Making Physiology Happen


May 2018 – Myth Busters

iWorx Systems, Inc.
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Featured ExperimentMyth Busted

Myth Busters - Hypothesis Testing

With all the information out there about alternative products changing human physiological responses to stress, it would be interesting to be able to test these products and determine what all that “hype” is actually about.

Aromatherapy, salt lamps, negative ionizers, and magnetic bracelets are some examples of products on the market that are sold to consumers with the caveat that they will reduce overall stress, make you calmer, and balance out your adrenal reactions to situations that invoke tension and anxiety.

Aromatherapy is believed to stimulate smell receptors in the nose, which then send messages through the nervous system and to the part of the brain the that controls emotions.  But when it comes to breathing in or rubbing on aromatic plant oils, the fact that the experience is pleasing doesn’t make it therapeutic, says Dr. Edzard Ernst, former Chair of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in the U.K. Ernst has published two review that closely examine the health effects of aromatherapy. When it comes to calming hypertension, depression, anxiety, pain and symptoms of dementia, Ernst found no “convincing” evidence that aromatherapy does you any good.

Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments such as mountains, waterfalls, and beaches. Once they reach our bloodstream, negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.  Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy," says Pierce J. Howard, PhD, author of The Owner’s Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind Brain Research and director of research at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences in Charlotte, N.C.  Both Himalayan Salt Lamps and commercial Negative Ionizers produce these types of particles.

Magnetic bracelets are tools used in “magnet therapy”, which is a type of alternative medicine that uses magnetic fields to improve a person's overall health. While it hasn't been proven whether magnet therapy works, many wearers of magnetic bracelets have seen positive results in pain relief and overall health benefits. Magnetic bracelets are advertised to improve circulation, reduce inflammation, reduce stress, increase positive thinking, and “they look fashionable” to boot. 

For this study, students can create a hypothesis and design an experiment around one of these types of alternative therapies.  Recordings of heart rate, GSR, EEG, ECG, and/or other parameters can show whether or not these devices work to reduce overall stress.  Studies can be either short- or long- term, and a simple t-test can determine statistical validity.
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