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Fri, 26 May 2017
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Science of the Spirit


New study shows painkiller acetominophen (Tylenol) kills both positive and negative emotions

© Shutterstock
Painkilling drugs taken every week by almost a quarter of Americans also kill positive emotions.

Acetaminophen — also known as Tylenol (or paracetamol outside the US) — kills positive emotions, a new study finds.

Studies have already shown that the painkiller blunts both physical and psychological pain.

But this is the first time anyone has thought to test the popular painkiller's effect on both negative and positive emotions.

Acetaminophen is such a popular drug that it is found in over 600 different medicines.

Geoffrey Durso, the study's lead author, said:
"This means that using Tylenol or similar products might have broader consequences than previously thought.

Rather than just being a pain reliever, acetaminophen can be seen as an all-purpose emotion reliever."
The study had half the participants take a dose of 1000 mg of acetaminophen, which is a regular amount (often taken as two 500 mg pills).

The remainder were given an inactive placebo.

Comment: Studies have also shown that social support and contact is a most effective pain reliever:
"For some, social exclusion is an inescapable and frequent experience," the authors conclude in a 2010 issue ofPsychological Science. "Our findings suggest that an over-the-counter painkiller normally used to relieve physical aches and pains can also at least temporarily mitigate social-pain-related distress."

The effect breaks both ways. In another report from Psychological Science, published in 2009, a research group led by Sarah Master of University of California, Los Angeles, found that social support could relieve the intensity of physical pain - and that the supportive person didn't even have to be present for the soothing to occur.

Master and colleagues recruited 25 women who'd been in relationships for at least six months and brought them into the lab with their romantic partner. They determined each woman's pain threshold, then subjected her to a series of six-second heat stimulations. Half of the stimulations were given at the threshold pain level, half were given one degree (Celsius) higher.

Meanwhile the woman took part in a series of tasks to measure which had a mitigating effect on the pain. Some involved direct contact (holding the partner's hand, a stranger's hand, or an object) while others involved visual contact (viewing the partner's photo, a stranger's photo, or an object). In the end, contact involving a romantic partner - both direct and visual alike - led to significantly lower pain ratings compared to the other tasks. In fact, looking at a partner's picture led to slightly lower pain ratings than actually holding his hand.

At least for all the hurt love causes, it has an equally powerful ability to heal."

Why love literally hurts

Snakes in Suits

No strings on me: Is there a psychopath in your life?

© Nestor Galina
"Psychopaths feel few if any emotional ties to anyone"

I've got no strings
So I have fun
I'm not tied up to anyone
They've got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me!

Lyrics from Pinocchio: 'I've got no strings'

What is a psychopath? Do you know one? Ever been the victim of one? The chances are that the answer is yes, even if you may not realize it. The scientific consensus is that one in a hundred people is psychopathic and this breaks down evenly between men and women. (1) Scary thought, huh? What is your idea of a 'psychopath'? A serial killer? A crazy person foaming at the mouth? Think again.

Comment: Surviving the office psychopath
How psychopaths see sex and why
What is a psychopath?
Psychopaths Among Us
How to tell if there is a psychopath in your life and what to do about it

People 2

Be careful who you sleep with: Study shows women carry the DNA of sexual partners

Scientists have discovered that a sizeable minority of women have Y-chromosome gene sequences in their blood. This is interesting because as you may know, Y-chromosomes are the chromosomes that belong to men, so ladies, what are they doing there, and where did they come from?

An obvious answer would be from pregnancy with a male son, every woman who has been pregnant still carries cells from her fetus within her bloodstream. Cells from the pregnancy will reside within the mother's bloodstream and organs for the rest of her life. Even if the pregnancy was terminated or if there was a miscarriage these said genes would remain with the Mother. There is a name for this so-called condition, it is called microchimerism (1), which is named after the Greek chimera, a mythical, monstrous fire-breathing animal that is composed of the parts of three animals a lion, a snake and a goat. Okay so that explains it, well at least it does for the women who have given birth to sons. But what about the women without sons that still had male cells in their bloodstream?


Science says: 13 ways to increase happiness

© iStockphoto
Being stressed is now a big, unwanted, part of our life. There's no escape from the miserable feeling of stress, which not only hampers productivity at work but affects the quality of our personal space too. So much so, it can also lead to health risks such as depression.

But fret not, while it is omnipresent, science has provided us ways to help keep stress at bay. Most of these ways are easy to follow, so keep calm and read on...

Comment: Take a deep breath with a technique proven to reduce stress, and then read through another great list of things that anyone can do to take charge of their life and well-being.


Effective learners don't overthink what they are trying to learn - study

Neuroscientists find that the key to learning fast and efficiently may be the opposite of conventional wisdom.
© Spring.org.uk
People who learn quickest show the least neural activity, a new study finds.

The research flies in the face of the common myth that the key to learning is trying harder and thinking it through.

Instead, quick learners in particular showed reduced brain activity in the frontal cortex, an area linked to conscious planning.

In other words: good learners don't overthink what they are trying to learn.

Professor Scott Grafton, who led the study, said:
"It's useful to think of your brain as housing a very large toolkit.

When you start to learn a challenging new skill, such as playing a musical instrument, your brain uses many different tools in a desperate attempt to produce anything remotely close to music.

With time and practice, fewer tools are needed and core motor areas are able to support most of the behavior.

What our laboratory study shows is that beyond a certain amount of practice, some of these cognitive tools might actually be getting in the way of further learning."
In the study, participants were learning a simple game which involved playing sequences of notes.


Young adults less adept at dealing with workplace stress than older coworkers

© Getty Images
Take a look around your office. The most anxious employees in the room probably aren't the graying bosses—they're likely to be the millennials, new research shows.

For a report published on April 1, workplace-services firm Bensinger, DuPont & Associates found that about 30 percent of millennials—people born between 1978 and 1999—had workplace anxiety, more than any other age group. Among Generation X employees (born between 1965 and 1977), 26 percent reported anxiety. Around the same share of baby boomers (1946-1964) had anxiety on the job—25 percent.

Comment: With the world descending into a dystopian freak show, is it any wonder that those just coming into adulthood are increasingly uncertain about their place within it? Add to that the devolution of real human connections into a series of cyber-interactions, and it's amazing anyone can function at all.

Brick Wall

Education and the death of creativity

© Wikimedia
Is it a coincidence that pretty much all children love to write stories, have fantastic imaginations, enjoy getting messy, painting, making music, inventing characters, acting out plays, drawing and making things? Why don't we carry this natural capacity throughout adulthood? Why would nature intend us to lose these gifts?

Eight years ago, a man named Ken Robinson made a TED speech that revolutionized the topic of education. It caused many parents to pull their kids out of school, it was a matter of hot debate among experts, and it has been watched on the TED website over 31 million times to date (not including over 7 million more times on YouTube). Many of you may be familiar with this lecture, but for those who aren't, we highly recommend you take the next twenty minutes to sit down and listen to what this man has to say.

Robinson is an expert on creativity and education, and he strongly believes that at the moment, the two concepts don't seem to co-exist. In this speech, Robinson argues eloquently and passionately that education is destroying our childrens' capacity to think outside the box. Ken Robinson led the British government's 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, an inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and he was knighted in 2003 for his achievements.

Comment: Formalized education is in place to produce obedient workers, not creative human beings. If a student manages to keep their creativity and non-conformity intact they're labeled as mentally ill.


Twelve ways to boost your emotional intelligence

People with high levels of emotional intelligence are able to recognize and regulate their own emotions along with the emotions of those around them. EQ, as emotional intelligence is called, is often thought to be more important than IQ in a person's overall performance. This is because people with high EQ are able to use their emotions constructively to solve problems and complete other cognitive tasks. They are also able to positively influence others' feelings.

Because EQ is intangible and harder to measure than IQ, many people don't know how much emotional intelligence they possess or how they can improve it. We've already covered how to know if you're emotionally intelligent. If your EQ doesn't look so high, don't worry: here are 12 practical ways everyone can increase their emotional intelligence today.


Near-Death Experiences: The brain is the key

© Discovery News
In the moments before death, the heart plays a central role, conventional wisdom says. That is, as the heart stops beating and blood stops flowing, the rest of the body slowly shuts down. But new research suggests this view may be wrong.

Scientists studied the heart and brain activity of rats in the moments before the animals died from lack of oxygen, and found that the animals' brains sent a flurry of signals to the heart that caused irrevocable damage to the organ, and in fact caused its demise. When the researchers blocked these signals, the heart survived for longer.

If a similar process occurs in humans, then it might be possible to help people survive after their hearts stop by cutting off this storm of signals from the brain, according to the study published today (April 6) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"People naturally focus on the heart, thinking that if you save the heart, you'll save the brain," said study co-author Jimo Borjigin, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor. But her team found something surprising. "You have to sever [the chemical communication between] the brain and heart in order to save the heart," Borjigin told Live Science, adding that the finding is "contrary to almost all emergency medical practice."

Every year, more than 400,000 Americans experience cardiac arrest — which is when the heart stops beating. Even with medical treatment, only about 10 percent survive and are discharged from the hospital, according to the American Heart Association.

The researchers addressed the question of why the heart of a previously healthy person suddenly stops functioning completely, after only a few minutes without oxygen.

Eye 1

Can psychopaths be blamed for their actions? A summary of the empirical and philosophical arguments

© Unknown
Ted Bundy
They are glib and superficially charming. They have a grandiose sense of self worth. They are often pathological liars and routinely engage in acts of cunning and manipulation. If they do something wrong, they are without remorse.

Their emotional responses are typically shallow, and they commonly display a high degree of callousness and a lack of empathy. They are impulsive, irresponsible, parasitic and promiscuous. Some of them torture cats. Who are they? Psychopaths, of course.

Psychopaths fascinate the public. Although they are relatively uncommon within the general population, they are often overrepresented in prison populations, and are more likely to be responsible for the most heinous violent crimes, such as repeated acts of predatory violence and serial killings. They are also said to be overrepresented in the upper echelons of corporate and political life. If nothing else is true, they appear to have a significant impact on social life. Part of this impact seems to be helped by the fact that psychopaths don't play by the same moral rules as the rest of us.

Comment: If we don't 'blame' psychopaths for doing what they do because they cannot do otherwise, then we equally can't blame their victims for becoming their victims. Thus the only solution for a blameless world would be to ensure no harm to all parties by separating the psychopaths from the humans. Otherwise no crimes are punished and everything descends into anarchy.

Right there you run into major problems. How do you successfully quarantine some half a billion people? The high-functioning psychopaths-in-power could surely work out how to quarantine that many 'leftists' and 'radicals' - they have, after all, lots of experience doing it.

But could humans do likewise? Most aren't even at the point where they grok what a psychopath is, and the scale of how many there are, thus civilization will have been destroyed before anything can be done about the problem. And that's just the clinical psychopaths. Then there's that whole other subset walking the halls of power...

The above research is stuck at the 19th century discovery that psychopaths suffer or are afflicted by 'moral insanity', or 'moral imbecility'. Of course psychopaths don't do morality. That was established over 150 years ago. But the waters were subsequently muddied by... psychopaths in the psychological professions!