REPOST: The Dark Side of the Flexible Workplace

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What can too much work do to you? Read about the impending consequences of flexible workplace and time from this article:

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While a flexible workplace seems attractive on the surface, many people are now learning that virtual worksites often tip the work-life balance — toward working more, not less.

New research suggests it’s not unusual for firms to cash in, profiting from our “free” time and non-professional aptitudes.

In a new article, Peter Fleming, Ph.D., City University, London, weighs the evidence for this shift in work culture.

His paper is published in the current issue of the journal Human Relations.

Fleming discusses how in the last century, it was very clear where work stopped and play started – managers at offices and factories encouraged a formal environment.

Personal lives were left at the door as employees clocked in. Today, jobs increasingly allow us to work flexible hours, yet we are expected to be responsive around the clock.

Dubbed Liberation Management, the latest trend encourages us all to “be ourselves” at work, dropping the formal, professional attitudes of the past.

And workers looking for ideas or opinions free of charge can crowdsource them from the Internet.

Examining the dark side to today’s apparent freedom and autonomy for workers, Fleming uses a concept known as “biopower” developed by French scholar, historian, and social theorist Michel Foucault, an expert in the workings of discipline and control.

The “bio” in biopower stands for bios or “life itself.” Foucault said that there is actually more control in modern, neo-liberal societies than in old-fashioned hierarchies.

Not just ruled by the traditional power structures of bureaucracy, the state and technology, the other parts of our lives — private interests, social skills and personal abilities – are also up for grabs.

As long as a project deadline is met, firms don’t care when, how and where the work is done — be it in your underwear in the middle of the night or in a cafe on Monday morning, Fleming says.

A key element of biopower is that it operates on and harnesses all elements of our lives, regulating, monitoring and monetizing everything we are and do — and we are seldom aware of it.

Today, as “biocracy” takes the place of bureaucracy, managers often rely on aspects of life that were previously inappropriate at work. Differences and individuality are welcomed.

This is a ‘lifestyle approach’ to management, where companies hope to get a better performance from employees by encouraging their everyday selves on the job.

Largely seen in Western economies, this trend is linked to a decline in jobs focused on concrete or industrial tasks. Life skills, communication and organization skills, and emotional intelligence are now key.

If the onset of flu is coupled with relief that you can finally take a day for yourself, and you feel that your work is your life, blame biocracy.

The recent death of a young banking intern, Moritz Erhadt, following three days of nonstop work is perhaps an extreme example of what biocracy can do to us: When work and life become blended to such an extent, even rest and sleep are considered a “waste of time.”

“The Birth of Biopolitics lectures are astoundingly prescient in the way they concentrate on the then nascent neoliberal project as a sign of things to come,” said Fleming.

“Our jobs are no longer defined as something we do among other things, but what we are… Ominously, we are now permanently poised for work.”

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To read more interesting articles on mental health, visit this Dr. Gary Zomalt blog site.

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Stress relievers for working moms

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Stress is on the rise for women. This is especially true for working moms who juggle family, work, and everything in between.

Image Source: todaysparent.com

Image Source: todaysparent.com

A recent survey shows that women are more likely to experience physical and emotional symptoms of stress than men do, such as headache, indigestion, and emotional instability. Another study published in the Journal of Family Psychology adds that working moms tend to be more stressed on weekday mornings than weekends due to higher levels of cortisol, which refers to the stress hormones of women.

As a guide, here are some things working moms can do to de-stress:

Planning and organizing ahead of time. Doing things in advance makes tasks easy for working moms, especially in the mornings, when it is usually hectic.

Image Source: livestrong.com

Image Source: livestrong.com

Starting and ending the day in peace. Mothers need time to chill out. They should set aside a few minutes of the day in a quiet place to meditate. Lighting energizing scented candles in the morning and at night also helps.

Working (or walking) out. A good walk or exercise is a proven stress reliever and mood booster. Although most moms are too busy to allot time for this, it helps to simply stretch one’s muscles and joints at any time possible.

Recovering on weekends. Having an alone time or spending time with friends even just for an hour or two is enough to lift up a mother’s spirit. After all, every mother needs a time of recovery.

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Image Source: dangerouslee.biz

Dr. Gary Zomalt is a psychotherapist with years of experience in the healthcare industry. Find more insights on stress and mental health through this blog.

REPOST: A Slow, Loving, ‘Affective’ Touch May Be Key to a Healthy Sense of Self

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How can touch affect a person’s healthy sense of self? Discover the answer from this Science Daily article.

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A loving touch, characterized by a slow caress or stroke — often an instinctive gesture from a mother to a child or between partners in romantic relationships — may increase the brain’s ability to construct a sense of body ownership and, in turn, play a part in creating and sustaining a healthy sense of self.

These findings come from a new study published online in Frontiers of Psychology, led by Neuropsychoanalysis Centre Director Dr. Aikaterini (Katerina) Fotopoulou, University College London, and NPSA grantee Dr. Paul Mark Jenkinson of the Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire in the UK.

The study, of 52 healthy adults, used a common experimental technique known as the rubber hand illusion, in which participants’ brains are tricked into believing that a strategically placed rubber hand is their own. As they watch the rubber hand being stroked in synchrony with their own, they begin to think that the fake hand belongs to them. This technique demonstrates the changeable nature of the brain’s perception of the body.

Affective touch, characterised by slow speed tactile stimulation of the skin (between 1 and 10cm per second) has been previously correlated with pleasant emotion and has also been seen to improve symptoms of anxiety and other emotional symptoms in certain groups of adults and infants. Dr. Fotopoulou’s team wanted to test whether affective touch would affect the brain’s understanding of the body and body ownership.

The team adapted the ‘rubber hand’ technique to incorporate four different types of touch, including a synchronized and asynchronized, slow, affective touch and a faster neutral touch, again in synchronous and asynchronous patterns. Participants were also asked to complete a standardized ’embodiment’ questionnaire, to measure their subjective experience during the experiment.

The results confirmed previous findings that slow, light touch is perceived as being more pleasant than fast touch. More importantly, the study demonstrated that slow tactile stimulation made participants more likely to believe that the rubber hand was their own, compared with the faster neutral touch.

The perception of affective touch in the brain is one of a number of interoceptive signals that help us monitor homeostasis. This study provides new evidence to support the existing idea that interoceptive signals, such as affective touch, play an important role in how the brain learns to construct a mental picture and an understanding of the body, which ultimately helps to create a coherent sense of self.

Decreased sensitivity to and awareness of interoceptive signals, such as affective touch, have been linked to body image problems, unexplained pain, anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

“As affective touch is typically received from a loved one, these findings further highlight how close relationships involve behaviors that may play a crucial role in the construction of a sense of self,” said Laura Crucianelli, the researcher who carried out the study.

“The next step for our team,” concluded Dr. Katerina Fotopoulou, “is to examine whether being deprived of social signals, such as affective touch from a parent during early development, may also lead to abnormalities in the formation of a healthy body image and a healthy sense of self, for example in patients with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.”

Boosting interoceptive awareness and an individual’s sense of body ownership could be key to developing future treatments for some of these conditions, and the sensation of ‘affective touch’ could play an important role.

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Live life with the best version of yourself. For more tips on how to improve your mental health, follow this Gary Zomalt Twitter account.

Talking it out: How talk therapies ease depression

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If you are one of thousands suffering from depression, then you would understand how the condition can be crippling. It is, therefore, consequential to find the right treatment for you that could spell the difference between life and death. Fortunately, there are several treatment options. This includes talk therapy.

 

Image Source: mentalhealthnews.org

 

This article from WebMD reveals a study showing that different types of psychoanalysis for major depressions are effective.

“This study is reassuring, because it shows all of these therapies can work,” said Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting chair of psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “I’d encourage people to get educated about the different types of therapy that are out there,” he added.

 

Image Source: nationalpost.com

 

Talking through your feelings provides many benefits to you and your state-of-mind. With a well-trained professional, talk therapy can make way for the discernment of your mental state and behavioral problems. It is an effective means for you to know that you’re not alone in facing that crisis you so badly need to get rid of.

 

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Dr. Gary Zomalt has helped numerous clients fight various mental illness, including depression. Access more information on psychiatric health by visiting this Facebook page.

REPOST: Addressing Behavioral Issues in the Person With Dementia

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How can we prevent the behavioral outbursts of a person with dementia? This Crisis Prevention.com article tackles the issue.

In the home health arena, we occasionally receive referrals for patients who have been hospitalized due to behavioral outbursts related to the dementia process. Often the client returns home with a prescription for needed medications to address an underlying anxiety or depression. However, if the client returns home to face the same frustrations that were present prior to the hospitalization, behavioral issues may continue. Ideally, medication management should be coupled with caregiver education. The families have the desire and commitment to keep their loved one at home, but they lack the skills required to provide the necessary interventions and environmental changes needed to prevent the behavioral outbursts.

In many cases, the caregivers, with the best of attentions, have taken over all of the steps of routine or valued tasks for the client. When the caregivers provide total care, they unwittingly remove the client’s sense of independence or accomplishment. We call this excess disability. The caregivers have imposed excess disability on their loved one. Invariably this lack of a sense of productivity or accomplishment results in behavioral outbursts or symptoms of depression. The person may not be able to verbalize his/her frustration, so the client expresses this frustration behaviorally.

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Image Source: crisisprevention.com

(Music please). This is the perfect scenario for a team of home care professionals, educated in care for the person with dementia, to make a difference in the lives of the person with dementia and his/her loved ones. Remember it is Medicare reimbursable for occupational therapists to treat behavior problems, if these problems result in a decline in function and/or safety.

As always, to receive reimbursement, the documentation must reflect the status of the person’s performance in the home prior to the home health intervention and the improved status upon the discharge. This must begin with an accurate scoring of the initial OASIS.

Remember (source: OASIS in Detail A Clinician’s Pocket Guide, published by Briggs Corporation, 10/03)
All (OASIS) items refer to the patient’s usual status or condition at the time period or visit under consideration.
The response should be selected that describes the patient’s status most of the time during the specific day under consideration.
In many instances a combined observation-interview approach is necessary. For example, by speaking with the patient or informal caregiver while conducting the assessment, the provider can determine whether the observed ability to ambulate is typical or atypical at that time.
We know, as dementia capable care providers that we might be able to facilitate a higher ability to perform an ADL task just by providing the appropriate approach or modifying the environment, on the initial visit. However, this is not the usual status of the patient. Often the patient is displaying resistance to functional tasks with the consistent caregiver. To accurately assess the client in these areas, the professional should observe the caregiver assisting the client in a typical manner. Or, the assessment may be completed by interviewing the caregiver.

There is a five-day window from initial evaluation or start of care, until these OASIS scores are “locked.” During that time it is essential that all disciplines have input into the scores. After completing the initial therapy assessment, the therapist should review the scores with the initial assessor or home care coordinator to insure agreement and accuracy. The scores should reflect the excess disability present; the goals should reflect the prediction that removal of the excess disability will result in a decrease of behavioral outbursts and improvement in the client’s ability to assist with basic and/or valued tasks.

Treatment should consist of further discovery of the client’s abilities and valued activities, environmental adaptations as needed, and the training of the caregivers in the amount and type of cues the client requires completing tasks or engaging in activity.

Case Study

For example, I worked with a client who attended day care five days a week. He was cooperative in the day care environment, but had become more and more combative with his wife in the home and was very resistant to bathing and dressing, attempting to strike out at his wife. Upon initial evaluation, I found he was performing at Allen Cognitive Level High 3. At the time of evaluation, the wife told me that she provided total care for all ADLs and that he demanded her consistent attention throughout the evening and weekends. The caregiver expressed significant frustration and exhaustion; however, she stated that she did not want to place her husband in a facility.

On the OASIS items for dressing and bathing he scored a 3, indicating total dependence. However, his Allen Cognitive Level score indicated the cognitive ability to perform these tasks with setup and consistent cueing for accuracy and quality.

His wife was grateful to learn that he could assist with basic tasks, and began using the cueing needed to help the client to help himself.

During the treatment sessions, I also discovered that he had enjoyed working with puzzles as a leisure activity. I brought a small box of Legos (the box stated it was for ages 9 to 99). He initially sat with those Legos for 45 minutes, sorting the objects by color and putting a few pieces together. His wife found she could use this activity with him every evening; he would feel productive and it gave her time to do things she needed to complete.

Upon discharge, the scores for bathing and dressing improved from a score of 3 to a score of 2; the score for frequency of behavior problems changed from 5 (at least daily) to 3 (several times each month). In addition, the caregiver expressed feeling less frustrated and more able to enjoy her time with her husband.

With these clients, the services of a social worker are essential to help discover any other community resources and support groups that may be available for the client and caregivers.

There appears to be a significant need for dementia capable care healthcare professionals to assist the caregivers in their desire to keep their loved one in the home as long as possible. Managing behavioral issues is reimbursable in home care. More importantly, home care intervention can reduce the caregiver burden and improve the quality of life of the person with dementia and his/her caregiver.

Visit this Gary Zomalt Facebook page to get more updates on mental health issues.

REPOST: “Psychiatry’s revamped DSM guidebook fuels debate”

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For over 20 years, mental health professionals used DSM-IV as a definitive go-to reference for use in their respective practices.  Through the years, there has been a clamor for a revision and update, and many have been stoked when the American Psychiatric Association announced that they will be releasing an update this year. Unfortunately, DSM-V has been met with mixed reactions. Learn more about the changes that’s been shaking up the psychiatric world by reading this Washington Post article:

For ADHD, the definition is being broadened, meaning the disorder could be diagnosed in more children. In the case of autism, the opposite is true.

The new criteria are among the changes that will be released with the publication this weekend of the long-awaited guidebook that psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians use to diagnose mental disorders. It’s the first major update in nearly 20 years. The 947-page tome by the American Psychiatric Association adds some new disorders, broadens criteria for existing ones and tightens them for other illnesses.

This undated image shows the cover of the revised American Psychiatric Association’s guidebook of mental disorders being released in May 2013. Image credit: Washington Post

The highly controversial decisions involved in producing the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5, have a potentially broad impact: They can affect which services children receive in schools, what treatments patients receive from doctors and even how people are viewed by society.

Experts involved in the guidebook say the changes will give clinicians greater precision in diagnoses and treatments. Critics counter that the new language will make it too easy to turn the stresses of ordinary life into mental illnesses, resulting in some people getting too much treatment.

For the first time, for example, someone who experiences severe grief after the death of a loved one — including extreme sadness, decreased appetite, fatigue and the inability to sleep — could receive a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. A patient whose mental decline is mild, but seems more serious than normal, could receive a diagnosis of mild neurocognitive disorder, which is new to the DSM-5.

Also new: Someone who repeatedly overeats could get a diagnosis of binge-eating disorder. A person who allows possessions to fill up the home could have hoarding disorder. The manual also spotlights conditions, such as Internet gaming disorder, that merit further research before being included as official diagnoses.

Impact on services

The handbook plays a big role in American society. It determines which diagnostic codes medical professionals use for specific patients and can affect whether health insurance pays for treatment. The DSM’s wording also can dictate which social services people are entitled to.

Long before the DSM-5’s official release, scheduled for Saturday at the psychiatric association’s annual meeting in San Francisco, the publication drew intense fire.

Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, the largest mental health research organization in the world, set off a furor when he said the manual lacked validity. He said the NIMH would shift its research away from the DSM categories — and their symptom-based criteria. Instead, new research would focus more on areas such as the biology of brain circuits and the behavior they produce, as well as emerging clinical data.

“While DSM has been described as a ‘Bible’ for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each,” he wrote in a blog post.

For example, in major depression, one symptom is anhedonia, the loss of pleasure in things someone used to enjoy. But that loss also can refer to someone’s “willingness to go get things you like,” and those are two different brain circuits, said Bruce Cuthbert, coordinator of the NIMH’s new research project.

So even if people have the same symptom of depression and receive the same diagnosis, what they really suffer from may be different. Treatment doesn’t work for everybody, he said.

Defending the guidebook

David Kupfer, the chairman of the task force that oversaw the development of the revised guidebook, said the 31 members of the group spent enormous amounts of time reviewing clinical and research data collected over the past 20 years and weighing every potential change.

He rejected criticism that the changes would increase the number of people who receive diagnoses of mental disorders, saying the number of disorders is essentially the same. Some new ones were added because research and public health data indicate they are “ready for prime time,” he said in an interview.

“When all is said and done, we’re not concerned that we’ve created many new disorders . . . or that we’re going to add to the number of people who will be diagnosed with mental illness,” Kupfer said. But he added that clinicians must stick to the precise criteria in the manual in making diagnoses.

He also said that experts working on the updated publication sought to pay more attention to early signs of the country’s most serious public health problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the fifth-leading cause of death among people 65 and older.

One of the new disorders included in the manual is mild neurocognitive disorder, which could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s, Kupfer said. The diagnosis might be applied to someone with increased forgetfulness and difficulty with day-to-day activities, such as paying bills and managing medications.

“I don’t think we are talking about people who are not finding their keys,” Kupfer said. “You would be talking about memory changes that could be quite significant.”

That doesn’t mollify critics such as Allen Frances, who chaired the task force that produced the DSM-4 and wrote a book assailing the DSM-5 as opening the door to designating normal behavior as a disorder.

“Old folks like me who are forgetful could be classified as having mild neurocognitive disorder,” he said.

In the case of ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the new criteria allow children to receive the diagnosis if they show signs of the disorder before age 12 — instead of the previous age of 7.

“That is expanding the definition of ADHD. Now they’re saying you have many further years to demonstrate these symptoms,” said Avram H. Mack, president of the Washington Psychiatric Society and a psychiatry professor at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine who evaluates children for developmental disorders.

By contrast, several previously distinct autism-related disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome, were consolidated into one diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.

But what is unknown is at what point on that continuum the payor or school system will recognize it as a clinically significant condition,” Mack said. “We don’t know how schools will react to that.”

In addition, the changes in the criteria also mean that many children whose “autistic-ness” included mostly problems with communication without the presence of repetitive behaviors may be reevaluated and perhaps receive a diagnosis of a communication disorder instead of an autism spectrum disorder, he said.

Some of those children probably would benefit from early intensive behavioral intervention, but it’s unclear whether clinicians will make that recommendation, said Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer of Autism Speaks, an advocacy group.

Read more updates on the field of psychiatry by following this Dr. Gary Zomalt Facebook page.

The trouble with depressive thoughts

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Image Source: http://www.abc.net.au

Image Source: abc.net.au

Depressive thinking can make life especially hard for just about anyone. Functioning normally can be difficult when there are various negative thoughts about any situation lingering in one’s head, and it’s hard to see that any endeavor could turn out for the better. Individuals can also feel ill-equipped to deal with the challenges in their way and may miss out on many opportunities.

To make matters worse, it turns out that some types of depressive thinking can spread among people living closely together. Researchers led by Gerald Haeffel, associate professor of clinical psychology at Notre Dame University, observed a group of college students who were randomly assigned to roommates.

Image Source: healthcollege.edu

Image Source: healthcollege.edu

The students may be under a considerable amount of stress given that they’re undergoing a lot of changes in their life at that moment, which includes the stress of living with a total stranger who may also have a different thinking style than their own.

The researchers previously identified two types of thinking that were associated with depression. One involved rumination while the other style involved a feeling of hopelessness.

Image Source: gossipy.co

Image Source: gossipy.co

Through the study, the researchers found that rumination could be contagious among roommates. Living with someone who focuses on negative thoughts could also make a person focus more on undesirable elements in their lives.

This finding may change how people view depression as many believe that it is only caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is apparently more to the disorder than what is immediately visible, and the social aspect is also highly important in causing and prolonging the illness.

On the bright side, however, the study also found that it is possible to spread positive thinking. The findings of the study could also help guide therapists in finding solutions that target the problem at its underlying cause, resulting to better outcomes.

Image Source: buddha.com

Image Source: buddha.comz

Dr. Gary Zomalt is the strategic consultant and owner of 3R Counseling & Consulting, a firm that offers psychotherapy services to treat problems like addiction and depression. This Twitter page links to more online articles highlighting studies on depression.

REPOST: How seeing changes your brain

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This Forbes.com article shares how a person’s vision affects emotions as the images captured by eyes get processed by the brain.

Image Source: forbes.com

Image Source: forbes.com

Your eyes aren’t just advanced visual systems capturing images of what’s around you. New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that when our eyes perceive visual stimuli, it gets encoded in our brains in ways that change our emotional reactions.

Co-authors Keil and Vladimir Miskovic, Ph.D., both members of the University of Florida Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention, examined the effect of competing danger and safety cues within the visual cortex. They found that even people who don’t have anxiety disorders respond visually at the sight of something scary while ignoring signs that indicate safety. This contradicts a common belief that only people with anxiety disorders have difficulty processing comforting visual stimuli, or “safety cues.”

The study results could help distinguish between normal and abnormal processes within the visual cortex and identify what parts of the brain are targets for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Check out the video below for more on this important research:


Video Source: youtube.com

Dr. Gary Zomalt has helped patients achieve optimal mental health. Take time to visit this website for more information on psychiatric help.

REPOST: Brain map seeks to unlock mysteries of the mind

This CNN.com article talks about the “brain activity map,” a new research proposal that aims to study human brain in immense detail.

Image Source: edition.cnn.com

Image Source: edition.cnn.com

(CNN) — You have a brain with billions of neurons. You have thoughts, and you do things because of those thoughts. But how do tiny cells translate into thoughts and actions?

The Brain Activity Map initiative is seeking answers to that question. As described in a proposal published online Thursday in the journal Science Express, a group of prominent researchers is proposing a large-scale effort to create new tools to map the human brain in unprecedented detail. This could lead to treatments for brain disorders such as epilepsy, autism, dementia, depression and schizophrenia, as well as ways to restore movement in paralyzed patients.

“We don’t actually understand (how circuits of neurons) generate all these interesting behaviors we have, like speech and language and thoughts and memory,” said John Donoghue of Brown University’s department of neuroscience.

“What we’re hoping is that as the tools develop — and they will continue to develop — we have additional insights that will lead to better medical devices.”

Donoghue and his colleagues are eagerly waiting to see if the federal government will approve new money to pump into the project; the recent spending cuts known as the sequester could affect that prospect. But the scientists’ proposal states that the project should be “funded by a partnership between federal and private organizations,” and they’re already beginning to ramp up their collective efforts, according to George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, who is one of the key minds behind the project.

There are already indications of federal interest. President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address in February, said, “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas,” and alluded to scientists “mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s.” Along with talking about drug development and materials science, Obama stated, “Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation.”

Fixing and manipulating the brain

A big goal of the initiative is to create ways of stimulating neurons that are less invasive than what’s currently available, said Church.

There is already research being done on brain implants. Parkinson’s disease, for example, is being treated with deep brain stimulators, electrical devices in the brain that restimulate specific circuits of neurons that have become faulty.

Donoghue is working on a project called BrainGate2, where scientists are developing technologies to reconnect the brain to the body in patients with paralysis. Researchers implant a small sensor — about the size of a baby aspirin — in the motor area of the brain. The sensor picks up a person’s thoughts about moving, and transforms brain signals into movement signals.

Through this technology, researchers have demonstrated that patients can move a computer cursor by thinking and manipulate a robotic arm as if it were their own.

A next step will be to connect to the person’s own arm or — if a person has an amputated limb — to a prosthetic limb that they could control with thoughts.

So far, the movements of the robotic arm don’t seem as natural, coordinated or quick as a real arm. That’s because scientists do not yet understand the precise brain processes involved. The Brain Activity Map project could help, for instance, look at the neural connections involved in brushing teeth.

“If we truly understand the code of how the brain does that, we could reproduce it,” Donoghue said.

Further into the future, if scientists better understand the neural bases of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, it could be possible to also develop treatments by targeting groups of neurons with electrical impulses.

“If you understood how thinking emerges from the interaction of many neurons, then you would have ideas about what a disordered thought would look like,” Donoghue said.

Another set of tools in the project that looks promising is called optogenetics. Ed Boyden of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is well-known for this technique. It involves using proteins that are sensitive to light, derived from other organisms such as algae, and putting them into neurons.

Researchers can then use optic fibers to manipulate those neurons. High-density optical fiber arrays would offer more, and thinner, probes for neuronal exploration than bulky electrodes.

“About a thousand groups are using these right now to study the brain because it lets you turn on one cell, or one kind of cell, and figure out what it does,” Boyden said. “Although we don’t have a complete list of the parts of the brain, we know that some cells are different than others, and people can turn on and off those cells to figure out how they work.”

From worms to humans to cars

The intention of the Brain Activity Map project is to study the human brain, but there is also a lot of work going on in animal models, as they allow opportunities for testing devices before they are deemed safe for human trials. Worms, flies and leeches are good invertebrate candidates, and zebra fish, mice and rats provide another level of depth.

“Within 5 years, it should be possible to monitor and/or to control tens of thousands of neurons, and by year 10 that number will increase at least 10-fold,” Donoghue and colleagues wrote in the Science article. “By year 15, observing 1 million neurons with markedly reduced invasiveness should be possible.”

Donoghue anticipates that there will be insights that come out of the Brain Activity Map project that go beyond the human brain. After all, as a result of the space program, we have GPS. We have the Web because a primitive version of it was developed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research so that particle physicists could communicate better.

In the case of this project, next-generation sensors that work in the brain could also be used to make cars smarter, Donoghue said. For instance, a car could automatically slow down if a soccer ball is detected in the road, anticipating that a child may dart out next.

About that money…

Researchers compare the economic benefits of brain mapping to the Human Genome Project, which generated $800 billion in economic impact as a result of a $3.8 billion investment, according to the Science Express article.

The genome project, for which Church was a key leader, was another one of the “best ideas” Obama mentioned in his State of the Union. The Human Genome Project started out in 1990 with $30 million in funding a year, and was ramped up to $300 million a year, Church said.

But Church and his colleagues involved in the brain project have a vision that is akin to what happened after that project ended in 2003. Between 2004 and 2011, Church said, there was a “million-fold” reduction in the cost of genome sequencing, and it’s still happening.

“Every person who does molecular biology now is a million times more effective because of the cost drop that came after the genome project was over,” he said.

Cost reduction of brain mapping is also a big aim of the Brain Activity Map project. As technology gets better, it will also get cheaper, Church said.

“Rather than have some monolithic juggernaut goal, where we’re compulsively going to get this neuron and this neuron and this neuron, I think it’s more, we want to enable all the creativity, and maybe even jostle the creativity a little bit, because people can dream different dreams,” he said.

Gary Zomalt serves as an instrument in the development of communities all over California. More articles about counseling and consulting can be found by visiting this site.

REPOST:A New Focus on the ‘Post’ in Post-Traumatic Stress

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This New York Times article sheds light on the new studies about post-traumatic stress.

Psychological trauma dims tens of millions of lives around the world and helps create costs of at least $42 billion a year in the United States alone. But what is trauma, exactly?

Both culturally and medically, we have long seen it as arising from a single, identifiable disruption. You witness a shattering event, or fall victim to it — and as the poet Walter de la Mare put it, “the human brain works slowly: first the blow, hours afterward the bruise.” The world returns more or less to normal, but you do not.

In 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defined trauma as “a recognizable stressor that would evoke significant symptoms of distress in almost everyone” — universally toxic, like a poison.

But it turns out that most trauma victims — even survivors of combat, torture or concentration camps — rebound to live full, normal lives. That has given rise to a more nuanced view of trauma — less a poison than an infectious agent, a challenge that most people overcome but that may defeat those weakened by past traumas, genetics or other factors.

Now, a significant body of work suggests that even this view is too narrow — that the environment just after the event, particularly other people’s responses, may be just as crucial as the event itself.

Image Source: Tumblr.com

Image Source: Tumblr.com

The idea was demonstrated vividly in two presentations this fall at the Interdisciplinary Conference on Culture, Mind and Brain at the University of California, Los Angeles. Each described reframing a classic model of traumatic experience — one in lab rats, the other in child soldiers.

In the first case, Paul Plotsky, a neurobiologist at Emory University, described what happened when he tweaked one of the most widely used models of how maternal separation affects young rats.

The model was created in the early 1990s by Dr. Plotsky himself to bring consistency to the way maternal separation is studied. Earlier experiments kept mother and pups apart anywhere from 1 to 24 hours; Dr. Plotsky reset those periods to 15 minutes (the amount of time rat mothers in the wild routinely leave their litters to get food) and 180 minutes (a traumatic separation, he says, because in the wild it would mean that “the mother became a meal or roadkill”).

After a 15-minute separation, a mother would typically sniff and lick each pup, then gather and feed them, all the while conversing with them in gentle, ultrasonic warbles. After a 180-minute separation, however, most mothers would dash about emitting panicky squeaks, often stomping on the pups or ignoring them. The pups too would squeak loudly. And for the rest of their lives, they had outsize physiological and behavioral reactions to stress and challenge.

This “15/180” model quickly became a standard, generating scores of studies showing that long separations created anxious rodents with permanent changes in stress-hormone activity, brain structure and many other measures. These findings became foundational to our view of trauma and its effects.

Image Source: Muromachi.com

Image Source: Muromachi.com

Then about five years ago, Dr. Plotsky was thinking about the mother’s post-separation panic when, he said, “it hit me: maybe she views her environment as unsafe” because she and her pups are back in the same cage as the one they were taken from.

So he upgraded the simple cage to a complex one: a maze devised to test rats’ navigational skills. The separated rat family now reunited not in the kidnapping site but in the antechamber of an eight-room condo.

Now, even after 180-minute separations, things went fine. The mother would sniff the pups, check out a couple of rooms, then move everybody to one of them and coddle and nurse the pups much as she would after a 15-minute absence. Even if Dr. Plotsky separated the family again the next day (or even eight days in a row), she would do the same thing, usually choosing a new room.

But maybe the pups still suffered? Actually, no. Few showed any signs of trauma, either immediate or lasting. A separation that had been considered permanently scarring proved routine simply because the mother, having a more varied, secure environment in which to receive her pups, felt calmer and more in control, and she passed that on to the pups. Trauma seemed now to rise not from the separation alone but from the flavor of the reunion.

But that is rats in a lab. Does the same hold true for humans?

Image Source: InvisibleChildren.com

Image Source: InvisibleChildren.com

A study of former child soldiers in Nepal suggests that it may. Since 2006, Dr. Brandon Kohrt, a psychiatrist and medical anthropologist at George Washington University, has followed the fates of Nepalese children who returned to their villages after serving with the Maoist rebels during their country’s 1996-2006 civil war.

All 141 in the study, 5 to 14 years old when they joined the rebels, experienced violence and other events considered traumatic, aside from their separation from family. Yet their postwar mental health depended not on their exposure to war but on how their families and villages received them.

In villages where the children were stigmatized or ostracized, they suffered high, persistent levels of post-traumatic stress disorder. But in villages that readily and happily reintegrated them (usually via rituals or conventions specifically designed to do so), they experienced no more mental distress than did peers who had never gone to war. The lasting harm of being a child soldier, it seemed, arose not from the war but from social isolation and conflict afterward.

This finding is echoed in studies of American soldiers returning home: PTSD runs higher among veterans who cannot reconnect with supportive people and new opportunities.

So is the traumatic event more than just the event itself — the event plus some crucial aspect of social environment that has the potential to either dull or amplify its effects?

Image Source: TheFix.com

Image Source: TheFix.com

Some scientists doubt that any such redefinition is in order. Carol Ryff, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin who does research on resilience, says the new findings did not redefine trauma; they merely confirmed that “certain conditions maximize the likelihood of alleviating trauma.”

But others, like the neuroscientist and writer Sandra Aamodt, co-author of “Welcome to Your Brain” and “Welcome to Your Child’s Brain,” say the studies suggest that there is no trauma to alleviate until the post-event social environment plays its role.

To Dr. Plotsky, this new view strengthens the argument for social interventions that have been shown to ease the effects of traumatic experiences — especially preschool programs for children at risk of trauma, and training for their parents.

We can’t undo bad things that happen. But maybe we can reshape the environment that exists in their wake. As Dr. Aamodt puts it, that approach “has the significant advantage of being possible.”

Dr. Gary Zomalt is a well-seasoned psychotherapist with years of experience in behavioral psychology. This Facebook page provides more information about him.