A UK woman has an extra cone cell in her eyes and can see more colors

A UK woman has an extra cone cell in her eyes and can see more colors

Most people are trichromats.

Most animals are dichromats.

In some rare cases some women might be a tetrachromats.

Okay, I see you have lost me. I’ll teach you what I myself have just learned.

We see color because of specialized nerve cells in the retina called cones, which function only in bright light. Most people are trichromats which means they have three of these cones to perceive color with. Each cone cell is capable of perceiving about 100 different colors, so the total number of colors a trichromatic person can perceive is 100ᶟ, or one million.

As you can probably guess, most animals are dichromats and have two cones. As do color-blind people who can only perceive 10,000 shades.

Tetrachromats, which include certain fish, birds, and insects, and some humans, have four different types of cone cells. This is a very rare condition and affords the person the ability to see an incredible 100 million colors.

Discover Magazine reported in 2012 that Newcastle University neuroscientist Gabriele Jordan and her colleagues had been searching for people with this super-vision and after more than 25 years finally found one.

A doctor living in northern England, referred to only as cDa29 in the literature, is the first tetrachromat known to science.

The idea that tetrachromats might exist was hinted at in 1948 when Dutch scientist HL de Vries, discovered something interesting about the eyes of color blind people. While color blind men only possess two normal cone cells and one mutant cone that’s less sensitive to either green or red light, De Vries showed that the mothers and daughters of color blind men had one mutant cone and three normal cones, in other word four cone cells. The possibility was that people who possessed an extra cone cell would be able to see a much greater range of colors than the rest of us.

It was only in the late 1980’s that John Mollon from Cambridge University started searching for women who might have four functioning cone cells. Assuming that color blind men pass this fourth cone cell onto their daughters, Mollon tested such women but couldn’t find anyone with unusual color perception.

Was tetrechomats just a figment of scientific imagination?

Then, in 2007, Jordan, who had formerly worked alongside Mollon, tried a different test. She found 25 women who had a fourth type of cone cell, and put them in a dark room. She presented the women with three flashing colored circles that they peered at through a lab device.

To a tetrachromat, though, one circle would stand out because it was not a pure color but a subtle mixture of red and green light randomly generated by a computer. Only a tetrachromat would be able to perceive the difference, thanks to the extra shades made visible by her fourth cone.

When one of the woman was able to distinguish the extra shades, Jordan was ecstatic.

“We now know tetrachromacy exists,” she told Greenwood. “But we don’t know what allows someone to become functionally tetrachromatic, when most four-coned women aren’t.”

How long you need to do cardio to reap the benefits for your body and brain

How long you need to do cardio to reap the benefits for your body and brain

Some years ago I was shocked when a colleague of mine complained about having to walk from her car to the office building. Since I knew where she parked her car, which was in the street right in front of the building, I asked, why?

“I hate walking,” she said.

Would you rather be stuck in a wheelchair, I wondered, but didn’t say it out loud. The street where we parked our cars was lined with old plane trees, such a pretty sight, year round. Such a lovely walk if you happened to be parked some distance from the office building.

That walk was a great opportunity for daily aerobic exercise.

I did myself some good by walking, according to the authors of an article in the Harvard Medical School blog: “Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”

These psychological rewards have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, that’s why it’s not your imagination if you feel great after a long hike.

But, there is more. There are important mental rewards as well. Exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills.

In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning, according to this Harvard Medical School blog post.

Experts agree that exercise offer many health benefits, but how long we should sweat and puff to get the optimal benefits from aerobic exercise is a question that has not been answered definitively yet.

An article in Business Insider refers to numerous studies that put the optimal time down to between 30 and 45 minutes for four days per week.

Common sense could be a good enough guideline here. Most people who live active lives and are not athletes who earn their living through sport, have limited time to devote to exercise. It makes sense to include activities like walking, cycling, gardening or housework – that are already part of a daily routine – as part of an informal exercise regime. Once or twice a week get off at an earlier bus stop or make it a habit not to park right in front of the nearest entrance to the mall.

It’s possible to get in enough exercise and reap the health benefits without having an official aerobics exercise schedule.

If you get the chills when listening to music, you might be experiencing a “skin orgasm”

If you get the chills when listening to music, you might be experiencing a “skin orgasm”

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way right now: Frisson is a scientific term for the feeling your body gets when you have chills running over your skin or you get goosebumps from a sensation related to music. Some researchers even call it “skin orgasm”. 

You know the feeling: you hear a song from your high school prom and it instantly takes you back to another time and place and it sends shivers down your spine? Those shivers are frisson (pronounced free-sawn).

Cool, huh?

If you’ve never experienced this sensation before, you might be one of the 22-45% of the world’s population who don’t experience this feeling. Sorry about that.

It’s amazing to think that an external sound could have such a physiological impact on our bodies. Music strikes memories where memories were once lost, it changes our mood dramatically, and it makes our bodies quiver. But it’s just a sound? Music experts know how to bring about those feelings in people in the movies, on television and in art forms such as the opera, orchestra, and more.

Are chills a leftover survival tactic?

While the jury is still out on why humans get goosebumps when they listen to music, many scientists believe this physiological response is a leftover survival tactic from when humans were exposed to more extreme conditions and goosebumps kept us warm.

Since we don’t need those physiological responses as much anymore, the body still has the occasional need to act up when the body is stimulated in a particular way: namely, through intense music.

There is a growing trend in Youtube videos from all over the world called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) in which numerous sounds and feelings bring about similar reactions in people as Frisson. We’ve added a popular Youtube video at the bottom of this article designed to give you these chills. 

Sounds like brushing of hair, tapping fingernails, and flipping book pages all elicit a physiological response in people that causes their hair to stand on its ends and they get chills down their spin.

The most exciting examples of frisson occur when powerful music is playing, or when people are emotionally invested in a piece of music; say, from a favorite movie or song they danced to during a fun night out with the girls.

Other art forms that can cause frisson to come about in people are particularly interesting works of art; many people report being moved to tears while seeing paintings such as the Mona Lisa, or seeing statues such as the Madonna and Child.

These works of art elicit such a powerful response in people that their bodies have a physical reaction. Without ever touching the works, their bodies react to the sensation of the thoughts the person is experiencing.

So the next time you find yourself scanning through the radio stations and a favorite song comes on, pay attention to how your body feels when it hears that song.

Do you have positive memories or negative memories associated with the song? How is your body reacting? Is your hair standing up? Do you have goosebumps? If you are one of the lucky ones, your body will react in some way. I say lucky because being able to feel art, as well as see it, is a magical experience and one that won’t soon be forgotten.

Here’s a Youtube video that’s been viewed over 2 million times that’s designed to give you those feel good chills. Let us know in the comments if you experience them!

Eating chocolate regularly may make you smarter and healthier, according to research

Eating chocolate regularly may make you smarter and healthier, according to research

The internet is abuzz with news about research that touts chocolate as a good breakfast choice, as seen with the recent viral article Research Shows That Eating Chocolate Cake For Breakfast Is Good For The Brain And The Waistline.

Being partial to something sweet in the morning – I have often wished I had been born in Spain where hot chocolate and sweet buns are standard breakfast fare – I was delighted to have my habit sanctioned by science.

But I was also suspicious. It sounds too good to be true. It has all the makings of fake news, don’t you think?

We’re wrong. There is support for health benefits of chocolate and one study does mention it as part of breakfast, but nowhere is eating chocolate for breakfast actually promoted by science.

Let’s look a bit closer.

A Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal study published in the journal Appetite found that people who ate chocolate at least once a week performed better on multiple cognitive tasks compared to those who ate chocolate less frequently.

The study by researchers at the University of Maine, University of South Australia and Luxembourg Institute of Health tracked more than 1,000 people, ages 23-98, over 35 years.

The researchers hypothesized that regular intake of cocoa flavanols may be one of several mechanism explaining the cognitive benefits of chocolate, but the research results were not a hundred percent conclusive.

Here are the highlights of the study as reported in Appetite:

  • Chocolate intake was positively associated with cognitive performance.
  • The impact of chocolate on cognitive function is not well understood.
  • Mechanisms may involve the action of cocoa flavanols and methylxanthines in chocolate.

Enjoying chocolate doesn’t only make your brain work better. The study also found that people who ate chocolate regularly had higher total and LDL cholesterol, lower glucose levels, and lower presence of hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

A new study by Italian researchers links drinking flavanol-rich cocoa to improved memory, short-term cognitive function, protection against cognitive decline and restoring cognitive function after sleep deprivation.

So, overall chocolate is great for you, but should you eat chocolate cake for breakfast?

The claim that eating chocolate-rich food for breakfast is good for the waste line comes from an Israeli study in 2012 on the benefits of having a big breakfast, with that breakfast including some sweet treat. The premise of the study is that it’s not only what you eat, but when you eat – a concept referred to as calorie-timing, that affects body weight.

The idea is that starting the day with a big breakfast jump starts metabolic processes and keeps them high during the day. According to the study, by Daniela Jakubowicz of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Diabetes Unit at Holon’s Wolfson Medical Center, those who eat their largest daily meal at breakfast are far more likely to lose weight and gain a slimmer waistline than those who eat a large dinner, reported The Times of Israel on the Tel Aviv University study.

The researchers divided 193 clinically obese, non-diabetic adults into two groups with identical daily calorie intake — 1,600 for men, 1,400 for women. Those in the first group ate a low-carbohydrate diet that included a small 300-calorie breakfast while members of the second cluster were given a 600-calorie breakfast high in protein and carbs, including a dessert.

Now:

Halfway through the 32-week trial, participants in both groups had lost an average of 33 pounds per person, but after that things changed. Those who enjoyed a large breakfast kept on losing weight while those in the other group regained weight.

The conclusion is that a full breakfast that includes a sweet dessert can contribute to weight loss success, because dieters are sated and experience less cravings, so they are able to keep up the weight loss regime.

It’s important to note that the diet entailed restricted calories. According to USDA guidelines, women need about 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day, the female participants only consumed 1,400 calories.

The bottom line:

We shouldn’t justify our urge for chocolate cake early in the morning with convenient interpretations of research results.

New scientific research demonstrates magic mushrooms treat depression in ways conventional medicine can’t

New scientific research demonstrates magic mushrooms treat depression in ways conventional medicine can’t

Did you know that an estimated 350 million people worldwide are affected by depression? It’s now the leading cause of global mental and physical disability and plays a major role in countless suicides, including among children, teens and young adults.

The situation is actually much worse than this.

Around 50 percent of people living with this debilitating condition don’t benefit from antidepressants and around 20 percent don’t respond to any treatment.

This means that the conventional approach to addressing depression isn’t working.

But, for some, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

New research results from Imperial College London hold much promise. Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, who leads the psychedelic research arm of the Center for Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, has published research suggesting a compound in magic mushrooms, psilocybin, may help treat depression.

The therapeutic potential of psychedelics for the treatment of depression is of major interest to scientists because psilocybin acts on the serotonin levels in the brain.

To understand how hallucinogenics work on the brain, Dr. Carhart-Harris explains that in a normal brain there are not so many cross connections as in a brain on psilocybin: the latter state allows for a more open, freer connections across the brain. The brain becomes untethered from incoming information and in this state it can operate in a more freewheeling way.

To test the treatment of depression with psilocybin, six men and six women with moderate to severe treatment-resistant depression participated in the study. Many of them suffered from depression for an average of 18 years with no positive results from treatment.

You may be wondering: is this safe?

Good question.

Because hallucinogenics can bring about a very profound experience — pleasant as well as extremely unpleasant — these powerful substances must be treated with respect and great care. Researchers from Imperial College therefore conducted a strictly monitored feasibility study where psychiatrists were physically present with the patients throughout the process. The scientists gave test subjects two doses of psilocybin on two treatment days.

The study results show that psilocybin is safe and well-tolerated and that, when given alongside supportive therapy, helped all of the study participants to feel relief from depression for the first three weeks after the treatment.

Here’s the kicker:

More than two thirds of them were depression free and 42 percent of them stayed depression free for three months after the treatment.

One of the volunteers had this to say about the experience:

“The usual negative self-narration that I have had vanished completely. It was replaced by a sense of beautiful chaos, a landscape of unimaginable colors and beauty. I began to see that all of my concerns about daily living weren’t relevant, that they were a result of a negative spiral. I also felt that I was learning without being taught, that intuition was being fed.”

In the weeks after the treatment, the patient remarked: “I’m aware that it’s pointless to be wrapped up in so much negativity.” Six months after the treatment he was still in remission.

The researchers warn that this is not a magic cure that’s going to help everyone.  Scientists have to do more research to find out how to optimize the treatment and further test its effectiveness.

Here’s what happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother

Here’s what happens to a woman’s brain when she becomes a mother

Parenthood. One of the biggest changes in life one can go through.

It’s no longer just yourself. You now have to protect and care for an innocent and defenseless little human being.

Dealing with this change is tough enough, but have you wondered what biochemical reactions happen in the brain to the Mother who had to conceive this baby?

We all know giving birth takes a huge toll on the body, but we often don’t talk about the effects it has on the brain.

So today, we’re going to go over what science has found to Mother’s brain once she becomes pregnant.

What happens to the brain after pregnancy

A groundbreaking study recently found that being pregnant creates long-lasting effects in a mother’s brain, with MRI scans showing changes in grey matter volume that may actually help Moms look after their new babies.

What are these changes?

According to the researchers, gray matter concentrates in regions associated with social cognition and theory of mind – a region of the brain that’s activated when women looked at photos of their infants.

Here’s the definition of ‘theory of mind’:

“The ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one’s own.”

Also, activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. These changes were still present two years after birth.

We all know that during pregnancy, there’s an enormous increase in hormones such as progestorone and estrogen to prepare a women’s body to carry a child.

We produce similar amounts of these hormones during puberty, which is known to cause dramatic and organizational changes in the brain. Boys and girls lose gray matter in the brain as it is pruned to be more efficient.

While it is not entirely clear why women’s gray matter concentrates during pregnancy, the lead researcher of the study, Heokzema, thinks it may be because their brains are becoming better prepared to adapt to motherhood and respond to their babies.

Mel Rutheford, an evolutionary psychologist, summarizes it best:

“As a parent, you’re now going to be solving slightly different adaptive problems, slightly different cognitive problems than you did before you had children…You have different priorities, you have different tasks you’re going to be doing, and so your brain changes.”

But ask any Mother:

One of the biggest changes that occur after giving birth are intimate ones – the emotional changes. The feelings of empathy and love that’s so deep it can’t be put into words. But, as it turns out, they are also largely neurological.

The researchers say that gray matter becomes more concentrated and activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety and social interaction, as well as a flood of hormones resulting from pregnancy, help attract a new mother to her baby.

In other words, the incredibly strong maternal feelings of love, fierce protectiveness and constant worry begin with neurological changes in the brain.