Saturday, June 28, 2008
Harvard researchers are trying to learn about the positive effects that blogging has for people with chronic conditions. The overall health effect of blogging is becoming a hot topic of research, as evidence seems to point both ways.
According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window through which to view blogging. As social creatures, humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining, which acts as a “placebo for getting satisfied,” Flaherty says. Blogging about stressful experiences might work similarly.
Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) and writer’s block, also looks to disease models to explain the drive behind this mode of communication. For example, people with mania often talk too much. “We believe something in the brain’s limbic system is boosting their desire to communicate,” Flaherty explains. Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving. “You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes. Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.
The frontal and temporal lobes, which govern speech—no dedicated writing center is hardwired in the brain—may also figure in. For example, lesions in Wernicke’s area, located in the left temporal lobe, result in excessive speech and loss of language comprehension. People with Wernicke’s aphasia speak in gibberish and often write constantly. In light of these traits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Stroke Association, Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland and Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists in Scotland have joined forces on the back of the UK Lost Without Words report from the Stroke Association. They are also working with the charity Speakability, which works with people suffering from aphasia – where they find it hard to speak, read, write or understand language.
Maddy Halliday, director of the Stroke Association Scotland, said: “Aphasia is by far the most common communication disability and this can affect the ability to speak and understand language as well as the serious related effects such as distress, difficulties with day to day life and for some, the inability to get back to work.”