Beneath the Surface: What Zebrafish Can Tell Us About Anxiety

The right tool for the job is important. A surgeon wouldn’t use a chainsaw when a scalpel offers more control. But sometimes the best treatments available aren’t precise. For example, anxiety medications available today are too blunt in how they target the brain, according to Ian Woods, assistant professor of biochemistry at Ithaca College.

“If you look at current treatments for anxiety disorders, the approach is a bit like taking a sledgehammer to a mosquito,” he said. “The treatments may work for anxiety, but they can have a lot of side effects.”

Woods researches how genetics influence responses to stimuli that can trigger anxiety, and he’s using zebrafish — a tropical member of the minnow family named for the black stripes on their bodies — to do so. He and his team of student researchers examine how fish with tweaked genes respond to different triggers compared to unmodified fish. The work could someday lead to better, more nuanced medications for anxiety disorders.

Zebrafish make ideal test subjects for several reasons. The embryos are transparent and develop outside the mother’s body, making it easy for Woods and his team to observe their growth under a microscope. They develop rapidly, are easy to care for and easy to breed in large quantities.

Specifically, Woods is looking at neuropeptides, which are the chemical messengers between brain cells. Different neuropeptides deliver different messages, which in turn produce different behaviors.

“Fish have the same neuropeptides as humans, and they mostly do the same things in the brain,” Woods said. “We can never faithfully model a complex human behavior like anxiety, but when we’re trying to figure out how the brain works, it’s useful to see inside a fish.”

Woods and his team isolate specific genes to disrupt, amplify, alter or replace, then analyze the movements of the modified fish with the aid of a computerized camera system. They examine responses to stimuli such as slight changes in water temperature, decreases in light intensity, or mild chemical irritants such as mustard oil.

“By observing the ensuing behavioral changes in the fish, we know how that replaced gene changed the message in the brain,” Woods explained. For example, fish exhibiting anxiety-like behaviors might hug the walls of the tank, while the rest will swim toward the middle. It’s not unlike social experiments in which the room temperature is raised gradually to see how human occupants will react.

“Genes typically don’t cause the anxiety,” Woods said. “But they can make organisms more susceptible to environmental triggers that might elicit what we’d call an anxious behavior.”

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States; over 40 million Americans suffer from some type in their lifetimes. But medications can be overprescribed and abused. For example, emergency room visits related to the use of Xanax and related drugs doubled from 2005 to 2011, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

9 Ways to Let Go of Stuck Thoughts | World of Psychology


Intrusive thoughts or negative ideation, rapid thinking or whatever you wish to call the bombardment of unwanted thoughts coming into your head to mess you up are JUST THOUGHTS.

Traditionally known as the ‘Unseen Warfare’ there is a way through that can be learnt.

These thoughts cannot be stopped; who knows where they come from, right?

But they will quieten down, get less intense over time and less rapid - the power of non-engagement and the healing energy of mindfulness will lead you down a better road.

Just needs a bit of self-awareness, a lot of effort and will power; and patience.

But then you’re worth it. 😊

Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week


Stress, Depression and Anxiety - Aren’t They All The Same Thing?

I’ve chosen to blog about these three conditions because they are exactly that. Three conditions, not one condition with three names which can be used interchangeably. Whilst awareness about the existence and very real impact of these conditions is increasing, there’s still a tendency to lump them all into one big melting pot and assume that in terms of support, a one-size-fits-all approach will be sufficient. 

I’ve suffered bouts of all three of these during my adult life, and looking back now I can see patterns of all of them peppered throughout various experiences in my teens and even childhood. At times I have been misdiagnosed and treated for the wrong thing, which has only served to compound the difficulties.

This blog entry is not intended to provide medical advice or offer a set of tools for diagnosis. I can only blog about my personal experience with these three conditions and use that to highlight the major differences between them. I hope that this will provide a small amount of insight into how they need to be tackled and approached in different ways.

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Meditation May Reduce Stress and Improve Health

A simple technique practiced for as few as 10 minutes per day can help you control stress, decrease anxiety, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a greater capacity for relaxation.

The meditative technique called the “relaxation response” was pioneered in the U.S. by Harvard physician Herbert Benson in the 1970s. The technique has gained acceptance by physicians and therapists worldwide as a valuable adjunct to therapy for symptom relief in conditions ranging fromcancer to AIDS.

When our bodies are exposed to a sudden stress or threat, we respond with a characteristic “fight or flight” response. This is sometimes called an “adrenaline rush” because the hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine are released from the adrenal glands, resulting in anincrease in blood pressure and pulse rate, faster breathing, and increased blood flow to the muscles.

The relaxation response is a technique designed to elicit the opposite bodily reaction from the “fight or flight” response — a state of deep relaxation in which our breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, and metabolism are decreased. Training our bodies on a daily basis to achieve this state of relaxation can lead to enhanced mood, lower blood pressure, and reduction of lifestyle stress.

Read more Here: http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=46268 

Published by: 

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Barbara K. Hecht, PhD

The Kind of Love That Does Your Heart Good

Love is a universal human emotion that permeates all aspects of life. We love our families, our friends, our partners, and even our pets. We can also love our jobs, music, artwork, landscapes, and certain foods. Love can be defined as a strong emotional attachment toward another person or thing that can produce feelings of euphoria and joy—or sadness and despair. There is no doubt that love is one of the most powerful emotions a human being can experience, yet we spend so much time focusing on loving everything around us that we often forget the most important recipient of love: ourselves.

Read more here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-heart/201403/the-kind-love-does-your-heart-good

Published on March 6, 2014 by Cynthia M. Thaik, M.D. in From the Heart

"Understanding With Your Life"


…One of the great mysteries in psychology is the epiphany. An epiphany is defined as “a moment of sudden revelation or insight.” But how such revelations happen, why they happen, no one knows. But that people report experiencing epiphanies all the time implies that understanding occurs at different levels, the truth of which most of us, if we stop to self-reflect for a moment, probably already recognize. For example, we may “know” at one level we should stop smoking (as I wrote about in a previous post, Cigarette Smoking Is Caused By A Delusion) or drinking, or start exercising or eating better, but we often don’t. It’s as if sometimes our understanding remains theoretical only, lacking the power to change how we feel or to motivate us to actually change our behavior.

To understand something with your head means to understand it on an intellectual level only. You may or may not be able to act on such an understanding. At times, when no obstacles stand in your way, taking action may be easy. At other times, when even a minor obstacle confronts you, your ability to act in accord with your understanding may fall far short…

Read more here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201311/understanding-your-life

Published on November 17, 2013 by Alex Lickerman, M.D. in Happiness in this World

How Big a Problem is Anxiety?



From a CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST AT CORNELL: “And anxiety has been increasing. The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950’s. We are getting more anxious every decade.”

I’m trying to get to the bottom of this bullshit.

Could it also be that because mental health issues were more stigmatized 50 years ago, people with “lesser amounts” of anxiety would be admitted?

Supposedly there are “some surveys” backing this data up but I can’t seem to find them.

Yeah I’d love to see the methodology behind this…

Mindfulness neuroscience


by Deric Bownds

The journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience has released an issue devoted to studies of brain correlates of different kinds of meditation. One article, on compassion or loving-kindness meditation, is open access. For me, the crucial article is the last one, written by a senior guru of the brain imaging field, Michael Posner, and his colleague Yi-Yuan Tang, outlining theoretical and methodological issues in the field. They note that reviews of the field have:

..summarized four components of how mindfulness meditation may work: (i) attention regulation, (ii) body awareness, (iii) emotion regulation (including reappraisal, exposure, extinction and reconsolidation) and (iv) change in perspective on the self. The authors indicate that mindfulness practice comprises a process of enhanced self-regulation that can be differentiated into distinct but interrelated components. While these components are a start, future empirical work should identify additional components of mindfulness and establish to what extent the components involve distinct mechanisms.

Many studies have difficulties with appropriate control and comparison subjects:

Different control and comparison groups have been used in mindfulness research, such as waiting lists, active control groups and interventions designed to match the non-specific effects of mindfulness practices, such as trainer’s confidence, expectancy effects and group support… Ideally, participants would be randomly assigned to condition, and the conditions would be matched with the many non-specific factors that have been found to produce beneficial change… Random assignment allows the changes observed in mindfulness research to be reasonably attributed to the active ingredient of mindfulness practice per se rather than to pre-existing differences in the experimental and control groups. Therefore, moving the field will require the use of rigorous comparison conditions to which participants are randomly assigned.
In long-term studies, an active control is not possible. In studies of long-term practitioners such as monks with many thousands of hours of practice, it is challenging to find even a matched control group. We don’t know how the monks differed before meditation practice and other factors including the environment and low stress, which differ from any ‘matched’ control group.