Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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By Concepción de León I hear some people have trouble with therapy, that it can take years for them to open up to their doctors, let alone cry or break down. Not me. Day one, I told my therapist, Amy Bernstein, “I’ll just tell you everything, and we’ll go from there.” I was assigned to her after revealing, during an initial interview to determine the appropriate therapist for my needs, that I’d been touched as a child. I hadn’t planned to bring it up at all, but I was asked directly, so I said, yes, you could say that. (At the time, I avoided the word “molested.”) And yes, it still crossed my mind. To be honest, what happened had always felt like such a small thing. Many others have had it much worse; I counted myself lucky for only having been touched in subtle ways — a male relative digging his hands in my tiny skirt pockets to “feel around for change”; another bringing his hand to my crotch when he thought I was asleep. These were two of a handful of men who violated me. Amy recommended books to help me understand what had happened, but I put them down after just a few pages, thinking, “This isn’t for me! My thing is too small.” But then, as tends to be the case with therapy, things got harder before they got better. I returned to one of the books Amy had recommended, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma,” by Bessel van der Kolk, to try to understand my visceral response to remembering. Dr. van der Kolk is a Boston-based psychiatrist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder and has worked with a broad range of clients, from veterans to sexual assault survivors. “The Body Keeps the Score” hinges on his idea that trauma is stored in the body and that, for therapy to be effective, it needs to take the physiological changes that occur into account. Trauma produces “a re-calibration of the brain’s alarm system, an increase in stress hormone activity” and, also, “compromises the brain area that communicates the physical, embodied feeling of being alive,” Mr. van der Kolk writes. For survivors of sexual assault and other traumas, the amygdala, which initiates the body’s fight or flight response system whenever it perceives danger, can remain activated long after the threat has subsided. In the present, survivors relive their traumas in the form of fragmented images, sounds and emotion that the brain can’t register as belonging to the past. Many people also experience dissociation, which can manifest as literal desensitization in parts of the body or the inability to describe physical sensations. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 25590 - Posted: 10.18.2018

By Wajahat Ali Ever since I was young, my mind has gotten stuck. I’ll be flooded with intrusive thoughts. An image or an idea will transform into a burning question — “What if I left the stove on?” “What if the door is unlocked?” “What if I lose control and do something violent?” This plays on an endless loop. To cope, I constantly seek reassurance by reviewing my actions, trying to replace my thoughts or using logic to undo what is utterly illogical. But all those efforts fail, instead energizing the thought, resurrecting it like a zombie on steroids, making it more vicious, resistant and cruel. That’s a snapshot of living life with obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety disorder that afflicts nearly 2 percent of the population. With O.C.D., the brain misfires, causing it to malfunction and react to disturbing thoughts, images and ruminations. The sufferer tries to manage his anxiety with compulsive rituals, which include excessive double-checking, counting, repeating a prayer or mantra, and engaging in mental reassurances that give a short-term relief but ultimately become addictive crutches, fueling an endless cycle of torment. O.C.D. has often been misunderstood, undiagnosed and exploited as a set of amusing quirks for Hollywood characters. I wish my O.C.D. was as fun and lovable as depicted in “Monk.” It’s not. At one point in my life, I endured an endless stream of tormenting thoughts about sex, overwhelmed by visions of every vile variation, partnership and arrangement imaginable. They would make Caligula blush. When this happened, feelings of guilt, disgust and shame would inevitably begin to overwhelm me. Self-doubt bubbled up and asked: “What sick person could imagine such things? Surely, there must be something wrong with you?” Here I am, a somewhat intelligent, moral, responsible individual fully aware that the thoughts are irrational, but nonetheless I must perform ridiculous rituals to try to feel safe and achieve relief. I think of it as God’s sick joke. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Link ID: 25573 - Posted: 10.15.2018

By Daniel Barron Lisa Barlow, whose name I have changed to protect her privacy, is at her kitchen table in Washington DC when she realizes that each Sunday, fifteen passenger trains depart for New Haven, CT. She’s a successful copy editor and has a meeting in New Haven early Monday morning. She has no plans Sunday, so doesn’t care when she arrives or how long it takes. She travels coach so has thirty tickets to choose from: fifteen departures each with two price options. Should she choose the more-expensive flexible ticket over the locked-in value ticket? Does she want to leave earlier or later? Brunch in DC or lunch in New Haven? She can’t decide. She scrolls the screen up and down, up and down, faster and faster. Her eyes dart about the webpage. She feels a rising tension in her chest. Her breathing shortens. Her thoughts race in and out of her mind like the breath in her lungs. She touches her face and notices the telltale sign: it’s numb. She reaches into her pocket, where she safeguards a small pill for moments like these. A pharmacologic reset button. Barlow has had panic attacks since High School—the first over a social drama, the second after her science teacher told her that if she refused to dissect a pig, she’d amount to nothing. She suspects her attacks have something to do with her parents, whose difficult marriage often forced her to choose between them. This, a therapist explained, was an “impossible choice,” one with permanent consequences yet no clear answer. Now as an adult, when faced with a decision that has no clear answer—even something as simple as booking a train ticket—her brain is programmed to panic. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Emotions; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 25569 - Posted: 10.12.2018

Marc Bekoff Ph.D. "Despite many efforts to narrow the gender gap in leadership roles, women remain universally underrepresented in the top leadership positions in virtually every discipline, including in the sciences, politics and business. We were therefore interested in pursuing a non-traditional approach to understanding this phenomenon by looking for clues in societies of non-human animals." "We have much to learn from the fascinating ways that natural selection has favored behavioral traits of non-human animals. By studying non-human mammals where female rule the roost, we may gain insights into secrets for smashing the glass ceiling." I recently learned about a new research paper published in The Leadership Quarterly by Mills College biologist Dr. Jennifer Smith and her colleagues entitled "Obstacles and opportunities for female leadership in mammalian societies: A comparative perspective." I'd already read a short summary of this landmark study in a New Scientist piece titled "The 7 non-human mammals where females rule the roost," and was thrilled when Dr. Smith agreed to be interviewed about this detailed data-driven study that "elucidates barriers to female leadership, but also reveals that traditional operationalizations of leadership are themselves male-biased." Our interview went as follows. Why did you and your colleagues conduct the research you did concerning female leadership in non-human mammalian societies? Can you please explain the importance of the comparative perspective for readers who don't know what this entails? © 2018 Sussex Publishers, LLC

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Emotions
Link ID: 25567 - Posted: 10.12.2018

By Nicholas Bakalar Omega-3 supplements may help reduce anxiety symptoms, a review of studies has concluded. The analysis, in JAMA Network Open, concluded that people with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders who took large doses of the supplement — up to 2,000 milligrams a day — benefited most. Researchers used data from 16 studies that compared omega-3 fatty acid supplements with placebo and three that did not use a placebo. Over all, omega-3 supplements were associated with significant relief from anxiety symptoms, but some groups benefited more than others. Omega-3 supplements did not ease anxiety levels in those without a clinical diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, on in adolescents under 18. And they were more strongly associated with reduced symptoms when the balance of two types of fatty acids in the supplement, EPA and DHA, was less than 60 percent EPA. The senior author, Dr. Yutaka Matsuoka, chief of health care research at the National Cancer Center in Japan, said that supplements may not be necessary. “Eating fatty fish that includes EPA and DHA is more natural. I recommend mackerel, Pacific saury, sardines, tuna or salmon.” In any case, he said, omega-3 is not a first-line treatment for anxiety, or a substitute for other evidence-based therapies. “But for patients who are not responsive to psychotherapies, omega-3 might be a promising alternative.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 25564 - Posted: 10.12.2018

By Mitch Leslie Our immune cells normally pounce on intruding bacteria and viruses. But in multiple sclerosis (MS), immune cells target the nervous system instead. Now, researchers may have pinpointed a long-sought molecule called a self-antigen that provokes these attacks, pointing a way toward potential new treatments. “The work is monumental, and it’s tantalizing,” says neuroimmunologist Hartmut Wekerle of the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Munich, Germany, who wasn’t connected to the research. Researchers have long suspected that a self-antigen—a normal molecule in the body that the immune system mistakenly treats as a threat—can trigger MS. The prime suspects have been proteins in myelin, the nerve insulation that erodes in patients with the disease. But after years of searching, scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint the molecule. To uncover other candidates, immunologists Roland Martin and Mireia Sospedra of University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland and their colleagues analyzed immune cells known as T cells that came from a patient who died from MS. T cells normally switch on when they encounter protein fragments containing just a few amino acids that belong to an invading microbe, but they also turn on in people who have MS. The researchers wanted to determine which protein shards stimulated the patients’ T cells, so they tested 200 fragment mixtures, each containing 300 billion varieties. The two fragments with the strongest effect turned out to be part of a human enzyme called guanosine diphosphate-L-fucose synthase, which helps cells remodel sugars that are involved in everything from laying down memories to determining our blood type. T cells from 12 of 31 patients who had who either had been diagnosed with MS or had shown early symptoms of the disease also reacted to the enzyme, the researchers report online today in Science Translational Medicine. What’s more, T cells from four of the eight patients tested responded to a bacterial version of the enzyme—lending credence to the recently proposed idea that intestinal bacteria may help spark the disease. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25560 - Posted: 10.11.2018

Richard Harris If you are one of the 5.7 million Americans who ends up in the intensive care unit each year, you are at high risk of developing long-term mental effects like dementia and confusion. These mental problems can be as pronounced as those experienced by people with Alzheimer's disease or a traumatic brain injury and many patients never fully recover. But research shows you are less likely to suffer those effects if the doctors and nurses follow a procedure that's gaining ground in ICUs nationwide. The steps are part of a bundle of actions aimed at reducing delirium in ICU patients. Doctors define delirium as a usually temporary state of mental confusion characterized by a lack of focus, difficulty in understanding what's going on around you and, sometimes, hallucinations. Following this checklist of actions can reduce the risk of mental impairment following an ICU stay by 25 to 30 percent, says Dr. E. Wesley "Wes" Ely at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. (This post-ICU condition is separate from memory problems that can arise after heart surgery and general anesthesia in the elderly). It isn't simply detailed medical care — it's a philosophy. "I think the most modifiable piece of this is what we do to the patient," Ely says. "And what we do to the patient [that] is dangerous is immobilize them chemically [with drugs] and physically, and then not allow the family there, and allow them to subsist in delirium." © 2018 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Stress
Link ID: 25559 - Posted: 10.11.2018

Jef Akst Facial expressions of pain and orgasm are different, according to a study published this week (October 8) in PNAS. Forty Western and 40 East Asian participants viewed computerized images of a human face and categorized the expressions as indicative of pain, orgasm, or other. For pain and orgasm, participants also rated the intensities of the expressions they viewed. In contrast to previous research that suggested expressions of pain and orgasm are “virtually indistinguishable,” according to the PNAS paper, the new study found that there were distinctions between the two—namely, expressions of pain involve pulling the face inward (lowering the eyebrows and wrinkling the nose, for example) and expressions of pleasure involve movements that expanded the face, such as raising the eye brows. Moreover, while Western and East Asian observers viewed expressions of pain similarly, there were culture-specific elements of orgasmic expressions. For example, Westerners’ o-face involved wide-open eyes and a dropped jaw, while East Asians’ expression involved smiling. Dynamic mental representations of the facial expressions of pain or orgasm PNAS, doi:10.1073/pnas.1807862115, 2018 © 1986 - 2018 The Scientis

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 25558 - Posted: 10.11.2018

Richard Harris Doctors have gradually come to realize that people who survive a serious brush with death in the intensive care unit are likely to develop potentially serious problems with their memory and thinking processes. This dementia, a side-effect of intensive medical care, can be permanent. And it affects as many as half of all people who are rushed to the ICU after a medical emergency. Considering that 5.7 million Americans end up in intensive care every year, this is a major problem which, until recently, has been poorly appreciated by medical caregivers. Take, for example, the story of Richard Langford, a 63-year-old retired minister who lives with his mother in East Nashville. He went into the hospital for knee surgery 10 years ago, "because I was playing tennis with an 85-year-old and he beat my butt," Langford says with a chuckle. "So I wanted fresh knees to help me play better." But after that routine knee surgery, Langford developed a serious lung infection, which sent him to the intensive care unit. He had developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition sometimes called blood poisoning. With sepsis, the body overreacts to an infection and that can lead to crashing blood pressure, multiple organ failure and often death. During his four-week stay in the hospital and the rehab that followed, Langford suffered from long spells of delirium. That's a state of muddled thought, confusion and even at times hallucinations in some patients. All Langford remembers is the sensation of a near-death experience. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Alzheimers; Stress
Link ID: 25553 - Posted: 10.10.2018

Selene Meza-Perez, Troy D. Randall Fat is a loaded tissue. Not only is it considered unsightly, the excess flab that plagues more than two-thirds of adults in America is associated with many well-documented health problems. In fact, obesity (defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more) is a comorbidity for almost every other type of disease. But, demonized as all body fat is, deep belly fat known as visceral adipose tissue (VAT) also has a good side: it’s a critical component of the body’s immune system. VAT is home to many cells of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. These cells influence adipocyte biology and metabolism, and in turn, adipocytes regulate the functions of the immune cells and provide energy for their activities. Moreover, the adipocytes themselves produce antimicrobial peptides, proinflammatory cytokines, and adipokines that together act to combat infection, modify the function of immune cells, and maintain metabolic homeostasis. Unfortunately, obesity disrupts both the endocrine and immune functions of VAT, thereby promoting inflammation and tissue damage that can lead to diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease. As researchers continue to piece together the complex connections between immunity, gut microbes, and adipose tissues, including the large deposit of fat in the abdomen known as the omentum, they hope not only to gain an understanding of how fat and immunity are linked, but to also develop fat-targeted therapeutics that can moderate the consequences of infectious and inflammatory diseases. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Obesity; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25536 - Posted: 10.06.2018

By Jim Hopper On Monday October 1, Republican senators released “Analysis of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s Allegations,” a memo written by Rachel Mitchell, the prosecutor they hired to question Christine Blasey Ford and review other evidence. Ms. Mitchell’s “analysis” includes descriptions of Ford’s memories as not “consistent,” lacking “key details,” and uncorroborated by people she said were at the “party.” In the final two weeks of September, many Americans learned from the media (e.g., USA Today, Rolling Stone, Vox, NBC News, NPR) the distinction that memory researchers make between “central” and “peripheral” details, terms that reflect the commonsense understanding that we remember things that had significance to us and got our attention. Many people have also learned that stress and trauma greatly enhance the differential storage of central over peripheral details, and that the central details of traumatic experiences can get burned into our brains for the rest of our lives. But most people already knew that too, even if they hadn’t stopped to think about it. Advertisement These past few weeks, I’ve tried to help with that learning, by talking with reporters and sharing the expert testimony on trauma and memory that I could have provided to senators and the country, which was published by Scientific American and on my blog with Psychology Today, Sexual Assault and the Brain. There I explain central versus peripheral details, that stress amplifies their differential encoding and storage, and how sexual assault survivors—like traumatized soldiers and police—may protect themselves by clinging for years to superficial descriptions of events, which keep the most disturbing details out of their minds. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Stress
Link ID: 25534 - Posted: 10.06.2018

By Melinda Wenner Moyer Intuitively, it makes sense Splatterhouse and Postal 2 would serve as virtual training sessions for teens, encouraging them to act out in ways that mimic game-related violence. But many studies have failed to find a clear connection between violent game play and belligerent behavior, and the controversy over whether the shoot-‘em-up world transfers to real life has persisted for years. A new study published on October 1 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tries to resolve the controversy by weighing the findings of two dozen studies on the topic. The meta-analysis does tie violent video games to a small increase in physical aggression among adolescents and preteens. Yet debate is by no means over. Whereas the analysis was undertaken to help settle the science on the issue, researchers still disagree on the real-world significance of the findings. This new analysis attempted to navigate through the minefield of conflicting research. Many studies find gaming associated with increases in aggression, but others identify no such link. A small but vocal cadre of researchers have argued much of the work implicating video games has serious flaws in that, among other things, it measures the frequency of aggressive thoughts or language rather than physically aggressive behaviors like hitting or pushing, which have more real-world relevance. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 25518 - Posted: 10.02.2018

By Moises Velasquez-Manoff The man was 23 when the delusions came on. He became convinced that his thoughts were leaking out of his head and that other people could hear them. When he watched television, he thought the actors were signaling him, trying to communicate. He became irritable and anxious and couldn’t sleep. Dr. Tsuyoshi Miyaoka, a psychiatrist treating him at the Shimane University School of Medicine in Japan, eventually diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia. He then prescribed a series of antipsychotic drugs. None helped. The man’s symptoms were, in medical parlance, “treatment resistant.” A year later, the man’s condition worsened. He developed fatigue, fever and shortness of breath, and it turned out he had a cancer of the blood called acute myeloid leukemia. He’d need a bone-marrow transplant to survive. After the procedure came the miracle. The man’s delusions and paranoia almost completely disappeared. His schizophrenia seemingly vanished. Years later, “he is completely off all medication and shows no psychiatric symptoms,” Dr. Miyaoka told me in an email. Somehow the transplant cured the man’s schizophrenia. A bone-marrow transplant essentially reboots the immune system. Chemotherapy kills off your old white blood cells, and new ones sprout from the donor’s transplanted blood stem cells. It’s unwise to extrapolate too much from a single case study, and it’s possible it was the drugs the man took as part of the transplant procedure that helped him. But his recovery suggests that his immune system was somehow driving his psychiatric symptoms. At first glance, the idea seems bizarre — what does the immune system have to do with the brain? — but it jibes with a growing body of literature suggesting that the immune system is involved in psychiatric disorders from depression to bipolar disorder. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25512 - Posted: 10.01.2018

Jessica Gabel Cino Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who’s accused Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, released the results of a polygraph test focused on the decades-old incident. They suggest that Ford’s responses to two questions about her allegations were “not indicative of deception.” How trustworthy is that assessment and the polygraph technology it relies on? People have long yearned for some way to separate truth from falsehood, whether in high-stakes court cases or family kerfuffles. Over the years, inventors have developed an evolving assembly of tools and instruments aimed at figuring out whether someone is telling a lie. They’ve tried to incorporate increasingly more science, but with varying degrees of success. Society has often looked to instruments like the polygraph to inject some objectivity into the detection of deception. As a defense lawyer, I’ve had many a client tell me that he or she did not commit the alleged crime. But I’ve never asked a client to submit to a polygraph exam: It’s high risk, low reward, and the results – while inadmissible in a criminal case – are unpredictable. Just how reliable is a polygraph at identifying who’s lying and who’s telling the truth? Methods of lie detection have progressed from their torture-centric roots. Early techniques included subjecting someone to a water test: Those who sank were considered innocent, while floating indicated guilt, lies and witchcraft. Neither outcome was good news for the accused. In medieval Europe, an honest man was thought to be able to submerge his arm in boiling water longer than a liar. © 2010–2018

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 25507 - Posted: 09.29.2018

By Jim Hopper Incomplete memories of sexual assault, including those with huge gaps, are understandable—if we learn the basics of how memory works and we genuinely listen to survivors. Such memories should be expected. They are similar to the memories of soldiers and police officers for things they’ve experienced in the line of fire. And a great deal of scientific research on memory explains why. Advertisement I’m an expert on psychological trauma, including sexual assault and traumatic memories. I’ve spent more than 25 years studying this. I’ve trained military and civilian police officers, prosecutors and other professionals, including commanders at Fort Leavenworth and the Pentagon. I teach this to psychiatrists in training at Harvard Medical School. As an expert witness, I review videos and transcripts of investigative interviews. It’s like using a microscope to examine how people recall—and don’t recall—parts of their assault experiences. I’ve seen poorly trained police officers not only fail to collect vital details, but actually worsen memory gaps and create inconsistences. Ignorance of how memory works is a major reason why sexual assault is the easiest violent crime to get away with, across our country and around the world. Yet when I teach military service members and police officers, it’s mostly about making light bulbs go on in their heads and helping them connect the dots from their own traumatic memories to those of sexual assault survivors. © 2018 Scientific American,

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Stress
Link ID: 25504 - Posted: 09.28.2018

By Frankie Schembri Some of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, including lone gunmen killing 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have occurred in the past 2 years. These tragedies were preventable, says Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician at the University of California (UC), Davis, Medical Center, and the director of UC Davis’s Violence Prevention Research Program. Wintemute has studied gun violence for more than 30 years and is one of the few researchers to approach the matter as an issue of public health. He has gone undercover at gun shows to document illegal activity and worked with California lawmakers to establish gun policies. Wintemute writes about his solutions to gun violence in an opinion piece published this week in The New England Journal of Medicine. Science chatted with him about the unique factors behind mass shootings and which policy interventions are most effective. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Q: What does it mean to approach gun violence from a public health perspective? A: Firearm violence has been seen traditionally as a crime problem. But gun violence is one of our leading causes of death and injury, and the implications of this violence are huge in terms of the safety and health of our overall population. So, we treat it as we would any other major health problem. We ask: Where does it come from? How does it get amplified? Who is at risk for developing this problem? Can we learn enough to create a treatment or prevention strategy? © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 25503 - Posted: 09.28.2018

Craig Richard Have you ever stumbled upon an hourlong online video of someone folding napkins? Or maybe crinkling paper, sorting a thimble collection or pretending to give the viewer an ear exam? They’re called ASMR videos and millions of people love them and consider watching them a fantastic way to relax. Other viewers count them among the strangest things on the internet. So are they relaxing or strange? I think they are both, which is why I have been fascinated with trying to understand ASMR for the past five years. In researching my new book “Brain Tingles,” I explored the many mysteries about ASMR as well as best practices for incorporating ASMR into various aspects of life, like parenting, spas and health studios. ASMR is short for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Enthusiast Jennifer Allen coined the term in 2010. You may also hear this phenomenon called “head orgasms” or “brain tingles.” It’s distinct from the “aesthetic chills” or frisson some people experience when listening to music, for instance. People watch ASMR videos in hopes of eliciting the response, usually experienced as a deeply relaxing sensation with pleasurable tingles in the head. It can feel like the best massage in the world – but without anyone touching you. Imagine watching an online video while your brain turns into a puddle of bliss. The actions and sounds in ASMR videos mostly recreate moments in real life that people have discovered spark the feeling. These stimuli are called ASMR triggers. They usually involve receiving personal attention from a caring person. Associated sounds are typically gentle and non-threatening. © 2010–2018, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Hearing; Emotions
Link ID: 25498 - Posted: 09.27.2018

Jacek Debiec Most of what you experience leaves no trace in your memory. Learning new information often requires a lot of effort and repetition – picture studying for a tough exam or mastering the tasks of a new job. It’s easy to forget what you’ve learned, and recalling details of the past can sometimes be challenging. But some past experiences can keep haunting you for years. Life-threatening events – things like getting mugged or escaping from a fire – can be impossible to forget, even if you make every possible effort. Recent developments in the Supreme Court nomination hearings and the associated #WhyIDidntReport action on social media have rattled the public and raised questions about the nature, role and impact of these kinds of traumatic memories. Leaving politics aside, what do psychiatrists and neuroscientists like me understand about how past traumas can remain present and persistent in our lives through memories? Imagine facing extreme danger, such as being held at gunpoint. Right away, your heart rate increases. Your arteries constrict, directing more blood to your muscles, which tense up in preparation for a possible life-or-death struggle. Perspiration increases, to cool you down and improve gripping capability on palms and feet for added traction for escape. In some situations, when the threat is overwhelming, you may freeze and be unable to move. Threat responses are often accompanied by a range of sensations and feelings. Senses may sharpen, contributing to amplified detection and response to threat. You may experience tingling or numbness in your limbs, as well as shortness of breath, chest pain, feelings of weakness, fainting or dizziness. Your thoughts may be racing or, conversely, you may experience a lack of thoughts and feel detached from reality. Terror, panic, helplessness, lack of control or chaos may take over. Copyright © 2010–2018

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Stress
Link ID: 25490 - Posted: 09.25.2018

By Jean Rhodes, Mary Waters In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, news coverage has shifted to focus on the storm’s destructive toll and the survivors’ efforts to restore their shattered lives and communities. But there is another side to the story that will go mostly unnoticed: disasters can set the stage for profound personal and societal growth. In August 2005, just before Hurricane Katrina struck, we were part of a team of researchers collecting data in 10 U.S. cities for a study of community college students. The New Orleans site consisted of mostly young black women, many living in the 9th ward, where some of the worst destruction and trauma would occur. In the midst of the post-Katrina mayhem we realized that we had a rare opportunity. We had pre-disaster data and could control for how survivors were functioning prior to the storm, so we were uniquely positioned to explore the long-term effects of the disaster. Over the course of more than a decade of research we have uncovered surprising findings about recovery and resilience—including that over 60 percent of the survivors have bounced back to pre-disaster levels of mental health.But perhaps most surprising has been the deep psychological growth that has emerged from the depths of despair. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 25489 - Posted: 09.25.2018

Roland S. Liblau The events that lead to the sleep disorder narcolepsy are a long-standing mystery. Writing in Nature, Latorre et al.1 reveal that people with narcolepsy have unusually high levels of a type of immune cell called a T cell, which targets proteins normally present in neurons in the brain. This finding raises the question of whether narcolepsy arises because T cells unleash an autoimmune response against neurons that are important for sleep regulation. Narcolepsy affects around 1 in 2,000 people2. The symptoms usually begin in adolescence or early adulthood, and include daytime sleepiness and, in some cases, cataplexy — sudden muscle weakness during wakefulness that causes falls. A small population of neurons in the brain produces a protein called hypocretin, which controls sleep–wake cycles3, and narcolepsy-like symptoms occur in animals that have defects in genes required for the production of or response to hypocretin4. Narcolepsy type 2 is associated with daytime sleepiness, and this can progress to narcolepsy type 1, which is characterized by sleepiness and cataplexy. People with narcolepsy type 1 have abnormally low numbers of hypocretin-producing neurons5. Hypocretin levels in the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord can be measured to help diagnose6 narcolepsy type 1, and such tests provide a way of indirectly monitoring the loss of hypocretin-producing neurons over time. The trajectory of this neuronal loss remains to be fully understood, but can take months or years. © 2018 Springer Nature Limited.

Keyword: Narcolepsy; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 25485 - Posted: 09.24.2018