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The Spirit of Prayer

prayeroverlap

 

The Curiosity

It was before starting Medical School. I was working in the area of Cognitive Remediation for a facility in Texas. I trained on administering various Neurocognitive Assessment tools and the use of cognitive remediation equipment. I used a number of available tasks and devices to help clients address various cognition deficits and/ or sequelae from head injuries. That was when I learned about the A620, a novel instrument for EEG biofeedback for analysis and therapy.

A620_RESULT

 

A620 EEG BIOFEEDBACK

In order to move on to my discussion, let us just say that this device made it possible for clients to improve in their mental aptitude and skills by reflecting on their own brain activity, prompted by audio cues generated by the device which was connected to a pc computer. I would hook up the client to the computer program by two leads, a ground wire on the ear and probe wire on a particular area at the top of the head by a conductive gel. This allows the device to monitor a general EEG signal spectrum. The operator then sets up the device to filter for a particular frequency,. The device then provides an audio sound or feeds the computer a “moment-by-moment” reward score for an “attention” game or “reward” graphic. Now clients could play a simple computer game without using their hands. Just by “thinking” correctly, the client could earn points and therefore “learn to optimize focus”. It was rather brilliant. I had clients that were failing in subjects at their school that was able to begin making the high grade as clients improved their attention skills.

 

BOYHKED_RESULT

BWAVECHART_RESULT

 

 

 

After setting up the machine, and mounting the probes to the client’s head, one can bring up a spectrum display as seen above. It is through the initial set-up that one can choose a target frequency (e.g. Beta, concentration) for reward points. When the device is set to filter beta, the brainwaves for concentration, as the client concentrates, the computer beeps and gives reward points; the higher the score, the greater the percentage of time spent concentrating.

What waveforms show up when we pray?

One Friday evening after seeing my last client, I was about to close up the office. Then I began to think about how brain activity changes under different conditions. I began to think about prayer and how it was much different from other routine daily activities. My, curiosity had me in a corner. The more I wondered, the more curious I became. I decided to take this unique opportunity and find out for myself. After hooking myself up to the device and after calibrating the machine for a broad-spectrum view, I determined that I would have 3 goal activity conditions.

Testing Conditions

1) 20 minutes of reading

2) 20 minutes of Math problems

3) 20 minutes of Praying

This was not the correct way to run an experimental design and the validity would be lacking since I was the only control. Nevertheless, if I had just a chance to just “peek in the box” of what happens when we pray, how could I just pass this chance up? Well, after a disruption-free hour, and completing each phase I ran the analysis. The reading phase revealed what I expected. There was some artifact but the strongest activity was around the beta level, mixed with Alpha (typical for ADHD). The Math phase seemed almost the same, but with much more alpha across the spectrum (always a hard subject for me to focus on). But as for the Prayer phase, what I discovered was far more than I expected.  I had thought that prayer was mostly about concentrating, and therefore the beta wave was going to be the highest activity mixed with alpha waves. But No. What I found was two distinct patterns occurring at the same time, with minimal artifact. They were cleaner than the waveforms observed in the other conditions. But equally astonishing was the fact that these separate waves (Theta and Beta), were triple the amplitude of the other conditions! I felt a chill up my spine. What could this mean? I cleaned up the setting and left for home. I had some research to do.

Meditating like a re-chewing

So, beta waves are generated under concentration conditions. Theta waves occur in meditative states or when experiencing one a hypnotic trance. Was I inducing some form of trance when I prayed? I went to the scriptures and found a verse. “On thy law do I meditate (psalms)”. I explored the Hebrew meaning of this word “meditate”. It was a word to related to cattle, ; the groans or low “moo” sounds the cow makes, like chanting to oneself;, and also related to the activity of a cow bringing up consumed foods, re-chewing its cud. That was fascinating! Bringing up something again, recalling, and remembering while concentrating.

 prayer

Prayer is Unique

 

If thy brother has a matter against you…

When I returned to the office, I shared with one therapist about my experiment. He shared something with me that I was unaware. He told me that patients who were in a state of theta often broke into tears and relate the pains and traumas they have experienced years prior. He shared that theta allows for repressed memories to surface into our conscious mind. It was so well founded, that some therapist was trying to get their patients in a state of theta in order to shorten the duration of therapy since it helps break through defenses.

Then it came to my mind something I had read in the bible.

“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift..”(Matt 5:23,24)

Instrumentally, prayer is not only recalling the “experience of God”, but it likely permits bitterness, hurts and pains to surface into our conscious mind. If such burdens are then addressed, it would surely bring more peace. It is almost as if prayer invites a sort of a mobile psychotherapist waiting to give counsel.  There is a verse for that as well.

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But the man of understanding will draw it out (Prov 20:5)”

 

Designed to Pray

Now I still had one more matter, which required attention.  Granted, two perfect wave signatures from theta and beta is incredible, but why would these waveforms occur at three times the amplitude? Aligned with the scientific approach, one has to admit the possibility that I was “practiced at prayer”. Yes, I learned to pray at an early age and grew up in a conservative, Christian home. But if I may speculate, I believe that this was not the full explanation. I believe the reason why prayer spiked in this magnitude of power is that “we are designed to pray”. Just like comparing a paper towel tube to a brass trumpet for producing music. Both items can produce sounds, but only the trumpet is designed for the music I intended to produce with the clean, pleasing song I desired. If we are designed to pray, then we are tuned for it; we were made for it. After all, Jesus himself, the second Adam and model of our humanity considered prayer as a vital part of living. So, it is an activity for us not to neglect. “In this manner therefore pray..(Matt 6:9)”. The article below prompted me to recall and write my thoughts on this matter of prayer. Prayer is a personal activity, and I believe there are particular neurological pathways involved. As we are spiritual beings housed in imperfect physiology, I believe the soft and hard wiring can overlap in some pathological conditions. But as a vehicle or channel of Gods revelation, we have a choice to either align with our God in discovering more about him or stand on the sidelines and avoid the experience of knowing God. However, as the fish cannot describe the watery environment separately from where it resides, one cannot describe the activity of God without some grasp that the first does exist and is involved in the discovery of Him.  Enjoy!

Greg

 

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“Thoughts  from far where I abide…”

“Thoughts  from far where I abide…”

 

The words from my title were lifted from a Shakespeare Sonnet, and they orbit the issue I wish to share today.  But in order to set the stage, consider this true story from my history.


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The Accident

I was about thirteen years of age, checking on what my mom was preparing for dinner when there was a sudden desperate knock at our front door.  I skipped down the stairs and opened it to find a neighbor’s daughter, a little older than me.  She seemed urgent with a message that she wanted to share.  “Are your parents home?”, she asked with a very desperate tension in her face.  “Yes”, my mom answered as she stepped quickly behind me.
The girl continued with a rapid, pressured speech, “one of your boys was hit by a vehicle about four blocks away while he was riding a bike!”  My mother let out a shout to my father, and quickly they were racing for the car to rush to the accident.  “Which boy was it?”, they asked as they jumped into the car.  “It is one of the older twins”.
“It was Craig, my twin brother”, I exclaimed as I flipped a leg over my bike, ready to race to my brother.
“Stop”, yelled my dad from the driver’s side window.  “Stay here, and do not take your bike anywhere!”, he ordered.  I watched the neighbor jump into the back seat and with a slam of the car door, my parents sped away down the county road.  I did not know what to think, but somehow I just knew he would be fine.
Later my parents returned briefly with only a few words, as a next-door neighbor agreed to sit with us, my two younger brothers my sister and me.  But before they headed off to the hospital I blurted out, without any doubts in my mind, “check his right leg, he has a bruise there”
My brother had to stay in the hospital overnight while some tests were carried out. He was conscious, and according to my parents, “he was lucky to be doing so well”.  Then my parents asked me, “How did you know he had a bruise on his right leg? Did you go see him after we told you to stay at home?
“No”, I answered, ” I stayed home like you told me. I don’t know how I knew.  I just knew”.


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For me, it was just a fact.  My twin brother and I have always been close.  Often, we finished each other’s sentences.  People were always confused about telling us apart.  We laughed and talked the same.  It was only over a course of years before we developed personal tastes and carved out a clearer distinction of habits.
I have revisited this event countless times, trying to unravel the mystery of my certain knowledge of my brother’s condition.  There have been a few times since then, when I had a particular sense of his environment, though many miles away.

 On one such occasion, I was spending time with a friend in Texas, walking around a mall when I stopped and turned to her and said, “My brother is at a ball game right now”.  She would just look at me with a puzzled expression, and said, “Okay, so he said he was going to a ball game today?”.  I replied, “No, I just sensed the crowd and the smell of snacks in the air”.  Later, I found this was truly the case.  He had never shared this with me, and he rarely attended games.  But when I had the chance later, I called to ask him, and he had confirmed my suspicion.
There have been many stories along with a similar theme popularized by those claiming to have “Psychic Powers”. I have never felt there was enough validity in the “circumstantial evidence” of such “after the fact stories”.  However, I could not explain this issue; I had no answers, even from my academic and professional education and experience as a Psychiatrist.
The nearest explanation I could come up with is through an article I had read once about particular moths that could pick out a specific mate over 1000 miles away from their location, just by their “smell like sense organs”.  I was not sure about this study, but it was the only nearest explanation I had to a theoretical framework. So maybe, our primary senses are acuter and finely tuned than what we have yet discovered.  It seemed too illogical to believe in the fuzzy pseudoscience of a psychic phenomenon.
This brings me to the point of this article, with which I would like to share.  I read a fairly recent study about an interesting topic known as  “brain-to-brain interfaces” (BBIs).  Here is an excerpt.


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” A TMS device creates a magnetic field over the scalp, which then causes an electrical current in the brain. When a TMS coil is placed over the motor cortex, the motor pathways can be activated, resulting in movement of a limb, hand or foot, or even a finger or toe…”


“..
We now know that BBIs can work between humans too. By combining EEG and TMS, scientists have transmitted the thought of moving a hand from one person to a separate individual, who actually moved their hand. The BBI works best when both participants are conscious cooperators in the experiment. In this case, the subjects were engaged in a computer game).


And Further:


“..
The latest advance in human BBIs represents another leap forward. This is where transmission of conscious thought was achieved between two human beings in August last year.    Using a combination of technologies – including EEG, the Internet and TMS – the team of researchers was able to transmit a thought all the way from India to France.  Words were first coded into binary notation (i.e. 1 = “hola”; 0 = “ciao”). Then the resulting EEG signal from the person thinking the 1 or the 0 was transmitted to a robot-driven TMS device positioned over the visual cortex of the receiver’s brain.  In this case, the TMS pulses resulted in the perception of flashes of light for the receiver, who was then able to decode this information into the original words (hola or ciao)”.

Sounds like a something Hollywood dreamed up, doesn’t it?


 So not only could thoughts be transmitted under experimental conditions, so could actions, even to the point of controlling the behavior of animals.

“..that a human could control the tail movements of a rat via BBIs”

Aricle: Brain-To-Brain Interfaces And The Science Of…

 

IMG_0008


What this article presents is how one subject in a remote location can directly influence the actions of another subject in a different location through changes in thought content. This seems too incredible to believe. Yet, because we all share some structural similarities within our brains, I can see how this can actually be plausible. First, we need to consider what we know of “mirroring neurons”.


mirneuronMirror neuron


“A mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another”.[1][2][3]

“..Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behaviour of the other, as though the observer were itself acting. Such neurons have been directly observe in primate species.[4]

“..Birds have been shown to have imitative resonance behaviors and neurological evidence suggests the presence of some form of mirroring system.[4][5]”

“..In humans, brain activity consistent with that of mirror neurons has been found in the premotor cortexthe supplementary motor area, the primary somatosensory cortex and the inferior parietal cortex.[6]”

Article: Mirror neuron – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

One way to address this issue is to consider what is common to all of us, which already influences us beyond our “active knowing”. A case example can be understood in the context of yawning.  If we are around others who begin to yawn, before long we began to yawn.  The same is true for laughter.  If we are around others who are laughing, it becomes contagious. Others will start to giggle and laugh, just due to the presence of someone laughing. Such a design is important for us socially, though explanations are lacking.

 



 

 

 

So, if we have a similar foundational and interactive framework, isn’t feasible that thoughts could be conveyed to another person, especially those more similar or familiar to us, under the right conditions, having a very common reference point?  On a more spiritual plane, how much does this finding play a part in our prayer lives? When that loved one is suddenly dealing with a trauma, how often do we find ourselves  “thinking of them” and feel the need to pray for them without knowing why? Since I believe we were designed as social and spiritual beings, does it not make sense that such a mechanism must be in place? Maybe we need to rethink those moments and reach out to them when this happens. Maybe that is the optimal act of good to perform, given this design. After all, we are designed for more than we understand and we do have a great designer.

This study stirs up many questions for me about the implications and utility awaiting us.  It may also serve great potential for promoting skill set learning, as well as providing more effective means for a therapeutic alliance, which is yet to be revealed.  We live in such an incredible era!


 

PEDOPHIL


 

 

 

Pleasant thoughts coming your way, dear reader. (Can you sense it?)

Greg

 

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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
 

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The Window Pain

chronic-pain

The Window Pain


Yes.  That is what I said. 
No, it is not a typo. 
Ok, maybe a bad pun. But you did read it correctly.
During the Christmas holidays, I had spent some time with my extended family. During dinner one evening I was asked about “chronic pain”.  The concern was more about how to relieve chronic pain of peripheral neuropathology, a debilitating disorder with sensation of pins and needles affecting upper and lower limbs.  I shared how Gabapentin has been effective for such symptoms. However,  this medicine made her feel foggy and without much relief. 
The thin frame of this very kind woman, in her late sixties begged the question of likely complications from osteoporosis; a problem which she acknowledged having.  After we ruled out the possibility of anemia in her history, I shared how it is likely her symptoms were related to her bone loss, especially if other labs for metabolic issues of medication side effects were non-contributory. 
Chronic pain is a burden that is unrelenting. It seems to never to cease its invasion of comforts. It tends to be a constant disruption  during valued time with family and friends.  Even the efforts to hide the pain can become stressful alone. The attempts to quiet its torment often feeds upon the the very energy needed to prevent it; burdening the sufferer with more tension,  fatigue, headaches and emotional drain. It can cause depression and anxiety.  
Over the years I have worked with many patients burdened by chronic pain.  Medications seem to help many people initially, but limitations from tolerance, dosage safety and side effects seem to restrict effective long-term coverage.

 white-gray_matter1317791309022

Today, I came across an article which seems to explain many unanswered questions surrounding chronic pain.  It seems to suggest how medication to treat pain becomes less effective over time due to incorrect targeting of pain.  Further, we are not taking into account how our bodies have a different kind of brain, separate from the one on our shoulders.  Sure, they have shared pathways in communication.  But there seems to exists a “pre-approved sharing of pain” that is learned locally in areas around the source site which is not targeted by our medicines.  The very fibres of dorsal root networks at the spinal cord level learn from its neighbours what to watch for after there is injury next door.  Pain therefore propagates over a greater surface area from the pain origin.  

white-gray_matter1317791309022
At first blush, this seems to resemble an exaggeration of the one suffering pain.  Yet, as the article discloses, there exists a growing level of sensitization and a lowering of the threshold from the pain origin in neighbouring nerve fibres.
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But what is most peculiar is how this threshold and spread of pain is permitted.  You may tend to think that these changes take place at a very local dermatone region alone.   Yet this article points out that a “long distance call” is placed by the site injured as a collect call to the brain.
Telephone Poles

The call is made through the network of the thalmus (operator) which interacts with a “body home address (sensory cortex)” and transfers priority messages to key players in another map of local neighbours (Cingulate cortex).  
cingbk
Here, phone numbers are pulled before sending them a “Neighbourhood Alert Watch”, through direct calls to their phone poles at the spinal column level.  
power6s
It is only at that phone pole level where a particular home is set on either a warning mode or normal mode. It seems like a lot of work to place long distance calls when crossing a neighbours yard for help would seem more practical.  
 
So, in order to really treat body pain effectively, new strategies will be considered for silencing the address lookup table in cingulate, as well as calming a neighbour who is easily panicked at the dorsal column level. Current strategies only address site specific pain. It does not target the “local pain sharing network “, nor does it calm an easily startled operator in the brain that is eager to rally your neighbours when local pain erupts.  Function specific neuroreceptors and application alternatives are considered.

 
Enjoy the article here. 
Tsagareli, M. (2013) Pain and memory: Do they share similar mechanisms?. World Journal of Neuroscience, 3, 39-48. doi: 10.4236/wjns.2013.31005.
 

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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.

 

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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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