TED Talk: The secret to living longer may be your social life

As a self avowed loner, this research showing personal connections are important to a long life bothers me. I had hoped that Cacioppo’s writing in Loneliness that we each have differing levels of engagement that are necessary would apply. Having a lower threshold might protect against depression, anxiety, and suicide that plague men.

Pinker seems to be saying that having someone who will check up on older people is what prolongs their lives into becoming centenarians.

If the above does not work, then try TED Talk: The secret to living longer may be your social life.

Introvert Myths

Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script.
Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script.

This Huffington Post piece, 6 Things You Thought Wrong About Introverts is not terrible. It covers these myths about introverts.

  1. All introverts are shy — and all shy people are introverts.
  2. Introverts don’t like to be around people. (Anti-social)
  3. Introverts don’t make good leaders or public speakers.
  4. Introverts have more negative personalities. (Depression)
  5. Introverts are more intellectual or creative than extroverts.
  6. It’s easy to tell whether someone is introverted or extroverted.

I have been an introvert for as long as I can remember. Happiness to me at even age 5 was playing alone with my toys. Later it was reading, playing video games, walking, or driving while alone. I did not need anyone else. Especially as I would hold all parts of the conversation either aloud or in my head.

Using me as an exemplar of introversion is probably also a mistake. It probably contributes to people incorrectly associating several of these myths with introverts. I make it no secret I am one. Some examples… Until I grow comfortable around others, good luck getting subject-verb-object or more complex sentences out of me (#1). Avoiding others is my specialty (#2). Blogging is a method by which I short-circuit my tendency to ruminate on everything (#4).

This other article, Caring for Your Introvert, is a must read. It starts:

Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate? Who growls or scowls or grunts or winces when accosted with pleasantries by people who are just trying to be nice?

A couple decades ago, I went hermit from my friends. Rumors of my grand depression

Precise Shock Therapy

Consider this Cyborg Stephen Hawking Part II. Our understanding of the brain is so very underwhelming. Ran across an interesting article: Brain electrodes fix depression long term.

Deep depression that fails to respond to any other form of therapy can be moderated or reversed by stimulation of areas deep inside the brain. Now the first placebo-controlled study of this procedure shows that these responses can be maintained in the long term.

Neurologist Helen Mayberg at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, followed ten patients with major depressive disorder and seven with bipolar disorder, or manic depression, after an electrode device was implanted in the subcallosal cingulate white matter of their brains and the area continuously stimulated.

All but one of twelve patients who reached the two-year point in the study had completely shed their depression or had only mild symptoms.

The idea of stimulating brains with electricity or magnets in my or anyone’s brain feels disturbing. It sounds like all these went through it as a matter of last resort. Last weekend I watched a called Blood & Guts: A History of Surgery on the brain. There is a scene where a guy is touching his nose repeatedly and using intense magnetic fields prevent the subject from being able to control muscles. My spine shivers every time I watch this. (So why do I watch it over and over?)

Of course, an old way of solving this was trans-orbital lobotomies. Take an ice pick and hammer it through the upper eye socket (the orbit) into the prefrontal cortex. Hook me up to electrodes, please…

TED Talk: Is Play More Than Fun?

In the Q&A, Stuart Brown, co-author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, rejects the idea play is a rehersal for adulthood. Stopping an animal from playing doesn’t prevent the animal from being a successful predator. REM sleep provides the rehearsal needed for learning. Play is the next evolutionary step. The video is a little too heavy on repeating the same generic idea over an over with different examples. However, they are amusing examples.

The types of play Brown references usually involves multiple individuals in a social interaction. This play teaches survival skills like socialization, adaptation, flexibility (our selfish genes at work).

The origin of this play research was in identifying the next Charles Whitmore, the University of Texas Tower sniper. In studying mass murderers, he found Charles and others like him consistently grew up in environments where play was not allowed. By not playing these children developed into dysfunctional adults.

I found a particular claim quite interesting. “The opposite of play is not work… It is depression.” That is almost word for word out of his book on page 126, which Google Books has a copy. Later he better explains the part about play and work are not in opposition:

The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both we are building our world, creating new relationships, neural connections, objects…. At their best, play and work, when integrated, make sense of our workd and ourselves. (Play, p.127)

This agrees with Adam and Jamie from the Mythbusters to Moira Gunn for the Commonwealth Cluf of California about their work. Just look at Adam’s face before triggering a test on any episode. The complete and total joy is a testament to the power of dopamine.

I think the opposition to depression involves movement which is exercise. Exercise produces serotonin which is crucial to fighting off depression. So my work, sitting in a cube all day long problem solving is good for dopamine but not a producer of serotonin. However, a good game of tag would produce both dopamine in anticipating tagging a playmate and serotonin from the movement. (Why can’t work be more like tag?)

If Dr. Brown is right, then suppressing the rough and tumble playing children enjoy is the best way to place in society malfunctioning adults who are more likely to be violent. Things like recess (just half an hour) during the day will keep our prisons less full 20 years later. <sarcasm>Maybe the No Child Left Behind meant all the children will end up in prison?</sarcasm> More likely children will fit their play in less supervised situations and get their fill.