Livin' on the MDedge

Air-conditioned cognition, brain worm, and six-fingered success


(Women’s) Winter is coming

Summer approaches and the Great Freeze begins to make its way through offices across the country.

Women everywhere start dragging out those cardigans stored in desks long ago. Blankets start appearing draped over the backs of chairs. “God, it’s freezing in here” becomes the oft-repeated refrain. It’s women’s winter … and a recent study has shown it has a marked effect on productivity.

Published last month in PlosOne, the study examined the effect of temperature on cognitive performance in both men and women. After studying participants’ performances on math and verbal tasks at various temperatures, researchers found that the women performed better at higher temps while the men performed worse. However, the performance increase for women was much larger than the decrease for men.

The authors concluded that workplaces with mixed genders might increase productivity (and overall office happiness) by cranking that thermostat a little higher than current standards. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end of the thermostat war.

Need a hand – or finger?

Polydactyly. No, not the flying dinosaur – the congenital condition of having extra fingers or toes. One in every 2,000-3,000 babies is born with polydactyly, and while most doctors quickly remove the extra digits, a German study found that maybe they shouldn’t be so quick to the chopping block.

Researchers found that polydactyl people have more dexterity of movement, and the subjects’ brains showed a distinct representation of the extra digit. The subjects were able to carry out two-handed tasks with just one hand, and the study authors concluded that the subjects’ hand movements “had increased complexity relative to common five-fingered hands.”

Researchers also designed a special video game to test the six-fingered hand vs. using both hands. Video game results were the same with one hand or two, proving that more fingers equals more fun.

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