Oh, nostalgia. It’s why we still want to talk to our estranged middle-school best friend, 20 years later. It’s why we will do anything for grandma’s mashed potatoes, even though we hate mashed potatoes. It’s why we all love that one book from when we were a teen we now realize is kind of silly. I don’t know if anyone is immune to nostalgia’s charms — everything seems better, shinier, and easier after you’ve already done it. You know how the story ends.
Sometimes, nostalgia feels like a trap, but according to new research getting stuck in your glory days might actually provide you physical pain relief. Also in this Inverse Daily, you’ll find how high blood pressure hurts, poisonous fruit pits, and a peculiar gravity discovery. Read on, and have a great Tuesday.
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Research published this month in the Journal of Neuroscience found that “participants in a lab experiment where slight heat was applied to their skin rated their pain as less severe if they viewed nostalgia-inducing images, such as candy, cartoons, and toys from the era of their childhood,” writes Inverse science reporter Nick Keppler.
“The reminders of yesteryear also seemed to change activity levels in regions of the brain that scientists think are important to pain perception.”
Previous research would agree, indicating that seeing nostalgic images while experiencing pain decreases brain activity associated with pain processing. Previous studies have “also noted activity in the thalamus, a brain region that scientists think has a prominent role in modulating and regulating feelings of pain,” writes Keppler. In other words, looking at your 1982 Polly Pocket may spark changes in your brain that make pain feel easier in your body. Thanks, Polly.
Though more research is necessary before forming any hard-and-fast conclusions (the study authors note their work is limited since it draws conclusions from only a single-age group sample), try pulling up a beloved Instagram the next time you say “ow!”. It wouldn’t hurt.
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Nostalgia is a cushy, delightfully embroidered throw pillow for your brain; high blood pressure, not so much. High blood pressure is an egg beater. According to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open, “people who experienced increases in blood pressure between early adulthood and middle age were more likely to have less gray matter, the portion of the brain that controls body movements, retains memories, and regulates emotions,” writes Nick Keppler.
If that’s not upsetting enough, the study also found that people “with a history of elevated blood pressure also scored worse on cognitive tests.” But this only applies to people who have increased blood pressure. People who have always had high blood pressure “did not have all of the same signs of poor brain health,” writes Keppler, “though they did have more signs of damage to their white matter and decreased blood flow to their gray matter when compared to people who had consistently low blood pressure.”
Scientists posit that this fraught connection between blood and brain has to do damage to vital small blood vessels, but they aren’t completely sure. In any case, if you do suffer from high blood pressure, know there’s a way out — switching daily habits like exercise, drinking, and high sodium consumption could reverse it.
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Johnny Appleseed probably never told you this, but certain fruit pits are toxic. “Yes,” writes Inverse science reporter Elana Spivack, “specifically, seeds from apples, apricots, peaches, nectarines, cherries, watermelon, and plums. They contain a molecule called amygdalin.”
Amygdalin is as Lovecraftian as it sounds; it breaks into cyanide when eaten, which could make you sick or even dead if you’re chomping down bowls of cracked peach pits, for some reason. Whole seeds aren’t really an issue, though. “The amygdalin doesn’t release cyanide unless the seed is crushed up and swallowed,” notes Spivack. Dose matters, too. Experts say a handful of crushed seeds or pits might make a child sick, but most adults would be able to stomach it.
But since your teeth aren’t strong enough to crack a pit on their own, as long as you don’t let any fruit seeds get crushed in your next morning smoothie, you’re welcome to go fruit crazy.
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Astronomer at the Green Bank Observatory and member of the International Pulsar Timing Array, Ryan Lynch cares very much about light. At the IPTA, Lynch looks for “a new way we can study the universe, using gravity instead of light,” he told Inverse.
“Specifically, Lynch wants to use strange cosmic lighthouses called pulsars,” writes Danielle Sedbrook. “Pulsars are the leftover cores of exploded stars that spin and emit regular pulses of radio waves — like a lighthouse beaming light steadily across a dark sea.” Though gravitational waves aren’t a new phenomenon (Albert Einstein predicted them in his theory of general relativity), they weren’t actually detected until 2015.
Now, the IPTA is testing an innovative but slippy method for detection — Sedbrook writes that the organization “is trying to detect a gravitational wave background signal, a kind of static generated by all the gravitational waves emanating from binary supermassive black holes.” But there’s a catch. “The gravitational wave background should have a similar amplitude throughout the universe, but they aren’t as high-energy as the gravitational waves detected in the 2016 landmark discovery that first confirmed Einstein’s prediction,” she writes.
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- On this day in history: On March 22, 1895, Europe met the movies. Auguste and Louis Lumière, brothers with backgrounds in chemistry and physics, screened a film of factory workers to a Paris audience. They had taken the film on their family invention, the Cinématographe, a motion picture machine inspired by Thomas Edison’s kinetograph.
- Song of the day: “Is There Something in the Movies?” by Samia