Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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April Fulton In the wake of the massacre at a small-town Texas church on Sunday, many people are asking why. A large portion of the mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years have roots in domestic violence against partners and family members. Depending on how you count, it could be upwards of 50 percent. We know the Texas gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley, was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and their young child in 2012, although this information apparently was not included in the formal government database that tracks such things. There are laws on the books preventing convicted domestic violence offenders from obtaining weapons. So why does this keep happening? There are no easy answers. NPR's Alison Kodjak recently talked with Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, Md., about the complexities of gun violence, mass shootings, and the difficulty we have in understanding the people who commit these crimes. While perpetrators of domestic violence account for only about 10 percent of all gun violence, they accounted for 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016, according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, so there is a disproportionate link, Webster tells Kodjak. "Generally, it fits a pattern of easy access to firearms of individuals who have very controlling kind of relationships with their intimate partners and are greatly threatened when their control is challenged," he says. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24303 - Posted: 11.08.2017

Jo Marchant Listen in: the words people say may reveal the body's biological response to threat. Subtleties in the language people use may reveal physiological stress. Psychologists found that tracking certain words used by volunteers in randomly collected audio clips reflected stress-related changes in their gene expression. The speech patterns predicted those physiological changes more accurately than speakers’ own ratings of their stress levels. The research, which is published on 6 November in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1 suggests that changes in language may track the biological effects of stress better than how we consciously feel. It’s a new approach to studying stress, says David Creswell, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and one that “holds tremendous promise” for understanding how psychological adversity affects physical health. Adverse life circumstances — such as poverty, trauma or social isolation — can have devastating effects on health, increasing the risk of a variety of chronic disorders ranging from heart disease to dementia. Researchers trying to pin down the biological mechanisms involved have found that people who experience these circumstances also undergo broad changes in gene expression in the cells of their immune system. Genes involved in inflammation become more active, for example, and antiviral genes are turned down. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Stress; Language
Link ID: 24302 - Posted: 11.07.2017

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent British scientists have begun testing a radically new approach to treating schizophrenia based on emerging evidence that it could be a disease of the immune system. The first patient, a 33-year old man who developed schizophrenia after moving to London from Cameroon a decade ago, was treated at King’s College Hospital in London on Thursday, marking the start of one of the most ambitious trials to date on the biology of the illness and how to treat it. During the next two years, 30 patients will receive monthly infusions of an antibody drug currently used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), which the team hopes will target the root causes of schizophrenia in a far more fundamental way than current therapies. The trial builds on more than a decade’s work by Oliver Howes, a professor of molecular psychiatry at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and a consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in south London. Howes’s team is one of several worldwide to have uncovered evidence that abnormalities in immune activity in the brain may lie at the heart of the illness – for some patients, at least. “In the past, we’ve always thought of the mind and the body being separate, but it’s just not like that,” said Howes. “The mind and body interact constantly and the immune system is no different. It’s about changing the way we think about mental illnesses.” Recent work by Howes and colleagues found that in the earliest stages of schizophrenia, people experience a surge in the number and activity of immune cells in the brain. As well as fighting infection, these cells, called microglia, have a “gardening” role, pruning unwanted connections between neurons. But in schizophrenia patients, the pruning appears to become more aggressive, leading to vital connections being lost. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24293 - Posted: 11.04.2017

By James T. Costa One day in May of 1840, a young scientist in London did something that will sound strange to any new parent: He deliberately startled his 4-month-old son, provoking piercing squalls from the baby and probably a baleful glare from his wife. Then he did it again. Darwin remains best known for his world-shaking theories on plant and animal evolution. But people were never far from his mind. The scientist was Charles Darwin, and the experiment on his son Willy turned out to be an often-overlooked landmark in the history of science. Darwin, then just 31 years old, had become a convert to the field of “transmutation,” as evolution was called then, and had experienced an epiphany when he discovered its driver, which he dubbed natural selection. The former theology student immediately grasped the implications of this theory, declaring that the theological interpretation of the natural world had been undone by scientific evidence — “The fabric falls!” as he put it in a notebook. And while Darwin remains best known for his world-shaking theories on plant and animal evolution, as put forward in the 1859 book “On the Origin of Species,” people and society were never far from his mind. Convinced of the evolutionary unity of life, Darwin naturally saw humans as part of the tapestry: They were animals too, after all. (Carl Linnaeus may have been deliberately provocative when, in 1758, he derived the taxonomic name “primates” from the Latin for “prime” or “first rank,” to refer not only to humans but to monkeys and apes; it also happened to be the term applied to bishops.) The standard view of the time was that, despite superficial similarities, there was no true relationship between humans and other primates, let alone other animals. Weren’t we humans clearly endowed with a soul and mental qualities that set us apart from and above the animal kingdom? But Darwin saw deeper significance in the family relationship, one of continuity, common descent. To him, there was no real gap between people and primates — differences, yes, but of degree and not kind. “Origin of man now proved,” he declared in 1838. “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.” Copyright 2017 Undark

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 24291 - Posted: 11.04.2017

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Chronic inflammation in middle age may be associated with an increased risk for brain shrinkage and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. A new study, published in Neurology, looked at 1,633 people whose average age was 53 in 1987-89, measuring white blood cell count and various blood proteins that indicate inflammation. They followed the participants for 24 years. In 2011-13, when the subjects’ average age was 77, the scientists measured their brain volume using M.R.I. and tested their mental agility with a word-memorization task. They found that the greater the number of elevated inflammatory markers earlier in life, the smaller the volume of several parts of the brain, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Higher levels of inflammation were also associated with poorer performance on the memory test. The authors acknowledge that they had blood tests for only one point in time, and that they are assuming that brain loss occurred in the years after the inflammatory markers were assessed. “It’s important early in life that we prevent diseases like diabetes, heart disease or hypertension that cause systemic inflammation,” said the lead author, Keenan A. Walker, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins. “This study shows a temporal relationship between early inflammation and later brain volume loss.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Alzheimers; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24277 - Posted: 11.02.2017

Susan Milius Kleptopredation klep-toe-preh-day-shun n. A food-gathering strategy of eating an organism and the meal it just ate. A wily sea slug has a way to get two meals in one: It gobbles up smaller predators that have recently gulped in their own prey. “Kleptopredation” is the term Trevor Willis of the University of Portsmouth in England and his colleagues propose for this kind of food theft by well-timed predation. Researchers knew that the small Mediterranean nudibranch Cratena peregrina, with a colorful mane of streamers rippling off its body, climbs and preys on pipe cleaner‒skinny, branched colonies of Eudendrium racemosum hydroids, which are distant relatives of corals. The nudibranchs devour the individual hydroid polyps and, new tests show, prefer them well fed. In experimental buffets with fed or hungry polyps, the nudibranchs ate faster when polyps were fat with just-caught plankton. In this way, at least half of a nudibranch’s diet is plankton. This quirk explains why some biochemical signatures that distinguish predators from prey don’t work out clearly for nudibranchs and hydroids, the researchers report November 1 in Biology Letters. A weird echo of this meal-stealing strategy shows up in certain jumping spiders. The arachnids don’t have the biology to drink vertebrate blood themselves. Instead, they catch a lot of female mosquitoes that have just tanked up (SN: 10/15/05, p. 246). |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017. All rights reserved.

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24271 - Posted: 11.01.2017

Robert Bruner & Filippa Lentzos The Netflix series Stranger Things, launching its second season today, centers on Eleven, a girl with psychic powers who has escaped a dark and psychologically abusive government program that seeks to harness and weaponize her powers. While Stranger Things is a work of science fiction, it is not as far removed from reality as it initially seems. The series is rooted in a decades-long (but long defunct) CIA research program called MKULTRA, which involved bizarre, top-secret research on how to deliberately produce behaviors and emotions—such as fear, anxiety, or confusion. While MKULTRA is infamous for its attempts to control the mind through hypnosis and paranormal phenomena, its researchers primarily concentrated on the use of pharmaceuticals and mind-bending drugs such as hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, heroin, LSD, and truth serums to make intelligence targets more cooperative in questioning and more willing to act as agents of the United States. Ultimately, the project failed because of a lack of scientific understanding of the inner workings of the brain and how to manipulate it. But today, neuroscience appears to be breaking down previous technical barriers to the exogenous control of emotion, behavior, and ultimately the mind. Scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of the biological basis of behavior and cognition have given rise to numerous treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. These treatments have improved the quality of life for many people all over the world. But these technologies have dual-use potential. Psychiatric drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, or mania can force a person to experience those same emotions. These drugs work by returning overactive or underactive neural signaling associated with mental disease to normal levels. The same principles, however, can be used on healthy individuals to manipulate their brain chemistry and change their behavior and emotions. These drugs can be used on individuals as a form of psychological torture—or could be deployed on the battlefield to quickly incapacitate, or change the emotions of, a large group. Additionally, due to growing knowledge of the neural mechanisms active during memory formation, it may become possible to enhance or delete memories—or even, using emerging brain-stimulation techniques, transfer thoughts from one individual to another.

Keyword: Emotions; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24256 - Posted: 10.28.2017

By Alice Klein Zapping the brain to relieve depression can spark fits of fury in a small number of people, psychiatrists warn. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is increasingly being used to treat a range of conditions, from depression and addiction to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In it, electrodes attached to the scalp emit weak currents that help strengthen electrical brain circuits. To treat depression, the current is usually applied to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – a brain area involved in regulating the emotions. There is now good evidence that this lifts mood in some people. However, it also appears to trigger anger in rare cases, say Galen Chin-Lun Hung and Ming-Chyi Huang at Taipei City Hospital in Taiwan. They recently reported two people at their psychiatric facility who had uncharacteristic outbursts of fury after receiving tDCS. The first was a 39-year-old woman with severe depression, low energy and suicidal thoughts who hadn’t responded to antidepressants. Straight after tDCS treatment, she became agitated, began yelling angrily and felt the urge to “tear everything apart”. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Depression; Emotions
Link ID: 24247 - Posted: 10.27.2017

By Deirdre Sackett A few years ago, I watched a YouTube video called “Virtual Barbershop.” It was one of those viral videos that attempted to be somewhat educational. It featured (somewhat silly) barbershop sounds recorded with a special microphone that made the sounds appear as if in 3-D, to demonstrate how the brain localizes sounds. Although it was meant to be funny and a bit of a gag video, I noticed that some of the 3-D sounds actually relaxed me. In fact, I realized it was the same calming feeling I got when watching, of all things, Bob Ross’ “Joy of Painting” videos. Curious, I watched some of Bob’s YouTube videos, and sure enough, his soothing voice, brushing and tapping sounds, and calm, deliberate actions had me nearly falling asleep. By some happy little accident, I noticed a “recommended” video in the YouTube side bar called “Oh, such a good 3-D ASMR video.” I immediately felt relaxed upon hearing the sounds in the video, and even felt a small “tingle” in my head. That’s how I discovered that I had ASMR. ASMR? It sounds like some horrible affliction—an acronym for a weird, one-in-100 million condition. “Hi, I’m Deirdre, and I have ASMR.” What is it—and why is my brain tingling? © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Hearing; Emotions
Link ID: 24244 - Posted: 10.26.2017

By KAREN WEINTRAUB In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jane Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees she followed in Gombe National Park in what is now Tanzania. In her descriptions, some were more playful or aggressive, affectionate or nurturing. Many scientists at the time were horrified, she recalled. Considered an amateur — she didn’t yet have her Ph.D. — they contended she was inventing personality traits for animals. Dr. Goodall, now 83, said in a phone interview on Monday from her home in England that scientists thought “I was guilty of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.” But time has borne out her insights. Chimpanzees in the wild have personalities similar to those in captivity, and both strongly overlap with traits that are familiar in humans, a new study published in Scientific Data confirms. The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals in 1973 to include more than 100 additional chimps that were evaluated a few years ago. The animals were individually assessed by graduate students in the earlier study, and in the latest by Tanzanian field assistants, on personality traits like agreeableness, extroversion, depression, aggression and self-control. Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits in the two studies, but most of the personality types were consistent across the two studies. These traits seen among wild chimps matched ones seen among captive animals, the study found, and are similar to those described in people. Dr. Goodall, who is promoting a new documentary, “Jane,” about those early days of her research, said she’s not surprised. She knew from childhood experiences with guinea pigs, tortoises and her favorite dog, Rusty, that animals have personalities that are quite familiar. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Evolution; Emotions
Link ID: 24241 - Posted: 10.25.2017

Emma Young Every dog owner is familiar with the ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression. As the inner brow lifts, the eyes get bigger and bigger … It’s tempting to interpret this as a plea from a sad dog for a scrap of the family dinner. Now, a small study provides support for the idea that dogs do indeed produce facial expressions to communicate with people — although perhaps just to engage us, rather than to manipulate us. The dogs in the study produced more than twice as many facial expressions (‘puppy dog eyes’ was one of the most common) when a researcher was facing them than when she was turned away. But it didn't seem to matter whether she also held food. Earlier studies have shown that seeing food is more exciting to a dog than is social contact with a silent person, so something other than the dogs’ emotional state must have been responsible for the effect. “Dogs make their eyes more attractive to us while we are watching, not just when we are in the vicinity or in response to food,” says Brian Hare, a cognitive neuroscientist and co-director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “This is fantastic work.” The study, published on 19 October in Scientific Reports1, adds to a growing body of work that shows how sensitive dogs are to human attention. It also provides the first evidence in a non-primate species that facial expressions can be used actively to communicate, says psychologist Juliane Kaminski at the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. Researchers had previously assumed that such expressions are an involuntary reflection of an animal’s emotional state. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Emotions; Attention
Link ID: 24224 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By Karen Weintraub Each time health care workers grab a pint of blood for an emergency transfusion, they make sure the donor and recipient have compatible blood types. But they do not pay attention to the donor’s sex. A new study raises questions as to whether that should change. In the first large study to look at how blood transfusions from previously pregnant women affect recipients’ health, researchers discovered men under 50 were 1.5 times more likely to die in the three years following a transfusion if they received a red blood cell transfusion from a woman donor who had ever been pregnant. This amounts to a 2 percent increase in overall mortality each year. Female recipients, however, did not appear to face an elevated risk. The study of more than 42,000 transfusion patients in the Netherlands was published Tuesday in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association. The American Red Cross and the researchers themselves were quick to say the study is not definitive enough to change the current practice of matching red blood cell donors to recipients. But if this explosive finding is confirmed with future studies, it could transform the way blood is matched—and it would suggest millions of transfusion patients worldwide have died prematurely. “If this turns out to be the truth, it’s both biologically interesting and extremely clinically relevant,” says Gustaf Edgren, an expert who was not involved in the study but co-wrote an editorial about it. “We certainly need to find out what’s going on.” Edgren, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute and a hematologist at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, says his own research suggests the donor’s sex makes no difference to the transfused patient. “Our data is really not compatible with this finding,” he says. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24214 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Michael Price Good luck finding a legislative issue more controversial than gun violence—at least in the United States. Compounding the controversy is a dearth of reliable data, thanks largely to a de facto ban on federally funded firearms research enacted in 1996. Yet a new study funded by Harvard Business School suggests that one policy—a mandatory waiting period between the sale of a gun and its delivery—could save hundreds of U.S. lives each year if implemented nationally. “Absolutely, this study demonstrates a robust association between waiting periods and gun deaths,” says Margaret Formica, a public health researcher at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse who studies firearms deaths but wasn’t involved in the new work. “It’s an innovative way of looking at this issue.” More than 33,000 Americans die each year in gun-related incidents, including accidents, homicides, and suicides, about as many as in vehicle accidents. But regulations that place limits on the sale and ownership of firearms vary widely from state to state, and it’s unclear which measures might actually prevent gun violence. Some research from other countries has suggested that a “cooling off” period between the sale and delivery of a gun can tamp down suicidal impulses and anger-driven violence. So when Harvard University researchers were motivated to contribute to policy-relevant gun research in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, such “waiting periods” were an easy jumping-off point. Not only was there past research, but data on waiting-period laws are relatively easy to track down. “Instead of saying, ‘Isn’t it a tragedy, children are dying, oh well, on to the next meeting,’ we decided we wanted to do something,” says Deepak Malhotra, a negotiation and conflict resolution researcher who co-authored the new study with economist Michael Luca. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24205 - Posted: 10.17.2017

Carl Safina Last week footage of five young elephants being captured in Zimbabwe to sell to zoos travelled round the world. Parks officials used helicopters to find the elephant families, shot sedatives into the young ones, then hazed away family members who came to the aid of the drugged young ones as they fell. The film, shared exclusively with the Guardian, showed the young captives being trussed up and dragged on to trucks. In the final moments of footage, two men repeatedly kick a small dazed elephant in the head. Removing young elephants from their parents and sending them into captivity is largely justified on the basis that they do not feel and suffer as we do. For decades we have been admonished against anthropomorphism – imbuing animals with human-type emotions such as sadness or love. But, actually, humans have these emotions because other animals do as well. Brain science, evolutionary biology, and behavioural science now show that elephants, humans, and many other animals share a near-identical nervous system and likely experience near-identical basic emotions. Human and elephant brains are bathed in the same chemicals that create mood and motivation in us. We are all mammals, and under the skin we are kin. Scientists have watched rats’ brains as they dream, and dogs’ brains showing love. In fact, sperm whales’ family structure is nearly identical to that of elephants. Animals living in stable social groups – apes and monkeys, wolves and wild dogs, hyenas and cats, various birds, some dolphins and others, know who they are and whom they are with. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 24197 - Posted: 10.16.2017

By Jessica Hamzelou A rare sighting of a chimpanzee giving birth in the wild came to a grisly conclusion. Within seconds of the birth, the baby was snatched away and eaten by a male of the same group. The observation explains why female chimpanzees tend to go into hiding for weeks or months when they have their babies. Little is known about how chimpanzees give birth in the wild because only five births have ever been observed, says Hitonaru Nishie of Kyoto University in Japan. Nishie and his colleagues have been studying chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Mahale mountains for the last few years. One of the reasons so few have been witnessed is that the soon-to-be mothers often leave the group when the baby is due, and don’t return until the infant is weeks or months old. This absence has been described as a chimpanzee’s “maternity leave”. So Nishie and his colleague Michio Nakamura were surprised when, at around 11 am one December day, a female member of the chimpanzee group they were observing began to give birth in front of the 20 other members. As soon as the baby was out – and before the mother had even had a chance to touch it – the baby was snatched away by a male member of the group, who then disappeared into the bush. The researchers found him around 1½ hours later, sitting up a tree and eating the infant from the lower half of its body. He ate the entire body within an hour. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Aggression
Link ID: 24193 - Posted: 10.14.2017

Jo Marchant Male scientists are more likely to share their published work than are women — but only with other men, a study of hundreds of researchers has found. Humans are generally considered to be a highly cooperative species, says Jorg Massen, a cognitive biologist at the University of Vienna. But most of the evidence for that assumption comes from artificial situations such as computerized cooperation tasks. “I wanted to test human prosociality in an everyday situation,” he says. So he chose one of the most competitive situations he could think of: his own field of research psychology. To investigate cooperation among psychologists, Massen turned his fellow researchers into guinea pigs. He and his colleagues e-mailed nearly 300 researchers and asked them to share either a PDF of one of their latest papers, or some raw data (pretending that they wanted to include it in a meta-analysis). The results were published in Scientific Reports on 10 October1. In general, the scientists contacted were highly cooperative, with almost 80% willing to share a PDF and almost 60% willing to send raw data. “I was surprised,” says Massen. “Humans are prosocial even in this competitive field.” Even more unexpected, however, was a strong gender difference in how the scientists responded to the request for help. Massen and his colleagues had wondered whether men might respond more favourably to women, or vice versa. In fact, men were more likely to share, but only with other men. A male–male request was 15% more likely to be granted than any other gender combination. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 24188 - Posted: 10.13.2017

By Bret Stetka The concept of mindfulness involves focusing on your present situation and state of mind. This can mean awareness of your surroundings, emotions and breathing—or, more simply, enjoying each bite of a really good sandwich. Research in recent decades has linked mindfulness practices to a staggering collection of possible health benefits. Tuning into the world around you may provide a sense of well-being, an array of studies claim. Multiple reports link mindfulness with improved cognitive functioning. One study even suggests it may preserve the tips of our chromosomes, which whither away as we age. Yet many psychologists, neuroscientists and meditation experts are afraid that hype is outpacing the science. In an article released this week in Perspectives on Psychological Science, 15 prominent psychologists and cognitive scientists caution that despite its popularity and supposed benefits, scientific data on mindfulness is woefully lacking. Many of the studies on mindfulness and meditation, the authors wrote, are poorly designed—compromised by inconsistent definitions of what mindfulness actually is, and often void of a control group to rule out the placebo effect. The new paper cites a 2015 review published in American Psychologist reporting that only around 9 percent of research into mindfulness-based interventions has been tested in clinical trials that included a control group. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Stress; Attention
Link ID: 24182 - Posted: 10.12.2017

By BENOIT DENIZET-LEWIS The disintegration of Jake’s life took him by surprise. It happened early in his junior year of high school, while he was taking three Advanced Placement classes, running on his school’s cross-country team and traveling to Model United Nations conferences. It was a lot to handle, but Jake — the likable, hard-working oldest sibling in a suburban North Carolina family — was the kind of teenager who handled things. Though he was not prone to boastfulness, the fact was he had never really failed at anything. Not coincidentally, failure was one of Jake’s biggest fears. He worried about it privately; maybe he couldn’t keep up with his peers, maybe he wouldn’t succeed in life. The relentless drive to avoid such a fate seemed to come from deep inside him. He considered it a strength. Jake’s parents knew he could be high-strung; in middle school, they sent him to a therapist when he was too scared to sleep in his own room. But nothing prepared them for the day two years ago when Jake, then 17, seemingly “ran 150 miles per hour into a brick wall,” his mother said. He refused to go to school and curled up in the fetal position on the floor. “I just can’t take it!” he screamed. “You just don’t understand!” Jake was right — his parents didn’t understand. Jake didn’t really understand, either. But he also wasn’t good at verbalizing what he thought he knew: that going to school suddenly felt impossible, that people were undoubtedly judging him, that nothing he did felt good enough. “All of a sudden I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I was so afraid.” His tall, lanky frame succumbed, too. His stomach hurt. He had migraines. “You know how a normal person might have their stomach lurch if they walk into a classroom and there’s a pop quiz?” he told me. “Well, I basically started having that feeling all the time.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Stress
Link ID: 24174 - Posted: 10.11.2017

By Jessica Wright No one except Gregory Kapothanasis knows exactly what upset him today. On this hot day in July, he went to his day program for adults with developmental disabilities, as he has done without incident five days a week for the past four years. But then things unraveled. According to the program’s report, he grabbed a staff member’s arm hard enough to bruise it. Then, on the bus during the daily outing, he started screaming and hitting his seat. Now, several hours later, he is finally home, but there is a stranger in his living room. Bouncing from one couch to another, clutching a faded beige blanket stolen from his aunt’s dog, Kapothanasis still seems out of sorts. His mother, Irene — who has cared for him, with the help of home aides, for all of his 24 years — is playing over the day’s events, trying to figure out what triggered him. His outburst is disturbingly reminiscent of a difficult period that peaked six years ago but is uncharacteristic of the young man today. Kapothanasis loves interacting with other people, going to the beach and dining at DiMillo’s, a floating restaurant in a decommissioned car ferry in Portland, Maine. Kapothanasis has autism and speaks only a few words: He can’t explain what happened this morning. Did he have constipation and discomfort, as his doctor suggested? Did he get bored of the day’s program, causing him to act out? Had something occurred on the bus previously that made him fear that part of his day? All his mother can do is wonder — and try to make his evening better. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Autism; Stress
Link ID: 24168 - Posted: 10.10.2017

By Emma Yasinski Scientists and physicians have tried countless methods to treat the nightmares, anxiety, and flashbacks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers, from talk therapy to drugs designed to press the “delete” button on specific memories. Now, one group of researchers proposes another solution: Prevent the condition in the first place by predicting who is most likely to get it. In a new study, they say a 105-question survey already given to all U.S. soldiers may be able to do just that. “It’s a very important study,” says Sharon Dekel, who studies PTSD at Harvard Medical School in Boston, but was not involved in the new work. Only a minority of people exposed to trauma develop the disorder, and the new work may lead to better screening methods for this “vulnerable population,” she adds. U.S. Army soldiers have taken the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), a survey about their mental health, every 2 years since 2009. The confidential questionnaire asks soldiers to rate their agreement with statements like “My leaders respect and value me,” and “I believe there is a purpose to my life.” It’s meant to help soldiers understand their own strengths and weaknesses. But Yu-Chu Shen, a health economics researcher at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, wondered whether the survey could also predict the likelihood of someone developing PTSD or depression. So she and colleagues designed a study to see how soldiers’ GAT scores aligned with later illnesses. They looked at 63,186 recruits who enlisted in the Army between 2009 and 2012 and had not yet been exposed to combat. The team then compared the scores with how the same soldiers fared on a postduty comprehensive health assessment that also looked for signs of PTSD and depression. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 24152 - Posted: 10.05.2017