Return Home

The therapeutic benefits of gnawing on wood, beating the crap out of somebody...and having friends

Back to Episode

Stress can make fairy tales turn to nightmares, and it can make an enemy of your own body. Producer Ellen Horne speaks with Linda Thompson, famous folk singer whose voice one day flew away. Thompson describes her rare condition, called Hysterical Dysphonia, and how she overcame her body's silence. Dr. Robert Sapolsky explains why certain rats get ulcers and others don't - coping mechanisms that work for humans too. Finally we learn that nice guys can finish first - in the baboon world that is. Alpha male baboons fight for years to maintain their social rank, all to get the girl. It's a stressful existence, to be sure, especially when the day finally comes that they get knocked off their pedestal by some young upstart and fall to the bottom of the ladder. Cruel cruel world. But here's the silver lining: researchers have discovered that some females, rather then sitting patiently in ringside seats, get bored with all the fighting and mate with – you guessed it - the nice guy sitting on the bench.

Comments [12]

Jan from Slovakia

Does anyone have info on the music in this story? Thanks.

Nov. 03 2016 06:03 PM
Thea Railey from Seattle, WA

I enjoyed this episode, however I was bothered by one detail regarding the baboons who became friends. So, the old formerly abusive alpha Schwarzenegger baboon moves to a new baboon group when he gets old, and makes friends with the ladies, and it turns out that he is mating with them on the sly. In your show it was stated that the Alan Alda guy is actually winning because he is being nice to the females and so gets to mate with them, but he's NOT the Alan Alda guy - he is still a Schwarzenegger guy genetically. Those lady baboons are still getting Schwarzenegger genes, not Alan Alda genes. Maybe that's why they are mating with him... maybe the pheromones and faded glory still stand in the old Schwarzenegger and the new alpha Schwarzenegger is just too alpha proud to care or figure it out. Either way, the Alan Aldas, the true Alan Aldas of the group who have been Alans for their whole life, so it's not really an Alan Alda getting ahead it seems to me? True?
Thank you though, I love your show and am a fan of Roberet Sapolsky!

Nov. 14 2015 01:04 PM
Melissa from New York

Torturing any creature is not OK. It stressed me, and broke my heart that the animals talked about in this section were treated the way they were. You can be a scientist without being a sadist.

Nov. 07 2015 07:42 PM
MAHAKALA from Milwaukee

Do a program on how to deconstruct white supremacy: WMD' Iraqi war kills 1 million (wink) innocent people, prison industrial complex imprisoning black men, guns and crack dumped on inner-city communities, 68% black male unemployment in Chicago and 1000 dead kids in Chicago streets; black private colleges are broke because prison industrial complex has ALL of the prospective students!

Mar. 25 2013 11:27 AM

This story reminds me of "The King's Speech".

I remember a story on NPR about the speech therapist featured in the movie. He had a theory that stuttering came from a sense that someone accrued in feeling their voice didn't matter, that it wasn't relevant.

I also remember working at the Rape Crisis Center in Monterey, and about how the greatest damage that rape can bestow upon a woman is a sense of powerlessness, and helplessness.

The nature of Linda Thompson's divorce seems to have resulted in her being very much like a rape victim in some ways, or maybe like a victim of PTSD. Its funny, because I have Linda Thompson on my Last.FM, and I always glossed over her songs. But now that I know her story, her songs resonate with me in a way they never did before.

Mar. 18 2012 01:07 AM
Rachel in Chicago

Maybe I missed it, but this program should have been preceeded by the explicit warning: "This program contains descriptions of torture intentionally inflicted upon captive animals in actual experiments that will induce stress in any listener who has not deadened their humanity."

Usually I'm a big fan of your show, but hearing about how mice are deliberately stressed with near-drowning experiments, having their eyelids sewn open for bright lights to be shined in their eyes, and other tortures I'm trying not to recall, really had my stress response kicking up! Scientists must find better methods.

Jan. 02 2012 04:28 PM
Jax from vermont

I can't believe you guys talked about electrocuting rats for science as if it was an o.k. thing. It was totally disturbing that you didn't mention the fact that electrocuting rats was torture. I usually like your show but that was just disgusting.

Dec. 30 2011 08:02 PM
Susan from Berkeley, CA

Loved your program tonight about stress! It was most informative and helpful, as I'm experiencing hive-inducing stress right now. It's nice to know it's the body's way of coping.

Oct. 20 2011 12:15 AM
v from new york

I love radio lab. thank you.

Mar. 27 2009 11:54 AM
Kristie from Texas

I love this show. I've been listening for almost a couple of years now and I am so hooked. I am always fascinated, alert, and in awe when listening to this show.

Jan. 10 2009 11:06 PM
Allan Chu from Rego Park

Totally disagree with Christopher here. Radiolab educates in an entertaining way. thanks to WNYC for producing this show!

Mar. 19 2008 04:34 PM
Christopher Deignan from Middle Village

Don't get me wrong guys, I'm a huge Brian Lehrer and Leonard Lopate fan but please, I beg you, ditch Radio Lab. It truly is the worst in wooly minded, touchy feely, liberalesque, borderline pointless, soft in the middle, la, la, la, la, edgeless, oral twinkie radio.

Thanks for WNYC, it makes my work day tolerable,
God bless.

Feb. 18 2008 11:43 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.