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Disrupted circadian rhythms may drive anxiety and exacerbate brain disorders

"The studies presented today help deepen our understanding of why sleep is disrupted in so many patients," said press conference moderator Clifford Saper, MD, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, who's work focuses on integrated functions maintained by hypothalamus which includes the regulation of wake-sleep cycles. "They also suggest that sleep-focused therapies, such as treatments to regulate circadian rhythms, may be beneficial in the prevention or treatment of a vast array of diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and anxiety disorder and furthermore emphasize the critical need of good sleep for everyone's health."

Immersive virtual reality therapy shows lasting effect in treatment of phobias in children with autism -- ScienceDaily

The Blue Room, developed by specialists at Newcastle University working alongside innovative technology firm Third Eye NeuroTech, allows the team to create a personalised 360 degree environment involving the fear which may debilitate the person with autism in real life. Within this virtual environment, which requires no goggles, the person can comfortably investigate and navigate through various scenarios working with a therapist using iPad controls but remain in full control of the situation. Funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research findings are published in two papers today in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders and in Autism in Adulthood. "For many children and their families, anxiety can rule their lives as they try to avoid the situations which can trigger their child's fears or phobia," says Professor Jeremy Parr, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, who led the studies.

Stephen Colbert Shares His Struggle With Anxiety and Why He Stopped Taking Xanax | Entertainment Tonight

"I was actually medicated," he says. "I mean, in the most common, prosaic way. Xanax was just lovely. Y’know, for a while. And then I realized that the gears were still smoking. I just couldn’t hear them anymore. But I could feel them, I could feel the gearbox heating up and smoke pouring out of me, but I was no longer walking around a couch." "I had a bit of a nervous breakdown after I got married -- kind of panic attacks," he continues. "My wife would go off to work and she’d come home -- because I worked at night -- and I’d be walking around the couch. And she’s like, 'How was your day?' And I’d say, 'You’re looking at it.' Just tight circles around the couch."

Your Brain on Imagination: It's a Lot Like Reality - Neuroscience News

For the study, 68 healthy participants were trained to associate a sound with an uncomfortable, but not painful, electric shock. Then, they were divided into three groups and either exposed to the same threatening sound, asked to “play the sound in their head,” or asked to imagine pleasant bird and rain sounds – all without experiencing further shocks. The researchers measured brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Sensors on the skin measured how the body responded. In the groups that imagined and heard the threatening sounds, brain activity was remarkably similar, with the auditory cortex (which processes sound), the nucleus accumens (which processes fear) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (associated with risk and aversion) all lighting up. After repeated exposure without the accompanying shock, the subjects in both the real and imagined threat groups experienced what is known as “extinction,” where the formerly fear-inducing stimulus no longer ignited a fear response.

Fermented foods, neuroticism, and social anxiety: An interaction model. - PubMed - NCBI

An interaction model, controlling for demographics, general consumption of healthful foods, and exercise frequency, showed that exercise frequency, neuroticism, and fermented food consumption significantly and independently predicted social anxiety. Moreover, fermented food consumption also interacted with neuroticism in predicting social anxiety. Specifically, for those high in neuroticism, higher frequency of fermented food consumption was associated with fewer symptoms of social anxiety. Taken together with previous studies, the results suggest that fermented foods that contain probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for those at higher genetic risk, as indexed by trait neuroticism.

An End to Arachnophobia Just a Heartbeat Away - Neuroscience News

For one group of patients, pictures of spiders were presented in-time with heartbeats (during the signalling of cardiac arousal), while for another patient group, pictures of spiders were presented in-between heartbeats. A third control group saw spiders randomly in the therapy sessions. Although there was some improvement among all patients, as you would expect in exposure therapy, those individuals exposed to spiders in-time with their own heartbeats showed a greater reductions in self-reported fear of spiders, anxiety levels and their physiological responses to spiders.

Do unexpected panic attacks occur spontaneously? - PubMed - NCBI

Significant patterns of instability across a number of autonomic and respiratory variables were detected as early as 47 minutes before panic onset. The final minutes before onset were dominated by respiratory changes, with significant decreases in tidal volume followed by abrupt carbon dioxide partial pressure increases. Panic attack onset was characterized by heart rate and tidal volume increases and a drop in carbon dioxide partial pressure. Symptom report was consistent with these changes. Skin conductance levels were generally elevated in the hour before, and during, the attacks. Changes in the matched control periods were largely absent.

Bravery cells found in the hippocampus -- ScienceDaily

In an article published in the journal Nature Communications the authors show that neurons known as OLM cells, when stimulated, produce a brain rhythm that is present when animals feel safe in a threatening environment (for example, when they are hiding from a predator but aware of the predator's proximity). The study, produced by Drs. Sanja Mikulovic, Ernesto Restrepo, Klas Kullander and Richardson Leao among others, showed that anxiety and risk-taking behaviour can be controlled by the manipulation of OLM cells. To find a pathway that quickly and robustly modulates risk-taking behaviour is very important for treatment of pathological anxiety since reduced risk-taking behaviour is a trait in people with high anxiety levels.

Painting a Nuanced Picture of Brain System Regulation Moods and Movements - Neuroscience News

In a series of behavioral tests, the scientists also showed that serotonin neurons from the two groups can respond differently to stimuli. For example, neurons in both groups fired in response to mice receiving rewards like sips of sugar water but they showed opposite responses to punishments like mild foot shocks. “We now understand why some scientists thought serotonin neurons are activated by punishment, while others thought it was inhibited by punishment. Both are correct – it just depends on which subtype you’re looking at,” Luo said.

Getting to the Roots of Pessimism - Neuroscience News

MIT neuroscientists have now pinpointed a brain region that can generate this type of pessimistic mood. In tests in animals, they showed that stimulating this region, known as the caudate nucleus, induced animals to make more negative decisions: They gave far more weight to the anticipated drawback of a situation than its benefit, compared to when the region was not stimulated. This pessimistic decision-making could continue through the day after the original stimulation. The findings could help scientists better understand how some of the crippling effects of depression and anxiety arise, and guide them in developing new treatments. “We feel we were seeing a proxy for anxiety, or depression, or some mix of the two,” says Ann Graybiel, an MIT Institute Professor, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the senior author of the study, which appears in the Aug. 9 issue of Neuron. “These psychiatric problems are still so very difficult to treat for many individuals suffering from them.”

Why folks coming off stimulants have panic attacks

After conditioning rats to associate a specific sound (think of it as their Jaws music) with an aversive experience (a mild footshock), the team then began the extinction process. As expected, when the sound was played many times without the footshock, rats stopped behaving as if they were afraid of the sound. However, when VTA dopamine neurons were silenced just after playing the sound -- exactly when the rats expected their feet to be shocked -- they could not unlearn the fear response. This showed that without VTA dopamine activity at that specific time, the mental link between the sound and the shock could not be removed.

Joyable for Anxiety

This San Francisco startup, which bills itself as the leading online solution for overcoming social anxiety, wants to help those who are time-strapped. The Joyable app offers brief, five-to-ten minute activities for users, ranging from checking in with your feelings at any given moment and examining 'personal values.' Individual plans cost $99 per month, and typically involve eight-to-twelve weeks of guided therapy, including check-ins with a regular coach. The activities are modeled after a psychotherapy method called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, a heavily researched and widely-respected field. Joyable, which launched in 2013, has raised more than $15 million in funding and claims to have reached more than 500,000 users.

The memory part of the brain may also hold clues for anxiety and depression | University of Toronto Scarborough - News and Events

Ito says this finding is important because the conventional thinking is that these areas, along with another part called the dentate gyrus, form a circuit through which information flow occurs in one direction. Information processed by the dentate gyrus gets passed along to the CA3, and then on to CA1. In other words, the CA1 and CA3 should carry out the same function because they’re both part of the same information processing circuit. “But that’s not the case, the CA1 and CA3 in the ventral hippocampus seem to do very opposite things in relation to conflict processing,” says Ito. “It’s this strange bi-directional or oppositional effect, and that goes against traditional thinking of how information processing takes place in this part of the brain,” she says.  Because of its possible role in basic motivational behaviour, it may also offer important insights into a range of mental health illnesses. Addiction, for example, could be linked to deficits of approach motivation. Anxiety and depression on the other hand could be linked to avoidance behaviours, all of which could manifest itself in this part of the brain.

Differential Experimental Effects of a Short Bout of Walking, Meditation, or Combination of Walking and Meditation on State Anxiety Among Young Adu... - PubMed - NCBI

Significant group × time interaction effects were observed ( P = .01). Post hoc paired t tests revealed that state anxiety significantly decreased from baseline to postintervention in the meditation ( P = .002), meditation then walk ( P = .002), and walk then meditation ( P = .03) groups but not the walk ( P = .75) or control ( P = .45) groups.

How social isolation transforms the brain: A particular neural chemical is overproduced during long-term social isolation, causing increased aggression and fear -- ScienceDaily

Confirming and extending previous observations, the researchers showed that prolonged social isolation leads to a broad array of behavioral changes in mice. These include increased aggressiveness towards unfamiliar mice, persistent fear, and hypersensitivity to threatening stimuli. For example, when encountering a threatening stimulus, mice that have been socially isolated remain frozen in place long after the threat has passed, whereas normal mice stop freezing soon after the threat is removed. These effects are seen when mice are subjected to two weeks of social isolation, but not to short-term social isolation -- 24 hours -- suggesting that the observed changes in aggression and fear responses require chronic isolation.

Basing everyday decisions on risk of pain or loss linked to increased anxiety -- ScienceDaily

They found that people were more likely to generalize from negative events, compared to safe or neutral outcomes. In addition, different parts of the decision-making process were linked to activity in different brain regions, including areas involved in vision, fear response and safety learning. They also found that those people who generalized more from the negative events (pain or loss) reported a greater experience of anxious feelings and intrusive thoughts (negative thoughts that enter your mind against your will and are hard to get rid of). "We hope that these findings will contribute to a greater understanding of the thought processes that underlie anxiety in some people," said senior author Dr Ben Seymour, Clinical Research Associate at the University of Cambridge. "Our results show the benefits of analysing complex behavioral processes such as generalization into separate components that can be examined and linked back to brain activity and symptoms. By better understanding what causes these symptoms in different cases, we might be able to tailor treatments more effectively to people with anxiety in future."

Stress helps unlearn fear: New findings on extinction learning may prove useful for therapies -- ScienceDaily

"Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that the treatment of anxiety disorders can be improved if the stress hormone cortisol is administered to the patients," says Oliver Wolf. "Our study has produced evidence for an underlying mechanism." Under the umbrella of the Collaborative Research Centre 1280, several research groups from Bochum are planning to investigate if an exposure to stress prior to exposure therapy may improve its efficacy.

Could stress (exercise?) help unlearn anxiety?

On the following day, 50 per cent of the cohort were exposed to a stressful situation: they had to hold one hand in ice water and were filmed and monitored by a supervisor. The other 50 per cent of the cohort were not subjected to the stress test. Subsequently, all participants were shown pictures of the lamp emitting coloured light, which were not followed by electric stimulations; however, the lamp was no longer located in an office but in a library. On the third day, the team presented the office and the library photos of the lamp emitting coloured light without following it up by electric stimulations. In both the office and the library context, participants in the stress group responded less anxiously to the colour of light, which had preceded electric stimulations on the first day. They had transferred the knowledge that no unpleasant stimulus would follow from the library context to the office context. This was not the case in the non-stress cohort. The participants of this group continued to present an anxious response when they saw the colour of light in the office context that had been accompanied by electric stimulations on the first day. When presented library photos, they responded in the same way as the control group, i.e. showing no anxiety. For them, extinction learning occurred only in one specific context.

Meditation could help anxiety and cardiovascular health -- ScienceDaily

In "Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Aortic Pulsatile Load and Anxiety in Mild to Moderately Anxious Adults," Durocher, along with fellow researchers Hannah Marti, a recent Michigan Tech graduate, Brigitte Morin, lecturer in biological science, and Travis Wakeham, a graduate student, explains the finding that 60 minutes after meditating the 14 study participants showed lower resting heart rates and reduction in aortic pulsatile load -- the amount of change in blood pressure between diastole and systole of each heartbeat multiplied by heart rate. Additionally, shortly after meditating, and even one week later, the group reported anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels.

Animal study connects fear behavior, rhythmic breathing, brain smell center -- ScienceDaily

Other groups have observed that the amygdala and prelimbic prefrontal cortex, which govern learning and memory, emotion, and decision-making, were electrically active during "freezing," at an average of 4 Hz. Moberly observed that freeze behavior, breathing rate, and electrical activity of these brain regions were coordinated literally on the same wavelength.

Jeroen van Werkhoven Uses VR To Strengthen Body And Mind

JVH: BOX VR helped me a lot so far. I don’t have the most healthy job and I’m aware of that; I sit long hours behind a desk and it can be quite stressful at times. Mentally I struggle in many areas and have to work hard to keep my anxiety and depression in check. So BOX VR is not only a way to keep my body in shape, but also to cope with my anxiety and depression and turn it into more positive energy.  I usually do my workouts during the weekend, but sometimes when I feel a lot of negative energy I jump into BOX VR to release some tension just because it’s fun!

1 in 6 adults getting Adderall experience acute anxiety in 4 months

Acute anxiety symptoms occurred in 4 of 7 patients with a comorbid anxiety diagnosis. CONCLUSION:

Paroxetine, Cognitive Therapy or Their Combination in the Treatment of Social Anxiety Disorder with and without Avoidant Personality Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial - FullText - Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 2016, Vol. 85, No. 6 - Karger Publishers

CT was superior to paroxetine alone and to pill placebo at the end of treatment, but it was not superior to the combination treatment. At the 12-month follow-up, the CT group maintained benefits and was significantly better than placebo and paroxetine alone, whereas there were no significant differences among combination treatment, paroxetine alone, and placebo. Recovery rates at 12 months were much higher in the CT group (68%) compared to 40% in the combination group, 24% in the paroxetine group, and 4% in the pill placebo group.

Depression, anxiety WAY high in graduate students, survey shows -- ScienceDaily

The disparity between graduate students and the general population proved to be about equal for both mental health conditions. On the respective scales utilized to test anxiety and depression, 41 percent of graduate students scored as having moderate to severe anxiety while 39 percent scored in the moderate to severe depression range. This compared with 6 percent of the general population as tested previously with those same scales.

'Anxiety cells' identified in the brain's hippocampus: Neuroscientists have found, in mice, that certain cells fire when the animal is anxious, triggering anxiety-related behaviors -- ScienceDaily

"We call these anxiety cells because they only fire when the animals are in places that are innately frightening to them," Hen says. "For a mouse, that's an open area where they're more exposed to predators, or an elevated platform." The firing of the anxiety cells sends messages to other parts of the brain that turn on anxious behaviors -- in mice, those include avoiding the dangerous area or fleeing to a safe zone. Though many other cells in the brain have been identified as playing a role in anxiety, the cells found in this study are the first known to represent the state of anxiety, regardless of the type of environment that provokes the emotion. "This is exciting because it represents a direct, rapid pathway in the brain that lets animals respond to anxiety-provoking places without needing to go through higher-order brain regions," said Mazen Kheirbek, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UCSF and study's other senior investigator. "Now that we've found these cells in the hippocampus, it opens up new areas for exploring treatment ideas that we didn't know existed before," says the study's lead author Jessica Jimenez, PhD, an MD/PhD student at Columbia University's Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons.

Feel anxious? Have trouble sleeping? You may be traveling for business too often -- ScienceDaily

People who travel for business two weeks or more a month report more symptoms of anxiety and depression and are more likely to smoke, be sedentary and report trouble sleeping than those who travel one to six nights a month, according to a latest study conducted by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York. Among those who consume alcohol, extensive business travel is associated with symptoms of alcohol dependence. Poor behavioral and mental health outcomes significantly increased as the number of nights away from home for business travel rose. This is one of the first studies to report the effects of business travel on non-infectious disease health risks. The results are published online in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.