Chapter 11. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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Jonathan Sadowsky Carrie Fisher’s ashes are in an urn designed to look like a Prozac pill. It’s fitting that in death she continues to be both brash and wryly funny about a treatment for depression. The public grief over Carrie Fisher’s death was not only for an actress who played one of the most iconic roles in film history. It was also for one who spoke with wit and courage about her struggle with mental illness. In a way, the fearless General Leia Organa on screen was not much of an act. Carrie Fisher at a screening of ‘Catastrophe’ at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2016. PBG/AAD/STAR MAX/IPx via AP Fisher’s bravery, though, was not just in fighting the stigma of her illness, but also in declaring in her memoir “Shockaholic” her voluntary use of a stigmatized treatment: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), often known as shock treatment. Many critics have portrayed ECT as a form of medical abuse, and depictions in film and television are usually scary. Yet many psychiatrists, and more importantly, patients, consider it to be a safe and effective treatment for severe depression and bipolar disorder. Few medical treatments have such disparate images. I am a historian of psychiatry, and I have published a book on the history of ECT. I had, like many people, been exposed only to the frightening images of ECT, and I grew interested in the history of the treatment after learning how many clinicians and patients consider it a valuable treatment. My book asks the question: Why has this treatment been so controversial? © 2010–2017, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 23102 - Posted: 01.14.2017

By LISA SANDERS, M.D. “You don’t look well,” the man at the gas station told the older woman in the car. He’d known her for years, always thinking of her as a lively, robust woman. But that day she looked pale and tired. Her sharp blue eyes seemed dim. She gave a feeble smile. “I don’t feel well at all,” she told him. There’s an urgent-care clinic just up the street, he said. Could she make it there? She was nearly 45 minutes away from her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Stopping just up the street seemed a much better option. At the clinic, the doctor took one look at her, put a blood pressure cuff around her arm and told her assistant to call an ambulance. The rest of the day was a blur. The woman remembers being bundled onto a stretcher and one of the E.M.T.s saying her blood pressure was very low. It was an odd thing to hear, because her blood pressure was usually high enough to require three medications. She was taken to the emergency room at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center in Halifax. She remembers being fussed over — having blood drawn, receiving intravenous fluids, feeling sticky snaps being placed on her chest that connected her to a continuous heart monitor. She had been a nurse for many years when she was younger, yet seeing herself at the center of these familiar activities was strange. A blood test indicated that there may have been damage to her heart. The doctor told her she was having a heart attack, she recalls. You’ve got the wrong patient, she thought to herself. Sure, she had a little high blood pressure, a little asthma, a little back pain. But problems with her heart? Never. The patient used a cane, but she had no difficulty getting up on the exam table — an important test of mobility. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 23101 - Posted: 01.14.2017

Jon Hamilton Mice that kill at the flip of a switch may reveal how hunting behavior evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. The mice became aggressive predators when two sets of neurons in the amygdala were activated with laser light, a team reported Thursday in the journal Cell. "The animals become very efficient in hunting," says Ivan de Araujo, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University and an associate fellow at The John B. Pierce Laboratory in New Haven. "They pursue the prey [a live cricket] faster and they are more capable of capturing and killing it." Activating the neurons even caused the mice to attack inanimate objects, including sticks, bottle caps and an insectlike toy. "The animals intensively bite the toy and use their forepaws in an attempt to kill it," De Araujo says. But the aggressive behavior is reserved for prey. Mice didn't attack each other, even when both sets of neurons were activated. The results hint at how the brain changed hundreds of millions of years ago when the first animals with jaws began to appear. This new ability to pursue and kill prey "must have influenced the way the brain is wired up in a major way," De Araujo says. Specifically, the brain needed to develop hunting circuits that would precisely coordinate the movements of a predator's jaw and neck. "This is a very complex and demanding task," De Araujo says. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 23099 - Posted: 01.13.2017

Being stressed out increases our risk of heart disease and stroke, and the key to how to counter it may lie in calming the brain, a new medical study suggests. Psychological stress has long been considered a source of sickness. But personal stress levels are difficult to measure and there isn't direct evidence of the link, even though population studies finger stress as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease just like smoking and hypertension. "I think that this relatively vague or insufficient link reduced our enthusiasm of taking stress seriously as an important risk factor," said Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Tawakol led a study published in Wednesday's online issue of The Lancet that sheds light on how the amygdala — a key part of the brain that is more active during emotional, stressful times — is linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes. The researchers gave 293 patients aged 30 or older without cardiovascular disease PET/CT brain imaging scans, mainly for cancer screening and followed them over time. After an average of nearly four years, activity in the amygdala was significantly associated with cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure and strokes, after taking other factors into account. People with more amygdala activity also tended to suffer the events sooner, Tawakol said. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23087 - Posted: 01.12.2017

By Virginia Morell We often say the same sweet, nonsensical things to our dogs that we say to our babies—and in almost the same slow, high-pitched voice. Now, scientists have shown that puppies find our pooch-directed speech exciting, whereas older dogs are somewhat indifferent. The findings show, for the first time, that young dogs respond to this way of talking, and that it may help them learn words—as such talk does with human babies. To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, and his colleagues first recorded the voices of 30 women as they looked at a dog’s photograph and read from a script, “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!” (The scientists were afraid the women would ad lib if they spoke to a real dog.) The women also repeated the passage to a person. When the scientists compared the human- and dog-directed speech, they found that, as expected, the women spoke in distinctive, high-pitched, sing-song tones to the pooches—but not the humans. “It didn’t matter if it was a puppy or an adult dog,” Mathevon says. But the women did speak at an even higher pitch when looking at puppy photos. Next, the researchers played these recordings in short trials with 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a New York City animal shelter and videotaped their responses. Nine of the puppies reacted strongly, barking and running toward the loudspeaker even when the recording had been made for an older dog, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Some even bent toward the loudspeaker in a play bow, a pose meant to initiate horseplay, suggesting they may regard dog-directed speech as “an invitation to play,” Mathevon says. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Emotions
Link ID: 23082 - Posted: 01.11.2017

Anouchka Grose Dannii Minogue has admitted to using Botox at difficult times in her life in a subconscious attempt to mask her feelings. Not only might she literally have been disabling her capacity to frown, she may also have been acting things out on her body in order to fend off her own emotions. Is America developing a ‘crack-like addiction’ to Botox beauty? Read more It’s about time someone said it. As a working therapist I have occasionally noticed my female patients’ faces change quite noticeably from week to week, but no one has ever spoken to me about what was making this happen. Cosmetic treatments, and the difficult thoughts and feelings that might make someone undergo them, are apparently one of the hardest things to talk about. On the one hand perhaps these treatments are so normalised that they do not seem worth discussing in therapy – a new study in the US shows that young women using Botox has risen by 41% since 2011 – but on the other you probably wouldn’t spend hundreds of pounds on something that carried serious health risks if you weren’t feeling pretty worried about your appearance. Doing stuff to your face is like the sunny side of self-harm; you might try it in order to short-circuit anxiety or sadness, but the end result is supposedly regeneration rather than damage. Still, nothing signals underlying unhappiness and self-loathing more than a pumped-up, frozen physiognomy. In that sense, it’s a socially acceptable form of wound. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 23078 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Andy Coghlan Is the fabled “cuddle hormone” really a “warmone”? Oxytocin levels surge in troops of chimpanzees preparing for conflict with rival groups to defend or expand their territory. The finding is at odds with the prevailing image of oxytocin as something that helps strengthen bonds between parent and infant, or foster friendships. But given its capacity to strengthen loyalty, oxytocin could also be a warmonger hormone that helps chimps galvanise and cooperate against a common enemy. Catherine Crockford of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and her colleagues monitored two rival groups of chimpanzees in the Taï National Park in Ivory Coast, each containing five males and five females, for prolonged periods between October 2013 and May 2015. Thanks to trust built up between the team and the chimps, the team could safely track and video the groups – even during conflict, observing at close quarters what was happening. Crucially, the team was also able to pipette up fresh samples from soil when chimps urinated. The samples revealed that oxytocin levels surge in the mammals whenever the chimps on either side prepared for confrontation, or when either group took the risk of venturing near or into rival-held territories. These surges dwarfed the oxytocin levels seen during activities such as grooming, collaborative hunting for monkey prey or food sharing. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 23065 - Posted: 01.07.2017

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent People living near a busy road have an increased risk of dementia, according to research that adds to concerns about the impact of air pollution on human health. Roughly one in 10 cases of Alzheimer’s in urban areas could be associated with living amid heavy traffic, the study estimated – although the research stopped short of showing that exposure to exhaust fumes causes neurodegeneration. Hong Chen, the scientist who led the work at Public Health Ontario, said: “Increasing population growth and urbanisation has placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden.” Previously, scientists have linked air pollution and traffic noise to reduced density of white matter (the brain’s connective tissue) and lower cognition. A recent study suggested that magnetic nano-particles from air pollution can make their way into brain tissue. The latest study, published in The Lancet, found that those who live closest to major traffic arteries were up to 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia – a small but significant increase in risk. The study, which tracked roughly 6.6 million people for more than a decade, could not determine whether pollution is directly harmful to the brain. The increased dementia risk could also be a knock-on effect of respiratory and cardiac problems caused by traffic fumes or due to other unhealthy life-style factors associated with living in built-up urban environments. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Alzheimers; Stress
Link ID: 23058 - Posted: 01.05.2017

By LESLEY ALDERMAN Here’s a New Year’s challenge for the mind: Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain. All humans have a tendency to be a bit more like Eeyore than Tigger, to ruminate more on bad experiences than positive ones. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that helps us avoid danger and react quickly in a crisis. But constant negativity can also get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level and ultimately damage our health. And some people are more prone to negative thinking than others. Thinking styles can be genetic or the result of childhood experiences, said Judith Beck, a psychologist and the president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. Children may develop negative thinking habits if they have been teased or bullied, or experienced blatant trauma or abuse. Women, overall, are also more likely to ruminate than men, according to a 2013 study. “We were built to overlearn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones,” said Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. But with practice you can learn to disrupt and tame negative cycles. The first step to stopping negative thoughts is a surprising one. Don’t try to stop them. If you are obsessing about a lost promotion at work or the results of the presidential election, whatever you do, don’t tell yourself, “I have to stop thinking about this.” “Worry and obsession get worse when you try to control your thoughts,” Dr. Beck said. Instead, notice that you are in a negative cycle and own it. Tell yourself, “I’m obsessing about my bad review.” Or “I’m obsessing about the election.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Depression
Link ID: 23055 - Posted: 01.04.2017

By Nicole Mortillaro Post-traumatic stress disorder can be a debilitating condition. It's estimated that it affects nearly one in 10 Canadian veterans who served in Afghanistan. Now, there's promising research that could lead to the treatment of the disorder. Following a particularly traumatic event — one where there is the serious threat of death or a circumstance that was overwhelming — we often exhibit physical symptoms immediately. But the effects in our brains actually take some time to form. That's why symptoms of PTSD — reliving an event, nightmares, anxiety — don't show up until some time later. Research has shown that, after such an event, the hippocampus — which is important in dealing with emotions and memory — shrinks, while our amygdala — also important to memory and emotions — becomes hyperactive. In earlier research, Sumantra Chattarji from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), in Bangalore, India, discovered that traumatic events cause new nerve connections to form in the amygdala, which also causes hyperactivity. This plays a crucial role in people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Chattarji has been studying changes in the brain after traumatic events for more than a decade. In an earlier study, he concluded that a single stress event had no immediate event on the amygdala of rats. However, 10 days later, the rats exhibited increased anxiety. There were even changes to the brain, and, in particular the amygdala. So Chattarji set out to see if there was a way to prevent these changes. Post-traumatic stress disorder can seriously affect those who have served in the military. New research may help to one day prevent that. (Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters) The new research focused on a particular cell receptor in the brain, called N-Methyl-D-Aspartate Receptor (NMDA-R), which is crucial in forming memories. ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Stress; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 23038 - Posted: 12.31.2016

Mo Costandi The rhythm of breathing co-ordinates electrical activity across a network of brain regions associated with smell, memory, and emotions, and can enhance their functioning, according to a new study by researchers at Northwestern University. The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that breathing does not merely supply oxygen to the brain and body, but may also organise the activity of populations of cells within multiple brain regions to help orchestrate complex behaviours. Nearly 75 years ago, the British physiologist Edgar Adrian used electrodes to record brain activity in hedgehogs, and found that brain waves in the olfactory system were closely coupled to breathing, with their size and frequency being directly related to the speed at which air moves through the nose. Since then, this same activity has been observed in the olfactory bulb and other brain regions of rats, mice and other small animals, but until now it has not been investigated in humans. In this new study, a research team led by Christina Zelano recorded electrical activity directly from the surface of the brain in seven patients being evaluated for surgery to treat drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy, focusing on three brain regions: the piriform cortex, which processes smell information from the olfactory bulbs, the hippocampus, which is critical for memory formation, and the amygdala, which plays an important role in emotional processing. At the same time, they monitored the patients’ respiratory rates with either pressure sensors or an abdominal breathing belt. The researchers found that slow brain wave oscillations in the piriform cortex, and higher frequency brain waves in the hippocampus and amygdala, were synchronised with the rate of natural, spontaneous breathing. Importantly, though, the brain wave oscillations in all three regions were most highly synchronised immediately after the patients breathed in, but less so while they were breathing out. And when the patients were asked to divert breathing to their mouths, the researchers observed a significant decrease in brain wave coupling. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23017 - Posted: 12.23.2016

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News website A drug that alters the immune system has been described as "big news" and a "landmark" in treating multiple sclerosis, doctors and charities say. Trials, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggest the drug can slow damage to the brain in two forms of MS. Ocrelizumab is the first drug shown to work in the primary progressive form of the disease. The drug is being reviewed for use in the US and Europe. MS is caused by a rogue immune system mistaking part of the brain for a hostile invader and attacking it. It destroys the protective coating that wraps round nerves called the myelin sheath. The sheath also acts like wire insulation to help electrical signals travel down the nerve. Damage to the sheath prevents nerves from working correctly and means messages struggle to get from the brain to the body. This leads to symptoms like having difficulty walking, fatigue and blurred vision. The disease can either just get worse, known as primary progressive MS, or come in waves of disease and recovery, known as relapsing remitting MS. Both are incurable, although there are treatments for the second state. 'Change treatment' Ocrelizumab kills a part of the immune system - called B cells - which are involved in the assault on the myelin sheath. In 732 patients with progressive MS, the percentage of patients that had deteriorated fell from 39% without treatment to 33% with ocrelizumab . Patients taking the drug also scored better on the time needed to walk 25 feet and had less brain loss detected on scans. In 1,656 patients with relapsing remitting, the relapse rate with ocrelizumab was half that of using another drug. © 2016 BBC

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 23013 - Posted: 12.23.2016

Dhruv Khullar My patient and I both knew he was dying. Not the long kind of dying that stretches on for months or years. He would die today. Maybe tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, the next day. Was there someone I should call? Someone he wanted to see? Not a one, he told me. No immediate family. No close friends. He had a niece down South, maybe, but they hadn’t spoken in years. For me, the sadness of his death was surpassed only by the sadness of his solitude. I wondered whether his isolation was a driving force of his premature death, not just an unhappy circumstance. Every day I see variations at both the beginning and end of life: a young man abandoned by friends as he struggles with opioid addiction; an older woman getting by on tea and toast, living in filth, no longer able to clean her cluttered apartment. In these moments, it seems the only thing worse than suffering a serious illness is suffering it alone. Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. Those without a college education are the least likely to have someone they can talk to about important personal matters. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23003 - Posted: 12.22.2016

By Kate Baggaley In American schools, bullying is like the dark cousin to prom, student elections, or football practice: Maybe you weren’t involved, but you knew that someone, somewhere was. Five years ago, President Obama spoke against this inevitability at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention. “With big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. I didn’t emerge unscathed,” he said. “But because it’s something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem.” We know that we shouldn’t turn a blind eye: Research shows that bullying is corrosive to children’s mental health and well-being, with consequences ranging from trouble sleeping and skipping school to psychiatric problems, such as depression or psychosis, self-harm, and suicide. But the damage doesn’t stop there. You can’t just close the door on these experiences, says Ellen Walser deLara, a family therapist and professor of social work at Syracuse University, who has interviewed more than 800 people age 18 to 65 about the lasting effects of bullying. Over the years, deLara has seen a distinctive pattern emerge in adults who were intensely bullied. In her new book, Bullying Scars, she introduces a name for the set of symptoms she often encounters: adult post-bullying syndrome, or APBS. DeLara estimates that more than a third of the adults she’s spoken to who were bullied have this syndrome. She stresses that APBS is a description, not a diagnosis—she isn’t seeking to have APBS classified as a psychiatric disorder. “It needs considerably more research and other researchers to look at it to make sure that this is what we’re seeing,” deLara says.

Keyword: Stress; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 22998 - Posted: 12.20.2016

By DANIEL A. YUDKIN and JAY VAN BAVEL During the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton argued that “implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police.” Her comment moved to the forefront of public conversation an issue that scientists have been studying for decades: namely, that even well-meaning people frequently harbor hidden prejudices against members of other racial groups. Studies have shown that these subtle biases are widespread and associated with discrimination in legal, economic and organizational settings. Critics of this notion, however, protest what they see as a character smear — a suggestion that everybody, deep down, is racist. Vice President-elect Mike Pence has said that an “accusation of implicit bias” in cases where a white police officer shoots a black civilian serves to “demean law enforcement.” Writing in National Review, David French claimed that the concept of implicit bias lets people “indict entire communities as bigoted.” But implicit bias is not about bigotry per se. As new research from our laboratory suggests, implicit bias is grounded in a basic human tendency to divide the social world into groups. In other words, what may appear as an example of tacit racism may actually be a manifestation of a broader propensity to think in terms of “us versus them” — a prejudice that can apply, say, to fans of a different sports team. This doesn’t make the effects of implicit bias any less worrisome, but it does mean people should be less defensive about it. Furthermore, our research gives cause for optimism: Implicit bias can be overcome with rational deliberation. In a series of experiments whose results were published in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, we set out to determine how severely people would punish someone for stealing. Our interest was in whether a perpetrator’s membership in a particular group would influence the severity of the punishment he or she received. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Attention; Emotions
Link ID: 22979 - Posted: 12.12.2016

By Chloé Hecketsweiler Can brain science predict when someone will commit a crime, or tell whether a defendant knew right from wrong? In recent decades, scientists and criminal justice experts have been trying to answer tantalizing questions like these — with mixed success. The science of predicting crime using algorithms is still shaky, and while sophisticated tools such as neuroimaging are increasingly being used in courtrooms, they raise a host of tricky questions: What kind of brain defect or brain injury should count when assessing a defendant’s responsibility for a crime? Can brain imaging distinguish truth from falsehood? Can neuroscience predict human behavior? Judith Edersheim, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and also a lawyer who specializes in forensic evaluations, focuses her research on these gray areas. In 2009, she co-founded the Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital, with the goal of “translating neuroscience into the legal arena.” And on December 15, at an event at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Edersheim will talk about the vulnerability of the aging brain, highlighting the case of a man affected by an undetected brain disease. For this installment of the Undark Five, we asked her what brain imaging can reveal about the “criminal brain,” how relationships between brain functioning and behavior can inform the courtroom, and what controversies this iconoclastic science may raise. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity, and Undark has supplied some additional links. UNDARK — Using brain imaging, scientists have identified correlations between certain brain abnormalities and criminal behaviors. Is there a signature for the “criminal brain”? JUDITH EDERSHEIM — There may be no criminal minds; there may be criminal moments. Copyright 2016 Undark

Keyword: Aggression; Brain imaging
Link ID: 22978 - Posted: 12.12.2016

Ian Boldsworth If you deal with mental health issues of any sort, talking about them is often a struggle, especially with all the stigma around them. It turns out, putting them out there for the world to hear is even more tricky. Nonetheless, after years of producing podcasts that stretched idiocy to previously unchartered territories, I recently did precisely this and released my first semi-serious project, all about discussing and sharing personal experiences of dealing with mental health problems. Three days after it was released, I’d still not listened to the completed series myself. Despite being the presenter and producer, I’d slightly bottled it. Those closest to me will tell you that I was battling a real anxiety in the lead-up to releasing the full series of The Mental Podcast, and that I’d already made my excuses to them. Every time somebody said they were looking forward to it I told them not to, and my initial promotional tweets had a cautionary, apologetic feel of “you may like this, you may not”. For the record, I’ve never had any issues talking about mental health stuff, always more than happy to casually drop it into an interview or real-life conversation, but with this new series, as the release date loomed closer, I started to get worried about it. On a purely business level, I was concerned that it wouldn’t make its money back. Over the last 12 months or so I’ve financed my independent stuff up front and then, with a reward incentivised (not a word) donations drive at the end of the series, attempted to recoup the cost. It’s a very high risk/utterly idiotic business model as podcast listeners have “getting stuff free” in their DNA, but so far I’ve fluked a decent, if modest, return. The last two series of podcasts were called The ParaPod and consisted of me lambasting a ghost-believing-buffoon with the simple tools of logic and facts, a pretty easy concept to get on board with and you don’t need to be worrying that it will potentially take you to the darkest depths of depression (although the commitment of an adult to such a ludicrous supernatural premise should at least waver your faith in human intelligence). © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 22977 - Posted: 12.12.2016

By Alice Klein How can you stop old anxieties from resurfacing? An injection of new neurons may help, a study in mice suggests. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and other fear-related disorders are difficult to treat, and many people who seem to get better later relapse. A similar phenomenon occurs in rodents. Adult mice can be conditioned to fear a sound by giving them an electric shock every time they hear it. Playing the sound repeatedly without the shock gradually wipes out the fear – a process known as extinction training. However, the fear often returns spontaneously if the mouse hears the sound later on. Baby mice, on the other hand, do not seem to relapse as much. Yong-Chun Yu at Fudan University in China and his colleagues wanted to know if they could treat fearful adult mice with brain cells from mouse embryos. The transplants did not prevent the mice developing new fears, nor help them overcome existing ones – at least not by themselves. But coupled with extinction training, the embryonic cells did help wipe out existing fears and prevent the mice relapsing. First, the researchers injected live brain cells from mouse embryos into the amygdalae of adult mice – the parts of the brain involved in fear. Other mice were implanted with dead embryonic brain cells as a comparison. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Emotions; Stress
Link ID: 22971 - Posted: 12.09.2016

Men and women who suffered traumatic brain injuries had more than twice the risk of winding up in a federal prison in Canada as their uninjured peers, a new study shows. That doesn't surprise Dr. Geoffrey Manley, a neurosurgeon who runs a trauma centre. He knows all too well the long-term struggles of survivors of traumatic brain injuries. "Because there's no system of care for these individuals, they fall into the cracks and get themselves in trouble. And we really as a society are not doing a good job of taking care of people with traumatic brain injuries," Manley, who was not involved in the study, said in a phone interview. For 13 years, researchers followed more than 1.4 million people who were eligible for health care in Ontario and were between the ages of 18 and 28 in 1997. As reported in CMAJ Open, the open-access journal of the Canadian Medical Association, the research team linked subjects' health records to correctional records, adjusted for a variety of factors like age and substance abuse, and found that men with traumatic brain injuries were 2.5 times more likely to serve time in a Canadian federal prison than men without head injuries. Female prisoners were even more likely to have survived traumatic brain injuries. For women with these injuries, the risk of winding up in a Canadian federal prison was 2.76 times higher than it was for uninjured women, although the authors caution that the pool of incarcerated females was small, accounting for only 210 of the more than 700,000 women studied. ©2016 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Aggression
Link ID: 22970 - Posted: 12.09.2016

By Jason G. Goldman In her widely celebrated 1978 book Illness as Metaphor Susan Sontag wrote that when medical experts attribute psychological causality to biological disease, they “assign to the luckless ill the ultimate responsibility both for falling ill and for getting well.” The latest salvo in the ongoing debate over the extent to which psychological factors can explain physiological outcomes comes from a study published today, which finds optimistic women are less likely to die of a variety of illnesses—from cancer to heart failure to infectious disease. Researchers from Harvard University's T. H. Chan School of Public Health turned to a 40-year survey-based study begun in 1976 of American female nurses, most of whom were white, called the “Nurses’ Health Study.” They extracted data on the women's personalities from the 2004 and 2008 surveys and compared it with mortality rates for the same women between 2006 and 2012. Altogether, they collected information from more than 70,000 individuals. To assess optimism, the study asked participants to rate on a five-point scale the extent to which they agreed with six statements such as, “in uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” “When comparing the top 25 percent most optimistic [women] to the bottom 25 percent, they had about a 30 percent reduced risk of mortality,” says study leader Eric Kim of Harvard. Those relationships remained, albeit less robustly, even after the researchers adjusted the predictions to account for sociodemographic factors and health-related behaviors. Kim is quick to point out that this does not necessarily mean optimism leads to healthier lifestyles, only that there is a statistical association. Still, he and his colleagues argue that because personality traits are somewhat malleable, optimism-based interventions could be a fairly simple, low-cost way to improve public health. © 2016 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 22969 - Posted: 12.09.2016