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Here are my comments and the links to three interesting and informative articles. I hope you enjoy.
DrG – In a completely unsurprising finding (to me), humans feel/perceive emotions in very similar ways. “A new study by Finnish researchers…suggests that our emotions do indeed tend to influence our bodies in consistent ways. Across five experiments, 701 participants “were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus.”The emotions were generated by having the subjects read short stories or watch movies. On a blank, computerized figurine, they were then asked to color in the areas of their body where sensations became stronger (the red and yellow) or weaker (blue and black) when they felt a certain way…The correlations between the subjects’ different body maps were strong…Speakers of Taiwanese, Finnish, and Swedish drew similar body maps, suggesting that the sensations are not limited to a given language…the results likely reveal subjective perceptions about the impact of our mental states on the body, a combination of muscle and visceral reactions and nervous system responses that we can’t easily differentiate.”
DrG – “Why we age is a tricky evolutionary question…Since the early 1950s, evolutionary biologists have come up with a few explanations, all of which boil down to this: As we get older, our fertility declines and our probability of dying — by bus collision, sword fight, disease, whatever — increases…a first-of-its-kind comparison of the aging patterns of humans and 45 other species…some species are like us, with fertility waning and mortality skyrocketing over time. But lots of species show different patterns — bizarrely different. Some organisms are the opposite of humans, becoming more likely to reproduce and less likely to die with each passing year. Others show a spike in both fertility and mortality in old age. Still others show no change in fertility or mortality over their entire lifespan…most vertebrates show similar patterns, whereas plants are far more variable…What the new study didn’t find, notably, is an association between lifespan and aging. It turns out that some species with pronounced aging (meaning those with mortality rates that increase sharply over time) live a long time, whereas others don’t. Same goes for the species that don’t age at all. Oarweed, for example, has a near-constant level of mortality over its life and lives about eight years. In contrast, Hydra, a microscopic freshwater animal, has constant mortality and lives a whopping 1,400 years. This is a problem for the classical theories of aging that assume that mortality increases with age…The question that the classical theories try to answer — How could aging evolve? — is no longer the most interesting question, Cohen adds. “What we really need to explain is why some things age and some don’t.”
DrG – Are flu vaccines as great as they’re made out to be? “A recent piece in the British Medical Journal  by Dr Peter Doshi (from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, US) makes the point that public health campaigns often present flu vaccination as a no-brainer: we’re all at risk of flu and its complications, the flu shot is risk free, and vaccination saves lives. However, as Peter Doshi goes on to explain, all these assertions are open to question. Dr Doshi questions the trend for increasing numbers of people being defined as ‘at risk’. In 1960, this definition only applied to individuals aged 65 or older. By 2010, this definition had extended to everyone over six months of age. It is often claimed that flu vaccination saves lives. This claim is based on so-called ‘epidemiological’ evidence which finds that those who receive the flu vaccine are less likely to die than those who don’t. Risk reductions of 30 – 50 per cent are sometimes quoted. However, as Peter Doshi points out, flu only accounts for about 5 per cent of wintertime deaths. How, on earth, then can flu vaccination reduce the overall risk of death by those previously quoted figures? Answer: it can’t.
Dr Doshi also points to evidence that finds flu vaccination is linked with reduced risk of death outside winter. This does not point to flu vaccination having a real effect here, either. The likely explanation? That health-conscious and generally healthier individuals are more likely to opt for vaccination – the so-called ‘healthy user’ effect. Some people claim that the evidence for the life-saving effects of flu vaccination are to be clearly seen in the figures showing declining mortality in recent years. However, as the following graph shows, flu mortality dropped dramatically and started to ‘bottom out’ well before flu vaccination became widespread. Dr Doshi even asks questions about the safety of flu vaccination. He points out that: Australia suspended its influenza vaccination program in under five year olds after many (one in every 110 vaccinated) children had febrile convulsions after vaccination. Another serious reaction to influenza vaccines—and also unexpected—occurred in Sweden and Finland, where H1N1 influenza vaccines were associated with a spike in cases of narcolepsy among adolescents (about one in every 55 000 vaccinated). Subsequent investigations by governmental and non-governmental researchers confirmed the vaccine’s role in these serious events…”
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