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Thursday, November 6, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Tea or coffee is often the favoured brew for those who are tired and in need of a caffeine boost. But is this really the best way to make ourselves more alert? Michael Mosley tested caffeine against some unlikely alternatives - sage, fudge, chewing gum and electric shocks.
How effective is caffeine for improving alertness? I drink lots of tea and coffee, so I assumed the answer is "very". But it is always worthwhile having your assumptions challenged.
So the Trust Me team asked Professor Peter Rogers of Bristol University to put caffeine to the test. He recruited a group of 20 people, 10 of whom never normally touch caffeine. The other 10, regular caffeine imbibers, were asked to turn up for testing having abstained for at least 12 hours.
Both groups were measured for mental agility, concentration and dexterity. Then they got a drink with a good jolt of caffeine in it. I found the results surprising, not to mention disappointing.
"Overall, regular caffeine consumers who'd been without caffeine overnight, were slower on the reaction time task, were sleepier and were less mentally alert than non-users," Professor Rogers said.
They did improve after they got a caffeine drink, but only up to the level the non-users had achieved without caffeine.
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When the non-users were given caffeine to drink their reaction times increased but they also became more jittery and anxious.
Professor Rogers says that, contrary to what most people believe, drinking lots of coffee on a regular basis won't enhance your mental performance. Part of the problem with caffeine is we quickly develop dependency.
So if you want to give your brain a boost, what else is out there?
Next we asked Dr Andy Johnson, of Bournemouth University, to test the impact on afternoon drowsiness of eating sugar, sage (the herb) and chewing gum.
He lined up 24 volunteers and in the morning did some tests to measure alertness. Then, in the afternoon, our volunteers were randomly allocated to either chew gum, eat fudge, swallow a pill containing sage or a placebo.
One hour later they did some really boring tests. They repeated this process three more times over the course of the week, each time trying something different.
As expected, swallowing a placebo pill made little difference. The volunteers still felt drowsier in the afternoon. Eating fudge, if anything, made them feel slightly worse.More from the Magazine
- Jon Kelly questioned whether people consume too much coffee
- Denise Winterman asked why do Britons drink so much instant coffee?
- Chris Summers looked at how Vietnam became a coffee giant
- Michael Mosley looks at which is better for you: Coffee or smoothies
Chewing gum, surprisingly, improved mood, possibly because chewing seems to increases blood flow to brain. Going for a brisk walk would probably be just as effective.
In fact, the only thing in our test that really did seem to improve our volunteers' performance was the sage pills. This was not as unlikely as it might sound. There was a recent systematic review of clinical trials"assessing pharmacological properties of Salvia species on memory, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease".
The review looked at eight studies which have tested the effects of sage on things like memory. Six of these trials involved normal subjects and two were done on people with Alzheimer's.
The researchers concluded that extracts of sage can enhance cognitive performance and it is safe, but they also caution that because so many different herbal preparations were used (extracts, essential oils, raw sage) better-designed trials are needed to establish which preparation is best.
The reason sage may have an effect is because it contains a cholinesterase inhibitor, a chemical which prevents the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Low levels of acetylcholine in the brain have been linked to memory problems. It is obviously only early stages of research into this herb, but there are clearly some interesting avenues for further research.
The final thing I wanted to test was electric shocks. Is it safe to shock your brain? For some years scientists have been using tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation, a small electrical charge to the skull) to try to improve a whole range of things, from learning to reaction times.
Dr Charlotte Stagg of Oxford University, has been using it to help people recover strength in their hands after a stroke. Charlotte has found that, compared with a sham treatment, tDCS seems to speed up recovery, probably because of the effect that tiny electric currents have on neuronal connections inside the brain.
To see what effect it would have on me, Charlotte carefully positioned some electrodes on my skull and turned on the machine.
There was a slight itchiness and it did feel as if my brain had been given a jolt, but had it actually made any difference?
The short answer is yes. In a test which involved pressing a button when I saw a light go on, my reaction times improved from an average of 650 milliseconds before the machine was turned on, to 550 milliseconds with it on. These findings are in line with results from other subjects.
tDCS is currently being tested, not just as a way of helping people recover from stroke, but also as a potential treatment for depression. Charlotte is concerned, however, that people don't turn to homemade devices or machines you can buy on the internet.
"We do our studies in a very measured way," she told me "but we just don't know what the long term consequences of prolonged, uncontrolled use are likely to be."
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Monday, October 27, 2014
Imagine a very rainy day and a house with leaks. You cannot leave, because of the rain outside; you cannot relax, because of the dripping inside. You are very miserable and quickly going crazy, as the rain comes through the roof and ceiling to drip-drip-drip on your nerves and things. So is a woman that likes to argue, nag, question, and prod. This irritating wife takes the blessing of marriage and turns it into torture for her husband.
Long rains are not bad. In fact, they are essential for agricultural prosperity. Extended rain for an agrarian society in a dry climate was a good thing, and the continual drizzle of rain upon a secure house is a pleasant noise that makes for a cozy and secure atmosphere. Therefore, you can understand the continual dropping to be a leak in a house that is very irritating and unnerving, as it steadily destroys a man’s peace and possessions (Pr ).
What is a contentious woman? One that argues, debates, disputes, fights, quarrels, and questions. She is not content, and she cannot let others be content. She pushes, irritates, aggravates, and nags. She has no clue her role is to be a cheerful, submissive helper (Gen ; ; I Cor 11:9). She is the odious woman the world cannot stand (Pr 30:21-23). It is better for a man to live alone in seclusion than with this tormentor (Pr 21:9,19; 25:24).
A continual drip is frustrating, provoking, and destructive. You want to escape the noise, but where can you go? You know it is destroying your sanity and assets, but it will not stop. A nagging woman is similar. You cursed your soul and future by marrying her; now you cannot escape the monster; she eats at your table and sleeps in your bed! If she grants you a ray of sunshine in a weak moment, it quickly ends with the return of rain. If you seek to correct her, you might as well try to reason with a bear robbed of her cubs.
Why are some women so obnoxious? They were born, as fools, with hardly a conscience; they may have had an odious mother; they falsely believe marriage was made for them; a man has never put them in their place. When they read a proverb like this, they have no clue it applies to them. They have more self-righteousness and stubbornness than two Pharisees. If you ask for an explanation, they exclaim, “I am only trying to help. If I did not keep riding him, he would not amount to anything. He needs me to remind him.”
Young man, marry wisely! Being single, frustrated, and lonely is better than marrying this woman. Choose only by the fear of God, for odious women can deceive men into painful marriages (Pr 30:21-23; 31:30). A woman that fears God knows her place (Gen ), obeys her husband (Eph 5:22-24), reverences him (Eph ), ravishes him (Pr ; I Cor 7:1-5), has a meek and quiet spirit (I Pet 3:3-4), and serves him (Pr 31:10-27; Titus 2:3-5). If you marry foolishly, your friends will know it, because you cannot hide her (Pr 27:16). Put dates to the test, and multiply her faults by ten to see her as your wife!
Young woman, you must ignore the lies being spread today about the role of the woman. God has already settled this matter, regardless of what Joel Osteen, Madonna, or James Dobson might say. You were made for your husband (I Cor 11:9), and his desires are to be your desires (Gen ). Marriage is not a partnership, where you have an equal say in matters. Learn the beauty of a truly gracious woman and secure the perpetual adoration that all good men, women, and her family will have for her (Pr ; 31:28-31).
Troubled man, if you are already snared in a torturous marriage to such a woman, your choices are limited. You must labor by prayer, example, and exhortation to bring her to fear the Lord (Ps 34:11; I Cor ). You must get her in a Bible-preaching church, where the whole counsel of God is taught, including the role of the woman, by a man of God who will do some of your dirty work for you (Acts ,27). And then you must wisely, kindly, and forcefully bring the word of God to bear on your wife in your home.
Fathers, you must save your naïve and hormone-blinded sons from pursuing a jewel of gold and missing the smelly pig wearing it (Pr ). Probe and test their dates; spend time with their mothers. As an experienced husband, you can easily smell the stench of a contentious spirit. Ignore his foolish and lovesick comments about her virtues, because he does not have a clue about her or marriage; she has likely deceived him (Pr 30:21-23; 31:30). Settle for nothing less than a woman who independently fears God from her heart and is gracious to the praise of all. Such women are extremely rare, but there are some.
Mothers, it is your duty to teach your daughters to be the godly, gracious, submissive, and reverent wives the Lord expects them to become (Titus 2:3-5). You can teach the traits of a gracious woman by example and instruction. Teach them to love from their hearts, cut their words in half, compliment rather than criticize, serve rather than sauce, agree rather than argue, submit rather than fight, smile rather than sneer, romance rather than withdraw, clean rather than shop, work rather than nag, praise rather than correct, thank rather than complain, kiss rather than cry, and forget rather than avenge.
Contentious woman, confess your sin to God, your husband, and anyone else knowing your stubborn and insubordinate spirit. The Lord is merciful, and so is your husband, if you will go meekly in repentance. You are violating the role God gave you, and you will never be happy, if you continue in a devilish course of contention. Your greatest joy will only be realized by getting closer and closer to the virtuous woman (Pr ; 31:10-31).
The terrible Day of Judgment is coming (Eccl ; II Cor 5:9; Rev 20:11-15), and you should think about how you will answer God for ruining the life of your husband, whom you were created to help and make happy. Your earthly purpose for existence is your husband, and God will not care that you have not done drugs or worshipped idols. He will take an account of how well you treated your man, and the consequences will be severe.
One of the greatest testimonies to Christianity, which is lacking today, are functional, happy homes, where the husband is king, and his wife is a charming, gracious, and submissive queen. It is nagging, contentious, and insubordinate wives that cause the word of God to be blasphemed, for even pagans know that a wife ought to support and serve her husband, not nag him into despair and grief (Titus 2:5; I Tim ; Esther 1:16-20). Let women that do know their God condemn the world and glorify the truth.