When it comes to size, our brains can’t handle the truth

YOU may think you know the back of your hand like, well, the back of your hand. But scientists have found our brains contain distorted representations of the size and shape of our hands, with a tendency to think of them as shorter and fatter than they are.The work could have implications for how the brain unconsciously perceives other parts of the body and may help explain certain eating disorders in which body image becomes distorted.Neuroscientists at University College London asked more than 100 volunteers to place their left hand palm-down on a table. The researchers then covered the hands with a board and asked the volunteers to indicate where landmarks such as fingertips lay. This data was used to reconstruct the ”brain’s image” of the hand.The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed a consistent overestimation of the width of the hand, with many thinking their hand was about 80 per cent broader than it was. ”It’s a dramatic and highly consistent bias,” said Matthew Longo, from UCL’s Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.The brain uses several ways to work out the location of different parts of the body, including feedback from muscles and joints and some sort of internal model of the size and shape of each part. ”Previously it has been assumed that the brain uses an accurate model of the body,” said Dr Longo. Instead,Dr Longo’s work shows that the brain’s models can be incorrect.Regions of high sensitivity in the skin, such as the fingertips and the lips, get a larger proportion of the brain’s territory. Dr Longo said this sensitivity was mirrored in the size of the fingers in the maps of perceived positions. ”You find the least underestimation for the thumb and more underestimation as you go across to the little finger.”He said the research showed how the brain’s ability to distort the body might underlie conditions such as anorexia nervosa.Guardian News & Media
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Teacher jailed for sex abuse at elite school

A FORMER teacher who sexually abused students at Knox Grammar School will spend up to 4½⁄ years behind bars, with the judge who jailed him warning that ”no child is to be viewed by a teacher as a sexual opportunity”.Sentencing Craig Treloar yesterday, District Court judge Colin Charteris said his criminal activity had tarnished the reputation of the exclusive Wahroonga school.”He took advantage of children,” the judge said. ”He was their teacher. He had a position of trust. He abused that trust for his own sexual gratification.”Treloar, 50, has been in protective custody since his arrest in February last year. He shook uncontrollably as he was given a minimum two-year term.Treloar told the court he ”didn’t know anything else, other than how to be a teacher”. As a convicted child sex offender, he will be banned from working with children.His world revolved around Knox, where he was a student and, later, a highly regarded teacher, sports coach and boarding master. For more than 20 years he knew his crimes would come to light. He was arrested after two of his victims contacted police early last year.Treloar confessed to police but felt ”no sense of relief, because what I’ve done cannot be repaired”. He admitted offences, including indecent assault, against four students aged 11 to 13. They took place between 1984 and 1987 in his dorm room, while he showed the boys pornographic videos.Court documents reveal Treloar had indecent dealings with at least one other student who, the Herald understands, did not wish to pursue a complaint. Treloar was not charged over those matters.The court heard Treloar admitted showing students pornographic videos when confronted in late 1987 by the then headmaster, Ian Paterson. He was suspended from teaching for six months.Judge Charteris was not critical of Dr Paterson, saying Treloar did not reveal the extent of his inappropriate behaviour, such as engaging in sexual activity with students and showing films depicting bestiality and homosexual sex with underage boys.He accepted Treloar committed no offences after 1987 and was genuinely remorseful.Treloar was the first of five teachers charged over the alleged sexual abuse of former Knox students. Three have pleaded guilty, while two remain before the courts.In court, two of Treloar’s victims detailed the shadow of the abuse. As a 12-year-old, one fell asleep praying he would not wake up and vomited every morning before school.Judge Charteris said it was apparent the abuse had long-lasting effects and admired the victims’ courage in exposing it.One father told the Herald his son would phone home, insisting: ”I just want to die.” No sentence could give his son back ”24 years of an absolutely hellish life”, the man said.
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Paedophile sighting stirs unrest for poll

FOR weeks the campaigning before Saturday’s Penrith byelection has focused on the resignation of the local Labor MP, Karyn Paluzzano, traffic matters and the safety of a local bridge.Suddenly, the candidates have been given something else to ponder: what to do about Dennis Ferguson.Reports that Mr Ferguson, a 61-year-old convicted paedophile who was hounded from his previous place of residence in Ryde by vigilante resident groups after his release from prison, has been ”spotted” in the Penrith area surfaced late last week.Penrith’s police commander, Superintendent Ben Feszczuk, told a local newspaper on Monday: ”I have not been consulted about it and I have not been given any information. I’m not saying it’s false. I’ve got no knowledge of his presence here or anywhere else.”However, the rumours were given some legitimacy when they were posted on the official Facebook page of the Liberal candidate, Stuart Ayres. ”Chase the f—ing grub out of town guys!” one poster urged.Another directed readers to a Facebook group featuring comments urging violence against Mr Ferguson.Mr Ayres said he had learned of the rumours on Facebook and in the media and had called the local area command yesterday.”They confirmed with me the reports in the media [but said] they are not aware of him being in the area,” he said.”Facebook is there for people to get in touch with me, raise issues and where I can follow up on their inquiries, and that’s what I have done in this case.”The Labor candidate, John Thain, said: ”If Dennis Ferguson is in Penrith or the Lower Blue Mountains, I will do everything in my power to ensure the Housing Minister knows my views [he] has no place in my community.”As a father, I am sickened by the sheer idea of his presence.”However, Brett Collins, who has defended Mr Ferguson from previous attacks by residents’ groups, dismissed the concerns.”The reality of it is that he is safe and sound and with us a lot of the time.”There is no reason for him not to be in Penrith. He’s got friends out there as well as in Ryde. There’s no reason to be concerned.”
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Too much easy living is dumbing down our pampered pooches

THE owners of pampered pets have a lot to answer for. Domestic dogs have become so dependent on humans, they can no longer pass simple intelligence tests or solve problems which their counterparts in the wild find easy.Homeless dogs seek food from rubbish dumps or garbage bins, rather than hunt for it, they struggle to find food hidden in a maze, and have learnt to look to humans first, rather than making an effort to help themselves, says Bradley Smith, a psychologist.He studied dingoes living at the Dingo Discovery Centre, in Victoria, and found that even those socialised to be around humans were significantly faster and smarter than dogs.When the dingoes were made to travel around a transparent barrier to find food, all achieved the task in about 10 seconds, Mr Smith said. Some quickly found trapdoors which made the journey to the food shorter.But previous studies on dogs carrying out the same task showed that many failed to find a way to the bowl. Some pawed at the fence, dug at it or barked at their owners for help. Many looked confused. Closing trapdoors that had previously been open made the dogs even more puzzled, indicating they were not able to quickly adapt to a change in circumstance, Mr Smith said.In other tests, dogs and wolves were shown to behave in very different ways when confronted with unsolvable problems. After both had been taught to retrieve food by pulling on a rope or opening a bin, the task was changed so that the rope could not be pulled and the bin could not be opened.Dogs gazed at their owners standing behind them, while the socialised wolves ignored their owners. During the study, seven of the nine dogs looked back at the human after trying to obtain the food reward for only about one minute, while only two of the seven wolves looked back at all, instead attempting to solve the task on their own.
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Tour de Tweed – when the pedalling is slow and very stylish

IT IS an inspiring sight: a dapper chap sitting erect in the saddle; mutton chops on his cheeks, tweed jacket on his back. The kind of man who prefers capacious plus fours to ghastly crotch-crunching lycra.For this man – or indeed this woman, for she is his sartorial equal – cycling is a languid pleasure, not a bug-eyed adrenalin rush.Impelled not by performance-enhancing drugs and a cash prize, but sandwiches and the vivifying contents of a hip flask, these retro riders tip their woollen caps to a simpler age before derailleur gears made cycling so horribly competitive.”We travel at a leisurely pace and enjoy ourselves,” said Susan Goodwin, 32, one of the organisers of Sydney’s Tweed Ride. ”There’s simply more drama and poetry in the old style of riding. And people really dress up. Last year we had people sticking their heads out of cars in George Street shouting ‘you look fantastic!”’The first Tweed Ride was held in London in January last year, the brainchild of an online cycling forum devoted to ”fixies” or fixed-wheel bicycles. The idea caught on quickly. Paris, Tokyo, Boston and San Francisco are among cities that have hosted the rides for hundreds of cyclists in tweedy attire traversing the inner-city at a leisurely pace.Sydney’s first Tweed Ride last year attracted about 70 people. Organisers are hoping this year’s event, which departs from Town Hall at 9am (free registration from 8am) on Sunday, June 27, will be much bigger. The 90-minute ride finishes in Alexandria with a brisk game of bicycle polo. Prizes will be awarded to the best-dressed man and woman, and the most elegant couple or duo.Naomi Morris, resplendent in a herringbone blazer, crochet vest, vintage blouse and brooch, is a fan of vintage bikes as well as vintage fashion. Not that you need to own a period bike to enter a Tweed Ride. A brand-new mountain bike is fine as long as you dress up to the nines and enter into the spirit of the event.Ms Morris, 29, loves the easy pace – ”I call it tootling” – and the friendly atmosphere. And she didn’t find it at all hard to put her tweed outfit together.For more information go to www.sydneycyclist南京夜网
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