5 Ways to Fight the Blues…with Science!

So you’re stuck in that mid-week slump…the weekend lies on the other side of a scorching desert of work, and you have no canteen because you gave up water for Lent (in this metaphor, “water” refers to alcohol…just to be clear). But fear not! Neuroscience knows how to cheer you up! Nope, this isn’t another post about sex or drugs…though those are coming soon. This one’s about five things science says you can do right now – with your mind – to chase your cranky mood away. 1.Take a look around Research shows that people who focus on the world around … Continue reading 5 Ways to Fight the Blues…with Science!

Stress Intervention

Scientists have discovered a way to shut down the brain’s “stress process” before it gets going, says a new study. By blocking the brain’s ability to manufacture certain chemicals called neurosteroids, researchers have managed to temporarily cut off a biological process crucial for stressful behavior – and for many stressful feelings as well. Animals from amphibians all the way up to humans produce a hormone called corticosterone in their adrenal glands. Corticosterone levels become elevated under stress, and this hormone is a major ingredient in a number of stress-related biological processes, from feelings of nervousness to aggressive behavior. Corticosterone does most of its … Continue reading Stress Intervention

Stress and Balance

Our responses to threatening situations depend on two fear-regulation circuits, a recent study shows. A well-balanced sense of fear is crucial to our survival: too much, and we’d descend into panic attacks every time we were startled. Too little, and we might not react when survival is crucial. As it turns out, this balance is maintained by two opposing brain circuits, both involving corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and its type 1 receptor (CRHR1). The body releases CRH in response to stressful stimuli. This substance creates some pretty interesting effects in different parts of the brain – in areas like the forebrain, hippocampus, and thalamus, it … Continue reading Stress and Balance

Working Off Worry

Want to get rid of gloomy thoughts? Try working some physical activity into your daily routine, says a new study. For people who struggle with depression and anxiety, the research shows, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant medication. It often prevents symptoms from getting worse – and in some cases, it even helps cure the problem. Doctors have known for decades that a little physical activity can help distract you from your worries, boost positive feelings, and even relieve anxiety and depression. But in recent years, research has shown that exercise’s hidden effects reach much deeper: it tells your body to produce endorphins – natural chemicals that act … Continue reading Working Off Worry

Facing Fear

New neuroscientific studies are shedding light on the allure of dark forests and eerie old houses…and cliff diving. In psychology, this drive to explore the unusual is one manifestation of the behavior pattern known as “sensation-seeking” – the tendency to pursue intense, novel experiences out of curiosity, or just for the sheer joy of excitement. Though the behavior of sensation-seekers has been thoroughly studied, the exact reasons for that behavior – and the neuroscience behind those reasons – are only now beginning to be unraveled. As a report in the journal Psychological Science explains, the brains of people who seek out thrills and mysteries actually behave differently … Continue reading Facing Fear