Chapter 11. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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By S. Hussain Hussain Ather You reach over a stove to pick up a pot. What you didn’t realize was that the burner was still on. Ouch! That painful accident probably taught you a lesson. It’s adaptive to learn from unexpected events so that we don’t repeat our mistakes. Our brain may be primed to pay extra attention when we are surprised. In a recent Nature study, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found evidence that a hormone, noradrenaline, alters brain activity—and an animal’s subsequent behavior—in these startling moments. Noradrenaline is one of several chemicals that can flood the brain with powerful signals. Past research shows that noradrenaline is involved when we are feeling excited, anxious or alert and that it contributes to learning. But the new research shows it plays a strong role in responses to the unexpected. The M.I.T. team used a method called optogenetics to study noradrenaline in mice. The scientists added special light-sensitive proteins to neurons that work as an “off switch” for the cells when hit by pulses of laser light. They focused on modifying a brain area called the locus coeruleus, which holds cells responsible for releasing noradrenaline. With lasers, the researchers were able to stop these cells from producing the hormone in specific circumstances. They combined this method with photo tagging, a technique in which proteins flash with light, allowing the scientists to observe activity in the locus coeruleus cells and then determine how much noradrenaline was produced. Then the researchers designed a trial-and-error learning task for the rodents. The mice could push levers when they heard a sound. There were two sounds. After high-frequency tones of about 12 kilohertz, mice that pushed a lever were rewarded with water they could drink. For low-frequency tones, around four kilohertz, the mice that hit the lever got a slightly unpleasant surprise: a discomforting puff of air was blown at them. Over time, mice learned to push the lever only when they heard high-frequency tones because they got water when they did so. They avoided the lever when they heard low-frequency tones. © 2022 Scientific American

Keyword: Attention; Emotions
Link ID: 28412 - Posted: 07.30.2022

by Charles Q. Choi Children with autism show atypical development of brain regions connected to the amygdala, an almond-size brain structure involved in processing fear and other emotions, a new study finds. The brain regions most affected vary between autistic boys and girls, the study also shows, adding to the growing body of evidence for sex differences in autism, researchers say. “Better understanding of amygdala development and its connectivity can aid in the development of novel biomarkers to study brain and social health,” says Emma Duerden, assistant professor of applied psychology at Western University in London, Canada, who was not involved in the study. The amygdala is a central hub for brain circuits involved in social function. Previous studies have found it to be enlarged in some autistic children compared with non-autistic children, a difference that may be linked with anxiety and depression. In the new study, researchers used structural magnetic resonance imaging to track the growth of 32 brain regions with direct connections to the amygdala. The study participants included 282 autistic children, 93 of whom are female, and 128 non-autistic children, 61 of whom are female. The researchers scanned each child up to four times — when the children were 39, 52, 64 and 137 months old, on average. They also measured the children’s autism traits and social difficulties using a questionnaire filled out by parents, called the Social Responsiveness Scale-2. Autistic children had larger amygdala-connected brain regions than non-autistic children at all ages. The differences grew over time and were most apparent among the autistic children with prominent social difficulties. The researchers found no differences in the size of brain areas not directly connected to the amygdala between children with and without autism. © 2022 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Emotions
Link ID: 28398 - Posted: 07.14.2022

By Rachel Nuwer Whether we’ve got the flu or have had too much to drink, most of us have experienced nausea. Unlike other universal sensations such as hunger and thirst, however, scientists still don’t understand the biology behind the feeling—or how to stop it. A new study in mice identifies a possible key player: specialized brain cells that communicate with the gut to turn off the feeling of nausea. It’s an “elegant” study, says Nancy Thornberry, CEO of Kallyope, a biotechnology company focused on the interplay between the gut and the brain. Further research is needed to translate the finding into antinausea therapies, says Thornberry, who was not involved with the work, but the data suggest possible leads for designing new interventions. To conduct the research, Chuchu Zhang, a neuroscience postdoc at Harvard University, and her colleagues focused on the “area postrema,” a tiny structure in the brainstem first linked to nausea in the 1950s. Electrical stimulation of the region induces vomiting in animals. Last year, Zhang’s team identified two types of specialized excitatory neurons in the area postrema that induce nausea behavior in mice. Rodents can’t throw up, but they curl up in discomfort when they feel nauseous. Zhang and her colleagues showed the excitatory neurons in the area postrema are responsible for these behaviors by stimulating the cells. Genetic sequencing of cells in the area postrema also revealed inhibitory neurons in the region, which the scientists suspected may suppress the activity of the excitatory neurons and play a role in stopping the feeling of nausea. So in the new study, Zhang’s team injected mice with glucose insulinotropic peptide (GIP), a gut-derived hormone that humans and other animals produce after we ingest sugar and fat. Previous research in ferrets has shown GIP inhibits vomiting, and Zhang hypothesizes it may suppress nausea to prevent us from losing precious nutrients. She also thought it might play a role in activating nausea-inhibiting neurons. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Miscellaneous
Link ID: 28384 - Posted: 06.30.2022

By Rachel Yehuda Rachel Yehuda is a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience and director of the Center for Psychedelic Psychotherapy and Trauma Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She is also director of mental health at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Credit: Nick Higgins After the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed on September 11, 2001, in a haze of horror and smoke, clinicians at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in Manhattan offered to check anyone who'd been in the area for exposure to toxins. Among those who came in for evaluation were 187 pregnant women. Many were in shock, and a colleague asked if I could help diagnose and monitor them. They were at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD—experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, emotional numbness or other psychiatric symptoms for years afterward. And were the fetuses at risk? My trauma research team quickly trained health professionals to evaluate and, if needed, treat the women. We monitored them through their pregnancies and beyond. When the babies were born, they were smaller than usual—the first sign that the trauma of the World Trade Center attack had reached the womb. Nine months later we examined 38 women and their infants when they came in for a wellness visit. Psychological evaluations revealed that many of the mothers had developed PTSD. And those with PTSD had unusually low levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol, a feature that researchers were coming to associate with the disorder. Surprisingly and disturbingly, the saliva of the nine-month-old babies of the women with PTSD also showed low cortisol. The effect was most prominent in babies whose mothers had been in their third trimester on that fateful day. Just a year earlier a team I led had reported low cortisol levels in adult children of Holocaust survivors, but we'd assumed that it had something to do with being raised by parents who were suffering from the long-term emotional consequences of severe trauma. Now it looked like trauma leaves a trace in offspring even before they are born. © 2022 Scientific American

Keyword: Epigenetics; Stress
Link ID: 28378 - Posted: 06.25.2022

Smriti Mallapaty Live-cell imaging of the eye’s transparent cornea has revealed a surprising resident — specialized immune cells that circle the tissue, ready to attack pathogens. “We thought that the central cornea was devoid of any immune cells,” says Esen Akpek, a clinician-scientist who works on immunological diseases of the cornea at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The study, published in Cell Reports1 on 24 May, could help researchers to better understand diseases that affect the eye and to develop therapies that target infections on the eye’s surface, says Tanima Bose, an immunologist at the pharmaceutical company Novartis in Kundl, Austria. Immune response The cornea has a dampened response to infection, in part because aggressive immune cells could damage the clear layer of tissue and obstruct vision, says co-author Scott Mueller, an immunologist at the University of Melbourne, Australia. For this reason, the immune cells that mount a quick but crude response to an infection, such as dendritic cells and macrophages, largely reside in the outer sections of the cornea and emerge only when needed. But in almost every tissue in the body are long-lived immune cells, known as T cells, that swiftly attack pathogens they have previously encountered — a process called ‘immune memory’. Mueller and his colleagues wondered whether such cells lived in the cornea. Using a powerful multiphoton microscope for studying living tissue, the researchers examined the corneas of mice whose eyes had been infected with herpes simplex virus. They saw that cytotoxic T cells and T-helper cells — precursors for immune memory — had infiltrated the cornea and persisted for up to a month after the infection. Further investigations, including more intrusive microscopy techniques, revealed that the cytotoxic T cells had developed into long-lived memory cells that resided in the cornea. © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Vision; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28357 - Posted: 06.07.2022

Meghan Hoyer and Tim Meko When Vanderbilt University psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl learned that the perpetrator of the Uvalde, Tex., school massacre was a young man barely out of adolescence, it was hard not to think about the peculiarities of the maturing male brain. Salvador Rolando Ramos had just turned 18, eerily close in age to Nikolas Cruz, who had been 19 when he shot up a school in Parkland, Fla. And to Adam Lanza, 20, when he did the same in Newtown, Conn. To Seung-Hui Cho, 23, at Virginia Tech. And to Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, in Columbine, Colo. Teen and young adult males have long stood out from other subgroups for their impulsive behavior. They are far more reckless and prone to violence than their counterparts in other age groups, and their leading causes of death includes fights, accidents, driving too fast, or, as Metzl put it, “other impulsive kinds of acts.” “There’s a lot of research about how their brains are not fully developed in terms of regulation,” he said. Perhaps most significantly, studies show, the prefrontal cortex, which is critical to understanding the consequences of one’s actions and controlling impulses, does not fully develop until about age 25. In that context, Metzl said, a shooting “certainly feels like another kind of performance of young masculinity.” In coming weeks and months, investigators will dissect Ramos’s life to try to figure out what led him to that horrific moment at 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, May 24 when he opened fire on a classroom full of 9- and-10-year-olds at Robb Elementary School. Although clear answers are unlikely, the patterns that have emerged about mass shooters in the growing databases, school reports, medical notes and interview transcripts show a disturbing confluence between angry young men, easy access to weapons and reinforcement of violence by social media. © 1996-2022 The Washington Post

Keyword: Aggression; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28352 - Posted: 06.04.2022

By Amber Dance Suppose a couple has two children, a boy and a girl. Chances are, they’ll both grow up with typical, healthy brains. But should either diverge from the usual route of brain development, or suffer mental health issues, their paths are likely to be different. The son’s differences might show up first. All else being equal, he’s four times more likely than his sister to be diagnosed with autism. Rates of other neurodevelopmental conditions and disabilities are also higher in boys. As he grows into a young man, his chances of developing schizophrenia will be two to three times higher than hers. When the siblings hit puberty, those relative risks will flip. The sister will be almost twice as likely to experience depression or an anxiety disorder. Much later in life, she’ll be at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Those trends are not hard and fast rules, of course: Men can and do suffer from depression and Alzheimer’s; some girls develop autism; women aren’t immune to schizophrenia. Male and female brains are more alike than they are different. But scientists are learning that there’s more to these different risk profiles than, say, the pressures women face in a patriarchal society or the fact that women tend to live longer, giving diseases of aging time to develop. Subtle biological differences between male and female brains, and bodies, are important contributors. To explain these sex differences, there are some obvious places to look. The female’s two X chromosomes, to the male’s single copy, is one. Differing sex hormones — primarily testosterone in males and estrogen in females — is another. But a steadily growing body of research points to a less obvious influence: the cells and molecules of the immune system. © 2022 Annual Reviews

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28345 - Posted: 06.01.2022

Diana Kwon The brain is the body’s sovereign, and receives protection in keeping with its high status. Its cells are long-lived and shelter inside a fearsome fortification called the blood–brain barrier. For a long time, scientists thought that the brain was completely cut off from the chaos of the rest of the body — especially its eager defence system, a mass of immune cells that battle infections and whose actions could threaten a ruler caught in the crossfire. In the past decade, however, scientists have discovered that the job of protecting the brain isn’t as straightforward as they thought. They’ve learnt that its fortifications have gateways and gaps, and that its borders are bustling with active immune cells. A large body of evidence now shows that the brain and the immune system are tightly intertwined. Scientists already knew that the brain had its own resident immune cells, called microglia; recent discoveries are painting more-detailed pictures of their functions and revealing the characteristics of the other immune warriors housed in the regions around the brain. Some of these cells come from elsewhere in the body; others are produced locally, in the bone marrow of the skull. By studying these immune cells and mapping out how they interact with the brain, researchers are discovering that they play an important part in both healthy and diseased or damaged brains. Interest in the field has exploded: there were fewer than 2,000 papers per year on the subject in 2010, swelling to more than 10,000 per year in 2021, and researchers have made several major findings in the past few years. No longer do scientists consider the brain to be a special, sealed-off zone. “This whole idea of immune privilege is quite outdated now,” says Kiavash Movahedi, a neuroimmunologist at the Free University of Brussels (VUB). Although the brain is still seen as immunologically unique — its barriers prevent immune cells from coming and going at will — it’s clear that the brain and immune system constantly interact, he adds (see ‘The brain’s immune defences’). © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Glia
Link ID: 28344 - Posted: 06.01.2022

By Lisa Sanders, M.D. “You have to take your husband to the hospital right now,” the doctor urged over the phone. “His kidneys aren’t working at all, and we need to find out why.” The woman looked at her 82-year-old spouse. He was so thin and pale. She thanked the doctor and called 911. For the past couple of months, every meal was a struggle. Swallowing food was strangely difficult. Liquids were even worse. Whatever he drank seemed to go down the wrong pipe, and he coughed and sputtered after almost every sip. It was terrifying. He saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, who scoped his mouth and esophagus. There wasn’t anything blocking the way. The doctor recommended that he get some therapy to help him strengthen the muscles he used to swallow, and until he did that, he should thicken his liquids to make drinking easier. The patient tried that once, but it was so disgusting he gave up on it. His wife was worried as she watched him eat and drink less and less. She could see that he was getting weaker every day. He had a stroke four months earlier, and since then his right foot dragged a little. But now she had to help him get out of his recliner. And he wasn’t able to drive — she had to make the 45-minute trip with him each day to his office. Finally, he agreed to see Dr. Richard Kaufman, their primary-care doctor. Kaufman was shocked by the man’s appearance, how the skin on his face hung in folds as if air had been let out of his cheeks. He’d lost nearly 40 pounds. He struggled to walk the few steps to the exam table. His right side, which was weakened by his stroke, was now matched by weakness on his left side. His stroke hadn’t done this. There was something else going on. Kaufman ordered some preliminary blood tests to try to see where the problem might lie. Those were the results that sent the couple to the emergency room. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Neuroimmunology; Muscles
Link ID: 28339 - Posted: 05.28.2022

By Ernesto Londoño TIJUANA, Mexico — Plumes of incense swirled through the dimly lit living room as seven women took turns explaining what drove them to sign up for a weekend of psychedelic therapy at a villa in northern Mexico with sweeping ocean views. A former U.S. Marine said she hoped to connect with the spirit of her mother, who killed herself 11 years ago. An Army veteran said she had been sexually assaulted by a relative as a child. A handful of veterans said they had been sexually assaulted by fellow service members. The wife of a Navy bomb disposal expert choked up as she lamented that years of unrelenting combat missions had turned her husband into an absent, dysfunctional father. Kristine Bostwick, 38, a former Navy corpsman, said she hoped that putting her mind through ceremonies with mind-altering substances would help her make peace with the end of a turbulent marriage and perhaps ease the migraines that had become a daily torment. “I want to reset my brain from the bottom up,” she said during the introductory session of a recent three-day retreat, wiping away tears. “My kids deserve it. I deserve it.” A growing body of research into the therapeutic benefits of psychedelic therapy has generated enthusiasm among some psychiatrists and venture capitalists. Measures to decriminalize psychedelics, fund research into their healing potential and establish frameworks for their medicinal use have been passed with bipartisan support in city councils and state legislatures across the United States in recent years. Much of the expanding appeal of such treatments has been driven by veterans of America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having turned to experimental therapies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, addiction and depression, many former military members have become effusive advocates for a wider embrace of psychedelics. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28338 - Posted: 05.25.2022

By Tess Joosse The mere sight of another person yawning causes many of us to open our mouths wide in mimicry. And we’re not alone—other social animals, such aschimpanzees and lions, can also catch so-called contagious yawns. It’s likely that all vertebrates yawn spontaneously to regulate inner body processes. Yawning probably arose with the evolution of jawed fishes 400 million or so years ago, says Andrew Gallup, an evolutionary biologist at State University of New York Polytechnic Institute who has spent years trying to figure out why we yawn. In a paper published this month in Animal Behavior, he reports some evidence for how contagious yawns might have evolved to keep us safe. Science chatted with Gallup about why yawning is ubiquitous—and useful. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Q: First, let’s address a long-standing myth: Does yawning increase blood oxygen levels? A: No. Despite continued belief, research has explicitly tested that hypothesis and the results have concluded that breathing and yawning are controlled by different mechanisms. For example, there are really interesting cases of yawning in marine mammals, where the yawning occurs while the animal is submerged underwater and therefore not breathing. Q: So what does yawning actually do to the body? A: Yawning is a rather complex reflex. It’s triggered under a variety of contexts and neurophysiological changes. It primarily occurs during periods of state change, commonly following transitions of sleeping and waking. There’s research that also suggests that yawns are initiated alongside increases in cortical arousal, so yawns themselves may function to promote alertness. And there’s a growing body of research that suggests that yawning is triggered by rises in brain temperature. I’ve conducted a number of studies testing this in humans, nonhuman mammals, and even birds. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 28337 - Posted: 05.25.2022

By James Gorman Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t judge a dog by its breed. After conducting owner surveys for 18,385 dogs and sequencing the genomes of 2,155 dogs, a group of researchers reported a variety of findings in the journal Science on Thursday, including that for predicting some dog behaviors, breed is essentially useless, and for most, not very good. For instance, one of the clearest findings in the massive, multifaceted study is that breed has no discernible effect on a dog’s reactions to something it finds new or strange. This behavior is related to what the nonscientist might call aggression and would seem to cast doubt on breed stereotypes of aggressive dogs, like pit bulls. One thing pit bulls did score high on was human sociability, no surprise to anyone who has seen internet videos of lap-loving pit bulls. Labrador retriever ancestry, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any significant correlation with human sociability. This is not to say that there are no differences among breeds, or that breed can’t predict some things. If you adopt a Border collie, said Elinor Karlsson of the Broad Institute and the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, an expert in dog genomics and an author of the report, the probability that it will be easier to train and interested in toys “is going to be higher than if you adopt a Great Pyrenees.” But for any given dog you just don’t know — on average, breed accounts for only about 9 percent of the variations in any given dog’s behavior. And no behaviors were restricted to any one breed, even howling, though the study found that behavior was more strongly associated with breeds like Siberian huskies than with other dogs. And yet, in what might seem paradoxical at first, the researchers also found that behavior patterns are strongly inherited. The behaviors they studied had a 25 percent heritability, a complex measure which indicates the influence of genes, but depends on the group of animals studied. But with enough dogs, heritability is a good measure of what’s inherited. In comparing whole genomes, they found several genes that clearly influence behavior, including one for how friendly dogs are. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Genes & Behavior; Aggression
Link ID: 28309 - Posted: 04.30.2022

By Lisa Feldman Barrett Do your facial movements broadcast your emotions to other people? If you think the answer is yes, think again. This question is under contentious debate. Some experts maintain that people around the world make specific, recognizable faces that express certain emotions, such as smiling in happiness, scowling in anger and gasping with widened eyes in fear. They point to hundreds of studies that appear to demonstrate that smiles, frowns, and so on are universal facial expressions of emotion. They also often cite Charles Darwin’s 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals to support the claim that universal expressions evolved by natural selection. Other scientists point to a mountain of counterevidence showing that facial movements during emotions vary too widely to be universal beacons of emotional meaning. People may smile in hatred when plotting their enemy’s downfall and scowl in delight when they hear a bad pun. In Melanesian culture, a wide-eyed gasping face is a symbol of aggression, not fear. These experts say the alleged universal expressions just represent cultural stereotypes. To be clear, both sides in the debate acknowledge that facial movements vary for a given emotion; the disagreement is about whether there is enough uniformity to detect what someone is feeling. This debate is not just academic; the outcome has serious consequences. Today you can be turned down for a job because a so-called emotion-reading system watching you on camera applied artificial intelligence to evaluate your facial movements unfavorably during an interview. In a U.S. court of law, a judge or jury may sometimes hand down a harsher sentence, even death, if they think a defendant’s face showed a lack of remorse. Children in preschools across the country are taught to recognize smiles as happiness, scowls as anger and other expressive stereotypes from books, games and posters of disembodied faces. And for children on the autism spectrum, some of whom have difficulty perceiving emotion in others, these teachings do not translate to better communication. © 2022 Scientific American,

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 28306 - Posted: 04.30.2022

By Hope Reese Can we do without love? For many years, the neuroscientist Stephanie Ortigue believed that the answer was yes. Even though she researched the science of human connections, Dr. Ortigue — an only child and, in her 20s and 30s, contentedly single — couldn’t completely grasp its importance in her own life. “I told myself that being unattached made me a more objective researcher: I could investigate love without being under its spell,” she writes in her new book, “Wired for Love: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Through Romance, Loss and the Essence of Human Connection.” But then, in 2011, at age 37, she met John Cacioppo at a neuroscience conference in Shanghai. Dr. Cacioppo, who popularized the concept that prolonged loneliness can be as toxic to health as smoking, intrigued her. The two scientists fell hard for each other and married. She took his last name and they soon became colleagues at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine (where she now directs the Brain Dynamics Laboratory) — forming a team at home and in the lab. “Wired for Love” is the neurobiological story of how love rewires the brain. It’s also a personal love story — one that took a sad turn when John died of cancer in March 2018. Here, Dr. Cacioppo discusses what exactly love does to the brain, how to fight loneliness and how love is, literally, a product of the imagination. You went from being happily single, to coupled, to then losing your husband. How did meeting him bring your research on love to life? Sign Up for Love Letter Your weekly dose of real stories that examine the highs, lows and woes of relationships. This newsletter will include the best of Modern Love, weddings and love in the news. Get it sent to your inbox. When we first met, we spoke for three hours, but I couldn’t feel time go by. I felt euphoria — from the rush of dopamine. I blushed — a sign of adrenaline. We became closer, physically, and started imitating each other. This was from the activation of mirror neurons, a network of brain cells that are activated when you move or feel something, and when you see another person moving. When you have a strong connection with someone, the mirror neuron system is boosted. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Emotions
Link ID: 28302 - Posted: 04.27.2022

Diana Kwon Susannah Cahalan was 24 years old when her world turned upside down. Cahalan was living a busy life as a news reporter at the New York Post when she suddenly began experiencing sensitivity to light, numbness in her limbs, and an unsettling feeling that something was not quite right in her body and her brain. One day at work, she found herself inexplicably going from crying hysterically to skipping giddily down a hall. After a seizure landed her in the hospital, her condition rapidly worsened. She started having delusions and hallucinations, believing that her father was a murderer, that she was being secretly recorded, and that she could age people using her mind. In a matter of weeks, walking, speaking, and swallowing became difficult. She eventually became immobile and unresponsive, lying in her hospital bed in a catatonic state. Despite her worsening condition, dozens of specialists from various fields—psychiatry, neurology, internal medicine—couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Numerous blood tests and brain scans failed to generate answers. To many who saw her, Cahalan’s condition looked indistinguishable from mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, in which people can experience delusions and hallucinations that make it difficult for them to distinguish what’s real and what’s not. It wasn’t until a neurologist asked Cahalan to draw a clock that the problem became clear. Cahalan had drawn all the numbers on just one side of the clock face, indicating that there was a problem in the functioning of one half of her brain. A brain biopsy confirmed what the doctor had suspected. Cahalan had anti-NMDAR encephalitis, a rare autoimmune disease in which the body produces antibodies that attack the NMDA receptor, a protein found throughout the brain. The condition had only been discovered in the early 2000s, just a few years prior to Cahalan’s diagnosis, by neurologist Josep Dalmau, then at the University of Pennsylvania. This diagnosis was much-needed good news for sufferers of the mysterious condition—their disease was treatable. After receiving immunotherapy, Cahalan was able to fully recover. © 1986–2022 The Scientist.

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28289 - Posted: 04.20.2022

By Sabrina Imbler Sign up for Science Times Get stories that capture the wonders of nature, the cosmos and the human body. Get it sent to your inbox. One morning in the Panamanian rainforest, a small fruit bat sized up his competition. The odds did not appear to be in his favor. The winged mammal, a Seba’s short-tailed bat, weighed about half an ounce. But his six opponents, fringe-lipped bats, were twice as heavy and occupying the shrouded corner where the small bat wanted to roost. Even worse, the larger bats are known to feast on small animals, such as frogs, katydids and smaller bats — including Seba’s short-tailed bats. None of this fazed the Seba’s short-tailed bat, which proceeded to scream, shake his wings and hurl his body at the posse of bigger bats, slapping one in the face more than 50 times. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Ahana Aurora Fernandez, a behavioral biologist at the Natural History Museum, Berlin, who viewed a recording of the bats but was not involved in the research that produced it. “It’s one bat against six,” Dr. Fernandez said. “He shows no fear at all.” The tiny bat’s belligerence paid off as the big bats fled. The corner clear, the Seba’s short-tailed bat moved in, joined a minute later by his female companion, who had nonchalantly watched the fight from nearby. This fun-size brawl and two similar bat bullying incidents in other roosts were observed by Mariana Muñoz-Romo, a biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and her colleagues, who had been monitoring the sexual preferences of the larger fringe-lipped bats. In a paper published in March in the journal Behaviour, they asked how often tiny bats antagonize bigger ones. When it comes with a risk of being eaten, why pick a fight? The researchers originally set out to study fringe-lipped bats, who were recently discovered to smear a sticky, fragrant substance on their arms, potentially to attract mates. The animals also have impressive appetites, and have been observed eating sizable frogs. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression; Hearing
Link ID: 28287 - Posted: 04.16.2022

By Annie Roth and Hisako Ueno The reign of Japan’s monkey queen has just begun. Last year, Yakei, a 9-year-old female Japanese macaque, fought several other macaques, including her own mother, to become the alpha of her troop. That made Yakei the first known female troop leader in the history of Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden in Southern Japan, which was established in 1952 and is home to over 1,000 macaques. But during her first breeding season as queen, which began in November 2021 and concluded in March 2022, a messy love triangle threatened to weaken her grip on power. According to officials at the park, the macaque that Yakei showed interest in mating with, a 15-year-old male named Goro, rejected her advances despite their coupling during a previous breeding season. Meanwhile, an 18-year-old macaque named Luffy did his best to woo Yakei, much to her displeasure. Japanese macaques are polyamorous and scientists were worried that Yakei would not be able to maintain her status while pursuing and rejecting potential mates. Tensions run high during breeding season, and a challenge from a spurned male could easily rob Yakei, an average-sized female, of her rank. Yakei rose to power by defeating her troop’s alpha male, but he was elderly and less formidable than the average young male. Fortunately for Yakei, no other macaques attempted to usurp her throne this season and the queen remained the troop’s alpha at the end of March, according to reserve officials. Her continued rule has surprised scientists and given them an opportunity to observe how macaque society functions under a matriarchy. Despite having to maintain her supremacy, Yakei managed to have a successful breeding season. After Goro gave her the cold shoulder, she spent many weeks playing the field, expressing interest in no fewer than five males. Among these males was Chris, a male ranked 10th in the troop, and Shikao, who holds the rank just below Chris. But the only male the reserve is sure she mated with was Maruo. Maruo, Yakei’s mate. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Aggression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 28279 - Posted: 04.13.2022

By Alla Katsnelson A dog gives a protective bark, sensing a nearby stranger. A cat slinks by disdainfully, ignoring anyone and everyone. A cow moos in contentment, chewing its cud. At least, that’s what we may think animals feel when they act the way they do. We take our own lived experiences and fill in gaps with our imaginations to better understand and relate to the animals we encounter. Often, our assumptions are wrong. Take horse play, for example. Many people assume that these muscular, majestic animals are roughhousing just for the fun of it. But in the wild, adult horses rarely play. When we see them play in captivity, it isn’t necessarily a good sign, says Martine Hausberger, an animal scientist at CNRS at the University of Rennes in France. Hausberger, who raises horses on her farm in Brittany, began studying horse welfare about three decades ago, after observing that people who keep horses often misjudge cues about the animals’ behavior. Adult horses that play are often ones that have been restrained, Hausberger says. Play seems to discharge the stress from that restriction. “When they have the opportunity, they may exhibit play, and at that precise moment they may be happier,” she says. But “animals that are feeling well all the time don’t need this to get rid of the stress.” Scientists studying animal behavior and animal welfare are making important strides in understanding how the creatures we share our planet with experience the world. “In the last decade or two, people have gotten bolder and more creative in terms of asking what animals’ emotional states are,” explains Georgia Mason, a behavioral biologist and animal welfare scientist at the University of Guelph in Canada. They’re finding thought-provoking answers amid a wide array of animals. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 28276 - Posted: 04.09.2022

By Roni Caryn Rabin Almost a million people in the United States have died of Covid-19 in the past two years, but the full impact of the pandemic’s collateral damage is still being tallied. Now a new study reports that the number of Americans who died of alcohol-related causes increased precipitously during the first year of the pandemic, as routines were disrupted, support networks frayed and treatment was delayed. The startling report comes amid a growing realization that Covid’s toll extends beyond the number of lives claimed directly by the disease to the excess deaths caused by illnesses left untreated and a surge in drug overdoses, as well as to social costs like educational setbacks and the loss of parents and caregivers. Numerous reports have suggested that Americans drank more to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Binge drinking increased, as did emergency room visits for alcohol withdrawal. But the new report found that the number of alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, soared, rising to 99,017 in 2020, up from 78,927 the previous year — an increase of 25 percent in the number of deaths in one year. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.6 percent in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2019. Deaths started inching up in recent years, but increased only 5 percent between 2018 and 2019. The study, done by researchers with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health, was published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. Using information from death certificates, the researchers included all deaths in which alcohol was listed as an underlying or contributing cause. (Only a very small number also involved Covid-19.) “The assumption is that there were lots of people who were in recovery and had reduced access to support that spring and relapsed,” said Aaron White, the report’s first author and a senior scientific adviser at the alcohol abuse institute. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 28253 - Posted: 03.26.2022

By Ellen Barry After more than a decade of argument, psychiatry’s most powerful body in the United States added a new disorder this week to its diagnostic manual: prolonged grief. The decision marks an end to a long debate within the field of mental health, steering researchers and clinicians to view intense grief as a target for medical treatment, at a moment when many Americans are overwhelmed by loss. The new diagnosis, prolonged grief disorder, was designed to apply to a narrow slice of the population who are incapacitated, pining and ruminating a year after a loss, and unable to return to previous activities. Its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders means that clinicians can now bill insurance companies for treating people for the condition. It will most likely open a stream of funding for research into treatments — naltrexone, a drug used to help treat addiction, is currently in clinical trials as a form of grief therapy — and set off a competition for approval of medicines by the Food and Drug Administration. Since the 1990s, a number of researchers have argued that intense forms of grief should be classified as a mental illness, saying that society tends to accept the suffering of bereaved people as natural and that it fails to steer them toward treatment that could help. A diagnosis, they hope, will allow clinicians to aid a part of the population that has, throughout history, withdrawn into isolation after terrible losses. “They were the widows who wore black for the rest of their lives, who withdrew from social contacts and lived the rest of their lives in memory of the husband or wife who they had lost,” said Dr. Paul S. Appelbaum, who is chair of the steering committee overseeing revisions to the fifth edition of the D.S.M. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Emotions
Link ID: 28247 - Posted: 03.19.2022