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Sun, 11 Dec 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Cognitive behavioral therapy the best treatment for social anxiety disorder

Large study reveals cognitive behavioral treatment most effective for social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder is most commonly treated with antidepressants, but these are not the most effective treatment.

A new study finds that cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is more effective and the benefits continue after the initial treatment has finished.

The study, which is published in The Lancet Psychiatry, analysed 101 separate clinical trials, which examined different types of medications and talking therapies for social anxiety disorder (Mayo-Wilson et al., 2014).

The disorder is thought to affect around 1 in 8 people, and is more than just being shy.

Comment: Meditation is another way to help with anxiety, and the Éiriú Eolas technique is particularly helpful as it stimulates the vagus nerve which naturally produces the stress reducing hormone Oxytocin in the brain. This technique increases social connection and emotional intelligence, makes you more compassionate and makes you feel less lonely.


Perfectionism and high self-criticism increase suicide risk

This hidden cause of suicide might surprise you.
Perfectionism is a bigger risk factor in suicide than is often thought, according to new research.

Perfectionism involves being highly self-critical, constantly striving to meet the standards of others (typically parents or mentors) and being unsure about the efficacy of one's own actions.

While a certain amount of perfectionism is adaptive and necessary, when it becomes an obsession, it can lead to a vicious cycle.

People in professions which have a strong emphasis on perfectionism - like lawyers, architects and physicians - are at a higher risk of suicide.

Comment: For more background on perfectionism, listen to the interview with Dr. Aleta Edwards on SOTT Talk Radio. Dr. Edwards is the author of the best-selling e-book Fear of the Abyss: Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism.


Who goes Nazi? Reflections on the Nazi-personalities around us


Dorothy Thompson
This article was first published in August 1941

Part I

It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one's acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times - in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis.

It is preposterous to think that they are divided by any racial characteristics. Germans may be more susceptible to Nazism than most people, but I doubt it. Jews are barred out, but it is an arbitrary ruling. I know lots of Jews who are born Nazis and many others who would heil Hitler tomorrow morning if given a chance. There are Jews who have repudiated their own ancestors in order to become "Honorary Aryans and Nazis"; there are full-blooded Jews who have enthusiastically entered Hitler's secret service. Nazism has nothing to do with race and nationality. It appeals to a certain type of mind.

It is also, to an immense extent, the disease of a generation - the generation which was either young or unborn at the end of the last war. This is as true of Englishmen, Frenchmen, and Americans as of Germans. It is the disease of the so-called "lost generation."

Sometimes I think there are direct biological factors at work - a type of education, feeding, and physical training which has produced a new kind of human being with an imbalance in his nature. He has been fed vitamins and filled with energies that are beyond the capacity of his intellect to discipline. He has been treated to forms of education which have released him from inhibitions. His body is vigorous. His mind is childish. His soul has been almost completely neglected.

Comment: People don't really go to such parties anymore, but they can certainly play 'who Goes Nazi' on Facebook and other social media. See if you can tell from people's comments what it is inside them that informs their comments - either in support of, or in protest against - today's Authorities.

Consider also this important article concerning a fundamental difference between people: that their moral compass may be derived from within, or required from without:

Moral Endo-skeletons and Exo-skeletons: A Perspective on America's Cultural Divide and Current Crisis


Multi-tasking shrinks the brain and is linked with shortened attention span, depression, anxiety

People who text and surf the internet while watching TV have less grey matter in their brains compared to people who use only one media device at a time, or only use devices occasionally
Multi-tasking shrinks the brain, research suggests.

A study found that men and women who frequently used several types of technology at the same time had less grey matter in a key part of the brain.

Comment: Multi-tasking also causes people to make more mistakes, as well as lose focus on mental tasks. Researchers have found that it can take 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages.

Our big brain still prefers to do one thing at a time
Why You Can't Do 3 Things at Once: Study Shows Multi-Tasking Lets You Use Only Half Your Brain

Magic Wand

Dreaming can lead to amazing creative breakthroughs

© Jade Amazon Art & Design
Sometimes people spontaneously generate creative solutions to difficult problems through non-traditional methods, such as through epiphanies, intuitions or dreams. Psychologists use the term Eureka! Effect to describe the process in problem solving when a previously unsolvable puzzle becomes suddenly clear and obvious.

While these types of Aha! moments do happen during conscious waking states, the ones that occur in dreams are particularly fascinating. While we sleep, we become connected to the unconscious creative aspects of ourselves. The dream state is an important, vital time where expressions of the self can come through without judgment and flow with clarity and honesty. By gaining access to the unconscious mind, we can begin to pull heavily from intuition and our deeper self-knowledge that might be concealed or suppressed during our day-to-day life.

Alarm Clock

Your brain learns, processes complex information while you sleep

© Healthydebates.com
The idea that during sleep our minds shut down from the outside world is ancient and one that is still deeply anchored in our view of sleep today, despite some everyday life experiences and recent scientific discoveries that would tend to prove that our brains don't completely switch off from our environment.

On the contrary, our brains can keep the gate slightly open. For example, we wake up more easily when we hear our own name or a particularly salient sound such as an alarm clock or a fire alarm compared to equally loud but less relevant sounds.

In research published in Current Biology, we went one step further to show that complex stimuli can not only be processed while we sleep but that this information can be used to make decisions, similarly as when we're awake.

Our approach was simple: We built on knowledge about how the brain quickly automates complex chores. Driving a car, for example, requires integrating a lot of information at the same time, making rapid decisions and putting them into action through complex motor sequences. And you can drive all the way home without remembering anything, as we do when we say we're on "automatic pilot."

When we're asleep, the brain regions critical for paying attention to or implementing instructions are deactivated, of course, which makes it impossible to start performing a task. But we wanted to see whether any processes continued in the brain after sleep onset if participants in an experiment were given an automatized task just before.

Comment: For tips on how to improve your sleep, read Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S. Wiley.

The mind and the gut connect via the vagus nerve. The Eiriu-Eolas breathing and mediation program activates the vagus nerve and has been shown to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of calmness. You can try the program for free here.

See also:
The Neurobiology of grace under pressure: 7 habits that stimulate your vagus nerve and keep you calm, cool, and collected

Face life with Éiriú Eolas, a stress relief program


Reading actual books is good for your comprehension and reduces stress

© John Keeble/Getty Images
It's no secret that reading is good for you. Just six minutes of reading is enough to reduce stress by 68%, and numerous studies have shown that reading keeps your brain functioning effectively as you age. One study even found that elderly individuals who read regularly are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's than their peers. But not all forms of reading are created equal.

The debate between paper books and e-readers has been vicious since the first Kindle came out in 2007. Most arguments have been about the sentimental versus the practical, between people who prefer how paper pages feel in their hands and people who argue for the practicality of e-readers. But now science has weighed in, and the studies are on the side of paper books.

Reading in print helps with comprehension.

A 2014 study found that readers of a short mystery story on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering the order of events than those who read the same story in paperback. Lead researcher Anne Mangen of Norway's Stavanger University concluded that "the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does."

Our brains were not designed for reading, but have adapted and created new circuits to understand letters and texts. The brain reads by constructing a mental representation of the text based on the placement of the page in the book and the word on the page.

The tactile experience of a book aids this process, from the thickness of the pages in your hands as you progress through the story to the placement of a word on the page. Mangen hypothesizes that the difference for Kindle readers "might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you're reading."

While e-readers try to recreate the sensation of turning pages and pagination, the screen is limited to one ephemeral virtual page. Surveys about the use of e-readers suggest that this affects a reader's serendipity and sense of control. The inability to flip back to previous pages or control the text physically, either through making written notes or bending pages, limits one's sensory experience and thus reduces long-term memory of the text.

Comment: "My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind . . . and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." Tyrion tapped the leather cover of the book. "That's why I read so much, Jon Snow."


Internet trolls are narcissists, psychopaths, and sadists

In this month's issue of Personality and Individual Differences, a study was published that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are horrible people.

Let's start by getting our definitions straight. An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

What kind of person would do this?

Canadian researchers decided to find out. They conducted two internet studies with over 1,200 people. They gave personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality.

[Edit to add: these are technical terms with formalized surveys to measure them. You can find lots more information about their formal definitions online]

They found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favorite internet activity. To get an idea of how much more prevalent these traits were among internet trolls, check out this figure from the paper:

© Psychologytoday.com
Look at how low the scores are for everyone except the internet trolls! Their scores for all four terrible personality traits soar on the chart. The relationship between this Dark Tetrad and trolling is so significant, that the authors write the following in their paper:

Comment: Ever wonder why some debates never end, or end up with character assassination?

The mistake of someone who is not pathological is to fully engage with these pathological people online.

Eye 1

Study pinpoints part of the brain responsible for slow wave sleep

© Thinkstock
Findings may lead to new therapies for sleep disorders, including insomnia.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Medicine and the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have discovered a region of the brain responsible for causing people to fall into a deep sleep.

This slumber-promoting circuit, which is located deep in the primitive brainstem, is only the second such "sleep node" ever discovered in the brains of mammals, the study authors said. In research published online last month in Nature Neuroscience, they explain how this region is not only capable of but also necessary for producing what is known as slow wave sleep (SWS) in humans.

By using genetically targeted activation and optogenetically based mapping to examine the brain's circuitry, the researchers found that half of all sleep-promoting activity originates from a region of the brainstem known as the parafacial zone (PZ). The brainstem is a primordial part of the brain and is responsible for regulating the basic functions necessary for survival, including breathing, body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.

"The close association of a sleep center with other regions that are critical for life highlights the evolutionary importance of sleep in the brain," said Caroline E. Bass, assistant professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a co-author on the recently-published paper.

Mr. Potato

New study finds dreams increase in bizarreness as we fall deeper into sleep

© Shutterstock
Many a time we've woken up without remembering our dreams from the night before. However, we may recall small slivers of them, or perhaps their general aura. They're usually pretty weird; we'll wake up after visiting a bizarre city splashed in pastel colors, giant giraffes, and winding staircases. Or maybe that's just me.

But according to a small new study, it's very likely that our dreams get weirder as the night goes on: right after we go to sleep, we dream of things somewhat based on reality. But once hours have gone by, our dreams tend to get stranger, the authors of the study surmise, "like a wild animal tearing up your back garden." The study was published in the journal Dreaming.

"We found that dreams were increasing in bizarreness from the early to late night," Dr. Jose Malinowski, a lecturer in cognitive psychology at the University of Bedfordshire in the UK, told Time. These later dreams are also more emotionally charged.

For the study, the researchers examined 16 participants while they slept for two nights. They woke them up at various times of the night to ask them what they were dreaming about. Each participant was awoken about four times every night. In the morning, as soon as they woke up, they also reported what they had been dreaming about.

But whether or not dreams are rooted in reality, or if they're pretty far-fetched and bizarre, Malinowski believes that dreams are a "safe haven" for problem-solving and figuring out personal issues. They're a way for us to gain insight into our emotions that might normally be repressed, and are often a way for us to approach a problem we might not normally see in our waking hours. She also recommends dream therapy as a different avenue for people to examine their psyche.

"People really enjoy [dream therapy]," Malinowski said. "Dreams are like a safe space. People feel like they haven't generated them because they're often so bizarre. [But] they're a safe way to explore the self."

Source: Malinowski J, Harton C. The Effect of Time of Night on Wake-Dream Continuity. Dreaming. 2014.