Alex Eben Meyer

Alex Eben Meyer

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What many of us have suspected since COVID entered our lives has now been shown by Yale researchers to be true. Connecting on Zoom is just not the same as connecting with a real, live three-dimensional person.

The researchers paired off individuals to engage in live interactions and individuals to converse over Zoom. Using imaging technology, they recorded the neural system responses in each conversation. The result: compared to the face-to-face chats, neural signaling on Zoom was dramatically reduced. Those who spoke face-to-face gazed longer, and their pupil diameters increased—signs of higher engagement. Researchers also found more coordinated neural activity between the brains of the pairs conversing in person, which suggests an increase in reciprocal exchanges of social cues. The researchers’ work illustrates just how important face-to-face interactions are to our natural social behaviors.
In an effort to reduce the appeal of smoking—especially to young people—municipalities across the US, and some states, have restricted the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. But tobacco companies have introduced “non-menthol” cigarette brands as substitutes, marketed as “fresh” alternatives. The packaging and advertising are similar to those of their menthol counterparts.

Using chemical analysis, researchers at Yale and Duke identified a synthetic flavoring agent in several of the new non-menthol cigarettes. The flavor delivers cooling sensations similar to, or stronger than, those of menthol.
The researchers note that replacing menthol with a synthetic agent could derail both current and proposed federal menthol bans. Instead, they say, the FDA could work to address the additives that could bypass tobacco product flavor regulations.

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