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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