News for Nerds - The Nightmare Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 2/21/2014 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - The Nightmare Edition

Welcome back to News for Nerds! This week we'll explain how cat bites are linked with depression, and we'll reveal the basic fact that a quarter of Americans don't know. But first, here are your headlines.

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How well do you remember your dreams? Are they vivid affairs full of natural disasters, or mundane slice-of-life moments that quickly fade?

Chances are, how you dream has a lot to do with your gender. A new study out of Canada shows that men and women dream very differently -- especially when it comes to nightmares.

Men are twice as likely to have nightmares about big, bombastic things: disasters, wars, insect infestations. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to have very personal nightmares: relationship fears, fights with a spouse, infidelity, etc. In other words, women are concerned about emotional issues that frequently involve feelings of humiliation or anxiety, and men are worried about getting trapped in a Michael Bay movie.

Whatever the root cause, nightmares are a disruptive force for many, many people. Says one researcher, "Nightmares are not a disease in themselves but can be a problem for the individual who anticipates them or who is greatly distressed by their nightmares. People who have frequent nightmares may fear falling asleep . . . people who are awakened by their nightmares cannot get back to sleep, which creates artificial insomnia."

Sleep tight, folks.

- story from The Daily Mail (UK), photo from juanedc via Wikimedia Commons

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In other news, people who struggle with weight-loss issues might get some help from a couple unlikely sources: cats and video games.

First, the cats -- specifically, calico cats. Research shows that calico kitties have an orange fur color gene on one of their X chromosomes and a black fur color gene on the other. Their distinctive patchwork coats are the result of 'random silencing' of one of these chromosomes in each cell.

Taken a step further, this means that changes in gene activity can be inherited without necessarily changing the DNA code. And because body fat distribution has also been associated with X chromosomes, it seems plausible that finding a way to turn specific genes on (or off) might someday help control inherited tendencies toward obesity.

So there's that. And then there's Tetris.

According to a new study, dieters feeling a strong craving for junk food would be wise to spend a few minutes playing a game of Tetris. That's because cravings -- whether food, alcohol, or cigarettes -- tend to involve visualization. If you want a candy bar, you think about that candy bar. You can probably see it in your mind. So giving yourself a visual task has proven to be an effective way to curb those cravings.

It doesn't have to be Tetris, by the way. It could be any visual task that is mentally demanding. But researchers say that the famous block-building game is the perfect blend of visual stimulation and challenge. I still prefer Tecmo Bowl, though.

- stories from Discovery News and NBC News, photo from Jadhbeika via Wikimedia Commons

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Here are a couple other cool science stories you might enjoy:

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That's all for now! I'll be back with more News for Nerds next week, but be sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and to sign up for the free e-Newsletter so that you can properly get your nerd on every single month! And please send any juicy News for Nerds tips to me right here!

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