The logic of modesty — why it pays to be humble

Why do people make anonymous donations, and why does the public perceive this as admirable? Why do we downplay our interest in a potential partner, if we risk missing out on a relationship? A team of scientists, consisting of Christian Hilbe, a postdoc at the Institute Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), Moshe Hoffman, and Martin Nowak, both at Harvard University, has developed a novel game theoretic model that captures these behaviors and enables their study. Their new model is the first to include the idea that hidden signals, when discovered, provide additional information about the sender. They use this idea to explain under which circumstances people have an incentive to hide their positive attributes.

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Genes, environment and schizophrenia: New study finds the placenta is the missing link

Hiding in plain sight, new research shines a spotlight on the placenta’s critical role in the nature versus nurture debate and how it confers risk for schizophrenia and likely other neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD, autism, and Tourette syndrome. This new scientific frontier, with far-reaching implications for maternal and child health, creates the possibility that scientists can more accurately predict who is at risk of mental illness, and develop strategies to prevent or lessen their occurrence by increasing the resiliency and health of the placenta.

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African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to be at risk for depression than whites

A new study published in the May 2018 issue of Preventive Medicine shows that African Americans and Latinos are significantly more likely to experience serious depression than Whites, but chronic stress does not seem to explain these differences. Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) was the senior author of the study, which also found that African Americans and Latinos were more likely to have higher levels of chronic stress and more unhealthy behaviors. NIMHD is part of the National Institutes of Health.

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In a break with dogma, myelin boosts neuron growth in spinal cord injuries

Recovery after severe spinal cord injury is notoriously fraught, with permanent paralysis often the result. In recent years, researchers have increasingly turned to stem cell-based therapies as a potential method for repairing and replacing damaged nerve cells. They have struggled, however, to overcome numerous innate barriers, including myelin, a mixture of insulating proteins and lipids that helps speed impulses through adult nerve fibers but also inhibits neuronal growth.

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Which role does the brain play in prosocial behavior?

Helping other people in need is a foundation of our society. It is intuitive to believe that we help others because we empathically share their pain. Neuroscience shows that when we see somebody in pain our brain activates tactile and emotional regions as if we ourselves were in pain. A study from Selene Gallo (Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, KNAW) investigated whether altering activity in these tactile brain regions while witnessing the pain of others would alter people’s willingness to help. The results, published on 08 May 2018 in eLife, are of great importance to understand our social human nature and to find treatments for pathologies, like psychopath individuals.

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