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9/23/18 - "If neither denying nor welcoming death seems appealing to you, you have a lot of company. But there is another alternative: acceptance. Perhaps the ultimate dignity is in facing the inevitable nobly and courageously. In the seventeenth century Edmund Waller, poet laureate of England, wrote 'Stronger by weakness, wiser, men become as they draw near to their eternal home. Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view, That stand upon the threshold of the new.'"
Welcoming Death
Welcoming Death

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Make Up Your Mind: How Adranifil Boosts Brain Activity.

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Neurofeedback Treatment for Children at Amazing Brains, Colorado
At Amazing Brains, the Expert Neurofeedback and Counselling Clinic in Colorado offers effective Neurofeedback treatment for children to let them improve learning abilities, proficiency in speech, and get other developmental disorders sorted so that they can grow and develop at healthy intellectual level.

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'Gut Sense' is Hardwired, Not Hormonal

Scientists talk about appetite in terms of minutes to hours. Here we are talking about seconds.

The research is in Science. (full access paywall)

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While emotions such as anger or sadness are often thought of as being a result of stress or pain, findings recently published by Penn State researchers suggest that negative or mixed emotions could function as stressors themselves.
The manuscript, published in the journal Psychological Reports on Sept. 6, examines the relationship between emotion and pain among women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
We often think of emotion as a consequence of stress or pain, but our findings suggest that under certain circumstances negative emotion or complex, mixed emotion can function as a stressor itself, and one which can promote inflammation said Jennifer Graham-Engeland associate professor of biobehavioral health and lead author of the manuscript.

Graham-Engeland and her colleagues hypothesized that inflammation, a physiological phenomenon for which biomarkers from blood can be obtained, may be connected to emotion and pain. They developed a novel methodology and used it to test how emotional state, such as anger, sadness or happiness, affected inflammatory response to a pain stimulus.
The more we understand the connection between emotion and pain the more we can develop newer options for treatment as well as bolster the argument that psychological treatments are needed for pain Graham-Engeland said.
Study participants each came for a five-hour visit on four separate occasions to the Clinical Research Center at Penn State. These visits varied only by the manipulation of emotion (anger, sadness or happiness versus a non-emotional control visit). To manipulate emotion, researchers had participants think, write and talk about their recent feelings related to one of these specific emotions.
After the emotion manipulation, acute pain was caused by pressing on tender or swollen joints of participants, such as what might be done during a routine clinical exam. Blood samples were then obtained at multiple time points, including at baseline, ten minutes, one hour, and 100 minutes after the pain stimulus.

There was no main effect of experimental condition; however, when participants reported greater anger than their own average, they showed elevated inflammation, Graham-Engeland said.
These findings are in concordance with a few recent studies suggesting that emotional states can cause or contribute to specific patterns of physiological responses to stress or pain said Graham-Engeland.
Researchers also found that when negative emotion was experienced in the context of a manipulation for a different emotion, for example, if participants felt sadness when researchers were trying to get them to focus on angry feelings, they showed elevated levels of both inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol.
Such work is important because a more nuanced understanding of the role of emotion, psychological stress and pain on inflammatory states may eventually help clarify novel clinical tools to treat inflammation and pain or help improve current pain management techniques, Graham-Engeland said.
Though these findings relate specifically to patients with RA, Graham-Engeland said in the future this work can potentially inform other pain patients.
I’m optimistic this may turn out to be relevant more broadly she said. Additional research is needed to advance the findings of this preliminary research, both among the clinical and healthy populations.
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Improve your work success by liberating your creative spirit

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What it feels like having a borderline personality disorder?

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Say you meet an old friend at the train station. She is standing about a metre ahead of you, and on the tracks to your right a train has just pulled into the station. Behind your friend you see a bakery. We often remember such scenes in vivid detail. But exactly how we do that by forming mental images has long been a bit of a mystery.
Many researchers liken someone’s recall of an episode from their life (episodic memory) to re-experiencing of the original event. What is unclear is how this process could be realised in the brain, at the level of single brain cells (neurons). Now our new study, published in eLife has come up with a suggestion.
It is possible to measure the activity of single brain cells. Experiments with rodents have shown that certain cells are active whenever an animal is located at a particular spot in the environment. These so-called “place cells” therefore represent an animal’s position in a given environment.

Similarly, other brain cells fire whenever there is an environmental boundary, such as the walls of a room, at a certain distance and direction from the animal. Such findings have given us clues as to how spatial relations are represented in the brain. As you meet your friend at the train station, cells in your brain that represent your location relative to the train station should be active. Similarly, other cells would signal the presence of “objects” (like your friend, the bakery and train) at given distances and directions from you. Yet other cells signal the identity of these items.
However, it is not known how all these cells might work in concert to realise mental processes involved in perceiving, remembering and even imagining life events.
On a more abstract level, all these elements, your friend, the bakery and the train, and their spatial arrangement collectively form what psychologists refer to as a scene.
The term scene construction designates all the mental processes involved in perceiving, remembering and even imagining scenes. So knowing how the different cells work together would allow these abstract notions to be understood at the level of single cells.
The area of the brain known as the hippocampus has long been known to be crucial for memory. However, patients with hippocampal damage have been reported to also have difficulties imagining coherent spatial scenes, suggesting that imagining spatial experiences is linked to memory. Subsequently, brain scans have shown that imagination of new experiences and recall of memories do engage overlapping brain areas.
Brain imaging techniques, however, typically identify areas of the brain that can contain millions of cells, comprising many individual networks potentially representing different information. It is therefore difficult to tell how individual networks of cells behave based on brain scans.

Modelling memory
Our goal was to pull together all the evidence at the level of single neurons and use it to model the encoding and recall of scenes which contained meaningful items (for example your friend at the train station). To do this we assigned specific roles to a large number of spatially selective cells (such as place cells), linking them all together via synaptic connections in the model.
The case that spatially selective brain cells are involved in memory has been made before, but relating them to our experience revealed an interesting discrepancy. Spatially selective cells represent the elements of a scene relative to the scene itself. That is, spatially selective brain cells code for our location and for the locations of scene elements in “world-centered” terms.
For simplicity we can liken this reference frame to compass directions, with the train as being south-east of the bakery because this is true, irrespective of our own position and orientation.
However, our direct spatial experience as we perceive a scene is “egocentric” in nature. That is, we perceive the train as being to our right and our friend as being ahead of ourselves. So how do neurons in and near the hippocampus come to represent environmental boundaries and objects in a world-centered format as we memorise a scene?
Memorising the layout of a scene in world-centered terms has the benefit of only needing to memorise one set of related information, such as the train being south-east of the bakery, irrespective of our orientation (the train could be on our right or on our left depending on which way we are facing).

Transforming neural representations
Our model shows that this transformation (from egocentric to world-centered) could be performed by another network of spatially selective neurons. Neurons representing the location of objects in the egocentric frame of reference (ahead, left, right) would drive cells in the transformation network, which in turn would activate cells that constitute the world-centered representations. Strengthening connections between these latter cells then corresponds to laying down the memory in long-term storage.
Crucially, this transformation circuit would also act in reverse – neurons which encode long-term memories could reactivate cells that represented object locations in egocentric terms. In other words, an original event could be re-experienced at a later time. The memory model therefore implements a form of imagery, where the cells which were originally driven by perception at the time of the original event are later reactivated from memory. Importantly the exact content of the reconstruction depends on the imagined heading. If the transformation circuit activated cells representing the train being to your left instead of to your right, we would be imagining facing south and not north.
The model allowed us to simulate brain damage in both humans and rodents, investigating different aspects of amnesia.
For instance, a lesion to the transformation circuit can leave us unable to recall a memory. Interestingly our model suggests that the memory is technically still present in and near the hippocampus, but the subject would be unable to reconstruct a mental image of it.
While it is too early to simulate specific diseases such as Alzheimer’s, the model may provide a good starting point to deduce how diffuse brain damage, spanning multiple brain areas with distinct functions and containing different spatially selective cells, might affect cognition.
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We all want other people to “get us” and appreciate us for who we really are. In striving to achieve such relationships, we typically assume that there is a “real me”. But how do we actually know who we are? It may seem simple, we are a product of our life experiences, which we can be easily accessed through our memories of the past.
Indeed, substantial research has shown that memories shape a person’s identity. People with profound forms of amnesia typically also lose their identity, as beautifully described by the late writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks in his case study of 49-year-old Jimmy G, the “lost mariner”, who struggles to find meaning as he cannot remember anything that’s happened after his late adolescence.
But it turns out that identity is often not a truthful representation of who we are anyway, even if we have an intact memory. Research shows that we don’t actually access and use all available memories when creating personal narratives. It is becoming increasingly clear that, at any given moment, we unawarely tend to choose and pick what to remember.
When we create personal narratives, we rely on a psychological screening mechanism, dubbed the monitoring system, which labels certain mental concepts as memories, but not others. Concepts that are rather vivid and rich in detail and emotion, episodes we can re-experience, are more likely to be marked as memories. These then pass a “plausibility test” carried out by a similar monitoring system which tells whether the events fit within the general personal history. For example, if we remember flying unaided in vivid detail, we know straight away that it cannot be real.
But what is selected as a personal memory also needs to fit the current idea that we have of ourselves. Let’s suppose you have always been a very kind person, but after a very distressing experience you have developed a strong aggressive trait that now suits you. Not only has your behaviour changed, your personal narrative has too. If you are now asked to describe yourself, you might include past events previously omitted from your narrative, for example, instances in which you acted aggressively.

False memories
And this is only half of the story. The other half has to do with the truthfulness of the memories that each time are chosen and picked to become part of the personal narrative. Even when we correctly rely on our memories, they can be highly inaccurate or outright false: we often make up memories of events that never happened.
Remembering is not like playing a video from the past in your mind, it is a highly reconstructive process that depends on knowledge, self image, needs and goals. Indeed, brain imaging studies have shown that personal memory does not have just one location in the brain, it is based on an “autobiographical memory brain network” which comprises many separate areas.
A crucial area is the frontal lobes, which are in charge of integrating all the information received into an event that needs to be meaningful, both in the sense of lacking impossible, incongruent elements within it, but also in the sense of fitting the idea the individual remembering has of themselves. If not congruent or meaningful, the memory is either discarded or undergoes changes, with information added or deleted.
Memories are therefore very malleable, they can be distorted and changed easily, as many studies in our lab have shown.
For example, we have found that suggestions and imagination can create memories that are very detailed and emotional while still completely false. Jean Piaget, a famous developmental psychologist, remembered all his life in vivid detail an event in which he was abducted with his nanny – she often told him about it. After many years, she confessed to having made the story up. At that point, Piaget stopped believing in the memory, but it nevertheless remained as vivid as it was before.

Memory manipulation
We have assessed the frequency and nature of these false and no-longer-believed memories in a series of studies. Examining a very large sample across several countries, we discovered that they are actually rather common. What’s more, as for Piaget, they all feel very much like real memories.
This remained true even when we successfully created false memories in the lab using doctored videos suggesting that participants had performed certain actions. We later told them that these memories never actually happened. At this point, the participants stopped believing in the memory but reported that the characteristics of it made them feel as if it were true.
A common source of false memories are photos from the past. In a new study, we have discovered that we are particularly likely to create false memories when we see an image of someone who is just about to perform an action. That’s because such scenes trigger our minds to imagine the action being carried out over time.
But is all this a bad thing? For a number of years, researchers have focused on the negatives of this process.
For example, there are fears that therapy could create false memories of historical sexual abuse, leading to false accusations. There have also been heated discussions about how people who suffer from mental health problems, for example, depression, can be biased to remember very negative events. Some self-help books therefore make suggestions about how to obtain a more accurate sense of self.
For example, we could reflect on our biases and get feedback from others. But it is important to remember that other people may have false memories about us, too.
Crucially, there are upsides to our malleable memory. Picking and choosing memories is actually the norm, guided by self-enhancing biases that lead us to rewrite our past so it resembles what we feel and believe now. Inaccurate memories and narratives are necessary, resulting from the need to maintain a positive, up-to-date sense of self.
My own personal narrative is that I am a person who has always loved science, who has lived in many countries and met many people. But I might have made it up, at least in part. My current enjoyment for my job, and frequent travels, might taint my memories. Ultimately, there may have been times when I didn’t love science and wanted to settle down permanently.
But clearly it doesn’t matter, does it? What matters is that I am happy and know what I want now.
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