Why Montrealers Can Expect A Psychedelics Revolution

Momentum is pushing the movement forward, including in our own city.

Ilana BelferPublished December 30 2020Updated December 31 2020 at 07:38 AMArticle Featured Imagefieldtriphealth | Instagram Kyrylo Vasilev | Dreamstime

At a time when weed is sold at the SQDC and Canadians’ mental health is at an all-time low, Montreal’s psychedelics community says change is coming.

Since August, Health Canada has granted five legal exemptions to Canadians requesting access to psilocybin —”magic mushroom” — therapy for both end-of-life care and severe mental trauma

Health Canada also announced on December 11 that it hopes to revise its Special Access Program (SAP), making it easier to access psychedelics in special cases.

Editor’s Choice: 19 Montreal Musicians To Discover While You’re Cooped Up In Your Apartment

Jessica Cadoch, executive director of the Montreal Psychedelic Society, told MTL Blog that momentum really “mushroomed — for lack of a better term” when Michael Pollan’s book about the science of psychedelics, How to Change Your Mind, came out in 2018, the same year recreational cannabis became legal in Canada.

With 2020 (mostly! finally!) behind us, Quebecers are looking to the future, wondering, “What’s next?” — particularly, in the world of health and wellness.

The psychedelics movement is one answer. But it’s also more than that. According to Cadoch, it’s “a revolution.” 

How are psychedelics used in therapy?

Eskymaks | Dreamstime

Field Trip Health, a psychedelics-centred wellness company, co-founded by former Montrealer Joseph del Moral, describes psychedelic medicine on its website as “various techniques using psychedelic molecules for improving mental health and overall wellbeing.” 

The most commonly used molecules come from psilocybin, which can be found in “magic” mushrooms, and other molecules in drugs like MDMA and ketamine, which produce varying degrees of psychoactive effects.

Field Trip is also in the process of developing its own psychedelic molecules to be used medically.

FT-104, for example, aims to be as potent as psilocybin with a shorter trip time — useful in medical settings when patients don’t want to be holed up in a clinic for hours while high. 

Research into psychedelic therapy is already showing promising results for people suffering from depressionaddictionpost-traumatic stress disorder and more. 

“There really hasn’t been much advancement in the treatment of chronic mental health conditions, especially depression, in the last 30 years,” del Moral told MTL Blog.

“The science behind psychedelics shows very high response rates on the order of 50 to 70% and the effects are often long-lasting. Ketamine on the order of weeks to months. Psilocybin and MDMA on the order of months to years.”

What would a psychedelic-assisted therapy patient experience? 

Del Moral described the process for a patient being treated with ketamine at a Field Trip clinic — located in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago — step-by-step.

  1. The patient is screened by a psychiatrist to make sure they’re suitable for this treatment.
  2. The patient comes in for an initial meeting with a therapist who prepares them for their psychedelic experience.
  3. The patient comes in for their first dosing day. At the appointment, del Moral says “they’re sitting in this super comfortable zero-gravity chair that reclines all the way flat, they have an eye mask on, they’re listening to a specially curated list of psychedelic music, they have a weighted blanket on them. They’re in this experience with their own thoughts for an hour… we spent a lot of time and effort designing the clinics to be beautiful comfortable spaces.” 
  4. When the patient comes out of that part of the experience, the therapist — who’s in the room with them — engages them in a light form of therapy called “exploratory therapy,” during which they discuss thoughts the person had under the influence. A course of ketamine-assisted therapy is typically six doses over three to four weeks. 
  5. The insights patients develop during the psychedelic experience are written down by the therapist and used in future therapy sessions. This is called integration therapy. 

“What we hear most often from our patients is they thought about the [life experiences causing them suffering] in a whole new way. They looked at it from a different angle they’d never been able to consider before,” del Moral said. 

What’s currently available in Montreal?

At this point, ketamine is the only psychedelic drug doctors can legally prescribe in Canada, so it’s the only form of psychedelic-assisted therapy being offered in the country.

Earlier this month, Mindspace, a Montreal-based wellness clinic, announced it was launching the first psychedelic-assisted therapy program in Quebec with plans to begin treating patients using ketamine before the end of 2020.

Mindspace founder Dr. Joe Flanders told MTL Blog the clinic is administering doses of ketamine using SPRAVATO, a nasal spray recently approved by Health Canada.

This is the first time ketamine has been approved for this purpose.

“It allows us to start helping our clients by enhancing therapy with a psychedelic compound, but doing it in a totally legit and above-board context,” Dr. Flanders said. 

Mindspace has also been offering “Psychedelic Harm Reduction and Integration” for the past year-and-a-half.

This program coaches people who “intend to or have had psychedelic experiences” on their own time, but does not provide access to psychedelic compounds. 

In addition, the Montreal Psychedelic Society offers a wide range of community programming — from harm reduction workshops to “chillout” sessions on Discord

What can we expect in the near future?

“What we’re really waiting for is the green light to use psilocybin and MDMA because those are the most impactful tools,” said Dr. Flanders.

He estimated that we’re three to five years away from “totally mainstream above-board access” to psilocybin and MDMA.

First, the drugs need to “cross the finish line” of phase three clinical trials, then be approved by the FDA and Health Canada.

After that, Dr. Flanders said there will be an enormous need for mental health professionals trained to deliver this new kind of psychotherapy.

Then there’s the question of how these drugs will be regulated in Quebec.

“The rest of Canada tend[s] to land in similar places around regulating certain medical practices. Quebec always sort of does its own thing and it’s very hard to predict if they’ll be ahead of the curve or behind the curve,” Dr. Flanders said.

In addition to medical use, del Moral said Field Trip is preparing for the non-medical wellness uses of psychedelics.

The company is growing and studying 25 species and strains of magic mushrooms in Jamaica through a partnership with the University of the West Indies.

They want to learn how to make extractions and quantify amounts of psilocybin in the mushrooms so people know how much they’re dosing.

“That was an investment we made thinking that sometime in the next five to 10 years there might be a wellness market opening up around the world […] but these jurisdictions are opening up much faster than we had anticipated,” he said.

Dr. Flanders agreed in terms of hoping psychedelics become available to a broader spectrum of people, including those who are “really stressed out” or facing “the kinds of ups and downs many of us face without qualifying for a psychiatric disease.” 

Cadoch told MTL Blog psychedelics could lead to a paradigm shift, “forcing us to reimagine concepts of care.” 

“The difference… is that we live in a world where [patients say], “Hey, I have a symptom. Treat my symptom.’ But with psychedelic therapy it’s, ‘Let’s get to the root cause of things,'” she explained.

“Psychedelics do not fix you. […] Psychedelic-assisted therapy with proper preparation, proper integration and the proper tools to make sense of your experience can provide you with an opportunity to start working on yourself. But you still have to do that work.”

Cadoch said activists in the psychedelics community are worried about for-profit companies entering this grassroots space without concern for existing morals.

She said she’d like to see professionals in the field sign the North Star ethics pledge, a promise to focus on shared values and ethics when making psychedelic products.

Cadoch also said she hopes for equal access to treatment — something Mindspace committed to in launching its accessibility program.  

This type of therapy isn’t currently eligible for insurance coverage. Between the cost of new drug formats and hours of specialized therapy, “it is a really expensive process,” Cadoch said. 

“We have to make sure we do it carefully.”

Octopus And Squid Evolution Is Officially Stranger Than We Could Have Ever Imagined


Just when we thought octopuses couldn’t be any weirder, it turns out that they and their cephalopod brethren evolve differently from nearly every other organism on the planet.

In a surprising twist, in April 2017 scientists discovered that octopuses, along with some squid and cuttlefish species, routinely edit their RNA (ribonucleic acid) sequences to adapt to their environment.

This is weird because that’s really not how adaptations usually happen in multicellular animals. When an organism changes in some fundamental way, it typically starts with a genetic mutation – a change to the DNA.

Those genetic changes are then translated into action by DNA’s molecular sidekick, RNA. You can think of DNA instructions as a recipe, while RNA is the chef that orchestrates the cooking in the kitchen of each cell, producing necessary proteins that keep the whole organism going.

But RNA doesn’t just blindly execute instructions – occasionally it improvises with some of the ingredients, changing which proteins are produced in the cell in a rare process called RNA editing.

When such an edit happens, it can change how the proteins work, allowing the organism to fine-tune its genetic information without actually undergoing any genetic mutations. But most organisms don’t really bother with this method, as it’s messy and causes problems more often that solving them.

“The consensus among folks who study such things is Mother Nature gave RNA editing a try, found it wanting, and largely abandoned it,” Anna Vlasits reported for Wired.

But it looks like cephalopods didn’t get the memo.

In 2015, researchers discovered that the common squid has edited more than 60 percent of RNA in its nervous system. Those edits essentially changed its brain physiology, presumably to adapt to various temperature conditions in the ocean.

The team returned in 2017 with an even more startling finding – at least two species of octopus and one cuttlefish do the same thing on a regular basis. To draw evolutionary comparisons, they also looked at a nautilus and a gastropod slug, and found their RNA-editing prowess to be lacking.

“This shows that high levels of RNA editing is not generally a molluscan thing; it’s an invention of the coleoid cephalopods,” said co-lead researcher, Joshua Rosenthal of the US Marine Biological Laboratory.

The researchers analysed hundreds of thousands of RNA recording sites in these animals, who belong to the coleoid subclass of cephalopods. They found that clever RNA editing was especially common in the coleoid nervous system.

“I wonder if it has to do with their extremely developed brains,” geneticist Kazuko Nishikura from the US Wistar Institute, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Ed Yong at The Atlantic

It’s true that coleoid cephalopods are exceptionally intelligent. There are countless riveting octopus escape artist stories out there, not to mention evidence of tool use, and that one eight-armed guy at a New Zealand aquarium who learned to photograph people. (Yes, really.)

So it’s certainly a compelling hypothesis that octopus smarts might come from their unconventionally high reliance on RNA edits to keep the brain going.

“There is something fundamentally different going on in these cephalopods,” said Rosenthal.

But it’s not just that these animals are adept at fixing up their RNA as needed – the team found that this ability came with a distinct evolutionary tradeoff, which sets them apart from the rest of the animal world.

In terms of run-of-the-mill genomic evolution (the one that uses genetic mutations, as mentioned above), coleoids have been evolving really, really slowly. The researchers claimed that this has been a necessary sacrifice – if you find a mechanism that helps you survive, just keep using it.

“The conclusion here is that in order to maintain this flexibility to edit RNA, the coleoids have had to give up the ability to evolve in the surrounding regions – a lot,” said Rosenthal.

As the next step, the team will be developing genetic models of cephalopods so they can trace how and when this RNA editing kicks in. 

“It could be something as simple as temperature changes or as complicated as experience, a form of memory,” said Rosenthal.

The findings have been published in Cell.

A version of this story was originally published in April 2017.

British brand’s best-selling Deep Sleep Pillow Spray sees over 50pc jump in sales during Covid-19 lockdown

Wednesday, 30 Dec 2020 01:10 PM MYT


This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray helps induce sleep naturally using calming essential oils. ― Picture via Instagram/This Works
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray helps induce sleep naturally using calming essential oils. ― Picture via Instagram/This Works

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 ― As a beauty brand that prides itself on being experts in the science of sleep since 2004, This Works couldn’t be more relevant for a year full of anxieties and sleepless nights.

Known for its award-winning, natural sleep solutions, the London-based company recorded a 50 per cent increase in sales for its highly raved-about Deep Sleep Pillow Spray (RM105) between March and October when the world went into isolation to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“It’s been notable in lockdown that consumers now more than ever are making the link between their wellbeing and their skin health, and we have seen this in regards to our pillow sprays, body oils and candles which have seen significant growth since March,” This Works chief executive office Anna Persaud told Malay Mail.

This Works CEO Anna Persaud many are finding it hard to switch off due to increased stress and disrupted daily routines during the pandemic. ― Picture via Instagram/This Works
This Works CEO Anna Persaud many are finding it hard to switch off due to increased stress and disrupted daily routines during the pandemic. ― Picture via Instagram/This Works

“So many of us have experienced a period of disrupted sleep and its repercussions on our skin and wellbeing.”

The most common concern Persaud and her team received this year are problems falling asleep and staying asleep.

She said many are experiencing a sustained level of increased stress as well as disrupted daily routines that are making it harder for people to switch off and upsetting their normal rhythm.

“Generally, our advice is to proactively prepare for sleep by which we mean establish and maintain an evening routine rather than waiting until our head hits the pillow to try and wind down,” said Persaud who has a PhD in Biochemistry.

The yoga enthusiast and mum of three also shared her personal pre-sleep routine that helps her fall asleep quickly:

• Keeping lighting low in the evening, using up-lighters only versus overhead lighting.

• Burning This Works sleep oil in the hour or so before bed to help relax.

• Banning loud sounds or music and listening to calming music instead.

• Only eating light meals in the evening.

• Avoiding overstimulation, for example, Persaud would never watch anything distressing or frightening.

Their Deep Sleep Pillow Spray promises to help you fall asleep faster naturally and makes you feel more refreshed in the morning.

The sleep-helper products have also been tested by more than 900 participants in six independent user trials as well as clinical and neuroimaging studies.

Before the pillow sprays became a staple on many bedside tables around the world, the brand’s original pillow spray, featuring a soothing blend of lavender, camomile and vetivert was originally bottled in 2007 for Crowne Plaza Hotels as a turn-down gift.

They have since sold over six million pillow sprays.

Last year, the brand was acquired by Canopy Growth, the world’s largest Cannabis company.

With sleep and stress management being This Works’ strong selling points, Persaud said the brand is well-placed to respond to consumers’ rising demand for products that support both their skin health and overall wellbeing.

“However, this year has taught us to take nothing for granted and to be quick in responding to consumer demand for products that help them to tackle their daily stresses proactively and which help to calm, comfort and protect us against the new everyday stresses we face,” she added.

This Works fans can look forward to interesting products that have been created to cleanse the skin whilst offering antiviral and antibacterial properties.

Persaud also teased a line of bodycare and skincare products that help combat the increased washing many have been doing this year that’s causing dryness and irritation.

“I also think a fundamental shift has happened this year where more than ever consumers are looking for brands they trust, with values they recognise,” she said when asked how the pandemic has changed beauty brands.

“Quite rightly brands are being held accountable for not just the efficacy of our products but also for how we operate and conduct our businesses.”

Looking back on 2020, the former LVMH group Parfums Christian Dior marketing director said her biggest takeaway from the year professionally was to not take anything for granted.

“And not to be afraid of making changes to long-established plans if they no longer best serve the business.

“Personally, to be thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones and again not to take it for granted,” she said.

You don’t code? Do machine learning straight from Microsoft Excel

Ben Dickson, TechTalks@BenDee983December 30, 2020 9:58 AMAI

Excel Machine learning

Transform 2021

Join us for the world’s leading event about accelerating enterprise transformation with AI and Data, for enterprise technology decision-makers, presented by the #1 publisher in AI and DataLearn MoreADVERTISEMENT

Machine learning and deep learning have become an important part of many applications we use every day. There are few domains that the fast expansion of machine learning hasn’t touched. Many businesses have thrived by developing the right strategy to integrate machine learning algorithms into their operations and processes. Others have lost ground to competitors after ignoring the undeniable advances in artificial intelligence.

But mastering machine learning is a difficult process. You need to start with a solid knowledge of linear algebra and calculus, master a programming language such as Python, and become proficient with data science and machine learning libraries such as Numpy, Scikit-learn, TensorFlow, and PyTorch.4KPlayUnmuteDuration 1:28Toggle Close Captions/Current Time 0:35Loaded: 43.64% FullscreenUp Next

And if you want to create machine learning systems that integrate and scale, you’ll have to learn cloud platforms such as Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud.

Naturally, not everyone needs to become a machine learning engineer. But almost everyone who is running a business or organization that systematically collects and processes can benefit from some knowledge of data science and machine learning. Fortunately, there are several courses that provide a high-level overview of machine learning and deep learning without going too deep into math and coding.ADVERTISEMENT

But in my experience, a good understanding of data science and machine learning requires some hands-on experience with algorithms. In this regard, a very valuable and often-overlooked tool is Microsoft Excel.

To most people, MS Excel is a spreadsheet application that stores data in tabular format and performs very basic mathematical operations. But in reality, Excel is a powerful computation tool that can solve complicated problems. Excel also has many features that allow you to create machine learning models directly into your workbooks.

While I’ve been using Excel’s mathematical tools for years, I didn’t come to appreciate its use for learning and applying data science and machine learning until I picked up Learn Data Mining Through Excel: A Step-by-Step Approach for Understanding Machine Learning Methods by Hong Zhou.

Learn Data Mining Through Excel takes you through the basics of machine learning step by step and shows how you can implement many algorithms using basic Excel functions and a few of the application’s advanced tools.

While Excel will in no way replace Python machine learning, it is a great window to learn the basics of AI and solve many basic problems without writing a line of code.

Linear regression machine learning with Excel

Linear regression is a simple machine learning algorithm that has many uses for analyzing data and predicting outcomes. Linear regression is especially useful when your data is neatly arranged in tabular format. Excel has several features that enable you to create regression models from tabular data in your spreadsheets.ADVERTISEMENT

One of the most intuitive is the data chart tool, which is a powerful data visualization feature. For instance, the scatter plot chart displays the values of your data on a cartesian plane. But in addition to showing the distribution of your data, Excel’s chart tool can create a machine learning model that can predict the changes in the values of your data. The feature, called Trendline, creates a regression model from your data. You can set the trendline to one of several regression algorithms, including linear, polynomial, logarithmic, and exponential. You can also configure the chart to display the parameters of your machine learning model, which you can use to predict the outcome of new observations.

You can add several trendlines to the same chart. This makes it easy to quickly test and compare the performance of different machine learning models on your data.excel data science trendline

Above: Excel’s Trendline feature can create regression models from your data.

In addition to exploring the chart tool, Learn Data Mining Through Excel takes you through several other procedures that can help develop more advanced regression models. These include formulas such as LINEST and LINREG, which calculate the parameters of your machine learning models based on your training data.ADVERTISEMENT

The author also takes you through the step-by-step creation of linear regression models using Excel’s basic formulas such as SUM and SUMPRODUCT. This is a recurring theme in the book: You’ll see the mathematical formula of a machine learning model, learn the basic reasoning behind it, and create it step by step by combining values and formulas in several cells and cell arrays.

While this might not be the most efficient way to do production-level data science work, it is certainly a very good way to learn the workings of machine learning algorithms.

Other machine learning algorithms with Excel

Beyond regression models, you can use Excel for other machine learning algorithms. Learn Data Mining Through Excel provides a rich roster of supervised and unsupervised machine learning algorithms, including k-means clustering, k-nearest neighbor, naive Bayes classification, and decision trees.

The process can get a bit convoluted at times, but if you stay on track, the logic will easily fall in place. For instance, in the k-means clustering chapter, you’ll get to use a vast array of Excel formulas and features (INDEX, IF, AVERAGEIF, ADDRESS, and many others) across several worksheets to calculate cluster centers and refine them. This is not a very efficient way to do clustering, but you’ll be able to track and study your clusters as they become refined in every consecutive sheet. From an educational standpoint, the experience is very different from programming books where you provide a machine learning library function your data points and it outputs the clusters and their properties.k-means-clustering-excel

Above: When doing k-means clustering on Excel, you can follow the refinement of your clusters on consecutive sheets.

In the decision tree chapter, you will go through the process calculating entropy and selecting features for each branch of your machine learning model. Again, the process is slow and manual, but seeing under the hood of the machine learning algorithm is a rewarding experience.ADVERTISEMENT

In many of the book’s chapters, you’ll use the Solver tool to minimize your loss function. This is where you’ll see the limits of Excel, because even a simple model with a dozen parameters can slow your computer down to a crawl, especially if your data sample is several hundred rows in size. But the Solver is an especially powerful tool when you want to fine-tune the parameters of your machine learning model.Excel Solver tool fine-tunes parameters

Above: Excel’s Solver tool fine-tunes the parameters of your model and minimizes loss functions.

Deep learning and natural language processing with Excel

Learn Data Mining Through Excel shows that Excel can even express advanced machine learning algorithms. There’s a chapter that delves into the meticulous creation of deep learning models. First, you’ll create a single layer artificial neural network with less than a dozen parameters. Then you’ll expand on the concept to create a deep learning model with hidden layers. The computation is very slow and inefficient, but it works, and the components are the same: cell values, formulas, and the powerful Solver tool.deep learning with Excel

Above: Deep learning with Microsoft Excel gives you a view under the hood of how deep neural networks operate.

In the last chapter, you’ll create a rudimentary natural language processing (NLP) application, using Excel to create a sentiment analysis machine learning model. You’ll use formulas to create a “bag of words” model, preprocess and tokenize hotel reviews, and classify them based on the density of positive and negative keywords. In the process you’ll learn quite a bit about how contemporary AI deals with language and how much different it is from how we humans process written and spoken language.

Excel as a machine learning tool

Whether you’re making C-level decisions at your company, working in human resources, or managing supply chains and manufacturing facilities, a basic knowledge of machine learning will be important if you will be working with data scientists and AI people. Likewise, if you’re a reporter covering AI news or a PR agency working on behalf of a company that uses machine learning, writing about the technology without knowing how it works is a bad idea (I will write a separate post about the many awful AI pitches I receive every day). In my opinion, Learn Data Mining Through Excel is a smooth and quick read that will help you gain that important knowledge.ADVERTISEMENT

Beyond learning the basics, Excel can be a powerful addition to your repertoire of machine learning tools. While it’s not good for dealing with big data sets and complicated algorithms, it can help with the visualization and analysis of smaller batches of data. The results you obtain from a quick Excel mining can provide pertinent insights in choosing the right direction and machine learning algorithm to tackle the problem at hand.

Ben Dickson is a software engineer and the founder of TechTalks. He writes about technology, business, and politics.

This story originally appeared on Copyright 2020

Switching DNA functions on and off with light

by University of Münster

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

DNA is the basis of life on earth. The function of DNA is to store all the genetic information an organism needs to develop, function and reproduce. It is essentially a biological instruction manual found in every cell. Biochemists at the University of Münster have now developed a strategy for controlling the biological functions of DNA with the aid of light. This enables researchers to better understand and control the processes that take place in the cell—for example, epigenetics, the key chemical change and regulatory lever in DNA. The results have been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

The cell’s functions depend on enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that carry out chemical reactions in the cell. They help to synthesize metabolic products, make copies of the DNA molecules, convert energy for the cell’s activities, change DNA epigenetically and break down certain molecules. A team of researchers headed by Prof. Andrea Rentmeister from the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Münster used a so-called enzymatic cascade reaction to understand and track these functions better. This sequence of successive reaction steps involving different enzymes makes it possible to transfer so-called photocaging groups—chemical groups that can be removed by means of irradiation with light—to DNA. Previously, studies had shown that only small residues (small modifications such as methyl groups) could be transferred selectively to DNA, RNA (ribonucleic acid) or proteins.

“As a result of our work, it is now possible to transfer larger residues or modifications such as the photocaging groups just mentioned,” explains Nils Klöcker, one of the lead authors of the study and a Ph.D. student at the Institute of Biochemistry. Working together with structural biologist Prof. Daniel Kümmel, who also works at the Institute of Biochemistry, it was also possible to explain the basis for the changed activity at a molecular level.

Using so-called protein engineering, a method for which a Nobel prize was awarded in 2018, the Münster researchers engineered one enzyme in the cascade, making it possible to switch DNA functions on and off by means of light. With the aid of protein design, it was possible to expand the substrate spectrum of enzymes—in this case, methionine adenosyltransferases (MATs). In their work, the researchers examined two MATs. The modifications carried out offer a starting point for developing other MATs with an expanded substrate spectrum. “Combining these MATs with other enzymes has potential for future cellular applications. This is an important step for implementing in-situ generated, non-natural substances for other enzymes in epigenetic studies,” says Andrea Rentmeister.

Explore furtherEnzymatic photocaging for the study of gene regulation through DNA methylation

More information: Freideriki Michailidou et al, Maßgeschneiderte SAM‐Synthetasen zur enzymatischen Herstellung von AdoMet‐Analoga mit Photoschutzgruppen und zur reversiblen DNA‐Modifizierung in Kaskadenreaktionen, Angewandte Chemie (2020). DOI: 10.1002/ange.202012623Journal information:Angewandte ChemieProvided by University of Münster

Researchers studying effects of melatonin on coronavirus, with promising results


COVID and sleep do not necessarily go together. And melatonin may be able to help.

Recent research showing a correlation between sleep and coronavirus illness is drawing attention for the possibilities of not only shortening disease and lessening its severity, but also for perhaps cutting one’s chances of contracting the virus in the first place.

Melatonin (Shutterstock)

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute in Ohio ran a computer analysis to identify drugs that could possibly be repurposed to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and melatonin emerged as a potential candidate.

In addition to potentially helping mitigate the disease in people who are afflicted, the hormone might also reduce the chances of contracting it in the first place, they found in a study published in November in the journal PLOS Biology.

We rounded up our favorite mouthwatering recipes for every taste, budget and time frame.SEE MORE

Sponsored Content by WW – Weight Watchers Reimagined

Analyzing patient data from Cleveland Clinic’s COVID-19 registry revealed that those who used melatonin were almost 30% less likely to test positive, the researchers said. Moreover, among African-Americans there was a 52% less likelihood of testing positive, the researchers found.

“When we got this result, we were very excited,” study lead author Feixiong Cheng of the Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute told KIRO-TV. “If our findings can help the patients, that’s our goal and mission — and at the Cleveland Clinic as well.”

At the same time, this does not mean everyone should run out and start taking melatonin, Cheng said. The results are preliminary and only suggest an avenue of potential inquiry; they are not conclusive in and of themselves.

However, the results are incredibly promising, and they correlate with other research pointing to similar findings, as The Atlantic reported last week. The hormone, secreted by the pineal glands at sleeptime, helps regulate circadian rhythms and calibrate the immune system, which could have implications for staving off a cytokine storm, That’s the life-threatening condition in which the body’s immune response launches a full-scale attack on everything, even the patient.

In addition, an October study at Columbia University found that patients on ventilators had better survival rates when they were given melatonin, The Atlantic noted.

However, the promising results might not be related to melatonin per se, but to sleep, Cheng told The Atlantic. For this reason, among others, it merits further study. A clinical trial is under way that looks at melatonin’s effectiveness against COVID, Cheng told KIRO, with results expected in a few months.

“It is very important to note these findings do not suggest people should start to take melatonin without consulting their physician,” Cheng said in a statement about last month’s Cleveland Clinic study. “Large-scale observational studies and randomized controlled trials are critical to validate the clinical benefit of melatonin for patients with COVID-19, but we are excited about the associations put forth in this study and the opportunity to further explore them.”Theresa BraineNew York Daily NewsCONTACT 

Theresa Braine has written breaking news for the New York Daily News National Desk since November 2018, with an emphasis on environmental reporting and indigenous issues. She has worked as a freelance foreign correspondent based in Mexico City and has been a copy editor and copy chief for various national magazines.

Global health in 2020: less walking but people lost more weight and slept longer

Did 2020 turn you into a hunk, a chunk, or a drunk?

By Rob Thubron 8 comments

In brief: Looking back at 2020, one would imagine that spending most of the year trapped indoors had a detrimental effect on our health, but a new global study from Withings suggests the damage hasn’t been too bad, with some areas actually showing improvement.

The French digital health and wearables company’s ‘year in review’ for 2020, which is based on anonymous aggregated data from a pool of 5 million users, showed quite a few surprises, the biggest of which relates to how we slept.

It appears that concern over Covid-19, jobs, and the economy didn’t keep everyone awake at night. People on average slept an extra eight minutes and 34 seconds this year, with those in the US managing 7 minutes and 41 seconds extra shuteye.

Withings has put forward a few theories to explain the extra sleep: nightlife all but disappearing in most countries, restaurant visits dropping drastically, less traffic noise, and working from home means no commutes, all of which allow for more and better sleep. And don’t forget the people who go to bed early because there’s little else to do on an evening.

Additionally, less alcohol (for some), nightlife, indulgent restaurant food, and stressful commutes have led to a lowered sleeping heart rate, which is usually a sign of good health. It dropped 0.54 beats per minute this year compared to 2019.

Walking was one activity that suffered throughout the pandemic. With restrictions on outdoor movements and many working from home, daily average steps were down 10 percent (511 fewer steps daily). The closure of pools meant swimming was down 30 percent, and the number of people running fell 1.75 percent. Cycling, however, increased 8 percent.

Possibly the most surprising stat is that people lost more weight (0.3 pounds) and fat mass (0.33 pounds) in 2020 compared to last year, and more of the population met their weight loss goals.

“2020 has certainly been a challenge for everyone around the world. We were pleased to see through our study though that overall people continued to get steps in, focus on their health goals and rest this year,” said Mathieu Letombe, CEO of Withings.

“In fact, when it came to sleep and hitting weight goals, we found that people improved from 2019. Hopefully, as we head into the New Year, we can continue to get the rest we need and stay active during the day.”

11 great apps ready for your new 2020 M1 Mac

Developers are quickly embracing Apple siliconBy Chris Welch@chriswelch  Dec 29, 2020, 9:00am EST

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Share this story

The new MacBook Air with the M1 chip

This year marked the introduction of the first Macs to be powered by Apple’s own silicon instead of Intel chips. As is evidenced by our reviews of the M1 MacBook Air13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac mini, these machines are incredibly powerful and offer wicked fast performance. This is especially true for apps that are designed to run natively on them and take full advantage of Apple’s latest technologies.

So in that vein, this year’s Mac apps list is going to focus on some of the software that has already been optimized for this new era of Apple hardware. Last year’s picks remain just as relevant and useful today if you’re on an Intel machine. But if you’ve been gifted (or are gifting yourself) one of these new speed-demon Macs, these are a few great ways of sampling what they can do.

We’ve rounded up our favorite and most-used games, apps, and entertainment. Check out our app picks for iPhonesAndroid phonesWindows PCs, and M1-equipped Macs; our favorite mobile games from Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass; and our top choices for gaming PCs, the PS5Xbox One and Series X / SNintendo Switch, and VR. We’ve also listed our favorite streaming shows on Disney Plus, Hulu, ESPN Plus, and Netflix; some great sci-fi books; and exciting new podcasts. (Note: pricing was accurate at the time of publishing but may change.)


Pixelmator Pro
Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro is one of the very best image editing apps for the Mac. It has the usual set of RAW editing tools, presets, sophisticated layer editing, and photo filters, and makes it easy to control every detail of your images. What sets Pixelmator Pro apart are the automatic adjustments it can make through a machine learning algorithm that has been trained with over 20 million photos. The latest update also allows greater customizability over the interface, letting you put everything where it makes the most sense for your workflow. And in a world where many creative apps demand a subscription, I really appreciate the one-time $19.99 price for everything this app gives you.

Pixelmator Pro’s iPad app ($4.99) is also wonderful — especially if you like retouching things with your Apple Pencil, which is how I edit many of my review photos.

Pixelmator Pro$19.99 from the Mac App StoreDOWNLOAD NOW



Lightroom is the first of Adobe’s hugely popular apps to be optimized for Apple’s M1 silicon. And for many people, it’s the default choice for editing and organizing their photo collection. Now the app has been updated to leverage the power of Apple’s M1 chip to make that editing go even quicker.

Keep in mind this is the regular version of Lightroom; Lightroom Classic doesn’t run natively on M1, but Adobe says there are no known issues running it through Rosetta 2 translation. In my experience, Lightroom Classic feels very similar to its performance on Intel Macs.

A native M1 version of Photoshop is set to follow sometime next year, but Adobe hasn’t given release time frames for other apps such as Premiere Pro.

Adobe LightroomFree from the Mac App Store (Creative Cloud subscription required)DOWNLOAD NOW

Adobe Creative Cloud$52.99 monthly from AdobeBUY NOW


Google Chrome
Google Chrome

Two major browsers, Chrome and Firefox, have already been updated to run natively on M1 Macs, so you shouldn’t encounter any issues or irregular performance drops when using either. In the case of Chrome, just be sure that you select “Mac with Apple chip” when downloading — otherwise you’ll end up installing the Intel version, which will still run, but not as efficiently.

Microsoft Edge currently has M1 support in its beta channel, so that shouldn’t be too far off either.

Google ChromeFree from GoogleDOWNLOAD NOW

FirefoxFree from MozillaDOWNLOAD NOW



If Apple’s built-in Calendar app isn’t doing it for you, then Fantastical might be the more advanced alternative you’re looking for. Its natural language parser can turn normal sentences about your plans into a perfectly formatted appointment entry. You can set your calendar view in exactly the way you want, and Fantastical also has widgets that you can pop into your Mac’s “Today” sidebar. There is a basic free version; the Premium version, which starts at $4.99 a month, offers additional features such as the ability to add tasks, full screen views, and calendar syncing.

FantasticalFree on the Mac App StoreDOWNLOAD NOW


Microsoft 365
Microsoft 365

Microsoft has quickly updated its entire Mac suite to fully optimize Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and OneNote for M1. So you should notice very speedy performance when doing work with any of them. I’m sure many people will prefer these over Apple’s own productivity apps like Pages and Numbers.

Microsoft 365 for iMacFree from the Mac App Store, Microsoft 365 subscription requiredDOWNLOAD NOW

Microsoft 365Subscription starts at $69.99 / yearBUY NOW



Hear me out: the Twitter app for macOS has actually gotten very good. It took some polishing and bug fixes to reach this point, but Twitter for Mac is now full-featured, responsive, and not nearly as crash-prone as before. If you haven’t given Twitter’s native app a chance yet, now’s a great time.

If you still prefer a third-party app, Tweetbot remains the go-to, and it’s also universal and M1-ready.

TwitterFree from the Mac App StoreDOWNLOAD NOW



iMazing is a great device manager for digging into everything residing on your iPhone or iPad. You can create backups (different from the regular Apple ones) and grab your messages, photos, music, and more right off the device.

But it was also discovered soon after the launch of M1 Macs that this software can be used to “side load” and install iPhone apps — even those that have not yet opted in — to macOS. If you’re experimenting with this, just expect that not everything will work flawlessly.

iMazing also recently added the option to clearly see which apps on your system are universal or developed for Intel.

iMazingFree trial, personal licenses start at $45DOWNLOAD NOW



If you’ve got a cluttered mess of a menu bar at the top of your Mac’s screen, Bartender can help you bring order to things. A longtime favorite macOS utility of ours, this app lets you neatly hide everything under one menu bar icon to ease up on the chaos. You can also set triggers so that certain icons only show at those times when it makes the most sense.

BartenderFree trial, $15 to purchaseDOWNLOAD NOW


Neural Mix Pro
Neural Mix Pro

Neural Mix Pro is an app that lets you separate the various parts of a song — vocals, instrumentation, and beats — and listen to them individually. You can also change up the tempo of a song without ruining the pitch. A handy tool for DJs and musicians, it also just appeals to my inner music nerd. The end result can still sometimes sound a bit phase-y (like most vocal remover software) and have some artifacts, but it does a better job than other apps I’ve tried for this purpose. Just know that it’s pricey compared to other recommendations here; you’ll have to pay $50 to unlock the app.

Neural Mix ProFree from Mac App Store, $49.99 to unlock all featuresDOWNLOAD NOW



If you’ve got the new 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple’s M1 chip, well, that means you’ve also got the love-it-or-hate-it Touch Bar above your keyboard. There are ways of customizing it to your liking in macOS settings, but BetterTouchTool is a utility that gives you even greater flexibility over what goes where when using the Touch Bar, allowing you to quickly tap useful shortcuts for your most important apps.

Can’t Sleep? Eat These 5 Key Nutrients to Sleep Better and Longer

Anika NayakPublished: December 28, 2020Getty Images/iStockphoto

If it’s difficult for you to get a restful night of sleep every night, you’re not alone: According to the CDC, one in three adults in the United States sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night. Our national insomnia is linked to a variety of causes, including ill health, aging, and stress, according to Columbia University’s Neurology Department. But it also has a lot to do with what we eat.

A new and growing body of research suggests that what one eats impacts how you sleep at night. Powerful nutrients from the food in your diet can play a role in how much sleep you get and how high-quality it is, according to a 2017 report published in Public Health Nutrition. The literature review analyzed 26 articles about how micronutrients impacted sleep development of sleep stages in infants and reversing the age-related changes in sleep in older adults. Sleep duration was positively linked with iron, zinc, and magnesium levels while negatively associated with copper, potassium, and vitamin B12 levels. The good news? You can fill up on the following nutrients with plant-based foods for a good night’s sleep.

Getty Images/Westend61

1. Iron, found in dried fruit and leafy greens

Research has shown that iron deficiency has been linked to sleep disorders. A 2020 review published in Sleep Medicine Reviews suggests that iron investigation and supplementation should be considered for patients with sleep disorders. Iron deficiency is also an underlying cause of restless leg syndrome, which can lead to sleep issues, says the National Institute of Health. “Foods high in iron include dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, dried fruits such as raisins and apricots, beans, iron-fortified cereals, bread, pasta, and peas,” says Michelle Zive, R.D., a registered dietician and NASM-CNC co-author. Dried fruit is delicious on top of oatmeal or as a quick dessert.

2. Magnesium, found in nuts and seeds

“Magnesium can help the body and brain relax by regulating neurotransmitters which send signals to the nervous system and brain. It also regulates melatonin, a hormone that is responsible for guiding the sleep-wake cycles,” says Zive. A 2019 study published in Nutrients found that short sleep is linked to increased nutrient inadequacy, including low levels of magnesium. Therefore, the authors of the study emphasize the need for dietary supplementation to increase restful sleep. Zive says the foods highest in magnesium include nuts (soy, almonds, cashews), and seeds (flaxseed), leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes. Protein-rich nuts and seeds are perfect to go with every meal – throw it on top of a salad or have it as a snack.

Getty Images

3. Tryptophan, found in chocolate and oats

Tryptophan, found in a variety of foods, is an essential amino acid that can help you get that much-needed rest. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology improved objective sleep efficiency and objective wake after sleep onset in each of the variable groups. “Tryptophan, 45 minutes before bedtime, decreases the time it takes to fall asleep,” says Zive. If you’re looking to get that snooze time quickly, try adding one or more of the following foods an hour before you go to bed: chocolate, oats, cheese, nuts and seeds, bread, and fruits like bananas and apples. Dark chocolate, with high cocoa content, is not only a semi-sweet treat but also is great for brain health.

Getty Images

4. Vitamin B6, found in avocado and lentils

If you want to get dreams at night, vitamin B6 might be your best bet. Also known as pyridoxine, it is grouped with the other B vitamins as it is essential for your health and wellbeing. Evidence shows that eating foods with vitamin B6 before bedtime can increase the amount of dream content and give a restful slumber, according to a 2018 study published in Perceptual Motor Skills. Foods rich in Vitamin B6 include avocado, chickpeas, spinach, green peas, cereals, and sweet potato, according to USDA Food Data Central. Try an avocado smoothie or lentil soup packed with nutritious powerhouses for a dreamy night!

5. Zinc, found in whole grains and beans

After iron, zinc is the second most abundant trace metal in the human body, says the National Research Council (US) Committee on Diet and Health. A 2017 literature review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences examined how zinc acts as a dietary modulator. Evidence from studies showed that even though the association is a bit unclear, zinc plays a role in the regulation of sleep and zinc deficiency may lead to poor sleep. “Top food sources of Zinc include whole grains, beans, nuts, and fortified breakfast cereals,” says Zinc. A bean salad or brown rice are perfect sides for your dinner before bedtime.

Read More: Can’t Sleep? Eat These 5 Key Nutrients For A Good Night’s Sleep |