The science of hotboxing: Exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke causes mild intoxication

first_imgShare Secondhand exposure to cannabis smoke under “extreme conditions,” such as an unventilated room or enclosed vehicle, can cause nonsmokers to feel the effects of the drug, have minor problems with memory and coordination, and in some cases test positive for the drug in a urinalysis. Those are the findings of a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study, reported online this month in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. “Many people are exposed to secondhand cannabis smoke,” says lead author Evan S. Herrmann, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins. “The scenario we looked at was almost a worst-case scenario. It could happen in the real world, but it couldn’t happen to someone without him or her being aware of it.”“We found positive drug effects in the first few hours, a mild sense of intoxication and mild impairment on measures of cognitive performance,” says senior author Ryan Vandrey, Ph.D. , an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins. “These were relatively slight effects, but even so, some participants did not pass the equivalent of a workplace drug test.” LinkedIn Share on Facebook Emailcenter_img The new research is the most comprehensive study of secondhand cannabis smoke and its effects since the 1980s, when researchers found the drug’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and other cannabis byproducts could turn up in nonsmokers’ bodies after an hour or more spent in extreme conditions with heavy smokers in an enclosed space. That finding needed updating, since the average potency of street cannabis has tripled since the 1980s, the Johns Hopkins researchers wrote. Additionally, many earlier studies did not look at whether the nonsmokers reported feeling the drug’s effects, or whether their behavior and thinking were affected by secondhand smoke, as the new study did.Researchers recruited seven people ages 18 to 45 who said they smoked cannabis at least twice per week and tested positive for THC, but who tested negative for other drugs, and 12 others in the same age range who said they had not used cannabis in the past six months and tested negative for cannabis, other drugs, and alcohol. None of the participants were pregnant, and none of the nonsmokers took part in more than one session.Six smokers and six nonsmokers spent an hour sitting side by side in a 10-by-13-foot, acrylic-walled room in two different experimental sessions. Each smoker was given 10 high-potency cannabis cigarettes to smoke. In one session, the room’s ventilation fans were turned on. In another session, the fans were turned off, and the room became smoke-filled. This was a realistic simulation of home ventilation conditions. At the end of the exposures, smokers’ and nonsmokers’ blood, urine, saliva and hair were tested at regular intervals for THC.All six nonsmokers who spent an hour exposed to secondhand smoke in the unventilated room under extreme conditions had detectable amounts of THC in their urine and blood. THC in blood was observed immediately after exposure and for up to three hours afterwards. Four hours after the experiment ended, one nonsmoker tested positive for THC on a urine test with the same cutoff (50 nanograms per milliliter) used in the Federal Workplace Drug Testing Program. At intervals between two and 22 hours after the experiment, four of the six nonsmokers tested positive for THC in their urine at a lower cutoff (20 nanograms per milliliter) sometimes used in commercial drug testing programs.None of the nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke in the ventilated room tested positive for THC on either the more sensitive or the less sensitive urinalysis. (All the cannabis smokers tested positive for THC afterward.)Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke with fans running reported no effects other than being hungry. Those who were exposed in the unventilated experiment reported feeling “pleasant,” more tired and less alert. When the nonsmokers were asked to duplicate grid patterns they saw on a computer monitor or perform a basic numbers drill, those in the unventilated study responded faster but made more mistakes than they did before they were exposed to the cannabis smoke, the researchers found.“The behavioral and cognitive effects were minor and consistent with a mild cannabis effect,” Herrmann says.“This study is a significant update in our knowledge of cannabis smoke effect on nonsmokers and has implications in many arenas, including drugs and driving,” says co-author Edward J. Cone, Ph.D., a Johns Hopkins adjunct professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences who performed the early passive inhalation studies in the 1980s.The study’s limitations included its small size and the lack of a placebo trial using cannabis that contained no THC. The study was supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that sets standards for federal workplace drug testing. Information about the effects of secondhand smoke on drug test results were being sought to support different ways of measuring drug use or drug exposure, Vandrey says. Funding came from SAMHSA and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health. The cannabis used in the experiment was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Pinterest Share on Twitterlast_img read more

The congruency effect: Study shows walking can boost your math abilities

first_imgOther researchers have found a congruency effect for horizontal movements as well. For horizontal congruency effects, smaller numbers are congruent to the left side, and larger numbers are congruent to the right side.In an article published last December in Frontiers in Psychology, a team of researchers from the University of Bologna and the Italian National Research Council examined whether whole body movements could influence our math abilities. In the study, fifty-two individuals performed addition and subtraction problems while walking.During the study, each participant was first given a starting number (e.g. 245), then were told what type of calculation they would be required to perform (addition or subtraction). Next, participants began walking and were then told to turn either right or left. They then performed the calculation aloud. If they answered incorrectly, they were given a new problem to solve.Results showed that we perform additions better after turning right, and perform subtractions better after turning left. These results offer further support for the “congruency effect” other researchers have suggested.This research adds to the growing evidence that our math and movements are intertwined through what has been called a “congruency effect”. These results have important implications for a variety of people—all of us have to do mental math sometimes.“Our study adds to previous evidence in favor of an embodied nature of number processing by showing that numbers representation is influenced by whole body motions,” the researchers wrote.“The present findings confirm the existence of a connection among numbers, space, and motor processes, by showing the emergence of a congruency effect when subtractions and additions were calculated while moving also along an horizontal axis,” they concluded.So next time you’re stumped by a mental math problem, try walking in a circle or taking an elevator. Research suggests that doing so may help more than you think! Share on Twitter Share Movies often show someone pacing around their office while thinking about a problem they are stumped on. But have you ever wondered why pacing is associated with problem solving? As it turns out, researchers believe body movements may help individuals solve certain types of problems.More specifically, different types of body movements may help solve particular arithmetic problems. Researchers have shown that our math abilities can be influenced by a variety of movements, including our head movements, hand movements, and horizontal/vertical motions.Some researchers have begun focusing on how whole body movements like walking can influence individuals’ math abilities. Past research has found that our addition and subtraction skills show a “congruency effect”. These researchers discovered that people perform addition better when moving upward (like in an elevator or walking up the stairs), and perform subtraction better when moving downwards. Interestingly, this effect was seen when participants performed passive actions, such as going up or down an elevator. Pinterestcenter_img LinkedIn Email Share on Facebooklast_img read more

Discovery about brain protein causes rethink on development of Alzheimer’s disease

first_imgShare on Twitter Email LinkedIn Share on Facebook Researchers at the University of Melbourne have discovered that a protein involved in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease also has properties that could be helpful for human health.The discovery helps researchers better understand the complicated brain chemistry behind the development of Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that affects hundreds of thousands of Australians.An international team of researchers, led by Dr Simon Drew at the University of Melbourne and Prof Wojciech Bal at the Polish Academy of Sciences, has revealed that a shorter form of a protein called beta amyloid, may act as a sponge that safely binds a metal that can damage brain tissue when it’s in excess.center_img Share Pinterest Researchers have been intensely interested in the role of beta-amyloid in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because clumps of the protein are formed in brains of people with the illness.In the late 1990s, high levels of copper were discovered within these clumps. Copper is essential to health, but too much can produce harmful free radicals. Many scientists began to suspect that this copper might be contributing to the disease. They found that beta-amyloid can bind to copper indiscriminately and allow it to produce these damaging free radicals.Closer analysis of beta amyloid protein has revealed different sizes. A good proportion of beta amyloid is missing the first three links at the start of the protein’s chain-like structure.“This short form has been overlooked by most researchers since the composition of beta amyloid was first identified 30 years ago,” Dr Simon Drew explains.“We know that the shorter form of beta amyloid is present in the diseased brain, but we now know that it is abundant in healthy brains as well.“The small change in length makes a huge difference to its copper binding properties. We found that the short form of the protein is capable of binding copper at least 1000 times stronger than the longer forms. It also wraps around the metal in a way that prevents it from producing free radicals.“Given these properties and its relative abundance, we can speculate this type of beta amyloid is protective. It’s very different from the current view of how beta amyloid interacts with biological copper.”So far, therapies aimed at lowering the production of beta amyloid have shown only a modest ability to slow cognitive decline and the number of people affected by the Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow.Dr Drew and the team from Poland are now working to develop a method for identifying the copper-bound form of the short beta amyloid in the body.This will enable them to screen how much copper it holds in the brain, whether it safely escorts the copper from one place to another, and how this may change in ageing and disease.“If a beneficial role in copper balance can be established, it’s still possible to have too much of a good thing,” Dr Drew said.“As the amount of beta amyloid in the brain increases during Alzheimer’s disease, the shorter form can also clump together and this may interfere with its normal function. Higher levels of the short form may further enable it to soak up copper from other places where it is needed. It could be a Jekyll and Hyde scenario.”Dr Drew’s research was published in Angewandte Chemie.last_img read more

Fear-based appeals effective at changing attitudes and behaviors after all

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook LinkedIn To help settle the debate, Albarracin and her colleagues conducted what they believe to be the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date. They looked at 127 research articles representing 248 independent samples and over 27,000 individuals from experiments conducted between 1962 and 2014.They found fear appeals to be effective, especially when they contained recommendations for one-time only (versus repeated) behaviors and if the targeted audience included a larger percentage of women. They also confirmed prior findings that fear appeals are effective when they describe how to avoid the threat (e.g., get the vaccine, use a condom).More important, said Albarracin, there was no evidence in the meta-analysis that fear appeals backfired to produce a worse outcome relative to a control group.“Fear produces a significant though small amount of change across the board. Presenting a fear appeal more than doubles the probability of change relative to not presenting anything or presenting a low-fear appeal,” said Albarracin. “However, fear appeals should not be seen as a panacea because the effect is still small. Still, there is no data indicating that audiences will be worse off from receiving fear appeals in any condition.”She noted that the studies analyzed did not necessarily compare people who were afraid to people who were unafraid, but instead compared groups that were exposed to more or less fear-inducing content. Albarracin also recommended against using only fear-based appeals.“More elaborate strategies, such as training people on the skills they will need to succeed in changing behavior, will likely be more effective in most contexts. It is very important not to lose sight of this,” she said. Emailcenter_img Fear-based appeals appear to be effective at influencing attitudes and behaviors, especially among women, according to a comprehensive review of over 50 years of research on the topic, published by the American Psychological Association.“These appeals are effective at changing attitudes, intentions and behaviors. There are very few circumstances under which they are not effective and there are no identifiable circumstances under which they backfire and lead to undesirable outcomes,” said Dolores Albarracin, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an author of the study, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin.Fear appeals are persuasive messages that emphasize the potential danger and harm that will befall individuals if they do not adopt the messages’ recommendations. While these types of messages are commonly used in political, public health and commercial advertising campaigns (e.g., smoking will kill you, Candidate A will destroy the economy), their use is controversial as academics continue to debate their effectiveness. Share Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Making backup plans can be a self-fulfilling prophecy

first_imgMany goals, from finding your dream job to finding a date to the movies, can feel completely out of your control. A common piece of advice to manage this uncertainty is: “Always have a backup plan.” But is it actually wise to invest time and energy into backup plans, or is it better to focus all of your energies on trying one way to achieve a goal?To address these questions, psychologists from the University of Zurich developed a new theoretical model to study the use and usefulness of backup plans, which will be published in the January issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science.“Our model is based on a straightforward idea: backup plans change the way you pursue your goal, even if you aren’t using them, and even if you never use them” said Dr. Christopher Napolitano, first author of the paper. “Sometimes, having a backup plan may boost your confidence,” Freund, co-author and chair of the Developmental Psychology: Adulthood group at the University of Zurich added, “but other times, having a backup plan might distract you, or limit how hard you work using Plan A.” How much you invest in developing a backup plan could determine its effect. “Of course, it’s a good idea to spend some time and effort developing your backup plans, so you go into complex and important situations with a safety net in place,” said Chris Napolitano.However, according to Napolitano and Freund’s model, investing much in making backup plans could create a sort of ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ where one is especially likely to use especially well-developed backup plans, and thereby undermine sufficient investment into succeeding with a Plan A. Share Share on Twitter Pinterestcenter_img LinkedIn Share on Facebook Emaillast_img read more

Is your toddler ready to read? Knowing how words differ from drawings is first step

first_imgShare on Twitter Forthcoming in the journal Child Development, the study is based on two experiments with 114 children ages 3-to-5 years who had not yet received any formal instruction in reading or writing.The children were tested to see how well they understood that a written word, such as dog, has one specific pronunciation (“dog”) as compared with a simple drawing of a dog, which could be correctly labeled as the image of a dog, a puppy or even a pet named Spot.In the first test, researchers read the written word “dog” to the children.Later, when a puppet employed in the experiment read the word “dog” as “puppy,” many children picked up on the mistake. In a similar task with drawings, children were more likely to say that the puppet was correct in using the alternative label.The different results in the writing and drawing conditions indicate that even young pre-readers have some understanding that a written word stands for one specific linguistic unit in a way that a drawing does not. While a written word should be read the same way each time, it is sometimes appropriate to use different labels for a drawing, the researchers explain.Most children don’t begin formal instruction in reading and writing until they turn 5 and enter kindergarten, but these findings suggest that children as young as 3 may be tested to see how well their understanding of basic language concepts is progressing.“Our finding that preschool-age children who cannot yet read have some understanding that written words represent specific words in a way that drawings do not indicates that young children’s knowledge about the inner structure of writing — how it functions as a symbol — is more sophisticated than previously thought,” said study co-author Lori Markson, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences.The results are surprising given that some literacy development theories have suggested that pre-readers treat written words as representing meanings directly, as pictures do.More recent research, however, shows that parents often speak differently about pictures than they do about letters and words, helping even very small children begin to understand the writing something is in many ways similar to saying it.“Such experiences may help children to learn, even before they can read, that writing conveys meaning in a different way than drawing does,” Markson said.While dozens of research studies have shown that reading to young children helps them build a stronger cognitive foundation for later reading and writing, this study is one of the first to offer a simple method for benchmarking how well children are progressing in their understanding of basic concepts about how writing works as a symbol.This understanding may be crucial to later success in formal reading and writing instruction. LinkedIn Share Share on Facebookcenter_img Email Even before they can read, children as young as 3 years of age are beginning to understand how a written word is different than a simple drawing — a nuance that could provide an important early indicator for children who may need extra help with reading lessons, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.“Our results show that children have some knowledge about the fundamental properties of writing from a surprisingly early age,” said study co-author Rebecca Treiman, PhD, the Burke & Elizabeth High Baker Professor of Child Developmental Psychology in Arts & Sciences.“Based on the results, it may be possible to determine at an early age which children are progressing well in the learning of emergent literacy skills and which children may need extra attention,” Treiman said. Pinterestlast_img read more

Composing and arranging music partly genetically determined

first_imgShare on Twitter Share Email Share on Facebook Pinterestcenter_img The questionnaire study of musically educated individuals showed that music-related creative activities are more common in young generations in Finland. It may reflect the change in availability of music or music education in the society.The genetic study analyzed genomic variants that associate with self-reported composing, arranging or other creativity. Data consisting mostly of families included almost 300 musically-educated participants of whom half did arrange and/or compose music. The study did not grade the characteristics and may reveal information on one’s urge to be musically creative.Composing was linked to chromosome 4 region that has previously been linked to musical abilities. The region includes several brain-related genes including the SNCA gene that has been shown to activate after listening or performing music. The genes associating with composing play role in cerebellar LTD pathway that relate to memory and learning. The cerebellum has previously been sown to activate in improvising and working memory for rhythm. Another LTD-related gene GSG1L was linked to arranging. The study linked chromosome 18 region to musically active individuals who were not active in composing nor arranging. This region includes several brain-related genes like cadherins.The research introduces a new biological point of view to study creativity and brain functions related to creative activities. The genetic background of musical creativity is supposedly joint effect from numerous genes and their genetic pathways.The study ‘”Creative activities in music – a genome-wide linkage analysis” was published in PLOS ONE February 24th 2016. The responsible researcher is MSc Jaana Oikkonen from the University of Helsinki. The study belongs to the project where biological background of music is studied using genomic approaches. The expert in music is MuD Tuire Kuusi from the Helsinki University of Arts and the principal investigator is associate professor Irma Järvelä, University of Helsinki. Funding: The Academy of Finland. LinkedInlast_img read more

How the microbiota in your gut affects your mood, sleep and stress levels

first_imgShare But it can be difficult to work out exactly how far the science has come in this emerging field of research. So what evidence is there that your gut microbiota affects your brain?How does your gut talk to your brain?When you’re healthy, bacteria are kept safely inside your gut. For the most part, the bacteria and your gut live in harmony. (The gut has been known to nurture or even control the behaviour of the bacteria for your well-being.)The best evidence is that the normal channels of communication from your gut are being hijacked by the bacteria.So how do the bacteria get their signal out?The gut has a bidirectional relationship with the central nervous system, referred to as the “gut-brain axis”. This allows the gut to send and receive signals to and from the brain.A recent study found that the addition of a “good” strain of the bacteria lactobacillus (which is also found in yoghurt) to the gut of normal mice reduced their anxiety levels. The effect was blocked after cutting the vagus nerve – the main connection between brain and gut. This suggests the gut-brain axis is being used by bacteria to affect the brain.This link was clarified in a study where bacterial metabolites (by-products) from fibre digestion were found to increase the levels of the gut hormone and neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin can activate the vagus, suggesting one way your gut bacteria might be linked with your brain.There are many other ways gut bacteria might affect your brain, including via bacterial toxins and metabolites, nutrient-scavenging, changing your taste-receptors and stirring up your immune system.How can the gut affect your mental health?Two human studies looked at people with major depression and found that bacteria in their faeces differed from healthy volunteers. But it’s not yet clear why there is a difference, or even what counts as a “normal” gut microbiota.In mouse studies, changes to the gut bacteria from antibiotics, probiotics (live bacteria) or specific breeding techniques are associated with anxious and depressive behaviours. These behaviours can be “transferred” from one mouse to another after a faecal microbiota transplant.Even more intriguingly, in a study this year, gut microbiota samples from people with major depression were used to colonise bacteria-free rats. These rats went on to show behavioural changes related to depression.Stress is also likely to be important in gut microbiota and mental health. We’ve known for a long time that stress contributes to the onset of mental illness. We are now discovering bidirectional links between stress and the microbiota.In rat pups, exposure to a stressor (being separated from their mums) changes their gut microbiota, their stress response, and their behaviour.Probiotics containing “good” strains of bacteria can reduce their stress behaviours.How gut microbiota affects your moodMedical conditions associated with changes in mood, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), might also be related to gut microbiota.IBS is considered a “gut-brain disorder”, since it is often worsened by stress. Half of IBS sufferers also have difficulties with depression or anxiety.Ongoing research is investigating whether gut bacteria are one reason for the mood symptoms in IBS, as well as the gastrointestinal pain, diarrhoea and constipation.Similarly, CFS is a multi-system illness, with many patients experiencing unbalanced gut microbiota. In these patients, alterations in the gut microbiota may contribute to the development of symptoms such as depression, neurocognitive impairments (affecting memory, thought and communication), pain and sleep disturbance.In a recent study, higher levels of lactobacillus were associated with poorer mood in CFS participants. Some improvements in sleep and mood were observed when patients used antibiotic treatment to reduce gut microbial imbalance.The exact contributions of stress and other factors such as intestinal permeability (which allows nutrients to pass through the gut) to these disorders are not understood. But the downstream effects seem to be involved in IBS, inflammatory bowel conditions, CFS, depression and chronic pain.How our gut affects our sleepOur mental health is closely linked to the quality and timing of our sleep. Now evidence suggests that the gut microbiota can influence sleep quality and sleep-wake cycles (our circadian rhythm).A study this year examined patients with CFS. The researchers found that higher levels of the “bad” clostridium bacteria were associated with an increased likelihood of sleep problems and fatigue, but this was specific to females only. This suggests that an unbalanced gut may precipitate or perpetuate sleep problems.There is emerging evidence that circadian rhythms regulate the gut immune response. The effect of immune cells on the biological clock could provide insights into the possible bidirectional relationship between sleep and the gut. For example, data from animal studies suggests that circadian misalignment can lead to an unbalanced gut microbiota. But this effect can be moderated by diet.There is growing concern that disruptions to our circadian timing of sleep leads to a range of health issues, such as obesity, metabolic and inflammatory disease, and mood disorders. This is particularly important for shiftworkers and others who experience changes to their sleep/wake patterns.What this means for treatmentIn terms of using interventions directed at the gut to treat brain disorders – so called “psychobiotics” – there is a lot of promise but little clear evidence.Probiotic (live bacteria) treatments in mice have been shown to reduce cortisol, an important stress hormone, and decrease anxious and depressive behaviours.But there are very few studies in humans. A recent systematic review of all the human studies showed the majority do not show any effect of probiotics on mood, stress or symptoms of mental illness.On the plus side, large studies show us that people who eat a balanced diet with all the usual good stuff (fibre, fresh fruit and vegetables) have lower rates of mental illness as adults and adolescents.Clearly, diet affects both the gut microbiota and mental health. Research is ongoing to see whether it is a healthy gut microbiota that underlies this relationship.A healthy gut microbiota is linked to a healthy brain. However there are only a handful of human studies demonstrating real-world relevance of this link to mental health outcomes.There is still a way to go before we can say exactly how best to harness the microbiota in order to improve brain function and mental health.By Paul Bertrand, Senior Lecturer in School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University; Amy Loughman, Associate Lecturer, Industry Fellow, RMIT University, and Melinda Jackson, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT UniversityThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article. Share on Twitter Pinterest Share on Facebookcenter_img Email LinkedIn Our gut does more than help us digest food; the bacteria that call our intestines home have been implicated in everything from our mental health and sleep, to weight gain and cravings for certain foods. This series examines how far the science has come and whether there’s anything we can do to improve the health of our gut.The gut microbiota is the community of bugs, including bacteria, that live in our intestine. It has been called the body’s “forgotten organ” because of the important role it plays beyond digestion and metabolism.You might have read about the importance of a healthy gut microbiota for a healthy brain. Links have been made between the microbiota and depression, anxiety and stress. Your gut bacteria may even affect how well you sleep.last_img read more

In social isolation, the brain begins to act in strange ways to preserve its sanity

first_imgShare on Twitter Share on Facebook Email Pinterest The importance of human connectionYes, other people can be irritating. But they are also our greatest source of comfort, and an impressive amount of psychological research underscores the importance of human contact.Rejection by others psychologically wounds us more deeply than almost anything else, and research by neuroscientists reveals that ostracism can lead to feeling actual physical pain. Other studies confirm that loneliness isn’t good for anyone’s health. It increases levels of stress hormones in the body while leading to poor sleep, a compromised immune system and, in the elderly, cognitive decline. The damage that solitary confinement inflicts on the mental health of prison inmates has also been well-documented.Alone in an unchanging environment, the sensory information available to us and the ways in which we process it can change in unpredictable ways. For example, we normally spend most of our time attending to and processing external stimuli from the physical world around us. However, monotonous stimulation from our surroundings may cause us to turn our attention inward – within ourselves – which most of us have much less experience handling.This can lead to a profoundly altered state of consciousness. We may begin to question what’s going on in our surroundings; Is that creaking sound upstairs just an old house pushing back against the wind, or is it something more sinister? This ambivalence leaves us frozen in place, wallowing in unease, especially if we’re alone. When we’re uncertain, the first thing we usually do is to look to the reactions of others to figure out what is going on. Without others with whom to share information and reactions, ambiguity becomes very hard to resolve. When this happens, our mind may quickly race to the darkest possible conclusions.Unpleasant things can also happen when small groups of people experience isolation together. Much of what we know about this phenomenon has been gathered from observing the experiences of volunteers at research stations in Antarctica, especially during the “wintering-over” period.The extreme temperatures, long periods of darkness, alien landscapes and severely reduced sensory input created a perfect natural laboratory for studying the effects of isolation and confinement. The volunteers experienced changes in appetite and sleep patterns. Some stopped being able to accurately track the passage of time and lost the ability to concentrate. The boredom from being around the same people, with limited sources of entertainment, ended up causing a lot of stress. Everyone else’s mannerisms became a grating, annoying and inescapable source of torment.Seeing ghostsBut perhaps the strangest thing that can happen to someone in isolation is the experience of the “sensed presence,” or the feeling that another person or even a supernatural being is with us.Sensed presences usually appear in environments with static physical and social stimulation – in other words, when you’re by yourself in a quiet, remote place, just like Naomi Watts’ character in “Shut In.” Low temperature and high levels of stress are also common ingredients.Some of the most compelling descriptions of sensed presences come from lone sailors, mountain climbers and arctic explorers who have experienced hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. In one amazing 1895 incident, Joshua Slocum, the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a sailboat singlehandedly, said he saw and spoke with the pilot of Christopher Columbus’ ship “The Pinta.” Slocum claimed that the pilot steered his boat through heavy weather as he lay ill with food poisoning.The vividness of a presence can range from a vague feeling of being watched to seeing a seemingly real person. It could be a god, a spirit, an ancestor or a personal acquaintance. A famous example occurred in 1933, when British explorer Frank Smythe attempted to climb Mt. Everest alone. He became so convinced that someone else was accompanying him on his climb that he even offered a piece of cake to his invisible climbing partner.Possible explanations for a sensed presence include the the movement of boats (if sailing solo) and atmospheric or geomagnetic activity. Stress, lack of oxygen, monotonous stimulation or a buildup of hormones can trigger changes in brain chemistry that induce altered states of consciousness. There’s actually exciting new evidence from a research group led by neuroscientist Olaf Blanke demonstrating that stimulating specific brain regions can trick people into feeling the “presence” of a ghostly apparition.Although sensed presences are most frequently reported by people in weird or dangerous places, it’s not unreasonable to assume that such experiences can happen in more mundane surroundings. For example, people who have lost a loved one may shut themselves off from the outside world and rarely leave their homes. The loneliness and isolation, coupled with high levels of stress and unchanging sensory stimulation, might very well produce the same biological conditions that could trigger a “visit” from the recently departed. Studies indicate that almost half of widowed elderly Americans will report having hallucinations of their dead spouse. These experiences seem to be a healthy coping mechanism and a normal part of grieving.What might all of this say about the way we’re hardwired?It’s clear that meaningful connection to other people is as essential to health as the air we breathe. Given that prolonged periods of social isolation can crack even the hardiest of individuals, perhaps in the absence of actual human contact our brains may manufacture social experiences – a last-ditch attempt to preserve our sanity.By Frank T. McAndrew, Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology, Knox CollegeThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.center_img Share Humans are hardwired to interact with others, especially during times of stress. On the other hand, when we go through a trying ordeal alone, a lack of emotional support and comradeship can increase our anxiety and hinder our ability to cope.This message is forcefully driven home in the newly released thriller “Shut In.” Naomi Watts plays a widowed child psychologist who lives in isolation in rural New England with her son, who is comatose and bedridden as the result of an automobile accident. Snowed in and withdrawn from the outside world, Watts’ character descends into a desperate existence. It soon becomes difficult for her to distinguish the phantasms of her imagination from the reality of the creepy goings-on in her apparently haunted house.“Shut In,” of course, isn’t the first movie to use isolation as a vehicle for madness. The characters played by Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” and Tom Hanks in “Castaway” found themselves in similar predicaments. Although movies like “Shut In” are fictional, the toll on the protagonist’s psyche from being so alone for so long is based on the science of social isolation. LinkedInlast_img read more

Study: Married women have a better sex life when they own property

first_imgShare on Twitter Share LinkedIn New research has found an association between property ownership and a satisfying sexual life among married women in Vietnam. The findings, published in the journal Sex Roles, suggest that women tend to be more sexually satisfied when they are less dependent on their spouse.“Sexuality is no longer a taboo topic in the Vietnamese society; however there remains a ‘pleasure deficit’ in existing research on women’s sexual well-being,” said study author Trang Thu Do of the Institute for Social Development Studies in Hanoi.“Most studies tend to focus on reproduction or problematic sexual behaviours or negative aspects of sexuality such as violence or ill-health. We conducted this study in hopes of diverting attention to understanding positive and pleasurable dimensions of sexuality and abandon the long-ingrained belief that the exercise and enjoyment of sexual pleasure primarily lies with men.” Share on Facebookcenter_img Pinterest Email The researchers analyzed data from 2,783 married women collected from a national survey called the Social Determinants of Gender Inequality in Vietnam. The survey asked participants several questions about their sex life, along with other factors like monthly income, education, and property ownership.“We found a number of findings to our surprise. For instance, age did not predict married women’s sexual satisfaction. Our analysis showed that although the frequency of sexual activities may decrease when women became older, their level of sexual satisfaction does not necessarily decline,” Trang told PsyPost.Women who had a bank account in their own name, as well as held total or partial ownership over their housing tended to feel more satisfied with their sexual life.“The most notable result was the association between the ownership of property and higher level of sexual satisfaction. We interpreted that a woman’s status of property ownership might denote her decision-making power in the family, including bargaining capacity in her sexual life,” Trang said.“It might also affect the way she is perceived and treated by her partner, as well as the egalitarianism of her partner. Men in more equal marriages might be less likely to prioritize their own sexual drives and experiences. Instead, they are more likely to show their wives more respect, paying more attention to creating a ‘balance of pleasure’ for both themselves and their partner,” she explained.Likewise, women with higher incomes also tended to report higher levels of sexual satisfaction.But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.“Data on spouse’s sexual satisfaction was not available so consistency of responses related to sexual behaviours between wife and husband could not be tested. We hope that our future research can analyse couple data. With that we can have a deeper understanding of women’s sexual satisfaction in relation to and comparison with that of their spouse,” Trang said.“We hope that our research can inform policy makers, practitioners and academia working on women’s empowerment and well-being. We look forward to the growth of attention to approaching female sexuality through a positive lens. Enjoyment and pleasurable aspects of sexuality should be viewed as an integral part of women’s overall well-being and need to be considered in programs/initiatives aimed to enhance women’s rights, status and quality of life.”The study, “More Property, Better Sex? The Relationship Between Property Ownership and Sexual Satisfaction Among Married Vietnamese Women“, was authored by Trang Thu Do, Hong Thu Khuat, and Anh Thi Van Nguyen.last_img read more