Later On

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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Fermented foods and fibre may lower stress levels – new study

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John Cryan, Vice President for Research & Innovation, University College Cork, writes in The Conversation:

When it comes to dealing with stress, we’re often told the best things we can do are exercise, make time for our favourite activities or try meditation or mindfulness.

But the kinds of foods we eat may also be an effective way of dealing with stress, according to research published by me and other members of APC Microbiome Ireland. Our latest study has shown that eating more fermented foods and fibre daily for just four weeks had a significant effect on lowering perceived stress levels.

Over the last decade, a growing body of research has shown that diet can have a huge impact on our mental health. In fact, a healthy diet may even reduce the risk of many common mental illnesses.

The mechanisms underpinning the effect of diet on mental health are still not fully understood. But one explanation for this link could be via the relationship between our brain and our microbiome (the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut). Known as the gut-brain axis, this allows the brain and gut to be in constant communication with each other, allowing essential body functions such as digestion and appetite to happen. It also means that the emotional and cognitive centres in our brain are closely connected to our gut.

While previous research has shown stress and behaviour are also linked to our microbiome, it has been unclear until now whether changing diet (and therefore our microbiome) could have a distinct effect on stress levels.

This is what our study set out to do. To test this, we recruited 45 healthy people with relatively low-fibre diets, aged 18–59 years. More than half were women. The participants were split into two groups and randomly assigned a diet to follow for the four-week duration of the study. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

30 November 2022 at 10:22 am

Using guns to kill debate — and democracy

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The use of openly displayed firearms to intimidate and silence is particularly a problem in the US, which has more guns in civilian hands than it has civilians. Mike McIntire reports in the NY Times (no paywall):

Across the country, openly carrying a gun in public is no longer just an exercise in self-defense — increasingly it is a soapbox for elevating one’s voice and, just as often, quieting someone else’s.

This month, armed protesters appeared outside an elections center in Phoenix, hurling baseless accusations that the election for governor had been stolen from the Republican, Kari Lake. In October, Proud Boys with guns joined a rally in Nashville where conservative lawmakers spoke against transgender medical treatments for minors.

In June, armed demonstrations around the United States amounted to nearly one a day. A group led by a former Republican state legislator protested a gay pride event in a public park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Men with guns interrupted a Juneteenth festival in Franklin, Tenn., handing out fliers claiming that white people were being replaced. Among the others were rallies in support of gun rights in Delaware and abortion rights in Georgia.

Whether at the local library, in a park or on Main Street, most of these incidents happen where Republicans have fought to expand the ability to bear arms in public, a movement bolstered by a recent Supreme Court ruling on the right to carry firearms outside the home. The loosening of limits has occurred as violent political rhetoric rises and the police in some places fear bloodshed among an armed populace on a hair trigger.

But the effects of more guns in public spaces have not been evenly felt. A partisan divide — with Democrats largely eschewing firearms and Republicans embracing them — has warped civic discourse. Deploying the Second Amendment in service of the First has become a way to buttress a policy argument, a sort of silent, if intimidating, bullhorn.

“It’s disappointing we’ve gotten to that state in our country,” said Kevin Thompson, executive director of the Museum of Science & History in Memphis, Tenn., where armed protesters led to the cancellation of an L.G.B.T.Q. event in September. “What I saw was a group of folks who did not want to engage in any sort of dialogue and just wanted to impose their belief.”

A New York Times analysis of more than 700 armed demonstrations found that, at about 77 percent of them, people openly carrying guns represented right-wing views, such as opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights and abortion access, hostility to racial justice rallies and support for former President Donald J. Trump’s lie of winning the 2020 election.

The records, from January 2020 to last week, were compiled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a nonprofit that tracks political violence around the world. The Times also interviewed witnesses to other, smaller-scale incidents not captured by the data, including encounters with armed people at indoor public meetings.

Anti-government militias and right-wing culture warriors like the Proud Boys attended a majority of the protests, the data showed. Violence broke out at more than 100 events and often involved fisticuffs with opposing groups, including left-wing activists such as antifa.

Republican politicians are generally more tolerant of openly armed supporters than are Democrats, who are more likely to be on the opposing side of people with guns, the records suggest. In July, for example, men wearing sidearms confronted Beto O’Rourke, then the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, at a campaign stop in Whitesboro and warned that he was “not welcome in this town.”

Republican officials or candidates appeared at 32 protests where they were on the same side as those with guns.  . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

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26 November 2022 at 4:01 pm

Intriguing approach to treating depression

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Paul Fitzgerald, a psychiatrist and the head of the School of Medicine and Psychology at the Australian National University, writes in Psyche:

Rachel gets out of bed slowly, very slowly, still troubled by the oppressive weight of depression that she has been carrying for the past six months. This, despite the therapist she sees, and despite the antidepressant pills she has been taking, seemingly forever. However, her treatment today is different. Instead of taking a pill, she puts a cap on her head – a futuristic-looking device containing electrodes that both read her brainwaves and pass a gentle electrical current across her scalp. She boots up her iPad and enjoys the distraction of a game while receiving her treatment: electrical stimulation to her brain that is driven and refined by ongoing recording of her neural activity. At the end, she rates how she is feeling. This and other data from her session, and her previous treatments, is fed into an algorithm that continually refines her ongoing course of treatment.

This might sound far-fetched, but is far from it. Beyond recognising and addressing the importance of social interventions to ameliorate the external conditions that can contribute to mental health problems, the treatment of depression is currently evolving in unexpected ways. This is based on a shift away from thinking about depression as a disorder of ‘chemicals in the brain’ to an understanding that depression is underpinned by changes in electrical activity and communication between brain regions.

Brain areas talk to one another by firing in rhythm together, at specific frequencies, forming complex networks that underpin important brain functions. For example, nerve cells in frontal and parietal areas of the brain oscillate in rhythm together (usually between 4 and 8 times per second) while we are actively trying to remember something. There is increasing evidence that depression is associated with changes in several of these networks, particularly those that connect multiple brain regions at long distance. One knock-on consequence is the overactivity of some parts of the brain and the underactivity of others.

Unbeknown to most of the public, there’s a new therapy, now established in clinical practice, called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) that can address some of these brain-based changes seen in depression. In TMS, a figure-8-shaped coil held over the head generates a magnetic field that stimulates localised brain activity and the strength of connections between multiple brain regions. To treat depression, the TMS pulses are usually targeted to the front of the left side of the brain, a region that is consistently underactive in patients with depression. Although several decades of clinical trials have established the effectiveness and safety of TMS, especially for patients who have not responded to standard antidepressant medication, an ongoing challenge is that it is time-consuming and inconvenient. Patients must attend a clinical setting on a daily basis, five days per week, for up to 6 weeks.

For this reason, efforts are underway to develop alternative forms of brain-stimulation treatment that could be administered in a patient’s home. Of these, the research is most advanced for transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), a surprisingly simple process, the ideas behind which are not new. People have experimented with the use of electrical currents to change brain activity since Scribonius Largus, physician to the emperor Claudius, applied a type of electric ray to the brain during the time of the Roman Empire.

Unlike TMS, tDCS doesn’t directly stimulate the nerve cells of the brain, but subtly shifts the likelihood that they will fire in the future. A weak electrical current passes in one direction between two electrodes held in sponges placed on the scalp. This produces changes in brain activity beneath the electrodes and, when applied repeatedly to an appropriate area of the brain, such as left frontal regions, there is evidence from more than 10 clinical trials that it can help patients with depression. The development of tDCS in depression is at an earlier stage than TMS, but it is progressing rapidly, especially since its simplicity makes it viable as a widespread home-based therapy.

On that front, in recent years, interest has also grown in a related but distinct form of electrical stimulation – transcranial alternating-current stimulation (tACS), which differs from tDCS in that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

24 November 2022 at 2:51 pm

Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) and Cognitive Decline

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23 November 2022 at 5:37 pm

An Elon insight

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I came across this exchange:

I genuinely wish I could see inside Musk’s head or at least get an explanation for how he was thinking his plans would work out.

Like it’s clear now he is fantastically out of touch with reality but I still really wanna know like, to what degree. Did he think people would accept his ultimatum? Did he genuinely think it would only take like 300 people to keep Twitter running?

In response to that query numberonecatwinner posted this:

I was an intern at SpaceX years ago, back it when it was a much smaller company — after Elon got hair plugs, but before his cult of personality was in full swing. I have some insight to offer here.

Back when I was at SpaceX, Elon was basically a child king. He was an important figurehead who provided the company with the money, power, and PR, but he didn’t have the knowledge or (frankly) maturity to handle day-to-day decision making and everyone knew that. He was surrounded by people whose job was, essentially, to manipulate him into making good decisions.

Managing Elon was a huge part of the company culture. Even I, as a lowly intern, would hear people talking about it openly in meetings. People knew how to present ideas in a way that would resonate with him, they knew how to creatively reinterpret (or ignore) his many insane demands, and they even knew how to “stage manage” parts of the physical office space so that it would appeal to Elon.

The funniest example of “stage management” I can remember is this dude on the IT security team. He had a script running in a terminal on one of his monitors that would output random garbage, Matrix-style, so that it always looked like he was doing Important Computer Things to anyone who walked by his desk. Second funniest was all the people I saw playing WoW at their desks after ~5pm, who did it in the office just to give the appearance that they were working late.

People were willing to do that at SpaceX because Elon was giving them the money (and hype) to get into outer space, a mission people cared deeply about. The company also grew with and around Elon. There were layers of management between individual employees and Elon, and those managers were experienced managers of Elon. Again, I cannot stress enough how much of the company culture was oriented around managing this one guy.

Twitter has neither of those things going for it. There is no company culture or internal structure around the problem of managing Elon Musk, and I think for the first time we’re seeing what happens when people actually take that man seriously and at face value. Worse, they’re doing this little experiment after this man has had decades of success at companies that dedicate significant resources to protecting themselves from him, and he’s too narcissistic to realize it.

This post is long so I’ll leave you with my favorite Elon story. One day at work, I got an all hands email telling me that it was Elon’s birthday and there was going to be a mandatory surprise party for him in the cafeteria. Presumably Elon also got this email, but whatever. We all marched down into the cafeteria, dimmed the lights, and waited. Elon was led out by his secretary (who he hadn’t fired yet) and made a big show of being fake surprised and touched that we were there. Then they wheeled out the cake.

OK, so, I want you to imagine the biggest penis cake you’ve ever seen. Like the king of novelty sex cakes. Only it’s frosted white, and the balls have been frosted to look like fire and smoke. This was Elon’s birthday “rocket” cake.

For as long as I live, I will never forget the look on everyone’s face — in that dark room of mostly-male engineers — when he made a wish and cut into the tip.

Written by Leisureguy

23 November 2022 at 7:11 am

Source of the problem

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21 November 2022 at 4:48 pm

The Gut Microbiome Helps Social Skills Develop in the Brain

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Close-up overhead shot of zebra fish, which has iridescent blue scales and orange where fins attach near its head.
New research shows that the presence of a gut microbiome very early in life affects the brain development and adult social behavior of zebra fish.
Daniel Castranova/NICHD

The gut microbiome does so many things that it perhaps is thinking it might go into business for itself. Joanna Thompson writes in Quanta:

Two recent papers have shown that during a critical early period of brain development, the gut’s microbiome — the assortment of bacteria that grow within in it — helps to mold a brain system that’s important for social skills later in life. Scientists found this influence in fish, but molecular and neurological evidence plausibly suggests that some form of it could also occur in mammals, including humans.

In a paper published in early November in PLOS Biology, researchers found that zebra fish who grew up lacking a gut microbiome were far less social than their peers with colonized colons, and the structure of their brains reflected the difference. In a related article in BMC Genomics in late September, they described molecular characteristics of the neurons affected by the gut bacteria. Equivalents of those neurons appear in rodents, and scientists can now look for them in other species, including humans.

In recent decades, scientists have come to understand that the gut and the brain have powerful mutual influences. Certain types of intestinal ulcers, for example, have been linked to worsening symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease. And clinicians have long known that gastrointestinal disorders are more common in people who also have neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.

“Not only does the brain have an impact on the gut, but the gut can also profoundly affect the brain,” said Kara Margolis, a pediatric gastroenterologist at New York University’s Langone Health, who was not involved in the new research. How these anatomically separate organs exert their effects, however, is far less clear.

Philip Washbourne, a molecular biologist at the University of Oregon and one of the principal co-authors of the new studies, has been studying genes implicated in autism and the development of social behaviors for over two decades. But he and his lab were looking for a new model organism, one that displayed social behavior but was quicker and easier to breed than their go-to, mice. “Can we do this in fish?” he recalls thinking, and then: “Let’s get really quantitative about it and see if we can measure how friendly the fish get.”

Germ-Free Fish

Zebra fish, which are also widely used in genetics research, reproduce quickly and are naturally social. After they turn two weeks old, they start hanging out in shoals of four to 12 fish. They are also transparent until adulthood, which allows researchers to observe their internal development without having to dissect them — a feat that is all but impossible in mammalian models, such as mice. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

15 November 2022 at 3:38 pm

“How an 18th-Century Philosopher Helped Solve My Midlife Crisis”

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Alison Gopnik has a very interesting essay (no paywall) in the Atlantic:

In 2006, I was 50—and I was falling apart.

Until then, I had always known exactly who I was: an exceptionally fortunate and happy woman, full of irrational exuberance and everyday joy.

I knew who I was professionally. When I was 16, I’d discovered cognitive science and analytic philosophy, and knew at once that I wanted the tough-minded, rigorous, intellectual life they could offer me. I’d gotten my doctorate at 25 and had gone on to become a professor of psychology and philosophy at UC Berkeley.

I knew who I was personally, too. For one thing, I liked men. I was never pretty, but the heterosexual dance of attraction and flirtation had always been an important part of my life, a background thrum that brightened and sharpened all the rest. My closest friends and colleagues had all been men.

More than anything, though, I was a mother. I’d had a son at 23, and then two more in the years that followed. For me, raising children had been the most intellectually interesting and morally profound of experiences, and the happiest. I’d had a long marriage, with a good man who was as involved with our children as I was. Our youngest son was on his way to college.

I’d been able to combine these different roles, another piece of good fortune. My life’s work had been to demonstrate the scientific and philosophical importance of children, and I kept a playpen in my office long after my children had outgrown it. Children had been the center of my life and my work—the foundation of my identity.

And then, suddenly, I had no idea who I was at all.

My children had grown up, my marriage had unraveled, and I decided to leave. I moved out of the big, professorial home where I had raised my children, and rented a room in a crumbling old house. I was living alone for the first time, full of guilt and anxiety, hope and excitement.

I fell in love—with a woman, much to my surprise—and we talked about starting a new life together. And then my lover ended it.

Joy vanished. Grief took its place. I’d chosen my new room for its faded grandeur: black-oak beams and paneling, a sooty brick fireplace in lieu of central heating. But I hadn’t realized just how dark and cold the room would be during the rainy Northern California winter. I forced myself to eat the way I had once coaxed my children (“just three more bites”), but I still lost 20 pounds in two months. I measured each day by how many hours had gone by since the last crying jag (“There now, no meltdowns since 11 this morning”).

I couldn’t work. The dissolution of my own family made the very thought of children unbearable. I had won a multimillion-dollar grant to investigate computational models of children’s learning and had signed a contract to write a book on the philosophy of childhood, but I couldn’t pass a playground without tears, let alone design an experiment for 3-year-olds or write about the moral significance of parental love.

Everything that had defined me was gone. I was no longer a scientist or a philosopher or a wife or a mother or a lover.

My doctors prescribed Prozac, yoga, and meditation. I hated Prozac. I was terrible at yoga. But meditation seemed to help, and it was interesting, at least. In fact, researching meditation seemed to help as much as actually doing it. Where did it come from? Why did it work?

I had always been curious about Buddhism, although, as a committed atheist, I was suspicious of anything religious. And turning 50 and becoming bisexual and Buddhist did seem far too predictable—a sort of Berkeley bat mitzvah, a standard rite of passage for aging Jewish academic women in Northern California. But still, I began to read Buddhist philosophy.

In 1734, in Scotland, a 23-year-old was falling apart.

As a teenager, he’d thought . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

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11 November 2022 at 9:23 pm

Was Kurt Vonnegut a nice man?

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Recently I have been thinking about regret — in particular, the statement made by some (Edit Piaf being a prime example), “I regret nothing.”

Nothing? Not one instance of being unkind? even inadvertently? I can think of more examples than I want of hurting someone by failing to be kind, and I regret every one.

But then it struck me that “I regret nothing” is exactly the sentiment of a sociopath, particularly a narcissistic sociopath.

The above came to mind when I read Dorian Lynskey’s profile of Kurt Vonnegut in UnHerd, which begins:

In 1999, the director Baz Luhrmann had a novelty hit with “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, a spoken-word litany of whimsical advice for young people: enjoy your youth, keep your old love letters, floss, and so on. The text derived from a column by a journalist called Mary Schmich but it was widely rumoured to be from a commencement address by a celebrated author who was born 100 years ago this week: Kurt Vonnegut. Despite having quit writing two years earlier, he was still delighting students with his witty speeches, of which this appeared to be one. Vonnegut set the record straight but graciously told Schmich: “I would have been proud had the words been mine.”

Nothing illustrates an author’s reputation as clearly as misattributed work. The Sunscreen confusion proved that one of his era’s most scathing satirists had been recast as the cuddly hipster grandpa of American letters. This certainly chimed with one strand of Vonnegut’s work, which is summed up by a famous line from his 1965 novel God Bless You, Mr Rosewater, or Pearls Before Swine (“God damn it babies, you’ve got to be kind”) but that was by no means the whole picture.

Like Dolly Parton, Alan Bennett, George Michael and Anthony Bourdain, Vonnegut has become simplified into an avatar of kindness, his wrinkles ironed flat by the heat of sainthood. This happened long before his death in 2007 and he was a willing conspirator. George Saunders recently spoke about his own reputation as literature’s Mr Nice Guy and gave himself some advice: “one: don’t believe it; two, interrupt it.” The first is easier than the second. One of Vonnegut’s most famous lines is from 1961’s Mother Night: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Vonnegut often pretended to be nicer than he was, which was good for both his ego and his income.

If you Google Vonnegut, one of the most-asked questions that comes up is: “Was Vonnegut a nice person?” Tough one. He could certainly be warm, wise and generous, but he could also be a greedy and disloyal business partner, a selfish, unfaithful husband and a crotchety, intimidating father. He suffered from depression and suicidal ideation; his work often flirts with nihilism. Robert B. Weide’s recent documentary Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (the title quotes Vonnegut’s masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five) is candid about the writer’s failings as a family man but Weide, who considered Vonnegut a close friend and mentor, still sands off a lot of rough edges.

In his more objective biography And So It Goes, Charles J. Shields quotes the private notes that  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2022 at 1:06 pm

The Seven Levels of Busy

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Many of us have been there. I now float around in the range of 1 to 3. Michael Lopp writes at Rands in Repose:

Level 1: NOT BUSY My schedule is wide open. I can choose infinite paths. Zero commitments. The weekend. I sleep like a baby. Life is good, but am I living my best life?

Level 2: STUFF TO DO I have a few commitments wandering around my brain. They are reasonable, knowable, and not deadline-based. I can keep track of everything in my head.

Level 3: SIGNIFICANT COMMITMENTS I have enough commitments that I need to keep track of them in a tool because I can no longer organically triage. My calendar is a thing I check infrequently, but I do check it to remind myself of the flavor of this particular day.

Level 4: AT CAPACITY My to-do and my calendar are full. I frequently have to make “What is more important?” decisions to help me figure out where to invest my time. There is no unscheduled time, but I continue to feel on top of things. Inbox zero maintained.

Level 5: . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

10 November 2022 at 12:24 pm

One in Eight U.S. Adult Deaths Involved Too Much Booze

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Zaina Hamza writes in MedPage Today:

One out of every eight deaths in Americans ages 20 to 64 resulted from drinking too much alcohol, according to a U.S. population-based study.

Nationally, 12.9% of total deaths per year among adults in this age group were attributed to excessive alcohol consumption from 2015 to 2019, and that number rose to 20.3% of total deaths per year when restricted to people ages 20 to 49, reported Marissa Esser, PhD, MPH, of the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues.

Alcohol-attributed deaths ranged from 9.3% in Mississippi to 21.7% in New Mexico and were more common among men than women (15% vs 9.4%), the authors wrote in JAMA Network Open.

“These premature deaths could be reduced through increased implementation of evidence-based alcohol policies (e.g., increasing alcohol taxes, regulating alcohol outlet density), and alcohol screening and brief intervention,” the authors concluded.

Alcohol consumption remains a leading preventable cause of premature death, with rates rising for alcoholic liver disease among young adults up to age 64, Esser’s group noted. A prior CDC report from 2006 to 2019 attributed one in 10 deaths to excessive alcohol consumption among adults ages 20 to 64, but it was largely based on self-reported data without consideration of per capita alcohol sales.

“Compared with 2019, death rates involving alcohol as an underlying or contributing cause of death increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, including among adults aged 20 to 64 years,” Esser’s group wrote. “Therefore, the proportion of deaths due to excessive drinking among total deaths might be higher than reported in this study.”

However, researchers added that . . .

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8 November 2022 at 7:56 pm

What trauma does to your brain and body

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As pointed out in the video, post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) is now recognized as being much more common than we once thought. It does occur in soldiers as a result of battlefield stress, but it also occurs in survivors (both adults and children) of domestic violence or natural disasters. 

Understanding that PTSD is much more common than we once thought makes developing effective treatment and care that much more urgent.

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7 November 2022 at 9:40 am

Seasonal affective disorder and its treatment

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In the northern hemisphere, we are moving into the time of short days and long nights, and the scourge of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) begins to affect some people. The Mayo Clinic has a useful article that begins:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that typically occurs each year during fall and winter. Use of a light box can offer relief. But for some people, light therapy may be more effective when combined with another SAD treatment, such as an antidepressant or psychotherapy, also called talk therapy.

Light boxes are designed to deliver a therapeutic dose of bright light to treat symptoms of SAD. There are many different types of light boxes. All light boxes for SAD treatment are designed do the same thing, but one may work better for you than another.

Talk with your health care provider first

It’s best to talk with your health care provider about choosing and using a light box. If you’re experiencing both SAD and bipolar disorder, the advisability and timing of using a light box should be carefully reviewed with your health care provider. Increasing exposure too fast or using the light box for too long each time may induce manic symptoms if you have bipolar disorder.

If you have past or current eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts or eye damage from diabetes, get advice from your eye specialist before starting light therapy.

Understanding a light box

A light therapy box mimics outdoor light. It’s thought that this type of light may cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of SAD, such as being tired most of the time and sleeping too much.

Generally, the light box should:

  • Provide an exposure to 10,000 lux of light
  • Produce as little UV light as possible

Typical recommendations include using the light box:

  • Within the first hour of waking up in the morning
  • For about 20 to 30 minutes
  • About 16 to 24 inches (41 to 61 centimeters) from your face, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions about distance
  • With eyes open, but not looking directly at the light

Light boxes aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for SAD treatment, so it’s important to understand your options.

You can buy a light box without a prescription, but  . . .

Continue reading.

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2 November 2022 at 10:51 am

Release ‘Emotional Baggage’ and the Tension That Goes with It

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Julianne Ishler has an interesting article in Healthline that begins:

You’ve probably heard the term “emotional baggage.”

It’s sometimes used to describe the phenomenon of carrying past trauma or so-called negative experiences through life, relationships, or a career.

You may see this reflected in someone’s posture, as if they’re carrying around an unbearable weight. It may even prevent them from moving forward in life.

Everyone carries unprocessed emotions from experiences to some degree. However, emotions that aren’t dealt with don’t just go away.

They can affect:

• the way you think about yourself
• how you react to stress
• your physical well-being
• your relationships with others

After all, emotional baggage gets its name from somewhere, right?

Let’s unpack the layers of how and where emotions get stuck, so you can release what’s weighing you down.

What does it mean to have ‘trapped’ emotions?

Perhaps you’ve heard of people crying during yoga, massage, or acupuncture treatment because of a tender spot that, when activated, appears to lead to an emotional release.

Though some may refer to trauma being “stored” or “trapped” in the body, that isn’t necessarily a scientific way to put it.

However, the symptoms of traumatic stress can manifest physically.

This may be because the brain associates this area with a particular memory — often on a subconscious level.

Activating certain areas of the body may trigger these memories, according to Mark Olson, PhD, LMT, the owner and director of the Pacific Center for Awareness & Bodywork.

“Emotions are constantly being generated — subconsciously or consciously — in response to the reactivation of memories or unsatisfied goals,” Olson says. “The touch to X area is simply a reliable stimulus to reconstruct the pattern associated with that traumatic event.”

Touch may bring up emotions or a memory may create sensations in a particular area of the body. While this is usually associated with a bodily location, Olson believes that everything is happening in the brain.

Alternatively, some believe that trauma and difficult emotions can, in fact, become literally stuck energy in the body, though this isn’t supported by scientific evidence.

According to Bradley Nelson, DC, trapped emotional vibrations cause surrounding tissues to vibrate at the same frequency, known as resonance.

In his book “The Emotion Code,” Nelson writes, “Each trapped emotion resides in a specific location in the body, vibrating at its own particular frequency.”

This may cause you to attract more of that emotion, he says, creating a build-up or blockage.

Still, Nelson’s stance remains theoretical until further research can be done.

How do emotions get trapped?

That said, research as early as 1992Trusted Source along with more current research supports the mind-body connection, or the belief that a person’s mental and emotional health impacts the state of their physical health.

A classic example of this is fear.

If you’re in a situation where you’re afraid, your body generates a physical response to this emotion by activating the fight-flight-freeze response.

According to Nelson, three things happen when an emotion is experienced.

  1. We develop an emotional vibration.
  2. We feel the emotion and any thoughts or physical sensations associated with it. This is where the mind and body’s interconnectedness comes into play.
  3. We move on from the emotion by processing it.

According to Olson and other researchTrusted Source, emotional processing occurs in the limbic structures of the brain.

We’re constantly taking in information, which generates pre-conscious autonomic nervous system responses. This sends a signal to the body activating the corresponding emotion.

In other words, your “feeling” comes from what your nervous system is telling you.

According to Nelson, when the second or third step mentioned above gets interrupted, the energy of the emotion becomes trapped in the body. As a result, you might experience muscle tension, pain, or other ailments. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article you will find this interesting graphic:

Illustration by Maya Chastain

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2022 at 11:00 am

Antidepressant + probiotics

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Scott C. Anderson has an interesting article in Psychology Today:

Key points

  • Psychobiotics are bacteria that can improve your mood.
  • Clinical trials are just starting for psychobiotics as treatment options.
  • As adjuncts to antidepressants, psychobiotics are showing value.

Psychiatry is becoming more aware of the power of probiotics to improve mood. Nevertheless, most psychiatrists are wary of replacing antidepressants with probiotics until more clinical research is completed. But how about probiotics as an adjunct? A new study by Anna-Chiara Schaub and colleagues tested that proposition. What they found should put psychiatrists on the alert.

Their study took patients with major depressive disorder and split them into two groups: one getting a probiotic and another getting a placebo. All stayed on their current antidepressants. After a month, the group taking probiotics had a significant improvement in their mood, compared to placebo.

As the researchers put it, “Our results suggest that an add-on probiotic treatment improves depressive symptoms and increases specific health-related bacterial taxa. On a neural level, probiotics alter negative biases and emotional valence additionally to treatment-as-usual for depression.”

Probiotics that can improve mood are called psychobiotics, and the main constituent of the probiotic used in the study was Lactobacillus, a well-known psychobiotic. This study tracks with a meta-analysis done in 2021 that also showed a large improvement when pairing antidepressants with probiotics.

How does it work?

How can microbes improve depression? A lot of it has to do with . . .

Continue reading

The above article is news to me — not the part about the gut microbiome affecting the brain, which has been well-established for some time, but that psychiatrists and therapists are actually putting that knowledge into practice by having patients take both an antidepressant and a probiotic.

In fact, it seems that there are even probiotics selected specifically for their psychological benefit — for example, the probiotic shown at right.

Obviously, antidepressants are prescribed by a doctor or therapist, but I think a patient might well want to ask about including a probiotic in the treatment regimen. In any event, probiotics are good for your overall health, provided you also eat prebiotics, the dietary fiber that feeds the probiotics. Those eating a whole-food plant-based diet don’t need to worry. The WFPB diet includes plenty of fiber, and with the fresh fruit and vegetables, plenty of probiotics as well, though I do supplement those by also eating fermented vegetables that I make (see this post).

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2022 at 7:29 pm

A healthy diet by itself doesn’t seem to reduce dementia risk

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Megan Brooks reports in Medscape of a study that showed that a healthy diet by itself did not result in a lowered risk of dementia. The report suggested that it may be that reducing the risk of dementia may require a combination of healthy practices that include a healthy diet and also regular exercise, vascular risk control, avoiding cigarette smoking, minimizing or eliminating the consumption of alcohol, and so on).

One oddity in phrasing. The report says:

The authors of an accompanying editorial note that diet as a “singular factor may not have a strong enough effect on cognition, but is more likely to be considered as one factor embedded with various others, the sum of which may influence the course of cognitive function (diet, regular exercise, vascular risk factor control, avoiding cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, etc).

“Diet should not be forgotten and it still matters” but should be regarded as “one part of a multidomain intervention with respect to cognitive performance,” write Nils Peters, MD, with University of Basel, Switzerland, and Benedetta Nacmias, PhD, with University of Florence, Italy.

The way it is phrased — “avoiding cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation” — it sounds as though the recommendation is to drink alcohol, though in moderation. That is, they recommend that, if you don’t drink, you should start.

But alcohol is a linear risk factor, like cigarette smoking: it’s best (that is, healthiest) not to do it at all, and the more you do, the more unhealthy it is. The authors recommend “avoiding cigarette smoking,” not “smoking cigarettes in moderation.” The same rule would apply to alcohol: avoiding it is best, and if alcohol is consumed, the less the better (from the point of view of health).

CDC’s guidance on alcohol consumption is much clearer (and more detailed) and states that the ideal is not to drink at all, with risk rising directly with amount consumed:

  • Alcohol consumption is associated with a variety of short- and long-term health risks, including motor vehicle crashes, violence, sexual risk behaviors, high blood pressure, and various cancers (e.g., breast cancer).1
  • The risk of these harms increases with the amount of alcohol you drink. For some conditions, like some cancers, the risk increases even at very low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink).2,3
  • To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men or 1 drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.4 The Guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason and that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.4
  • Two in three adult drinkers report drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.5

Written by Leisureguy

20 October 2022 at 7:07 am

Covid killing more Whites than Blacks

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In the Washington Post, Akilah Johnson and Dan Keating have a stunning article (gift link, no paywall) — I rate this one as a must-read. I recently discovered that gift links expire, so you can also use a no-paywall link to the archived article, but that version lacks photos and some charts. So use the gift link if it’s still active.

From the article:

After it became clear that communities of color were being disproportionately affected, racial equity started to become the parlance of the pandemic, in words and deeds. As it did, vaccine access and acceptance within communities of color grew — and so did the belief among some White conservatives, who form the core of the Republican base, that vaccine requirements and mask mandates infringe on personal liberties.

“Getting to make this decision for themselves has primacy over what the vaccine could do for them,” said Lisa R. Pruitt, a law professor at the University of California at Davis who is an expert in social inequality and the urban-rural divide. “They’re making a different calculus.”

It’s a calculation informed by the lore around self-sufficiency, she said, a fatalistic acceptance that hardships happen in life and a sense of defiance that has come to define the modern conservative movement’s antipathy toward bureaucrats and technocrats.

“I didn’t think that that polarization would transfer over to a pandemic,” Pruitt said.

It did.

A lifesaving vaccine and droplet-blocking masks became ideological Rorschach tests.

The impulse to frame the eradication of an infectious disease as a matter of personal choice cost the lives of some who, despite taking the coronavirus seriously, were surrounded by enough people that the virus found fertile terrain to sow misery. That’s what happened in northern Illinois, where a father watched his 40-year-old son succumb to covid-19.

And later:

Researchers at the University of Georgia found that White people who assumed the pandemic had a disparate effect on communities of color — or were told that it did — had less fear of being infected with the coronavirus, were less likely to express empathy toward vulnerable populations and were less supportive of safety measures, according to an article in Social Science & Medicine.

Perhaps, the report concludes, explaining covid’s unequal burden as part of an enduring legacy of inequality “signaled these disparities were not just transitory epidemiological trends, which could potentially shift and disproportionately impact White people in the future.”

Translation: Racial health disparities are part of the status quo.

And because of that, government efforts to bring a public health threat to heel are seen by some White Americans as infringing on their rights, researchers said.

“This is reflective of politics that go back to the 19th-century anxieties about federal overreach,” said Ayah Nuriddin, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University who studies the history of medicine.

And later:

“We put it on Republicans and politics,” she said, “but I think we should dig deeper.”

That’s what Jonathan M. Metzl, director of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Medicine, Health, and Society, did for six years while researching his book “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland.”

Published in 2019, it is a book about the politicization of public health and mistrust of medical institutions. It is a story about how communal values take a back seat to individuality. It’s an exploration of disinformation and how the fear of improving the lives of some means worsening the lives of others.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing a prehistory of the pandemic,” Metzl said in an interview. “You’re seeing a kind of dying-of-Whiteness phenomenon in the covid data that’s very similar to what I saw in my data.”

Metzl and Griffith, a Vanderbilt professor at the time, conducted focus groups on the Affordable Care Act throughout middle Tennessee including White and Black men who were 20 to 60 years old. Some were small-business owners and security guards. Others were factory workers and retirees.

The divergent medical experiences of Black and White patients permeated Metzl’s focus groups, particularly when the conversation veered toward the politics of health and government’s role in promoting well-being.

“Black men described precisely the same medical and economic stressors as did White men and detailed the same struggles to stay healthy,” Metzl wrote. “But Black men consistently differed from White men in how they conceived of government intervention and group identity. Whereas White men jumped unthinkingly to assumptions about ‘them,’ Black men frequently answered questions about health and health systems through the language of ‘us.’ ”

Tennessee has yet to expand Medicaid under the ACA, a decision fueling rural hospital closures at a rate that eclipses nearly every other state because there isn’t enough money to keep the doors open. Not only would expanding Medicaid have saved hospitals, Metzl wrote, it would have saved thousands of lives — White and Black.

There’s much more. Read the whole thing, either through a gift link or through a no-paywall link (though that link is missing photos and some charts, so the gift link is better — but the gift link expires).

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 11:37 am

Unseparate and Unequal

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Peter Coy has an interesting article (no paywall) in the NY Times on the dictatorship of the boss. It begins:

With more than 10 million jobs in the United States unfilled as of August, this is about as good as it gets for workers’ leverage. But it still isn’t very good. For most Americans, particularly those earning less than the median income [and especially those who do not belong to a strong union – LG], employers continue to control when, where and how they work, in some cases right down to their bathroom breaks.

“When we are workers, we lie under the government of a boss. It’s a dictatorship. The boss rules,” Elizabeth Anderson, a professor of philosophy and women’s studies at the University of Michigan, told me last week. She wrote a 2017 book on the topic, “Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (And Why We Don’t Talk About It).”

Despite the obvious dominance of employers, though, a lot of economic research and legal scholarship is based on the libertarian notion that employers and employees have relatively equal bargaining power and are thus “free to contract” with one another as truly independent parties.

The assumption of roughly equal power is not just silly, it’s harmful. Take the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Epic Systems Corporation v. Lewis, which upheld the validity of contracts in which employees surrender the right to collective litigation against their employers. Underlying the decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, was the implicit assumption that when workers give up that important right, it’s their free choice.

But as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in a dissent, free choice in this situation is an illusion. “Forced to face their employers without company, employees ordinarily are no match for the enterprise that hires them,” she wrote. She likened the Epic Systems contract to yellow-dog contracts of the 1930s, which prohibited new hires from joining unions as a condition of employment. Take it or leave it.

A recent special issue of The Journal of Law and Political Economy casts a jaundiced eye on the convenient fiction that employment contracts reflect the free choices of employees. The issue was conceived and edited by Lawrence Mishel, the former president of the Economic Policy Institute.

“This is Econ 101 silliness, that any transaction between consenting adults is optimal,” Mishel said. “The basis of at-will employment is that if a worker can quit then an employer has to be able to quit a worker. That’s the logic. If you articulate it like that, people would be something between horrified and laughing.”

The main power workers do have is  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2022 at 7:54 pm

Non-prescription hearing aids

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Christopher Rowland and Amanda Morris have a thorough and informative report (no paywall) in the Washington Post on the new world of over-the-counter hearing aids — not sound amplifiers or “personal sound amplification products,” but true hearing aids.

Given that uncorrected hearing loss leads to cognitive decline, and that the price of hearing aids has been around $5000 for a pair, this new generation of over-the-counter hearing aids, running around $800 to start with (and competition is likely to bring that price down over time) will reach a great many new users.

Their article begins:

The government on Monday will begin allowing pharmacies and big-box stores to sell hearing aids without prescriptions, a move that is expected to shake up an industry that has long been dominated by a handful of manufacturers under a model of care that critics said raised costs and stifled innovation.

Backers of the change say the move to over-the-counter hearing aid sales will usher in a revolution of lower prices and new technologies, and expand access for millions of people with untreated hearing loss.

But while the shift holds the promise of improving the lives of millions of people who have untreated mild to moderate hearing loss, it also is a sweeping test of consumer-driven health care.

For first-time users, hearing aids require fine-tuning and a degree of patience as the brain becomes accustomed to processing sounds that have been muffled for years, say audiology experts. It’s not like popping on a new pair of glasses and instantly seeing clearly. It sometimes takes days or weeks to become accustomed to them, which might be easy for tech-savvy people but more challenging for the target audience of elderly people.

Manufacturers say they are ready to smooth the process for new customers. Today’s hearing aids come with smartphone apps that allow consumers to calibrate the devices themselves. The manufacturers are setting up call centers and help desks to assist customers with fit and tuning.

[How to pick the right hearing aid for you] (no paywall) 

Moreover, with millions of new customers on the horizon representing billions of dollars in sales, they are gearing up for competition over price, sound quality, design and multiple functions like call-streaming and music.

“It’s going to be the wild, wild west for a few years, but I mean that in a good way,” said Frank Lin, director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health at Johns Hopkins’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There is so much market opportunity here. It’s never been done this way.”

The substantial learning curve will be a worthwhile trade off for consumers, giving them more options without having to see a doctor, said advocates. The Food and Drug Administration has limited retail, no-prescription sales to devices designed for people 18 and older with mild to moderate hearing loss.

“The benefit that is likely to happen is going to  . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2022 at 7:38 pm

Psychiatry wars: the lawsuit that put psychoanalysis on trial

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Rachel Aviv writes in the Guardian:

Before entering Chestnut Lodge, one of the most elite psychiatric hospitals in the US, Ray Osheroff was the kind of charismatic, overworked physician we have come to associate with the American dream. He had opened three dialysis centres in northern Virginia and felt within reach of something “very new for me, something that I never had before, and that was the clear and distinct prospects of success,” he wrote in an unpublished memoir. He loved the telephone, which signified new referrals, more business – a sense that he was vital and in demand. “Life was a skyrocket,” he wrote.

But when he was 41, after divorcing and marrying again quickly, he seemed to lose his momentum. When his ex-wife moved to Europe with their two sons, he felt as if he had ruined his chance for a deep relationship with his children. His thinking became circular. In order to have a conversation, his secretary said, “we would walk all the way around the block, over and over”. He couldn’t sit still long enough to eat. He was so repetitive that he started to bore people.

His new wife gave birth to a baby boy less than two years after their wedding, but Ray had become so detached that he behaved as if the child wasn’t his. He seemed to care only about the past. He felt increasingly overwhelmed by the stress caused by professional rivals, and he sold a portion of his business to a larger dialysis corporation. Then he became convinced he had made the wrong choice. After finalising the sale, he wrote: “I went outside and sat in my car and I realised that I had become a piece of wood.” The air felt heavy, like some sort of noxious gas.

Ray felt that he had carefully built a good life – the kind he had never imagined he could achieve but, on another level, felt secretly entitled to – and with a series of impulsive decisions, had thrown it away. “All I seemed to be able to do was to talk, talk, talk about my losses,” he wrote. He found that food tasted rotten, as if it had been soaked in seawater. Sex was no longer pleasurable either. He could only “participate mechanically”, he wrote.

When Ray began to threaten suicide, his new wife told him that if he didn’t check into a hospital, she would file for divorce. Ray reluctantly agreed. He decided on Chestnut Lodge, which he had read about in Joanne Greenberg’s bestselling 1964 autobiographical novelI Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which describes her recovery at the Lodge and serves as a kind of ode to the power of psychoanalytic insight. “These symptoms are built of many needs and serve many purposes,” she wrote, “and that is why getting them away makes so much suffering.”

During Ray’s first few weeks at the Lodge, in 1979, his psychiatrist, Manuel Ross, tried to reassure him that his life was not over, but Ray would only “pull back and become more distant, become more repetitive,” Ross said. Ross concluded that Ray’s obsessive regret was a way of staying close to a loss he was unable to name: the idea of a parallel life in which “he could have been a great man”.

Hoping to improve Ray’s insight, Ross interrupted Ray when he became self-pitying. “Cut the shit!” he told him. When Ray described his life as a tragedy, Ross said, “None of this is tragic. You are not heroic enough to be tragic.”

At a staff conference a few months after he arrived, a psychologist said that after spending time with Ray, she had a pounding headache. “He is like 10 patients in one,” a social worker agreed.

“He treats women as if they are the containers for his anxiety and are there to indulge him and pat his hand whenever he’s in pain,” Ross said. “And he does that with me, too, you know? ‘You don’t know what pain I’m in. How can you do this to me?’”

Ross said that he had already warned Ray: “With your history of destructiveness, sooner or later you are going to try to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 October 2022 at 12:29 pm

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