Most Recent Links

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.


Links 21 - 40 of 23516

Sigal Samuel James Kugel has been spent his entire scholarly career studying the Bible, but some very basic questions about it still obsess him. What was it about the minds of ancient Israelites that allowed them to hear and see God directly—or at least, to believe that they did? Were the biblical prophets literally hearing voices and seeing visions, understanding themselves to be transmitting God’s own exact words? If so, why did such direct encounters with God become rarer over time? In his new and final book, The Great Shift, Kugel investigates these questions through the lens of neuroscientific findings. (The approach is reminiscent of other recent books, like Kabbalah: A Neurocognitive Approach to Mystical Experiences, co-written by a neurologist and a mysticism scholar.) First, Kugel uses biblical research to show that ancient people had a “sense of self” that was fundamentally different from the one modern Westerners have—and that this enabled them to experience and interpret prophecy differently than we do. Then he uses scientific research to show that we shouldn’t assume their view was wrong. If anything, our modern Western notion of the bounded, individual self is the anomaly; most human beings throughout history conceived of the self as a porous entity open to intrusions. In fact, much of the rest of the world today still does. Kugel cites several studies showing that even now, many healthy people hear voices—as much as 15 percent of the general population. He also cites a recent cross-cultural study in which researchers interviewed voice hearers in the United States, Ghana, and India. The researchers recorded “striking differences” in how the different groups of people felt about the voices they hear: In Ghana and India, many participants “insisted that their predominant or even only experience of the voice was positive. … Not one American did so.” (c) 2017 by The Atlantic Monthly Group.

Keyword: Consciousness; Attention
Link ID: 24084 - Posted: 09.20.2017

By Bernardo Kastrup An article on the neuroscience of infant consciousness, which attracted some interest a few years ago, asked: “When does your baby become conscious?” The premise, of course, was that babies aren’t born conscious but, instead, develop consciousness at some point. (According to the article, it is about five months of age). Yet, it is hard to think that there is nothing it feels like to be a newborn. Newborns clearly seem to experience their own bodies, environment, the presence of their parents, etcetera—albeit in an unreflective, present-oriented manner. And if it always feels like something to be a baby, then babies don’t become conscious. Instead, they are conscious from the get-go. The problem is that, somewhat alarmingly, the word “consciousness” is often used in the literature as if it entailed or implied more than just the qualities of experience. Dijksterhuis and Nordgren, for instance, insisted that “it is very important to realize that attention is the key to distinguish between unconscious thought and conscious thought. Conscious thought is thought with attention.” This implies that if a thought escapes attention, then it is unconscious. But is the mere lack of attention enough to assert that a mental process lacks the qualities of experience? Couldn’t a process that escapes the focus of attention still feel like something? Consider your breathing right now: the sensation of air flowing through your nostrils, the movements of your diaphragm, etcetera. Were you not experiencing these sensations a moment ago, before I directed your attention to them? Or were you just unaware that you were experiencing them all along? By directing your attention to these sensations, did I make them conscious or did I simply cause you to experience the extra quality of knowing that the sensations were conscious? © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Consciousness; Attention
Link ID: 24083 - Posted: 09.20.2017

By Deborah Tuerkheimer Controversy surrounding “shaken baby syndrome” (SBS) is taking centre stage again. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) meets today with a session underscoring the message that most paediatricians – child abuse specialists among them – say it remains a “valid” diagnosis. In other words, the paediatric community continues to believe that shaking can bring about one or more of the classic triad of neurological symptoms: bleeding beneath the outer layer of membranes surrounding the brain, bleeding in the retina, and brain swelling. This is likely to prompt vigorous opposition from those within the medical community who challenge the scientific underpinnings of SBS. It is also likely to resonate with the public, many of whom assume that this diagnosis alone amounts to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that a caregiver or parent injured or killed a baby by violent shaking. It does not. Yet for decades such prosecutions did rest on the testimony of medical experts regarding the triad. Doctors came to court and explained that vigorous shaking – not an accidental jostle or an effort to revive an unconscious child – was the only possible explanation for those symptoms. The triad was even used to identify a perpetrator – whoever was last with the lucid baby. SBS could, in essence, be a medical diagnosis of murder. Beginning in the 1990s, triad-only prosecutions became increasingly commonplace, sending many caregivers to prison. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.=

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24082 - Posted: 09.20.2017

Daniel Cressey Many sharks are living much longer than was thought, according to a major review1 of studies on these important and often endangered top predators. This means that many estimates of how threatened particular species are — and decisions about whether they can be fished safely — could be based on faulty data. Scientists usually estimate how old sharks are by slicing through their spines and counting distinctive pairs of bands seen inside, which are often assumed to show age in the same way as the rings of a tree. But a growing number of cases are suggesting that the method can be problematic. For example, a 2014 study2 showed that sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus), which were thought to live for around two decades, can actually survive for up to twice that. And in 2007, researchers found3 that New Zealand porbeagle sharks (Lamna nasus) had been under-aged by an average of 22 years. To investigate the scale of the problem, fisheries researcher Alastair Harry of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia, reviewed evidence for age underestimation. He reports in Fish and Fisheries1 that of 53 populations of sharks and rays for which there are good data, 30% have probably had their ages underestimated (see graphic). “Current evidence points to it being systemic, rather than restricted to a few isolated cases,” says Harry. “We really can’t ignore it anymore.” © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24081 - Posted: 09.20.2017

By Aylin Woodward HUMANS aren’t the only primate to have pushed their prey towards extinction. Monkeys have also over-exploited animals for food. Long-tailed macaques forage for shellfish on islands off Thailand, then crack them open with stone tools. They target the largest rock oysters, bludgeoning them with stone hammers, and pry open the meatiest snail and crab shells with the flattened edges of their tools. These macaques are one of three primates that use stone tools, alongside chimpanzees in Africa and bearded capuchins in South America. “Stone tools open up an opportunity for foods they otherwise wouldn’t even be able to harvest,” says Lydia Luncz at the University of Oxford. Luncz wanted to investigate the impact of the monkeys’ shellfish snacking on the prey themselves. Her team followed 18 macaques on their daily foraging routes along the shores of Koram and NomSao, two neighbouring islands off eastern Thailand, recording their tool selection and use. On Koram – the more densely populated island, home to 80 macaques compared with NomSao’s nine – Luncz’s group saw not only smaller oysters and snails, but also fewer of each species. Multiple prey species were less abundant on Koram than NomSao, with four times as many tropical periwinkles on NomSao as on Koram (eLife, doi.org/cc7d). © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 24080 - Posted: 09.20.2017

“Bad fat” could be made to turn over a new leaf and combat obesity by blocking a specific protein, scientists have discovered. Most fat in the body is unhealthy “white” tissue deposited around the waist, hips and thighs. But smaller amounts of energy-hungry “brown” fat are also found around the neck and shoulders. Brown fat generates heat by burning up excess calories. Now scientists experimenting on lab mice have found a way to transform white fat into “beige” fat – a healthier halfway stage also capable of reducing weight gain. Dr Irfan Lodhi, from Washington University School of Medicine in the US, said: “Our goal is to find a way to treat or prevent obesity. “Our research suggests that by targeting a protein in white fat, we can convert bad fat into a type of fat that fights obesity.” Beige fat was discovered in adults in 2015 and shown to function in a similar way to brown fat. Lodhi’s team found that blocking a protein called PexRAP caused white fat in mice to be converted to beige fat that burned calories. The discovery, published in the journal Cell Reports, raises the prospect of more effective treatments for obesity and diabetes. The next step will be to find a safe way of blocking PexRAP in white fat cells in humans. Lodhi said: “The challenge will be finding safe ways to do that without causing a person to overheat or develop a fever, but drug developers now have a good target.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24079 - Posted: 09.20.2017

by Helen Thompson Barn owl ears age well. Unlike other animals, the birds don’t suffer from hearing loss as a hallmark of aging, a new study suggests. Beyond people, age-related hearing loss has been documented in mice, gerbils and chinchillas. Those deficits are linked to deterioration of the tiny hair cells that line the sensory layer of the eardrum. But some evidence hints that birds may not suffer from dips in hearing. Bianca Krumm and her colleagues at the University of Oldenburg in Germany tested the ear sensitivity of seven barn owls (Tyto alba) grouped by age. There weren’t significant differences in what 2-year-old owls could hear versus those age 13 or older, suggesting the birds’ ears remain intact despite age, the researchers conclude September 20 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. While the exact mechanism for this apparent ear agelessness remains elusive, the researchers suspect that the birds must continuously regenerate sensory ear tissue — a process that wanes with age in other species. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Hearing; Regeneration
Link ID: 24078 - Posted: 09.20.2017

Ian Sample Science editor World-leading neuroscientists have launched an ambitious project to answer one of the greatest mysteries of all time: how the brain decides what to do. The international effort will draw on expertise from 21 labs in the US and Europe to uncover for the first time where, when, and how neurons in the brain take information from the outside world, make sense of it, and work out how to respond. If the researchers can unravel what happens in detail, it would mark a dramatic leap forward in scientists’ understanding of a process that lies at the heart of life, and which ultimately has implications for intelligence and free will. “Life is about making decisions,” said Alexandre Pouget, a neuroscientist involved in the project at the University of Geneva. “It’s one decision after another, on every time scale, from the most mundane thing to the most fundamental in your life. It is the essence of what the brain is about.” Backed with an initial £10m ($14m) from the US-based Simons Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, the endeavour will bring neuroscientists together into a virtual research group called the International Brain Laboratory (IBL). Half of the IBL researchers will perform experiments and the other half will focus on theoretical models of how the brain makes up its mind. The IBL was born largely out the realisation that many problems in modern neuroscience are too hard for a single lab to crack. But the founding scientists are also frustrated at how research is done today. While many neuroscientists work on the same problems, labs differ in the experiments and data analyses they run, often making it impossible to compare results across labs and build up a confident picture of what is really happening in the brain. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 24077 - Posted: 09.19.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou Aggression and sexual behaviour are controlled by the same brain cells in male mice – but not in females. The finding suggests that males are more likely to become aggressive when they see a potential mate than females. The brain regions that contain these cells look similar in mice and humans, say the researchers behind the study, but they don’t yet know if their finding has relevance to human behaviour. Similar to humans, male mice are, on the whole, more aggressive than females. Because of this, most research into aggression has overlooked females, says Dayu Lin at New York University. “I would say 90 per cent of aggression studies have been done in males,” she says. “We know very little about aggression in females.” But females can be aggressive too. For instance, female mice can be aggressive when protecting their newborn pups. In 2011, Lin and her colleagues studied a region of the brain called the hypothalamus, responsible for regulating many different behaviours. They discovered a set of cells within this region in male mice that controlled both aggressive and sexual behaviours. When the cells were shut off, the mice didn’t mate or show aggression, but both behaviours could be triggered when the cells were stimulated. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24076 - Posted: 09.19.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou People who are blind use parts of their brain that normally handle for vision to process language, as well as sounds – highlighting the brain’s extraordinary ability to requisition unused real estate for new functions. Neurons in the part of the brain normally responsible for vision synchronise their activity to the sounds of speech in blind people, says Olivier Collignon at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL) in Belgium. “It’s a strong argument that the organisation of the language system… is not constrained by our genetic blueprint alone,” he says. The finding builds on previous research showing that the parts of the brain responsible for vision can learn to process other kinds of information, including touch and sound, in people who are blind. Collignon and his colleagues made the discovery using magnetoencephalography (MEG), which measures electrical activity in the brain. Read more: How some blind people are able to echolocate like bats While they were being scanned, groups of sighted and blind volunteers were played three clips from an audio book. One recording was clear and easy to understand; another was distorted but still intelligible; and the third was modified so as to be completely incomprehensible. Both groups showed activity in the brain’s auditory cortex, a region that processes sounds, while listening to the clips. But the volunteers who were blind showed activity in the visual cortex, too. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Vision; Language
Link ID: 24075 - Posted: 09.19.2017

By Emily Chung, CBC News If you were blind and walked into a coffee shop, how would you find the counter so you could order? That's easy for Susan Vaile at 9 Bars Coffee in Toronto — she just needs to listen to her smartphone: "Walk forward six metres to carpet. Service counter at 9 o' clock." Sure enough, there it is, and within minutes, Vaile has ordered and received a small coffee with double cream and double sugar. Similar verbal directions are already available to customers like Vaile at several other businesses in the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood, thanks to a pilot project called ShopTalk launched by the CNIB, a charity that provides community-based support for people who are blind or partially sighted. The project installs and programs palm-sized Apple iBeacons that use Bluetooth wireless signals to connect with nearby users' phones via an iPhone app called BlindSquare. It provides directions to help them navigate through doors and vestibules, to service counters, washrooms, and other important parts of buildings such as stores and restaurants. Vaile says the beacons make it possible for customers like herself to find their way independently. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 24074 - Posted: 09.19.2017

By Marissa Fessenden, A new technique classifies neurons by surveying chemical tags that turn genes on or off on the neurons’ DNA1. The approach represents a new way to chart the brain’s cellular diversity. It could reveal how patterns of chemical tags known as methyl groups are altered in autism. Methyl groups bind to the DNA base cytosine. Patterns of methylation can be inherited, but they can also change in response to environmental factors, such as exposure in the womb to stress hormones or to the mother’s diet. Studies have reported altered methylation patterns in postmortem brains of people with autism. Methylation patterns also vary by cell type. In a new study, published 11 August in Science, researchers classified neurons from mouse and human brain tissue by their methylation patterns. The researchers looked at cells from specific layers of the brain’s outer shell, the cerebral cortex. They used a chemical cocktail to isolate the cells’ nuclei, and placed a single nucleus in each well of a 384-well plate. They then treated the nuclei with a chemical that converts cytosines without methyl groups to the RNA base uracil. They sequenced the DNA to pinpoint the remaining cytosines, yielding a map of every methyl group. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Epigenetics; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24073 - Posted: 09.19.2017

By JANE E. BRODY If you’ve never had a migraine, I have two things to say to you: 1) You’re damn lucky. 2) You can’t begin to imagine how awful they are. I had migraines – three times a month, each lasting three days — starting from age 11 and finally ending at menopause. Although my migraines were not nearly as bad as those that afflict many other people, they took a toll on my work, family life and recreation. Atypically, they were not accompanied by nausea or neck pain, nor did I always have to retreat to a dark, soundless room and lie motionless until they abated. But they were not just “bad headaches” — the pain was life-disrupting, forcing me to remain as still as possible. Despite being the seventh leading cause of time spent disabled worldwide, migraine “has received relatively little attention as a major public health issue,” Dr. Andrew Charles, a California neurologist, wrote recently in The New England Journal of Medicine. It can begin in childhood, becoming more common in adolescence and peaking in prevalence at ages 35 to 39. It afflicts two to three times more women than men, and one woman in 25 has chronic migraines on more than 15 days a month. But while the focus has long been on head pain, migraines are not just pains in the head. They are a body-wide disorder that recent research has shown results from “an abnormal state of the nervous system involving multiple parts of the brain,” said Dr. Charles, of the U.C.L.A. Goldberg Migraine Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine in Los Angeles. He told me he hoped the journal article would educate practicing physicians, who learn little about migraines in medical school. Before it was possible to study brain function through a functional M.R.I. or PET scan, migraines were thought to be caused by swollen, throbbing blood vessels in the scalp, usually – though not always — affecting one side of the head. This classic migraine symptom prompted the use of medications that narrow blood vessels, drugs that help only some patients and are not safe for people with underlying heart disease. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24072 - Posted: 09.18.2017

By Nathaniel Morris If you were at risk for developing depression, would you take a pill to prevent it? For years, physicians have prescribed antidepressants to treat people grappling with depression. Some people can benefit from taking these medications during an acute episode. Others with a history of recurrent depression may take antidepressants to help prevent relapses. But researchers are studying a new use for these medications: to prevent depression in people who may have never had it before. It has long been known that people with head and neck cancer are vulnerable to becoming depressed. These types of cancers can impair functionality at the most basic levels, like speaking or swallowing. Treatments, such as surgery and radiation, for these diseases can be debilitating. Some studies have estimated that up to half of patients with head and neck cancers may experience depression. A group of researchers in Nebraska examined what would happen if non-depressed patients were given antidepressants before receiving treatment for head and neck cancer. Published in 2013, the results of the randomized, placebo-controlled trial were startling: Patients taking an antidepressant were 60 percent less likely to experience depression compared with peers who were given a placebo. In medicine, this approach is often referred to as prophylaxis, or a treatment used to prevent disease. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24071 - Posted: 09.18.2017

Allison Aubrey Earlier this year, when Emily Chodos was about 25 weeks into her pregnancy, she woke up one night feeling horrible. "My hands were tremoring, my heart racing, " recalls Chodos, who lives near New Haven, Conn. She couldn't take a deep breath. "I'd never felt so out of control of my body." She ended up paging her obstetrician's office at 4 a.m., and one of the midwives in the practice, after listening to her symptoms, said, "It sounds like you're having a panic attack." Chodos was advised to take an antianxiety medication — Xanax. "I was afraid to take it, as a pregnant woman," Chodos says. But she was miserable, so eventually decided to take the medicine that night. Chodos, who is a nurse, knew that there are concerns about drugs like Xanax and other medications its class— benzodiazepines. Studies completed decades ago suggested a risk of birth defects from these drugs, but data from more recent studies have shown no clear evidence of an increase. There are remaining questions, researchers say, about whether prenatal exposure to the drugs can influence behavior. "I felt very trapped," Chodos says. It felt as if there was probably no safe medication — "that I'd probably just have to suffer and feel awful." At her doctor's suggestion, Chodos went to see Dr. Kimberly Yonkers, a psychiatrist and professor at Yale University. Yonkers has been studying the effects of benzodiazepines and SSRI antidepressants on the pregnancies of women who have anxiety, depression or panic disorders. Yonkers told us she understands why women can feel torn about using these drugs when they're expecting.

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 24070 - Posted: 09.18.2017

By Consumer Reports Fasting every other day doesn’t lead to bigger weight loss than daily calorie-cutting and is more difficult to maintain, suggests a University of Illinois at Chicago study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine. The researchers followed 100 obese people for a year, making this the largest and longest study so far to examine ­alternate-day fasting. The alternate-day diet in this study called for participants to take in 25 percent of their needed calories on fast days and 125 percent on feast days. It’s a type of intermittent fasting that involves drastically reducing your calorie intake on some days or during certain hours and eating whatever you like on others. The theory is that it is easier to focus on reducing calorie intake only some of the time and that the eating pattern improves cardiovascular risk factors — such as blood pressure, cholesterol and insulin levels — more than daily calorie-cutting does. In this study, those who took the intermittent-fasting approach lost the same amount of weight, on average, as those who cut back on calories — to 75 percent of their needs — every day. Both groups dropped about 7 percent of their body weight after six months and regained about 1 percent of their weight during the six-month weight-maintenance phase. “We can say that alternate-day fasting does produce clinically significant weight loss after a year, but it’s not better than a typical calorie-restricted diet,” says study researcher Krista A. Varady, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24069 - Posted: 09.18.2017

Mariah Quintanilla Kenneth Catania knows just how much it hurts to be zapped by an electric eel. For the first time, the biologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville has measured the strength of a defensive electrical attack on a real-life potential predator — himself. Catania placed his arm in a tank with a 40-centimeter-long electric eel (relatively small as eels go) and determined, in amperes, the electrical current that flowed into him when the eel struck. At its peak, the current reached 40 to 50 milliamperes in his arm, he reports online September 14 in Current Biology. This zap was painful enough to cause him to jerk his hand from the tank during each trial. “If you’ve ever been on a farm and touched an electric fence, it’s pretty similar to that,” he says. This is Catania’s latest study in a body of research analyzing the intricacies of an electric eel’s behavior. The way electric eels have been described by biologists in the past has been fairly primitive, says Jason Gallant, a biologist who heads the Michigan State University Electric Fish Lab in East Lansing who was not involved in the study. Catania’s work reveals that “what the electric eel is doing is taking the electric ability that it has and using that to its absolute advantage in a very sophisticated, deliberate way,” he says. Electric eels use electric current to navigate, communicate and hunt for small prey. But when faced with a large land-based predator, eels will launch themselves from the water and electrify the animal with a touch of the head. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24068 - Posted: 09.15.2017

By Anil Ananthaswamy Artificial intelligence can identify changes in the brains of people likely to get Alzheimer’s disease almost a decade before doctors can diagnose the disease from symptoms alone. The technique uses non-invasive MRI scans to identify alterations in how regions of the brain are connected. Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that is the leading cause of dementia for the elderly, eventually leading to loss of memory and cognitive functions. The race is on to diagnose the disease as early as possible. Although there is no cure, drugs in development are likely to work better the earlier they are given. An early diagnosis can also allow people to start making lifestyle changes to help slow the progression of the disease. When will we cure Alzheimer’s? Learn more at New Scientist Live In an effort to enable earlier diagnosis, Nicola Amoroso and Marianna La Rocca at the University of Bari in Italy and their colleagues developed a machine-learning algorithm to discern structural changes in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease. First, they trained the algorithm using 67 MRI scans, 38 of which were from people who had Alzheimer’s and 29 from healthy controls. The scans came from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative database at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 24067 - Posted: 09.15.2017

Paula Span In the summer, Henry Wrenn-Meleck likes to sit on the stoop of his building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, observing the passing urban parade. One day in late July, “one of my neighbors could see something was wrong,” he recently recalled. “I was sort of rolling around, obviously in a lot of pain. He said, ‘I have to call 911,’ and he did.” Mr. Wrenn-Meleck, 63, an independent music publisher and dealer in rare guitars, spent three weeks in a hospital, being treated for trauma from a fall he does not recall. But the underlying problem was “40 years of being a very serious alcoholic,” he said. “My body finally said no more.” Discharged from the hospital after detoxing, Mr. Wrenn-Meleck went to the New Jewish Home in Manhattan for physical therapy. He also entered its geriatric substance abuse recovery program where, he found, he was one of the younger participants. Epidemiologists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism last month reported a jarring trend: Problem drinking is rising fast among older Americans. Their study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, compared data from a national survey taken in 2001 and 2002 and again in 2012 and 2013, each time with about 40,000 adults. Drinking had increased in every age group, the researchers found. Those over 65 remained far less likely to drink than younger people — about 55 percent of older participants told interviewers they’d imbibed in the past year. Still, that was a 22 percent increase over the two periods, the greatest rise in any age group. More troublingly, the proportion of older adults engaged in “high-risk drinking” jumped 65 percent, to 3.8 percent. The researchers’ definition: for a man, downing five or more standard drinks in a day (each containing 14 grams of alcohol) at least weekly during the past year; for a woman, four such drinks in a day.

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24066 - Posted: 09.15.2017

By Nathaniel P. Morris A growing trend in medicine has doctors prescribing visits to parks for their patients. A pediatrician named Robert Zarr at Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C., has worked with the National Park Service and other institutions to create DC Park Rx, an initiative that helps health care providers prescribe activity in outdoor spaces to patients. And National Geographic recently highlighted the rise of this practice in Vermont, where doctors are now prescribing thousands of visits to state parks. In the last several years park prescription programs have spread nationwide, from Maine to California, South Dakota to New Mexico. Proponents of these programs promote outdoor activity as a means of tackling chronic medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. But park prescriptions also hold considerable promise for patients suffering from mental health issues. A large body of evidence suggests that exposure to nature may promote mental well-being. A 2010 meta-analysis of 10 studies including over 1,200 participants found people who exercised in green environments demonstrated significant improvements in mood and self-esteem. A 2011 systematic review looked at 11 trials that compared indoor and outdoor activity, finding that exercise in natural settings was “associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression, and increased energy.” Another recent review of studies found activity in natural environments correlated with reductions in negative emotions like sadness, anger and fatigue. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24065 - Posted: 09.15.2017