Don’t trust those Baby Blues

blue eye 2Trustworthiness is a trait we look for when determining whether someone is a friend or foe. It also helps with the social aspects of life, including social, economic, and reproductive success.

But how do we determine trust?

While character references might be a good idea, few of us screen potential friends and partners in this way. Most of us kind of go with gut feeling. Or at least that’s what I thought!

Now, according to new research, it seems that we may make the call based on eye color and face shape!

brown eyeA team of Czech researchers have been exploring which facial markers spark feelings of trustworthiness during our mind’s subconscious profiling. The researchers used 80 photographs of brown- or blue-eyed college science students. The photos were rated based on attractiveness, trustworthiness, and dominance.

The faces in the photographs were also analyzed based on the distance between the lips and brow, between the left and right cheekbones, and by the width to height ratio of the faces. This was done to determine which facial features translate into trustworthiness and which, if any, facial features are common among blue- and brown-eyed people.

What they learned was that people with similar eye color tend to share the same face shape. Brown-eyed men tend to have face shapes that convey happiness, whereas blue-eyed men, typically have face shapes that convey anger. This is consistent with previous research that showed blue-eyed babies are typically more inhibited, shy, socially wary, and timid than brown-eyed babies.

face shapeFor the record, the researchers say a brown-eyed trustworthy face contains:

  • a rounder, broader chin
  • a broader mouth with upward-pointing corners
  • relatively large eyes
  • eyebrows that are closer together

Compare this with the less trustworthy traits of blue-eyed people, which include:

  • an angular and prominent lower face
  • a longer chin
  • a narrower mouth with downward pointing corners
  •  relatively small eyes
  • distant eyebrows

Interestingly, they also showed that women tend to vote more favorably for other women with the same eye color as themselves, however eye color played no role in men’s decisions.

And the most untrustworthy trait? According to the study having downward pointing corners is a sure give-away of a shady character.

brown-eyes-blue-eyes-300x225Although the authors admit that much more research is needed, they propose several possible reasons why brown-eyed people are perceived as being more trustworthy than their blue-eyed brethren.  Apparently, brown-eyed people represent a “biosocial adaptation that has been established for millions of years. Additionally, brown eyes are one of the preferred evolutionary trait people seek in their mates.

So if you’ve ever been told that you have “one of those faces” maybe now you know why!

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The Buzz on Bee Venom

While many of us, myself included, may be sad to say goodbye to summer, at least the cooler temperatures should mean fewer biting and stinging insects.  And while that’s good news for people, myself included, who seem to attract and be bitten by every venomous bug out there, there are some people, it seems, who just can’t get enough.

At least when it comes to bees. Thanks, in part, to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, aka Kate Middleton, everyone’s buzzing about bee venom.  It’s being touted as the latest magic ingredient and can be found in an increasing number of skin creams, lip-plumping potions and face masks.

People are calling bee venom a “natural Botox” thanks to its ability to stimulate collagen production and elastin to smooth, lift and tighten skin. Venom also contains a compound called melittin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Which led SRxA’s Word on Health to wonder if it works.  Turns out that much of the clinical research into bee venom has focused on its effect s in patients with cancer and arthritis. Studies of its use in skin-care have been limited.

When applied to the skin bee venom causes tingling but has no lasting effect.

I couldn’t find any legitimate scientific studies of the benefit of bee venom either topical or injected,” says David Leffell MD, a professor of Dermatology and Surgery at Yale School of Medicine.

He is skeptical of the extent that bee venom could smooth or tighten skin. There is evidence, however, that the honey also in many of the products could be beneficial as a moisturizer, he says.

But given that one gram of venom costs about $304 – more than eight times the current value of gold, that’s a lot of money for a moisturizer!

And good news for beekeepers, many of whom are able to add this lucrative sideline to their established honey businesses. Salons and spas are also boarding the bee bandwagon and charging over $100 for 30 minute bee-venom facials.

Have you, or would you try bee venom over botox?  Buzz us with your comments.

Botox, Brotox & Bladders

When someone mentions Botox injections, you probably think of Hollywood actresses with too perfect faces or wealthy housewives desperately trying to turn back time. Yes, we know it’s becoming more main stream, so maybe you’re also thinking about your own appointment for “shots” or maybe even “BroTox”. What we’re pretty sure you’re not thinking about is – incontinence. However, that’s exactly its newest use. Recently, the FDA approved using the injections to help patients with neurological conditions (such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury) who suffer from either incontinence, or an overactive bladder. Neurologic conditions can cause miscommunication between the bladder and the brain.  As a result, the bladder muscle can become overactive, increasing the pressure in the bladder and decreasing the volume of urine the bladder can hold. This can lead to frequent, unexpected urine leakage, or urinary incontinence. Botox works by paralyzing bladder muscles, thus preventing the contractions that cause urgency or leakage. Although medications and behavioral modifications are treatment options, many patients, especially the elderly, do not respond to these methods and need a more aggressive approach. “About 80 percent of patients with neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, see improvement after about a week, and the results can last four to nine months,” says Charles Nager, MD, co-director of the UC San Diego Women’s Pelvic Medicine Center at UC San Diego Health System. Incontinence is the seventh condition, including chronic migraines, upper limb spasticity and underarm sweating, that Botox has been approved to treat since it first arrived on the market in 2002. The outpatient procedure uses a local numbing gel, followed by 15 -20 injections in different areas of the bladder muscle. “It can really be life changing for someone with severe incontinence issues,” said Nager. Want to share your Botox stories with SRxA’s Word on Health?  We’d love to hear from you.

Chronic Disease on the Catwalk

Chronic disease plagues personal lives and public policy. Sheer numbers only begin to give a glimpse of the associated suffering, cost and scope of the problem. In the United States there are more than 110 million Americans with a chronic disease. Europeans are not far behind. According to the World Health Organization, the chronic disease burden in Europe is now the leading cause of mortality and morbidity. Diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, just to name a few, pose a growing challenge to populations throughout Asia-Pacific, Africa and South America.

As the world’s population ages and the number of older adults multiplies we can anticipate growth in the rate as well as the number of people with chronic diseases such as arthritis and hypertension. We will also see growth in diseases that are only now receiving broader public attention, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, depression, even some types of cancers that are being redefined as a chronic condition.

Will chronic disease become so prevalent that it becomes the new normal? It just might and here are some early indications. Disease, or rather the number of people managing one condition or more, is now a large enough market to influence the design and fashion industries to develop new medically-inspired products. For example: Bang & Olufsen the Danish, high-end design company invested in Medicom. Bang & Olufsen Medicom designs and manufactures intelligent compliance devices for asthma and diabetes. Not surprisingly, their inhalers and glucometers are anything but ordinary.  Medicom claims they seek to use intelligent technology such as smart devices that connect via bluetooth to the internet/cloud and elegant design to motivate and even “inspire” both physician and patient while reminding and encouraging compliance. Medicom’s injection systems and pill boxes appear to be more like stylish desk ornaments  than tools to treat a chronic medical condition. Medically-inspired yet fashionable products to manage disease and well-being are going mainstream.

A quick trip to stores such as Brookstone shows the growing demand for products to treat the maladies of stress, fatigue and pain. Some Apple stores already have third-party stylish iPod-ready devices to monitor blood pressure, pulse rate, etc. Glasses are no longer thought of as vision correctors, instead they have become a fashion accessory. Mainstreaming disease and producing products that are fashion statements may be dismissed by many as a waste of money or in poor taste given the dire impact of disease on people and economies.  However, given the suffering as well as economic cost of the chronic disease challenge, maybe it’s not a bad thing if we can look a little cooler along the way.

Did Michelangelo hide an anatomy lesson in the Sistine Chapel?

A detailed analysis of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes reveals a secret that’s been hidden, in plain sight, for 500 years – an image of the human brainstem.

According to an article in the May issue of Neurosurgery, the concealed neuroanatomy is found in Michelangelo’s painting of the Separation of Light from Darkness.  This panel is one of a series of nine showing scenes from the Book of Genesis.

History shows that Michelangelo was an avid student of anatomy, who performed cadaver dissections throughout his life. “We speculate that during his numerous dissections, Michelangelo possibly dissected the brain and spinal cord and that over the years he probably acquired a sophisticated understanding of gross neuroanatomy,” writes medical illustrator Ian Suk and neurosurgeon Rafael Tamargo.

The two were tipped off to the anatomical renderings by Michelangelo’s unusual approach in this painting of God, including a bumpy neck and bunched up clothing that cloaks the figure. In fact, they now think, the twists and turns of the fabric are actually depicting intricate neural networks and a spinal cord.

They aren’t the first to suggest that Michelangelo included images of the brain in his Sistine Chapel frescoes. In a 1990 paper published in JAMA, Frank Meshberger concluded that “The Creation of Adam,” concealed a meticulous anatomical rendering of the human brain.

We speculate that having used the brain motif successfully in the Creation of Adam almost a year earlier, Michelangelo wanted to once again associate the figure of God with a brain in the iconographically critical Separation of Light From Darkness.”

Nevertheless, the authors acknowledge the perils of over-interpreting a masterpiece and that not all art historians will agree with their conclusions.

What was Michelangelo saying by constructing the voice box of God out of the brain stem of man?  Is it a sacrilege or homage?”

Let us know what you think.

Something to Smile about

SRxA‘s Word on Health broke out a wrinkle-free smile at the news that Allergan’s Botox sales have increased 5.6% over the last quarter.  Sales of the popular cosmetic injections have been declining during the past few quarters mainly due to weak consumer spending and increased competition.

Going forward,  Allergan is looking to grow Botox sales further by gaining approval for additional indications. The company has recently filed for FDA approval of Botox for the treatment of chronic migraine.

SRxA‘s Word on Health hopes this news not only relieves headaches but also  heralds an  upturn in the economy.