Men who drink two pints of beer perform better at puzzles that test creative and imaginative thinking, according to a study conducted by the University of Illinois. Two groups of volunteers—one buzzed on two beers, the other completely sober—took word association tests designed to evaluate quick thinking and creative problem-solving. Subjects were given three words (for example "coin," "quick" and "spoon") and told to find the one word that links the other three (you can find the answer to this example below *). Counter-intuitively, the tipsy group solved 40% more of the puzzles than the sober group, at an average of three seconds faster.
This apparently suggests that mild-to-moderate alcohol consumption stimulates the brain's ability to think more creatively and originally. But as study co-author Jennifer Wiley notes, "We tested what happens when people are slightly merry—not when people drink to extremes. The bottom line is that we think being too focused can blind you to novel possibilities, and a broader, more flexible state of attention is needed for creative solutions to emerge." The researchers maintain that alcohol consumption always hampers analytical thinking, which controls logic and judgment. And they're certainly not claiming any positive effects at all from alcohol use in excess of two pints. They simply note that the inhibition of analytical thinking can mean your thoughts become less structured, and therefore more imaginative.
Pre-gaming won't be a smart option for Wisconsin teens attending Cederburg High School's upcoming prom: officials will be randomly selecting students to take a breathalyzer test at the door. Students caught with booze breath will be turned away—corsages, boutonnieres and all. The idea might have been lifted from neighboring Germantown High School, where students are asked to pick a poker chip from a bag before entering school-wide events—if they draw a marked chip, they have to take a breath test. Germantown Principal Joel Farren has said it’s “not about us trying to ‘get’ the students. It’s about us telling them: ‘Don’t do it here. This is a learning environment.’” He added, "Parents love it. They think it's the greatest idea in the world." But other parents are opposed, believing it invades privacy or displays a lack of trust in students. Regardless, breathalyzer policies are popping up at schools all over the country—and they seem to be working. Farren said 17 students were expelled during the 2005-2006 year for either drinking or showing up drunk to school events—but since the breathalyzers have been enacted, not one student has been caught with alcohol at school.
Hardcore exercise may make it harder to break a cocaine addiction, according to a study on coke-addicted mice. Researchers at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign divided male mice into cages, half of which contained running wheels. After 30 days the mice were placed in chambers in the lab and introduced to cocaine—they liked it. The researchers then gave running wheels to the sedentary mice, while the mice who already had the wheels continued using them. After the drug supply was cut from all the mice, researchers discovered that the sedentary mice—those who started running after becoming addicts—had a relatively easy time breaking the habit. But those who exercised before trying cocaine lost their coke preference slowly—or couldn't break the habit at all. “There is good news and maybe not-so-good news about our findings,” says study author Justin S. Rhodes, a professor of psychology at U. Illinois. “Really, what the study shows, is how profoundly exercise affects learning.” Researchers believe the animals that exercised before becoming addicted had an abundant supply of new brain cells primed for learning, which is why learned to crave cocaine more. “It’s a no-brainer, really,” says Dr. Rhodes. “Exercise is good for you in almost every way.” But by exercising, he adds "you do create a greater capacity to learn, and it’s up to each individual to use that capacity wisely.”
What won't Snoop Dogg put his name on? He's previously endorsed products ranging from pet accessories to his own porno, but his latest entrepreneurial venture might be his most fitting yet. “Rolling Words: A Smokable Songbook” features lyrics to Snoop's classic songs over the last three decades—all printed on rolling papers. Which conveniently come from his own line—Snoop Dogg King Size Slim Rolling Papers—with the rest of the book fashioned of hemp-related materials and a twine cover. The book also features a handy strike-board on the spine which can be used for lighting matches. Limited editions of the book will go on sale this month at the Coachella Valley Music Festival in Indio, California. “Always remember: you can roll with an expert, you can roll with Snoop,” advises the rapper in a promotional video. Snoop is a well-known marijuana aficionado, having been busted for possession on his tour bus in Texas this past January—when he learned that his Californian MMJ prescription held no weight in the Lonestar State—not to mention five other marijuana arrests dating back to 1998.
The license for an addiction treatment center in Utah is currently hanging in the balance after state regulators reported that clients were exploited for personal gain, and were embarrassed, humiliated and even frightened as part of their "treatment." The Ark of Little Cottonwood, located in Sandy, received a violation notice in January from the Department of Human Services, specifically citing facility director Gloria Boberg for at least one instance of "improper use of clients for manual labor for personal gain to Boberg Family, (moving family members' residences)." The notice also stated that clients were "shamed, embarrassed and verbally abused due to actions of Gloria Boberg" and that staff members used methods "designed to frighten or humiliate a consumer." Some clients also claimed that despite the hefty $13,000-15,000 monthly fee, they had to act as unofficial groundskeepers for the center. "We were made to shovel the manure out of the stalls," said one. "And shovel the snow. And do whatever yard work needed to be done. Free labor, you know. Get your stalls cleaned, they don't have to pay to have that done or do it themselves." Further alleged violation included improper dispensing of medication and interference with clients' rights to interact with their families. Boberg said having clients work on the grounds was a legitimate part of therapy, designed to teach responsibility. She denied all the other charges, claiming they were stirred up by angry alumni. State regulators placed The Ark's license on conditional status and ordered a number of reforms they must implement by next month to remain open—including ethics training for the entire staff.
"Greek" college culture has earned a reputation for celebrating the abuse of alcohol and underclassman—but Ohio's chapter of the renowned Sigma Chi fraternity, founded at Miami University, has crossed the line. The frat has been ordered to close down for repeated cases of non-fraternal behavior, including substance abuse, inappropriate hazing rituals, and possible drug distribution. According to the Sigma Chi International Fraternity officials, the Ohio chapter's frat brothers were “fostering a thirst to create and cause physical and mental harm to others.” Sigma Chi representatives met with the Miami chapter last week to inform them of the suspension in Ohio. Those living in fraternity housing have been evicted and offered university housing instead. “We have been unable to successfully save our chapter at your institution,” wrote Michael A. Greenberg, grand pro consul of the international fraternity in a letter to Miami officals. “The so-called members of our Order at Sigma Chi’s chapter at Miami University have lost their way in aligning their lives toward, and living up to, our values and ideals.” Greenberg also apologized for the group's, “clear and blatant disregard for authority and anyone who is not a member of Sigma Chi’s Alpha Chapter.” Sigma Chi is one of the largest and oldest college Greek-letter frats in the US, with 244 active chapters and over 300,000 members. A reinstatement of the Ohio chapter may be possible in a few years.