Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • Doctors Say Singing Could Help You Live Longer

    Can singing make you live longer?Can singing make you live longer?Research has found that singing in a choir may enhance mental and emotional well-being and social connections. In fact, researchers in Sweden found that singing improved heart health; they noted that the heart rates of singers slowly became synchronized, eventually beating as one. It doesn't get much more poetic that that.

    Now a new study being conducted at the University of California San Francisco hopes to determine if singing can actually lead to a longer, healthier life.

    The researchers have created 12 new choirs in senior centers across the bay area. Singing volunteers were all tested for things like balance and leg strength before the program began, and will be tested again at the end.

    Among other things, researchers for the UCSF study explain that singing seems to be good for balance.

    "Older adults who sing in a choir actually fall less and could potentially have stronger lower body strength," said Julene Johnson, UCSF Institute for Health and Aging.

    As well,

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  • Can't Recognize Friends? You Might Have Face Blindness

    Is face blindness is a real disorder?Is face blindness is a real disorder?Imagine not being able to recognize your mother, your spouse or your own children. Imagine seeing a stranger and realizing it's your reflection.

    For people with prosopagnosia, this is part of everyday life.

    Prosopagnosia, or face blindness, is an incurable neurological disorder that impairs the ability to recognize faces - even those that should be familiar.

    Sometimes the impairment affects only facial recognition, but some people with prosopagnosia also have difficulty identifying objects and places. Many report problems with other aspects of face processing: They find it difficult to distinguish age or gender, understand expressions or follow a person's gaze.

    While many people may have trouble putting faces to names, prosopagnosics often can't recognize someone they've just met. They can't follow movies or TV shows because characters all look the same. They can't even recognize their own family members.

    Linda Catterall, a prosopagnosic from Scotland, wrote about one such

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  • Having a Bad Day? Here Are 7 Ways to Turn it Around

    Here are some techniques to turning around a bad dayHere are some techniques to turning around a bad dayby Starre Vartan, Mother Nature Network

    Bad days are like colds; they happen to everyone, at some point, but when you have one, it feels like you are the only person in the universe to suffer such pain. And some of us catch a case of the frustrating day more than others. Of course, one of the major problems with a bad day is that it feels like it is happening to you, like terrible stuff is coming from the universe and being dumped on your head specifically. But you do have some control over a bad day - mostly how you feel about it. If you can stop the negativity in its tracks, you can stop a bad day from becoming something worse.

    Now, the information below is not for those horrible days - wherein you find out a loved one has died, or that your health is seriously compromised in some way. (I don't have advice for that, and I'm sorry if you are going through something like that; I have, and it's just awful.) I'm talking about those days when you spill your coffee all over your new

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  • Dogs Have Emotions Just like Humans, Study Finds

    Does this dog know what your feeling?Does this dog know what your feeling?Using MRI technology, scientists at Emory University set out to determine how dogs' brains work, and they discovered that dogs experience emotions in a way comparable to humans.

    Or, as researcher Gregory Berns concluded, "Dogs are people too."

    For two years Berns and his colleagues have trained dogs to enter an MRI scanner while awake and unrestrained. Typically, animals are anesthetized so they won't move during a scan, but you can't study brain functions like perception and emotion when an animal is asleep.

    Another reason Berns chose not to anesthetize his canine participants is because he says wanted to treat the dogs like people.

    All the dogs in the study have consent forms signed by their owners, and only positive training methods are used to prepare the animals for the MRI.

    Berns' own dog, Callie, was the first dog to have her brain scanned. With the help of a dog trainer, Berns taught Callie to enter an MRI simulator he'd built in his home.

    Callie learned to enter the

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  • Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

    This dog loves to eat grass. But why?This dog loves to eat grass. But why?by Morieka Johnson, Mother Nature Network

    No walk around the neighborhood is complete without my dog Lulu eating grass. Even on a full stomach, she likes to hunt for the perfect blades and chew away. Left unattended, I'm sure she could mow down a small lawn. Since lawns today have any number of number of chemicals, I decided to check with an expert about whether her grass-eating habits do more harm than good.

    Dr. Jennifer Monroe of Eagles Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia explains the most common reasons that dogs eat grass.

    It's yummy: Monroe says that it is normal for dogs to chew on the green stuff. Some pooches even develop preferences that range from fresh leaves to drier weeds or even a particular species of grass. What they cannot discern is whether grass has been chemically treated. Use caution when walking on a neighbor's lawn and stick with greener products in your own yard. Monroe recommends nontoxic treatment options, and MNN has more than a few easy, organic lawn

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  • Why Are so Many Kids Allergic These Days?

    From food to flowers, why are today's kids more allergic to things?From food to flowers, why are today's kids more allergic to things?by Sami Grover, Mother Nature Network

    Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a major study on children and allergies. The results were astounding. Among other things, the government survey suggested: 1 in 20 children have food allergies (up 50 percent from the 1990s). 1 in 8 have skin allergies or eczema (that number is up 69 percent). There has been no increase in hay fever or other respiratory allergies In some ways, these numbers are no surprise.

    Allergies on the rise?

    Most of us with young children know families with food or skin allergies. To protect those children, it is now common practice in many childcare and school settings to ban or severely restrict potential allergens like tree nuts from all children's lunches.

    But we have to be cautious. It's hard to tell how much allergies have actually increased, and how much the reporting of allergies has increased due to greater awareness and/or a better understanding of the science.

    In

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  • Surprising Advice from Dentist: Don't Brush Teeth After You Eat

    Brushing your teeth after eating may not be a good ideaBrushing your teeth after eating may not be a good ideaWhether you are a diligent brusher of the teeth right after eating, or if you're like the rest of us and feel a tinge of shame for not doing so, you may be interested in knowing this: at least one study has shown that the practice is not in the best interest of your pearly whites.

    While some professional opinions vary, a number of top teeth docs agree with the findings. The basic problem is that the sugar in foods is metabolized by the bacteria or plaque on enamel, producing acids that lead to gum disease and cavities.

    Common sense suggests that brushing the food particles away as quickly as possible would reduce the problems; but such is not the case.

    Dentist Jeffrey M. Cole, former president of the Academy of General Dentistry, a dental advocacy group, told the Wall Street Journal, "What we found is that much of the cariogenic substances, those things that cause cavities, are not only sugar-containing, but they are very acidic themselves."

    Also see: 8 things you should know about

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  • Are Headphones Bad for Your Hearing?

    How safe are headphones?How safe are headphones?Let's talk a little bit about how headphones came to be in the first place. Headphones were developed in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin in Utah. According to Smithsonian magazine, he sold the first pair of headphones to the U.S. Navy, who found them to be a vast improvement over the mechanism that Naval radio operators were using. Fast forward to just after World War II: John Koss, jazz musician and the founder of Koss Corp., developed the first headphones designed specifically for music, closely mimicking the sounds of a concert-filled hall and quickly attracting music-lovers.

    For about 30 years, headphones looked the same until Sony came up with little earphones that fit in your ear to accompany its Walkman. They didn't reach their peak of popularity until 2001 when Apple and Steve Jobs introduced the iPod and shipped each one with white earbuds - instantly recognizable in the ears of millions of Apple-using teens and adults today.

    Headphones have always been a danger to our hearing, if

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  • This is the Best Way to Train a Puppy

    Training a puppy doesn't have to be a drainTraining a puppy doesn't have to be a drainAdding a puppy to a household can be fun and hectic, especially if you already have a dog. Anyone taking the plunge - including the Obamas, who recently welcomed Sunny, a Portuguese water dog, to their pack - will benefit from some training. Dog trainer Sarah Wilson, author of "My Smart Puppy," offers tips for training a puppy and setting a course for many happy years together.

    Begin training on Day One
    Wilson describes puppies as "little learning sponges," so help them acclimate to bath time, car rides and daily walks as soon as possible. In addition to her own 9-year-old pooch, Wilson cares for a 10-week-old poodle-golden retriever mix named Button that already has learned the ropes. Button knows the "sit" and "down" command, she comes when called and doesn't mind having her nails done. Fun, short sessions keep Button engaged. Treats also help set a positive tone.

    "Her tail is wagging a mile a minute, but we are learning to communicate and forging a foundation," Wilson says.

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  • How the Government Shutdown Affects Animals

    The panda cam at the National Zoo has gone dark. Oh no!The panda cam at the National Zoo has gone dark. Oh no!The government shutdown doesn't only affect the American people, but also the nation's animals. Take a look at how the government's failure to pass a spending plan will change the daily routines of animals in zoos, parks and wildlife refuges.

    Cameras off
    The National Zoo's beloved panda cam - as well as its dozen other animal Web cameras, including one for the newly arrived Sumatran tiger cubs - has gone dark. The zoo is now closed to visitors, but the shutdown won't affect care of the animals. Veterinarians and all staff involved in the feeding and cleaning of animals are considered essential employees.

    Out of work
    Washington's budget impasse means 800,000 Americans won't be getting paid, but ivy-munching goats are also out of work. On Friday, Larry Cihanek removed his Nubian goats from the Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook, N.J., and from Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, N.Y., in anticipation of the park closings. The herds had been helping eradicate poison ivy from

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