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Tue, 02 Mar 2021
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Season of Birth May Have Long-Term Effects on Personality

The season in which babies are born can have a dramatic and persistent effect on how their biological clocks function.

© iStockphoto/Sean O'Riordan
Crying newborn being held by doctor.
That is the conclusion of a new study published online on Dec. 5 by the journal Nature Neuroscience. The experiment provides the first evidence for seasonal imprinting of biological clocks in mammals and was conducted by Professor of Biological Sciences Douglas McMahon, graduate student Chris Ciarleglio, post-doctoral fellow Karen Gamble and two undergraduate students at Vanderbilt University.

The imprinting effect, which was found in baby mice, may help explain the fact that people born in winter months have a higher risk of a number of neurological disorders including seasonal affective disorder (winter depression), bipolar depression and schizophrenia.

"Our biological clocks measure the day length and change our behavior according to the seasons. We were curious to see if light signals could shape the development of the biological clock," said McMahon.

In the experiment, groups of mouse pups were raised from birth to weaning in artificial winter or summer light cycles. After they were weaned, they were maintained in either the same cycle or the opposite cycle for 28 days. Once they were mature, the mice were placed in constant darkness and their activity patterns were observed.


"Tell me about your mother": oxytocin evokes maternal memories

© Wikimedia Commons
Oxytocin, aka the "hormone of love" or "cuddle chemical," is a mammalian hormone that is released during labor and breastfeeding; in these contexts it induces uterine contractions and milk letdown. But it is perhaps better known for its alleged role in attachment bond formation.

The attachment bond between a mother and infant is essential to species survival; without it, a mother might not be disposed to care for her dependent newborn and said newborn would probably not live long enough to reproduce. The attachment bond can also color all future relationships the infant will go on to develop in life.

Red Flag

Female Soldiers Face Sharp Suicide Risk

© digitaljournal.com
Young female veterans are nearly three times as likely as civilians to commit suicide, finds the first general population study of suicide risk among women who've served in the military.

Among military women, those ages 18 to 34 had the highest risk of suicide, followed by the next oldest age group, 35 to 44, and the lowest suicide rate found among female veterans ages 45 to 64, the researchers said.

"Women veterans are more likely to complete suicide than nonveteran women," said Dr. Bentson McFarland, a professor of psychiatry in the Oregon Health and Science University's School of Medicine.


How to help (yourself)

helping hand
Giving to others just might help people in the treatment of their own aches and anxieties

A German researcher recently identified a gene that appears to promote generosity.

It's not biologically possible to be extremely anxious and extremely giving at the same time, says Dacher Keltner, a professor at University of California-Berkeley.

American scientists are finding that being big-hearted may trigger the brain's pleasure centers.

And Jeff Bell and Jared Douglas Kant are convinced that helping others cope with obsessive-compulsive behaviors made the difference in their own treatment for the disorder.


Narcissism No Longer a Psychiatric Disorder

© Scott Menchin

Narcissists, much to the surprise of many experts, are in the process of becoming an endangered species.

Not that they face imminent extinction - it's a fate much worse than that. They will still be around, but they will be ignored.

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (due out in 2013, and known as DSM-5) has eliminated five of the 10 personality disorders that are listed in the current edition.

Comment: When you read the proposed changes to the DSM, narcissism is not simply removed, it's incorporated into a category referred to as antisocial/psychopathic. ALL the narcissism features are listed in there. It's actually a good thing as NPD is being upgraded into the psychopathic category. Although it's not listed NPD's SYMPTOMS are now part of the whole ASPD/psychopathic category which is where it belongs. This guy who wrote the article didn't do his homework!

For more information on narcissism see: Hurting you isn't something narcissists do by accident. Since it seems probable that narcissists are really just high functioning psychopaths, we have to wonder why this is being done. Maybe we're getting too close in being able to identify them.
Intraspecies Predator: How A Psychopath Sees The World


Inside the bullied brain: The alarming neuroscience of taunting

In the wake of several tragedies that have made bullying a high-profile issue, it's becoming clear that harassment by one's peers is something more than just a rite of passage. Bullied kids are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They struggle in school - when they decide to show up at all. They are more likely to carry weapons, get in fights, and use drugs.

But when it comes to the actual harm bullying does, the picture grows murkier. The psychological torment that victims feel is real. But perhaps because many of us have experienced this sort of schoolyard cruelty and lived to tell the tale, peer harassment is still commonly written off as a "soft" form of abuse - one that leaves no obvious injuries and that most victims simply get over. It's easy to imagine that, painful as bullying can be, all it hurts is our feelings.

A new wave of research into bullying's effects, however, is now suggesting something more than that - that in fact, bullying can leave an indelible imprint on a teen's brain at a time when it is still growing and developing. Being ostracized by one's peers, it seems, can throw adolescent hormones even further out of whack, lead to reduced connectivity in the brain, and even sabotage the growth of new neurons.

These neurological scars, it turns out, closely resemble those borne by children who are physically and sexually abused in early childhood. Neuroscientists now know that the human brain continues to grow and change long after the first few years of life. By revealing the internal physiological damage that bullying can do, researchers are recasting it not as merely an unfortunate rite of passage but as a serious form of childhood trauma.


Evolutionary Psychology: Why Daughters Don't Call Their Dads During Periods of Peak Fertility

Previous research has shown that when women are in their most fertile phase they become more attracted to certain qualities such as manly faces, masculine voices and competitive abilities. A new study by University of Miami (UM) Psychologist Debra Lieberman and her collaborators offers new insight into female sexuality by showing that women also avoid certain traits when they are fertile.

The new study shows that women avoid their fathers during periods of peak fertility.
The findings are included in a study entitled "Kin Affiliation Across the Ovulatory Cycle: Females Avoid Fathers When Fertile," available online in December in the journal Psychological Science, a prominent peer-reviewed scholarly journal.

Women stay away from male relatives when they are most fertile for evolutionary reasons, explains Lieberman assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at UM and the study's lead author. "Evolutionary biologists have found that females in other species avoid social interactions with male kin during periods of high fertility," said Lieberman. "The behavior has long been explained as a means of avoiding inbreeding and the negative consequences associated with it. But until we conducted our study, nobody knew whether a similar pattern occurred in women."

Bad Guys

Documentary: Psychopath

There are many psychopaths in society, that actually, we virtually know nothing about. These are the psychopaths who don't necessarily commit homicide, commit serious violence, or even come to the attention of the police. They may be successful businessmen. They may be successful politicians. They may be successful academics. They may be successful priests. They exist in all areas of society. There is a growing awareness that psychopathic behavior is around us in all walks of life.

According to popular wisdom, psychopaths are crazed and bloodthirsty serial killers. The reality is not so simple. While many psychopaths do commit violent crimes, not all psychopaths are criminals and not all criminals are psychopathic. Psychopaths are found in many walks of life and are often successful in competitive professions. However they are also ruthless, manipulative and destructive. Equinox reports on techniques developed by psychologists to work out whether a person is psychopathic and shows how brain scientists are coming close to mapping the malfunctions in the brain that cause a person to be a psychopath. In Britain one person in 200 is likely to be a psychopath. However psychopaths are thought to be responsible for half of all reported crimes and to make up between 15% and 20% of the prison population.

Better Earth

A Radical Experiment in Empathy: Step Outside of Your Tiny Little World

Sam Richards is a sociologist and award-winning teacher who has been inspiring undergraduate students at Penn State since 1990. Every semester, 725 students register for his Race and Ethnic Relations course, one of the most popular classes at Penn State and the largest of its kind in the country.

Through his natural ability of seeing a subject from many angles, Richards encourages students to engage more fully with the world and to think for themselves - something he did not do until his third year in college. Because of his passion for challenging students to open their minds, an interviewer recently referred to him as "an alarm clock for eighteen-year-olds."

Alarm Clock

Intraspecies Predator: How A Psychopath Sees The World

Vitally important information.

Scientific studies show that psychopaths' brains work in very different ways to the brains of normal human beings. According to Robert Hare, the psychopath seems to interpret, process and use emotional information as if it was neutral information. The psychopath cannot extract emotional information from words as normal people do. Words like "murder, rape and death", provoke NO reaction in the mind/brain of a psychopath. They respond 'in a very superficial manner' to concepts that cause an emotional and distressing reaction in normal people.