Tag Archives | Psychology

Warning: Thoughts Can Kill

To die, sometimes you need only believe you are ill, and as David Robson discovers at BBC Future, we can unwittingly ‘catch’ such fears, often with terrifying consequences:

Beware the scaremongers. Like a witch doctor’s spell, their words might be spreading modern plagues.

Vudu

We have long known that expectations of a malady can be as dangerous as a virus. In the same way that voodoo shamans could harm their victims through the power of suggestion, priming someone to think they are ill can often produce the actual symptoms of a disease. Vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and even death, could be triggered through belief alone. It’s called the “nocebo effect”.

But it is now becoming clear just how easily those dangerous beliefs can spread through gossip and hearsay – with potent effect. It may be the reason why certain houses seem cursed with illness, and why people living near wind turbines report puzzling outbreaks of dizziness, insomnia and vomiting.

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Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) on Reddit

Screen shot 2015-02-12 at 11.42.01 AM

The folks at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) did a Reddit AMA yesterday. I’ve curated some of the more informative questions and answers, but you can read the entire thread here.

MAPS introduces themselves with this lengthy but informative opening:

We are the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and we are here to educate the public about research into the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana. MAPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1986 that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana.

We envision a world where psychedelics and marijuana are safely and legally available for beneficial uses, and where research is governed by rigorous scientific evaluation of their risks and benefits.

Some of the topics we’re passionate about include;

  • Research into the therapeutic potential of MDMA, LSD, psilocybin, ayahuasca, ibogaine, and marijuana
  • Integrating psychedelics and marijuana into science, medicine, therapy, culture, spirituality, and policy
  • Providing harm reduction and education services at large-scale events to help reduce the risks associated with the non-medical use of various drugs
  • Ways to communicate with friends, family, and the public about the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana
  • Our vision for a post-prohibition world
  • Developing psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medicines through FDA-approved clinical research

List of participants:

  • Rick Doblin, Ph.D., Founder and Executive Director, MAPS
  • Brad Burge, Director of Communications and Marketing, MAPS
  • Amy Emerson, Executive Director and Director of Clinical Research, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation
  • Virginia Wright, Director of Development, MAPS
  • Brian Brown, Communications and Marketing Associate, MAPS
  • Sara Gael, Harm Reduction Coordinator, MAPS
  • Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, Research and Advocacy Coordinator, MAPS
  • Tess Goodwin, Development Assistant, MAPS
  • Ilsa Jerome, Ph.D., Research and Information Specialist, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation
  • Sarah Jordan, Publications Associate, MAPS
  • Bryce Montgomery, Web and Multimedia Associate, MAPS
  • Shannon Clare Petitt, Executive Assistant, MAPS
  • Linnae Ponté, Director of Harm Reduction, MAPS
  • Ben Shechet, Clinical Research Associate, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation
  • Allison Wilens, Clinical Study Assistant, MAPS Public Benefit Corporation
  • Berra Yazar-Klosinski, Ph.D., Clinical Research Scientist, MAPS

For more information about scientific research into the medical potential of psychedelics and marijuana, visitmaps.org.

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Schizophrenia, Depression and Addiction All Linked to Similar Loss of Brain Matter

Jon Olav Eikenes (CC BY 2.0)

Jon Olav Eikenes (CC BY 2.0)

via PsyBlog:

Could there be an underlying biological cause for many mental illnesses?

Diagnoses as different as depression, addictions and schizophrenia are all linked to a similar pattern of gray-matter loss in the brain, a new study finds.

The results hint at an underlying biological cause for these mental illnesses.

Dr Thomas Insel, commenting on the study, said:

“The idea that these disorders share some common brain architecture and that some functions could be abnormal across so many of them is intriguing,”

The research, published in JAMA Psychiatry, pooled data from 193 separate studies, which included brain imaging from 7,381 patients (Goodkind et al., 2015).

Patients were experiencing all sorts of different mental illnesses, including depression, schizophrenia, OCD and some anxiety disorders.

Despite this, the researchers identified three structures in the brain which had shrunk across all the different diagnoses.

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Night Terrors In Adults: When Sleeping Turns To Terror After Dark

Jeffrey (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Jeffrey (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Lizette Borreli via Medical Daily:

Like clockwork, every night at 2 a.m. the house would ring out with gasps for air, cries for help, and screams. My parents, all too familiar with these frightening sounds, would brace themselves for what would be one of many sleepless nights. Those nights filled with terrifying images and haunting sounds never went away for me.

Fourteen years later, I found myself within the confines of the Sleep Disorder Institute in New York, looking for answers to why I still wake myself up screaming in terror.

1. Night Terrors Exposed

The rare sleep disorder goes by many names: night terrors, sleep terrors, pavor nocturnus, or AXIS I: 307.46 (The DSM’s code). It remains a medical mystery. What medical researchers do know is that night terrors are caused by an over-arousal of the central nervous system (CNS) during sleep. In children, this may be the result of the CNS still maturing — it has long been believed that the CNS’s maturation process ends in early childhood (although several recent studies suggest it may continue to develop through around age 25).

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The powerful cheat for themselves, the powerless cheat for others

Via Cathleen O’Grady at Arstechnica:

Research has previously shown that upper-class individuals are more likely to behave unethically than lower-class people. But, says David Dubois, lead researcher of a new paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, it’s not that simple: both groups behave unethically in different contexts.

Dubois’ research group found that people with higher socioeconomic status (SES) were more likely to behave unethically when the behavior benefitted themselves, while lower-SES people were more likely to be unethical to benefit other individuals. “Many people think of unethical behaviour in terms of selfish behavior—violating moral standards to give yourself an advantage,” explains Jared Piazza, who was not involved with the research. “But the researchers here draw a distinction between violating a moral standard like ‘it’s wrong to steal’ to benefit others, and violating a moral standard to benefit yourself.”

This distinction is important, says Dubois.

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How Technicolor Changed Storytelling

Via Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic:

In the dawn of the age of cinema, adding color to black-and-white films was something like “putting lip rouge on Venus de Milo.” That is to say, it had the potential for disastrous, garish results. And that’s how the legendary director Albert Parker referred to the process of colorizing motion pictures in 1926, according to The New York Times that year.

Parker’s lipstick-on-the-Venus de Milo line wasn’t originally his—it was the same comparison famously used by silent film star Mary Pickford to lament the rise of talkies. As with sound, adding color to motion pictures represented a revolutionary shift in onscreen storytelling—and not everyone was convinced that change was worthwhile. Even those who were excited about color filmmaking felt trepidation.

“The color must never dominate the narrative,” Parker told the Times. “We have tried to get a sort of satin gloss on the scenes and have consistently avoided striving for prismatic effects… We realize that color is violent and for that reason we restrained it.”

Today, we’re accustomed to seeing color choices set the tone for a scene, a film—even an entire body of work.

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Jim Fallon: Exploring the Mind of a Killer

Psychopathic killers are the basis for some must-watch TV, but what really makes them tick? Neuroscientist Jim Fallon talks about brain scans and genetic analysis that may uncover the rotten wiring in the nature (and nurture) of murderers. In a too-strange-for-fiction twist, he shares a fascinating family history that makes his work chillingly personal.

You can view an interactive transcript here.

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Celluloid and Simulation

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Via Cary Hill at Moviepilot

The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.
— Marshall McLuhan

A friend recently remarked to me that it felt increasingly more like his childhood was being repackaged and sold back to him. We were discussing the recent rash of movies, toys, and TV shows based on things from our childhood: GI Joe, Transformers, etc. New Hollywood franchises (including merchandise) are being launched from shows we watched 30 years ago, targeting our generation and our children. Nostalgia is now big business.

So I wondered: If the majority of Hollywood’s efforts are being put to resurrecting original content from decades ago in an attempt to exploit nostalgia, what happens when all new films and toys are based on prior existing material?

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Milgram was wrong: we don’t obey authority, but we do love drama

By Kathryn Millard

Why have the landmark psychology experiments of the post-war era proved so enduring? Designed as dramas about human behaviour, experimenters drew on theatrical techniques and tailored their results for cinema – results that, though skewed, have become embedded in the collective subconscious.

The two best known experiments of this sort are Obedience to Authority (1961-3) devised by Stanley Milgram and the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) staged by Phillip Zimbardo.

Now, those experiments are back in the spotlight with two fictional films – the Milgram biopic The Experimenter (2015) and the Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) – which screened at the Sundance Film Festival last week, and more in the pipeline. My own upcoming feature documentary Shock Room is among them.

Over the decades these experiments have inspired multiple screen translations. This raises the important question: are they as much art as science? That’s a question Milgram asked himself when he called “wrap” on Obedience (1965), the documentary film that authored his results.… Read the rest

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The loneliness of the long-distance drone pilot

Aaron Sankin via The Kernel:

Bruce Black had been preparing for this moment for most of his life.

Growing up, he always wanted to be a pilot. After graduating from New Mexico State University in 1984 with a degree in geology, Black was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. He spent years as an instructor pilot before quitting to join the FBI, where he specialized in chasing down white-collar criminals, but the pull of military was too strong. He eventually found himself in the air above Afghanistan.

Black flew constantly. Once, in the spring of 2007, Black’s job was to serve as another set of eyes high above a firefight happening on the ground. An Army convoy had been patrolling near a site of a previous strike and gotten ambushed by Taliban fighters while returning to base. Black was acting as a crucial communications relay, sending life-and-death updates back and forth from the men and women on the ground to the Pentagon and a network of support staff located around the world through the military’s version of the Internet.

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