Movement therapy in a group improves the mood of psychiatric patients, according to doctors at the Tirat Carmel Mental Health Center, who say that even those in closed wards enjoy and look forward to such therapy sessions.
Movement therapist Hila Marcus explains that the treatment is based on the belief that the body and its movement make it possible for the individual to express feelings that he has difficulty expressing otherwise. Patients are thus able to “connect to their healthy parts.” The therapy not only helps them to improve their mood, she says, but also their ability to communicate with others.
Music accompanies the therapy, which begins with patients doing warm-up exercises to “feel their bodies and concentrate on them, rather than on what is running through their minds.” Then Marcus asks each patient in turn to suggest a certain type of movement they want to make with the music. Some of them add explanations, such as the patient who threw his hands forward and said he wanted to “cast away all the pain and sadness” in his life.
The group then dances using “positive, open movements to liberate them,” she says. Some exercises involve working in pairs, with one person mirroring or mimicking the movements of the other – or one patient leads and the rest copy his movements.
Marcus also uses balls, hoops and scarves to add interest.
The accompanying music is often “golden oldies” that make the patients feel pleasantly nostalgic. After the activity, each participant tells the others how he felt, while the therapist praises them.
Leora Barka’i, director of occupational therapy at the mental health center, says the therapy is an additional tool to promote non-verbal communication with the patients and reach their emotions from a different angle. She stresses that the exercises have been shown to have beneficial effects, are clearly pleasurable and create a much better atmosphere.HEALTH ‘BREATHPRINTS’
Just as fingerprints are unique to individuals (except identical twins), Swiss scientists have discovered that there are stable, specific “breathprints” unique to an individual that may have applications as diagnostic tools in personalized medicine. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University Hospital in Zurich recently published their findings in the openaccess journal PLoS ONE.
They studied the chemicals present in exhalations from 11 participants, collected at different times of the day over an 11-day period, and found significant differences in the chemicals present in each person’s samples.
There were differences between samples taken at different times of day from the same person. Despite these variations, their results identified a core “breathprint” unique to each individual that was highly specific and could be linked to its owner. The factors that contribute to this unique breathprint are still unknown.
The authors suggest that factors like diet, health conditions and exposure to other chemicals may contribute to these individual signatures of breath. According to the study, these results suggest that breath analysis may eventually become a valuable source of clinical information, similar to the analysis of other fluids such as plasma or urine.COCKTAIL PARTY PROBLEM
In a noisy, crowded room, paying attention to just one speaker’s voice can be challenging.
Research in a recent issue of the journal Neuron showed how the brain hones in on one speaker to solve this “cocktail party problem.”
They discovered that brain waves are shaped so that the brain can selectively track the sound patterns from the speaker of interest, and at the same time exclude competing sounds from other speakers. The findings could have important implications for helping individuals with a range of deficits such as those associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and aging.
“In hearing, there is no way to ‘close your ear,’ so all the sounds in the environment are represented in the brain, at least at the sensory level,” explains senior author Dr.
Charles Schroeder of Columbia University’s psychiatry department. “While confirming this, we also provide the first clear evidence that there may be brain locations in which there is exclusive representation of an attended speech segment, with ignored conversations apparently filtered out.”
In this way, when concentrating hard on such an “attended” speaker, one is barely, if at all, aware of ignored speakers.
Using direct recording of brain activity in surgical epilepsy patients, who were listening to natural spoken sentences, Schroeder and Dr. Elana Zion Golumbic, also of Columbia University, and other colleagues from New York University, the University of Maryland and Long Island Jewish’s Hillside Hospital, found two types of effects.
In and near the auditory cortex, brain signals reflect both attended and ignored speech, but attended speech generates higher signal amplitudes. However, in regions of the brain involved in “higher-order processing,” such as language and attention control, representation of attended speech was clear, while that of ignored speech was not detectable.
Remarkably, the selective, higher-order representation is progressively refined as a sentence unfolds.
“Most studies use very simplified, unnatural stimuli to study the cocktail party problem – like brief beeps or even brief phrases – whereas we were able show that with appropriate techniques, we could study this problem using natural speech,” says Schroeder.
“This will stimulate future research to continue the study of this and related issues under rich, natural conditions.”
“Just as importantly, the ability to directly analyze widespread brain activity patterns in surgical epilepsy patients provides an unprecedented opportunity to firmly connect the work on the Brain Activity Map at the model systems level in mice, songbirds and non-human primates, to the study of capacities like language and music that may be uniquely human.”
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