Science of the Spirit

Wine n Glass

Addicts' Symphony: Addiction 'rife' among classical musicians

© Vadim Ponomarenko/Alamy
A cellist performs. A string player who was addicted to alcohol and legal drugs says such problems are widespread in the classical music world
Performance anxiety, odd hours, working weekends and post-concert socialising often leads classical musicians to use drugs and alcohol.

Addiction is blighting the lives of many classical musicians as they grapple with performance anxiety and anti-social hours, a cellist has said.

Rachael Lander features in a new British documentary which brings together classical musicians whose careers have been derailed by drug and drink problems.

The cellist, who was addicted to alcohol and prescription pills, said the problem was rife in the classical music world.

Comment: Life is difficult, perhaps especially so for those who are sensitive, talented and creative. But it doesn't have to lead us to soul crashing addictions when the simple solution is just a click away:

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Life Preserver

A need for balance: Nurses driven mainly by a desire to help others are more likely to burn out

Nurses who are motivated primarily by the desire to help others, rather than by enjoyment of the work itself or the lifestyle it makes possible, are more likely to burn out on the job, University of Akron researchers say.

Nursing is still a female-dominated occupation, and being female is associated with being caring, nurturing, and altrustic. Therefore, the desire to help others is often assumed to be the "right" motivation for entering the field, the researchers say.

However, they found that nurses who pursue their career for reasons other than or in addition to the desire to help others find the job to be less stressful. That results in less burnout, better personal health, and high job commitment.

Study authors, Janette Dill, an assistant professor of sociology, Rebecca Erickson, a professor of sociology, and James Diefendorff, an associate professor of psychology, all at the University of Akron, based their findings on survey data from more than 700 registered nurses in Northeast Ohio. About 90 percent were white females.

Dill will present the paper at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

Surveys can make people go extreme

There are all kinds of reasons why people don't tell the truth when asked questions. Sometimes they suddenly turn into fanatics. They hate, or love, anything. Here's how you catch people when they go extreme, or when they try to just get along.

We already know that people deliberately lie when given surveys on sex and drugs, but they also lie when given surveys about the importance of flossing and whether people should smoke in shopping malls.

The difference is, many people don't even know that they're lying. People are driven to exaggerate (or even invent) their likes and dislikes, and so when they're asked to score, from one to five, their support for an issue or agreement with a statement, they avoid the middle and go right for one and for five.

This bias, called "extreme response bias" has annoyed many manufacturers, or politicians, who believed their targeted audience was passionately in favor of a new flavor of coke or a ban on littering, trotted the idea out, and gotten a lackluster response. Sometimes people are actually passionate about a subject, and sometimes they just want to be that way. Researchers took a look at separating out the two. They came up with a few guidelines to tell if people were inflating their opinions.

Parental incarceration can be worse for a child than divorce or death of a parent

With more than 2 million people behind bars, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This mass incarceration has serious implications for not only the inmates, but their children, finds a new University of California-Irvine study. The study found significant health problems, including behavioral issues, in children of incarcerated parents and also that, for some types of health outcomes, parental incarceration can be more detrimental to a child's well-being than divorce or the death of a parent.

Depression linked to Parkinson's disease

Depression is known to be a common symptom of Parkinson's disease, but remains untreated for many patients, according to a new study by Northwestern Medicine investigators in collaboration with the National Parkinson's Foundation (NPF).

In fact, depression is the most prevalent non-motor symptom of Parkinson's, a chronic neurodegenerative disorder typically associated with movement dysfunction.

"We confirmed suspicion that depression is a very common symptom in Parkinson's disease. Nearly a quarter of the people in the study reported symptoms consistent with depression," said Danny Bega, MD, '14 GME, instructor in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology and first author of the study. "This is important because previous research has determined that depression is a major determinant of overall quality of life."

Using the NPS's patient database, the investigators looked at records of more than 7,000 people with Parkinson's disease. Among those with high levels of depressive symptoms, only one-third had been prescribed antidepressants before the study began, and even fewer saw social workers or mental health professionals for counseling.
People 2

Are you a workaholic? Tool to tell

© Unknown
A tool that measures workaholism has found that 8.3% of the Norwegian work force is addicted to work to the point where it becomes a health issue.
Do you often think of how you can free up more time to work or become stressed if you are prohibited from working? You may be a workaholic.

A tool that measures workaholism has found that 8.3% of the Norwegian work force is addicted to work to the point where it becomes a health issue.

Researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway used the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS), a workaholism instrument that is based on core symptoms found in more traditional drug addictions; ie, salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, relapse, problems.

Comment: For relaxation, consider practicing the breathing and meditation program Éiriú Eolas.
For more information, see: Face life with Éiriú Eolas, a stress relief program


Great musicians experience a 'trance-like' state

In the rapture zone...
When a great musician like Hélène Grimaud sits in front of a piano and begins a Mozart concerto, something remarkable is happening in her brain. She will go into something like a trance -- you can see it in her face -- and Mozart goes on autopilot.

What is happening is called muscle memory or a flow state, said Alan Hugh David Watson, a reader in bioscience at Cardiff University in Wales, a musician himself. She can do that because of practice -- constant, singled-minded, seemingly endless repetition that only the most dedicated consider.

The best musicians begin playing -- and practicing -- before they are eight, Watson said. The result may be a brain physically different from a non-musician's.

The simplest example of muscle learning may be what happens when you buy a new car, explained Watson. You don't know where all the switches and dials are when you first drive it and have to take your eyes off the road to do anything with the dashboard. But after a while you can turn the heat up or change radio stations without looking. Your brain is wired for the instrument panel. In fact, most people probably drive in a flow state, their minds on something else.

So too is a musician's brain while playing a sonata or a jazz riff.

Comment: When was the last time you channeled your "inner Mozart?" According to this report, its a "no-brainer!" (pun intended!)


New study suggests a better way to deal with bad memories

Beckman Institute researchers have determined a simple and effective emotion-regulation strategy that has neurologically and behaviorally been proven to lessen the emotional impact of personal negative memories.

What's one of your worst memories? How did it make you feel? According to psychologists, remembering the emotions felt during a negative personal experience, such as how sad you were or how embarrassed you felt, can lead to emotional distress, especially when you can't stop thinking about it.

When these negative memories creep up, thinking about the context of the memories, rather than how you felt, is a relatively easy and effective way to alleviate the negative effects of these memories, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, led by psychology professor Florin Dolcos of the Cognitive Neuroscience Group, studied the behavioral and neural mechanisms of focusing away from emotion during recollection of personal emotional memories, and found that thinking about the contextual elements of the memories significantly reduced their emotional impact.

Sensory processing disorders and autism show structural differences in brain wiring

© Mannaz & UCS
Children with sensory processing disorders have different structural brain connections in the sensory regions compared with autism, lending weight to a controversial diagnosis, a new study finds.

The study, which is published in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first to compare the brain structures of those with autism with those who have sensory processing disorders (SPD) (Chang et al., 2014).

Those with SPD have significant problems in organising the sensations they experience from the environment and their body. For example, they may be badly co-ordinated, or under- or over-respond to sensations in the environment, or be inattentive or generally disorganised. The separate nature of the condition has been questioned since over 90% of children with autism also have some degree of problems processing sensory inputs.

SPD is also not currently listed in the official diagnostic manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Nevertheless, some claim that upwards of one in six elementary school children have the condition.

Passengers who survived terrifying flight help psychologists uncover new clues about post-traumatic stress vulnerability

© Humberta Augusto
A Canadian Air Transat plane lies on the tarmac of the Lajes airport in the Azores Terceira island after an emergency landing, Friday, Aug. 24 2001, in the north Atlantic Portuguese archipelago.
An extraordinary opportunity to study memory and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a group of Air Transat passengers who experienced 30 minutes of unimaginable terror over the Atlantic Ocean in 2001 has resulted in the discovery of a potential risk factor that may help predict who is most vulnerable to PTSD.

The study, led by researchers at Baycrest Health Sciences, is published online this week in the journal Clinical Psychological Science -- ahead of print publication. It is the first to involve detailed interviews and psychological testing in individuals exposed to the same life-threatening traumatic event. By necessity, other trauma studies involve heterogeneous events as experienced in different situations.

This opportunity was enhanced by the fact that one of the researchers, Dr. Margaret McKinnon, was a passenger on the plane. Heading off on her honeymoon in late August 2001, Dr. McKinnon's flight departed Toronto for Lisbon, Portugal with 306 passengers and crew on board. Mid way over the Atlantic Ocean, the plane suddenly ran out of fuel. Everyone onboard was instructed to prepare for an ocean ditching, which included a countdown to impact, loss of on-board lighting and cabin de-pressurization. About 25 minutes into the emergency, the pilot located a small island military base in the Azores and glided the aircraft to a rough landing with no loss of life and few injuries.

"Imagine your worst nightmare -- that's what it was like," said Dr. McKinnon, who initiated the study as a postdoctoral fellow at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute. She is now a clinician-scientist at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and Associate Co-Chair of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences at McMaster University in Hamilton.