Health Advice



Can't Beat a Good Story

Scott LaFee on

When people watch the same movie together, their hearts begin to beat in time. It's not the shared emotional experience however that causes the effect but rather similar cognitive work in their brains.

In a new study, researchers tested volunteers listening to an audiobook of Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," watching instructional videos or listening to children's stories. Some volunteers were purposefully distracted during their participation.

Heart rates began beating in sync but became disjointed with distraction.


A new study suggests that sleep deprivation can affect your walk when awake. Gait -- the manner in which you walk -- is not automatic and innate. The brain adjusts speed, stride and other elements of locomotion based on visual and auditory cues, often unconsciously.

Researchers found that persons plagued by poor sleep were less steady on their feet, and less able to walk purposely, avoiding obstacles and keeping their balance.

Body of Knowledge

Your tongue is comprised of eight interwoven muscles, similar in structure to an elephant's trunk or an octopus's tentacle. Contrary to some mythology, it's not the strongest muscle(s) in the human body -- that claim more rightly goes to the quadriceps on the front of your thighs or the gluteus maximus on your rear -- but the tongue is tireless, the result of much redundancy in muscle architecture. Different muscle fibers can be activated to get the same movement and result while avoiding exhausting any single muscle.

Get Me That, Stat!

Another measure of the pandemic, alas still growing: The monthly rate of the body mass index for children and adolescents (ages 2-19) increased almost twice as fast during the pandemic as before.

"The COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures, disrupted routines, increased stress, and less opportunity for physical activity and proper nutrition, leading to weight gain among children and adolescents," researchers reported.


1 in 500: Ratio of Americans who have died of COVID-19

Source: Washington Post

Doc Talk

Peripheral edema: swollen ankles

Mania of the Week

Cacodemonomania: an obsessional delusion of being occupied by evil spirits

Never Say 'Diet'


The Major League Eating record for sweet potato casserole is 8.62 pounds in 11 minutes, held by Sonya Thomas. This month, we'll note some holiday-themed records, held by professionals, though as amateurs, many of us will do our best when the day comes.

Best Medicine

Never upset a pediatric nurse. They have very little patients.


"I have always enjoyed poor health." -- Novelist Taylor Caldwell, who nonetheless lived to the age of 84 (1900-1985)

Medical History

This week in 1935, the first modern surgery on the frontal lobes for treatment of mental disorders was performed by Egas Moniz at Santa Marta Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal. Moniz injected absolute alcohol into the frontal lobes of a mental patient through two holes drilled in the skull. Moniz later used a technique that severed neurons and led to the prefrontal lobotomy techniques of the 1940s. Moniz was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1949 for his work, but the radical surgery fell out of favor after psychoactive medication became available.

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "Optimizing the sensory characteristics and acceptance of canned cat food: use of a human taste panel."

The paper, published in 2009, sought to determine whether people might be better judges of cat food flavors/textures/presentation than cats themselves, who remain defiantly picky. The author, a biologist at Brock University in Canada, concluded inconclusively: Using humans proved easier and cheaper than herding a bunch of cat food-tasting cats, but felines also lack a sweet taste receptor so sweet foods preferred by people do nothing for them.

Med School

Q: How many types of brain waves are there, and what are their names?

A: Brain waves come in six lengths: infra-low, which are poorly understood and appear to be a basic rhythm underlying higher cortical functions; delta, which occur during deep sleep; theta, which also occur during sleep but most often signal a deeply meditative state of mind; alpha, which are dominant during quietly flowing thoughts (a sort of resting state for the brain); beta, which dominate our normal waking state of consciousness; and gamma, the fastest of brain waves related to quickly processing information between parts of the brain.

Curtain Calls

Eight people died in the London Beer Flood of 1814 when a giant brewery vat containing 3,500 barrels suddenly burst, flooding nearby streets. But that tragedy pales compared to the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919 when a massive tank of molasses collapsed on a warm day, producing a 25-foot-high wave that swept through neighborhoods at 35 miles per hour. Twenty-one people died on that bittersweet day.


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