Health & Medicine

Cellphone notifications shown to be distraction

Receiving a notification of an incoming phone call or text message on a cellphone can distract people from an activity just as much as talking on the phone or texting, researchers at Florida State University reported.
Receiving a notification of an incoming phone call or text message on a cellphone can distract people from an activity just as much as talking on the phone or texting, researchers at Florida State University reported. AP

Every two weeks, we gather some of the most interesting, intriguing and even oddball studies from health researchers around the world. Here are the latest:

Receiving a notification of an incoming phone call or text message on a cellphone can distract people from an activity just as much as talking on the phone or texting, researchers at Florida State University reported.

“The level of how much it affected the task at hand was really shocking,” said Courtney Yehnert, one of the researchers on the study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

The notifications, although short, can prompt irrelevant thoughts or “mind wandering” that undermines concentration on an activity, the report said.

The researchers asked participants to perform a computer task that required concentration while receiving cellphone notifications. They were three times as likely to make mistakes as subjects who didn’t receive notifications.

Chemotherapy can make end worse

Patients suffering from end-stage cancer who can still function reasonably well may see their quality of life diminished by chemotherapy, a recent study concludes.

“The (quality of life near death) in patients with end-stage cancer is not improved, and can be harmed, by chemotherapy use near death, even in patients with good performance status,” the authors wrote.

The study, published online July 23 in the journal JAMA Oncology, examined the experiences of 158 cancer patients who received chemotherapy between 2002 and 2008.

It was conducted by researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York and other institutions, who said they undertook it amid concerns by physicians about the benefits of chemotherapy for dying patients.

Autism diagnoses changed, increased

A 300 percent increase in the number of special-education students diagnosed with autism in the United States last decade was largely the result of the changing classification of intellectual disabilities, scientists at Penn State University concluded.

Their findings, published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics on July 22, looked at 11 years of special-education enrollment data for an average of 6.2 million children per year.

The researchers found that an increase in autism cases was accompanied by a nearly equal decrease in diagnoses of other intellectual disabilities that occur with autism including learning disabilities and emotional problems.

The study was the first of its kind and helps explain the dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism in recent years, the authors said.

Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest there has been an increase in autism cases from 1 in 5,000 children in 1975 to 1 in 68 in 2012, they said.

Sleep boosts memory

A new study has shown that a good night’s sleep can help people remember things they had earlier forgotten.

“Sleep almost doubles our chances of remembering previously unrecalled material,” Nicolas Dumay, of the University of Exeter in England said, in a news release.

The study tested subjects who were asked to learn new words and then recall them after a 12-hour period of wakefulness and again after sleeping. In many cases where the participants were unable to recall the words after a long day, they could remember them after sleep, the researchers found.

The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Exeter and the Basque Centre for Cognition, Bran and Language in Spain and published July 26 in the journal Cortex.

Hudson Sangree: 916-321-1191, @hudson_sangree

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