depression links to how easyily goals are given up


From Economist

Dr Nesse’s hypothesis is that, as pain stops you doing damaging physical things, so low mood stops you doing damaging mental ones—in particular, pursuing unreachable goals. Pursuing such goals is a waste of energy and resources. Therefore, he argues, there is likely to be an evolved mechanism that identifies certain goals as unattainable and inhibits their pursuit—and he believes that low mood is at least part of that mechanism.

It is a neat hypothesis, but is it true? A study published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests it might be. Carsten Wrosch from Concordia University in Montreal and Gregory Miller of the University of British Columbia studied depression in teenage girls. They measured the “goal adjustment capacities” of 97 girls aged 15-19 over the course of 19 months. They asked the participants questions about their ability to disengage from unattainable goals and to re-engage with new goals. They also asked about a range of symptoms associated with depression, and tracked how these changed over the course of the study.

Their conclusion was that those who experienced mild depressive symptoms could, indeed, disengage more easily from unreachable goals. That supports Dr Nesse’s hypothesis. But the new study also found a remarkable corollary: those women who could disengage from the unattainable proved less likely to suffer more serious depression in the long run.

Mild depressive symptoms can therefore be seen as a natural part of dealing with failure in young adulthood. They set in when a goal is identified as unreachable and lead to a decline in motivation. In this period of low motivation, energy is saved and new goals can be found. If this mechanism does not function properly, though, severe depression can be the consequence.

Emotions, facial expression, and sensory perception

Nature Neuroscience 11, 843 – 850 (2008)

Published online: 15 June 2008 | doi:10.1038/nn.2138

Expressing fear enhances sensory acquisition

Joshua M Susskind et el.


It has been proposed that facial expression production originates in sensory regulation. Here we demonstrate that facial expressions of fear are configured to enhance sensory acquisition. A statistical model of expression appearance revealed that fear and disgust expressions have opposite shape and surface reflectance features. We hypothesized that this reflects a fundamental antagonism serving to augment versus diminish sensory exposure. In keeping with this hypothesis, when subjects posed expressions of fear, they had a subjectively larger visual field, faster eye movements during target localization and an increase in nasal volume and air velocity during inspiration. The opposite pattern was found for disgust. Fear may therefore work to enhance perception, whereas disgust dampens it. These convergent results provide support for the Darwinian hypothesis that facial expressions are not arbitrary configurations for social communication, but rather, expressions may have originated in altering the sensory interface with the physical world.

Repeated Exposure to Media Violence Is Associated with Diminished Response in an Inhibitory Frontolimbic Network



Media depictions of violence, although often claimed to induce viewer aggression, have not been shown to affect the cortical networks that regulate behavior.
Methodology/Principal Findings

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we found that repeated exposure to violent media, but not to other equally arousing media, led to both diminished response in right lateral orbitofrontal cortex (right ltOFC) and a decrease in right ltOFC-amygdala interaction. Reduced function in this network has been previously associated with decreased control over a variety of behaviors, including reactive aggression. Indeed, we found reduced right ltOFC responses to be characteristic of those subjects that reported greater tendencies toward reactive aggression. Furthermore, the violence-induced reduction in right ltOFC response coincided with increased throughput to behavior planning regions.

These novel findings establish that even short-term exposure to violent media can result in diminished responsiveness of a network associated with behaviors such as reactive aggression.

insula – additction centre of the brain?

Brain’s ‘addiction centre’

The discovery of individuals with brain damage who give up smoking with ease could point the way to a surgical ‘cure’ for smoking, US scientists say. The particular brain area damaged – called the insula – appears to be central to the urge to smoke, a team told the journal Science.

The insula receives information from other parts of the body and is thought to help translate those signals into something that is subjectively felt, such as hunger, pain, or a craving. Dr Bechara’s team studied 69 brain-damaged smokers – 19 who had suffered insula injury.