SOTT FOCUS: The Health & Wellness Show: Chronic pain: Is it all in your head?

Do you have low back pain? Do your joints ache? Do you experience the persistent pins and needles feeling of neuropathy? Or maybe you have fibromyalgia and hurt all over? If you do, you’re one of the 39 million Americans who suffer from persistent pain. Being on the pain train is bad enough without the added insult of being told that it’s ‘all in your head’. But what if it is — at least partly? There are some types of pain that are obviously linked to an actual physical insult and other types that cannot be traced to an easily identifiable medical condition. Research is now showing us that some pain really is in the brain.

Join us for this episode of The Health and Wellness Show where we’ll discuss different types of pain and their co-factors, treatment modalities, the placebo effect and the brain’s role in stopping or perpetuating this mental and physical misery.

And tune in for the Pet Health Segment at the end of the show where the topic will be signs of pain in cats.

Running Time: 01:16:29

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Ian Stevenson: Birthmarks and birth defects corresponding to wounds on deceased persons

Discussion

Because most (but not all) of these cases develop among persons who believe in reincarnation, we should expect that the informants for the cases would interpret them as examples according with their belief; and they usually do. It is necessary, however, for scientists to think of alternative explanations.

The most obvious explanation of these cases attributes the birthmark or birth defect on the child to chance, and the reports of the child’s statements and unusual behavior then become a parental fiction intended to account for the birthmark (or birth defect) in terms of the culturally accepted belief in reincarnation. There are, however, important objections to this explanation.

First, the parents (and other adults concerned in a case) have no need to invent and narrate details of a previous life in order to explain their child’s lesion. Believing in reincarnation, as most of them do, they are nearly always content to attribute the lesion to some event of a previous life without searching for a particular life with matching details.

Second, the lives of the deceased persons figuring in the cases were of uneven quality both as to social status and commendable conduct. A few of them provided models of heroism or some other enviable quality; but many of them lived in poverty or were otherwise unexemplary. Few parents would impose an identification with such persons on their children.

Third, although in most cases the two families concerned were acquainted (or even related), I am confident that in at least 13 cases (among 210 carefully examined with regard to this matter) the two families concerned had never even heard about each other before the case developed. The subject’s family in these cases can have had no information with which to build up an imaginary previous life which, it later turned out, closely matched a real one. In another 12 cases the child’s parents had heard about the death of the person concerned, but had no knowledge of the wounds on that person. Limitations of space for this article oblige me to ask readers to accept my appraisal of these 25 cases for this matter; but in my forthcoming work I give a list of the cases from which readers can find the detailed reports of the cases and from reading them judge this important question for themselves.

Fourth, I think I have shown that chance is an improbable interpretation for the correspondences in location between two or more birthmarks on the subject of a case and wounds on a deceased person.

Persons who reject the explanation of chance combined with a secondarily confected history may consider other interpretations that include paranormal processes, but fall short of proposing a life after death. One of these supposes that the birthmark or birth defect occurs by chance and the subject then by telepathy learns about a deceased person who had a similar lesion and develops an identification with that person. The children subjects of these cases, however, never show paranormal powers of the magnitude required to explain the apparent memories in contexts outside of their seeming memories.

Another explanation, which would leave less to chance in the production of the child’s lesion, attributes it to a maternal impression on the part of the child’s mother. According to this idea, a pregnant woman, having a knowledge of the deceased person’s wounds, might influence a gestating embryo and fetus so that its form corresponded to the wounds on the deceased person. The idea of maternal impressions, popular in preceding centuries and up to the first decades of this one, has fallen into disrepute. Until my own recent article (Stevenson, 1992) there had been no review of series of cases since 1890 (Dabney, 1890); and cases are rarely published now (Williams and Pembroke, 1988).

Nevertheless, some of the published cases — old and new — show a remarkable correspondence between an unusual stimulus in the mind of a pregnant woman and an unusual birthmark or birth defect in her later-born child. Also, in an analysis of 113 published cases I found that the stimulus occurred to the mother in the first trimester in 80 cases (Stevenson, 1992). The first trimester is well known to be the one of greatest sensitivity of the embryo/fetus to recognized teratogens, such as thalidomide (Nowack, 1965) and rubella (Hill, Doll, Galloway, and Hughes, 1958). Applied to the present cases, however, the theory of maternal impression has obstacles as great as the normal explanation appears to have.

First, in the 25 cases mentioned above, the subject’s mother, although she may have heard of the death of the concerned deceased person, had no knowledge of that person’s wounds.

Second, this interpretation supposes that the mother not only modified the body of her unborn child with her thoughts, but after the child’s birth influenced it to make statements and show behavior that it otherwise would not have done. No motive for such conduct can be discerned in most of the mothers (or fathers) of these subjects.

It is not my purpose to impose any interpretation of these cases on the readers of this article. Nor would I expect any reader to reach even a preliminary conclusion from the short summaries of cases that the brevity of this report entails. Instead, I hope that I have stimulated readers to examine the detailed reports of many cases that I am now in the process of publishing (Stevenson, forthcoming). “Originality and truth are found only in the details” (Stendhal, 1926).

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Drs. Antonia Mills and Emily W. Cook for critical comments on drafts of this paper. Thanks are also due to the Bernstein Brothers Parapsychology and Health Foundation for the support of my research.

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to: Ian Stevenson, M.D., Division of Personality Studies, Box 152, Health Sciences Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908

References

Cockayne, E, A. (1933). Inherited abnormalities of the skin. London: Oxford University Press.

Cook, E. W., Pasricha, S, Samararatne, G, Win Maung, & Stevenson, I. (1983). Review and analysis of “unsolved” cases of the reincarnation type: II. Comparison of features of solved and unsolved cases, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77, 1 15-135.

Dabney, W. C. (1890). Maternal impressions. In J. M. Keating (Ed.), Cyclopaedia of the diseases of children, Vol. 1 , (pp. 1 9 1 -2 1 6). Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.

Denaro, S. J. ( 1944). The inheritance of nevi. Journal of Heredity, 35, 2 1 5- 1 8.

Fatteh, A. (1976). Medicolegal investigation of gunshot wounds. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.

Frantz, C. H., & O’Rahilly, R.(1961). Congenital skeletal limb deficiencies. Journal of Bone and Joins Surgery: 43-A, 1202-24.

Gordon, I., & Shapiro, H. A. (1982). Forensic medicine: A guide to principles. (2nd ed.) London: Churchill Livingstone.

Hill, A, B,, Doll, R,, Galloway, T. M., & Hughes, J.P.W. (1958). Virus diseases in pregnancy and congenital defects. British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 12, 1-7.

Maruri, C. A. (1961). La herencia en dermarologia. (2nd ed.) Santander: Aldus, S.A. Artes Graficas.

Mills, A. (1989). A replication study: Three cases of children in northern India who are said to remember a previous life. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 3, 133-184.

Nelson, K., & Holmes, L. B. (1989). Malformations due to presumed spontaneous mutations in newborn infants. New England Journal of Medicine, 320, 19-23.

Nowack, E, (1965). Die sensible Phase bei der Thalidomid- Embryopathie. Humangenetik, I, 516-36.

Pack, G. T., & Davis, J. (1956). Moles. New York State Journal of Medicine, 56, 3498-3506.

Pack, G. T., Lenson, N. & Gerber, D. M. (1952). Regional distribution of moles and melanomas. AMA Archives of Surgery. 65, 862-70.

Smith, D. W. (1982). Recognizable patterns of human malformation. (3rd ed.) Philadelphia: W. B·Saunders.

Spalteholz. W· (1943). Hand atlas of human anatomy. Translated by L. E Barker. 7th English ed. Philadelphia: J,B. Lippincott.

Stendhal (1926). Lucien Leuwen. Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honor 6 Champion, 4, 169.

Stevenson, I. (1975). Cases of the reincarnation type. I. Ten cases in India. CharlottesviIle: University Press of Virginia.

Stevenson, I. (1983). American children who claim to remember previous lives. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 17 1, 742-748.

Stevenson, I. (1987). Children who remember previous lives. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.

Stevenson, I. ( 1990). Phobias in children who claim to remember previous lives. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 4, 243-254.

Stevenson, I. (1992). A new look at maternal impressions: An analysis of 50 published cases and reports of two recent examples. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 6, 353-373.

Stevenson, I. (Forthcoming). Birthmarks and birth defects: A contribution to their etiology.

Williams, H. C., & Pembroke, A. C. (1988). Naevus of Jamaica. Lancet, 11, 915.

Wilson, J. G. (1973). Environment and birth defects. New York: Academic Press.

How does our diet affect circadian rhythms?

Diet Composition Matters But So Does Meal Timing

Bright light in the morning entrains the master clock in your brain. The food-entrainable oscillator (FEO) kickstarts circadian rhythms in peripheral tissues when you eat breakfast (eg, Polidarova et al., 2011 and Sherman et al., 2012).

These two events (ie, bright light and food intake) should be timed together to co-entrain central and peripheral circadian rhythms.

Take Home Message

If optimal circadian is your goal, follow a low carbohydrate and either high fat or high protein.

Avoid smart devices at night or get some blue-blockers to prevent a circadian phase delay. Eat well, sleep well, be well.

Hi, I’m Bill. I have a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry and Physiology from Rutgers University where my dissertation focused on fatty acid-binding proteins and energy metabolism. I studied inflammation and diabetes at UCSD. And most recently, I studied circadian biology at the Mayo Clinic. I have a broad range of knowledge about health, wellness, sickness, and disease… and I’m learning more every day!

What’s in a name? The surprising ways your name affects your life

From dating to job prospects, a name has remarkable power over the path of its owner’s life.

I was at a party for Bastille Day in Paris a few years back, and we were leaning over the balcony to watch the fireworks. A cute French girl sat next to me, but after a few flirty glances the moment was entirely ruined with the most basic of interactions: “What’s your name?” she asked in French. “Cody,” I said.

That was it. We were done. “Co-zee?” she said, sounding out the entirely foreign name, looking more disgruntled with each try. “Col-bee?” “Cot-ee?”

I tried a quick correction, but I probably should’ve just lied, said my name was Thomas or Pierre like I did whenever I ordered take-away or made restaurant reservations. Not being able to pronounce a name spells a death sentence for relationships. That’s because the ability to pronounce someone’s name is directly related to how close you feel to that person. Our brains tend to believe that if something is difficult to understand, it must also be high-risk.

In fact, companies with names that are simple and easy to pronounce see significantly higher investments than more complexly named stocks, especially just after their initial public offerings when information on the stock’s fundamentals are most scarce. People with easier to pronounce names are also judged more positively and tend to be hired and promoted more often than their more obscurely named peers.

There are more variables at play than just pronunciation, though. In competitive fields that have classically been dominated by men, such as law and engineering, women with sexually ambiguous names tend to be more successful. This effect is known as the Portia Hypothesis (named for the heroine of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice who disguises herself as a lawyer’s apprentice and takes on the name Balthazar to save the titular merchant, Antonio). A study found that female lawyers with more masculine names – such as Barney, Dale, Leslie, Jan, and Rudell – tend to have better chances of winning judgeships than their more effeminately named female peers. All else being equal, changing a candidate’s name from Sue to Cameron tripled a candidate’s likelihood of becoming a judge; a change from Sue to Bruce quintupled it.

Names work hard: They can affect who gets into elite schools, what jobs we apply for, and who gets hired. Our names can even influence what cities we live in, who we befriend, and what products we buy since, we’re attracted to things and places that share similarities to our names.

A name is, after all, perhaps the most important identifier of a person. Most decisions are made in about three to four seconds of meeting someone, and this “thin-slicing” is surprisingly accurate. Something as packed full of clues as a name tends to lead to all sorts of assumptions and expectations about a person, often before any face-to-face interaction has taken place. A first name can imply race, age, socioeconomic status, and sometimes religion, so it’s an easy – or lazy – way to judge someone’s background, character, and intelligence.

These judgments can start as early as primary school. Teachers tend to hold lower expectations for students with typically black-sounding names while they set high expectations for students with typically white – and Asian – sounding names. And this early assessment of students’ abilities could influence students’ expectations for themselves.

On this year’s French baccalaureate, an exam that determines university placement for high school students, test-takers named Thomas (for boys) and Marie (for girls) tended to score highest. These are, you will note, typically white, French, middle- or upper-class names. One could imagine these students were given the advantage of high expectations and self-perception, whether or not they had the money and support that comes with the socioeconomic background associated with those names.

People change their names for different reasons. Angelina Voight became Jolie to estrange herself from her father and Natalie Hershlag became Portman to maintain her family’s privacy. The inclusion of a middle initial in formal correspondence is a strong identifier of intelligence (even though the New York Times claims it’s a dying trend). But what if parents from disadvantaged circumstances gave their children “advantaged” names? Could just a name really have that great of an effect on a person’s career and future?

A 2004 study showed that all else being equal, employers selected candidates with names like Emily Walsh and Greg Baker for callbacks almost 50 percent more often than candidates with names like Lakisha Washington and Jamal Jones. Work experience was controlled and the candidates never met face-to-face with the employer so all that was being tested was the effect of the candidate’s name. The researchers concluded that there was a great advantage to having a white-sounding name, so much so that having a white-sounding name is worth about eight years of work experience. “Jamal” would have to work in an industry for eight years longer than “Greg” for them to have equal chances of being hired, even if Jamal came from a privileged background and Greg from an underprivileged one. (Perhaps that’s why mega-celebrities can get away with giving their children peculiar names. A résumé with the name North West probably wouldn’t do as well as James Williamson – unless Papa Kanye called up the boss.)

After the girl at the party had so much trouble saying my name, I asked what her name was. “Edwige,” she said. It’s a lovely name, very French, but it is also pronounced the exact same way as “Hedwige,” which just so happens to be the French version of Hedwig, the owl in Harry Potter. “Don’t make fun,” she said, and I didn’t. But neither did we talk very much for the rest of the night. But still, I wonder what would’ve happened if I had been a Pierre and she a Marion. Perhaps we would’ve gotten along quite well that night, perhaps we would’ve quickly trusted each other. Perhaps I’d have a date this weekend.

Cody C. Delistraty is a writer and historian based in Paris. He has worked for the Council on Foreign Relations, UNESCO, and NBC News.

Not in front of the kids: Children can detect their parents’ emotional suppression

“Not in front of the kids.” It’s an age-old plea for parents to avoid showing conflict and strong negative emotions around their children. But new research from a Washington State University scientist disagrees, showing that it’s better to express negative emotions in a healthy way than to tamp them down.

After people suppress compassionate feelings, they lose a bit of their commitment to morality.

Sara Waters, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development on the WSU Vancouver campus, and co-authors from the University of California, Berkley and the University of California, San Francisco, write about their findings in the journal Emotion.

“We wanted to look at how we suppress emotions and how that changes the way parents and kids interact,” Waters said. “Kids pick up on suppression, but it’s something a lot of parents think is a good thing to do.”

The study was conducted on 109 mothers or fathers with their children in San Francisco. The sample was split almost evenly between mothers and fathers, as the scientists wanted to see if any differences existed in the results between genders.

First, the researchers gave the parent a stressful task: public speaking with negative feedback provided by the audience. Then, the parents were given an activity to complete with their children, with some randomly told to suppress their emotions. The others were told to act naturally.

The activity was the same for all pairs, working together to assemble a Lego project. However, the kids, ages 7-11, received the paper instructions, but weren’t allowed to touch the Legos. The parents had to assemble the project, but couldn’t look at the instructions. This forced them to work together closely to succeed.

“We were interested in behaviors,” Waters said. “We looked at the responsiveness, warmth, quality of the interactions, how the parent provided guidance for the child.”

Waters and her co-authors had a team of undergraduate research assistants from WSU Vancouver watch all 109 videos of the interactions to mark every instance of warmth, guidance, and other emotions.

Both the parent and the child were also hooked up to a variety of sensors, to measure heart rate, stress levels, etc. The study authors combined that data with the coding done by the assistants to get their results.

“The act of trying to suppress their stress made parents less positive partners during the Lego task,” Waters said. “They offered less guidance, but it wasn’t just the parents who responded. Those kids were less responsive and positive to their parents. It’s almost like the parents were transmitting those emotions.”

Gender Differences

Since the team made such an effort to get an equal mother/father split, they were able to make further discoveries. It turns out that emotional suppression made kids more sensitive to their mothers. The children showed less change in their responses when a father was suppressing his emotions, Waters said.

For now, there isn’t enough data on fathers and their children in emotion studies to say why that is.

“We just don’t have much research on dads because it’s really hard to get dads to participate in research projects,” Waters said. “It took a LOT of work to get enough dads in this study.”

In previous research, it has been found that, in general, men are more likely to suppress their emotions. Waters suspects that it’s possible a father suppressing his emotions isn’t unusual, so it didn’t have as much impact on the kids in this study.

Kids Pick Up Emotional Residue

Waters said there are dozens of studies that show kids are good at picking up “emotional residue” from their parents.

“Kids are good at picking up subtle cues from emotions,” she said. “If they feel something negative has happened, and the parents are acting normal and not addressing it, that’s confusing for them. Those are two conflicting messages being sent.”

Rather than suppressing emotions in front of your children, Waters suggests the best course of action is to let kids see a healthy conflict, from start to resolution.

Cancer treatments linked to cognitive decline and significant DNA damage

Cancer treatments can lead to declines in cognitive function a few later, research suggests.

A study published in the journal Cancer looked at a cohort of 94 women who had undergone radiation treatments and chemotherapy for breast cancer between three and six years earlier, and found significant damage to their DNA, including to the repetitive nucleotide sequences at each end of a chromosome, known as telomeres.

In one sense, this finding was not surprising. Standard cancer treatments work by damaging the DNA of tumour cells, and collateral damage to normal cells is often unavoidable. Reduced telomere activity and loss of DNA vigour are also markers of biological ageing.

However, in the latest study a team led by Judith Carroll from Cousins Centre for Psychoneuroimmunology at the University of California, Los Angeles, US, decided to test whether these physical outcomes were tied to cognitive activity in the cancer survivors.

They found that the answer was yes.

The researchers identified a correlation between levels of DNA damage and reduced telomere activity with a decline in lower executive function scores, worse attention and decreased motor speed.

“These findings are important because they provide further information about what might be happening after cancer treatment that impacts cognitive decline in some individuals,” says Carroll.

“The work is novel by identifying key factors in biological aging and connecting them to cognitive function, which initiates new avenues of research.

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: Facebook can cause depression

A new report conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania have determined that an excessive amount of time on “social media” sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are making millennials depressed.”It was striking,” said Melissa Hunt, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, who led the study. “What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use.”

The study, “No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression,” is being published in December’s Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Researchers recruited 143 students for two different trials, one in the spring semester and one in the fall semester. Each subject was required to have a Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat account, plus an Apple iPhone. They collected data on the students for about a week to get a baseline reading of their social media usage, and also had them submit questionnaires that assessed their mental health according to seven different factors: social support, fear of missing out, loneliness, autonomy, and self-acceptance, anxiety, depression, and self-esteem.

“Here’s the bottom line,” Hunt explained to Science Daily. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

The link between increasing social media usage and mental health issues have already been established in past studies. But, depression and loneliness have not, until now.

Hunt said lonely and depressed people use platforms like Facebook because they are seeking social connections. Social media as a whole is making millennials more lonely, and increasingly depressed.

The study did not cover why social media makes people depressed. Hunt does provide an example:

The first is “downward social comparison.” A person reviews their feed and finds countless posts of their friends enjoying wonderful experiences. The result: “You’re more likely to think your life sucks in comparison,” said Hunt.

Social media sites are a vital tool for many millennials in the modern economy. This means they cannot cut it out altogether, Hunt Said.

That is why the study focused on cutting back usage. While ten minutes might not seem like much, the study showed it certainly helped with depression.