Scientists have found out why a person is able not to give free rein to their instincts

Italian scientists have discovered a neural connection between the prefrontal cortex and the brain stem that blocks instinctive behavior in mice. More information about the study can be found in the journal Nature Neuroscience.  

Instincts such as fear or sexual desire are essential for human survival. But in modern life, being in society, people are forced to control their natural instincts, blocking them when necessary.

Previous research has shown that the region of the brain responsible for human instincts is the brain stem. It was also believed that the “processing” of natural instincts (regulation of social behavior) occurs in the prefrontal cortex. Now scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Italy have literally discovered this connection between the prefrontal cortex and a group of midbrain neurons (periaquatic gray matter).

In the course of their work, the researchers found that in a mouse that was repeatedly infringed by another mouse, the connection between the brain stem and the prefrontal cortex weakened, which in a certain way affected the animal’s behavior: the mouse began to show its fear to a greater extent. Then the scientists blocked the connection between these areas of the brain in a mouse that was not attacked by other mice. It turned out that blocking this neural connection changed the behavior of the “brave” mouse, and she began to show her fear.

Scientists believe that human social behavior, like in mice, is also controlled by this neural connection. According to the researchers, the results of their work will help in the treatment of schizophrenia, depression and other mental disorders associated with the work of the prefrontal cortex of the brain.

People with depression think more of themselves and forget about the outside world

Russian scientists have presented new arguments in favor of the hypothesis that people with depression are more active in neural networks that are responsible for thinking about themselves and their close environment. The study was supported by a grant from the Russian Science Foundation, and its findings were published in the Journal of Affective Disorders .    

Depression is one of the most serious and common mental disorders. Despite this, science knows little about the physiological causes of depression, since the condition of patients is very heterogeneous, and disorders affect many mental processes. There is a hypothesis that in depression, a certain part of the brain is extremely active, the so-called network of the passive mode of the brain, which is associated with thoughts about oneself and about loved ones (in a healthy state it is most active when a person is not busy with anything). Scientists from the Research Institute of Physiology and Fundamental Medicine of the Russian Academy of Sciences proposed diagnostics to test this hypothesis and thus provided new evidence.

The activity of the passive mode of the brain in depression means that a person is fixated on his own problems, and sees his situation as hopeless and presents his image in the eyes of others in the most negative colors. At the same time, the connections that are responsible for performing tasks related to the outside world and information processing are weakening. The hypothesis that this region of the brain is associated with depression has previously been confirmed using functional magnetic resonance imaging, measuring the saturation of blood with oxygen in specific areas of the brain. This method does not allow making unambiguous conclusions, since the work of the cardiovascular system significantly affects the saturation of blood with oxygen.

Scientists decided to test the same hypothesis using a second method – electroencephalography. In this case, using the connected electrodes, the electromagnetic activity of different areas of the brain is examined. Scientists recruited two groups of patients: healthy and suffering from clinical depression. The results obtained in each group of patients were then compared with the results of functional magnetic resonance imaging. As a result, the researchers confirmed the increased activity of the network of the passive mode of the brain in patients with depression. Both methods localized the effect of “dominance” in the anterior regions of the left hemisphere, which was previously shown to be associated with the genesis of depression.

The authors of the study hope that the proven hypothesis will soon be applied in clinical practice. The results of the study, according to scientists, will help to better understand how to work with patients with depression. For example, with the help of methods of cognitive-behavioral therapy, they need to be more focused on the outside world.

Depression predisposition genes discovered

Scientists analyzed a wide database of genetic data and found 80 genes that influence a patient’s predisposition to depression. They described the results of this work in an article published in the journal Nature Communications . 

Depression is a complex condition, the predisposition to which depends on genetic factors. The three main signs of this disorder are anhedonia (loss of the ability to experience joy), impaired thinking (negative perception of reality, an unjustifiably pessimistic view of the world) and motor retardation.

Depression affects one in five people in the UK every year and 322 million people worldwide suffer from it. Often this condition can be caused by a difficult situation in life – the loss of a loved one or other mental trauma. However, scientists still do not know why some people are very susceptible to depression, while others are more resistant to it. To get closer to answering this question, geneticists at the University of Edinburgh used data from the UK Biobank resource , which contains information about the genetics and health of about half a million people. In the study, the researchers analyzed the sequencing of the genomes of 322,580 people to find areas that may be associated with a predisposition to depression.

As a result, about eight dozen genes were under suspicion. Some of them are associated with the work of synapses – the junctions of nerve cells that allow them to communicate with each other and the cells of the body, transmitting chemical and electrical signals. Others regulate the work of the short processes of neurons – dendrites. 17 of the genes found were particularly strongly associated with depressive disorders. For 14 of them, the relationship with depression was first established.

The results were corroborated by data from 23andMe, a paid genome-reading company. According to scientists, their work will help understand the genetic mechanisms of depression in order to better fight it.

Side effects of the coronavirus pandemic affect mental health

Australian scientists through a survey found that the restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic and their consequences had a negative impact on the mental health of the population. Because of this, people show symptoms of depression and anxiety. The research is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry .  

“We already know from past studies of the pandemic that people who are most affected, such as those who are sick and caring for them, have serious side effects. However, the impact of COVID-19 on the general population, even those who are not ill , can also be significant. Our data shows that the side effects of COVID-19 affect the general population, regardless of the severity of the illness. The concern is that countries with tight restrictions that avoid the worst-case spread of the coronavirus may be overlooking the indirect effects of the pandemic, ”said lead author Ami Dowell .

Scientists at Australian National University surveyed about 1,300 Australian adults in March 2020. This was the time of the first coronavirus restrictions, when international borders, bars, restaurants were just closed in the country and crowds were banned. To ensure representativeness, the researchers surveyed the same number of men and women from all age groups over 18 years old, living in all states of Australia. To prevent bias, the authors included their survey in market research without mentioning either coronavirus or mental health; As a result, the subjects did not know about the purpose of the survey. According to the researchers, among those interviewed, there were only 36 patients with COVID-19 or closely communicating with the sick.

The results showed that direct infection with the coronavirus does not harm mental health. However, the side effects of the pandemic, such as financial hardship or interruptions in work and social activity, were found to be closely associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as lower psychological well-being. At the same time, working from home had no negative consequences. Young women were the most psychologically resistant to the side effects of the pandemic.

“These data underline that the methods used by states to combat COVID-19 affect the psychological health of the population, which itself did not get sick. It is important that governments and policymakers recognize that minimizing social and financial shocks should also be a central goal of public health policy, ” Dowell said .

Scientists have figured out how the brain switches from anxiety to depression

An international team of scientists have discovered possible molecular mechanisms for the brain switching from anxiety to depression. In the long term, this discovery may lead to the creation of new, more effective drugs for the treatment of human mental disorders. The work was published in the journal Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry .  

A group of scientists from Russia, China, the Netherlands and Brazil tested the hypothesis of the existence in the brain of a mechanism responsible for conjugating disparate symptoms into a single disease. Thus, the symptoms of depression – decreased appetite or depressed mood – can occur in many people, but only a few specific symptoms combine to form a disease. As an experimental model in the study of anxiety states, mice are often used under conditions of chronic social stress. The two males are planted in a cage, where they begin to fight, after which they are separated by a transparent partition with holes through which they can feel each other, but cannot contact. They are left for the whole day, and then the manipulations are repeated for many days in a row – as a result, “winners” and “losers” appear, the state of which is of interest for the study of anxiety and depression. According to the model, after about 10 days, the “vanquished” develop anxiety, and after 20 days, depression.

Scientists wondered how one pathology passes into another, and suggested that unique genes may be responsible for this. Such switch genes cannot be detected by classical methods, because they are not responsible for any symptom, but only for switching one pathology to another. To experimentally prove the hypothesis, the scientists performed genome-wide screening of mice brain gene activity in two key areas: the prefrontal cortex , which is responsible for long-term planning and social behavior, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory.

“Our discovery is this: We found out what happens on day 15 in a model of transition from experimental anxiety to depression-like state in mice. At this point, molecular mechanisms begin to activate in the brain that are not associated with neurotransmitters (as in anxiety) or inflammation (as in depression). These mechanisms are associated with the cellular skeleton and astrocytes , the side glial cells in the brain that are increasingly associated with mental illness. Thus, we have shown that when in mice one pathology of the brain turns into another, unique cellular mechanisms are activated, in fact acting as a “switch”, which can launch the vector of pathogenesis either in one direction (anxiety) or in another direction (depression). , – said the head of the study, leading researcher at UrFU and professor at St. Petersburg State University Alan Kaluev .

In about 70% of people with chronic anxiety, the disorder can develop into depression over time. At the same time, traditional antidepressant therapy helps 30–40% of people. The number of diagnosed cases is growing every year, and fundamentally new drugs for depression do not appear. Therefore, the mechanisms discovered by scientists can become a target for the creation of fundamentally new classes of psychotropic drugs.

Depressive states: course, clinic

There are several options for a depressive state, which differ in clinical manifestations, as well as in severity. The clinical manifestations and course of depression are influenced by nosological affiliation, the age of patients, their personality traits and many other factors.

Anxious-agitated depression differs from inhibitory (typical) dramatic behavior. The mood is reduced, but not depression prevails, but anxiety, unmotivated fear. Instead of lethargy, motor excitement appears. Patients run around the ward, do not find a place for themselves, pulling their hair out, banging their heads against the wall, moaning loudly, crying, obsessively turning to others with various requests. This form of depression often occurs with psychosis of the involutionary period. 

Hypochondriacal depression (depressive-hypochondriac syndrome) is characterized by the fact that patients have many somatic discomfort in various parts of the body. Such sensations do not have a clear localization; it can be a squeezing, dull or boring pain. The complaints of patients are peculiar, vague and do not fit into the framework of specific somatic diseases. The clinical picture of hypochondriac depression is characterized by hypochondriacal fears; in patients, thoughts prevail that they have some kind of severe somatic illness. The strength of the depressive, dreary mood may be less pronounced than with typical depression. If the clinic is dominated by senestopathies, this form is sometimes called senestopathic. 

Depressive-paranoid syndromes , in addition to the symptoms characteristic of depression, contain delusional ideas, and sometimes hallucinatory experiences. Delirium in patients with these syndromes always has a negative meaning: ideas of persecution, poisoning, robbery, self-accusation, etc. If the patient talks about the destruction or absence of his internal organs, he is talking about depression with nihilistic delusions, the extreme variant of which is Cotard’s syndrome – a combination of anxiously agitated depression with fantastic delusions of large-scale denial. Patients claim that their intestines have “stuck together”, their lungs have “died”, there are no other organs, they may even consider themselves dead. Denial can spread to the surrounding world – there is no one in the world, the planet has cooled down and is empty.

Latent (vegetative or somatized) depression is a form of depression in which somatic, autonomic symptoms come to the fore, and emotional disorders fade into the background. Somatic complaints – pain in the abdomen, heart area, head. Sometimes functional disorders of internal organs are observed: tachycardia, gastrointestinal disorders, dysmenorrhea, etc. Such patients are most often under the supervision of a surgeon or therapist, they may be diagnosed with neurocirculatory dystonia, diencephalic crises, conversion disorders. However, upon careful questioning and examination, it is possible to reveal characteristic depressive symptoms (“minor” mood, slowing down of thinking, decreased initiative, loss of interests, etc.). 

Subdepression is a mild form of depression in which patients do not always complain of boredom, but rather talk more about boredom. What needs to be done seems difficult, overwhelming, uninteresting to them. This is especially true for work that is associated with the stress of thinking or requires decision-making. Working capacity decreases, this causes a feeling of guilt in patients. Sleep disorders occur, patients wake up early with thoughts and anxiety about the day that begins. Somatic symptoms, as with other forms of depression, include decreased appetite, weight loss, patients look haggard, aged. They may have a feeling of coldness, chills. Sometimes there is a feeling of internal “trembling”, which patients explain as special, not similar to the usual trembling. Sometimes patients have irritability, excessive impressionability, tearfulness. This form of depression is also called hypothetical. 

By etiology, one can distinguish:

  • somatogenic (resulting from somatic diseases),
  • endogenous (with affective disorders, schizophrenia, involutional psychoses)
  • and psychogenic (for stress-related disorders) depression.

It should also be emphasized that the problem of suicide in depressed patients is relevant for patients of all age groups. More than two thirds of patients with these conditions think about suicide, up to 40% resort to suicide attempts, and up to 15% commit suicide. This fact confirms the need for timely diagnosis and treatment of depressive conditions.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Posted on October 8, 2020  in Uncategorized

The main manifestation of the diseases of this group is obsessive (obsessive) thoughts, which are stereotypically repeated. These ideas are very hard to be tolerated by the subject due to his aggressiveness (the patient, for example, is frightened that he can suddenly beat his beloved dog, but at the same time knows that he does not want to cause suffering not only to his faithful friend, but to any living being in general) or his absurdity (the patient is unable to replace a prematurely soiled shirt, as he only does so on Mondays and Thursdays).

There may also be insane images (bloodied traffic victims) or attractions (such as picking your nose or twirling your hair around your finger in front of other people). Let us emphasize that neither images, nor drives, nor ideas are accompanied by a feeling of imposing them from the outside by some magical power, confidence that the patient himself is the object of control by someone else (such a symptom is characteristic of obsessive thoughts in the structure of the schizophrenic process).

Other typical manifestations of the disorder are compulsive (i.e., with a struggle of motives) actions (rituals), which are no less burdensome for existence than obsessive thoughts. They are not associated with satisfaction from the performance of internal useful tasks (for example, the need to wash hands several times a day without a real need, or to iron first shirts, then linen, and then pants, or skip a vehicle and wait for the next one if its number starts to an odd digit, etc.). Rituals aimed at preventing unlikely events that can harm the patient himself or his environment (including from the patient’s side). In general, ritual thinking is a rudimentary component of the human mentality; it was widely used at the stage of the formation of a person as a thinking, social being, when the underdevelopment of algorithmic approaches to processing information about the environment and ignorance of the causes of many phenomena were compensated by the activity of such a rudimentary psychological function as faith. Religious beliefs or anniversaries of special occasions are nothing more than manifestations of ritual thinking. Honoring the heroes of the day is a ritual that everyone obediently adheres to, not realizing that in this way people demonstrate a desire to protect the life of a person who has already reached a certain age from possible further misfortunes and fatal accidents. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to determine whether a particular ritual in a patient is a manifestation of a mental disorder or is it a part of that collective unconscious (according to K. Jung), which he carries within himself as part of a certain ethnosocial and cultural layer. In addition to rituals, slowness and indecision are also considered compulsive actions.

Researchers have noted a positive correlation between obsessive states and depression, which led to attempts to use antidepressants ( cipralex , paxil , fevarin , remeron, or the previous generation antidepressant – anafranil ) in the treatment of obsessive states . Sometimes, in this way, it is possible to achieve success and relieve the patient from the suffering associated with obsessions . This disorder is more common in individuals with anankastic features, does not depend on gender, and begins at a young or adolescent age. Its course is chronic. Compulsive ritual actions respond better to behavioral therapy than obsessive thoughts, but, unfortunately, both manifestations in the same patient tend to coexist.

Given the great importance of obsessive- compulsive disorder for the general practitioner, here are its criteria:

1. Obsessive- compulsive symptoms should be regarded as one’s own thoughts or impulses. 

2. There is at least one thought or action with which the patient struggles unsuccessfully (if he has even completely reconciled with others). 

3. The thought of performing an obsessive action should not in itself be pleasant for the patient. However, there is some decrease in anxiety or tension after performing the ritual. 

4. Obsessive thoughts, images or actions are repeated, breaking the desire of their “carrier” to get rid of the unpleasant “accompaniment”. 

5. Finally, there must be a violation of the social functioning of the individual, and the obsessive- compulsive disorders themselves act as a source of distress. 

We will not dwell on neurasthenia separately. Note that today the view of neurasthenia is significantly different from that that dominated among psychiatrists of the previous generation: most consider neurasthenia not as a separate psychogenic disease, but as one of the manifestations at the level of asthenic syndrome of low-symptom (latent) organic brain damage. The neuroses of childhood are characterized by the predominance of fears, somatovegetative (enuresis, vomiting) and movement disorders (tics, logoneurosis , hysterical paralysis). The younger the child’s age, the more monotonous the neurotic picture.

The computer will determine academic performance and depression based on posts on social networks

Posted on October 4, 2020  in Uncategorized

Russian scientists created a computer model that predicted student performance with 94% accuracy from their texts on social networks, and then transferred it to the determination of depressive conditions and the assessment of the psychological health of adolescents and students on a scale of an educational institution. The results were published in the journal EPJ Data Science .  

“In our new work, we tried to predict the performance of students in schools and universities by their posts on VKontakte and Twitter. Learning ability is a very complex human characteristic. It is influenced not only by character traits, but also by psychological well-being, for example, the presence of various disorders. Alas, the latter is not measured on the scale of the institution, unlike academic success, which is also in the public domain. We are developing a system that would be able to identify psychological difficulties, in particular depression, by a person’s activity in a social network. One cannot be sure how this model will perform unless first is based on characteristics, information about which is widely available, for example, on academic performance, ”says project manager Ivan Smirnov, PhD , head of the laboratory of computational social sciences at the Institute of Education at the Higher School of Economics.

At the first stage, scientists used posts from open VKontakte pages from 2,468 subjects who passed the PISA test in 2012, which allows to assess literacy and the ability to apply their knowledge in practice. Experts taught the model to compare words from posts to vectors “: each word has its place in the space of meanings. The model was then trained to distinguish between student posts with good and bad PISA scores. After that, the system was applied to the posts of students from hundreds of the country’s largest universities and compared the results with official data, which showed the average USE scores of applicants and graduates of the educational institution, as well as general information on academic performance.

The model revealed that the texts of “excellent students” are often voluminous, written in richer language and contain long and foreign words. Such students often discuss physics, literature and tend to use expressions describing the thought process. Errors, emoticons, exclamations and words written in capital letters are typical for “poor” students. They often talk about horoscopes, military service and road accidents. The accuracy of the model was 94%. The new approach can be helpful in identifying depression that affects academic achievement. The results of the work showed once again how vulnerable the user’s privacy on the social network is.

How to determine your level of depression

Each person may have a bad mood or well-being. If it does not change for several days or continues to deteriorate, then you can safely diagnose depression. But depression is not always associated with ordinary fatigue or anxiety. This may be a symptom of a serious adrenal dysfunction. Scientists have been developing a method for a long time that can distinguish attacks of hypochondria from dangerous failures in the body and indicate deep neuroses. Currently, such a study has appeared, created in the Moscow clinic of medicine and cybernetics.

The developed method is a unique test, which, by the level of various hormones, their quantity and quality indicators, can reveal neurotic diseases in the early stages. In every living organism, there are three hormones responsible for stress resistance: dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine.

The essence of the study is that the patient must pass a series of tests for all of the above hormones. Then the subject undergoes a special procedure: immersion for one minute in a cryosauna . The temperature at which the experiment takes place is minus one hundred degrees. This is a serious test for any living organism. After the experience, the patient re-donates blood for the level of hormones in the blood. This study allows you to establish the degree of stress resistance.

The first participants in the experiments with staying in extreme cold conditions were absolutely healthy people and the doctors themselves working at the institute. For the objectivity of the study, tests for hormones were twice passed by those patients who had not been in a cryosauna . After staying in the cold, all healthy people have levels of adrenaline and other similar hormones that rise hundreds of units above the permissible level. However, in extreme situations, this is not only permissible, but absolutely normal. In people with small deviations of a neurotic nature, the level of hormones does not change, which indicates small deviations. In some patients who have serious disorders, in the proposed circumstances, the level of adrenaline is sharply underestimated. This phenomenon indicates that the adrenal glands are unable to produce hormones due to their depletion or lack of energy.

This study is designed to help scientists distinguish between fatigue and depression, control the disease and prescribe effective treatment. Statistical data showed that already now, after applying a specific study, the patients underwent early diagnosis. A significant number of patients experienced an improvement in their well-being.

Currently, experiments on the study of hormones and their effect on the body continue. The Institute of Medicine and Cybernetics has developed a special program “Life without neuroses”, which interested many scientists from other scientific institutions and is widely popular among the population.

A visit to a psychotherapist is an act that can change your life

Not much time has passed since the visit to the psychotherapist was not advertised. Even when there was an urgent need for this visit, most often even the relatives did not know about it. To tell about such a visit is tantamount to admitting your mental disability.

Numerous foreign films that appeared on our screens, in which the main characters, for any problems in their lives, publicly declared the need to seek help from a psychotherapist, talked about the results of these consultations. These films became an opportunity to look into the lifestyle of another according to their own mentality of society. They have gradually changed the attitude of our compatriots towards psychological assistance.

Today our compatriots have begun to understand that in our time, full of stress and difficult life situations, the help of a psychotherapist is vital. And you can get such help in the clinic “Doctor SUN” , which since 2004 has been helping people with various problems, ranging from alcoholism and drug addiction and ending with psychological problems.  

The help of psychologists and psychotherapists is becoming very popular not only among women, but also among men. The interest of men is due to the fact that most of them are more susceptible to stress, and they endure it much more heavily than women. But many are stopped by the fact that they have no idea whether their situation is really such, for the solution of which the help of a psychotherapist is required.

No one can give unequivocal advice in solving this problem. To come and make an appointment with a psychotherapist is quite a brave act. But, unfortunately, it is in our habit to bring ourselves to extremely painful conditions, from which it takes longer and more difficult to get out. All the more responsible today is the educational work of communities of psychotherapists. All their resources – magazines, websites – urge you to contact earlier, before the problem becomes too acute.

For one, the transition to a new place of work can become a serious problem, but there are people who, literally on the first working day, feel like a full member of the team at their new job. However, if such a misfortune as the loss of a loved one comes into their life, this can cause them deep depression for a long time.

If a problem interferes with a normal life, the usual way of life becomes impossible, a person constantly feels crushed by this problem, unhappy – this situation requires compulsory seeking help from a psychotherapist.

It can be very difficult to cope with various conflict situations, especially if they occur at work. And if conflicts occur in the family, then often a person experiences this even more strongly. It is difficult to live through these situations on your own, because not only the person himself participates in them, but also the people who surround him. A family psychologist successfully copes with such troubles.

All over the world, people in life are accompanied by stress, each person more than once feels dissatisfied with life, insecure, depressed, believing that there is no way out of the situation. Depression is the result of these human experiences. Only psychotherapy can help people cope with depression. Especially when it is caused by really serious life problems.

Depression in many people can interfere with work, create difficulties in communicating with family, and sometimes contribute to the development of alcoholism, which creates even more problems. Moreover, various circumstances do not give a person the opportunity to change his lifestyle even minimally. In this case, the support of a psychotherapist can help break this vicious circle, where one trouble entails the next, sometimes more difficult.

Another problem, which mainly affects young girls, often cannot be solved without the help of a psychotherapist. These are stubborn weight loss diets, sometimes endless and unjustified, ultimately leading to dire consequences. For such people, not only the help of a psychotherapist is needed, but also treatment with medicines.

Children are as susceptible to stress as adults, but often the consequences arise much later. Technologies are used for children other than those used for adults. Therefore, when a child visits a psychotherapist, conversations with him are conducted in a different form. The reasons that led to the occurrence of post-stress phenomena are identified , and the treatment is carried out in a playful way.