Our Empathetic Nature
For some people, seeing pain in someone else is more than emotionally distressing: they feel the pain in their own body too. Now some of the pathways involved have been identified.
What's the Latest Development?
People who have lost a limb sometimes still experience the limb as thought it were still connected to the body. The phenomena is called phantom limb and new research suggests that those with the condition are more susceptible to feeling real physical pain when they observe it in others. The same process that allows us to empathize with others by imagining the pain they feel, properly called synaesthetic pain, is heightened in those who have lost a limb. Scientists speculate that the traumatic experience associated with losing a limb may heighten the sensitivity of pain synaesthetes to others' pain.
What's the Big Idea?
Long a conundrum of evolutionary biologists, altruism inspired by empathy may have fairly clear biological and neurological roots. "When we observe or imagine pain, it activates areas of the brain involved in the processing of real pain. This is called the mirror neuron system and is thought to help us to understand other people's actions and emotions. But the activation is not as strong as that caused by real pain because inhibitory mechanisms normally dampen the response."
Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."
- Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
- Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
- Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
An innovation may lead to lifelike self-reproducing and evolving machines.
- Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
- The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
- The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.
Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?
- A huge segment of America's population — the Baby Boom generation — is aging and will live longer than any American generation in history.
- The story we read about in the news? Their drain on social services like Social Security and Medicare.
- But increased longevity is a cause for celebration, says Ashton Applewhite, not doom and gloom.
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