The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things we learned about our bodies in the last seven days…
Women’s Brains Are Younger Than Men’s
Well, that explains a lot: A new study that focused on brain metabolism found that women’s brains, on average, appear to be three years younger than men’s of the same age, which might help explain why older women tend to score better on tests of reasoning, memory and problem solving. “It’s not that men’s brains age faster — they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life,” senior author Manu Goyal said in a press release. “What we don’t know is what it means. I think this could mean that the reason women don’t experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we’re currently working on a study to confirm that.” They get to mature faster than us and stay younger? Guh.
Being in a Good Relationship Helps You Sleep
Who needs sleeping pills when you have an amazing partner? New research found that people who have a positive, long-lasting romantic relationship in their early 20s experience less anxiety by the time they turn 32, which in turn helps them sleep better when they turn 37. These findings add to the growing body of scientific literature that shows how good relationships reduce the severity of stress, which means everyone needs to hop on Tinder, ASAP.
Being Kind to Yourself Is Good for Your Immune System
Emergen-C might not prevent sickness, but a new study found that thinking kind thoughts about yourself and your loved ones does. To come to this conclusion, researchers split 135 university students into five groups, and the members of each group were given a different set of audio instructions. The groups whose instructions encouraged them to be kind to themselves experienced lower heart rates and lessened sweat responses. Meanwhile, the group exposed to instructions that induced a critical inner voice experienced an increased heart rate and began sweating bricks, which is consistent with a heightened threat response.
“Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments,” lead author Anke Karl explained in a press release. “By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing.”
All of which means everyone could benefit from being more like this very optimistic child:
Pokémon GO Helps Middle-Aged People Stay Active
And no, this isn’t an advertisement for the game. A recently published Japanese study found that Pokémon GO players older than 40 walked around more, even during winter, than non-players. “Game-makers and urban planners could factor what we’ve learned into their respective activities,” lead author Kimihiro Hino said in a press release. “I think Pokémon GO succeeds where physical activity games do not because it’s a game first with potential added health benefits. It’s possible such games could serve as a gateway to further people’s enthusiasm for physical activity.”
Sure, I’ll walk around more if that means I can catch some super tight Pokémon in the process.
Eye Contact Is Overrated
Hey, my eyes are up he… oh, you know what: It doesn’t even matter, since researchers recently used eye-tracking technology to show that people don’t actually need to look into the eyes of their audience to be perceived as making eye contact — simply looking somewhere around their face or head, they say, will get the job done. To come to this conclusion, one researcher engaged in four-minute conversations with 46 participants.
“For approximately half the conversations the researcher looked at the eyes most of the time, and for the other half gazed predominantly at the mouth,” lead researcher Shane Rogers said in a press release. “The mouth group perceived the same amount of eye contact and enjoyed the conversations just as much as the eye group.” Good to know!