Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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By RICH MONAHAN “You must really love that song,” my mother says, and for a moment my heart stops. Both of us are plainly aware she need not be more specific than that. I attempt to read her body language out of the corner of my eye. Does she know? There’s no way, right? “Yeah, it’s a favorite.” I nod, smiling, before turning back toward the television with what I hope is all the nonchalance of a typical 14-year-old boy. What I definitely do not do is glance back and say, “Funny story about that song, while you’ve clearly noticed I’ve listened to it every single weeknight this entire school year, would you believe I only ever press play at exactly 8:38 p.m.? “And check this out, once that cable box hits 9:52 p.m., I will casually retire to my bedroom to initiate the final sequence of what has recently ballooned into a nearly 90-minute nightly routine of humiliating compulsions: I’ll touch the same four CDs laid out on my dresser in ‘order’; turn the stereo on and off; move to the entertainment center; touch the ‘Twisted Metal’ video game case; turn on the TV; boot up the PlayStation; shut it off once the load screen finishes; press ‘channel up’ on the cable box until I hit channel 20, then 22, then 40; turn off the cable box, then touch nothing else until it’s lights out at 9:58 p.m. “And that’s not even the craziest part; the craziest part is that I do these things because I believe they will somehow increase my social standing among other ninth graders. Anywho, Mom, the song’s called ‘Daysleeper,’ and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost my mind.” It started in seventh grade, when two childhood friends aged out of hanging out with me. Already depressed and on the verge of friendlessness, I was desperate to preserve life as it had been. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Link ID: 24756 - Posted: 03.15.2018

By Katarina Zimmer Many of life’s trickier decisions share a common denominator: the options all have both pros and cons. This is what psychologists call a “cost-benefit conflict,” and it’s something that rats and mice in Ann Graybiel’s neuroscience laboratory at MIT face on a regular basis. Graybiel aims to understand how brains evaluate costs and benefits, and why the capacity to do so is sometimes impaired in neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Huntington’s disease, anxiety, and depression. Graybiel and her colleagues have pinpointed the specific brain circuit—consisting of prefrontal cortical neurons, neurons in structures known as striosomes, and inhibitory interneurons that suppress the activity of striosomes—that appears to control this type of decision making. In a study published last November, the researchers reported that chronic stress caused rats and mice to make riskier decisions than they normally would, and that the rodents’ motivations returned to normal with manipulation of this circuit. Graybiel has long been fascinated by the striatum, located in the basal ganglia in the deep forebrain. It was assumed to be primitive, “and not mixed up in any kind of terribly interesting behavior,” she explains. But that view has since changed. The brain region has many projections into the prefrontal cortex, is innervated by midbrain dopaminergic circuits, and is thought to act as a “relay station” between cognitive tasks and motor-related tasks. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Stress; Movement Disorders
Link ID: 24743 - Posted: 03.13.2018

Laura Sanders With fevers, chills and aches, the flu can pound the body. Some influenza viruses may hammer the brain, too. Months after being infected with influenza, mice had signs of brain damage and memory trouble, researchers report online February 26 in the Journal of Neuroscience. It’s unclear if people’s memories are affected in the same way as those of mice. But the new research adds to evidence suggesting that some body-wracking infections could also harm the human brain, says epidemiologist and neurologist Mitchell Elkind of Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. Obvious to anyone who has been waylaid by the flu, brainpower can suffer at the infection’s peak. But not much is known about any potential lingering effects on thinking or memory. “It hasn’t occurred to people that it might be something to test,” says neurobiologist Martin Korte of Technische Universität Braunschweig in Germany. The new study examined the effects of three types of influenza A — H1N1, the strain behind 2009’s swine flu outbreak; H7N7, a dangerous strain that only rarely infects people; and H3N2, the strain behind much of the 2017–2018 flu season misery (SN: 1/19/18, p. 12). Korte and colleagues shot these viruses into mice’s noses, and then looked for memory problems 30, 60 and 120 days later. A month after infection, the mice all appeared to have recovered and gained back weight. But those that had received H3N2 and H7N7 had trouble remembering the location of a hidden platform in a pool of water, the researchers found. Mice that received no influenza or the milder H1N1 virus performed normally at the task. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24704 - Posted: 02.27.2018

By MAYA SALAM and LIAM STACK President Trump said Thursday that violent video games and movies may play a role in school shootings, a claim that has been made — and rejected — many times since the increase in such attacks in the past two decades. Movies are “so violent,” Mr. Trump said at a meeting on school safety one day after he gathered with survivors of school shootings, including some from last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where, the authorities say, a former student, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people with a semiautomatic rifle. “We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed,” Mr. Trump said, “and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” “And then you go the further step and that’s the movies,” he added. “You see these movies, they’re so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved.” A neighbor of Mr. Cruz’s told The Miami Herald that he played video games, often violent ones, for up to 15 hours a day. Media scholars say the claim — a common one in the wake of mass shootings — does not hold up to scrutiny. Mr. Trump is far from the first leader to argue that violence in video games or movies can lead to violence in the real world. A similar claim was made in the 1940s, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York argued that pinball — which was illegal in the city for over 30 years — was “dominated by interests heavily tainted with criminality.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24699 - Posted: 02.26.2018

Barbara J. King When humans talk to each other or walk alongside each other, we tend to match each other's subtle movements. Called interpersonal movement synchrony in the science literature and mirroring in the popular media, it's an often-unconscious process during which we match our gestures and pace to that of our social partner of the moment. Writing in the March issue of the journal Animal Cognition, Charlotte Duranton, Thierry Bedossa, and Florence Gaunet note that this process is "evolutionarily adaptive" for us: "It contributes to communication between individuals by signaling the convergence of their inner states and fostering social cohesion." Then, these three researchers present evidence to show that dogs synchronize their walking pace with their humans in a way that may also reflect an evolutionary adaptation. In an experiment, 36 pet dogs were brought to an open area in Maisons-Laffitte, France, with their owners. After a 15-minute free period, the owner-dog pairs experienced three testing conditions presented in random order. These were: stay-still (owner didn't move for 10 seconds), normal-walk (owners walked at normal speed for 10 seconds), and fast-walk (owner walked fast for 10 seconds). Importantly, the dogs were off-leash and, thus, not tethered in any way to the speed of the owners. The owners were told not to look at, or talk to, their dogs — or to show any evident emotion. The experimenters filmed the trials as they occurred. The dogs synchronized their pace closely with their owners, speeding up when the owners walked at an unnaturally fast pace. (The dogs in their regular routines were used to walking at a normal pace, with the owners often pausing to chat with other people). © 2018 npr

Keyword: Animal Communication; Emotions
Link ID: 24692 - Posted: 02.23.2018

By BENEDICT CAREY President Trump called again on Thursday for the opening of more mental hospitals to help prevent mass murders like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Yet ramping up institutional care, experts say, likely would not have prevented most of the spree killings regularly making headlines in this country. “We’re going to be talking about mental institutions. And when you have some person like this, you can bring them into a mental institution, and they can see what they can do. But we’ve got to get them out of our communities,” the president said during a meeting at the White House with state and local officials. In the 1960s, states across the country began to close or shrink mental hospitals after a series of court decisions that limited the powers of state and local officials to commit people. The decline continued for decades, in part because of cuts in both state and federal budgets for mental health care. Those institutions housed people with severe mental disorders, like schizophrenia, who were deemed unable to care for themselves. And while spree killers may be angry and emotionally disordered, few have had the sorts of illnesses that would have landed them in hospital custody. The latest school shooter, Nikolas Cruz, 19, was clearly troubled and making threats, and he was stockpiling weapons. But he had no mental diagnosis. He has been described as angry, possibly depressed, perhaps isolated — not so different from millions of other teenagers. A full psychiatric evaluation, if he’d had one, might have resulted in a temporary commitment at best, but not full-time institutionalization, experts said. The idea that more such institutions would prevent this kind of violence “is ridiculous, because you can’t put half the people in the country with a mental disturbance in mental hospitals,” said Dr. Michael Stone, a forensic psychiatrist at Columbia University who has studied mass killers. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression; Schizophrenia
Link ID: 24691 - Posted: 02.23.2018

Kerri Smith Cole Skinner was hanging from a wall above an abandoned quarry when he heard a car pull up. He and his friends bolted, racing along a narrow path on the quarry’s edge and hopping over a barbed-wire fence to exit the grounds. The chase is part of the fun for Skinner and his friend Alex McCallum-Toppin, both 15 and pupils at a school in Faringdon, UK. The two say that they seek out places such as construction sites and disused buildings — not to get into trouble, but to explore. There are also bragging rights to be earned. “It’s just something you can say: ‘Yeah, I’ve been in an abandoned quarry’,” says McCallum-Toppin. “You can talk about it with your friends.” Science has often looked at risk-taking among adolescents as a monolithic problem for parents and the public to manage or endure. When Eva Telzer, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, asks family, friends, undergraduates or researchers in related fields about their perception of teenagers, “there’s almost never anything positive”, she says. “It’s a pervasive stereotype.” But how Alex and Cole dabble with risk — considering its social value alongside other pros and cons — is in keeping with a more complex picture emerging from neuroscience. Adolescent behaviour goes beyond impetuous rebellion or uncontrollable hormones, says Adriana Galván, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “How we define risk-taking is going through a shift.” Adolescents do take more risks than adults, and the consequences can include injury, death, run-ins with the law and even long-term health problems. But lab studies in the past decade have revealed layers of nuance in how young people assess risks. In some situations, teenagers can be more risk-averse than their older peers. And they navigate a broader range of risks than has typically been considered in the lab, including social risks and positive risks — such as trying out for a sports team. These types of behaviour seem to have different effects on the brain. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Emotions
Link ID: 24689 - Posted: 02.22.2018

Jon Hamilton Beer has fueled a lot of bad ideas. But on a Friday afternoon in 2007, it helped two Alzheimer's researchers come up with a really a good one. Neuroscientists Robert Moir and Rudolph Tanzi were sipping Coronas in separate offices during "attitude adjustment hour" at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard's largest teaching hospital. And, by chance, each scientist found himself wondering about an apparent link between Alzheimer's disease and the immune system. Moir had been surfing through random scientific papers online — something he does for an hour or so on most Fridays. "I cruise wherever my fancy takes me," he says. And on this day, he cruised to research on molecules known as antimicrobial peptides. They're part of the ancient immune system that's found in all forms of life and plays an important role in protecting the human brain. One way antimicrobial peptides protect us is by engulfing and neutralizing a germ or some other foreign invader. That gives newer parts of the immune system time to get mobilized. These peptides are "extremely important," Moir says. "They're not like legacies from an immune system we don't use anymore. If you don't have them, you're going to die in a couple of hours." As Moir surfed through paper after paper, he realized that one of these ancient molecules, known as LL-37, looked a lot like a molecule closely associated with Alzheimer's. That molecule is called amyloid-beta and it forms the sticky plaques that tend to build up in the brains of people with dementia. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24680 - Posted: 02.19.2018

By Linda Qiu and Justin Bank A heavily armed young man is accused of killing 17 people after opening fire on terrified students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Wednesday. It was the third mass shooting in the past four months in the United States. Nikolas Cruz, who has been linked to a history of mental illness, is believed to have used a legally obtained AR-15 in the shooting. The attack has led to widespread conversations about links between gun violence and mental illness, and how lawmakers and interest groups are debating potential policy responses. Below is a look at some facts and falsehoods uttered by Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin; Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont; and others in the wake of Wednesday’s shooting. “Mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies.” — House Speaker Paul Ryan There’s a link, but it’s more limited than widely thought. Mr. Ryan’s claim reflects a common misconception. According to various polls, roughly half of Americans either believe that failing to identify people with mental health problems is the primary cause of gun violence or that addressing mental health issues would be a major deterrent. That conclusion is not shared by experts or widely accepted research. In an analysis of 235 mass killings, many of which were carried out with firearms, 22 percent of the perpetrators could be considered mentally ill. Overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 percent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016. To be sure, gun violence experts contacted by New York Times reporters have said that barring sales to people who are deemed dangerous by mental health providers could help prevent mass shootings. But the experts said several more measures — including banning assault weapons and barring sales to convicted violent criminals — more effective. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24676 - Posted: 02.17.2018

Nicola Davis Pilot studies have shown that changes in vesicles in men’s semen mirror that in their sperm, suggesting that, as in mice, the two interact. Pilot studies have shown that changes in vesicles in men’s semen mirror that in their sperm, suggesting that, as in mice, the two interact. Photograph: Alamy Stressed fathers may end up with changes to their sperm that could affect behaviour in their offspring, research in mice has shown. Previous work by the team found that male mice who were exposed to a mildly stressful event, such as being restrained, produced sperm that was richer in certain types of molecules called microRNAs. Crucially, the higher levels of these microRNAs in the sperm seemed to result in offspring with a dampened response to stress. That, scientists have noted, could affect the mental health of offspring, since an inability to respond appropriately to stress has been linked to neuropsychiatric disorders such as PTSD and depression. “The hypothalamus, the part of the brain that determines your stress response, has been wired differently,” said Tracy Bale, professor of neuroscience at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who is presenting the new research at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas. Now the researchers say they have unpicked what is going on through work in both mice and cultured cells – experiments known as “stress in the dish”.

Keyword: Stress; Epigenetics
Link ID: 24673 - Posted: 02.17.2018

/ By Dinsa Sachan When reporting a rape to police or testifying during a trial, it’s not uncommon for women to face a barrage of intrusive questions: What were you wearing at the time of the assault? Were you intoxicated? Why were you walking home alone at night? For decades, social psychologists have documented links between the ways society perceives women and their bodies — ones that often lead to this line of questioning — and attitudes towards gender violence. But only recently have neuroscientists begun to investigate what sexual objectification actually looks like in the brain. In a study published in the journal Cortex in December, European researchers explored the relationship between empathy — the ability to feel others’ emotions — and sexual objectification. Their findings, based on measuring brain activity in response to viewing a woman being left out of a social activity, suggest that people feel less empathy for women dressed in revealing clothing compared to those dressed more conservatively. To conduct the research, Giorgia Silani, a neuroscientist at the University of Vienna, Austria, along with her colleagues, asked 36 participants — both men and women — to participate in and watch videos of others playing a digital ball-tossing game. The videos featured a model who either wore long pants, a plain top, and light makeup, or a short dress, high heels, and heavy makeup. At different points in the videos, the model was included or excluded from the game. Copyright 2018 Undark

Keyword: Emotions; Brain imaging
Link ID: 24661 - Posted: 02.15.2018

By Andrew Joseph, Thousands of people with post-traumatic stress disorder have taken the drug prazosin to ease the nightmares and disturbances that stalk their sleep. Numerous studies have shown the drug to be effective at controlling those episodes. But a team of researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, seeking to collect more evidence, set out to study the sustained effectiveness of the treatment. They organized a large, lengthy, multisite trial—the most rigorous type of trial. The drug was no better than a placebo. The trial “seemed like a good idea, but you know, live and learn,” said Dr. Murray Raskind, a lead researcher on the trial, which was described Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Some researchers not involved with the study were quick to say that clinicians should still prescribe prazosin for some patients; Raskind, director of the VA Northwest Network Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center, agreed. There are few other treatment options and there is evidence supporting the use of the drug, a generic that was originally approved to treat high blood pressure but is prescribed off label to control nightmares and improve sleep quality in patients with PTSD. “I don’t think it should change clinical practice—there are six positive studies and one negative study,” said Raskind, who described the research team as “humbled” by the results. He estimated that 15 percent to 20 percent of veterans in the VA system with PTSD are currently prescribed prazosin, and said he did not expect that to change. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 24634 - Posted: 02.09.2018

By Daniel Barron When my son was born a few months ago, he quickly established himself as the tyrant of our household, one that ruled with a singular phonetic ultimatum (“Oooo—whaaah”), tiny iron fists clutched in fury, and a face that roiled like the churning sea. His placid silence instantly devolved to wrath, wrath (once appeased) acquiesced to staring, staring occasionally melted into surprise, an overabundance of which puddled into an outstretched, fearful startle. In his tough, all-work-no-play gig, he presided for weeks without smiling, cooing, giggling or any apparent sign of happiness. During these overtures, I often wondered why he never cracked a smile. His well fashioned grimace—complete with frown, furrow and squint—proved that his facial muscles were strong enough and coordinated enough to make any number of expressions. In the absence of expressions of happiness, was he unhappy? I thought on the idea for a while and, in the end, consulted a couple of my neuroscientist colleagues at Yale: Al Kaye, a fourth-year psychiatry resident and Dustin Scheinost, an assistant professor with appointments in the Department of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging and in Yale’s Child Study Center. The three of us have young sons and (I hope) enjoyed the back and forth about whether, during their first weeks, our little men were in fact not happy. © 2018 Scientific America

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Emotions
Link ID: 24625 - Posted: 02.07.2018

Jon Hamilton When Sarah Jay had her first seizure, she was in her mid-20s and working a high-stress job at a call center in Springfield, Mo. "I was going to go on break," she says. "I was heading towards the bathroom and then I fell and passed out." An ambulance took Jay to the hospital but doctors there couldn't find anything wrong. Jay figured it was a one-time thing. Then a week later, she had another seizure. And that kept happening once or twice a week. "So I was put on short-term disability for my work to try to figure out what was going on," says Jay, who's now 29. The most likely cause for her seizures was abnormal electrical activity in her brain. In other words, epilepsy. But Jay's doctors wanted to be sure. In May 2013, they admitted her to a hospital epilepsy center, put electrodes on her scalp and began watching her brain activity. An epileptic seizure looks a bit like an electrical storm in the brain. Neurons begin to fire uncontrollably, which can cause patients to lose consciousness or have muscle spasms. But during Jay's seizures, her brain activity appeared completely normal. "It was kind of surreal," she says. "This woman, she sat me down and she was like, 'OK, you do not have epilepsy.' And I'm like, 'OK, so what's going on?' " The woman told Jay her seizures were the result of a psychological disorder called psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. PNES is a surprisingly common disorder, says John Stern, who directs the epilepsy clinical program at the University of California, Los Angeles. About 1 in 3 people who come to UCLA for uncontrolled seizures don't have epilepsy. Usually, they have PNES, he says. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Epilepsy; Stress
Link ID: 24606 - Posted: 02.02.2018

Jon Hamilton Scientists have found specialized brain cells in mice that appear to control anxiety levels. The finding, reported Wednesday in the journal Neuron, could eventually lead to better treatments for anxiety disorders, which affect nearly 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. "The therapies we have now have significant drawbacks," says Mazen Kheirbek, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco and an author of the study. "This is another target that we can try to move the field forward for finding new therapies." But the research is at an early stage and lab findings in animals don't always pan out in humans. The discovery of anxiety cells is just the latest example of the "tremendous progress" scientists have made toward understanding how anxiety works in the brain, says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the research. "If we can learn enough, we can develop the tools to turn on and off the key players that regulate anxiety in people," Gordon says. Anxiety disorders involve excessive worry that doesn't go away. These disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety disorder. Kheirbek and a team including several researchers from Columbia University discovered the cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known to be involved in anxiety as well as navigation and memory. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Emotions; Stress
Link ID: 24601 - Posted: 02.01.2018

By Micah Johnson Charles Whitman lived a fairly unremarkable life until August 1, 1966, when he murdered 16 people including his wife and mother. What transformed this 25-year-old Eagle Scout and Marine into one of modern America’s first and deadliest school shooters? His autopsy suggests one troubling explanation: Charles Whitman had a brain tumor pressing on his amygdala, a region of the brain crucial for emotion and behavioral control. Can murder really be a symptom of brain disease? And if our brains can be hijacked so easily, do we really have free will? Neuroscientists are shedding new light on these questions by uncovering how brain lesions can lead to criminal behavior. A recent study contains the first systematic review of 17 known cases where criminal behavior was preceded by the onset of a brain lesion. Is there one brain region consistently involved in cases of criminal behavior? No—the researchers found that the lesions were widely distributed throughout different brain regions. However, all the lesions were part of the same functional network, located on different parts of a single circuit that normally allows neurons throughout the brain to cooperate with each other on specific cognitive tasks. In an era of increasing excitement about mapping the brain’s “connectome,” this finding fits with our growing understanding of complex brain functions as residing not in discrete brain regions, but in densely connected networks of neurons spread throughout different parts of the brain. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Aggression; Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24594 - Posted: 01.31.2018

By Ann Gibbons Humans are the ultimate social animals, with the ability to bond with mates, communicate through language, and make small talk with strangers on a packed bus. (Put chimpanzees in the same situation and most wouldn’t make it off the bus alive.) A new study suggests that the evolution of our unique social intelligence may have initially begun as a simple matter of brain chemistry. Neuroanatomists have been trying for decades to find major differences between the brains of humans and other primates, aside from the obvious brain size. The human brain must have reorganized its chemistry and wiring as early human ancestors began to walk upright, use tools, and develop more complex social networks 6 million to 2 million years ago—well before the brain began to enlarge 1.8 million years ago, according to a hypothesis proposed in the 1960s by physical anthropologist Ralph Holloway of Columbia University. But neurotransmitters aren’t preserved in ancient skulls, so how to spot those changes? One way is to search for key differences in neurochemistry between humans and other primates living today. Mary Ann Raghanti, a biological anthropologist at Kent State University in Ohio, and colleagues got tissue samples from brain banks and zoos of 38 individuals from six species who had died of natural causes: humans, tufted capuchins, pig-tailed macaques, olive baboons, gorillas, and chimpanzees. They sliced sections of basal ganglia—clusters of nerve cells and fibers in a region at the base of the brain known as the striatum, which is a sort of clearinghouse that relays signals from different parts of the brain for movement, learning, and social behavior. They stained these slices with chemicals that react to different types of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, serotonin, and neuropeptide Y—which are associated with sensitivity to social cues and cooperative behavior. Then, they analyzed the slices to measure different levels of neurotransmitters that had been released when the primates were alive. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Aggression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24555 - Posted: 01.23.2018

By LISA SANDERS, M.D. “Have you been to see your doctor?” the woman asked her 72-year-old mother anxiously. Her mother had come from Miami to visit her in New York. They hadn’t seen each other for a couple of months, and her daughter hardly recognized her. Her mother had been slender; now, she looked emaciated. Her usually bright eyes peered dully above her newly prominent cheekbones. But it was more than that — the unrelentingly cheerful, energetic, outgoing woman she had known her entire life had disappeared. Now her mother spoke of nothing but how awful she felt and spent most of her day in bed. It started a couple of months earlier when the mother and her partner were traveling in Italy for a month. While there, she began to feel irritable. She had fallen in love with this man eight years earlier — two years after the sudden death of her husband. And their years together had been happy ones. But on this trip, everything about him, about their relationship, began to grate on her. Suddenly she didn’t want to travel with him; she didn’t even want to see him. Indeed, she didn’t want to see anyone. When she got home, she felt no better. She was a psychologist and recognized the symptoms of anxiety. She had never felt this before, but she had seen it in her patients. She went back to the psychiatrist she saw a few times after her husband died. Yes, the therapist agreed, she did seem anxious. She was also depressed. The woman accepted the psychiatric diagnoses, but told her therapist that it wasn’t just her mind; her body felt like it was too fatigued to do the work of living. But of course, the therapist told her, your mind is part of your body. People, especially older people, often feel symptoms of depression in their bodies — feeling sick and tired rather than sad. The woman started taking an antidepressant and saw the psychiatrist once a week. When that didn’t help, the psychiatrist tried another drug. When she was still no better, she saw another psychiatrist, who added an antipsychotic. By the time the mother went to visit her daughter, she was on four medications: one for anxiety, two for depression and one for her insomnia. Yet she remained anxious, depressed and unable to sleep. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24549 - Posted: 01.22.2018

By Catherine Offord When Floris Klumpers zapped people with electricity while working toward his PhD in the late 2000s, he expected his volunteers’ amygdalae—key emotion centers in the brain—to light up in anticipation of a shock. “There was this idea that the amygdala is the most important structure in emotion processing—especially in fear processing,” says Klumpers, then at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “We were quite surprised, using fMRI studies, to not find amygdala activity when people were anticipating an adverse event.” Klumpers assumed he’d made a mistake, but after replicating the finding in further experimental work, he began thinking about the different stages of animals’ fear responses. First, there’s anticipation, during which an individual becomes alert and plans reactions to possible danger. Then there’s confrontation, when it has to act to avoid imminent danger. Perhaps, Klumpers reasoned, the brain’s fear-processing regions treat these two phases differently. To investigate, Klumpers, now a neuroscientist at Radboud University Medical Center, and colleagues recently collected data from more than 150 volunteers, who received mild electrical shocks to their fingers as they viewed a computer. “We have a simple cue on the screen that can predict the occurrence of an electrical stimulation,” Klumpers says. In one set of experiments, for example, a yellow square meant a shock was likely, while a blue square signaled no shock for the time being. Meanwhile, the researchers monitored participants’ heart rates and imaged their brains using fMRI. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Emotions; Stress
Link ID: 24532 - Posted: 01.16.2018

By PATRICK SHARKEY Over the past few years, the discussion of crime and violence in the United States has focused on police brutality, mass incarceration and the sharp rise in violence in cities like Baltimore, St. Louis and Chicago. This is entirely appropriate: Any spike in violence should garner attention, and redressing the injustices of our criminal justice system is a matter of moral urgency. But it is also worth reflecting on how much the level of violence has fallen in this country over the past 25 years and how widespread the benefits of that decline have been. From the 1970s through the early part of the 1990s, the murder rate in some cities in the United States rose to levels seen only in the most violent, war-torn nations of the developing world. In the years since, violent crime has decreased in almost every city, in many cases by more than 75 percent. For well-off urbanites, the decline of crime is most visible in sanitized, closely guarded city spaces where tourists and others can now comfortably wander about. But far more consequential have been the changes in low-income, highly segregated urban communities. Indeed, my research has shown that the most disadvantaged people have gained the most from the reduction in violent crime. Start with the lives saved. Though homicide is not a common cause of death for most of the United States population, for African-American men between the ages of 15 and 34 it is the leading cause, which means that any change in the homicide rate has a disproportionate impact on them. The sociologist Michael Friedson and I calculated what the life expectancy would be today for blacks and whites had the homicide rate never shifted from its level in 1991. We found that the national decline in the homicide rate since then has increased the life expectancy of black men by roughly nine months. That figure may not seem like much, but it is exceedingly rare for any change in society to generate such a degree of change in life expectancy. For example, researchers have estimated that if the obesity epidemic in the United States was eliminated, life expectancy would increase by a similar amount. The drop in homicides is probably the most important development in the health of black men in the past several decades. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression; Attention
Link ID: 24528 - Posted: 01.15.2018