Livin' on the MDedge

Garlic cloves in the nose and beer dreams and pareidolia faces


Insert clove A into nostril B

Just when you start wondering what crazy and potentially dangerous thing people can do to themselves next, comes a crazy and potentially dangerous new trend. The good folks at TikTok have provided patients a new treatment for stuffed up sinuses.

Dangerous? Well, that’s what doctors say, anyway.

“We typically do not recommend putting anything into the nostril for the obvious fact that it could get dislodged or lodged up into the nasal cavity,” Anthony Del Signore, MD, of Mount Sinai Union Square, New York, told TODAY.

“Not only does it have the potential to rot or cause a nasal obstruction, it can induce an episode of sinusitis,” Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, of Providence Saint John’s Health Center, Santa Monica, Calif., explained to Shape.

But who doesn't want to breathe easier and keep blood-sucking vampires at bay?

Garlic heads and cloves Max Pixel

TikTokers are posting videos of themselves sticking garlic cloves in their nostrils for several minutes. They, “then, pull the garlic out, followed, typically, by long strands of mucus,” according to The Hill.

That can’t be real, you’re probably saying. Or maybe you think that no one is actually watching this stuff. Well, wake up! This isn’t network television we’re talking about. It’s freakin’ TikTok! One video has been favorited over half a million times. Another is up to 2.2 million.

It’s all true. Really. We couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried.

Seeing faces in random places?

Ever look up at the clouds, at a fast-moving train, or into your morning bowl of cereal and see two eyes, a nose, and a mouth looking back at you? You may shake it off and think you’re imagining something, but it's actually your brain doing what it’s built to do and researchers know why.

The phenomenon is called face pareidolia, and it’s technically an error function of the human brain. Evolution has molded our brains to rapidly identify faces, according to David Alais, PhD, of the University of Sydney, Australia, lead author of the study.

“But the system plays ‘fast and loose’ by applying a crude template of two eyes over a nose and mouth. Lots of things can satisfy that template and thus trigger a face detection response,” he said in a separate statement. But not only are we seeing faces, our brains go one step further and seemingly give those faces feelings.

Example of pareidolia seen in a boombox University of Sydney

In the study, Dr. Alais and his team looked for two things about each pareidolia face: Was it analyzed for facial expression or just rejected as a face altogether? The participants were shown a series of faces and then asked to rate the expression on a scale from angry to happy. What the researchers found was that once a face was detected, the brain analyzed the pareidolia face in the same way as a human face. Have you ever seen an angry trash can? Or a smile on an over-easy egg?

The other question faced: Was there a bias on emotion? Yup, and excuse the dad joke.

The researchers showed a mixed series of human faces and pareidolia faces to participants and found that responses were influenced by the previous face seen, no matter if the face was human or not.

So if someone smiled at you on the way to the grocery store and you see a grinning tomato in the produce section, your mind is playing tricks on you, and it’s totally normal.

Corporate dream manipulation

Advertisements are quite literally everywhere. On billboards, in commercials, in videos, in movies; the list goes on and on. Still, at least you can shut your eyes and be mercifully free of corporate interference inside your own head, right? Right?

Early in 2021, Coors launched an ad campaign that seemed to be a b bit of a gimmick, if not a joke. Coors claimed that if people watched an ad before bed, and played an 8-hour soundscape while sleeping, their dreams would be filled with crisp mountains and cold, thirst-quenching beverages. While, the Coors campaign didn’t go viral, someone was paying attention. A group of 35 leading researchers published an open letter on the subject of corporate dream manipulation, in the journal Dream Engineering.

"Multiple marketing studies are openly testing new ways to alter and motivate purchasing behavior through dream and sleep hacking. The commercial, for-profit use of dream incubation is rapidly becoming a reality," wrote the investigators. "As sleep and dream researchers, we are deeply concerned about marketing plans aimed at generating profits at the cost of interfering with our natural nocturnal memory processing."

People have tried to manipulate their dreams for countless years, but only in recent years have scientists attempted to target or manipulate behavior through dreams. In a 2014 study, smokers exposed to tobacco smoke and rotten egg smell while sleeping reduced their cigarette consumption by 30%.

Skylight over a person sleeping in a bed Free-Photos/Pixabay

Most research into dream manipulation has been aimed at positive results, but the experts warn that there’s no reason corporations couldn’t use it for their own purposes, especially given the widespread usage of devices such as Alexa. A company could play a certain sound during a commercial, they suggested, and then replay that sound through a device while people are sleeping to trigger a dream about that product.

And just when our COVID-19–driven anxiety dreams were starting to subside.

The experts said that the Federal Trade Commission could intervene to prevent companies from attempting dream manipulation, and have done so in the past to stop subliminal advertising, but as of right now, there’s nothing stopping big business from messing with your dreams. But hey, at least they’re not directly beaming commercials into our heads with gamma radiation. Yet.

Got breast milk?

As we know, breast milk has endless benefits for newbords and babies, but many things can stand in the way of a mother’s ability to breastfeed. Baby formula has served as a good enough substitute. But now, there might be something that’s even better.

A start-up company called BIOMILQ created a product that could be groundbreaking. Using “breakthrough mammary biotechnology,” BIOMILQ created cell-cultured breast milk.

newborn baby drinks milk from a bottle Focus_on_Nature/Getty Images

Leila Strickland, a biologist who is the company’s cofounder and chief science officer, said she’s had her own personal experience with breastfeeding and believes the product could benefit many if just given a chance. "Some of the cells we’ve looked at can produce milk for months and months," according to a company statement

Baby formula has done its job feeding and nourishing babies since 1865, but could BIOMILQ do better?
Time – and babies – will tell.

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