Recent quotes:

The secrets of the world's happiest cities | Society | The Guardian

Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commutes and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travellers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters. But one group of commuters report enjoying themselves. These are people who travel under their own steam, like Robert Judge. They walk. They run. They ride bicycles.

Rising rates of depression in today's society: consideration of the roles of effort-based rewards and enhanced resilience in day-to-day functioning. - PubMed - NCBI

vast reductions in the degree of physical activity required to obtain necessary resources in today's society likely lead to reduced activation of brain areas essential for reward/pleasure, motivation, problem-solving, and effective coping strategies (i.e. depressive symptomology).

Exercise boosts tryptophan, a mild hypnotic and serotonin precursor

The largest body of work in humans looking at the effect of exercise on tryptophan availability to the brain is concerned with the hypothesis that fatigue during exercise is associated with elevated brain tryptophan and serotonin synthesis. A large body of evidence supports the idea that exercise, including exercise to fatigue, is associated with an increase in plasma tryptophan and a decrease in the plasma level of the branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine and valine (see64,65 for reviews). The BCAAs inhibit tryptophan transport into the brain.66 Because of the increase in plasma tryptophan and decrease in BCAA, there is a substantial increase in tryptophan availability to the brain. Tryptophan is an effective mild hypnotic,67 a fact that stimulated the hypothesis that it may be involved in fatigue. A full discussion of this topic is not within the scope of this editorial; however, it is notable that several clinical trials of BCAA investigated whether it was possible to counter fatigue by lowering brain tryptophan, with results that provided little support for the hypothesis. Further, exercise results in an increase in the plasma ratio of tryptophan to the BCAAs before the onset of fatigue.64,65

Overview of exercise and serotonin

A third strategy that may raise brain serotonin is exercise. A comprehensive review of the relation between exercise and mood concluded that antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been clearly demonstrated.53 In the United Kingdom the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which works on behalf of the National Health Service and makes recommendations on treatments according to the best available evidence, has published a guide on the treatment of depression.54 The guide recommends treating mild clinical depression with various strategies, including exercise rather than antidepressants, because the risk–benefit ratio is poor for antidepressant use in patients with mild depression. Exercise improves mood in subclinical populations as well as in patients. The most consistent effect is seen when regular exercisers undertake aerobic exercise at a level with which they are familiar.53 However, some skepticism remains about the antidepressant effect of exercise, and the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States is currently funding a clinical trial of the antidepressant effect of exercise that is designed to overcome sources of potential bias and threats to internal and external validity that have limited previous research.55

Light boosts serotonin

Exposure to bright light is a second possible approach to increasing serotonin without drugs. Bright light is, of course, a standard treatment for seasonal depression, but a few studies also suggest that it is an effective treatment for nonseasonal depression38 and also reduces depressed mood in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder39 and in pregnant women suffering from depression.40 The evidence relating these effects to serotonin is indirect. In human postmortem brain, serotonin levels are higher in those who died in summer than in those who died in winter.41 A similar conclusion came from a study on healthy volunteers, in which serotonin synthesis was assessed by measurements of the serotonin metabolite 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) in the venous outflow from the brain.42 There was also a positive correlation between serotonin synthesis and the hours of sunlight on the day the measurements were made, independent of season. In rats, serotonin is highest during the light part of the light–dark cycle, and this state is driven by the photic cycle rather than the circadian rhythm.43,44 The existence of a retinoraphe tract may help explain why, in experimental animals, neuronal firing rates, c-fos expression and the serotonin content in the raphe nuclei are responsive to retinal light exposure.44–48 In humans, there is certainly an interaction between bright light and the serotonin system. The mood-lowering effect of acute tryptophan depletion in healthy women is completely blocked by carrying out the study in bright light (3000 lux) instead of dim light.49

Primary care doctoring

Other studies found that people with a primary-care physician as their usual source of care had lower subsequent five-year mortality rates than others, regardless of their initial health. In the United Kingdom, where family physicians are paid to practice in deprived areas, a ten-per-cent increase in the primary-care supply was shown to improve people’s health so much that you could add ten years to everyone’s life and still not match the benefit. Another study examined health-care reforms in Spain that focussed on strengthening primary care in various regions—by, for instance, building more clinics, extending their hours, and paying for home visits. After ten years, mortality fell in the areas where the reforms were made, and it fell more in those areas which received the reforms earlier. Likewise, reforms in California that provided all Medicaid recipients with primary-care physicians resulted in lower hospitalization rates.

The Liaison Amani 2017 Virtual Marathon - Update March -

I therefore saw this challenge as a reason to change, I would be making myself accountable, raise awareness of the charity and have some fun banter with colleagues along the way. It has in all honesty completely changed my lifestyle. I now absolutely love walking and while I have had to build up my fitness, I reached a milestone on Sunday and achieved a 25km walk. I am now walking each KM 2-3 minutes quicker than when I started. Alongside the fitness and 21lb weight loss, the mental changes have been the biggest and most surprising change. It keeps me alert, helps clears= my mind after stressful or busy days and allows me to time to think.  Who knows, one day I might break into jog!

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.

Sauna Bathing and Mortality | Lifestyle Behaviors | JAMA Internal Medicine | The JAMA Network

This study provides prospective evidence that sauna bathing is a protective factor against the risk of SCD, fatal CHD, fatal CVD, and all-cause mortality events in the general male population. Our results suggest that sauna bathing is a recommendable health habit, although further studies are needed to confirm our results in different population settings.

Long live FOXO: unraveling the role of FOXO proteins in aging and longevity

Aging constitutes the key risk factor for age‐related diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular and neurodegenerative disorders. Human longevity and healthy aging are complex phenotypes influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. The fact that genetic contribution to lifespan strongly increases with greater age provides basis for research on which “protective genes” are carried by long‐lived individuals. Studies have consistently revealed FOXO (Forkhead box O) transcription factors as important determinants in aging and longevity. FOXO proteins represent a subfamily of transcription factors conserved from Caenorhabditis elegans to mammals that act as key regulators of longevity downstream of insulin and insulin‐like growth factor signaling. Invertebrate genomes have one FOXO gene, while mammals have four FOXO genes: FOXO1, FOXO3, FOXO4, and FOXO6. In mammals, this subfamily is involved in a wide range of crucial cellular processes regulating stress resistance, metabolism, cell cycle arrest, and apoptosis. Their role in longevity determination is complex and remains to be fully elucidated. Throughout this review, the mechanisms by which FOXO factors contribute to longevity will be discussed in diverse animal models, from Hydra to mammals. Moreover, compelling evidence of FOXOs as contributors for extreme longevity and health span in humans will be addressed.

Bipolar disorder: New method predicts who will respond to lithium therapy -- ScienceDaily

Wondering whether the differences could be predictive, the team trained a computer program to recognize the variations between the profiles of responders and nonresponders using the firing patterns of 450 total neurons over six independent training rounds. In each round, they started fresh with the neurons of five of the patients to train the system. They then tested the system with the neurons of the sixth patient, whose lithium status was known to the team but not to the program. They repeated the process five more times, which allowed them to build essentially six independent models. Each model was trained on the data from five out of the six patients, leaving a different patient out of the training data each time, and then letting the model classify this remaining patient as a responder or nonresponder. Using the firing patterns of just five of any patient's neurons, the system identified the person as a responder or nonresponder with 92 percent accuracy.

Is the surge in type 2 diabetes related to indoor life (video games + NFL)

Specialists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) studied pancreatic ɑ- and β- cells that are in charge of the production of insulin and glucagon, two hormones that regulate glucose levels in the blood. They discovered that already at cellular levels, these internal clocks orchestrate the timing of proper hormone secretion, thus optimizing body metabolism by anticipating the rest-activity and feeding-fasting cycles. Their misalignment would thus favor the occurrence of metabolic diseases. Their discovery, to be read in the journal Genes and Development, highlights an essential factor, yet still poorly understood, which may explain diabetes development as a consequence of circadian misalignments of these cellular clocks. With type 2 diabetes affecting younger and younger people in the western world, researchers work on understanding how lifestyle changes in recent decades contribute to this ever-expanding epidemic, in the view of finding news strategies to curb it.

Tanning dependence linked to other addictive behaviors, new study finds -- ScienceDaily

The connections between tanning dependence and other disorders revealed by the study represent an opportunity for clinicians to address those related conditions. "People who are tanning dependent could also be assessed for SAD," said Cartmel. "There are ways of addressing SAD other than indoor tanning. Regarding the alcohol dependence association, it may be possible that addressing that behavior could help address tanning dependence." The underlying mechanisms for the addiction to UV light are not yet fully understood. According to other studies, "The biological rationale for tanning dependence is that exposure to UV light results in both melanin, and endorphin production," said Cartmel. She also added that there was another interesting preliminary finding: those with tanning dependence were five times more likely to exhibit "exercise addiction." She said it is too early, however, to determine the implication. "Exercise addiction" itself has really not been well researched," she said. "One hypothesis behind the finding is that people who exercise excessively do so because they are very aware of their appearance, and they also feel that being tanned improves their appearance. Or it may be that we will eventually find out that these individuals have more of an addictive or risk-taking personality type. If you have one type of dependence, you may be more likely to have another addiction," Cartmel said.

'Smell you later!' Abililty to smell well linked to social life in older women -- ScienceDaily

The researchers compared each NSHAP participant's odor identification score, an established measure of olfactory function, with an aggregated "overall social life" score, which included measures such as participants' number of friends and close relatives, and how often they socialized. The data were adjusted to control for possible confounding variables, including education level, tobacco use, and physical and mental health status. The findings revealed a clear link between an older woman's olfactory ability and her overall social life score: women with good olfactory ability tended to have more active social lives while those with diminished olfactory function were associated with a poorer social life score.

Scientists identify brain circuit that drives pleasure-inducing behavior: Surprisingly, the neurons are located in a brain region thought to be linked with fear -- ScienceDaily

The researchers found that five of these populations stimulate reward-related behavior: When the mice were exposed to light, the mice repeatedly sought more light exposure because these neurons were driving a reward circuit. These same populations all receive input from the positive emotion cells in the BLA.

Weight-bearing exercises promote bone formation in men: Human hormone, protein linked to bone mass are impacted by 12 months of targeted exercise -- ScienceDaily

"People may be physically active, and many times people know they need to exercise to prevent obesity, heart disease or diabetes," Hinton said. "However, you also really need to do specific exercises to protect your bone health." In the study, men 25- to 60-years-old who had low-bone mass were split into two groups. One group performed resistance training exercises such as lunges and squats using free weights. The other group performed various types of jumps, such as single-leg and double-leg jumps. After 12 months of performing the exercises, Hinton then compared the levels of bone proteins and hormones in the blood. "We saw a decrease in the level of sclerostin in both of these exercise interventions in men," Hinton said. "When sclerostin is expressed at high levels, it has a negative impact on bone formation. In both resistance and jump training, the level of sclerostin in the bone goes down, which triggers bone formation." The other significant change Hinton observed was an increase in the hormone IGF-1. Unlike sclerostin, IGF-1 triggers bone growth. The decrease of harmful sclerostin levels and the increase in beneficial IGF-1 levels confirmed Hinton's prior research that found both resistance training and jump training have beneficial effects on bone growth. To increase bone mass and prevent osteoporosis, Hinton recommends exercising specifically to target bone health. While exercises such as swimming and cycling are beneficial to overall health, these activities do not strengthen the skeleton. Hinton suggests also doing exercise targeted for bone health, such as resistance training and jump training. The study, "Serum sclerostin decreases following 12 months of resistance- or jump-training in men with low bone mass," was published in Bone.

Brain 'rewires' itself to enhance other senses in blind people -- ScienceDaily

"Our results demonstrate that the structural and functional neuroplastic brain changes occurring as a result of early ocular blindness may be more widespread than initially thought," said lead author Corinna M. Bauer, Ph.D., a scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear and an instructor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. "We observed significant changes not only in the occipital cortex (where vision is processed), but also areas implicated in memory, language processing, and sensory motor functions." The researchers used MRI multimodal brain imaging techniques (specifically, diffusion-based and resting state imaging) to reveal these changes in a group of 12 subjects with early blindness (those born with or who have acquired profound blindness prior to the age of three), and they compared the scans to a group of 16 normally sighted subjects (all subjects were of the same age range). On the scans of those with early blindness, the team observed structural and functional connectivity changes, including evidence of enhanced connections, sending information back and forth between areas of the brain that they did not observe in the normally sighted group. These connections that appear to be unique in those with profound blindness suggest that the brain "rewires" itself in the absence of visual information to boost other senses. This is possible through the process of neuroplasticity, or the ability of our brains to naturally adapt to our experiences.

Hippocampal and prefrontal processing of network topology to simulate the future : Nature Communications

Here we tested the hypotheses that the hippocampus retrieves representations of the topological structure of the environment when new paths are entered in order to support goal-directed navigation and the lateral PFC performs path-planning via a BFS mechanism. We combined a graph-theoretic analysis of the city streets of London with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data collected from participants navigating a film simulation of London’s streets. Our analysis reveals that the right posterior hippocampus specifically tracks the changes in the local connections in the street network, the right anterior hippocampus tracks changes in the global properties of the streets and the bilateral lateral prefrontal activity scales with the demands of a BFS. These responses were only present when long-term memory of the environment was required to guide navigation.

Insulin resistance may lead to faster cognitive decline: Executive function, memory are particularly vulnerable to the effects of insulin resistance, researchers say -- ScienceDaily

nsulin resistance is a condition in which cells fail to respond normally to the hormone insulin. The resistance prevents muscle, fat, and liver cells from easily absorbing glucose. As a result, the body requires higher levels of insulin to usher glucose into its cells. Without sufficient insulin, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to prediabetes, diabetes, and other serious health disorders. The scientists followed a group of nearly 500 patients with existing cardiovascular disease for more than two decades. They first assessed the patients' baseline insulin resistance using the homeostasis model assessment (HOMA), calculated using fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels. Cognitive functions were assessed with a computerized battery of tests that examined memory, executive function, visual spatial processing, and attention. The follow-up assessments were conducted 15 years after the start of the study, then again five years after that. The study found that individuals who placed in the top quarter of the HOMA index were at an increased risk for poor cognitive performance and accelerated cognitive decline compared to those in the remaining three-quarters of the HOMA index. Adjusting for established cardiovascular risk factors and potentially confounding factors did not diminish these associations.

Satnavs 'switch off' parts of the brain: Using a satnav to get to your destination 'switches off' parts of the brain that would otherwise be used to simulate different routes -- ScienceDaily

When volunteers navigated manually, their hippocampus and prefrontal cortex had spikes of activity when volunteers entered new streets. This brain activity was greater when the number of options to choose from increased, but no additional activity was detected when people followed satnav instructions. "Entering a junction such as Seven Dials in London, where seven streets meet, would enhance activity in the hippocampus, whereas a dead-end would drive down its activity. If you are having a hard time navigating the mass of streets in a city, you are likely putting high demands on your hippocampus and prefrontal cortex," explains senior author Dr Hugo Spiers (UCL Experimental Psychology). "Our results fit with models in which the hippocampus simulates journeys on future possible paths while the prefrontal cortex helps us to plan which ones will get us to our destination. When we have technology telling us which way to go, however, these parts of the brain simply don't respond to the street network. In that sense our brain has switched off its interest in the streets around us."

More trust = giving more, expecting kharma

To measure trust and its reciprocation (trustworthiness) objectively, my team used a strategic decision task developed by researchers in the lab of Vernon Smith, a Nobel laureate in economics. In our experiment, a participant chooses an amount of money to send to a stranger via computer, knowing that the money will triple in amount and understanding that the recipient may or may not share the spoils. Therein lies the conflict: The recipient can either keep all the cash or be trustworthy and share it with the sender. To measure oxytocin levels during the exchange, my colleagues and I developed a protocol to draw blood from people’s arms before and immediately after they made decisions to trust others (if they were senders) or to be trustworthy (if they were receivers). Because we didn’t want to influence their behavior, we didn’t tell participants what the study was about, even though there was no way they could consciously control how much oxytocin they produced. We found that the more money people received (denoting greater trust on the part of senders), the more oxytocin their brains produced. And the amount of oxytocin recipients produced predicted how trustworthy—that is, how likely to share the money—they would be. Since the brain generates messaging chemicals all the time, it was possible we had simply observed random changes in oxytocin. To prove that it causes trust, we safely administered doses of synthetic oxytocin into living human brains (through a nasal spray). Comparing participants who received a real dose with those who received a placebo, we found that giving people 24 IU of synthetic oxytocin more than doubled the amount of money they sent to a stranger.

The Neuroscience of Trust

Respondents whose companies were in the top quartile indicated they had 106% more energy and were 76% more engaged at work than respondents whose firms were in the bottom quartile. They also reported being 50% more productive—which is consistent with our objective measures of productivity from studies we have done with employees at work. Trust had a major impact on employee loyalty as well: Compared with employees at low-trust companies, 50% more of those working at high-trust organizations planned to stay with their employer over the next year, and 88% more said they would recommend their company to family and friends as a place to work.

Cellular jetlag seems to favor the development of diabetes -- ScienceDaily

studied pancreatic ɑ- and β- cells that are in charge of the production of insulin and glucagon, two hormones that regulate glucose levels in the blood. They discovered that already at cellular levels, these internal clocks orchestrate the timing of proper hormone secretion, thus optimizing body metabolism by anticipating the rest-activity and feeding-fasting cycles. Their misalignment would thus favor the occurrence of metabolic diseases. Their discovery, to be read in the journal Genes and Development, highlights an essential factor, yet still poorly understood, which may explain diabetes development as a consequence of circadian misalignments of these cellular clocks.

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).

Power of shared pain triggers extreme self-sacrifice -- ScienceDaily

There were five hypotheses: shared experience promotes willingness to perform extreme pro-group action; shared negative experiences make individuals contribute more than euphoric experiences; the more intense the experience the stronger the pro-social effects; the effect of shared negative experiences on pro-social behavior is much stronger where groups compete directly against other groups rather than if they cooperate against nature; and the effects of shared negative experience can be stronger than those of kinship. The hypotheses were then tested empirically in a variety of different study populations, including U.S. military veterans of the Vietnam war, college fraternity and sorority members who had undergone hazing, English Premier League football fans, martial arts practitioners of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who sometimes use painful belt-whipping, and twins to examine the level of fusion. From both the theoretical and empirical research, the study concluded that overall shared negative experiences are a powerful mechanism for promoting pro-social behaviors, which under certain conditions can be extremely costly to the individuals concerned.