Summer Festival Afternoon Tea Set at Park Royal Hotel in Tokyo, Japan

The price is 7,700 yen (tax included) for one 2-persons set.

That Song Is Stuck in Your Head, but It’s Helping You to Remember

Karen Nikos-Rose wrote . . . . . . . . .

If you have watched TV since the ’90s, the sitcom theme song, “I’ll Be There For You,” has likely been stuck in your head at one point or another. New research from UC Davis suggests these experiences are more than a passing nuisance — they play an important role in helping memories form, not only for the song, but also related life events like hanging out with friends — or watching other people hang with their friends on the ’90s television show, Friends.

“Scientists have known for some time that music evokes autobiographical memories, and that those are among the emotional experiences with music that people cherish most,” said Petr Janata, UC Davis professor of psychology and co-author on a new study.

What hasn’t been understood to date is how those memories form in the first place and how they become so durable, such that just hearing a bit of a song can trigger vivid remembering. — Petr Janata

The paper, “Spontaneous Mental Replay of Music Improves Memory for Incidentally Associated Event Knowledge,” was published online in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Co-authors are Janata and Benjamin Kubit, a postdoctoral researcher in cognitive neuroscience, both of the UC Davis Department of Psychology, and Center for Mind and Brain.

This new research offers an initial glimpse into these mechanisms and, somewhat surprisingly, finds that the songs that get stuck in your head help that process of strengthening memories as they first form, the authors said. Thus, this is the first research to link two of the most common phenomena people experience with music — earworms (having a song stuck in your head) and music-evoked remembering.

For their latest study, the researchers worked with 25 to 31 different people in each of three experiments, over three different days, spaced weeks apart. Subjects first listened to unfamiliar music, and then, a week later, listened to the music again, this time paired with likewise unfamiliar movie clips. In one instance, movies were played without music. The research subjects, all UC Davis undergraduate and graduate students, were subsequently asked to remember as many details as they could from each movie as the music played. They were also quizzed about their recollection of the associated tunes and how often they experienced each of the tunes as an earworm. None of them had formal music training.

Repetition and accuracy

The results: the more often a tune played in a person’s head, the more accurate the memory for the tune became and, critically, the more details the person remembered from the specific section of the movie with which the tune was paired.

With only one week between when they saw the movie, and when they were asked to remember as many details from the movie as they could while listening to the movie soundtrack, the effect of repeatedly experiencing a tune from the soundtrack as an earworm resulted in near-perfect retention of the movie details. These people’s memories, in fact, were as good as when they had first seen the movie. Additionally, most subjects were able to report what they were typically doing when their earworms occurred, and none of them mentioned the associated movies coming to mind at those times.

“Our paper shows that even if you are playing that song in your mind and not pulling up details of memories explicitly, that is still going to help solidify those memories,” Janata said.

“We typically think of earworms as random nuisance beyond our control, but our results show that earworms are a naturally occurring memory process that helps preserve recent experiences in long-term memory,” Kubit said.

The authors said they hope the research, which is ongoing, could eventually lead to the development of nonpharmaceutical, music-based interventions to help people suffering from dementia and other neurological disorders to better remember events, people and daily tasks.

Source: UC Davis

In Pictures: Food of Louise in Central, Hong Kong

Contemporary French Cuisine

The Michelin 1-star Restaurant

Will People Really Need a Yearly COVID Booster Vaccine?

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

As the number of people fully immunized against COVID-19 rises into the hundreds of millions, immunologists and infectious disease experts now are pondering a new question in the unfolding pandemic.

Namely, how long will vaccine immunity last, and will people who’ve gotten the jab need booster shots to maintain their protection?

It’s an important question, as waning immunity in the face of more powerful COVID-19 variants could cause future infection surges and, in worst-case scenarios, a full-blown return of quarantines and lockdowns, experts say.

A person’s immunity always drops to some degree following immunization or natural infection, said Dr. Greg Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

But will your immunity against COVID fade quickly, as it does with the flu or the common cold, or will it last longer as it does in diseases like measles or whooping cough?

“Antibody levels fall over time. That is true for every single vaccine that we give,” Poland said. “We’ve never immunized against coronaviruses before, so that question is really open-ended.”

People’s immunity against seasonal coronaviruses — those that cause the common cold — fades quickly. That’s why you can catch a cold again and again.

But the vaccines developed against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID, appear to be creating high levels of antibodies that protect even as they wane.

In one recent study of 3,900 health care workers tested weekly for COVID, about 5% tested positive between December and April, Poland said. But of 204 who fell ill, only 16 had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“You’re talking about a 0.3% rate” of infection in fully immunized people, Poland said. “And if they were vaccinated, and if they had breakthrough infections, they had viral loads that were 40% to 50% lower and were almost 60% less likely to have any fever. If they were sick enough to be in bed, they spent two fewer days in bed than the unvaccinated.”

And that’s the major factor in deciding whether boosters will ever be needed: Are vaccines succeeding at their most important job?

“The goal of this vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and out of the ICU and out of the morgue,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an advisor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

By that measure, experts like Poland and Offit now think it’s unlikely that boosters will be needed any time soon for most or maybe all those who have been vaccinated.

Even in the face of newer and more infectious variants like the Delta variant that emerged in India, the existing vaccines have been able to prevent severe illness among the fully vaccinated, Poland said.

Offit made a similar point.

“It’s much easier to prevent severe critical disease, and I think you’re much more likely to have longer lasting protection against severe critical disease,” he said. “If that’s the goal, then I would imagine that vaccines would last for years.”

If this sort of lasting protection proves out, you might still get the sniffles from COVID, but it won’t land you in the emergency room.

“When you get a vaccine and you’re not wearing a mask, the virus still enters your nose and throat. It still begins to reproduce itself. And it still might cause some symptoms before your immune system gets activated,” Offit said.

Experts tracking COVID hospitalization rates are keeping in mind two factors as they assess whether boosters are needed — the health of each person’s immune system and the development of new coronavirus variants.

People with compromised immune systems — smokers, diabetics, the obese, the elderly — might need booster shots sooner if statistics show them landing in the hospital at increasing rates, Poland said.

On the other hand, younger people with healthy immune systems might have protection that lasts years and years.

It’s simply too soon to tell, experts say.

“Once you see significant numbers of people who have been fully vaccinated who are developing disease that’s severe enough to cause them to be hospitalized, that would certainly be a signal indicating that boosters are going to be required,” said Dr. Dial Hewlett, medical director of disease control at the Westchester County Department of Health, in White Plains, N.Y.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, has said protection would not be infinite.

“I would imagine we will need, at some time, a booster,” he told a U.S. Senate subcommittee recently. “What we’re figuring out right now is what that interval is going to be.”

The main fear now is that a new variant will emerge that is “different enough from the wild-type virus that you are not protected, and yet close enough that your body thinks it’s what it’s already seen and allows you to get infected unchecked,” Poland said.

That’s why public health experts are pushing for as many people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. The United States just passed the halfway point, with more than 50% of people aged 12 and older fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Joe Biden’s goal is for 70% of the nation to have at least one shot by July 4. But the rate of new vaccinations has slowed recently and is now fewer than 600,000 a day.

“The phase we’re in right now is very much a desperate race between vaccine and variant,” Poland said. “If we can get everybody immunized very quickly and don’t allow the Delta variant to gain a stronghold, I think we’ll be home free.”

Poland pointed to an encouraging model.

“There’s a model out showing that if we can achieve 50% vaccine coverage of the entire population, we will prevent about 6 million additional COVID cases,” he said. “This is really important, because if the virus can’t infect, it can’t replicate. If it can’t replicate, it can’t mutate.”

The question of booster shots might become moot if, as some pharmaceutical companies are investigating, the COVID vaccine winds up included in your annual flu shot as a two-for-one, Poland said.

“Well, we have to give an annual flu vaccine. What if we wrapped the two together? So, you may not need the coronavirus component, but we’re going to boost the immunity anyway as long as you’re getting the flu vaccine,” he said.

Source: HealthDay

Rack of Lamb with Mustard


3 racks of lamb (7-8 ribs each), trimmed of fat, bones “French ” trimmed
2 or 3 garlic cloves
4 oz (about 4 slices) white or wholemeal bread, torn into pieces
1-1/2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
1-1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
fresh rosemary, to garnish
new potatoes, to serve


  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 425°F.
  2. Trim any remaining fat from the lamb, including the fat covering over the meat.
  3. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, with the machine running, drop the garlic through the feed tube and process until finely chopped. Add the bread, herbs, mustard and a little pepper and process until combined, then slowly pour in the oil.
  4. Press the mixture on to the meaty side and ends of the racks, completely covering the surface.
  5. Put the racks in a shallow roasting tin, and roast for about 25 minutes for medium-rare or 3-5 minutes more for medium (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat should register 57-60°C/135-140°F for medium-rare to medium).
  6. Transfer the meat to a carving board or warmed platter. Cut down between the bones to carve into chops. Serve garnished with rosemary and accompanied by new potatoes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: French Delicious Classic Cuisine Made Easy

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