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January 27, 2017

Weekend reads: Why older siblings come out ahead, according to science

Daily Briefing

The Daily Briefing editorial team highlights several interesting health care stories and studies that didn't quite make this week's Briefing. What are you reading this weekend? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

Rachel Schulze's reads

Helping moms and babies, kangaroo-style. Kangaroo care, which has been used throughout the world in care for premature infants, is becoming more popular as a way of caring for healthy, full-term infants, too. The process involves having the mother hold her naked newborn on her chest for the newborn's first few hours—rather than placing the infant into a bassinet and launching into examinations. According to Lydia Kyung-Min Lee, an ob-gyn at UCLA, using kangaroo care not only makes the baby happier but also causes body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate to normalize sooner.

The research-backed reasons why older siblings come out ahead. Recent research sheds light on why the oldest sibling so often seems to win the sibling rivalry. One study pointed out that older siblings benefit from any maternity leave taken to care for their younger siblings, since they get additional face time if a woman stays home after her second child is born. Meanwhile, a related study showed that in the United States, women are less likely during their second pregnancy—compared to their first—to cut back on smoking and drinking. And some evidence suggests mothers and fathers are less attentive the second time around. 

Sam Bernstein's reads

Scientists on the open ocean are a bit less scientific. Venturing out to sea is bound to make almost anyone a little bit anxious—there you are, hundreds or thousands of miles from help, just one mishap, slip, or rogue wave from disaster.  "It's no wonder sailing history is rife with superstition," Erica Cirino writes for Nautilus. "Early sailors risked their lives every time they left the coast behind." And even today, superstition persists. Cirino traveled by ship to the "great Pacific Garbage Patch" this past November with a team of scientists who admitted to using superstition to soothe their anxiety. The psychology of superstition is powerful, experts say, and it likely affects us landlubbers too.

Cats fight back against prejudice. OK, no they don't. But a new a study by Japanese scientists suggests that—contrary to popular belief—cats may be just as smart as dogs. Saho Takagi, a psychologist at Kyoto University, even says cats "may enjoy actively recalling memories of their experience like humans." On a certain level, this is pretty neat. But on another level, it makes that downward stare from the top of a bookcase a little more menacing.

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