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Mon, 03 Oct 2022
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Shyness: Evolutionary Tactic?

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A Beautiful woman lowers her eyes demurely beneath a hat. In an earlier era, her gaze might have signaled a mysterious allure. But this is a 2003 advertisement for Zoloft, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (S.S.R.I.) approved by the F.D.A. to treat social anxiety disorder. "Is she just shy? Or is it Social Anxiety Disorder?" reads the caption, suggesting that the young woman is not alluring at all. She is sick.

But is she?

It is possible that the lovely young woman has a life-wrecking form of social anxiety. There are people too afraid of disapproval to venture out for a job interview, a date or even a meal in public. Despite the risk of serious side effects - nausea, loss of sex drive, seizures - drugs like Zoloft can be a godsend for this group.

But the ad's insinuation aside, it's also possible the young woman is "just shy," or introverted - traits our society disfavors. One way we manifest this bias is by encouraging perfectly healthy shy people to see themselves as ill.

People

Effects of stress can be inherited, and here's how

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© Eiriu Eolas
None of us are strangers to stress of various kinds. It turns out the effects of all those stresses can change the fate of future generation, influencing our very DNA without any change to the underlying sequence of As, Gs, Ts and Cs. Now, researchers reporting in the June 24th issue of Cell, a Cell Press publication, have new evidence that helps to explain just how these epigenetic changes really happen.

"There has been a big discussion about whether the stress effect can be transmitted to the next generation without DNA sequence change," said Shunsuke Ishii of RIKEN Tsukuba Institute. "Many people were doubtful about such phenomena because the mechanism was unknown. Our finding has now demonstrated that such phenomena really can occur."

Our genes encode proteins, but whether and how those genetic instructions are ultimately read and expressed depends on how those genes are chemically modified and "packaged" into a more complex structure known as chromatin. Some portions of the genome are more tightly wound into what's known as heterochromatin. Heterochromatin is maintained from one generation to the next and typically doesn't contain active genes, Ishii explains.

Comment: Stress is a global epidemic. But as we can see from this article, its destructive influences affect not only our generation but also the proceeding ones. Practice Éiriú Eolas to cultivate a better future.


People

Stress in the city: Brain activity and biology behind mood disorders or urbanites

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© Unknown
Being born and raised in a major urban area is associated with greater lifetime risk for anxiety and mood disorders. Until now, the biology for these associations had not been described. A new international study, which involved Douglas Mental Health University Institute researcher Jens Pruessner, is the first to show that two distinct brain regions that regulate emotion and stress are affected by city living. These findings, published in Nature may lead to strategies that improve the quality of life for city dwellers.

"Previous findings have shown that the risk for anxiety disorders is 21 percent higher for people from the city, who also have a 39 percent increase for mood disorders," says co-author Jens Pruessner, a Douglas researcher. "In addition, the incidence for schizophrenia is almost doubled for individuals who are born and brought up in cities. These values are a cause for concern and determining the biology behind this is the first step to remedy the trend."

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People

Panic Symptoms Increase Steadily, Not Acutely, After Stressful Event

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Ethan Moitra
“We ... thought the symptoms would get worse right away.”
When stressful life events, such as a layoff, happen to people with panic disorder, the result is often not an immediate and acute attack. Instead, the stress leads to a gradual but steady increase in symptoms for weeks afterward. Patients, family members and therapists should remain vigilant for the long term, researchers say.

Just like everyone else, people with panic disorder have real stress in their lives. They get laid off and they fight with their spouses. How such stresses affect their panic symptoms hasn't been well understood, but a new study by researchers at Brown University presents the counterintuitive finding that certain kinds of stressful life events cause panic symptoms to increase gradually over succeeding months, rather than to spike immediately.

"We definitely expected the symptoms to get worse over time, but we also thought the symptoms would get worse right away," said Ethan Moitra, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

But even if the events don't seem to trigger an immediate panic attack, said Dr. Martin Keller, professor of psychiatry and human behavior and principal investigator of the research, patients, family members, or their psychiatrists need to keep their guard up.

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Heart

The New Science of Morality

Haidt

Jonathan Haidt
We're sure to disagree on many points today, but I think that we here all agree on a number of things. We all agree that, to understand morality, you've got to think about evolution and culture. You've got to know something about chimpanzees and bonobos and babies and psychopaths. You've got to know the differences between them. You've got to study the brain and the mind, and you've got to put it all together.

Link to audio

Link to video

As the first speaker, I'd like to thank the Edge Foundation for bringing us all together, and bringing us all together in this beautiful place. I'm looking forward to having these conversations with all of you.

I was recently at a conference on moral development, and a prominent Kohlbergian moral psychologist stood up and said, "Moral psychology is dying." And I thought, well, maybe in your neighborhood property values are plummeting, but in the rest of the city, we are going through a renaissance. We are in a golden age.

My own neighborhood is the social psychology neighborhood, and it's gotten really, really fun, because all these really great ethnic groups are moving in next door. Within a few blocks, I can find cognitive neuroscientists and primatologists, developmental psychologists, experimental philosophers and economists. We are in a golden age. We are living through the new synthesis in ethics that E.O. Wilson called for in 1975. We are living through an age of consilience.

Magnify

CSI: Wildlife - Solving Mysterious Animal Deaths

Carol Meteyer solves cases of mysterious wildlife death using advanced forensic skills to help prosecute people who kill animals in violation of federal law.

Carol Meteyer unfurled the Sandhill crane's gray wings across the steel examination table, and for a moment, the 4-foot-tall bird regained its former majesty. In that instant, the laboratory's windowless cinderblock walls, cement floor and fluorescent lights disappeared. It was easy to imagine the crane's wings cupping the prairie air as it landed in an Oklahoma field, its long gray neck stretched, its red crown the only bright spot in a dun landscape.

Carol Meteyer
© David Nevala
Carol Meteyer uses her scalpel and microscope to investigate mysterious animal deaths
FedEx had delivered the crane, along with three others, that morning. The day before, it had stood in a farm field in Oklahoma, its head bowed and its wings limp; 10 other cranes were already dead or showing similar symptoms.

Dead animals arrive at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., almost every day, usually by overnight delivery in plastic coolers. State and federal wildlife biologists from all over the country send carcasses to the lab hoping to solve cases of mysterious animal deaths, to confirm their own diagnoses or to provide evidence in legal cases against an animal's killer. Because it does solve animal murder mysteries through scientific investigation, the center has been called wildlife's own CSI unit. It would be just as accurate, though, to call it a wildlife Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also solves deadly mysteries, but the emphasis there, as at the wildlife health center, is on research, outreach and prevention of needless death.

People

The way you relate to your partner can affect your long-term mental and physical health, study shows

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© Unknown
The potentially lasting implications of day-to-day couple conflict on physical and mental well-being are revealed in a study published today in the journal Personal Relationships.

Until now research has concentrated on the immediate effects of romantic conflict, typically in controlled laboratory settings. In one of the first studies to look at the longer term, Professor Angela Hicks investigated the physiological and emotional changes taking place in couples the day after conflict occurred, specifically taking into account the differing styles of emotional attachment between participating partners.

"We are interested in understanding links between romantic relationships and long term emotional and physical well-being", said Professor Hicks. "Our findings provide a powerful demonstration of how daily interpersonal dealings affect mood and physiology across time."

Bulb

Theta waves: Brain state affects memory recall

brain waves
© Unknown
Lost your keys? Your brain might be in a better state to recall where you put them at some times than at others, according to new research from UC Davis.

A paper describing the work is published June 13 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"It's been assumed that the process of retrieving a memory is cued by an external stimulus," said Charan Ranganath, professor at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology. "But we found that the levels of brain activity before items came up were correlated with memory."

Graduate students Richard Addante and Andrew Watrous; Ranganath; Andrew Yonelinas, professor of psychology at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain; and Arne Ekstrom, assistant professor of psychology at the Center for Neuroscience, measured a particular frequency of brainwaves called theta oscillations in the brains of volunteers during a memory test.

Smoking

The Genetics of Smoking: Fundamental Biological Differences Revealed Between Smokers and Non-Smokers

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Smoking signs: Scientists at the University of Iowa have discovered a genetic profile in smokers that determines a person's likelihood of taking up smoking.
University of Iowa researchers believe they have found a genetic pattern among smokers.

Researchers at the University of Iowa have identified certain genetic profiles that may be linked to a person's risk for developing nicotine addiction and other psychological behaviors. Using a genome-wide scan, scientists analyzed blood samples from smokers versus nonsmokers and found similar genetic patterns among smokers that may one day be used as a genetic test to determine who may be more vulnerable to nicotine addiction.

"When you look at substance-abuse disorders and antisocial behavior, these are the last vestiges of the belief that mental impairments are related to moral will," says Tracy Gunter, director of forensic psychiatry at the University of Iowa and a coauthor of the study. "And one of the exciting things in this work is [that] it's beginning to form ideas that folks with these disorders are biologically different."

Comment: Nevermind the anti-smoking fascists' propaganda about "disorders" and "addictions" - the point to take home is that there's an undeniable biological difference.

In the past few years, researchers around the world have zeroed in on various genetic regions believed to be involved in one's vulnerability to addiction. Some have studied genes that control certain neurotransmitters in the brain, while others have looked at genes related to addictive traits like risk taking and impulsivity. Gunter and her colleagues chose to look at the genome as a whole and observe which genes are turned on and which turned off in people with a long history of smoking.

Butterfly

Regrets of the Dying

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

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© Unknown
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five: