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By Laura Sanders The key ingredient in the illicit drug known as Ecstasy or Molly may offer profound relief from post-traumatic stress disorder. When paired with intense talk therapy, MDMA drastically eased symptoms in people who had struggled with severe PTSD for years, a new study reports. “This is a big deal,” says Steven Gold, a clinical psychologist in Fort Lauderdale and professor emeritus at Nova Southeastern University in Plantation, Fla. “All other things being equal, the use of psychedelic medication can significantly improve the outcome.” The results, published May 10 in Nature Medicine, are preliminary. But the findings offer hope to the millions of people worldwide who have PTSD, for whom new treatments are desperately needed. Antidepressants such as Zoloft and Paxil are often prescribed, but the drugs don’t work for an estimated 40 to 60 percent of people with PTSD. Ninety people participated in the new study, which took place at 15 clinical sites in the United States, Canada and Israel. All the participants received 15 therapy sessions with therapists trained to guide people as they experienced the drug. Half of the participants received MDMA in three eight-hour therapy sessions; the other half received placebos during three eight-hour therapy sessions. True to its nickname Ecstasy, MDMA evokes feelings of bliss and social connectedness. The participants took the drug (or the placebo) while wearing eye covers and listening to music, and occasionally talking with their therapist about their experience. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 27826 - Posted: 05.19.2021

Mark Shelhamer, Sc.D. A few short months ago, news programs around the globe showed NASA engineers and scientists celebrating as a robot named Perseverance successfully landed on the surface of Mars. The mission: capture and share images and audio that have never been seen or heard before. As impressed as most observers were of this major milestone, many couldn’t help but wonder when we might be ready to someday send humans. While it seems the stuff of science fiction and almost inconceivable, the answer—according to recent NASA planning—is before the end of the 2030s, less than two decades away. There are still many obstacles to accomplishing such a feat, many of which have to do with overcoming cognitive and mental health challenges that would impact a crew: long-term isolation, eyesight impairment, and psychological effects from the stress of danger and what could amount to life-or-death decisions. For a mission to succeed, high mental and cognitive function would be absolutely critical; astronauts would be called on to perform demanding tasks in a demanding environment. Losing 20 IQ points halfway to Mars is not an option. Finding the answers to overcoming those obstacles has not only offered us the opportunity to advance spaceflight, it also allows us to apply what we learn to help people here on Earth. While we haven’t yet seen anything as a dramatic as a clear loss of intellectual capacity in space, there are enough indicators to suggest that we should pay close attention. Stress—an emotional or mental state resulting from tense or overwhelming circumstances—and the body’s response to it, which involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory—may be the chief challenge that astronauts face. Spaceflight is full of stressors, many of which can have an impact on brain function, cognitive performance, and mental capacities. Several changes in brain structure and function have been observed [in astronauts after spaceflight]. The full implications of these changes for health and performance are not yet known, but any adverse consequences will be increasingly important as spaceflights become longer and more ambitious (such as a three-year mission to Mars). © 2021 The Dana Foundation.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27777 - Posted: 04.17.2021

By Joshua Kendall When adults claim to have suddenly recalled painful events from their childhood, are those memories likely to be accurate? This question is the basis of the “memory wars” that have roiled psychology for decades. And the validity of buried trauma turns up as a point of contention in court cases and in television and movie story lines. Warnings about the reliability of a forgotten traumatic event that is later recalled—known formally as a delayed memory—have been endorsed by leading mental health organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The skepticism is based on a body of research showing that memory is unreliable and that simple manipulations in the lab can make people believe they had an experience that never happened. Some prominent cases of recovered memory of child abuse have turned out to be false, elicited by overzealous therapists. But psychotherapists who specialize in treating adult survivors of childhood trauma argue that laboratory experiments do not rule out the possibility that some delayed memories recalled by adults are factual. Trauma therapists assert that abuse experienced early in life can overwhelm the central nervous system, causing children to split off a painful memory from conscious awareness. They maintain that this psychological defense mechanism—known as dissociative amnesia—turns up routinely in the patients they encounter. © 2021 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27761 - Posted: 04.08.2021

By Susan Milius Grown-up giraffes just aren’t huggy, cuddling, demonstrative animals. So it took identity-recognition software grinding through five years of data to reveal that female social life matters to survival. The more gregarious adult female giraffes in northern Tanzania’s Tarangire ecosystem tend to live longer, concludes wildlife biologist Monica Bond of the University of Zurich. Females that typically hung around at least three others of their kind, were more likely to outlive those with fewer routine companions, Bond and colleagues report February 10 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In published science, the idea that giraffes even have social lives isn’t much more than a decade old, Bond says. (For the time being, Bond still treats giraffes as one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, until there’s more agreement on how many species there are.) Adult males spend most of their time in solitary searches for females willing to mate, but females often hang around in groups. Compared with bats clustering under a bridge or baboons grooming pals’ fur, even the most sociable female giraffes often look as if they just happen to be milling around feeding in the same shrubbery. These “loose” groups, as Bond describes them, don’t snuggle or groom each other. A group mostly just browses in the same vicinity, then may fray apart and reconfigure with different members in the fission-fusion pattern seen in many animals, such as dolphins. Yet closer looks have found that females, in their low-drama way, prefer certain neighbors and seem to avoid certain others. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2021.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27708 - Posted: 02.28.2021

By Brooke N. Dulka Think back to years past. When you were a kid, you most likely had more friends than you do now. There were probably a lot of children on the playground you considered a friend, but not all of these friendships were very deep. As you grew up, your friendship circle most likely grew smaller. Instead of having many superficial relationships, you now have just a few really important friendships. This is normal. When we are older, we tend to focus on maintaining positive, meaningful relationships. One idea suggests that we become more selective about our friends because we become increasingly aware of our own mortality. In other words, we have future-oriented cognition. However, a recent study published in Science on the wild chimpanzees living in Uganda’s Kibale National Park suggests that our friendships may not actually be tied to thinking about the future. Alexandra Rosati, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Michigan and one of the study’s lead investigators, had heard about this long-term field study in Uganda. “It seemed like it all could sort of fit together, in this cool way, this primatology data to actually test this idea about human cognition,” she says. Advertisement In this study, a team of researchers analyzed 78,000 hours of observations of 21 male chimpanzees made between 1995 and 2016 at the Kibale National Park. According to Rosati, a unique feature of this study is the value that exists in the long-term collection of data. “We used 20 years of data for this paper. [It] lets us look at this really detailed information about what's going on in these chimpanzees’ social lives,” she says. The findings surprised her. © 2021 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27681 - Posted: 02.08.2021

By Bethany Brookshire A hungry brain craves food. A lonely brain craves people. After spending a day completely isolated from anyone else, people’s brains perked up at the sight of social gatherings, like a hungry person’s brain seeing food, scientists report November 23 in Nature Neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscientist Livia Tomova, then at MIT, and her colleagues had 40 participants fast for 10 hours. At the end of the day, certain nerve cells in the midbrain fired up in response to pictures of pizza and chocolate cake. Those neurons — in the substantia nigra pars compacta and ventral tegmental area — produce dopamine, a chemical messenger associated with reward (SN: 8/27/15). On a different day, the same people underwent 10 hours of isolation (no friends, no Facebook and no Instagram). That evening, neurons in the same spot activated in response to pictures of people chatting or playing team sports. The more hunger or isolation the subject reported, the stronger the effect (SN: 10/4/17). In people who reported that they were generally more lonely, the social responses were blunted. “We don’t really know what causes that,” Tomova says. “Maybe being isolated doesn’t really affect them as much, because it’s something that is not that different, perhaps, from their everyday life.” The midbrain, which plays an important role in people’s motivation to seek food, friends, gambling or drugs, responds to food and social signals even when people aren’t hungry or lonely. After all, a person always could eat or hang out. But hunger and loneliness increased the reaction and made people’s responses specific to the thing they were missing. The findings “speak to our current state,” says Tomova, now at the University of Cambridge. COVID-19 has left many more socially isolated, putting mental as well as physical health at stake (SN: 3/29/20) and leaving people with cravings for more than food. “It’s important to look at the social dimension of this kind of crisis.” L. Tomova et al. Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses similar to hunger. Nature Neuroscience. Published online November 23, 2020. doi: 10.1038/s41593-020-00742-z. = © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27594 - Posted: 11.27.2020

By Lisa Feldman Barrett Five hundred million years ago, a tiny sea creature changed the course of history: It became the first predator. It somehow sensed the presence of another creature nearby, propelled or wiggled its way over, and deliberately ate it. This new activity of hunting started an evolutionary arms race. Over millions of years, both predators and prey evolved more complex bodies that could sense and move more effectively to catch or elude other creatures. Eventually, some creatures evolved a command center to run those complex bodies. We call it a brain. This story of how brains evolved, while admittedly just a sketch, draws attention to a key insight about human beings that is too often overlooked. Your brain’s most important job isn’t thinking; it’s running the systems of your body to keep you alive and well. According to recent findings in neuroscience, even when your brain does produce conscious thoughts and feelings, they are more in service to the needs of managing your body than you realize. And in stressful times like right now, this curious perspective on your mental life may actually help to lessen your anxieties. Much of your brain’s activity happens outside your awareness. In every moment, your brain must figure out your body’s needs for the next moment and execute a plan to fill those needs in advance. For example, each morning as you wake, your brain anticipates the energy you’ll need to drag your sorry body out of bed and start your day. It proactively floods your bloodstream with the hormone cortisol, which helps make glucose available for quick energy. Your brain runs your body using something like a budget. A financial budget tracks money as it’s earned and spent. The budget for your body tracks resources like water, salt and glucose as you gain and lose them. Each action that spends resources, such as standing up, running, and learning, is like a withdrawal from your account. Actions that replenish your resources, such as eating and sleeping, are like deposits. The scientific name for body budgeting is allostasis. It means automatically predicting and preparing to meet the body’s needs before they arise. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27593 - Posted: 11.27.2020

By Lindsay Gray When Herbert Weinstein stood trial for the murder of his wife in 1992, his attorneys were struck by the measured calm with which he recounted her death and the events leading up to it. He made no attempt to deny that he was culpable, and yet his stoicism in the face of his wildly uncharacteristic actions led his defense to suspect that he might not be. Weinstein underwent neuroimaging tests, which confirmed what his attorneys had suspected: a cyst had impinged upon large parts of Weinstein’s frontal lobe, the seat of impulse control in the brain. On these grounds, they reasoned he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity, despite Weinstein’s free admission of guilt. Guilt is difficult to define, but it pervades every aspect of our lives, whether we’re chastising ourselves for skipping a workout, or serving on the jury of a criminal trial. Humans seem to be hardwired for justice, but we’re also saddled with a curious compulsion to diagram our own emotional wiring. This drive to assign a neurochemical method to our madness has led to the generation of vast catalogs of neuroimaging studies that detail the neural underpinnings of everything from anxiety to nostalgia. In a recent study, researchers now claim to have moved us one step closer to knowing what a guilty brain looks like. Since guilt carries different weight depending on context or culture, the authors of the study chose to define it operationally as the awareness of having harmed someone else. A series of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments across two separate cohorts, one Swiss and one Chinese, revealed what they refer to as a “guilt-related brain signature” that persists across groups. Since pervasive guilt is a common feature in severe depression and PTSD, the authors suggest that a neural biomarker for guilt could offer more precise insight into these conditions and, potentially, their treatment. But brain-based biomarkers for complex human behaviors also lend themselves to the more ethically fraught discipline of neuroprediction, an emergent branch of behavioral science that combines neuroimaging data and machine learning to forecast how an individual is likely to act based on how their brain scans compare to those of other groups. © 2020 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 27591 - Posted: 11.21.2020

By Jessica Wapner We are living through an inarguably challenging time. The U.S. has been facing its highest daily COVID-19 case counts yet. Uncertainty and division continue to dog the aftermath of the presidential election. And we are heading into a long, cold winter, when socializing outdoors will be less of an option. We are a nation and a world under stress. But Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University who studies the visual system, sees matters a bit differently. Stress, he says, is not just about the content of what we are reading or the images we are seeing. It is about how our eyes and breathing change in response to the world and the cascades of events that follow. And both of these bodily processes also offer us easy and accessible releases from stress. Huberman’s assertions are based on both established and emerging science. He has spent the past 20 years unraveling the inner workings of the visual system. In 2018, for example, his lab reported its discovery of brain pathways connected with fear and paralysis that respond specifically to visual threats. And a small but growing body of research makes the case that altering our breathing can alter our brain. In 2017 Mark Krasnow of Stanford University, Jack Feldman of the University of California, Los Angeles, and their colleagues identified a tight link between neurons responsible for controlling breathing and the region of the brain responsible for arousal and panic. This growing understanding of how vision and breathing directly affect the brain—rather than the more nebulous categories of the mind and feelings—can come in handy as we continue to face mounting challenges around the globe, across the U.S. and in our own lives. Scientific American spoke with Huberman about how it all works. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 27584 - Posted: 11.18.2020

By Gretchen Reynolds Roiled by concerns about the pandemic and politics? Lifting weights might help, according to a timely new study of anxiety and resistance training. The study, which involved healthy young adults, barbells and lunges, indicates that regular weight training substantially reduces anxiety, a finding with particular relevance during these unsettling, bumpy days. We already have plenty of evidence that exercise helps stave off depression and other mental ills, and that exercise can elevate feelings of happiness and contentment. But most past studies of exercise and moods have looked at the effects of aerobic exercise, like running on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike. Scientists only recently have begun to investigate whether and how weight training might also affect mental health. A 2018 review of studies, for instance, concluded that adults who lift weights are less likely to develop depression than those who never lift. In another study, women with clinical anxiety disorders reported fewer symptoms after taking up either aerobic or weight training. But many of these studies involved frequent and complicated sessions of resistance exercise performed under the eyes of researchers, which is not how most of us are likely to work out. They also often focused on somewhat narrow groups, such as men or women with a diagnosed mental health condition like depression or an anxiety disorder, limiting their applicability. So for the new study, which was published in October in Scientific Reports, researchers at the University of Limerick in Ireland and other institutions decided to see if a simple version of weight training could have benefits for mood in people who already were in generally good mental health. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 27568 - Posted: 11.07.2020

The benefits of companionship for humans are well known, and they're not just confined to our mental health. Humans with strong social bonds with others live longer, healthier lives. Now a study looking at wild baboons in Africa has shown this is true for them as well. In particular, male baboons with non-sexual friendships with females live far longer than animals who lack these social bonds. Researchers have known for years that companionship is beneficial for the health and longevity of female baboons. But because of their social structure, male baboons are much harder to study over a long term than females. Female baboons stay with their birth troop for their entire lives, and so are easy to track and observe. Males, on the other hand, switch troops after they mature, and sometimes in adulthood as well, and so tracking them for their lifetime — which averages something like a decade and a half — can be a challenge. But a team led by Susan Alberts, a professor of biology and chair of the evolutionary anthropology department at Duke University, was able to master this problem. Friends with benefits Platonic friendship among baboons of the opposite sex is, it turns out, common. According to Alberts, male baboons will frequently form non-sexual friendship bonds with females and will protect them and their offspring from aggression within the troop and from predators. The benefits of this for the females are clear. What was less clear was the benefits of this kind of companionship for the males. The new study from Alberts and her team drew on data collected over many years from over 500 baboons at Amboseli National Park in Kenya to answer that question.. ©2020 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27492 - Posted: 09.28.2020

By Pam Belluck Annrene Rowe was getting ready to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary this summer when she noticed a bald spot on her scalp. In the following days, her thick shoulder-length hair started falling out in clumps, bunching up in the shower drain. “I was crying hysterically,” said Mrs. Rowe, 67, of Anna Maria, Fla. Mrs. Rowe, who was hospitalized for 12 days in April with symptoms of the coronavirus, soon found strikingly similar stories in online groups of Covid-19 survivors. Many said that several months after contracting the virus, they began shedding startling amounts of hair. Doctors say they too are seeing many more patients with hair loss, a phenomenon they believe is indeed related to the coronavirus pandemic, affecting both people who had the virus and those who never became sick. In normal times, some people shed noticeable amounts of hair after a profoundly stressful experience such as an illness, major surgery or emotional trauma. Now, doctors say, many patients recovering from Covid-19 are experiencing hair loss — not from the virus itself, but from the physiological stress of fighting it off. Many people who never contracted the virus are also losing hair, because of emotional stress from job loss, financial strain, deaths of family members or other devastating developments stemming from the pandemic. “There’s many, many stresses in many ways surrounding this pandemic, and we’re still seeing hair loss because a lot of the stress hasn’t gone away,” said Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, an associate professor of dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic. Before the pandemic, there were weeks when Dr. Khetarpal didn’t see a single patient with hair loss of this type. Now, she said, about 20 such patients a week come in. One was a woman having difficulty home-schooling two young children while also working from home. Another was a second-grade teacher anxiously trying to ensure that all her students had computers and internet access for online instruction. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27489 - Posted: 09.25.2020

By Gretchen Reynolds Exercise makes it easier to bounce back from too much stress, according to a fascinating new study with mice. It finds that regular exercise increases the levels of a chemical in the animals’ brains that helps them remain psychologically resilient and plucky, even when their lives seem suddenly strange, intimidating and filled with threats. The study involved mice, but it is likely to have implications for our species, too, as we face the stress and discombobulation of the ongoing pandemic and today’s political and social disruptions. Stress can, of course, be our ally. Emergencies and perils require immediate responses, and stress results in a fast, helpful flood of hormones and other chemicals that prime our bodies to act. “If a tiger jumps out at you, you should run,” says David Weinshenker, a professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and the senior author of the new study. The stress response, in that situation, is appropriate and valuable. But if, afterward, we “jump at every little noise” and shrink from shadows, we are overreacting to the original stress, Dr. Weinshenker continues. Our response has become maladaptive, because we no longer react with appropriate dread to dreadful things but with twitchy anxiety to the quotidian. We lack stress resilience. In interesting past research, scientists have shown that exercise seems to build and amplify stress resilience. Rats that run on wheels for several weeks, for instance, and then experience stress through light shocks to their paws, respond later to unfamiliar — but safe — terrain with less trepidation than sedentary rats that also experience shocks. But the physiological underpinnings of the animals’ relative buoyancy after exercise remain somewhat mysterious. And, rats are just one species. Finding similar relationships between physical activity and resilience in other animals would bolster the possibility that a similar link exists in people. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 27461 - Posted: 09.09.2020

By Linda Searing A growing number of U.S. adults are struggling with mental health issues linked to worry and stress over the novel coronavirus, increasing from 32 percent in March to 53 percent in July, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, for example, reached 40 percent this summer, up from 11 percent a year ago. In addition, a similar assessment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, by late June, 13 percent of adults had started or increased alcohol consumption or drug use to help cope with pandemic-related woes, and 11 percent had seriously considered suicide in the past month — a number that reached 25 percent among those ages 18 to 24. Social isolation, loneliness, job loss and economic worries as well as fear of contracting the virus are among factors cited as contributing to people’s mental health problems. Kaiser researchers found that 59 percent of those who have lost income because of the pandemic experienced at least one adverse effect on their mental health and well-being, as did 62 percent of those with higher-than-average risk for covid-19 because of such chronic conditions as lung disease, asthma, diabetes or serious heart disease. Overall, both reports found that negative mental health effects from the stress of coronavirus were more common among women than men. Suicidal ideation, however, was more common among men. Also, the CDC report says that people described as “unpaid caregivers,” meaning they care for other adults at home, are considerably more likely than others to start or increase substance use to cope with coronavirus-related stress or to have suicidal thoughts.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27456 - Posted: 09.07.2020

By Jane E. Brody Orthostatic hypotension — to many people those are unfamiliar words for a relatively common but often unrecognized medical problem that can have devastating consequences, especially for older adults. It refers to a brief but precipitous drop in blood pressure that causes lightheadedness or dizziness when standing up after lying down or sitting, and sometimes even after standing, for a prolonged period. The problem is likely to be familiar to people of all ages who may have been confined to bed for a long time by an injury, illness or surgery. It also often occurs during pregnancy. But middle-aged and older adults are most frequently affected. A significant number of falls and fractures, particularly among the elderly, are likely to result from orthostatic hypotension — literally, low blood pressure upon standing. Many an older person has fallen and broken a hip when getting out of bed in the morning or during the night to use the bathroom, precipitating a decline in health and loss of independence as a result of this blood pressure failure. Orthostatic hypotension is also a risk factor for strokes and heart attacks and even motor vehicle accidents. It can be an early warning sign of a serious underlying cardiovascular or neurological disorder, like a heart valve problem, the course of which might be altered if detected soon enough. But as one team of specialists noted, although orthostatic hypotension is a “highly prevalent” disorder, it is “frequently unrecognized until late in the clinical course.” Under normal circumstances, when we stand up, gravity temporarily causes blood to pool in the lower half of the body; then, within 20 or 30 seconds, receptors in the heart and carotid arteries in the neck trigger a compensating mechanism called the baroreflex that raises the heart rate and constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure and provide the brain with an adequate supply of blood. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27442 - Posted: 09.02.2020

By Esther Landhuis A researcher slips stickers under some colored cups on a lazy Susan, then gives the tray a whirl. When the spinning stops, a preschooler must find the hidden stickers. Most children remember where the stickers are, but a few have to check every single cup. The game tests working memory, which is among the set of mental skills known as executive function that can be impaired in children who faced trauma early in life. Adversity wreaks havoc, and from there, “you have a system that responds differently,” says Megan Gunnar, a developmental psychobiologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who has spent two decades studying the impact of early-life adversity in adopted children. The focus of this work is extreme adversity, such as being orphaned, rather than everyday challenges, which might teach beneficial resilience. A childhood characterized by hardship, negligence or abuse can also alter the neuroendocrine system that regulates how the body responds to stress. Problems in the stress response can set kids on a path toward behavior struggles along with increased risk for depression, diabetes and a host of other health problems. But recent studies offer hints that such a difficult future may not be inevitable. As Gunnar and others have shown, impaired stress responses can return to normal during puberty, raising the possibility that imbalances created by early trauma can be erased. The research is prompting a new view of puberty as an opportunity — a chance for people who had a shaky start to reset their physiological responses to stress. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: Development of the Brain; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27441 - Posted: 08.29.2020

By Jan Hoffman The collateral damage from the pandemic continues: Young adults, as well as Black and Latino people of all ages, describe rising levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts, and increased substance abuse, according to findings reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a research survey, U.S. residents reported signs of eroding mental health in reaction to the toll of coronavirus illnesses and deaths, and to the life-altering restrictions imposed by lockdowns. The researchers argue that the results point to an urgent need for expanded and culturally sensitive services for mental health and substance abuse, including telehealth counseling. In the online survey completed by some 5,400 people in late June, the prevalence of anxiety symptoms was three times as high as those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and depression was four times as high. The effects of the coronavirus outbreaks were felt most keenly by young adults ages 18 to 24. According to Mark Czeisler, a psychology researcher at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, nearly 63 percent had symptoms of anxiety or depression that they attributed to the pandemic and nearly a quarter had started or increased their abuse of substances, including alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, to cope with their emotions. “It’s ironic that young adults who are at lower risk than older adults of severe illness caused by Covid-19 are experiencing worse mental health symptoms,” said Mr. Czeisler. A survey of about 5,000 people done in April, during the earlier days of the pandemic, Mr. Czeisler said, suggested that tremors in the mental health firmament were beginning to surface. Already in April, high percentages of respondents reported they were spending more time on screens and less time outside than before the pandemic, which translated into more virtual interactions and far fewer in person. They noted upheavals to family, school, exercise and work routines, and to their sleeping patterns. All of these are factors that can contribute to the robustness of mental health. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 27421 - Posted: 08.15.2020

Elizabeth Landau Carmen Sandi recalls the skepticism she faced at first. A behavioral neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, she had followed a hunch that something going on inside critical neural circuits could explain anxious behavior, something beyond brain cells and the synaptic connections between them. The experiments she began in 2013 showed that neurons involved in anxiety-related behaviors showed abnormalities: Their mitochondria, the organelles often described as cellular power plants, didn’t work well — they produced curiously low levels of energy. Those results suggested that mitochondria might be involved in stress-related symptoms in the animals. But that idea ran contrary to the “synapto-centric” vision of the brain held by many neuroscientists at the time. Her colleagues found it hard to believe Sandi’s evidence that in anxious individuals — at least in rats — mitochondria inside key neurons might be important. “Whenever I presented the data, they told me, ‘It’s very interesting, but you got it wrong,’” Sandi said. Yet a growing number of scientists have joined her during the past decade or so in wondering whether mitochondria might be fundamental not just to our general physical well-being but specifically to our mental health. In particular, they have explored whether mitochondria affect how we respond to stress and conditions like anxiety and depression. Carmen Sandi, a behavioral neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, suspected that a deficit in cellular energy might explain the lack of motivation that anxiety-prone people experience. © 2020 Simons Foundation

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27414 - Posted: 08.11.2020

Tracking the brain’s reaction to virtual-reality-simulated threats such as falling rocks and an under-researched fear reduction strategy may provide better ways of treating anxiety disorders and preventing relapses. Hippocrates described them as ‘masses of terrors,’ while French physicians in the 18th century labelled them as ‘vapours’ and ‘melancholia.’ Nowadays we know that panic attacks, a common symptom of anxiety, can be linked to intense phobias or even a general anxiety disorder with no specific source. ‘But if you’re not sure what a panic attack is, it’s very frightening,’ said Dr Iris Lange, a psychologist based at KU Leuven, in Belgium. ‘You probably think you will get a heart attack. We see a lot of people having to go to the medical emergency services.’ According to an EU and OECD report from 2018, anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder across European Union countries and affect an estimated 25 million people. Decades of research have shown how anxiety amplifies sensitivity to threats. People with high anxiety will perceive even non-harmful things, such as insects, as potential threats. However, researchers have until recently used mice and rat experiments to understand the neuroscientific concepts of how anxiety patients behave when defending themselves from such perceived threats. ‘We are translating concepts that are probably not translatable (to humans), or we're just translating very core concepts,’ said Professor Dominik R Bach, a neuroscientist at University College London, in the UK.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 17: Learning and Memory; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27305 - Posted: 06.17.2020

By Laura Sanders I’m on deadline, but instead of focusing, my mind buzzes with unrelated tidbits. My first-grader’s tablet needs an update before her online school session tomorrow. Heartbreaking deaths from COVID-19 in New York City make me tear up again. Was that a kid’s scream from upstairs? Do I need to run up there, or will my husband take care of it? These hornets of thoughts drive out the clear thinking my job demands. Try as I might to conjure up a coherent story, the relevant wisps float away. I’m scattered, worried and tired. And even though we’re all socially isolated, I’m not alone. The pandemic — and its social and economic upheavals — has left people around the world feeling like they can’t string two thoughts together. Stress has really done a number on us. That’s no surprise to scientists who study stress. Our brains are not built to do complex thinking, planning and remembering in times of massive upheaval. Feeling impaired is “a natural biological response,” says Amy Arnsten, a neuroscientist at Yale School of Medicine. “This is how our brains are wired.” Decades of research have chronicled the ways stress can disrupt business as usual in our brains. Recent studies have made even more clear how stress saps our ability to plan ahead and have pointed to one way that stress changes how certain brain cells operate. Scientists recognize the pandemic as an opportunity for a massive, real-time experiment on stress. COVID-19 foisted on us a heavy mix of health, economic and social stressors. And the end date is nowhere in sight. Scientists have begun collecting data to answer a range of questions. But one thing is clear: This pandemic has thrown all of us into uncharted territory. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 27266 - Posted: 05.28.2020