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Talking Points: Music lessons; seniors’ fatigue; fighting fears

GETTING HIS SKATES ON: A man dressed as Santa Claus limbers up for Christmas in Paris.



Making your kids take music lessons probably won't make them any smarter. As reported in The Boston Globe, a new Harvard study has contradicted the long-presumed connection between music lessons and enhanced cognitive skills. The Harvard psychology department recently tested the theory by comparing music lessons with visual art lessons involving two separate groups of four-year-olds and their parents. After six weeks, the children were tested, and while music seemed to give the students a slight edge at spatial tasks, they demonstrated no special abilities compared to the visual-arts kids.


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Calling all whippersnappers: Most senior citizens say they feel less tired than younger people do. Reuters reports on a recent study conducted by the London School of Economics and Finance that focused on nearly 13,000 Americans. Participants were quizzed on their lifestyle habits including employment, family life, hours slept each day and general health. To the surprise of researchers, the youngest group in the study – those between 15 and 24 – reported the most fatigue. The difference between young people and seniors was close to a full point higher in favour of the elders based on a scale of 0 to 6, with 6 representing "very tired." Study co-author Laura Kurdna pointed out that since older people are less inclined to use social media, "They may not have their attention drained the way that younger people might."


A little stress goes a long way when it comes to human emotions. reports on a New York University study that challenged participants to find new ways to combat fears. On day 1, researchers showed volunteers pictures of spiders or snakes and administered an occasional mild jolt on the wrist. On day 2, participants were divided into a "stress group," half of whom had their hands submerged in icy water for three minutes, with the other half having their hands in warm water. Subsequent testing revealed the stress group were unable to employ learned coping techniques to reduce their fear on the second day. "Even mild stress, such as that encountered in daily life, may impair the ability to use cognitive techniques known to control fear and anxiety," said doctoral student Candace Rao.


No man is a hero to his valet or his relatives.

Israel Zangwill, British humourist (1864-1926)

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