Science & Technology

Introversion, it seems, is the Internet’s current meme du jour. Articles on introverts are nothing new, of course—The Atlantic’s 2003 classic “Caring for Your Introvert” still gets passed around Facebook on a regular basis—but the topic has gained some sort of strange critical mass in the past few weeks, and has been popping up everywhere from Gawker to Forbes.

This latest swarm of articles ranges from glorified personality quizzes (31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert”) to history lessons (“16 Outrageously Successful Introverts”) to business essays (“Why Introverts Can Make Excellent Executives”) to silly, self-aware send-ups of the trend itself (“15 Unmistakable, Outrageously Secret Signs You’re an Extrovert”). The vast majority of them also come packaged with the assumption the reader understands the basic concept of introversion, and already has a pretty clear idea of whether he or she is an introvert or an extrovert.

Scroll through the comments sections, though, and you’ll find that quite a few readers—even introverted ones—don’t appreciate being put in a labeled box. For every grateful response from a self-professed introvert, you’ll find several responses along the lines of, “No one is always extroverted and no one is always introverted,” and, “I consider myself an extrovert but a lot of these introvert traits apply to me.”

What does neuroscience have to say about all this? Do the brains of introverted people really look and behave differently from those of extroverts? And if so, what might those differences mean?

Introvert v. Extrovert

Before we go any further, it’s important to point out a significant distinction. When Carl Jung coined the terms “extrovert” and “introvert” in the early twentieth century, he emphasized that introverts aren’t necessarily shy or insecure—nor are extroverts necessarily empathic or loving. The distinction between the two, Jung wrote, lies mainly in the fact that introverts get exhausted by social interaction, while extroverts get anxious when left alone. Introverts need solitude in order to recharge, while extroverts draw energy from socializing.

Modern psychologists have added a third category, the ambivert, a personality that combines both introverted and extroverted traits—for example, a ruthless lawyer or CEO who loves to lead but doesn’t crave peer approval. And the Russian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi reports that his most artistic patients tended to drift between introversion and extroversion throughout their lives. “[They’re] usually one or the other,” he wrote, “either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show.”

And there’s evidence that artists and execs aren’t alone in this mutability. Psychologists today generally think of introversion and extroversion as labels for areas of a continuous personality spectrum, just as words like “red” and yellow” are labels for certain areas of the light spectrum. We all draw energy from others at times, just as we all need to recharge with some alone time every now and then. Still, says Jason Castro, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Bates College in Maine, “We know there are a few structural features in the brain that correlate with whether a person is relatively introverted, versus extroverted.”

Neural Clues

For one thing, a 2012 study by Harvard psychologist Randy Buckner found that people who identify as introverts tend to have larger and thicker gray matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex, a highly complex brain region associated with abstract thought and decision-making. People who identify as strongly extroverted, on the other hand, tend to have thinner gray matter in those same prefrontal areas—which hints that introverts tend to devote more neural resources to abstract pondering, while extroverts tend to live in the moment.

A 2013 study by Cornell University scientists Richard A. Depue and Yu Fu supports this idea. This team of investigators gathered a mixed sample of introverts and extroverts, then randomly split these volunteers into two groups. The first group took the stimulant Ritalin, while the second group took a placebo. The researchers then showed the participants a series of videos such as random landscape shots and forest scenes.

After three days of video-watching, the researchers took away the drugs and showed the films again, and then measured the subjects’ alertness and demeanor. Extroverts who’d taken Ritalin were excited by the films even in the absence of the drug; extroverts who hadn’t showed no change in their reaction to the films. These people had instinctively associated exciting feelings, if they had them, with the videos they’d watched.

But introverts weren’t happier or more alert post-video, regardless of whether they’d taken Ritalin or not. The Cornell researchers think this finding is rooted in a crucial difference between the ways introverts and extroverts process feelings of excitement. Extroverts, the researchers believe, tend to associate feelings of reward with their immediate environment, whereas introverts tend to associate them with their inner thoughts—or perhaps interpret them as anxiety rather than excitement.

Intriguing Hints

Other studies have found that the right-hemisphere amygdala tends to be larger in extroverts than in introverts, as does the anterior cingulate cortex—except in female extroverts, whose anterior cingulate cortices are apparently smaller than those of female introverts. Since other studies have implicated the anterior cingulate in social error detection, this may point to some underlying (but still incompletely understood) differences in the ways introverts and extroverts process social missteps.

Personality differences may have physical effects. Though no one’s been able to measure a difference in reaction time between extroverts and introverts, researchers have found that an introvert’s premotor cortex tends to process stimuli more quickly than that of an introvert.

Still other studies have found that cortical neurons of introverts and extroverts may respond differently to the neurotransmitter chemicals gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA)—an intriguing finding since both GABA and NMDA have both been implicated in anxiety disorders

The Science of Personality

In short, although the science of personality is still in the relative Dark Ages, researchers have begun to draw links between what these structural and functional brain differences between personality types might mean in terms of their respective peccadilloes.

But brain differences that correlate with introversion or extroversion don’t necessarily show which of these differences—if any—causeintroversion or extroversion. “We don’t have experiments that really address whether those brain differences play a causal role,” Castro says. “We’re still pretty far from having … a scientific description of personality differences at the level of cells and synapses.”

And it’s important to keep in mind that our brain structures vary from person to person along all sorts of axes that inform our personalities—not just introversion and extroversion. As the science of brain mapping develops, maybe we’ll have a myriad of new spectrums we can use to describe our personalities in terms of our gray matter.

 

In a first, researchers in Japan have captured the brain activity of a living animal as it pursues its prey. 

“Seeing is believing,” says Koichi Kawakami, a molecular and developmental biologist at Japan’s National Institute of Genetics. In the past, he says, researchers have had to infer brain processes indirectly, by watching behavior and surmising what the brain must be doing. That makes his feat a big improvement. “Nothing is better than direct observation,” he says.

For years, researchers have regarded the ability to watch an organism’s neurons fire — at high resolution, as the animal behaves naturally — as the pinnacle of brain observation. In humans, neuroimaging techniques show brain activity, but the methods aren’t fast or fine-grained enough to give a clear picture, Kawakami says. Attempts on mice and rats have been challenging: Their brains must be opened, which is invasive and makes it difficult to capture brain activity in natural conditions. 

In most animals, including humans and rodents, the biggest problem is that skulls and brains are opaque. Kawakami and his team cleared that hurdle by choosing the zebrafish as their model. Zebrafish embryos and larvae are transparent, and their genetics are well-known.

The researchers tinkered with the fish’s DNA so that a protein present only in neurons would fluoresce when the neurons were firing. They then watched the neuronal activity of the developing fish at high resolution as it moved about its natural environment, eyeing and attacking its prey.

“The fundamental brain functions are conserved between fish and human,” says Kawakami.

“We hope that we can understand the processes at cellular and molecular levels by studying the fish brain,” he adds.

The New York Times website has gone offline for the second time this month after what the company described as a "malicious external attack".

On its Facebook page, the Times said it was working to fix the problem, which appears to have started at 15:00 local time (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

A technical problem knocked NYTimes.com offline on 14 August.

Analysts said evidence showed a group supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was behind Tuesday's attack.

The website was partially back online three hours later, although some users still reported difficulties. During the suspension the New York Times published new articles on its Facebook page as well as a mirror site.

Mark Frons, the company's chief information officer, warned New York Times employees the attack was perpetrated by the Syrian Electronic Army, which backs Mr Assad, "or someone trying very hard to be them".

He cautioned staff to "be careful when sending e-mail communications until this situation is resolved".

Security experts said there was enough evidence to link the hacking group to the problems.

"The NYTimes.com domain is pointing at SyrianElectronicArmy.com which maps to an IP address in Russia, so it's clearly a malicious attack," Ken Westin, a security researcher for Tripwire, an online security company, told the BBC.

In a separate posting on Tuesday, the group also claimed responsibility for hacking Twitter's administrative contact information.

'More attacks'

Recently, the Washington Post, CNN and Time magazine websites were targeted in attacks attributed to supporters of the group.

"Media attacks seem to be escalating and moving away from annoying, simple denial of service attacks and toward full domain compromise which, if successful, puts millions of NYT website users at risk," said Mr Westin.

As it did after the first New York Times suspension, competitor Wall Street Journal took down its pay wall and offered its content free to all visitors.

In January, the New York Times said hackers had accessed its website and stolen the passwords of 53 employees after it published a report on the wealth of China Premier Wen Jiabao's family.

Michael Fey, chief technology officer at cybersecurity firm McAfee, said that as long as media organisations play a crucial role in reporting news and influencing debate, they will continue to be targets of cyber-attacks.

"Regardless of technology or tactics deployed, we should expect to see more of these attacks,'' he said.

Google Inc's Android, the dominant mobile operating system, is by far the primary target for malware attacks, mostly because many users are still using older versions of the software, according to a study by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Android was a target for 79 percent of all malware threats to mobile operating systems in 2012 with text messages representing about half of the malicious applications, according to the study from the government agencies, which was published by Public Intelligence website.

Google did not respond to a request for comment. DHS declined to comment.

By comparison, about 19 percent of malware attacks were targeted at Nokia's Symbian system and less than 1 percent each at Apple Inc's iOS software, Microsoft Corp's Windows and BlackBerry Ltd.

Android continues to be a "primary target for malware attacks due to its market share and open source architecture," said the study, which was addressed to police, fire, emergency medical and security personnel.

(Reporting By Poornima Gupta. Editing by Andre Grenon)

In Peru, home to the spectacular Inca city of Machu Picchu and thousands of ancient ruins, archaeologists are turning to drones to speed up sluggish survey work and protect sites from squatters, builders and miners.

Remote-controlled aircraft were developed for military purposes and are a controversial tool in U.S. anti-terrorism campaigns, but the technology's falling price means it is increasingly used for civilian and commercial projects around the world.

Small drones have been helping a growing number of researchers produce three-dimensional models of Peruvian sites instead of the usual flat maps - and in days and weeks instead of months and years.

Speed is an important ally to archaeologists here. Peru's economy has grown at an average annual clip of 6.5 percent over the past decade, and development pressures have surpassed looting as the main threat to the country's cultural treasures, according to the government.

Researchers are still picking up the pieces after a pyramid near Lima, believed to have been built some 5,000 years ago by a fire-revering coastal society, was razed in July by construction firms. That same month, residents of a town near the pre-Incan ruins of Yanamarca reported that informal miners were damaging the three-story stone structures as they dug for quartz.

And squatters and farmers repeatedly try to seize land near important sites like Chan Chan on the northern coast, considered the biggest adobe city in the world.

Archaeologists say drones can help set boundaries to protect sites, watch over them and monitor threats, and create a digital repository of ruins that can help build awareness and aid in the reconstruction of any damage done.

"We see them as a vital tool for conservation," said Ana Maria Hoyle, an archaeologist with the Culture Ministry.

Hoyle said the government plans to buy several drones to use at different sites, and that the technology will help the ministry comply with a new, business-friendly law that has tightened the deadline for determining whether land slated for development might contain cultural artifacts.

Commercial drones made by the Swiss company senseFly and the U.S. firms Aurora Flight Sciences and Helicopter World have all flown Peruvian skies.

Drones are already saving archaeologists time in mapping sites - a crucial but often slow first step before major excavation work can begin. Mapping typically involves tedious ground-level observations with theodolites or pen and paper.

"With this technology, I was able to do in a few days what had taken me years to do," said Luis Jaime Castillo, a Peruvian archaeologist with Lima's Catholic University and an incoming deputy culture minister who plans to use drones to help safeguard Peru's archaeological heritage.

Castillo started using a drone two years ago to explore the San Jose de Moro site, an ancient burial ground encompassing 150 hectares (0.58 square miles) in northwestern Peru, where the discovery of several tombs of priestesses suggests women ruled the coastal Moche civilization.

"We have always wanted to have a bird's-eye view of where we are working," said Castillo.

In the past, researchers have rented crop dusters and strapped cameras to kites and helium-filled balloons, but those methods can be expensive and clumsy. Now they can build drones small enough to hold with two hands for as little as $1,000.

"It's like having a scalpel instead of a club, you can control it to a very fine degree," said Jeffrey Quilter, an archaeologist with Harvard University who has worked at San Jose de Moro and other sites in Peru. "You can go up three meters and photograph a room, 300 meters and photograph a site, or you can go up 3,000 meters and photograph the entire valley."

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, have flown over at least six different archaeological sites in Peru in the past year, including the colonial Andean town Machu Llacta some 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level.

Peru is well known for its stunning 15th century Machu Picchu ruins, likely a getaway for Incan royalty that the Spanish were unaware of during their conquest, and the Nazca Lines in southern Peru, which are best seen from above and were mysteriously etched into the desert more than 1,500 years ago.

But archaeologists are just as excited about other chapters of Peru's pre-Hispanic past, like coastal societies that used irrigation in arid valleys, the Wari empire that conquered the Andes long before the Incas, and ancient farmers who appear to have been domesticating crops as early as 10,000 years ago.

With an archaeology budget of around $5 million, the Culture Ministry often struggles to protect Peru's more than 13,000 sites. Only around 2,500 of them have been properly marked off, according to the ministry.

"And when a site is not properly demarcated, it is illegally occupied, destroyed, wiped from the map," said Blanca Alva, an official with the ministry charged with oversight.

DRONE 'DEMOCRATIZATION'

Steve Wernke, an archaeologist with Vanderbilt University exploring the shift from Incan to Spanish rule in the Andes, started looking into drones more than two years ago.

He tried out a drone package from a U.S. company that cost around $40,000. But after the small plane had problems flying in the thin air of the Andes, Wernke and his colleague, engineer Julie Adams, teamed up and built two drones for less than $2,000.

The drones continue to have altitude problems in the Andes, and Wernke and Adams now plan to make a drone blimp.

"There is an enormous democratization of the technology happening now," Wernke said, adding that do-it-yourself websites like DIYdrones.com have helped enthusiasts share information.

"The software that these things are run on is all open-source. None of it is locked behind company patents," he said.

There are some drawbacks to using drones in archaeology. Batteries are big and short-lived, it can take time to learn to work with the sophisticated software and most drones struggle to fly in higher altitudes.

In the United States, broader use of drones has raised privacy and safety concerns that have slowed regulatory approvals. Several states have drafted legislation to restrict their use, and one town has even considered offering rewards to anyone who shoots a drone down.

But in Peru, archaeologists say it is only a matter of time before drones replace decades-old tools still used in their field, and that the technology can and should be used for less destructive uses.

"So much of the technology we use every day comes from warfare," said Hoyle. "It is natural this is happening."

Some of the first aerial images taken of Peru's archaeological sites also have their roots in combat.

The Shippee-Johnson expedition in 1931 was one of several geographic surveys led by U.S. military pilots that emerged from the boom in aerial photography during World War I. It produced reams of images still used by archaeologists today.

After seeing one of those pictures at a museum in New York some 10 years ago, Wernke decided he would study a town designed to impose Spanish culture on the indigenous population in the 1570s. He describes it as "one of the largest forced resettlement programs in history."

"I went up the following year to see it and found the site, and I said, 'OK, that's going to be a great project once I can afford to map it," said Wernke. He said drones have mapped nearly half of his work site. "So it all started with aerial images in the '30s, and now we want to go further with UAVs."

(Editing by Kieran Murray and Douglas Royalty)

Some of Mark Zuckerberg's mutual fund backers delivered a tough message on compensation for the leaders of Facebook Inc.

Fidelity Investments, led by its $98 billion Contrafund, was among those voting against the pay of the social media company's top leaders in a nonbinding contest at its annual meeting in June, its first since going public.

Securities filings show other funds voting against the pay included Legg Mason Capital Management Value Trust and Franklin Resources' Franklin Growth Fund.

While the funds' exact objection was not spelled out, one reason could be perks. Facebook Chief Executive Zuckerberg was paid $1.99 million in 2012, according to its proxy filing, much less than other executives, like Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who received $26.2 million.

Yet ISS, the influential proxy adviser to institutional shareholders, recommended votes "against" the compensation. It questioned practices such as stock awards and the $1.2 million spent on Zuckerberg's personal use of aircraft in 2012.

Although shareholders backed Facebook's executive pay by a wide margin, the ballots cast by Fidelity - Facebook's largest outside shareholder and a longtime investor - show how dynamics have changed for Facebook now that it is a publicly traded firm, said Edward Hauder, a senior adviser at Exequity LLP, a Chicago-based executive compensation consulting firm.

Mutual fund managers, like Contrafund's William Danoff, may remain fans of the social media darling as an investment. But fund votes are generally controlled by separate departments that bring a cold policy analysis to proxy voting.

"It's just business," said Hauder.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.

The votes at Facebook are just one sample from a trove of material filed by asset managers this month.

Although big mutual fund firms dominate shareholder lists across the S&P 500, fund executives rarely discuss how they voted in particular proxy contests - making their annual filings a rare look under the hood.

At the same time, corporate shareholder meetings have heated up due both to shareholder discontent after the financial crisis and activist investors and labor groups conducting more aggressive campaigns. For instance, activists had urged a measure to require an independent chairman at JPMorgan Chase Co. which was not approved.

Filings for Fidelity's Contrafund and another well-known vehicle, Magellan, showed they voted against that measure, which would have split the roles of current chair and chief executive Jamie Dimon.

Activists also campaigned against the chairman of Occidental Petroleum Corp., Ray Irani, who did not win a majority of votes and stepped down from its board. BlackRock Inc.'s representative, Global Allocation Fund, voted against Irani and against the shareholder resolution at JPMorgan, but it also opposed three JPMorgan directors.

Fidelity spokesman Vincent Loporchio said the company would not comment on particular votes and said its funds vote according to company policy. As posted on the firm's website, the policy holds that Fidelity funds will "generally vote for proposals to ratify executive compensation unless such compensation appears misaligned with shareholder interests or otherwise problematic," taking into account factors such as whether a company has an independent compensation committee.

At its June 11 meeting, Facebook shareholders voted in favor of its compensation by 5.7 billion votes to 404 million votes.

Federal rules require large corporations to hold the non-binding "Say on Pay" votes, whose frequency is determined by shareholders. Facebook had recommended the votes be held once every three years.

As with the vote on pay itself, Facebook's position prevailed, with 5.6 billion votes in favor of voting once every three years, 14.9 million votes in favor of having the votes held once every two years, and 533.8 million votes in favor of an annual vote.

The Fidelity funds favored holding the vote annually.

(Editing by Linda Stern; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Get more glow and less shine with skin-clearing solutions from leading dermatologists

Oils produced by the body help keep skin healthy, but there can be too much of a good thing. Excess oil can lead to blemishes and acne flare-ups. “Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cut down on oiliness,” Andrea Cambio, MD, medical director of Cambio Dermatology in Cape Coral, Florida, says. Clear complexion strategies range from over-the-counter cleansers to prescription lotions and cosmetic treatments.

Cleansers
Dermatologists agree that the most effective way to manage oily skin is to cleanse your face both morning and night. “Always use a gentle cleanser since harsh soaps can trigger the skin to increase oil production,” April Armstrong, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, says. Also, beware of the buff. A washcloth or buff puff can actually stimulate more oil secretion.

If a basic facial cleanser doesn’t cut oiliness, try a product that includes an acid such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or beta-hydroxy acid.  “Many products containing these acids are marketed as acne facial care products. They’re great for people with acne, but they’re also fine for people whose problem is just oily skin,” Armstrong says.  “Since some of these ingredients can be irritating, buy a small size to see how your skin responds. People often have to try several products before they find the one that works best for them.” Wash with warm water, not hot, because temperature extremes can irritate skin.

Toners
Dermatologists are divided on whether the oil-reducing properties of toner are legitimate. “I’m not a big fan of astringent toners because they tend to irritate the skin and can lead to more oil production,” Cambio says. “Still, if people like using them, I recommend applying toners only on oily areas of the skin, such as the forehead, nose, and chin. Avoid using them on areas that tend to be dry or you’re likely to create dry patches on your skin.”

That’s advice worth remembering for all your skin care regimens. “There’s a myth that some people have dry skin, some people have oily skin. In fact, most people have combination skin, oily in some places, dry in others,” Ellen Marmur, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says.

Medicated pads
Pads medicated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or other oil-cutting acid ingredients are another beauty routine option. “Medicated pads are a favorite among my patients with oily skin,” Marmur says. “You can carry them in your purse and use them on the run to freshen up your skin and remove excess oil.”

Blotting paper
Cosmetic blotting papers offer a great option for removing oil because they don’t dry out your skin.  “Patients with oily skin really love blotting paper because it’s convenient and easy to use,” Armstrong says. Apply it to oily areas, such as forehead, nose, and chin. Don’t scrub your skin with the sheet of blotting paper. Instead, simply press it against the oily area long enough to absorb oil, usually 15 to 20 seconds.  Some blotting papers are lightly powdered, which further reduces shine.

Masks and Clays
Applying masks and clays to the skin helps draw out oils and cleanses pores, but there is also concern for over drying. “My advice is to apply them only to problem areas and use them only occasionally,” Rebecca Kazin, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center, says. She suggests limiting masks and clays to really big events such as a wedding, a birthday dinner, or a big presentation.
Moisturizers
“People who have oily skin often steer clear of moisturizers, worrying that they’ll make their skin look even shinier,” Kazin says. That’s a bad idea. “Even oily skin needs to be moisturized to look its best,” she says. To avoid an oily sheen, choose an oil-free moisturizer. Vary the amount you apply depending on whether the area tends to be dry or oily.

Oil-free Sunscreen
“Traditional sunscreens can pose a problem for people with oily skin since they tend to go on pretty thick and can block pores,” Armstrong says. Even so, protecting skin from ultraviolet radiation is absolutely essential. Sunscreen gels are less likely than creams and lotions to make your skin look oily, and there are a variety of new oil-free products for oily skin. Some of the newest products, including facial powders, offer enough protection to ward off sun damage in most situations.

Adapt your facial regimen
How oily your skin appears can vary season by season, week by week, even day by day. “Oil production is influenced by hormones, by mood, even by the weather,” Cambio says. “For example, some people have problems with oily skin only in the summer when they’re sweating.” It’s important to be aware of how your skin varies so that you can adjust your regimen accordingly. “You may need cleanser with glycolic acid or beta-hydroxy acid every day during the summer but only now and then during the winter,” Kazin says. “That’s important to know since overusing these products can cause skin to dry out.”

Talk to your dermatologist
If over-the-counter products aren’t enough to help you manage oily skin, talk to your dermatologist. Lasers and chemical peels can help reduce oiliness and improve the overall look of your skin. Creams laced with tretinoin, adapalene, or tazarotene can also help by altering pores and reducing oiliness. “Since these products can be irritating, it’s best to use them only on oily areas and only as often as you really need it,” Kazin says.

It’s worth remembering that oil production is a normal part of healthy skin. “People with naturally oily skin tend to have fewer wrinkles and healthier looking skin,” Marmur says. So don’t go overboard in your efforts. Remove excess oiliness when you need to look your best, but be careful to preserve your skin’s natural anti-aging mechanism.

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