The Case of Too Many Facebook Friends; Smoking Rots the Brain

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Discovered: why social media's popular kids are stressed out; cigarettes harm brain activity; ocean acid is corroding snail shells; the end of the permanent case of the tryptophan naps. 

Facebook popularity is stressful. That acquaintance who added you on Facebook—the one with over 4,000 friends—is probably more like a tightly wound stress ball than a carelessly flitting social butterfly. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh studied over 300 Facebook users, mostly around 21 years old, finding that users with the longest list of digital friends were the most stressed out by the social-media site. "Facebook used to be like a great party for all your friends where you can dance, drink and flirt," says lead author Ben Marder. "But now with your Mum, Dad and boss there the party becomes an anxious event full of potential social landmines." [University of Edinburgh]

Smoking rots the brain, say researchers. Four years ago smoking boosted memory and concentration, but now it inhibits people's ability to remember, learn, and reason, according to ever-fickle science. The new, damning research comes from King's College in London. Scientists there studied 8,800 people over the age of 50, finding that high blood pressure and being overweight also contributed to decreased brain activity. "Research has repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and this study adds further weight to that evidence," says Alzheimer Research UK's Dr. Simon Ridley. [BBC News]

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Snail shells are burning up in acidic oceans. As oceans get more acidic due to global warming, snails will find their shells getting thinner and patchier. Ocean acidification is already corroding snail shells in Antarctica according to a team of researchers assembled from British Antarctic Survey, NOAA, the US Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the University of East Anglia’s school of Environmental Sciences. Co-author Geraint Tarling says that the researchers now want to focus on how acidification will affect other sea creatures: "We are now undertaking a much more comprehensive programme completely focussed on the effects of ocean acidification, not just on pteropods but to a wider range of organisms." [Motherboard]

Over-sleepers stay awake when taking drugs normally used to treat overdoses. You know that feeling you get the day after Thanksgiving, when you're so full of tryptophan that all you're capable of is sleeping? That's how hypersomniacs — those who suffer from a condition that makes them want to sleep constantly — feel all the time. But drugs commonly used to treat sedative overdoses could be one method to help them get through the day without snoozing, according to research from  Emory University. Flumenazil helped hypersomniacs perform better on alertness tests. "They're walking around essentially legally drunk all day," says co-author David Rye. This drug helped inhibit their brains from producing the chemical that keeps them partially sedated throughout most of the day. [Scientific American]

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