Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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By Emily Underwood Alert! “Cats Can Literally Make You Crazy.” Wait! “Cats Don't Cause Mental Illness.” The news headlines are as alarming as they are contradictory. All refer to Toxoplasma gondii, a brain parasite carried by our feline companions that infects roughly one in three people. Scientists have long hypothesized that T. gondii plays a role in mental illness, including schizophrenia. But though more than 100 studies have found a correlation, none has shown that the parasite actually causes mental illness. So what’s really going on? Here’s what you need to know: T. gondii is not a bacterium or a virus, but a single-celled microscopic organism distantly related to the parasite that causes malaria. Cats get T. gondii and the disease it causes, toxoplasmosis, by eating infected rodents, birds, and other animals. Estimates suggest about 40% of cats in the United States are infected; most don’t show any symptoms, but they can develop jaundice or blindness and experience personality changes if the parasite spreads to the liver or nervous system. In the first few weeks after infection, a cat can shed millions of hardy egg pods called oocysts into its litterbox each day. Although some people get toxoplasmosis from direct contact with domestic cats and cat feces, many more are infected when oocysts shed by cats make it into the soil and water, where they can survive for a year or longer. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25968 - Posted: 02.15.2019

By Meredith Wadman BethAnn McLaughlin has no time for James Watson, especially not when the 90-year-old geneticist is peering out from a photo on the wall of her guest room at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center. “I don’t need him staring at me when I’m trying to go to sleep,” McLaughlin told a December 2018 gathering at the storied New York meeting center as she projected a photo of her redecorating job: She had hung a washcloth over the image of Watson, who co-discovered DNA’s structure, directed the lab for decades—and is well-known for racist and sexist statements. The washcloth image was part of McLaughlin’s unconventional presentation—by turns sobering, hilarious, passionate, and profane—to two dozen experts who had gathered to wrestle with how to end gender discrimination in the biosciences. McLaughlin, a 51-year-old neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) in Nashville, displayed the names of current members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) who have been sanctioned for sexual harassment. She urged other NAS members—several of whom sat in the room—to resign in protest, “as one does.” She chided institutions for passing along “harassholes” to other universities. “The only other places that do this are the Catholic Church and the military,” she said. In the past 9 months, McLaughlin has exploded into view as the public face of the #MeToo movement in science, wielding her irreverent, sometimes wickedly funny Twitter presence, @McLNeuro, as part cudgel, part cheerleader’s megaphone. In June 2018, she created a website, MeTooSTEM.com, where scores of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) have posted mostly anonymous, often harrowing tales of their own harassment. In just 2 days that month, she convinced the widely used website RateMyProfessors.com to remove its “red hot chili pepper” rating for “hotness.” And after launching an online petition, she succeeded last fall in spurring AAAS, which publishes Science, to adopt a policy allowing proven sexual harassers to be stripped of AAAS honors. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 25961 - Posted: 02.13.2019

By James Gorman If you want to know what makes hummingbirds tick, it’s best to avoid most poetry about them. Bird-beam of the summer day, — Whither on your sunny way? Whither? Probably off to have a bloodcurdling fight, that’s whither. John Vance Cheney wrote that verse, but let’s not point fingers. He has plenty of poetic company, all seduced by the color, beauty and teeny tininess of the hummingbird but failed to notice the ferocity burning in its rapidly beating heart. The Aztecs weren’t fooled. Their god of war, Huitzilopochtli, was a hummingbird. The Aztecs loved war, and they loved the beauty of the birds as well. It seems they didn’t find any contradiction in the marriage of beauty and bloodthirsty aggression. Scientists understood that aggression was a deep and pervasive part of hummingbird life. But they, too, have had their blind spots. The seemingly perfect match of nectar-bearing flowers to slender nectar-sipping beaks clearly showed that hummingbirds were shaped by co-evolution. It seemed clear that, evolutionarily, plants were in charge. Their need for reliable pollinators produced flowers with a shape that demanded a long slender bill. Hummingbird evolution obliged. But hummingbirds also heard the call of battle, which demanded a different evolutionary course. Some of those slender, delicate beaks have been reshaped into strong, sharp and dangerous weapons. In a recent paper organizing and summing up 10 years of research, Alejandro Rico-Guevara and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, shared evidence gathered by high-speed video about how the deadly beaks are deployed in male-to-male conflict. Like the horns of bighorn sheep or the giant mandibles of stag beetles, hummingbird beaks are used to fight off rivals for mates. This is sexual selection, a narrow part of natural selection, in which the improvement of mating chances is the dominant force. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression; Evolution
Link ID: 25937 - Posted: 02.06.2019

Jonathan Lambert It's cold outside, you're sick and all you want to do is curl up under the covers until you feel better. In fact, the need for sleep can be so strong when we're sick that this may be all we can do. Scientists don't fully understand how this excessive sleepiness is different from your normal, everyday tiredness. Previous work in nematodes found a gene that dampens activity of wakefulness neurons in response to infection. Other research in mammals suggests elements of the immune response can influence behavior. Overall, scientists still have a lot to learn about what makes us feel sleepy, when we're healthy or sick. Some genes have been identified that seem to affect sleep, but none that actively induce sleepiness when turned on. But a study, published Thursday in the journal Science, finds one potential piece of the puzzle — in fruit flies. Scientists discovered a single protein that both puts flies to sleep when they're sick and also has antimicrobial properties. "This is a very interesting finding," says Dragana Rogulja, a sleep neurobiologist at Harvard who wasn't involved in the study. "It's pretty clear that infection or something that requires an immune response does lead to sleep, and this gene seems to do that." Neuroscientist Amita Sehgal led the study at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. She didn't set out to find a gene linked to both sleep and immunity. Instead, her lab was interested in understanding the molecular triggers of sleep. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Sleep; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25924 - Posted: 02.01.2019

By Roni Caryn Rabin A sudden shortage of one of the safest anti-anxiety drugs on the market has spread alarm among people who rely on the medication, buspirone, to get through the day without debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. Physicians are also expressing concern, because there is no information about when the supply will resume, making it difficult to manage patients. Shelby Vittek, a 27-year-old writer in New Jersey, fruitlessly called dozens of drugstores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania in an attempt to locate the medication after her pharmacist told her the drug was on back-order with no end in sight. She ended up weaning herself off the drug, spreading her last three pills over six days to avoid having to go “cold turkey” before starting a difficult transition to an antidepressant. “I pretty much lost over a month of work, and have just started to feel like myself again,” she said. A 34-year-old New York woman who couldn’t get her buspirone refilled in January said she couldn’t sleep and had such severe panic attacks that she had to use Klonopin, a drug she dislikes because it is addictive. “I’m trying to take care of my anxiety, and it’s giving me a panic attack,” said the woman, a sexual assault survivor who asked not to be identified. A Pennsylvania medical school student received her mail-order shipment of medication last week with no buspirone in it and no explanation, so she scrounged around the house and dug up old pills from missed doses. Last weekend, the student, who asked not to be identified, was so anxious she could not leave the house. “This is potentially messing with people’s clinical stability,” said Dr. Dennis Glick, a psychiatrist in Greenbelt, Md. “When you have a patient with a complicated and balanced regimen, you really don’t want to just arbitrarily have someone come off the medicine.” Dr. Glick said he has been in practice for 34 years “and I honestly don’t recall issues like this interfering with care until maybe a couple of years ago.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25921 - Posted: 02.01.2019

Jon Hamilton For comedian Lewis Black, anger is a job. Black is famous for his rants about stuff he finds annoying or unfair or just plain infuriating. Onstage, he often looks ready for a fight. He leans forward. He shouts. He stabs the air with an index finger, or a middle finger. To a scientist, Black looks a lot like a belligerent dog, or an irritated gerbil. "Practically every sexually reproducing, multicellular animal shows aggressive behavior," says David Anderson, a professor of biology at Caltech and co-author of the book The Neuroscience of Emotion. "Fruit flies show aggression." When I relay that last bit to Black, he's skeptical. "Really?" he says. "Come on." But Anderson, whose lab studies fruit flies, says the evidence is compelling. "They fight over females, they fight over food, they threaten each other, they put their wings up in the air, they charge at each other," he says. But does aggressive behavior mean a fruit fly gets angry the way Black does? Anderson says that depends on how you define the term. "We use anger subjectively to refer to our experience, our conscious experience, of rage, the feeling that you are about to explode, the feeling of irritation," he says. Black feels that way a lot. And he has spent decades thinking about how anger works in his own brain. "My anger comes from a collection of things that occur during the course of a day that build up," he says. "So by the end of a day, six or seven things have happened to me that have gone into my anger bank." © 2019 npr

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 25917 - Posted: 01.31.2019

A study has shed light on the neurocomputational contributions to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in combat veterans. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, revealed distinct patterns for how the brain and body respond to learning danger and safety depending on the severity of PTSD symptoms. These findings could help explain why symptoms of PTSD can be severe for some people but not others. The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health. “Researchers have thought that the experience of PTSD, in many ways, is an overlearned response to survive a threatening experience,” said Susan Borja, Ph.D., chief of the NIMH Dimensional Traumatic Stress Research Program. “This study clarifies that those who have the most severe symptoms may appear behaviorally similar to those with less severe symptoms, but are responding to cues in subtly different, but profound, ways.” PTSD is a disorder that can sometimes develop after exposure to a traumatic event. People with PTSD may experience intrusive and frightening thoughts and memories of the event, experience sleep problems, feel detached or numb, or may be easily startled. While almost half of all U.S. adults will experience a traumatic event in their life, most do not develop PTSD. One theory explaining why some symptoms of PTSD develop suggests that during a traumatic event, a person may learn to view the people, locations, and objects that are present as being dangerous if they become associated with the threatening situation. While some of these things may be dangerous, some are safe. PTSD symptoms result when these safe stimuli continue to trigger fearful and defensive responses long after the trauma has occurred.

Keyword: Stress; Brain imaging
Link ID: 25912 - Posted: 01.29.2019

By John Horgan I’m still brooding over the pros and cons of facing truth, or reality. My last post notes that in some situations--when we’re languishing in a nursing home, say, or agonizing over climate change--reality might be distressing, hence the temptation to avoid it. In this post, I’d like to dig deeper into the link between knowledge and mood. When we see reality, assuming that’s possible, how should we feel? And when I say reality I mean Reality, the way things really are. The Truth. Below I’ll consider three possibilities. Buddha and other sages have assured us that Reality should make us happy, no matter what the circumstances of our lives at any particular moment. And not just happy but serene, blissful, immune to the pains that afflict ordinary folk. This is the state known as enlightenment, nirvana, awakening. You plunge into the timeless cosmic consciousness underlying the flux of ordinary mortal existence, and you feel fantastic. (The catch is that, according to Buddha, when you are in this state you realize that “you” don't really exist.) Plato agreed that Truth is sublime, and perceiving it should make you feel good (and be good, but let’s leave that aside). You escape the cave of delusion, step into the incandescent realm of eternal forms and are overcome with rapture. Things might get tricky when you go back inside the cave and tell your benighted buddies what you’ve seen. They might think you're nuts and kill you, but you’ll die happy, as Plato’s mentor Socrates supposedly did. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Consciousness; Emotions
Link ID: 25908 - Posted: 01.28.2019

By Scott Atran “I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.”—Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms The revival of parochial nationalism in tandem with the spread of transnational terrorism has fragmented social consensus across the world. Governments and peoples are struggling to understand what to do to get along without constant conflict, or even to see if that is possible anymore. A question that drives my colleagues and me is: Can science be of any help? And here I want to focus on one particular contribution from social science: research into how sacred values can ratchet up conflict, and what might be done about it. Current forms of seemingly intractable political conflict—over the wall in America, Brexit in Britain, the Yellow Vests in France, Catalonian Independence in Spain—appear to share two critical features of more violent enduring conflicts, such as the Israel-Palestine dispute or the fight with ISIS and its ilk, which our interdisciplinary research teams of scientists, policymakers and artists at Artis International have been exploring in depth for more than a decade: entrenchment of issues, however material to begin with, in appeal to the uncompromising nature of so-called “sacred values” that people believe in, like God and country; and the belief that the one side, because of its antagonistic values, wants to exclude the other side from social or political life, or even from life itself. With support from Minerva Research Initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense and National Science Foundation, we recently published the first neuroimaging study of a radicalizing population. The research used ethnographic surveys and psychological analysis to identify 535 young Muslim men in and around Barcelona—where ISIS-supporting jihadis killed 13 people and wounded 100 more in the city center in August 2017. © 2019 Scientific American,

Keyword: Emotions; Brain imaging
Link ID: 25906 - Posted: 01.28.2019

Bret Stetka As the story goes, nearly 80 years ago on the Faroe Islands - a stark North Atlantic archipelago 200 miles off the coast of Scotland — a neurologic epidemic may have washed, or rather convoyed, ashore. Before 1940 the incidence of multiple sclerosis on the Faroes was near, if not, zero, according to the tantalizing lore I recall from medical school. Yet in the years following British occupation of the islands during World War II, the rate of MS rose dramatically, leading many researchers to assume the outbreak was caused by some unknown germ transmitted by the foreign soldiers. We now know that MS is not infectious in the true sense of the word. It is not contagious in the way, say, the flu is. But infection does likely play a role in MS. As may be the case in Alzheimer's disease, it's looking more and more like MS strikes when infectious, genetic and immune factors gang up to eventually impair the function of neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Researchers are hoping to better understand this network of influences to develop more effective ways to treat MS, and perhaps prevent it in the first place. In the MS-free brain, electrical impulses zip down nerve fibers called axons causing the release of neurotransmitters. The wiring allows neurons to communicate with each other and generate biologic wonders like thought, sensation and movement. In many regions of the brain those axons are encased in an insulating jacket of protein and fat called myelin, which increases the speed that electrical nerve impulses travel. © 2019 npr

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25893 - Posted: 01.22.2019

Aimee Cunningham As public health officials tackle opioid addiction and overdoses, another class of prescription drugs has been contributing to a growing number of deaths across the United States. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, are commonly prescribed for anxiety and insomnia. The drugs are also highly addictive and can be fatal, especially when combined with alcohol or opioids. In the latest sign of the drug’s impact, the number of overdose deaths involving “benzos” rose from 0.54 per 100,000 in 1999 to 5.02 per 100,000 in 2017 among women aged 30 to 64, researchers report January 11 in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. That’s a spike of 830 percent, surpassed only by increases seen in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids or heroin. Overall, there were 10,684 overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines in the United States in 2016, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 1999, the total was 1,135. Benzodiazepines have a sedating effect, and are particularly dangerous when used with other drugs that slow breathing, such as opioids and alcohol. In combination, the substances can “cause people to fall asleep and essentially never wake up again,” says Anna Lembke, an addiction psychiatrist at Stanford University School of Medicine. Benzos and opioids are often prescribed together, and opioids contribute to 75 percent of overdose deaths involving benzos. The rising number of deaths involving benzos hasn’t stopped the flow of prescriptions. The number of U.S. adults who filled a prescription for benzos rose from 8.1 million in 1996 to 13.5 million in 2013, a jump of 67 percent, a study in the American Journal of Public Health in 2016 found. The quantity of benzos acquired more than tripled over the same time. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 25882 - Posted: 01.19.2019

A new study in rodents has shown that the brain’s cerebellum—known to play a role in motor coordination—also helps control the brain’s reward circuitry. Researchers found a direct neural connection from the cerebellum to the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain, which is an area long known to been involved in reward processing and encoding. These findings, published in Science, demonstrate for the first time that the brain’s cerebellum plays a role in controlling reward and social preference behavior, and sheds new light on the brain circuits critical to the affective and social dysfunction seen across multiple psychiatric disorders. The research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of the National Institutes of Health. “This type of research is fundamental to deepening our understanding of how brain circuit activity relates to mental illnesses,” said Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of NIMH. “Findings like the ones described in this paper help us learn more about how the brain works, a key first step on the path towards developing new treatments.” The cerebellum plays a well-recognized role in the coordination and regulation of motor activity. However, research has also suggested that this brain area contributes to a host of non-motor functions. For example, abnormalities in the cerebellum have been linked to autism, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders, and brain activation in the cerebellum has been linked to motivation, social and emotional behaviors, and reward learning, each of which can be disrupted in psychiatric disorders.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Emotions
Link ID: 25876 - Posted: 01.18.2019

By Elizabeth Pennisi American Kennel Club descriptions of dog breeds can read like online dating profiles: The border collie is a workaholic; the German shepherd will put its life on the line for loved ones. Now, in the most comprehensive study of its kind to date, scientists have shown that such distinct breed traits are actually rooted in a dog’s genes. The findings may shed light on human behaviors as well. “It’s a huge advance,” says Elaine Ostrander, a mammalian geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved with the work. “It’s a finite number of genes, and a lot of them do make sense.” When the dog genome was sequenced in 2005, scientists thought they would quickly be able to pin down the genes that give every breed its hallmark personality. But they found so much variation even within a breed that they could never study enough dogs to get meaningful results. So in the new study, Evan MacLean, a comparative psychologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and colleagues began by looking at behavioral data for about 14,000 dogs from 101 breeds. The analyses come from the Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), a sort of pet personality quiz developed by James Serpell, an ethologist at the University of Pennsylvania. C-BARQ asks questions like, “What does your dog do when a stranger comes to the door?” to allow owners to objectively characterize 14 aspects of their pet’s personalities, including trainability, attachment, and aggression. Since the survey was developed in 2003, more than 50,000 owners have participated. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Genes & Behavior; Emotions
Link ID: 25852 - Posted: 01.09.2019

In a study of fruit flies, NIH scientists suggested that the body’s immune system may play a critical role in the damage caused by aging brain disorders. The results are based on experiments in which the researchers altered the activity of Cdk5, a gene that preclinical studies have suggested is important for early brain development and may be involved in neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Previously, they found that altering Cdk5 sped up the genetic aging process, causing the flies to die earlier than normal and have problems with walking or flying late in life and greater signs of neurodegenerative brain damage. In this study, published in Cell Reports, they suggested that altering Cdk5 resulted in the death of dopamine releasing neurons, especially in the brains of older flies. Typically, Parkinson’s disease damages the same types of cells in humans. Further experiments in flies suggested the neuron loss happened because altering Cdk5 slowed autophagy, or a cell’s waste disposal system that rids the body of damaged cells in a contained, controlled fashion, which in turn triggered the immune system to attack the animal’s own neurons. This immune system attack is a much “messier” and more diffuse process than autophagy. Genetically restoring the waste system or blocking the immune system’s responses prevented the reduction in dopamine neurons caused by altering Cdk5. The authors concluded that this chain reaction in which a breakdown in autophagy triggers a widely destructive immune reaction may occur in human brain during several neurodegenerative disorders and that researchers may want to look to these systems for new treatment targets and strategies.

Keyword: Alzheimers; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25836 - Posted: 01.03.2019

By: Robert Zatorre, Ph.D. Human beings seem to have innate musicality. That is, the capacity to understand and derive pleasure from complex musical patterns appears to be culturally universal.1 Musicality is expressed very early in development.2 In this sense, music may be compared to speech—the other cognitively interesting way that we use sound. But whereas speech is most obviously important for communicating propositions or concepts, obtaining such knowledge, this is not the primary function of music. Rather, it is music’s power to communicate emotions, moods, or affective mental states that seems beneficial to our quality of life. Which brings us to the question that forms the title of this article: why do we love music? On its face, there is no apparent reason why a sequence or pattern of sounds that has no specific propositional meaning should elicit any kind of pleasurable response. Yet music is widely considered amongst our greatest joys.3 Where does this phenomenon come from? There are several approaches to this question. A musicologist might have a very different answer than a social scientist. Since I’m a neuroscientist, I would like to address it from that perspective—recognizing that other perspectives may also offer valuable insights. An advantage of neuroscience is that we can relate our answer to established empirical findings and draw from two especially relevant domains: the neuroscience of auditory perception and of the reward system. To give away the punch line of my article, I believe that music derives its power from an interaction between these two systems, the first of which allows us to analyze sound patterns and make predictions about them, and the second of which evaluates the outcomes of these predictions and generates positive (or negative) emotions depending on whether the expectation was met, not met, or exceeded. © 2018 The Dana Foundation

Keyword: Hearing; Emotions
Link ID: 25832 - Posted: 01.01.2019

Jon Hamilton Just in time for the winter solstice, scientists may have figured out how short days can lead to dark moods. Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether you are happy or sad. When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed. "It's very likely that things like seasonal affective disorder involve this pathway," says Jerome Sanes, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University. Sanes was part of a team that found evidence of the brain circuit in people. The scientists presented their research in November at the Society for Neuroscience meeting. The work hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal yet, but the researchers plan to submit it. A few weeks earlier, a different team published a study suggesting a very similar circuit in mice. Together, the studies offer a strong argument that seasonal mood changes, which affect about 1 in 5 people, have a biological cause. The research also adds to the evidence that support light therapy as an appropriate treatment.. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Depression; Biological Rhythms
Link ID: 25809 - Posted: 12.21.2018

By Elizabeth Pennisi A 9-year study has uncovered some unusual behavior by common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) living off the coast of Slovenia. Within one population of this species, the animals have divided into two groups that avoid contact by hunting at different times of day—a social strategy not known in marine mammals. Researchers used photographs of the dolphins’ dorsal fins to individually identify them. They made many observations of 38 of the animals, carefully recording the time, date, and location of each sighting. The marine mammals divided into two major groups of 19 and 13 animals each, with six animals loosely making up a third group, the team reports today in Marine Biology. The 19 members of the larger group tended to hang out—and likely hunt—while following fishing trawlers in the Bay of Trieste, which is located at the eastern top of Italy’s “boot.” The second group’s cadre of 13 never associated with boats when in the Bay of Trieste. Although the dolphins hunted in the same area, they rarely saw each other, the researchers discovered, because the larger group was in that area only between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time, whereas the smaller group showed up between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Other studies have documented groups of dolphins that divide up the waters where they hunt, but this is the first time these marine mammals have been shown to timeshare the sea, the researchers note. Although they don’t know why—or how—the dolphins set these schedules, the fact that the animals are never in the same place likely diminishes unfriendly encounters and reduces direct competition for food. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 25798 - Posted: 12.20.2018

Nicola Davis An overactive immune response appears to be a trigger for persistent fatigue, say researchers in a study that could shed light on the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term condition in which individuals experience exhaustion that is not helped by rest, as well as pain, mental fogginess and trouble with memory and sleep. It is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Some studies into the condition have suggested the immune system could be involved, with viral infections one potential trigger for CFS. “The evidence is largely inconclusive – there are studies which have shown elevated levels of the inflammatory markers, but such abnormalities are quite inconsistent across studies,” said Alice Russell, first author of the research from King’s College London. Because it is not possible to predict who will get a virus, it is impossible to look at levels of biological molecules before, during and after a potential CFS “trigger” infection. Experts say they have used a group of people with a different condition as a model to explore how immune response might be linked to persistent fatigue. Writing in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, Russell and colleagues describe how they recruited 55 patients with a chronic hepatitis C infection. To treat the condition, all were given a six- to 12-month course of injections of interferon alpha, a protein that is produced naturally by the body and stimulates the white blood cells to provoke an immune response. The treatment has previously been linked to a side effect of ongoing fatigue in some patients. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Depression
Link ID: 25792 - Posted: 12.17.2018

Jef Akst Alan McElligott, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Roehampton in the UK, continues to be impressed by goats. Since he started studying the charismatic ungulates a decade ago, he’s found that mothers remember the calls of their kids several months after they’ve been separated, and that goats can solve a two-step puzzle box akin to those typically used in primate research—and remember how to do it a year later. Now his team has found that goats at the Buttercups Sanctuary in Kent, UK, can distinguish between happy and angry human expressions. “Given some of the other things that we’ve found out about goats, I guess we shouldn’t really be that surprised,” says McElligott, who’s hoping to improve welfare guidelines for the animals by revealing their smart and social nature. McElligott’s experiment was simple. Working with 20 goats at the sanctuary, he and his colleagues presented each with two black-and-white images—one of a person smiling, and the other of the same person making an angry expression—then sat back and watched what the animal did. “If the goats ignored the photographs, for example, or walked up to the photographs and ripped them off metal panels and chewed on them, would I have been shocked? Possibly not,” says McElligott. “But . . . the goats did seem to take the time to have a look at these photographs and actually study them, believe it or not.” And based on the time they spent interacting with each image, the goats seemed to prefer the happy snapshot (R Soc Open Sci, 5:180491, 2018). © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Emotions; Attention
Link ID: 25777 - Posted: 12.12.2018

By Judi Ketteler A friend of mine who works for a jewelry company that makes necklaces inscribed with empowering sayings recently offered me one. “How about the ‘I am fearless’ one?” she asked. “I don’t think so,” I said. “I’m not fearless.” She laughed. I did too. Except I meant it. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I suspect fearlessness is a concept invented by motivational speakers to sell books and command large audiences at events that feature fear-conquering exercises. I wonder, is being fearless even a real thing? “Talking about being fearless covers up where people really are with fear,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, director of the Neurobiology of Fear Laboratory at McLean Hospital. “After all, fear is the most evolutionarily conserved behavioral reflex for survival.” Fear, he says, produces the same responses in people now as it did at the beginning of human history. We’ve needed fear to survive as a species, to run from the lion crouching in the brush, and we still need it. “The question,” he says, “is how do you not let the emotional response of the fear reflex run wild?” Dr. Ressler says the great majority of people — about 90 percent — are resilient after something frightening or tragic happens, like a car accident or the death of a loved one. They are left with a bad memory or with grief, but they have perspective. Yet about 10 percent of people generalize the fearful memory or the grief. Their brains continually get cues that the bad thing is still happening, and their bodies respond accordingly. “It becomes a black hole of emotion,” Dr. Ressler says. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 25770 - Posted: 12.11.2018