9 March 2022

I believe in yesterday

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Remember yesterday, when all your troubles seemed so far away?

No? You might have to reach back a little further then. Try childhood, it’s usually a pretty good source of happy, carefree memories.

I said usually.

According to a recent study, nostalgic memories of youth provide more than a daydream escape. It turns out that they have an observable neurological effect that can decrease our perception of pain.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences measured the brain activity of adult participants with fMRI while they rated both the nostalgia value of images and the pain of thermal stimuli. The nostalgic images featured scenes and items from an average childhood, like candy, cartoons and schoolyard games. Images in the control condition depicted typical scenes and items from modern life.

“Here’s an office … here’s an electricity bill … here’s a dentist waiting room …”

The study found that participants who were exposed to nostalgic images reported less pain than those in the control group. The fMRI scans backed this up, showing that two areas of the participants’ brains related to pain perception were less active with the nostalgic images.

While pictures of Bugs Bunny or kids on a handball court won’t do much for a woman in labour, the researchers believe that they might just provide a legitimate, drug-free way of treating mild pain like a headache.

When you consider that humanity as a whole is currently having one big conflict and climate-related headache, our choice of entertainment starts to make a lot of sense.

If you see something nostalgic, say something soothing to felicity@medicalrepublic.com.au

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