Dogs can play an important part in social interactions when it comes to children with autism. Children with autism who have a pet in the home have stronger social skills. This according to a study done at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction. The presence of an animal in the home made children more comfortable about introducing themselves and responding when something was asked about their pet. This form of assertiveness is extremely difficult for children with autism. The smaller the animal is the stronger the connection seems to be whether it is a small dog, cat, rabbit even a reptile. Since every child with autism is such a special situation, certain animals may elicit a better response then others.
Scientists from George Mason University have isolated a substance in a Kimodo Dragon that may have powerful germ killing abilities. Results were published in the ”Journal of Biofilms and Microbiomes”. Tests were done on mice that had wounds infected with two different strains of bacteria. DRGN-4 as the substance has been named, punched holes in the outer membrane of the bacteria while dissolving the biofilm that glues bacteria together. The Kimodo Dragon was selected because of its strong immune system. They can survive severe wounds, even lost limbs and live in filthy environments without getting infected. The dragons are revered and endangered in their native Indonesia. Researchers had to locate a Kimodo Dragon in a zoo to obtain a blood sample to work with. They can weigh as much as 100 pounds and are extremely dangerous with sharp serrated teeth. No anesthesia was admitted and four tablespoons of blood were finally secured. The sample proved to be a rich source of 40 substances including one with strong antibiotic qualities.
According to a study by The American College Counseling Association conducted in 2013, one in three college students is extremely stressed out and has sought counseling services. College campuses across the United States and around the world are reporting an increase in cases of depression, anxiety and ills brought on by stress. In an attempt to lend a helping paw, officials are arranging “pet therapy” events to help spread some cheer especially during exam times. Most of the dogs that make visits to the college campuses are all volunteers. Research has shown how contact with these furry friends can decrease blood pressure and stress hormones while increasing the hormones that encourage happiness.
Two studies, one done at New York University and the other at John Hopkins University were conducted on the effects of psilocybin (an hallucinogenic derived from mushrooms) and the therapeutic benefits in treating cancer patients. The results were published in The Journal of Psychopharmacology. Cancer-related psychological distress afflicts about 40% of cancer patients who found traditional therapy unsuccessful. Fear of the cancer returning after being told they are either cured or in remission prevents former patients from getting on and enjoying life. Administrating psilocybin is usually accompanied by a playlist of selected music which is believed to enhance the positive effects of the drug. Experiments have shown that relief from anxiety and depression are within the next day in contrast with antidepressants which take several weeks to take effect. This is vital since these patients need help immediately. The theory is that psilocybin interrupts the circuitry of self-absorbed thinking. At present trials are underway in the U.S. and Europe to treat forms of alcoholism, tobacco addiction and PTSD in this manner.
Many look to synthetic sugars as a way of decreasing the amount of calories they consume. However, short as well as long studies have proven that children as well as adults show significant weight gain by using synthetic sugars. It stems from the fact that only part of the brain is stimulated by synthetic sugars and the reward centers are left with a craving for the energy which would usually accompany using real sugar. The enhanced appetite brought on by sweetness is encouraged by synthetic sugars which only increase sugar cravings and dependence. So go ahead and use a teaspoon of honey or maple sugar and enjoy nature instead of something that has been chemically altered.
Processing speed, the measure of how our brains absorb and respond to information, seems to be especially hard hit as we age. The fraying of white matter, the specialized cells of the brain that communicate messages between neurons, are greatly affected after age 40. A study conducted at the University of Illinois and published in “the Frontiers of Aging Neuroscience” showed a difference in brain scans of older, healthy yet sedentary adults before and after they had incorporated dancing into their lifestyle. Participants were divided into three groups. One group was assigned brisk walking, another stretching and balance training and the final group intricate choreography in country dancing. After six months, the three groups were retested and the group that was assigned to learn new dancing techniques had a remarkable increase in the density of the white matter. It seems that the choreography, which involved fluid lines and squares along with continually changing partners was responsible for the increase in processing speed. New activities that include movement and socializing seem to be the key in retaining mental acuity.
Plant life possesses special chemicals that may have a tremendous impact on our quality of life. They have been given a special classification called phytochemicals. These are chemicals that are responsible for giving a plant its protective coloring, its unique odor and special taste. Vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are rich sources of these phytochemicals. These chemicals have a tremendous effect on the chemicals in our body. Scientists are now attributing plant chemicals with the power to prevent one in five cases of cancer. Studies are finding that they are powerful in stimulating the immune system against fighting off bacteria and viruses. They can reduce inflammation, block environmental carcinogens, trigger death of damaged cells as well as regulate hormones. As far back as the early 1900s scientists started questioning why people who ate a diet rich in plant food had lower rates of cancer. It was then discovered that certain plants such as broccoli had sulforaphane which seemed to stop cells from becoming cancerous. However, not all of these chemicals have been named or classified. Some of the more commonly known are lycopene in tomatoes, resveratrol in grapes, curcumin in turmeric, beta-carotene in sweet potatoes and the list goes on and on. Supplements have now been made available for many of these chemicals. However, they are not as effective and, in some cases, have even proven to be toxic if taken in large amounts. Phytochemicals are best absorbed if taken in combination with their original food source. Some questions remain to be answered. What quantity is sufficient for maximum health, how long does their protection last, how do they react with each other and to what extent does cooking affect them? Until all of these questions are answered it can’t hurt to sit down and enjoy a colorful plate of mixed fruits and vegetables.