Let there be light! Scientists find brain circuit that could explain seasonal depression

Before light reaches these rods and cones in the retina, it passes through some specialized cells that send signals to brain areas that affect whether you feel happy or sad. Omikron /Getty Images/Science Source Just in time for the winter solstice, scientists may have figured out how short days can lead to dark moods. Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether you are happy or sad. When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed. "It's very likely that things like seasonal affective disorder involve this pathway," says Jerome Sanes, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University. Sanes was part of a team that...

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Body maps show schizophrenia may effect how one experiences emotion

Colorful figures of the human body are helping Vanderbilt University researchers understand how people experience emotion through their bodies and how this process is radically altered in people with schizophrenia. Sohee Park, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Psychology, and Ph.D. student Lénie J. Torregrossa compared individuals with schizophrenia with matched control participants, asking each to fill in a "body map" in a way that correlates to the way they physically experience emotion. They used a computerized coloring task to locate where participants feel sensations when they experience, for example, anger or depression. The outcomes differed radically between groups, with the control group showing distinct maps of sensations for 13 different emotions, indicating specific patterns of increased arousal and decreased energy across the body for each emotion. However, in individuals with schizophrenia, there was an overall reduction of bodily sensation across...

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The lonely Americans: Research finds 76% of people surveyed show serious signs of loneliness

Folks feeling lonely as the holidays approach have a lot of company, a new study suggests. Loneliness appears to be widespread among Americans, affecting three out of every four people, researchers have found. Further, loneliness appears to spike at specific times during adulthood. Your late 20s, mid-50s and late 80s are times when you are most at risk of feeling lonely. Wisdom appeared to be a strong factor in avoiding feelings of loneliness, the researchers said. People who had qualities of wisdom -- empathy, compassion, control over their emotions, self-reflection -- were much less likely to feel lonely. The extent of loneliness detected in the study was a "surprise, because this was a normal population," said senior researcher Dr. Dilip Jeste, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience with the University of California, San Diego. "This was not a group of...

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Jaded: Voters have high tolerance for politicians who lie, even those caught doing it

In a modern democracy, peddling conspiracies for political advantage is perhaps not so different from seeding an epidemic. If a virus is to gain a foothold with the electorate, it will need a population of likely believers ("susceptibles" in public-health speak), a germ nimble enough to infect new hosts easily (an irresistible tall tale), and an eager "Amen choir" (also known as "super-spreaders"). Unleashed on the body politic, a falsehood may spread across the social networks that supply us with information. Facebook is a doorknob slathered in germs, Twitter a sneezing coworker, and Instagram a child returning home after a day at school, ensuring the exposure of all. But if lies, conspiracies and fake news are really like germs, you might think that fact-checking is the cure, and truth an effective antidote. If only it were that easy. ...

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Scientists succeed in destroying HIV infected cells, suggest it will lead to a ‘cure’ for AIDS

Teams at the Institut Pasteur in Paris announced on Thursday they had succeeded in their work to destroy cells infected with HIV. Their work, published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism, offers hope of a cure for AIDS patients. Up to now, there has been no cure for AIDS, but instead, the disease has been treated by antiretrovirals. These drugs block the infection and have saved many lives since they were discovered in the 90s, but they do not eliminate HIV cells from the body. Comment: Far from saving lives, antiretrovirals are not only ineffective but have actually shortened lives. In the period 1988 through 1996, there were 235,000 recorded AIDS deaths. AZT caused more than 96 percent of these deaths. See: Questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis Patients are forced to take antiretrovirals for life because the drugs do not destroy...

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Just 6 months of walking may reverse cognitive decline, study says

Worried about your aging brain? Getting your heart pumping with something as simple as walking or cycling just three times a week seems to improve thinking skills, new research says. Add a heart-healthy diet, and you maximize the benefits, possibly shaving years off your brain's functional age, according to the study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology. "Our operating model was that by improving cardiovascular risk, you're also improving neurocognitive functioning," said lead study author James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University. "You're improving brain health at the same time as improving heart health." ...

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‘Stupid’ & ‘lazy’: The road to hell is paved with overly simplistic labels

"This is my favorite thing about being raised in Africa: We don't do labels very well; we don't do this, 'Oh, you're a Democrat; oh, you're a Republican.' Because we live in the real world." -Dambisa Moyo Unfortunately, many of us have developed corrosive habits in how we relate to ourselves and others. It's critically important that we approach this conversation with curiosity, rather than criticism, to avoid perpetuating a vicious cycle, though it is often hard to avoid pangs of regret when trying to figure out how to do a better job. It's challenging, especially early on, to tolerate the shameful and painful emotions which can come up when we really start to work on issues, and even more challenging early on to be grateful for the opportunities we give ourselves. The road to hell is paved with overly...

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Junk food cravings linked to lack of sleep, study suggests

Having even one night without sleep leads people to view junk food more favourably, research suggests. Scientists attribute the effect to the way food rewards are processed by the brain. Previous studies have found that a lack of shuteye is linked to expanding waistlines, with some suggesting disrupted sleep might affect hormone levels, resulting in changes in how hungry or full people feel. But the latest study suggests that with hormones may have little to do with the phenomenon, and that the cause could be changes in the activity within and between regions of the brain involved in reward and regulation. ...

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Doctoring Data – Science has turned to darkness

As readers of this blog know I was obliterated from Wikipedia recently. Many have expressed support and told me not to get down about it. To be perfectly frank, the only time I knew I was on Wikipedia was when someone told me I was going to be removed. So it hasn't caused great psychological trauma. In fact my feelings about this are probably best expressed on a Roman tombstone. It has been translated in different ways, but my favourite version is the following: I was not I was I am not I care not However, whilst my removal from Wiki is, in one way, completely irrelevant in the greater scheme of things. In another way it is hugely important. As Saladin said of Jerusalem, whilst he was battling with the Christians during the crusades. 'Jerusalem is nothing; Jerusalem is...

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