By: Michela Reinink
As the winter begins to ease up and we get more hours of daylight, some may start to notice that their mood has improved significantly, or that the struggles they faced with mental illness for the past several months begin to relent. This may be an indicator of seasonal affective disorder.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a real mood disorder that affects individuals during the same season each year, which is typically winter. The symptoms of SAD are the same as those of depression, including changes in appetite; trouble sleeping; a sad, despairing mood that persists throughout the day; and lasts more than two weeks. These symptoms impair a person’s day-to-day life by promoting the loss of interest in hobbies; increasing distractibility; and contributing to thoughts of suicide (CAMH, 2020). Research shows that SAD is triggered by changes in the amount of light that a person is exposed to. These changes in light may disturb a person’s biological clock that controls the sleep cycle and may disturb the proper functioning of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine (CAMH, 2020).
There are certain factors that increase chances of developing SAD that are largely out of a person’s control. For example, women are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD than men (CAMH, 2020). Additionally, individuals with a family history of depression and adolescents are more likely to develop the mood disorder (Booker and Hellekson, 1992). Increased distance from the equator can also increase chances of being affected by SAD, as those closer to the equator experience less fluctuations in the amount of daylight they experience from season to season. In the United States, SAD affects only 1.4% of Floridians, but 9.9% of Alaskans (Booker and Hellekson, 1992).
However, this does not mean that those who develop SAD are destined to a life of perpetual winter depression. Some evidence suggests the use of light therapy in reducing SAD symptoms (Terman et al., 1989). Light therapy involves exposing the patient to a lightbox, which emits more lumens than normal indoor lights, mimicking natural light more closely. One study investigated the anti-depressant effects on people with SAD by comparing the photo-effects to a negative control group. It was found that the exposure to bright light positively affected the mood of the group affected by SAD, but not those in the control group (Kasper et al., 1989). Additionally, the beneficial effects on patients depended on the length of exposure time, with a longer period being more effective. Although it is not practical for most people to dedicate a substantial amount of time to light therapy, doctors generally recommend 30-60 minutes daily.
There are several other methods of treatment for SAD. Medication may be prescribed during the winter months as anticipatory treatment. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) have been found to be effective in treating SAD (Modell et al., 2005). Physical exercise is recommended to SAD patients, as well as a balanced diet. Furthermore, having a strong support network is important, and speaking to friends, family, colleagues, or a therapist is highly encouraged. Regardless of the seasonality of this mood disorder, SAD is a serious issue, and people who are affected do not have to wait until spring to get better, but are encouraged to reach out and ask for help to find solutions.
Booker, J. M. and C. J. Hellekson. (1992). Prevalence of seasonal affective disorder in Alaska. The American Journal of Psychiatry 149(9): 1176-1182.
Howland RH (January 2009). "Somatic therapies for seasonal affective disorder". Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services 47 (1): 17–20.
Kasper, S., Rogers, S. L., Yancey, A., Schulz, P. M., Skwerer, R. G., & Rosenthal, N. E. (1989). Phototherapy in individuals with and without subsyndromal seasonal affective disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 46(9), 837–844.
Modell, J. G., N. E. Rosenthal, A. E. Harriett, A. Krishen, A. Asgharian, V. J. Foster, A. Metz, C. B. Rockett, D. S. Wightman. (2005). Seasonal affective disorder and its prevention by anticipatory treatment with bupropion XL. Biological Psychiatry 58(8):658-667.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). (2020). CAMH. Retrieved from: https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-illness-and-addiction-index/seasonal-affective-disorder
Terman, M, J. S. Terman, F. M. Quitkin, P. J. McGrath, J. W. Stewart and B. Rafferty. (1989). Light therapy for seasonal affective disorder: a review of efficacy. Neuropsychopharmacology 2(1):1-22.
By: Michela Reinink
Thanks in part to many celebrities, including the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Cardi B, and Iggy Azalea, promoting weight-loss detox teas to their fans in sponsored posts on Instagram, the use of laxatives as a weight loss method is becoming increasingly normalized. Now part of everyday wellness, companies that sell these detox teas package their products nicely, using words such as “cleanse”, all whilst minimizing the reality of the products. The truth is that laxatives cause bowels to empty and frequent urination. Despite some backlash, notably from Jameela Jamil, “feminist-in-training”, these products are continuously promoted for their tummy-flattening results. However, research shows that their effects on long-term health are highly questionable.
Laxatives are commonly used as a part of disordered eating to such a degree that the UK government ordered a review by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to determine whether or not tighter restrictions are needed on the sale of these products (BBC: Health, 2018). Professor Stephen Powers, NHS medical director said, 'Highly influential celebrities are letting down the very people who look up to them by peddling products which are at best ineffective and at worst harmful,' (Ives, 2019). In Manhattan, councilman Mark Levine is pushing the health department to ban the sale of flat-tummy teas and other products, such as weight loss lollipops (Pazmino, 2019). So how and why are these laxative detox teas harmful to health?
One of the ingredients used in these weight-loss products is senna, an FDA-approved, over-the-counter laxative (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2019) that can be used for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and anal fissures, or to prepare for colonoscopies. However, the U.S. National Library of Medicine warns that it is possibly unsafe to use senna in high-doses and/or over an extended period of time. Long-term use can result in heart function disorders, muscle weakness, liver damage, and colon weakness (U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2019). It can also cause dependence on laxatives, wherein bowels cease to function normally. This is a benefit to weight-loss brands, as dependent customers are returning customers.
According to an evidence review of detox diets published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, there is minimal clinical evidence to support the use of such diets (Klein and Kiat, 2014). Clinical studies that have been funded by private commercial companies have been shown to contain flawed methodologies and small sample sizes. Additionally, there have been no randomized controlled trials conducted to determine the effectiveness of commercial detox diets in humans (Klein and Kiat, 2014). Therefore, there is insufficient evidence to properly determine the effectiveness of senna for weight loss purposes.
When it comes to human health, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. With weight loss quick-fixes, water weight is usually purged first, followed by muscle mass, giving the impression of immediate results. However, experts agree that this is not sustainable, and that for long-term weight loss, there should be a focus on lowering body fat percentage; something that detox teas cannot help to achieve.
The area of laxative detox weight loss products deserves an increase in attention from the scientific community, to ensure that consumers have access to reliable information and can make well-informed decisions surrounding their health. More than just warnings about the potential dangers of these celebrity-endorsed treatments, there is a need for hard data and peer-reviewed experiments. People should turn to experts to answer questions about their health, and refrain from taking advice from celebrities who are being paid to promote a certain product.
BBC: Health. (2018). Laxative sales may be restricted under government review. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45624471
Ives, L. (2019). Celebrity ads for diet aids should be banned, says top doctor. BBC: Health. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47090374
Klein, A. V. and H. Kiat. (2014). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics.
Pazmino, G. (2019). Council legislation takes aim at detox tea industry backed by celebrities. Spectrum News. Retrieved from: https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/politics/2019/04/10/council-legislation-takes-aim-at-detox-tea-industry-backed-by-celebrities-
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019). Senna. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/652.html
The world is experiencing a climate catastrophe, and humanity is at risk of bursting under all the pressure. What was already known about our planetary crisis is becoming more significant, and what was once overlooked is now at the fore. From using more oil per year than the amount of oil discovered per year since the 1980s, to rapid food and water shortages, excessive energy consumption, overpopulation, pollution, and the pervasive conundrum of climate change, the route to collapse appears to be a one-way trip. Industrialization and environmental consequences have rocketed in tandem, and the future of our species—and our home—is at stake.
Yet, in the wake of countless warnings about the inevitable demise of our planet, environmental concerns and actions have been of increasing salience. Concern for the planet has seemingly risen from its grave and found a new home on the political agenda. Leaders from around the world have taken steps to tackling the issues that threaten Earth’s habitability. Take our very own Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for instance, who recently vowed to “put a price on pollution” and ban single-use plastics as early as 2021 (Coletta, 2019), or the European Union climate action plan which oaths that 20% of total energy consumption will come from renewable energy sources (“EU Climate Action,” 2019). Better yet, the ubiquitous Paris Agreement—which pledges to “bring all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt its effects” (“The Paris Agreement,” 2018).
It is certainly comforting to read about the global steps being taken to combat these complex issues. But the question lies therein: What happens when power and money get into bed with environmentalism?
An impressive example of political perplexity showcased itself when the Trudeau Cabinet approved the expansion of TransCanada Pipeline less than a week after declaring a climate state of emergency (“Trudeau and Pipeline,” 2019). The proposed pipeline is designed to transport millions of barrels of oil from Alberta oil patch to the British Columbia coastline every day and “while the pipeline has the potential to damage the environment and marine life, it’s in the national interest and could contribute tens of billions of dollars to government coffers and create and sustain thousands of jobs” (“Trudeau and Pipeline,” 2019). Or you get the Trump Administration, which swore to withdraw from the Paris Agreement altogether (should Trump be elected because of the belief that it offered no real benefit to the nation (Wallach, 2019)) after predecessor Barack Obama drove it into compromise in the first place.
At what point do we prioritize the economy over the planet? What good is the economy if there is no planet? Let us discuss a similar Catch-22 in all its glory: If we keep using oil, the planet will collapse; but, if we stop using oil, the economy (and thus the planet) will still collapse. Powerful corporate lobbying always seems to find politicians’ ears. In any case, the argument that money is not what makes the world go around would be a fantastically difficult one to defend. The question of how we negotiate politics and environmentalism is essential because clearly, they are not mutually exclusive. Widespread international cooperation is crucial, but when will the public outcry drown out the economic issues? We cannot keep teeter-tottering between saving our money and saving ourselves.
EU: Anonymous. (2017, February 16). EU climate action. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu/clima/citizens/eu_en
The Paris Agreement. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
Trudeau and pipeline: Trudeau cabinet approves Trans Mountain expansion project | CBC News. (2019, June 19). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/tasker-trans-mountain-trudeau-cabinet-decision-1.5180269
Trudeau: Coletta, A. (2019, June 10). Trudeau announces Canadian ban on 'harmful' single-use plastics. Retrieved from https://beta.washingtonpost.com/world/trudeau-announces-canadian-ban-on-harmful-single-use-plastics/2019/06/10/54000420-8bb6-11e9-adf3-f70f78c156e8_story.html
Wallach, P. A. (2019, March 29). Where does US climate policy stand in 2019? Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/2019/03/22/where-does-u-s-climate-policy-stand-in-2019/
During exam season, whether you’re looking for a seat at the library or local coffee shop, most students have one thing in common; they have their headphones on. It may seem like people have their go to playlist they use when they’re on the study grind. However, is it actually beneficial to listen to music while you study? And more importantly, is it right for you?
The Mozart Myth
Before diving into the science behind music and studying, it's important to dispel a famous misconception; The Mozart Effect. First investigated by Dr. Frances Rauscher, The Mozart effect documented an enhancement of spatial-temporal abilities in college students after listening to ‘Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major’ by Mozart. It as well claimed to have raised the student’s IQ as much as 9 points with repeated exposure. This discovery took the world by storm, causing the public to generalize the statement to simply ‘listening to classical music makes you smarter’. However, a meta-analysis conducted in 2012 dispelled the findings of this study, as the experiment was a product of confounding publication bias. This led to the conclusion that there is in fact little to no correlation between intelligence and listening to classical music.
If Not Classical Music, Then What?
Currently there are many different hypotheses to whether music enhances cognitive abilities. These include the Arousal, Mood, Preference hypothesis and Rhythm theory to name a few. Although each theory attempts to give an overall conclusion, none are conclusive enough to find a definitive answer. Therefore, in order to answer the question, we need an individualized approach. The leading explanations summate the effect of music into three categories; the subject’s personality type, the type of work and the type of music.
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed introvert, extrovert or somewhere in the middle, it might explain your preference and reaction to studying with music. According to Eysenck’s Theory of Cortical Arousal States, a classic introvert is an individual who is overstimulated and avoids further arousal. Whereas an extrovert is under stimulated and desires more stimulation. This theory supports a recent study by Dobbs et al. which compared the effect of music on cognitive performance between these personality types. It concluded that music had a detrimental effect on the performance of introverts, as it overstimulated the participants. It was as well discovered that music had a neutral or positive effect on ‘extroverted’ participants.
Type of Work
When it comes to reading comprehension, it has been almost unanimously concluded through various studies that listening to music decreases student performances. With one study suggesting that up to 75% of the sample which listened to music performed worse than the sample that studied in silence. On the contrary, arithmetic testing leads to mixed conclusions, with some studies suggesting there is no negative effect, a decline or increase, depending on the sample groups.
Type of Music
Although not one specific genre can be concluded to noticeably help your studying, it is widely supported that instrumental music is less distracting than lyrical. By processing the lyrics in songs, your brain needs to multitask, leading to mental fatigue and distraction from your desired task. It may also be beneficial to find a specific study song that works for you and play it on repeat. As according to the Changing State Hypothesis, rapidly changing music can distract yourself from learning and possibly decrease your performance.
The Verdict: it’s Complicated
Although many experiments have sought to tackle this question, the fact is not all individuals are created equal. The best suggestion to improve your studying is to find what works for you. Music won’t make you magically perform better or learn faster, but by finding the right balance of music and silence, you can find the right motivation and focus conducive to your study style.
So, I hear we only have ten years left to reverse the effects of climate change?? I mean, I read that on Twitter (I swear the sources in this article are much more reliable than social media), but I think it’s time we took this climate change thing seriously. I know you’re probably drowning in assignments right now, and think you don’t have time to implement new habits into your life. But you know what else is drowning? The Maldives. On the topic of water, one of the many ways you can contribute to reducing the effects of climate change is water conservation. When asking a few friends for suggestions on how to conserve water, here are some answers I got:
· Take shorter showers
· If you can’t sacrifice a long shower, shower with friends!
· If it’s yellow, let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down
· Drink toilet water (but obviously Brita filter it first)
· Rewear your clothes inside out before doing your laundry (shirts, pants, underwear, socks, etc.) …and front and back if you’re up to the challenge
But what if I told you you could still reduce your water usage and save yourself the embarrassment of someone seeing you naked in the shower by simply opting out of a single meal?
When aiming to minimize our water footprints, our direct water usage is the subject of most of our attention. This includes adopting habits like turning off the tap while brushing your teeth and taking shorter showers. However, our indirect water usage, also known as our ‘invisible’ water usage, is often overlooked (Pettit, 2018). This includes the water required to produce everything we use: from the clothes we wear to the food we eat.
Your diet is one of the largest factors that contributes to your individual water footprint due to the fact that about 86% of all water used in the world is used to grow food (Ercin, Aldaya, and Hoekstra, 2012). Specifically, animal agriculture is incredibly resource-intensive, particularly when it comes to the production of beef. According to the Water Footprint Network, the approximate global average water footprint to produce one pound of beef amounts to approximately 6992 litres of water (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010). Comparing this to other common proteins, the production of pork requires approximately 2180 litres of water/pound, chicken requires approximately 1962 litres of water/pound (Mekonnen and Hoekstra, 2010) and soy meat requires approximately 474 litres/pound (Ercin et al., 2012)
Now, hear me out. If a typical burger patty requires one-quarter of a pound of beef, the production of one burger patty would require approximately 1748 litres of water. Furthermore, according to Harvard University Sustainability, an average eight-minute shower uses approximately 76 litres of water (2014). This means that the quarter-pounder you drunkenly UberEats to your dorm at 3am after a night at Ale required the same amount of water to produce as about 23 showers. And that’s just the patty!
Choosing less resource-intensive proteins, such as beans, lentils, and even chicken can reduce your water footprint significantly. Reducing your water footprint has many benefits including: decreasing the amount of energy used to process water; minimizing water pollution; and preserving the global freshwater supply, with only 0.007% of the planet’s water accounting for accessible freshwater required to fuel the human population (National Geographic, 2019). So maybe opt for a McChicken next time, or give that Beyond Meat a try, so you can be guilt-free while taking those long, hot showers (but not too long).
Competing for Clean Water Has Led to a Crisis. (2019). National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/freshwater-crisis/#close.
Ercin, A. E., Aldaya, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). The water footprint of soy milk and soy burger and equivalent animal products. Ecological Indicators, 18, 392–402. doi: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.12.009
5 Ways to Measure a 5 Minute Shower. (2014). Harvard University Sustainability. https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/green-tip/5-ways-measure-5-minute-shower.
Hoekstra, A. (2003). What is a water footprint? Water Footprint Network. https://waterfootprint.org/en/water-footprint/what-is-water-footprint/.
Mekonnen, M. M., & Hoekstra, A. Y. (2012). A Global Assessment of the Water Footprint of Farm Animal Products. Ecosystems, 15(3), 401–415. doi: 10.1007/s10021-011-9517-8
Pettit, M. (2018). Save Water: Reduce Your Water Footprint. Reset. https://en.reset.org/act/save-water-reduce-your-water-footprint.
Have you ever wondered why you look the way you do? This is because your genes are encoded with specific traits and functions! The human genome is the complete set of DNA sequences found in the 23 pairs of chromosomes, which are located in the nucleus of cells and act as the genetic code of an organism. The human nuclear genome is composed of three billion nucleotide base pairs that make up both the non-coding and protein-coding DNA regions, encoding 20 000 to 25 000 genes (Gonzaga-Jauregui et al., 2012). The Human Genome Project (HGP), which commenced in 1990, had three primary purposes: to produce a reference sequence of the entire human genome, map the location of all human genes, and make the data accessible. Prior to the HGP, there was little research completed on the structure of the human genome in its entirety and the genetic variations responsible for human disease (Hood & Rowen, 2013).
The HGP was successful in sequencing 95% of the gene-coding region with 99% accuracy (Little et al., 2003). This accomplishment enables future genetic research to be completed more precisely and quickly due to the freely accessible data. The human genome sequences do not represent any single individual’s genome, but rather act as a basis for comparison as all humans share the same set of genes that regulate their biological functions and developmental process. The sequencing of DNA helps with understanding biochemical defects/disease through applications such as the identification of mutations associated with various types of cancer and the construction of medication targeted to the genetic variations observed (Little et al., 2003).
A genetic disorder refers to a disorder caused by a deviance in the DNA sequence. This can involve a change in one or more genes, damage to the chromosomes themselves, or a mixture of non-genetic (i.e., lifestyle) and genetic factors (Sivam, 2012). Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is characterized by the production of thick, sticky mucus, digestive fluids, and sweat that clog passageways. This condition causes lung infections and pancreatic blockages that hinder the digestion process (Tolstoi & Smith, 1999). Improvements in the treatment of this condition can be attributed to advancements in the HGP.
CF is caused by mutations in the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Regulator (CFTR) gene, which is the first gene to be studied using the HGP. Initially identified in 1989, the HGP led to the discovery of over 900 mutations in this gene (Tolstoi & Smith, 1999). The most common mutation of the CF gene is the deletion of 3 base-pairs, resulting in the loss of a phenylalanine amino acid. Normally, the CFTR protein functions as an ion channel that is responsible for the release of chloride ions, maintaining salt balance. With CF, chloride ions cannot be pumped out of the cell, causing extremely viscous mucus (Tolstoi & Smith, 1999). Through the HGP, researchers aim to cure CF through correcting the defective gene or resulting protein. Researchers are working towards using the HGP to understand all of the human genome data that has been collected to study how genes contribute to healthy physiology by comparing this data with genetic variations to understand disease biology (Gonzaga-Jauregui et al., 2012). New methods are projected to diagnose and treat diseases through biotechnological applications, such as gene-editing (Little et al., 2003).
Gonzaga-Jauregui, C., Lupski, J. R., & Gibbs, R. A. (2012). Human Genome Sequencing in Health and Disease. Annual Review of Medicine, 63(1), 35–61. doi: 10.1146/annurev-med-051010-162644
Hood, L., & Rowen, L. (2013). The human genome project: big science transforms biology and medicine. Genome Medicine, 5(9), 79. doi: 10.1186/gm483
Little, J., Khoury, M., Bradley, L., Clyne, M., Gwinn, M., Lin, B., & Lindegrin, M. (2003). The Human Genome Project Is Complete. American Journal of Epidemiology, 157(8), 667–673. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwg048
Sivam, V. (2012). Has the Human Genome Project Delivered for Healthcare? Annals of Medicine and Surgery, 1, 19–20. doi: 10.1016/s2049-0801(12)70006-7
Tolstoi, L. G., & Smith, C. L. (1999). Human Genome Project and Cystic Fibrosis—a Symbiotic Relationship. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(11), 1421–1427. doi: 10.1016/s0002-8223(99)00343-0
In the past 100 years, the human race has suffered through many different ailments and diseases ranging from smallpox to measles. We have overcome many of these outbreaks with various antibiotics and vaccines in the past, but various infectious diseases have made a large comeback in the past few years, such as including measles, mumps, and cholera. Although the number of cases of measles has been on the decline, this year’s peak amount of cases reached a high of 342. It seems as though the pains of the past are coming back to strike humankind. You may be wondering, ‘If we have defeated these illnesses in the past, why are outbreaks happening now?’ The causes of these epidemics, although unique and complex, can be attributed to a few major concepts.
Drawing attention to ongoing protests regularly broadcasted in the news outbreaks this past year can be attributed to vaccine refusals. Although many people continue to receive vaccines, there is a significant group of individuals that choose to delay or abstain from being vaccinated. This in part explains the development of outbreaks of measles, due to the fact that it is usually one of the first illnesses to affect unvaccinated individuals. Abstaining from vaccination is a factor as to why some of these ailments are on the rise, but it doesn’t account for all of the resurgences. Mumps and pertussis have had increases in cases world-wide, even with many of the victims being at minimum partially vaccinated. This is due to vaccines having declining immunity over their diseases. The antibodies that were created to protect us from these immunities after given vaccines have ‘forgotten’ how to defend the body from that antigen. A prominent example of recent failing immunity was with a rise in vaccine-preventable mumps outbreak in Scotland in 2015. 67% of those who contracted mumps were completely vaccinated and most of these cases occurred in older adolescents and young adults rather than young children, an odd occurrence. Outbreaks like this have led to the rise of booster vaccines, which promote the continuation of the body’s production of antigens for these traditionally easily vaccinated viruses.
Another global phenomenon that has been an active part of 2019 news has been controversies surrounding climate change. The acts to fight against climate change may not just be important for saving the planet, but also for protecting the human race as well. Since the planet is undergoing extreme temperature changes, there is a variety of adverse outcomes including extreme weather conditions and shifts in global interactions. An example of this is through high rain falls. With a large amount of rain, sewer systems can become overworked, causing water contamination and leading to outbreaks of various diseases such as cholera. Increased warmer temperature can also be prime conditions for mosquito populations to grow both in size and creeping up closer to the earth’s poles. This causes diseases such as malaria to spread across populations as they transport through vectors like mosquitoes.
These aspects outline just a few of the factors that have recently contributed to the rise in outbreaks worldwide but there are various other reasons that exist. Science and medicine are continually working to adapt to these changes in our environment. Even though many of these outbreaks and diseases continue to reappear, our success in conquering other diseases is an incredible feat that would be a shame to overlook.
Music education in the public school system currently faces lots of challenges, such as perceived lack of value, insufficient funds, and shortage of qualified music specialists. However, cutting music programs may have troubling consequences. Youth that practise music (instrumental, theoretical, or choral) frequently experience a range of benefits, including an improvement in academic performance and an enhanced ability to build social skills with peers through heightened emotional and verbal intelligence. These skills complement future academic and vocational endeavours, including post-secondary education.
It may be detrimental to reduce the amount of music education taught to students since music education is associated with many positive outcomes, like improved academic performance and interpersonal skills, which are needed in the future workplace. Dr. Sylvain Moreno is a lead scientist at the Rotman Research Institute who studies brain development through musical training. His research has found that music training can help people develop their memory, attention, and verbal skills, which are all related to educational outcomes. Better memory, ability to focus, and reading and comprehension skills can help students in various subjects, and so music seems to be able to holistically help youth excel in academics.
Music programs not only have been found to help academics, but they also seem to instill the social skills that students need from a young age. Notably, children who were involved in regular music-making activities displayed higher emotional intelligence and empathy compared to their non-musical peers. It could be that musical education promotes cooperation within a group, sharing and working towards a common goal, and monitoring self and others’ progress towards the goal. Holochowst et al. (2017) also found that playing music exercises the ability to listen and comprehend the nuances of speech, which can help people interpret underlying emotions and meaning of others’ speech. Empathy and social awareness is extremely important for life at home, school, and work. Therefore, music courses could work harmoniously with other classes as they teach students both new content and soft skills at school.
Contrary to what many believe, music is not irrelevant later on in life even if students don’t pursue it as a career. Music education brings much more value to students than what is commonly believed since it supports students’ academic performance and interpersonal skills. Additionally, strong music programs can inspire and provide a good foundation for students to pursue music education as a career, where they can pass their knowledge on to the new generation of musicians in a continuous cycle.
by Anna Fouks
It is a common misconception that different organ systems function separately from each other with few connections. However, contrary to popular belief, significant relations have been found between systems that seem to control very different aspects of our complex bodies. Among the most surprising is the connection between the brain and the bacteria within the digestive system.
The main system behind this phenomenon is the microbiota-gut-brain (MGB) axis. This is a communication structure that includes the following: the central nervous system (comprised of the brain and spinal cord), autonomic nervous system (responsible for involuntary body functions and maintaining physiological homeostasis), enteric nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system that governs the gastrointestinal tract), and hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis that is part of the body’s hormonal stress response.
The MGB axis helps activate appropriate responses to external stress. Within the HPA axis, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain and the adrenal glands above the kidneys communicate with each other through hormones, ultimately releasing cortisol, a major stress hormone. Meanwhile, the central nervous system releases signals to the enteric nervous system, muscle cells, and gut mucosa to control the body’s immunity, permeability, and secretion of mucus carried out by the ethereal nervous system, muscle cells, and the gut mucosa. The microbiota (various microorganisms) within the gut also affect gastrointestinal processes by being connected in communications among the brain, gut, and other parts of the intestine.
There are more than 100 trillion bacteria entities in the healthy adult intestine, with approximately 200 strains including more than 100 different bacterial species. More than 90% of the existing human microbiome belongs to the Bacteroidetes and the Fermicutes phyla. Bacteria in the intestine can help perform certain digestive functions that their host cannot do, such as the synthesis of vitamins and the breakdown of carbohydrates for energy sources, while also developing and promoting our immune system. The microbiota profile has shown to have similar distribution and action patterns in the gastrointestinal tract among healthy individuals. Some divergences from these patterns are associated with health issues, such as abnormally high Fermicutes to Bacteroidetes (F/B) ratios have been found to be correlated with adult obesity.
Since the brain and gut microbiota are connected through the MGB axis, researchers are interested in how changes in the bacterial patterns may affect an individual’s psychology. For example, “leaky gut” syndrome (or intestinal permeability) refers to when the typically impermeable wall around the intestines weakens and allows toxins and bacteria in the gut pass into the bloodstream. Leaky gut symptoms have been associated with depression and fatigue. More research is needed to examine this connection. However, it is theorized that leaky gut can cause autoimmune responses like inflammation, which affect various areas of the body including neuronal tissue, and so can induce or exacerbate exacerbate depressive symptoms. One study that analyzed blood samples from depressed individuals even found that 35% of the participants showed signs of intestinal permeability.
Animal research has also found connections between the brain and gut. A study done at McMaster University stressed mice by separating them from their mothers for three hours every day when they were 3 to 21 days old. One group of mice had no microbiota in their gut (called “germ-free” mice) and were kept in sterile conditions, while a second group had gut microbiota and were not raised in a sterile environment. In a follow-up after the maternal separation, researchers conducted a series of behavioural tests to measure the mice’s anxious and depressive symptoms. They found that mice with microbiota had elevated levels of the stress hormone corticosterone and exhibited symptoms of depression and anxiety. The germ-free mice had physiological and HPA axis changes, but did not present the same anxious and depressive symptoms. However, when microbiota was from control mice (with no maternal separation) were transferred into the germ-free mice, they began to show signs of anxiety and depression-like behaviour.
Researchers are continuously trying to learn more about the relationship between the brain and gut, and so much of this link is still a mystery. That being said, these studies are reminders to us that the various parts of our organisms are more connected to each other than we think
by Greg Eriksen
The ability to influence others, whether they are aware of it or not, is an often unnoticed yet very prevalent practice within our society. Whether it is a marketing campaign or a friend proposing an idea, we are frequently convinced to agree with others while believing we are making an autonomous decision. Some of the common techniques to persuade others stem from six principles: reciprocity, scarcity, authority, consistency, liking, and consensus.
Reciprocity involves targeting people’s tendency to feel obliged to treat others similarly to how they are treated. For example, if someone invites you to their birthday party, you may be more likely to invite them to yours. While this phenomenon may seem to boil down to being friendly, it could be used as a way to persuade others. In fact, people’s natural response to reciprocate others’ actions can be used to increase their generosity when tipping restaurant employees. In a previous study, researchers found that servers who leaving candy for their guests alongside the bill received a tip percentage that was 2.7% higher than servers who left no treat .
The second principle, scarcity, is the idea that rarer things hold more value. For example, you’re more likely to decline an invitation to go to the beach in the middle of the summer than on an unusually warm day in spring since the opportunity to go to the beach seems rarer in the second situation. In marketing, scarcity statements like “limited quantity” have been found to be effective in influencing consumers when deciding whether they will purchase a product. Interestingly, in recent years as the term “FOMO” (which stands for “fear of missing out,” specifically defined as individuals’ worry that they are not involved in something that is better or more exciting than what they are currently doing) has been popularized, advertisers have been FOMO-based appeals to consumers.
Authority and consistency are the third and fourth principles of persuasion. Authority is described by the tendency for people tend to listen to others who are deemed credible or knowledgeable. For example, broadcasting experts’ opinions seemed to shift public opinion by as much at 4%. On the other hand, the principle of consistency targets people’s tendency to remain consistent with what they have said or done in the past. In 1998, Gordon Sinclair used this idea of consistency to reduce the number of customers who did not go to their reservations without alerting the restaurant. He instructed receptionist to ask customers “Will you please call if you have a change to your plans?” and wait for an answer rather than simply ending calls with “Please call if you change your plans.”By having customers establish that they will call if they want to cancel their reservation, this change in protocol dropped the number of customers who did not call the restaurant to cancel their reservations from 30% to 10%!
Liking is the fifth principle of persuasion, and perhaps the most common. When another person displays positive traits such as physical attraction and cooperativity, others are influenced to believe what they say. The Liking principle seems to link with the Halo effect; the cognitive bias in which we attribute a person’s entire character on a small amount of perceivable information. Hence, different studies have shown that physically attractive people are also perceived to be intelligent, competent, and likeable. Therefore, if someone tries to persuade you to buy them a drink at a bar, consider the Halo effect and how they may be influencing you!
The last principle of persuasion is consensus. This refers to social validation in which people tend to do what others do. How does this tie into persuasion? Employing the principle of consensus can convince people that the decision they are making is normal and common. For example, certain hotels may leave a note in the restroom that indicate that it would be appreciated if the guests reuse their towels. To increase the effectiveness of this note, researchers added information indicating that 75% of other guest’s reuse towels. By doing so, there was a 26% increase in towel re-usage.
After evaluating all of these principles, it is clear that the power of persuasion is persistently and subconsciously influencing our everyday decisions. From restaurants to retail stores to hotels, persuasive tactics will always attempt to be at the heart of your final decision!