Chapter 11. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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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

Between email and cell phones, many of us feel like we're at work 24/7. The concept of workplace burnout is not that old. NPR's Planet Money team has the story of the man who coined the term. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: If you're the type of person who checks your work email right before bed and just as you wake up the next day, you might know the word burnout, but you may not know the story behind it. Noel King from NPR's Planet Money podcast tells us about the man who coined the term burnout and then found a sort of solution. NOEL KING, BYLINE: In the early '70s, Herbert Freudenberger had a successful psychology practice on New York's Upper East Side. He was a serious, driven man. He'd survived the Holocaust and moved to the U.S. as a kid. Here's his daughter Lisa Freudenberger. Her dad died in 1999. LISA FREUDENBERGER: His childhood kind of stopped at 7 or 8 because he had then had to grow up pretty quickly and survive in a new country. KING: In the States, he was taken in by an aunt who was cruel to him. She made him sleep in an attic. In his teens, he ran away and lived on the street for a while. Herbert grew up to become someone who was always pushing himself to help more people. That's why in addition to his practice on the Upper East Side, he opened a clinic on the Bowery - New York's Skid Row. He worked with drug addicts. © 2016 npr

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 22968 - Posted: 12.09.2016

By DAVE PHILIPPS CHARLESTON, S.C. — After three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, C. J. Hardin wound up hiding from the world in a backwoods cabin in North Carolina. Divorced, alcoholic and at times suicidal, he had tried almost all the accepted treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder: psychotherapy, group therapy and nearly a dozen different medications. “Nothing worked for me, so I put aside the idea that I could get better,” said Mr. Hardin, 37. “I just pretty much became a hermit in my cabin and never went out.” Then, in 2013, he joined a small drug trial testing whether PTSD could be treated with MDMA, the illegal party drug better known as Ecstasy. “It changed my life,” he said in a recent interview in the bright, airy living room of the suburban ranch house here, where he now lives while going to college and working as an airplane mechanic. “It allowed me to see my trauma without fear or hesitation and finally process things and move forward.” Based on promising results like Mr. Hardin’s, the Food and Drug Administration gave permission Tuesday for large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials of the drug — a final step before the possible approval of Ecstasy as a prescription drug. If successful, the trials could turn an illicit street substance into a potent treatment for PTSD. Through a spokeswoman, the F.D.A. declined to comment, citing regulations that prohibit disclosing information about drugs that are being developed. © 2016 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 22932 - Posted: 11.30.2016

By Sarah Kaplan I don't know if the holidays are as emotional for you as they are for me, but I have never been able to get through this season without shedding buckets of tears. Why do we cry in the first place? Does it actually do anything to make us feel better? Here's what science has to say: Girl, we feel you. (Or guy. Guys can cry, too. And psychologists say that emotional control probably isn't good for men. So go ahead and let it out.) Anyway. You shouldn't feel shame about shedding tears of emotion. Weeping is part of what makes you human. Although other animals may yelp or whimper in pain or fear, and many creatures have tear ducts in their eyes to help flush out dirt and irritants, humans are the only species known to cry for emotional reasons. And scientists aren't really sure why. One theory is that tears are a communication tool. Before they learn to speak, babies cry to get attention. They start out with tearless wails, but at around three or four months, they start to weep when upset as well. Evolutionary psychologists have argued that infants' tears are related to the distress vocalizations produced by other young animals: Crying conveys their need for parental care. It's also thought that a baby's crying has evolved to be especially evocative for parents — something few stressed-out, sleep-deprived parents of newborns would disagree with. This theory would explain the loud, chaotic tantrums thrown by children when hurt or distressed. But what about adult emotional tears, which are usually much quieter? In those cases, crying could be a method of “conspecific communication” — a way of alerting sympathetic neighbors that something is wrong, without attracting the attention of a predator. © 1996-2016 The Washington Post

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 22926 - Posted: 11.29.2016

Nancy Shute Getting the flu while pregnant doesn't appear to increase the child's risk of being diagnosed with autism later on, a study finds, and neither does getting a flu shot while pregnant. The study, published Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics, tries to tease apart subtle questions of risk and risk avoidance. Some smaller, earlier studies have found an association between serious viral infections in pregnancy or maternal fever in pregnancy and increased autism risk. This much larger study finds no such ties, though the authors note that it shouldn't be the last word on the topic. This study examined the health records of 196,929 children who were born at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California between 2000 and 2010. They found that 3,101 children, or 1.6 percent, had been diagnosed with autism through June 2015. The researchers then looked at the mothers' health records to see if they had been diagnosed with flu while pregnant and whether they'd gotten a flu shot. Less than 1 percent of women had the flu; about 23 percent got a flu shot while pregnant, a number that rose from 6 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2010. They found no correlation overall between having the flu while pregnant and increased autism risk in children. © 2016 npr

Keyword: Autism; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 22925 - Posted: 11.29.2016

Rachel Ehrenberg Living on the bottom rungs of the social ladder may be enough to make you sick. A new study manipulating the pecking order of monkeys finds that low social status kicks the immune system into high gear, leading to unwanted inflammation akin to that in people with chronic diseases. The new study, in the Nov. 25 Science, gets at an age-old question that’s been tough to study experimentally: Does social status alone change biology in a way that can make a person more healthy or more vulnerable to disease? “We’ve known for years that human health and longevity are linked to socioeconomic status,” says Steve Cole, an expert in human social genomics at UCLA. This link often persists regardless of factors such as access to decent health care or clean water, but it’s hard to design studies to get at mechanism or causation, he says. “This study is very nice to see and it’s very consistent with other lines of research.” To tease out the influence of rank on health, scientists turned to another highly social animal: the rhesus monkey. Evolutionary biologist Jenny Tung of Duke University and colleagues worked with 45 female monkeys at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center field station near Lawrenceville, Ga. The researchers arranged the monkeys into groups of five, adding monkeys one at a time, which reliably resulted in the oldest member dominating and the newest member having the lowest rank. These groups were maintained for a year during which the researchers noted behaviors and took blood samples to assess changes in cellular and gene activity associated with the monkeys’ social status. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

Keyword: Stress; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 22911 - Posted: 11.25.2016

Ian Sample Science editor Scientists have raised hopes for a radical new therapy for phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with a procedure that can dampen down fears linked to painful memories. The advance holds particular promise for patients because in early tests, researchers found they could reduce anxieties triggered by specific memories without asking people to think about them consciously. That could make it more appealing than exposure therapy, which aims to help patients overcome their phobias by making them confront their fears in a safe environment, for example by encouraging them to handle spiders or snakes in the clinic. The new technique, called fMRI decoded neurofeedback (DecNef), was developed by scientists at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Lab in Japan. Mitsuo Kawato, who worked with researchers in the UK and the US on the latest study, said he wanted to find an alternative to exposure therapy, which has a 40% drop-out rate among PTSD patients. “We always thought this was ambitious, but it worked the way we hoped it would,” said Ben Seymour, a clinical neuroscientist and member of the team at Cambridge University. “We don’t completely erase the fear memory, but it is substantially reduced.” The procedure uses a computer algorithm to analyse a patient’s brain activity in real time and pinpoint moments when their fears can be overwritten by giving them a reward. In the latest study, the reward was a small amount of money. © 2016 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions; Attention
Link ID: 22895 - Posted: 11.22.2016

By Daniel Barron Neurobiology was the first class I shuffled into as a dopey freshman undergraduate student. Dr. Brown’s class began at 8AM. I wore that bowling jacket I bought from the Orem Deseret Industries, Utah’s version of Goodwill. I’d spent much of my childhood in lower-middle class neighborhoods of small towns: Middle and Junior High School in the Texas Hill Country; High School in rural Utah. In High School, I would jog through the countryside—down by the River Bottom’s road—and rehearse conversations and ideas that troubled me. I hadn’t learned the language of social justice or of science. I felt uneasy with many of the ideas I’d been taught but lacked the vocabulary to pinpoint why. Dr. Brown’s first lecture covered visual perception, ocular dominance columns, and the idea that brain structure and function were intertwined. To use my parlance at that age, this was a Revelation. The lecture outlined a completely novel way of thinking: the notion that between my ears, behind my forehead and nose was a collection of cells—of neurons, an organ—responsible for how I saw and perceived the world. I was young, I was a drug-free virgin, and this was without question the greatest catharsis I had ever experienced. Here wasn’t simply a foundation for my behavior, but for others’ as well. My theological leanings faded as I began to learn why I was Me. In response, I worked my ass off. © 2016 Scientific American,

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 22873 - Posted: 11.16.2016

Tom Siegfried SAN DIEGO — Babies as young as 5 months old possess networks of brain cell activity that react to facial emotions, especially fear, a new study finds. “Networks for recognizing facial expressions are in place shortly after birth,” Catherine Stamoulis of Harvard Medical School said November 13 during a news conference at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. “This work … is the first evidence that networks that are involved in a function that is critical to survival, such as the recognition of facial expressions, come online very early in life.” Stamoulis and colleagues at Harvard and Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed a database of brain electrical activity collected from 58 infants as they aged from 5 months to 3 years. Brain activity was measured as the infants viewed pictures of female faces expressing happiness, anger or fear. Computer models of the brain activity showed that networks responding to fear were activated much more dramatically than those for happy or angry faces, even in the youngest infants. As babies grew older, their brain networks responding to facial emotions became less complex as redundant nerve cell connections were pruned. But the fear network remained more complex than the others, and response to fearful faces remained elevated over time. Understanding the brain circuitry involved in responding to emotional facial expressions could have implications for research on developmental disorders, Stamoulis said. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2016.

Keyword: Emotions; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 22866 - Posted: 11.15.2016