Chapter 15. Emotions, Aggression, and Stress

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Sherry H-Y. Chou Aarti Sarwal Neha S. Dangayach The patient in the case report (let’s call him Tom) was 54 and in good health. For two days in May, he felt unwell and was too weak to get out of bed. When his family finally brought him to the hospital, doctors found that he had a fever and signs of a severe infection, or sepsis. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection. In addition to symptoms of COVID-19, he was also too weak to move his legs. When a neurologist examined him, Tom was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes abnormal sensation and weakness due to delays in sending signals through the nerves. Usually reversible, in severe cases it can cause prolonged paralysis involving breathing muscles, require ventilator support and sometimes leave permanent neurological deficits. Early recognition by expert neurologists is key to proper treatment. We are neurologists specializing in intensive care and leading studies related to neurological complications from COVID-19. Given the occurrence of Guillain-Barre Syndrome in prior pandemics with other corona viruses like SARS and MERS, we are investigating a possible link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19 and tracking published reports to see if there is any link between Guillain-Barre Syndrome and COVID-19. Some patients may not seek timely medical care for neurological symptoms like prolonged headache, vision loss and new muscle weakness due to fear of getting exposed to virus in the emergency setting. People need to know that medical facilities have taken full precautions to protect patients. Seeking timely medical evaluation for neurological symptoms can help treat many of these diseases. © 2010–2020, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Movement Disorders; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 27353 - Posted: 07.08.2020

Jordana Cepelewicz We consider the brain the very center of who we are and what we do: ruler of our senses, master of our movements; generator of thought, keeper of memory. But the brain is also rooted in a body, and the connection between the two goes both ways. If certain internal receptors indicate hunger, for instance, we’re driven to eat; if they indicate cold, we dress more warmly. However, decades of research have also shown that those sensations do much more than alert the brain to the body’s immediate concerns and needs. As the heart, lungs, gut and other organs transmit information to the brain, they affect how we perceive and interact with our environment in surprisingly profound ways. Recent studies of the heart in particular have given scientists new insights into the role that the body’s most basic processes play in defining our experience of the world. In the late 19th century, the psychologist William James and the physician Carl Lange proposed that emotional states are the brain’s perception of certain bodily changes in response to a stimulus — that a pounding heart or shallow breathing gives rise to emotions like fear or anger rather than vice versa. Researchers have since found many examples of physiological arousal leading to emotional arousal, but they wanted to delve deeper into that link. Beginning in the 1930s, scientists found that systole dampens pain and curbs startle reflexes. Further work traced this effect to the fact that during systole, pressure sensors send signals about the heart’s activity to inhibitory regions of the brain. This may be useful because, while the brain must constantly balance and integrate internal and external signals, “you cannot pay attention to everything at once,” said Ofer Perl, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Experiments even showed that people were more likely to forget words that were presented exactly at systole than words that they saw and encoded during the rest of the cardiac cycle. All Rights Reserved © 2020

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 27349 - Posted: 07.08.2020

Nicola Davis People living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have more than twice the risk of developing dementia, researchers have revealed in the latest study to link gut health to neurological diseases. A growing body of research suggests changes in the gastrointestinal tract may affect the brain through two-way communication known as the gut-brain axis. Scientists have previously found signs that the abnormally folded proteins involved in Parkinson’s disease may arise in the gut and travel to the brain via the vagus nerve, while changes to the microbial community in the gut – the gut microbiome – have been linked with conditions ranging from mental health problems to motor neurone disease and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, previous work has shown people with IBD have a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. Researchers now say they have found that people with IBD – inflammatory conditions including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which have symptoms including stomach pain and bloody stools – have a greater chance of developing dementia than those without, and tend to be diagnosed with dementia several years earlier. “The findings suggest that there may be a connection between IBD and neurocognitive decline,” said Dr Bing Zhang, first author of the research from the University of California San Francisco. While the study does not prove IBD causes dementia, Zhang and his colleagues outlined a number of ways the two may be linked, noting chronic inflammation has been suggested to trigger processes involved in Alzheimer’s disease, and blood clots and stroke – features involved in vascular dementia. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited or its affiliated companies.

Keyword: Alzheimers; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 27326 - Posted: 06.26.2020

By Andrew McCormick The psychiatrist was bald, with kind eyes, a silver goatee and the air of exhaustion that follows a person who works hard in a difficult field. It was March 2019, and having let an old prescription expire months earlier, I had gone to the Veterans Affairs hospital in Manhattan — my first time at a V.A. — hoping to get antidepressants. In a small, sparsely decorated office, the doctor and I faced each other across a wide desk. He told me about various V.A. programs — counseling, group therapy, a veterans’ yoga class, each accompanied by a flier — and described at length the V.A.’s crisis hotline. I appreciated his care, but I wasn’t there to break any new emotional ground; I really just wanted a prescription and to be on my way. I answered briskly as he worked through the questions any mental health worker asks you on a first visit. Did I have a history of anxiety or depression? Yes. Had I had thoughts of hurting myself or of suicide? Not really. Did anyone in my family have a history of mental health issues? Suddenly, my brain went foggy and my thoughts failed to connect. My speech slowed, and I began struggling to form sentences. Weird, I thought. I hadn’t felt sick. I worried the doctor might think he’d hit a nerve, when in fact I had answered questions like these many times before, including in post-deployment health evaluations in the Navy. My vision blurred. Eyes aflutter, I motioned to the doctor to give me a minute. I think I laughed. With the calm dispassion of a man who’s seen it all, the doctor picked up a phone beside him: “I’m going to need some help,” he said. “He’s about to pass out. . . . Yeah, he looks like he might throw up.” I swallowed hard. I tried not to. “Yeah, he just threw up.” © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Stress
Link ID: 27319 - Posted: 06.24.2020

By Elizabeth Pennisi When Muhammad Ali duked it out with Joe Frazier in the boxing ring, it’s unlikely anyone thought about what was happening to the genes inside their heads. But a new study in fighting fish has demonstrated that as the fish spar, genes in their brains begin to turn on and off in a coordinated way. It’s still unclear what those genes are doing or how they influence the skirmish, but similar changes may be happening in humans. The work is “a really cool example of the way that social interactions can get under the skin,” says Alison Bell, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved with the study. The molecular basis of how animals, humans included, coordinate behaviors is a mystery. Whether it be mating or fighting, “animals need to be really good at this, but we don’t particularly know how they do it,” says Hans Hofmann, an evolutionary social neuroscientist at the University of Texas, Austin. When molecular biologist Norihiro Okada at Kitasato University in Japan first saw Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) on TV, he realized the animals could help solve this mystery. Native to Thailand, these goldfish-size swimmers have been bred to have very large, vibrantly colored fins and tails. Aquarium owners tend to keep their pets, or “bettas” as they are often called, separate. The fish are territorial and can get into fights that last more than 1 hour, with strikes, bites, and chases (as seen in the video below). They will even lock jaws in a fish version of an arm wrestle. Okada and colleagues videotaped more than a dozen hours of fights between 17 pairs of fish and then analyzed what happened—and when—in each fight. The longer the fight, the more the fish synchronize their behavior, timing their circling, striking, and biting more than anyone had ever realized, the researchers report today in PLOS Genetics. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Aggression; Epigenetics
Link ID: 27310 - Posted: 06.19.2020

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

Keyword: Stress; Learning & Memory
Link ID: 27305 - Posted: 06.17.2020

An epidemic of fatal drug overdoses across Canada is on the rise amid COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that harm-reduction workers and doctors say exacerbates the toxic supply. Overdose prevention sites continue to run but physical distancing guidelines mean fewer people are able to use the services. For example, a site in Toronto that previously averaged more than 100 visits a day now sees fewer than half that. From March 2019 to May 2020, Ontario's coroner reported a 25 per cent increase in fatal overdoses, based on preliminary estimates for all substances. Nick Boyce, director of the Ontario Harm Reduction Network, said the increase is significant. "It matches anecdotally what I've been hearing from the front-line workers we work with around the province," Boyce said. "They're all saying deaths are going up. But to hear that number and to see that number, I was not expecting it to be that high." Last year, fentanyl directly contributed to about 75 per cent of opioid-related deaths in Ontario. More than 14,000 Canadians have been killed by opioids in the last four years, according to federal data. "Laws actually incentivize drug dealers and suppliers to come up with new and different drugs," Boyce said. "We learned this lesson in the 1920s with alcohol prohibition when people switched from drinking beer to toxic moonshine. We're seeing that with the opioid drug supply now." ©2020 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 27296 - Posted: 06.10.2020

Béatrice Pudelko Fear, anxiety, worry, lack of motivation and difficulty concentrating — students cite all sorts of reasons for opposing distance learning. But are these excuses or real concerns? What does science say? At the beginning of the pandemic, when universities and CEGEPs, Québec’s junior colleges, were putting in place scenarios to continue teaching at a distance, students expressed their opposition by noting that the context was “not conducive to learning.” Teachers also felt that the students were “simply not willing to continue learning in such conditions.” A variety of negative emotions were reported in opinion columns, letters and surveys. A petition was even circulated calling for a suspension of the winter session, which Education Minister Jean-François Roberge refused. Students are not the only ones who have difficulty concentrating on intellectual tasks. In a column published in La Presse, Chantal Guy says that like many of her colleagues, she can’t devote herself to in-depth reading. “After a few pages, my mind wanders and just wants to go check out Dr. Arruda’s damn curve,” Guy wrote, referring to Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director. In short: “It’s not the time that’s lacking in reading, it’s the concentration,” she said. “People don’t have the head for that.” Why do students feel they don’t have the ability for studies? Recent advances in cognitive science provide insights into the links between negative emotions and cognition in tasks that require sustained intellectual investment. © 2010–2020, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Attention; Stress
Link ID: 27293 - Posted: 06.09.2020

Allison Aubrey Sleep makes everything easier, even in these difficult days. Why then is it so hard to get? For most of us, right now, it takes work to settle our minds so we can rest. From medication to melatonin to putting on fuzzy socks, we all have routines we hope will help us drift off into sleep. And for good reason. "You've just got to gradually bring the brain and the body down, sort of from that altitude of wakefulness onto the hard, safe landing pad of sleep at night," says Matthew Walker, a sleep researcher at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of Why We Sleep. Don't count sheep Not only will counting sheep not help you fall asleep faster, but a study by Allison Harvey at UC Berkeley found that it actually "made it harder to fall asleep, and it took you longer to fall asleep." Do use calming mental imagery Harvey found that other types of mental imagery, however, are conducive to sleep. Walker suggests imagining a pleasant walk you've taken before, "like a hike in the woods or if it's a walk down on a beach that you do on vacation." Mentally navigating that walk, he says, "tended to hasten the speed of the onset of sleep." Try relaxation and meditation apps as training wheels "I'm a big fan of those things," says Chris Winter, a neurologist and sleep researcher in Charlottesville, Virginia. These apps can train you to meditate — to clear away regrets about the past and worries about the future so you can learn to be in the moment. "The ability to settle your mind and initiate sleep is a skill," Winter says. "The more you practice it, the better you'll get at it and the more confident you become." Melatonin has mixed results © 2020 npr

Keyword: Sleep; Stress
Link ID: 27289 - Posted: 06.08.2020

­­Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, have identified a specific, front-line defense that limits the infection to the olfactory bulb and protects the neurons of the olfactory bulb from damage due to the infection. Neurons in the nose respond to inhaled odors and send this information to a region of the brain referred to as the olfactory bulb. Although the location of nasal neurons and their exposure to the outside environment make them an easy target for infection by airborne viruses, viral respiratory infections rarely make their way from the olfactory bulb to the rest of the brain, where they could cause potentially fatal encephalitis. The study was published in Science Immunology. Taking advantage of special viruses that can be tracked with fluorescent microscopy, the researchers led by Dorian McGavern, Ph.D., senior investigator at NINDS, found that a viral infection that started in the nose was halted right before it could spread from the olfactory bulb to the rest of the central nervous system. “Airborne viruses challenge our immune system all the time, but rarely do we see viral infections leading to neurological conditions,” said Dr. McGavern. “This means that the immune system within this area has to be remarkably good at protecting the brain.” Additional experiments showed that microglia, immune cells within the central nervous system, took on an underappreciated role of helping the immune system recognize the virus and did so in a way that limited the damage to neurons themselves. This sparing of neurons is critical, because unlike cells in most other tissues, most neuronal populations do not come back.

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste); Glia
Link ID: 27287 - Posted: 06.06.2020

Veronique Greenwood Inside a series of tubes in a bright, warm room at Harvard Medical School, hundreds of fruit flies are staying up late. It has been days since any of them have slept: The constant vibrations that shake their homes preclude rest, cling as they might to the caps of the tubes for respite. Not too far away in their own tubes live other sleepless flies, animated with the calm persistence of those consigned to eternal day. A genetic tweak to certain neurons in their brains keeps them awake for as long as they live. They do not live long. The shaken flies and the engineered flies both die swiftly — in fact, the engineered ones survive only half as long as well-rested controls. After days of sleeplessness, the flies’ numbers tumble, then crash. The tubes empty out. The lights shine on. We all know that we need sleep to be at our best. But profound sleep loss has more serious and immediate effects: Animals completely deprived of sleep die. Yet scientists have found it oddly hard to say exactly why sleep loss is lethal. Sleep is primarily seen as a neurological phenomenon, and yet when deprived creatures die, they have a puzzlingly diverse set of failures in the body outside the nervous system. Insufficient sleep in humans and lab animals, if chronic, sets up health problems that surface over time, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. But those conditions are not what slays creatures that are 100% sleep deprived within days or weeks. What does sleep do that makes it deadly to go without? Could answering that question explain why we need sleep in the first place? Under the pale light of the incubators in Dragana Rogulja’s lab at Harvard Medical School, sleepless flies have been living and dying as she pursues the answers. Simons Foundation © 2020

Keyword: Sleep; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 27285 - Posted: 06.06.2020

Patti Neighmond Having trouble getting to sleep these days? You're not alone. For people with a history of insomnia, sleep problems are magnified right now. And many who never struggled before are suddenly experiencing interruptions in their nightly rest or difficulty falling asleep. It's pretty typical that in moments of anxiety, sleep suffers, but the situation we're all living through today means the anxiety never stops, says neurologist and sleep specialist Dr. Douglas Kirsch, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. For occasional insomnia, the problems go away when the specific trigger is resolved. But now, he says, there's no resolution or relief from "the constant inflow of anxiety-provoking news." And that spells trouble for sleep. Family doctors and sleep specialists say many people who are feeling grief, frustration and anxiety, whether about the pandemic, financial worries or racial inequalities and unrest in the U.S., are finding themselves unable to sleep. And it's not just the worry. It's the interrupted schedules and isolation of the pandemic too. Here's why it's not all in your head and what they say you can do about it. We're suffering "collective social anxiety" — tame it to sleep better Before the pandemic, Arlene Rentas, a busy currency trader in Charlotte, N.C., kept a regular schedule and slept like clockwork. She would awaken at 5:30 in the morning and be out the door by 7 a.m., home by 8 p.m. and, after a quick run, in bed around 10 p.m. © 2020 npr

Keyword: Sleep; Stress
Link ID: 27276 - Posted: 06.03.2020

By Laura Sanders The heart has its own “brain.” Now, scientists have drawn a detailed map of this little brain, called the intracardiac nervous system, in rat hearts. The heart’s big boss is the brain, but nerve cells in the heart have a say, too. These neurons are thought to play a crucial role in heart health, helping to fine-tune heart rhythms and perhaps protecting people against certain kinds of heart disease. But so far, this local control system hasn’t been mapped in great detail. To make their map, systems biologist James Schwaber at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and colleagues imaged male and female rat hearts with a method called knife-edge scanning microscopy, creating detailed pictures of heart anatomy. Those images could then be built into a 3-D model of the heart. The scientists also plucked out individual neurons and measured the amount of gene activity within each cell. These measurements helped sort the heart’s neurons into discrete groups. Most of these neuron clusters dot the top of the heart, where blood vessels come in and out. Some of these clusters spread down the back of the heart, and were particularly abundant on the left side. With this new view of the individual clusters, scientists can begin to study whether these groups have distinct jobs. The comprehensive, 3-D map of the heart’s little brain could ultimately lead to targeted therapies that could treat or prevent heart diseases, the authors write online May 26 in iScience. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Keyword: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 27274 - Posted: 06.03.2020

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

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 27266 - Posted: 05.28.2020

By Maria Cramer Quarantinis. Zoom happy hours. Easy front-door liquor delivery. The boredom of staying home and the intense anxiety produced by the pandemic have given rise to Twitter jokes about drinking before noon as alcohol sales have spiked. But addiction experts say they are worried it could also trigger more serious drinking problems and even create new ones for people who have never struggled with alcohol dependency before. “I expect we’re going to see pretty significant increases in what I call unhealthy alcohol use, which means drinking above recommended limits,” said Dr. Sarah Wakeman, an addiction medicine doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “It will be pretty unlikely for someone who has never tried alcohol before to start drinking for the first time and immediately develop an alcohol use disorder,” Dr. Wakeman said. “I would see this as a risk more in people who are already drinking and then their alcohol use escalates.” Before the pandemic, Mhairi McFarlane, a 44-year-old novelist in Nottingham, England, had been thinking of cutting back. But the first weekend she was in quarantine, she said, she was “cheerfully” having three or four drinks a night, usually gin and tonics or “very cold bottles of cava.” “It was very much not my style of drinking,” she said. “I’ve always associated drink with going out and being social. I was never really one for opening a bottle of wine in front of the television.” Drinking alone worried her. Then she woke up one Thursday with a headache and a sense that her body was unhappy with what she was doing. She decided to give herself a two-night break from drinking. To her surprise, she wanted to keep going. It has been two months since she had a drink. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Stress
Link ID: 27265 - Posted: 05.28.2020

R. Douglas Fields Discoveries that transcend boundaries are among the greatest delights of scientific research, but such leaps are often overlooked because they outstrip conventional thinking. Take, for example, a new discovery for treating dementia that defies received wisdom by combining two formerly unrelated areas of research: brain waves and the brain’s immune cells, called microglia. It’s an important finding, but it still requires the buy-in and understanding of researchers to achieve its true potential. The history of brain waves shows why. In 1887, Richard Caton announced his discovery of brain waves at a scientific meeting. “Read my paper on the electrical currents of the brain,” he wrote in his personal diary. “It was well received but not understood by most of the audience.” Even though Caton’s observations of brain waves were correct, his thinking was too unorthodox for others to take seriously. Faced with such a lack of interest, he abandoned his research and the discovery was forgotten for decades. Flash forward to October 2019. At a gathering of scientists that I helped organize at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago, I asked if anyone knew of recent research by neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who had found a new way to treat Alzheimer’s disease by manipulating microglia and brain waves. No one replied. I understood: Scientists must specialize to succeed. Biologists studying microglia don’t tend to read papers about brain waves, and brain wave researchers are generally unaware of glial research. A study that bridges these two traditionally separate disciplines may fail to gain traction. But this study needed attention: Incredible as it may sound, the researchers improved the brains of animals with Alzheimer’s simply by using LED lights that flashed 40 times a second. Even sound played at this charmed frequency, 40 hertz, had a similar effect. All Rights Reserved © 2020

Keyword: Alzheimers; Glia
Link ID: 27264 - Posted: 05.28.2020

By Pooja Lakshmin After going through a harrowing bout of postpartum depression with her first child, my patient, Emily, had done everything possible to prepare for the postpartum period with her second. She stayed in treatment with me, her perinatal psychiatrist, and together we made the decision for her to continue Zoloft during her pregnancy. With the combination of medication, psychotherapy and a significant amount of planning, she was feeling confident about her delivery in April. And then, the coronavirus hit. Emily, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, called me in late-March because she was having trouble sleeping. She was up half the night ruminating about whether she’d be able to have her husband with her for delivery and how to manage taking care of a toddler and a newborn without help. The cloud that we staved off for so long was returning, and Emily felt powerless to stop it. Postpartum depression and the larger group of maternal mental health conditions called perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are caused by neurobiological factors and environmental stressors. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are already vulnerable times for women due in part to the hormonal fluctuations accompanying pregnancy and delivery, as well as the sleep deprivation of the early postpartum period. Now, fears about the health of an unborn child or an infant and the consequences of preventive measures, like social distancing, have added more stress. As a psychiatrist who specializes in taking care of pregnant and postpartum women, I’ve seen an increase in intrusive worry, obsessions, compulsions, feelings of hopelessness and insomnia in my patients during the coronavirus pandemic. And I’m not alone in my observations: Worldwide, mental health professionals are concerned. A special editorial in a Scandinavian gynecological journal called attention to the psychological distress that pregnant women and new mothers will experience in a prolonged global pandemic. A report from Zhejiang University in China detailed the case of a woman who contracted Covid-19 late in her pregnancy and developed depressive symptoms. In the United States, maternal mental health experts have also described an increase in patients with clinical anxiety. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Depression; Stress
Link ID: 27263 - Posted: 05.28.2020

Ashley Yeager It had been seven weeks since I’d touched another human being. Arms outstretched, I walked quickly toward my dad, craving his embrace. In the instant before we touched, we paused, our minds probably running quick, last-minute calculations on the risk of physical contact. But, after turning our faces away from each other and awkwardly shuffling closer, we finally connected. Wrapped in my dad’s bear hug, I momentarily forgot we were in the midst of the worst global crisis I have ever experienced. “Touch is the most powerful safety signal of togetherness,” says Steve Cole, a psychiatrist and biobehavioral scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Like more than 35 million other Americans, I live alone, and with the guidelines of physical distancing set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I hadn’t been getting close to anyone to avoid being infected with (or potentially spreading) SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. I’d been working, thankfully, at home and staying connected with friends and family through Zoom and Skype, but those virtual interactions were no replacement for being with loved ones in person. “When we get lonely and isolated our brainstem recognizes that suddenly we are in insecure territory and flips on a bunch of fight-or-flight stress responses without us even knowing it,” Cole says. “There’s all sorts of things in our social world that lead us to calculate that we are either safe or unsafe. You can think of physical touch, supportive and affectionate touch, as the most fundamental signal that you’re with somebody who cares about you . . . a fundamental signal of safety and well-being.” © 1986–2020 The Scientist.

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Stress
Link ID: 27259 - Posted: 05.21.2020

Ashley Yeager Nearly seven years ago, Sheena Josselyn and her husband Paul Frankland were talking with their two-year-old daughter and started to wonder why she could easily remember what happened over the last day or two but couldn’t recall events that had happened a few months before. Josselyn and Frankland, both neuroscientists at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto, suspected that maybe neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons, could be involved in this sort of forgetfulness. In humans and other mammals, neurogenesis happens in the hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in learning and memory, tying the generation of new neurons to the process of making memories. Josselyn and Frankland knew that in infancy, the brain makes a lot of new neurons, but that neurogenesis slows with age. Yet youngsters have more trouble making long-term memories than adults do, a notion that doesn’t quite jibe with the idea that the principal function of neurogenesis is memory formation. To test the connection between neurogenesis and forgetting, the researchers put mice in a box and shocked their feet with an electric current, then returned the animals to their home cages and either let them stay sedentary or had them run on a wheel, an activity that boosts neurogenesis. Six weeks later, the researchers put the mice back in the box where they had received the shocks. There, the sedentary mice froze in fear, anticipating a shock, but the mice that had run on a wheel didn’t show signs of anxiety. It was as if the wheel-running mice had forgotten they’d been shocked before. © 1986–2020 The Scientist.

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Glia
Link ID: 27245 - Posted: 05.14.2020

Sirin Kale Alice,* a 31-year-old director from London, has been breaking the coronavirus lockdown rules. “I almost don’t want to tell you this,” she says, lowering her voice. Her violation? Once a week, Alice, who lives alone, walks to the end of her garden to meet her best friend Lucy.* There, with the furtiveness of a street drug deal, Lucy hugs her tightly. Alice struggles to let her go. “You just get that rush of feeling better,” Alice says. “Like it’s all OK.” Aside from Lucy’s hugs, Alice hasn’t been touched by another person since March 15, which is when she went into a self-imposed lockdown, a week before the official government advice to self-isolate. “I’ve found it really hard,” she says. “I am a huggy person. You start to notice it after a while. I miss it.” She feels guilty about her surreptitious hugs. “I feel like I can’t tell my other friends about it,” Alice says. “There’s a lot of shaming going on. I know we aren’t meant to. But I am so grateful to her for checking in on me. It gives me such a lift.” Alice is experiencing the neurological phenomenon of "skin hunger," supercharged by the coronavirus pandemic. Skin hunger is the biological need for human touch. It’s why babies in neonatal intensive care units are placed on their parent’s naked chests. It’s the reason prisoners in solitary confinement often report craving human contact as ferociously as they desire their liberty. © 2020 Condé Nast.

Keyword: Emotions; Pain & Touch
Link ID: 27240 - Posted: 05.08.2020