17th July, 2014

neurosciencestuff:

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.

(via Neuroscience)

16th May, 2014

(via Healing Schemas)

16th May, 2014

Welcome to Mental Health Awareness Week

mrsshandy:

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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(via A Not-So-Simple Life)

2nd May, 2014

Why You Need to Listen to Your Body When It Says “Slow Down”

"You need to stop for long enough for your body, heart or mind to tell you what they are longing to communicate. It’s usually far more important than any random item on the eternal to-do list.." 

Read more here: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prescriptions-life/201404/why-you-need-listen-your-body-when-it-says-slow-down

Published on April 30, 2014 by Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. in Prescriptions for Life

17th April, 2014

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

3rd April, 2014

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

21st March, 2014

"Understanding With Your Life"

LEVELS OF UNDERSTANDING

…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

21st March, 2014

(via Cognitive Defusion)

18th March, 2014

(via Neurotic Thought)