On Heart Disease Markers:
CRP [C-reactive protein] is turning out to be a much better predictor of cardiovascular disease risk than cholesterol, even years in advance of disease onset. As a result, CRP has suddenly become quite trendy in medicine, and is fast becoming a standard endpoint to measure in general blood work on patients.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 3, Page 44)
On The First Gulf War:
During the 1991 Persian Gulf War fewer deaths in Israel were due to SCUD missile damage than to sudden cardiac death among frightened elderly people.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 3, Page 50)
On The Origins Of Peter Pan:
A son, age thirteen, the beloved favorite of the mother, is killed in an accident. The mother, despairing and bereaved, takes to her bed in grief for years afterward, utterly ignoring her other, six-year-old son. Horrible scenes ensue. For example, the boy, on one occasion, enters her darkened room; the mother, in her delusional state, briefly believe it is the dead son – “David, is that you? Could that be you?” – before realizing: “Oh, it is only you.” Growing up, being “only you”. On the rare instances when the mother interacts with the younger son, she repeatedly expresses the same obsessive thought: the only solace she feels is that David died when he was still perfect, still a boy, never to be ruined by growing up and growing away from his mother.
The younger boy, ignored (the stern, distant father seemed to have been irrelevant to the family dynamics), seizes upon this idea; by remaining a boy forever, by not growing up, he will at least have some chance of pleasing his mother, winner her love. Although there is no evidence of disease or malnutrition in his well-to-do family, he ceases growing. As an adult, he is just barely five feet in height, and his marriage is unconsummated.
And then the chapter informs us that the boy became the author of the much-beloved children’s class – Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie’s writings are filled with children who didn’t grow up, who were fortunate enough to die in childhood, who came back as ghosts to visit their mothers.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 6, Page 106)
On The Strangeness Of Sleep:
All things considered, sleeping is pretty creepy. For a third of your life, you’re just not there, floating in this suspended state, everything slowing down. Except, at points, your brain is more active than when you’re awake, making your eyelids all twitchy, and it’s consolidating memories from the day and solving problems for you. Except when it’s dreaming, when it’s making no sense. And then you sometimes walk or talk in your sleep. Or drool. And then there’s those mysterious penile or clitoral erections that occur intermittently during the night. (And this isn’t even going into the subject of species that sleep with only half of their brain at a time, in order to keep one eye and half the brain open to look out for predators. Mallards, for example, that are stuck on the edge of their group at night keep their outward facing eye, and the half of the brain that responds to it, preferentially awake. As more oddities, dolphins can swim while sleeping and some birds can fly.)
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 11, Page 227)
On Teddy Roosevelt The Scientist:
A biography of Teddy Roosevelt, however, recently helped me to appreciate that the world lost one of its great potential zoologists when he lapsed into politics. At age eighteen, he had already published professionally in ornithology; when he was half that age, he reacted to the news that his mother had thrown out his collection of field mice, stored in the family icebox, by moping around the house, proclaiming, “The loss to science! The loss to science!”
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 13, Page 252)
On Personal Autonomy And Depression:
Humans can be provoked into at least transient cases of learned helplessness, and with surprising ease. Naturally, there is tremendous individual variation in how readily this happens – some of us are more vulnerable than others…. In the experiment involving inescapable noise, Hiroto had given the students a personality inventory beforehand. Based on that, he was able to identify the students who came into the experiment with a strongly “internalized locus of control” – a belief that they were the masters of their own destiny and had a great deal of control in their lives – and, in contrast, the markedly “externalized” volunteers, who tended to attribute outcomes to chance and luck. In the aftermath of an uncontrolled stressor, the externalized students were far more vulnerable to learned helplessness. Transferring that to the real world, with the same external stressors, the more that someone has an internal locus of control, the less the likelihood of a depression.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 14, Page 303)
Having an illusory sense of control in a bad setting can be so pathogenic that one version of it gets a special name in the health psychology literature… As described by Sherman James of Duke University, it is called John Henryism. The name refers to the American folk hero who, hammering a six-foot-long steel drill, tried to outrace a steam drill tunneling through a mountain. John Henry beat the machine, only to fall dead from the superhuman effort. As James defines it, John Henryism involves the belief that any and all demands can be vanquished, so long as you work hard enough. On questionnaires, John Henry individuals strongly agree with statements such as “When things don’t go the way I want them, it just makes me work even harder,” or “Once I make up my mind to do something, I stay with it until the job is completely done.” This is the epitome of individuals with an internal locus of control – they believe that, with enough effort and determination, they can regulate all outcomes.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 18, Page 404-5)
On Race And Anxiety:
Some recent studies that I find truly unsettling show that if you flash a picture of someone from a different race, the amygdala tends to light up. Endless studies need to be done looking at what sort of face is flashed and what sort of person is observing it. But in the meantime, just think about the implications of that finding.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 15, Page 323)
On Dopamine Motivating Behavior:
The next key thing to learn is that the dopamine and its associated sense of pleasurable anticipation fuels the work needed to get that reward. Peter Phillips from the University of North Carolina has used some immensely fancy techniques to measure millisecond bursts of dopamine in rats and has showed with the best time resolution to date that the burst comes just before the behavior. Then, in the clincher, he artificially stimulated the dopamine release and, suddenly, the rat would start lever pressing. The dopamine does indeed fuel the behavior.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 16, Page 339)
On Drug Addiction Rerouting Pleasure Pathways:
Brain-imaging studies of drug users at that stage [of needing the drug on account of low resting dopamine levels] show that viewing a film of actors pretending to use drugs activates dopamine pathways in the brain more than does watching porn films.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 16, Page 345)
On Oscar Awards & Life Expectancy:
The issue of respect [and its relationship with life expectancy] may help explain the highly publicized finding that winning the Oscar at any point in your life extends your life expectancy about four years, relative to doctors who were nominated but didn’t win.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 18, Page 390)
On Religion & Health:
Finally and most important in this area of science, you can’t randomly assign people to different study groups (“You folks become atheists, and you guys start deeply believing in God, and we’ll meet back here in ten years to check everyone’s blood pressure”).
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 18, Page 408)
Consider two leading thinkers in this field, Richard Sloan and Carl Thoresen…
[they] agree that there’s not a shred of evidence that praying for someone improves her health….
[they] agree that when you do see a legitimate link between religiosity and good health, you don’t know which came first. Being religious may make you healthy, and being healthy may make you religious….
[they] also agree that when you do see a link, you still don’t know if it has anything to do with religiosity [there are many variable that] need to be controlled for…
[they] are also mostly in agreement that religiosity does predict good health to some extent in a few areas of medicine…
[they are both] made very nervous by the idea that findings in this field will lead to physicians advising their patients to become religious…
[they] both note that religiosity can make health, mental or otherwise, a lot worse.
(Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Chapter 18, Page 409-11)
Standing fast on this issue requires a heartbreaking rejection of a tenet of liberal education that so many of us treasure. It is the notion that being exposed to the Great Books and the Great Thoughts must lead to Great Morals.
(The Trouble With Testosterone, Beelzebub’s SAT Scores, Page 110)