June 03, 2008
'Blogging — It's Good For You'
I mean, I know it's good for me but you — I wasn't sure.
Now comes Jessica Wapner with the above-headlined article appearing in the latest issue (June, 2008) of Scientific American to explain just how it all works.
The piece follows.
- Blogging — It's Good for You
The therapeutic value of blogging becomes a focus of study
Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. A study in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged in expressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, as compared with patients who did not.
Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially considering the explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.
Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) and writer’s block, also looks to disease models to explain the drive behind this mode of communication. For example, people with mania often talk too much. “We believe something in the brain’s limbic system is boosting their desire to communicate,” Flaherty explains. Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving. “You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes. Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.
The frontal and temporal lobes, which govern speech — no dedicated writing center is hardwired in the brain — may also figure in. For example, lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.
Scientists’ understanding about the neurobiology underlying therapeutic writing must remain speculative for now. Attempts to image the brain before and after writing have yielded minimal information because the active regions are located so deep inside. Recent functional magnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the brain lights up differently before, during and after writing, notes James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. But Pennebaker and others remain skeptical about the value of such images because they are hard to duplicate and quantify.
Most likely, writing activates a cluster of neurological pathways, and several researchers are committed to uncovering them. At the University of Arizona, psychologist and neuroscientist Richard Lane hopes to make brain-imaging techniques more relevant by using those techniques to study the neuroanatomy of emotions and their expressions. Nancy Morgan, lead author of the Oncologist study, is looking to conduct larger community-based and clinical trials of expressive writing. And Pennebaker is continuing to investigate the link between expressive writing and biological changes, such as improved sleep, that are integral to health. “I think the sleep angle is one of the more promising ones,” he says.
Whatever the underlying causes may be, people coping with cancer diagnoses and other serious conditions are increasingly seeking — and finding — solace in the blogosphere. “Blogging undoubtedly affords similar benefits” to expressive writing, says Morgan, who wants to incorporate writing programs into supportive care for cancer patients.
Some hospitals have started hosting patient-authored blogs on their Web sites as clinicians begin to recognize the therapeutic value. Unlike a bedside journal, blogging offers the added benefit of receptive readers in similar situations, Morgan explains: “Individuals are connecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions — the basis for forming a community.”
Sara Lin, in a May 30, 2008 Wall Street Journal article, wrote, "Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen were living and working in a one-room studio in Vancouver, Canada, when they came up with the collapsible Molo chair. It's available in several sizes and materials, including white polyethylene, and starts at $170. The brown version (shown), made of 50% recycled cardboard, develops a crushed-down patina as it ages — which may not be to everyone's taste. 'We genuinely feel it gains character and beauty with use over time,' Ms. Forsythe says."
Continued Lin, "It took Stephanie Forsythe a year to figure out the right mix of new and recycled materials for her cylindrical Molo stools. She tried making the collapsible pieces exclusively with recycled cardboard but after vigorous testing the chairs began disintegrating. ('We threw a big party and let Charlie the dog run all over them — he's 80 pounds,' she explains.) Ms. Forsythe settled on a 50/50 mix of recycled cardboard and new Kraft paper — the latter contains long fibers that act as a reinforcement."
BehindTheMedspeak: World's first anti-slouch shirt — 'Assume the position'
Invented by Talia Elena Radford Cryns, a graduate student in industrial design at Austria's University of Applied Arts Vienna.
"Called the Ergoskin, the device detects bad posture through sensors along the torso and prompts the wearer to correct it," wrote Ranit Mishori in today's Washington Post Health section story.
"Prompts the wearer" — heh, heh.
I can think of any number of amusing prompts.
But I digress.
"Someone who has been hunched over a computer for several minutes would begin to feel tiny pistons that 'tap on the surface of the skin,' says the Ergoskin's inventor."
OK, that might be fun.
"The biofeedback doesn't hurt and is imperceptible to others, according to Cryns."
What about your smile as you straighten up and fly right?
But I digress yet again.
"The device can be calibrated to a wearer's ideal posture as determined by a physiotherapist."
I want one in the worst way.
"Repeated reminders to change position improve posture habits, which will eventually strengthen core muscles."
The green iteration below
has just been named Official Posture Correction Shirt of bookofjoe.
"The Ergoskin won Austria's National Design Award for 2007 but is not yet commercially available."
This shirt gives a whole new meaning to "assume the position."
Incredible Electronic Tape Dispenser
From the website:
- Incredible Electronic Tape Dispenser
Now we know you can probably pull tape off a roll yourself — but why should you have to?
With this Incredible Electronic Tape Dispenser you can get a little machine to do it for you!
It automatically pulls and cuts all the small pieces of tape you'll ever need!
Ideal for all those guys out there who like to indulge in a bit of amateur engineering.
Also great for crafts and gift wrapping!
• Get tape pieces in a flash — no more tugging or fumbling
• Suction cups on the base keep it in place
Requires 4 AA batteries (not included).
"Ideal for all those guys out there who like to indulge in a bit of amateur engineering."
Does Judie Lipsett know about this?
But I digress.
Full disclosure: I've had its companion Electronic Stapler (below)
for many years and find it as cool and fun as the day it arrived.
You slide your document into the slot below the business end and voila — you watch the plastic gears engage and spin around and there's a wonderful whirring noise before the stapler head slams down.
Cheap at twice the $25.50 price.
I thought the stapler was gone forever 'cause I haven't seen it for sale anywhere for at least five, maybe ten years.
Don't come crying to me come the holidays because it's sold out.
Unless you don't mind waiting until 2018 when I feature it again.
[via the indispensable Shawn Lea's everythingandnothing]
We get threatening email: From Jim Wysopal, inventor of the bottle opener hat
It came in precisely 54 minutes ago and appears above and to the right in the Comments section.
1) I don't have to take your cap off my website — in fact, look below: there it is again!
2) I can't stop selling them — because I never started!
Cease and desist, my patootie.
It's amazing to me how inventors seem so intent on sandbagging themselves and making it really hard to succeed.
Jim should be asking me how much he should pay me for giving him major-league visibility for nothing — twice now.
Every day I turn down serious money from companies who want to advertise on bookofjoe.
Yet when I give someone prime real estate — free! — I get "Dude, you are a thief."
This just in: Team B down in the sub-basement asked the question, "What if Jim is a lot smarter than you (faint praise indeed — but I digress) and fired off that irate comment knowing how predictable you are and that you'd respond by doubling down on his invention?"
More power to him, if that's the case.
Bell & Ross Limited Edition Tourbillon Phantom with Trust Index — World's first lie detecting watch?
According to a full page ad in this past Sunday's New York Times and the Bell & Ross website, the BR01 Instrument Tourbillon Phantom Ø 46 MM (above) has the following features:
• Trust index (detail below) at 3 o'clock
• 120 hours power reserve indicator at 9 o'clock
• Regulator at 12 o'clock (dissociating hours counter at 12 o'clock and main central hand for minutes)
• Carbon fiber mainplates and black gold tourbillon carriage with three additional complications
• Titanium case with special DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) virtually unscratchable finish
• Numerals, hands and indexes with photoluminescent coating for night use
• Water-resistant to 100 meters
• Black carbon fiber dial
I had my crack research team drop everything like it's hot (catchy, what?) and find out what the heck "Trust index" means in horological circles.
The answer, from europastar.com: "A trust index, an indicator of optimal working of the movement, [is located] between 2 and 4 o’clock. The trust index is in three sectors: high, middle and low. The middle sector indicates the ideal working of the movement; the lower sector means the watch is running slow and requires winding and in the high position it means you have to simply wait until the movement comes back to its optimal working rate."
Well, there it is.
If you have to ask....
'Pilots in... [Alaska] died at a rate nearly 100 times the mortality rate for all American workers'
That grim statistic is extracted from Weld Royal's April 15, 2008 New York Times article about bush pilots in the far north.
The F.A.A. has "... installed 82 Web cameras on coasts, in mountain passes and other places to give pilots a better understanding of actual conditions...."
Have a look.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.