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February 08, 2009

Seven minutes of vigorous exercise a week can keep you healthy

The bare minimum amount of exercise you need to stay healthy (it's less than you think!) - Healthy Living on Shine

We've heard time and time again that people should be active almost daily to stave off weight gain and disease. But busy people want to know: What's the least amount of exercise I can get away with and still stay healthy? The answer will shock you...

What number did you guess? An hour a week? A half hour? Try seven minutes.

February 07, 2009

Can Facebook Cause Depression?

New Illness: Facebook Depression? - ReadWriteWeb

The results of their tests, recently published in The Journal of Adolescence, showed that the girls who excessively talked with their friends about their issues had significantly higher levels of depression. Today's online tools provide even more ways for this to occur. Says Dr. Davila, "Texting, instant messaging and social networking make it very easy for adolescents to become even more anxious, which can lead to depression."

The problem with these electronic tools du jour is that they allowed the girls to discuss the same problems over and over again. This caused them to get stuck obsessing over a particular emotional setback, unable to move forward.

February 05, 2009

Is addiction environmental?

American Samizdat: Rebel Scum Since 2001

This is mind-blowing science, so please read the second paragraph below carefully and let it sink in.

Nutshell: When test subjects are in a healthy environment, they decline opiates entirely. Opiates are a way to cope with harsh laboratory conditions.

Bruce Alexander is best known - though deserves to be much better known - for the 'Rat Park' experiments he conducted in 1981. As an addiction psychologist, much of the data with which he worked was drawn from laboratory trials with rats and monkeys: the 'addictiveness' of drugs such as opiates and cocaine was established by observing how frequently caged animals would push levers to obtain doses. But Alexander's observations of addicts at the clinic where he worked in Vancouver suggested powerfully to him that the root cause of addiction was not so much the pharmacology of these particular drugs as the environmental stressors with which his addicts were trying to cope.

To test his hunch he designed Rat Park, an alternative laboratory environment constructed around the need of the subjects rather than the experimenters. A colony of rats, who are naturally gregarious, were allowed to roam together in a large vivarium enriched with wheels, balls and other playthings, on a deep bed of aromatic cedar shavings and with plenty of space for breeding and private interactions. Pleasant woodland vistas were even painted on the surrounding walls. In this situation, the rats' responses to drugs such as opiates were transformed. They no longer showed interest in pressing levers for rewards of morphine: even if forcibly addicted, they would suffer withdrawals rather than maintaining their dependence. Even a sugar solution could not tempt them to the morphine water (though they would choose this if naloxone was added to block the opiate effects). It seemed that the standard experiments were measuring not the addictiveness of opiates but the cruelty of the stresses inflicted on lab rats caged in solitary confinement, shaved, catheterised and with probes inserted into their median forebrain bundles.

Butterfly larva sing a siren song to ants

Parasitic butterflies dupe hosts with ant music - life - 05 February 2009 - New Scientist

The world is always more complex and wonderful than you know.

Though they wouldn't win much applause at a karaoke lounge, the infant forms of blue butterflies can belt out a convincing cover version of a tune favoured by red ants - which show their appreciation by protecting and feeding the butterfly larvae.

Researchers have found that the larvae and pupae of Maculinea rebeli – a parasitic butterfly native to western Europe, though threatened with extinction – impersonate red ants so faithfully that worker ants worship them as if they were queens, caring for the developing caterpillar even at the expense of their own lives.

"They appeared to be treating the caterpillars as if they were the holiest of holiest, the pinnacle of power, the queen ant," says Jeremy Thomas, an entomologist at the University of Oxford who led the new study.

January 28, 2009

Football players brains show massive trauma

Dead athletes' brains show damage from concussions - CNN.com

. . . The findings are stunning. Far from innocuous, invisible injuries, concussions confer tremendous brain damage. That damage has a name: chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

On Tuesday afternoon, researchers at the CSTE released a study about the sixth documented case of CTE in former NFL player Tom McHale, who died in 2008 at the age of 45, and the youngest case to date, an 18-year-old multi-sport athlete who suffered multiple concussions.

While CTE in an ex-NFL player's brain may have been expected, the beginnings of brain damage in an 18-year-old brain was a "shocking" finding, according to Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Bedford, Massachusetts, and co-director of the CSTE.

"We think this is how chronic traumatic encephalopathy starts," said McKee. "This is speculation, but I think we can assume that this would have continued to expand."