WHO DIED FOR
LIVING WITH THE WORLD’S
MOST PAINFUL DISEASE
10 KIDS AND ONE EPIC
ALL ABOUT ADDICTION .................................... 21
LAUGHTER, THE BEST MEDICINE ...................... 51
DEPARTMENT OF WIT ........................................ 13
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Shedding light on the inner workings of the
brain. DA N I E L L E G R O E N , R U DY L E E A N D SA R A H
L I SS
The Butterfly Effect
Jonathan Pitre, 15, lives with a rare condition
that leaves him in constant agony—and he’s
using his story to help others. DAV E C A M E R O N
Bed Hog Dog
How our pets’ comfort trumps a good night’s
sleep. B I L L B A R O L F R O M FA ST CO M PA N Y
Drama in Real Life
Dead for One Hour and 41 Minutes
After a toddler is found unconscious in an icy
creek, the fight for his life begins. D E R E K B U R N E T T
Predator vs. Predator
Disappearing sea ice in the North is
shrinking polar bear numbers and
swelling killer whale ranks. Can the
Arctic sustain both? S H A R O N O O ST H O E K
© M IKE MACRI/M ACRI PHOTO.CA
FROM CANADIAN GEOGRAPHIC
Arson in East York
When Alison Motluk woke up
to find a fire raging on her front
porch, she felt terrified. By the
time the ashes settled, she was
surrounded by her community.
F R O M TO R O N TO L I F E
ADDIT I ONAL MEDIA IN
OUR TABLET VERSIONS
| No. 1,127
4 Editor’s Letter
72 Here I Go Again
on My Own
My true story of how leaving
home—and growing up—can
take a lifetime. M I J I C A M P B E L L
F R O M S E PA R AT I O N A N X I E T Y: A
CO M I N G O F M I D D L E AG E STO RY
80 The Liars’ Club
Why even the most honest
among us bend the rules now
and then. J E N A P I N COT T
F R O M P SYC H O LO GY TO DAY
86 The Great Northern
For 10 Nunavut boys, travelling
south to play in a hockey
tournament isn’t just a road
trip. It’s a chance to prove how
good they are. DA N R O B S O N
F R O M S P O RT S N E T M AG A Z I N E
9 Finish This Sentence
16 Points to Ponder
51 Laughter, the Best Medicine
107 Trivia Quiz
71 @ Work
84 As Kids See It
100 Life’s Like That
103 That’s Outrageous!
03 • 2016
109 Word Power
VOICES & VIEWS
10 Safe Haven
Michael Battista and Gareth
Henry help LGBT refugees gain
asylum in Canada. SA R A H L I S S
Department of Wit
13 True Fantasy
Unicorn-related articles found
in real scientific journals.
26 Paying Your Dues
Handy tips to prepare for tax
season. L I SA COXO N
30 Sunny Disposition
Eternal optimist Neil Pasricha
finds a formula for positivity
with The Happiness Equation.
SA R A H L I S S
DAV I D N G F R O M M c SW E E N E YS . N E T
The RD Interview
14 Voice of Authority
Peter Mansbridge on acting
aspirations and what makes for
good news. CO U R T N E Y S H E A
101 13 Things You Should
Know About Credit Cards
DA I N A L AW R E N C E
ART OF LIVING
March website highlights.
18 Cultivating Compassion
With some simple changes, a
kinder, gentler culture could be
within reach. B R A N D I E W E I K L E
21 Changing Habits
How to recognize and reduce
your addiction risk.
SA M A N T H A R I D E O U T
24 Case History
A medical mystery resolved.
SY D N E Y LO N E Y
MY FIRST EXPERIENCE with the perplexing inner workings of the brain
was in the late 1960s, when my grandfather suffered a stroke that left him
incapacitated on one side of his body. I remember visiting him in the
hospital and being struck that I, at age 12, could squeeze a rubber ball harder
than he could. Slowly, he regained use of his limbs, allowing
him to once again walk, mow the lawn and even drive, but his
throat remained paralyzed. My grandfather never spoke again.
Some of the damage to his brain was reversible, some not.
In the 1980s, I read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for
a Hat by Oliver Sacks. It’s a gripping collection of anecdotes about people with a variety of unusual neurological ailments. I still think about the patient who
couldn’t recognize his own leg and was convinced
someone had replaced it with another appendage.
He was so disgusted by the “fake” limb that he
threw it out of bed—and was surprised when the
rest of his body followed suit. Another case featured a subject with perfect vision whose brain
would only “see” what was on her right-hand side.
To this day, the human brain remains deeply
mysterious, and researchers continue to make strides
in understanding our most essential organ. The cover
story, “Inside Out” (page 32), includes compelling firstperson stories and the latest medical insights. Whether
patients are using light therapy to cope with traumatic
neurological injuries or retraining their brains to manage
chronic pain, our mind’s ability to heal is extraordinary.
Send an email to
ROGER A ZIZ
Published by the Reader’s Digest Magazines Canada Limited, Montreal, Canada
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VOL. 188, NO. 1,127 COPYRIGHT © 2016 BY READER’S DIGEST MAGAZINES CANADA LIMITED. Reproduction in any manner in whole or in
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03 • 2016
Fantasy,” page 13)
(Writer, “13 Things
You Should Know
About Credit Cards,”
published in The New York Times
and The Walrus. I don’t believe in
unicorns, but I believe in the power
of imagination. If you have enough
faith in something, it can influence
your life as much as anything “real.”
My favourite mythological creature is probably Prince. 1999 is
such a good album, one of the
best of the ’80s.
Haven,” page 10)
(Writer, “On the Road”
published in The Walrus and Maisonneuve. This story made me con-
a major donation and sponsorship.
I was grateful that I was there to capture the moment and their feelings
of accomplishment and happiness.
When photographing people, I
try to be kind and relatable. It helps
elicit real smiles and emotions.
03 • 2016
products beyond manufacturers’
guarantees. My most memorable
credit card purchase was the
ticket to Ireland I bought after finishing high school. I have returned
there almost a dozen times since.
published in Chatelaine and Reno
and Decor. Just before our photo
shoot, Rainbow Railroad received
Home base: Vancouver. Previously
published in The Globe and Mail
and Maclean’s. I was surprised to
learn that credit cards often cover
sider lobbying for more unmanned
robot cars. When it comes to driving,
hell really is other people. We’re
drawn to outrageous stories. We like
to be reminded that, no matter what
havoc we’ve wreaked behind the
wheel, it can’t compare to the stupidity of driving a motorized picnic table.
READERS COMMENT ON OUR RECENT ISSUES
I can still vividly remember
being in Grade 4 and learning
“In Flanders Fields” for the first
time. I had an awesome teacher
who told us the story behind
the poem, and I grew up picturing the “crosses row on row.”
I hoped John McCrae’s words
would never be forgotten.
Thank you for bringing back
those memories with your story
“The Power of Remembrance”
SHARLENE REID, Po w el l Riv er, B .C .
MIKO MACI ASZ EK
THE WAY I SEE IT
I recently read your article “One
Life to Give” (December 2015),
about Free the Children founder
Craig Kielburger. I disagree with
David Jefferess’s statement, “If
you go to a We Day, you learn
very little about the causes and
conditions of suffering in the
rest of the world.” As an educator
who has taken students to We
Days in Winnipeg, Calgary and
Saskatoon, I’ve watched young people develop an understanding
of the factors that can help eliminate global poverty: access to
education, clean water, health
care, viable incomes, etc. We Day
also showcases successful youthcreated projects, giving kids a
03 • 2016
sense of empowerment and inspiring
KELLY WATERS, B a t t l e f o rd , S a s k .
ONE HAPPY CUSTOMER
I wanted to let you guys know that
buying my first Reader’s Digest
back in the 1950s was probably the
best thing I’ve ever done! I’ve read
every single issue since then, and
the magazine is the only thing I’m
excited to receive in my mailbox.
I especially like your Finish This
NAJAT DRAXLER, O t t a w a
to get started. These days, I find it
very calming—it’s sort of like meditation.
CARRIE CORMIER, S u r r e y , B . C .
My husband and I each got two
books for Christmas last year. We
spent an entire day in late December
colouring and watching Harry Potter
movies. It was a great “staycation.”
CINDY DAVIDSON-PICKETT, Tr e n t o n , O n t .
I love my colouring books. I’m dating
each page as I finish it and jotting
down important things that have
happened that day—like a diary.
CATHARINE LINN ATKINS MIDDLETON,
NOT JUST FOR KIDS
Our story about adult colouring
books, “Fine Lines” (December 2015),
generated many responses on Facebook. Here’s what readers had to say
about the international trend.
I had a brain tumour removed a
little over a year ago, and my very
considerate son thought colouring
might help provide some fun mental
exercise. When I received two books
a few months back, I couldn’t wait
I have three colouring books. They
sit on my coffee table. When I get
anxious, I look at them and think,
If I had to use them, I’d go crazy! So
I turn on the TV instead. Seriously,
my books are more anxiety inducing
MARY JO WELCH, B ra n d o n , Ma n .
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03 • 2016
FINISH THIS SENTENCE
I’m finally ready to…
…finish school and help
my family back home in the Philippines.
ONTHOY JIMENEZ VILLAMO, TORONTO
in Lillooet, B.C.
…grow older gracefully!
MARY SCHREINERT, GODERICH, ONT.
foods for good.
best darn mama I can be.
…put years of addiction behind me and
SAMANTHA JOLENE, CAT LAKE FIRST NATION, ONT.
Visit the Reader’s Digest Canada Facebook page for your chance to finish the next sentence.
03 • 2016
VOICES & VIEWS
Michael Battista and Gareth Henry help
LGBT refugees find asylum in Canada
BY SARAH LISS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY BROOKE WEDLOCK
GARETH HENRY WAS 15 years
old the first time he had to uproot his
life because of who he was. Growing
up in St. Mary, a rural enclave on
Jamaica’s northern coast, he realized
his attraction to other boys might
endanger him, especially in his small
community. In Jamaica, acts of male
homosexuality are punishable with
up to 10 years in jail. In 1993, brave
but bewildered, he left his sister,
mother and grandmother and set
out for the nearby city of Kingston.
Once there, Henry immersed
himself in activism. He became a
founding member of J-FLAG (the
Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, AllSexuals and Gays), and when the
head of that organization was
stabbed to death in a homophobic
03 • 2016
attack, he volunteered to replace
him. “I was in my early 20s, a naive
little boy, and I said, ‘Okay, I will.’”
The increased visibility made
Henry a target, and in 2007, police
beat him in front of 200 bystanders.
He went into hiding soon after, but
his aggressors tracked him down
and threatened to kill him. That’s
when Henry knew he had to flee
again—this time, at the age of 30,
beyond his country’s borders.
Henry arrived in Canada in early
2008. Because of his profile as an
international gay- and lesbian-rights
advocate, he was granted asylum.
But even as Henry adjusted to his
new life, his mind turned to others
who weren’t as lucky. “I had a place
to live, I had support—which ➸
When Gareth Henry
(right) was claiming
refugee protection in
lawyer Michael Battista
is what I hoped there would be for
every refugee,” he says.
That’s when Henry connected
with Rainbow Railroad. Started
in 2006 by grassroots activists, the
Toronto-based group was worried
about state-sanctioned violence
against members of the international LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual
and transgender) community. The
organization’s goal, says founding
member Michael Battista, was simple: “to help people make it from a
place of danger to a place of safety.”
Applicants must be living in a
country where homosexuality is
criminalized; from there, volunteers
cross-reference details with contacts
on the ground and members of local
LGBT groups and, in many cases, follow up with interviews over Skype.
Rainbow Railroad then provides
funds, guidance and information to
persecuted individuals looking for
refuge in countries with a progressive
stance on LGBT rights—primarily in
Western Europe and North America.
Things moved very slowly for the
first two years of Rainbow Railroad’s
existence, according to Battista. But
Henry’s arrival as a volunteer in 2009
marked a turning point. “We started
working with him to identify those
most at risk in Jamaica, and he was
very effective at referring people facing real threats thanks to his on-theground connections.” By 2013, Henry
had helped 36 individuals from the
03 • 2016
Caribbean gain asylum in Canada,
just as he had.
Rainbow Railroad has expanded
dramatically since its inception. In
2014, the group handled more cases
than ever before, funding the airfare
and travel of 33 individuals from Jamaica, Nigeria and Uganda. (It also
provided basic supplies to asylum
seekers in hiding prior to emigration.)
In 2015, staff fielded 281 pleas from
would-be claimants that flooded in
through various channels, including
email, social media and community
organizations. Rainbow Railroad is
currently working on creating safe
“routes” throughout the Middle East
and South and Central Asia.
While the organization offers vital
financial and administrative assistance, it’s often the psychological
and emotional support that means
the most to asylum seekers. That’s
also at the heart of why Rainbow
Railroad is so important to Henry.
“What they’re going through is my
lived experience,” says the man still
shaken by the murder of 13 friends
during his four years with J-FLAG.
Henry, who knows first-hand the
sacrifices that can be involved with
daring to live fully, dreams of seeing
Rainbow Railroad bridge continents.
“I want to build safe houses around
the world, create resources, help
LGBT people get a second chance
at life. I want them to be able to be
their authentic selves.”
DEPARTMENT OF WIT
articles found in real
BY DAV I D N G
F R OM M C SW EEN EYS . NET
ILLUSTRATION BY JO R EN CULL
“Beheading the Unicorn: An Adventure in Surgery”
Jo u r n a l o f t h e Am e r i c a n C o l l e g e
“Child Psychiatry Perspectives:
If You See a Unicorn, You Are
Obligated to Report It”
Jo u r n a l o f t h e Am e r i c a n A c a d e my o f C h i l d
& Adolescent Psychiatr y
“Polymyositis: Not a Unicorn or
Mythological Beast… but Maybe
Ne u r o l o g y : T h e O f f i c i a l Jo u r n a l o f t h e
Am e r i c a n A c a d e my o f Ne u r o l o g y
“How to Show That Unicorn Milk
Is a Chronobiotic: The Regressionto-the-Mean Statistical Artifact”
C h r o n o b i o l o g y In t e r n a t i o n a l
“Unicorn Tapestries, Horned
Animals and Prion Disease”
Em e r g i n g In f e c t i o u s D i s e a s e s
“Rats, Cats and Elephants, but Still
No Unicorn: Induced Pluripotent
Stem Cells From New Species”
Cell Stem Cell
“Never Play Leapfrog With a
C r i t i c a l C a r e Me d i c i n e
© 2015 BY DAVID NG. M C SWEENEYS.NET
03 • 2016
THE RD INTERVIEW
Anchorman Peter Mansbridge on public broadcasting,
acting aspirations and what makes for good news
Voice of Authority
BY CO U R T N E Y SH E A
ILLUSTRATION BY AIMÉE VAN DRIMMELEN
Looking back, 2015 was a pretty huge year
for news. Did it feel that way for you?
It was well-rounded. You had the war stories
with Syria and Iraq and the emotional reaction to the refugees, which connected with
people all over the world. Domestically, you
had the election, which we knew was going
to be big, but then it was much bigger than
we’d anticipated. A change of government,
a new leader who is young and engaged—
And also very handsome.
Ha! He seems to have that going
This month you have a
cameo in Disney’s Zootopia, voicing a moose
named Peter Moosebridge. How did that
I got started in this
business at age 19—
03 • 2016
I was working at an airport, and
someone heard my voice over the
PA system and offered me a job at
the local radio station. With this film,
I was at an airport—once again. I was
going through security in Toronto on
my way to Vancouver, and the guy
behind me said, “We were just talking
about you in a meeting!” Turns out,
he was the Canadian vice-president
of marketing at Disney. Zootopia is a
children’s movie with a good message
about fairness and equality. I only
have two or three lines. I was excited
to do it for my grandkids.
Last year you appeared on an episode of Murdoch Mysteries. Has
Canada’s most venerable newsman
caught the acting bug?
No, no. I’m married to an actor.
I think she’s kind of jealous that I
have a part in what will be a huge
film—I feel it could be the next Frozen. When I came home and told
that to my wife [Cynthia Dale], she
was not impressed.
During times of upheaval, do
you miss hopping on a plane
and going to the story?
I still go on the road as often
as I can. I was in Paris right
after the attacks. Part of me
loves that. I was a reporter
for 20 years. I was okay,
but I wasn’t great. I understand where I’m best used.
It’s like a good hockey team, where
the coach and the manager know
where to put their players.
When you were inducted into the
Canadian News Hall of Fame last
November, you said that public
broadcasting isn’t about being popular, it’s about being relevant. Can
you explain that distinction?
Newscasters are constantly tempted
to cover what’s popular—watercooler stories and all that. The public broadcaster is there to deal with
what’s important. There are things
about the day that are funny—you
don’t want to give viewers the
sense the world is going to end
when the newscast does—but it’s
a question of where you dwell.
How do you feel when you see someone in the vein of Kim Kardashian
being described as a newsmaker?
Let’s put it this way—she’s never
been a newsmaker on my program.
So it’s safe to say we won’t see you
sitting down with a reality TV star
any time soon?
I don’t think so. I’d like to interview
Justin Bieber. We’re both from Stratford, Ont. He comes home a lot
more than most people realize. You
hear his jet—it’s the only jet that
comes into the Stratford airport.
Zootopia is out March 4.
03 • 2016
BY CH RISTINA PALASS I O
It’s critical that someone who
was not initially imagined to
be an ideal Rhodes Scholar be
named a Rhodes Scholar,
especially in a time of
I found it quite irritating that I
wasn’t trusted to communicate the
messages from my own work, that
the only person who could effectively convey the messages from my
work was a communications expert.
KRISTI MILLER, m o l e c u l a r
geneticist in the Department of
Fi s h e r i e s a n d O c e a n s , on how it felt
BILLY-RAY BELCOURT on becoming the
first Aboriginal person in Canada to receive the
to be forbidden to speak to the
media under the Harper government
I am not a doomsayer, but I do
believe we have to acknowledge the
doomsday-type consequences if we
do not act in time to prevent them.
My pre-surgery routine is having a
major fall or accident.
The late environmentalist and
e n t r e p r e n e u r MAURICE STRONG
on climate change
If they start to
pathetic is that?
Mi s s Wo r l d C a n a d a ANASTASIA LIN,
to CBC News,
on being declared persona non grata by the Chinese
government for her political beliefs
03 • 2016
O l y m p i c b r o n z e m e d a l s ki e r
JAN HUDEC, w h o h a s h a d e i g h t
kn e e s u r g e r i e s ,
in the Toronto Star
PHOTOS: (BELCOURT) © THE GATEWAY 1910-2015; (LIN) A NASTASIALIN.COM. QU OTE S: ( BE LCOU RT) THE G LOBE AND M AIL ( NOV. 23, 201 5) ;
(STRONG) MAURIC ESTRONG.NET; (M I LLER) TH E GLO BE AND MAIL (NOV. 1 2, 201 5) ; ( HU D E C) NOV. 23, 201 5; ( L IN) NOV. 26 , 201 5.
Points to Ponder
PHOTOS: (KENNEDY) © 2015 RESPECT IN SPORT; (LINDHOUT) © NIGEL BRENNAN. QUOTES: (KENNEDY) NOV. 20, 2015; (PETERS) U OF T MAGAZINE
(2012); (LINDHOUT) MACLEAN’S (NOV. 5, 2015); (ANTHONY) NOV. 2015; (HYNES) FACEBOOK.COM; (SETH) NOV. 16, 2015.
I’ve had to practise
believed I didn’t
deserve to live, and
now people are
calling me a hero.
SHELDON KENNEDY, f or m e r N H L pl a y e r a n d
su r v i v o r o f c hi l d h o o d s e xu al abu s e, in The Walrus
I was refuted and shunned by
most of the outstanding surgeons
in the States.
T h e l a t e ra d i a t i o n o n c o l o g i s t
DR. VERA PETERS on the backlash her research
received as she worked to revolutionize treatments for
Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer in the 1950s
Despite our differences, somehow,
and delightfully, we have
Ho s t a g e - t u r n e d h u m a n i t a r i a n AMANDA LINDHOUT
A few years back, Ireland declared
binge drinking and drug abuse to be
national emergencies, and I can’t
help but believe the same applies to
our beautiful little island, too. Newfoundland and Labrador needs help.
We are crying out for real leadership.
We are fu**ing DYING for proper
facilities to treat our addictions and
Actor and author
JOEL THOMAS HYNES, w h o s e u n c l e ,
m u s i c i a n R o n Hy n e s , s t r u g g l e d
with addiction before his death
in November 2015
friendship with Omar Khadr
We could spend an afternoon eating
lead paint and rubbing asbestos
on each other. Anything we did—
because it hadn’t been done before
—was the most brilliant TV ever.
I grew up with comic books and
newspaper funnies—Jack Kirby and
Charles Schulz—but when I saw the
big, wondrous and iconic New Yorker
cartoon collections of the mid-century, it was like discovering gold.
STEVE ANTHONY on being a VJ in the
C a r t o o n i s t SETH,
early days of MuchMusic, in Elle Canada
in the New Yorker
03 • 2016
ART of LIVING
With some simple changes, a kinder,
gentler culture could be within reach
BY BRAND IE WE IK LE
03 • 2016
IN A WORLD FILLED with
headlines about mass shootings
and terrorist attacks, it’s easy to
wonder, What’s wrong with people
That’s a fair question. One study
that was released by the University
of Michigan in 2010 seems to suggest we’re collectively becoming
less considerate. After surveying
college students, lead researcher
Sarah Konrath discovered a 40 per
cent decline in empathy—the ability to relate to the feelings and
perspectives of others—over the
previous 30 years. Konrath and her
team attributed this trend to an
overall spike in narcissism, individualism and material self-interest
and linked it to a waning inclination to show concern for others
and adopt their perspectives. While
this rate of decline appeared to
be relatively stable between 1979
and 1999, it nearly tripled after the
That study started a public conversation about whether we’re collectively becoming more heartless
in general. But before you bemoan
the collapse of civilized society,
fear not: experts say we can take
steps to reverse this trend.
Make Time to Connect
In their 2010 book, Born for Love:
Why Empathy Is Essential—and
Endangered, American psychiatrist
Bruce D. Perry and journalist Maia
Szalavitz suggest our culture faces
a crisis of disconnection. Between
1985 and 2004, they report, the proportion of people who claimed they
had no confidants at all jumped from
10 to 24.6 per cent, while 80 per cent
of respondents said they’d only confide in family members.
According to Mary Gordon, the
founder and president of the Canadian not-for-profit group Roots of
Empathy, the pace of modern life is
partly to blame for waning levels of
consideration. We may be in touch
with our friends through quick
texts and emails, she says, but
“face to face, someone can smile at
you, touch your arm, give you
a hug or have a laugh with you—
all things that release endorphins.”
With fewer in-person interactions,
it’s hard to decipher what might be
going on in the hearts and minds
of those around us, knowledge
that informs our behaviour toward
To remedy this, make your social
life a priority, says Gordon. She
recommends going for lunch with
a friend or colleague instead of eating at your desk. At the Roots of
Empathy office, co-workers walk
the stairs together for exercise, and
from time to time, the group organizes staff bowling trips in an effort
to strengthen collegial connections. If your weekends are too full
03 • 2016
of family obligations to contemplate a dinner party, she suggests
doing something simple, like grocery shopping with a friend and
grabbing a coffee afterwards.
Be Mindful of
sistic,” she says. They may just be
reacting to adverse factors in their
environments. If someone is curt
or critical, she offers, “try saying
something kind, like, ‘It’s chaotic in
here. It must be challenging.’ If we
demonstrate empathy, we’re
far more likely to receive
it in return.”
“Life has become more
stressful, and any kind
of stress may miniFeed Your Sense
mize our empathetic
capacities,” says GorA growing body of
don. If you’re preocevidence points to a
cupied by worries that
you might lose your
empathy and experijob, for example, it’s
ences that inspire
easy to develop a kind
awe, like taking in the
of tunnel vision.
view from a mounLoren Martin, an
taintop or marvelling
at undersea life while
in the department of
scuba diving. Some
being selfish,” says new research that was
psychology based out
Gordon. They may published by the Jourof the University of
just be reacting to nal of Personality and
has studied the relaSocial Psychology in
tionship between anx2015 found that being
iety and compassion.
exposed to wonder
Based on his research,
helps us focus on the
he posits that stress
world beyond ourmay interfere with
selves and keeps us
“higher-order cognitive empathetic attuned to the welfare of others.
behaviours”—like being able to apSo try embarking on that rainforpreciate the perspective of others.
est tour you’ve always contemGordon suggests we remember
plated. Not only will it feed your
that link in our everyday interacyen for adventure, but it may ultions. “It’s not that people are
timately wind up strengthening
deliberately being selfish or narcisyour sense of compassion.
03 • 2016
How to recognize and
reduce your addiction risk
BY SA M A N T H A R ID E O UT
! WHY DO SOME PEOPLE
become addicted—to alcohol, gambling, sleeping pills—while others
who use the same substances or
engage in the same activities don’t
fall prey? It’s a puzzle that seems
to involve genetics, environment,
personal history and temperament.
One of the personality traits under investigation is “sensation seeking,” which denotes an appetite for
new, varied, intense experiences—
and a willingness to take risks to get
them. This characteristic increases
the likelihood of substance abuse,
but it’s also associated with hobbies
such as scuba diving, mountain
climbing and travelling to far-flung
places. Some experts encourage
sensation seekers to focus on these
healthier habits as an addictionprevention strategy.
A tendency to act based on instincts or immediate desires rather
than longer-term outcomes is known
as impulsivity. Health researchers
around the world have observed that
people who are dependent on certain drugs—including cocaine and
alcohol—frequently have abnormalities in parts of the brain that are
connected with restraint. “What’s
03 • 2016
and other substances can offer temnot clear at this point is to what
extent the impulsive personality trait porary stress relief. Ironically, drinking can aggravate anxiety over the
pre-exists and predisposes someone
long run by, among other things,
toward drug use, versus how much
interfering with the
of it is caused by the
drug use,” says Karen
of the brain’s neuErsche, a lecturer on
rotransmitters. Finddrug addiction at the
ing other ways to
University of Camrelax—talking to
bridge in England
friends, exercising or
who is exploring this
eliminating stresquestion. In the case
of Canadians meet the
sors, for example—is
of alcohol, expericriteria for alcohol abuse
a good way to avoid
ments suggest that
or dependence at some
point in their lives.
abstinence helps rePersonality alone
grow damaged neurdoesn’t determine
ons and reverse
who is prone to addiction, but if
impairments to self-control.
yours puts you at a greater risk, it
Also among those who run a
won’t hurt to make health-related
heightened risk of addiction: anxdecisions accordingly.
ious people. This is because alcohol
Standing Desks Linked With
Sedentary Off Time
In a British study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,
40 office workers were given workstations that allowed them to either
sit or stand. After three months, the
subjects were more sedentary in
03 • 2016
their leisure time than before, but
their sitting time still decreased
from 10 hours and five minutes a
day to nine hours and 21 minutes.
The researchers recommended
finding ways to be active outside
of work, to avoid cancelling out the
effects of sitting less on the job.
News From the
World of Medicine
Sleepwalkers Often Feel
No Pain After Accidents
After studying 47 people who had
hurt themselves at least once while
sleepwalking, researchers in Montpellier, France, found that 37 of
them didn’t experience pain until
they woke up. One man climbed
onto his roof, fell off and broke his
leg but didn’t awaken until morning.
Paradoxically, sleepwalkers were
more likely to experience chronic
pain and migraines in their waking
lives. This suggests a relationship
between sleepwalking brain activity
and malfunctioning pain perception, the researchers said.
Talk Therapy Better Than
Light Treatment for SAD
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is
depression triggered by the shorter
days of winter. Light therapy—sitting
next to a bright box that simulates
the sun—is considered the goldstandard treatment. However, a
University of Vermont study of 177
sufferers found that, when it comes
to preventing SAD from returning,
cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
is more effective. Once patients
learn coping strategies through
CBT, they keep them for life.
Degree of “Chemo Brain”
Depends on Drug Taken
One of chemotherapy’s potential
effects is long-lasting mental cloudi-
ness. A recent JAMA Oncology paper
compared breast-cancer patients who
received anthracycline-based therapy
to those who took other kinds of
chemo drugs. The women—participants in a study by Stanford University in California—reported cognitive
dysfunction, but the anthracycline
patients performed significantly
worse on verbal memory tasks.
TEST YOUR MEDICAL IQ
Black carbon is…
A. An air pollutant emitted by
B. A toxin found in diseased
C. A noxious fume produced by
D. A suspected carcinogenic
component of mobile phones
Answer: A. Black carbon is an
air pollutant associated with
respiratory and cardiovascular
health problems, as well as
climate change. In Western
countries, vehicles are the main
source, especially those with
diesel engines. To minimize
exposure, individuals can avoid
walking near heavy traffic, while
governments can pass regulations to improve air quality.
03 • 2016