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Blogging- it´s good for YOU (engl &german) NEUROFORSCHUNG bloggen ist gut fuer die gesundheit

Blogging- it´s good for YOU (engl &german) NEUROFORSCHUNG bloggen ist gut fuer die gesundheit



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Published by oliver becker

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Published by: oliver becker on Jun 14, 2008
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Blogging--It's Good for You
The therapeutic value of blogging becomes a focus of study 
By Jessica Wapner Self-medication may be the reason the blogosphere has taken off. Scientists (and writers) havelong known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts andfeelings. But besides serving as astress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immunecell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery. Astudy in the February issue of the Oncologist reports that cancer patients who engaged inexpressive writing just before treatment felt markedly better, mentally and physically, ascompared with patients who did not.Scientists now hope to explore the neurological underpinnings at play, especially consideringthe explosion of blogs. According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard Universityand Massachusetts General Hospital, the placebo theory of suffering is one window throughwhich 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. Bloggingabout stressful experiences might work similarly.Flaherty, who studies conditions such as hypergraphia (an uncontrollable urge to write) andwriter’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 somethingin 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 arerelated 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 mighttrigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.The frontal and temporal lobes, which govern speech—no dedicated writing center ishardwired in the brain—may also figure in. For example, lesions in Wernicke’s area, locatedin 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 thesetraits, Flaherty speculates that some activity in this area could foster the urge to blog.
Feature Articles New BreastCancer Treatments Help Sufferers Gain Ground
AntigravityShakespeare to Blame for Introduction of European Starlings to U.S.Scientists’ understanding about the neurobiology underlying therapeutic writing must remainspeculative for now. Attempts to image the brain before and after writing have yieldedminimal information because the active regions are located so deep inside. Recent functionalmagnetic resonance imaging studies have shown that the brain lights up differently before,during and after writing, notes James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at
Austin. But Pennebaker and others remain skeptical about the value of such images becausethey are hard to duplicate and quantify.Most likely, writing activates a cluster of neurological pathways, and several researchers arecommitted to uncovering them. At the University of Arizona, psychologist and neuroscientistRichard Lane hopes to make brain-imaging techniques more relevant by using thosetechniques to study the neuroanatomy of emotions and their expressions. Nancy Morgan, leadauthor of the
study, is looking to conduct larger community-based and clinicaltrials of expressive writing. And Pennebaker is continuing to investigate the link betweenexpressive writing and biological changes, such as improved sleep, that are integral to health.“I think the sleep angle is one of the more promising ones,” he says.Whatever the underlying causes may be, people coping with cancer diagnoses and other serious conditions are increasingly seeking—and finding—solace in the blogosphere.“Blogging undoubtedly affords similar benefits” to expressive writing, says Morgan, whowants to incorporate writing programs into supportive care for cancer patients.Some hospitals have started hosting patient-authored blogs on their Web sites as clinicians begin to recognize the therapeutic value. Unlike a bedside journal, blogging offers the added benefit of receptive readers in similar situations, Morgan explains: “Individuals areconnecting to one another and witnessing each other’s expressions—the basis for forming acommunity.”
This article was originally printed with the title, "The Healthy Type".
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