Chronic and severely stressful situations, like those connected to depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, have been associated with smaller volumes in "stress sensitive" brain regions, such as the cingulate region of the cerebral cortex and the hippocampus, a brain region involved in memory formation. A new study, published by Elsevier in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that chronic insomnia may be another condition associated with reduced cortical volume. Using a specialized technique called voxel-based morphometry, Ellemarije Altena and Ysbrand van der Werf from the research group of Eus van Someren evaluated the brain volumes of persons with chronic insomnia who were otherwise psychiatrically healthy, and compared them to healthy persons without sleep problems.
Draw a map of the brain when fear and anxiety are involved, and the amygdala - the brain's almond-shaped center for panic and fight-or-flight responses - looms large. But the amygdala doesn't do its job alone. Scientists at Emory University have recently built upon work from others, extending the fear map to part of the brain known as the prelimbic cortex. Researchers led by Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, found that mice lacking a critical growth factor in the prelimbic cortex have trouble remembering to fear electric shocks. The discovery could help improve diagnosis and treatment for anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias.
What if a jury could decide a man's guilt through mind reading? What if reading a defendant's memory could betray their guilt? And what constitutes 'intent' to commit murder? These are just some of the issues debated and reviewed in the inaugural issue of WIREs Cognitive Science, the latest interdisciplinary project from Wiley-Blackwell, which for registered institutions will be free for the first two years. In the article "Neurolaw, " in the inaugural issue of WIREs Cognitive Science, co-authors Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Annabelle Belcher assess the potential for the latest cognitive science research to revolutionize the legal system.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Medical Center have identified a biological marker in the brains of those exhibiting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A group of 74 United States veterans were involved in the study, which for the first time objectively diagnoses PTSD using magnetoencephalography (MEG), a non-invasive measurement of magnetic fields in the brain. It's something conventional brain scans such as an X-ray, CT, or MRI have failed to do. The ability to objectively diagnose PTSD is the first step towards helping those afflicted with this severe anxiety disorder. PTSD often stems from war, but also can be a result of exposure to any psychologically traumatic event.
A team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has found that a specific stress hormone, the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), is key to the development and maintenance of alcohol dependence in animal models. Chemically blocking the stress factor also blocked the signs and symptoms of addiction, suggesting a potentially promising area for future drug development. The article, the culmination of more than six years of research, will appear in an upcoming print edition of the journal Biological Psychiatry. "I'm excited about this study, " said Associate Professor Marisa Roberto, who led the research. "It represents an important step in understanding how the brain changes when it moves from a normal to an alcohol-dependent state.
Here's a piece of research that might leave you tickled: laughter is a universal language, according to new research. The study, conducted with people from Britain and Namibia, suggests that basic emotions such as amusement, anger, fear and sadness are shared by all humans. Everybody shares the vast majority of their genetic makeup with each other, meaning that most of our physical characteristics are similar. We all share other attributes, too, such as having complex systems of communication to convey our thoughts, feelings and the intentions of those around us, and we are all able to express a wide range of emotions through language, sounds, facial expressions and posture.