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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

European Americans embrace positive feelings, while Chinese prefer a balance

European Americans embrace positive feelings, while Chinese prefer a balance.

From the 6 July 2015 article at San Diego Newscape

“Culture teaches us which emotional states to value, which can in turn shape the emotions we experience,” said Stanford psychology Professor Jeanne Tsai, director of the Culture and Emotion Lab on campus. Stanford psychology postdoctoral fellow Tamara Sims was the lead author on the research paper, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Sims noted that a number of studies by other researchers have shown that people from Chinese and other East Asian cultures are more likely to feel both negative and positive – or “mixed emotions” – during good events, such as doing well on an exam.

On the other hand, Americans of European descent are more likely to just feel positive during good events. Tsai said this is explained by cultural differences in models of the “self.” Americans tend to be more individualistic and focus on standing out, whereas Chinese tend to be more collectivistic, focusing on fitting in.

“In multicultural societies like ours, this can lead to deep misunderstandings,” Tsai said.

For instance, Americans might view Chinese who feel bad during good events as being depressed, when in fact they are feeling how their culture expects them to feel.

In an interview, Sims said, “Although Americans know what it’s like to look for the good in the bad – the silver lining – they are less likely to see the bad in the good, compared to Chinese.”

July 17, 2015 Posted by | Psychology, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] NSF-funded Ben Knapp discusses the translation of emotions directly to musical sound, with a little help from computers – Pulse of the…

Audio only

http://media.science360.gov/audio/s360/news_service/2015_05_14_pop_knappparti.mp3

 

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , | Leave a comment

[News release] How your brain reacts to emotional information is influenced by your genes

How your brain reacts to emotional information is influenced by your genes.

770brain

Image shows increased activity in the brains of ADRA2b deletion carriers.

From the 6 May 2015 University of British Columbia  news release

Your genes may influence how sensitive you are to emotional information, according to new research by a UBC neuroscientist. The study, recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that carriers of a certain genetic variation perceived positive and negative images more vividly, and had heightened activity in certain brain regions.

“People really do see the world differently,” says lead author Rebecca Todd, a professor in UBC’s Department of Psychology. “For people with this gene variation, the emotionally relevant things in the world stand out much more.”

The gene in question is ADRA2b, which influences the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Previous research by Todd found that carriers of a deletion variant of this gene showed greater attention to negative words. Her latest research is the first to use brain imaging to find out how the gene affects how vividly people perceive the world around them, and the results were startling, even to Todd.

Rebecca Todd

“We thought, from our previous research, that people with the deletion variant would probably show this emotionally enhanced vividness, and they did more than we would even have predicted,” says Todd, who scanned the brains of 39 participants, 21 of whom were carriers of the genetic variation.

Carriers of the gene variation showed significantly more activity in a region of the brain responsible for regulating emotions and evaluating both pleasure and threat. Todd believes this may help explain why some people are more susceptible to PTSD and intrusive memories following trauma.

“Emotions are not only about how feel about the world, but how our brains influence our perception of it,” says Adam Anderson, professor of human development at Cornell University and senior author of the study. “As our genes influence how we literally see the positive and negative aspects of our world more clearly, we may come to believe the world has more rewards or threats.”

Todd points out there are also benefits to carrying the gene variant. “People who have the deletion variant are drawing on an additional network in their brains important for calculating the emotional relevance of things in the world,” she says. “In any situation where noticing what’s relevant in the environment is important, this gene variation would be a positive.”

Todd says a prime example of a carrier of this variation was French novelist Marcel Proust: “He bit into the Madeleine cookie and then wrote seven volumes of memoirs,” she says. “He probably was emotionally sensitive too and he was certainly creative. He’s a classic deletion carrier.

 

May 16, 2015 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finnish research team reveals how emotions are mapped in the body

Finnish research team reveals how emotions are mapped in the body.

From the 31 December 2013 ScienceNewsline Biology article

Published: December 31, 2013. By Aalto University
http://www.aalto.fi/en/

Researchers Aalto University have revealed how emotions are experienced in the body.

Emotions adjust our mental and also bodily states to cope with the challenges detected in the environment. These sensations arising from the bodily changes are an important feature of our emotional experiences. For example, anxiety may be experienced as pain in the chest, whereas falling in love may trigger warm, pleasurable sensations all over the body. New research from Aalto University reveals, how emotions are literally experienced through the body.

The researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis.

Emotions adjust not only our mental, but also our bodily states. This way the prepare us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment. Awareness of the corresponding bodily changes may subsequently trigger the conscious emotional sensations, such as the feeling of happiness, tells assistant professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University.

The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis. On the other hand, the results help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis.

The research was carried out on line, and over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan took part in the study. The researchers induced different emotional states in their Finnish and Taiwanese participants. Subsequently the participants were shown with pictures of human bodies on a computer, and asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing.

he research was funded by European Research Council (ERC), The Academy of Finland and the Aalto University (aivoAALTO project)

The results were published on 31 December (U.S. Eastern time) in the scientific journal Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America (PNAS).

Original publication: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111.full.pdf+html?with-ds=yes

Figure summarizing the main findings of the study http://becs.aalto.fi/~lnummen/Emotionbodies.pdf
Participate in the ongoing experiment : http://becs.aalto.fi/~lnummen/participate.htm
emotionbodies.pdf (2M)
Figure caption: Different emotions are associated with discernible patterns of bodily sensations.
Contact information:
Assistant Professor Lauri Nummenmaa
Aalto University and Turku PET Centre
lauri.nummenmaa@aalto.fi
p. +358 50 431 9931
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January 6, 2014 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Emotions in Check May Not Always Benefit Psychological Health

Emotion

Emotion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

From the 28 October 2013 ScienceDaily article

 

Being able to regulate your emotions is important for well-being, but new research suggests that a common emotion regulation strategy called “cognitive reappraisal” may actually be harmful when it comes to stressors that are under our control. The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Context is important,” says psychological scientist and lead researcher Allison Troy of Franklin & Marshall College. “Our research is among the first to suggest that cognitive reappraisal may actually have negative effects on psychological health in certain contexts.”

Previous research has shown that cognitive reappraisal — a strategy that involves reframing one’s thoughts about a given situation in order to change its emotional impact — is especially beneficial for the psychological health of people who are highly stressed. But, as Troy and colleagues discovered, the controllability of a given situation seems to be the key in determining whether cognitive reappraisal helps or hurts:

“For someone facing a stressful situation in which they have little control, such as a loved one’s illness, the ability to use reappraisal should be extremely helpful — changing emotions may be one of the only things that he or she can exert some control over to try to cope,” Troy notes.

“These results suggest that no emotion regulation strategy is always adaptive,” says Troy. “Adaptive emotion regulation likely involves the ability to use a wide variety of strategies in different contexts, rather than relying on just one strategy in all contexts.”

These findings have implications for public health, given that stress and impairments in the ability to cope with it are important predictors of psychological health problems. The findings also have important implications for clinicians, given that many existing forms of therapy focus on using cognitive reappraisal as a way of strengthening emotion regulation:

“Our results suggest that therapeutic interventions that seek to improve emotion regulation ability and teach clients to use particular strategies in context appropriate ways would be particularly beneficial,” says Troy. “It may be, for instance, that more active strategies like problem-solving and seeking social support could be particularly beneficial in more controllable contexts.”

The researchers plan on expanding their person-by-situation approach to the study of other emotion regulation strategies like acceptance, distraction, and suppression.

 

 

 

Read the entire article here

 

 

October 28, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychologists reveal how emotion can shut down high-level mental processes without our knowledge

From the 8 May 2012 Eureka Alert

‘How reading in a second language protects your heart’

Psychologists at Bangor University believe that they have glimpsed for the first time, a process that takes place deep within our unconscious brain, where primal reactions interact with higher mental processes. Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience (May 9, 2012 • 32(19):6485– 6489 • 6485), they identify a reaction to negative language inputs which shuts down unconscious processing.

For the last quarter of a century, psychologists have been aware of, and fascinated by the fact that our brain can process high-level information such as meaning outside consciousness. What the psychologists at Bangor University have discovered is the reverse- that our brain can unconsciously ‘decide’ to withhold information by preventing access to certain forms of knowledge.

The psychologists extrapolate this from their most recent findings working with bilingual people. Building on their previous discovery that bilinguals subconsciously access their first language when reading in their second language; the psychologists at the School of Psychology and Centre for Research on Bilingualism have now made the surprising discovery that our brain shuts down that same unconscious access to the native language when faced with a negative word such as war, discomfort, inconvenience, and unfortunate.

They believe that this provides the first proven insight to a hither-to unproven process in which our unconscious mind blocks information from our conscious mind or higher mental processes.

This finding breaks new ground in our understanding of the interaction between emotion and thought in the brain. Previous work on emotion and cognition has already shown that emotion affects basic brain functions such as attention, memory, vision and motor control, but never at such a high processing level as language and understanding….

May 14, 2012 Posted by | Psychology | , , , | Leave a comment

Why Do Hopeful Consumers Make Healthier Choices Than Happy Ones?

Happy people are more likely to eat candy bars, whereas hopeful people choose fruit, according to a new study. That’s because when people feel hope, they’re thinking about the future. (Credit: © Andrea Berger / Fotolia)

From the 20 April 2011 Science News Today article

ScienceDaily (Apr. 20, 2011) — Happy people are more likely to eat candy bars, whereas hopeful people choose fruit, according to a new study in theJournal of Consumer Research. That’s because when people feel hope, they’re thinking about the future.

Most of us are aware that we often fall victim to emotional eating, but how is it that we might choose unhealthy or healthy snacks when we’re feeling good?” write authors Karen Page Winterich (Pennsylvania State University) and Kelly L. Haws (Texas A&M University).

Because previous research has explored how feeling sad leads to eating bad, the authors focused on the complicated relationship between positive emotions and food consumption. “We demonstrate the importance of the time frame on which the positive emotion focuses and find that positive emotions focusing on the future decrease unhealthy food consumption in the present,” the authors write….

Journal Reference:

  1. Karen Page Winterich and Kelly L. Haws. Helpful Hopefulness: The Effect off Future Positive Emotions on ConsumptionJournal of Consumer Research, October 2011 (published online March 18, 2011) DOI:10.1086/659873

[For suggestions on how to get this article for free or at low cost, click here]

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Nutrition | , , | Leave a comment

‘Gut Instinct’ May Stem From the Heart

HealthDay news image

‘Gut Instinct’ May Stem From the Heart

Study probes what prompts people to make the decisions they do

From a January 6, 2011 Health Day news item  by Robert Preidt

THURSDAY, Jan. 6 (HealthDay News) — Everyone feels gut instincts at one time or another: Marry that guy! Don’t take that job. Stay inside during this snowstorm! Now, a new study suggests there is indeed a link between your heartbeat and the decisions you make.

“These findings can help explain how we make key choices in life — for example, which house to buy, which job to go for — for better or for worse,” explained study author Barnaby D. Dunn, a clinical psychologist who works with the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England.

The findings don’t indicate that your heart is very good at giving you insight into what to do. And the research doesn’t point to any particular way to get better at decision making. Still, the study does manage to find evidence that there’s something to the idea of trusting your heart.

“I work as a clinical psychologist, and I have been struck in my therapy practice how clients often describe their emotions and decisions in terms of what is happening in their bodies — for example, feeling brokenhearted or following their gut instincts,” Dunn said. “I wanted to see if there was a scientific basis to the idea that what happens in our bodies shapes our minds.”

The researchers tried to find a link between heart and mind by first testing participants to see if they could estimate how fast their hearts were beating. “Participants are instructed to try to ‘feel’ their heart internally and not to directly measure their pulse with their fingers,” Dunn said. “Most people say they are guessing at the tracking task and are unconfident in their performance, and yet there are marked differences in how accurate their estimates are. Only around one-fifth of people show high levels of accuracy.”

Researchers then tried to elicit emotions from the participants by showing them photos of happy things (like a cute puppy) and not-so-happy things (a disgusting plate of food). They then tried to link people’s responses to their ability to monitor their heart rates.

“People’s arousal turned out to be related to changes in their heart rate,” Dunn said. “And this link was stronger in people who were more aware of their own heartbeat. So how people felt depended in part on how well they could sense the status of their own bodies.”

“This suggests that what happens in our bodies really does shape how we feel emotionally,” he said.

In a second experiment, the participants played a card game that emphasized intuition instead of strategy. “The quality of the advice that people’s bodies gave them varied,” Dunn said. “Some people’s gut feelings were spot on, meaning they mastered the card game quickly. Other people’s bodies told them exactly the wrong moves to make, so they learned slowly or never found a way to win. This link between gut feelings and intuitive decision making was stronger in people who were more aware of their own heartbeat.”

What’s the connection between the heart and brain? Dunn said one theory goes like this: “The ’emotional’ parts of the brain generate the bodily response in the first place. The ‘rational’ parts of the brain then listen in to these bodily responses to find out what the ’emotional’ parts of the brain are doing. This allows both logic and emotion to shape our choices.”

Dunn said better understanding of the link between the body and the mind might eventually help people who struggle with depression and anxiety.

“We know that anxious people are hyper-aware of the body, whereas those who are depressed are out of touch with the body,” he said. “Training the ability to tune in and out of the body may be beneficial for these individuals.”

The study was published in the December issue of Psychological Science.

SOURCES: Barnaby D. Dunn, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England; December 2010 Psychological Science


January 21, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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