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The Bridge That Could Not

The Bridge That Could Not

 

 

The Bridge that could not..

 

  

It has been said, “if you want friends, do not build walls, build bridges”.  However, 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 have avoided being around people.  Often when we face depression, impaired thinking and difficulty with planning accompany it.  When this is our pervasive state, any task undertaken can seem long and very energy demanding.  Even the steps we know we ought to take are challenging because we have difficulty moving forward.  We become myopic, (or nearsighted), lacking the capacity to see what the future has in store.

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 signaling gap between downstream neurons. The terminal end of one firing neuron (presynapse) communicates with the dendrite (postsynapse) of the next downstream neuron through a gap known as a “synapse”.  This very important space regulates information as a communication relay for neurons.

 

 

Webster provides more about the origin

 

“Latin Synapsis, from Greek, juncture, from synaptein to fasten together”,

 

Presynaptic, synaptic and postsynaptic regions

 

 Depiction of Nectin Adhesion

 The correct alignment of neurons is an important feature for effective communication downstream.  Researchers discovered a structural protein known as Nectin-3 that maintains this important alignment in order to secure connections in their proper place.  This structural protein appears influenced by stress.  Through an experimental design, when mice were placed in a stressful environment, their brains showed a  significant reduction in Nectin-3. This reduction of Nectin-3 also correlated with the avoidance behavior observed in these mice.  In order to verify this relationship of Nectin-3 and avoidance, other experiments designed to restore fibronectin-3 resulted in increased cognitive function and improved socialization in mice.

 

When the scientist explored the mechanism behind the nectin-3 reduction, an enzyme known as MMP-9 was identified.  It was observed that during times of stress, high glutamate levels prompt the release of this enzyme, which degrades the nectin-3 protein.   

 

Normally, this enzyme has an important role in modifying memory. It likely has a part in fine tuning what we retain much like how a professional would tune a piano to precise tone.  However, in situations where we experience stress, there is a wider sweep of disconnections in a regional runaway mechanism, hindering our ease in social interactions as well as our capacity to think clearly.

 

MMP (like Military Police)

 Consider the MMP as if it were a rogue group of Military Police (MP), which lose their role as peacekeepers, causing mass chaos in a crisis.

As for the role of MMP-9 in our daily life, I can imagine how this may be a way our brains manage to protect us.  Life has many stressful moments.  Some moments are much worse than others are.  I can imagine that under a very intense and stressful situation, we may feel overwhelmed, requiring that we find a way to “step back” and reset our perspective in order to address our stress another way.  Such a mechanism as “sending out the Military Police (MMP) on our distressed brain, may allow us a certain “numbness”, a form of objectivity as it were until we can get back on our feet and face the problem a new way.

I am including a reference to this article below.

Thanks for joining me at this moment objectively!

 

Greg

 

 

 

I invite you to read this article below.

 

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

New research (htp://lgc.epfl.ch/)from the Brain Mind Institute at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL),

 

 

The Bridge That Could Not was originally published on

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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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What “LIES” Beneath…

liedef


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

cbt

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

beck

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

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

6lies

halfplateshd1

halfplateshd2

Now, Go Reclaim your freedom!

 

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The Bridge that could not..

 

 

nobridge

 

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

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

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

synapse

synbridge

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

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

mpshadow

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

 

I invite you to read this article below.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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Slideshow Presentation: Revealing your Child’s behavior in Context

Presentation Given to Parents in Atibia, Brazil.

Here I discussed importance of knowing your child in context. I also discussed a brief method of Psychiatry in assessing cognitive emotional function.  Further, I touched on aspects of attention problems and the role of anxiety in obstructing focus and its contribution to disease. I ended with a brief overview of neuroscience and the important role of keeping anxiety in check.  I believe this presentation can be useful to many, as it is to my daily self maintenance.

philos1

Revealing Your Childs Behavior in Context

 

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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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