Health

Here’s the latest in the world of stress research

Healing hands Tripta Kaur, an animal activist, playing with a stray dog KR Deepak

Healing hands Tripta Kaur, an animal activist, playing with a stray dog KR Deepak  

A look at new solutions being devised to deal with stress

Fuzz therapy

This one seems like a no-brainer, right? Anyone who has petted the tummy of a dog lying on its back, and watched it stretch away to glory, or run their fingers along a cat’s spine until it purrs, knows how immensely satisfying it can be. But to add on to what you felt was instinctually true, there is now proof.

According to new research by Washington State University published in the journal AERA Open, petting dogs and cats has stress-relieving physiological benefits. The study involved 249 college students randomly divided into four groups.

The first group was allowed to be around cats and dogs for 10 minutes; They could pet, play with and generally hang out with the animals as they wanted. The second group merely observed other people petting animals; the third watched a slideshow of the same animals; the fourth, meanwhile, was kept waiting.

The next morning, the researchers collected samples of the participants’ saliva, and studied the levels of salivary cortisol, the hormone indicative of stress. The students who interacted directly with the pets showed significantly lower levels of cortisol, even after controlling for their original levels.

Calm your nerves with music

Your fourteen-year-old son may declare ‘Music is my drug’ on the back pages of his Maths notebook, but a study by the University of Pennsylvania, published in BMJ, has actually found that listening to calming music before minor surgeries could have the same effect as a sedative.

Instead of the mild sedative, midazolam, used to reduce preoperative anxiety, researchers had one section of the 157 participants listen to ‘Weightless’ by Manchester band Marconi Union for three minutes. This was prior to the administration of a single-injection peripheral nerve block. Interestingly, this song, created with the help of sound therapists with the aim of reducing anxiety, is known as the world’s most calming tune.

The study says, “The use of benzodiazepines for conscious sedation also requires continuous vital sign monitoring of patients. More importantly, a recent Cochrane review showed low quality of evidence that midazolam reduces pre-procedural anxiety compared with placebo.” It goes on to add that the medication is known to have undesirable side effects such as respiratory depression, hostility, aggression and psychomotor agitation. On the other hand, ‘music medicine’ has been shown to significantly decrease preoperative anxiety.

But then, we have all known friends who listen to thrash metal to calm down, so perhaps the genre of music most suited for anxiety, is still a matter of debate.

Vaccine against stress?

Could protecting oneself against stress-related reactions be as easy as injecting a vaccine? As things stand right now, no, but we might be taking baby steps towards it, as this research published in Psychopharmacology shows.

The research studies a particular non-pathogenic microorganism, Mycobacterium vaccae, found in the earth. The team isolated and chemically treated, a fatty acid found in the bacterium, which blocks pathways causing stress-induced inflammation. The test was done on mice immune cells.

The researchers say it is another reason to show why stress increased once we strayed away from Nature, and our agricultural roots.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 10:15:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/heres-the-latest-in-the-world-of-stress-research/article28821801.ece

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