“Baby, you have the dreamiest antibodies…”

There’s likely a percentage of the readers of this blog who, if presented with a photo montage of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, Denzel Washington, Ryan Gosling and other celebrity heartthrobs, might have to take a moment (or several) just to sit back, breathe deeply and appreciate the view. And who could blame us? They’re manly men, all. Easy on the eyes, fairly dripping with testosterone, make our hearts go pitter-pat, maybe make our loins jump just a little with subconscious fantasies of beautiful Clooney babies. What? It’s only natural! It’s biology!

But a recent research effort, published in the February 21 edition of the journal Nature Communications, asserts that our twitterpation (or Brad Pitterpation, as it were) may not be so much for these guys’ handsome faces, strong jawlines, broad shoulders, six-pack abs, that spot in the crook of their neck that probably smells really good…

*batting eyelashes*

Sorry, got distracted there for a second. No, it might not be their looks that we’re really lusting after, but their…robust immune systems? Their drop-dead sexy antibodies? Continue reading ““Baby, you have the dreamiest antibodies…””

This is Your Hippocampus on Cortisol

A maze photo.
Whether navigating a maze or other obstacles, decreasing stress will help.

Research published by  Dr. Joyce Yau et al. in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this year examined whether negative effects of cortisol on memory could be blocked using antagonists for brain receptors for cortisol.

The researchers noted that  local brain amplification of glucocorticoids (cortisol)  by 11beta-hydroxysteriod dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1) is “pivotal” in age-related memory loss.

Cortisol acts by binding to cell receptors. In their research, Yau and colleagues found that when levels of cortisol are low, a particular cortisol receptor is bound. However, at higher concentrations, cortisol has a spillover effect and binds a second receptor. Binding to this second receptor activates cellular processes in the brain that cause memory impairment.

The  receptors studied were the high-affinity mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) and low-affinity glucocorticoid receptor (GR). As models for memory impairment, they used aged C57BL/6J mice as controls. Also studied were 11beta-HSD1-deficient mice (-/-), which ordinarily show no age-related memory deficits. Mouse memory was tested with a spatial memory task, a Y maze. Continue reading “This is Your Hippocampus on Cortisol”

Loneliness Can Wreak Havoc with Your Health, but More Than 372 Friends on Facebook Doesn’t Mean a Longer, Better Life

Image of a crowd.
A large group but some still lonely.

Research over the past several years has shown that loneliness can be hazardous to your health.

As an introvert, I’ve struggled to square this news with my occasional preference for time alone over, say a party with 250 of my closest friends.

We introverts may spend more time alone than would an extrovert, but that does not make introverts lonely. Now John Cacioppo, a social psychologist at the University of Chicago has described more precisely the aspects of isolation that may cause health concerns, as well as the biological mechanisms responsible for negative health effects due to loneliness. In an article in Science, recently, Greg Miller reviewed Cacioppo’s work. We learn here that it’s the experience of loneliness that can be negative, as opposed to the number of social contacts a person has. Continue reading “Loneliness Can Wreak Havoc with Your Health, but More Than 372 Friends on Facebook Doesn’t Mean a Longer, Better Life”