NEWS FLASH: Health Perks of Hot Coffee, How Your Brain Understands Songs and Using Stress for Good

Each week, we bring you a round-up of health and wellness news. This week, we look at the health benefits of cold brew vs. hot, a way to make stress helpful and what your brain does to understand songs.

Hot brew beats cold brew on this measure

Coffee aficionados, take note: The antioxidant content of your cold brew and your hot java might not be the same.

Researchers at the American Chemical Society, as reported in Science Daily, evaluated five different roasts brewed cold as well as hot. They found that dark roasts delivered a bigger antioxidant punch when ground coffee was mixed with boiling water for a hot cup of joe, as compared to preparation through a cold-brewing method. Darker beans also yielded lower acidity in the cup, thanks to the roasting process.

The scientists were well aware the perfect cup of coffee often involves a degree of art (and reproducibility is a criterion in designing a good study), and reported they were especially rigorous about their methods.

Here’s how to use your stress for good

Stress: It’s a killer. Those words were immortalized by Bartok the bat in “Anastasia” (and if you don’t remember the animated flick, we won’t judge). But experts at Stanford University have found a way to help harness stress and make it work for you.

Kari Leibowitz, a graduate fellow, and Alia Crum, assistant professor of psychology and head of the Stanford Mind & Body Lab, outlined their approach in The New York Times this week. Their three-step process starts with acknowledging your stress. Next, they encourage you to own it, explaining that stress is the result of something positive—namely, your care about something or someone (including yourself). By exploring your core values that lead you to care, they show how to channel your stress into actions that align with your values and lead to the outcomes you want.

If you find yourself worrying about someone’s health, for example, nagging that person or consulting the internet might be expressions of stress that don’t match what’s important to you. You might invite that person to join you in a virtual workout, instead.

Birds’ brains may explain what’s behind an earworm

Whether it’s a driving beat that pumps up your run or a soothing melody behind your yoga flow, songs have a powerful way of moving us that we often struggle to describe. To understand how exactly our brain understands a song, scientists at McGill University turned to songbirds for clues.

According to NPR, Robert Zatorre, a professor at the university’s Montreal Neurological Institute, the birds’ brains use sound frequency and fluctuation to understand song sounds. Zatorre and team designed their research to gauge whether something similar might be happening in the human brain. By creating songs that used just the human voice, and then altering them so that either the words or the melody were unintelligible, they produced material for their test subjects to hear.

They found that listeners’ brains separated sound the same way as birds, in order to process and understand it. What’s more, it turns out that specialized cells in each hemisphere work together to decode what we hear. That’s true for sounds other than songs, but it might explain why songs in particular connect with us so deeply—and why music holds such power over us regardless of culture.

Photo credit: yacobchuk, Getty Images