• Is there an off-switch for pain?
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    Science Daily

    Pain is an enormous problem. As an unmet medical need, pain causes suffering and comes with a multi-billion dollar societal cost. Current treatments are problematic because they cause intolerable side effects, diminish quality of life and do not sufficiently quell pain.

    The most successful pharmacological approaches for the treatment of chronic pain rely on certain “pathways”: circuits involving opioid, adrenergic, and calcium channels.

    For the past decade, scientists have tried to take advantage of these known pathways — the series of interactions between molecular-level components that lead to pain. While adenosine had shown potential for pain-killing in humans, researchers had not yet successfully leveraged this particular pain pathway because the targeted receptors engaged many side effects.

    A Key to Pain Relief

    In this research, Salvemini and colleagues have demonstrated that activation of the A3 adenosine receptor subtype is key in mediating the pain relieving effects of adenosine.

    “It has long been appreciated that harnessing the potent pain-killing effects of adenosine could provide a breakthrough step towards an effective treatment for chronic pain,” Salvemini said. “Our findings suggest that this goal may be achieved by focusing future work on the A3AR pathway, in particular, as its activation provides robust pain reduction across several types of pain.”

    The good news is that all of the types of drugs needed to activate the receptors to allow this treatment have already gone to advanced clinical trials — and they are working for chronic and even cancer related issues in test animals and humans. Now, all that is needed is the last piece — a piece which is already working in test animals


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  • And, this is your brain on… Pain.
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    Gustin and colleagues found that people with chronic pain were more passive and less novelty seeking than the controls.

    “Chronic pain patients are less likely to want to go out and explore the world,” says Gustin.

    Imaging found chronic pain patients had greater activity in parts of the brain involved in emotions, cognition and behaviour

    In particular, they had more neuronal growth in the prefrontal cortex, which is a part of the brain linked to emotions, cognition and behaviour — including seeking out new experiences.

    The degree of nerve growth was correlated with the degree of personality change, says Gustin.

    She says previous research in animals also showed similar changes associated with chronic pain, says Gustin.

    Gustin and colleagues argue that these brain changes occur after the onset of chronic pain and lead to a reduction in novelty seeking.

    Gustin thinks greater nerve growth occurs in the prefrontal cortex because people are focusing more on their pain.

    “I think this is because these people are thinking and worrying more,” she says.

    She says this worrying in turn could prove to be “vicious cycle” by exacerbating the brain linkages that lead to decreased novelty-seeking.

    Gustin says other diseases could also lead to subtle personality changes like this.

    The findings challenge a long-standing view that people don’t change their personality after the age of 18, she adds.

    On one level, the above linked article is hardly new.

    I’ve had so many different massage, physio, chiro, yoga and medical people saying repeatedly that they see a direct link between the degree to which people focus on pain, the increase of that pain and the damage it does to the very fabric of those people’s beings.

    I’ve chatted with high-level certified trainers who have noted that the average performance athlete endures many times greater pain every day then some of the worst chronic pain sufferers and, at least on a personality level, remain unchanged by such. Somehow, they manage to preemptively train their brains to focus elsewhere.

    For both of these categories of practitioners, the above is not a shock.

    But, what’s interesting about the above is that now research data is starting to trickle in as to the mechanism by which the brain actually recreates itself to maximize and focus on pain and that personality, long touted as eternal and unchanging, is finally being understood as the plastic entity we have always seen it to be — in this case, in a very counter productive way.

    What’s still missing, however, is a solidly researched method to reverse the above and make that neuronal growth go elsewhere which would, itself, likely have to be preceded by an understanding of which of the above three elements (Focus, increase or personality) is essential to the reversal of such.

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  • No really, stop talking!
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    Psychology Today

    By you saying less, your partner will be feel that you are more available and open to her. This all may sound ridiculously obvious but is it really that easy? The answer is, “No.” It is not so easy because our ego mind takes over when we speak solely from our own agenda. Unfortunately, we tend to lack empathy when we are trying to prove our own point. Ironically our partners then just shut down and stop listening, instead saying to themselves, “This conversation is pointless.”

    It’s often said that the best conversationalists are those who say the least.

    It’s also said of the wisest people…

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  • Want your relationship to last?
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    Business Insider

    The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

    Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat.

    He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

    Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.? For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!? He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

    The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward? or “turning away? from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

    People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.?

    These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids? 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids? 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

    The above linked article is relating some critical research — though the opening/closing summary confusingly demonstrates that the author really does not understand what is being related here.

    The two traits really are as follows:

    (1). Positive responsiveness — sometimes referred to as an active constructive interaction pattern — which involves engaging and warmly receiving whatever communication your partner offers recognizing that, however strange you may think it to be, it is your partner’s definition of what his or her heart needs at that moment to feel connected.

    (2). Vulnerable transparency. A non-defensive and non-guarded stance otherwise known as a willingness to be hurt for being yourself. (The opposite of conning your way into and then lying your way through marriage by playing a role and then needing to defend it.)

    Because, “A willingness to be hurt for being yourself,” is the only way to receive the love through that engagement and warm response to your communications that your partner may offer.

    If you are not yourself, only your act gets loved…

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  • Have you decided to love?
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    Good Men Project

    It was ordinary. Not fluffy, not overly romantic. Real. The kind of real I coveted in couples who married shortly after high school, in wrinkled older spouses walking down the street, still holding hands. I had wanted “real? so badly I often wondered if I had given so much power to the fantasy relationship that I couldn’t hack it, that I sabotaged it so I could never have it for myself.

    What I missed when assessing other people’s relationship was their real. I saw sugar topping the cookie, not the month-old flour involved in the baking. I saw the delectable outside they presented to the world and attempted to live by what I saw; one irresistible duo, with no flaws, no weaknesses. No wonder it never worked. At the first sign of trouble, I wept, panicked and began to mourn the loss of what would surely be next. I just knew the end was coming. I beckoned to it and created all the right circumstances for it to happen.

    I viewed relationships as a cycle: infatuation, crazy-making love, annoyance slide, disinterest, then the break.

    Until this morning, reading those words “Love is a Choice,? I never realized, making love a choice means you give yourself permission to make decisions, too. You know how aggravating it is to complete a series of jigsaw puzzles, only to discover that each one is missing a piece? A piece you had hidden, but forgot where you put it? I can finally understand how to hold myself accountable for what I do or don’t do in relationships, and that was the missing piece.

    I had been a subconscious victim of my past relationships, “But he was like this and was angry all the time, and he was unfair and a slob.? I was spouse blaming and removing my own control.

    This is what happens when we hand the reins of our life over to another. I ceded my own power, subtracted my own vital input, and lingered on the outskirts of my partnership, forever a blamer and bystander until I changed something.

    The Good Men Project started off with some strange stuff and even stranger controversies but they really are coming into their own with a lot of thoughtful pieces. This is one of them.

    So many couples break up not because they need to — but because the fairy tale went away. Because it always does.

    But that doesn’t mean the relationship needs to end…

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  • Now can we quit fretting about gamers?
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    Science Alert

    While the data did appear to show a link between an increase in violent video game consumption and a decrease in youth violence, just as it did for films after 1990, Ferguson is not prepared to say the result is anything other than a coincidence. But what he can say for sure is that while media violence is definitely being consumed more now than ever before, there is absolutely no clear evidence to link media violence with societal violence.

    The results have been published in the Journal of Communication.

    “Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime. There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health,” Ferguson said in a press release. “This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.”

    Which is basically the polite way of saying “everyone shut up and find something that’s actually real to fret about.”

    I doubt if the above linked article is going to do anything to convince the fear-based, conservative special interest groups in our society — but, for what it’s worth…

    Perhaps now we can finally quit ignoring that which we ABSOLUTELY do KNOW causes violent behaviors: “poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health [issues.]”

    …instead of picking on a bunch of socially inept kids with Cheetos-stained x-box controllers (and the games they enjoy) as the source of all evil in this world…

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  • Feeling a little paranoid?
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    Business Insider

    The more Google knows about you, the more it can match you to an advertiser who thinks you are an ideal customer. Advertisers are willing to pay more for ads served to ideal potential customers. For instance, airlines want to target people who love to travel. Children’s clothing makers want to target parents.

    Google uses a lot of methods to learn about you. There’s the stuff you tell Google outright when you sign up for its services, like Gmail and Google Maps, or via an Android phone, like your name, phone number, location, and so on. Google also deduces information about you from watching your internet searches (what do you search for? click on?) and from the stuff you do with Google’s products.

    By visiting a site called “Ads Settings” you can see what Google knows about you.

    Remember the crazy story earlier this year of the lengths one woman went to to keep news of her pregnancy from Big Data? Well, there may have been an easier way to avoid most of it…

    The most problematic elements of tracking can mostly be avoided with the right browser and simply erasing the information Google has been selling about you.

    The above linked article shows you how…

    Of course, a good VPN is still a pretty decent idea.

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  • How to reduce ADD/ADHD symptoms
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    Psychology Today

    We’re all affected by the so-called modern lifestyle, but ADHD kids and adults seem to be more affected, perhaps because their brains are more sensitive, or perhaps because they simply have more energy to burn. If there’s an overlying message here, it’s to return to Mother Nature: think how our ancestors lived, and try to imitate it as closely as possible. They moved to hunt, grow, gather and pick their food; they were active during daylight hours and rested at night; and they were not exposed to artificial light, artificial foods, or artificial play. Mother Nature cannot be fooled!

    Simple, straight forward and essential.

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  • Risks associates with getting high — no, not that kind of high…
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    Renshaw discovered research supporting his theory. Doctors from Case Western University, it turned out, were crunching numbers based on a similar hunch about altitude and suicide. In a 2010 study published in High Altitude Medicine and Biology, the Case Western group analyzed suicide rates across 2,584 counties in 16 states and found that suicides start increasing between 2,000 and 3,000 feet in all U.S. regions. The U.S. isn’t a special case — analysis of suicide rates in other countries, including South Korea and Austria, bore similar results.

    Psychology research has also made a connection between mental health and elevation. In a 2005 study, the Naval Health Research Center measured mood changes in Marines who left seaside San Diego for 30 days of strenuous training in the Northern California mountains. Before training, the Marines completed a self-evaluation of their levels of anxiety, dejection, fatigue and bewilderment, among other mood symptoms. They completed the same evaluation after training ended, and then again 90 days later. While their physical fitness improved during training, their mental health disintegrated. Before training, the Marines reported more balanced mood levels than average college-aged men. By the time they finished, they described mood symptoms comparable to those of psychiatric patients. Ninety days later, they were just as sad and agitated.

    All of this evidence, Renshaw says, seemed too strong to dismiss as coincidental. Based on a comparison of suicide rates at sea level and at areas above 2,000 feet, living at a high altitude may make people 30% more likely to commit suicide.

    On the one hand, the above linked article doesn’t have such a good grasp of the whole correlation-not-proving-causation thing — on the other hand, the data is also way too strong to ignore…

    They aren’t making it up — I’ve seen this so many time with people who move to Calgary from the lower mainland of BC and feel like living in the mountains is driving them crazy. Many experience all symptoms vanishing as soon as they reverse that migration.

    Apparently, there’s more then one way to get, “High.”

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  • Does loneliness create loneliness?
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    Business Insider

    The review suggests lonely people are sensitive to negative social outcomes and accordingly their responses in social settings are dampened. We know the former from reaction time tasks involving negative social words (lonely people respond faster), and tasks involving the detection of concealed pain in faces (lonely people are extra sensitive when the faces are dislikeable). Functional imaging evidence also shows lonely people have a suppressed neural response to rewarding social stimuli, which reduces their excitement about possible social contact; they also have dampened activity in brain areas involved in predicting what others are thinking – possibly a defence mechanism based on the idea that it’s better not to know. All this adds up to what the authors characterise as a social “self-preservation mode.”

    Meanwhile, animal models are helping us to understand the deeper, biological correlates associated with loneliness. For mice, being raised in isolation depletes key neurosteroids including one involved in aggression; it reduces brain myelination, which is vital to brain plasticity and may account for the social withdrawal and inflexibility seen in isolated animals; and it can influence gene expression linked to anxious behaviours.

    The above clip is only semi-readable and the full article is worse — especially in terms of its ability to make sense of what it is reporting.

    So, to translate:

    Lonely people flee anything (Especially faces) that looks negative. They have shut off their ability to feel good in community, killed their ability to grasp what others think about them, become unwilling to push past barriers to connect with others and become rigidly set in the above anxiety tinged patterns.

    Creating more — yes — loneliness…

    Of course, there’s hope there too.

    Knowledge is power. For many people, simple awareness of these patterns can often be enough to resist them.

    For the rest, that awareness can motivate seeking help to change those thinking patterns.

    Either is so much better then just sitting in them.

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