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Category Archives: Behavior under the Lens

Teenage Stranger

Today I am writing about a topic which is on the hearts and minds of many parents, myself included. It is probably one of the most challenging and frustrating periods that all parents will face at one time or another; in some form or another. The day will come when you will be sitting at your dinner table with your family and become suddenly aware that your son or daughter has been replaced by a stranger. Even though it would seem that little has changed in the day to day activities with the same familiar faces of your family, it will descend on you without warning.

For some parents, the changes may seem gradual. But for others, it may appear as if the only remaining evidence of your dear child are features that federal agents could use to identify through their physical remains. However, what is important to understand is that as your growing child moves through common stages toward adulthood, their behaviors are the sum of their particular environment, both outside and inside their skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between these environmental forces, the least understood and yet most influential by far is the climate within (or under) our skin. It is very complex and beautifully synchronous team of biochemical and molecularly organized structures that operate independently, yet together for the whole body. Everything within the internal environment is there for a reason. Every part from the greatest to the smallest, mobile to fixed, weaved or fragmented has a role and would not be there without serving some purpose. One role which is often a focus of behavioral sciences is that of communication, that is how the parts “talk” to each other. This is where you may have heard the term, “chemical messengers”. This refers to the wide array of signaling methods used to communicate top-down instructions on what to do and when to do it.

One way in which communication is carried out is through a type of “public broadcast message” via hormone influence. Hormones are much like the common cell to cell interactions, but hormones target a very wide population of cell sets and stir various role-specific groups to fulfill a particular job for a particular need. As a system-wide message has many important targets, the announcement must be loud, clear and lasting. In other words, unlike a neurotransmitter that makes you move your arm, the message must be loud enough, specific and last long enough to assure every player is on board for the same objective. You could say that it is much like the horns and sirens alerting the city of an oncoming tornado, where emergency crews, support teams, and families make the necessary preparations in order to secure well-being. The article I will be introducing is about two such hormone messengers, testosterone, and cortisol.

Since stress is such a profound issue in adolescence, let us just mention this first. As children develop toward independent and responsible adults, they will have to pass through a very difficult transition where their world is completely reframed. They understand their environment through the eyes of their parents. They emerge into a large society of many other individuals where they lack significance and meaningfulness beyond “who they are” as children of their parents. It is through their groups and select friends that they become unique as a separate entity, therefore more meaningful and significant. But these associations are not without bruises and bumps to their sprouting young ego. This is often where kids become more abrasive with others especially those in authority and challenge the important values they were taught from youth. It is important to understand that attitudes and actions are not motivated by a hurtful intention. It is a desperate attempt to become unique in a world of others; to be an individual and therefore to be special and meaningful. Sometimes, this may even mean having to reject everything and everyone they know close to them just to see what remains, which helps define “who they are”.

In order to better understand the magnitude of stress that a teenager faces, we must consider that they are experiencing significant changes in their own physical development and these changes impact their evolving self-regard through family, school, and social group dynamics.

When stress is experienced we are wired to prepare for some form of adaptive action. This means our minds and body need to fall back on a base level program in our DNA that is designed for survival in the face of potential threats. Through “perceived” dangers, our brain relates a message that the pituitary gland must amplify for “full alert” to the entire body. It releases a hormone trigger (ACTH) that quickly stirs the adrenal cortex (along the top of our kidneys) to send out the alert through cortisol.

High levels of cortisol produce a hyperactive sense of “fight or escape”. The body becomes completely dedicated at that point to return to a comfort balance, either through confrontation or avoidance.

 

Now we shift our spotlight to Testosterone. Yes, ladies, you have some of this stuff too. However, it usually is fed forward toward modification as an estrogen precursor. However, this topic is relevant to both genders.

Testosterone fuels our “stress prepared” body toward a direct action. It is aligned and in complete agreement with the cortisol signal, that is to return to a state of comfort. Therefore if there is an action which we may believe to be effective to restore comfort, then such an action is then presented to our “judgment command center” for consideration.
If the level of stress is high, the tentative action regardless of consequence is more likely to be chosen. If the choice leads to undesired consequences or punishment, then testosterone is postured to remove some of the stings from the hard consequences.

Now for the sake of clarity, consider the following example.

Let us say you were not responsible enough to prepare for a school final exam which was to be administered in class the next day. You were talking with one of your peers and discovered that it was going to be over half of your class grade. You were already fighting to keep your grades up in other classes and knew that a failing grade on the exam would mean you would fail the year. The cortisol would be broadcasting an alert throughout your body. You are feeling a sense of desperation and then think about ANY action to achieve a passing grade.

You believe you are honest and would never consider cheating. Then judgment gets an option which can likely restore balance. Testosterone sends a message. I do not believe in cheating…But..the stakes are high…it is only one time…what if…

Now, let’s look at how this all plays a part in behavior. Consider the following example:

 

A DECISION TO CHEAT

 

Let us say a youngster was not responsible enough to prepare for a school final exam which was to be administered in class the next day.  While playing a game with one of his friends after school, he was reminded of the test and how the test counted over half of his class grade. He was an average student already, struggling to keep his grades up in his other classes. He began to dread, knowing that a failing grade on the exam would mean you would a fail for the year. Alarms begin to scream through his body. The cortisol would be broadcasting an alert throughout his entire system. A sense of desperation sets in and his mind begins to explore ANY action to achieve a passing grade.

He has good family values and knows the importance of honesty. He would never consider a decision to cheat on any test.  But his judgment center receives a telegram and it provides an option which can likely restore the balance. Testosterone responds to soldier another telegram.

I do not believe in cheating…BUT..the stakes are very high…it is only one time…what if…

This is the mechanism. See how it played out?

In this example, the scenario did not result in an ethical choice when the cortisol was off the charts. However, if it were effectively minimized, it may have made an honest choice more likely. Translated in biological terms, preparing the child effectively for the challenge meant the child is less likely to perceive the task as highly stressful. Adequate preparation is likely to promote choices which are more ethically aligned and more responsible.

In terms of adolescence, it would be better to understand the stressors behind a child’s experience and provide the needed help to meet their challenges instead of addressing poor choices and coping behaviors. By aligning with their struggles, we can shoulder them and guide them more effectively. If we only pass judgment on their choices, we add to their wagon of stressors and then become part of the problem and not part of the solution. Ideal parenting is not just pointing out the right decisions in life, but helping kids steer away from poor choices through better coping skills.

 

 

 

Teenage Stranger was originally published on

Teenage Stranger was originally published on

 
 

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“To Thine Ownself be true..”

exposedtruth

Polonius:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Laertes:

Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Hamlet Act
1, scene 3, 78–82

 
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius’s shared this counsel with his son Laertes, who was departing on a journey. It is wise counsel to us all.  As I follow the growing research in medical sciences, it becomes more apparent that dishonesty with others,  has a greater impact on our own health.  In neuroscience, it has been documented that even the very organization and process of the changing brain is intimately connected to the truths and falsehood we personally embrace.  
 
Lies stem from fears. It orbits a deeply rooted insecurity created from the dialogue we share with ourselves.  The false statements such as “I am worthless” or ” I am not important” are planted by primary support authorities when we were children, and they reside close to the center  or seat of the pathology.  Over time, we coat this falsehood in added layers , with what we believe to be “our evidence” , from how we are treated, how others react to us or how we expect others to regard us. This leads us to a desperate course of  snatching any available opportunities to “feel a moment of gratification” at the expense of honest and just means.  We find ways to meet our immediate needs like a homeless child, stealing candy from a candy store when we could not afford the costs.  Under intense judgement, we grow up and learn whatever we have to in order to avoid the punishments attached to our wrong actions.  Over the course of years, we will either look inward and unravel the lies that bind us, or we will continue our journey to become skillful in obtaining what is not ours, by whatever means necessary.  We do this while we find that particular means to avoid judgement and criticism of those “righteous people” who dare to ‘ look down on me’.  We steal, and rationalize.  We injure, and redirect blame.  But avoiding truth and living in the denial of our core negative self regard, always catches up with us.  We are funny that way.  Sometimes we think it is better to go on living with our lies, despite the snowball of growing consequences, than to to just own our lies and confront them as needed. Just because we have injuries from our past, does not make our distorted “view of self”  true.  We just make it true.  We live to fulfil it in full without considering its impact.
 
Well, I was not planning to dissect this pathology of our mindset, but there it is.  
 
Recently, I have read articles about uncovering lies. 
 
One way in which we are not even conscious, is how it affects our handwriting.  See the following. 

Lying affects the way we write

..This study shows that the system can identify when participants have written the truth and when they have lied: For example, the pressure exerted on the page when the participants were writing false symptoms was greater than when they were writing about their true medical condition.The regularity of the strokes when writing a lie,reflected in the height and width of the letters, was significantly
different from the regularity of the strokes when writing the truth.Differences in duration, space and pressure were also found in false writing.
The researchers were also able to divide the types of handwriting into more distinct profiles (very small or large handwriting, etc.) and to find other more substantial differences associated with each writing profile.
According to the researchers, when a person writes something false, cognitive load is created in the brain
and this load creates competing demands for resources in the brain, such that operations that we usually perform automatically, like writing, are affected.
They added that the current study found that false
medical information in “laboratory conditions” creates cognitive load that enables the computer system to identify changes in handwriting,
and it can be assumed that in a natural situation, together with the need to lie to the doctor, the cognitive load would be even greater.

Here is an interesting article on clues about lying.

How To Tell If Someone Is Lying: The Tell-Tale Signs

  • TV shows and folk wisdom have suggested commonly held beliefs for spotting lairs, but the truth is they’re not always accurate
  • A liar will tend to give too much information and they often struggle to
    repeat their original performance if asked to recount the events in
    opposite order.
  • liars tend to avoid “I” statements and use third-person pronouns like “he” and “she” instead.
  • people who are speaking honestly will maintain eye contact for about 60 percent of a conversation. When one lies, they work at keeping eye contact
  • so as to appear honest.
  • A lliar will often engage in more eye contact without much blinking.
  • Liars will subconsciously point their feet towards the exit of the room.
  • A smile often surfaces from the liar when they think they’ve successfully deceived you.
  • Often they nod their head while denying or shake their head while agreeing.

This note was created from Liner.
By braindocPage with highlights – http://getliner.com/uGmJ7
Original page – http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/how-tell-if-someone-lying-tell-tale-signs-327998
Let us agree make it a regular habit to review our “self talk” the next time we find our words are not ringing quite true.  
Our integrity and health depend on it.
 
Greg
 
liars

“To Thine Ownself be true..” was originally published on

“To Thine Ownself be true..” was originally published on

“To Thine Ownself be true..” was originally published on

 

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Bonds of Friendship : Life Lessons from Chemistry

chemistry



Bonds of Friendship : Life Lessons from Chemistry

I have always enjoyed the sciences, especially the study of chemistry. Chemistry helps one to understand the interactions of matter down to the smallest particle. When I enrolled in my first class, I had much trouble grasping some of the basic concepts as a visual minded individual, especially the whole discussion of “mole”. For all of you who do not know this term, it deals with the mass of elements, given 1 x 10 ^23 units. It is like when you wish to compare apples and oranges, except in dealing with atoms you need to convert to another scale than pounds or kilogram. If you could go to the “ATOMIC STORE” and wish to buy a bag of zinc, it would not come in the same size bag as helium. So, given a standard weight of reference, one is looking for how many apples weigh as much as ten oranges. It is an over simplification but allow me to get to my topic.

Ok, so as I was saying, I am very visual in my thinking. Most of the students in my class would schedule to see the professor after class with their questions written on a sheet of paper. But for me to grasp concepts I often took a marble model of the molecule in question and ask the teacher to reassemble the solutions to a problem for me. It helped me to ‘really understand’ the workings of a reaction.

Given this tendency to visualize chemistry problems has been an asset to me in applying metaphors to other disciples. If there is one thing I have seen over my years of study, it is that the “truth in a discipline”, seems congruent to the “truth held” in other disciplines. Visual models help me to grasp truths more effectively, especially in social sciences. Now to the point of this blog, I wish to introduce a very interesting chemistry concept that can be very helpful to those who ever suffered losses in their life.

On stage the curtain is pulled back. Let us give a warm welcome to a “lipid molecule (people often just call him ‘fat’).”

MyristicAcid

You will notice many repeating patterns in a lipid molecule. It has what is called a “carbon backbone” like many organic molecules in our world. But what I wish to point out is that you will notice a large set of Hydrogen molecules (white) hugging the carbons (black) in the chain.

saturated-fat

These chains stay together by charges, known as bonds. The positive charges of hydrogen share fields with available negatively charged carbons. When two or more different chains sit close together, side by side, they will try to repel each other. Maybe now, you can probably then understand why oils are slippery. The positive bonded charges of the hydrogen atom of one lipid molecule tries to move away from the hydrogen atom of another lipid molecule close to it. You probably heard somewhere that “opposites attract and same repel”.

So, maybe it then makes sense. Lipids (or fats) in compact spaces tend to push each other away…meaning less friction..meaning it can be quite slippery. Knowing this, you can probably think of other substances that you found slippery. So do you think slippery substances have similar properties? Yes, in fact they do; whether it is a drop of oil for a hinge or a banana peel that makes an actor slip for a good laugh.

There is great lesson we can grasp through their “structural behavior” when a small piece is removed (e.g. a hydrogen atom is removed). The loss of hydrogen from paired carbon makes that empty carbon more negatively charged. This often results in two carbons sharing a neighboring hydrogen, like two boys dating the same girl.

fat_f2

Now instead of a single bond, the affected carbons create a double bond. Structurally, this makes the molecule more reactive to the environment. After all, the girl that is dating two boys at the same time, can more easily leave them both. In order for the whole molecule to become more stable, their will usually rotate slightly down the whole chain of carbons, permitting as much equal sharing to balance out the ionic shift.

fat-molecule

Now in contrast, enter Salt. He is often called sodium chloride, like the table salt your use to season your food.

image

 

Notice, there are just two parts, a sodium atom and a chloride atom. What is very different here is there are not any other competitions happening for the bond they uniquely have. Usually a medium has to be available for them to let go of each other. This is what happens as it dissolves in water. The water (H2O) ,as a medium becomes aligned in ways that react with chloride and sodium, coming between them to disassociate.

Lectur2  NaCl1

 

 

 

 

Now outside of a medium change, it would be very difficult to break the bond of salt. However, if sodium and chloride get separated without a stable medium, something very significant takes place. Both sodium and chloride become very unstable and search desperately to be united with anything, if not each other. These are radicals.

Now an unpaired Chloride would seek other Chloride atoms for stability. This ultimately results in Chloride gas; a poisonous and toxic gas.

chloridegas

The Sodium, on the other hand becomes flammable and has the capacity to burn a hole through carpet!

FB0PAX3HSVH3WXU.RECTANGLE1

 

Ok, what profound truth can we extract from this?  We are all just like molecules, with bonds like relationships. Some people have only a few relationships like salt; those with whom they share memories, experiences and events. Living life without significant companions to reciprocate, may leave us more vulnerable to stress and ‘radical’ perspective after loss. It is much more likely to become reactive and may contribute to an emotional imbalance when an only friend or partner is unexpectedly lost.

bestfriend

A unique Reality that two isolated partners share exclusively can be dramatically altered after a loss of a partner and in such circumstances a survived partner may not be able to function in their daily activities.

In fact, the survived ones identity may be essentially lost, until a limited strategy (despite its logical merit) can be employed in order to go on.

folie e deux

Some people have a large number of people they share experiences . Such people tend to always have bonds with others and share on deeper levels, or on many levels with others. They are often a part of either a large family, a club, a church or community, or may have been raised with a community mindset. Such people are best equipped to share the loss they experience with others with whom they are intimately familiar. They can access the sympathy from others, and later when a similar loss is experienced by a close friend, the bond can be further reinforced by empathy instead of sympathy.

handstogether

As joys and sorrows come their way, it is the company of established, mutually regarded companions that permit strength to face life’s unexpected challenges optimally.

Now you may see a parallel here between the loss of ionic bonds in chemistry to loss which may occurs socially; as a lost relationship. How one deals with a lost family member or partner in life have much to do with how well that loss can be shared with others. Culturing quality relationships, sharing favorable experiences with others, making good memories with others of similar core values, all strengthen bonds of your relationships. When anyone shares a bond with another then life’s challenges take on a different impact.

MyristicAcid

One writer once put it , ” friendship halves our sorrow and doubles our joy”. It brings more meaningfulness and stability to endure the unexpected hardships in our lives. Take the time to invest in your friendships. It is an investment you can not effectively live without.

Greg

Bonds of Friendship : Life Lessons from Chemistry was originally published on

 

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What “LIES” Beneath…

liedef


The most important fundamental principle in Psychiatry is discovering the content of our “self-talk”. 

cbt

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), introduced by Dr. Aaron Beck, has been established as a very useful therapy for those suffering from a wide range of emotional problems.  The effective application of this therapy has been a powerful tool not only for troubled individuals but for anyone who desires some sort of compass to navigate through the rocky terrain of everyday life.

beck

The principles are based on uncovering the lies we have learned throughout our lives and how they introduce obstacles when we hold them as truths.  The most valuable aspect of CBT is that it does not require a lifelong therapist. In fact, the pace of healing is centered on those who earnestly acquire the skills to keep their mental dialogue in check.  When we learn how to extract truth in our interpretations of life events, we are able to break free from the anxiety and fear that threaten our freedom to live life fully as intended,

Here, I will share the six basic lies that rob our freedoms.  If you learn how to identify these lies, then you will be in a position to begin replacing your self-dialogue with truths and begin a journey to freedom.

6lies

halfplateshd1

halfplateshd2

Now, Go Reclaim your freedom!

 

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The Bridge that could not..

 

 

nobridge

 

I have heard it said “if you want friends, do not build walls, build bridges”. But if you have ever felt depressed or under stress, you may have noticed that you did not really feel very sociable.  In fact, you may remember that you avoided being around people. You may even recall how stress impaired your thinking and planning. We tend to become myopic, or near sighted and any task undertaken can seem very energy demanding.

I have been reading an article recently that explains how this experience is actually a part of a neurobiological process ; one that is common not only for times of stress and depression, but it also appears to have a common involvement in most dementias.

You see, the bridgework of social engagement is much like the bridgework that can be found between neurons of our brains.  This bridgework aligns neurons across the a signalling gap between downstream neurons.  The terminal end of one firing neuron (presynapse) communicates with the dendrite (postsynapse)  of the next neuron through a gap known as a synapse.

synapse

synbridge

The alignment of neurons is an important feature for effective communication downstream.  Researchers discovered a structure protein known as Nectin-3 that maintains this alignment to secure connections in place.  Now, what has been found is that when mice were placed in a stressful environment, there was a significant reduction in Nectin-3 in their brains.  This also correlated with the avoidance behaviour observed in these mice from the stress induced.  In order to be certain of this relationship, other experiments were designed to restore  fibronectin-3, which resulted in increased cognitive function and improved  socialization in mice.

When the scientist explored the mechanism behind nectin-3 reduction, an enzyme known as MMP-9 was identified.  During times of stress, high glutamate levels prompt the release of this enzyme which degrades  nectin-3 protein. I think of this as Military Police (MP) that lose their role as peacekeepers, causing mass chaos.

mpshadow

Normally, this enzyme has an important role, probably in modifying memory like fine tuning a piano to the right tone.  However, stress clearly permits a runaway mechanism to hinder our social interaction and capacity to think clearly.

 

I invite you to read this article below.


Stress Management Makes Us Antisocial Due To Severed Synapses: New Finding Opens Window For Disorder Treatment

grouchy
If you find yourself avoiding human interaction when you’re stressed, be sure to thank an enzyme in your brain. greg westfall, CC BY 2.0
The people who can carry on amiable conversation while also fighting a war inside their heads are few and far between. When we get stressed, we shut down.We recede from the social sphere, if only to count to 10, before rejoining the group with a clearer frame of mind. But what, exactly, is going on between our ears when all this is happening?

New research from the Brain Mind Institute at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland, suggests the neural mechanism that makes stress a precursor to antisocial behavior happens at the synaptic level. Specifically, there is a disruption between a key enzyme and a set of proteinsnecessary for sociability. Keeping that relationship intact could open important doors for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

There’s a type of protein whose main function in the brain is to keep neurons stuck together. They’re called adhesion proteins, and one in particular, the nectin-3 adhesion protein, has been found in prior research to play a vital role in the preservation of cognitive functions. In rats with chronic stress, researchers recently found nectin-3 levels were substantially lower.

In looking for possible causes of the decrease, the researchers ended up at the enzyme MMP-9, known for its role in protein degradation. What they found when they looked at MMP-9 activity in the brain was that during episodes of chronic stress, when the neurotransmitter glutamate is released, the receptors responsible for memory and synaptic plasticity activated MMP-9. Literally like scissors, the enzyme cut the nectin-3 proteins.

“When this happens, nectin-3 becomes unable to perform its role as a modulator of synaptic plasticity” explained lead author and Brain Mind Institute professor Carmen Sandi in a statement. The end result for the rats was decreased sociability, avoidant behavior, and impaired memory and understanding.

By contrast, when EPFL researchers and a team of Polish scientists tried to reverse the effect — in other words, boost sociability through nectin-3 restoration — they found in in vitro and in vivo models that these external treatments yielded positive effects. Cognitive skills improved and memory returned. “The identification of this mechanism is important because it suggests potential treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders related to chronic stress, particularly depression,” Sandi said.

The research is admittedly early for any clinical application. So far, no drugs have been developed using nectin-3 as their primary target. Sandi and her team hope the findings can be repeated in future studies. Given the success with MMP-9, they also hope to exploit its benefits for other neurological diseases, like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or epilepsy.

“This result opens new research avenues on the still unknown consequences of chronic stress,” Sandi said.

Source: Sandi C, et al. Nature Communications. 2014.

The Bridge that could not.. was originally published on Braindoctr's Blog

 

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The Wrongs of Write

hwrit

I have always enjoyed the study of Handwriting Analysis (a.k.a Psychographology). I read my first book on this topic when I was in 7th grade. Over the years I have collected many samples and built an ever expanding reference resource of handwring analysis I have acquired, I have been able to distill my own composite way of interpreting the styles of penmanship I come across when an occasion arises.

If there is anything to be revealed in handwriting, I have learned that a a few sentences are of minimal benefit.  In fact, if one wishes to have a more accurate reading, two pages of script is required.  There is really not anything magical about this skill.  Personality is like a pattern of traits that has settled into a  mental routine of habit.  It is much like taking a walk through the woods, where your grass worn path is different from other explorers in the same woods.  Once a person settles into their own familiar journey, it becomes a less conscious process.  Since the brain drives the nerves and innervates muscles for grip, pressure and coordination, it becomes apparent that the “way we write” is a reflection of neuromuscular mechanics that unconsciously leave some consistent measure of the mental habits which otherwise would not be readily apparent.

After many years of much study in Psychographology, I have concluded that my own style of analysis is quite reliable and accurate.  It is not as simple as sharing “how” I approach the analysis or exactly “what” I look for to disclose traits.  In fact, I firmly believe that true validity rests in the consistency and congruency of the script.

For example, just because you see a dotted “i” appearing as a circle, does not mean the writer is artistic, as some books may claim.  Accuracy has more to do with recurrence or formations than single instances of letters.  Actually, no one person writes the same everyday.  Pressure, slant and size frequently changes, which provide more information about the dynamic state of an individual, This is where the window of the writers energy, engagement and buoyancy of behaviour is evidenced.  Letter formation however, is more consistently regular and therefore more likely to provide clues to the more stable component of traits. This where clues of habits and tendency of routine are revealed. 

There are many psychograpologists writing books about “how to interpret handwriting” and many critics who are quick to claim this field as a “Pseudoscience”, lacking any true validity.  But as I shared earlier, if validity is the goal, it is only possible  through the analyst’s years of experience and careful evaluation for reinforcing “parts” that reliable clues can be evidence with any probable confidence.

In the article that follows, researchers are now finding new applications for evaluating health claims through handwriting samples by computer assisted determination of validity.  Maybe it is time for some critics to reconsider their posture on this valuable tool for character assessment.


Is this the end of ‘fake exemptions? ‘ it is possible to detect when we provide false information regarding our health conditions through handwriting

December 3, 2014
University of Haifa
A new study aims to develop a computerized system that can be used to detect medical fraud. Medical fraud has become a common phenomenon in recent years, researchers say. There are many cases of doctors encountering patients who want sick leave or compensation from the various health insurance providers, and who lie about their medical condition. The financial cost to health insurance providers in the United States due to false reporting is estimated at fifty billion dollars a year, not including the cost of wasted work days of doctors and the cost of the various tests performed.

It is possible to detect when we provide false information regarding our health conditions through our handwriting, according to a new study conducted at the University of Haifa. The study used a computerized system, which was developed by Prof. Sara Rosenblum from the University of Haifa and that was patented recently, to analyze the handwriting process. “Our findings can provide the health care system and insurance companies with a fairly simple tool with which to discover medical fraud, without the need for intrusive devices such as the polygraph that tries to detect physiological changes,” said Dr. Gil Luria, one of the study’s conductors.

Medical fraud has become a common phenomenon in Israel and abroad in recent years. There are many cases of doctors encountering patients who want sick leave or compensation from the various health insurance providers, and who lie about their medical condition. The financial cost to health insurance providers in the United States due to false reporting is estimated at fifty billion dollars a year, not including the cost of wasted work days of doctors and the cost of the various tests performed.

In a previous study conducted several years ago, Dr. Gil Lurie and Prof. Sara Rosenblum performed a pilot study of the computerized writing kit in which they found that deceptive and truthful writing in general can be detected. In their present study, performed together with Dr. Allon Kahana, the sample was increased significantly to include 98 participants. More importantly, however, this time the researchers chose to focus on testing the reliability of specific information — medical data — due to the difficulty that the health care system has in checking when patients are lying to them.

The participants were asked to write two paragraphs on the condition of their health, the first describing their real situation and the second describing fabricated medical symptoms. The participants wrote the two paragraphs on a computerize writing kit developed by Prof. Rosenblum that obtains data regarding the pressure being exerted on the page, the rate and speed of writing, the duration and number of times the pen remains raised in comparison with the duration and number of times it is touching the paper, the size of the letters, and more.

This study shows that the system can identify when participants have written the truth and when they have lied: For example, the pressure exerted on the page when the participants were writing false symptoms was greater than when they were writing about their true medical condition. The regularity of the strokes when writing a lie, reflected in the height and width of the letters, was significantly different from the regularity of the strokes when writing the truth. Differences in duration, space and pressure were also found in false writing. The researchers were also able to divide the types of handwriting into more distinct profiles (very small or large handwriting, etc.) and to find other more substantial differences associated with each writing profile.

According to the researchers, when a person writes something false, cognitive load is created in the brain and this load creates competing demands for resources in the brain, such that operations that we usually perform automatically, like writing, are affected. They added that the current study found that false medical information in “laboratory conditions” creates cognitive load that enables the computer system to identify changes in handwriting, and it can be assumed that in a natural situation, together with the need to lie to the doctor, the cognitive load would be even greater.

Even a doctor who is very knowledgeable will find it difficult to detect health fraud when a patient presents false symptoms from their field of expertise, so doctors are themselves trying to develop tools to solve the problem, however with very limited success. The writing kit provides a non-intrusive and simple testing device. Despite technological progress handwriting is still the most common means used for daily communication, and we see clearly that every person has their own writing style. With a handwriting diagnostic kit we can analyze whether the person is writing the truth or lies, “the researchers concluded.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Haifa. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Cats on the Brain

Does the Cat have your tongue? How about your brain?

Does the Cat have your tongue? How about your brain?

I remember from Medical School that there are dangers related to infections from some pets.  One, in particular, was the risk of pregnant women having exposure to cat waste.  It is well established that cats carry toxoplasmosis can be very harmful to the developing fetus.  Birth defects and death can result from exposure to the parasite, often abundant in cat waste.

toxoplasmosis_2

I also recall that some people suffering from compromised immunity are also susceptible to the same parasite which can spread throughout the body and especially the brain.

However, I have been reading about how this parasite has a greater range of impact on its host.  Apparently, this microbe has a very practical function as well for our feline companions.  It seems that mice become susceptible to the parasite, which erodes their natural defenses.  Mice have a particular agility and acuity to avoid entrapment.  But this infection makes mice less anxious and careless about being discovered.  In fact, mice can become allured to the waste of their predators, allowing them to be easy prey,

The articles below will describe this study and further present concerns about the similar mechanism of infection that can have a profound impact on human behavior. Some people can be influenced by a subacute infection that is just attributed to nothing more than a trait of character. A question we have to consider is ‘just how much can mental and behavioral management can be manipulated beyond our conscious knowledge or Will’?


Sep 18

Cat poop parasite controls minds early — and permanently, study finds

STORY BY MAGGIE FOX
WENDY INGRAM AND ADRIENNE GREENE
Even after infection with Toxoplasma gondii has been removed from rodents’ brains, they continue to behave as if unafraid of the smell of cat urine, suggesting that the infection causes long-term changes in the brain.
A parasite that changes the brains of rats and mice so that they are attracted to cats and cat urine seems to work its magic almost right away, and continues to control the brain even after it’s gone, researchers reported on Wednesday.

The mind-controlling parasite, called Toxoplasma gondii, might make permanent changes in brain function as soon as it gets in there, the researchers report. They aren’t sure how yet.

“The parasite is able to create this behavior change as early as three weeks after infection,” says Wendy Ingram of the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study.

T. gondii has captured the imaginations of scientists and cat lovers ever since it was learned it can control the behavior of rodents. It changes their brains so they lose their innate fear of the smell of cat urine. In fact, it precisely alters their fear reaction so that they love the smell of cat pee.

This makes infected rodents much more likely to be caught by cats, which eat them and their mind-controlling parasites. T. gondii can only reproduce in the guts of cats, so its behavior directly affects its own survival.

It doesn’t just affect cats. People can be infected too — pregnant women are told to stay away from cat feces for this very reason. It normally doesn’t bother people, but it can cause brain inflammation, called encephalitis, in some — especially those with compromised immune systems like pregnant women.

“More than 60 million men, women, and children in the U.S. carry the Toxoplasma parasite, but very few have symptoms because the immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website.

WENDY INGRAM AND ADRIENNE GREENE
Chronic infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can make mice lose their innate, hard-wired fear of cats.

Studies have linked toxoplasmosis with a range of human mental diseases, including schizophrenia, bipolar disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even clumsiness. This study doesn’t answer questions about people, Ingram points out.

“It does not necessarily explain crazy cat ladies or why there are LOLCATS online,” she says.

But it does begin to hint at a potential mechanism for how and when the parasite changes the mouse brains.

“I want to know how the behavioral change is happening,” Ingram says.

Her team used a specially genetically engineered version of the parasite, made by a team at Stanford University.

Normal T. gondii parasites form a cyst in neurons. “It was assumed that the cysts … were doing something biologically that is actively changing the behavior,” Ingram told NBC News.

But the genetically engineered parasite wasn’t able to make cysts. And it was so weak that the rats’ immune systems were able to clear it from their brains. But even so, rats infected with this weakened form of the parasite just loved the smell of cat urine, Ingram and colleagues report in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

“This suggests the parasite is flipping a switch rather than continually changing the behavior,” says Ingram.

She suspects it’s somehow activating the immune system in a way that then alters brain function. “That’s one of the very first things I am going to be checking,” Ingram says.

First published September 18th 2013, 7:03 pm

 

 

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