Kids respond faster to mom's voice than alarm

A mother's recorded voice will wake a child and get him out the room much faster than a standard smoke alarm, a randomized trial found. Researchers recruited 176 5- to 12-year-olds and taught them a simulated escape procedure: Get out of bed at the alarm, walk to the door and leave the room. They monitored the children with EEG electrodes until they entered a deep stage of sleep. Then they set off a tone alarm or one of three versions of the mother's recorded voice shouting instructions and the child's name. The study, in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that the tone alarm woke the children about 50 percent of the time, and it took them an average of nearly five minutes to leave. With the mother's voice, almost 90 percent of the children awoke and were out of the room in an average of less than 30 seconds.

Stress may impair memory and thinking skills

People with high blood levels of cortisol, the "stress hormone," may have poorer memory and thinking skills than those with lower levels. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and is involved in regulating blood-sugar levels, reducing inflammation, controlling salt and water balance and other body functions. Researchers gave tests for memory, reasoning, visual perception and attention to 2,231 people, with an average age of 49. The study, in Neurology, found that compared with people with average levels of cortisol, those with the highest levels had lower scores on the cognitive tests. In women, but not in men, higher cortisol was also associated with reduced brain volume.

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