Understanding Bipolar disorder

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Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior–from the highs of mania on one extreme, to the lows of depression on the other. More than just a fleeting good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike ordinary mood swings, the mood changes of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.

There are four types of mood episodes in bipolar disorder: mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes.

Common signs and symptoms of mania:

·         Feeling unusually “high” and optimistic OR extremely irritable

·         Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs about one’s abilities or powers

·         Sleeping very little, but feeling extremely energetic

·         Talking so rapidly that others can’t keep up

·         Racing thoughts; jumping quickly from one idea to the next

·         Highly distractible, unable to concentrate

·         Impaired judgment and impulsiveness

·         Acting recklessly without thinking about the consequences

·         Delusions and hallucinations (in severe cases)

Common signs and symptoms of hypomania

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. People in a hypomanic state feel euphoric, energetic, and productive, but they are able to carry on with their day-to-day lives and they never lose touch with reality. To others, it may seem as if people with hypomania are merely in an unusually good mood. However, hypomania can result in bad decisions that harm relationships, careers, and reputations. In addition, hypomania often escalates to full-blown mania or is followed by a major depressive episode.

Common symptoms of bipolar depression:

·         Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty.

·         Irritability

·         Inability to experience pleasure

·         Fatigue or loss of energy

·         Physical and mental sluggishness

·         Feeling hopeless, sad, or empty.

·         Irritability

·         Inability to experience pleasure

·         Fatigue or loss of energy

·         Physical and mental sluggishness

Common signs and symptoms of a mixed episode

A mixed episode of bipolar disorder features symptoms of both mania or hypomania and depression. For example, depression combined with agitation, irritability, anxiety, insomnia, distractibility, and racing thoughts. This combination of high energy and low mood makes for a particularly high risk of suicide.

Bipolar disorder has no single cause. It appears that certain people are genetically predisposed to bipolar disorder. Yet not everyone with an inherited vulnerability develops the illness, indicating that genes are not the only cause. Some brain imaging studies show physical changes in the brains of people with bipolar disorder. Other research points to neurotransmitter imbalances, abnormal thyroid function, circadian rhythm disturbances, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. External environmental and psychological factors are also believed to be involved in the development of bipolar disorder.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bipolar_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm

wildcat2030:

The left-brain right-brain myth will probably never die because it has become a powerful metaphor for different ways of thinking – logical, focused and analytic versus broad-minded and creative. Take the example of Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks talking on BBC Radio 4 earlier this year. “What made Europe happen and made it so creative,” he explained, “is that Christianity was a right-brain religion … translated into a left-brain language [Greek]. So for many centuries you had this view that science and religion are essentially part of the same thing.” As well as having metaphorical appeal, the seductive idea of the right brain and its untapped creative potential also has a long history of being targeted by self-help gurus peddling pseudo-psychology. Today the same idea is also picked up by the makers of self-improvement video games and apps. The latest version of the The Faces iMake-Right Brain Creativity app for the Ipad, for example, boasts that it is “an extraordinary tool for developing right brain creative capabilities”.

Probing the roots of depression by tracking serotonin regulation at a new level

neurosciencestuff:

June 28, 2012

In a process akin to belling an infinitesimal cat, scientists have managed to tag a protein that regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin with tiny fluorescent beads, allowing them to track the movements of single molecules for the first time.

This is a microphotograph of neurons with their serotonin transporter protein labeled with red quantum dots. Credit: Jerry Chang, Vanderbilt University

The capability, which took nearly a decade to achieve, makes it possible to study the dynamics of serotonin regulation at a new level of detail, which is important because of the key role that serotonin plays in the regulation of mood, appetite and sleep.

The achievement was reported by an interdisciplinary team of Vanderbilt scientists in the June 27 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The regulatory protein that the scientists successfully tagged is known as the serotonin transporter. This is a protein that extends through the membrane that forms the nerve’s outer surface and acts like a nano-sized vacuum cleaner that sucks serotonin molecules into the cell body and away from serotonin target receptors on other cells. In this fashion it helps regulate the concentration of serotonin in the area around the cell. Serotonin transporters are an important research subject because they are the target for the most common drugs used to treat depression, including Prozac, Paxil and Lexapro.

“If you are interested in mental health, then serotonin transporters are an ideal subject,” said Sandra Rosenthal, the Jack and Pamela Egan Chair of Chemistry, who directed the study with Randy Blakely, the Allan D. Bass Professor of Pharmacology and Psychiatry.

Problems with serotonin transporter regulation have also been implicated in autism. Two years ago, Blakely and geneticist James Sutcliffe, associate professor of molecular physiology and biophysics, reported the discovery of multiple changes in the serotonin transporter protein that cause the transporter to become “overactive” in subjects with autism. Recently, Blakely and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele reported that mice expressing one of these high-functioning transporters exhibit multiple behavioral changes that resemble changes seen in kids with autism.

The brain’s other key neurotransmitters have their own transporter proteins, so scientists can use the capability to track the motion of individual transporter molecules to determine how they are regulated as well.

Attempts to understand how these transporters work have been limited by the difficulty of studying their dynamic behavior. “In the past, we have been limited to snapshots that show the location of transporter molecules at a specific time,” said chemistry graduate student Jerry Chang, who developed the tagging technique. “Now we can follow their motion on the surface of cells in real time and see how their movements relate to serotonin uptake activity.”

The fluorescent tags that the researchers used are nanoscale beads called quantum dots made from a mixture of cadmium and selenium. These beads are only slightly bigger than the proteins they are tagging: You would have to string 10,000 together to span the width of a human hair.

Quantum dots emit colored light when illuminated and have the useful property that small changes in their size cause them to glow in different colors. Team member Ian D. Tomlinson, assistant research professor of chemistry, developed a special molecular string that attaches to the quantum dot at one end and, on the other end, attaches to a drug derivative that binds exclusively with the serotonin transporter. When a mixture that contains these quantum dots is incubated with cultured nerve cells, the drug attaches to the transporter. As the protein moves around, it drags the quantum dot behind it like a child holding a balloon on a string. When the area is illuminated, the quantum dots show up in a microscope as colored points of light.

“Until now, neurobiologists have had to rely on extremely low resolution approaches where it takes the signals coming from thousands to millions of molecules to be detected,” said Blakely, “We really had no idea exactly what we were going to see.”

Putting their new procedure to use, the researchers looked at extensions of the nerve cell that are involved in secreting serotonin on the presumption that transporters would be localized there as well. From previous research, the investigators suspected that the transporters would be concentrated in cholesterol-rich parts of these extensions, termed rafts, although the level of resolution with standard approaches was inadequate to provide any clues as to what they were doing there.

The quantum dot studies demonstrated that there were two distinct populations of transporters in these areas: Those that can travel freely around the membrane and those that act as if they are unable to move. They found that the immobile transporters were located in the rafts. When they stimulated the cell to increase transporter activity, they were surprised at what happened. “We found that the transporters in the rafts began to move much faster whereas the motion of the other population didn’t change at all,” Rosenthal reported. Since the mobilized transporters do not leave the rafts, they appear to whizz around inside a confined compartment, as if released from chains that normally keep them subdued. These observations suggest it is likely that the two populations are controlled by different regulatory pathways.

“Now that we can watch transporter regulation actually happening, we should be able to figure out the identity of the anchoring proteins and the signals these proteins respond to that permit transporters to switch back and forth between low and high activity levels,” said Blakely.

“Currently, antidepressant drugs must fully shut down the brain’s serotonin transporters to achieve a clinical benefit,” the pharmacologist said. Such a manipulation can produce a number of unpleasant side-effects, such as nausea, weight gain, sexual problems, fatigue and drowsiness.

“By understanding the basic mechanisms that naturally turn serotonin transporter activity up and down, maybe we can develop medications that produce milder side-effects and have even greater efficacy,” he said. “Our sights are also focused on transferring what we have learned with normal serotonin transporters to an understanding of the hyperactive transporters we have found in kids with autism.”

Provided by Vanderbilt University

Source: medicalxpress.com

Ekman’s eight global emotions
Paul Ekman is an American psychologist whose most well known contribution to the field was the discovery of 8 global facial expression. The expressions are:
Anger
Sadness
Happiness
Fear
Disgust
Surprise
Contempt
Embarrassment
Ekman’s work was based upon the work of Silvan Tomkins. Ekman wanted to know whether facial expressions were a product of the environment in which you live (nurture) or if they were an inherent expression of emotion that all human beings could identify with (nature).
It was found that people in the Western world could easily identify the aforementioned facial expressions, but this did not prove that this was not a product of the environment. He built on this research with cross-cultural examination of the Fore tribesman in Papua New Guinea, as these were a people who did not have any exposure to the Western world and could therefore be appropriate test subjects. It was found that these people were able to easily identify all of the facial expressions, therefore supporting Ekman’s idea that the physical expressions of certain emotions are universal to all humans.
Information for this post was taken from the textbook Psychology and Life.

Ekman’s eight global emotions

Paul Ekman is an American psychologist whose most well known contribution to the field was the discovery of 8 global facial expression. The expressions are:

  1. Anger
  2. Sadness
  3. Happiness
  4. Fear
  5. Disgust
  6. Surprise
  7. Contempt
  8. Embarrassment

Ekman’s work was based upon the work of Silvan Tomkins. Ekman wanted to know whether facial expressions were a product of the environment in which you live (nurture) or if they were an inherent expression of emotion that all human beings could identify with (nature).

It was found that people in the Western world could easily identify the aforementioned facial expressions, but this did not prove that this was not a product of the environment. He built on this research with cross-cultural examination of the Fore tribesman in Papua New Guinea, as these were a people who did not have any exposure to the Western world and could therefore be appropriate test subjects. It was found that these people were able to easily identify all of the facial expressions, therefore supporting Ekman’s idea that the physical expressions of certain emotions are universal to all humans.

Information for this post was taken from the textbook Psychology and Life.

The founders of psychology

This post is essentially going to be a bit of a quick psychology 101. You’ve probably heard of Sigmund Freud, and maybe you’ve heard of Ivan Pavlov too (drooling dogs ring any bells? Ba dum tishhhh), but there are plenty of others out there who made staggering contributions to psychology who are just as important as the more widely known names. 

Wilhelm Wundt is a key figure in the history of psychology, and is commonly attributed status as being the father of experimental psychology. In Germany in 1819, Wundt founded the first formal laboratory dedicated to experimental psychology. Eventually, he began to train students who would go on to bring the study of psychology to other countries.

Edward Titchener was one of Wundt’s students. He brought psychology from Europe to the United States, and created the first psychology laboratory there at Cornell University in 1892. Titchener is well known as being the father of the Structuralism, the opposing view to Functionalism, founded by William James

Freud, probably being the most well known psychologist, was the founder of the  psychodynamic perspective in psychology. Although much of Freud’s work is no longer thought to have much real-life application, his work has been hugely influential over psychology’s history, and still is today. Indeed, Freud tends to pop up in most disciplines of psychology, especially developmental psychology.

Pavlov, another well known name in psychology’s history, was a behavioural psychologist, and is well known as the pioneer of classical conditioning. John Watson, however, is attributed with the title of founder of the behaviourist perspective. Similar to Pavlov’s research into conditioning, B. F. Skinner explored another method of conditioning called operant conditioning, based on the research of Edward Thorndike.

Though there are many, many more figures in the history of psychology, the aforementioned psychologists are some of the most influential and important figures in psychology’s history. 

Information for this post was taken from the textbook Psychology and Life.

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The McGurk effect