Health & Wellness


Doctors: Under the drug industry's influence?

Reports of undisclosed financial ties between researchers and drugmakers have eroded public confidence, and restoring it will require an end to some "free" perks, health policy experts said on Tuesday.

Doctors may have to give up not just pens and prescription pads, but cozy seminars put on by drug companies in the guise of education, while the companies may need to give up direct-to-consumer ads, the experts wrote in a series of commentaries in the British Medical Journal.


How to Control a Herd of Humans

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Activities performed in unison, like marching or dancing, increase loyalty to the group.

Hitler and Mussolini both had the ability to bend millions of people to their fascist will. Now evidence from psychology and neurology is emerging to explain how tactics like organized marching and propaganda can work to exert mass mind control.

Scott Wiltermuth of Stanford University in California and colleagues have found that activities performed in unison, such as marching or dancing, increase loyalty to the group. "It makes us feel as though we're part of a larger entity, so we see the group's welfare as being as important as our own," he says.

Wiltermuth's team separated 96 people into four groups who performed these tasks together: listening to a song while silently mouthing the words, singing along, singing and dancing, or listening to different versions of the song so that they sang and danced out of sync. In a later game, when asked to decide whether to stick with the group or strive for personal gain, those in the non-synchronized group behaved less loyally than the rest (Psychological Science, vol 20, p 1).

Comment: This brings to question "Are Americans just sheep following the herd?" when considering President Obama's popularity and charisma. Are we more susceptible to the conformity of the mass...or to Obama's powerful hypnosis?


Psychiatry's 'Shock Doctrine': Are We Really OK With Electroshocking Toddlers?

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. -- C.S. Lewis

Psychiatry's "shock doctrine" is quite literally electroshock, and its latest victims are - I'm not kidding - young children.

On Jan. 25, 2009, the Herald Sun in Melbourne, Australia, reported: "Children younger than 4 who are considered mentally disturbed are being treated with controversial electric shock treatment." In Australia, the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is increasing, and the Herald Sun's report on "Child Shock Therapy" stated that last year, "statistics record 203 ECT treatments on children younger than 14 -- including 55 aged 4 and younger."


Behind Closed Eyes

Even when our eyes are closed, the visual centers in our brain are humming with activity.

Weizmann Institute scientists and others have shown in the last few years that the magnitude of sense-related activity in a brain that's disengaged from seeing, touching, etc., is quite similar to that of one exposed to a stimulus. New research at the Institute has now revealed details of that activity, explaining why, even though our sense centers are working, we don't experience sights or sounds when there's nothing coming in through our sensory organs.

The previous studies of Prof. Rafael Malach and research student Yuval Nir of the Neurobiology Department used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain activity in active and resting states. But fMRI is an indirect measurement of brain activity; it can't catch the nuances of the pulses of electricity that characterize neuron activity.

Together with Prof. Itzhak Fried of the University of California at Los Angeles and a team at the EEG unit of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, the researchers found a unique source of direct measurement of electrical activity in the brain: data collected from epilepsy patients who underwent extensive testing, including measurement of neuronal pulses in various parts of their brain, in the course of diagnosis and treatment.


Rapid Thinking Makes People Happy

Accelerated thoughts may trigger the brain's novelty-loving reward system.

Lousy day? Don't try to think happy thoughts - just think fast. A new study shows that accelerated thinking can improve your mood. In six experiments, researchers at Princeton and Harvard universities made research participants think quickly by having them generate as many problem-solving ideas (even bad ones) as possible in 10 minutes, read a series of ideas on a computer screen at a brisk pace or watch an I Love Lucy video clip on fast-forward. Other participants performed similar tasks at a relaxed speed.

Results suggested that thinking fast made participants feel more elated, creative and, to a lesser degree, energetic and powerful. Activities that promote fast thinking, then, such as whip­ping through an easy crossword puzzle or brain-storming quickly about an idea, can boost energy and mood, says psychologist Emily Pronin, the study's lead author.


The Effects of Weather on Health and How to Prepare

The weather really does affect our moods and health as dramatically as it can affect our roads. Everyone has noticed it to some degree throughout their lives. Folks living in hot climates with the sun looming viciously overhead notice an energy level entirely different from those living further north. Even people just visiting climates completely different from their own are often taken aback by the vast differences in the general attitude of locals compared to that of people back home.

Of course, there are more variables that affect mood than just the weather, but the role of atmospheric conditions on our overall health is a proven field of study of its own. It's not just psychological that there are significantly more suicides in winter months. It's not just a coincidence that mortality rates increase by means of heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, influenza, etc. during the winter. Claiming that disease is simply more rampant during the winter doesn't explain the increased heart attacks, strokes, or suicides. Rather than blaming a change in disease, we should look at the change within our own bodies.


City Workers Accidentally Dump Hydrochloric Acid into Ohio Water Supply Instead of Toxic Fluoride

When you dump the wrong chemical into the public water supply, it makes people nervous. Yesterday, chemical treatment plant workers in Bellaire, Ohio, accidentally dumped 40 pounds of hydrochloric acid into the public water supply instead of 40 pounds of toxic fluoride chemicals they were supposed to dump.

Falling fluoride levels alerted water treatment officials to the problem, and they immediately issued an alert to tell people to stop drinking the water. The water system was then flushed by opening fire hydrants across the town to remove any trace of hydrochloric acid.


Infants learn earlier than thought

Until recently, humans could safely view their brains as fatty, spongy masses of electrifying wonder. Brains are, in a sense, a secret place no one else can tap into unless we let them; they are our memory banks and central control centers that dictate how we behave and reason and interact with others.

But in the past decade, neuroscientists across the world have started to peer into the young brain to determine exactly how we learn. Examining their findings, researchers say that learning starts at birth, and perhaps even earlier.


Students protest flu vaccine

A group of Ball State University students are worried a preservative found in a flu vaccine meant to keep you healthy could lead to harmful side effects.


Research Shows Reading Classic Literature can Improve Personal Ethics

A team of researchers, including John Johnson, professor of psychology at Penn State DuBois, have discovered that literature may inspire readers to be ethical members of society. "As an evolutionary psychologist," said Johnson, "I am especially interested in the impact of literature on the emotions of the reader, and in what function these emotions serve."

Johnson and fellow psychologist, Dan Kruger from the University of Michigan, teamed up with English professors Joe Carroll from the University of Missouri and John Gottschall from Washington and Jefferson College to complete this research and draft an article on their findings. Their article, "Hierarchy in the Library: Egalitarian Dynamics in Victorian Novels," appeared in the December issue of Evolutionary Psychology.