Counting Sheep Doesn’t Actually Work, and Other Misconceptions About Sleep

A trick I’ve used to fall asleep is to pick a category, bands, birds, animals, sea creatures, flowers which is fairly broad and try to go through the alphabet thinking of an example from each one. I find that the reason that this works is that frequently worry and anxiety can keep us awake so giving the brain something to do is helpful.

The reason to avoid waking a sleep walker is that they have no idea where they are. They are in a different world.

America’s Most Common Drug Ingredient Could Be Making You Less Empathetic

Every week, a quarter of Americans take a painkiller that could be dampening our collective feelings of empathy. In a paper published online this week, scientists claim that acetaminophen, Tylenol’s main ingredient, makes people more likely to think that other people’s pain isn’t a big deal.

Source: America’s Most Common Drug Ingredient Could Be Making You Less Empathetic

Whatever! 😉

This Rat Experiment Will Haunt You, But Not For The Reason You Think

This experiment, done on lab rats, isn’t terribly cruel. It will still probably keep you up at night when you’re thinking about hiring an exterminator.

Source: This Rat Experiment Will Haunt You, But Not For The Reason You Think

Pet rats are wonderful. They’re smart, playful, affectionate, and often hilarious. I think it’s important to distinguish between the kind you willingly keep your home, and the wild kind (especially the huge city-dwellers).

Compassion: Changing the World and Ourselves

…what if recognising our shared humanity was more than just a sentimental ideal? What if consciously practising kindness could change the wiring of your brain and make you live longer?

This is neuroscience’s latest frontier – a growing body of research that shows compassion could be the key to improved health, happiness and longevity.

Brain imaging reveals that exercising compassion stimulates the same pleasure centres associated with the drive for food, water and sex.

Other studies show it can be protective against disease and increase lifespan.

Source: Changing the world and ourselves through compassion

Interesting read, but light on the science.

And you have nice hair!

Sorry, but I don’t believe altruism exists.  Doing something compassionate to be seen as such is in fact selfish.  And I’ve seen compassion make people rather myopic, sneering at what they’d label as socialism – social programs to support the aftermath of their political views.

Can Pigs Empathize?

There are a handful of traits that scientists and philosophers would argue would make us human, including self-awareness and language. Another key part of being human is thought to be our ability to empathize (although I sometimes find myself doubting some humans’ abilities to empathize). I also doubt that we are the only animal that has empathy. However, this can be tricky to test. If we define empathy as Franz de Waal does as ‘‘the capacity to be affected by and share the emotional state of another, assess the reasons for the other’s state and identify with the other, adopting his or her perspective’’ how would we go about testing this in a non-human animal?

Take, for example, pigs. We know that pigs are ‘intelligent’ animals (whatever that word really means) and that they feel emotions such as stress.  They are also social animals, and so presumably if other animals do empathise with one another, then a pig might be a likely candidate.

Source: Can Pigs Empathize?

That’ll do pig, that’ll do…

What Is It Like To Follow your Heart, When You Have Two Of Them?

…when neuroscientist Agustin Ibanez met Carlos, he suspected even odder effects were to come. By changing the man’s heart, Ibanez thought, the doctors might have also changed their patient’s mind: Carlos would now think, feel and act differently as a result of the implant.

How come? We often talk about “following the heart”, but it is only recently that scientists have begun to show that there is literal truth in the cliche; the heaving lump of muscle contributes to our emotions and the mysterious feelings of “intuition” in a very real way. Everything from your empathy for another person’s pain to the hunch that your spouse is having an affair may originate from subtle signals in your heart and the rest of your body.

…So the folklore may be right: people who are in touch with their heart are more likely to be swayed by their instincts – for good or bad.

Source: The mind-bending effects of feeling two hearts

This is dis-heart-ening news.  It’s an extremely interesting read, but I can’t help but feel a little more self-conscious about reaching for the heart rate monitor… 😉

I’m surprised at the mindfulness based therapy, but no mention of yoga?  Granted, there’s a huge spectrum of yoga classes, even within a particular style dependent on the instructor.