Recent quotes:

Author hints at higher drug use (including prescriptions) then blames individualism

It is not clear what exactly drives the demand for the psychoactive substances and what has driven the increase in suicides. But I think it’s worth speculating whether a perceived low quality of life for many Americans, marked by high stress and low levels of happiness, is contributing. Americans stand out from people in other countries with respect to their focus on individualism. Americans believe that success is determined by our own control and that it is very important to work hard to get ahead in life. Perhaps it is this focus on our own achievements, successes and work culture that have created an environment that is no longer sustainable – it has become too stressful.

Depression, antidepressants, and the shrinking hippocampus

Both the tragic components and the intellectual challenge of depression have deepened in the last decade with a series of high-visibility reports that indicate prolonged, major depression is associated with atrophy within the central nervous system. A report in this issue of PNAS by Czéh et al. (1) adds support to a possible route for reversing these morphological changes. Such atrophy is centered in a brain region called the hippocampus. This structure plays a critical role in learning and memory, and the magnitude of the hippocampal volume loss (nearly 20% in some reports; refs. 2–4) helps explain some well-documented cognitive deficits that accompany major depression. These were careful and well-controlled studies, in that the atrophy was demonstrable after controlling for total cerebral volume and could be dissociated from variables such as history of antidepressant treatment, electroconvulsive therapy, or alcohol use. Moreover, more prolonged depressions were associated with more severe atrophy. These findings of hippocampal atrophy raise immediate questions. First, is it permanent? Tentatively, this appears to be the case, as the atrophy persisted for up to decades after the depressions were in remission. In addition, the extent of atrophy did not lessen with increasing duration of remission (2–4).

Human brain recalls visual features in reverse order than it detects them: Study challenges traditional hierarchy of brain decoding; offers insight into how the brain makes perceptual judgements -- ScienceDaily

The brain appeared to encode one line, then the other, and finally encode their relative orientation. But during decoding, when participants were asked to report the individual angle of each line, their brains used that the lines' relationship -- which angle is greater -- to estimate the two individual angles. "This was striking evidence of participants employing this reverse decoding method," said Dr. Qian. The authors argue that reverse decoding makes sense, because context is more important than details. Looking at a face, you want to assess quickly if someone is frowning, and only later, if need be, estimate the exact angles of the eyebrows. "Even your daily experience shows that perception seems to go from high to low levels," Dr. Qian added.

Personal experience with Xanax

I started out taking Xanax 0.25 mg nightly only as a sleep aid, as my eyes felt like sandpaper and were interfering with my sleep.  After only a few weeks, I began to experience severe anxiety during the day, which required more Xanax (up to 1 mg per day).  I began to think that I was going crazy. I also developed a tremor and underwent an extensive neurologic evaluation, including a lumbar puncture that resulted in a severe spinal headache and an ER visit for a blood patch to stop the leaking cerebrospinal fluid. Xanax was never suggested as a cause for my tremor, although my dose relieved the symptoms of the tremor. It got to the point where I needed to dose every 6 hours as the Xanax would only last a few hours, then I would experience severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and inability to swallow.  I lost about 15 pounds (I am only 5’3” and got down to 115 pounds).  I looked like a skeleton.  I was terrified to be alone. I would wake up at night after 3 hours of sleep with my heart pounding and in a sheer panic. After doing my own research, I discovered that I was experiencing inter-dose withdrawals and had become dependent on Xanax.

How quantum trickery can scramble cause and effect : Nature News & Comment

within the mathematical formalism of quantum theory, ambiguity about causation emerges in a perfectly logical and consistent way. And by creating systems that lack a clear flow of cause and effect2, researchers now think they can tap into a rich realm of possibilities. Some suggest that they could boost the already phenomenal potential of quantum computing. “A quantum computer free from the constraints of a predefined causal structure might solve some problems faster than conventional quantum computers,” says quantum theorist Giulio Chiribella of the University of Hong Kong. What's more, thinking about the 'causal structure' of quantum mechanics — which events precede or succeed others — might prove to be more productive, and ultimately more intuitive, than couching it in the typical mind-bending language that describes photons as being both waves and particles, or events as blurred by a haze of uncertainty.

Rumination: cause rather than effect of depression?

The metacognitive approach offers promising opportunities for addressing these limitations of treatment by directly targeting rumination and its underlying mechanisms that are seen as essential in the development and maintenance of depression (Wells, 2009).