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Health Capsules
December 2008
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Warm Hands, Warm Feelings

Can holding a warm cup of coffee make you feel warm feelings toward someone else? Does a cold cup cause you to give somebody the cold shoulder? It seems unlikely. But new research suggests that heat sensations and psychological warmth are actually linked in our minds.

More than 41 college students participated in the study, which was conducted by NIH-funded scientists at Yale University. Each student was met in the lobby of a building by a woman carrying a cup of coffee. During the elevator ride up, she asked the participants to hold her cup for a second while she wrote something down. Half the participants were given a cup of hot coffee and half iced coffee.

Upstairs, they filled out a questionnaire about a fictitious person that was described to them. The described person was perceived to have significantly more “warm” personality traits by participants who had held the hot coffee cup. Those who’d held the iced coffee perceived the fictitious person to have a “colder” personality. The coffee temperature didn’t affect the ratings on other traits unrelated to warm or cold ideas.

In another set of experiments, the scientists found that temperature could also affect behavior. Students primed with physical coldness were more likely to choose a gift for themselves, whereas those primed with physical warmth were more likely to choose the gift for a friend.

The scientists concluded that our experience of physical temperature affects our thoughts and behaviors toward other people, even though we’re not aware of it. This finding has many practical implications, says lead researcher Dr. Lawrence E. Williams. “Being willing to reach out and touch another human being, to shake their hand, those experiences do matter, although we may not always be aware of them,” he says.

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The Power of Love

  New Alzheimer’s Book Published

Once considered a rare disorder, Alzheimer’s disease is now seen as a major public health problem, affecting up to 4.5 million people nationwide. The numbers of affected patients is expected to rise significantly as our population continues to age. That’s why NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) has made the study of Alzheimer’s disease one of its top priorities for the past 2 decades.

NIA has now issued a new 80-page book, called Alzheimer’s Disease: Unraveling the Mystery, that’s written especially for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, caregivers and others interested in the disorder. This colorful, illustrated publication helps readers understand the biology of Alzheimer’s disease and how it affects the brain. The book also addresses issues that are important to caregivers and families, and it describes the latest scientific efforts to prevent, diagnose and reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

To preview, download or order copies, go to, or call NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center at 1-800-438-4380.



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Herbs at a Glance

Herbal remedies—like green tea, echinacea and St. John’s wort—have been used for centuries to prevent or treat a variety of medical ills. But do they work? This web site has a series of fact sheets about more than 40 herbs and botanicals. Read about their traditional uses, potential side effects and what current science says about their effectiveness.

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