The Chemistry of Seasonal Affective Disorder

For the millions of Americans with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), it’s the darkness, not the cold, that makes winter so difficult.

SAD affects at least five percent of Americans. As Reactions host Sophia Cai explains in this video from the American Chemical Society below, the symptoms of SAD are similar to those of garden-variety depression. It’s the timing that’s different; most people’s symptoms set in in late autumn and last through the winter. 

Scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact causes of SAD, but they do have a few ideas. Shorter days mean less sunlight. This may seem like a superficial concern—sure, sunny days make us happier—but the chemistry goes much deeper than that. Exposure to sunlight, or a lack thereof, affects the production and release of important brain chemicals, and any imbalance in these chemicals can make us feel pretty awful.

Fortunately, SAD is very treatable. Talk therapy, medication, and light therapy have all proven helpful. If you’re experiencing symptoms of SAD, give your doctor a call. Winter may be dark, but it doesn’t have to be depressing.

Header image from Reactions.

The Unkindest Cut: The Chainsaw Was Invented to Assist With Difficult Childbirths

viafilms/iStock via Getty Images
viafilms/iStock via Getty Images

There’s always a price to be paid for innovation. Usually that amounts to some sleepless nights and lots of trial and error. But sometimes it means attempting to deliver babies with a chainsaw.

This dark chapter in agricultural history comes from Popular Science, which recently detailed how the motorized cutting tool populating Home Depot shelves came to be. In the 18th century, two Scottish surgeons named John Aitken and James Jeffray devised a solution they could employ when faced with difficult childbirths. Rather than use a knife to widen the pelvic area by slicing through cartilage and bone to extricate a stuck baby, the two developed a chainsaw to make cutting easier.

While this sounds ghastly, the doctors were actually trying to lessen the agony endured by women who needed their pelvic bone separated. The knife took a long time, while their device—a modified knife with serrated “teeth” on a chain—could cut through bone and tissue more quickly.

If circumstances warranted it, the doctor would grab the saw, which had a handle on both ends, and wrap the chain around the pelvic bone, pulling each handle so the chain would cut into the bone. Later, the device was outfitted with a hand crank. Thanks to this innovation, difficult births could be described as merely agonizing as opposed to extended torture.

The procedure was dubbed a symphysiotomy and remained in use in the medical field as surgeons noticed how efficiently it could work in other circumstances, like amputations. It lasted through much of the 19th century as part of a surgical toolbox until C-sections grew in popularity. In the 20th century, the principle was commandeered for less disturbing purposes like logging, with two-person saws weighing more than 100 pounds each. By the 1950s, those gave way to lighter models.

For all its discomfiting history, at least the chainsaw proved to be useful—which isn't something that can be said for all inventions purporting to aid in childbirth. In 1965, George and Charlotte Blonsky patented a device that acted as a human turntable, spinning so quickly it might induce the patient (or victim) into delivering their baby via centrifugal force.

[h/t Popular Science]

Kane Tanaka, World’s Oldest Living Person, Just Celebrated Her 117th Birthday

Ruletka, iStock via Getty Images
Ruletka, iStock via Getty Images

Less than a year after being named oldest living person in the world, Kane Tanaka has reached a new milestone. As Reuters reports, Tanaka celebrated her 117th birthday on January 2, 2020, extending the Guinness World Record-winning streak she set in March 2019.

Kane—the seventh of eight siblings—was born on January 2, 1903 in Fukuoka, Japan. She married Hideo Tanaka in 1922, and the couple had five children. Today, she is a grandmother to five and a great-grandmother to eight.

Tanaka celebrated her birthday at the Fukuoka nursing home where she resides, surrounded by friends and family. After taking a bite of her birthday cake, she reportedly said, “Tasty, I want some more." On a typical day, Tanaka spends her time studying math, practicing calligraphy, and beating the nursing home staff at board games.

The 117 club is an exclusive group only a handful of women has entered in recent history. In the last few years, Emma Morano of Italy, Violet Mosse Brown of Jamaica, and Nabi Tajima and Chiyo Miyako of Japan all reached age 117 and were each the oldest person alive for a brief period. If Tanaka celebrates another birthday next year, she will be the first person since the 1990s to live to 118.

[h/t Reuters]

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