Death in a hot climate

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A new study shows that global warming will cause more deaths in summer because of higher temperatures – and that these deaths will not be offset by fewer deaths in milder winters.

The study, conducted by researchers at Harvard, analysed city-specific weather data related to the deaths of more than 6.5 million people in 50 cities in the US between 1989 and 2000. They found that during two-day cold snaps there was a 1.59 per cent increase in deaths because of the extreme temperatures. However, during similar periods of extremely hot weather, death rates went up by 5.74 per cent.

Deaths from all causes are known to rise when temperatures go up, and heart attacks and cardiac arrests are more likely when it is very cold.

The authors conclude that “decreases in cold weather as a result of global warming are unlikely to result in decreases in cold-related mortality. Heat-related mortality, in contrast, may increase, particularly if global warming is associated with increased variance of summer temperature.”

While all 50 cities showed comparable rises in deaths when temperatures dropped, more deaths were seen during extreme temperature rises in cities with milder summers, less air conditioning and higher population density. The authors suggest that this is because the use of central heating is widespread, whereas fewer people have air-conditioned homes.

Making air-conditioning universally available might reduce heat-related deaths, but it would also have a “perverse effect by enhancing global warming through carbon dioxide emissions from electricity consumption”, the authors say.

Surrendered husbands

Men may still have more power at the office, but at home, apparently, women rule the roost.

A new study by a team of Iowa State University researchers has found that wives typically exhibit greater “situational power than their husbands during problem-solving discussions”.

The researchers concluded that wives were both more domineering and more dominant than their husbands during discussions of either spouse’s choice of topic.

“Women were communicating more powerful messages and men were responding by giving in,” said the authors.

“There’s been research that suggests that’s a marker of a healthy marriage – that men accept influence from their wives.”

Headache headquarters

If you’ve ever tried to focus on work while suffering a splitting headache, you will know how much pain damages concentration. Researchers at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf have pinpointed the region of the brain responsible for pain’s role in undermining our ability to concentrate.

Volunteers were asked to perform tasks distinguishing and remembering images as they experienced varying levels of pain caused by the zapping of their hands by a laser beam. During these tests their brains were scanned to determine blood flow, which reflects brain activity.

Their ability to recognise images declined as the pain increased. The lateral occipital complex (LOC) – involved in processing images – was identified as the area affected by memory activities and pain. They also identified increased activity in the rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), which plays an important role in attention control, believing it may interfere with the LOC when people are in pain.

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