PsychNews: Aug. 29 – Sep. 4

1. Habits of the Heart: Life History and Developmental Neuroendocrinology of Emotion Regulation by Carol Worthman, Emory University

    In this lecture Worthman shows that human health and behavior are dependent on both nature and nurture by design. Our genes, evolution, culture, and parenting all play causal roles in the development of social intelligence, emotions, and health. In only 45 minutes she crams a lot of information and research, which can get a little sophisticated at times, but is all-in-all very interesting and well worth the watch.

2. General-purpose Brain Circuits Used To Solve Major Moral Decisions

    “Amitai Shenhav and Joshua D. Greene of Harvard’s Department of Psychology present the findings this week in the journal Neuron.

    ‘It seems that our capacity for complex, life-and-death decisions depends on brain structures that originally evolved for making more basic, self-interested decisions about things like obtaining calories,’ says Shenhav, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard. ‘Many of the brain regions we find to be active in major moral decisions have been shown to perform similar functions when people and animals make commonplace decisions about ordinary goods such as money and food.’

    Some researchers have argued that moral judgments are produced by a ‘moral faculty’ in the brain, but Shenhav and Greene’s work indicates that at least some moral decisions rely on general mechanisms also used by the brain in evaluating other kinds of choices.”

3. The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry

    “The secret history of psychedelic psychiatry began in the early 1950s, about 10 years after Albert Hofmann discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD, and lasted until 1970. It was uncovered by medical historian Erika Dyck, who examined the archives from Canadian mental health researchers and conducted interviews with some of the psychiatrists, patients and nurses involved in the early LSD trials. Dyck’s work shows early LSD experimentation in a new light, as a fruitful branch of mainstream psychiatric research: it redefined alcoholism as a disease that could be cured and played a role in the psychopharmacological revolution which radically transformed psychiatry. But, despite some encouraging results, it was cut short prematurely.”

4. Nicholas Carr: Surfing our way to stupid

    “Digital communications technologies are very compelling and provide us with a lot of benefits. And the way the web supplies information in small, simultaneous bits appeals to something very primitive in our minds. Early in our evolutionary history we were rewarded for our ability to quickly shift attention and learn as much as we could about our surroundings. Later, especially with printed books, we learned to focus our attention. Today, the internet is leading us back to a more distracted, scattered, skimming and scanning mode of thought and away from attentive, contemplative thought.

    Some people would argue that having access to lots of information, being able to juggle lots of things simultaneously and collaborate broadly and quickly with lots of people is the ideal way to use the mind. I disagree. Paying attention leads to deep modes of thought. It’s the way we transfer working memory to long-term memory; it seems to activate a lot of the mental processes that give rise to conceptual thinking, critical thinking, and even creativity. The ability to filter out distractions and interruptions and to engage in solitary contemplative thought is essential to gaining the full potential of our minds.”

5. Maslow, Emotion, and a Hierarchy of Service

    “It helps to distinguish between [customer] service as ‘technical delivery’ and [customer] service as ‘fantastic experience.’ And the distinction reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which suggests that people have different levels of needs which need to be met — and needs at the bottom of the hierarchy must be fulfilled before needs higher up can truly be met.

    The points of view I had been reading suggested that a similar hierarchy exists when it comes to meeting consumer needs and motivations with customer service. There are different levels of service which companies may provide, but the ones at the bottom of the service hierarchy need to be delivered before the ones higher up can be meaningful and have impact.”

5. Steven Pinker – The Genius of Charles Darwin: The Uncut Interviews

    This is a fascinating uncut dialogue between evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. They cover a wide-range of topics from a Darwinian perspective, including emotions, language, phobias, and music, as well as public misconceptions regarding evolutionary theory.

6. A Model for Psychosis

    “The incidence of psychotic disorders varies greatly across places and demographic groups, as do symptoms, course, and treatment response across individuals. High rates of schizophrenia in large cities, and among immigrants, cannabis users, and traumatised individuals reflect the causal influence of environmental exposures. This, in combination with progress in the area of molecular genetics, has generated interest in more complicated models of schizophrenia aetiology that explicitly posit gene-environment interactions. “

7. Brain Enters And Leaves States Of Induced Unconsciousness Via Different Processes

    “Researchers observed that once a group of animal subjects underwent a transition from wakefulness to anesthetic-induced unconsciousness, the subjects exhibited resistance to the return of the wakeful state. Based on their findings, the authors propose a fundamental and biologically conserved state, which they call neural inertia, a tendency of the CNS to resist transitions between consciousness and unconsciousness.

    ‘The findings from this study may provide insights into the regulation of sleep as well as states in which return of consciousness is pathologically impaired such as some types of coma,’ said Kelz. ‘This line of research may one day help us to develop novel anesthetic drugs and targeted therapies for patients who have different forms of sleep disorders or who have the potential to awaken from coma but remain stuck in comatose states for months or years.’ “

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