Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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Ian Sample Science editor If the dead-end job, the pokey flat and the endless failings of the neighbours are getting on your wick, then spare a thought for the dog. In research that confirms what many owners will have worked out for themselves, scientists have found that the household pets are not oblivious to their owners’ anxieties, but mirror the amount of stress they feel. The finding comes from a study of cortisol, a stress hormone, which circulates in the blood and leaves its mark in strands of hair. Over time, as the hormone is bound into the growing hair, each shaft becomes a biological record of the stress an individual experiences. After engaging the willing services of 25 border collies, 33 Shetland sheepdogs, and the animals’ female owners, researchers in Sweden found that higher cortisol in human hair was matched by more of the hormone in the dog hair. All of the dogs lived indoors with their owners. “This is the first time we’ve seen a long-term synchronisation in stress levels between members of two different species,” said Lina Roth, an ethologist who led the work at Linköping University in Sweden. “We haven’t seen this between humans and dogs before.” Roth’s team measured concentrations of cortisol in short strands of hair cut close to the skin in the winter and summer of 2017 and 2018. The link between human and dog cortisol held through the seasons, but was higher in dogs in the winter. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26309 - Posted: 06.07.2019

Nicole Karlis There is no way Leonardo da Vinci could have predicted that the Mona Lisa would remain one of the most widely-debated works of art in modern day — thanks in no small part to her intriguing expression. Indeed, as one of the most famous paintings in the world, Mona Lisa's facial expression continues to beguile both commoners and academics. A 2017 study published in the journal Scientific Reports (part of the network of Nature's journals) proclaimed that Mona Lisa’s smile did indeed depict genuine happiness, according to the study's subjects who compared it with subtly manipulated facial expressions. Now, a new study published in the neuroscience journal Cortex says that her smile is non-genuine. In other words, she's faking it. The three neuroscience and cognition researchers who penned the article fixated on the asymmetry of Mona Lisa’s smile. Some historical theories suggest the facial asymmetry is due to the loss of the subject's anterior teeth, while others have speculated it could have been related to Bell’s Palsy. The Cortex article's authors note that as the upper part of her face does not appear to be active, it is possible to interpret her smile as “non-genuine.” This would relate to theories of emotion neuropsychology, which is the characterization of the behavioral modifications that follow a neurological condition. © 2018 Salon Media Group, Inc

Keyword: Emotions; Vision
Link ID: 26300 - Posted: 06.05.2019

By Austin Frakt New graduates of Fayetteville State University last month in North Carolina. A college degree is linked to higher life expectancy, but does it cause it?CreditTravis Education is associated with better health outcomes, but trying to figure out whether it actually causes better health is tricky. People with at least some college education have mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 individuals per year) less than half of those without any college education, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, people who are more educated exhibit less anxiety and depression, have fewer functional limitations, and are less likely to have a serious health condition like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or asthma. But causality runs both ways. People in poor health from a young age may be unable to pursue education as much as those with better health. On the other hand, a person who tends to focus on long-term outcomes may be motivated to develop healthier habits like regular exercise — even if blocked from a pursuit of higher education. Some clever studies have teased out the causal effects of education by exploiting natural experiments. One, by the U.C.L.A economist Adriana Lleras-Muney, relied on state compulsory education laws enacted between 1915 and 1939. These laws required some children to obtain more education than they might have otherwise, resulting in longer lives for those that did so. According to the study, having an additional year of education by 1960 increased life expectancy at age 35 by 1.7 years. Studies that relied on inducements for greater education because of a poor labor market or as a way to avoid the Vietnam draft found that increased education led to better health and a lower likelihood of smoking. This finding is one clue about how education may improve health. It can reduce people’s engagement in risky behaviors, perhaps because those behaviors could threaten the higher income that greater education typically confers. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26289 - Posted: 06.03.2019

By George Musser, Even the slightest touch can consume Kirsten Lindsmith’s attention. When someone shakes her hand or her cat snuggles up against her, for example, it becomes hard for her to think about anything else. “I’m taken out of the moment for however long the sensation lasts,” she says. Some everyday sensations, such as getting her hands wet, can feel like torture: “I usually compare it to the visceral, repulsive feeling you’d get plunging your hand into a pile of rotting garbage,” says the 27-year-old autistic writer. Stephanie Dehennin, an autistic illustrator who lives in Belgium, detests gentle touches but doesn’t mind firm hugs. “I will feel actual rage if someone strokes me or touches me very lightly,” she says. Dehennin seeks out deep pressure to relieve her stress. “I’ll sit between my bed and my nightstand, for example — squeezed between furniture.” Strong reactions to touch are remarkably widespread among people who have autism, despite the condition’s famed heterogeneity. “The touch thing is as close to universal as they come,” says Gavin Bollard, an autistic blogger who lives in Australia and writes about his and his autistic sons’ experiences. These responses are often described as a general hypersensitivity, but they are more complex than that: Sometimes autistic people crave touch; sometimes they cringe from it. For many people on the spectrum, these sensations are so intense that they take measures to shape their ‘touchscape.’ Some pile on heavy blankets at night for the extra weight; others cut off their clothing tags. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Autism; Emotions
Link ID: 26281 - Posted: 05.30.2019

Nicholas A. Christakis What is our conscience, and where does it come from? In her highly readable Conscience, the philosopher Patricia Churchland argues that “we would have no moral stance on anything unless we were social”. That we have a conscience at all relates to how evolution has shaped our neurobiology for social living. Thus, we judge what is right or wrong using feelings that urge us in a general direction and judgement that shapes these urges into actions. Such judgement typically reflects “some standard of a group to which the individual feels attached”. This idea of conscience as a neurobiological capacity for internalizing social norms contrasts with strictly philosophical accounts of how and why we tell right from wrong. There is a strand of thought in evolutionary biology (advanced, for instance, by the theorist Bret Weinstein) that the capacity for moral debate itself has a social function, binding groups regardless of the topics contested or their abstract moral ‘rightness’. Moreover, many of our moral rules — such as the idea that we should not betray our friends or abandon our children — have clearly been shaped by natural selection to optimize our capacity to live in groups. Other rules, for instance regarding the correctness of reciprocity, are similar: we feel quite intensely and innately that if someone gives us a gift of food, we should reciprocate on a future occasion. © 2019 Springer Nature Publishing AG

Keyword: Emotions; Consciousness
Link ID: 26276 - Posted: 05.29.2019

Laura Sanders A teenager’s brain does not magically mature into its reasoned, adult form the night before his or her 18th birthday. Instead, aspects of brain development stretch into a person’s 20s — a protracted fine-tuning with serious implications for young people caught in the U.S. justice system, argues cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey of Yale University. In the May 22 Neuron, Casey describes the heartbreaking case of Kalief Browder, sent at age 16 to Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City after being accused of stealing a backpack. Unable to come up with the $3,000 bail, Browder spent three years in the violent jail before his case was ultimately dropped. About two-thirds of his time in custody was spent in solitary confinement — “a terrible place for a child to have to grow up,” Casey says. Two years after his 2013 release, Browder died from suicide. Casey uses the case to highlight how the criminal justice system — and the accompanying violence, stress and isolation (SN: 12/8/18, p. 11) that come with being incarcerated — can interfere with brain development in adolescents and children. Other recent stories of immigrant children being separated from their families and held in detention centers have raised similar concerns (SN Online: 6/20/18). Studies with lab animals and brain imaging experiments in people show that chronic stress and other assaults “impact the very brain circuitry that is changing so radically during adolescence,” Casey says. An abundance of science says that “the way we’re treating our young people is not the way to a healthy development.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Stress
Link ID: 26262 - Posted: 05.23.2019

Carolyn Wilke Here’s a downer: Pessimism seems contagious among ravens. But positivity? Not so much. When ravens saw fellow birds’ responses to a disliked food, but not the food itself, their interest in their own food options waned, researchers report May 20 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study suggests that the birds pick up on and even share negative emotions, the researchers say. Ravens are “very good problem solvers … but this paper’s really highlighting their social intelligence as well,” says Andrew Gallup, a psychologist at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, N.Y., who was not involved in the study. The work paints a richer picture of how the birds’ brains work, he says. Known for their smarts, ravens act in ways that suggest a capacity for empathy, such as by appearing to console a distressed comrade. Thomas Bugnyar, a cognitive ethologist at the University of Vienna, and his colleagues wanted to look into one building block of empathy — whether animals share emotions. To be able to feel for others, an animal needs to be able to feel like others, he says. But sizing up an animal’s mood is tricky. Scientists generally rely on behavioral or physiological cues to clue into a creature’s emotional state. More challenging is assessing how one animal’s mood might influence another’s: Similar actions appearing to stem from kindred emotions may just be mimicry. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 26259 - Posted: 05.22.2019

Before he was born, his parents knew their boy was in trouble. That was clear from what their doctors' saw in their baby's ultrasound. And tragically, the boy died when he was only ten months old. But in his short life, he left behind a valuable legacy by helping scientists understand a crucial type of brain cell. That's because — as it turned out — the child had none. "One of the things about being a pediatric geneticist is on any given day you can see a patient you could spend the rest of your life or your career thinking about," Dr. James Bennett told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald. Dr. Bennett is a physician and researcher from Seattle Children's Hospital and assistant professor of pediatric genetics at the University of Washington. Devastating problems with brain development On the first day he met the child — the boy's very first day of life — Dr. Bennett said he could tell this baby needed a lot of support. The baby was having difficulty breathing, had an enlarged head as well as some very significant abnormalities of his brain. "Every single part of his brain was affected. There was no connection between the left side and the right side of his brain. And there was too much fluid on the brain — that the spaces that hold fluid around the brain were enlarged. And the white matter, which is the part of the brain that sort of connects the neurons — you can think of it as sort of the wires connecting things in the brain — was decreased and abnormal," said Dr. Bennett. Scientists had never seen a medical mystery like this before, so Dr. Bennett was determined to figure out what was wrong with the infant. He he undertook a "diagnostic odyssey" to identify the cause of this extremely rare condition. ©2019 CBC/Radio-Canada

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Glia
Link ID: 26251 - Posted: 05.20.2019

By Neuroskeptic | A paper in PNAS got some attention on Twitter recently. It’s called Childhood trauma history is linked to abnormal brain connectivity in major depression and in it, the authors Yu et al. report finding (as per the Significance Statement) A dramatic primary association of brain resting-state network (RSN) connectivity abnormalities with a history of childhood trauma in major depressive disorder (MDD). The authors go on to note that even though “the brain imaging took place decades after trauma occurrence, the scar of prior trauma was evident in functional dysconnectivity.” Now, I think that this talk of dramatic scarring is overblown, but in this case there’s also a wider issue with the use of a statistical method which easily lends itself to misleading interpretations – canonical correlation analysis (CCA). First, we’ll look at what Yu et al. did. In a sample of 189 unmedicated patients with depression, Yu et al. measured the resting-state functional connectivity of the brain using fMRI. They then analyzed this to give a total of 55 connection strengths for each individual. Each of these 55 measures reflects the functional coupling between two brain networks. For each patient, Yu et al. also administered questionnaires measuring personality, depression and anxiety symptoms, and history of trauma. These measures were then compressed into 4 clinical clusters, (i) anxious misery (ii) positive traits (iii) physical and emotional neglect or abuse, and (iv) sexual abuse.

Keyword: Depression; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 26248 - Posted: 05.20.2019

By DAN HURLEY MAY 15, 2019 The piercing, high-pitched noises were first heard by a couple of recently arrived United States Embassy officials in Havana in late 2016, soon after Donald Trump was elected president. They heard the noises in their homes, in the city’s leafy western suburbs. If they moved to a different room, or walked outside, the noise stopped. The two officials said they believed that the sound was man-made, a form of harassment. Around the same time, they began to develop a variety of symptoms: headaches, fatigue, dizziness, mental fog, hearing loss, nausea. On Dec. 30, 2016, the Embassy’s chargé d’affaires, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, and his security chief, Anthony Spotti, were told what the men were experiencing. By then, a third Embassy worker who lived nearby also heard the sounds and began developing symptoms. DeLaurentis eventually sent the three for evaluation by an otolaryngologist at the University of Miami, who told them they had damage to their inner ears’ vestibular organs. Similar reports of sickness after hearing noises began trickling in from other diplomats in Havana. One of them, a foreign-service officer, told me he was awakened one morning in March by a screeching noise. “It paralyzed me,” he said. “When the sound occurred, I could not move. I couldn’t get up until it stopped.” In the days that followed, he felt extreme fatigue, heard a ringing in his ears, found himself making many mistakes at work and became sensitive to loud sounds and bright light. That month, DeLaurentis called a meeting of his senior staff to tell them what was going on. He insisted that they tell no one else — not even their families — which had the perverse effect of heightening the staff members’ anxiety rather than calming it. Within days, DeLaurentis felt compelled to call an open meeting of the American staff. More than 60 people crammed into the Embassy’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility — an inner sanctum for confidential communications. They were told about the noises and the symptoms and were offered the opportunity to be tested if they had concerns. Nearly all of those present, as well as some family members, soon asked to be evaluated.

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 26244 - Posted: 05.17.2019

By LUKE DITTRICH On Valentine’s Day, 2018, five months after Hurricane Maria made landfall, Daniel Phillips stood at the edge of a denuded forest on the eastern half of a 38-acre island known as Cayo Santiago, a clipboard in his hand, his eyes on the monkeys. The island sits about a half-mile off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, near a village called Punta Santiago. Phillips and his co-workers left the mainland shortly after dawn, and the monkeys had already begun to gather by the time they arrived, their screams and oddly birdlike chirps louder than the low rumble of the motorboat that ferried the humans. The monkeys were everywhere. Some were drinking from a large pool of stagnant rainwater; some were grooming each other, nit-picking; some were still gnawing on the plum-size pellets of chow that Phillips hurled into the crowd a half-hour before. Two sat on the naked branch of a tree, sporadically mating. They were all rhesus macaques, a species that grows to a maximum height of about two and a half feet and a weight of about 30 pounds. They have long, flexible tails; dark, expressive eyes; and fur ranging from blond to dark brown. Phillips’s notebook was full of empty tables. There were places for the monkeys’ ID numbers, which were tattooed on their chests and inner thighs, places for a description of their behavior, places for the time of day. There was a place for his own name, too, and he wrote it at the top of each page. Daniel Phillips is not a Puerto Rican name, whatever that means, but he was born here, in a big hospital in Fajardo. He arrived more than a month early and spent his first weeks in an incubator, but grew up to be a high school and college wrestler; as a biology major, he became interested in monkeys, and was invited by a primatologist from Duke University to take a job as a research assistant here on Cayo Santiago.

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26238 - Posted: 05.15.2019

Chauncey DeVega Human behavior is a function of both nature and nurture. This, of course, extends to politics. Hence, researchers have shown that, on average, the brains of conservative authoritarians as compared to liberals are quite different from one another. For example, conservative authoritarians are more fear-centered, tend to fixate on negativity, default to order and hierarchy, and are averse to new stimuli. By comparison, liberals are more tolerant of ambiguity and are more open to new experiences. The brains of liberals also seek out novelty. However, there is an important qualifier: the social dynamics of a given society at a specific time also have a profound impact on how nature and nurture interact and the types of human behavior which results. Ultimately, human beings are much more than the sum of their parts — though biology may, in fact, play a very outsize role in human behavior. In the United States and Europe, the relationship between nature, nurture and politics is particularly important in light of our shared authoritarian moment. How are right-wing authoritarian leaders such as Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen are able to use fear to stir up racism, nativism, bigotry, and even violence among their supporters? © 2018 Salon Media Group, Inc

Keyword: Emotions; Stress
Link ID: 26225 - Posted: 05.10.2019

By Diana Kwon When Cynthia Bulik started studying eating disorders back in the early 1980s, what she read in the scientific literature clashed with what she saw in the clinic. At the time, theories about the causes of these conditions were focused primarily on explanations based on family dynamics and sociocultural factors. These descriptions could not explain how, despite dangerously low body weights, patients with eating disorders were often “hyperactive and said they felt well, and only started feeling poorly when we nourished them,” says Bulik, who is currently a professor at both the University of North Carolina and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. “I became convinced that there had to be something biological going on.” Since then, a growing body of research has confirmed Bulik’s observations. Cases of individuals developing rapid alterations in eating behaviors after various infections—the first of which emerged nearly a century ago—have built up over decades. For example, symptoms of eating disorders often occur in pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANS), a condition in which children experience sudden behavioral changes, typically after a streptococcal infection. In addition, over the last few years, several large-scale epidemiological investigations based on data from population registers in Scandinavia—compiled by Bulik and others—have linked eating disorders and autoimmune diseases, including Crohn’s, celiac and type 1 diabetes. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Anorexia & Bulimia; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 26222 - Posted: 05.09.2019

By: Michael Miller, M.D. W e’ve known for decades that smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes account for most cardiovascular problems. But it wasn’t until publication of the Interheart study (25,000 volunteers spanning 52 countries) that emotional stress was identified as another key risk factor, accounting for about one-third of heart attacks and strokes. Previously, in the 1970s, when volunteers were asked to begin to count to 100 and then to serially subtract seven’s in quick succession (in a test of “mental stress”), blood vessels constricted as if they had taken and failed a cardiac stress test. Except in these cases, testing occurred at rest. In other words, external stressors that are not effectively managed have direct internal implications by placing undue stress on the heart. Fast forward from the 1970s to the present era, and a recent study of more than 135,000 men and women in Sweden that found a history of stress-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome, increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by more than 60 percent within just the first year of diagnosis. Mechanistically, the underlying cause of a heart attack is a sudden rupture of an unstable plaque within a coronary artery. During stressful situations, the “fight-or-flight” response jumps into full gear, releasing biochemical compounds such as adrenaline, which raises heart rate and blood pressure, and signals platelets to release a chemical, neuropeptide Y, that can cause spasm and transient occlusion of the coronary artery. © 2019 The Dana Foundation

Keyword: Stress; Emotions
Link ID: 26221 - Posted: 05.09.2019

By Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi In 1945, Dorothy Still, a nurse in the United States Navy, met with a Navy psychiatrist to discuss disturbing symptoms she had been experiencing. Miss Still was one of 12 Navy nurses who had been held prisoner of war by the Japanese military in the occupied Philippines during World War II. For more than three years, Miss Still and the other nurses had provided care to diseased, starving and destitute civilian inmates in a makeshift infirmary at the P.O.W. camp. In the months after liberation, Miss Still found she often cried without provocation and had trouble stopping her tears. She most likely suffered from what today we could call post-traumatic stress disorder, but the Navy psychiatrist offered no support or solutions. Instead, he called her a “fake” and a “liar.” Nurses, he claimed could not suffer the kind of shell shock from war that sailors or soldiers could. Mental health experts now recognize that PTSD can indeed affect nurses, both military and civilian. As many as 28 percent of nurses experience PTSD at some point in their careers, said Meredith Mealer, an associate professor at the Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado, Denver, though health care providers still often struggle to treat it. “It’s probably improved from Dorothy’s experience, but we still have a ways to go,” Dr. Meal. PTSD, as defined by the DSM-5, the psychiatric professions’ official manual of mental health disorders, can arise after a person has been exposed to a traumatic event, typically involving or threatening death, injury or sexual violence. Someone might experience the trauma first-hand or witness it happening to someone else, learn it happened to a loved one or repeatedly hear details about a violent event. The result can be intrusive symptoms such as unwanted memories, nightmares, flashbacks and overwhelming feelings of stress when exposed to reminders of the event. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26213 - Posted: 05.07.2019

By R. Douglas Fields From his sniper’s perch on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, a lone gunman fired 1,000 bullets from high-powered rifles into a crowd of concertgoers in 2017, murdering 58 innocent people and injuring 869 others. After he committed suicide at the crime scene, the mass murderer’s brain was shipped to Stanford University to seek a possible biological explanation for this depraved incident. What could the scientists possibly find during such an inspection? Quite a lot, in fact. No genetic test for homicidal behavior is in the offing. But this type of investigation can add insight into how violence is controlled by the brain. Using the same experimental methods that have enabled the tracing of brain circuits responsible for other complex human activities—including walking, speech and reading—neuroscientists now can pinpoint pathways that underlie aggressive behaviors. These new findings help to expose the underlying mechanisms at work in acts of extreme violence, such as the Las Vegas atrocity, but they also help to explain the more commonplace road rage and even a mother’s instantaneous response to any threat to her child. Physical, sometimes deadly violence is the hub of nature’s survival-of-the fittest struggle, and all animals have evolved specialized neural circuitry to execute—and control—aggressive behavior. In pioneering experiments on cats beginning in the late 1920s, Walter Hess discovered a locus deep within the hypothalamus, a brain area that unleashes violent aggression. It turns out that this is the same spot where other powerful compulsive urges and behaviors are activated, including sex, eating and drinking. When Hess stimulated this knot of neurons using a wire electrode inserted into the brain of a docile cat, the feline instantly launched into a hissing rage, attacking and killing another animal in its cage. The human brain has this same neural structure, labeled the hypothalamic attack area.

Keyword: Aggression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 26195 - Posted: 05.02.2019

By Nicholas Bakalar Girls who have serious or repeated infections in childhood are at higher risk for developing eating disorders in adolescence, a new study has found. The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, tracked 525,643 girls — every girl born in Denmark from 1989 through 2006. The researchers recorded all prescriptions that were filled for antibiotics and other anti-infective medications, as well as hospitalizations for infection, through 2012. There were 4,240 diagnoses of eating disorders during that time. Compared with girls who had never been hospitalized for infection, those who had been hospitalized were at a 22 percent increased risk for anorexia, a 35 percent increased risk for bulimia and a 39 percent increased risk for other eating disorders. Filling three or more prescriptions for anti-infective drugs was associated with similar increases in the risk, and the more infections or hospitalizations a girl had, the more likely she was to develop an eating disorder. This is an observational study so it cannot determine cause and effect, and the authors acknowledge that other mechanisms — genetic factors, or stress and anxiety, for example — could increase the risk of both eating disorders and infection. The lead author, Lauren Breithaupt, a research fellow at Harvard, said that the reasons for the link are unknown, but “it could be that the anti-infective agents are upsetting the microbes in the gut. Changing the microbiome could affect behaviors through the connection of the gut to the brain through the vagus nerve.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Anorexia & Bulimia; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 26194 - Posted: 05.02.2019

By Niraj Chokshi Americans are among the most stressed people on the planet, according to a new survey. And that’s just the start of it. Last year, Americans reported feeling stress, anger and worry at the highest levels in a decade, according to the survey, part of an annual Gallup poll of more than 150,000 people around the world, released on Thursday. “What really stood out for the U.S. is the increase in the negative experiences,” said Julie Ray, Gallup’s managing editor for world news. “This was kind of a surprise to us when we saw the numbers head in this direction.” For the annual poll, started in 2005, Gallup asks individuals about whether they have experienced a handful of positive or negative feelings the day before being interviewed. The data on Americans is based on responses from more than 1,000 adults. In the United States, about 55 percent of adults said they had experienced stress during “a lot of the day” prior, compared with just 35 percent globally. Statistically, that put the country on par with Greece, which had led the rankings on stress since 2012. About 45 percent of the Americans surveyed said they had felt “a lot” of worry the day before, compared with a global average of 39 percent. Meanwhile, the share of Americans who reported feeling “a lot” of anger the day before being interviewed was the same as the global average: 22 percent. When Gallup investigated the responses more closely, it found that being under 50, earning a low income and having a dim view of President Trump’s job performance were correlated with negative experiences among adults in the United States. But there still isn’t enough data to say for sure whether any of those factors were behind the feelings of stress, worry and anger. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26172 - Posted: 04.25.2019

By Dave Philipps Post-traumatic stress disorder has long been one of the hardest mental health problems to diagnose because some patients try to hide symptoms while others exaggerate them. But a new voice analysis technique may be able to take the guesswork out of identifying the disorder using the same technology now used to dial home hands-free or order pizza on a smart speaker. A team of researchers at New York University School of Medicine, working with SRI International, the nonprofit research institute that developed the smartphone assistant Siri, has created an algorithm that can analyze patient interviews, sort through tens of thousands of variables in their speech and identify minute auditory markers of PTSD that are otherwise imperceptible to the human ear, then make a diagnosis. The results, published online on Monday in the journal Depression and Anxiety, show the algorithm was able to narrow down the 40,500 speech characteristics of a group of patients — like the tension in the larynx and the timing in the flick in the tongue — to just 18 relevant indicators that together could be used to diagnose PTSD. Based on those 18 speech clues, the algorithm was able to correctly identify patients with PTSD 89 percent of the time. “They were not the speech features we thought,” said Dr. Charles Marmar, a psychiatry professor at N.Y.U. and one of the authors of the paper. “We thought the telling features would reflect agitated speech. In point of fact, when we saw the data, the features are flatter, more atonal speech. We were capturing the numbness that is so typical of PTSD patients.” As the process is refined, speech pattern analysis could become a widely used biomarker for objectively identifying the disorder, he said. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 26164 - Posted: 04.22.2019

By Kate Murphy Let’s say you’re walking down the street and coming toward you is someone pushing a baby in a stroller. The baby looks right at you and bursts into a big, gummy grin. What do you do? If you’re like most people, you reflexively smile back and your insides just melt. The baby might react by smiling even more broadly and maybe kicking its feet with delight, which will only deepen your smile and add to the warm feeling spreading in your chest. But what if you couldn’t smile naturally, with the usual crinkles around your eyes and creases in your cheeks? There’s convincing scientific evidence that the same kind of mutual engagement and interplay — with infants, or anyone else — would be difficult to achieve. Experts say mirroring another person’s facial expressions is essential for not only recognizing emotion, but also feeling it. That’s why anything that disrupts one’s ability to emote is cause for concern, particularly in an age when Botox and other cosmetic procedures that paralyze, stretch, plump or otherwise alter the face are commonplace. Permanently pouty lips and smooth brows might be good for selfies, but research suggests they flatten your affect, disconnecting you from your feelings and the feelings of others. “People these days are constantly rearranging their facial appearance in ways that prevent engaging in facial mimicry, having no idea how much we use our faces to coordinate and manage social interactions,” said Paula Niedenthal, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has published several studies on facial mimicry and its emotional and social importance. Following the example of celebrities like the Kardashians, the use of Botox injections is up more than 800 percent since 2000, and the use of soft tissue fillers is up 300 percent. Plus, there has been the advent of so-called “mini-facelifts” whereby people can take a more incremental approach to cosmetic surgery, getting their eyes, foreheads, chins or cheeks done à la carte. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 26158 - Posted: 04.20.2019