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Meta analysis: exercise promotion is ineffective for social anxiety disorder (see powerpoint slide)

All psychological interventions apart from promotion of exercise and other psychological therapies (supportive therapy, mindfulness, and interpersonal psychotherapy) had greater effects on outcomes than did waitlist (table; figure 3). In decreasing order of effect size, these were individual cognitive–behavioural therapy (CBT; class effect SMD −1·19, 95% CrI −1·56 to −0·81), group CBT (−0·92, −1·33 to −0·51), exposure and social skills (−0·86, −1·42 to −0·29), self-help with support (−0·86, −1·36 to −0·36), self-help without support (−0·75, −1·25 to −0·26), and psychodynamic psychotherapy (−0·62, −0·93 to −0·31).

Psychological and pharmacological interventions for social anxiety disorder in adults: a systematic review and network meta-analysis - The Lancet Psychiatry

Individual CBT compared with psychological placebo (SMD −0·56, 95% CrI −1·00 to −0·11), and SSRIs and SNRIs compared with pill placebo (−0·44, −0·67 to −0·22) were the only classes of interventions that had greater effects on outcomes than appropriate placebo. Individual CBT also had a greater effect than psychodynamic psychotherapy (SMD −0·56, 95% CrI −1·03 to −0·11) and interpersonal psychotherapy, mindfulness, and supportive therapy (−0·82, −1·41 to −0·24). Interpretation Individual CBT (which other studies have shown to have a lower risk of side-effects than pharmacotherapy) is associated with large effect sizes. Thus, it should be regarded as the best intervention for the initial treatment of social anxiety disorder. For individuals who decline psychological intervention, SSRIs show the most consistent evidence of benefit.

Why virtual reality could be a mental health gamechanger | Science | The Guardian

We’ve just completed the first review of every study that has used VR to assess, understand, and treat mental health conditions. The earliest was undertaken almost 25 years ago, at a time when the cost and complexity of the equipment and programming meant that research was confined to a very small number of specialist centres. Since then 285 studies have been published. Most of those have focused on using VR to treat anxiety disorders and particularly phobias, social anxiety, and PTSD. The results have been encouraging — VR is a proven means of delivering rapid, lasting improvements.

Mouse study identifies new method for treating depression: Inhibiting brain enzyme alleviates depression, and does it much faster than conventional antidepressants -- ScienceDaily

Palmer and team unraveled a previously underappreciated molecular process that can influence mouse models of depression. Here's how the process works: Cells generate energy. In doing so, they produce a byproduct. That byproduct inhibits neurons and thus influences various behaviors. Typically, the enzyme GLO1 removes this byproduct, but inhibiting GLO1 can also increase the activity of certain neurons in a beneficial way. In mice, Palmer and others have shown that more GLO1 activity makes mice more anxious, but less was known about the system's effect on depression. Palmer and team wondered if they could reduce signs of depression by inhibiting the GLO1 enzyme. The researchers used several different antidepressant tests. They compared responses in three groups of mice: 1) untreated, 2) treated by inhibiting GLO1, either genetically or with an experimental compound, and 3) treated with Prozac, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor commonly used to treat depression. The first tests they used were the tail suspension test and the forced swim tests, which are often used to determine whether or not a compound is an antidepressant. In this case, the answer was yes. The other tests -- chronic forced swim test, chronic mild stress paradigm and olfactory bulbectomy -- are well-established measures that can also be used to measure how long it takes for an antidepressant to take effect. In each of these tests, inhibiting the GLO1 enzyme reduced depression-like symptoms in five days, whereas it took 14 days for Prozac to have the same effect. While this new approach to treating depression has so far only been tested in mice and it will take many years of development before a GLO1 inhibitor could be tested in humans, the researchers are excited to find that new, unexplored approaches to treating depression are out there.

Groundbreaking fMRI study finds 4 distinct neurological subtypes of depression - ExtremeTech

We found that, superimposed on this shared pathological core, distinct patterns of abnormal functional connectivity differentiated the four biotypes and were associated with specific clinical-symptom profiles. For example, as compared to controls, reduced connectivity in frontoamygdala networks, which regulate fear-related behavior and reappraisal of negative emotional stimuli, was most severe in biotypes 1 and 4, which were characterized in part by increased anxiety. By contrast, hyperconnectivity in thalamic and frontostriatal networks, which support reward processing, adaptive motor control and action initiation, were especially pronounced in biotypes 3 and 4 and were associated with increased anhedonia and psychomotor retardation. And reduced connectivity in anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal areas supporting motivation and incentive-salience evaluation was most severe in biotypes 1 and 2, which were characterized partly by increased anergia and fatigue.

Just a few weeks of therapy can achieve half a lifetime's maturity

The analysis has found that just a few weeks of therapy is associated with significant and long-lasting changes in clients’ personalities, especially reductions in the trait of Neuroticism and increases in Extraversion. Talk of personality change can sound unsettling because we think of our personalities as reflecting our essential “me-ness”. But from a wellbeing perspective, the trait changes uncovered by this new research are welcome and may even underlie the benefits of therapy. Neuroticism or emotional instability is an especially important risk factor for future poor mental and physical health, and meanwhile high scorers on Extraversion are known to be happier on average and more optimistic. The authors of the new research, Brent Roberts at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his colleagues, also report that personality change appeared to occur remarkably quickly. Roughly four or more weeks of therapy was enough to induce meaningful change. In fact, beyond eight weeks, more therapy was not associated with greater personality change. Therapy-related changes to trait Neuroticism were especially significant – a few weeks of therapy led to about half the amount of increase in emotional stability that you would typically expect to see someone exhibit over an entire lifetime (as a general trend, most of us slowly but surely become more emotionally stable as we get older).

People With Anxiety Perceive The World In A Fundamentally Different Way | The Huffington Post

For the study, researchers trained individuals to associate three specific sounds with one of three outcomes: money loss, money gain or no consequence. In the next phase of the study, participants listened to approximately 15 tones and were asked to identify whether or not they’d heard them before. The best way to “win” the tone-identifying game was for participants to not confuse or overgeneralize the new sounds with the ones they heard in the first phase of the study. The study authors found that subjects with anxiety were more likely than non-anxious subjects to think a new sound was one that they heard earlier.

Health Benefits Shared by Psychedelics, Yoga, and Meditation -- Science of Us

Last year, Enzo Tagliazucchi, a postdoc at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, co-led a brain-imaging study in Current Biology on LSD-induced ego dissolution, and found that the state was associated with increased connectivity between several brain areas. In explaining to me why that dissolution might be therapeutically helpful, he said that the entire psychedelic experience — even the challenging parts — has a way of “extracting the patient from his or her usual patterns of thought and contemplat[ing] upon them from a vantage point,” he explained over email. The dissolution itself seemed to play a direct role in the case of anxiety in terminal cancer patients, he added. It’s a catalyst for epiphany. “In a typical ego-dissolution experience, the user feels the boundaries between his or her body and the rest of the universe dissolve, and becomes ‘one’ with the surroundings,” he added. “This might lead to feelings of transcendence or permanence in the patients, making them realize that even after their death they will still be part of something ‘larger.’”

Your Brain on Beauty: A Neurological Defense of Aestheticism | Cody Delistraty

The anxiety of living without purpose inspires so much of what we do in life: from finally writing that novel to following a religion. But a problem arises when we entirely ignore beauty for beauty’s sake. Life is short, yes, and meaning is important, also yes, but it has been proven that beauty really does give us pleasure. Aestheticism is a call back to our biological roots, and when we push aside utility and thematic meaning and simply pay attention the beauty around us, the way we experience life can paradigmatically change for the better.

Your brain suppresses perception of heartbeat, for your own good

It did not take long for Roy to get over his initial surprise at his discovery. “You don’t want your internal sensations to interfere with your external ones. It’s in your interest to be aware of what’s outside you. Since our heart was already beating while our brain was still forming, we’ve been exposed to it since the very start of our existence. So it’s not surprising that the brain acts to suppress it and make it less apparent.” Is feeling one’s heartbeat realted to anxiety? Awareness of one’s heartbeat is known to be correlated with a number of psychological problems, including anxiety disorders. Patients typically perceive their heart rate more clearly than most people. “But someone who does not suffer from this type of disorder can also be aware of their heartbeat,” said Roy. “This can happen at times of intense excitement or fear, for example.”

Scientist explains the psychological function of eulogizing the deceased

Thus, eulogizing the life of another after they die is almost like upholding our part of the bargain. We need to believe that others will carry on our memory after our death in order to allay our anxieties, and so we do for them what we hope they will do for us. When you think about it this way, you can see why the eulogy has become such an institutionalized aspect of the funeral ceremony. It satisfies our deeply rooted need to manage our own anxiety and sadness surrounding death and finitude.

The Natural Dietary Add-On Found To Treat Anxiety and Even Major Depression - PsyBlog

“We took measurements of the cytokines in the blood serum, as well as measured the productivity of cells that produced two important cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa). We saw a 14 percent reduction in the amounts of IL-6 among the students receiving the omega-3. …anything we can do to reduce cytokines is a big plus in dealing with the overall health of people at risk for many diseases.”

My father’s death by suicide inspired me to learn how to just ‘be’ – The Washington Post – Medium

That “anxiety needs the future,” and “depression needs the past.” My dad suffered deeply from both of these things: his fear and lack of control over all that lay ahead, and his regret over the things he couldn’t go back and change. He suffered from an unhealthy relationship with time. He lost his footing in the here-and-now. And it made him struggle — as all too many of us do — with the age-old Shakespearean dilemma: “To be, or not to be.”

35% of brain activity related to anxiety is heritable

An over-active network of brain areas is central to how children inherit anxiety and depression from their parents. The network consists of three regions in the brain which work together to control the fear-response. Genes passed down from parents to children influence how these three regions function together, the new study finds.

Mapping social space in the hippocampus

Participants played the lead role in a “choose-your-own-adventure” game, in which they interacted with cartoon characters. We found that a geometric model of social relationships, in a “social space” framed by power and affiliation, predicted hippocampal activity. Moreover, participants who reported better social skills showed stronger covariance between hippocampal activity and “movement” through “social space.” These results suggest that the hippocampus is critical for social cognition, and imply that beyond framing physical locations, the hippocampus computes a more abstract, multidimensional cognitive map. Importantly, these neural representations of social space may be relevant for psychological wellbeing. Here we report new evidence on how this model can be predictive of social behavior and cognition. We found that a number of geometric variables, extracted from participants’ behavior in the game, correlated robustly with trait scores: participants with higher social anxiety tended to give less power to the game’s characters; and participants who reported less social avoidance and higher self-efficacy showed increased exploration of the social space. Additionally, we found that lower hippocampal volumes predicted lower fidelity tracking of social distance in the posterior cingulate cortex.

Schizophrenia gene traced in chicken study -- ScienceDaily

"These results point to the same genes affecting anxiety in animals as diverse as chickens and humans. It also demonstrates that chickens may make an excellent model for the genetic basis of anxiety," says Dr. Wright.

Protein that boosts memory (and erases bad memories?) identified

In an earlier study, the Heidelberg scientists learned that there are reduced levels of Dnmt3a2 protein in the brains of older mice. When the elderly animals were injected with viruses that produce this protein, their memory capacity improved. "Now we have found that increasing the Dnmt3a2 level in the brains of younger mice also boosts their cognitive ability," explains Prof. Bading. In a number of different long-term memory tests, including classic Pavlovian conditioning, the scientists were able to demonstrate that mice with more Dnmt3a2 on board performed considerably better.

Fear and anxiety are narratives and not physical states.

In the face of danger, the brain kicks into defense mode, detecting the threat faster than our conscious awareness can ever operate, and sending a host of marching orders throughout the brain and the body, readying all systems to take action. It’s only after this process has begun that the emotions of fear and anxiety rise into consciousness — and only if, LeDoux says, “you have a brain that can be conscious of its own activity,” a brain with the “ability to conceptualize all of that, to label it linguistically, and to integrate it with thoughts and memories.” In other words, fear and anxiety are not wired into the brain as basic responses to the world around us — rather, the responses that lead to them are, and they only coalesce into fear when the brain interprets them as such.