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Exercise During Leisure Time Can Keep Depression at Bay

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Exercising during your leisure time can keep the blues away.
Physical activity can almost halve your risk of depression - but only if you build up a sweat in your leisure time, according to a study.

Researchers from King's College London found people who take regular exercise are far less likely to be depressed.

But the benefit was not felt by people who exerted themselves at work, for instance by digging up roads or performing heavy lifting.

The team of scientists studied just over forty thousand Norwegian residents. They asked them how often they engaged in both light and intense physical activity during their leisure time.

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New Findings on PTSD and Brain Activity

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© psychcentral.com
Researchers have discovered a correlation between increased activity among brain circuits and flashbacks among individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

University of Minnesota investigators learned that an increased circuit activity in the right side of the brain is associated with the debilitating, involuntary flashbacks that often characterized PTSD.

The ability to objectively diagnose PTSD through concrete evidence of neural activity, its impact and its manifestation is the first step toward effectively helping those afflicted with this severe anxiety disorder.

Black Cat

Halloween Special: Why We Love to Scare Ourselves; The Anatomy of Fright

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© Guillaume Duchenne
Mental control may separate the horror of a scary movie from the terror of a truly dangerous situation.
Dracula, Frankenstein, witches, ghosts and goblins are all around us at this time of year -- and Hollywood keeps them at our beck and call for the rest of the year as well. Scary movies allow us to experience the tonic of a good fright whenever we want one, but why do people seek out that experience?

What in your brain separates the pleasurable adrenaline high of a horror film from the traumatizing experience of someone breaking into your house?

The obvious answer is that you know that what's happening on the screen isn't real. According to Andreas Keil, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida in Gainesville, that knowledge starts in the visual cortex, an area at the back of the brain that processes what we see and helps link those images to personal and cultural events that put them in a context.

Like the other cortical areas of the brain (the auditory cortex, the sensory cortex, the motor cortex, and the cerebral cortex), it thinks. You see a dark spot on the floor, notice that the dark spot has projections, realize that these projections are legs, and your brain says "Spider!"

Health

Hippies Weren't the Only Ones Tripping in the Sixties

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© Unknown
New insights into celiac disease and schizophrenia.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

Celiac.com 10/06/2010 - Do you know where LSD comes from? It is made from gluten grains. In 1938 Albert Hofmann, a Swiss chemist, discovered LSD, having refined it from a mold that grows on grains. However, it was not until 1943 that he discovered its psycho-active properties. In his own words Hofmann states: "I synthesized the diethylamide of Iysergic acid with the intention of obtaining an analeptic." The expectation of such a drug was based on its source - ergot - which grows on gluten grains and causes ergotism, also known as ergotoxicosis, ergot poisoning, holy fire, and Saint Anthony's Fire.

This poisonous mold has long been known to infect gluten grains. It was to prevent the development of these molds that the Romans invented central heating systems. They stored their grains on the lowest floor of residences and other buildings that were centrally heated and well ventilated. Their fears of ergot were based on the powerful and bizarre symptoms that developed in people who ate grains that had become moldy with ergot. Some afflicted individuals began to hallucinate, often becoming so mentally disturbed that they injured or killed themselves. Others experienced loss of blood circulation to their extremities which became gangrenous. Their digits and limbs sometimes fell off before these people died. Some experienced a combination of these two sets of symptoms. Animals sometimes display similar symptoms after consuming moldy grains.

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The Empathic Civilisation

Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.

Normal human beings are naturally empathic. Human society however has been plagued throughout its history by the influence of psychopaths who, having attained to positions of power, exerted a nefarious and pathological influence on human thought, 'morality' and beliefs.


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Emotion Processing in Brain is Influenced by Color of Ambient Light, Study Suggests

We are all aware that a bright day may lift our mood. However the brain mechanisms involved in such effects of light are largely unknown.

Researchers at the Cyclotron Research Centre (University of Liege), Geneva Center for Neuroscience and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences (University of Geneva), and Surrey Sleep Research Centre (University of Surrey) investigated the immediate effect of light, and of its color composition, on emotion brain processing using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The results of their study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the colour of light influences the way the brain processes emotional stimuli.

Brain activity of healthy volunteers was recorded while they listened to "angry voices" and "neutral voices" and were exposed to blue or green light. Blue light not only increased responses to emotional stimuli in the "voice area" of the brain and in the hippocampus, which is important for memory processes, but also led to a tighter interaction between the voice area, the amygdala, which is a key area in emotion regulation, and the hypothalamus, which is essential for biological rhythms regulation by light. This demonstrates that the functional organization of the brain was affected by blue light.

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Power of Meditation in Response to Stress

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© iStockphoto
A study is under way at Emory University testing the value of meditation in helping people cope with stress. The Compassion and Attention Longitudinal Meditation Study (CALM) will help scientists determine how people's bodies, minds and hearts respond to stress and which specific meditation practices are better at turning down those responses.

"While much attention has been paid to meditation practices that emphasize calming the mind, improving focused attention or developing mindfulness, less is known about meditation practices designed to specifically foster compassion, and what specific problems can be alleviated through this practice," says Charles Raison, MD, associate professor in Emory's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and principle investigator of the study.

Raison and principle contemplative investigator, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD, senior lecturer in the Emory Department of Religion, collaborated on an earlier study at Emory showing that college students who regularly practiced compassion meditation had a significant reduction in stress and physical responses to stress.

The success of this initial study led the pair to embark on an expanded protocol for adults.

The CALM study has three different components.

Comment: For more information about the benefits of Meditation, visit the Eiriu Eolas Breathing and Meditation site here


Family

Twin Fetuses Learn How to be Social in the Womb

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© PLoS ONE
Types of movements. a, Video frame representing a self-directed movement towards the mouth. b, Video frame representing a self-directed movement towards the eye. c, Video frame representing the foetus reaching towards and “caressing” the back of the sibling. d, Video frame representing the foetus reaching towards and “caressing” the head of the sibling.
Humans have a deep-seated urge to be social, and new research on the interactions of twins in the womb suggests this begins even before babies are born.

Researchers from the University of Padova in Italy have been studying pregnancies involving twins. Leader of the team, psychologist Umberto Castiello, explained that newborns appear to be already "wired" to interact socially with other humans soon after birth, and previous research has demonstrated that within only a few hours after birth, babies can imitate gestures of people around them and make other social interactions. Studying twins in the womb made it possible to see investigate the pre-wired hypothesis and see if socialization was already apparent while still in the womb.

The study, which was published in the Public Library of Science One (PLoS One), used four-dimensional ultrasonography to make 3D videos of twins at 14 and 18 weeks of gestation. The five pairs of twins were found to be reaching for each other even at 14 weeks, and making a range of contacts including head to head, arm to head and head to arm. By the time they were at 18 weeks, they touched each other more often than they touched their own bodies, spending up to 30 percent of their time reaching out and stroking their co-twin.

People

Study Confirms: Whatever Doesn't Kill Us Can Make Us Stronger

We've all heard the adage that whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, but until now the preponderance of scientific evidence has offered little support for it.

However, a new national multi-year longitudinal study of the effects of adverse life events on mental health has found that adverse experiences do, in fact, appear to foster subsequent adaptability and resilience, with resulting advantages for mental health and well being.

The study, "Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability and Resilience," to be published in the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is available on the website of the American Psychological Association.

It examined a national sample of people who reported their lifetime history of adverse experiences and several measures of current mental health and well being.

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Is Anxiety Contagious? Scientists Study Owls and Voles to Find Out

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© American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Prof. David Eilam and Rony Izhar.
Anxiety, or the reaction to a perceived danger, is a response that differs from one animal or human to another -- or so scientists thought. Now researchers at Tel Aviv University are challenging what we know about stress, and their study has implications for helping clinicians better treat victims of terrorism or natural disasters.

Prof. David Eilam and his graduate student Rony Izhar of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology are spearheading a study designed to investigate the anxieties experienced by an entire social group. Using the natural predator-and-prey relationship between the barn owl and the vole, a small animal in the rodent family, researchers were able to test unified group responses to a common threat.

The results, which have been reported in the journals Behavioural Brain Research and Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, demonstrated that while anxiety levels can differ among individuals in normal circumstances, surprisingly, group members display the same level of anxiety when exposed to a common threat.