The Language of Faces

By Sam Khan-Mcintyre

What appears to be a single face, however it is a mix of multiple different people.

Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh have found that levels of facial symmetry
can show mental decline in men between the ages of 79 and 83.

Researchers have discovered that those with less symmetry in their faces are more likely to have an increased slowdown of brainpower.

Subjects’ results in reasoning and reaction time tests at the university were used alongside the Scottish Mental Health Survey from 1932.

Dr Lars Penke, who led the work, said: “This kind of research is not meant to lead to new treatments, though facial symmetry could become a diagnostic indicator in the long run.”

He added: “Facial symmetry is only an indirect indicator of insults to developmental stability that accumulated over the lifespan, so there’s no expectation that treating symmetry could ever help against mental decline.”

Developmental stability is the ability of an organism to undergo stable development of the observable characteristics (or phenotype) under given environmental conditions.

Disease (such as diabetes or high blood pressure); toxins; alcohol and illicit drugs; lack of activity (mental or physical); stress; malnutrition; or genetic mutations during development, all contribute to developmental stability and therefore mental decline.

Robin Morton, a scientist at Edinburgh University added that stresses on a mother could affect the baby while in the womb and affect symmetry. He also explained that fingerprints can also become asymmetrical in this way.

He said: “Those with higher mental ability tend to age better due to higher thinking ability. Therefore they will have less of a decline. This could help inform a patient’s clinician.”

Comparable results have not yet been found in females, but research is on-going. Dr Penke said: “We still do some work on this topic, but there are no new results worth reporting yet.”

Pandemic feared as new cases of swine flu reported

 

Mexicans in masks as the swine flu outbreak spreads (photo courtesy of Globe_Photo

Mexicans cover their faces in masks as the swine flu outbreak spreads (photo courtesy of Globe_Photo)

 

By Jodi Mullen

Governments and health officials around the world are battling to contain the spread of a new strain of swine flu, amidst fears that the virus could become a global pandemic. More than 1,600 cases of the illness have been reported in Mexico, where the first outbreaks of the virus occurred, and there have also been confirmed cases in the United States and Canada. Patients in New Zealand, Spain, France, Israel and the UK are also being monitored with suspected cases of the virus.

In Mexico, 103 people have died from the illness, though only twenty have been confirmed by laboratories as having been caused by swine flu. The Mexican government has acted swiftly to contain the virus and in Mexico City, the centre of the initial outbreak, most shops, schools, restaurants and public buildings have been closed. The public have been advised to abstain from unnecessary physical contact, including shaking hands and kissing, and many people are refusing to leave their homes without masks and are consuming stored food and water rather than using public supplies.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is advising all affected countries and is working to prevent the further spread of the virus across international borders. While there are no reported deaths outside of Mexico at the moment, the WHO remains vigilant and has asked governments to closely monitor all arrivals from regions with confirmed cases of swine flu. China and Russia have placed quarantine restrictions on passengers arriving from affected countries while the US is set to begin testing for the virus at immigration control in international airports.

While there is no vaccine for the new strain of swine flu, the WHO is working closely with governments to ensure that sufficient quantities of anti-viral drugs reach affected areas. Dr Keiji Fukuda,  the WHO’s assistant director-general, said that preparations to prevent a global outbreak of avian influenza between 2004 and 2007 have helped impede the spread of the virus. “I believe that the world is much, much better prepared than we have ever been for dealing with this kind of situation,” he said.

Dr Keji Fukuda courtesy of voanews

Dr Keji Fukuda courtesy of voanews

Two Scots are undergoing tests for swine flu in hospital in Airdrie in the first suspected case of the virus in the UK. The couple fell ill shortly after returning to Scotland from a holiday in Mexico and have since been hospitalised and quarantined. Friends and family members who had contact with the couple after their return are being monitored by health officials and plans are in place to isolate them should any develop symptoms of swine flu. The results of the tests are expected later today.

At present, the WHO is holding its pandemic crisis alert system at Level 3, though the organisation has debated raising the threat level to 4. If signs appear that the virus can pass easily from person to person, the alert level will likely rise. The WHO has warned that Level 5 indicates an imminent pandemic, when governments should resort to emergency measures to mitigate the spread of the disease, while Level 6 represents a full-blown global pandemic.

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