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Sat, 19 Jan 2019
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Panic Symptoms Increase Steadily, Not Acutely, After Stressful Event


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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The New Science of Morality


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.


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.


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

© 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."


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.


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


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.


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.

© 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:


England 21 Jun 2011 Druids Celebrate Summer Solstice for First Time as Mainstream Faith

© Unknown
When robed Druids gather at Stonehenge for the summer solstice in 2011, they will be worshipping at the prehistoric stone-circle monument for the first time as members of an established religion under British charity law. The classification means members of the ancient pagan tradition, which some see as a curiosity of Britain's ancient past, have mainstream status equal to the Church of England. The change of status, which is controversial, gives them tax advantages.


Extraverts More Likely to Believe in Free Will

© Thinkstock
A new study finds deep thinkers who are warm and extraverted are more likely to believe that free will remains a viable concept, even if research suggests our behavior is largely determined by unconscious impulses.
Philosophers' views on freedom and moral responsibility are influenced by inherited personality traits. If they can't be objective, can anyone?

Philosophers are trained to think things through logically, and reach conclusions based solely on reason. But as science provides increasing evidence for the interconnectivity of mind, body and emotions, is that sort of intellectual objectivity truly possible?

A newly published study suggests the answer is no - at least when it comes to addressing one fundamental issue. It finds deep thinkers with a specific type of personality - warm and extraverted - are more likely to believe that free will remains a viable concept, even in the light of research suggesting our behavior is largely determined by unconscious impulses.


Childhood trauma linked to higher rates of mental health problems

New research has shown that children's risk for learning and behavior problems and obesity rises in correlation to their level of trauma exposure, says the psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital who oversaw the study. The findings could encourage physicians to consider diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder rather than attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which has similar symptoms to PTSD but very different treatment.

The study examined children living in a violent, low-income neighborhood and documented an unexpectedly strong link between abuse, trauma and neglect and the children's mental and physical health: It reported, for instance, that children experiencing four types of trauma were 30 times more likely to have behavior and learning problems than those not exposed to trauma.

"In communities where there is violence, where children are exposed to events such as shootings in their neighborhoods, kids experience a constant environmental threat," said senior author Victor Carrion, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford. "Contrary to some people's belief, these children don't get used to trauma. These events remain stressful and impact children's physiology."