Health & Wellness


Pesticides in Pet Products: Why Your Dog or Cat May Be at Risk

A growing number of pets are dying from flea and tick treatments because of a dangerous pesticide.

Last June, Diane Bromenschenkel applied a flea-and-tick product to her English pointer, Wings, so the dog wouldn't get ticks while hunting pheasant in the tall grasslands of western Idaho. Wings, a healthy five-year-old with a sleek white coat and a chocolate brown mask, enjoyed long walks in the woods, bacon treats, and burying things in the yard. But three months after the pesticide was applied, the animal was dead.

It was just hours following the use of the product that Bromenschenkel knew something was wrong. She noticed her dog walking around in a daze. Wings was unresponsive. On the advice of her veterinarian, Bromenschenkel tried to wash off the treatment - Bio Spot Spot On Flea and Tick Control for Dogs -- but the next day Wings was still suffering.


Why it Hurts to be Away from Your Partner

Psychological impacts of long-term separation anxiety.

© iStockphoto/Bojan tezak
Everyone knows it's no fun to be away from your significant other. Studies using anecdotal evidence have indicated that long-term separation from a romantic partner can lead to increased anxiety and depression as well as problems such as sleep disturbances. Now researchers are identifying the neurochemical mechanisms behind these behavioral and physiological effects.

In a study published last fall, researchers showed that male prairie voles that had been separated from their female partners for four days - a much shorter amount of separation time than researchers had previously found to affect the voles' physiology - exhibited depression-like behavior and had increased levels of corticosterone, the rodent equivalent of the human stress hormone cortisol. Males that had been separated from their male siblings did not display any of these symptoms, implying the response was tied specific­ally to mate separation, not just social isolation. When the animals received a drug that blocked cortico­sterone re­lease, they no longer exhibited depres­sion-like behavior following partner sep­aration, confirming that stress hor­mones were at the root of the response.


People in Love are Blind to Pretty Faces

A built-in aversion to attractive members of the opposite sex may help cement monogamous relationships.

© Istockphoto/ Alija
If your loved one claims to "only have eyes for you" this Valentine's Day, it might be truer than you think. Research shows that people in a committed relationship who have been thinking about their partner actually avert their eyes from attractive members of the opposite sex without even being aware they are doing it.

Psychologist Jon Maner of Florida State University and his colleagues flashed pictures of faces on a computer screen for half a second, following it immediately with a square or circle, which participants had to identify by pushing the correct button. Earlier research using this method has found that it takes longer for viewers to shift their attention away from attrac­tive faces of the opposite sex.


Climate change hysteria takes mental toll

Last year, an anxious, depressed 17-year-old boy was admitted to the psychiatric unit at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. He was refusing to drink water. Worried about drought related to climate change, the young man was convinced that if he drank, millions of people would die. The Australian doctors wrote the case up as the first known instance of "climate change delusion."

Robert Salo, the psychiatrist who runs the inpatient unit where the boy was treated, has now seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change, as well as children who are having nightmares about global-warming-related natural disasters.


Workplace Psychopaths Leave a Trail of Destruction

One out of a hundred people that you work with will be a psychopath.

At the start of my career, one of my first bosses was an out and out psychopath. A narcissistic layabout, this person's career was driven by hiving off the talent of others, taking credit for work that was not hers and bullying her staff to the point of abuse.

She was a pathological liar who was highly manipulative and destructive, and because of that she had a turnstile at the door of her department. People just didn't last long because she made working conditions absolutely intolerable.

I didn't know too much about psychology then, all I knew was that she was disturbed and dangerous. It was only later when I began to study the phenomenon of workplace bullying that I discovered she fitted the profile of a psychopath, perfectly.


Lunacy and the Full Moon

Does a full moon really trigger strange behavior?

Across the centuries, many a person has uttered the phrase "There must be a full moon out there" in an attempt to explain weird happenings at night. Indeed, the Roman goddess of the moon bore a name that remains familiar to us today: Luna, prefix of the word "lunatic." Greek philosopher Aristotle and Roman historian Pliny the Elder suggested that the brain was the "moistest" organ in the body and thereby most susceptible to the pernicious influences of the moon, which triggers the tides. Belief in the "lunar lunacy effect," or "Transylvania effect," as it is sometimes called, persisted in Europe through the Middle Ages, when humans were widely reputed to transmogrify into werewolves or vampires during a full moon.

Even today many people think the mystical powers of the full moon induce erratic behaviors, psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, homicides, emergency room calls, traffic accidents, fights at professional hockey games, dog bites and all manner of strange events. One survey revealed that 45 percent of college students believe moonstruck humans are prone to unusual behaviors, and other surveys suggest that mental health professionals may be still more likely than laypeople to hold this conviction. In 2007 several police departments in the U.K. even added officers on full-moon nights in an effort to cope with presumed higher crime rates.


U.S. psychiatrists may cut some ties to drug firms

Chicago - Dr. Daniel Carlat knows all too well how easy it is for doctors to be seduced by drug industry money.

In 2002, he earned $30,000 in speaking fees to promote Wyeth's antidepressant Effexor XR to fellow doctors.

"I quit doing it because I felt I was beginning to push some ethical boundaries in terms of what I was saying and what I was not saying," said Carlat, a psychiatry professor at Tufts University in Boston who believes doctors need to cut their financial ties with drug companies.


Aspartame consumption strongly associated with migraines and seizures

You can't walk into a convenience store, grocery store or restaurant without being offered a dose of aspartame. You can't buy a stick of gum or a box of mints without having to read the label like a hawk, because it's not always obvious that a product contains aspartame. Restaurant condiment caddies are filled with white packets of sugar, which is unhealthy in its own right, alongside pink and blue packets of NutraSweet and Equal, both of which contain known excitotoxins. Would you like some excitotoxin with your coffee?

Do you know what excitotoxins even are? Most people don't. They're chemical substances, such as aspartame, that cause neurons to fire spasmodically. This eventually burns out, or damages, the neurons. Decades of research studies support the increasingly held belief that aspartame causes these painful, often debilitating headaches.


American Brains Contaminated Without Consent

The prevalence of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and motor neuron disease has soared in the last 20 years, as has the occurrence of depression and anxiety disorders. This rise has been correlated with increased use of pesticides, car exhaust, fragrances, and particulate matter pollution which target the brain in oxidative stress and leads to neurodegeneration.

Whether neurotransmitter balance is altered by drug abuse or chemical exposures, the brain attempts to compensate for this change and create homeostasis again. This leads to impaired cognitive function.

Unexplained outbursts of anger, despair, or anxiety are common in the general populace. Most people know someone who has such outbursts. The scientific community, frequently guided by industry interests, works to convince the medical community and society at large that these mood swings are "mental health problems" for which expensive prescriptions and time consuming cognitive behavioral therapy should be prescribed.


Drugmakers' push boosts 'murky' ailment

Washington - Two drugmakers spent hundreds of millions of dollars last year to raise awareness of a murky illness, helping boost sales of pills recently approved as treatments and drowning out unresolved questions - including whether it's a real disease at all.

Key components of the industry-funded buzz over the pain-and-fatigue ailment fibromyalgia are grants - more than $6 million donated by drugmakers Eli Lilly and Pfizer in the first three quarters of 2008 - to nonprofit groups for medical conferences and educational campaigns, an Associated Press analysis found.

That's more than they gave for more accepted ailments such as diabetes and Alzheimer's. Among grants tied to specific diseases, fibromyalgia ranked third for each company, behind only cancer and AIDS for Pfizer and cancer and depression for Lilly.