Lifestyle

There’s no safety in (phone) numbers

August 19, 2019

How many of us have “exchanged digits” with new acquaintances, written our phone numbers on customer profiles, and entered them into job applications? Roughly 100%? And what could possibly be wrong with this practice?

A column posted on August 15 by Brian X. Chen, the lead Consumer Technology writer at The New York Times may change your mind about that. Chen encourages readers, “Before you hand over your number, ask yourself: Is it worth the risk?”

Now that many of us have shifted from landlines to mobile devices, we rarely change phone numbers—bringing them with us when we move homes, schools, jobs, and accounts..

At the same time, the Times reports, our exclusive string of digits has increasingly become connected to apps and online services that are hooked into our personal lives. And it can lead to information from our offline worlds, including where we live and more.

In fact, your phone number may have now become an even stronger identifier than your full name, Chen believes.

He went out of his way to prove this theory recently, when he provided his phone number to Fyde, a mobile security firm based in Palo Alto, California.

Emre Tezisci, a security researcher at Fyde—and a self-described “ninja engineer” with a background in telecommunications, took on the task “with gusto,” Chen wrote, noting that, for purposes of the test, he and Tezisci previously “had never met or talked.”

Tezisci quickly plugged Chen’s cellphone number into White Pages Premium, an online database that charges $5 a month for access to public records. He then did a thorough web search and followed a data trail — linking Chen’s name and address to information in other online background-checking tools and public records — to track down more details.

“Soon,” Chen wrote in his Times column, “he had a full dossier on me — including my name and birth date, my address, the property taxes I pay and the names of members of my family.

From there, the situation quickly might have deteriorated. Tezisci could have used that information to try to answer security questions that would enable him to break into Chen’s online accounts. Or he could have targeted Chen or his loved ones with sophisticated phishing attacks. He and the other researchers at Fyde opted not to do so, since such attacks are illegal.

“If you want to give out your number, you are taking additional risk that you might not be aware of,” Fyde CEO Sinan Eren,  told Chen in an interview. “Because of collisions in names due to the massive number of people online today, a phone number is a stronger identifier.”

In just an hour, this is what the Fyde researcher found:

  • Chen’s current home address, its square footage, the cost of the property and the taxes he pays on it;
  • His past addresses from the last decade;
  • The full names of his mother, father, sister, and aunt;
  • Past phone numbers, including the landline for his parents’ home; and
  • Lack of a criminal record.

While Fyde declined to hack into Chen’s accounts , the company warned that there was plenty an attacker could do with the information:

  • Reset the password for an online account by answering such security questions as “What is your mother’s maiden name?”
  • Trick a customer service representative for that person’s phone carrier into porting my number onto a new SIM card, thus hijacking my digits — a practice called SIM swapping.
  • Mislead members of the person’s family into sharing their passwords or sending money.
  • Target the phone number with phishing texts and robocalls.
  • Break into the person’s voicemail and listen to messages.

So, when is it wise to share your number (and when is it not?

There are some situations when sharing your phone number is reasonable. When you enter your user name and password to get into your online banking account, the bank may call or text you with a temporary code that you must enter before you can log in. This is a security mechanism known as two-factor verification. In this situation, your phone number is a useful extra factor to prove you are who you say you are, The Times writer notes.

But which companies should you trust with your phone number? Unfortunately, Chen says, there is no neat solution.

As for two-factor authentication, most tech companies offer other verification options. They include apps that generate temporary security codes or a physical security key that can be plugged in. Generally, those are safer to use than a phone number.

Finally, a word to the wise: If you have business cards with your personal number printed on them, shred them and order new ones with just your office line.

Research contact: @nytimes

Keep your head down: Tilting your chin toward your neck can make you seem more dominant

August 16, 2019

Does somebody you know make you feel as if he or she is “head and shoulders above you” in confidence and ability?  Findings of a study recently conducted at the University of British Columbia in Canada indicate that when a conversational partner arches his eyebrows and tilts his chin downward, the effect can be intimidating.

In fact, even “… a neutral face—a face with no muscle movement or facial expression—appears to be more dominant when the head is tilted down,” researchers Zachary Witkower and Jessica Tracy explained in an article published in the June edition of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

This effect is caused by the fact that tilting one’s head downward leads to the artificial appearance of lowered and V-shaped eyebrows—which in turn elicit perceptions of aggression, intimidation, and dominance.”

Although researchers have investigated how facial muscle movements, in the form of facial expressions, correlate with social impressions, few studies have specifically examined how head movements might play a role. Witkower and Tracy designed a series of studies to investigate whether the angle of head position might influence social perception, even when facial features remain neutral.

In one online study with 101 participants, the researchers generated variations of avatars with neutral facial expressions—using three head positions: tilted upward ten degrees, neutral (0 degrees), or tilted downward ten degrees.

The participants judged the dominance of each avatar image, rating their agreement with statements including “This person would enjoy having control over others” and “This person would be willing to use aggressive tactics to get their way.”

The results showed that participants rated the avatars with downward head tilt as more dominant than those with neutral or upward-titled heads.

A second online study, in which 570 participants rated images of actual people, showed the same pattern of results.

Additional findings revealed that the portion of the face around the eyes and eyebrows is both necessary and sufficient to produce the dominance effect. That is, participants rated downward-tilted heads as more dominant even when they could only see the eyes and eyebrows; this was not true when the rest of the face was visible, and the eyes and eyebrows were obscured.

Two more experiments indicated that the angle of the eyebrows drove this effect—downward-tilted heads had eyebrows that appeared to take more of a V shape, even though the eyebrows had not moved from a neutral position, and this was associated with perceptions of dominance.

“In other words, tilting the head downward can have the same effect on social perceptions as does lowering one’s eyebrows—a movement made by the corrugator muscle, known as Action Unit 4 in the Facial Action Coding System—but without any actual facial movement,” say Witkower and Tracy. “Head tilt is thus an ‘action unit imposter’ in that it creates the illusory appearance of a facial muscle movement where none in fact exists.”

Ultimately, Witkower and Tracy note, these findings could have practical implications for our everyday social interactions: “People often display certain movements or expressions during their everyday interactions, such as a friendly smile or wave, as a way to communicate information,” they said, adding, “Our research suggests that we may also want to consider how [they] hold their head during these interactions, as subtle head movements can dramatically change the meaning of otherwise innocuous facial expressions.”

Research contact: zak.witkower@psych.ubc.ca

Doxxing: it’s the celebrity club you don’t want to join

August 15, 2019

Suppose you were a celebrity who wanted to post a message to friends on social media, but still hoped to protect your privacy and identity. Maybe you would use a different name and photo on your Facebook or Twitter account. But in today’s online world, such amateur “covers” simply aren’t enough.

In fact, through a technique called “doxxing,” literally scores of famous performers and politicians have experienced the theft of their personal and financial information—only to see it posted out on the Internet for everyone to see.

Doxxing isn’t new. It’s been used by identity thieves for several years with great success.

How do they do it? They impersonate the celebrity that they plan on “outing” or embarrassing by gathering as much information as they can from a variety of sources, and then use that information to get access to more sensitive personal information, according to a blog by Christopher Budd of Trend Micro—a Japanese multinational cybersecurity and defense agency.

In fact, during just one week in March 2013, the financial information of a handful of celebrities was exposed by a mysterious website called “The Secret Files.” The stripped-down website posted the  Social Security numbers, credit reports, birth dates, addresses, and phone numbers of celebrities and public figures—among them, Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears, Ashton Kutcher, Jay-Z, Tiger Woods, Mitt Romney, former Attorney General Eric Holder, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Hillary Clinton.

And to drive the point that technical savvy can’t seem to protect you from this, they’ve even posted information about Bill Gates.

The question becomes: What does this mean for us—the regular dweebs who use social media? And what should you do about it?

The good news is that these doxxing campaigns are clearly targeting famous and powerful people, and isn’t likely to directly affect any of us in the near term, according to Trend Micro. But this does highlight that your credit report has a lot of powerful information that you wouldn’t want publicly posted. So it’s a good time to take some steps to protect your information.

What you want to do is to ensure that you keep any information that you use to answer these types of security questions secret. Typically, you have a choice of what questions to answer, so only use questions for which the answers aren’t already public. Make sure your social media profiles are set to only show information to friends and you only “friend” people that you really know.

And, consider taking time and searching for yourself like an attacker would: Do searches on yourself and variations of your name, see what comes up—and if you find information out there that you didn’t know was out there and don’t want in public view, follow up to have it removed.

Research contact:@TrendMicro

Wanted: A ‘canine critic’ to review fido-friendly hotel accommodations

August 14, 2019

A peripatetic pup is wanted to em-BARK on a dream quest— reviewing canine hotels for Hotels.com, SWNS Digital reports. The new position of “canine critic” will give one lucky dog the change to try out ten of the world’s most dog-friendly accommodations.

The top dog will be required to offer his or her four-legged insights on “walkies,” comfy bedding, pampering services— and top quality bones. Together with his or her owner, the hound will post reviews of ten of the world’s reputedly most dog-friendly hotels on a leading hospitality industry website.

And there are just two requirements – they must be a “bone-a-fide” dog and have a taste for international travel.

A recruitment video has been created by the leading hotel provider and features doggie influencer, Dolly Pawton, reviewing The Curtain Hotel in London.

According to research, reviews of pet-friendly hotels have increased by 62% over the past two years.

Following the surge, Hotels.com has launched a new category in its annual Loved by Guests awards – Best for Pets.

Liz Oakman, senior director and general manager-EMEA for the Hotels.com brand said: “We love our pets more than we love our other half at times, so it’s no surprise that we’ve seen a huge increase in travelers wanting to take their furry plus-one on holiday with them.

She added, “At Hotels.com, we want to make sure you find the paw-fect place to check into, so we’re excited to add a Best for Pets category to our Loved by Guests awards —but it doesn’t stop there. Our hunt for a canine critic is our way of ensuring our pet friendly hotels really are up to ‘scratch’ with a four-legged expert’s ‘paw of approval.”

Jet-setting hounds (and their humans) can apply for the role through Hotels.com’s Instagram channel by following them and posting a picture of themselves—tagging @hotelsdotcom and using #CanineCritic. Applications close at 23:59 on Sunday, August 25.

Research contact: @hotelsdotcom

Read this and weep: Crying may help to regulate breathing

August 13, 2019

Most of us feel better after a “good cry”—and it turns out, there may be a medical reason for that. Crying may aid in the regulation of breathing during stressful situations, according to findings of a study conducted at the University of Queensland in Australia, reported by PsyPost.

The study sought to better understand the functions of human crying — and whether crying had any physiologically soothing effects.

“We became interested in this topic when trying to understand the different possible ways [in which] crying might function to help us, and to try to get a different perspective on why crying is so widely associated with feeling better,” explained study author Leah Sharman, a Ph.D. student in the Psychology department of the university.

Indeed, she said, “… Crying is often thought [to drain us of] toxins or [to bring] about some kind of biological change that helps us to deal with stressful or painful situations. So we thought it would be interesting to try to test that.”

For the study, 197 female undergraduate students were randomly assigned to either watch sad or emotionally neutral videos for about 17 minutes. About half of the participants who watched the sad videos began crying. The participants then underwent the Cold Pressor Stress Test, in which they placed their hand in nearly freezing cold water.

During the experiment, the participants’ heart and respiration activity were monitored. They also provided saliva samples so that the researchers could measure their cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Contrary to expectations, participants who cried were not able to cope with the Cold Pressor Stress Test for a significantly longer period of time than those who didn’t. There also was no significant difference observed in cortisol levels between those who cried and those who did not.

However, the researchers did find some evidence that participants who cried were more capable of regulating their breathing.

Based on the test results, Sharman said, “Crying doesn’t seem to provide any change to [the level of our] stress hormones—or [to] our ability to cope with physical stressors to a degree that might be meaningful if you hurt yourself.

However, i “Crying seems to assist in keeping our body stable and calm by slowing down and regulating our breathing and our heart rate,” Sharman told PsyPost.

Like all research, the study includes some limitations: “The major caveat with this research is that we don’t know if these reactions are typical in real-world settings where you might be crying because of grief or loss, for example, or if there are differences if someone else is present with you when you cry,” Sharman said.

“It’s also important to note that, because of the nature of this research, we can’t force people to cry, so it’s also possible that there might be something different about people who are more likely to cry, especially in a laboratory setting, that makes them more likely to respond in this way.

“Crying can be just as harmful as it is perceived helpful. In many situations people also believe that crying makes them feel judged, embarrassed, and ashamed. So if you believe [hat crying] makes you feel worse, these physiological changes are probably not going to make you feel better overall,” Sharman added.

The study, Using Crying to Cope: Physiological Responses to Stress Following Tears of Sadness, was recently published in the journal, Emotion.

Research contact: @PsyPost

No bones about it: Age at puberty could affect skeletal strength

August 12, 2019

A study recently conducted at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom has linked the bone strength of teenagers and young adults to the age at which they reached puberty.

Published on August 9 in the open access medical journal,  JAMA Network Open, the research examined six repeated bone scans from 6,389 children who participated in Bristol’s Children of the 90s study between the ages of ten and 25 to assess if the timing of puberty had any influence on bone density throughout adolescence and into early adulthood.

They found that, although teens who had their pubertal growth spurt later than their peers did catch-up to some degree, they continued to have lower bone density than average for several years into adulthood.

Peak bone mass at the end of the teenage growth spurts is considered to be an indication of later risk of fracture and osteoporosis. Lead author and Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology Dr. Ahmed Elhakeem said, “Our research adds to the evidence that children who mature later may be at increased risk of fractures as they grow. They may also have increased risk of the fragile bone condition osteoporosis in later life.”

“Thanks to the ‘Children of the 90s study,’ we were able to look, for the first time, at children in great detail as they grow into young adults and observe their bone density. I’d like to see more advice available for people who reach puberty later on measures they can take to strengthen their bones.

He added, “The next steps should involve more detailed assessments of the long-term effects of puberty on growth and bone development.”

Alison Doyle, head of Operations and Clinical Practice at the Royal Osteoporosis Society, said, “This is important research that adds to a current gap in the evidence of understanding how bone density changes from puberty into early adulthood …. “The charity’s Osteoporosis and Bone Research Academy, which launched earlier this year, is working to build on these findings and create a future without osteoporosis.”

The study did not make conclusions on any influence of the final adult height on the findings. As the study participants are still only in their twenties, follow up with them as they age will be important to reach conclusions about fractures in later life.

Research contact: julia01.walton@bristol.ac.uk

Number of U.S. ‘Doomsday Preppers’ multiplies

August 9, 2019

Following a weekend when mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio killed more than 30 Americans, researchers now say that Doomsday Preppers—once viewed as motivated by extreme right-wing or apocalyptic views—are now becoming part of mainstream U.S. politics and culture.

Indeed, research conducted by Dr. Michael Mills, a lecturer in Criminology in the School of Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, has found that “prepping” has been on the rise in the United States for more than a decade—and that, for most involved in the movement, it is a response to mounting fear,

Prepping—which involves stockpiling supplies including food, water, medicine and weapons—originally was considered to be an extreme political reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama.

However, when Dr. Mills interviewed preppers based in 18 states to examine their motivations for hoarding items, he found that—although fear of President Obama and his political agenda played a role—those who engaged in the activity were motivated more by the general culture of fear that informs modern mainstream American society. Further, the research argues that a regular flow of recommendations from the US government on how to prepare for potential disasters, including, for example, advice to stockpile water, have, to an extent, helped fuel the growth of “prepping.”

Dr Mills’ research presents a more nuanced view of prepping, which has traditionally been portrayed as an apocalyptic belief in imminent disaster or the end of the world. Rather, modern preppers are responding to a general sense of fear and concern about such risks as economic collapse, cyber-attacks, terrorism, pandemics and environmental disasters—causing them to seek self-sufficiency “just in case” the worst should happen.

Dr. Mills notes, “Fear is now deeply entrenched in modern American culture and is the principal reason that so many citizens are engaging in ‘prepping’. Many believe that the government’s response in the event of a calamity, whether it’s a natural disaster or an act of terrorism, simply won’t be adequate to meet their needs. Many also believe that, under Democrat leadership, America becomes more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, financial collapse, and international hostility.

“While the media portrays ‘preppers’ as extremists,” Mills adds, “our view is much more nuanced.”

Research contact: @UniKentStaff

This is your mind and body on tea

August 8, 2019

If drinking the beverage, tea, is simply “not your cup of tea,” you may be missing out, according to a recent report by Reader’s Digest Canada.

Unsweetened tea is rich in antioxidants, which prevent chronic diseases and help repair cells in the body, dietitians and medical professionals say.

 “Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, which contains antioxidants known as catechins, most importantly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG),” Anthony Kouri, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Toledo, Ohio, told the magazine. “These eliminate free radicals in the body and reduce inflammation.”

So pinkies up; it’s time to learn about the amazing benefits (and just a few risks) of drinking tea:

  • Your risk of suffering from certain cancers goes down. The antioxidants and compounds found in tea have been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, “including . skin, prostate, lung, and breast cancers,” says Uma Naidoo, M.D., director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital..” Drinking tea is just one of the simple ways you can prevent cancer.
  • Your skin is healthier. Drinking black tea regularly can significantly reduce your risk of skin cancer. Interestingly, how you prepare it makes a difference. “Hot black tea is helpful for squamous carcinoma of the skin,” Dr. Naidoo told Reader’s Digest. Hot tea has been found to be more beneficial than the iced alternative.
  • Your risk of diabetes decreases. Drinking black tea every day can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by helping to control your blood sugar after meals.
  • Your teeth get stronger. According to a study in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, green tea has an antibacterial effect that could reduce cavity-forming bacteria in your mouth. Drinking green tea every day also could make developing cavities less severe.
  • Your heart will thank you. The anti-inflammatory properties of tea can keep your blood vessels relaxed and clear, putting less stress on your heart. ” Dr. Naidoo recommends drinking three cups of black tea per dayto achieve the heart benefits.
  • Your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease decreases. “Green tea can help you develop resistance against stress, and potentially Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Naidoo told the news outlet. “The polyphenols protect cells from damage.”
  • Your sleep could improve. “East-Asian medicinal tea can [help eliminate] insomnia,” says Dr. Naidoo. According to a study in Integrative Medicine Research,drinking tea can help improve sleep and quality of life in those with mild-to-moderate insomnia.
  • Your attention span may improve. The caffeine in tea can improve your attention and alertness. “Theanine is an amino acid that is virtually unique to tea,” explains Dr. Naidoo. “It may… improve attention by relaxing the brain—but stimulating it when it is time to focus.”
  • Your metabolism speeds up. “The caffeine in tea helps to improve mental acuity as well as increase metabolism and fat burning (up to 100 calories per day),” says Dr. Kouri. Just be sure you’re not overdoing it in the caffeine department. One cup of green tea contains about 40 milligrams of caffeine, and Dr. Kouri recommends limiting your daily caffeine intake to no more than 300 to 400 milligrams.
  • BUT you may not absorb enough iron. There are some “cons” to drinking tea, as well. The catechins in tea can alter your body’s ability to absorb iron. This means that even if you eat enough high-iron foods, you won’t get the benefits and could become anemic. “Though most healthy people will not be affected by this, those who have iron deficiency or anemia should abstain from large amounts of green tea,” recommends Dr. Kouri. This includes children, pregnant women, and anyone with a history of kidney disease.
  • You could be at higher risk of bleeding. Drinking a large amount of tea every day could put you at risk for bleeding from a minor cut or bump. “It makes you more prone to bruising, explains Michelle Lee, M.D., a board-certified plastic surgeon who practices in Beverly Hills, California. “I require all my patients to stop drinking tea[for] two to three weeks before surgery.”
  • Your medication may not work. Talk with your doctor and pharmacist before brewing a pot of tea everyday. “Catechins can interfere with some heart and blood pressure medications,” warns Dr. Kouri.

Finally, when selecting a tea, make sure it is unsweetened. Even if some flavored teas contain no calories, they still could contain artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Opt for making your own tea as opposed to buying it already prepared.

“The more tea leaves are processed, the less effective the catechins become, explains Dr. Kouri. “Green tea is minimally processed and has the greatest health benefits of the available teas.”

Research contact: @ReadersDigestCA

Going rogue: Marital infidelity and professional misconduct are linked, study shows

August 7, 2019

Once a cheater, always a cheater? There may be some truth to that old saw. People who “two-time” their spouses are significantly more likely to engage in misconduct in the workplace, according to a study conducted by the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin and published in the July 2019 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to a report by Phys Org, the researchers looked at the records of police officers, financial advisers, white-collar criminals and senior executives who used the Ashley Madison dating website. Operating under the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair,” Ashley Madison advertises itself as a dating service for married people  who wish to have “discreet encounters.”

The McCombs study, entitled Personal Infidelity and Professional Conduct in 4 Settings, found that Ashley Madison users in the professional settings were more than twice as likely to engage in corporate misconduct.

“This is the first study that’s been able to look at whether there is a correlation between personal infidelity and professional conduct,” author Samuel Kruger of the McCombs Finance Department said. “We find a strong correlation, which tells us that infidelity is informative about expected professional conduct.”

The researchers investigated four study groups totaling 11,235 individuals using data on police officers from the Citizens Police Data Project, data on financial advisers from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority BrokerCheck database, data on defendants in SEC cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s litigation release archives, and data on CEOs and CFOs from Execucomp.

Even after matching professionals guilty of misconduct to misconduct-free individuals of similar ages, gender, and experiences—and controlling for a wide range of executive and cultural variables,—the researchers found that people with histories of misconduct were significantly more likely to use the Ashley Madison website.

Their findings suggest a strong connection between people’s actions in their personal and professional lives and provide support for the idea that eliminating workplace sexual misconduct may also reduce fraudulent activity.

“Our results show that personal sexual conduct is correlated with professional conduct,” Kruger said. “Eliminating sexual misconduct in the workplace could have the extra benefit of contributing to more ethical corporate cultures in general.”

Research contact: @UTexasBBA

When life leaves you off-balance: New research focuses on ‘dizziness of unknown cause’

August 6, 2019

When life leaves you, literally, “in the lurch”—suffering from functional dizziness that cannot be linked to an organic cause, no matter how many doctors you may visit or tests you may take—is there any hope for recovery?

For the very first time, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) in Germany say the answer is yes: Results of a study released on August 5 indicate that people who frequently feel light-headed, woozy, or unbalanced may be suffered from perception disorders.

Specifically, they have found symptoms that resemble those associated with dizziness due to organic causes-but that, instead, are caused by a malfunctioning of the processing of sensory-motor signals in the brain.

The Munich researchers already had postulated several years ago that such functional disorders might be caused by faulty processing of sensory stimuli. The team, headed by Professor Nadine Lehnen, senior physician for Psychosomatic Medicine at the TUM University Hospital rechts der Isar [located to the right of the Isar river], was able to provide more support for this theory by conducting an experimental pilot study.

Eight patients with functional dizziness, along with 11 healthy subjects, participated in the study. The researchers also used data from patients whose dizziness had been linked with organic defects—and who had previously taken part in the same experiment. Those patients had either a cerebellar disorder or a complete loss of functioning vestibular (equilibrium) nerves.

During the experiment, the participants sat in a dark room looking straight ahead while lights were flashed to their right and their left. They then were asked to look in the direction of the light points. Their eye and head movements during the gaze shifts were recorded. The subjects then were fitted with a weighted helmet to alter the inertia of their head. This resulted in significant head wobbling. The experiment was performed with and without the helmet.

Whereas the healthy subjects quickly adapted their movements to the new circumstances and managed to stop their head from wobbling, all the subjects with functional dizziness found the task difficult to perform. What surprised the research team was the fact that the latter behaved in exactly the same way as subjects with dizziness due to massive organic defects.

“Our results clearly show that functional dizziness is manifested exactly like severe physical disorders, for example after complete functional loss of the vestibular nerves. This reflects how severely impaired these people are,” Professor Lehnen said in a press release..

Based on previous experience, which is stored in the brain in the form of learned models, people have a certain expectation about the sensory impressions evoked by a movement. This expectation is compared with information from the vestibular organs. If the head behaves differently than normal, the two sets of information no longer match. This creates an imbalance between expectation and reality, a state known as prediction error.

“Healthy people can easily perceive this error, process it and adapt their movements accordingly. Patients with functional dizziness, by contrast, do not appear to process sensory-motor impressions correctly. They rely primarily on their stored model, but it no longer matches the new reality,” Nadine Lehnen explains.

Can the condition be improved? She notes, “We were excited to observe that they are still able to learn—albeit only to a limited degree.” It would therefore be important to treat such patients using therapeutic approaches that take into account this processing deficit. A large-scale study is planned to corroborate the recent findings.

Research contact: Nadine.Lehnen@mri.tum.de