Love hormone ‘helps autistic brain’


Child with autism

The “love hormone” oxytocin alters the brain activity of children with autism and makes them more social, according to US researchers.

The role of the hormone in helping children with autism has been debated, with studies showing conflicting data.

Brain scans, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hint that there is an effect.

The National Autistic Society said research on oxytocin as a treatment was still in its infancy.

What is autism?

  • Autism and Asperger’s syndrome are part of a range of disorders that can cause difficulties with communication and social skills
  • The conditions can lead to isolation and emotional problems for those living with them
  • Conditions can vary from very mild, where the person can function as well as anyone else, to so severe they cannot take part in normal society
  • The conditions are collectively known as autistic spectrum disorders and affect more than 580,000 people in the UK

Oxytocin is naturally produced by the body, triggers labour and is involved in mother and baby bonding.

Seventeen children with autism, aged between eight and 16, were given two nasal spray – one containing oxytocin, the other no drugs at all.

After taking each one, the impact on brain activity was recorded in a scanner while the children were shown “social” pictures of human faces or “non-social” pictures of cars.

The parts of the brain normally associated with social situations appeared more active after the children had been given oxytocin.

‘Exciting’

One of the researchers, Prof Kevin Pelphrey, told the BBC: “We are very excited by the findings, all 17 showed a response, although the response was variable.

“There’s still lots of questions about oxytocin, but this suggests it enhances social brain functions and decreases non-social functions – helping kids to focus on socially relevant information.”

Larger trials are taking place to see what the side-effects and benefits of oxytocin might be in children with autism.

Exactly how the drug should be used is still up for debate, with some suggestions that it would be best used as an aid during current behavioural therapy rather than as a daily medication.

Prof Pelphrey said some parents were giving the drug to their children without medical advice and this was a “terrible idea”.

“It might have no effect or it might cause damage,” he said.

However, he added: “The most exciting finding is not oxytocin, but that you can show changes in the brain by a compound.

“It changes how we think of autism and how treatable it might be.”

Carol Povey, director of the National Autistic Society’s centre for autism, said: “Research investigating the impact oxytocin can have on people with autism is still in its very early stages.

“While the findings of this particular study are interesting, no hard and fast conclusions should be drawn.

“Autism is a very complex disability and can present a variety of challenges that extend beyond social difficulties.

“It’s crucial that those living with the condition have all their needs assessed so that they can access the appropriate support.”

Male pill keeps sperm ‘in storage’


Sperm

The prospect of a “male pill” that would let men enjoy a full sex life with no chance of getting a woman pregnant has moved a step closer.

Scientists in Australia have found a reversible way to stop sperm getting into the ejaculate, without affecting sexual function.

The animal tests showed the sperm could be “kept in storage” during sex.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The quest for the male contraceptive pill has largely focused on getting men to produce non-functional sperm.

But some drugs used for this purpose “have intolerable side-effects,” said Dr Sabatino Ventura, one of the researchers at Monash University.

Drugs can induce infertility, but they may also affect sexual appetite or cause permanent alterations to sperm production.

Sperm stores

The team at Monash used a different approach. Normally, the sperm is moved out of the vas deferens storage area in the testes just before ejaculation.

The group produced genetically modified mice that were unable to squeeze the sperm out of the vas deferens.

Dr Ventura told the BBC: “The sperm stay in the storage site so when the mice ejaculate there’s no sperm and they are infertile.

“It is readily reversible and the sperm are unaffected, but we need to show we can do this pharmacologically, probably with two drugs.”

So far the research group has made the mice infertile by changing their DNA to stop them producing two proteins needed to move the sperm.

The researchers now need to find a pair of drugs that can produce the same effect. They believe one has already been developed and has been used for decades in patients with benign prostate enlargement.

However, they would have to work from scratch to find the second one – a process that could take a decade.

The proteins targeted also have a role in controlling blood vessels; so there could be side-effects on blood pressure and heart rate.

However, in the mice at least, the researchers detected only a “very slight” drop in blood pressure. There could also be an impact on the volume of ejaculate.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield , told the BBC: “It’s a very good study, almost like a biological vasectomy in [that] it stops the sperm coming out.

“It’s a good idea; they need to get on with it and see what it does in people.”

Camera takes 3D photos in the dark


A camera that can create 3D-images in almost pitch black conditions has been developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

3D images of mannequin

The team captured images of objects, using just single particles of light, known as a photons.

“Billions” of photons would be required to take a photo using the camera on a mobile phone.

The researchers say the technology could be used to help soldiers on combat operations.

Ahmed Kirmani, who wrote the paper containing the findings, said the research has been called “counter-intuitive” as normally the number of photons detected would tell you how bright an image was.

“With only one photon per pixel you would expect the image to be completely featureless,” he told the BBC.

Combat advantage

The camera technology already existed and is similar to the Lidar system used by Google for its Streetview service he explained.

Mannequin with laser
Lidar uses laser pulses and the team used the reflected photons to create their 3D image

“We borrowed the principles form this, the detectors can identify single photons but they still need hundreds of thousands to form images. But we took the system to its limit.”

Lidar uses a laser to fire pulses of light towards an object in a grid sequence. Each location on the grid corresponds to a pixel in the final image.

Normally the laser would fire a large number of times at each grid position and detect multiple reflected photons.

In contrast the system used by the MIT team moved on to the next position in the grid as soon as it had detected a single photon.

A conventional Lidar system would require about 100 times as many photons to make a similar image to the one the team captured which means the system could provide “substantial savings in energy and time”.

The team say the technology could be used in many different fields. It could help ophthalmologists when they want to create an image of a patient’s eye without having to shine a bright light in someone’s eye.

The research was part funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which commissions research for the Department of Defense. Mr Kirmani said the military could use the technology to allow soldiers to see in the dark, giving them an advantage in combat situations.

Slide from MIT presentation
Current 3D imaging techniques require more than single photons unlike the team’s new system

“Any technology that enhances a military’s ability to navigate, target or engage in near-total darkness would be highly prized. 3D imagery married with existing imagery and navigation technologies could significantly enhance the capabilities currently possessed,” said Reed Foster, a defence analyst at IHS.

Eventually, the researchers explain, the technology could be developed to make 3D cameras for mobile phones. The camera requires less light than the ones currently available and therefore uses less power.

Microsoft designs stress-busting bra.


Microsoft working on a smart bra to measure mood

A sketch from the research paper
Two sensors were embedded in the bra

Microsoft researchers have designed a smart bra that can detect stress.

The prototype contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity to provide an indication of mood levels.

The aim was to find out if wearable technology could help prevent stress-related over-eating.

Mood data was provided to the wearer via a smartphone app in order to highlight when “emotional eating” was likely to occur.

A team from Microsoft’s visualisation and interaction research group embedded an electrocardiogram and electro-dermal activities sensors as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer in the bra.

In their paper, the researchers say using a bra “was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [electrocardiogram] near the heart”.

Efforts to create a similar piece of underwear for men worked less well, largely because the sensors were located too far away from the heart.

The women testing the technology reported their emotions for about six hours a day over a period of four days.

“It was very tedious for participants to wear our prototyped sensing system, as the boards had to be recharged every three to four hours,” Microsoft senior research designer Asta Roseway said.

Electric shock

Wearable technology is increasingly being used to monitor a range of health conditions.

Last month saw the release of a Twitter-connected bra, that tweeted every time it was unhooked to encourage women to self-examine their breasts.

And last year a patent was awarded to a US firm that was working on a wearable device that analysed breast heat in order to detect cancer.

Meanwhile in response to a series of rapes in India, three engineering students developed a bra loaded with sensors and an electronic circuit that is activated when someone attempts to grope a woman wearing it.

Pulse weapon brings cars to a halt


A British company has demonstrated a prototype device capable of stopping cars and other vehicles using a blast of electromagnetic waves.

The RF Safe-Stop uses radio frequency pulses to “confuse” a vehicle’s electronic systems, cutting its engine.

E2V is one of several companies trying to bring such a product to market.

It said it believed the primary use would be as a non-lethal weapon for the military to defend sensitive locations from vehicles refusing to stop.

There has also been police interest.

The BBC was given a demonstration of the device at Throckmorton Airfield, in Worcestershire.

Deputy Chief Constable Andy Holt, of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), who has evaluated the tech, said the machine had “potential, but it’s very early days yet”.

Radio pulse

At one end of a disused runway, E2V assembled a varied collection of second-hand cars and motorbikes in order to test the prototype against a range of vehicles.

In demonstrations seen by the BBC a car drove towards the device at about 15mph (24km/h).

As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.

“It’s a small radar transmitter,” said Andy Wood, product manager for the machine.

“The RF [radio frequency] is pulsed from the unit just as it would be in radar, it couples into the wiring in the car and that disrupts and confuses the electronics in the car causing the engine to stall.”

He did not provide other specifics. However, the Engineer magazine has reported the device uses L- and S-band radio frequencies, and works at a range of up to 50m (164ft).

Some experts the BBC has spoken with suggested that turning off the engine in this manner would not stop vehicles rapidly enough. Others worried about what effect it might have on a car’s electronic brake and steering systems.

But E2V said the risks were lower than with alternative systems.

Acpo suggested the machine’s ability to stop motorbikes “safely” could prove particularly useful.

Mr Holt noted that the tyre deflation devices used by some police forces posed the risk of causing “serious injury” if used against two-wheelers.

E2V added that its device could also be effective against other types of vehicles, including boats.

But because the device works on electronic systems, he acknowledged that it would not work on all older vehicles.

“Certainly if you took a 1960s Land Rover, there’s a good chance you’re not going to stop it,” Mr Wood said.

The firm added that it did not believe the RF Safe-Stop posed any risk to people using a pacemaker.

Men can’t multitask, women have better memory, study led by Indian-origin scientist reveals.


Men can’t multitask and women have better memory because their brains are wired differently, a new study led by an Indian-origin scientist has found.

The research found striking differences in the neural wiring of men and women, which explains why males excel at certain tasks and females at others.

In one of the largest studies looking at the “connectomes” of the sexes, Ragini Verma, an associate professor in the department of radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues found greater neural connectivity from front to back and within one hemisphere in males.

This suggests male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action.

In contrast, in females, the wiring goes between the left and right hemispheres, suggesting that they facilitate communication between the analytical and intuition.

“These maps show us a stark difference – and complementarity – in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others,” said Verma, who has a PhD in computer vision and mathematics from Indian Institute of Technology Delhi.

In the study, Verma and colleagues investigated the gender-specific differences in brain connectivity during the course of development in 949 individuals (521 females and 428 males) aged 8 to 22 years using diffusion tensor imaging.

DTI is water-based imaging technique that can trace and highlight the fiber pathways connecting the different regions of the brain, laying the foundation for a structural connectome or network of the whole brain.

Researchers found that females displayed greater connectivity in the supratentorial region, which contains the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, between the left and right hemispheres.

Males, on the other hand, displayed greater connectivity within each hemisphere.

By contrast, the opposite prevailed in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that plays a major role in motor control, where males displayed greater inter-hemispheric connectivity and females displayed greater intra-hemispheric connectivity.

These connections likely give men an efficient system for coordinated action, where the cerebellum and cortex participate in bridging between perceptual experiences in the back of the brain, and action, in the front of the brain, researchers said in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

The female connections likely facilitate integration of the analytic and sequential processing modes of the left hemisphere with the spatial, intuitive information processing modes of the right side.

The authors observed only a few gender differences in the connectivity in children younger than 13 years, but the differences were more pronounced in adolescents aged 14 to 17 years and young adults older than 17.

Quantum gas goes below absolute zero .


It may sound less likely than hell freezing over, but physicists have created an atomic gas with a sub-absolute-zero temperature for the first time1. Their technique opens the door to generating negative-Kelvin materials and new quantum devices, and it could even help to solve a cosmological mystery.

Lord Kelvin defined the absolute temperature scale in the mid-1800s in such a way that nothing could be colder than absolute zero. Physicists later realized that the absolute temperature of a gas is related to the average energy of its particles. Absolute zero corresponds to the theoretical state in which particles have no energy at all, and higher temperatures correspond to higher average energies.

However, by the 1950s, physicists working with more exotic systems began to realise that this isn’t always true: Technically, you read off the temperature of a system from a graph that plots the probabilities of its particles being found with certain energies. Normally, most particles have average or near-average energies, with only a few particles zipping around at higher energies. In theory, if the situation is reversed, with more particles having higher, rather than lower, energies, the plot would flip over and the sign of the temperature would change from a positive to a negative absolute temperature, explains Ulrich Schneider, a physicist at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany.

Schneider and his colleagues reached such sub-absolute-zero temperatures with an ultracold quantum gas made up of potassium atoms. Using lasers and magnetic fields, they kept the individual atoms in a lattice arrangement. At positive temperatures, the atoms repel, making the configuration stable. The team then quickly adjusted the magnetic fields, causing the atoms to attract rather than repel each other. “This suddenly shifts the atoms from their most stable, lowest-energy state to the highest possible energy state, before they can react,” says Schneider. “It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak.”

At positive temperatures, such a reversal would be unstable and the atoms would collapse inwards. But the team also adjusted the trapping laser field to make it more energetically favourable for the atoms to stick in their positions. This result, described today in Science1, marks the gas’s transition from just above absolute zero to a few billionths of a Kelvin below absolute zero.

Wolfgang Ketterle, a physicist and Nobel laureate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who has previously demonstrated negative absolute temperatures in a magnetic system2, calls the latest work an “experimental tour de force”. Exotic high-energy states that are hard to generate in the laboratory at positive temperatures become stable at negative absolute temperatures — “as though you can stand a pyramid on its head and not worry about it toppling over,” he notes — and so such techniques can allow these states to be studied in detail. “This may be a way to create new forms of matter in the laboratory,” Ketterle adds.

If built, such systems would behave in strange ways, says Achim Rosch, a theoretical physicist at the University of Cologne in Germany, who proposed the technique used by Schneider and his team3. For instance, Rosch and his colleagues have calculated that whereas clouds of atoms would normally be pulled downwards by gravity, if part of the cloud is at a negative absolute temperature, some atoms will move upwards, apparently defying gravity4.

Another peculiarity of the sub-absolute-zero gas is that it mimics ‘dark energy’, the mysterious force that pushes the Universe to expand at an ever-faster rate against the inward pull of gravity. Schneider notes that the attractive atoms in the gas produced by the team also want to collapse inwards, but do not because the negative absolute temperature stabilises them. “It’s interesting that this weird feature pops up in the Universe and also in the lab,” he says. “This may be something that cosmologists should look at more closely.”

Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year, So What Is The Alternative?


A recent Reuters’ article opened with the following stunning sentence:

Long-term high-dose use of painkillers such as ibuprofen or diclofenac is ‘equally hazardous’ in terms of heart attack risk as use of the drug Vioxx, which was withdrawn due to its potential dangers, researchers said.”  

The 2004 Vioxx recall, as you may remember, was spurred by the nearly 30,000 excess cases of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths caused by the drug between 1999-2003. Despite the fact that scientific research had accumulated as early as 2000 linking Vioxx to increased heart attacks and strokes, the drug’s manufacturer Merck, and the FDA, remained silent as the death toll steadily increased.

Ibuprofen Kills Thousands Each Year, So What Is The Alternative?

The Reuters report focused on new research published in Lancet indicating the risk of heart attack increases as much as a third and the risk of heart failure doubles among heavier users of NSAID drugs.

INFLAMED: Our Default Bodily State

Why are so many folks taking NSAID drugs like ibuprofen anyway?

Pain and unhealthy levels of inflammation are fast becoming default bodily states in the industrialized world. While in most cases we can adjust the underlying pro-inflammatory conditions by altering our diet, and reducing stress and environmental chemical exposures, these approaches take time, discipline and energy, and sometimes we just want the pain to stop now. In those often compulsive moments we find ourselves popping an over-the-counter pill to kill the pain.

The problem with this approach is that, if we do it often enough, we may kill ourselves along with the pain…

Ibuprofen really is a perfect example of this. As mentioned above, this petrochemical-derivative has been linked to significantly increased risk of heart attack and increased cardiacand all-cause mortality (when combined with aspirin), with over two dozen serious adverse health effects, including:

  1. Anemia[1]
  2. DNA Damage[2]
  3. Hearing Loss[3]
  4. Hypertension[4]
  5. Influenza Mortality[5]
  6. Miscarriage[6]

Ibuprofen is, in fact, not unique in elevating cardiovascular disease risk and/or mortality. The entire category of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) appears to have this under-recognized dark side; cardiovascular disease and cardiac mortality score highest on the list of over 100 unintended adverse health effects associated with their use. See also our analysis of the rarely acknowledged dark side to aspirin: The Evidence Against Aspirin And For Natural Alternatives.

So, what does one do? Pain is pain. Whether it happens to you, or you witness it in another (which can be worse), finding relief is a top priority.

Ibuprofen Kills More Than Pain, So What Is The Alternative?

Research on Natural Alternatives To Ibuprofen

Here is some evidence-based research on alternatives to ibuprofen, sourced from the National Library of Medicine:

  1. Ginger – A 2009 study found that ginger capsules (250 mg, four times daily) were as effective as the drugs mefenamic acid and ibuprofen for relieving pain in women associated with their menstrual cycle (primary dysmenorrhea). [7]
  2. Topical Arnica – A 2007 human study found that topical treatment with arnica was as effective as ibuprofen for hand osteoarthritis, but with lower incidence of side effects.[8]
  3. Combination: Astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba and Vitamin C – A 2011 animal study found this combination to be equal to or better than ibuprofen for reducing asthma-associated respiratory inflammation.[9]
  4. Chinese Skullcap (baicalin) – A 2003 animal study found that a compound in Chinese skullcap known as baicalin was equipotent to ibuprofen in reducing pain.[10]
  5. Omega-3 fatty acids: A 2006 human study found that omega-3 fatty acids (between 1200-2400 mg daily) were as effective as ibuprofen in reducing arthritis pain, but with the added benefit of having less side effects.[11]
  6. Panax Ginseng – A 2008 animal study found that panax ginseng had analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity similar to ibuprofen, indicating its possible anti-rheumatoid arthritis properties.[12]
  7. St. John’s Wort – A 2004 animal study found that St. John’s wort was twice as effective as ibuprofen as a pain-killer.[13]
  8. Anthrocyanins from Sweet Cherries & Raspberries – A 2001 study cell study found that anthrocyanins extracted from raspberries and sweet cherries were as effective as ibuprofen and naproxen at suppressing the inflammation-associated enzyme known as cyclooxygenase-1 and 2.[14]
  9. Holy Basil – A 2000 study found that holy basil contains compounds with anti-inflammatory activity comparable to ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin.[15]
  10. Olive Oil (oleocanthal) – a compound found within olive oil known as oleocanthal has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties similar to ibuprofen.[16]
  11. There are, of course, hundreds of additional substances which have been studied for their pain-killing and/or anti-inflammatory effects, and there are also aromatherapeutic approachesthat do not require the ingestion of anything at all, but there is also a danger here. When we think of taking an alternative pain-killer to ibuprofen, we are still thinking within the palliative, allopathic medical model: suppress the symptom, and go on about our business. It would behoove us to look deeper into what is causing our pain. And when possible, remove the cause(s). And that often requires a dramatic dietary shift away from pro-inflammatory foods, many of which most Westerners still consider absolutely delightful, e.g. wheat, dairy,nighshade vegetables and even wheat-free grains, etc.

    [1] Direct cytotoxicity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in acidic media: model study on human erythrocytes with DIDS-inhibited anion exchanger. Pharmazie. 2002 Dec;57(12):848-51. PMID: 12561250

    [2] Genotoxicity of ibuprofen in mouse bone marrow cells in vivo. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2012 Jan 27. Epub 2012 Jan 27. PMID: 22283434

    [3] Analgesic use and the risk of hearing loss in men. Am J Med. 2010 Mar;123(3):231-7. PMID: 20193831

    [4] Effect on blood pressure of lumiracoxib versus ibuprofen in patients with osteoarthritis and controlled hypertension: a randomized trial. J Hypertens. 2008 Aug;26(8):1695-702. PMID: 18622250

    [5] The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analysis. J R Soc Med. 2010 Oct;103(10):403-11. PMID: 20929891

    [6]  Taking non-aspirin NSAIDs in early pregnancy doubles risk of miscarriage, study shows. BMJ. 2011 ;343:d5769. Epub 2011 Sep 9. PMID: 21908536

    [7] Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Feb 13. PMID: 19216660

    [8] Choosing between NSAID and arnica for topical treatment of hand osteoarthritis in a randomised, double-blind study. Rheumatol Int. 2007 Apr;27(6):585-91. Epub 2007 Feb 22. PMID: 17318618

    [9] Summative interaction between astaxanthin, Ginkgo biloba extract (EGb761) and vitamin C in suppression of respiratory inflammation: a comparison with ibuprofen. Phytother Res. 2011 Jan;25(1):128-36. PMID: 20632299

    [10] The antiinflammatory and analgesic effects of baicalin in carrageenan-evoked thermal hyperalgesia. Anesth Analg. 2003 Dec;97(6):1724-9. PMID: 14633550

    [11] Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006 Apr;65(4):326-31. PMID:16531187

    [12] Potential analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Panax ginseng head butanolic fraction in animals. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 Dec;46(12):3749-52. Epub 2008 Oct 1. PMID:18930781

    [13] Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extracts of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) preparation. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2004 Jul;17(2):13-9. PMID: 16414593

    [14] Cyclooxygenase inhibitory and antioxidant cyanidin glycosides in cherries and berries. Phytomedicine. 2001 Sep;8(5):362-9. PMID: 11695879

    [15] Antioxidant and cyclooxygenase inhibitory phenolic compounds from Ocimum sanctum Linn. Phytomedicine. 2000 Mar;7(1):7-13. PMID: 10782484

    [16] Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal. Curr Pharm Des. 2011 ;17(8):754-68. PMID:21443487

     

8 Signs You’re Meant for Something Bigger on This Planet.


“You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!” ~ Eckhart Tolle

I’ve known since I was very young that I was destined for big things. I mean really. The first thing I knew I wanted to be when I grew up was the Easter Bunny. And I’m Jewish. Now as you cut through your giggles, here’s what I’m pretty sure I actually meant by that — I knew from very early on that societal constraints, “shoulds”, and rules didn’t really mean anything. I could be and do anything I wanted.

And then I found road blocks; or maybe just the speed bumps of life. I kept reaching for more, but encountered fear, doubt, challenging situations, and naysayers. Thankfully, I never stopped believing. I always knew it was possible to live into the vastness of my visions, and become as big as I wanted. It’s taken time to align the my beliefs with this truth inside of me so that I could live into my knowing, but it’s been worth it.

And I’m definitely not alone. This beautiful planet is crawling with those of us who want to make a difference; who know we are capable of anything. Some of us are there living it fully, some are in the midst of the dance of taking a few steps forward and a couple of steps back (hint: good old self sabotage; something I know well), and others are just beginning to wake up to the realization that this knowing has been inside of them all along, and it’s time to do something about it. But no matter where you are, fear not. Often it’s just the stuff we think gets in our way that’s actually supporting us in getting there! So, to prove it to you, I’ve compiled 8 signs that point out that likelihood that you’re probably meant for something bigger; and that you’re destined to get there.

1. You suck at working for other people.

You’re a born leader and you know it. Or maybe you don’t know it. But either way, you’re just NOT into doing things that aren’t catalyzing big change. You feel stuck working for others. You want freedom, flexibility, creativity, and expansion, and you just don’t feel you can fully achieve that while working for someone else. You know that your vision is worth something, and that getting to apply ALL of your gifts is the only way you’ll be fully satisfied.

2. You tend to put things off until you’re really inspired.

So you call yourself a procrastinator. There is such a thing as self sabotaging procrastination, but if you’re meant for something bigger (which, if you’re reading this, I have a sneaking suspicion you are), there will also be times when you believe you must get something done because that’s what you think is going to get you from point A to point B. But what if you actually thrive off of inspiration, versus obligation?You deserve to be able to evaluate which is true for you in each moment. Is fear holding you back from chipping away at your to-do list? Or is it because you’re lacking inspiration. If it’s the latter, trust that doing exactly what you’re inspired to do is leading you to where you need to be. Often that inspiration knows more than we do about what’s really possible.

3. As a kid you thought adults who wore suits and went off to work were crazy.

You’ve always known somewhere deep within you that there was more to life than living a cookie-cutter, safe, pragmatic lifestyle. You knew you could have a bigger impact on the world if you did it your way, and that your way would involve more freedom and flexibility than those crazy adult-types had. And now, whether you’ve fully achieved it yet or not, you know that that feeling you had as a kid is utterly true. You’ve witnessed and felt what it’s like to live just as much on purpose in your flip flops as you have your business suit.

4. You love what you do so much you’d do it for free.

Here’s the irony – you deserve to know your value, and the more you begin to charge your full value for the contribution you’re making to the world, the more value those you serve will actually receive. However, you know you’re on purpose and meant to do big things when you love what you do so much that while you’re doing it money is not even on your mind.

5. You’re an idealist. You see the world at its best, and will stop at nothing to get there.

When I was a kid I used to get called an “idealist” all the time. At first I thought it was a compliment. I’d think “yeah that’s right, it is possible for the world to be that loving and amazing”. Then, toward early adulthood I began to get triggered by the word, as if people were saying that I couldn’t actually achieve that; that the world wasn’t actually supposed to be the amazing place I knew it could be. Now, I could care less what people think or call me. My name is Jordanna, and I am an idealist. By living in my own little world of my vision and my creations, my personal world often actually appears as “ideal” as I know one day the entire world can be. So really, who cares what’s true and what’s not if I’m having fun and serving others while doing it? Being an idealist doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you a creator.

6. You can’t always say how you know things, but sometimes you just “know”.

Visionaries don’t usually get their visions from what’s outside of them or from what the world tells them they should create. They get their visions from an internal drive to create what feels right for them. That “knowing” of what they need to create goes hand in hand with a knowing of all sorts of things. Call it intuition, call it gut feeling, call it spidey senses. If you are meant for something bigger in this world, that knowing will keep speaking up and asking you for what it wants. So really, creating big things is not an option when it’s your destiny. At least, that’s what I’m pretty sure your spidey senses would tell you.

7. You feel things. Big time.

Most of the clients I work with you are meant for big things in the world tend to feel pretty deeply. You may not have been taught that it’s okay to feel. You may have been taught, in fact, that your feelings will get in the way of being awesome. Well, let’s reframe that. Sometimes our feelings are our TRUTH. Your ability to be big, and contribute to the world in a huge way is dependent upon your truth. So allow your feelings to show up, and to guide you to where you need to be. Your creations depend upon it.

8. You’re more frustrated by having too many ideas than you are by not having any at all.

You tend to get inspired easily. In fact, the more awesome your life becomes, the more inspired YOU become. But sometimes it’s a bit of a conundrum. You know you’re meant to create big things, but if you’re not careful you can allow yourself to get stopped up by ALL of the things you want to create, without actually getting anything done. Don’t let this get to you. Be grateful that you’re so full of awesome ideas. If you’re not sure where to start or what to focus on, call upon some support. But don’t let your plethora of visions within your vision get in the way.

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” ~ William Shakespeare

And here’s the caveat, I actually believe that we’re all meant for big things if we allow ourselves to listen to the stirring of our soul. When we let go of “perfect timing”, and recognize that “too late” does not exist, it becomes easier to allow that stirring to become a rising up of awesome. I’ve coached 13 year olds and 70+ year olds into living their visions. If they can do it, so can you.

What other signs have you seen show up in your life that are calling you to something bigger?

Candy Crush Saga: The Science Behind Our Addiction.


A year after the game’s mobile launch, we still can’t stop playing. The app’s designer and psychology experts weigh in on exactly what makes it so irresistible

If you haven’t heard of Candy Crush, it’s the mobile game that’s so addictive, players say they have left their children stranded at school, abandoned housework and even injured themselves as they try to reach new levels of the game.

Candy Crush

Candy Crush has been played 151 billion times since it launched as an app on mobile devices exactly year ago. And it’s the first game to ever be No. 1 on iOS, Android and Facebook at the same time. Candy Crush’s creator, King, a Stockholm-based company, says 1 in every 23 Facebook users plays it. And while Candy Crush is free, the in-game purchases that some players choose to make add up. Think Gaming, which releases gaming analytics, estimates that it takes in $875,382 per day. (By comparison, another insanely popular mobile game, Angry Birds, takes in an estimated $6,381 daily.)

All that adds up to some seriously distracted users. A survey by Ask Your Target Market polled 1,000 players and found that 32% of them ignored friends or family to play the game, 28% played during work, 10% got into arguments with significant others over how long they played, and 30% said they were “addicted.”

But there are lots of amusing games out there, so what’s so addictive about this one?

We asked Tommy Palm, one of the game’s designers, what the King team did to get us hooked. We also called a few psychology experts and players to understand the backstory on why their tactics worked so well. Here are the nine reasons they say Candy Crush is so irresistible:

1. It Makes You Wait

Perhaps the most genius element of Candy Crush is its ability to make you long for it. You get five chances (lives) to line up the requisite number of candy icons. Once you run out of lives, you have to wait in 30-minute increments to continue play. Or, if you’re impatient, you can pay to get back in the game — which is why it’s bringing in so much revenue. “You can’t just play all the time. You run out of lives,” says Andy Jarc, 22, one of the few players to reach level 440 in the game. “So the fact that they kind of constrain you — the whole mantra, ‘You always want what you can’t have.’ I can’t have more lives and I want them.”

“I think it makes the game more fun long term,” says designer Palm. “If you have a game that consumes a lot of mental bandwidth, you will continue playing it without noticing that you’re hungry or need to go to the bathroom. But then you binge and eventually you stop playing. It’s much better from an entertainment point of view to create a more balanced experience where you have natural breaks.”

2. We’re All Suckers for Sweet Talk

You flick four candies in a row, and they zap away. Candies above begin to cascade down, making even more matches. At the end words pop up on your screen, accompanied by a voice that says “Sweet” or “Delicious.” This feedback is essential for player immersion. “Positive rewards are the main reason people become addicted to things,” says Dr. Kimberly Young, a pioneering expert on Internet and gaming addiction who treats those addicted to the cyberworld. “When you play the game, you feel better about yourself.”

3. You Can Play With One Hand 

According to Palm, the icons and setup were created so players could multitask. You can play Candy Crush while carrying a drink, toting a purse or bag, clinging to a subway pole, or hiding your phone under the table. That’s a huge advantage and makes this game perfect for a train ride, a distraction while you’re waiting to see a doctor, or something to get you through boring meetings. Plus, you can play offline as well — so even if you’re stuck in a tunnel, you can be “crushing.”

4. There’s Always More

According to Palm, the Candy Crush team updates the game constantly and creates new levels every two weeks. Right now there are 544 levels. “Just three years ago, a game with 30 levels would be astonishing,” King says. “And now with this game, it has raised the bar with how much content a mobile game should and will have.”

Plus, on any single level, there’s no way to fail. If you run out of options on a board — and that happens once in a blue moon — the board immediately resets. You never get stuck. You can’t lose. “I believe this is part of the reinforcing pattern which keeps you playing,” says Dr. Dinah Miller, a psychiatrist who has written about the addicting elements of another popular game, Angry Birds. The game only ends when you’ve run out of your allotted number of moves “and you can end that frustration by buying your way out.”

5. You Don’t Have to Pay – but if You Want to, It’s Easy

King reports that of all the players on its last level — 544 — more than 60% of them didn’t pay a cent to buy extra lives or chances to get there. But if you want to pay, it’s easy. Connected to Facebook or the app store? Just click to pay.

6. It Taps Into Our Inner Child

“Many people have had a very positive feeling about candy since they were kids,” says Palm. “And it makes for a really nice visual game board with a lot of color and interesting shapes.” In fact, when you play you feel as if you’re transported into an entire Candy Land experience. The game pieces are candy, and the homepage for the game looks like the traditional Candy Land board, with your Facebook friends’ pictures displayed as pieces on that board, sitting at whatever level they’re stuck on.

7. It’s Social

Social games — any game that allows you to connect with your friends through a social-media platform like Facebook — have taken off. Whether it’s Words With Friends, Kingdoms of Camelot or Candy Crush, the ability to play with, or compete against, friends is irresistible. “Look, nobody’s coming to me because they have a clinical addiction to Candy Crush,” says Young. “It’s more of a social addiction, if you will.”

8. It’s an Escape

“When you read the research about gaming,” Young says, “you’re often looking at people who are distracting themselves from something in their lives.” The relaxing exercise of lining up candies to the tune of upbeat music is a perfect stress reliever.

9.  It Grows on You

This isn’t your average “line up three” game. “I started playing, and at first I was like whatever, it’s just bejeweled,” says Jarc. “But as I played more and more, it became addicting.”

King’s high-level of attentiveness toward updating gameplay has made it better quality than most casual games that are out there. When players took to Facebook to express their frustration with level 65 — notoriously one of the hardest levels in the game — King went into the game and altered the level to make it easier (though not too easy) multiple times.