Archives for category: Quirky brains
the rescuing hug

‘The Rescuing Hug’ – This picture is of two week old twins who were in separate incubators, and one was not expected to live. A hospital nurse fought agast the hospital rules and placed the babies together in one incubator. The healthier of the two threw her arm over her sister in an endearing embrace. The smaller baby’s heart rate stabilised and her temperature rose to normal.

As someone whose nickname was ‘squeeze’ when I was a little girl, I can attest to loving a hug.

But recently, hugs have started to reveal their health effects.

Studies have shown that hugging has been shown to release oxytocin, sometimes referred to as “the love hormone”, in particularly high quantities following positive social interactions (like hugging). Oxytocin is key to boosting trust, sociability, and triggering maternal instincts while lessening anxiety and social fear.

However in 2010, hugging got an upgrade to a healing activity.

A study among couples found that increases in oxytocin following hugs correlated with faster wound healing. The hypothesis was that oxytocin reduces inflammation, thus allowing the wound to heal more quickly.

The study also showed that people who said they felt more social and spousal support and had more hugs and massages had higher oxytocin levels than those who reported less support and physical intimacy.

For man’s best friend, patting your pet also boost oxytocin (for canine and man alike!), and emailing loved ones has the same effect.

Providing doses of oxytocin has also been shown to result in more positive than negative behaviours during disagreements with your partner, confirming prior evidence that oxytocin  affects couples’ positive and negative communication behaviours. Read more on the study here. It also can improve communication skills for autistic children if provided in doses.

So what are you waiting for?

Do as Hunter and Collectors say.

Go find a squeeze.

Hugs are the universal medicine. 

~Author Unknown

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Flipper is a smart fish.

Not only can he do my favourite trick of warding off sharks, but he also uses his sleep time with an effectiveness most new parents can only dream of.

When sleeping, dolphins can’t afford the luxury of physically stopping for a kip. Instead they need to keep swimming, and crucially breathing, to stay alive.

So how do they sleep?

Scientists have found that they actually manage to switch off half their brain, so that the active part can control swimming and breathing, while the rest rests.

Better than that, they team up in pairs to sleep, switching off the respective inner hemispheres (halves) of their brains, so that the outer halves are alert for predators, attack, Elijah Wood, Paul Hogan etc.

Talk about teamwork.

Check out this highly educational video offering rare insight into dolphins and their brains at work.

Note, if you do not find this funny, we prescribe that you need more sleep.

Your snout is able to determine over 10,000 different smells using about 500 nasal receptors.

However for some people, smell is but a memory.

They are unable to smell a whiff of anything and this total loss of smell is known as anosmia.

It currently affects around 5% of the US population, which means there are around 16 million people unable to smell leaking gas, smoke, or even worse, themselves (resulting often, undertandably, in some level of social anxiety).

As well as that, they sometimes can’t taste the flavours in food.

Your brain portion that controls smell is located at the base of your skull, so even mild head injuries to the back of the head can result in anosmia, however this is often temporary.

But for those whose smell never returns, hallucination of smells can form in their place where people think they smell coffee, smoke or other alarming substances even when there is none.

Hallucinated smells of a particularly vile smell kind are called cacosmia as described by Bonnie Blodgett in her book ‘Remembering Smell’ where she was plunged into a flurry of terrible smells from rotten eggs to chemicals, mould and sick.

On a more positive note, there have been recent studies to suggest that those who have a good sense of smell are more emotionally sensitive (thought to be because the two areas of the brain related to emotion and sense are in the limbic system), and science has taken steps closer to proving the simple truth that a memory can be triggered by a smell due to the proximity of the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for emotional memory) to the hypothalamus and olfactory tracts (nose!).

So if you can smell the roses, be thankful. Some people are getting noses full of nothing, or worse.

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Facts found in Oliver Sacks’ newest book ‘Hallucinations’.

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Love can come in the most curious forms.

In his latest book ‘Hallucinations’, Oliver Sacks tells a story about his patient, Gertie C., who suffers intense visual hallucinations as a result of Parkinson’s postencephalictic disease – or ‘frozen’ disease (as described in Sacks’ book and film ‘Awakenings’).

Sometimes frightening, sometimes funny, hallucinations are an offshoot of the disease which is thought to be due to a build up of proteins in the parts of your brain that deals with sight and movement.

After some distress at her visualisations, Gertie decides to submit to the oddities her brain conjures, and embrace the experience instead…

In the form of a hallucinatory gentleman caller.

Every night, he arrives faithfully on her doorstep with flowers, presents, love and warm companionship.

Who says love isn’t real?


According to the BBC’s ‘Brain Sex‘ quiz, my brain is exactly half boy, half girl, i.e. on-balance for skills that are traditionally male (spatial, logic) and traditionally female (emotion, intuition).

It’s a weird kind of thought.

Thankfully they explain it a bit as you go through each task: in essence, the majority of the differences between male and female brains are thought to be due to hormone differences and how they affect the development of the brain.

For example, men generally outperform women at “spatial tasks”, (although many women also score extremely well), and one theory suggests that exposure to higher levels of testosterone before birth gives men an added advantage because testosterone may stimulate the development of the right hemisphere of the brain – the side that contributes most to spatial awareness.

Females, on the other hand, tend to outperform men on tasks about “object position” (e.g. “has anyone seen the car keys?”), and some scientists think that women’s oestrogen levels make them much better at noticing details of their environment and spotting changes.

This perhaps also explains why women tend to perform better at ‘The Reading The Mind In The Eyes’ test devised by Simon Baron Cohen (Sacha Baron Cohen cousin!) which measures how well men and women display empathy towards others.

The amount of testosterone we are exposed to in the womb is also thought to influence the growth of our ring fingers. This theory may explain why men’s ring fingers are often longer than their index fingers. The average male ratio is .96. On average, women’s index and ring fingers are more or less of equal length, with a ratio of around 1.00. There is even some evidence that our finger ratio can be affected by the number of older brothers we have!

Want to know which side of your brain is more dominant?

What kinds of faces you find attractive and why?

Take the quiz now and rate your own brain’s gender at bbc.co.uk/science/humanbody

The world’s most elegant woman, Coco Chanel, was said to have advised the following when dressing with accessories:

“Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

Taking this sage advice from a woman who was far ahead of her time, what would you “take off” from your calendar of 1001 things to do today?

If you could do one less thing, what would it be?

Try it.

Coco says to 🙂

While we have all heard that dogs are man’s best friend, U.S. researchers at Miami University and St. Louis University have  made some significant scientific connections between the companionship a pet can bring, and an increase in physical and mental health.

In particular, pet owners with non-aggressive dogs expressed a higher sense of self-esteem, we more extroverted, got more exercise, reported a great closeness to significant others in their lives, and significantly, were less lonely, and less fearful about getting close to other people.

The study participants were also asked to write about a time when they felt socially excluded and then write about a favorite pet or a favorite friend; writing about pets was just as effective as writing about a friend in terms of minimizing feelings of rejection, the researchers found.

In short: get a pet!

Read more at www.washingtonpost.com.

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