Chapter 11. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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ByErik Stokstad Toxoplasma gondii is sometimes called the “mind control” parasite: It can infect the brains of animals and mess with their behavior in ways that may kill the host but help ensure the parasite’s spread. But now, researchers have found that infected wolves may actually benefit from those mind-altering tricks. A Toxoplasma infection, they found, makes wolves bolder and more likely to become pack leaders or disperse into other habitats, giving them more opportunity to reproduce. "We’ve really underestimated some of the consequences this parasite has,” says Eben Gering, a biologist at Nova Southeastern University who was not involved in the work. “The findings probably represent the tip of the iceberg concerning the parasite’s significance to the dynamics of wild ecosystems.” T. gondii, a single-celled parasite, only reproduces in domesticated cats and other felids. Infected cats excrete spore-packed oocysts in their feces, which can survive on plants or in soil or water. They can also persist in undercooked meat of livestock or game. When a host—humans included—consumes an oocyst, the spores are released and spread into the brain and muscles, forming new cysts. Worldwide, about one in four people is infected. Usually, the immune system keeps the parasite in check, but it can cause spontaneous abortion and other serious problems during pregnancy. It's long been known that rodents infected with Toxoplasma lose their fear of predators. Cysts in the brain somehow increase dopamine and testosterone, boosting boldness and risk-taking and increasing the chance the host will be eaten by cats. "These parasites are using some generic mind control or personality control that helps them fulfill their lifecycle," says Jaap de Roode, a biologist at Emory University who was not involved in the new study. "And that has all sorts of interesting consequences that we may not even have thought of before.” The consequences aren’t limited to rodents. In 2016, researchers in Gabon found that Toxoplasma-infected captive chimpanzees lost their aversion to leopard urine. And last year, another team described how Toxoplasma-infected hyena cubs in Kenya venture closer to lions, making them more likely to be killed.

Keyword: Aggression; Emotions
Link ID: 28583 - Posted: 12.06.2022

By Roni Caryn Rabin Deaths due to substance abuse, particularly of alcohol and opioids, rose sharply among older Americans in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, as lockdowns disrupted routines and isolation and fear spread, federal health researchers reported on Wednesday. Alcohol and opioid deaths remained far less common among older people than among those middled-aged and younger, and rates had been rising in all groups for years. But the pronounced uptick — another data point in the long list of pandemic miseries — surprised government researchers. Deaths from opioids increased among Americans aged 65 and older by 53 percent in 2020 over the previous year, the National Center for Health Statistics found. Alcohol-related deaths, which had already been rising for a decade in this age group, rose by 18 percent. “The rate of alcohol deaths in older people is much lower than for younger adults, but the change caught our eye,” said Ellen Kramarow, a health statistician at the center and the lead author of the report, which analyzed death certificate data. Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids account for fewer than 1 percent of deaths in people over 65, Dr. Kramarow noted. “But the shape of the curve jumped out at us,” she said. Physiological changes that occur with aging leave older adults more vulnerable to the ill effects of alcohol and drugs, as metabolism and excretion of substances slow down, increasing the risk of toxicity. Smaller amounts have bigger effects, researchers have found. Alcohol and opioids can interact poorly with prescription medications that many older adults take for common conditions like hypertension, diabetes and mood disorders. Misuse can lead to falls and injuries, exacerbate underlying medical conditions and worsen declines in cognition. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 28581 - Posted: 12.06.2022

Nicola Davis Science correspondent The brains of teenagers who lived through Covid lockdowns show signs of premature ageing, research suggests. The researchers compared MRI scans of 81 teens in the US taken before the pandemic, between November 2016 and November 2019, with those of 82 teens collected between October 2020 and March 2022, during the pandemic but after lockdowns were lifted. After matching 64 participants in each group for factors including age and sex, the team found that physical changes in the brain that occurred during adolescence – such as thinning of the cortex and growth of the hippocampus and the amygdala – were greater in the post-lockdown group than in the pre-pandemic group, suggesting such processes had sped up. In other words, their brains had aged faster. “Brain age difference was about three years – we hadn’t expected that large an increase given that the lockdown was less than a year [long],” said Ian Gotlib, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and first author of the study. Writing in the journal Biological Psychiatry: Global Open Science, the team report that the participants – a representative sample of adolescents in the Bay Area in California – originally agreed to take part in a study looking at the impact of early life stress on mental health across puberty. As a result, participants were also assessed for symptoms of depression and anxiety. The post-lockdown group self-reported greater mental health difficulties, including more severe symptoms of anxiety, depression and internalising problems. © 2022 Guardian News & Media

Keyword: Stress; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28578 - Posted: 12.03.2022

By Virginia Hughes CRANSTON, R.I. — Audrey Pirri, 16, had been terrified of vomiting since she was a toddler. She worried every time she shared a meal with family or friends, restricting herself to “safe” foods like pretzels and salad that wouldn’t upset her stomach, if she ate at all. She was afraid to ride in the car with her brother, who often got carsick. She fretted for hours about an upcoming visit to a carnival or stadium — anywhere with lots of people and their germs. But on a Tuesday evening in August, in her first intensive session of a treatment called exposure therapy, Audrey was determined to confront one of the most potent triggers of her fear: a set of rainbow polka dot sheets. For eight years she had avoided touching the sheets, ever since the morning when she woke up with a stomach bug and vomited on them. Now, surrounded by her parents, a psychologist and a coach in her pale pink bedroom, she pulled the stiff linens from her dresser, gingerly slid them over the mattress and sat down on top. “You ready to repeat after me?” said Abbe Garcia, the psychologist. “I guess,” Audrey replied softly. “‘I am going to sleep on these sheets tonight,’” Dr. Garcia began. Audrey repeated the phrase. “‘And I might throw up,’” Dr. Garcia said. Audrey paused for several long seconds, her feet twitching and eyes welling with tears, as she imagined herself vomiting. She inhaled deeply and hurried out the words: “And I might throw up.” One in 11 American children has an anxiety disorder, and that figure has been growing steadily for the past two decades. The social isolation, family stress and relentless news of tragedy during the pandemic have only exacerbated the problem. But Audrey is one of the relatively few children to have tried exposure therapy. The decades-old treatment, which is considered a gold-standard approach for tackling anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder, encourages patients to intentionally face the objects or situations that cause them the most distress. A type of cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure often works within months and has minimal side effects. But financial barriers and a lack of providers have kept the treatment out of reach for many. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stress; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 28564 - Posted: 11.23.2022

By Aimee Cunningham The death rate from alcohol use rose sharply in the United States in the first year of the pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths climbed 26 percent, from 10.4 per 100,000 people to 13.1 per 100,000, researchers report in a National Center for Health Statistics data brief published November 4. The rate of alcohol-induced deaths has generally increased yearly for the last two decades, but the annual uptick tended to be 7 percent or less. Deaths from alcoholic liver disease, which includes hepatitis and cirrhosis, were the most common driver of the increased rate. Deaths from mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol use — mortality from dependence syndrome or withdrawal, for example — were the second most frequent contributor. The death rate from alcohol use jumped 26 percent overall from 2019 to 2020, a marked increase from previous years. Other researchers have reported that adults were drinking more frequently, and more heavily, early in the pandemic compared with the year before. There is also evidence of an increase in cases of alcoholic liver disease. A study at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore reported that 2.3 times as many patients with severe alcoholic liver disease and with recent unhealthy drinking were referred to their liver transplant center from July to December of 2020 compared with those months in 2019. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 28539 - Posted: 11.05.2022

Vanessa Rom When put to the test, bees have proved over and over again that they've got a lot more to offer than pollinating, making honey and being fiercely loyal to a queen. The industrious insects can count and alter their behavior when things seem difficult, and now some scientists say there's proof they also like to play. A study recently published in Animal Behavior suggests that bumblebees, when given the chance, like to fool around with toys. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London conducted an experiment in which they set up a container that allowed bees to travel from their nest to a feeding area. But along the way, the bees could opt to pass through a separate section with a smattering of small wooden balls. Over 18 days, the scientists watched as the bees "went out of their way to roll wooden balls repeatedly, despite no apparent incentive to do so." The finding suggests that like humans, insects also interact with inanimate objects as a form of play. Also similar to people, younger bees seemed to be more playful than adult bees. In this experiment from researchers at Queen Mary University of London, bumblebees, especially young ones, appeared to show they liked to cling to wooden balls twice their size and roll them around just for the fun of it. "This research provides a strong indication that insect minds are far more sophisticated than we might imagine," Lars Chittka, a professor of sensory and behavioral ecology at Queen Mary University of London, who led the study, said in a statement. Earlier studies have shown that the black and yellow bugs are willing to learn new tricks in exchange for food or other rewards, so in this case Chittka and his team set out to create conditions that would eliminate external variables. They made sure that the bees had acclimated to their new home and that their environment was stress free. © 2022 npr

Keyword: Emotions; Evolution
Link ID: 28538 - Posted: 11.05.2022

By Veronique Greenwood Anyone who’s had a shady oyster or a mushroom soup that didn’t sit well remembers the ominous queasiness heralding impending bad times. Bacteria release toxins that start the body’s process of speedily evacuating the contents of the stomach. It’s a protective mechanism of sorts — getting rid of the invaders en masse is probably helpful in the long term, even if it’s unpleasant in the short. But it has remained something of a mystery how the brain gets the alarm signal, then sends another one to tell the stomach to initiate a technicolor yawn. Your next bout of food poisoning isn’t the only reason to understand this particular neural pathway. Figuring out how to counter it could be helpful for people who develop nausea caused by chemotherapy medication and other drugs. As if fighting cancer isn’t painful and scary enough, patients are often so turned off by food that keeping their weight up becomes a major struggle. In a new study, researchers report that both bacteria and chemotherapy drugs appear to trigger the same molecular pathways in the gut. The findings, which were based on experiments with mice and published Tuesday in the journal Cell, showed that a bacterial toxin and a chemo medication both set in motion a cascade of similar neural messages that cause queasiness. Choosing mice for the study was unusual. Mice, it turns out, can’t puke — a little foible that typically makes it difficult to use them to study nausea. Researchers have used cats and dogs in the past, but the biology of mice in general is so much better understood, with much better tools available to scientists to do so. Cao Peng, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and his colleagues wondered whether mice might still be capable of feeling ill in the way people do after ingesting a chemo drug or a bad salad — or close enough, anyway, that researchers could use the creatures to understand the origins of the sensation. © 2022 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity; Stress
Link ID: 28537 - Posted: 11.02.2022

By Sandra G. Boodman For years Carter Caldwell had adamantly rejected doctors’ recommendations that he consider surgery to treat the frequent, uncontrolled seizures that were ravaging his brain. Caldwell, who had developed epilepsy when he was 28, regarded the operation that involved removing a portion of his brain as too big a risk — particularly because doctors weren’t sure what was causing the seizures and couldn’t pinpoint their location. Instead the Philadelphia business executive had organized his life to minimize certain foreseeable hazards: He lived downtown and didn’t drive. He didn’t push his toddler’s stroller. When taking the train he stood at the back of the platform — nowhere near the tracks in case he suddenly collapsed. His colleagues at work knew about his condition. But that calculus changed abruptly in November 2014. Caldwell, accompanied by his wife, Connie, and their 3-year-old son, was atop a hill at Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge National Historical Park posing for photos for a holiday card. Without warning he began an awkward shuffling walk that signified the onset of a seizure. Then he lost consciousness and fell head first down a rocky 15-foot embankment before landing at the edge of a stream. “Thankfully,” he said, “I didn’t roll into the stream.” He spent the next 2 1/2 weeks in a nearby hospital where a plastic surgeon performed multiple operations on his broken jawbone, lacerated cheek and shattered eye socket. “I remember him saying, ‘I can’t believe this happened in front of my family,’ ” recalled his longtime neurologist John R. Pollard, formerly associate director of the epilepsy center at the University of Pennsylvania. Pollard had warned Caldwell that his intractable seizures, which had proved resistant to numerous medications, placed him at risk for sudden death or serious injury. In September 2015 a successful operation unmasked the very unusual cause of Caldwell’s seizures, a culprit experts had long suspected but had been unable to definitively identify.

Keyword: Epilepsy; Emotions
Link ID: 28518 - Posted: 10.19.2022

Inside a Berlin neuroscience lab one day last year, Subject 1 sat on a chair with their arms up and their bare toes pointed down. Hiding behind them, with full access to the soles of their feet, was Subject 2, waiting with fingers curled. At a moment of their choosing, Subject 2 was instructed to take the open shot: Tickle the hell out of their partner. In order to capture the moment, a high-speed GoPro was pointed at Subject 1’s face and body. Another at their feet. A microphone hung nearby. As planned, Subject 1 couldn’t help but laugh. The fact that they couldn’t help it is what has drawn Michael Brecht, leader of the research group from Humboldt University, to the neuroscience of tickling and play. It’s funny, but it’s also deeply mysterious—and understudied. “It’s been a bit of a stepchild of scientific investigation,” Brecht says. After all, brain and behavior research typically skew toward gloom, topics like depression, pain, and fear. “But,” he says, “I think there are also more deep prejudices against play—it's something for children.” The prevailing wisdom holds that laughter is a social behavior among certain mammals. It’s a way of disarming others, easing social tensions, and bonding. Chimps do it. Dogs and dolphins too. Rats are the usual subjects in tickling studies. If you flip ’em over and go to town on their bellies, they’ll squeak at a pitch more than twice as high as the limit of human ears. But there are plenty of lingering mysteries about tickling, whether among rats or people. The biggest one of all: why we can’t tickle ourselves. “If you read the ancient Greeks, Aristotle was wondering about ticklishness. Also Socrates, Galileo Galilei, and Francis Bacon,” says Konstantina Kilteni, a cognitive neuroscientist who studies touch and tickling at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, and who is not involved in Brecht’s work. We don’t know why touch can be ticklish, nor what happens in the brain. We don’t know why some people—or some body parts—are more ticklish than others. “These questions are very old,” she continues, “and after almost 2,000 years, we still really don’t have the answer.” © 2022 Condé Nast.

Keyword: Attention; Emotions
Link ID: 28504 - Posted: 10.08.2022

By Erin Blakemore Empathy and generosity are two traits that arguably make the world go ‘round. But a study suggests that the willingness to help collapses when people get too little — or poor — sleep. To see how sleep affects how much humans help one another, researchers conducted three experiments designed to examine the issue from the individual to the societal scale. Their results are published in PLOS Biology. In the first experiment, researchers performed functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of the brain and asked questions to 24 adults after eight hours of sleep and after a night with no sleep. When they were well rested, the participants scored well on a helping behavior test. But after sleep deprivation, 78 percent had less of a desire to help others, even when it came to friends and family. The scans showed that areas of the brain associated with social cognition — our thought processes related to other people — were less active with sleep deprivation. The second experiment tracked 136 healthy adults over four nights and asked them questions about helping the following day. The effect held for them, too, and those who reported worse sleep quality scored worse on the tests. Just one hour of extra sleep each night can lead to better eating habits To test the effects on a societal level, the researchers then looked at a database of 3 million charitable donations given between 2001 and 2016. They found that immediately following the beginning of daylight saving time — a notorious sleep disrupter — donations dropped 10 percent. The effect wasn’t found in data from Hawaii or Arizona, however; neither observe DST. Nor did the shift back to standard time have such an association with donations.

Keyword: Sleep; Emotions
Link ID: 28503 - Posted: 10.08.2022

Jon Hamilton Drugs like magic mushrooms and LSD can act as powerful and long-lasting antidepressants. But they also tend to produce mind-bending side-effects that limit their use. Now, scientists report in the journal Nature that they have created drugs based on LSD that seem to relieve anxiety and depression – in mice – without inducing the usual hallucinations. "We found our compounds had essentially the same antidepressant activity as psychedelic drugs," says Dr. Bryan Roth, an author of the study and a professor of pharmacology at UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine. But, he says, "they had no psychedelic drug-like actions at all." The discovery could eventually lead to medications for depression and anxiety that work better, work faster, have fewer side effects, and last longer. The success is just the latest involving tripless versions of psychedelic drugs. One previous effort created a hallucination-free variant of ibogaine, which is made from the root bark of a shrubby plant native to Central Africa known as the iboga tree. "It's very encouraging to see multiple groups approach this problem in different ways and come up with very similar solutions," says David E. Olson, a chemical neuroscientist at the University of California, Davis, who led the ibogaine project. The new drug comes from a large team of scientists who did not start out looking for an antidepressant. They had been building a virtual library of 75 million molecules that include an unusual structure found in a number of drugs, including the psychedelics psilocybin and LSD, a migraine drug (ergotamine), and cancer drugs including vincristine. The team decided to focus on molecules that affect the brain's serotonin system, which is involved in regulating a person's mood. But they still weren't looking for an antidepressant. Roth recalls that during one meeting, someone asked, "What are we looking for here anyway? And I said, well, if nothing else, we'll have the world's greatest psychedelic drugs." © 2022 npr

Keyword: Depression; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 28502 - Posted: 10.05.2022

Nicola Davis Science correspondent Whether it’s a tricky maths problem or an unexpected bill, daily life is full of stressful experiences. Now researchers have found that humans produce a different odour when under pressure – and dogs can sniff it out. While previous studies have suggested canines might pick up on human emotions, possibly through smell, questions remained over whether they could detect stress and if this could be done through scent. “This study has definitively proven that people, when they have a stress response, their odour profile changes,” said Clara Wilson, a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast, and first author of the research. Wilson added the findings could prove useful when training service dogs, such as those that support people with post-raumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “They’re often trained to look at someone either crouching down on the floor, or starting to do self-injurious behaviours,” said Wilson.. The latest study, she said, offers another potential cue. “There is definitely a smell component, and that might be valuable in the training of these dogs in addition to all of the visual stuff,” said Wilson. Writing in the journal Plos One, Wilson and colleagues report how they first constructed a stand bearing three containers, each topped by a perforated lid. The researchers report they were able to train four dogs to indicate the container holding a particular breath and sweat sample, even when the line-up included unused gauze, samples from another person, or samples from the same person taken at a different time of day. © 2022 Guardian News & Media Limited

Keyword: Stress; Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)
Link ID: 28498 - Posted: 10.01.2022

by Charles Q. Choi Infection during pregnancy may be associated with having an autistic child simply because mothers of autistic children are prone to infections, a new study finds. The results suggest that “common infections during pregnancy do not seem increase their children’s risk of autism,” says study investigator Martin Brynge, a psychiatrist and doctoral student of global public health at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. “Prevention of maternal infections would likely not affect the prevalence of autism in the population.” A great deal of previous research has linked maternal infection during pregnancy with autism and intellectual disability in children. Whether the former causes the latter, however, has remained uncertain. For instance, both autism and intellectual disability are linked with gene variants that may influence the immune system, so mothers of children with either condition may also just be more vulnerable to serious infections. The new study analyzed data from 549,967 children, including 267,995 girls, living in Stockholm County who were born between 1987 and 2010; about 34,000 of the children had been exposed to a maternal infection requiring specialized health care, according to data from Sweden’s National Patient Register and National Medical Birth Register. Of the exposed children, 3.3 percent have autism, compared with 2.5 percent of unexposed children — a 16 percent increase in the chance of autism. But maternal infection in the year before pregnancy was also linked with a 25 percent greater chance of autism. “Mothers who had an infection during pregnancy may not be comparable to those mothers without infections,” Brynge says. “There may be systematic differences at the group level.” © 2022 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28488 - Posted: 09.24.2022

By Rodrigo Pérez Ortega There’s clear evidence that racial discrimination negatively affects the health of people of color over the course of their lives. It’s associated with depression, anxiety, and psychological stress; it increases blood pressure; and it has been shown to weaken the immune system. However, few studies have linked single discriminatory events to immediate health effects. Now, data from a first-of-its-kind study suggest a racist attack could raise a person’s stress biomarkers almost immediately. “The big question mark, for me, has always been, how does this happen? What’s the black box that’s in the middle of discrimination, stress, and health disparities?” says Tiffany Yip, a developmental psychologist at Fordham University who was not involved with the study. “I think that this paper addresses that mechanistic question.” For the proof-of-concept study, Soohyun Nam at Yale University’s School of Nursing and her team collaborated with Black churches and their communities to recruit 12 Black people between the ages of 30 and 55 living in the northeastern United States. After accounting for the participants’ baseline stress levels, the research team adapted standardized survey questions about discrimination and microaggressions—such as whether they believed they had been mistaken for a service worker because of their race—and asked participants to share any occurrences of these experiences through a smartphone app. The method, known as ecological momentary assessment (EMA), has previously been used to study physical activity and behavior—such as alcohol intake reduction or smoking frequency. But this is one of the first studies correlating stress biomarkers and racist experiences using this precise monitoring technique. Researchers also asked the participants to describe their mood five times a day over the course of a week using the same phone app. To measure their biological response, participants spat into a tube four times a day over 4 days and froze the samples until research staff collected them. The researchers then had the samples analyzed in the lab to measure levels of cortisol, a hormone released during emotional distress, and alpha amylase, an enzyme that breaks down sugars and is secreted in stressful situations.

Keyword: Stress; Hormones & Behavior
Link ID: 28481 - Posted: 09.17.2022

Yasemin Saplakoglu You’re on the vacation of a lifetime in Kenya, traversing the savanna on safari, with the tour guide pointing out elephants to your right and lions to your left. Years later, you walk into a florist’s shop in your hometown and smell something like the flowers on the jackalberry trees that dotted the landscape. When you close your eyes, the store disappears and you’re back in the Land Rover. Inhaling deeply, you smile at the happy memory. Now let’s rewind. You’re on the vacation of a lifetime in Kenya, traversing the savanna on safari, with the tour guide pointing out elephants to your right and lions to your left. From the corner of your eye, you notice a rhino trailing the vehicle. Suddenly, it sprints toward you, and the tour guide is yelling to the driver to hit the gas. With your adrenaline spiking, you think, “This is how I am going to die.” Years later, when you walk into a florist’s shop, the sweet floral scent makes you shudder. “Your brain is essentially associating the smell with positive or negative” feelings, said Hao Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California. Those feelings aren’t just linked to the memory; they are part of it: The brain assigns an emotional “valence” to information as it encodes it, locking in experiences as good or bad memories. And now we know how the brain does it. As Li and his team reported recently in Nature, the difference between memories that conjure up a smile and those that elicit a shudder is established by a small peptide molecule known as neurotensin. They found that as the brain judges new experiences in the moment, neurons adjust their release of neurotensin, and that shift sends the incoming information down different neural pathways to be encoded as either positive or negative memories. To be able to question whether to approach or to avoid a stimulus or an object, you have to know whether the thing is good or bad. All Rights Reserved © 2022

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Emotions
Link ID: 28471 - Posted: 09.10.2022

By Sujata Gupta Lack of sleep has been linked to heart disease, poor mood and loneliness (SN: 11/15/16). Being tired could also make us less generous, researchers report August 23 in PLOS Biology. The hour of sleep lost in the switch over to Daylight Savings Time every spring appears to reduce people’s tendency to help others, the researchers found in one of three experiments testing the link between sleep loss and generosity. Specifically, they showed that average donations to one U.S.-based nonprofit organization dropped by around 10 percent in the workweek after the time switch compared with four weeks before and after the change. In Arizona and Hawaii, states that do not observe Daylight Savings Time, donations remained unchanged. With over half of the people living in parts of the developed world reporting that they rarely get enough sleep during the workweek, the finding has implications beyond the week we spring forward, the researchers say. “Lack of sleep shapes the social experiences we have [and] the kinds of societies we live in,” says neuroscientist Eti Ben Simon of the University of California, Berkeley. To test the link between sleep loss and generosity, Ben Simon and her team first brought 23 young adults into the lab for two nights. The participants slept through one night and stayed awake for another night. In the mornings, participants completed a standardized altruism questionnaire rating their likelihood of helping strangers or acquaintances in various scenarios. For instance, participants rated on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 for least likely to help and 5 for most likely, whether they would give up their seat on a bus to a stranger or offer a ride to a coworker in need. Participants never read the same scenario more than once. Roughly 80 percent of participants showed less likelihood of helping others when sleep-deprived than when rested. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Sleep; Emotions
Link ID: 28444 - Posted: 08.24.2022

By Ingrid Wickelgren For as long as she can remember, Kay Tye has wondered why she feels the way she does. Rather than just dabble in theories of the mind, however, Tye has long wanted to know what was happening in the brain. In college in the early 2000s, she could not find a class that spelled out how electrical impulses coursing through the brain’s trillions of connections could give rise to feelings. “There wasn’t the neuroscience course I wanted to take,” says Tye, who now heads a lab at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif. “It didn’t exist.” When she dedicated a chapter of her Ph.D. thesis to emotion, she was criticized for it, she recalls. The study of feelings had no place in behavioral neuroscience, she was told. Tye disagreed at the time, and she still does. “Where do we think emotions are being implemented—somewhere other than the brain?” Since then, Tye’s research team has taken a step toward deciphering the biological underpinnings of such ineffable experiences as loneliness and competitiveness. In a recent Nature study, she and her colleagues uncovered something fundamental: a molecular “switch” in the brain that flags an experience as positive or negative. Tye is no longer an outlier in pursuing these questions. Other researchers are thinking along the same lines. “If you have a brain response to anything that is important, how does it differentiate whether it is good or bad?” says Daniela Schiller, a neuroscientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, who wasn’t involved in the Nature paper. “It’s a central problem in the field.” The switch was found in mice in Tye’s study. If it works similarly in humans, it might help a person activate a different track in the brain when hearing an ice cream truck rather than a bear’s growl. This toggling mechanism is essential to survival because animals need to act differently in the contrasting scenarios. “This is at the hub of where we translate sensory information into motivational significance,” Tye says. “In evolution, it’s going to dictate whether you survive. In our modern-day society, it will dictate your mental health and your quality of life.” © 2022 Scientific American,

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Emotions
Link ID: 28436 - Posted: 08.13.2022

By Jonathan Moens In 1993, Julio Lopes was sipping a coffee at a bar when he had a stroke. He fell into a coma, and two months later, when he regained consciousness, his body was fully paralyzed. Doctors said the young man’s future was bleak: Save for his eyes, he would never be able to move again. Lopes would have to live with locked-in syndrome, a rare condition characterized by near-total paralysis of the body and a totally lucid mind. LIS is predominantly caused by strokes in specific brain regions; it can also be caused by traumatic brain injury, tumors, and progressive diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. Yet almost 30 years later, Lopes now lives in a small Paris apartment near the Seine. He goes to the theater, watches movies at the cinema, and roams the local park in his wheelchair, accompanied by a caregiver. A small piece of black, red, and green fabric with the word “Portugal” dangles from his wheelchair. On a warm afternoon this past June, his birth country was slated to play against Spain in a soccer match, and he was excited. In an interview at his home, Lopes communicated through the use of a specialized computer camera that tracks a sensor on the lens of his glasses. He made slight movements with his head, selecting letters on a virtual keyboard that appeared on the computer’s screen. “Even if it’s hard at the beginning, you acquire a kind of philosophy of life,” he said in French. People in his condition may enjoy things others find insignificant, he suggested, and they often develop a capacity to see the bigger picture. That’s not to say daily living is always easy, Lopes added, but overall, he’s happier than he ever thought was possible in his situation. While research into LIS patients’ quality of life is limited, the data that has been gathered paints a picture that is often at odds with popular presumptions. To be sure, wellbeing evaluations conducted to date do suggest that up to a third of LIS patients report being severely unhappy. For them, loss of mobility and speech make life truly miserable — and family members and caregivers, as well as the broader public, tend to identify with this perspective. And yet, the majority of LIS patients, the data suggest, are much more like Lopes: They report being relatively happy and that they want very much to live. Indeed, in surveys of wellbeing, most people with LIS score as high as those without it, suggesting that many people underestimate locked-in patients’ quality of life while overestimating their rates of depression. And this mismatch has implications for clinical care, say brain scientists who study wellbeing in LIS patients.

Keyword: Consciousness; Emotions
Link ID: 28429 - Posted: 08.11.2022

By Erin Garcia de Jesús As Tanina Agosto went through her normal morning routine in July 2007, she realized something was wrong. The 29-year-old couldn’t control her left side, even her face. “Literally the top of my head to the bottom of my foot on the left side of my body could not feel anything.” The next day, Agosto spoke with a doctor at the New York City hospital where she works as a medical secretary. He told her that she probably had a pinched nerve and to see a chiropractor. But chiropractic care didn’t help. Months later, Agosto needed a cane to get around, and moving her left leg and arm required lots of concentration. She couldn’t work. Numbness and tingling made cooking and cleaning difficult. It felt a bit like looping a rubber band tightly around a finger until it loses sensation, Agosto says. Once the rubber band comes off, the finger tingles for a bit. But for her, the tingling wouldn’t stop. Finally, she recalls, one chiropractor told her, “I’m not too big of a person to say there’s something very wrong with you, and I don’t know what it is. You need to see a neurologist.” In November 2008, tests confirmed that Agosto had multiple sclerosis. Her immune system was attacking her brain and spinal cord. Agosto knew nothing about MS except that a friend of her mother’s had it. “At the time, I was like, there’s no way I’ve got this old lady’s condition,” she says. “To be hit with that and know that there’s no cure — that was just devastating.” Why people develop the autoimmune disorder has been a long-standing question. Studies have pointed to certain gene variations and environmental factors. For decades, a common virus called Epstein-Barr virus has also been high on the list of culprits. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28428 - Posted: 08.11.2022

By Virginia Morell In the summer of 2013, dolphin researcher Nicole Danaher-Garcia spotted something rare and remarkable in the animal world. As she stood on top of the bridge of a sport fishing yacht near Bimini in the Bahamas, she spied 10 adult Atlantic spotted dolphins she had never seen before—speeding into the waters of another group of dolphins. Most mammals attack intruders, but war wasn’t on the menu that day. Instead, the newcomers—eventually 46 in all—joined up with the resident dolphins, some 120 in number. Today, the two groups of Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) have partially integrated, diving and swimming together, forming fast friendships, and likely even mating. It’s a “striking” display of tranquility between animals scientists usually consider rivals, says Richard Wrangham, a primatologist at Harvard University who was not involved with the study. Most mammals fight to protect mates and other resources if they encounter strangers entering their territory, he notes. This research, he says, may ultimately lead to a better understanding of the evolution of peacefulness. Danaher-Garcia, a behavioral ecologist, and her colleagues at the Dolphin Communication Project observed the two groups of dolphins in Bimini for 5 years, carrying out nearly 300 surveys. At first, the scientists only saw one small group of mixed Bimini and newcomer dolphins. But the next year, the scientists spotted a larger group of males and females of all ages from both communities mixing without “any signs of aggression,” she says. The dolphins continued their friendly behaviors through 2018, leading the team to suspect the two groups were merging. (Because of COVID-19 concerns, the scientists put their studies on hold in 2020.) The scientists discovered the newcomers had migrated from Little Bahama Bank, an area some 160 kilometers to the north known for its shallow seas, coral reefs, and sand banks. They were part of the White Sand Ridge (WSR) spotted dolphin community that another scientific team has been studying since the mid-1980s. © 2022 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Aggression; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 28419 - Posted: 08.03.2022