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By Janna Levin During traumatic periods and their aftermath, our brains can fall into habitual ways of thinking that may be helpful in the short run but become maladaptive years later. For the brain to readjust to new situations later in life, it needs to be restored to the malleable state it was in when the habits first formed. That is exactly what Gül Dölen, a neuroscientist and psychiatric researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, is working toward in her lab. What is her surprising tool? Psychedelics. JANNA LEVIN: Welcome to “The Joy of Why.” This is Janna Levin. On June 4th, an advisory panel for the Federal Drug Administration recommended against approving the use of the psychedelic drug MDMA as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Various concerns, some about safety, overshadowed the demonstrable value of the drug in the opinion of the panel. The path to approval for drug therapies is notoriously fraught with profound complexities, a high bar on proof in clinical trials, the medical injunction to “do no harm,” as well as social and political nuances. But, what’s the fundamental neuroscience behind the news story? Why are so many psychiatric researchers enthusiastic about the promise of psychedelics? We happened to take on this subject a few weeks ago with neuroscientist Gül Dölen. Here is that episode. New drug leads can come from practically anywhere. Penicillin’s discovery was spurred from mold spores that accidentally landed in a petri dish. Cancer treatments can be dredged from the bottom of the sea. And synthetic antibodies can now be engineered from scratch. But there’s a class of drugs that mainstream medicine has generally overlooked that could prove life-changing for many people facing addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress — if scientists embrace the potential power of psychedelics. © 2024 the Simons Foundation.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29351 - Posted: 06.08.2024

By Ellen Barry Post-traumatic stress disorder diagnoses among college students more than doubled between 2017 and 2022, climbing most sharply as the coronavirus pandemic shut down campuses and upended young adults’ lives, according to new research published on Thursday. The prevalence of PTSD rose to 7.5 percent from 3.4 percent during that period, according to the findings. Researchers analyzed responses from more than 390,000 participants in the Healthy Minds Study, an annual web-based survey. “The magnitude of this rise is indeed shocking,” said Yusen Zhai, the paper’s lead author, who heads the community counseling clinic at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His clinic had seen more young people struggling in the aftermath of traumatic events. So he expected an increase, but not such a large one. Dr. Zhai, an assistant professor in the Department of Human Studies, attributed the rise to “broader societal stressors” on college students, such as campus shootings, social unrest and the sudden loss of loved ones from the coronavirus. PTSD is a mental health disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and heightened sensitivity to reminders of an event, continuing more than a month after it occurs. It is a relatively common disorder, with an estimated 5 percent of adults in the United States experiencing it in any given year, according to the most recent epidemiological survey conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Lifetime prevalence is 8 percent in women and 4 percent in men, the survey found. The new research also found a sharp rise in the prevalence of a similar condition, acute stress disorder, which is diagnosed less than a month after a trauma. Diagnoses rose to 0.7 percent among college students in 2022, up from 0.2 percent five years earlier. Use of mental health care increased nationally during the pandemic, as teletherapy made it far easier to see clinicians. Treatment for anxiety disorders increased most steeply, followed by PTSD, bipolar disorder and depression, according to economists who analyzed more than 1.5 million insurance claims for clinician visits between 2020 and 2022. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 29350 - Posted: 06.08.2024

By Andrew Jacobs An independent advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration rejected the use of MDMA-assisted therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder on Tuesday, highlighting the unparalleled regulatory challenges of a novel therapy using the drug commonly known as Ecstasy. Before the vote, members of the panel raised concerns about the designs of the two studies submitted by the drug’s sponsor, Lykos Therapeutics. Many questions focused on the fact that study participants were by and large able to correctly guess whether they had been given MDMA, also known by the names of Ecstasy or molly. The panel voted 9-2 on whether the MDMA-assisted therapy was effective, and voted 10-1 on whether the proposed treatment’s benefits outweighed its risks. Other panelists expressed concerns over the drug’s potential cardiovascular effects, and possible bias among the therapists and facilitators who guided the sessions and may have positively influenced patient outcomes. A case of misconduct involving a patient and therapist in the study also weighed on some panelists’ minds. Many of the committee members said they were especially worried about the failure of Lykos to collect detailed data from participants on the potential for abuse of a drug that generates feelings of bliss and well-being. “I absolutely agree that we need new and better treatments for PTSD,” said Paul Holtzheimer, deputy director for research at the National Center for PTSD, a panelist who voted no on the question of whether the benefits of MDMA-therapy outweighed the risks. “However, I also note that premature introduction of a treatment can actually stifle development, stifle implementation and lead to premature adoption of treatments that are either not completely known to be safe, not fully effective or not being used at their optimal efficacy,” he added. © 2024 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 29343 - Posted: 06.06.2024

By J. David Creswell Let’s start thinking differently about exercise. Decades of exercise science research show that when people or animals are given a new exercise routine, they get healthier. But when thinking about the benefits of exercise, most people hold a strong body bias; they focus on how regular exercise builds more lean body mass, helps increase their strength and balance, or improves heart health. Exercise matters even more for our brains, it turns out, in ways that are often overlooked. Here’s how we know. Animal exercise studies typically run rats for weeks on running wheels. The animals gleefully run every night, sprinting several miles over the course of an evening. There are wonderful health benefits in these studies of voluntary running—improved muscle tone and cardiovascular health, and many brain benefits too. But in some studies, there’s an additional experimental condition where some rats exercise with one crucial difference: it’s no longer voluntary exercise. Instead of a freestanding running wheel, rats run on a mechanized wheel that spins, forcing the animals to cover the same distance as the voluntary runners. What happens? When the rats are forced to exercise on a daily basis for several weeks, their bodies become more physically fit, but their brains suffer. Animals regularly forced to exercise have the equivalent of an anxiety disorder, behaving on new tasks in highly anxious and avoidant ways. These animals are more anxious not only compared to the voluntary runners, but also to animals that are not given an opportunity to exercise at all. Yes, forced exercise might be worse than no exercise at all. This work suggests something important about the health benefits of exercise: it is not just about making our muscles work, but what exercise does to our brains. When exercise gives us a sense of control, mastery and joy, our brains become less anxious. If we take that away, by forcing exercise, we can shift it from helpful to harmful. © 2024 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 11: Motor Control and Plasticity
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 5: The Sensorimotor System
Link ID: 29284 - Posted: 05.02.2024

By Shaena Montanari The sympathetic nervous system may have originated in jawless fish—not tens of millions of years later as previously thought, according to a study published today in Nature. Anatomical work dating back to the 19th century suggested that the sympathetic nervous system was present only in jawed vertebrates. Yet the sea lamprey, the new findings reveal, sports clusters of sympathetic neurons along its trunk and expresses several genes involved in the “fight-or-flight” system, the response that kicks into gear when an animal perceives a threat. “Whenever new research causes troves of textbooks to need corrections, that’s always surprising,” says Tyler Square, assistant professor of molecular genetics at the University of Florida, who was not involved in the study. The team behind the new work decided to re-examine conventional wisdom after a postdoctoral researcher in the lab produced microscopy images of lamprey embryos stained for neurons in the animals’ gut. The stain highlighted some “small sort of concentrations of cells” that looked a lot like sympathetic neurons, recalls lead investigator Marianne Bronner, professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology. “I said, ‘Oh, those shouldn’t be there.’ So then we decided to delve deeper into it.” The unexpected neurons express several key genes—specifically ASCL1, PHOX2 and HAND—involved in the sympathoadrenal system, the team discovered using a suite of techniques, including immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization chain reaction and RNA sequencing. These are “all transcription factors that are known to be important in sympathetic neuron differentiation in mammals,” Bronner says. © 2024 Simons Foundation

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 29270 - Posted: 04.26.2024

By Saima May Sidik In 2010, Theresa Chaklos was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia — the first in a series of ailments that she has had to deal with since. She’d always been an independent person, living alone and supporting herself as a family-law facilitator in the Washington DC court system. But after illness hit, her independence turned into loneliness. Loneliness, in turn, exacerbated Chaklos’s physical condition. “I dropped 15 pounds in less than a week because I wasn’t eating,” she says. “I was so miserable, I just would not get up.” Fortunately a co-worker convinced her to ask her friends to help out, and her mood began to lift. “It’s a great feeling” to know that other people are willing to show up, she says. Many people can’t break out of a bout of loneliness so easily. And when acute loneliness becomes chronic, the health effects can be far-reaching. Chronic loneliness can be as detrimental as obesity, physical inactivity and smoking according to a report by Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general. Depression, dementia, cardiovascular disease1 and even early death2 have all been linked to the condition. Worldwide, around one-quarter of adults feel very or fairly lonely, according to a 2023 poll conducted by the social-media firm Meta, the polling company Gallup and a group of academic advisers (see go.nature.com/48xhu3p). That same year, the World Health Organization launched a campaign to address loneliness, which it called a “pressing health threat”. But why does feeling alone lead to poor health? Over the past few years, scientists have begun to reveal the neural mechanisms that cause the human body to unravel when social needs go unmet. The field “seems to be expanding quite significantly”, says cognitive neuroscientist Nathan Spreng at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. And although the picture is far from complete, early results suggest that loneliness might alter many aspects of the brain, from its volume to the connections between neurons.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 15: Language and Lateralization
Link ID: 29245 - Posted: 04.06.2024

Jon Hamilton Scientists know that Black people are at a greater risk for health problems like heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease than white people. A growing body of research shows that racism in health care and in daily life contributes to these long-standing health disparities for Black communities. Now, some researchers are asking whether part of the explanation involves how racism, across individual interactions and systems, may physically alter the brain. "That could be behaviors like, let's say, a woman clutching her purse as a black man is walking next to her. Or they could be verbal, like someone saying, like... 'I didn't expect you to be so articulate,'" says Negar Fani, a clinical neuroscientist at Emory University who studies people experiencing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Recently, Fani has collaborated with Nate Harnett, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, to study how the brain responds to traumatic events and extreme stress, including the events and stress related to racism. So how does one go about measuring the impact of zoomed out, societal-scale issues on the individual? Harnett is the first to admit, it's not the simplest task. "It's very difficult for neuroimaging to look specifically at redlining," notes Harnett. But he can—indirectly. For example, Harnett has used inequities in neighborhood resources as a way of tracking or measuring structural racism. "We're able to look at these sort of proxy measures in these outcomes of structural racism and then correlate those with both brain and behavioral responses to stress or trauma and see how they tie with different psychiatric disorders like PTSD," Harnett says. In other research, Harnett and Fani have looked at correlations between racial discrimination and the response to threat in Black women who had experienced trauma. Fani says patients who experience PTSD tend to be more vigilant or show hyperarousal and be startled easily. Fani says their bodies are in a constant state of fight or flight—even when they're in a safe situation. But in patients who've also experienced racial discrimination, Fani says she sees the opposite effect: They show an increased activation in areas related to emotion regulation. In some ways, Fani says this activation can be adaptive. For example, people may experience microaggressions or discrimination at work and need to regulate their emotional response in order to get through the moment. But when people have to utilize this strategy over long periods of time, Fani and Harnett think it may contribute to the degradation they've seen in other areas in the brain. © 2024 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 2: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 29114 - Posted: 01.27.2024

By Max Kozlov Shredded iboga root, the main ingredient in the psychedelic drug ibogaine, is prepared for use in a traditional ceremony in Gabon.Credit: Rachel Nuwer Psychedelic drugs such as MDMA and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms, have promised to revolutionize psychiatric treatments. Now, a small trial in military veterans suggests that a lesser-known, potent psychedelic drug called ibogaine could be used to treat traumatic brain injury (TBI). One month after ibogaine treatment, the veterans reported that TBI symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression had decreased by more than 80%, on average1. “The drug seems to have a broad, dramatic and consistent effect,” says Nolan Williams, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California and a co-author of the study. The results of the trial, which did not include a control group, are published today in Nature Medicine. These data support launching rigorous trials to test the drug, says Alan Davis, a clinical psychologist at the Ohio State University in Columbus. However, they note that MDMA and psilocybin, which are already in late-stage trials, will be “much better candidates for meeting the needs of this community”. Ibogaine will require years of study to determine its efficacy and safety, Davis says. Warfare’s lasting effects Ibogaine is made from the bark of a shrub (Tabernanthe iboga) native to Central Africa, where it is used for ceremonial purposes. Researchers have tended to shy away from exploring the use of ibogaine for the treatment of conditions other than opioid dependence and withdrawal2, because it is tightly regulated in many countries and can cause fatal heartbeat irregularities, says Maria Steenkamp, a clinical psychologist who studies PTSD in veterans at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City. But the available therapies for PTSD and other conditions don’t help everybody, Steenkamp says. “We are desperately in need of new interventions.” © 2024 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 29082 - Posted: 01.06.2024

By Mike Baker In a carpeted office suite, Alex Beck settled onto a mattress and, under the watch of a trained guide, began chomping through a handful of “Pumpkin Hillbilly” mushrooms. A Marine Corps veteran who was sexually assaulted during his time in the armed forces, Mr. Beck had long been searching unsuccessfully for a way to put those nightmarish years behind him. Now he was ready for a different kind of journey, a psychedelic trip through the nether regions of his own mind. As he felt his thoughts starting to spin, his “facilitator,” Josh Goldstein, urged him to surrender and let the mushrooms guide him. “It’s like the idea of planting a seed and then letting it go,” he said. Stigmatized in law and medicine for the past half-century, psychedelics are in the midst of a sudden revival, with a growing body of research suggesting that the mind-altering compounds could upend psychiatric care. Governments in several places have cautiously started to open access, and as Oregon voters approved a broad drug decriminalization plan in 2020, they also backed an initiative to allow the use of mushrooms as therapy. This summer, the state debuted a first-of-its-kind legal market for psilocybin mushrooms, more widely known as magic mushrooms. Far from the days of illicit consumption in basements and vans, the program allows people to embark on a therapeutic trip, purchasing mushrooms produced by a state-approved grower and consuming them in a licensed facility under the guidance of a certified facilitator. Mr. Beck, 30, was one of the first clients at a facility in the central Oregon city of Bend that began conducting sessions this summer in a building that on other days of the week offers chiropractic services. In his youth, Mr. Beck had experimented with psychedelics for recreation. But as he struggled with his lingering post-traumatic stress in adulthood, he learned about what seemed to be promising new research into plant-based psychedelics for mental health issues that did not respond to other treatments. He wondered if they could help him clear his head from the horrors of the past. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 4: Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28969 - Posted: 10.25.2023

By Jonathan Moens When the war in Ukraine broke out, many countries and agencies around the world lent their support in the form of financial aid, weapons, and food. But Olga Chernoloz, a Ukrainian neuroscientist based in Canada, wanted to provide a different kind of assistance: a combination of therapy and the psychedelic drug MDMA. Such therapy, she said, could help countless people on the ground who are suffering from psychological trauma. “I thought that the most efficacious way I could be of help,” she told Undark, “would be to bring psychedelic-assisted therapy to Ukraine.” Chernoloz’s confidence stems in part from the results of clinical trials on MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in vulnerable populations, which suggest that such treatments may improve symptoms, or do away with them altogether. But the approach is experimental and has not yet cleared major regulatory hurdles in Canada, Europe, or the United States. Still, Chernoloz, who is a professor at the University of Ottawa, plans on carrying out clinical trials with Ukrainian refugees in a psychedelic center in the Netherlands in early 2024. This month, Chernoloz and her colleagues organized an education session for 20 Ukrainian therapists to learn about MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, one of the most influential organizations dedicated to education and promotion of psychedelic drugs.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 28878 - Posted: 08.24.2023

Ian Sample Science editor The sight of their dead comrades is enough to drive fruit flies to an early grave, according to researchers, who suspect the creatures keel over after developing the fly equivalent of depression. For a species that spends much of its life feasting on decayed matter, the insects appear to be particularly sensitive to their own dead. Witnessing an abundance of fruit fly carcasses speeds up the insects’ ageing process, scientists found, cutting their lives short by nearly 30%. While the researchers are cautious about extrapolating from 3mm-long flies to rather larger humans that can live 400 times longer, they speculate that the insights might prove useful for people who are routinely surrounded by death, such as combat troops and healthcare workers. “Could motivational therapy or pharmacologic intervention in reward systems, much like what is done for addiction, slow ageing?” the authors ask in Plos Biology. The possibility could be tested in humans today, they added, using drugs that are already approved. Researchers led by Christi Gendron and Scott Pletcher at the University of Michigan raised fruit flies in small containers filled with food. While some of the containers held only living flies and tasty nutrients, others were dotted with freshly dead fruit flies as well, to see what impact they had on the feeding insects. When fruit flies were raised among dead ones, they tended to die several weeks earlier than those raised without being surrounded by carcasses. Those exposed to death appeared to age faster, losing stored fat and becoming less resilient to starvation. © 2023 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 28819 - Posted: 06.14.2023

By Marta Zaraska The Neumayer III polar station sits near the edge of Antarctica’s unforgiving Ekström Ice Shelf. During the winter, when temperatures can plunge below minus 50 degrees Celsius and the winds can climb to more than 100 kilometers per hour, no one can come or go from the station. Its isolation is essential to the meteorological, atmospheric and geophysical science experiments conducted there by the mere handful of scientists who staff the station during the winter months and endure its frigid loneliness. But a few years ago, the station also became the site for a study of loneliness itself. A team of scientists in Germany wanted to see whether the social isolation and environmental monotony marked the brains of people making long Antarctic stays. Eight expeditioners working at the Neumayer III station for 14 months agreed to have their brains scanned before and after their mission and to have their brain chemistry and cognitive performance monitored during their stay. (A ninth crew member also participated but could not have their brain scanned for medical reasons.) As the researchers described in 2019, in comparison to a control group, the socially isolated team lost volume in their prefrontal cortex — the region at the front of the brain, just behind the forehead, that is chiefly responsible for decision-making and problem-solving. They also had lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that nurtures the development and survival of nerve cells in the brain. The reduction persisted for at least a month and a half after the team’s return from Antarctica. It’s uncertain how much of this was due purely to the social isolation of the experience. But the results are consistent with evidence from more recent studies that chronic loneliness significantly alters the brain in ways that only worsen the problem. Neuroscience suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily result from a lack of opportunity to meet others or a fear of social interactions. Instead, circuits in our brain and changes in our behavior can trap us in a catch-22 situation: While we desire connection with others, we view them as unreliable, judgmental and unfriendly. Consequently, we keep our distance, consciously or unconsciously spurning potential opportunities for connections. Simons Foundation All Rights Reserved © 2023

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 14: Attention and Higher Cognition
Link ID: 28689 - Posted: 03.04.2023

Sara Reardon Emotions such as fear and anxiety can make the heart beat faster. Now a study in mice has found that the reverse is also true — artificially increasing the heart rate can raise anxiety levels1. Links between emotions and physical sensations are familiar to everyone: hairs rising on the backs of your arms when you hear an eerie sound, or the sinking feeling in your gut when you receive bad news. But the question of whether emotions drive bodily functions or vice versa has long vexed researchers, because it is hard to control either factor independently. “It was a chicken-and-egg question that has been the subject of debate for a century,” says Karl Deisseroth, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California. He learned about this conundrum — first proposed by the psychologist William James in the 1880s — while at medical school and says the question has haunted him ever since. To test the phenomenon directly, Deisseroth and his colleagues turned to optogenetics, a method that involves using light to control cell activity. The team bioengineered mice to make muscle cells in the rodents’ hearts sensitive to light. The authors also designed tiny vests for the animals that emitted red light, which could pass through the rodents’ bodies all the way to their hearts. When a mouse’s vest emitted a pulse of light, the animal’s engineered heart muscles fired, causing the heart to beat. The team trained the animals to expect a shock if they pressed a lever for a water reward. Using the optogenetic system, the team raised the animals’ heart rates from their normal 660 beats per minute to 900. When their hearts started racing, mice became less willing to press the lever or to explore open areas, suggesting that they were more anxious. But for animals in other contexts, the externally increased heart rate had no effect, suggesting that the brain and the heart worked together to produce anxiety. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 28687 - Posted: 03.04.2023

By Sujata Gupta Trish Tran narrates her life in staccato notes. “I remember carrying my little sister on my back because she’s too tired and walking through the huge sunflower fields … and me feeling so tired I didn’t think I could walk another step.” “I remember being in a taxi with my mother, coming back to the man who had been violently abusive to all of us…. Her words to me were, ‘Just trust me, Trish. Just trust me.’ ” “I’m waiting at a train station … to meet my mother who I haven’t seen in many years…. Hours pass and eventually I try to call her … and she says to me, ‘I’m sorry, Trish. My neighbor was upset, and I needed to stay back with them.’ And her voice was slurring quite a lot, so I knew she had been drinking.” Tran, who lives in Perth, Australia, is dispassionate as she describes a difficult childhood. Her account lacks what are generally considered classic signs of trauma: She makes no mention of flashbacks, appears to have a generally positive outlook and speaks with relative ease about distressing events. Yet she narrates her life growing up and living in the Australian Outback as a series of disconnected events; her life story lacks connective glue. That disjointed style is not how people, at least people in the West, tend to talk about themselves, says psychologist Christin Camia. Autobiographical accounts, like any good narrative, typically contain a curation of key past experiences, transitions linking those experiences and larger arcs about where life is headed. People use these stories to make sense of their lives, says Camia, of Zayed University’s Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates. But a growing body of evidence from fields as wide-ranging as psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, philosophy and literary studies suggests that, as with Tran, trauma can shatter the narrative coherence of one’s life. People lose the plot. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 28683 - Posted: 02.25.2023

By Erin Blakemore Can the human body betray a lie? In the 1920s, inventors designed a device they said could detect deception by monitoring a subject’s breathing and blood pressure. “The Lie Detector,” an American Experience documentary that premieres Tuesday on PBS, delves into the history of the infamous device. In the century after its invention, the lie detector’s popularity skyrocketed. And despite a checkered legacy, polygraph tests are still regularly used by law enforcement and some employers. The documentary tells a story of honest intentions and sinister consequences. John Larson, one of its inventors, was a medical student and law enforcement officer in search of more humane methods of policing and interrogation. He piggybacked off new scientific and psychological concepts to create the device in 1921. The technologies Larson and his co-inventors used were still in their infancy, and the idea that people produce measurable, consistent physical symptoms when they lie was unproved. It still is. Polygraph protocols have evolved, but the devices’ detractors say they measure only anxiety, not truthfulness. And even as major organizations have raised questions about the scientific validity of the tests and federal laws have prohibited most private employers from requiring them, the idea that dishonesty can be measured through physical testing remains widespread. The documentary suggests that the polygraph tests’ popularity was tied more to publicity than accuracy — and over time, Larson’s vision was turned on its head as polygraphs were used to intimidate, incarcerate and interrogate people. With the help of expert interviews and a kaleidoscope of historical footage and imagery, director Rob Rapley tracks the tale of an invention its own creator compared to Frankenstein’s monster.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 28618 - Posted: 01.04.2023

By Shayla Love On Valentine’s Day in 2016, Anne Lantoine received not flowers, but divorce papers. In the months preceding, she had been preparing for her family’s move from France to Canada—or so she thought. She arrived in Quebec early with one of her three children, who was preparing to start college there, while the other two remained in Europe for school. Her husband stayed behind to manage the sale of their house in Marseille. Then the realtors began to complain, through a barrage of calls and emails, to Lantoine. Her husband was not acting like a man who wanted his house sold. He wasn’t answering phone calls and was never available for showings. In January 2016, Lantoine called him after yet another complaint from a realtor. The next morning, he sent her an email with a notice for a court hearing, and she discovered her husband had actually filed for divorce, without telling her, months earlier. That February, she finally got the paperwork, not from her husband, but from her real estate agent. “It was not my last shock,” Lantoine, now 59, recalls. “I also discovered that my husband’s mistress was living in my home.” These revelations were a huge blow practically: It disrupted the immigration paperwork, and Lantoine and her daughter lost their visa applications. But the searing pain was in the betrayal and deceit. “I became very anxious and had constant nightmares,” she says. “I was tired all the time and had panic attacks each time I opened my mail or my emails, or when I had an unidentified phone call.” Though the details of each case vary, romantic betrayal through infidelity, abandonment, or emotional manipulation can upend one’s life in an instant. For Lantoine, her future plans, and the person they were attached to, were suddenly gone, and her functioning along with them. © 2022 NautilusThink Inc, All rights reserved.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 17: Learning and Memory; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 28612 - Posted: 12.28.2022

By Ingrid Wickelgren  Recurrent intrusive memories lie at the heart of certain mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Clinicians often treat these conditions with “exposure therapy.” They gradually and gently re-expose patients to feared stimuli or simulations—from reminders of active combat to germs on a toilet—teaching the brain to become accustomed to the stimuli and to decouple them from danger. But exposure therapy has drawbacks. “Facing these traumatic memories is painful to patients,” says Yingying Wang, a cognitive psychologist at Zhejiang University in China. “These treatments suffer from a very high dropout rate.” Wang and her colleagues have taken a first step toward developing a more benign way to dim traumatic memories. Their proof-of-concept study involves subliminal exposure to cues to those memories after putting the brain in a state in which it is likely to forget. The new findings present a new spin on a form of active forgetting in which people learn to suppress memories by practicing not thinking about them in the presence of reminders. In various studies, participants have memorized pairs of words such as needle-doctor or jogger-collie and then practiced either thinking or not thinking about the second word when the first word (the reminder) appears. Practicing not thinking about the second word has led to forgetting. The mechanism for this effect centers on the brain’s main memory hub, the hippocampus. Psychologists have discovered that suppressing memory retrieval puts the hippocampus in a degraded functional state. This state lasts for a small window of time—at least 10 seconds but potentially much longer—casting what researchers have dubbed an “amnesic shadow” that leads to poor memory for other things that happen within it. So when people suppress neutral word pairs, they put their brain into a state in which they are likely to forget new experiences. © 2022 Scientific American,

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 28586 - Posted: 12.10.2022

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

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory and Learning; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
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

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 13: Memory and Learning
Link ID: 28564 - Posted: 11.23.2022

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

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 28498 - Posted: 10.01.2022