Items tagged with: brain
Why humans can't thrive on plants alone.
Article word count: 1728
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19543581
Posted by sridca (karma: 1449)
Post stats: Points: 96 - Comments: 112 - 2019-04-01T14:30:23Z
#HackerNews #animal #brain #fat #needs #the
nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo
Source: nexusplexus / 123RF Stock Photo
When you think of animal fat, what comes to mind? Unsightly blobs of cellulite? Artery-clogging strips of gristle to be trimmed off your steak and tossed into the trash? Or a sophisticated substance that contains within it the secret to human intelligence?
Fun facts about fat
We think of fat as bad—the less of it we eat, and the less of it we carry on our bodies, the better—but this isn’t the right way to think about it. Fat is not just for insulation and energy storage, it’s also for nutrient absorption, cell signaling, immune function and many other critical processes. Many people think the main difference between plant and animal fats is that animal-sourced foods contain more saturated fat, but here are a few fun fatty facts that may surprise you:
1. All whole plant and animal foods naturally contain a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats.
2. Some plant foods are higher in saturated fat than animal foods, with coconut oil topping the charts at 90 percent saturated fat. That’s more than twice the saturated fat found in beef fat (tallow).
3. The primary type of fat found in pork is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) called oleic acid, the same fat found in olive oil.
For decades now, we’ve been told to avoid saturated fats—particularly those from animal foods—and to consume “heart-healthy” cholesterol-free fats from plant foods such as seeds, nuts, and olives. Public health officials say these magical plant fats are rich in important PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) that the human body cannot manufacture and therefore must be obtained from the diet:
* the essential dietary omega-3 is called Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA for short) * the essential dietary omega-6 is called Linoleic Acid (LA for short).
What often goes unsaid is that both ALA and LA are found in a wide variety of both plant and animal foods, so it is rather easy to obtain both of these PUFAs, regardless of your dietary preferences, so long as you are including enough fat in your diet.
But here’s the rub: our bodies really aren’t looking for ALA and LA; they’re looking for something better. ALA and LA are considered “parent” omegas because they are used to manufacture the omegas we actually need: EPA, DHA and ARA—none of which exist in plant foods.
EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is an omega-3 that serves primarily anti-inflammatory and healing functions
ARA (arachidonic acid) is an omega-6 often thought of as a “bad” fatty acid because it promotes inflammation. But ARA shoulders countless other responsibilities, and even promotes healing. [This intriguing, beneficial and much-misunderstood molecule recently stepped into my office for a long overdue therapy session. You can read a transcript of our conversation here.]
And what about DHA? So glad you asked…
Our brains are extremely rich in fat. About 2/3 of the human brain is fat, and a full 20% of that fat is a very special essential omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexanoic acid, or DHA.
DHA is an ancient molecule so useful to us and our fellow vertebrates (creatures with backbones) that it has remained unchanged for more than 500 million years of evolution. What makes this particular PUFA so irreplaceable?
DHA’s job description is a lengthy one. Among many other functions, DHA participates in the formation of myelin, the white matter that insulates our brain circuits. It also helps maintain the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, which keeps the brain safe from unwanted outside influences.
Perhaps most importantly, DHA is critical to the development of the human cortex—the part of the brain responsible for higher-order thinking. Without DHA, the highly sophisticated connections necessary for sustained attention, decision-making, and complex problem-solving do not form properly. It has been hypothesized that without DHA, consciousness and symbolic thinking—hallmarks of the human race—would be impossible.
DHA plays a “unique and indispensable role” in the “neural signaling essential for higher intelligence.” —Simon Dyall PhD, Lipid Research Scientist Bournemouth University, UK
Professor Michael Crawford, a pioneering British scientist who has been studying essential fatty acids for fifty years, theorizes that DHA’s special configuration lends it unique quantum mechanical properties that allow it to buffer electron flow. This may explain why we find it in places throughout the brain and body where electricity is important: synapses where brain cell signaling takes place; mitochondria, where the electron transport chain is busy turning food into stored energy; and the retina of the eye, where photons of sunlight are transformed into electrical information.
This is a truly miraculous molecule. Plants don’t have it because plants don’t need it.
Baby, have we got a molecule for you…
The most rapid phase of development of the infant cortex takes place between the beginning of the third trimester of pregnancy and age two. If enough DHA isn’t available to the baby during this critical 27-month window, it is unclear whether the consequences can be completely undone. In fact we do see lower levels of DHA in people diagnosed with psychiatric disorders, including those which manifest early in life, such as autistic spectrum disorders and ADHD.
“Similar to children and adolescents born preterm, patients with ADHD, mood disorders, and psychotic disorders also exhibit decreased frontal white matter tract integrity and reduced functional connectivity within cortical networks. Together these findings support the hypothesis that perinatal deficits in DHA accrual may contribute to diminished cortical circuit development observed in major psychiatric disorders” (McNamara RK 2015).
Plant foods contain absolutely no DHA
For those who choose vegan diets, it is important to know that plant foods contain no DHA. The omega-3 fatty acid found in plant foods like flax, walnut and chia is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Unfortunately, it appears to be rather difficult for the adult human body to make DHA out of ALA, with most studies finding a conversion rate of less than ten percent:
Source: Georgia Ede
Whether this pathway can generate adequate amounts of DHA in all adults under all circumstances continues to be a topic of debate. Some scientists have advocated that DHA, rather than ALA, should be officially considered the essential omega-3 fatty acid. Even vocal advocates of plant-based diets such as the authors of the recent EAT-Lancet report acknowledge that it is unclear how much ALA one needs to consume to fulfill DHA requirements.
Indeed, it appears that the fewer animal foods we eat, the lower our DHA levels tend to be:
Source: Georgia Ede
However, when it comes to children younger than two years old, the science is clear that this conversion pathway cannot and should not be relied upon to keep pace with the DHA demands of the rapidly growing body and brain. Therefore most experts agree that caretakers should provide infants and very young children with dietary or supplemental sources of DHA, as ALA alone is not sufficient to support healthy infant development.
DHA status and intake recommendations are based on blood levels, not brain levels. Unfortunately there is no way to measure brain DHA levels in living human beings, and it’s unclear whether blood levels reflect brain levels.
Bearing this in mind, it has been estimated that as many as 80% of Americans have suboptimal blood levels of DHA.
DHA: Don’t leave home without it
Include animal-sourced foods in your diet if you can
The USDA has not established specific DHA intake targets for the general population; instead it recommends everyone consume at least eight ounces of seafood per week. The easiest way to obtain DHA is to include some fatty fish in your diet, but as you can see from the table below, there are other options.
Data from USDA National Nutrient Database 2016.
Source: Data from USDA National Nutrient Database 2016.
Minimize consumption of vegetable oils
Nearly all processed foods, prepared hot foods, packaged snacks and convenience foods are made with refined vegetable oils such as soybean or sunflower oil. Most vegetable oils are extremely, unnaturally high in LA (linoleic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid that reduces the production and effectiveness of DHA within your body. Excess linoleic acid can tilt your immune system too far towards inflammation and away from healing, so there are many reasons to minimize your consumption of vegetable oils. Your best plant oil choices are olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or red palm oil. If you must include refined vegetable oil, canola oil and palm kernel oil are low in linoleic acid.
If you choose a plant-based diet, supplement properly
Thankfully, vegetarian and vegan-friendly DHA supplements extracted from algae are available. These supplements are more expensive and contain lower concentrations of DHA than fish or krill oil supplements (meaning higher doses are recommended), but they are likely important for all ages, and mandatory during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Directly consuming seaweed and other forms of edible algae instead of taking algae oil extracts is unreliable because itʼs unclear whether the DHA within these fibrous foods can be released and absorbed by the human body; in other words, the DHA in edible algae may not be bioavailable. All baby formula in the U.S. is supplemented with DHA already. If weaning your child before age two, be sure to include DHA in your child’s diet as food or supplements.
If you have psychiatric symptoms, consider supplementation
There have been numerous clinical trials of omega-3 supplements in the management of psychiatric disorders. You may be surprised to hear that most of these studies have generated only weak or mixed results. There are many possible reasons for this, not the least of which may be that the amount of linoleic acid in the diet was not taken into consideration. In other words, taking a decent dose of omega-3s without also lowering your linoleic acid consumption (by avoiding vegetable oils) may not be very helpful. However, supplementation is widely viewed as safe, and some studies noted modest benefits at doses of (combined EPA+DHA) of 1000 to 2000 mg per day, particularly for people with depression.
The bottom line about DHA
It is difficult to be sure precisely how much DHA we need, as DHA conversion rates and availability can vary significantly depending on age, gender, genetics, and dietary composition—but one thing is clear. DHA is a wondrous fatty acid that the human body cannot function without, and it deserves our admiration and respect. While it is essential for all of us, when it comes to building the brains of the future, it is precious and irreplaceable.
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Welcome to the home page of Professor Brian Josephson, director of the Mind-Matter Unification Project of the Theory of Condensed Matter Group at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, a project concerned primarily with the attempt to understand, from the viewpoint of the theoretical physicist, what may loosely be characterised as intelligent processes in nature, associated with brain function or with some other natural process.
#Josephson #Mind-Matter Unification Project #Theory of Condensed Matter #ORMUS #Cavendish #Cambridge #theoretical #physics #brain #SCIENCE #TECHNOLOGY
Light Therapy and Photobiomodulation....This month we feature four articles about the ways light,laser light,red light,and photobiomodulation,are being used to support and improve health including treatments for skin care,pain relief,cancer,PTSD,brain health,and more.
#Light #Therapy #Photobiomodulation #light #laser #red health #skin #pain #cancer #PTSD #brain #MEDICINE #SCIENCE #BIOLOGY
Virtual reality headsets are already pretty good at fooling our eyes and ears into thinking we’re in another world. And soon, we might be able to navigate that world with our thoughts alone.
Virtual reality headsets are already pretty good at fooling our eyes and ears into thinking we’re in another world. And soon, we might be able to navigate that world with our thoughts alone.
Study points toward lifelong neuron formation in the human brain’s hippocampus, with implications for memory and disease
Article word count: 1086
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19485558
Posted by Elof (karma: 867)
Post stats: Points: 193 - Comments: 22 - 2019-03-25T18:53:55Z
#HackerNews #adult #after #all #brain #does #grow #neurons #new #says #study #the
If the memory center of the human brain can grow new cells, it might help people recover from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, deepen our understanding of epilepsy and offer new insights into memory and learning. If not, well then, it’s just one other way people are different from rodents and birds.
For decades, scientists have debated whether the birth of new neurons—called neurogenesis—was possible in an area of the brain that is responsible for learning, memory and mood regulation. A growing body of research suggested they could, but then a Nature paper last year raised doubts.
Now, a new study published today in another of the Nature family of journals—Nature Medicine—tips the balance back toward “yes.” In light of the new study, “I would say that there is an overwhelming case for the neurogenesis throughout life in humans,” Jonas Frisén, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in an e-mail. Frisén, who was not involved in the new research, wrote a News and Views about the study in the current issue of Nature Medicine.
Not everyone was convinced. Arturo Alvarez-Buylla was the senior author on last year’s Nature paper, which questioned the existence of neurogenesis. Alvarez-Buylla, a professor of neurological surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, says he still doubts that new neurons develop in the brain’s hippocampus after toddlerhood.
“I don’t think this at all settles things out,” he says. “I’ve been studying adult neurogenesis all my life. I wish I could find a place [in humans] where it does happen convincingly.”
For decades, some researchers have thought that the brain circuits of primates—including humans—would be too disrupted by the growth of substantial numbers of new neurons. Alvarez-Buylla says he thinks the scientific debate over the existence of neurogenesis should continue. “Basic knowledge is fundamental. Just knowing whether adult neurons get replaced is a fascinating basic problem,” he said.
New technologies that can locate cells in the living brain and measure the cells’ individual activity, none of which were used in the Nature Medicine study, may eventually put to rest any lingering questions.
A number of researchers praised the new study as thoughtful and carefully conducted. It’s a “technical tour de force,” and addresses the concerns raised by last year’s paper, says Michael Bonaguidi, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
The researchers, from Spain, tested a variety of methods of preserving brain tissue from 58 newly deceased people. They found that different methods of preservation led to different conclusions about whether new neurons could develop in the adult and aging brain.
Brain tissue has to be preserved within a few hours after death, and specific chemicals used to preserve the tissue, or the proteins that identify newly developing cells will be destroyed, said Maria Llorens-Martin, the paper’s senior author. Other researchers have missed the presence of these cells, because their brain tissue was not as precisely preserved, says Llorens-Martin, a neuroscientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain.
Jenny Hsieh, a professor at the University of Texas San Antonio who was not involved in the new research, said the study provides a lesson for all scientists who rely on the generosity of brain donations. “If and when we go and look at something in human postmortem, we have to be very cautious about these technical issues.”
Llorens-Martin said she began carefully collecting and preserving brain samples in 2010, when she realized that many brains stored in brain banks were not adequately preserved for this kind of research. In their study, she and her colleagues examined the brains of people who died with their memories intact, and those who died at different stages of Alzheimer’s disease. She found that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s showed few if any signs of new neurons in the hippocampus—with less signal the further along the people were in the course of the disease. This suggests that the loss of new neurons—if it could be detected in the living brain—would be an early indicator of the onset of Alzheimer’s, and that promoting new neuronal growth could delay or prevent the disease that now affects more than 5.5 million Americans.
Rusty Gage, president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a neuroscientist and professor there, says he was impressed by the researchers’ attention to detail. “Methodologically, it sets the bar for future studies,” says Gage, who was not involved in the new research but was the senior author in 1998 of a paper that found the first evidence for neurogenesis. Gage says this new study addresses the concerns raised by Alvarez-Buylla’s research. “From my view, this puts to rest that one blip that occurred,” he says. “This paper in a very nice way… systematically evaluates all the issues that we all feel are very important.”
Neurogenesis in the hippocampus matters, Gage says, because evidence in animals shows that it is essential for pattern separation, “allowing an animal to distinguish between two events that are closely associated with each other.” In people, Gage says, the inability to distinguish between two similar events could explain why patients with PTSD keep reliving the same experiences, even though their circumstances have changed. Also, many deficits seen in the early stages of cognitive decline are similar to those seen in animals whose neurogenesis has been halted, he says.
In healthy animals, neurogenesis promotes resilience in stressful situations, Gage says. Mood disorders, including depression, have also been linked to neurogenesis.
Hsieh says her research on epilepsy has found that newborn neurons get miswired, disrupting brain circuits and causing seizures and potential memory loss. In rodents with epilepsy, if researchers prevent the abnormal growth of new neurons, they prevent seizures, Hsieh says, giving her hope that something similar could someday help human patients. Epilepsy increases someone’s risk of Alzheimer’s as well as depression and anxiety, she says. “So, it’s all connected somehow. We believe that the new neurons play a vital role connecting all of these pieces,” Hsieh says.
In mice and rats, researchers can stimulate the growth of new neurons by getting the rodents to exercise more or by providing them with environments that are more cognitively or socially stimulating, Llorens-Martin says. “This could not be applied to advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease. But if we could act at earlier stages where mobility is not yet compromised,” she says, “who knows, maybe we could slow down or prevent some of the loss of plasticity [in the brain].”
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Scientists Grew a Mini-Brain in a Dish, And It Connected to a Spinal Cord by Itself
After years of work, researchers in the UK have now cultivated one of the most sophisticated miniature brains-in-a-dish yet...
The grey blob was composed of about two million organised neurons, which is similar to the human foetal brain at 12 to 13 weeks. At this stage, this so-called 'brain organoid' is not complex enough to have any thoughts, feelings, or consciousness - but that doesn't make it entirely inert.
When placed next to a piece of mouse spinal cord and a piece of mouse muscle tissue, this disembodied, pea-sized blob of human brain cells sent out long, probing tendrils to check out its new neighbours.
Using long-term live microscopy, researchers were able to watch as the mini-brain spontaneously connected itself to the nearby spinal cord and muscle tissue...
There's Mounting Evidence That Parkinson's Starts in The Gut - Not The Brain
Scientists have found mounting evidence that Parkinson's could start in the gut before spreading to the brain, with one study in 2017 observing lower rates of the disease in patients who had undergone a procedure called a truncal vagotomy.
The operation removes sections of the vagus nerve - which links the digestive tract with the brain - and over the course of a five-year study, patients who had this link completely removed were 40 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's than those who hadn't.
According to the team led by Bojing Liu from the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden, that's a significant difference, and it backs up earlier work linking the development of the brain disease to something happening inside our bellies.
"Other evidence for this hypothesis is that people with Parkinson's disease often have gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, that can start decades before they develop the disease..."
Free will, from a neuroscience perspective, can look like quite quaint. In a study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers in Australia were able to predict basic choices…
Article word count: 521
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19349010
Posted by laurex (karma: 5561)
Post stats: Points: 152 - Comments: 73 - 2019-03-09T22:43:43Z
#HackerNews #action #activity #before #brain #decisions #predicts #seconds #unconscious
Free will, from a neuroscience perspective, can look like quite quaint. In a study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers in Australia were able to predict basic choices participants made 11 seconds before they consciously declared their decisions.
In the study, 14 participants—each placed in an fMRI machine—were shown two patterns, one of red horizontal stripes and one of green vertical stripes. They were given a maximum of 20 seconds to choose between them. Once they’d made a decision, they pressed a button and had 10 seconds to visualize the pattern as hard as they could. Finally, they were asked “what did you imagine?” and “how vivid was it?” They answered these questions by pressing buttons.
Using the fMRI to monitor brain activity and machine learning to analyze the neuroimages, the researchers were able to predict which pattern participants would choose up to 11 seconds before they consciously made the decision. And they were able to predict how vividly the participants would be able to envisage it.
Lead author Joel Pearson, cognitive neuroscience professor at the University of South Wales in Australia, said that the study suggests traces of thoughts exist unconsciously before they become conscious. “We believe that when we are faced with the choice between two or more options of what to think about, non-conscious traces of the thoughts are there already, a bit like unconscious hallucinations,” he said in a statement. “As the decision of what to think about is made, executive areas of the brain choose the thought-trace which is stronger. In, other words, if any pre-existing brain activity matches one of your choices, then your brain will be more likely to pick that option as it gets boosted by the pre-existing brain activity.”
The work has implications for how we understand uncomfortable thoughts: Pearson believes the findings explain why thinking about something only leads to more thoughts on the subject, as it creates “a positive feedback loop.” The study also suggests that unwelcome visualizations, such as those experienced with post-traumatic stress disorder, begin as unconscious thoughts.
Though this is just one study, it’s not the first to show that thoughts can be predicted before they are conscious. As the researchers note, similar techniques have been able to predict motor decisions between seven and 10 seconds before they’re conscious, and abstract decisions up to four seconds before they’re conscious. Taken together, these studies show how understanding how the brain complicates our conception of free will.
Neuroscientists have long known that the brain prepares to act before you’re consciously aware, and there are just a few milliseconds between when a thought is conscious and when you enact it. Those milliseconds give us a chance to consciously reject unconscious impulses, seeming to form a foundation of free will.
Freedom, however, can be enacted by both the unconscious and conscious self—and there are neuroscientists who claim that being controlled by our own unconscious brain is hardly an affront to free will. Studies showing that neuroscientists can predict our actions long before we’re aware of them don’t necessarily negate the concept of free will, but they certainly complicate our conception of our own minds.
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N.B: #Special Teams and #Task Forces have to be dressed and should be equipped like #SWAT Teams.
A spate of news stories – triggered by a CDC report – focused on kids swallowing too much toothpaste. But according to Paul Connett, PhD, FAN Director, “The defenders of water fluoridation are missing the real story. Dental fluorosis is a biomarker of over-exposure to fluoride and the ‘elephant in the room’ is what damage fluoride is doing to other tissues.”
Recent scientific research indicates that exposure to fluoridated water may lower thyroid function (Peckham et al, 2015 and Malin et al, 2018) and 350 published studies indicate that fluoride can damage the brain.
The latter includes a major U.S.-government funded mother-offspring study conducted in Mexico City (Bashash et al, 2017). This rigorous study found a very strong association between fluoride levels in mothers’ urine and lowered IQ in their offspring. The fluoride levels in this study correspond to levels in pregnant women living in fluoridated areas in Canada (Till et al, 2018) and almost certainly the USA.
While it is understandable that die-hard promoters of fluoridation should be fixated on any study dealing with teeth it is less understandable why the media should ignore fluoride’s impact on the brain.
The fetal brain is under attack from several environmental toxins (Grandjean & Landrigan, 2014; Bellinger, 2018) but only one, fluoride, is deliberately added to our water. There are safer ways to prevent dental caries than exposing the fetus to a neurotoxicant.
Many scientists are intimidated by the dismissal of fluoridation opponents as being akin to “Dr. Strangelove’s” mad general. Repeating the dogma that fluoridation is “safe and effective” many times does not make it so.
Connett urges more scientists to overcome this dogma and intimidation and review the brain studies themselves. In addition to Bashash and Bellinger the other fluoride-brain studies are readily accessible.
Connett added that, “I believe that the intellectual ability of future generations depends on their willingness to do this. Neither intimidation nor dogma has a place in science or public health.”
#fluoride #brain #fluorosis #children #fetus #health #medicine #scandal #conspiracy #manipulation #science
I don’t think it’d have been possible for me to connect with the topic of emotional resilience without a really …
Article word count: 2545
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19247664
Posted by LeonW (karma: 1545)
Post stats: Points: 171 - Comments: 25 - 2019-02-25T17:54:53Z
#HackerNews #about #brain #facts #human #practical #the
I don’t think it’d have been possible for me to connect with the topic of emotional resilience without a really solid amount of scientific evidence and brain facts supporting it. As a self-identified left-brained male, I need a lot of safety signals from the world of science to really allow myself to go deeper into myself and explore.
As I learned about how we can stay present with difficult experiences, the latest research of neuroscience was a north star for me. I thought this would be a great opportunity to pick out some of the most practical brain facts I’ve learned over the years and also share how specifically they can support your inner well-being. Let’s check them out:
1.) 80% of your body’s signals are sent to the brain from the body and only 20% the other way around.
Many of us see the brain as a kind of central command center. The latest research suggests that it is more of a logistics warehouse instead. Let me explain what I mean. In our bodies, the largest nerve that we have is called the vagus nerve. It goes from our gut (sometimes called the “gut brain”) through our heart and lungs, all the way up to our face and ear canal into our brain. This nerve is even thicker than the spinal cord and most of us have never even heard of it.
The yellow lines are your vagus nerve
Any time you feel any feelings or sensations in your body, chances are its the vagus nerve. Feeling heart-broken? Feeling angry and frustrated? Feeling sunken and collapsed? Feeling energized and happy? All of these feelings will have had their origin as sensations from vagus nerve. And the only way you know cognitively in the first place that this is what you’re feeling is because your body has sent signals to your brain. The vagus nerves cells are 80-90% afferent. This means they send signals from the body to the brain and only 10-20% are efferent, meaning sending signals from the brain to your body to move or do something.
How you can make this your ally:
Given the latest understandings of our human nervous system, scientists have mostly embraced the idea that most of our actions are unconscious with a conscious component.
Instead of asking “How can I control my body?” you could experiment with saying “What is my body trying to tell me with that tight stomach, sunken heart, clenched shoulders?” and then to hold space for that experience. Since we’re not really in control of your bodies reactions and sensations, flipping the script and accompanying those reactions and sensations can create a whole new world. This is certainly a journey, and yet I’ve personally found that the more I can adopt that understanding, the more ease and freedom, almost as a contradiction to my need for control, do I feel in my life.
2.) When your amygdala is active, you can’t have empathy for others
You might have learned about the amygdala, an almond sized part of your limbic system, sometimes called the emotion center of our brains. When you feel relaxed and alert after a good nights sleep for example, your amygdala’s activity may be balanced and show a strong linkage with your neocortex, the “thinking” part of your brain. If you go to work and hear your boss say something like “Your presentation last night really sucked!”, this may trigger your amygdala to become active very quickly, firing all sorts of signals through your brain from anger, to hurt, to fear and anxiety. If this reaches a certain amount of activity, the amygdala may “take over” your brain activity. This means it disconnects from your neocortex and kind of says “I’m in charge now”. There’s now little to no possibility for you to be in a compassionate, gentle and alert company with others up until you’ve found a way to calm your amygdala again and for your thinking brain to reconnect.
Researcher Dr. Dan Siegel calls this “flipping your lid”. Your “lid”, being the neocortex is no longer keeping the amygdala, your “boiling pot”, in check and it’s now bubbling and spewing about without being in check. Many of our most regrettable experiences happen when we do things with a “flipped lid”.
Left side is when our amygdala is active – Right side is connected to our prefrontal cortex
I’ll write more about how to work with a “flipped lid”. For now, my best advice is to use your usual coping strategy that helps you to feel calm and centered again.
3.) A new fundamental rule of brain plasticity: When a synapse strengthens, its neighbors weaken
A recent MIT study confirmed something that many of us already knew intuitively for a long time and took it further. When we take up a new habit, or develop a new response to a something we experience, the brain builds new pathways. Not only that, the other pathways, that have been in use up until that time, now become a lot weaker and less powerful.
This means, your brain is organically de-emphazising old, no longer helpful patterns once we start developing new, more stable and versatile ones to deal with life.
This is what our synapses look like
How this affects us:
To me, this brings me a lot of reassurance that whenever I do an emotional resilience session, a meditation, therapy session or other form of regulation of my emotions my brain is like a muscle that atrophies previously unused muscles and builds up these newer pathways with the resources of the pathways no longer in use. What this research also underlines for me is that doing any form of emotional resilience on a regular basis is extremely important to keep the dynamic brain pathways up to date.
4.) The emotional content of our voices is one of the most important signals of relaxation and safety to our brains
You might have heard the common saying “Only 7% of our words are what matter, the rest is how we say it and body language.”. That insight originally derived from a very limited social sciences study from the 70s. Many of those popularized findings, don’t seem to hold up to our current standards of scientific knowledge. Despite that, there is some very strong evidence today, that the brain does rely mostly on the emotional content of the words we say, or in science terms, the “prosody” of our voices.This is because the when we were living in the wild, hundreds of thousands of years ago, without language, the way we communicated to each other was not with words, but with sounds. A very high-pitched sound in our voice signaled fear, threat and danger to those around us, for example screaming when you see a snake. And a very low-pitched sound did the same, signaling predators growling for example. A medium to slightly higher frequency of our voices is generally the kind that signals us the most safety. This is often the kind of voice that we make when talking to babies, where we all naturally raise our voices and speak in a kind of cooing sound. This naturally calms and soothes them, as it does for adults too. If you ever heard yourself say “you have such a calm voice”, then this is a sign of connecting with the soothing frequency of someone who is clearly signaling relaxation and safety to you.
How this affects us at work and life:
If you ever felt that people at work or in life aren’t listening to you in the way you like, even or especially when some of your ideas are later getting picked up as good ones from someone else, see if the emotional intonation of your voice could be an issue. Are you often getting excited and anxious before a presentation or raising your voice in a meeting? If so, even though your ideas may be brilliant, there’s a chance that people around you don’t pick up the words you’re saying, but instead the fear and anxiety are naturally not as interested in your ideas.
Although this may be a much bigger thing to address than is space for in this article on how to work with that anxiety or stress in meetings, see if just recognizing that this may have had an impact for you before already changes things. And if there’s room, see if you can be more conscious of the intonation of your voice, where you can speak with the calmness and excitement that may be more in the range of relaxation. We can also work with an anxiety before speaking like this in a 1:1 session to look at some of the deeper underlying parts to transform it into more aliveness and joy.
5.) Your brain has a 3 way fallback system that ends in feigning death
From a brain science perspective, our body can be in 3 different kinds of states.
* The first one is sometimes called “relaxed alertness”, that’s when you feel connected to yourself and the world and you go about life happily, doing the things you enjoy doing with the people you love. In a way we can describe this as our natural place of compassion and happiness. The world generally is a happy place in this state. * The second state you can be in is called “mobilization”, in this state there has been some element added to your environment that your brain intuitively identified as a threat, which may make you feel angry, frozen, startled, anxious or any other feeling you tend to feel when there’s a conscious or unconscious threat around you. The world generally seems to be a dangerous and scary place when we are in this state. * The third and final state, that’s very close to us looking like we’re dead is called “collapse”. Biologically this has partially the function to feign death when a threat has become so overwhelming that we can’t escape or respond in any way other than shut down completely. We may feel numb or very depressed in that state. The world seems to be a hopeless, empty and dark place when we are in this state.
Stephen Porges’ 3 stages of the human nervous system
How to make better decisions knowing the 3-way-fallback system:
For a lot of us, we tend to make the best, most compassionate and harmonious decisions when we are in the first state of relaxed alertness. And yet, when we are in a state of feeling either mobilized or collapsed we’re sometimes drawn to make instinctual decisions that we may regret later. Whenever we’re about to send an important email or make an important decision for our lives, check in with yourself and ask “Which of the 3 brain states am I in right now?”. If the answer isn’t relaxed alertness, see if instead of making the decision, if you can instead tend to your sense of feeling threatened or collapsed in another way, by having a call with a friend, going for a walk, taking a warm shower, talking to a therapist or any other coping strategy you know that helps you feel grounded and centered.
6.) Elevated stress changes our brain chemistry and shrinks the area connected to making goals
You might have heard before that stress is “bad” for you. And you might have even just felt really depleted and exhausted after a stressful day and noticed how hard it is on you. From a brain perspective, there’s ample evidence how being in a stressful environment without enough time to come out of the stress changes the chemistry of your brain. And by doing so, the brain’s resources are being shifted. So much so, that to keep the body running with resources through such elevated and stressful times, the brain removes and even shrinks areas of your brain that are used for goal setting, being creative and makes decisions.
7.) A “trigger” is a subconscious re-activation of unintegrated memories in your brain
You might have heard the term trigger before. It’s become almost ubiquitous on the internet these days. Let’s dig in a little what it is specifically from the perspective of your brain. A trigger simply speaking is an unconscious activation of a difficult, unprocessed and unintegrated memory from your past. Say you once had a teacher that shouted at you often and you felt ashamed, terrified and anxious a lot around them. That teacher was wearing a particular style of pants and shoes that were red often too. Now, since the emotional responses weren’t processed in your brain, they simply lie dormant until they have a chance to become integrated and processed by you. In the meantime however, whenever you see someone with red shoes, you may have the same feelings, emotions and responses. This is because your amygdala, the fear center of your brain, recognizes the shoes as threat from when you were a child in school. And says “hey, you’re about to get shouted at again!”, even though this event is in the past now, your emotional response may still be very present.
How to integrate this:
A lot of people have asked me, what are signs of triggers? Sarah Peyton, author of Your Resonant Self offers us a great list around it:
* Inappropriate reactivity (becoming more angry or scared than the situation calls for) * Intrusive memories (having a memory replay over and over again without choice) * Nightmares and night terrors * The sudden, unpredictable drop into tears, sobbing, or irritation * Dislike of the self * Groundless dislike of others * The sense of being incapable of love * A consistent feeling of shame * A sudden need to control the environment or another’s actions * Ongoing exhaustion, fatigue, overwhelm, or the inability to concentrate * Emotional numbness, loss of pleasure and meaning * Hypervigilance * Obsession with death
If any of these seem true to you, chances are you may be experiencing a triggered response from your body. We’ll look more closely into this in future posts, but for now, my suggestion is that whenever you notice any of these triggers being active, see if you can take space in a way that is safe and non-reactive. This can happen by either moving into some of your favorite coping strategies, like eating a chocolate bar, going for a run, taking a warm shower and so on. Whatever your coping strategy is, if you notice it currently has a lot of negative other consequences, like alcohol or candy for example, see if you can shift them slightly to something that still feels soothing, like going from eating candy to a warm shower, but doesn’t ask for too big of a change in your coping patterns.
Doing deeper work with the latest neuroscientific evidence as support
If any or all of this resonates with you, and you feel inspired and curious what it would be like to really support your brain in these different states and experiences, I’d love to offer my support of working with you. It’s become my passion to study how the brain works in these different circumstances and then support people in healing through my therapy, nonviolent communication and meditation training. If you are interested in that, please reach out to me here.
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I couldn’t read a book, watch a full-length movie or sustain a long conversation. Late last year, I decided enough was enough.
Article word count: 2276
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19237704
Posted by imartin2k (karma: 11097)
Post stats: Points: 156 - Comments: 121 - 2019-02-24T08:25:47Z
#HackerNews #and #brain #ditched #phone #unbroke
Who needs a smartphone when you’ve got ads for discount dentistry?CreditCreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times
My name is Kevin, and I have a phone problem.
And if you’re anything like me — and the statistics suggest you probably are, at least where smartphones are concerned — you have one, too.
I don’t love referring to what we have as an “addiction.” That seems too sterile and clinical to describe what’s happening to our brains in the smartphone era. Unlike alcohol or opioids, phones aren’t an addictive substance so much as a species-level environmental shock. We might someday evolve the correct biological hardware to live in harmony with portable supercomputers that satisfy our every need and connect us to infinite amounts of stimulation. But for most of us, it hasn’t happened yet.
I’ve been a heavy phone user for my entire adult life. But sometime last year, I crossed the invisible line into problem territory. My symptoms were all the typical ones: I found myself incapable of reading books, watching full-length movies or having long uninterrupted conversations. Social media made me angry and anxious, and even the digital spaces I once found soothing (group texts, podcasts, YouTube k-holes) weren’t helping. I tried various tricks to curb my usage, like deleting Twitter every weekend, turning my screen grayscale and installing app-blockers. But I always relapsed.
Eventually, in late December, I decided that enough was enough. I called Catherine Price, a science journalist and the author of “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” a 30-day guide to eliminating bad phone habits. And I begged her for help.
Mercifully, she agreed to be my phone coach for the month of January, and walk me through her plan, step by step. Together, we would build a healthy relationship with my phone, and try to unbreak my brain.
On a video call with Catherine Price, the Marie Kondo of brains.CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times
I confess that entering phone rehab feels clichéd, like getting really into healing crystals or Peloton. Digital wellness is a budding industry these days, with loads of self-help gurus offering miracle cures for screen addiction. Some of those solutions involve new devices — such as the “Light Phone,” a device with an extremely limited feature set that is meant to wean users off time-sucking apps. Others focus on cutting out screens entirely for weeks on end. You can now buy $299 “digital detox” packages at luxury hotels or join the “digital sabbath” movement, whose adherents vow to spend one day a week using no technology at all.
Thankfully, Catherine’s plan is more practical. I’m a tech columnist, and while I don’t begrudge anyone for trying more extreme forms of disconnection, my job prevents me from going cold turkey.
Instead, her program focuses on addressing the root causes of phone addiction, including the emotional triggers that cause you to reach for your phone in the first place. The point isn’t to get you off the internet, or even off social media — you’re still allowed to use Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms on a desktop or laptop, and there’s no hard-and-fast time limit. It’s simply about unhooking your brain from the harmful routines it has adopted around this particular device, and hooking it to better things.
When we started, I sent her my screen time statistics, which showed that I had spent 5 hours and 37 minutes on my phone that day, and picked it up 101 times — roughly twice as many as the average American.
“That is frankly insane and makes me want to die,” I wrote to her.
“I will admit that those numbers are a bit horrifying,” she replied.
Catherine encouraged me to set up mental speed bumps so that I would be forced to think for a second before engaging with my phone. I put a rubber band around the device, for example, and changed my lock screen to one that showed three questions to ask myself every time I unlocked my phone: “What for? Why now? What else?”
For the rest of the week, I became acutely aware of the bizarre phone habits I’d developed. I noticed that I reach for my phone every time I brush my teeth or step outside the front door of my apartment building, and that, for some pathological reason, I always check my email during the three-second window between when I insert my credit card into a chip reader at a store and when the card is accepted.
Mostly, I became aware of how profoundly uncomfortable I am with stillness. For years, I’ve used my phone every time I’ve had a spare moment in an elevator or a boring meeting. I listen to podcasts and write emails on the subway. I watch YouTube videos while folding laundry. I even use an app to pretend to meditate.
If I was going to repair my brain, I needed to practice doing nothing. So during my morning walk to the office, I looked up at the buildings around me, spotting architectural details I’d never noticed before. On the subway, I kept my phone in my pocket and people-watched — noticing the nattily dressed man in the yellow hat, the teens eating hot Takis and laughing, the kid with Velcro shoes. When a friend ran late for our lunch, I sat still and stared out the window instead of checking Twitter.
It’s an unnerving sensation, being alone with your thoughts in the year 2019. Catherine had warned me that I might feel existential malaise when I wasn’t distracting myself with my phone. She also said paying more attention to my surroundings would make me realize how many other people used their phones to cope with boredom and anxiety.
“I compare it to seeing a family member naked,” she said. “Once you look around the elevator and see the zombies checking their phones, you can’t unsee it.”
Putting the beast in its cage.CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times
Next, I gave my phone the Marie Kondo treatment — looking at all my apps and keeping the ones that sparked joy and contributed to healthy habits and tossing those that didn’t.
For me, that meant deleting Twitter, Facebook and all other social media apps, along with news apps and games. I kept messaging services like WhatsApp and Signal, and non-distracting utilities like cooking and navigation apps. I pruned my home screen to just the essentials: calendar, email and password manager. And I disabled push notifications for everything other than phone calls and messages from a preset list of people that included my editor, my wife and a handful of close friends.
Where you keep your phone is also important. Studies have shown that people who don’t charge their phones in their bedrooms are significantly happier than those who do. Catherine charges her phone in a closet; for me, she recommended a locking mini-safe. I bought one and started storing my phone inside, which simultaneously reduced my nighttime usage and made me feel like I was guarding the queen’s jewels.
And I pursued activities that could replace my phone habit. On the recommendation of my colleague Farhad Manjoo, I signed up for pottery classes. As it turned out, pottery makes a perfect phone substitute. It’s manually challenging and demands concentration for hours on end. It gets your hands dirty, too, which is a good deterrent to fiddling with expensive electronics.
After a pottery class, I updated my wife on my progress. I told her that while it felt great to disconnect, I still worried that I was missing something important. I liked having a constant stream of news at my fingertips, and I wanted to do more of the things I actually like about social media, like keeping tabs on my friends’ babies and maintaining ambient Kardashian awareness.
“I’m sad that you’re having trouble with this,” she said, “because it’s been great for me.”
She explained that since my phone detox started, I’d been more present and attentive at home. I spent more time listening to her, and less time distractedly nodding and mumbling while checking my inbox or tapping out tweets.
Psychologists have a name for this: “phubbing,” or snubbing a person in favor of your phone. Studies have shown that excessive phubbing decreases relationship satisfaction and contributes to feelings of depression and alienation.
For years, I’ve justified my phubbing by treating it as a professional necessity. Isn’t it my job to know when news happens? Won’t I be neglecting my duties if it takes me an extra hour to learn that Jeff Bezos is getting divorced, or another YouTuber did something racist?
I put this question to Catherine, who reassured me that I wasn’t jeopardizing my career by being slightly later to the news. She reminded me that I’d been happier since I dialed down my screen time, and she gently encouraged me to focus on the other side of the cost-benefit analysis.
“Think of the bigger picture of what you’re getting by not being on Twitter all the time.”
Remember books? They’re like Twitter threads, but longer.CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times
The biggest test came with a “trial separation” — a 48-hour period during which I wasn’t allowed to use my phone or any other digital device. (Catherine’s program calls for a 24-hour separation, but I decided to try a more hard-core version.)
I had dreaded this idea at the outset, but when the weekend actually arrived, I got giddy with excitement. I rented an off-the-grid Airbnb in the Catskills, warned my editor that I’d be offline for the weekend and took off.
A phone-free weekend involved some complications. Without Google Maps, I got lost and had to pull over for directions. Without Yelp, I had trouble finding open restaurants.
But mostly, it was great. For two solid days, I basked in 19th-century leisure, feeling my nerves softening and my attention span stretching back out. I read books. I did the crossword puzzle. I lit a fire and looked at the stars. I felt like Thoreau, if Thoreau periodically wondered what was happening on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram story.
I also felt twinges of anger — at myself, for missing out on this feeling of restorative boredom for so many years; at the engineers in Silicon Valley who spend their days profitably exploiting our cognitive weaknesses; at the entire phone-industrial complex that has convinced us that a six-inch glass-and-steel rectangle is the ideal conduit for worldly experiences.
Sadly, there is no way to talk about the benefits of digital disconnection without sounding like a Goop subscriber or a neo-Luddite. Performative wellness is obnoxious, as is reflexive technophobia.
But I cannot stress enough that under the right conditions, spending an entire weekend without a phone in your immediate vicinity is incredible. You have to try it.
And I started to wonder: Was the subway broken, or was I?CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times
Allow me a bit of bragging: Over the course of 30 days, my average daily phone time, as measured by the iPhone’s built-in screen time tracker, has dwindled from around five hours to just over an hour. I now pick up my phone only about 20 times a day, down from more than 100. I still use my phone for email and texting — and I’m still using my laptop plenty — but I don’t itch for social media, and I often go hours without so much as a peek at any screen.
In one of our conversations, I asked Catherine if she worried that I would relapse. She said it was possible, given the addictive properties of phones and the likelihood that they’ll only keep getting more essential. But she said that as long as I remained aware of my relationship with my phone, and continued to notice when and how I used it, I’d have gotten something valuable.
“Your life is what you pay attention to,” she said. “If you want to spend it on video games or Twitter, that’s your business. But it should be a conscious choice.”
One of the most unexpected benefits of this program is that by getting some emotional distance from my phone, I’ve started to appreciate it again. I keep thinking: Right here, in my pocket, is a device that can summon food, cars and millions of other consumer goods to my door. I can talk with everyone I’ve ever met, create and store a photographic record of my entire life, and tap into the entire corpus of human knowledge with a few swipes.
Steve Jobs wasn’t exaggerating when he described the iPhone as a kind of magical object, and it’s truly wild that in the span of a few years, we’ve managed to turn these amazing talismanic tools into stress-inducing albatrosses. It’s as if scientists had invented a pill that gave us the ability to fly, only to find out that it also gave us dementia.
But there is a way out. I haven’t taken an M.R.I. or undergone a psychiatric evaluation, but I’d bet that something fundamental has shifted inside my brain in the past month. A few weeks ago, the world on my phone seemed more compelling than the offline world — more colorful, faster-moving and with a bigger scope of rewards.
I still love that world, and probably always will. But now, the physical world excites me, too — the one that has room for boredom, idle hands and space for thinking. I no longer feel phantom buzzes in my pocket or have dreams about checking my Twitter replies. I look people in the eye and listen when they talk. I ride the elevator empty-handed. And when I get sucked into my phone, I notice and self-correct.
It’s not a full recovery, and I’ll have to stay vigilant. But for the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel like a human again.
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It is a primitive bacterial vaccine licensed in 1914. 1 It has not been given to babies in America for 20 years.
The inconvenient truth is that mutated, vaccine resistant pertussis strains are being identified more often in vaccinated persons than in unvaccinated persons.
is the vaccine that had brain damaged so many children and caused so many vaccine injury lawsuits 2 that Big Pharma used it to blackmail Congress into giving vaccine manufacturers a partial product liability shield in 1986, which the U.S. Supreme Court made even bigger in 2011.
I’m talking about whole cell pertussis vaccine in DPT, a crude brew of whole B. pertussis bacteria heated and washed with formaldehyde 4 but still full of neurotoxic aluminum 5 and mercury 6 along with shock-inducing endotoxin, as well as brain damaging bioactive pertussis toxin, a toxin so lethal that researchers use it to deliberately induce acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in lab animals.
Whole cell pertussis vaccine: the most reactive vaccine still given to infants and children in developing countries because it costs drug companies just pennies to make a dose of it. Whole cell pertussis vaccine, the one that put pressure on the B. pertussis bacterium to mutate into vaccine resistant strains beginning in the 1950s.
#Pertussis #Vaccine #Children #Brain #USA #HEALTH #MEDICINE #CONSPIRACY #FRAUD #MANIPULATION #bacterium #Supreme Court #encephalomyelitis
Someone in my family died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease and it was a truly horrifying and heartbreaking situation that I wouldn't wish on anyone. The prospect of these diseases being more widespread than previously thought is scary. But if the same driving force is behind CJD and Alzheimer's and others, then perhaps that will allow researchers to find more effective treatments or a cure more efficiently? I'm no doctor, but that would be spectacular.
#science #medicine #brain
A world-renowned #pro-vaccine medical #expert is the newest #voice adding to the body of #evidence suggesting that #vaccines can cause #autism in certain #susceptible #children.
#Pediatric neurologist Dr. #AndrewZimmerman originally served as the expert medical #witness for the #government, which defends vaccines in #federal-vaccine-court. He had #testified that vaccines do not cause autism in specific #patients.
Dr. #Zimmerman now has signed a #bombshell sworn #affidavit. He says that, during a group of 5,000 #vaccine-autism cases being heard in court on June 15, 2007, he took aside the Department of Justice (DOJ) #lawyers he worked for defending vaccines and told them he’d discovered “
“I explained that in a #subset of #children, vaccine-induced #fever and #immune stimulation did cause #regressive #brain #disease with features of #autism-spectrum #disorder,” Dr. Zimmerman now states. He said his opinion was based on “scientific advances” as well as his own experience with patients.
For the government and #vaccine-industry’s own pro-vaccine expert to have this #scientific opinion stood to change everything about the #vaccine-autism debate — if people were to find out.
But they didn’t.
Dr. Zimmerman goes on to say that once the #DOJ lawyers learned of his position, they quickly #fired him as an #expert #witness and kept his opinion #secret from other parents and the rest of the public.
What’s worse, he says the #DOJ went on to misrepresent his opinion in federal vaccine court to continue to…
Planning on quitting the social platform? A major new study offers a glimpse of what unplugging might do for your life. (Spoiler: It’s not so bad.)
Article word count: 1822
HN Discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19041021
Posted by pseudolus (karma: 7875)
Post stats: Points: 82 - Comments: 34 - 2019-01-31T00:09:12Z
\#HackerNews #brain #facebook #glimpse #off #offers #study #this #unplugging #your
Planning on quitting the social platform? A major new study offers a glimpse of what unplugging might do for your life. (Spoiler: It’s not so bad.)
Subjects in a Stanford study had to be paid $100 on average to quit Facebook for a month. At the end, they were less politically polarized than people in a comparison group.CreditCreditMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
The world’s most common digital habit is not easy to break, even in a fit of moral outrage over the privacy risks and political divisions Facebook has created, or amid concerns about how the habit might affect emotional health.
Although four in 10 Facebook users say they have taken long breaks from it, the digital platform keeps growing. A recent study found that the average user would have to be paid $1,000 to $2,000 to be pried away for a year.
So what happens if you actually do quit? A new study, the most comprehensive to date, offers a preview.
Expect the consequences to be fairly immediate: More in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime.
The study, by researchers at Stanford University and New York University, helps clarify the ceaseless debate over Facebook’s influence on the behavior, thinking and politics of its active monthly users, who number some 2.3 billion worldwide. The study was posted recently on the Social Science Research Network, an open access site.
“For me, Facebook is one of those compulsive things,” said Aaron Kelly, 23, a college student in Madison, Wis. “It’s really useful, but I always felt like I was wasting time on it, distracting myself from study, using it whenever I got bored.”
Mr. Kelly, who estimated that he spent about an hour a day on the platform, took part in the study “because it was kind of nice to have an excuse to deactivate and see what happened,” he said.
[Like the Science Times page on Facebook. | Sign up for the Science Times newsletter.]
Well before news broke that Facebook had shared users’ data without consent, scientists and habitual users debated how the platform had changed the experience of daily life.
A cadre of psychologists has argued for years that the use of Facebook and other social media is linked to mental distress, especially in adolescents. Others have likened habitual Facebook use to a mental disorder, comparing it to drug addiction and even publishing magnetic-resonance images of what Facebook addiction “looks like in the brain.”
When Facebook has published its own analyses to test such claims, the company has been roundly criticized.
The new study, a randomized trial financed principally by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a nonpartisan supporter of research in science, technology and economics, sketches out a nuanced, balanced portrait of daily use that is unlikely to satisfy either critics or supporters of the platform.
The paper, along with similar analyses by other research groups, has not yet undergone peer review. The Times asked five independent experts to look at the methodology and findings.
“This is impressive work, and they do a good job sorting out causality,” said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Initiative on the Digital Economy, who was not involved in the research.
“This is the way to answer these kinds of questions; it’s the gold standard for how to do science. A lot of what we’ve heard before about social media’s effects was based on surveys.”
A Facebook press officer said, in a prepared statement: “This is one study of many on this topic, and it should be considered that way.” The statement quoted from the study itself, which noted that “Facebook produces large benefits for its users,” and that “any discussion of social media’s downsides should not obscure the fact that it fulfills deep and widespread needs.”
The researchers — led by Hunt Allcott, an associate professor of economics at N.Y.U., and Matthew Gentzkow, a Stanford economist — used Facebook ads to recruit participants over age 18 who spent at least 15 minutes on the platform each day; the daily average was an hour, with heavy users logging two to three hours, or more.
Nearly 3,000 users agreed and filled out extensive questionnaires, which asked about their daily routines, political views and general state of mind.
Half the users were randomly assigned to deactivate their Facebook accounts for a month, in exchange for payment. The price point for that payment was itself of great interest to the researchers: How much is a month’s access to photos, commentary, Facebook groups, friends and newsfeeds worth? On average, about $100, the study found, which is in line with previous analyses.
During the month of abstinence, the research team, which included Sarah Eichmeyer and Luca Braghieri of Stanford, regularly checked the Facebook accounts of the study’s subjects to make sure those who had agreed to stay away had not reactivated them. (Only about 1 percent did.)
The subjects also regularly received text messages to assess their moods. This kind of real-time monitoring is thought to provide a more accurate psychological assessment than, say, a questionnaire given hours or days later.
Some participants said that they had not appreciated the benefits of the platform until they had shut it down. “What I missed was my connections to people, of course, but also streaming events on Facebook Live, politics especially, when you know you’re watching with people interested in the same thing,” said Connie Graves, 56, a professional home health aide in Texas, and a study subject. “And I realized I also like having one place where I could get all the information I wanted, boom-boom-boom, right there.”
She and her fellow abstainers all had access to Facebook Messenger throughout the study. Messenger is a different product, and the research team decided to allow it because it has similarities with other person-to-person media services.
When the month was over, the quitters and control subjects again filled out extensive surveys that assessed changes in their state of mind, political awareness and partisan passion, as well as the ebb and flow of their daily activities, online and off, since the experiment began.
For abstainers, breaking up with Facebook freed up about an hour a day, on average, and more than twice that for the heaviest users. They also reported spending more time offline, including with friends and family, or watching TV.
“I would have expected more substitution from Facebook to other digital things — Twitter, Snapchat, online browsing,” said Dr. Gentzkow. “That didn’t happen, and for me, at least, it was a surprise.”
On tests of political knowledge, the abstainers scored a few points lower than they did before deactivating their accounts.
“The political-knowledge findings suggest that Facebook is an important source of news that people pay attention to,” said David Lazer, a professor of political science and computer and information science at Northeastern University. “This is not a trivial finding. It could have gone either way. You could imagine that the other chatter and information on Facebook was crowding out news consumption.”
Scores on several measures of political polarization were mixed, although one scale, called “polarization on issues,” dropped for the abstainers by 5 percent to 10 percent, whereas the control group remained the same.
“It’s hard to know what to make of this,” Dr. Gentzkow said. “It may be that seeing a lot of news and politics on Facebook tends to polarize people. But once they’re off Facebook, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using the extra time to read The New York Times.”
Reduced knowledge, in short, may blunt partisanship, although this relationship is far from clear.
The most striking result from the study may be that deactivating Facebook had a positive but small effect on people’s moods and life satisfaction. The finding tempers the widely held presumption that habitual social-media use causes real psychological distress.
This notion is drawn in part from surveys that ask social-media users about their extent of use and overall moods. For instance, research led by Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has found that high levels of passive browsing on social media predict lowered moods, compared to more active engagement.
But previous research could not discern whether mood problems followed heavy usage, or moody people tended to be the heaviest users. The new study supported the latter explanation.
If heavy Facebook use caused mood problems, the researchers would have expected to see the moods of heavy users improve by a greater amount relative to lightweight users. But that didnʼt happen, which suggested that the heavy users were moody before they were sucked deeply into Facebook.
In an interview, Dr. Kross said that it was too early to draw hard conclusions on the psychological effects of quitting Facebook. He pointed to two recent, smaller randomized studies that found users’ moods lifted when their access to social media was restricted.
“What I take away from these three papers” — the Stanford study and the two smaller ones — “is we need to know more about how and when social-media use impacts well-being, not conclude that the relationship doesn’t exist,” or is very mild, Dr. Kross said.
Thus far, the debate over the effects of social media on mental health has focused mostly on children and adolescents, not on the older population that was the focus of the new study.
“In terms of age groups, they’re comparing apples and oranges,” said Jean Twenge, a psychologist and author of “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy.”
“It is entirely possible, and likely, that the dynamics of social media and well-being are different for teens versus those ages 30 and over.”
Psychologists and computer scientists have made the case that social media are addictive, and few habitual Facebook users would disagree. The new experiment provided plenty of supporting evidence: After it ended, the subjects who had quit for a month said they planned to use Facebook less, and they did so, reducing their previous habit — at least for a while.
About 10 percent were still abstaining a week later, compared with 3 percent of the control group, who had voluntarily deactivated; and 5 percent were abstaining two months later, compared with 1 percent in the control group.
The financial incentives told a similar story. After the monthlong portion of the study ended, the researchers asked the abstainers how much they would need to be paid to stay off Facebook for another month, hypothetically. This time, the price point dropped below $100 — though not for everyone.
“I told them $200 for another four weeks,” said Ms. Graves, who has not yet returned to Facebook. “Minimum.”
Benedict Carey has been a science reporter for The Times since 2004. He has also written three books, “How We Learn” about the cognitive science of learning; “Poison Most Vial” and “Island of the Unknowns,” science mysteries for middle schoolers.
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I’m sure you’ve heard the following statement over and over again: exercise can help you to beat stress, or alleviate anxiety or boost a depressed mind. This is only true in part. Because many exercises can actually worsen these illnesses. And even if you perform exercises that can help, these exercises will only help temporarily.
The reason many people believe exercise to be helpful in combating stressful and depressive illnesses is because when you exercise vigorously for longer than 20 minutes, your body floods with endorphins. These chemicals give us a buzz, and this is why it is widely believed that exercise can cure stress, depression or anxiety.
If you’re suffering a stressful or depressive episode, you’ll know that no matter how regularly you exercise, the bad feelings return. The only way to beat these illnesses is to treat the root cause – flawed modes of thinking. Exercise, though great for our bodies, simply doesn’t do anything to address modes of thinking.
When my anxiety was at it’s worst back in 2000, I exercised 4 times a week. For 2 days, I’d perform weight-training exercises. These exercises are the type of exercise that can actually make you feel worse because you have time to think about all of the issues and problems you have in your life at the time. I’d also warm up and warm down on bike machines or cross-trainers. Again, you can perform these exercises easily so you can think about your problems.
For my other workouts, I’d perform instructor-led circuit training sessions. As you’re listening out for instructions and performing sequences of exercises at a high tempo, you don’t have time to dwell on your troubles and worries. The problem is that once you stop exercising, you return to the modes of thinking which lead to stress, depression or anxiety.
As soon as my workout had finished, I’d perform flawed modes of thinking, that made me anxious and depressed. Exercising did very little to stop me performing these flawed thought processes.
Do be aware of what’s happening when you exercise. Exercises that don’t require much concentration may have you brooding over your troubles as you perform them. Jogging, walking, exercise machines, weight-training are all examples of such exercises. Instead, try ones that are more intensive or competitive so your whole concentration is required. Circuit-training worked for me, so did sports like soccer and badminton.
The idea is to give yourself a period of time where you’re not thinking about your problems and worries. And of course, you’ll do your body a whole heap of good too!
The point here is to understand that exercise can only provide temporary relief. The only way to find permanent relief from your suffering is to understand and address flawed modes of thinking. And, just as physical exercise benefits our bodies, mental skills leading to better modes of thinking will bring enormous benefits to our minds.
The following quote sums it up in a nutshell:
“Thought can make you, thought can break you.” - Swami Sukhabodhanada
#stress #anxiety #mood #relax #mind #brain #skills #mental #life #psychology #wisdom #advice #thinking
But perhaps, it is high time to pay more attention to the enormous stress and anxiety felt by those people whose jobs include the daily pressure of possibly losing their lives. Needless to say, soldiers in the battlefield are among those who are most prone to emotional and psychological distress. The War in Iraq, called Operation Iraqi Freedom in military terms, began in March 20, 2003. It is considered one of the costliest armed conflicts entered into by the United States --- in terms of funding and the toll on human lives. As of August 2007, at least 3,773 American soldiers had been killed and more than 27,000 have been wounded in combat operations in Iraq.
Aside from the men and women who find themselves in harm's way, another group of people is registering high on the depression and anxiety scale: military families. On the homefront, another battle is taking place. The pain and suffering of the families of those killed or wounded in Iraq is equally tragic. The stress and anxiety experienced by military families, for the most part, cannot be quantified or measured in the same way as it is done for body counts and daily expenditures for military operations. Each tearful farewell during the send-off of troops headed to Iraq or the grief of seeing the casket of a loved one who died in battle are now almost everyday scenes in different parts of America. It is also important to note that while many military families support the troops, they do not necessarily support the war.
In a recent Army report, it was revealed that there have been at least 1,000 cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) suffered by U.S. servicemen and women who returned from Iraq. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of anxiety disorder experienced by individuals who have undergone a very traumatic incident. However, it should not be confused with the usual grief felt by most people after the death of a loved one. The symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, anger or rage, emotional detachment, memory loss, hyper-vigilance, and depression.
While caring for servicemen and women diagnosed with PTSD had been a major priority for the U.S. Department of Defense, stress management programs for military families is not exactly on top of the list in terms of funding. Many organizations formed by spouses and family members of military personnel have had to raise funds for therapy sessions for their support groups. The challenges faced by military families is also daunting and demands a lot of commitment. Aside from the stress and anxiety brought about by long periods of separation from their loved ones deployed in conflict areas, they also have to adjust living under a single parent home, or learn how to care for a returning family member that was diagnosed with PTSD after serving in Iraq and other places where U.S. troops are sent.
In many cases, military doctors and psychiatrists have had to prescribe anti-depressant prescriptions for use by returning military personnel and those with PTSD. It is also not uncommon for some military spouses and children to request for psychiatric help and drugs to alleviate their depression, especially if they have lost a loved one from the military.
Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the military family associations have made headway in bringing the issue of combat-related stress to the fore. Government funds have been alloted to run therapy programs such as the Army Combat Stress Control and the Operational Stress Control and Readiness in the Navy and the Marines.
More than just the actual outcome of the war, the impact of combat operations should be closely monitored to help many military personnel and their families to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives, and in the process, get treatment for emotional and psychological disorders. Indeed, aside from securing victory in Iraq, efforts should also be made to help many American military personnel and their loved ones to win the war within.
#stress #anxiety #mood #anger #psychology #psychotherapy #emotions #life #people #wisdom #mind #brain
Physical illnesses are almost always present whenever a person is under extremely stressful conditions. Even the body's internal processes respond to external difficulties experienced by a person. During stressful situations, the adrenal glands inside the body release a substance called cortisol. Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone that science experts refer to as the “stress hormone.” It is known as the“stress hormone” because large amounts of this substance are released whenever a person feels stressed out. It is an important hormone in the human body because it is involved in proper glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, and control of immune system functions, and inflammatory response.
In general, cortisol is present in the body at elevated levels in the morning and lowest in the evening. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects like quick bursts of energy, improved immunity, heightened memory function, and lower sensitivity to pain. In addition, moderate doses of cortisol helps maintain homeostasis in the body. Homeostasis is the property of living organisms that regulates its internal environment to maintain a stable and constant state in terms of body temperature, acidity, and nutrient and waste balance. Health experts stress that this process is critical for survival and good health. With minimal or no thought at all, people maintain and restore homeostasis all the time. For example, people drink if they are thirsty, wear a sweater when it is cold, or take a rest after an intense physical activity. All these actions contribute to ones state of homeostasis. Dilemmas occur when the body's cells fail to communicate properly, and cause breakdown in homeostasis. This disturbance can lead to poor health and later into serious health conditions.
Sustained and prolonged levels of cortisol, however, may lead to many harmful effects like high cholesterol, suppression of the immune system, and acceleration of the aging process. Prolonged stress may lead to imbalance of cortisol in the body which causes disturbance in the components of the digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, and other major systems of the body. Medical specialists conclude that such imbalance may lead to several illness like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. In addition to these harmful effects, high levels of cortisol may lead to weight gain. When people become stressed, the adrenal glands produce more cortisol that release sugar in the blood which then leads to additional weight gain. Studies add that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol as a reaction to stress tend to eat more food that is high in carbohydrates. To keep cortisol levels under control, the body's relaxation response is activated during stressful situations. The following methods have been proven by many health experts to be very beneficial helping the mind and the body relax and, in the process, control the body's production of cortisol:
· Journaling or keeping a diary
· Listening to music
Cortisol production varies from person to person. People are biologically designed to react differently to different forms and intensities of stress. There are many kinds of medication out in the market that are designed to reduce high levels of cortisol in the body. However, it is important to understand that certain illnesses are caused by too much stress. Keeping our lives as stress-free as possible and by practicing stress management techniques, living life would not be so hard as it seems.
#stress #anxiety #mentalhealth #mental #illness #well-being #psychology #wisdom #mind #brain #mindset
Defining what is anxiety disorder
Anxiety disorder is generally a term that covers different types of extreme pathological phobia, fear, and anxiety. A person suffering from an anxiety disorder may experience abnormal feelings of anxiety even without knowing the cause or he may also have intense and sudden panic attacks. The attacks may be in the form of unwanted obsessions or compulsions and uncommon social inhibitions.
Even though anxiety disorders have different forms, they are all the same in one thing – extreme and persistent worrying or fear. This condition becomes alarming as the intensity and frequency of the said responses can disrupt or undermine an individual’s everyday routine and productivity.
Below are the three characteristics of anxiety disorders:
- Consistent, all-consuming, and continuous.
- Interferes social interactions and activities.
- Causes emotional withdrawal and isolation.
There are a number of factors that can lead to the development of anxiety disorders. These factors are categorized according to personality, environmental, hereditary, and brain chemistry.
According to medical studies, differences in personality can significantly affect the development of anxiety disorder in an individual. It is common in individuals with extreme anxiety condition to view the people and environment around them as threatening. People suffering from anxiety disorders also have inferiority complex, thinking and believing that they are powerless towards other people or situations.
The environment is also a very strong contributing factor in the development of anxiety disorders in individuals. Traumatic situations such as separation of parents; death; weak support system; as well as conflicts with family members and friends can definitely lead to abnormal anxiety condition.
Studies proved that anxiety disorders are also hereditary. This means that these psychological conditions run in the family. Those who are found to be suffering from anxiety disorders have family members who are also experiencing extreme anxiety conditions or mood disorders. Recent studies also claimed that there are certain generic factors (such as vulnerability to stress) that contribute to a person’s susceptibility to anxiety disorders.
- Brain chemistry
The occurrence of imbalances on a human brain’s neurotransmitters can also lead to the further development of anxiety disorders. As such, the medications commonly given by doctor or health practitioners are meant to readjust the chemical imbalance in the brain.
#advice #wisdom #psychology #stress #anxiety #disorder #life #brain #psychological #mind #personality #stressful #panic
That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine.
Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest mysteries in medicine. As populations have aged, dementia has skyrocketed to become the fifth biggest cause of death worldwide. Alzheimer’s constitutes some 70 per cent of these cases and yet, we don’t know what causes it.
Multiple research teams have been investigating P. gingivalis, and have so far found that it invades and inflames brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s; that gum infections can worsen symptoms in mice genetically engineered to have Alzheimer’s; and that it can cause Alzheimer’s-like brain inflammation, neural damage, and amyloid plaques in healthy mice.
Cortexyme reported in October that the best of their gingipain blockers had passed initial safety tests in people, and entered the brain. It also seemed to improve participants with Alzheimer’s. Later this year the firm will launch a larger trial of the drug, looking for P. gingivalis in spinal fluid, and cognitive improvements, before and after.
Sounds very promising and worth watching. A vaccine for gum disease would be welcome – but if it also stops Alzheimer’s the impact could be enormous.
#alzheimers #dementia #Alzheimers #dementia #brain #bacteria #gumdisease #Porphyromonasgingivalis #treatment #enzyme #vaccine #amyloid #tau
Published on New Year's Eve, their first study details how the WAND records, stimulates, and disrupts movement in real time.
Published on New Year's Eve, their first study details how the WAND records, stimulates, and disrupts movement in real time.