Weird science: 5 strange health findings this year

New and exciting health care discoveries are being made every day. Some give hope to those affected by a disease; others help explain the human body and mind a little bit better. The less publicized discoveries, the ones that don’t get the headlines, are often those that can leave you scratching your head.

Here are some recent such discoveries—they may not unlock the cure to a disease, but they teach us plenty about the human condition.

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Body Odor Betrays Political Leanings

Dating and mating are far from random. We tend to pair up with people who have similar mindsets, beliefs, even body types. While religion dominates when it comes to how we select our partners, political ideology is a close second. That’s where body odor comes in. According to research published in the American Journal of Political Science, people are attracted to the body odor of those with similar political beliefs.

Unlike the religion connection, this link based on political beliefs has been poorly understood. To help explain it, researchers from various leading universities came together to conduct the body odor study. It included 125 adults who rated the body odor of 20 strongly liberal or strongly conservative people, without ever seeing them.

Overwhelmingly, the sniffers preferred the natural odor of those with political leanings similar to their own. One participant enjoyed a body odor sample so much she asked to take it home, while another suggested the very same sample had gone rancid. As you can guess, the man who provided the sample had similar political opinions to the woman that wanted to keep it, and opposite from the next woman.

Schizophrenia is Actually 8 Different Genetic Disorders

Landmark research published this year has shown that schizophrenia is more complex than previously thought. Genetic scientists evaluated the genetic makeup of 4,200 people diagnosed with schizophrenia and 3,800 normal individuals.

The study was novel in that instead of focusing on a singular gene, the researchers were able to look at clusters of genes. They found that some symptoms of schizophrenia actually correlated to a completely different group of genes than other symptoms. The relationships were all very strong: When individuals had certain gene combinations, they had a 100 percent chance of being schizophrenic.

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Action Movies Make You Eat More Snacks

It’s well known that watching television and other sedentary activities cause people to eat more than when simply eating without distraction. Recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that what you watch on television also has an impact on how much you eat.

In the study, people watched either 20 minutes of an action movie, the same movie without sound, or an interview program with an array of cookies, candy, grapes, and carrots in front of them. Those who watched the action movie with sound ate nearly twice as much as those who watched the interview program, and those who watched the muted action movie ate 36 percent more.

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Psychopaths With High IQs Can Mask Their Disorder

This new contribution to the field of psychiatry actually comes from a psychology student at England’s University of Huddersfield. The student gave tests designed to detect psychopathic tendencies to 50 adults. Those with psychopathic tendencies were categorized further by whether they were indifferent to or excited by images, situations or experiences normally seen as upsetting.

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The student showed those with psychopathic tendencies upsetting or shocking images and tested their responses. She found that some of the participants were able to mask their emotional responses so that they were closer to a normal person’s, but only if they had IQs well above the average. Her findings indicate that highly intelligent psychopaths can pretend they’re not, in fact, psychopathic, making their condition difficult for others to detect.

Brain-to-Brain Communication: Achieved

Thanks to researchers and robotics engineers in Spain, brain-to-brain communication has been achieved for the first time ever. The experiment was completely noninvasive, using electrodes attached to the scalps of volunteers. While wearing a special device, one man in India thought the greetings “ciao” and “hola.” The words were transmitted over the Internet and received by a man in France, 5,000 miles away, who read them on a screen. Effectively, the men communicated between India and France without ever speaking or typing a thing.