The evening of November 9th, 1938, began with typical fall solemnity for many Jews living across Germany: closing up their shops and businesses, returning home from school, and preparing family suppers. It would end with terror, as mobs ransacked storefronts, assaulted Jews on the street, and set fire to their homes. That terrible night would be known to history by the glittering debris of shattered windows lining the streets: “Kristallnacht.”
Kristallnacht, and the subsequent atrocities of Germany’s holocaust against the Jews, changed the world. Modernity had to forever acknowledge a surprising and abhorrent crime. Societies would undergo lasting changes, attempting to prevent such crimes, and the victims themselves, sadly, would suffer long-lasting impacts to their psyche.Continue reading
In a recent presidential town hall, President Obama looked directly into the camera and made a powerful statement about mental health. “If something inside you feels like it’s wounded, it’s just like a physical injury. You’ve got to go get help,” said the leader of the free world.
Buried under the weight of a massive social stigma, seeking help or even acknowledging a mental illness can be an excruciating task. How, then, can we help ourselves and our loved ones achieve emotional and mental well-being?Continue reading
We all know too much sugar is bad for us. But did you know that having unfettered access to sugar might produce brain changes similar to highly stressful situations, such as neglect or abuse? A recent study published in Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience comparing the effects of unlimited sugar availability and the effects of early life stress in rats might suggest just that.Continue reading
Imagine having a memory that haunts you, sneaks into your daily thoughts and turns over on itself in your dreams. Escape seems impossible. Now imagine you are injected with a virus that blocks the expression of a certain protein known to reactivate memories. With minimal side effects and the small chance of erasing or altering other memories, would you do it?Continue reading
Over a lifetime, the human brain stores countless memories. Some are mundane and practical, others are subjective, and some influence our thinking and behaviour. Not all of them are good.Continue reading
Identifying safe or dangerous situations are essential for survival. A child may be fearful of crossing a road alone, but he will be completely relaxed while crossing the same road with his mom. The inability to discriminate between dangerous and safe situations produces responses that may lead to anxiety disorders or post-traumatic stress disorder (Pitman et al., 2012). The fear circuitry in the brain has been extensively mapped out with many studies focusing on the amygdala as the primary player in fear regulation (LeDoux, 2000). In fact, many undergraduate students in psychology and physiology are taught that the amygdala is the “fear center” of the brain. However, recent experiments demonstrate that the amygdala is responsible for regulating safety, too!Continue reading
For Indiana Jones, there was no villain as menacing and no foe as treacherous as the writhing snakes in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Audiences saw their archaeologist champion paralyzed by fear and almost vanquished by his reptilian adversary. Heroic Indy is not alone! Approximately one third of adults report being ophidiophobic, or terrified of even the thought of snakes. Continue reading
Shakespeare left out a crucial component for understanding human behavior when he wrote:
it is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.
Our genetic predispositions are only part of the equation when it comes to determining our risk for developing psychiatric disorders. Exposure to stressful environments during critical periods of brain development plays a dramatic role in changing gene function and influencing response to traumatic events in adulthood.Continue reading