Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Computer stress

Passwords. Indecipherable language. Geek speak. Pop-up Windows. Extensions. Social media.

It's wearing us out (at least me).

I once worked on a book called Toward a Psychology Programming. The title intrigued me. Who is writing this computer code? Back then, in the 1990s, I was trained on what was called HTML coding (how to translate words and characters to create a Web page or posting). 

Now you don't have to use arcane codes, but things are not much better. As we slide into all apps all the time, the stress level of us the user is rising. That's unless you just get bitter and start shouting angry words like the old man on the lawn.

It's a brave new world and we need good teachers and students.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Remembering a pioneer, Barbara Rich

At a holiday luncheon in New York City in the late 90s, Dana Foundation chairman David Mahoney was quite proud of his employees. We were making a big difference in the "Decade of the Brain" congressional project, he said.

At his behest, we posed for a photograph in the beautiful garden of the New York Academy of Sciences. I was in the photo, which Mr. Mahoney graciously signed personally and distributed to all those in the picture. Remember, he wrote, that you were there at the beginning.

Also among those gathered was Barbara Rich, in many ways the emotional and intellectual backbone of this group of which Mr. Mahoney was so proud.

Barbara was a renaissance woman. Kind, wicked smart, indefatigable, she eventually had a say in all parts of the Foundation, including the financial portfolio. We worked together on mutual projects, supporting each other. I learned a great deal more from her than the other way around. She was always striving to be a better person and gently encouraging me to do the same.

Anyone learning about the brain and concerned about a loved one--or themselves--suffering from depression, substance abuse, suicidal ideation or the myriad of other illnesses that can cripple individuals and minimize human potential, needs to thank Barbara Rich.

With great sadness that I learned of her passing earlier this month. I am too much at a loss for words to write more.

Thank you, Barbara. It was a great honor to know you and work alongside you.

Learn about the brain, here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Fear and the brain: A very timely issue

Politicians know it. Advertising executives also. So do sexual predators.

Fear is our most powerful emotion and triggering it can paralyze victims into submission.

Brain scientist Joseph LeDoux explains just how the fear response works, in this excerpt from my new book, Healing the Brain: Stress, Trauma and Development.

The Power of  Emotions    

By Joseph E. LeDoux, Ph.D.   
(Book excerpt.) New York University neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux,  Ph.D., and other neuroscientists have begun to examine the way the brain shapes our experience
—and our memories—to generate the varied repertoire of human emotions. Specifically, as 
Dr. LeDoux explains, he chose to begin his inquiry by examining an emotion that is common to all  living creatures: fear.   

Mice serve researchers well as animal models. These very distant relatives possess
well over 90 per cent of the same genes as humans.

Years of research by many workers have given us extensive knowledge of the neural pathways
involved in processing acoustic information, which is an excellent starting point
for examining the neurological foundations of fear. The natural flow of auditory information\—the way you hear music, speech, or anything else—is that the sound comes into the ear,
enters the brain, goes up to a region called the auditory midbrain, then to the auditory
thalamus, and ultimately to the auditory cortex. Thus, in the  auditory pathway, as in other sensory systems, the cortex is the highest  level of processing.    

So the first question we asked when we began these studies of the fear  system was: Does the sound have to go all the way to the auditory cortex in  order for the rat to learn that the sound paired with the shock is  dangerous? When we made lesions in the auditory cortex, we found that  the animal could still make the association between the sound and the  shock, and would still react with fear behavior to the sound alone. Since  information from all our senses is processed in the cortex—which  ultimately allows us to become conscious of seeing the predator or hearing  the sound—the fact that the cortex didn’t seem to be necessary to fear  conditioning was both intriguing and mystifying. We wanted to understand  how something as important as the emotion of fear could be mediated by  the brain if it wasn’t going into the cortex, where all the higher processes  occur.     Some other area or areas of the brain  must receive information from the  thalamus and establish memories about  experiences that stimulate a fear  response.     So we next made lesions in the auditory thalamus and then in the auditory  midbrain. The midbrain supplies the major sensory input to the thalamus,  which in turn supplies the major sensory input to the cortex. What we  found was that lesions in either of these subcortical areas completely  eliminated the rat’s susceptibility to fear conditioning. If the lesions were  made in an unconditioned rat, the animal could not learn to make the  association between sound and shock, and if the lesions were made on a rat  that had already been conditioned to fear the sound, it would no longer  react to the sound. But if the stimulus didn’t have to reach the cortex,  where was it going from the thalamus?    

Some other area or areas of the brain must receive information from the  thalamus and establish memories about experiences that stimulate a fear  response. To find out, we made a tracer injection in the auditory thalamus  (the part of the thalamus that processes sounds) and found that some cells  in this structure projected axons into the amygdala. This is key, because  the amygdala has for many years been known to be important in emotional
responses. So it appeared that information went to the amygdala from the  thalamus without going to the neocortex. We then did experiments with  rats that had amygdala lesions, measuring freezing and blood pressure  responses elicited by the sound after conditioning. We found that the  amygdala lesion prevented conditioning from taking place. In fact, the  responses are very similar to those of unconditioned animals that hear the  sound for the first time, without getting the shock. So the amygdala is  critical to this pathway.    It receives information about the outside world directly from the thalamus,  and immediately sets in motion a variety of bodily responses. We call this  thalamo­amygdala pathway the low road because it’s not taking advantage  of all of the higher­level information processing that occurs in the  neocortex, which also communicates with the amygdala. 

(Excerpted from  ​States of Mind: New Discoveries About How Our Brains  Make Us Who We Are, ​ Roberta Conlan, editor. Dana Press and John  Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1999.) 

Get a closer look at fear and human relations. CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Rosie O'Donnell's Trump-induced pain

From LGBTQ Nation:
Rosie O’Donnell is no stranger to Donald Trump‘s insults. She has been on the receiving end of them for years, but the one that came during the first presidential debate might have hurt the most.
O’Donnell has penned a poem opening up about the depression she experienced in the wake of Trump yet again using her as a punching bag, this time in front of an audience of over 8 million people.
Hillary Clinton highlighted her opponent’s record of demeaning women during the debate, saying, “This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs. And someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers, who has said women don’t deserve equal pay unless they do as good a job as men. And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman ‘Miss Piggy.’ Then he called her ‘Miss Housekeeping,’ because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name. Her name is Alicia Machado.”
“Some of it was said in entertainment,” Trump answered. “Some of it was said to somebody who has been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell. I said very tough things to her and I think everyone would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her.”
O’Donnell’s poem, titled “8 million to one,” tells the story of her finding the strength to leave the house only to run into her nemesis’s daughter Ivanka.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trump Trauma

A blog called Trump Trauma invites people to share their feelings about the candidate:


“…laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”
~Trumped! 1991
Traumatizing Students
“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” reports a teacher from a middle school with a large African-American Muslim population. “They think that if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”
Southern Poverty Law Center Report, 2016
"Lie of the Year"
“The Obama-Clinton war on coal has cost Michigan over 50,000 jobs.” (Fact: Total people working in ANY kind of mining in Michigan is less than 7,000, and less than 20,000 in electricity production.)
~Politifact Lie Of The Year, 2016


Carrie Fisher Says Donald Trump’s Sniffles Are ‘Absolutely’ a Cocaine Thing

Carrie Fisher Says Donald Trump’s Sniffles Are ‘Absolutely’ a Cocaine Thing

“I’m an expert,” tweets the actress

Via Twitter, a fan asked actress Carrie Fisher, “Tell me something about that sniffle…coke head or no?” asked the fan.
The Donald has been getting a lot of attention for his nose issues. During the first presidential debate, the Republican candidate was frequently sniffing. Social media quickly took notice and had a ball mocking his sniffles.
It seems like the only person who didn’t notice Trump’s sniffles was… Trump. The incessant sniffling was still present the second time around.
Fisher’s expertise on the signs of whether somebody is a cokehead comes from her own past drug addiction, which Fisher herself has never shied away from discussing.
Trump’s sniffles were a big topic of conversation after the first debate on September 26, and the sniffles returned for the second debate — thus the question for Fisher.
To find out if Trump’s sniffles will persist, tune in October 19 for the third and final presidential debate.