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Scientists identify susceptibility factor for bipolar disorder

bipolar
© Unknown
A new study provides fascinating insight into the genetic basis of bipolar disorder, a highly heritable mood disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of mania and depression. The research, published by Cell Press online February 24 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, identifies a previously unrecognized susceptibility factor for bipolar disorder.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) provide a way to systematically sort through all the DNA of many individuals in order to identify genetic variations associated with a particular disease. However, thus far these studies have not been as successful in bipolar disorder as they have been for several other common diseases, such as type II diabetes, Crohn disease, and schizophrenia. Dr. Sven Cichon, from the University of Bonn in Germany, together with his colleagues Dr. Markus M. Nöthen (University of Bonn) and Dr. Marcella Rietschel (Central Institute of Mental Health, Mannheim), led a GWAS and a critical two-step follow-up study of samples from a great number of clinically well-characterized European, American, and Australian individuals with bipolar disorder.

Magic Wand

Mindfulness, Living in the Now, and the Last Hour of Life: A Grudge Match between Humanity and Death - Who Wins?

Image
© Lisa Omarali via Flickr
New Research Shows Being Mindful Can Ease Fears of Death and Dying.

Death can be terrifying. Recognizing that death is inescapable and unpredictable makes us incredibly vulnerable, and can invoke feelings of anxiety, hatred and fear. But new research by George Mason University psychology professor Todd Kashdan shows that being a mindful person not only makes you generally more tolerant and less defensive, but it can also actually neutralize fears of dying and death.

"Mindfulness is being open, receptive, and attentive to whatever is unfolding in the present moment," says Kashdan. In his latest research, Kashdan and his colleagues wanted to find out if mindful people had different attitudes about death and dying.

"Generally, when reminded of our mortality, we are extremely defensive. Like little kids who nearly suffocate under blanket protection to fend off the monster in the closet, the first thing we try to do is purge any death-related thoughts or feelings from our mind," says Kashdan.

Comment: This article mentions the concept of mindful people being willing to explore whatever happens in the present, even if it's uncomfortable or unpleasant. But exploration, if it's to be effective and productive, should be accompanied by actions. In the end, it's not about how we die, but how we choose to live. Specifically, how we choose to spend our last hour of life:

G. I. Gurdjieff: The Last Hour of Life

Imagine, that you have only a few minutes, maybe an hour left to live; somehow you have discovered exactly when you will die. What would you do with this precious hour of your stay on Earth? Would you be able to complete all your things in this last hour, do you have a conscious idea about how to do it?

And letting go your last breath would you feel satisfaction from knowing that you have done everything possible in this life to fulfill that you are constantly present, always vibrating, always waiting, like the son is waiting for the father-sailor? In the manifested world everything has its beginning and its end. In the Real World everything is always present and one beautiful day you will be allowed to forget everything and leave the world "forever".

Freedom is worth a million times more than [political] liberation. The free man, even in slavery, remains a master of himself. For example, if I give you something, let's say, a car, in which there is no fuel, the car cannot move. Your car needs a special fuel, but it is only you who is able to define what kind of fuel is needed and where to get it.

You have to define yourself how to digest my ideas to make them yours, so that they belong only to you. Your car cannot work on the same fuel my car is working on. I suggest to you only the primary material. You have to get from it what you can use. So, more bravely, sit down at the steering wheel.

The organic life is very fragile. The planetary body can die at any moment. It is always one step from death. And if you could manage to live one more day, it is only a chance accidentally given to you by nature. If you will be able to live even one more hour, you can consider yourself to be a lucky person. From the moment of conception we are living on borrowed time.

Living in this world you have to feel death each second, so settle all your life affairs, even in your last hour. But how can anyone know exactly his last hour? For the sense of security make up your things with nature and yourself in every hour given to you, then you will never be met unprepared. The man has to be taught this starting from the [esoteric] school: how to breath, to eat, to move and to die right. This has to become a part of an educational programme. In this programme it is necessary to include the teaching about how to realize the presence of "I" and also how to establish consciousness.

Question: How to act if you do not feel that there is something unfinished?

Gurdjieff answered after a pause. He took a deep breath and replied: Ask yourself who will be in difficulty if you die like a dog. At the moment of death you have to be wholly aware of yourself and feel that you have done everything possible to use all, within your abilities, in this life which was given to you. Now you do not know much about yourself. But with each day you dig deeper and deeper into this bag of bones and start knowing more and more details. Day by day you will be finding out what you should have done and what you have to re-do among the things you have done. A real man is one who could take from life everything that was valuable in it, and say: "And now I can die". We have to try to live your lives so that we could say any day: "Today I can die and not be sorry about anything".

Never spend fruitlessly the last hour of your life because it can become the most important hour for you. If you use it wrongly, you may be sorry about it later. This sincere excitement that you feel now can become for you a powerful source of the force that can prepare you for perfect death.

Knowing that the next hour can become the last one for you, absorb the impressions which it will bring to you as a real gourmet. When lady death will call you, be prepared, always. The master knows how to take from each tasty piece the last bit of the most valuable. Learn to be the master of your life.

When I was young I learned to prepare fragrances. I learned to extract from life it's essence, it's most subtle qualities. Search in everything the most valuable, learn to separate the fine from the coarse. One who has learned how to extract the essence, the most important from each moment of life, has reached a sense on quality.

He is able to do with the world something that can not be done by an aboriginal.

It could be that in the last moments of your life you will not have the choice where and with whom to be, but you will have a choice to decide how fully you will live them. The ability to take the valuable from life - is the same as to take from the food, air and the impressions the substances needed to build up your higher bodies. If you want to take from your life the most valuable for yourself, it has to be for the good of the higher; for yourself it is enough to leave just a little. To work on yourself for the good of others is a smart way to receive the best from life for yourself. If you will not be satisfied with the last hour of your life, you will not be happy about the whole of your life. To die means to come through something which is impossible to repeat again. To spend your precious time in nothing means to deprive yourself the opportunity to extract from life the most valuable.

In this world, to live life through, from the beginning to the end - means another aspect of the Absolute. All greatest philosophers were carefully preparing for the last hour of their life. And now I will give you the exercise to prepare for the last hour on the Earth. Try not to misinterpret any word from the given exercise.

The Exercise

Look back at the hour that has passed, as if it was the last hour for you on the earth and that you have just acknowledged that you have died. Ask yourself, were you satisfied at that hour?

And now reanimate yourself again and set up the aim for yourself. In the next hour (if you are lucky to live one more) try to extract from life a little more than you did in the last hour. Define, where and when you should have been more aware, and where you should have put more inner fire.

And now open your eyes wider, and by this I mean - open more possibilities for yourself, be a little more brave, than you were in the previous hour.

Since you know that this is your last hour and you have nothing to loose, try to gain some bravery - at least now. Of course, you don't have to be silly about it.

Get to know yourself better, look at your machine as if from the outside. Now, when you are dying, there is no sense to keep your reputation and your prestige.

And now onwards, until the real last hour, aspire with persistence to receive the most you can from life that is of value, develop your intuition. Take just a few moments each hour to watch at the hour that passed, without judgment, and then tune yourself to extracting more from the following hour.

If we look at each hour like at a separate life unit, you can try to do as much as you can to use every unit totally. Force yourself and find the way to make the next hour much more than the one before, but also be aware that you have taken care of the debts you collected till now. Increase the self-sensing and self-knowledge of yourself, and also increase the ability to master yourself, this will change the work of your machine, which is always out of your control. And these abilities can become the indication of the real changes. And it is absolutely unimportant what the machine is thinking about this.

...To live the rest of your life rehearsing your death hour by hour - is not at all pathological. None can receive more from life than the cancer patient, who knows approximately when he will die. And since he already recognized how he wishes to spend the rest of his life, he will not have to make the total change in it, but he will be able to go somewhere, where he always wished to go, but would not do it in other circumstances.

The man who knows that he will die soon, will try to use to the maximum every hour of the rest of his life. This is exactly what Christ meant when he said that the last days will come soon - the days before the Last Judgment. We are all standing in front of the Judge, but it is not the others who are judging us, but we ourselves do the last estimation of our life. We do not have to fail the most important examination, where the most serious judge is ourself.

Each moment, taken alone, represents the particle of the eternal Creation. Therefore each moment we can extract the most subtle substances, that we can call "the essence of life".

Imagine yourself the substance "air" or the substance "impressions". Finally, draw in your mind the substance "moment". Yes, even the moments of time are the substances.

If we will be able to extract the finest substances from the coarser, sooner or later we will have to pay for it. This law is called The Law of Balance. That is why we will learn how to pay immediately for those that we receive from life. Only then we will not have any debts. To pay immediately - this is what is called "real doing". "To do" - is to think, to feel, to act, but "real doing" - is to pay immediately.

To do - may mean only one thing: to extract the essence from each moment of life and at the same moment to pay all the debts to the nature and yourself; but only when you have "I", can you pay immediately.

Real life is not a change of activity, but a change of the quality of the activity. Destiny - is destiny. Each one of us has to find himself in the whole order of things. It is not too late yet to start doing it now, although you have spent the greater part of your life in sleep. Starting from today you can begin to prepare yourself for death and, at the same time, to increase the quality of your living. But do not delay with the start - maybe you really only have just one more hour of life.

Question: Can we share this with others? I think it is very important what we have heard about this evening.

- You can retell it word by word, but until you will [can?] do this [exercise] yourself, it would mean nothing for others. Existence is the means, or the instrument, for action. Think about this and you will find out why it is so.

Question: Therefore, we cannot pay the debts, if we do not exist, or if our "I" is absent?

- Why do you have such a need to pay? Pay for what? If life is only a coincidence, then there is no sense to go on. This does not mean that you have to end your life with a suicide. Opposite, you have to put all your effort into 'to live'. Ordinary man always lives, just going with the flow. He is not just sleeping, he is absolutely dead. To really live, it is necessary to support the efforts of nature, to take actively from life, and not to act passively - wherever it flows.

Extracting from life the most precious, you have to be able to operate your emotions. See how fairly you can estimate yourself. Look attentively at yourself and you will see many remarkable ways to be fair. Each time notice for yourself different moments when the desires appear. Act as before, but always be aware of their presence. Transport to the world the part of your blood, but one of the higher level.

At the end of each hour after you have estimated its usefulness, imagine that you just woke up in the absolutely unknown in comparison to the previous one gone by. It is important to note that the apparent continuation of the last hour is in reality changing with every hour, although things and people seem the same as before. With the time you will learn to see yourself as a spirit of a special substance, who is coming from one world to another, as an uninvited guest of nature.

Looking from this point of view evaluate everything you do in your life. Looking at the results of all your efforts of the past and think what sense they all have now, in the last hour of your life. Those who are engaged in the Work, are dead to this world and at the same time they are more alive in this world than anyone else. Work... something strange, imperceptible, but for many it is impossible to live without it.

The ordinary way of understanding life is vanity of vanities. However big the result is according to earthly measures, sooner or later it will fail. Even the sand is being rubbed into dust by time. Even the most significant people of history are being forgotten. To understand the real possibilities of this world, it is necessary to find what we can reach in this world that will be very useful in the Real World.

Attentively look at the lives of all the greatest people, those who were commanding armies, who had power over others. What is the benefit for them from all their great actions now, when they are dead? Even when they were alive, all these great actions were no more than empty dreams. We are not here to praise ourselves and to prove ourselves, the most disgusting in the ordinary man is the ability to quickly satisfy his flesh.

The majority of people find many excuses not to work on themselves. They are in a complete prison of their weaknesses. But right now we do not speak about them, but about you.

Understand me right, I do not need followers, I am rather interested in finding the good organizers, the real warriors of the new world. I understand the weakness of the organization, because right now we do not speak about the usual organisation which would consist of initiates.

I remind you once again, learn to live each of your hours with a bigger benefit. Create a detailed plan of the last hour of your life. To understand how one should die, you should grow deep roots into life, only then you will be able to die like a human being, not like a dog. Although, it is not given to everyone - to die. You can become manure for our planet, but it does not really mean do die. To die to this world forever - is an honour. For this honour you have to pay with Conscious Labour and Intentional Suffering. You have to earn this right.

Try to imagine yourself relatively clearly the last hour of your life on earth. Write a kind of a script of this last hour, as if you were writing the script for a film. Ask yourself: "Is this how I want to dispose my life" . If you are not satisfied with the answer, rewrite the script until you like it.

Look at life like at business. Time is your money for life. When you came into this world, a definite amount of money was given to you and this you cannot exceed. Time is the only currency with which you pay for your life. Now you see, how you used the biggest part of it in a stupid way. You have not even reached the main goal of life - to have rest. You failed as a businessman, and as a user of life - you deceived yourself. All your life you thought that everything is given to you for free, and now suddenly you discovered that - it is not free. You pay for using the time, that is why each moment of your stay here costs something.

So how would it be possible for you to reimburse [recover] at least somehow these losses? Check, if the deficit on your bank account is only temporary or is it perhaps constant? Did you loose the time or could you invest it successfully? If you have spent all your money on vacations, then there is nothing to do but to be sorry about the past.

For many years you have been spending you life as if your parents gave you a bank account with unlimited credit. But now the amount is used and you see that you are all alone and that there is none to rely on. There is no more time on your bank account. Now you are forced to earn each hour of your life. All your life you behaved like a child and spent time just like a newly married couple on their honeymoon.

Our main enemy, which is hindering us from applying the necessary efforts - is hopelessness. I know, you will have many excuses not to prepare yourself for the last hour of your life. The habit is a big force, but starting once, you can learn to do each time more and more.

Do not fiddle all day, force yourself at least one hour a day to make an effort, otherwise you will loose everything. Think about the rehearsal of your last hour as if it was ballet exercises - you have to do it all your life.

I dedicate four hours a day for this exercise, but when I was young, I spent on it two times longer.


Chess

How cunning women can cope better than men when faced with threats

Image
© Alamy
Women may be more cunning than men, helping them cope better with an aggressive situation

When the going gets tough, it seems women get tougher.

The fairer sex are more cunning and competitive than men when faced with a threatening situation, research shows.

Previous studies have suggested that men are more physically and verbally aggressive than women.

But it could be the case that women are instead using a different strategy to come out ahead.

Experts say they tend to rely more on subtle forms of aggression, such as socially excluding someone from a group if they are seen as a threat.

Black Cat

Depersonalization Disorder - a Hidden Mental Health Epidemic

mood disorder graphic
© n/a
Did you ever feel unreal and disconnected from your emotions and other people? These are symptoms of a rarely discussed psychiatric condition called Depersonalization Disorder (DPD) - the third most common mental health condition, after depression and anxiety.

According to Jeffrey Abugel, medical journalist, DPD survivor, and patient advocate, up to 70 percent of college students have had symptoms at one time or another (recreational drug use is a common trigger). And many creative people, such as Poe, Sartre, and Deuce Bigelow director Harris Goldberg, have suffered from DPD. For some people, DPD comes and goes. For others it just stays - with troubling consequences for their health, happiness, and success in life.

Abugel explains that human neurology is designed with a protective mechanism that enables us to "leave our bodies" during moments of extreme trauma, such as a car crash or a brutal rape. Our emotions deaden, time stands still, and we feel as if we're in a dream. "DPD sufferers, however, don't just 'snap out of it' after the initial trigger," he says. Instead, they continue to feel as if they are outside of their body and alienated from life.

Evil Rays

Listening to music is biological

music
© Unknown
Music is listened in all known cultures. Similarities between human and animal song have been detected: both contain a message, an intention that reflects innate emotional state that is interpreted correctly even among different species. In fact, several behavioral features in listening to music are closely related to attachment: lullabies are song to infants to increase their attachment to a parent, and singing or playing music together is based on teamwork and may add group cohesion.

In the study of University of Helsinki and Sibelius-Academy, Helsinki, the biological basis of music listening was examined. Data consisted of 31 Finnish families with 437 family members. The participants of the study were 8 - 93 years old from professional or amateur musicians to participants with no music education. To dissect listening habits further, active and passive listening of music were separately defined and surveyed using questionnaire. Active listening was defined as attentive listening of music, including attending concerts. Passive listening was defined as hearing or listening to music as background music. All participants were tested for musical aptitude using three music tests and a blood sample was taken for DNA analysis.

Eye 1

Book Review: Unnatural: The Heretical Idea of Making People By Philip Ball

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© unknown
Around 30,000 years ago, while the sun was setting on the last Neanderthals in Spain, people in what is now Germany carved figurines from mammoth tusks. The known examples include a bird, sufficiently naturalistic as to suggest a cormorant, and a couple of figures that seem to combine human bodies with lions' heads. Deep in the prehistory of art, even as people taught themselves to represent natural creatures, they channelled their creativity into images of unnatural beings. We can only speculate on what these images meant, but we can hardly doubt that they meant a great deal.

The theme reappears in classical times: Daedalus the inventor designs the labyrinth that imprisons the Minotaur, product of an unnatural union between a bull and a woman that Daedalus helped engineer by luring the bull with an artificial cow. He makes wings of feathers and wax, which melts when his son Icarus flies too close to the sun, showing that trying to outsmart nature is a dangerous game. In the 1920s, the muscularly ironic scientist JBS Haldane took Daedalus as the title for an essay foreseeing a future in which only a minority of babies would be "born of woman"; most would be conceived and gestated in vitro.

He remarked that biological inventions were almost invariably regarded as perversions, "indecent and unnatural". This was indeed how in vitro fertilisation was greeted, as Philip Ball discusses at length in the second half of Unnatural, having set the scene by exploring the myths and fantasies that still shape contemporary debates about reproductive technologies.

Haldane, a biologist with a classics degree and an abiding interest in mythology, might have emitted a harrumph of approval for the breadth of Ball's classical reference, which extends to the neologism "anthropoeia": "making people". Labelling Ball a science writer sells his writing short, for its value lies above all in a range that dissolves the awkward silences between science and the larger culture of which it is part. JBS might also have acknowledged a productivity that echoes his own copious output. Although Unnatural reveals no hint of haste, it's only a year since the publication of Ball's previous and equally substantial book, The Music Instinct.

Cookie

Planning and visualization lead to better food habits

meat
© Unknown
Study by McGill psychology researcher suggests simple ways of improving the way we eat.

If you want to improve the way you eat, the best way to do so is to both make an action plan and visualize yourself carrying it out, according to McGill researchers.

"Telling people to just change the way they eat doesn't work; we've known that for a while," says Bärbel Knäuper of McGill's Department of Psychology."But research has shown that if people make a concrete plan about what they are going to do, they are better at acting on their intentions. What we've done that's new is to add visualization techniques to the action plan."

In a study recently published in Psychology and Health, Knäuper and her students asked 177 students at McGill's New Residence Hall to set themselves the goal of consuming more fruit for a period of seven days. All the students in the study ended up consuming more fruit over the course of the week than they had before hand. But those who made a concrete plan, wrote it down and also visualized how they were going to carry out the action (i.e. when, where and how they would buy, prepare and eat fruit) increased their fruit consumption twice as much as those who simply set out to eat more fruit without visualizing and planning how they were going to do it.

Eye 1

Staring Contests Are Automatic: People Lock Eyes to Establish Dominance

eye
© Unknown
Imagine that you're in a bar and you accidentally knock over your neighbor's beer. He turns around and stares at you, looking for confrontation. Do you buy him a new drink, or do you try to outstare him to make him back off? New research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that the dominance behavior exhibited by staring someone down can be reflexive.

Our primate relatives certainly get into dominance battles; they mostly resolve the dominance hierarchy not through fighting, but through staring contests. And humans are like that, too. David Terburg, Nicole Hooiveld, Henk Aarts, J. Leon Kenemans, and Jack van Honk of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands wanted to examine something that's been assumed in a lot of research: that staring for dominance is automatic for humans.

Arrow Down

The Midlife Crisis Is a Total Myth

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© unknown
He - the person is usually depicted as a "he" - turns off the alarm, stares into a bowl of soggy cereal, puts on a tired-looking suit and goes to the office for more of the same drab routine. And so it continues until one day, usually the day he realizes he is mortal (or starting to lose his hair), he goes berserk: He bangs his secretary, quits his job and buys a red convertible.

And we all nod, acknowledging the inevitable midlife crisis. One made Monica Lewinsky famous, another won an Academy Award for "American Beauty," and the concept is as embedded in our culture as the belief in the power of positive thinking.

But the idea that midlife crises are common is a myth, experts say.

"It makes for good novels or good movies, but it is not really accurate," said psychologist Margie Lachman of Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

"There is no specific time in life that predisposes you to crisis," said Alexandra Freund, a life-span researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

"There can be times when things crystallize as very problematic, a very deep disturbance in your life," Freund told LiveScience. "People experience these types of crises, but they are not at all related to age."

Instead, Lachman said, crises are usually spurred by some event that can happen at most any age, such as a career setback, the death of a friend or relative, or an illness.

Epidemiologists have found no spike in negative events - such as career disillusionment - in middle age, Freund explained.

So if the revitalized libido and sudden hankerings for sports cars are purely the stuff of Hollywood, then what does happen to a person during these years?

Chalkboard

Language May Play Important Role in Learning the Meanings of Numbers

Image
© Jupiterimages Corporation
Nicaraguan homesigners surrounded by hearing individuals who deal with large numbers all of the time do not have a complete understanding of numbers greater than three. Researchers conclude this is because they are not being taught numbers or number words. Here, American sign language for "three," "seven" and "eight" are shown.
View videos (video1, video2) showing examples of deaf Nicaraguans communicating with self-developed gestures called "homesigns."

New research conducted with deaf people in Nicaragua shows that language may play an important role in learning the meanings of numbers.

Field studies by University of Chicago psychologist Susan Goldin-Meadow and a team of researchers found deaf people in Nicaragua, who had not learned formal sign language, do not have a complete understanding of numbers greater than three.

Researchers surmised the lack of large number comprehension was because the deaf Nicaraguans were not being taught numbers or number words. Instead they learned to communicate using self-developed gestures called "homesigns," a language developed in the absence of formal education and exposure to formal sign language.

"The research doesn't determine which aspects of language are doing the work, but it does suggest that language is an important player in number acquisition," said Betty Tuller, a program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, which funded the research.