Plastic and Male Sexual Dysfunction

The health effects of plastic have been hotly debated nowadays. This study forces some new questions into the arena that need to be answered.

Bisphenol-A, (BPA) is a chemical found in hard, clear plastic used to make everything from baby bottles to food packaging. BPA is not found in soft, pliable plastic used in most water bottles.

Studies have linked BPA to a risk of brain damage, birth defects, hyperactivity, heart disease, early puberty, obesity, and prostate cancer. The potential health effects have caused some baby-bottle and water-bottle manufacturers to stop using the chemical, in developed countries.

According to a study conducted in China, an increase in the risk of erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in male factory workers exposed to large amounts of the substance is noticed.

Among the men who work with BPA, the risk of having difficulty ejaculating was seven times greater than it was among the non-exposed group, and the risk of erectile problems was more than four times greater. The BPA-exposed workers also reported higher rates of low sex drive and lower overall satisfaction with their sex lives.

Researchers compared the rates of sexual dysfunction in two groups of workers in China. 230 men who worked at factories that produce BPA or epoxy resin which contains the chemical, and some 400 men, including workers in other industries, who were not exposed to abnormally high levels of BPA. The men who worked in the BPA and epoxy-resin factories were exposed to levels about 50 times higher than average. Epoxy resin is used in the lining of canned foods and is another potential source of BPA in addition to hard, clear plastic.

The greater a worker’s exposure to BPA, which was measured using spot air and urine samples, the more likely he was to have sexual dysfunction. Yet the dysfunction was apparent even in workers who had worked in a BPA factory for one year or less.

Dr. Rebecca Sokol, the director of the andrology program at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, who specializes in the effects of toxins on the reproductive system. The study, published in Human Reproduction and funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that BPA, when it enters the body, can mimic the effects of estrogen and may block male sex hormones including testosterone.

An increased risk of cancer and obesity need to be taken more seriously. The study “opens a new front in BPA research.

It’s unclear, for instance, whether the everyday exposure to BPA that people receive from food packaging and other plastics is significant enough to produce the sexual dysfunction seen in workers who were inhaling the chemical all day.

This study comes amid mounting concerns over the safety of BPA from consumers, scientists, and public officials. It was moving towards a ban on the sale and import of BPA-containing baby bottles. A number of countries have passed bans or have taken steps to do so. Several companies have also announced that they will voluntarily phase out the chemical from their products.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reconsidering its stance on BPA. The National Toxicology Program (NTP), a federal agency that advises the FDA on chemicals and other environmental toxins, released its own report expressing “some” concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brains, behaviour, and prostate glands of foetus, infants, and children, as well as “minimal” concern about earlier puberty for girls.

Although the study isn’t likely to drastically change the course of the debate, it will help keep the spotlight on the health effects of plastic.

Plastic Bottles cause ‘Sex-reverse’ in Males

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in many consumer products including water bottles, metal food storage products and certain resins. Often, aquatic environments such as rivers and streams become reservoirs for BPA, affecting aquatic habitats.

Last year, a team of researchers led by the University of Missouri (MU) determined that BPA can disrupt sexual function in painted turtles, causing males to develop female sex organs.

Now, the team has shown that BPA also can induce behavioural changes in turtles, reprogramming male turtle brains to show behaviour common in females.

Researchers worry this could lead to population declines in aquatic animals.

BPA and ethinyl estradiol (EE2), a hormone found in birth control pills, cause ‘sex-reverse’ in turtles from males to females.

Studies have shown that exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), such as BPA, can switch the sex of males to females. BPA also affects how the male brain is ‘wired,’ potentially inducing males to show female type behavioural patterns.

Previous studies have found that developmental exposure to BPA essentially overrides the brain development of male turtles. When males reach adulthood they will not exhibit courtship behaviours needed to attract a mate and reproduce, which could result in dramatic population declines.

This is the first study to show that harmful chemicals not only reverse the physical sex-characteristics but also affect the brain in a turtle species.

Turtles are known as an “indicator species” because they can be used as a barometer for the health of the entire ecosystem. By understanding the possible effects EDCs have on turtles, researchers might be able to understand the possible effects the chemicals have on other wildlife species and humans.

Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and an investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center. ‘Effects of developmental exposure to bisphenol A and ethinyl estradiol on spatial navigational learning and memory in painted turtles’.   Published in Hormones and Behavior, September 2016 edition.

New Treatment for Neuropathy?

Neuropathic Pain, a form of chronic pain that occurs in conjunction with injury to or dysfunction of the nervous system, can be debilitating and difficult to treat, and the medical community is eager to find better methods to minimize what can be a serious condition. Neuropathic pain is associated with changes in the transmission of signals between neurons, a process that depends on several types of voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). However, given the importance of these VGCCs in mediating normal neurotransmission, using them as a pharmacological target against neuropathic pain could potentially lead to undesirable side effects.

The venom from Marine Cone Snails, used to immobilize prey, contains numerous peptides called conotoxins, some of which can act as painkillers in mammals.

A recent study in The Journal of General Physiology provides new insight into the mechanisms by which one conotoxin, Vc1.1, inhibits pain. The findings help explain the analgesic powers of this naturally occurring toxin and could eventually lead to the development of synthetic forms of Vc1.1 to treat certain types of neuropathic pain in humans.

In previous studies, David Adams and colleagues from RMIT University in Melbourne showed that Vc1.1 acted against neuropathic pain in mice; they found that, rather than acting directly to block VGCCs, Vc1.1 acts through GABA type B (GABAB) receptors to inhibit N-type (Cav2.2) channels.

Now, Adams and colleagues show that Vc1.1 also acts through GABAB receptors to inhibit a second, mysterious class of neuronal VGCCs that have been implicated in pain signalling but have not been well understood — R-type (Cav2.3) channels. Their new findings not only help solve the mystery of Cav2.3 function, but identify them as targets for analgesic conotoxins.

Neuropathic Pain

Chronic Neuropathic Pain is caused by nerve damage as a result of an injury, surgery or a debilitating disease like diabetes or cancer. This type of pain, unlike physiological pain, persists even after the injured nerve has healed and is often resistant to pain relievers like acetaminophen and naproxen. While opiates are used to alleviate pain, they have side effects and are not always effective for neuropathic pain patients.

Scientists say research indicates that Chronic Neuropathic Pain, could be reduced or even eliminated by targeting microglia that are supposed to provide immunity. But, in some instances, it may do the opposite, causing chronic pain that could last a lifetime.

The general thought has been that the immunity cells are supposed to be beneficial in the nervous system under normal conditions. But in those with neuropathic pain, the immunity cells known as microglia, proliferate and become toxic.

In the new research, published in both Nature Communications and Cell Reports on July 19 2016, Long-Jun Wu, professor of cell biology and neuroscience at Rutgers University and his team discovered that chronic neuropathic pain, could be greatly reduced if the injury was treated targeting microglia within a few days.

If the pain can be caught in that window, within one to five days after nerve injury, by inhibiting microglia the pain can be partially reversed and able to prevent the development of chronic neuropathy. Depleting the microglia cells causing the condition before nerve injury occurs, neuropathic pain can be permanently preventable.

In laboratory studies Wu and his colleagues used chemotherapy drugs to prohibit the microglia brain immune cells from proliferating, similar to the treatment used by oncologists to prevent cancer cells from multiplying. The results from Wu’s laboratory showed that this chemotherapy drug reduced the amount of pain after the injury occurred.

Microglia are beneficial in a normal brain, but the present research is showing these cells initiate the problem of neuropathic pain. What needs to be done is prevent the microglia cells from multiplying in the first place.

Although scientists have studied microglia cells in relationship to neuropathic pain for the past two decades, Rutgers is the first to pinpoint the exact role the cells have in the initiation and maintenance of the condition. Wu and his colleagues found that the proliferation of these types of cells is one of the major contributors of microglial pain.

This research raises the intriguing possibility that minimizing microglial proliferation may be a novel approach for pain control, which will eventually lead to more effective pain killers that will battle this devastating disease. Hope this discovery could lead to the development of more effective painkillers with fewer side effects.

WHY SOME PEOPLE REMEMBER DREAMS WHILE OTHERS CANNOT

Very little is understood about why we dream. In an effort to get closer to that answer, researchers have discovered the parts of the brain responsible for remembering dreams and why some people don’t.

In a previous study from the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France, the researchers found that people who were likely to remember their dreams, so-called “high dream recallers,” had twice as many moments of wakefulness and were more reactive to auditory stimuli during sleep than those who rarely remembered dreams, called “low dream recallers.” These dreamers’ higher levels of neural activity is responsible for remembering what happened.

The new study, looks into the dream-related regions of the brain that get activated during sleep and wakefulness in both groups of dreamers.

Using positron emission tomography (PET) to look at their brains’ activity, the researchers found that “high dream recallers” showed stronger spontaneous activity in two regions of the brain. One of them, the medial prefrontal cortex, is responsible for making associations between context, locations, events, and adaptive responses like emotions. The second area, called the temporoparietal junction, is responsible for imitation, and forming pictures of oneself and other people in the brain. Hence, the two together could not only help in creating dreams, but also remembering them, too.

This explains why high dream recallers are more reactive to environmental stimuli, awaken more during sleep, and thus better encode dreams in memory than low dream recallers. The sleeping brain is not capable of memorizing new information; it needs to awaken to be able to do that.

Training the brain to remember and recreate scenes activities both of the above mentioned brain parts. Although dreams may seem scattered, one can train the brain to remember these details. This technique is called the Window Treatment.

For five minutes, watch whatever scenes unfold outside of a window. Observe everything. Once done this, write everything down in a notebook. By experiencing the events and recounting them. This training of the brain helps to remember details in real life, and eventually in dreams, too.

Waking up naturally is a much smoother transition between dream sleeping and wakefulness, and chances are that dreams could be more easily remembered this way. Even taking an extended nap can improve a person’s chances of remembering.

If one is serious about remembering dreams, and even getting into a more advanced stage of dreaming, called lucid dreams, a dream journal may be effective. This technique is similar to the window treatment, although it’s done in fragments, by recording any sliver of information one remembers from a dream. Rather than waiting for the morning to write in the journal, keep it close at night, and as soon as wakes up from a dream, write whatever can remember, all the details, like the window treatment, at least of key points. Soon enough, dreams should start to become more vivid, and remembering them should be easier as well.

Eichenlaub J, Nicolas A, Ruby P, et al. published in Neuropsychopharmacology. 2014. “Resting Brain Activity Varies with Dream Recall Frequency Between Subjects”.

 

Natural Nootropics

Nootropics: refers to any type of compound or food that has the ability to improve the mental abilities, including memory, ability to focus, motivation, or even mood.

The general nootropics includes smart drugs and expensive neuro-enhancing supplements. Neuroscientists are acquiring more and more understanding of the brain, the result being many new pharmaceutical drugs which target exact regions of the brain are in the works. The very same knowledge, though, might reveal how particular supplements might do an equally good job of improving brain function over the long haul.

Why go for expensive prescription-strength when you can get the same from nature? 

There are many dietary supplements that can be used as potential nootropic. But, not all dietary supplements are created equal, with some brands including additives that may not be needed.

Creatine is an old favorite among gym rats, who use it to enhance their sports performance, but over the past decade or so, the supplement’s neuro-enhancing abilities have been demonstrated as well. In one placebo-controlled study, researchers tested the hypothesis that 5 grams a day for a six-week period would enhance intelligence test scores while also improving memory. They enlisted the help of 45 young-adult, vegetarian subjects and found the supplement had a significant positive effect on both working memory and intelligence, particularly with regard to tasks that require speed of processing. Though they tested vegetarians, the researchers would “expect to see a beneficial effect of creatine supplementation on brain performance in most omnivores apart from those who consume very high amounts of meat.

Theanine (or more commonly L-theanine) is found in green tea and mushrooms and also sold as a dietary supplement. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration has granted it GRAS status (generally recognized as safe). According to various scientific studies, theanine has been found to affect the levels of some neurotransmitters, to prevent beta-amyloid-induced brain dysfunction, and to protect against stroke. L-theanine is even said to improve sleep quality in boys with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In terms of potential nootropic uses, several small studies indicate a combination of L-theanine and caffeine can improve cognitive performance, particular in the areas of focus and alertness. Apparently, though, the effects may not be long-lasting.

Passionflower is derived from the above ground parts of the plant. Primarily, people take it for its anti-anxiety effects, which have been proven in smaller scientific studies though not yet confirmed in large scale studies. Some other people use it to treat insomnia as well as neuralgia and withdrawal symptoms while coming off opiates or benzodiazepines. In patients undergoing surgery as well as those about to be treated by a dentist, passionflower has been effectively used to reduce apprehension.

DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and seaweed, can improve memory while protecting against certain psychiatric disorders. Various surveys of people with major depression indicate they have depleted levels of omega-3 fatty acids and one large study found depressive symptoms were significantly higher among infrequent fish consumers. However, no study has ever proven omega-3 fatty acid supplementation effective in relieving major, moderate, or even mild depression. Some data suggest it is a safe preventive measure and may reduce the risk of progression of certain psychiatric disorders. While one review of scientific studies found that DHA supplements significantly improves cognitive development in infants though does not improve cognitive performance in children, adults, or the elderly. Another review shows it can protect against mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and the risk and progression of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly.

Common Reasons for Low Quality Sperm Count

Male infertility is increasing nowadays. Men worry so much about the amount of sperm they produce that they sometimes forget how important the quality of their sperm is to fertility.

Around 15% of couples are unable to conceive a child after a year or more of unprotected sex. Male infertility can be caused by several factors including the production, motility, and blockage of sperm.

Excessive alcohol and tobacco use have been known to limit the production of sperm and damage its quality. There are some behavioural and environmental factors that can ruin a man’s chance of conceiving.

EATING BACON

A crispy strip of bacon may be delicious, but research shows it could also be destroying the sperm count! A recent study conducted at Harvard University included 156 men enrolled in an in vitro fertilization (IVF) trial. Lead researcher Dr. Myriam Afeiche and colleagues from the university tracked the eating habits of each male participant and his female partner, including how often they ate processed meat, red meat, white meat, poultry, and fish. Men who ate half a portion or more of processed meat a day recorded 5.5% normal-shaped sperm compared to 7.2% in men who ate less than half a portion. On the other hand, men who reported eating a healthy portion of fish actually improved the quality of their sperm. The effect of processed meat intake lowered quality and fish raised quality.

OBESITY

Studies have shown that embryo implantation and fetal development decreased when sperm came from obese fathers. A study from France found that obese men were 42% more likely to have low sperm counts than non-obese men, and an 80% chance of having ejaculate with no sperm in it at all.

SWEATING OUT IN A SAUNA

Sauna is not a healthy way to sweat out the body’s toxins. Researchers from the University of Padova in Italy asked 10 healthy Finnish men in their thirties to participate in 15-minute sauna sessions twice a week for three months. Each study participant reported normal sperm count prior to the sauna regimen and no history of sauna use in the past year. They were also asked to provide blood and semen samples and had their scrotal temperatures taken before and after each sauna session. The group’s sperm count and concentration experienced a significant drop off after three months of 15-minute sauna sessions and remained low in the three months following the program. However, sperm production was restored to normal levels after six months. Avoidance of testicular heating is an important step for males seeking fertility treatment.

 STRESS IN LIFE

Stress and anxiety can have a damaging effect on overall health, including male fertility. A recent study involving 193 men between the ages of 38 and 49 who were assessed by a subjective and objective scale including life events that led up to stress at work and in life. Semen samples provided by each male participant were analyzed by University of California-Davis technicians for sperm appearance, motility, and semen concentration. While men who reported stressful life events suffered from impaired fertility, stress at the workplace had no damaging effect on semen quality. Work stress, however, did lower the group’s testosterone levels. Men who feel stressed are more likely to have lower concentrations of sperm in their ejaculate, and the sperm they have are more likely to be misshapen or have impaired motility. These deficits could be associated with fertility problems.

PLASTICS

Bisphenol A (BPA), an additive to plastics found in many household products, can lower sperm counts and motility. A 2008 study in the journal Fertility and Sterility showed that men with high concentrations of BPA in their urine also had low sperm counts. Food packaging is a major source of BPA, which can seep into the food.

USING LAPTOP

Heat from a laptop placed on the lap can be damaging the sperm count, but more than that even a computer’s Wi-Fi connection can hinder male fertility. A recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility collected 29 sperm samples from healthy men that were placed underneath laptop with a wireless Internet connection for four hours. Researchers set the laptop to download and upload information so its Wi-Fi was in constant use. To prove that temperature wasn’t the only factor effecting sperm quality, an air-conditioning system was used to keep the laptop at 77 degrees. Radiation from the laptop’s Wi-Fi connection caused DNA damage and less motility in sperm.

WATCHING TV

A 2013 study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that men who watched 20 hours of TV or more per week had sperm counts that were 44% lower than those of men who didn’t watch TV. Researchers believe this may be due to the sedentary nature of TV-watching, since the guys in the study who exercised 15 or more hours each week had sperm counts that were significantly higher than those of men who exercised fewer than 5 hours a week.

 

PESTICIDES

Exposure to pesticides has been implicated in a variety of health complications, including birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and even decreased sperm count.  A research team from George Washington University’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health investigated 17 recent studies testing the effects of certain pesticides on male fertility. Researchers targeted studies that involved pyrethroids and organophosphates, two pesticides that humans are commonly exposed to. Out of all 17 studies, 15 reported significant damage to sperm quality due to pesticide exposure. Almost all studies found that sperm concentration had decreased while some reported sperm motility obstruction.

SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS

Some experts point to the fact that bacterial infections such as gonorrhoea can have an impact on the testicles, which in turn affects sperm production. When bacteria are present in the ejaculate, the body produces chemicals that can hinder sperm function.

SMOKING

With all the research coming to light surrounding the alleged healthy effects of marijuana use, it may be hard for men to accept what cannabis is doing to their fertility. University of Buffalo researchers who tested the sperm quality and concentration of frequent marijuana smokers found that their little swimmers were burnt out before reaching the egg because they had swum too fast too early. To examine the effect marijuana’s main component, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), had on sperm, the research team tested semen samples from 22 men who reported smoking marijuana at least 14 times a week for five years. Laboratory tests confirmed that when sperm was exposed to THC it began to swim erratically and was unable to start the fertilization process by attaching itself to an egg.

The sperm from smokers, especially marijuana are moving too fast too early. The timing was all wrong. These sperm will experience burnout before they reach the egg and would not be capable of fertilization.

Hibakushaa: A Bomb-affected Person

Sadako Sasaki (January 7, 1943 – October 25, 1955) a Japanese girl who was two years old when an American atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, near her home next to the Misasa Bridge. Sadako became one of the most widely known hibakushaa, Japanese term meaning “bomb-affected person“. She is remembered through the story of the one thousand origami cranes she folded before her death, and is to this day a symbol of the innocent victims of nuclear warfare.

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Sadako Sasaki was blown out of the window during the bombing, but alive with no apparent injuries. Sadako and her mother were caught in the black rain. Her grandmother rushed back to the house and was never to be seen again. Subsequently, Sadako grew up like any other girl, becoming an important member of her class relay team.

In November 1954, Sadako developed swellings on her neck and behind her ears. In January 1955, purpura had formed on her legs. Subsequently, she was diagnosed with acute malignant lymph gland leukemia. She was hospitalized on February 20, 1955, and given, at the most, a year to live.

Several years after the atomic explosion, an increase in leukemia was observed especially among children. By the early 1950s, it was clear that the leukemia was caused by radiation exposure.

Sadako Sasaki was admitted as a patient to the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital for treatment and blood transfusions on February 21, 1955. By the time she was admitted, her white blood cell count was six times higher compared with the levels of an average child.

In August 1955, After two days of treatment, she was moved into a room with a roommate, a junior high school student who was two years older than her. It was this roommate who told Sadako about the Japanese legend which promises that anyone who folds one thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish, and taught her how to fold the origami cranes. Although she had plenty of free time during her days in the hospital, Sadako lacked paper. She would use medicine wrappings and whatever else she could scrounge; this included going to other patients’ rooms to ask to use the paper from their get-well presents. Also, her best friend, Chizuko Hamamoto, would bring paper from school for Sadako to use. Sadako fell short of her goal of folding 1,000 cranes, having folded only 644 before her death, and that her friends completed the 1,000 and buried them all with her.

Small Brain Babies

 “We need to know how microcephaly genes are contributing to such a profound human disorder with small brain babies. It’s a puzzle. So let’s figure it out”

Slow stem cell division may cause small brains. A protein that helps newly born brain cells to divide plays a key role in Microcephaly.

New discoveries reported by an international team of scientists help to explain what happens in the developing brains of babies still in the womb, causing them to be born with small brains and heads.

The findings may also help scientists who are frantically trying to figure out why the Zika virus causes the same issue in some babies born to mothers who catch the virus from a mosquito bite in Rio.

In two new papers in the American Journal of Human Genetics, published August 4 2016, the researchers report new findings about a key protein involved in the process that generates the many new cells required to build a normal size brain. Though the new studies didn’t involve Zika-related microcephaly, they may provide clues that other scientists can use to investigate how Zika virus disrupts brain development.

Stephanie Bielas, PhD, a University of Michigan Medical School assistant professor of human genetics who helped lead the new research, says ‘the findings also provide insight into what is required for brains to develop normally’.

There’s so much we don’t understand about human brain development that we’re just starting to uncover. This shows the devastating impact of interrupting cell biology critical for this process.”

Both of the new papers focus on the role of Citron Kinase (CIT), a protein important during the process of cell division or mitosis. Cell division is the foundation of normal growth and development.

Citron Kinase helps in the final stages of cell division that separates the two “daughter” cells, called cytokinesis. That’s when the two new cells, each with their own copy of the DNA from the original “parent” cell, sever the connections between them.

Years ago, research showed that problems with the gene that contains the instructions for making the citron kinase could lead to microcephaly in animal models. But until now, that link hadn’t been proven in humans. The researchers now say that CIT is critical to building a normally sized human brain.

To make this discovery, the researchers turned to families from Egypt, France and Turkey that had one or more micro-cephalic babies. Some of them died soon after birth, the others developed intellectual disabilities that result from having a too-small brain.

Studying these babies’ genes and brain tissue gave clues to the importance of CIT, and the problems that arise when the CIT gene is mutated. The normal brain cells have only one nucleus but microcephalic brain tissue had multiple nuclei. This suggested that something had happened to prevent new cells from dividing properly.

Stem Cells is another tool helped the researchers to take the study even further. The skin cells from the surviving children are transformed into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This essentially turns back the clock on the cells, making them able to develop into nearly any type of cell.

The researchers then grew the iPSCs under special conditions to develop into neural progenitor cells which grow and divide rapidly to become the future child’s brain.

They observed a lot of evidence in microcephaly, there aren’t sufficient numbers of neural progenitor cells to build the normal-size brain. Since the cells that form the structures of the brain, and develop into the different types of cells are born from this pool of actively dividing cells. This aspect of human brain development is a key issue to study.

Studying the spontaneous cases of microcephaly offers a chance to identify genes important for brain development and understand the impact of deleterious small genetic mutations.

In genetics, obscure genes are considered as the genetic basis of disorders; but don’t know what they do or where and when they are active. But in the case of citron kinase, a mutation in the gene noted. These newly published findings confirm that CIT mutations are not only linked to severe microcephaly in humans, but are also associated with a smooth, unfolded brain surface or a condition known as Lissencephaly that isn’t usually seen in brain disorders linked primarily to defects in neural progenitor cell mitosis.

Bielas and her colleagues are now growing brain “organoids”, balls of brain tissue grown from iPSCs or human embryonic stem cells with edited genes to study this issue further. The hope is that by studying microcephaly’s origins in human cells that mimic the developing brain, they can see what might be going on more clearly in human brain development that wouldn’t be detected in animal models. Some Zika researchers are also using this promising model system to study the virus’s effect on human neural progenitor cells.

THE HEALING POWER OF ART

Art may not be able to cure disease, but it can surely make coping with it a lot better. Researchers have acknowledged the therapeutic qualities of art for years, and today, art therapy is used to help people express themselves when what they’re feeling is too difficult to put into words, such as when they’re faced with a cancer diagnosis.

color together

Research shows this form of therapy often has tangible results. One 2006 study found that mindfulness art therapy for women with cancer helped to significantly decrease symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. Another study from the same year concluded that after only one hour of art therapy, adult cancer patients of all ages “overwhelmingly expressed comfort” and a desire to continue with the therapy.

People with cancer very often feel like their body has been taken over by the cancer. They feel overwhelmed. To be able to engage in a creative process, that stands in a very stark contrast to sort of passively submitting oneself to cancer treatments.

It’s not just those with cancer that can benefit from the visual arts. Art therapy is also helpful among people dealing with a variety of other conditions, such as depression, dementia, anxiety, and PTSD.

Art therapy often involves using an art medium as a tool to help address a patient’s specific problem. Some individuals are more artistically gifted than others. Those who judge themselves as bad artists may be more likely to miss out on the benefits of art-based therapies.

Adult Colouring, presents a creative venture without the need for artistic flair. One simply needs to colour within the lines in order to get the desired effect. However, some experts suggest it’s this lack of artistic input from patients that prevents adult colouring from being considered a genuine form of art therapy. It’s like the difference between listening to music versus learning how to play an instrument. Listening to music is something easy that everyone can do, but playing an instrument is a whole other skillset.

Just because adult colouring alone may not constitute art therapy, that doesn’t mean the activity isn’t helpful, the clients who are fidgeting and cannot sit still ask for colouring the books in order to concentrate on group discussions.

The inability to focus is often a symptom of anxiety or stress, it only makes sense that adult colouring books would also help with those as well. Colouring elicits a relaxing mind-set, similar to meditation. Like mediation, colouring allows to switch off the brain from other thoughts and focus on the moment. Tasks with predictable results, such as colouring or knitting, can often be calming.

The most amazing things occurred are changes in heart rate and changes in brainwaves.

Dr. Joel Pearson, a brain scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia presented a different explanation for the therapeutic effect: Concentrating on colouring an image may facilitate the replacement of negative thoughts and images with pleasant ones.

While colouring one has to look at the shape and size, the edges, and to choose a colour, this should occupy the same parts of the brain that stops any anxiety-related mental imagery happening as well.

Anything that helps you control your attention is going to help.”