A team of researchers have discovered the brain rhythmic activity that can split us from reality.
- Researchers have identified the key rhythmic brain activity that triggers a bizarre experience called dissociation in which people can feel detached from their identity and environment.
- This phenomena is experienced by about 2 percent to 10 percent of the population. Nearly 3 out of 4 individuals who have experienced a traumatic event will slip into a dissociative state either during the event or sometime after.
- The findings implicate a specific protein in a certain set of cells as key to the feeling of dissociation, and it could lead to better-targeted therapies for conditions in which dissociation can occur.
What is dissociation?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd2f1f29418bd4805bf1282001dca814"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XF2zeOdE5GY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Dissociation is an experience commonly described as a feeling of sudden detachment from the individual's identity and environment, almost like an out-of-body experience. This mysterious phenomena is experienced by about 2 percent to 10 percent of the population.</p><p>"This state often manifests as the perception of being on the outside looking in at the cockpit of the plane that's your body or mind — and what you're seeing you just don't consider to be yourself," explained senior author Karl Deisseroth, MD, PhD, <a href="https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/09/researchers-pinpoint-brain-circuitry-underlying-dissociation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">in a Stanford Medicine news release</a>. Deisseroth is a professor of bioengineering and of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, as well as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.</p><p>Nearly three-quarters of individuals who have experienced a traumatic event will slip into a dissociative state either during the event or in the hours or even weeks that follow, according to Deisseroth. Most of the time, the dissociative experiences end on their own within a few weeks of the trauma. But the eerie experience can become chronic, such as in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, and extremely disruptive in daily life. The state of dissociation can also occur in epilepsy and be invoked by certain drugs. </p><p>Until now, no one has known what exactly is going on inside the brain triggering and sustaining the feeling of dissociation — and so it has been a challenge to figure out how to stop it and develop effective treatments. </p>
New Research: The Molecular Underpinnings of Dissociation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQyNjk3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTQ3MTI1NX0._nJoxm1eDcTsHsy1Y27JxNl2uR5hlbEYDWYoQlO0EAU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C121%2C0%2C121&height=700" id="26e86" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1094af23e35a498a8a6b691f1d0cbfaf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="neurons" />
Neurons from a mouse spinal cord
Credit: NICHD on Flickr<p>Last week, in a study published in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2731-9" target="_blank">Nature</a><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2731-9">,</a> Deisseroth and his colleagues at Stanford University uncovered a localized brain rhythm and molecule that underlies this state.</p><p>"This study has identified brain circuitry that plays a role in a well-defined subjective experience," said Deisseroth. "Beyond its potential medical implications, it gets at the question, 'What is the self?' That's a big one in law and literature, and important even for our own introspections."</p><p>The authors' findings implicate a specific protein existing in a particular set of cells as key to the feeling of dissociation. </p><p>The research team first used a technique called widefield calcium imaging to record brain-wide neuronal activity in lab mice. They observed and analyzed changes in those brain rhythms after the animals had been administered a range of drugs that are known to cause dissociative states: ketamine, phencyclidine (PCP), and dizocilpine (MK801). At a certain dosage of ketamine, the mice behaved in a way that suggested that they were likely experiencing dissociation. For example, when the animals were placed on an uncomfortably warm surface, they reacted to it by flicking their paws. However, they signaled that they didn't care enough about the unpleasantness to do what they would typically do in such a situation, which is to lick their paws to cool them off. This suggested a dissociation from the surrounding environment.</p><p>The drug produced oscillations in neuronal activity in a region of the mices' brain called the retrosplenial cortex, an area essential for various cognitive functions such as navigation and episodic memory (a unique memory of a specific event). The oscillations occurred at about 1-3 hertz (three cycles per second). The authors then examined the active cells in more detail by using two-photon imaging for higher resolution. This revealed that the oscillations were occurring only in layer 5 of the retrosplenial cortex. Next, the researchers recorded neuronal activity across other regions of the brain. </p><p>"Normally, other parts of the cortex and subcortex are functionally connected to neuronal activity in the retrosplenial cortex," Ken Solt and Oluwaseun Akeju wrote in <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02505-z#ref-CR1" target="_blank">Nature</a>. "However, ketamine caused a disconnect, such that many of these brain regions no longer communicated with the retrosplenial cortex."</p><p>The scientists then used optogenetics, a method of manipulating living tissue with light to control neural function, to stimulate neurons in the mice's retrosplenial cortex. When the scientists did this at a 2-hertz rhythm, they were able to cause dissociative behavior in the animals analogous to the behavior caused by ketamine without using drugs. The experiments conducted by the team displayed how a particular type of protein, an ion channel, was essential to the generation of the hertz signal that caused the dissociative behavior in mice. Scientists are hopeful that this protein could be a potential treatment target in the future. </p>
What about humans?<p>The researchers also recorded electrical activity from brain regions in an epilepsy patient who had reported experiencing dissociation immediately before each seizure. The sensations experienced right before a seizure is called an aura. This aura for the patient was like being "outside the pilot's chair, looking at, but not controlling, the gauges," Deisseroth said.</p><p>The researchers recorded electric signals from the patient's cerebral cortex and stimulated it electrically aiming to identify the origin point of the seizures. While that was happening, the patient responded to questions about how it felt. The authors found that whenever the patient was about to have a seizure, it was preceded by the dissociative aura and a particular pattern of electrical activity localized within the patient's posteromedial cortex. That patterned activity was characterized by an oscillating signal sparked by nerve cells firing in coordination at 3 hertz. When this region of the brain was stimulated electrically, the patient experienced dissociation without having a seizure. </p><p>This study will have far-reaching implications for neuroscience and could lead to better-targeted therapies for disorders in which dissociation can be triggered, such as PTSD, borderline personality, and epilepsy.</p>
Symptoms of mental illness in children are often dismissed as "going through a phase."
- A 2020 CDC study examined mental health symptoms in four different school districts within the United States from 2014-2018. This study found that, based on the reports from both teachers and parents, one in six students showed enough behavioral or emotional symptoms to be diagnosed with a childhood mental disorder.
- Mental health conditions or illnesses in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills, or emotional regulation.
- Children can develop many of the same mental health conditions as adults, but their symptoms may be different.
1 in 6 (or 1 in 3, depending on the school district) children were shown to have enough symptoms to be diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Photo by Syda Productions on Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/features/school-aged-mental-health-in-communities.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 CDC study</a> examined mental health symptoms in four different school districts within the United States from 2014-2018. This study found that, based on the reports from both teachers and parents, one in six students showed enough behavioral or emotional symptoms to be diagnosed with a childhood mental disorder.</p><p><strong>What was the Project to Learn About Youth Mental Health (PLAY-MH) study?</strong></p><p>This was a school-based study conducted throughout the years of 2014-2018. This study was designed to estimate how many kindergarten - grade 12 students had specific mental health disorders. </p><p>The information was collected in two phases. In phase one, teachers in selected school districts were asked to complete a short questionnaire to determine a student's risk for a mental health disorder. In phase two, the parents of selected students were asked to complete a more structured interview to determine if their child met the criteria for a mental health disorder. Between 1 in 6 students (1 in 3 in some districts) fit the criteria, according to the combined data.</p><p>Teachers also identified a higher percentage of boys, non-Hispanic Black students, and students receiving free or reduced-price lunch as having a higher risk for mental disorders than their peers at most schools. However, based on the parent reports, there were generally no major demographic differences in the percentage of students who met the criteria for a mental disorder. This interesting discrepancy suggests that estimating effects of race or income on symptoms gave different results depending on the way the symptoms were examined. </p><p><strong>How can we help at-risk students?</strong></p><p>The information gathered during this four-year study can help parents, teachers, and communities alike to understand and become more aware of the mental health struggles of younger children. With this knowledge, interventions and treatments can become more normalized when dealing with children's mental health conditions.</p><p>The CDC has some suggestions for how we, as communities, can help our at-risk children:</p><ul><li>Schools can consider screening students for mental health concerns and then following up with effective services and counseling options. </li><li>Pediatric and family clinics can use this information to establish how many children may be at risk. </li><li>Communities and parents can work together with school systems to integrate mental health services and referrals into the schools. </li></ul>
Common mental health disorders in children, according to experts<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzk1NDc4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODg4NzYwMH0.C3dNExRsuVrcDvs_z68q2FY62kee157DLvBtubmmq8A/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="7b6fe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a6b046f215f2c8d99c44d09de0dbdef3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Stressed and anxious student sitting at desk during exam" />
Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, ADHD, ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and eating disorders are among commonly overlooked mental health conditions in children.
Photo by Monkey Business Images on Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">According to experts</a>, these are some of the most common disorders among children:</p><p><strong>Anxiety disorders (generalized anxiety, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders):</strong> These conditions may appear as persistent fears, worries, or anxiety that disrupt their ability to participate in play, school, or other typical age-appropriate activities.</p><p><strong>Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):</strong> Children who struggle with ADHD have difficulty with attention, tend to have impulsive behaviors, generalized hyperactivity, or some combination of these issues. </p><p><strong>Depression (or other mood disorders): </strong>Depression in children presents as persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest that disrupt their ability to function in school and interact with others. </p><p><strong>Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):</strong> PTSD is a prolonged state of emotional distress and anxiety that is prefaced with negative memories, nightmares, and disruptive behaviors in response to a traumatic event the child may have suffered. </p><p><strong>Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): </strong>This is a neurological condition that often can be noticed in early childhood (before the age of three), if you know what to look for. The severity of ASD can vary— a child with this disorder has difficulty communicating and interacting with others.</p><strong>Eating disorders: </strong>Eating disorders show as a preoccupation with an ideal body type. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.<p><br></p><p>You can read the full study <a href="https://link.springer.com/epdf/10.1007/s10578-020-01027-z?sharing_token=a3EvHilTjILJ1pJ3KXQQP_e4RwlQNchNByi7wbcMAY64y5G2OhNS1lAeStiE_xCQ5Ke8aBy4C65sfPZeG19uCwJxFWfAgXejmrE2lLmeYUPkpgNGQgq5jMOY-830oPGU5UOPil0_vjxCu9D4EOPVGt5v1H35kEN5sBTGFb5YJJ8%3D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.</p>
A new study lays out the case for the damaging effects of stress on orcas living in tanks.
- There are currently around 60 orcas living in concrete tanks globally.
- Orcas' brain structures and behaviors strongly suggest they are smart, emotional, self-aware beings.
- The study provides compelling evidence that the stresses inherent in captivity do damage to these naturally free-roaming cetaceans.
The orca brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0OTYxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MzE4MjUxMX0.bn_qCqvJWtuLuUtEuDuCV5VJSFl7mqIABEKR4Ywbjnw/img.jpg?width=980" id="3d9eb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2c2f955fe43e842b69f329f8aca82b86" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="orca" />
Image source: FineShine/Shutterstock<p>The orca brain exhibits neurobiological traits that are considered prerequisites for complex psychology, emotion, and behavior:</p><ul><li>a large brain size</li><li>an expanded neocortex</li><li>a well-differentiated cortical cytoarchitecture</li><li>an elaborated limbic system</li></ul><p>Even more important than sheer brain size is its size in relation to an animal's body. This is captured as the organism's encephalization quotient, or EQ. Says the study, "Odontocetes, and in particular Delphinoidea [the superfamily to which orcas belong], are the most highly <a href="https://www.definitions.net/definition/encephalization" target="_blank">encephalized</a> nonhuman taxonomic group known … except modern humans."</p><p>Orcas also have the most highly convoluted, or folded, neocortical surface of all mammals including humans, and their ratio of neocortical surface to brain weight also exceeds the human brain's, suggesting an organ well-suited to higher-order functions.</p><p>Among a range of other clues presented by the study that suggest orcas are highly intelligent creatures are these:</p><ul><li>Areas associated in the human brain with high-level cognitive and social functions including attention, prediction, social awareness, and empathy are all highly developed in orcas.</li><li>Orcas have a well-integrated mammalian limbic system that supports having emotions, memory, motivation, reasoning, learning, and abstraction.</li></ul>
Supporting behaviors<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0OTYyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODc3NDc5OH0.7SJYid8T8vIb2GsYDlyeLBH7guFBh0dOlzkJOhWbrxw/img.jpg?width=980" id="f32c2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="503cc66cca99c76a74b0551595cbf87f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Willyam Bradberry /Shutterstock<p>Observations of orca behavior richly supports the implications of their neurobiological structures. Marino says, "Free-ranging orcas live in tightly-knit social groups that are necessary during their long juvenile periods and afterwards. They support each other, help each other when in trouble, and grieve each other. <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/08/orca-mourning-calf-killer-whale-northwest-news/" target="_blank">Mothers and calves are very tightly bonded</a>. In some groups, male orcas stay with their mom their whole life and if mom dies [the male offpsring] may go into a deep depression and die as well. Family and social group are everything."</p><p>Orcas also demonstrate culture, with vocalizations and even hunting methods unique within groups and passed from generation to generation.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Orcas at Punta Norte, Argentina, hunt sea lion and elephant seal pups by beaching themselves and capturing the pups, typically in the surf zone," according to the study.</em></p>
Captivity morbidities<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0OTYyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Nzk2NTY3OX0.OTstnCedLWwHzzkpjLTrRXm9ivzKg4Rxb2zMdF_BiVI/img.jpg?width=980" id="3446f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e616334b186df2be92e659f145ac9405" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="orca performing at water park" />
Image source: Peter Etchells/Shutterstock<p>In the wild, free-ranging female orcas live an average of 46 years — some live as long as 90 years — and males 31 years, or as long as 50-60 years. Captive orcas rarely live more than 30 years, with many dying in their teens or 20s. Their medical histories can be difficult to access due to facilities' desire for confidentiality. Nonetheless, some morbidities, or causes of death, have become clear over time.</p><p><a href="https://www.jwildlifedis.org/doi/10.7589/0090-3558-15.1.99" target="_blank">One review</a> from 1979 identified infectious disease as the culprit behind the death of 17 captive North American orcas who'd died since 1965 prior to the report's writing. The new study cites publicly available documentation revealing that between 1971 and 2017, SeaWorld parks alone have experienced 35 documented orca deaths, and that, "When causes of death were available, the most commonly implicated conditions were viral, bacterial and fungal infections, gastrointestinal disease, and trauma."</p><p>Infections such as these may not in and of themselves have necessarily been lethal, but when combined with orcas' "weakened immune system, chronic exposure to chemical irritants or trauma to the skin, excessive or improper use of antimicrobials, and an imbalance in the microbiota of the body or environment (which may exist in tanks)," they become deadly. Common fungal infections may also be especially dangerous in this context "as a result of long-term and aggressive antibiotic treatment, overtreatment of water for purity, or both." The same is true for untreated dental infections.</p><p>Another frequent cause of orca death: gastrointestinal ulceration — ulcers — caused by prolonged exposure to stress. </p>
The destructive power of stress<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1MDMzNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTg2MzAzMH0.lekLVOTVNc5Lkh9FT0DO2y_7eqoq2QSvBIBEVucMEzo/img.jpg?width=980" id="5d3d3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1d83e901a480a0077ca56e99328dd0b6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="orca in captivity jumping from water" />
Image source: eldeiv/Shutterstock<p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Importantly, the poor health and short lifespans of captive orcas are most clearly understood as connected elements in a cycle of maladaptiveness to the conditions of captivity that involves behavioral abnormalities, physical harm and vulnerability to disease."</em></p><p>The paper shows, says Marino, that "when you examine the totality of the welfare findings for captive orcas the whole picture fits best within a larger common framework of evidence on how stress effects captive animals. We know that, when confined, other animals show the same kinds of behavioral and physiological abnormalities that captive orcas do. This is not mysterious or even controversial. It is basic science."</p><p>Marino cites as especially damaging the manner in which captivity prevents orcas from making social connections. Tanks also deprive them of places to retreat, making conflicts inescapable even temporarily. Finally, captive orcas are likely to become bored and chronically demotivated by the frustration over their loss of autonomy.</p><p>The study also notes physical effects brought on by long-term stress, including:</p><ul><li>the release of too much cortisol by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal, or HPA, axis, causing elevated blood sugar, suppression of the immune system, as well as metabolism and blood pressure issues.</li><li>alterations of the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex due to prolonged stress, potentially leading to increased anxiety, post-traumatic stress, cognitive impairment, depression, and mood dysregulation.</li><li>organ degradation in response to unrelenting stress.</li><li>a loss of natural sensory information, about which, says the study, "a growing body of research has found that exposure to excessive or unnatural levels or types of acoustic input can cause a number of impacts to cetaceans, including but not limited to … accelerated aging, suppression of the immune response, as well as premature hearing loss."</li></ul>
A valuable conversation<p>Marino explains why it was important to conduct this study, saying, "My co-authors and I wrote this review to bring all of the available information on captive orca well-being together in one place and to suggest that we might all best be able to understand the effects of captivity within a very familiar and well-researched model of how chronic stress effects all organisms. We want this paper to be a catalyst for dialogue and further scientific exploration based on data as to how we can better understand who orcas are and how we can identify the important elements needed in a captive environment for them to thrive."</p><p>The <a href="https://whalesanctuaryproject.org" target="_blank">Whale Sanctuary Project</a> is hosting a <a href="https://whalesanctuaryproject.org/event/chronic-stress-in-captive-orcas-webinar/" target="_blank">free public webinar</a> to discuss the study and the effects of stress on captive orcas with three of the study's authors on Tuesday, July 14.<br></p>
An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.
- 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
- Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
- Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.
The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.
In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.
That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.
70 data points and machine learning
Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash
Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:
"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."
The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.
Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."
Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.
Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.
On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.
Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash
Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."
"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.
The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.
A groundbreaking Stanford University study explains the areas of the brain that are impacted by hypnosis.
- Hypnosis refers to a trance state that is characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation, and heightened imagination.
- According to a Stanford University School of Medicine study, there are three areas of our brains that change during a state of hypnosis.
- This groundbreaking study provides information on how hypnosis impacts the brain, which could lead to new and improved pain management and anxiety treatments in the future.
Hypnosis: a brief history<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM4MDUzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODE0NTIxMn0.8i-niurp_iqtQtLAItVe4bYVzsCvP510dhMITGPs47E/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C52%2C0%2C52&height=700" id="ec42b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1af341304e578f5bf20858cb7e872c86" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="swinging pocket watch" />
Along the way, there have been many pioneers in the feild of hypnosis research.
Photo by Brian A Jackson on Shutterstock<p>The "modern father" of hypnosis was Austrian physician Franz Mesmer, who gave us the word "mesmerism", which can be another word referencing a hypnotic state. Mesmer had an idea for which he called "animal magnetism" - and the idea was that there are these kinds of natural energy sources that could be transferred between organisms and objects.</p><p>Along the way, hypnotism has had many other pioneers who have furthered the fascinating phenomenon. One of the most notable is James Braid, an eye doctor based in Scotland who became intrigued with the idea of hypnosis when he discovered a patient in his waiting room had fallen under something of a trance after staring at a lamp. He gave the patient come commands, and the patient obliged, remaining in a trace-like state the entire time. </p><p>Braid's fascination grew and through more tests, he determined that getting a patient to fixate on something was one of the most important components to hypnosis. He later would publish a book on what we now know as the <a href="https://books.google.be/books/about/The_Discovery_of_Hypnosis.html?id=Vs35STwQYQoC&redir_esc=y" target="_blank">discovery of modern hypnosis</a>.</p><p>Later, James Esdaile, a British surgeon based in India during the mid-1800s established that this kind of trance hypnotic state was extremely useful in pain relief practices. He performed hundreds of major operations using hypnotism as his only anesthetic. When he returned to England in an attempt to convince the medical establishments of his findings, they paid no mind to his theory in favor of new chemical anesthetics such as morphine, which was <a href="https://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/painkillers/a-short-history.html" target="_blank">relatively new at the time</a>. This is where the use of hypnotics for medicinal purposes halted and much of the reason why hypnosis is considered an alternative approach to medicine in today's society.</p><p>Jumping forward to the 1900s, Frenchman Emile Coué moved away from the conventional approaches that had been pioneered with hypnotism and began his work with the use of auto-suggestion. </p><p>He is most famous for the phrase: <em>"Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better." </em>This technique was one of the first instances where affirmation hypnosis was used and it has been growing through various counseling programs and therapy techniques ever since.</p><p>In modern times, one of the most recognized authorities on clinical hypnosis remains to be Milton Erikson, a well-known psychotherapist who did most of his work around 1950-1980. He was fascinated with human psychology and devised countless innovative ways to use hypnosis in his clinical practices. </p>
Scientists scanned the brains of 57 people during a guided hypnosis session.
Image by vrx on Shutterstock<p><strong>Changes found in three areas of the brain during hypnosis may suggest future alternative treatments for anxiety and pain management.</strong><br><br>Over the years, hypnosis has gained a lot of traction and respectability within both the medical and psychotherapy professions. According to a 2016 Stanford University School of Medicine study, there are three areas of our brains that change during a state of hypnosis - and this could actually be used to benefit us.</p><p>Scientists scanned the brains of 57 people during a guided hypnosis session, similar to one that may be used to help treat anxiety, pain, or trauma. </p><p><strong>First, there is a decrease in dorsal anterior cingulate activity. </strong></p><p>This is part of the brain's salience network that is responsible for <a href="https://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Anterior+Cingulate+Cortex" target="_blank">psychological functions</a> like decision making, evaluation processes, and emotional regulation as well as physiological functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. </p><p><strong>Next, there is an increase in the connection between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. </strong></p><p>The <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/dorsolateral-prefrontal-cortex" target="_blank">dorsolateral prefrontal cortex</a> is associated with executive functions such as working memory and self-control. The <a href="https://www.spinalcord.com/insular-cortex" target="_blank">insula</a> is a small region of the cerebral cortex that plays a significant role in pain perception, social engagements, emotions, and autonomic control. </p><p>This is described by the lead researcher of the study as a kind of "brain-body connection" that helps the brain process and control what's going on in the body. </p><p><strong>Finally, there are reduced connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex. </strong></p><p>The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex becomes less connected to the medial prefrontal cortex and the <a href="https://www.jneurosci.org/content/32/1/215" target="_blank">posterior cingulate cortex</a>, both of which are strongly associated with neural activity and cognitive tasks.</p><p>This decrease very likely correlates to the disconnect between someone's actions and their awareness of their actions, according to the lead researcher on the project. </p><p><strong>How does this change the way we view hypnosis?</strong></p><p>Understanding exactly which areas of the brain are impacted during hypnosis can pave the way for groundbreaking research into the use of hypnosis for medicinal purposes.</p><p>"Now that we know which brain regions are involved," says David Spiegel, MD, professor and researcher on the project, "we may be able to use this knowledge to alter someone's capacity to be hypnotized or the effectiveness of the hypnosis for problems such as pain control." </p><p>While more research is needed, the study is certainly a groundbreaking head-start in what could eventually be known as hypnotic treatments for things like anxiety, trauma and pain management. </p><p>"A treatment that combines brain stimulation with hypnosis could improve known analgesic effects of hypnosis and potentially even replace addictive and side-effect-laden painkillers and anti-anxiety medications," explains Spiegel. </p>