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Facebook membership hits 500 million mark

Depressed see the world in shades of gray
Freiberg, Germany (UPI) Jul 20, 2010 - People suffering from depression actually do find the world a gray place, researchers say, and have trouble detecting black-and-white contrast differences. Researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany had 40 subjects with major depression and 40 healthy subjects view a sequence of black-and-white checkerboards of different contrasts while measuring their visual response, LiveScience.com reported Tuesday. Using a measuring device called an electroretinogram, they found the depressed subject has dramatically lower retinal response than the healthy subjects to the different black-and-white contrasts.

The results stayed the same regardless of whether patients were taking antidepressants, researchers say. "These data highlight the profound ways that depression alters one's experience of the world," Dr. John Krystal, editor of the journal Biological Psychiatry which published the study, said. "The poet William Cowper said that 'variety's the very spice of life,' yet when people are depressed, they are less able to perceive contrasts in the visual world," Krystal said. "This loss would seem to make the world a less pleasurable place."
by Staff Writers
San Francisco, Usa (AFP) July 21, 2010
The number of people using Facebook hit the 500 million mark on Wednesday, meaning one in every 14 people on the planet has now signed up to the online social-networking service.

"As of this morning, 500 million people all around the world are actively using Facebook to stay connected with their friends and the people around them," Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post.

"This is an important milestone for all of you who have helped spread Facebook around the world."

To celebrate, the California firm introduced an application that lets members of the online community "tell the incredible stories of the moving and interesting ways they've used Facebook."

Examples given by Zuckerberg included NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen jogging with Facebook fans during his term as Danish prime minister and a US woman using the service to battle breast cancer.

"Our mission at Facebook is to help make the world more open and connected," Zuckerberg said.

"I could have never imagined all of the ways people would use Facebook when we were getting started 6 years ago."

Zuckerberg has pointed to Facebook's unrelenting growth to rebuff criticism of feature changes or privacy safeguards at the website.

Americans are increasingly obsessed with Facebook and many young women check their page even before using the bathroom in the morning, according to a poll released last week.

However, a US study released on Tuesday indicates that while people may be addicted to Facebook they rank it near the bottom when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Facebook landed with notoriously despised airlines and cable television companies in the bottom 5 percent of private companies ranked in a 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Report produced in partnership with ForeSee Results.

"Our research shows that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialization and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience," ForeSee chief executive Larry Freed said in a release.

Zuckerberg openly advocates Internet firms releasing innovations quickly and "iterating" with improvements.

"It's clear that while innovation is critical, sometimes consumers prefer evolution to revolution," Freed said.

Facebook recently overhauled privacy controls in the face of a barrage of criticism that it is betraying the trust which has made it the world's biggest social network.

Facebook is growing despite criticisms because "there really isn't a strong alternative and Facebook is relatively sticky, migrating off is a ton of work," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley.

Leaving Facebook ostensibly involves finding a new online home for photos and other digital content from profile pages and then convincing friends to join one there.

"People keep joining Facebook because that is where their friends are," Enderle said.

"Until there is a strong alternative, we won't even have the beginnings for change. And the more people that join Facebook, the stronger that competitor is going to have to be."

Technology titans Google and Microsoft have the resources and the motivation to field or back a Facebook rival, according to the analyst.

Microsoft bought a small stake in Facebook three years ago for 240 million dollars (US).

Microsoft added Facebook to Outlook last week, giving users of its popular email program the ability to view status updates, pictures and wall posts from their friends on the social network.




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The Protective Brain Hypothesis Is Confirmed
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Jul 21, 2010
"In the past, it was thought that one of the selective advantages of having a large brain is that it facilitates the development of new behaviour to respond to the ecological challenges that the individual has not experienced before, such as a sudden reduction in food or the appearance of a new predator ", Cesar Gonzalez-Lagos, main author of the study and researcher at the Centre of Ecological ... read more

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