Monday, May 03, 2010

How a beautiful stranger will send a man’s stress hormones soaring...especially if he’s not in the same league

This sounds reasonable but the experiment lasted only 5 minutes. Generalizing from that is heroic

A racing pulse and sweaty palms are well known as the signs of instant attraction. Now research shows that for men just five minutes spent alone with a beautiful stranger causes so much stress it may be bad for the heart.

The effects are worst for men who might think they are not “in the same league” as the woman now sharing their space but still try to attract her interest, scientists claim. For those men, their anxiety rate is said to be similar to jumping from an aircraft. Their cortisol levels rise even higher, bringing on the possibility of heart attacks and strokes.

It is the sort of extreme stress portrayed by Dudley Moore when encountering statuesque Bo Derek in the movie 10. While he eventually got the girl, reality can be more painful, say experts at the University of Valencia in Spain.

‘Exposure to physical or psychological stresses for a long period of time may cause chronically elevated cortisol levels. 'That can have adverse effects on health as it worsens various disorders, such as myopathy, adult-onset diabetes, hypertension and impotency,’ said the research team.

They paid 84 male students £10 each to take part in an experiment – approved by the Faculty of Psychology’s ethical committee – which measured their cortisol levels before and after they had been left alone with a stranger.

The men, who had been told to avoid alcohol and other stimulants for 24 hours, were led to a room and given a Sudoko puzzle to solve.

Each one presumed the other two people in the room were a researcher and another student guinea pig. When the researcher left the room – on the pretence of getting another puzzle – the other two were left alone.

The researchers discovered that cortisol levels stayed the same when two men were together but rose when a man was left alone with what was perceived as an attractive woman. They measured cortisol, which is secreted by the adrenal glands, by taking mouth swabs and saliva samples from the volunteers.

The team concluded: ‘In this study we considered that for most men the presence of an attractive woman may induce the perception that there is an opportunity for courtship.

'While some men might avoid attractive women since they might think they are “out of their league’’, the majority would respond with apprehension and a concurrent hormonal response.

‘This study showed that male cortisol levels increased after exposure to a five-minute short social contact with a young attractive woman. It provides evidence that interpersonal interaction can influence the secretion of cortisol.’

There are times when cortisol does have benefits. Small increases give quick bursts of energy for survival and pain endurance. But in high quantities it can lead to stress-related changes – and danger.


Brain surgery hope for Parkinson's cases: Implants have given us our life back say first patients

Various versions of this have often been reported as helpful. It should be an option when drug cease to work

A form of brain surgery could bring hope to thousands of Parkinson’s disease sufferers. ‘Deep brain stimulation’ using an electrical implant works better than drugs alone to improve patients’ quality of life, a ten-year trial shows.

Some sufferers say they have ‘got their lives back’ because the treatmentcuts symptoms of Parkinson’sincluding muscular rigidity and disabling tremors.

Those having surgery needed a third less medication afterwards, according to findings published in The Lancet Neurology journal.

But there are concerns that patients are being denied the £30,000 surgery on the NHS. Altogether 366 people with advanced Parkinson’s took part in the trial and received either surgery with medication, or drugs alone.

Patients having DBS were fitted with a neurostimulator, a device similar to a heart pacemaker, which was connected to electrodes in the brain.

Small electric currents were found to block abnormal nerve signals which trigger the disablingsymptoms. A year after surgery, DBS patients were more likely to have improved than those given medication only.

Dr Kieran Breen, a director at Parkinson’s UK charity, which helped to fund the research, said: ‘DBS is certainly more effective than medication alone. ‘However, access to DBS is patchy – there’s still a postcode lottery in the UK. We want to make sure that everyone with Parkinson’s has equal access to the care and support they need, wherever they live.’

The operation was cost-effective, he insisted, adding the ‘amount saved in medication actually pays for itself in two to three years’.

The trial, which involved some of the UK’s top neurosurgeons and consultant neurologists, was run by Birmingham University.

Around five per cent of 120,000 Parkinson’s sufferers are thought to be eligible for surgery, as they have stopped responding to medication or experience unwanted side effects.


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