Before electricity, humans got all of their light via exposure to the sun, fire, and the moon and stars. This meant that nights were spent in relative darkness. Today, our environment is quite different. Our homes can now be brightly illuminated all the time, regardless of season or time of day. Also, our cities have bright LED street lamps that create “light pollution” filling outdoor city environments with much more light than is natural.
On the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I talk to Dr. Laura Fonken who is postdoctoral fellow in Steven Maier’s lab in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado. Before joining the Maier lab, she and a group at Ohio State performed a fascinating experiment with rodents, in which they compared body weight gain in animals who only ate at night versus animals who only ate during the day. The results were startling – and had interesting potential implications for our own health.
Check out our interview here to learn more!
Taking a hot sauna regularly can feel good and relax you, but can it also prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease?
If you’re from the US, you probably associate saunas with gyms and spas. But saunas have existed in some form for hundreds of years, particularly in Scandinavia, where they are used regularly as part of the culture. Nowhere are they more ubiquitous than in Finland – it is estimated that 99% of Finns use one at least once per week. They have traditionally been used as places to relax with friends and family and to recover from intense physical activity.
And while sauna usage is typically associated with health behaviors, like for example using a sauna after exercise or before sleep as a way to relax, research has now taken a closer look to see if sauna usage itself is health promoting.
In the newest episode of humanOS Radio, I talk with Jari Laukkanen, MD, Ph.D. Jari is a clinical cardiologist who runs a research lab at the University of Eastern Finland. He primarily studies the role of a wide range of cardiometabolic risk factors in relation to cardiovascular disease. In his latest study, he and his colleagues examined thousands of Finnish men over the course of two decades. Participants were divided into groups based on how frequently they sauna. It turns out that men who sauna more frequently appear to have a tremendous benefit to their heart and brain health. Listen here to learn more.
Modern technology is messing with our sleep. But what if someone could develop a device that actually helped us fall asleep faster?
In the latest episode of humanOS radio, I talk with Kelly Roman. Kelly is a co-owner of Fisher Wallace Laboratories, a progressive medical device company that aspires to treat insomnia and depression in novel ways.
Fisher Wallace is introducing a neurostimulation product called Kortex to the market. This device non-invasively delivers a low dose of electrical stimulation, combined with a virtual reality headset that delivers relaxing VR content to the user.
And unlike reading on your phone, Kortex might actually *help* you to get to sleep faster, and experience deeper and more restorative sleep. Kortex stimulates the brain to produce serotonin and melatonin, while lowering cortisol – thus helping people manage stress and sleep without prescription drugs.
To learn more about this intriguing product, and the research leading up to it, please check out my interview with Kelly here.
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel sleepy after a big meal. Think of what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, or after getting a huge lunch at an Indian buffet. If you’re like me, you’re ready to crash.
But why does this happen? Is it the tryptophan in the turkey? Is it from too many carbs? What you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat it all play a role. Consequently, there has been some doubt as to whether the “food coma” is even a real thing.
But recently, some clever researchers identified a good model organism for studying this phenomenon – the fruit fly. And through studying the behavior of Drosophila, we now better understand what causes a food coma, and perhaps why it occurs.
In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I interview Keith Murphy of the Scripps Research Institute. He and his colleagues have been researching the so-called food coma, and have found some substantive evidence for this phenomenon. Listen here to find out more about his study – and some reasons why the food coma might be happening.
You are fully in control over your food choices, right? Well, we know that a wide range of rules govern how we act, and even our beliefs, when we are with different groups of people. Social psychologists characterize this influence as ‘social norms,’ and guess what? This influence affects eating, too.
In this latest episode of humanOS radio, I interview Emma Templeton from Thalia Wheatley’s lab at Dartmouth and Michael Stanton, Assistant Professor, Department of Nursing & Health Sciences, California State University, East Bay. Recently, they published a study in the journal, PLoS ONE, that elegantly tests the influence of social norms on the perceived healthfulness of food and also eating behavior. Listen here to listen.
Why do so many of us overeat – even when we know it’s bad for us?
Like many questions in biology, much of the answer to this question lies in evolution. We know that animals have generally evolved to seek and consume convenient, energy-dense foods. All living things require energy to survive and reproduce, and it makes intuitive sense that genes associated with finding and eating lots of easy calories might be favored by natural selection. This instinct is also evident in humans in natural environments. Hunter-gatherers, who live in conditions similar to that of our evolutionary ancestors, gravitate to delicious high-calorie fare, although they don’t find a great deal of it. When they do get something extra tasty and high in energy – like ripe fruit, fresh meat, and honey – they will gorge on it.
Not unlike us. Modern humans are subject to these impulses as well. So what’s different? Our environment has dramatically changed. Rather than getting rare seasonal opportunities to gorge on rich foods, we are now constantly surrounded by such delicacies. We did not evolve with any need to resist these kinds of tasty treats – so perhaps it is unsurprising that we so often fail despite our best intentions.
In this episode of humanOS Radio, I talk once again with Dr. Stephan Guyenet, this time about his new book, The Hungry Brain, which was just released this week.
In his book, Stephan addresses the fundamental question of why we overeat. It’s not necessarily for a lack of education on nutrition. Rather, it is due to evolutionarily-conserved circuitry in the brain, which drives us to overeat for short-term pleasure – even when we know it’s at the expense of our health and well-being. In the show, he explains how these circuits work to regulate energy intake and body fatness.
Much of this is based on physiology and genetic predispositions – but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. We also discuss things you can do to manage these primal impulses in a fattening world, and make sure that your daily behaviors are in alignment with your health and weight goals.
Can we stave off the aging process by transfusing young blood into old people? The idea that youthful blood might have rejuvenating properties has lingered in popular imagination for centuries.
In this episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Drs. Michael and Irina Conboy of the Department of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley. Their lab investigates the process of tissue repair throughout the body and is trying to determine why damaged tissue is not productively repaired as the body ages. In their most recent study, they discovered that molecules in aged blood may actually be interfering with the regenerative process. They are trying to identify these inhibitors, and perhaps find a way to clear them from the blood. Are we on the cusp of a breakthrough to help us stay at our peak abilities for decades longer?
I have to admit, I love this story. Two parents saw a problem effecting their children and did something about it. But not only did they try to help their children and their children’s friends, they also are trying to help every child in the United States.
The guests of this episode of humanOS Radio are Kelly and Juliet Starrett. Kelly is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and the author of the books: Deskbound, Supple Leopard, and Ready to Run. Juliet has a history as a competitive athlete, rowing at UC Berkeley and paddling for the US Women’s Whitewater Team from 1997-2000. Together, they founded San Francisco CrossFit in 2005 (one of the first 50 CrossFit Affiliates ever), they run the healthy movement website called Mobility WOD, and most recently, they started StandUpKids.org the mission of which is to put standing desks in every public school in America. I’m also honored to be on the Board of Directors, which I mentioned in this previous post, to help this great organization achieve its mission.
Why is it that when you’re binge watching your favorite new series on Netflix, you can stay up for hours past your normal bedtime – even if you were tired before you started watching? On the other hand, if you weren’t being entertained or captivated by a game or puzzle, you’d be much more likely to be lulled to sleep at that time. Indeed, sleep and goal-directed behaviors are mutually exclusive: you can’t do both at the same time. While this relationship is intuitively clear, for the first time, scientists at Stanford have clarified the circuitry between the brain’s reward and arousal systems. In the latest episode of humanOS Radio, I speak with Luis de Lecea, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. Recently, he and his colleagues published a study in the prestigious journal Nature demonstrating that dopamine neuron activity (in the ventral tegmental area of the brain) is necessary in order to be awake. Furthermore, when they inhibited these neurons, there were able to promote what seemed like natural, healthy sleep.