Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Add nature, art and religion to life’s best anti-inflammatories

Wondering if people with anti-social tendencies, and those who harm others have less anti-inflammatories…

Add nature, art and religion to life’s best anti-inflammatories 

From the 3 February 2015 UC Berkeley repress release

The awe we feel when we're in nature may help lower our inflammatory response, new study suggests
The awe we feel when we’re in nature may help lower levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, a new study suggests (iStockphoto)

Taking in such spine-tingling wonders as the Grand Canyon, Sistine Chapel ceiling or Schubert’s “Ave Maria” may give a boost to the body’s defense system, according to new research from UC Berkeley.

Researchers have linked positive emotions – especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder.

“Our findings demonstrate that positive emotions are associated with the markers of good health,” said Jennifer Stellar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study, which she conducted while at UC Berkeley.

While cytokines are necessary for herding cells to the body’s battlegrounds to fight infection, disease and trauma, sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and such disorders as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression.

It has long been established that a healthy diet and lots of sleep and exercise bolster the body’s defenses against physical and mental illnesses. But the Berkeley study, whose findings were just published in the journal Emotion, is one of the first to look at the role of positive emotions in that arsenal.

 

February 5, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

[Press release] Men and women process emotions differently

Men and women process emotions differently 

From the 21 January 2015 University of Basel press release

Women rate emotional images as more emotionally stimulating than men do and are more likely to remember them. However, there are no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal as far as neutral images are concerned. These were the findings of a large-scale study by a research team at the University of Basel that focused on determining the gender-dependent relationship between emotions, memory performance and brain activity. The results will be published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

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Brain activity when viewing negative emotional images: red and yellow indicates the more active areas of the brain when images are rated as highly stimulating. Green indicates the areas that specifically become more active in women (image: MCN, University of Basel).)

It is known that women often consider emotional events to be more emotionally stimulating than men do. Earlier studies have shown that emotions influence our memory: the more emotional a situation is, the more likely we are to remember it. This raises the question as to whether women often outperform men in memory tests because of the way they process emotions. A research team from the University of Basel’s “Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences” Transfaculty Research Platform attempted to find out.

With the help of 3,398 test subjects from four sub-trials, the researchers were able to demonstrate that females rated emotional image content – especially negative content – as more emotionally stimulating than their male counterparts did. In the case of neutral images, however, there were no gender-related differences in emotional appraisal.

In a subsequent memory test, female participants could freely recall significantly more images than the male participants. Surprisingly though, women had a particular advantage over men when recalling positive images. “This would suggest that gender-dependent differences in emotional processing and memory are due to different mechanisms,” says study leader Dr Annette Milnik.

Increased brain activity
Using fMRI data from 696 test subjects, the researchers were also able to show that stronger appraisal of negative emotional image content by the female participants is linked to increased brain activity in motoric regions. “This result would support the common belief that women are more emotionally expressive than men,” explaines Dr Klara Spalek, lead author of the study.

The findings also help to provide a better understanding of gender-specific differences in information processing. This knowledge is important, because many neuropsychiatric illnesses also exhibit gender-related differences. The study is part of a research project led by professors Dominique de Quervain and Andreas Papassotiropoulos at the University of Basel, which aims to increase the understanding of neuronal and molecular mechanisms of human memory and thereby facilitate the development of new treatments.

Original source
Klara Spalek, Matthias Fastenrath, Sandra Ackermann, Bianca Auschra, XDavid Coynel, Julia Frey, Leo Gschwind, Francina Hartmann, Nadine van der Maarel, Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Dominique de Quervain and Annette Milnik
Sex-Dependent Dissociation between Emotional Appraisal and Memory: A Large-Scale Behavioral and fMRI Study
Journal of Neuroscience (2015) | doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2384-14.2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Recognizing emotions, and what happens when this is interrupted — ScienceDaily

Recognizing emotions, and what happens when this is interrupted — ScienceDaily.

Excerpt

Date:November 10, 2014
Source:Sissa Medialab
Summary:
Recognizing the emotions other people feel is crucial for establishing proper interpersonal relations. To do so, we look at (amongst other things) facial expressions and body posture. Unfortunately, in some neurological disorders this ability is heavily impaired. This happens, for example, in multiple sclerosis where scientific evidence shows that people affected by the disease often have trouble recognizing expressions that communicate emotions. A new study now demonstrates that the same difficulty may also be encountered with emotions conveyed by posture.

November 14, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] Early depression, anger may taint love life even 20 years later, study shows

 

Emotions show

Emotions show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 7 May 2014 article at ScienceDaily

Negative emotions people may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age, research demonstrates. The study followed 341 people for 25 years, and found that negative emotions they may have suffered as young adults can have a lasting grip on their couple relationships, well into middle age. The fact that depression and anger experienced during the teen years clung to people, even through major life events such as child-rearing, marriages and careers was surprising, researchers note.

Read the entire article here

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May 8, 2014 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Addicts May Be Seeking Relief from Emotional Lows More Than Euphoric Highs

From the 6 November 2013 ScienceDaily Report

Cocaine addicts may become trapped in drug binges — not because of the euphoric highs they are chasing but rather the unbearable emotional lows they desperately want to avoid.

In a study published today online inPsychopharmacology, Rutgers University Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Professor Mark West, and doctoral student David Barker in the Department of Psychology, in the School of Arts and Sciences, challenge the commonly held view that drug addiction occurs because users are always going after the high. Based on new animal studies, they discovered that the initial positive feelings of intoxication are short lived — quickly replaced by negative emotional responses whenever drug levels begin to fall.

If these animal models are a mirror into human addiction, Rutgers researchers say that addicts who learned to use drugs to either achieve a positive emotional state or to relieve a negative one are vulnerable to situations that trigger either behavior.

“Our results suggest that once the animals started a binge, they may have felt trapped and didn’t like it,” said West. “This showed us that negative emotions play an equal, if not more important role in regulating cocaine abuse.”

Read the entire article here

 

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Emotional Intelligence Mapped In The Brain

For some reason, these emotional intelligence studies reminded me of Dr. Beaumont, who in 1822 studied digestion through experiments on a man who had stomach injuries.  A Wikipedia article gives a good summary.

From the 24 January 2013 article at MedicalNewsToday

A new study of 152 Vietnam veterans with combat-related brain injuries offers the first detailed map of the brain regions that contribute to emotional intelligence – the ability to process emotional information and navigate the social world.

The study found significant overlap between general intelligence and emotional intelligence, both in terms of behavior and in the brain. Higher scores on general intelligence tests corresponded significantly with higher performance on measures of emotional intelligence, and many of the same brain regions were found to be important to both.

The study appears in the journal Social Cognitive & Affective Neuroscience.

“This was a remarkable group of patients to study, mainly because it allowed us to determine the degree to which damage to specific brain areas was related to impairment in specific aspects of general and emotional intelligence,” said study leader Aron K. Barbey, a professor of neuroscience, of psychology and of speech and hearing science at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois.

Read the entire article here

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Do We Make Moral Judgments? Insights from Psychological Science

 

From the 21 September 2012 article at Science News Daily

We might like to think that our judgments are always well thought-out, but research suggests that our moral judgments are often based on intuition. Our emotions seem to drive our intuitions, giving us the gut feeling that something is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ In some cases, however, we seem to be able to override these initial reactions.

Matthew Feinberg and colleagues hypothesized that this might be the result of reappraisal, a process by which we dampen the intensity of our emotions by focusing on an intellectual description of why we are experiencing the emotion.

Across several studies, participants read stories describing moral dilemmas involving behaviors participants would probably find disgusting. Participants who reappraised the scenarios logically were less likely to make intuition-based moral judgments. These findings suggest that although our emotional reactions elicit moral intuitions, these emotions can also be regulated.

“In this way,” the researchers write, “we are both slave and master, with the capacity to be controlled by, but also shape, our emotion-laden judgmental processes.”……

 

September 25, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Expressing Your Emotions Can Reduce Fear, UCLA Psychologists Report

 

anxiety

anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

 

From the 7 September 2012 article at Medical News Today

 

“Give sorrow words.” – Malcolm in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”

Can simply describing your feelings at stressful times make you less afraid and less anxious?

A new UCLA psychology study suggests that labeling your emotions at the precise moment you are confronting what you fear can indeed have that effect.

The psychologists asked 88 people with a fear of spiders to approach a large, live tarantula in an open container outdoors. The participants were told to walk closer and closer to the spider and eventually touch it if they could.

The subjects were then divided into four groups and sat in front of another tarantula in a container in an indoor setting. In the first group, the subjects were asked to describe the emotions they were experiencing and to label their reactions to the tarantula – saying, for example, “I’m anxious and frightened by the ugly, terrifying spider.”

“This is unique because it differs from typical procedures in which the goal is to have people think differently about the experience – to change their emotional experience or change the way they think about it so that it doesn’t make them anxious,” said Michelle Craske, a professor of psychology at UCLA and the senior author of the study. “Here, there was no attempt to change their experience, just to state what they were experiencing.” …

 

 

September 7, 2012 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | 1 Comment

Mildly Stressful Situations Can Affect Our Perceptions In The Same Way As Life-Threatening Ones

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 14 June 2012 Medical News Today article

Financial loss can lead to irrational behavior. Now, research by Weizmann Institute scientists reveals that the effects of loss go even deeper: Loss can compromise our early perception and interfere with our grasp of the true situation. The findings, which recently appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, may also have implications for our understanding of the neurological mechanisms underlying post-traumatic stress disorder.

The experiment was conducted by Dr. Rony Paz and research student Offir Laufer of the Neurobiology Department. Subjects underwent a learning process based on classic conditioning and involving money. They were asked to listen to a series of tones composed of three different notes. After hearing one note, they were told they had earned a certain sum; after a second note, they were informed that they had lost some of their money; and a third note was followed by the message that their bankroll would remain the same. According to the findings, when a note was tied to gain, or at least to no loss, the subjects improved over time in a learned task – distinguishing that note from other, similar notes. But when they heard the “lose money” note, they actually got worse at telling one from the other.

Functional MRI (fMRI) scans of the brain areas involved in the learning process revealed an emotional aspect: The amygdala, which is tied to emotions and reward, was strongly involved. The researchers also noted activity in another area in the front of the brain, which functions to moderate the emotional response. Subjects who exhibited stronger activity in this area showed less of a drop in their abilities to distinguish between tones.

Paz: “The evolutionary origins of that blurring of our ability to discriminate are positive: If the best response to the growl of a lion is to run quickly, it would be counterproductive to distinguish between different pitches of growl. Any similar sound should make us flee without thinking. Unfortunately, that same blurring mechanism can be activated today in stress-inducing situations that are not life-threatening – like losing money – and this can harm us.”

That harm may even be quite serious: For instance, it may be involved in post-traumatic stress disorder. If sufferers are unable to distinguish between a stimulus that should cause a panic response and similar, but non-threatening, stimuli, they may experience strong emotional reactions in inappropriate situations. This perceptional blurring may even expand over time to encompass a larger range of stimuli. Paz intends to investigate this possibility in future research.

June 18, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Hormones, Elvis, and human emotion

Promotional photograph of Elvis Presley, taken...

Promotional photograph of Elvis Presley, taken in 1954. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the 12 June 2012 EurekAlert

Shedding light on what makes people feel and act the way they do

(SALT LAKE CITY)—The velvety voice of Elvis Presley still makes hearts flutter—and in a new study with people who have the rare genetic disorder Williams syndrome, one of the King’s classics is among a group of songs that helped to cast light on part of the essence of being human: the mystery of emotion and human interaction.

In a study led by Julie R. Korenberg, Ph.D., M.D., University of Utah/USTAR professor, Circuits of the Brain and pediatrics, people with and without Williams syndrome (WS) listened to music in a trial to gauge emotional response through the release of oxytocin and arginine vasopressin (AVP), two hormones associated with emotion. The study, published June 12, 2012, in PLoS ONE, signals a paradigm shift both for understanding human emotional and behavioral systems and expediting the treatments of devastating illnesses such as WS, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and possibly even autism, according to Korenberg, senior author on the study and one of the world’s leading experts in genetics, brain, and behavior of WS.

“Our results could be very important for guiding the treatment of these disorders,” Korenberg says. “It could have enormous implications for personal the use of drugs to help people.”

The study also is the first to reveal new genes that control emotional responses and to show that AVP is involved in the response to music…

June 14, 2012 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

   

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