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Add nature, art and religion to life's best anti-inflammatory

Researchers have linked positive emotions -- especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art and spirituality -- with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder.

"Our findings demonstrate that positive emotions are associated with the markers of good health," said Jennifer Stellar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, which she conducted while at UC Berkeley.

Feelings of loneliness, depression linked to binge-watching television

It seems harmless: getting settled in for a night of marathon session for a favorite TV show, but why do we binge-watch TV, and can it really be harmless? A recent study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that the more lonely and depressed you are, the more likely you are to binge-watch.

The researchers conducted a survey on 316 18- to 29-year-olds on how often they watched TV; how often they had feelings of loneliness, depression and self-regulation deficiency; and finally on how often they binge-watched TV. They found that the more lonely and depressed the study participants were, the more likely they were to binge-watch TV, using this activity to move away from negative feelings.

Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking; awareness of dreaming

To control one's dreams and to live 'out there' what is impossible in real life -- a truly tempting idea. Some persons -- so-called lucid dreamers -- can do this. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake.

Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming while dreaming. Sometimes, they can even play an active role in their dreams. Most of them, however, have this experience only several times a year and just very few almost every night. Internet forums and blogs are full of instructions and tips on lucid dreaming. Possibly, lucid dreaming is closely related to the human capability of self-reflection -- the so-called metacognition.

Couples more likely to get healthy together

People are more successful in taking up healthy habits if their partner makes positive changes too.

Scientists at UCL funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging looked at how likely people were to quit smoking, start being active, or lose weight in relation to what their partner did.

They found that people were more successful in swapping bad habits for good ones if their partner made a change as well.

1000 Years of Arabic Optics to be a Focus of the International Year of Light in 2015

The International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) will be launched in 2015. Aimed at raising global awareness of how light-based technologies can provide solutions to global challenges in energy, education, agriculture and health, this UNESCO-led initiative will also be an opportunity to celebrate the work of the 10th century scientist Ibn Al-Haytham. 

Ibn Al-Haytham was a pioneering polymath from Basra (in modern-day Iraq) who lived in the 10th century and is often referred to as the ‘father of modern optics’. He made significant advancements in optics, mathematics and astronomy, and helped lay the foundations of the present day scientific experimental method.

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