged from facial expressions. Prior research suggests that the left side of the face is more intense and active during emotional expression. It is also noteworthy that Western artists' portraits predominantly present subjects' left profile."

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What's bugging you?

"The bacteria that line our intestines are known to be vital for health – but they may influence personality, too," reports the New Scientist. "The latest research suggests that a healthy gut flora is necessary for normal behaviour: Mice bred in sterile environments to lack a microbiome tend to behave rather strangely, says Stephen Collins at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. 'They're uninhibited, and have impaired learning abilities,' he says. Transferring a regular mouse's gut bacteria to such mice returns their behaviour to normal. … 'Gut bacteria produce chemicals that act on the brain,' says Dr. Collins, who thinks the finding may help explain why chronic gut conditions in people are often linked to mood disorders."

Bosses and weddings

"How many wives should a male chief executive have?" asks The Economist. "(From a shareholder's perspective, not the boss's first wife's.) Two is a good number, reckons Jon Moulton of Better Capital, a private-equity firm. (Maybe a boss with alimony to pay must work harder.) But three is too many. Getting divorced too often may be a sign of an unstable character. Mr. Moulton speaks from experience. (He has always lost money backing thrice-divorced managers, apparently.) … Marriage is a surprisingly good predictor of management style, reckon Nikolai Roussanov and Pavel Savor of Wharton Business School. The average unmarried boss invests 69 per cent more than his married counterpart, they find. But his swashbuckling can be costly: the returns he generates are more volatile. This 'single' effect is strongest among young bosses, unsurprisingly."

Messy room attracts fox?

"A [British]schoolboy had the shock of his life when he discovered a fox asleep in his bed," reports Orange Co. UK. "Alexander West, 9, was stunned to see the baby fox snuggled in his duvet in his bedroom on the second floor of his home in [Hertfordshire] The youngster had left the back door of the townhouse open when he ran outside to play and the female fox had crept inside and made herself at home. 'Alexander shouted down saying there was a fox in his bed, but I didn't believe him,' said mum Dina Luminati-West. 'I thought it must be our cat asleep on his bed, but then I saw the long, pointed nose and realized it was indeed a fox. … Alexander was quite excited and pleased she had chosen his room. I said it was because it was so messy.' "

The long hopefully war

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This month, writes Monica Hesse of The Washington Post, "the venerated AP Stylebook publicly affirmed (via tweet, no less) what it had already told the American Copy Editors Society: It, too, had succumbed. 'We now support the modern usage of 'hopefully,' the tweet said. 'It is hoped, we hope.' Previously, the only accepted usage was: 'In a hopeful manner.' As in, 'Surely you are joking,' the grammarian said hopefully.' "

Thought du jour

"The achievements which society rewards are won at the cost of diminution of personality."

Benjamin Jowett (1817-93)

English classical scholar

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