Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
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By LISA FELDMAN BARRETT Bitterness. Hostility. Rage. The varieties of anger are endless. Some are mild, such as grumpiness, and others are powerful, such as wrath. Different angers vary not only in their intensity but also in their purpose. It’s normal to feel exasperated with your screaming infant and scornful of a political opponent, but scorn toward your baby would be bizarre. Anger is a large, diverse population of experiences and behaviors, as psychologists like myself who study emotion repeatedly discover. You can shout in anger, weep in anger, even smile in anger. You can throw a tantrum in anger with your heart pounding, or calmly plot your revenge. No single state of the face, body or brain defines anger. Variation is the norm. The Russian language has two distinct concepts within what Americans call “anger” — one that’s directed at a person, called “serditsia,” and another that’s felt for more abstract reasons such as the political situation, known as “zlitsia.” The ancient Greeks distinguished quick bursts of temper from long-lasting wrath. German has three distinct angers, Mandarin has five and biblical Hebrew has seven. In the past few weeks, many varieties of anger have been on vivid display. For starters, we now have an iconic angry man as the president-elect. Donald J. Trump is aggressive as he insists there’s something wrong with the country, and offensive when he’s provoked. He employs anger effectively to maintain his power and status. His anger is seen by his fans as strength and by his detractors as bombast. We’ve also seen Hillary Clinton’s more restrained anger, which she has directed against the divisiveness she perceived during the campaign. To her proponents, Mrs. Clinton’s anger fueled her resolve to push back against Mr. Trump’s most egregious statements. To her detractors, her anger made her a shrew. © 2016 The New York Times Company
Very stressful events affect the brains of girls and boys in different ways, a Stanford University study suggests. A part of the brain linked to emotions and empathy, called the insula, was found to be particularly small in girls who had suffered trauma. But in traumatised boys, the insula was larger than usual. This could explain why girls are more likely than boys to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the researchers said. Their findings suggest that boys and girls could display contrasting symptoms after a particularly distressing or frightening event, and should be treated differently as a result. The research team, from Stanford University School of Medicine, said girls who develop PTSD may actually be suffering from a faster than normal ageing of one part of the insula - an area of the brain which processes feelings and pain. Image copyright Science Photo Library Image caption The insula, also known as the insular cortex, is linked to the body's experience of pain or emotional experiences of fear The insula, or insular cortex, is a diverse and complex area, located deep within the brain which has many connections. As well as processing emotions, it plays an important role in detecting cues from other parts of the body. The researchers scanned the brains of 59 children aged nine to 17 for their study, published in Depression and Anxiety. © 2016 BBC.
Geoff Brumfiel Scientists have pinpointed the ticklish bit of a rat's brain. The results, published in the journal Science, are another step toward understanding the origins of ticklishness, and its purpose in social animals. Although virtually every human being on the planet has been tickled, scientists really don't understand why people are ticklish. The idea that a certain kind of touching could easily lead to laughter is confusing to a neuroscientist, says Shimpei Ishiyama, a postdoc at the Berstein Center for Computational Nueroscience in Berlin, Germany. "Just a physical touch inducing such an emotional output — this is very mysterious," Ishiyama says. "This is weird." To try and get a handle on how tickling works, Ishiyama studied rats, who seem to enjoy being tickled, according to previous research. He inserted electrodes into the rats' brains, in a region called their somatosensory cortex. When rats enjoy tickling they emit high-pitched "laughter" that can't normally be heard by humans, the scientists found. In this video, the researchers transposed the audio of the squeaks to a lower frequency you can hear. That's a part of the brain that processes touch, and when Ishiyama tickled the rats, it caused neurons in that region to fire. The rats also seemed to giggle hysterically, emitting rapid-fire, ultrasonic squeaks. Earlier research has shown rats naturally emit those squeaks during frisky social interaction, such as when they are playing with other rats. © 2016 npr
By LESLEY ALDERMAN Take a deep breath, expanding your belly. Pause. Exhale slowly to the count of five. Repeat four times. Congratulations. You’ve just calmed your nervous system. Controlled breathing, like what you just practiced, has been shown to reduce stress, increase alertness and boost your immune system. For centuries yogis have used breath control, or pranayama, to promote concentration and improve vitality. Buddha advocated breath-meditation as a way to reach enlightenment. Science is just beginning to provide evidence that the benefits of this ancient practice are real. Studies have found, for example, that breathing practices can help reduce symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder. “Breathing is massively practical,” says Belisa Vranich, a psychologist and author of the book “Breathe,” to be published in December. “It’s meditation for people who can’t meditate.” How controlled breathing may promote healing remains a source of scientific study. One theory is that controlled breathing can change the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes such as heart rate and digestion as well as the body’s stress response, says Dr. Richard Brown, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University and co-author of “The Healing Power of the Breath.” Consciously changing the way you breathe appears to send a signal to the brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, which can slow heart rate and digestion and promote feelings of calm as well as the sympathetic system, which controls the release of stress hormones like cortisol. © 2016 The New York Times Company
Link ID: 22849 - Posted: 11.09.2016
By Esther Crawley We know almost nothing about chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). And yet it causes misery and suffering for hundreds of thousands of people, including many children. One in a hundred teenagers in the UK miss a day a week or more of school because of it, and 2 per cent are probably missing out on the normal stuff that teenagers do. Those I see in my clinic are sick with disabling fatigue, memory and concentration problems, and terrible pain. On average, they miss a year of school, on top of which mothers give up work and siblings suffer. Yet progress on this illness is being hampered by controversy, with some people disputing both its cause and treatment. Some still dismiss it as a non-illness; others decry attempts to treat it with psychological therapy. The result is that few patients are offered treatment and there is almost no research on the condition. This illness is more common than leukaemia and more disabling than childhood arthritis, but few specialists treat it. How have we arrived at a position where the biggest reason for teenagers to miss school long-term is rarely studied and society allows so few to receive treatment? Part of the difficulty is that CFS/ME is not a single illness. Both children and adults have different clusters of symptoms that may represent different illnesses with different biology, requiring different treatments. This may explain why treatments only work for some – and is a problem for those trying to develop them and for people who don’t get better. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Ramin Skibba A large, multi-lab replication study has found no evidence to validate one of psychology’s textbook findings: the idea that people find cartoons funnier if they are surreptitiously induced to smile. But an author of the original report — published nearly three decades ago — says that the new analysis has shortcomings, and may not represent a direct replication of his work. In 1988, Fritz Strack, a psychologist now at the University of Würzburg, Germany, and colleagues found that people who held a pen between their teeth, which induces a smile, rated cartoons as funnier than did those who held a pen between their lips, which induced a pout, or frown1. Strack chose cartoons from Gary Larson's classic 1980s series, The Far Side. Strack’s study has been quoted as a classic demonstration of what’s known as the ‘facial feedback hypothesis’ — the idea that facial expressions can influence a person’s own emotional state. The paper has been cited more than a thousand times, and has been followed by other research into facial feedback. In 2011, for example, researchers reported that injections of Botox, which affects the muscles of facial expression, dampen emotional responses2. But as part of a growing trend to reproduce famous psychology findings, a group of scientists revisited the experiment. They describe the collective results of 17 experiments, with a total of nearly 1,900 participants, in a paper published on 26 October in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science3. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited,
Link ID: 22831 - Posted: 11.04.2016
By Chelsea Whyte FACING a big problem and finding it hard to decide what to do? A sprinkling of disgust might boost your confidence. Common sense suggests that our confidence in the decisions we make comes down to the quality of the information available – the clearer that information, the more confident we feel. But it seems that the state of our body also guides us. Micah Allen at University College London and his colleagues showed 29 people a screen of dots moving in varied directions. They asked the volunteers which direction most of the spots were moving in, and how confident they were in their decisions. Before each task, the participants briefly saw a picture of a face on the screen. It was either twisted in disgust or had a neutral expression. Although this happened too quickly for the faces to be consciously perceived, the volunteers’ bodies reacted. Seeing disgust, which is a powerful evolutionary sign of danger, boosted the volunteers’ alertness, pushing up their heart rates and dilating their pupils. “When you induce disgust, high confidence becomes lower and low confidence becomes higher“ When shown a neutral face, the volunteers became less confident as the task got more difficult. As the movement of the dots became more varied, they were less sure of the main direction. But when they were shown the disgusted face, they reacted differently. In easy tasks, in which people were previously confident, they became more doubtful of their decisions. In more difficult tasks, their confidence grew. Neither face made any difference to the accuracy of their answers (eLife, doi.org/bsgd). © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Brian Owens Cooperation makes it happen. Sailfish that work together in groups to hunt sardines can catch more fish than if they hunt alone, even without a real coordinated strategy. To catch their sardine dinner, a group of sailfish circle a school of sardines – known as a baitball – and break off a small section, driving it to the surface. They then take turns attacking these sardines, slashing at them with their long sword-like bills, which account for a quarter of their total length of up to 3.5 metres. Knocking their prey off-balance makes them easier to grab. These attacks only result in a catch about 25 per cent of the time, but they almost always injure several sardines. As the number of injured fish increases, it becomes ever easier for everyone to snag a meal. “There’s no coordination, no strict turn-taking or specific hunting roles, it’s opportunistic,” says James Herbert-Read, from Uppsala University in Sweden. But Herbert-Reads computer models now show that even this rudimentary form of cooperation is better than going it alone. Sailfish that work in groups capture more sardines than a lone fish would get in the same amount of time. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd
By Julie Hecht Come across an image like this, and you’d be a weirdo not to investigate. Meet infrared thermography, a non-invasive way to visualize changes to body surface temperature. Thermographic video cameras not only produce images that would make Andy Warhol proud (or at least sue for infringement), but the tool allows researchers to assess physiological changes—and potentially emotional states—in a wide variety of species like distantly related BFFs Canis familiaris and Homo sapiens. Think about it—physiological changes are part of the emotional response. When you are frightened, blood rushes away from your extremities to get your muscles ready to go, which means your extremities get cooler as your core gets warmer. Infrared thermography, which captures changes to body surface temperature, is going to pick this up. The tip of a scared person’s nose gets cooler (more blue) under an infrared camera, and studies find that when scared or distressed, rat paws and tails appear cooler, as do the outer parts of sheep and rabbit ears. Dog ears recently caught the attention of Stefanie Riemer and colleagues at the Animal Behavior, Cognition and Welfare Research Group (Twitter) at the University of Lincoln, UK. They wanted to know whether dog ears would show differential blood-flow patterns in response to something good as well as something less good. Dogs participated in a separation test where they were briefly alone in a novel environment (which elicits short-term distress) and then reunited with people (typically a positive experience). The separation, the researchers assumed, would be associated with negative emotions and therefore cooling of the ears, while being reunited with people (excellent!) would show an increase in ear temperature. The study appears in the current issue of Physiology & Behavior. © 2016 Scientific American
Link ID: 22814 - Posted: 11.01.2016
By STEPH YIN Halloween is here again. That means your co-workers have planted surprise spiders around the office. You’ve been invited to a haunted hayride. Your neighbor’s yard has a full cemetery, rigged with motion detectors and pop-up zombies. Chicken-livered from the start, I have always dreaded this time of year. Haunted houses, ghost tours and horror film fests are not my thing, and why people love having the daylights scared out of them completely escapes me. I decided to try to understand my friends who are on the lookout for thrills this time of year. As it turns out, there are many possible reasons some people like to be scared stiff. Each person’s threshold for experiences that provoke fear is made up of a unique recipe that blends nature and nurture. “The ingredients vary from person to person,” said Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University and a former president of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Farley is interested in what draws certain people to extreme behaviors, like driving racecars, climbing Mount Everest and flying hot air balloons across oceans. In the 1980s, he coined the term “Type T” personality to refer to the behavioral profile of thrill-seekers. What makes someone thrill-seeking, he said, comes down to a mix of genes, environment and early development. Spooky Science Stories, Just in Time for Halloween Gather around as the crypt keepers of our Science department share scientific curiosities of things that slither and crawl and fly. David Zald, a neuropsychologist at Vanderbilt University, studies one piece of the equation. His research partly focuses on dopamine, a chemical involved in our brain’s response to reward. In the past, he has found that people who lack what he calls “brakes” on dopamine release tend to pursue thrilling activities. © 2016 The New York Times Company
By Kerry Grens Scientists have observed changes in the human brain as study participants tell lies—specifically, as white lies became outright deception, the amygdalas of the fibbing volunteers became less active. The researchers’ findings, published in Nature Neuroscience yesterday (October 24), offer a possible neural mechanism for a common human failing, that lying can lead to more extensive dishonesty. “The reduction in activity in the amygdala can predict how much people increase dishonesty subsequently,” study coauthor Neil Garrett, a psychologist at University College London, told The Verge. Garrett and colleagues asked 25 volunteers who saw a big image of a jar of pennies to give others (who only saw a small picture of the jar) estimates about the number of pennies. The volunteers were given incentives to lie, and after they had fibbed previously, fMRI data showed reduced activity in the amygdala when people were dishonest again. This brain region is involved in processing emotions. “It’s an intriguing possibility that adaptation of amygdala response might underlie escalation in self-serving dishonesty,” Tom Johnstone, a neuroscientist at the University of Reading who was not involved in the study, told Scientific American, “though the results need to be replicated in a larger sample of participants, in order to examine the involvement of the many other brain regions previously shown to play a role in generating and regulating emotional responses.” © 1986-2016 The Scientist
David Brooks We’ve had a tutorial on worry this year. The election campaign isn’t really about policy proposals, issue solutions or even hope. It’s led by two candidates who arouse gargantuan anxieties, fear and hatred in their opponents. As a result, some mental health therapists are reporting that three-quarters of their patients are mentioning significant election-related anxiety. An American Psychological Association study found that more than half of all Americans are very or somewhat stressed by this race. Of course, there are good and bad forms of anxiety — the kind that warns you about legitimate dangers and the kind that spirals into dark and self-destructive thoughts. In his book “Worrying,” Francis O’Gorman notes how quickly the good kind of anxiety can slide into the dark kind. “Worry is circular,” he writes. It may start with a concrete anxiety: Did I lock the back door? Is this headache a stroke? “And it has a nasty habit of taking off on its own, of getting out of hand, of spawning thoughts that are related to the original worry and which make it worse.” That’s what’s happening this year. Anxiety is coursing through American society. It has become its own destructive character on the national stage. Worry alters the atmosphere of the mind. It shrinks your awareness of the present and your ability to enjoy what’s around you right now. It cycles possible bad futures around in your head and forces you to live in dreadful future scenarios, 90 percent of which will never come true. Pretty soon you are seeing the world through a dirty windshield. Worry dims every sunrise and amplifies mistrust. A mounting tide of anxiety makes people angrier about society and more darkly pessimistic about the possibility of changing it. Spiraling worry is the perverted underside of rationality. This being modern polarized America, worry seems to come in two flavors. © 2016 The New York Times Company
Laura Sanders When small lies snowball into blizzards of deception, the brain becomes numb to dishonesty. As people tell more and bigger lies, certain brain areas respond less to the whoppers, scientists report online October 24 in Nature Neuroscience. The results might help explain how small transgressions can ultimately set pants aflame. The findings “have big implications for how lying can develop,” says developmental psychologist Victoria Talwar of McGill University in Montreal, who studies how dishonest behavior develops in children. “It starts to give us some idea about how lying escalates from small lies to bigger ones.” During the experiment, researchers from University College London and Duke University showed 80 participants a crisp, big picture of a glass jar of pennies. They were told that they needed to send an estimate of how much money was in the jar to an unseen partner who saw a smaller picture of the same jar. Each participant was serving as a “well-informed financial adviser tasked with advising a client who is less informed about what investments to make,” study coauthor Neil Garrett of University College London said October 20 during a news briefing. Researchers gave people varying incentives to lie. In some cases, for instance, intentionally overestimating the jar’s contents was rewarded with a bigger cut of the money. As the experiment wore on, the fibs started flying. People lied the most when the lie would benefit both themselves and their unseen partner. But these “financial advisers” still told self-serving lies even when it would hurt their partner. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016
Link ID: 22784 - Posted: 10.25.2016
By KATE MURPHY Eavesdrop on any conversation or pay close attention to your own and you’ll hear laughter. From explosive bursts to muffled snorts, some form of laughter punctuates almost all verbal communication. Electronic communication, too, LOL. You’ll probably also notice that, more often than not, the laughter is in response to something that wasn’t very funny — or wasn’t funny at all. Observational studies suggest this is the case 80 percent to 90 percent of the time. Take Hillary Clinton’s strategic laughter during heated exchanges with Donald J. Trump during the presidential debates. Or Jimmy Fallon’s exaggerated laughter when interviewing guests on “The Tonight Show.” Or employees at Fox News reporting that they tried to “laugh off” unwanted sexual advances by Roger Ailes and others within the organization. How laughter went from a primal signal of safety (the opposite of a menacing growl) to an odd assortment of vocalizations that smooth as much as confuse social interactions is poorly understood. But researchers who study laughter say reflecting on when and why you titter, snicker or guffaw is a worthy exercise, given that laughter can harm as much as help you. “It’s a hall of mirrors of inferences and intentions every time you encounter laughter,” said Sophie Scott, a neuroscientist at University College London who studies how the brain produces and processes laughter. “You think it’s so simple. It’s just jokes and ha-ha but laughter is really sophisticated and complicated.” Laughter at its purest and most spontaneous is affiliative and bonding. To our forebears it meant, “We’re not going to kill each other! What a relief!” But as we’ve developed as humans so has our repertoire of laughter, unleashed to achieve ends quite apart from its original function of telling friend from foe. Some of it is social lubrication — the warm chuckles we give one another to be amiable and polite. Darker manifestations include dismissive laughter, which makes light of something someone said sincerely, and derisive laughter, which shames. © 2016 The New York Times Company
Laura Sanders Pain is contagious, at least for mice. After encountering bedding where mice in pain had slept, other mice became more sensitive to pain themselves. The experiment, described online October 19 in Science Advances, shows that pain can move from one animal to another — no injury or illness required. The results “add to a growing body of research showing that animals communicate distress and are affected by the distress of others,” says neuroscientist Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal of the University of California, Berkeley. Neuroscientist Andrey Ryabinin and colleagues didn’t set out to study pain transfer. But the researchers noticed something curious during their experiments on mice who were undergoing alcohol withdrawal. Mice in the throes of withdrawal have a higher sensitivity to pokes on the foot. And surprisingly, so did these mice’s perfectly healthy cagemates. “We realized that there was some transfer of information about pain” from injured mouse to bystander, says Ryabinin, of Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland. When mice suffered from alcohol withdrawal, morphine withdrawal or an inflaming injection, they become more sensitive to a poke in the paw with a thin fiber — a touchy reaction that signals a decreased pain tolerance. Mice that had been housed in the same cage with the mice in pain also grew more sensitive to the poke, Ryabinin and colleagues found. These bystander mice showed other signs of heightened pain sensitivity, such as quickly pulling their tails out of hot water and licking a paw after an irritating shot. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 20
By Jessica Hamzelou Is depression caused by an inflamed brain? A review of studies looking at inflammation and depression has found that a class of anti-inflammatory drugs can ease the condition’s symptoms. Golam Khandaker at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues analysed 20 clinical studies assessing the effects of anti-cytokine drugs in people with chronic inflammatory conditions. These drugs block the effects of cytokines – proteins that control the actions of the immune system. Anti-cytokines can dampen down inflammation, and are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Together, these trials involved over 5,000 volunteers, and provide significant evidence that anti-cytokine drugs can also improve the symptoms of depression, Khandaker’s team found. These drugs work about as well as commonly used antidepressants, they say. The most commonly used anti-depressant drugs, known as SSRIs, act to increase levels of serotonin in the brain, to improve a person’s mood. But depression might not always be linked to a lack of serotonin, and SSRIs don’t work for everyone. Recent research has found that around a third of people with depression appear to have higher levels of cytokines in their brains, while people with “overactive” immune systems seem more likely to develop depression. Khandaker’s team think that inflammation in the brain might be responsible for the fatigue experienced by people with depression. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Michael Price When you’re smiling, it may feel like the whole world is smiling with you, but a new study suggests that some facial expressions may not be so universal. In fact, several expressions commonly understood in the West—including one for fear—have very different meanings to one indigenous, isolated society in Papua New Guinea. The new findings call into question some widely held tenets of emotional theory, and they may undercut emerging technologies, like robots and artificial intelligence programs tasked with reading people’s emotions. For more than a century, scientists have wondered whether all humans experience the same basic range of emotions—and if they do, whether they express them in the same way. In the 1870s, it was the central question Charles Darwin explored in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. By the 1960s, emeritus psychologist Paul Ekman, then at the University of California (UC) in San Francisco, had come up with an accepted methodology to explore this question. He showed pictures of Westerners with different facial expressions to people living in isolated cultures, including in Papua New Guinea, and then asked them what emotion was being conveyed. Ekman’s early experiments appeared conclusive. From anger to happiness to sadness to surprise, facial expressions seemed to be universally understood around the world, a biologically innate response to emotion. That conclusion went virtually unchallenged for 50 years, and it still features prominently in many psychology and anthropology textbooks, says James Russell, a psychologist at Boston College and corresponding author of the recent study. But over the last few decades, scientists have begun questioning the methodologies and assumptions of the earlier studies. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Link ID: 22761 - Posted: 10.18.2016
By Virginia Morell Human-produced noise in the ocean is likely harming marine mammals in numerous unknown ways, according to a comprehensive new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. That’s because there are insufficient data to determine how the ill effects of noise created by ships, sonar signals, and other activities interact with other threats, including pollution, climate change, and the loss of prey due to fishing. The report, which was sponsored by several government agencies and released on 7 October, provides a new framework for researchers to begin exploring these cumulative impacts. “There’s a growing recognition that interactions between stressors on marine mammals can’t right now be accurately assessed," said Peter Tyack, a marine mammal biologist at the University of St Andrews in the United Kingdom, in a webinar on the report. Tyack also chaired the committee that prepared the study, "Approaches to Understanding the Cumulative Effects of Stressors on Marine Mammals." Killer whales, for instance, are known to swim away from areas where they have encountered sonar signals of about 142 decibels, a sound level lower than currently allowed by the U.S. Navy for its ships, Tyack said, referring to a 2014 study in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America that determined the mammals’ likely response. But scientists don’t yet know how other marine mammals might respond. They also don’t know whether or how other factors, such as encountering an oil spill or colliding with a ship, would—or would not—compound the cetaceans’ response to these sounds; or how or whether such combined stressors matter to the animals’ long-term health and overall population. © 2016 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Alison Abbott Arrival in a foreign, hostile country causes many refugees great stress. On an ice-cold day in January, clinical psychologist Emily Holmes picked up a stack of empty diaries and went down to Stockholm’s central train station in search of refugees. She didn’t have to look hard. Crowds of lost-looking young people were milling around the concourse, in clothes too flimsy for the freezing air. “It struck me hard to see how thin some of the young men were,” she says. Holmes, who works at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, was seeking help with her research — a pilot project on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is all too common in refugees. She wanted to see whether they would be willing to spend a week noting down any flashbacks — fragmented memories of a trauma that rush unbidden into the mind and torment those with PTSD. She easily found volunteers. And when they returned the diaries, Holmes was shocked to see that they reported an average of two a day — many more than the PTSD sufferers she routinely dealt with. “My heart went out to them,” she says. “They managed to travel thousands of kilometres to find their way to safety with this level of symptoms.” Europe is experiencing the largest movement of people since the Second World War. Last year, more than 1.2 million people applied for asylum in the European Union — and those numbers underestimate the scale of the problem. Germany, which has taken in the lion’s share of people, reckons that it received more than a million refugees in 2015, tens of thousands of whom have yet to officially apply for asylum. Most came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Many have experienced war, shock, upheaval and terrible journeys, and they often have poor physical health. The crisis has attracted global attention and sparked political tension as countries struggle to accommodate and integrate the influx. © 2016 Macmillan Publishers Limited
Annette Heist Nisha Pradhan is worried. The recent college graduate just turned 21 and plans to live on her own. But she's afraid she won't be able to stay safe. That's because Pradhan is anosmic — she isn't able to smell. She can't tell if milk is sour, or if she's burning something on the stove, or if there's a gas leak, and that worries her. "It actually didn't even strike me as being a big deal until I got to college," Pradhan says. Back home in Pennington, N.J., her family did her smelling for her, she says. She's moved in with them for now, but she's looking for a place of her own. "Now that I'm searching for ways or places to live as an independent person, I find more and more that the sense of smell is crucial to how we live our lives," Pradhan says. There's no good estimate for how many people live with smell loss. Congenital anosmia, being born without a sense of smell, is a rare condition. Acquired smell loss is more common. That loss can be total, or what's known as hyposmia, a diminished sense of smell. Pradhan doesn't know how she lost her sense of smell. She thinks she was born with it because as a child, she says she liked to eat and ate a lot. But there came a point where she lost interest in food. "That's actually one of the first things that people notice whenever they have a smell problem, is food doesn't taste right anymore," says Beverly Cowart, a researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. That's because eating and smell go hand in hand. How food tastes often relies on what we smell. © 2016 npr