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“I Feel Your Pain…Not”

“I Feel Your Pain…Not”

“I-Feel-Your-Pain2

“I Feel Your Pain..Not”


 

Last year, I was battling my fourth week of coughing without end.  I became determined to treat my symptoms through a standard protocol. I took zinc tablets for one week for my presumed viral infection. After no relief, I started antibiotics for a 10-day schedule.  The upper respiratory infection left me with laryngitis with a continuous cough.  Frustrated with my prolonged coughing, I started using a steam vaporizer to loosen my congestion and even used a muscle thumper to areas of my chest to help clear my lungs.  However, for some reason, my deep cough continued without significant resolution.  I decided to pay the local medical clinic a visit to have my primary physician provide other strategies for treatment.

 

 

He agreed with my diagnostic impression of post-infection bronchitis and he prescribed an expectorant, cortisone along with two kinds of antitussives (cough suppressant medicines), Benzonatate and Dextromethorphan.  I had used Dextromethorphan in past years without any problems.  The other antitussive, Benzonatate was a medicine that I had never tried before.  I started the treatment right away, hoping for a speedy recovery.

After nearly a week of treatment, I began to have a resolution of my coughing symptoms.  I also became increasingly aware that my normal level of energy and emotional posture had shifted.  On one level, I was a quiet observer of the change I was experiencing.  But on a different level, I was feeling numb and apathetic, and oddly, depressed.  Clearly, I was experiencing what Mental Health professionals call “anhedonia” (no pleasure in activities ) and psychomotor retardation (sluggish) with a decreased appetite and increased need for sleep. What I found noteworthy was that I seemed to have lost interest even in my personal feelings about everything that was important to me; even my appreciation of others, especially with those closest to me.  I recognized that even during that time if I had the energy to gaze at what I was actually experiencing, it would have shocked me that I could not have cared less for anything or anyone. Since this was an experience I had never felt before, and knowing this was a clear departure from my character, I reasoned that this dysphoria had to be medication related.  I decided to stop the Benzonatate and I reduced my routine dose of Dextromethorphan.

 

After I recovered and was finally on the other side of my illness, I was compelled to revisit this dysphoria in order to unravel the mystery behind my mood experience.  For me to have such a profound emotional shift from a routine prescription treatment, I began to question how often I may have missed treating a depressed patient effectively for a refractory depression without considering possible iatrogenic (treatment induced) influence of their medicines?  Since I tolerated Dextromethorphan, I knew the culprit had to be the Benzonatate.

 

So what is unique to Benzonatate that it could actually diminish my sense of connection with others? What would interfere with my level of empathy and even the influence the deepest sense to even care about anything?   

 

What I found was that Benzonatate..

 

“ is an ester local anesthetic derived from tetracaine. After absorption and circulation to the respiratory tract, it distributes into the mucosa, anesthetizing vagal afferent fibers that contribute to both cough and hiccups.”

Benzonatate behaves like a painkiller of sorts for vagal afferent fibers. These nerve fibers actually monitor the upper respiratory tract and have motor fibers that stimulate the diaphragm.  On further reading, I found an article that surprised me and seemed to explain what I had experienced. Apparently, the blunting of empathy such as what I had experienced, had been a side effect recently attributed to some common pain killers. In this article, blunting was also associated with very common pain medicine, Tylenol.

“..acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals’ evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence..”
“..It is thus conceivable that acetaminophen may also reduce willingness to help others in physical or emotional distress

This description adequately portrays what I felt.  I did not seem to value anything or anyone and I did not even care that I felt this way.  The only incongruence I experienced about this emotional state is that I knew that under ‘normal’ situations, I would be bothered about not caring for anything or anyone. It was as if I had no Will to change my state.

Understanding that pain-reducing mechanisms can because apathy and diminished empathy, it brought me to a different level of questioning.  When we speak of the blunting effect on empathy, what is it that we are describing? The first step was to define what is meant by the term, “empathy”.

What is EMPATHY

According to Webster “Empathy” is:

 “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :  the capacity for this ” (“empathy”).

 

Empathy plays an important part in our lives as social beings.  It is that part of our internal monitor, which appeals to fairness and justice in the world.  It helps us to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and stirs us to ponder the question, “What if that person were me?”.  Empathy is important for modifying our behavior, aligned to the survival and safety of each other.  When empathy is returned, we can depend on this emotion to assure our wellbeing as well.  This is not just about our physical safety from harm, but it includes the preservation and the welfare of others in our social circle for security, which we all require in our relationships.  As one author shared, “Empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior”.

Components of Empathy

In order to empathize with others, there has to exist something within us to register “what if that person was me?”  This would require both the Will [W] to take a template of another person (like us) [T]  and recreate a similar scenario [S] of ourselves in such a situation. Then we would need to employ some sort of a “personalized assessment” [A] where our resulting emotions [E(r)] are compared to our baseline emotional function [E(b)]. If the disturbance of comfort exceeds our baseline comfort, we are motivated [M] toward action to restore the balance.

                                    [W] * [M] = [E(b)] – [E(r)], where  A (S* ( [T] ) ) = [E(r)]

If we present this process as an equation, we can see that if a baseline Emotional state E(b) is not significantly altered by the imagined self in the represented scenario E(r), there will be no motivation (M) to alter the situation. An example of this could occur , when one who is actively suffering a loss, observes another experiencing a loss. However, if the number of losses of the other person (E(r)) is exceeded by personal loss (E(b)), one might be motivated to give comfort.

What condition, based on this equation, would increase the likelihood of empathy?  First,  there would have to be a willingness (W)  to look beyond ourselves. Then there would have to be a high degree of similarity of the observed person (T) to ourselves (e.g. age, gender, traits, etc) and the assessment (A) of imagined distress (E(r)) would have to be significantly different from our baseline emotional comfort (E(b)).

 

The Biology of Empathy

“Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others’ pain shares some common psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain.  Support for this perspective has largely relied on functional neuroimaging evidence of an overlap between activations during the experience of physical pain and empathy for other people’s pain”

 

A substantial body of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research suggests that observing others experiencing pain (e.g. observing a person receiving a hot probe placed on the hand), activates brain regions that are also activated during one’s own experience of pain—the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the anterior insula (AI) cortex.

 

 

It is not the purpose of my present writing to discuss the neurological detail of empathy.  However, it suffices at this point to say we have the brain structure which is designed to fill a particular role for Empathy. Our design supports the importance of “being wired” for this function in our lives and it also stresses the importance of our relating to each other as social creatures.

I believe this shared pain phenomenon, has something to offer us when we discuss empathy.  When we observe others suffering from specific injuries, our brains mirror a similar pattern of pain activity related to the one we observe being injured. In fact, if you consider the brain pattern activity, it is much like we experience the very same injury, just by observing the one in pain.

Pain is a subjective experience of discomfort but from a physiological perspective, there are some common characteristics behind the “pain” experience.

 

“…pain can result from increased activity in excitatory pathways involving, for example, substance P, glutamate, etc. decreased activity in inhibitory pathways involving, for example, noradrenaline or serotonin (5-HT) or both mechanisms..”(3)

 

Given that we seem to experience a similar injury pattern from observation, questions were raised on how this ‘perceived pain ‘ would be impacted after an observer is administered a painkiller. Even though it is unclear exactly how acetaminophen works, it does have analgesic and fever-reducing properties. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is believed to regulate serotonin pathways.

Paracetamol has a central analgesic effect that is mediated through activation of descending serotonergic pathways.

Paracetamol (aka Tylenol)

 

Empathy and Painkillers

 

To examine the impact of painkillers on empathy, a study was conducted where randomized subjects were given a direct form of irritation by quick air puffs. A group of subjects was tested where they were to estimate the level of pain other subjects experienced when observed in the “painful situation”.  Subjects again assessed the pain experience after an oral administration of 1000mg of acetaminophen in a double-blind study.

You can review this study here.

Surprisingly, what was discovered is that acetaminophen (aka paracetamol or Tylenol) had a profound effect not only on direct painful stimuli but also in the pain attributed to others experiencing pain.  In other words, empathy was directly diminished by taking 1000mg of Tylenol.

As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain.  Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen’s effects on empathy. Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy (2)

This ought to raise some concern for those involved in Mental Health care.

“Based on the drug-induced reductions in empathy seen here, acetaminophen, and potentially other analgesics, might interfere with social processes that are critical for the promotion of social bonds and social order.” (2).

 

“Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen (as well as other potential pain regulating medicines), which is taken by almost a quarter of all adults in the United States each week”. (2)

“As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain. ..these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy”.

What this study implies is that most people taking Tylenol for chronic pain are likely experiencing an ongoing emotional shift just like the one I had experienced.  Tylenol (acetaminophen) is frequently administered to manage chronic pain since it does not have the same concerns that most other pain medications, which may contribute to gastric ulcers and increased bleeding risks.  Yet it seems very important to expose the impact that our medicines have on our emotional tone.  Let us face it, without the awareness that a very common pain medicine can dampen our empathy and fuel our depression we would not appreciate a different level of our emotional experience.  One can understand that taking pain medicine while being treated for a depressive disorder, it would be easy to conclude, “it is just how I feel’ or “something must be wrong with me for not caring for others in my life”.  Counseling is always important in addressing the maladaptive way we approach relationships.  It is very important to be ‘equipped emotionally’ to make necessary changes in our thinking for our progress.  If we do not consider the broad impact of our medicine strategies, many people may be left hopeless in path toward healing.  Emotional trials contribute to problems in our relationships despite all our mental health efforts to help others improve in their relationships.  The missing piece of someone’s emotional puzzle may just be as simple as a change of pain medicine.

I wonder how many people we meet in our lives who struggle with “I should care about him/her but I just don’t”?  

 I wonder how many clergy or pastors, dealing with chronic physical pain are questioning their lack of empathy for others in their congregation?  I wonder how many spiritual people actually wrestle with feel abandoned by God because they do not have the love for others as modeled by their Savior.

 

For some frustrated people, this post may bring some hope just knowing their pain medication may be preventing them from effectively restoring a wayward relationship.

Conclusion

There is so much we do not know about our treatment strategies for the many health problems we experience. Most strategies are evidenced-based, in that results of our best-known treatments guide future treatments of particular pathologies.  The scope of clinical treatment is most often based on physical goals and it rarely considers the impact efforts on other aspects of life, i.e. influence on emotions.  Medicine is not perfect, but good clinicians strive to improve their efforts by observing the impact of treatment on all planes of a patient’s life.  My post did not provide clear answers, nor did it reveal the exact mechanisms behind the dysphoria I experienced from my prescription medicine.  However,  it does likely explain what I experienced and it offers an insight to consider in treating patients with similar symptoms of depression. ,

 

If my readers personally experience depressive symptoms that seem untouched by prescribed medicines and applied therapeutic counseling efforts, please consider the impact of any pain medicines, which may be contributing to your prolonged dysphoria.  Always seek the alliance with mental health professionals if you are depressed and feeling hopeless.  I wish you joy and peace in your journey.  Thank you for taking this walk with me.

 

Greg


Bibliography

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2). Dominik Mischkowski, Jennifer Crocker, Baldwin M. Way; From painkiller to empathy killer: acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces empathy for pain. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2016; 11 (9): 1345-1353. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw057

 

n.d.: n. pag. Print. 23 April 2017

 

3) What do we (not) know about how paracetamol (acetaminophen) works?

K Toussaint, XC Yang, MA Zielinski… – Journal of clinical …, 2010 – Wiley Online Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath

 

What “LIES” Beneath…


 

The most fundamental principle in Psychiatry for self-development is discovering the content of our “self-talk”.  It is what we tell ourselves about who we are that determines how we behave in situations and with others in our sphere of life.

 

 

 

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

 

 

The principles behind Cognitive Therapy(CBT) is based on uncovering the lies behind our maladaptive coping strategies that we have learned early in our lives and how this “map” is used to navigate our lives in the way we deal with situations and relationships.  We all face obstacles in our life journeys.  This is a necessary part of our growth.  When we were young we learned that certain behaviors would bring about changes in order to have our needs met.  However, as we matured throughout our adolescent and toward our adult years, the “old way”, (aka, our maps) required changes in order for needs to be addressed.  This learning model has much to offer especially since there are no perfect parents, no perfect relationships and there is no such thing as stress-free situations in life.  Yet, without obstacles, life would not offer us opportunities to develop the required skills for our personal growth and mastery.

 

Here some examples of Lies we tell ourselves.

 

I am not as smart as other people.

People at work think I am lazy

I am a failure as a parent

I will never be happy

 

 We are creatures of habit and tend to repeat particular patterns that appeared to best meet our needs.  This is true for our practiced patterns of behavior and the way we learn to interpret our situations.  Over time, our unique interpretations find a quiet place in a mental seat that precedes life scenarios.  This is what Cognitive therapists call. “Automatic thoughts”. 

 

  

What if you learned that the family was having coffee and one the kids told a funny story that made them laugh?

 

Personalizing the reason for the family laughing without knowing the facts is based on what I brought into the situation.  The false interpretation that I automatically believed resulted in me lashing out angrily and left me with a conclusion that only robbed my freedom.

 

 

Our automatic thoughts are a set of many conclusions tagged to other similar experiences we have had in our life.  Yet, these are more than just distinct memories.  Our automatic thoughts are about “me” in the situation.  They precede every situation we face and define who we are in those situations. We carry these interpretations about ourselves with us, unaware of their influence.  As we experience repeating themes in our life that seem to be consistent, we begin to embrace our interpretations as “truth”.  These “truths” continue to define us and provide scripts that we believe in our experiences throughout our life.  All too often, we solidify our personal interpretations from our past about ourselves as “truths”, when they are in fact, “lies”.

 

The real Struggle is about Fear

 

We are living creatures, designed to assure our survival.  Every part of our body, from our cells to whole body systems always promote our quality of life and well-being.  To stay alive, our body must be postured on the offensive and defensive.  When we plan to take on an adventure, we will need assurance of our safety and we will avoid any dangers that may threaten our survival. That is where the emotion of fear plays a vital role.  Courage, for example, is a virtue that can only occur in the presence of fear.  Without fear, no courage is possible.  The role of our fears is to keep our behavior in check.  But when the fear is unrealistic or false, our fears can actually enslave us. Unfortunately, fears do not always have a healthy role, especially when the fears are not based on accurate interpretations.  Inappropriate fears can hinder instead of promoting growth.  Fears help us gauge our risks more carefully because the priority of survival is vital for us to thrive.  The sense of danger is not just physical.  Often it can be relationship based and will direct us to avoid the likelihood of social threats as well.

 

In order to know if our fears are based on realistic or unrealistic interpretations, we need to evaluate the statements our automatic thoughts are telling us.  If our acts of avoidance are not “truth-based”, they will not lead to our growth, but to our enslavement. 

 

 The most valuable aspect of CBT is that it can instruct us on healthy coping strategies without the requirement of having lifelong counseling.  Unlike Psychoanalysis, where the therapy structure depends on unraveling unconscious motivations or defenses over many appointment sessions, in Cognitive therapy, the pace of therapy depends on learning the skills that will keep the mental dialogue in check.  When we learn how the lies we tell ourselves are compromising our growth, we can be equipped to replace our interpretations with the truth.  By applying a litmus test to our self-talk, we will able to break free from the anxiety and fear that threaten the freedom we have to live life fully as intended.

 

 

Below, you will notice six basic rules that we help reveal the lies we often tell ourselves.  Learning how to identify the lies we tell ourselves and learning how to correct our self-talk is central to the making life changes.  With practice, you will be well on your way to your journey of freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

How to apply Cognitive Therapy to your life

 

 

Let us use the coffee shop scene above as an example

 

 

Scene: Coffee Shop

 

I spilled some coffee on the table     

                     

(A family started laughing in the corner)                   [People are always laughing at me]

 

I became angry and yelled at the family                   [They are so rude-how dare they?]

 

I left the coffee Shop and I refuse to back                [I hate stores that serve such people]

 

 

 

 

 

Let us correct the interpretation with another possible explanation

 

 

 

SITUATION                                             AUTOMATIC THOUGHT                                          FEELING

 

 

A family started laughing                     They may be laughing at a family joke                                                unchanged

in the corner

 

 

 

This is just a rough guide to begin your journey in Cognitive Therapy techniques.  I have used these principles frequently in my life and they have been the most useful guide for dealing with many challenges I encounter.

 

I hope you will find this post useful for you as well.  Now, let us go reclaim freedom! 

 

Greg

 

 

 

 

What Lies Beneath 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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Emotions: Of Man AND Beast

 

sn-jealousyHEmotions : of Man and Beast

Emotions are often ascribed to animals, regardless of scientific proofs.  Ask any pet owner; they would not even consider skepticism about this matter.  Sure, we attribute emotions to their behavior. What looks like anger, we call it anger.  Many would possibly hold to the idea that any behavior appearing to be emotional only calls forth a label from an observer, or owner.  In other words, it is a matter of projection; projecting what we feel as human beings on to the animals mannerisms we interpret.

However, I am aligned to the findings of this study below.  Emotions are a complex , active stream of conscious interpretations spinning around our values. It is active, reactive and dynamic while orbiting our Will striving for the control of our decisions for comfort and peace. 

If Animals possess emotions, what does this mean about their place in the world? How does it compare to Humanity? I am eager to write on this topic, but I must refrain for another time.  Until then, enjoy this article.


 

Dogs experience human-like jealousy

Many dog owners are sure their pooches get jealous, particularly when the person pays too much attention to someone else’s Fido. Now, scientists have confirmed that these dog lovers are right. Our canine pals can act every bit as resentful, bitter, and hostile as a jealous child—even if the interloper is nothing more than a stuffed toy hound. The researchers modified a test originally developed to assess the emotion in 6-month-old infants. They videotaped 36 dogs as they watched their owners completely ignore them while turning their attention to three different objects: a realistic-looking stuffed dog (which briefly barked and wagged its tail after a button was pushed), a plastic jack-o’-lantern, and a book. The dogs’ behaviors were then rated for aggressiveness, attention seeking, and interest in the owner or object. The fake pooch elicited the strongest response[1], the researchers report today in PLOS ONE. All the dogs pushed at their owners when the people talked to and petted the toy, and nearly 87% bumped it or tried to get between it and their beloved human. Almost 42% of the dogs actually snapped at the stuffed interloper. The fact that the rival was faux didn’t seem to matter—even pooches that sniffed the toy’s rear end (which 86% of the subjects did) behaved aggressively toward it. The study supports the idea that not all jealousy requires the ability to reflect on one’s self and to understand conscious intentions, as some scientists have argued, but that there is a more basic form of the emotion that likely evolved as a way of securing resources such as food and affection. Infants experience it if their mothers gaze affectionately at other babies, and so do members of another social species: dogs.

Posted in Brain & Behavior, Evolution, Plants & Animals

 

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Making Scents of Fear

smellfear          "Don't smell of fear(??)!"

 

micepupsMany years ago, I had the pleasure to work as a research scientist in Germany.  I remember a profound discovery discussed in one of our lectures.  It was about an experiment conducted where a young adult female mouse was removed from a cage with her pups and placed in a stressful situation. Following the stress, the mother was returned to her pups. When the stress hormone was measured in the the adult mouse later, the resting stress level (cortisol) was elevated.  However, when the pups stress level was measured, it was found that their levels of cortisol were elevated from baseline measures as well. Some speculated that there was a change in the mother’s milk, that conveyed the change in fear threshold of her pups.  However, there was no chemical change discovered.  The mother’s initial aggitation would recover in a short time, yet there seemed to be a sustained change in cortisol level of the mother and the pups. Even though the pups were not exposed to the same stress.  Further, the pups  continued to possess an elevated stress level for a significant duration of time. Now based on this study, we see more clearly how the very scent of moms can reset the fear threshold of their infants.  Here is another great example of epigenetics.  There remains a mystery as how this information is related. Read the following article for more details.  

 


Learning the smell of fear: Mothers teach babies their own fears via odor, research finds

Research in rats may help explain how trauma’s effects can span generations

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Babies can learn what to fear in the first days of life just by smelling the odor of their distressed mothers, new research suggests. And not just “natural” fears: If a mother experienced something before pregnancy that made her fear something specific, her baby will quickly learn to fear it too — through the odor she gives off when she feels fear.

In the first direct observation of this kind of fear transmission, a team of University of Michigan Medical School and New York University studied mother rats who had learned to fear the smell of peppermint – and showed how they “taught” this fear to their babies in their first days of life through their alarm odor released during distress.

In a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team reports how they pinpointed the specific area of the brain where this fear transmission takes root in the earliest days of life.

Their findings in animals may help explain a phenomenon that has puzzled mental health experts for generations: how a mother’s traumatic experience can affect her children in profound ways, even when it happened long before they were born.

The researchers also hope their work will lead to better understanding of why not all children of traumatized mothers, or of mothers with major phobias, other anxiety disorders or major depression, experience the same effects.

“During the early days of an infant rat’s life, they are immune to learning information about environmental dangers. But if their mother is the source of threat information, we have shown they can learn from her and produce lasting memories,” says Jacek Debiec, M.D., Ph.D., the U-M psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the research.

“Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear, very early in life,” he adds. “Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers’ experiences. Most importantly, these maternally-transmitted memories are long-lived, whereas other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish.”

Peering inside the fearful brain

Debiec, who treats children and mothers with anxiety and other conditions in the U-M Department of Psychiatry, notes that the research on rats allows scientists to see what’s going on inside the brain during fear transmission, in ways they could never do in humans.

He began the research during his fellowship at NYU with Regina Marie Sullivan, Ph.D., senior author of the new paper, and continues it in his new lab at U-M’s Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute.

The researchers taught female rats to fear the smell of peppermint by exposing them to mild, unpleasant electric shocks while they smelled the scent, before they were pregnant. Then after they gave birth, the team exposed the mothers to just the minty smell, without the shocks, to provoke the fear response. They also used a comparison group of female rats that didn’t fear peppermint.

They exposed the pups of both groups of mothers to the peppermint smell, under many different conditions with and without their mothers present.

Using special brain imaging, and studies of genetic activity in individual brain cells and cortisol in the blood, they zeroed in on a brain structure called the lateral amygdala as the key location for learning fears. During later life, this area is key to detecting and planning response to threats – so it makes sense that it would also be the hub for learning new fears.

But the fact that these fears could be learned in a way that lasted, during a time when the baby rat’s ability to learn any fears directly was naturally suppressed, is what makes the new findings so interesting, says Debiec.

The team even showed that the newborns could learn their mothers’ fears even when the mothers weren’t present. Just the piped-in scent of their mother reacting to the peppermint odor she feared was enough to make them fear the same thing.

And when the researchers gave the baby rats a substance that blocked activity in the amygdala, they failed to learn the fear of peppermint smell from their mothers. This suggests, Debiec says, that there may be ways to intervene to prevent children from learning irrational or harmful fear responses from their mothers, or reduce their impact.

From animals to humans: next steps

The new research builds on what scientists have learned over time about the fear circuitry in the brain, and what can go wrong with it. That work has helped psychiatrists develop new treatments for human patients with phobias and other anxiety disorders – for instance, exposure therapy that helps them overcome fears by gradually confronting the thing or experience that causes their fear.

In much the same way, Debiec hopes that exploring the roots of fear in infancy, and how maternal trauma can affect subsequent generations, could help human patients. While it’s too soon to know if the same odor-based effect happens between human mothers and babies, the role of a mother’s scent in calming human babies has been shown.

Debiec, who hails from Poland, recalls working with the grown children of Holocaust survivors, who experienced nightmares, avoidance instincts and even flashbacks related to traumatic experiences they never had themselves. While they would have learned about the Holocaust from their parents, this deeply ingrained fear suggests something more at work, he says.

Going forward, he hopes to work with U-M researchers to observe human infants and their mothers — including U-M psychiatrist Maria Muzik, M.D. and psychologist Kate Rosenblum, Ph.D., who run a Women and Infants Mental Health clinic and research program and also work with military families. The program is currently seeking women and their children to take part in a range of studies; those interested in learning more can call the U-M Mental Health Research Line at (734) 232-0255.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (DC009910, MH091451), and by a, NARSAD Young Investigator Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, and University of Michigan funds. Reference: http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1316740111

 

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Where are feelings felt? Here is an interesting article on emotional sensation.

This Map Shows Where You Feel Emotions

March 8, 2014 by Amanda Froelich

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By: Amanda Froelich,

True Activist.

 

somaticemotionchart

 


 

More than just intriguing, this recently studied phenomena from Aalto University affirms what many new age healers have been describing for a lengthy period time: that suppressed emotions can and will manifest in certain areas of systems of the body.

Science has already shown that emotions, thoughts, and feelings can positively or negatively impact many systems physiologically (example: feelings of hopelessness affect the body’s hormone system and change the chemical flow within the brain). But now new findings are also revealing the intricacy of how one’s entire energetic system reacts to emotions ? and it’s fascinating!

Thanks to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, this conceptual idea has even been made visual. The findings demonstrate that different emotional states trigger different physical sensations in the body.

Emotions such as anger, impacted the body in a different area compared to the emotions of fear, disgust, happiness, or love. Interestingly, each individual emotion had its own unique part of the body that correlated to it as well.

These findings were reported by a team of bio-medical engineers from Aalto University. 700 volunteers  from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan participated in this study.

Credit: Aalto University

Credit: Aalto University

?Emotions are often felt in the body, and somatosensory feedback has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Here we reveal maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method. In five experiments, participants were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. Different emotions were consistently associated with statically separable bodily sensation maps across experiments. These maps were concordant across West European and East Asian samples.?

It seems there was no difference between race, age, or varying emotional states being correlated with different body parts; the results showed similar with the majority of all participants.

The assistant professor, Lauri Nummenman, shared her perception on the findings, ?Emotions adjust not only our mental, but our bodily states. This way they prepare us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment.?

This finding supports what can be perceived as the evolving mindset surrounding healthcare and holistic welfare. Every choice, action, and thought influences one’s ability to thrive or degenerate. Therefore, truly allow the importance of this study to integrate.

To live a abundant in happiness, acknowledging the diverse emotional states one feels is essential. Even if certain emotions – such as fear, hatred, or despair – are not deemed optimal, they must be felt for their lessons to be integrated, and for the ability to progress past such perceived limitations to be realized.

Many therapies currently exist to assist one in this process, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique. The purpose is to assist every individual in learning from what they are feeling, but also in how they may ‘let go’ and create a life of simplicity and happiness. This is not the only method, however.

Other habits one may adopt now to become more bodily aware include: meditation, better diet, engaging in enjoyable exercise, and forming kind relations with others that enjoy the type of lifestyle you wish to lead yourself.

For any change to take place, those habits that work, and those that do not, must be recognized. Perhaps this understanding will be more widely supported  in years to come.

Sources:

Collective-Evolution

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