What you see is what you get Charlie Brown

We humans tend to think that because people are capable of change they will change.  Most of us hope and wait for the other person to do the changing.

Maya Angelou said it most succinctly:

“When people show you who they are,

believe them.”

Lucy will NEVER hold the football for Charlie Brown in the comic strip “Peanuts” . . . because their creator is deceased.

The Write Way to help boost your immune system

“They were told to let go and to include their deepest thoughts, even if they had never shared these thoughts before. Four days running they did the same thing. It wasn’t easy. Pennebaker told me that roughly one in 20 students would end up crying, but when asked whether they wanted to continue they always did. Meanwhile a control group spent the same number of sessions writing a description of something neutral such a tree or their dorm room.”

“Then he waited for six months while monitoring how often the students visited the health centre. The day he saw the results, he left the lab, walked to his friend who was waiting for him in a car and told him he’d found something big. Remarkably, the students who had written about their secret feelings had made significantly fewer trips to the doctor in the subsequent months.”

Studies have shown expressive writing can reduce the amount of times people visit the doctor.

“Ever since, the field psychoneuroimmunology has been exploring the link between what’s now known as expressive writing, and the functioning of the immune system. The studies that followed examined the effect of expressive writing on everything from asthma and arthritis to breast cancer and migraines.”

“In a small study conducted in Kansas, for example, it was found that women with breast cancer experienced fewer troublesome symptoms and went for fewer cancer-related appointments in the months after doing expressive writing.”

“The aim of the study wasn’t to look at long-term cancer prognosis, and the authors are not suggesting the cancer would be affected. But in the short-term other aspects of the women’s health did seem better than for those in the control group who wrote about the facts surrounding their cancer rather than their feelings about it.”

There is one area where the findings are more consistent and that is in the healing of wounds

“But it doesn’t always work. A meta-analysis by Joanne Fratarolli from the University of California Riverside does demonstrate an effect overall, but a small one. Nevertheless, for an intervention that is free and beneficial, that’s a benefit worth having.”

“Some studies have had disappointing results, but there is one area where the findings are more consistent and that is in the healing of wounds. In these studies brave volunteers typically do some expressive writing, then some days later they are given a local anaesthetic and then a punch biopsy at the top of their inner arm. The wound is typically 4mm across and heals within a couple of weeks. This healing is monitored and again and again, and it happens faster if people have spent time beforehand writing down their secret thoughts.”

What does the act of committing words to paper do? Initially it was assumed this simply happened through catharsis, that people felt better because they’d let out their pent-up feelings. But then Pennebaker began looking in detail at the language people used in their writing.

“He found that the types of words people used changed over the course of the four sessions. Those whose wounds healed the fastest began by using the word “I” a lot, but in later sessions moved on to saying “he” or “she” more often, suggesting they were looking at the event from other perspectives.

They also used words like “because”, implying they were making sense of the events and putting them into a narrative. So Pennebaker believes that the simple act of labeling your feelings and putting them into a story is somehow affecting the immune system.”

But there is a curious finding which suggests something else might be going on.

“Simply imagining a traumatic event and writing a story about it also makes wounds heal faster, so perhaps it’s less to do with resolving past issues and more to do with finding a way of regulating your own emotions that makes a difference.”

Writing about your feelings doesn’t boost your immune system for life

“After the first day of writing most people say that churning up the past has made them feel worse. Does the stress cause people to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which are beneficial in the short-term and could enhance the immune system? Or is it the improvement in mood after several days of writing that brings the benefits for immunity? So far, no one knows.”

“Whatever the mechanism, despite several decades of research showing it works, it’s rarely used clinically. You could imagine a situation where people booked in for surgery are given expressive writing instructions in the preceding weeks, but very few studies have used clinical populations with real, surgical wounds, rather than giving healthy students artificially-induced wounds.”

“Also, it works better for some people than others, all depending on how well they engage with the process. What’s more, the effect is short-lived, so you’d have to get the timing just right. Writing about your feelings doesn’t boost your immune system for life. If the same people are wounded again a few months after an initial study, they don’t heal any faster than anyone else.”

But now new research from New Zealand suggests it’s not essential to do the writing before you are wounded. It can work just as well if you do the writing afterwards.

“This opens up the possibility of using expressive writing not just when surgery is planned, but for real-life injuries which of course we can’t predict. Kavita Vedhara from the University of Nottingham and her team in New Zealand took 120 healthy volunteers, and made them write about either a distressing event or how they spent the previous day. They did this either before or after a punch biopsy on their upper arm. The people from the expressive writing group were six times more likely to have a wound that had healed within 10 days than the people in the control group.”

“We’d need to have more studies conducted with real life patients, but maybe one day when we’ve had an operation, we might be told to go home with instructions on expressive writing.”


Back pain: Blue and White Striped Pills are Best

Could taking a placebo, a pill which contains nothing but ground rice, really help cure back pain?

To find out, Dr Michael Mosley with experts from the University of Oxford embarked on Britain’s largest ever trial to investigate the placebo effect on chronic pain. 117 volunteers, all suffered with bad backs for years and felt their conventional medication, painkillers from Tramadol to morphine, gave no substantial relief. 

Some were asked to act as a “control” group. The rest were told that they were taking part in a study – where they might receive the placebo or a powerful new painkiller.

What they weren’t told was that they would ALL get placebos, capsules containing nothing but ground rice.

The pills were authentic looking and based on years of research. They were blue-and-white-striped, because that has been shown to have a greatest painkilling effect.  They came in bottles, carefully labelled, warning of potential side effects and reminding patients to keep out of the hands of children.

After three weeks, the volunteers went through another round of tests and questionnaires. Nearly half of the volunteers reported a medically significant improvement in their back pain from taking the pills – even though they were fake.

Additionally, the time they spent with the doctor had a substantial effect on the outcome, with people benefitting from having a longer consultation with their GP.

The power of the mind.

Studies show that the placebo effect is more than just a medical curiosity. The brain is actually capable of producing its own drugs which can be more powerful than prescription painkillers.

The characteristics of back pain sufferers who responded best to placebo treatment, found those who were most “aware” and “open to new experiences” had the most benefit.

The researchers also carried out brain scans and found anatomical differences in the “responders” and “non-responders”.

Among other things they found subtle differences in areas of the brain, like the amygdala, which controls emotion and reward.

What exactly this means, no one quite knows.

But University of Oxford’s Prof Irene Tracey says: ” . . .  just because a placebo contains no active chemicals, does not mean the effects of taking it are not real.” 

“The average person thinks that placebo is something that’s a lie or some fakery, something where the person has been tricked and it isn’t real.  But science has told us, particularly over the last two decades, that it is something that is very real, it’s something that we can see played out in our physiology and neurochemistry.”

Research has shown that taking a placebo can trigger the release of endorphins – natural painkillers that are similar in structure to morphine.

Where does this leave modern medicine?

A recent article in the British Medical Journal suggests that it can be ethical to prescribe placebos, as long as doctors are honest about what they are doing.

It pointed out there is mounting evidence, from a number of small trials, that placebos can work even when patients know that they are taking them.


BBC2 Horizon programme: Can my brain cure my body?

Mango Tango

This exotic fruit can be found in almost any supermarket, and its price is reasonable – especially in light of all the benefits.

Mango Tango by Peggy

The pulp of mango contains huge quantity of nutrients, almost the whole periodic table:


Also mango is rich in vitamin a composition: A, B, D, E, K, PP and high-dose vitamin C.  In some types the fruit pulp contains ascorbic acid . . . even more than the lemon.

Mango is not only delicious fruit, but also healthy

Медики назвали эффективный фрукт для профилактики рака


1. Vision
Mango flesh can help the optic nerve as it contains a high concentration of retinol which can help lesson various ophthalmic diseases such as night blindness, chronic eye fatigue, dryness of the cornea.

3. Immune system
Fruit, like mango, with a lot of Vitamin C can help to protect against respiratory illnesses. B- vitamins can help protect the body from free radicals which contribute to ageing.

4. Nervous system
The fruit contains a lot of vitamin b which is good for the nervous system functions which regulates stress and improves mood.

5. Urinary system
Mango is used in India as a medicine. It is prescribed for those who suffer from renal dysfunction and to protect the urinary organs from cancer.

2. Intestines

It is useful to those who suffer from constipation.

Researchers at the University of Texas studied 36 men and women diagnosed with chronic constipation. Participants were divided into two groups. One group ate 300 grams of mango every day.  The other group consumed the same amount of fiber in additives. The diet of all volunteers had the same calories and was identical in essential nutrients.

Both groups of subjects by the end of the test experienced less constipation.

The scientists noted that those who ate mango had considerably improved the composition of bacteria in the gut and had reduced inflammation. There was no effect on other symptoms, such as inflammation, in the group who took the additives of fiber and did not eat mango

6. Losing weight
Mango is a great fruit for dieters. It has a sweet taste and tender texture, cleanses the intestines and low in calories.


  • Pregnant women shouldn’t eat mangoes in large quantities. Mangoes contain a lot of vitamin A, which in high concentrations can seriously harm the fetus, including congenital malformations.
  • Mango rinds can be an allergen.  If you are prone to allergies, they should be excluded from the diet or be sure to clean the fruit from the rind.
  • Unripe fruits should be eaten in limited quantities. Even the most healthy person can form bowel disorders and develop diseases of the digestive tract. In addition, unripe fruit can cause throat irritation.

How to choose a mango
Hold the mango, checking the fruit for smoothness and firmness when pressed. The peel color doesn’t indicate ripeness, but merely indicates a grade. Even dark green mango can be ripe.


Find it hard to FORGIVE? Your “aSTS” may need “a fill-up”

Why do some of us find it easier to forgive?

When we feel that somebody has wronged us personally, we make a  moral judgment.  From a neuropsychological viewpoint, the act of judging a moral situation is incredibly complex and has a lot to do with intentionality – did the perpetrator really mean to do those awful things?

Making a mature moral judgment about a wrongful act involves not only considering the damage done, but also the perpetrator’s intention and mental state. When there is a clear contradiction between the two, however, intention seems to take precedence over the result of the action.

A study shows that a specific area in the brain called the anterior superior temporal sulcus (aSTS) plays a key role in forgiving those who create unintentional harm.

Indrajeet Patil, the study’s primary author, details this further and puts the new research into context:

“Behavioural studies have already shown that when the intention and outcome of an action are conflicting, as in the case of sometimes serious accidental harm, people tend to focus mainly on the intentions when formulating a judgment. And this is more or less a universal feature of mature moral judgments across cultures.”

” . . . very few studies have taken on this issue from an anatomical point of view, to gain an understanding of whether differences in the volume and structure of certain areas of the brain might explain variations in moral judgment. This research attempted to explore precisely this aspect.”

Studying the neuroanatomical basis of forgiveness

To do this, the researchers asked 50 participants to complete a moral judgement task. The volunteers were presented with 36 unique stories and four potential outcomes for each of them.

Each scenario comprised four parts:

  • Some background information
  • A foreshadowing segment, in which it was suggested that the outcome would be either neutral or harmful
  • Information on the neutral or intentionally harmful mental state of the agent
  • The consequence, which revealed the agent’s action and the resulting outcome.

“Participants read each story and were asked to give their moral judgment by answering questions regarding “acceptability” and “blame.” . . . “the participants were asked: “How morally acceptable was [the agent]’s behavior?” and “How much blame does [the agent] deserve?” The volunteers gave answers based on a scale from 1 to 7.”

“While answering the questions, the participants’ brain activity was analyzed using voxel-based morphometry – a neuroimaging technique that allows for a holistic examination of brain changes while simultaneously preserving a high degree of brain region specificity.”

“The researchers also used neuroimaging to localize the neural areas responsible for the so-called theory of mind (ToM). ToM, or “mentalizing,” is a person’s ability to correctly attribute mental states – such as beliefs, intentions, and desires – to others based on their behavior. Mentalizing also refers to the person’s ability to explain and predict other people’s behavior based on these inferences.”

People with a more developed aSTS are more inclined to forgive

The results revealed a connection between the differences in moral judgement severity about unintentional harm and the volume of the left aSTS brain region.

More specifically, the more developed the aSTS was, the less blame was attributed to the wrongdoers. “The greater the gray matter volume [in this area], the less accidental harm-doers are condemned.” 

Patil further explains the findings:

“The aSTS was already known to be involved in the ability to represent the mental states (thoughts, beliefs, desires, etc.) of others. According to our conclusions, individuals with more gray matter at aSTS are better able to represent the mental state of those responsible for actions and thus comprehend the unintentional nature of the harm. In expressing judgment they are thus able to focus on this latter aspect and give it priority over the especially unpleasant consequences of the action. For this reason, ultimately, they are less inclined to condemn it severely.”

If you find it hard to forgive, your challenge NOW is to forgive your anterior superior temporal sulcus (aSTS) for not having more grey matter.  

The researchers were led by Giorgia Silani from the University of Vienna in Austria, and the study was carried out in collaboration with scientists from Trieste University in Italy and Boston College in Massachusetts. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Your Nose Knows when You’re Tired

Sleep deprivation increases brain’s sensitivity to food smells

That might make snacks more enticing — helping explain why people who burn the candle at both ends tend to eat more and gain weight.

“Adults operating on only four hours of sleep inhaled food odors such as those from potato chips and cinnamon rolls, and nonfood smells like fir trees while undergoing functional MRI scans. (The scientists carefully controlled participants’ food intake throughout the day.) A few weeks later, the same participants repeated the experiment — this time with a full eight hours of sleep.”

“When tired, participants showed greater brain activity in two areas involved in olfaction — the piriform cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex — in response to food smells than they did when well rested. That spike wasn’t seen in response to nonfood odors, says study coauthor Surabhi Bhutani, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.”

Though preliminary, the results fit with previous research showing a link between sleep deprivation and both excessive calorie consumption and weight gain.