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Show, don’t tell

There is a ‘double-edged sword’ to pedagogy: Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 02, 2011 23:46 IST

There is a ‘double-edged sword’ to pedagogy: Explicit instruction makes children less likely to engage in spontaneous exploration and discovery. A study by MIT researchers compared the behaviour of children given a novel toy found that children expressly taught one of its functions played with the toy for less time and discovered fewer things to do with it than others.

The danger is leading children to believe that they’ve learned all there is to know, thereby discouraging independent discovery. According to Laura Schulz, career development associate professor of Cognitive Science at MIT, this is rational behaviour, as teaching is meant to impart skills quickly and efficiently. “If I teach you this one thing and then I stop, then you may say, ‘Well that’s probably all there is,’” says Schulz.

Fruit shield to lung cancer

Eating different fruit and vegetables daily can reduce the chances of epidermoid, a type of lung cancer, especially for smokers by almost 23%. Eating more than 8 subgroups cut the risk, compared to consuming less than 4 types. For every two types of fruits and veggies added, epidermoid risk dropped another 3%, and then another 4% for each subgroup. The results, part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, included 500,000 people from Europe who were followed for 8.7 years. Diet did not have an impact on adenocarcinoma and small and large cell carcinoma. The researchers, however, emphasise smoking cessation is the best strategy for preventing lung cancer.

Testing gain

A new blood test can help doctors predict Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms develop. The test uses new technology – which, say scientists, can be used to develop blood tests to identify a wide variety of diseases — detects disease-specific antibodies by using synthetic molecules known as peptoids instead of antigens that retain antibodies. Conventional tests need to know which antigens are present in the bloodstream to find the antibody produced, they report in the journal Cell. The researchers have tested the technology on patients with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Grapes for weight loss

Resveratrol in grapes can help fight obesity and related diseases because the compound stimulates an important fat-storing hormone, adiponectin. The compound reduces inflammation and was found to have anti-aging properties by researchers at the University of Texas Health Scientist last year. Adiponectin levels are lower in obese people, and linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes. The hormone stimulated by resveratrol in lab and mouse studies could mean new treatment options for obesity and the diseases associated with excess body fat. The new study sheds light on why grapes and foods containing polyphenol promote health and longevity. It’s also linked with the heart-protective benefits of drinking red wine.