Pets – Good for Your Health?

“Puppy love may help keep a person out of the doctor’s office,” says The Toronto Star. Over the past decade, various studies have shown that “companion animals are associated with lower stress, fewer doctors’ visits and even better survival rates after heart attacks. An animal may help stroke victims build strength and psychiatric patients quell anxiety.” Dr. Alan Beck, of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in Indiana, U.S.A., believes that “animals relax people. They’re a focus of attention, a focus of touching.” Such effects can occur even if the animal is not a family pet, and this has led to the rise of “animal-assisted therapy.” Some mental-health workers have thus encouraged patients with psychiatric disorders to spend time with a pet, with positive results.

Two Sets of Nerves?

Humans are endowed with a special nervous system to sense love and tenderness, reports the German scientific journal Bild der Wissenschaft. Swedish scientists discovered that a woman who had lost her main touch receptors still felt a pleasant sensation when stroked with a soft paintbrush. This sense of pleasure, they found, was evoked by a second nerve network in the skin, consisting of slow-conducting fibers called tactile C fibers. The network only responds to a gentle touch and activates those brain areas dealing with emotions. Commenting on why humans might have two different sets of nerves, the International Herald Tribune states: “The slow fibers function from the earliest hours of life, perhaps even in the womb, while the fast fibers develop slowly after birth. Newborns might be able to feel the love in a parent’s touch before they can feel the touch itself.”

E-Mail and Social Skills

According to two researchers, employees are just as likely to speak to a coworker working on the same floor via E-mail as they would to counterparts working in different time zones, says Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Speaking of the effect E-mail can have on social skills, David Crystal, a professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, says: “Simultaneous feedback is a fundamental feature of conversation,” and E-mail does not allow for this because of the time lag between receiving and responding to a message. Moreover, an E-mail writer can monopolize the conversation without being interrupted. “The ability to take turns in conversation,” states the Globe, “is an essential social skill.”