Shot Through The Heart? New Studies Link Breaking Up to Physical Pain in Your Brain

breakup three

This week has been a hard week. Not only is it really go time and students need to start studying for finals, but I recently had a very difficult break up with my boyfriend. There were tears and tissues, but most of all pain. This got me to wondering whether or not this pain I felt was actually real. Of course emotionally I was in pain, but how was my brain reacting to this breakup? I then came across this article explaining what the brain goes through after a breakup.

This article, written by Melanie Greenberg, begins with a summary of research done at Colombia University. Researchers showed participants pictures of their ex-partner, pictures of their friends, then were touched with a hot probe all while being connected to an fMRI machine. These researchers discovered that the brain would light up in the same place it did for the ex-partner photo as it did with the hot probe, suggesting that the brain relates this person to physical pain. The researchers reasoning behind this reaction goes back to evolution. If someone is physically in pain or has recently faced rejection, then this reduces one’s chance for survival. This has not been proven.

breakup 1

The article then discusses another study that relates relationships to an addiction. When participants would look at their ex-partners their brains would light up around the “reward/motivation system” that tells the neurotransmitters to release dopamine. Dopamine is seen in drug addition and new love, showing that those exposed to drugs or new love are craving more more more. Ke$ha was right in saying, “Your love is my drug.”

Now to the validity of this article. First and foremost, it is vague. There are no links or connections to these ‘studies’ that have been mentioned, nor are there the names of the researchers of that particular study. Next, the website itself. Wikipedia quotes the mission of Psychology Today is to “get information to the general public easier”, and has blogs and articles posted by doctors, social workers, and other academics. This makes it seem like a pretty reliable source. The author herself also seems pretty reliable. A quick google search informed me that she is a published author, a great public speaker, and somewhat of a celebrity with all her TV appearances.

I really just wish there was more data in this article. It fell flat with any concrete evidence. The article ends with some helpful tips on how to “get over a break up” yet does not have any real explanation on what is going on in the body without being vague. I suppose I will just have to figure out what is going on in my brain with me, myself, and I. Maybe my therapist too.

breakup two

Can 15 Minutes of Walking Save You 15% or More on Your Health Insurance?

Article Header

This week, I came across an article about the new way insurance companies are trying to be sexy, Fitbits. Now an insurance company, like John Hancock, can look at all the data that your Fitbit already records, then give you discounts on how active you are. It is a win win for both sides because you become less of a risk and will least likely be needed to be insured for chronic illnesses and you don’t have to pay as much monthly for your insurance. Sounds like a wonderful deal…or is it?

Issues With This Concept:

I had a few questions on the ablest nature of this program. First off, if someone needs a discount on their life insurance, who is to say that they will have money to get the Fitbit needed in the first place? The New York Times did answer that for me saying, “People who sign up will receive a free Fitbit monitor.” So there we have it, households tight on money can afford the device that will help them save money.

Next, what if you can’t keep up the activity that gives you said discount. The article answered that question too, “[one] could see a premium increase of 1.1 to 1.6 percent each year.” So signing up would be a risk if you ended up getting really sick, but the article goes on to mention that if you have earned enough points to get you at the highest status, “premiums would fall by about 0.30 percent each year.” Which would give the costumer more incentive to be active and get to the “Platinum” status quickly.

how it works graph
Breakdown of John Hancock Vitality Program

How Points Are Awarded

Now how does one get to these statuses and what are the points for? The first point rewards that the article mentioned was that non smokers get 1,000 points automatically. Most everyone can agree that being a non-smoker has many benefits, and this has been proven multiple times by multiple medical studies, so having that be in the insurance policy I can agree with. I also agree with the policy that keeping a regular amount of activity, i.e. a workout three times a week, should also give you these discount status points. The part that really worries me is the automatic 400 points if the costumer gets a flu shot.

There are lots of controversies about the flu shot and if one should get one every year. Now if this insurance company has ties to ‘big pharma’ and ‘big pharma’ suggests that getting a flu shot would be a great idea, thus putting pressure on the consumer to also get a flu shot, who is to say that it will stop there? In order to get a larger discount a customer would have to do whatever the insurance company thought was healthy? Seems quite controlling to me.

Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying Glass

Is It Really A Choice?

Of course John Hancock stresses that this is your “choice” and you can “choose” what data you want to send to the insurance company or what lifestyle choices you make, but if someone really needs that discount on their premiums, it no longer becomes a choice. This just seems like another way for collecting of big data to end up hurting a vulnerable population.

All of this just sounds like Christian Grey from 50 Shades of Grey controlling what their partner eats, drinks, and does with their life. This new way to insurance just sounds like more of an abusive relationship than a revolutionary way to think about life insurance.

Can We Learn World Peace From a Rat?

Rat Cuddles

Last week I came across a Facebook post mentioning the article, “A New Model of Empathy: The Rat” by David Brown. The Facebook post and the title of the article intrigued me and I needed to investigate. Reading the Washington Post’s article I learned that being called ‘a rat’ by those who do not enjoy you, may actually be a compliment.

The article refers to a study by Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal, Jean Decety, and Peggy Mason at the University of Chicago. The purpose of the study was to see if non primate mammals have empathic concern for another. In the study, there would be a free rat and a caged rat, and in some experiments, a pile of chocolate chips. The experiments showed that not only would the free rat help release the caged rat, but that it would also save some of the chocolate to give to the caged rat once it was free.

reasearchers rat empathy
Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and Peggy Mason with their experiment.

The same study also experimented to see if the free rat would help the caged rat “if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it,” i.e. if the caged rat would be released into a different area. The researchers discovered that even then, the free rat would assist the distressed rat, thus the researchers came to the conclusion that empathy was at play. Peggy Mason commented that “There is nothing in it for them except for whatever feeling they get from helping another individual.” This means that a distress call from another rat emotionally drove the free rat to help. There were even times when there was not a distress call, and the free rat would help the caged rat, even if said caged rat was actually a doll.  Further in the research we see that the rats do not even need to know each other in order for there to be this empathetic bond. Rats that are strangers to one another will even save each other.

This research gave me a lot of feelings, but the most prevalent one was hope. This research suggests, and works to prove, that empathy is not some “cultural occurrence” but rather a “biological inheritance.” If rats will help out one another, then there is hope that humans will at some point as well since it is part of our natural instinct. This research also gives me hope in the work for future animal rights. More and more research has come out proving that animals are capable of detecting emotions. With more proof that all animals have empathic behavior, real legislation can be passed to protect all creatures of the earth. This research also gave me hope that those who seem to lack empathy may be able to learn from a rat the right way to treat someone of your same “genetic tribe.” Humans need to learn a thing or two from the way rats treat each other. Except for the eating your children part, maybe humans don’t need to learn that.

The research.jpg
Link to Video with Researchers Here


Myth or Fact: Left-Handed People Die Sooner?


Natural righties

While researching last weeks article on left handed athletes, I remembered the old myth that left handed people on average die nine years sooner. Where did that statistic come from, was it statistically accurate, and should I be writing my will now? Then I stumbled across an article from the BBC.

left powerThe article raises the same concerns that I raised, mostly because the author has family that is also ‘cursed’ with the left-handedness. Through Hannah Barnes’s journalistic research, the author discovered that there was no way this myth could be fact. Chris McManus a professor at University College London and a published author explained that in order to have the nine years less life expectancy, one would have to smoke “120 cigarettes a day…(and do) a number of other dangerous things simultaneously.” So there we have it. There is literally no medical reason why left handed people would die sooner, so what is the history of this myth.


The reason why we have this insane myth around is due to terrible timing by the researchers of this claim. The researchers, Halpern and Coren looked at recent death reports, called families of the deceased, and asked which hand was the dominate hand of the recently deceases. After recording hand dominance and age of passing, the researchers found that on average, those with dominate left hands died sooner.

Seems like plausible research right? Yes, but the researchers did not take into account the societal impact of being left handed. In the Victorian period, being left handed was seen as wrong and even evil, causing many people to be ‘in the closet’ about their dominate hand. Schools notoriously did not accept those with a left handed dominance and would force students to write with their right hand. If someone was being bullied and abused for using the so called ‘wrong hand’, then you might as well just lie about which hand you use. As time went on, being left handed became less of a sin and more accepted (in generally western counties).Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 4.00.16 PM Those being able to come out of their ‘hand closet’ would be much younger than those who hadn’t since society hadn’t even accepted their hand yet, and this is what created that nine year gap. Many of those who had died may have really been left handed, but through the stigma forced themselves to be right handed and therefore the family of the deceased would report their grandma or grandpa as right handed.

Once the deep rooted stigma of the evil left hand dies off and everyone is able to live and work with their dominate hand, this experiment can be redone and we can see if the nine year death difference is myth or fact. Again, unless every single left handed person was smoking like a chimney all day every day, the only thing those with left hands need to worry about are scissors not cutting straight. It’s wonderful to know that I will live long and hopefully prosper despite the large amount of pencil smudging on my assignments.



A Helping Hand In The Game?


This week I read a Guardian article that correlates left-handedness with an advantage in professional sports. The article begins with a claim that “Athletes could help us understand why most people are right-handed,” then goes on to summarize the hypothesis of a study done on leftie trends.

This hypothesis, as far as I can understand, claims that left-handedness is an evolutionary phenomenon, and that being left handed will help a person in a competitive setting, i.e. sports. This study recorded that “The more competitive the sport, the higher the share of left-handers (over 50% of top baseball players are left-handed)” due to an advantage that left handers have. What is this advantage though? The researchers claim that, “physical competition…favors the unusual” and they use boxing as an example because it is unexpected and the right handed boxers are not used to training and fighting against a more left sided fighter.

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 12.54.00 PM

Now to the analysis of the article and the study. There does not seem to be any significant biases, both researchers were right handed, and publishing and article about left handed athletes would not help or hurt The Guardian’s stocks or contributors, it is just some honest reporting. This may have some future implications in a recruiting aspect. Possibly after reading this article or the study coaches will be more likely to recruit a left handed athlete, but to see if that is the case we will need some more data.

Now personally, as a left handed person, how does this affect me? Sadly it doesn’t. There is nothing very athletic about me so I definitely do not see any advantage to my daily life. Maybe if Emma was right handed she would throw a ball even worse than the left handed Emma, but the only athletic thing I can do is run away from a Trump supporter.

Maybe I won’t contribute to the great lefties in history like Obama, but at least the leftie community will have some great athletes to claim before we all ‘die sooner’.

Tattooing Boosts the Immune System?

JCD Winning Tattoo
Jason Clay Dunn’s Winning Tattoo of Ink Master Season 5


While showering today, I remembered that I have three tattoos. Sometimes, especially in cold weather when I wear head to toe clothing, I forget that they even are there. I then remembered the Huffington post article that claimed there was some study that correlated tattoos with a boost in immunity. I wanted to find that study to see if that really was the outcome of the study, or of the Huffington post article writer was just wanted a catchy headline.

I ended up choosing more of a blog that had commented on this study. Similarly to the huff-po article I remembered, it was written vaguely, but it had the study attached to it, so I read it here.

Let’s start with the study. The researcher Christopher D. Lynn wanted to know if the immune system is affected at all when the body gets a tattoo. He tested immunoglobulin A and cortisol levels found in saliva to determine weather or not the body’s immune system is stronger after a tattooing session. The studies conclusion was, “that the body habituates over time to the tattooing stressor.”

This is kind of hard to understand, so let us put this into body building terms. When you first start working out, your body is sore by the end of it. It is ‘worn out’. If someone repeated the same work out process, the the body gets used to it, and by the end of your work out the next time your body is not as ‘worn out’. You can then lift more weights until your body is ‘worn out’ again, then keep the same process until the body is at that level where it is easy again to do. This study claims that getting a tattoo is the same process but the ‘ability of your body’ being your immune system and ‘working out’ being a tattoo session instead. Or at least, that’s what the study claimed.

In looking at the data, I am confused. Maybe I don’t have enough of a background in data, but the data doesn’t make sense. Their P values are so small, recorded at “(P = 0.006) with a large effect size (r2 = 0.711) and significant and positive main (P = 0.03) and interaction effects (P = 0.014),” which shows that they are smaller than 0.05 which would mean that their hypothesis doesn’t stand, correct?

Then there are the graphs. This one with the X axis that is never explained and a Y axis with numbers that were not in the study:

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 5.25.34 PM

Then the other graph. This graph displays a change in the immunoglobulin A levels that is not even represented in the bars next to it:

Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 5.25.42 PM

So I might be reading the data wrong, but besides that, I am wary to read the abstract and take the conclusion that the researchers draw as the actual conclusion since the researchers might have a bias on the outcome of their own findings.

In the article talking about the study, the researcher is even quoted in explaining that going out and getting covered in tattoos will not boost the immune system so much that you could fight cancer, but mostly that the immune system in those who have more tattoos is slightly stronger.

This just seems to be a case of a blown out of proportion conclusion. A slight increase in immunoglobulin A and cortisol levels does not mean that those with tattoos are now super heroes, especially since the chance of infection is even higher when getting a tattoo due to the open wound that is now on the body.

In conclusion, I don’t trust the study, I don’t trust the Huffington Post, and I don’t think that I am any more healthy than the next person because I have three tattoos. I still love my tattoos, I just don’t think I’m going to stop taking my vitamin C supplements everyday.

Emma Tattoo
My right arm, lyrics by Fall Out Boy, hand writing by Jane Austin, tattooing by Matt Egizi


Still A Closet Case?

Out of the closetLast week I called up my older brother. He lives in Portland and is a vegan organic farmer. Oh, and he’s gay, but you probably got that from the prior sentence. He and his boyfriend seemed so happy and in love, which was something that is surprising to see when looking back ten years ago to when he first came out. This got me thinking about how far not only my family has come, but also how far society has come. Now there are television shows, ad campaigns, and even politicians openly supporting what was once called the ‘Gay Agenda.’ With societal views changed, is anyone still in the closet?

Kid comes out of the closet
Watch This Link Here

I read this article about how the myth of ‘10% of the population is gay’ came to be. Interestingly enough, it comes from Alfred Kinsey’s surveys of 1940’s America, the same survey that created the still used today Kinsey scale. (For anyone who is wondering, I am a 3) The survey showed that 7% of Women and 13% of Men fell somewhere between 4 and 6, giving an average of 10%.

This data is old though. Today, I hypothesize that the percentage is higher due to the wider acceptance and the discovery of more sexual orientations and gender identities. Gone are the days of gay or straight, boy or girl. Humans are much more complicated than that. Though this hypothesis is interesting, I have no data to back it up, so for now I will just stick with the 10%.

Now back to the original question: “Are people still in the closet?” The simple answer is yes. I had forgotten that I live in a blue bubble. I go to a liberal arts college, I live in Salt Lake City, of which has a Harvey Milk road, and my parents are Jewish Democrats. Blue bubble. There are places all over the country that still bully those who are different, and too many times, death is the end result. The Trevor Project reported that, “LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth.” The good thing though, is that anxiety and depression can decrease if someone comes out, the only problem is that there needs to be a supportive community to do so. The Atlantic even reported that people whocome out of the closet are healthier! Who would have thought!

So I’ll need to pop my naive bubble and still keep fighting for safe spaces. Done. Works for me! Someday, maybe there won’t even be a closet to come out of, but sadly, that day is not today…yet.

Other spongebob