A Happiness Hack – Splish Splash

Each month we post “Happiness Hacks” on Catnipblog. They are quick and easy ways, based on scientific research, to lift your mood.

We are compiling them into a book, but want to share them here with you.

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I love waterfalls!  

One of my favorite places to go is the Columbia River Gorge, an area with the highest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  There are over 90!  I love it there and I will hike uphill for miles to see the waterfalls.

All my life I’ve loved the rain, going to the beach, having a water fountain in my yard, and taking showers. They all make me happy. Now I know why – negative ions.

Negative ions are produced by falling water and create changes in our levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that relieves stress, increases energy and reduces depression

“Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.” 

WebMD. Pierce J. Howard, PhD

The WebMD article goes on to say “The air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions — Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.”

Want to get negative ions?

  • Take a walk by a river or stream.
  • Walk in the rain.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Run in the sprinklers.
  • Have a water fight in a pool.
  • Hike to a waterfall.
  • Sit by a fountain.
  • Buy a negative ion generator for your home.
  • Or . . .  just take a shower.

(I didn’t list “wash dishes by hand” or “scrub the floor on your knees” because I believe adding detergent to water MIGHT create positive ions which we all know are not mood elevators . . .)

(PA)

References:

“Negative Ions Create Positive Vibes” By Denise Mann, WebMD, June 2, 2003.
The Owners Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain, by Pierce J. Howard, PhD
Biopsychology of Mood and Arousal, by Robert E. Thayer,

 

You be the judge

Typically Peggy and I would post this on CATNIPblog since it is health related but I think it important enough to share it with you.

I personally knew two men in their 40’s and a close friend in her 50’s (all spent the good part of every day with cell phones to their ears on personal and professional calls) who developed malignant gioblastoma brain tumors just behind their “phone-ear”.  Each died within 1 – 2 years of diagnosis.  Coincidence?  Pre-disposition?  I don’t know but it changed my behaviour and I only use the cell on “speaker” mode.  

When I read this release it got my attention.

Always having to look over my shoulder for people in white lab coats.

Cross talk: Federal agencies clash on cellphone cancer risk*

By LAURAN NEERGAARD AND SETH BORENSTEIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Two U.S. government agencies are giving conflicting interpretations of a safety study on cellphone radiation: One says it causes cancer in rats. The other says there’s no reason for people to worry.”

“No new research was issued Thursday. Instead, the National Toxicology Program dialed up its concerns about a link to heart and brain cancer from a study of male rats that was made public last winter.”

THE ORIGINAL STUDY

“In a $30 million study, scientists put rats and mice into special chambers and bombarded them with radiofrequency waves, like those emitted by older 2G and 3G phones, for nine hours a day for up to two years, most of their natural lives.”

“The levels the rodents experienced were far higher than people are typically exposed to.”

THE FINDINGS

“Last February, the National Toxicology Program said there was a small increase in an unusual type of heart tumor in male rats, but not in mice or female rats. The agency concluded there was “some evidence” of a link. Also, the February report cited “equivocal evidence” of brain tumors in the male rats.”

“Thursday, the agency upgraded its description of those findings. The heart tumor increase marked “clear evidence” of cancer in male rats, it announced. There is “some evidence” of brain cancer.”

“The change came after the agency asked outside experts to analyze the findings.”

“We believe that the link between radio frequency radiation and tumors in male rats is real, and the external experts agreed,” said John Bucher, the toxicology agency’s senior scientist.”

“While his agency said the risks to rats don’t directly apply to people, the study raises safety questions.”

THE DISAGREEMENT

“The FDA immediately disagreed, firing off a press release assuring Americans that “decades of research and hundreds of studies” has made the health agency confident that the current safety limits for cellphone radiation protect the public health.”

“Plus, FDA pointed out confusing findings from the rodent study — such as that the radiated rats lived longer than comparison rats that weren’t exposed to the rays. The toxicology agency said it appeared that the radio-frequency energy helped older rats’ kidneys.”

“There’s a reason two different government agencies are clashing — they’re asking different questions, said George Washington University public health professor George Gray.”

“A former science chief for the Environmental Protection Agency, Gray said the toxicology program examined how cellphone radiation affected animals. By looking at what it means for humans, the FDA “brings in more sources of information and data than just these recent tests in rats and mice,” he said in an email.”

You be the judge.

*https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/cross-talk-federal-agencies-clash-cellphone-cancer-risk-58909891

I remember I don’t remember being hung-over

I have little, VERY little, memories of my childhood or adolescence – or adulthood for that matter.  It concerned me when a therapist colleague said “not remembering” was an indication of repressed memory probably of horrible childhood trauma.  Ai yiiii yiiiiii.  Maybe I was beaten, or worse, and all these years believing I had nice parents.

I told a psychiatrist friend about my memory “affliction”thinking he would suggest decades of psycho-analysis at best and in-patient treatment at worst.  He looked passively at me and without the slightest hesitation said, “All that indicates is your childhood was boring.”

This is one of my aha moments that I DO remember and spurred me to investigate the neuro-biology of emotion.  What does that have to do with hang-over?  Read on!

Hung Over by Peggy

Excerpts from:

You already know without a doubt that most of your memories are ones that were highly emotional experiences.

“Emotional experiences can induce physiological and internal brain states that persist for long periods of time after the emotional events have ended, a team of New York University scientists has found. This study, which appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience,also shows that this emotional “hangover” influences how we attend to and remember future experiences.”

“How we remember events is not just a consequence of the external world we experience, but is also strongly influenced by our internal states–and these internal states can persist and color future experiences,”explains Lila Davachi, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Science and senior author of the study.”

“‘Emotion’ is a state of mind, . . . findings make clear that our cognition is highly influenced by preceding experiences and, specifically, that emotional brain states can persist for long periods of time.”’

” . . . data showed that the brain states associated with emotional experiences carried over for 20 to 30 minutes and influenced the way the subjects processed and remembered future experiences that are not emotional.”

“We see that memory for non-emotional experiences is better if they are encountered after an emotional event,” observes Davachi.

I’m so relieved!  Not only wasn’t I beaten . . . or worse . . .  the biggest hang-over I’ve experienced was the result of my exceptionally boring life.

(jw)

Initially posted on CATNIPblog.com

*To read the entire article, who the authors are and the research behind it click HERE.

Sunday Sermon, Part IV, Two Wings of a Bird

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual … “

Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Hold up your hand for just a second.  Feel anything?

At any given second 100 trillion neutrinos are passing through your body  . . .RIGHT NOW.

The majority of neutrinos in the vicinity of the Earth are from nuclear reactions in the Sun. The solar neutrino flux for us on Earth is about 65 billion neutrinos, passing through just one square centimeter of area on earth, every second.  That’s a lot of neutrinos and we are not able to see them, sense them nor understand them.

There is so much, too much, that is not perceivable to our limited senses nor explainable by our reason.

I was a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years.  Not only did people share their fears and sorrows but unexplainable encounters with spirits, near death experiences and life altering experiences with the divine. I admit I was sometimes skeptical.  Over time it became impossible, to dismiss what intelligent, discerning people shared.  

I now think of science as one wing and religion as the other wing of a bird; a bird needs two wings for flight, one alone would be useless . . .  

 . . .  and I circled back to my study of faith and my belief we live a domino life where when one falls we all fall, where one succeeds we all succeed.   I discovered two faiths I’d not originally studied – Unitarian Universalism and Baha’i. They not only complemented each other but each offered something a bit different.  

Baha’is believe in and share all the UU principles:  

  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth;
  4.  A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;

. . . and most importantly the 7th UU principle –

Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The Baha’i World Faith brought me full circle back to childhood and to God but it wasn’t the God of fear but of love.

When I read the three core principles which are the basis for Bahá’í teachings and doctrine: the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humanity From these stems the belief that God periodically reveals his will through divine messengers: MuhammadJesusMoses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Krishna the Bab and Bahá’u’lláh.  It was an “ah-ha moment for me that all establishers of religion. the great religions of the world, represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society. That religion is seen as orderly, unified, and progressive from age to age unexpectedly resonated.

Through decades of trials and tribulations I realize the magical thinking in my childhood, that the world revolved around me, wasn’t quite accurate . . . however,

. . .  perhaps some magical thinking persists 60+ years later.   Every morning I say a Baha’i prayer for family, friends, acquaintances,  past clients and a prayer for those who have passed.  The recitation of all the people grows longer each day and takes longer than the prayers . . . The difference between then and now is my prayers are steeped in love, not terror. 

        *          *           *

I’m attending a sermon writing workshop led by Kent Doss, the reverend at Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation – not because I plan to deliver sermons but because I’m fascinated how ministers, rabbi’s, priests and preachers write and deliver something inspiring enough to capture the imagination and stir humans to transformative right action. week after week after week which seems a daunting undertaking.  

To read Part I, The Interconnectedness of All Beings click HERE

Read Part II, Head & Heart click HERE

Read Part III – Stardusted, click HERE

 

 

Mini Sunday Sermon, Part III, Stardusted

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, says it best . . .

“So you’re made of detritus [from exploded stars]. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?”

Not only are we synchronizing our heads and hearts, one with another, (Part II) we are interconnected with the Universe.  All is  from the same matter.

We are made of stardust. It’s like a line from a song, but there is some solid science behind this : Almost every element on earth, including you and me, was formed from the heart of a star.

Next time you’re out gazing at the stars, (all 5 stars we can actually see in a city) twinkling in the night sky, you are looking at the energy released by nuclear fusion reactions at their cores.

When a massive star explodes at the end of its life, the resulting high energy enables the creation of oxygen, carbon, iron, nickel, and all the other elements – the building blocks which make up the world around us and in us. 

The explosion disperses these elements across the universe, scattering the stardust through stellar winds which makes up planets including Earth, eventually some of it finds its way into our bodies.

There is so much we are not able to perceive through our senses:  The Earth’s electromagnetic fields that guide animals engaged in long-distance migrations, sea turtles and Monarch butterflies, birds, use Earth’s magnetic field as a navigational system; smells which compel my dog Freddie to lift his leg; dreams that portend the future. 

I admit I don’t understand science.

How do liver cells know how to make more liver cells and new heart cells know how to take up the beat?   We’re not fixed at all. We’re more like a pattern or a process, a transient body, cells continually dying and rebuilding all the time, and a continual flow of energy and matter being created . . . without my awareness . . .

Not only are our hearts synchronizing, our brain waves vibrating in unison but the very atoms of our cells are dying, being reborn and quivering in recognition we are all made of stardust.

Everything around us does this. Nature is not outside us. We are nature.

     *          *           *

To read Part I,  Interconnectedness of all Beings click HERE

 Part II, Head and Heart, click HERE

Part III – Stardusted, click HERE

 Part IV, Two Wings of a Bird, click HERE

 

Mini Sunday Serman, Part II, Head & Heart

As you read on my last Mini-Sermon post – I didn’t pray again for 50 years*.  During those decades I studied or was exposed to the tenants of many faiths and beliefs:  Buddhist, Greek Orthodox, Seventh Day Adventist, Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Baptist and even atheist. 

I discovered two things: First,  the bedrock of all religions is love, compassion, unity and the interconnectedness of all beings.  Second,  no matter what belief I studied something was amiss to me.  It just didn’t make sense (if belief could ever make rational sense) how each could claim to be the only truth, the true spiritual path.

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So scientific research became my focus and bolstered my belief in the interconnectedness of all humans  (and animals).  With newer and newer technology the science continues to be even more fascinating and compelling.  Here’s just a small sample**:

  1. Mirror Neurons – These are a type of brain cell that respond equally when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. This neural mechanism is involuntary and automatic and with it we don’t have to think about what other people are doing or feeling, we simply know.  When I see you smiling, my mirror neurons for smiling fire up, too, initiating a cascade of neural activity that evokes the feeling we typically associate with a smile.
  2. Touch – When you hug another person, brains release oxytocin and causes secretions of endorphins.You don’t have to be in love, have sex, or give birth to get a boost of oxytocin (although these experiences certainly do that). Cuddling, hugging, making eye contact, and even shaking hands gets oxytocin, the bonding hormone, flowing
  3. Epigenetics – Scientists have long-known that parents pass genetic traits down to their children, current research suggests that life experiences like famine, trauma, stress can also produce chemical effects in DNA which shorten life-spans, appear as anxiety, depression and fear, inherited through generations and generations down the line.
  4. Neural synchrony –  Singing in groups triggers the communal release of serotonin and oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and synchronizes our heart beats.  When we pet an animal our blood pressure lowers and even more astounding their blood pressure lowers too. Studies of 3-month-old infants and their mothers have determined their heartbeats synchronize to mere milliseconds.

The electrical neuronal activity of two people involved in an act of communication “synchronize” in order to allow for a “connection” between both subjects.  The rhythms of the brainwaves corresponding to the speaker and the listener adjust according to the physical properties of the sound of the verbal messages expressed in a conversation. This creates a connection between the two brains, which begin to work together towards a common goal: communication.

Scientists can find out if two people are having a conversation solely by analyzing their brain waves. 

There is more research but just these four areas alone reinforce my belief in the interconnectedness of all beings. Next . . . our inter-glactic connection on Mini Sermon, Part III.

    *           *           *

To read Part I,  Interconnectedness of all Beings click HERE

 Part II, Head and Heart, click HERE

Part III – Stardusted, click HERE

 Part IV, Two Wings of a Bird, click HERE

Frankly Freddie – Here a nip, there a nip, everywhere a nip nip

View image on Twitter

 “Not all cats are affected by catnip. According to Cat Behavior Associates, the “catnip response” is hereditary, and one-third of all cats lack the gene that enables them to feel the high. Even a cat who does have the gene won’t be affected by catnip until they’re at least six months old.”

Catnip definitely won’t get you humans high (don’t even think about it . . . ), and don’t give your kitty a catnip treat for working so hard at protecting you in the bathroom and bringing you presents of mice and birds (we canines would never bring you vermin).

Peggy & judy want to help you find your mellow but if it drives you wild with desire for more CATNIP I won’t be pleased.

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, B.E.

Blogger Extraordinaire

*CATNIPblog was inspired by and is dedicated to Peggy’s cat Maui who lived to prove the brain can be rewired and healing is possible.

Maui’s Healing Tale

RATS! Hunger, Chronic pain & Me

Penn neuroscientists have found that animals’ brains can suppress feelings of chronic pain when they are hungry.

The study, which was published in the science journal Cell, found that temporarily shutting down chronic pain is part of animals’ survival behaviors when searching for food.

According to a press release, approximately 300 neurons are capable of shifting the brain’s focus to hunger, thus eclipsing the effect of chronic pain.

The researchers apparently didn’t set out expecting that hunger would influence pain sensation so significantly, but when they saw these behaviors unfold, it made sense to them. “If you’re an animal, it doesn’t matter if you have an injury, you need to be able to overcome that in order to go find the nutrients you need to survive.”

The Penn team also discovered that the neurotransmitter NPY is primarily responsible for selectively suppressing pain responses. This research could potentially be applied in humans to ameliorate chronic pain after injuries and serve as an alternative to opioid medications.

Naked Mole Rat sez:  “At your service. We rodents are here to help”.

 

National Day to Munch Away & Dad

My Dad lived by specific culinary principles:

  • Cake’s main purpose was to hold up the frosting. 
  • Pepsi was the beverage of choice because water was for bathing, not drinking.
  • The only edible food was brown and white (unless it contained copious amounts of sugar), green food should be reserved for insects or chimpanzees
  • Fruit was only safe to eat if it was in a pie. 

If he had known that June 17 was National Eat Your Vegetables Day he would have celebrated with a loaf of french bread & butter downed it with a Pepsi and a cinnamon roll for desert.

 On June 17 – National Eat Your Vitamins, Phytochemicals, Fiber, Potassium Day:

  1. Take a vegetable to lunch
  2. Vege-out
  3. Be corny
  4. Drink Doctor PEPPER
  5. Stalk celery

June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month, and National Eat Your Vegetables Day is one more opportunity to remind everyone to continue with this part of a healthy diet.

Each vegetable has its own nutritional content though generally, they contain a little protein or fat and varying proportions of :

  • Vitamin A, Vitamin K and Vitamin B6, provitamins, dietary minerals and carbohydrates.
  • Phytochemicals, some of which have antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and anticarcinogenic properties.
  • Fiber which is important for gastrointestinal function.
  • Essential nutrients that are necessary for healthy hair and skin.
  • Potassium may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.

When eating a diet consisting of the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, it may help

  • Lower the risk of heart diseases and type 2 diabetes.  
  • Decrease bone loss and protect against some cancers

It is recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to consume 3 to 5 servings of vegetables per day.  This recommendation may vary, however, depending on age and gender.  For most vegetables, one serving is equivalent of 1/2 to 1 cup and can be eaten either raw or cooked.

Lettuce All Munch Away!

Click here: FOOD IS MEDICINE 

to learn how my Dad “made” me eat junk food and some scientific research – how what we eat can make us happier and combat depression

Weird Wonderful World – lizards with toxic green blood

Make no bones about it

It’s not easy being green

you must have grit, a bit of wit

and know it’s just your gene

But 

if you are a Prasinohaema lizard

it’s quite natural, very easy 

to have green blood and gizzard 

and never, ever feel sleazy

“In the forests of New Guinea, lizards scurry around with green bones, green hearts, green tongues, and green blood. At least six species share this enigmatic trait, which didn’t originate from one bizarre mutation but evolved four different times, according to new research in Science Advances.”

“These lizards have green insides because their bile carries super high levels of a deadly compound called biliverdin, the product of old red blood cells. People make the same pigment—you can see it when you get a gnarly, green-tinged bruise —but our livers filter it from our blood. Trace amounts of biliverdin cause jaundice, a disease common in infants and adults with liver failure.”

The levels found in these lizards would kill us. But for these lizards, it sure is easy being green

Prasinohaema virens green blooded lizard

“It’s possible there is no adaptive value,” says biologist Christopher Austin at Louisiana State University, “but it’s hard to imagine.” Over the course of 27 years, Austin, one of the authors of the study, has traveled to New Guinea in search of the bright green creatures. He’s captured hundreds of lizards by clamoring up trees and grabbing the critters. In his fieldwork, he discovered two new species, but he’s sure there are more. “New Guinea is like this black hole for biological discovery,” Austin says. “There’s no field guide.”

“Some species of fish and frogs also have green blood, but none come close to the levels of biliverdin found in Prasinohaema lizards

Austin’s effort to understand the lizards’ evolutionary history might explain why the heck toxic green blood would evolve in the New Guinea lizards more than once. One theory is that biliverdin could help fight off blood parasites, like malaria or blood-born worms, says Susan Perkins, a parasitologist at the American Museum of Natural History, another of the study’s authors.”

https://www.popsci.com/green-blood-lizards

Whine On!

Twenty-eight days since fracturing my ankle (but who’s counting).  I was looking forward to my doctor’s appointment yesterday (“looking forward to a doctor’s appointment” – now, that’s a first for me) thinking I will finally give the orthopedic boot the boot and be frrrrrrreeeeeeee.  Not.  I forgot the ligament was going to take longer to heal than the bone.

  • The good news: The bone is healing, I don’t have to wear the boot to bed, the wrapping is off and can take a shower without my foot sticking out into the room.
  • The mediocre news:  I have to transition from the boot into an ankle brace sloooooooooowly . . .  for a month.
  • The bad news:  My ankle hurts if I walk and pain makes me crabby.

Elixir Fixer by Peggy

This would make a lesser person take to the bottle.  Which reminds me, today is National Wine Day. Read this fascinating post on the benefits of wine which include things I need RIGHT NOW:

  • Anti-aging  (who knew?)
  • Blood thinning (so it no longer boils)
  • Boosts immune system
  • Increases bone density
  • and . . .  6 more benefits (you’ll have to click on the link below to learn how all 10 benefits help you)

Click here: WINE ON!

 

Sitting Possibly Makes My Brain (Yours too) Thinner?

(BUT I’m relieved that the pea is getting younger as my body grows older!)

judy recuperating by Peggy

“A team of researchers from UCLA and the University of Adelaide studied 35 non-demented adults who were from 45 to 75 years old. They gave each study participant the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to determine how many hours on average they spent sitting and how much physical activity they got each day. Each study participant also underwent a high-resolution MRI scans of his or her brain.”

The researchers found that the more hours the subjects sat the thinner the medial temporal lobes of their brains tended to be. (Each hour of additional sitting correlated with a medial temporal lobe that’s 2% thinner.) This was regardless of how much physical activity they engaged in when not sitting. 

 Some of the possibilities of how sitting impacts your brain include:

  • Your blood may not be circulating as much throughout your body and therefore your brain. This could mean that your brain is not getting as much oxygen or the waste products in your brain aren’t being cleared out as effectively.
  • You don’t burn as many calories, which could lead to weight issues, which then alter a wide variety of mechanisms in your body.
  • Your body’s metabolic machinery and hormones may be impacted so that your brain is not getting as many nutrients or is being exposed to other conditions such as higher blood sugar.

More recuperation by Peggy

Correlations and associations do not mean cause-and-effect.

A study with only 35 people has many limitations and does not prove that sitting will make part of your brain thinner. “Maybe in this study, the people who were more likely to sit more each day also were more likely to be less active socially, have less stimulating jobs, or have other circumstances that could be affecting their brains. Alternatively, could thinning medial temporal lobes somehow be affecting their behaviors so that they sat more?  More studies are needed to figure out what is actually happening.”

*The medial temporal lobe is part of the brain responsible for forming longer term memories. It tends to thin as you age to begin with!

“Nonetheless, this study does add to the concern that “sitting is the new smoking”, which by the way nothing to do with “cigarette butts.” Other studies have associated regularly sitting for lengthy periods of time with increased risks of obesitydiabetesmuscle and back problemscancer, and other health problems.”

https://www.forbes./too-much-sitting-may-make-your-brain-thinner-study-suggests/

To learn how Googling can help your brain, read this:

 Google On! My brain grows younger while my body grows old.

the thinner the medial temporal lobes of their brains tended to be. Each hour of additional sitting correlated with a medial temporal lobe that’s 2% thinner.

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I’m Afraid Being Afraid Shrinks My Fluffy Brain & Creativity

 I don’t have a great memory. Never have.  The worst is retrieving numbers.  In the “olden days” when telephones were attached to land lines when you moved you got a new phone number. Every time I moved I immediately forgot my old number and it took months to learn the new one.  

That hasn’t changed.  What has changed is now not remembering why I just deliberately got up, walked into the bathroom and can’t remember why I’m there.

Now I’m learning that the brain centers largely responsible for remembering are connected to the creativity centers.

Fear and long-term stress

“We have a lot of knowledge about what happens when we are in a constant state of fight-or-flight. And those examples come from syndromes like PTSD, experiencing terrible situations for a long period of time. Here we come to a concept of brain plasticity, which basically means that what you’re experiencing can change your brain. It can make your brain grow so that it’s nice and fluffy and strong or it can shrink it down.”

“PTSD, high stress, can shrink the size of your temporal lobe and increase the size of the amygdala structure that is processing fear information. It also shrinks the size of a key brain area that I’ve studied for the last 25 years called the hippocampus, which is critical for long-term memory.”

“The hippocampus has been more recently implicated in creativity and imagination. Because what imagination is, is taking those things you have in your memory and putting them together in a new way. So just in the way that the hippocampus allows us to think about the past and memory, it also allows us to imagine the future. Long-term stress is literally killing the cells in your hippocampus that contribute to the deterioration of your memory. But it’s also zapping your creativity.”

I’ll put some art supplies in the bathroom so when I forget why I’m there I can sit down and do something creative.

Who knew I’d be a “national symbol”?

I’ve written many posts about my history of fibromyalgia, just not recently.  

My “foot episode” has caused a bit of a fiber flare-up, just in time for National Fibromyalgia/ME Chronic Fatigue day on May 12th.  

Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it:

In 1995 I contracted an invisible “illness”.  Out of nowhere I experienced excruciating burning pain in my hands, arms and legs followed  by years of gastrointestinal, cardiological, dermatological and emotional symptoms.  At the onset I was also in peri-menopause and experiencing mood swings, wildly, uncontrollably ric-o-shaying swings between happy to annoyed – which I’m minimizing for public consumption.

Back then fibromyalgia was not recognized by the medical community as a “real” ailment. Doctors considered it to be a syndrome: Unexplainable, unverifiable and psychosomatic. It was a Hysterical Middle Aged Woman’s Syndrome, as doctor after doctor told me. based on test, after expensive test coming back negative.  I was told nothing was wrong with me and to go home and “Get a life”.DSCN1413

Forever imprinted in my memory is an appointment with the chief of neurology at one of Los Angeles’ major medical schools (the doctor and medical center shall remain nameless because this is a true story)  He reviewed the test findings, looked at me knowingly – as if we shared a secret – and said, “You’re a psychotherapist. You know about psychological issues”.  He leaned forward, compassionately touching me on the knee and winked,  “Go home, live a good life and take up a hobby like kick-boxing.”  The only reason I winked back was to blink away the tears that were threatening to disrupt the façade that I wasn’t a hysterical middle-aged woman.

DSCN1414

I searched for anyone – gynecologists, gastroenterologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, environmental specialists, acupuncturists, immunologists, chiropractors – to name to what I had, to give what was invisible to everyone but myself a label other than HYPOCHONDRIAC.  I looked fine, acted fine, and thousands of dollars of medical tests came back negative.  All I took away from the 100’s of doctor’s visits was a stack of psychiatrist’s cards doctors handed to me on the way out of their office.

After years of  pain, escalating exhaustion, depression, countless doctors and tests I did qualify, on all counts, as a hysterical middle-aged woman .

Well over a decade later fibromyalgia was recognized by the medical community as “real”.  Current research indicates it might be a neuro-inflammatory/auto-immune disease impacting the  central nervous system.  No one knows for certain and there is no current cure.  

I’m no longer middle-aged or hysterical.  

But the doctors were right – it is, all in my head.

 Check out Carolyn Thomas’ My Heart Sisters –“You look great!” – and other things you should never say to heart patients and lots of other great posts about invisible illness.

  • Why, when you tell someone who is ill that they look good, they’re offended?
  • Practical ways you can encourage someone who is ill.

May 12th has been designated as International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND). The CIND illnesses include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

May 12th was chosen as it is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. She was believed to have suffered from ME/CFS.

This is National Invisible Illness Awareness Week

P.S.  There are hundreds of millions of people with “Invisible Illness” in this world.  Click above to  read more information.  

How to get the most from your hot soak

Here is the follow-up to 

research on lowering blood pressure, helping dementia and brain trauma with hot baths

 “A hot bath is the original hydrotherapy — water treatment — and still the best. Immersion, buoyancy, heat, and vibration (if you’ve got jets) all have useful biological and sensory effects, many of which are useful to people with injuries, pain, anxiety, depression, and more”.

Bath Buddies

1. Don’t make it too hot. Hot baths are a soothing escape, but too much heat will stimulate the nervous system. While you may feel tired ,you are not as relaxed and  may not be able to sleep for a while.
2. Cool your head–or feet. Sticking your feet out of the bath lets off some excess heat, while keeping the benefits of a raised body temperature. You can also pour cool water on yourself . This will help you to feel better after the bath.
3. Do some self massage in the bath.  
4. Stretch in the bath. The warmth decreases muscle tone, flexibility is increased and the buoyancy makes me stretches easier. 
5. Drink water-you will sweat in a hot bath (which helps eliminate waste from the body). Drink before and after. Being dehydrated can make you grumpy.
6. Baths are a great treatment for muscle soreness. The heat gets in much deeper than using a heating pad/pack. They are especially good for low back pain. Most low back pain is muscular, especially “knots” in muscles, which a hot bath can ease.
7. Try deep breathing-it may increase your relaxation. Not slow breathing but deep and strong.

Source: https://www.painscience.com/articles/bathing.php

Click here for the research on lowering blood pressure, helping dementia and brain trauma with hot baths

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Spring has Sprung and so have I

Since retiring, my to-do list: clean out clothes closets, clean out the garage, the cupboards, replant the garden, paint the living room AND get rid of STUFF.  So far I’ve done very little un-stuffing. 

judy’s Cluttered Closet by Peggy

I just edited a research post on CATNIPblog and I’m relieved to know I can blame my brain which is scientifically on hiatus. 

Here’s a section I edited out on CATNIP trying to symplify the post.  Couldn’t bear to throw it away and lose it though . . .

“Why do we allow clutter to accumulate? . . .  it’s because we don’t want to make decisions about throwing things out. We think we might need that item someday. Blame the psychological effect called loss aversion. Humans are averse to losses. Our brain says, “If we get rid of it, then we’ve lost it.”’

“Can the process of removing physical clutter help us release negative emotional attachments in our lives? O’Reilly says there is a basic, intrinsic pleasure in increasing order.”

“O’Reilly has found that people will organize things as a way to relax and pass the time. An example he finds noteworthy is walking down the aisle of an airplane and observing people playing solitaire on their laptops.”

“They’re sorting fake, digital cards on a laptop,” he said. “Why? I can’t think of a more meaningless activity—sorting stacks of cards that aren’t even real cards. And yet we love to do it, because it’s satisfying to put things in their place.”

Read the full research, click here:

Daunted by “spring” cleaning? Blame your brain

 

 

 

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Why do dogs have floppy ears?

But what’s behind this mysterious change? What possibly could link tameness and ear cartilage? Skunk Bear’s latest episode shares one fascinating hypothesis that ties it all together, and explains shortened snouts and patchy coats along the way.

Why do pets and livestock tend to have “drooping ears?”

“Wolves, for example, have perky, upright ears. But the ears of many dogs are distinctly floppy. Darwin saw this odd trait in many domesticated species — “cats in China, horses in parts of Russia, sheep in Italy and elsewhere, the guinea-pig in Germany, goats and cattle in India, rabbits, pigs and dogs in all long-civilized countries.”

“The incapacity to erect the ears,” Darwin concluded, “is certainly in some manner the result of domestication.”

“A century later, an ambitious (and adorable) experiment in the Soviet Union proved him right. At the time, Vladimir Lenin’s pseudo-scientific dogma had no room for classical genetics. So Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyayev disguised his own research as the study of animal physiology. He retreated to Siberia and attempted to domesticate the silver fox.”

“Belyayev took 130 foxes from fur farms and started a breeding program. He only picked the tamest foxes — those that seemed less jumpy around humans, and less likely to bite — as parents. When their pups were grown, he’d pick the tamest ones to breed again.”

“In just a few dozen generations, Belyayev’s foxes were tame. And, lo and behold, their ears were distinctly floppier. Just as Darwin suspected, the change in behavior had caused an unexpected change in appearance.”

 

I lose 2 pounds every night . . . by breathing

My brother Rick and I have had a “weight-off” for two years.  We check in every week to report our weight lose (or gain).  Rick weighs himself once a week while I obsessively weigh before bed and when I wake up. Every morning I’m always 2 pounds lighter than the night before.  I’ve never known where my 2 pounds  goes  . . .  until now . . .

The enlightening facts about fat metabolism

” . . . fat is converted to carbon dioxide and water. You exhale the carbon dioxide and the water mixes into your circulation until it’s lost as urine or sweat.”

“If you lose 10 pounds of fat, precisely 8.4 pounds comes out through your lungs and the remaining 1.6 pounds turns into water. In other words, nearly all the weight we lose is exhaled.”

judy’s journal

“This surprises just about everyone, but actually, almost everything we eat comes back out via the lungs. Every carbohydrate you digest and nearly all the fats are converted to carbon dioxide and water. The same goes for alcohol.”

“Protein shares the same fate, except for the small part that turns into urea and other solids, which you excrete as urine.”
“The only thing in food that makes it to your colon undigested and intact is dietary fibre (think corn). Everything else you swallow is absorbed into your bloodstream and organs and, after that, it’s not going anywhere until you’ve vaporised it.”

“The good news is that you exhale 200 grams (7 ounces) of carbon dioxide while you’re fast asleep every night, so you’ve already breathed out a quarter of your daily target before you even step out of bed.”

Eat less, exhale more

“So if fat turns into carbon dioxide, could simply breathing more make you lose weight? Unfortunately not. Huffing and puffing more than you need to is called hyperventilation and will only make you dizzy, or possibly faint. The only way you can consciously increase the amount of carbon dioxide your body is producing is by moving your muscles.”

“But here’s some more good news. Simply standing up and getting dressed more than doubles your metabolic rate. In other words, if you simply tried on all your outfits for 24 hours, you’d exhale more than 1,200 grams (42 ounces) of carbon dioxide.”

“More realistically, going for a walk triples your metabolic rate, and so will cooking, vacuuming and sweeping.”

“Metabolising 100 ounces of fat consumes 290 ounces of oxygen and produces 280 ounces of carbon dioxide plus 110 ounces of water. The food you eat can’t change these figures.
Therefore, to lose 100 ounces of fat, you have to exhale 280 ounces of carbon dioxide on top of what you’ll produce by vaporising all your food, no matter what you eat.”

Changing clothes, cooking vacuuming and sweeping don’t really appeal to me.  I’m going to go to bed now, sleep for 16 hours, and lose 4 pounds.

Find Yourself in Hot Water

Rub a dub dub

Curious Critters in a tub

Blood pressure going down

Calories burning up

Meowie, Ant, Elf, Squeak & the pup

Hot tubing by Peggy

Full disclosure: this is a tease

Click here PLEASE

you’ll learn what’s in store

scientific evidence and more

(why hot baths are good for your health)

National Napping Day and Me

In anticipation of National Napping Day, observed annually the day following the return of daylight saving time, I’ve taken  2 hour naps every day for a week.  National Napping Day is supposed to provide everyone with the opportunity to have a nap and catch up on the hour of sleep they lost due to the spring forward time change.  Personally, I would prefer no time change and instead of N.N.Day we had a National No-Time-Change Day.

Curious Critters Catching Zzzz’s by Peggy

Mid-afternoon naps are an integral part of many cultures, and scientifically proven to be good for you.

A needed rest is supposed to make you feel better, improve your mood, be more productive and energetic.  After my 2 hour naps I felt groggy, foggy, like muck.

Researching National Nap Day, I read that numerous studies have shown that short 10-20 minute naps are the most effective when midday fatigue hits.  Improvements in alertness, productivity and mood have all been shown to improve with this type of snooze.  

Apparently 10 – 20 minutes prevents your brain waves from going into deep sleep which is what creates the grogginess when you wake up

Now, they tell me . . .

HISTORY

William Anthony, Ph.D., a Boston University Professor and his wife, Camille Anthony, created National Napping Day in 1999 as an effort to spotlight the health benefits to catching up on quality sleep.  “We chose this particular Monday because Americans are more ‘nap-ready’ than usual after losing an hour of sleep to daylight saving time,” Anthony said.

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Raisins vs. Grapes: Which is Healthier?

Our research post finding that eating grapes helps memory – Grape New for Memory Decline – was popular, as readers hoped the “liquid form” of grapes (they weren’t referring to grape juice) was as good as the whole fruit.  Jessica asked if raisins contained the same benefit as grapes.  We Goggled. . . and here’s what we found:

GrapeFull by Peggy

Grapes Versus Raisins

“When a fruit is dried, its components become concentrated.  Whether one is better than another it apparently depends on why you are eating grapes or raisins to begin with.”

Wine

“Most vitamin C in grapes and some heat-sensitive phytochemicals are destroyed in the drying process, but clearly plenty survive, as seen in antioxidant testing. Raisins generally contain little resveratrol, a much-studied antioxidant found in red grapes and wine, either because the raisins are made from green grapes (naturally low in resveratrol) or because the compound is destroyed during drying.”

Antioxidants

“Researchers have found that ounce for ounce as measured by standard test, raisins contain almost three times the amount of antioxidants as their original grape counterparts. Antioxidants are important in promoting and maintaining good health and optimal growth, and are essential in the treatment and prevention of certain chronic diseases, especially cancers.”

Sugar

“When dried, the antioxidants found within grapes becomes concentrated–but unfortunately, so does the amount of sugar. Many people suffering from diabetes or other conditions in which sugar consumption is an issue are already often cautioned against eating large amounts of fruits due to the high sugar content.”

Calories

“Along with the concentration of antioxidants and sugar that occurs when grapes are dried to form raisins, comes a concentration in calories. In general, raisins contain significantly more calories than grapes. In fat, a half cup of raisins contains approximately 250 calories, while the same serving of grapes contains only 30 calories.”

Raisin vs Raisin

“Golden raisins are particularly high in antioxidants because the sulfites used to preserve their color while drying prevent some of these compounds from oxidizing. People allergic to sulfites need to avoid most golden raisins.”

If you are simply looking for a great source of dietary antioxidants, raisins are the best way to go. However, if you are looking for a healthy snack that is low in calories and sugar and can help you stick to a weight loss program, stick with grapes.

Sources:

Fitday & Berkeley Wellness

Thanks Jessica from Mother is a Verb for the question about raisons!

Frankly Freddie – How Long was she Contagious?

Dear Human-beings and other fans,

My human is finally feeling more normal . . . as least for her as I’ve never been completely convinced she was “normal” to begin with.  The virus that took up residence in her body at end of December lasted for a month . . . and  then triggered  fibromyalgia symptoms.  

The good news was Canines don’t catch human virus.

The bad news was nothing I could do would persuade her to let me take her for walks.

For all my fans I found this very short video that explains some disconcerting flu facts . . . for humans

Skunk Bear YouTube

The CDC says she was contagious one day before she started feeling sick and up to seven days after. If you’re a kid, elderly, or have a weak immune system, you can be contagious for even longer.

She’s no kid but she is elderly and has a weak immune system so for all I know she’s still contagious.  When I take her on walks I’ll keep her on a short leash.

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDH&WC

Canine Dog Health & Wellness Consultant

P.S.  It’s National Love Your Pet Day!  Take a look at my post – click here: Frankly Freddie, National Love Your Pet Day

Woofer’s Bark Bark Valentine Treat

Eating chocolate has been tied to a reduced risk of heart disease. Now scientists have uncovered how strong this link is.

To read more click here: 

Why Chocolate is good for Tallulah and My Heart

Turns out there’s added benefits when you add nuts and berries.  

Walnuts are one of the top nuts for brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other things, DHA has been shown to improve cognitive performance in adults, prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline and lower resting blood pressure. One study even shows that mothers who get enough DHA have smarter kids.

Just a quarter cup of walnuts provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA.

Strong scientific evidence also exists that eating berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes.*

“Berry fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, compounds that protect cells from damage by harmful free radicals. The two also report that berry fruits change the way neurons in the brain communicate. These changes in signaling can prevent inflammation in the brain that contribute to neuronal damage and improve both motor control and cognition.”

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Woof Woof Bark Bark

Woofer’s Bark Bark, a good for your brain’s Valentine treat 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb 70% dark chocolate, finely chopped or grated or 6 oz. bag of dark chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups roasted walnuts or almonds, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup dried raspberries (other dried berries will work)

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt chocolate in microwave oven or stir chocolate in a double boiler until melted.
  3. Add nuts & berries and stir quickly to combine. (reserve some to sprinkle on top)
  4. Spread chocolate-berry-nut mixture on parchment paper, keeping nuts in a single layer.
  5. Sprinkle top with the remaining berry-nut mixture.
  6. Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.
  7. Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.dscn7199

WOOF! woof!

Click here and on the Pinterest pictures for other chocolate recipes, and more about chocolate:

 Freddie’s Food Friday

Chocolate Rides Again

A Chocolate a Day Melts the Fat Away

Journal Reference:  Marshall G. Miller, Barbara Shukitt-Hale. Berry Fruit Enhances Beneficial Signaling in the Brain. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

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I have Sickness Behavior

Been curled up in a fetal position for 14 days (but who’s counting?)  My cold has traveled south  (undoubtedly looking for warmth) into my bronchials.  I don’t want to talk to anyone, see anyone, do anything and my guilty pleasures are no longer pleasurable.  The ever-present fibromyalgia fatigue has morphed into exhaustion and if I had the energy I’d invest in stock in Puff’s-plus-lotion-tissues stock options.

Bob the Blobfish sez: “If she thinks she’s got problems try being me with a cold . . .”

BUT Glory be! I’m not being a wimp!!!!  “Those feelings are a real thing called “sickness behavior,” which is sparked by the body’s response to infection. The same chemicals that tell the immune system to rush in and fend off invading viruses also tell us to slow down; skip the eating, drinking and sex; shun social interactions; and rest.”

“Those messages are so powerful they can’t be ignored,” says Philip Chen, a rhinologist at the University of Texas, San Antonio. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Symptoms like a stuffy nose are obvious, Chen notes, but we’re less aware that changes in mood and behavior are also part of our bodies’ natural response to infection.”

“There is plenty of evidence that having a cold impairs moodalertness and working memory and that brain performance falls off with even minor symptoms.”

“Excuses, excuses . . . “

Frankly Freddie – Dog Owners are Healthier Hoofers

Dear Subscribers human or otherwise,

My Human has been very lax lately not posting on this MY FAVORITE BLOG but focusing her attention on CATNIPblog which we all know is dedicated to the wrong species.  
She has been a bit under the weather and using that for an excuse not to go to art classes, not to clean her office, not to eat properly, not to do anything she doesn’t want to do.  HUMANS!  I constantly have to remind her it’s time for treats and take her on walks.

My last CATNIPblog post was such an important one that I am referencing it here so all of you who do not have a canine to take care of you will go out and adopt one quickly.

Here’s an excerpt from my post and the salient information:

I take my human out for a walk as often as I can.  She’s a bit delusional . . .  she thinks she’s walking me.  So I constantly have to find proof that she needs to quit patting herself on the back and pat me.

“In a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, dog owners on average walked 22 minutes more per day compared to people who didn’t own a dog.”

“If you look at studies on pet ownership, people who own pets seem to live longer than those who don’t own them,” . . .  

Get a life.  Get a dog . . . like me

Frankly,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CHT

Certified Human Trainer

If you don’t believe me read this: Dog Owners Walk 22 minutes more per day 

or this: FRANKLY FREDDIE

Ice cream for Breakfast Makes You Smarter – for your eyes ONLY (CATNIPblog subscribers do NOT read)

Growing up one of my favorite breakfasts was cream of wheat  (we called it Farina) with a scoop or two . . .  or three . . . of vanilla ice-cream.  I’m already drooling at the memory: The cold ice cream melting on the hot cereal.   A delicious bite of  melted ice cream,  a bit of solid ice-cream and cereal.  
When all the ice cream melted I would get another scoop.  Loved the taste, texture, hot & cold, sweet and bland.  It was so decadent to eat ice cream for breakfast.
                                                                   *     *     *    
On CATNIPblog Peggy and I focus on brain & body health.  We’ve posted about brain science & sugar and the neurochemistry of eating protein at every meal.   I am withholding this breakfast-breaking research from CATNIPblog subscribers so Peggy doesn’t get irate comments.  

BUT those of you who care more about being “CURIOUS” than CATNIP . . .  you get the first scoop.

You (and hot dogs) are the stuff fireworks are made of

The explosive black powder in the firework shot into the air contains almost the exact same amount of energy as a simple hot dog.

The firework uses the energy in black powder to fill the sky with light. We use the energy in a hot dog to do everything — move, breathe, think, stay alive.

“And here’s the surprising thing: the firework and your body use the same basic chemical process to get at that energy.”

“Luckily, as Skunk Bear’s latest video explains, our version of this reaction is a bit less explosive.”

Want to learn more about fireworks? This Skunk Bear video explains the chemistry behind their bright colors. (Hint: It has something to do with everyday table salt.)

 

Skunk Bear

National Pink Day, June 23

Brain research is clear – our thoughts trigger the neurochemical flood of emotion.  Think negatively and you will feel anxious or fearful.  Think positively and you’ll be flooded with the neurochemistry for happiness, contentment or love.

Life need not be fraught

with negative thought

“This too shall pass

half full is my glass”

“It’s bright and sunny

all milk and honey”

“It will be ok . . . 

on another day”

That’s  how to think

to be in the pink

Thinking Pink by judy

Read these for information on the research:

Worry your life away – literally

Research shows you will be happier for 3 months – Music to my ears

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO TO CHEER UP QUICKLY, ACCORDING TO NEUROSCIENCE

Tree-Climbing Goats – Weird, Wild, Wonderful World

Argan trees are an important part of the economy in Morocco.  They bear fruit and the seeds of the fruit are valuable — they can be pressed to yield argan oil, valued in beauty treatments and foodie circles. By some reports, argan oil exports bring in $6.5 million.”

It’s not easy to harvest seeds from atop a 30-foot-tall tree. In the arid parts of Morocco where argan trees grow.  Goats are encouraged to climb, dine and deliver the seeds to earth, where they are collected by humans and eventually turned into argan oil.”

The goats . .  ” go very slowly and they do it. Some goat keepers modify the trees to make them easier to climb, they cut some branches off the trees so the goats can start climbing the trees more easily.”

“They disperse the seeds by spitting them out during rumination.”

However, if there is . . .  “a huge number of goats, they eat all the new baby trees, they kill them, so even though the goats are dispersing the seeds, they are eating the baby trees. So the effect is negative. But if there is a small or moderate number of goats, they will not kill all the baby trees produced by the dispersed seeds.”

“These people who take care of the argan trees get money from selling the argan fruit, so they buy more goats. So there is no rejuvenation of the argan forest because the goats are eating all the baby trees.”

Read the entire article and click here: Tree Climbing Goats Help Plant New Trees 

Blame game: roosters, virus and my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

It’s the Year of the Rooster – I was born under the Chinese sign of the Rooster.  Always thought it to be a curse I was born under a sign that wasn’t fertile enough to lay an egg or two.

imgres

According to my friend Sharon Bonin-Pratt (whose last post inspired this post) People born under the sign of the Rooster are hardworking, funny, trustworthy and talented.

I’m not hardworking, at times am funny, almost always trustworthy, and have latent talents that get laid but never hatched.

This Rooster year started off with a cold virus that delights roaming the cozy recesses of my sinus passages.   It’s day 11 (but who’s counting).  I’ve been a total slug – no energy, no resolve which gives me a perfect excuse for not making New Years’ resolutions.

(The truth be told, I never make resolutions for the New Year – learned long ago that when I inevitably fail to keep a resolution it leads to feeling badly.)  

What energy I have has been directed toward resolving to be more creative this year. 

In preparation I’ve been obsessively reading everything I can find on how to break my creative block and stop procrastinating.

Most everything I read about procrastination indicates that we procrastinate when we don’t want to do something that is not enjoyable.   Being a master procrastinator I also procrastinate with things that bring me enjoyment.

For inspiration, I read blogs of people who write, read or draw daily – all things which bring me enjoyment.  I feel badly I’m not like them  which leads me to read articles on procrastination and meeting goals (I know how to set them, just not meet them).

Finally the article below has liberated me! I know what to blame:

My dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is lazy . . . not me.

images

Creative block here’s neuroscience how to fix it.

by Elizabeth Shockman

“What is it exactly that helps us be creative? What fuels us when we get into an especially productive work flow? What makes the hours disappear when our brains focus on a task?”

“What, in other words, is happening in our brains when we’re being creative?”

“Cognitive neuroscientist Heather Berlin at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says we know a little bit about what’s going on. Berlin studies the neuroscience of imagination, creativity and improvisation. And for those people who might be facing writer’s block? “There’s really no prescribed medication,” Berlin says. “There is no real magic pill.”’

Instead, she says, creativity depends on which part of the brain you might be using.

“When [people] are improvising, there tends to be a pattern of activation where they have decreased activation in a part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” Berlin says. “And that part of the brain has to do with your sense of self, your sort of inner critic, making sure that your behavior conforms to social norms.”

“Translation? When you’re at your most creative, “basically you lose your sense of self,” Berlin says. “You kind of release your inhibition. The second you become too self-aware that comes back online and you lose that flow state.”’

“In addition to losing inhibitions, people who are in a creative state have increased activation in a part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, which has to do with the internal generation of ideas. In other words, the ideas are coming from within.”

“Some people, when they’re in the flow state … a lot of people say ‘It feels like it’s flowing through me. It’s coming from someplace else,’ you know, ‘It’s coming so naturally I don’t even have to think about it,’” Berlin says. “It’s called liberation without attention. You can only keep a certain number of variables in mind when you’re thinking about something consciously. But if you let it go, you actually can come to a greater understanding because the unconscious can do much more complex processing.”

“For those suffering from creative block, Berlin has some practical advice:”

“You have to take in all the information and then go for a walk,” Berlin says. “Go out, do something else. Because those people who sit there and just obsess over thinking about it too much, using your prefrontal cortex you’re actually limiting yourself. So letting it go can actually help you get over, let’s say a writer’s block or a creative block.”

I’d go for a walk but I have a cold.  Maybe some other time . . .

 

 

Cuddle Fish

squid-a368418e138de40e19da6a204f5a12a278df598b-s800-c85

“The team spotted this Stubby Squid off the coast of California at a depth of 900 meters (2,950 feet). The stubby squid (Rossia pacifica) looks like a cross between an octopus and squid, but is more closely related to cuttlefish. This species spends life on the seafloor, activating a sticky mucus jacket and burrowing into the sediment to camouflage, leaving their eyes poking out to spot prey like shrimp and small fish. Rossia pacifica”

 

RATS! We Inhaled

At Judy Formato’s Painting on the Patio (POP) art group the topic of marijuana came up.  

Several of the woman, who shall remain anonymous, (we are all well over the age of 50 or 60 or 70) admitted to inhaling in their youth.  It was a pertinent topic (for those of us well over the age of 50 or 60 or 70) relating to pain medication for maladies that come with maturity.

Is this a coincidence, or what? . . . I came home to read this new medical marijuana “MIND” study:  

Researcher Staci Gruber is “. . .  trying to determine the long and short-term impact of medical marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, quality of life, sleep, and other clinical measures. 

“People drive two to three hours sometimes to get [here for] the study,” Gruber said. “They’re really committed. They really want to know what effect this will have on them.”

“As they wait for long-term results, MIND researchers have made a few interim discoveries. They have found, for example, that marijuana could possibly ease symptoms for people with bipolar disorder and that a medication for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease may reverse the cognitive effects of chronic recreational marijuana use.”

Perhaps our POP group could volunteer – we can drive and are VERY committed women.

I think we qualify.

Oh, by the way, here’s what I painted at POP.

Water-color on Yupo paper

Water-color & pencil on Yupo paper

DSCN6660

I wonder why they don’t use rats for this study – they use them for all the others?

 

Baltimore, the Snowy Owl

No energy to write my usual pithy posts . . . but here’s a Snowy Owl worth the visit:


“We followed a young owl named Baltimore’s PRECISE route from a beach in Maryland to an island in Canada.”

Frankly Freddie (parenthetically speaking)

Dear Human Beings,

Do NOT, I repeat do NOT, believe everything you read.   This article is a case in point:

New research shows why dogs don’t like hugs.

Staff writers

“PET owners beware — new research has revealed that dogs don’t like hugs from their owners, which can make them (the owners?) more stressed out.”
“According to new research published in Psychology Today, Stanley Coren from the University of British Columbia, said dogs respond differently to humans who seek comfort from hugging others.”
“Coren, who studies canine behaviour, analysed a random sample of 250 pictures of humans hugging their dogs that he could find online through Flickr and a Google image search.” (skewed data – he left out Pintrest and Instagram where the animal pictures are more photogenic)
“In using photos where the dog’s face was easily seen, he looked whether the dog appeared to be anxious or distressed, relaxed, or showed a neutral response to being hugged.”
“He found that around 82 per cent of the photographs showed “unhappy dogs” receiving hugs from their owners or children.”

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Published Author

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Published Author

He said that dogs show signs of distress when they bare their teeth (called a smile when humans do it), turn their heads away from something ( just being bored and looking around), or they partially close their eyes (doesn’t everyone close their eyes when ecstatic?).
Another sign of anxiety is when a dog’s ears are lowered or “slicked against the side of his head”. (Stanley, it’s just our coiffure)
He also said that licking lips or licking a person’s face can also be a sign of anxiety, like yawning or raising a paw. (I lick when it’s tasty)
Coren said the fact that dogs don’t like being hugged can be explained by their behavioural nature.

As “cursorial animals”, (cursorial?  I swear I never curse) they are designed for swift running. When stressed, a dog’s first instinct is to run away.
It is believed that when they are restricted from moving with a hug, it can increase a dog’s stress level and potentially cause them to bite their owners. (or bite researchers)

It’s not the hugs that stressed the dogs out it was having their pictures taken WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT to be displayed for all the world to see.

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Pulblished Poet

Freddie Parker Westerfield, Blogger

So hug away you human-beings and always follow-up with a treat for us dogs (you got your treat with the hug)

Frankly yours,

Freddie Parker Westerfield, CDT RET, CDB

Canine Dog Therapist, Retired and Certified Dog Blogger

 

Keeping the Beat

“Snowball’s public debut also caught the attention of two scientists at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, Calif. John Iversen and Aniruddh Patel were interested in the evolutionary origins and neuroscience of rhythm and music. At the time, there was no documented evidence that nonhuman animals could dance — or, in more scientific terms, that they could “entrain” their movements to an external beat. “We saw this video, and it really knocked us out — it was the first time we had ever seen this,” Iversen said. “As scientists, you love these kinds of moments.”’

“Iversen and Patel tested Snowball in controlled experiments, altering the tempos of his favorite songs and observing how he responded without any training or encouragement. Snowball danced in bouts, rather than continuously, but frame-by-frame video analysis confirmed that he adapted his movements to the match the altered beats. Soon after, other studies by separate research teams showed that numerous species of parrots could entrain to a beat, as could elephants. Monkeys, on the other hand, did not display much rhythmic talent in the lab.”

Snowball (TM) is a Medium Sulphur Crested Eleanora Cockatoo that dances to the Back Street Boys and other songs that he rates as having a “very good beat.” He came to Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service, Inc. (a 501c3 not for profit bird rescue and sanctuary) in August 2007 and continues to make us laugh with his fancy footwork. We are currently raising funds to build a bird habitat for Snowball and other birds like him.”

"She has too much time on her hands . . ."

“Unlike other ANIMALS we  dance only in A-list private labs”

Click here to read the entire article Beasts that Keep the Beat and watch a seal “keep the beat”.

How ANXIETY can make you SMARTER

I tend toward the depressive end of the “depression vs anxiety” scale.  There are very few things, besides snakes, heights and being suspended in the air in gondolas, that make me anxious.  I rarely worry about them . . . unless I’m on a hike in the mountains, it’s rattlesnake season and the only way I can get down is a gondola ride.

After watching this video . . . I’m worried that I don’t worry enough . . . 

Giant Tree Lobster – pass the butter

Giant Tree Lobsters were thought to be extinct until discovered on a remote island near Australia.  And it’s not a hoax . . .  like the Tree Octopus.

To read about their “romantic” come back and take a look at what they look like full-grown click here: Meet the Tree Lobster, back from the brink

Take a look at the birth! . . . meditative and remarkable!


Green when young, and about the size of an adult human’s hand when full-grown, Dryococelus australis is more commonly known as the Lord Howe Island stick insect, or the tree lobster.
Courtesy of Rohan Cleave/Melbourne Zoo

“The nymph that comes out of the egg is about three times the size of the egg itself,” says Paige Howorth, the San Diego Zoo’s curator of entomology. “It’s just folded up in there like an origami piece or something — it’s amazing.”

It has been claimed that the males and females snooze together, cuddled up in pairs, with the male wrapping his six legs protectively around the female. But Howorth says assuming that the sleep position connotes affection would be premature.

“I don’t know if it means he loves her,” she says, laughing. “I’m not willing to say that.”

What goes UP will come DOWN

The excitement is contagious.  WATCH!!!!!!


“With this mission, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a leading global provider of Machine-to-Machine communication and Internet of Things solutions. The ORBCOMM launch is targeted for an evening launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.”

The 11 satellites were deployed approximately 20 minutes after liftoff at 17,000 miles an hour!!!!!!!!, completing a 17-satellite, low Earth orbit constellation for ORBCOMM.

 

ORBCOMM-2 Full Launch Webcast

An easy way for you to feel grateful EVERY DAY.

My brother Rick told me about The Greater Good.  Everyday I click on 6 of the sites.  With every click I remind myself to feel grateful to be living in a free country where I have access to things much of the world does not have.

It’s free and every click counts toward making this a better world.

(plus there are some cool free-trade things to buy that help people around the world)

Click on Greater Good and subscribe to get a daily e-mail reminder to be grateful.  Here are a list of the giving sites.

Research shows that feeling grateful doesn’t just make you feel good. It also helps – literally helps – the heart.

judy's journal

judy’s journal

“A positive mental attitude is good for your heart. It fends off depression, stress and anxiety, which can increase the risk of heart disease, says Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Mills specializes in disease processes and has been researching behavior and heart health for decades. He wondered if the very specific feeling of gratitude made a difference, too.”

“He recruited 186 men and women, average age 66, who already had some damage to their heart, either through years of sustained high blood pressure or as a result of heart attack or even an infection of the heart itself. They each filled out a standard questionnaire to rate how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives.”

“It turned out the more grateful people were, the healthier they were. “They had less depressed mood, slept better and had more energy,” says Mills.”

“And when Mills did blood tests to measure inflammation, the body’s natural response to injury or plaque buildup in the arteries, he found lower levels among those who were grateful — an indication of better heart health.”

“So Mills did a small followup study to look even more closely at gratitude. He tested 40 patients for heart disease and noted biological indications of heart disease such as inflammation and heart rhythm. Then he asked half of the patients to keep a journal most days of the week, and write about two or three things they were grateful for. People wrote about everything, from appreciating children to being grateful for spouses, friends, pets, travel, jobs and even good food.”

“After two months, Mills retested all 40 patients and found health benefits for the patients who wrote in their journals. Inflammation levels were reduced and heart rhythm improved. And when he compared their heart disease risk before and after journal writing, there was a decrease in risk after two months of writing in their journals.”

“Mills isn’t sure exactly how gratitude helps the heart, but he thinks it’s because it reduces stress, a huge factor in heart disease.”

“Taking the time to focus on what you are thankful for,” he says, “letting that sense of gratitude wash over you — this helps us manage and cope.”

“And helps keep our hearts healthy.”

Much is required from those to whom much is given.
–Luke 12:48

He that give should never remember, he that receives should never forget. –The Talmud

Ai yi yiiii, I’d be afraid to go to the bathroom

Did you know you can train your brain not to wake you up at night to go to the bathroom?  When you get the “full bladder” signal in the middle of the night ignore it.  Trust me you won’t wet the bed.  In about 2 nights your brain will stop signaling you that your bladder is full.  

If you don’t trust what I’m saying, try painting your floor!

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Thanks Linda B.!!!!!!!!

Hear! Hear!

If our bodies aren’t miracles I don’t know what is.

Great 3-D animation and a dramatic classical sound track, this 7-min. video by Brandon Pletsch takes us on a trip through the ear to vividly explain how we hear. It’s a National Science Foundation award winning film.

Coming!!!! Eradication of Disease

I have no question that some day humans will be able to be CURED from disease and illness.  It probably won’t happen in my life time but research is taking huge leaps forward in replacing function, eradicating disease, recreating organs.  It will happen. 

I have two very dear friends one who had a kidney transplant and the other whose husband had a transplant.  The process of getting donors, having to do dialysis and the operation itself was formidable.  This stem-cell research is exciting.  

Stem cell research is incredibly exciting and now here’s the latest application.

Excerpt from full article:

Scientists Grow Primitive Human Kidneys In A Dish

by ROB STEIN

Image of a mini-kidney formed in a dish from human induced pluripotent stem cells. Minoru Takasato/Nature

Image of a mini-kidney formed in a dish from human induced pluripotent stem cells.  Minoru Takasato/Nature

“For the first time, primitive human kidneys have been created in a laboratory dish, by using stem cells.”

“Although the kidneys cannot perform the functions of a fully formed adult kidney, the researchers hope the achievement will someday lead to new ways to treat people suffering from kidney failure.”

“It’s really exciting,” says Melissa Little, who heads the Kidney Research Laboratory at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia. She led the research, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature. “I think this is a really big advance.”

“They are only able to do some of the functions that a kidney performs, such as filtering toxins from blood, Little says. The organoid is not advanced enough to do all the very complicated balancing that a completely formed kidney does.”‘

“Little’s group is hoping the organoids may eventually continue developing into more fully functioning kidneys.”

“In the meantime, the primitive organs could possibly be used to help save failing kidneys by transplanting parts of them into patients, she says. Whether that will work remains to be seen.”

“Another use may be in pharmaceutical research. Companies could use the tissues to test new drugs.”

Click on the title to read the entire article

You’ve got a Microbiome!

 They call us “home”

our microbiome.

Our body spews 

a cloud no one can see

Bacteria, viruses, fungi

intermingling you and me

Releasing microbes in the air

from head to toe where ever we go

Because they’re here to stay

Don’t waste your money

on bug spray

If you don’t believe me read: wherever-you-go-your-personal-cloud-of-microbes-follows

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An excerpt:

“Each of us carries around millions of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi and viruses — on the inner and outer surfaces of our bodies. Most of them aren’t dangerous. In fact, growing evidence indicates that they help us in lots of ways. Scientists call this collection of organisms our microbiome.”

‘”A lot of the recent work on the human microbiome has revealed that we’re kind of spilling our microbial companions all over our houses and our offices and the people around us,” Meadow says.”

“Meadow says the findings raise a number of possibilities, including, maybe, one day being able to identify a criminal by analyzing the microbial cloud he or she leaves behind at the scene.”

We know that if you live with people, and even if you just work with people, your microbial communities come to resemble theirs over time, Knight says. “And in the past we used to think that was due to touch. It may be just that you’re releasing microbes into the air and some of those microbes are colonizing the people you’re with.”

Go! Fish!

One of my favorite childhood poems:

Fishy fishy in a brook

Papa catch ’em with a hook

Mama fry ’em in a pan

Baby eat ’em like a man

Here’s my updated version based on new medical technology:

Fishy fishy in your bod

cleaning out all your sod

from top of head to little toe

Sushi, sushi on the go

"Food for thought. "

“Food for thought. “

Read this excerpt from the article that inspired me to wax poetic:

“Tiny “fish” could soon be swimming in your bloodstream.”

“Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed 3D printing technology called “microscale continuous optical printing” that can print hundreds of microrobots within seconds, each one smaller than the width of a single hair.

“Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student who co-authored the report, wrote that “the microfish can doubly serve as detoxification systems and as toxin sensors.” When the researchers incorporated toxin-neutralizing nanoparticles into the microfish bodies, they found that their powerful swimming ability allowed them to efficiently clean out toxins from the solution. When the particles interacted with toxins, they emitted a red glow; the greater the presence of toxins, the greater the intensity of the glow.”

“The researchers are exploring the possibility of using this as a medical tool. They want to incorporate medicine into the microfish so that they can be injected into someone’s system in order to distribute drugs.”

Click on the title if you don’t believe me!

“I don’t want to talk about it”

I should go out in the garden and eat worms.  I’m exhausted.  I hurt all over.   It’s hard not to have self-pity.   I TRY to limit my public and private kvetching because I know it doesn’t help . . . me or you.  There’s scientific basis for the harm we do to ourselves when we talk about trauma – any kind of trauma. 

Acrylic on Canvas, by moi

Acrylic on Canvas, by moi

 If you or anyone you know has a “story of pain” (physical, psychological, social, economic etc) read Carolyn Thomas’ My Heart Sisters excellent post.  Here’s a teeny taste:

Rehashing a traumatic story/event does some of the following:

  • puts our system on high alert
  • triggers inflammation
  • triggers the fight/flight response
  • triggers shutdown mode

On the flip side Carolyn talks about the benefits of sharing with close friends:

“Dr. Laura Cousin Klein and her team found that the credit for women’s unique stress reactions may belong to the hormone oxytocin (also known as the “lovehormone”).  It’s the body’s own wonder drug – released when we nurse our babies, for example, as well as during a woman’s stress response. It’s instinctual, it buffers the fight-or-flight response and it encourages us to tend children and gather with other women instead – what’s called our tend-and-befriend response to stress.  This calming response does not occur in men, says Dr. Klein, because testosterone—which men produce in high levels when they’re under stress—seems to reduce the effects of oxytocin. Estrogen, she adds, seems to enhance it.”

Read the entire post “I don’t want to talk about it“- a Judy’s-Must-Read-Blog-Post.

The Ultimate DYI – I’ll make me a new pea brain

As my fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue symptoms go unabated I have asked my doctor Patricia Ahearn repeatedly to get her lobotomy certificate.  I’m sure there is week-end or on-line training for doctors.  She’s a very caring person so it’s been hard to understand why she’s been stalling.

Maybe she’s been waiting for this new research?!!!!!!

hmmm . . . speed up the evolutionary process . . . we could still rule the world . . 

Researchers Grow Nearly Complete Human Brain in Ohio Lab

“An almost complete version of a tiny human brain has been grown in a U.S. lab in a move that could bring major strides to the treatment of neurological diseases, a scientist says.
Rene Anand, a professor at Ohio State University, has grown in a dish a brain equal in maturity to that of a five-week-old fetus, his university reported.”

“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” Anand said.”

“Around the size of a pea, the brain in a lab dish includes multiple cell types, all major regions of the brain and a spinal cord, but lacks a vascular system, the university said.” 

“It was grown from human skin cells and is claimed to be the most complete brain of its type grown yet.”

AND!!!!!

With the new 3D printing technology I might be able to make me new brain, each morning, right at home.

Skunk Bear to Skunk Car – past & future

My contribution to science . . . for today.  

NPR SkunkBear channel

Thanks Linda B!

If you want to remember – Forgeta bout it!

I’m so smart.  I’ve been employing this strategy for years!  The only problem is when I remember what I forgot, I forget why I needed to remember what I forgot to remember.

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Leigh Wells/Ikon Images/Getty Images

Trying To Remember Multiple Things May Be The Best Way To Forget Them

by CHRIS BENDEREV

“A new scientific model of forgetting is taking shape, which suggests keeping multiple memories or tasks in mind simultaneously can actually erode them.”

“Neuroscientists already knew that memories can interfere with and weaken each other while they are locked away in the recesses of long-term memory. But this new model speaks to what happens when multiple memories are coexisting front and center in our minds, in a place called “working memory.”‘
“It argues that when we let multiple memories come to mind simultaneously, those memories immediately lock into a fierce competition with each other.” When these memories are tightly competing for our attention the brain steps in and actually modifies those memories,” says Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, a neuroscientist at UT Austin.”

“The brain crowns winners and losers. If you ended up remembering the milk and forgetting the phone call, your brain strengthens your memory for getting milk and weakens the one for phoning your friend back, so it will be easier to choose next time you’re faced with that dilemma.”

It’s a strain on my brain

to remember

whether it’s June, July or December

Multiple memories,

lots of tasks

my brain crowns the winner

which I reward with dinner

Eats I never forget

Food being a permanent mind set

P.S. I forgot to tell you that you can read the entire article by clicking on the title above.

 

 

 

 

Pluto and beyond “. . . will a Race one day stand really tall”

IF ONLY WE HAD TALLER BEEN

By Ray Bradbury

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measure out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistine Ceiling,
And God’s great hand come down the other way
To measure Man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.
Short man. Large dream. I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Will is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!

“NASA New Horizons Pluto Mission Tribute Video! | NPR Hundreds of images from NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto stitched together in retro newsreel form with audio of American science fiction author Ray Bradbury reading his beautiful poem “If Only We Had Taller Been.”‘

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New false-color images of Pluto and the moon Charon exaggerate colors to highlight differences in their surface compositions, NASA says. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/07/14/422840586/nasa-zooms-in-on-pluto-for-closest-views-yet

 


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