Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Antidepressants Make it Harder to Empathize, Harder to Climax, and Harder to Cry

Dr. Julie Holland relays the dangers related to overprescribed medications. She suggests several alternatives to relying on antidepressants.

Julie Holland: The main kind of antidepressant that is the most popularly prescribed are the SSRIs and these are medicines that increase serotonin transmission. And when you start to push on the doses of these SSRIs, you start to lose some sort of quintessential feminine things. First of all it becomes much hard to climax and it becomes much, much harder to cry. But you also see decreases in empathy, in sensitivity, in passion.

 

The simple way of thinking about an SSRI is that you have two brain cells and one is a pitcher and one is a catcher. So pitch, catch. Pitch, catch. So this nerve cell is throwing serotonin across and this one is catching it. What the medicines do is they block the recycling back into the pitcher. So, you know, I’m throwing; I’m throwing. Some of this gets caught; some of it gets dropped. It just doesn’t get over there, but I’ll suck it back in and try again. So if you block the recycling, more is in the middle to get across. So there’s more, you know, the space between the nerve cells is called the synapse. If you block the recycling of the serotonin into the releasing cell, more is available for the catching cell. So it ends up enhancing the transmission. How enhanced serotonergic transmission translates into feeling better and feeling less anxious is much more complicated. But, you know, the simplistic way to think about it is that if you have higher levels of serotonin, if your transmission is better, you will be more relaxed and more happy. It’s a little easier to smile. It’s a little harder to cry.

 

So, you know, I’ve had patients come to me and say, you know, I’ve tried antidepressants before, but they always made me feel like a zombie or they didn’t make me feel like myself. Or I had a patient who said like I cut my finger and I looked down and I saw that it was bleeding and I saw that it was my blood, but I didn’t really feel like connected to my finger or the blood. You know, things like that that are really, really worrisome. Or I’ve had patients say, you know, I was in this situation where I knew I should be crying and I couldn’t cry. And, you know, I felt terrible that I couldn’t express that emotion to bond with my friend or something like that.

So these antidepressants do scale back a lot of expression of emotion and feeling emotion even sort of thinking emotional thoughts. If you’re terribly depressed and you need antidepressants to get out of bed and function and go to work, I get it. That’s one thing. But what I’m worried about is more and more women deciding to go on antidepressants because their friends are doing it and that’s what’s, you know, more and more women who are at work are taking these SSRIs so that they cannot cry, not get flustered, keep going forward. You know I think it jives with this sort of forward-momentum agenda that so many of us have and especially in the workplace. But, you know, I would say at what cost? You know it is true that SSRIs can help you get ahead and there have been really interesting animal studies where, you know, the primates who are on SSRIs ascended up the dominance hierarchy. And the ones who became dominated over got stressed out and had lower serotonin levels. So there does seem to be some component of serotonin affecting dominance hierarchies and, you know, the ability to move ahead or to lean in.

So I totally get that there are advantages to being on an SSRI in the workplace. But, you’re going to miss out on knowing what’s right because you feel it or being hurt by what somebody said and showing them that you’re hurt. And so that person can learn that their behavior has emotional consequences for other people. So and it changes the whole sort of tone of the workplace. There’s going to be less accountability and less sort of calling people on their misbehavior if you’re not even feeling that anyone misbehaved.

When you think about risks, you know, if you’re really being thorough, you want to look down both tunnels. You know if this really works out well, how is that — if this works out badly, how is that and how would that be for me. And so when you’re evaluating risk you need to be in touch with things like fear or vulnerability or anxiety. So if you’re medicating yourself to be invulnerable and to let things sort of flow by you and, you know, oh it’s all good, no problem, whatever. You really may make decisions that are riskier and feel better about them. There are other antidepressants like there’s an antidepressant called Wellbutrin, which — well the makers of Wellbutrin won’t really say what it’s mechanism of action is. It does seem that it more increases your dopamine. It’s not so much of a serotonergic antidepressant. It increases dopamine and dopamine helps you to be motivated and to have a vector and keep going and to be pretty headstrong.

So again in that situation, you may make decisions that are potentially disastrous, you know, in the same way that somebody who is sort of hypomanic. If you think about somebody who’s manic depressive and they have ups and downs; when they’re in this hypomanic up they get some bad ideas that seem like pretty reasonable ideas to them. Somebody who’s in a hypomanic episode may be more promiscuous and make bad choices sexually, spend money that they don’t have, you know. There’s this overinflated sense of self and invulnerability. And you can see the same thing with somebody who is sort of overmedicated on serotonergic medicines is damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. And sometimes those torpedoes are going to get you.

So there’s quite a few things you can do that aren’t prescription medicine. You know the first thing is to really look at how you’re living your life. How much sleep are you getting? What is your diet like? Are you moving your body? Are you getting sunshine? Just sort of, you know, the basic things that we as social primates should be doing which also includes being social, being interactive and not being isolated and withdrawn. My patients who have sort of gotten off their meds and left me for the most part are people who have adopted regular cardio practice where they’re exercising regularly. I think that’s really important. The other thing is that you can take herbal medicines. You can take things like St. John’s Wort or 5HTP, which is an amino acid.  Or you can take SAMe. There is also a lot of evidence that the ancient medicinal plant cannabis can be used to treat insomnia, anxiety, depression. So you do have other options.


 

 

Dr. Julie Holland argues that women are designed by nature to be dynamic and sensitive — women are moody and that is a good thing. Yet millions of women are medicating away their emotions because we are out of sync with our own bodies and we are told that moodiness is a problem to be fixed. One in four women takes a psychiatric drug. If you add sleeping pills to the mix, the statistics become higher. Overprescribed medications can have far-reaching consequences for women in many areas of our lives: sex, relationships, sleep, eating, focus, balance, and aging. Dr. Holland's newest book is titled Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You’re Taking, the Sleep You’re Missing, the Sex You’re Not Having and What’s Really Making You Crazy.

Hulu's original movie "Palm Springs" is the comedy we needed this summer

Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.

Gear
  • Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
  • As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
  • The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
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Our ‘little brain’ turns out to be pretty big

The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.

Image source: Sereno, et al
Mind & Brain
  • A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
  • The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
  • This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.

Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

A neural crêpe

A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit"

What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
  • It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
  • The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
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Two MIT students just solved Richard Feynman’s famed physics puzzle

Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.

Surprising Science

Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.

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Unhappy at work? How to find meaning and maintain your mental health

Finding a balance between job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle is not easy.

Videos
  • When most of your life is spent doing one thing, it matters if that thing is unfulfilling or if it makes you unhappy. According to research, most people are not thrilled with their jobs. However, there are ways to find purpose in your work and to reduce the negative impact that the daily grind has on your mental health.
  • "The evidence is that about 70 percent of people are not engaged in what they do all day long, and about 18 percent of people are repulsed," London Business School professor Dan Cable says, calling the current state of work unhappiness an epidemic. In this video, he and other big thinkers consider what it means to find meaning in your work, discuss the parts of the brain that fuel creativity, and share strategies for reassessing your relationship to your job.
  • Author James Citrin offers a career triangle model that sees work as a balance of three forces: job satisfaction, money, and lifestyle. While it is possible to have all three, Citrin says that they are not always possible at the same time, especially not early on in your career.
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