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Canada Medicine Idle Science

Look At Sick People To Give Your Immune System a Boost 271

Posted by samzenpus
from the taskmaster-HMO dept.
Scientists at the University of British Columbia have found that looking at someone who appears sick boosts your immune system. Subjects had blood taken before and after watching a 10-minute slide show that contained disturbing images including people who appeared sick. Results of the blood tests showed people who had seen the sick people had a stronger immune system. From the article: "In the study, young adults were asked to watch a 10-minute slide show containing a series of unpleasant photographs. Some pictures included people who looked obviously ill in some way. The subjects' blood samples were then tested for levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a substance produced by the immune system that indicates your immune system is ramping up to more aggressively fight infection. As a control, pictures of people brandishing guns were also used on some participants—and they barely resulted in a significant increase in IL-6 production, signifying that IL-6 production is not simply a reaction to stress."

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Look At Sick People To Give Your Immune System a Boost

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  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:32AM (#31749678) Homepage

    As a control, pictures of people brandishing guns were also used on some participants--and they barely resulted in a significant increase in IL-6 production, signifying that IL-6 production is not simply a reaction to stress.

    You could look at it that way. Or you could see that the data clearly shows that none of the subjects' had immune systems capable of protecting them from bullets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Thanshin (1188877)

      Or you could see that the data clearly shows that none of the subjects' had immune systems capable of protecting them from bullets.

      That's not completely true. The problem is with the visibility of the bullets. At the subjects weren't able to see the bullets in movement, their bullet resistance didn't raise.

      To prove that theory we shot them with visible bullets and, as postulated, they were indeed immune.

      You can check the results in our full analysis: [i]"Bullet resistance to bullets slowed down to improve their visibility"[/i].

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by eclectro (227083)

      Or perhaps the subjects have seen so much gun-play on TV that seeing guns in pictures no longer evokes a stressful response.

    • the data clearly shows that none of the subjects' had immune systems capable of protecting them from bullets

      Yes, and also that their immune systems were programmed to already know this...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      and they barely resulted in a significant increase in IL-6 production

      I'd just like to know how you "barely" have a "significant increase"....

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by X0563511 (793323)

        Erm... there's a significant increase. Only barely, but still significant.

        Was that so hard? You read the words, and you understand what they mean.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by blair1q (305137)

      Security through obscurity. A bullet has to hit certain critical points in order to be fatal. Most of the body is a decoy. And it's covered by an opaque curtain. You have to have specific, inside information about anatomy, or have been clued by experienced hackers, to know where to aim your bullets. But, like all matters of security through obscurity, once the truth is out there it's like no security at all. Even swapping your heart for your brain won't make you more secure.

    • by Angst Badger (8636) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @01:49PM (#31751966)

      My first thought was that pictures of people brandishing guns are so ubiquitous -- a large portion of the entertainment industry is devoted to exactly that -- that they're not necessarily a source of actual stress in most people. The researchers would have been better off using a loud, unexpected noise (dropping a heavy book on the floor behind the subject has been used in some experiments) or requiring the subjects to complete some arbitrary puzzle with a time limit if they wanted to generate stress in their subjects.

      Personally, I'd have used a photo of a client demanding IE6 compatibility for their new web app.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <(moc.loa) (ta) (hciretg)> on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:36AM (#31749724) Journal

    I don't get it. When I see pictures of people with guns, I immediately try to discern the make and model, then go to the internet to get the specs to see if it's something I'd want to buy.

    The fact that the majority of the world has denied the human right of self defense to its citizens is the only thing I can think of that would be a cause of stress with respect to guns.

    • I would question the mental state of someone who doesn't think having a gun brandished at you with the intent of doing you harm isn't considered a stressful situation.

      • Perhaps you should reconsider. Do you understand the difference between:

        a gun brandished at you with the intent of doing you harm

        and

        photos of people who were brandishing guns (most of which were pointed right at the camera, which means they were aimed right at participants themselves)

        ?

        The gun can harm you. The photograph cannot, regardless of which direction the gun in the photograph was pointed.

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          The gun can harm you. The photograph cannot, regardless of which direction the gun in the photograph was pointed.

          While your line of reasoning works, you took it a step too far. Or, better put:

          Can photos of illness make you sick, then?

          • by Thiez (1281866)

            The first time I saw tubgirl I felt like I was going to be sick. Does that count?

            Of course these days I can browse 4chan without feeling anything. Oh, to be innocent again... :D

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              I don't think she's at all well, so she'd probably fall under the original set of images, rather than the control.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      When I see pictures of people with guns, I immediately try to discern the make and model, then go to the bathroom to jack off to pictures of burly men in paramilitary clothing

      FTFY

      If you own a gun, you are much more likely to hurt yourself or a loved one accidentally than you are to ever find yourself in a situation where the gun will provide you with any self-defense. I wish people who call themselves "2nd Amendment Advocates" would just admit that the reason they want guns is because it makes them feel l

      • by BobMcD (601576)

        When I see pictures of people with guns, I immediately try to discern the make and model, then go to the bathroom to jack off to pictures of burly men in paramilitary clothing

        FTFY

        The problem with your position is that your passion has caused you to break the threshold of belief.

        You've opened your argument with the inference that 'gun-nuts' are closet homosexuals. If you had evidence to support it, you should have presented such, but as it stands the casual reader will simply dismiss your entire comment as being both sensational and ignorant.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by maxwell demon (590494)

      I don't get it. When I see pictures of people with guns, I immediately try to discern the make and model, then go to the internet to get the specs to see if it's something I'd want to buy.

      That's consumer stress. And it's obviously caused by the photo of the gun.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's not just a guy with a gun. It's a guy in a stocking mask with an angry expression, pointing a gun directly at the viewer. If you ever find yourself in this situation in real life, the appropriate response is to feel threatened. Just so you know.
  • Actually (Score:3, Funny)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:37AM (#31749746) Journal

    After watching a depressing 10 minute slide show of people who were feeling sick, all of the test subjects felt like getting drunk. Sadly, the only thing available was cough medicine.

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:39AM (#31749774) Journal

    Step #1: Fire up Linux box
    Step #2: Hook up webcam
    Step #3: Point webcam at co-worker's Windows box
    Step #4: Linux more secure than ever.

  • I prefer eating apples to looking at sick people for immune system boosts. They don't make me feel crummy through empathy and they have the added benefit of being delicious.

    ...

    Oranges can be substituted for apples if absolutely necessary.
    • by jd (1658)

      Apples are good, yes. I suggest a glass of mead as well, as honey is believed to boost the immune system and act as an antibiotic in its own right. In fact, if you get really drunk on the stuff, you might never get sick again.

  • Stress? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:40AM (#31749804)
    If they wanted to control for stress, showing pictures of guns in not going to do it. The average person does not get stressed when they see a picture of a gun. For an accurate control of stress, they would need to have someone burst in with a prop gun. THAT will cause stress. In any case, is it really a surprise that the body will boost its immunity when it detects a possible disease threat? I think we have a word that already accounts for that: evolution.
    • The average person doesn’t get stressed when they see a picture of a sick person, either. Nor is it a possible disease threat, unless a sick person had handled the photograph...

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)
        Human's have had enough time to subconsciously see that a sick person is a threat. They have been a threat since humans began living communally. Guns are not inherently a threat, however. Even if you see guns as threatening in real life, a picture will not be threatening, consciously or unconsciously. Plus, guns have not been around enough to where a person can have a subconscious reaction to it. The fear of guns is a learned behavior. The fear of sick individuals is an evolutionary behavior. Maybe,
        • Even if you see guns as threatening in real life, a picture will not be threatening, consciously or unconsciously.

          Actually, the subjects reported that the pictures of guns made them feel more threatened than the pictures of the sick people did: “Our participants rated those guns pictures as more distressing than the disease-y pictures.”

          Furthermore, just about anyone will feel threatened on a subconscious level if you point an actual gun at them, even if they consciously know that it is unloaded.

          • by Nidi62 (1525137)
            You just reinforce my point, that people LEARN to fear guns. Fear of guns is a learned, conditioned reaction that takes some level of thinking to do. Fear of someone sick is an automatic, evolved action. Of course they will say they were more afraid of the gun, because the fear of the sick person is happening entirely without their knowledge. Fear of guns is abased upon some kind of experience, and they are accessing that experience for justification of that fear. This takes some sort of active though
      • by BobMcD (601576)

        Hence the result of the study. It isn't as if they discovered that water is wet. They found people reacting in a measurable way to photographs of a certain type. It follows that other tests would also have to include photographs, does it not?

    • In any case, is it really a surprise that the body will boost its immunity when it detects a possible disease threat?

      No, that's not a surprise, but you missed the point of the study. The interesting part is that "when it detects a possible threat" can be triggered by images, rather than by physical exposure of your immune system to pathogens. That suggests that immune response has a pathway through your brain.

    • Is it surprising? YES. Sure, it's easy to say after the experiment, "hey, that makes sense" and then call it obvious, but this is a really amazing mechanism, and I would not personally have guessed that our bodies are able to anticipate disease just through an image.

    • is it really a surprise that the body will boost its immunity when it detects a possible disease threat? I think we have a word that already accounts for that: evolution.

      What is novel is the mechanism. We know that once nasties get into the body it starts pumping up resistance. Yet these people only looked at pictures. That means that a specific pattern of light can boost your immune system. That's crazy!

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      If they wanted to control for stress, showing pictures of guns in not going to do it. The average person does not get stressed when they see a picture of a gun. For an accurate control of stress, they would need to have someone burst in with a prop gun. THAT will cause stress. In any case, is it really a surprise that the body will boost its immunity when it detects a possible disease threat? I think we have a word that already accounts for that: evolution.

      No, that would be an entirely different experiment. Think about what you would have used instead...

      A) Photographs of ill people shown to group 1

      B) Photographs of (people) shown to group 2

      What do you use for option 'B' that doesn't also imply injury or illness, and yet is likely to be stressful?

      There may be choices, but not too many good ones come to mind.

  • Makes good sense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by querent23 (1324277) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:41AM (#31749822)
    This makes perfect evolutionary sense for an emergent, highly social species. Without such a mechanism, it is possible that cities could never have occurred.
  • I've got a bunch of unattractive poor people to look at!
    • by timeOday (582209)

      I've got a bunch of unattractive poor people to look at!

      Not really. If ramping up the immune system when necessary is an adaptive trait, then so is ramping it down when it's not needed (otherwise it would be turned up to 11 at all times). The immune system has costs, from metabolic (i.e. wasting energy) to self-damage (autoimmune disorders).

  • by jjeffries (17675) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:56AM (#31750032)
    My immune system is currently plenty strong and I never get sick; if I look at sick people and boost it even further, will I get an autoimmune disease?
    • by sznupi (719324)

      Uhm, not likely. Your immune system is simply working properly; that includes boosting its activity when its needed (and toning it down when it would be a waste of energy, high activity needlessly increasing the risk of some tumors, etc.)

    • by blair1q (305137)

      no, but a "+1" will appear in the lower-left corner of your house

  • Can anyone even stand 10 minutes of looking at goatse?
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      My butt clinches when i see it so I think my immune system is having the described effect.

  • by shambalagoon (714768) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @11:58AM (#31750060) Homepage
    I just noticed the "correlationisnotcausation" tag. Is that just a knee-jerk reaction to studies now?

    Are we suggesting that an increase in immune system activity CAUSED people to view a slide show about sick people?
    • Seriously, that tag is so overused now it's sickening (har har). It's used on Slashdot for practically anything, even if the study doesn't attempt to prove or claim causation. At some point, you have to admit that, you know, not all researchers are complete dumbasses.

      In this case, how would you honestly argue that it's NOT causation? People were shown a slideshow, those people's immune systems had a response. THAT IS CAUSATION. We're not looking at survey results here, it's not like we can claim people who

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Haha yeah, it's pretty inappropriate in this case. This was a causational study, not simply a measurement of correlation in the wild: they varied a variable in a laboratory setting, and measured how varying it changed the response variable.

      There are of course many ways the study could be flawed, but it's not a case of measuring a correlation and then inferring a causation from it.

    • I just noticed the "correlationisnotcausation" tag. Is that just a knee-jerk reaction to studies now?

      Slashdot is the biggest Pavlovian experiment I have ever seen. For example: There was a story yesterday about iPhone contact syncing support for Ubuntu. In the middle of the summary it clearly stated that Android support is coming. Despite this, two people posted asking for Android support.

      That's just one example. Knee-jerk is what people do to earn +3 Insighful tags on this site.

  • ...that's why when I look at sick people, I laugh.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:00PM (#31750082)

    ... and ask, "Y'all got any folks here who look like real sick? I need to look at 'em to boost my im-ma-ume system, or sumptin' like that.

    Maybe that's why Mother Theresa lived so long: "For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Theresa [wikipedia.org] " She must have had one tough bad-ass immune system.

    So if I watch more NASCAR, will I avoid traffic accidents, and get cheaper car insurance?

    Maybe programmers should be forced to look at buggy programs . . . ?

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      "Maybe programmers should be forced to look at buggy programs . . . ?"

      We did give them all Windows machines.

    • by marcus (1916)

      "Maybe programmers should be forced to look at buggy programs . . . ?"

      Believe me, it works. I've seen some seriously sad sh*t in my career. Definitely motivates to make sure your work does not look the same.

  • I guess I'm gonna have to start shaving every day again, damn.
  • Why the dickens are people tagging this "correlationisnotcausation"? It was a controlled experiment, so there weren't any hidden causes to explain away the causation. It's like people don't actually understand what "correlation is not causation" means... but I'd hoped that at least here on Slashdot folks would be cleverer than that.

    • Glad you made this post, I was about to say something similar when I saw it. I think it's some weird kneejerk reaction whenever a study is posted here. It's frequent misuse just shows that some taggers don't even know what the phrase means. When you have effect B that is demonstrably induced via cause A, then it's not a matter of correlation - it is causation.

      The only thing I'd question here is the use of pictures of people w/ guns to produce stress, as there are many people for which this is not s

    • by blair1q (305137)

      just to explain your comment: correlation can occur without causation. causation can't occur without correlation. in order to tell the difference you conduct a controlled experiment with cases that include the hypothesized cause and other cases that include the control, a situation without the hypothesized cause. when you observe the effect in the cases with the hypothesized cause, you have not disproved the hypothesis. when you do not observe the hypothesized effect in the control cases, you have differ

  • by Low Ranked Craig (1327799) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:06PM (#31750162)
    All I know is that when I go visit my 87 year old grandma at the old folks home, I develop a burning desire to go to the gym and eat broccoli.
  • 1) 10 minutes of video of someone else using a computer. E.g. someone filling out billing and shipping info on a web form, using the mouse to move to one field to the next, then when all the fields are just about filled out, clicking Back because they forgot to add an item to the shopping cart.

    2) 10 minutes of a PowerPoint presentation. Just about anything with lots of text. Have the presenter read out everything on the slides, word for word.
  • "Sarge, we keep getting orders to let the virus win!" "Must be a school day. Lay down your arms!" "Alright! Let's make some puffs!"
  • by srobert (4099) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:38PM (#31750756)

    If looking at sick people boosts the immune system, then looking at dead people should make me immortal.

  • by CODiNE (27417) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @12:45PM (#31750880) Homepage

    finally some research supporting "the other side" eh?

    "This ain't pointless violence, it's immune boosting!"

    • by iammani (1392285)
      Er, no, you should go on a real rampage for it to work. A virtual one does not count.
  • That is evidence that we have some sort of second intelligence within ourselves that is not regulated by our conscious abilities. I sometimes get that effect when I choose the wrong note on my euphonium and my fingers disobey and play the correct note despite my conscious intentions. It is like the opposite of a mistake. I am familiar with the sheet music but get distracted and when my mind gets off track some sort of memory kicks in for me.

  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by bobdotorg (598873) on Tuesday April 06, 2010 @01:21PM (#31751550)

    If I have the girlfriend watch a ten minute slide show of really pregnant women she can stop taking the pill?

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