Sunday, January 29, 2012

Some Links (from NPR)

When It Comes To Depression, Serotonin Isn't The Whole Story

A story on depression and the medical explanation for it. 

 

Ending Nightmares Caused By PTSD

 A story on our dreams and nightmares. Some quotes:

PTSD dreams are the same real-life event played over and over again like a broken record. "Replicative nightmares of traumatic events ... repeat for years," Woodward says. "Sometimes 20 years."
Scientists wanted to find out the reason why people with PTSD can't sleep and dream normally. One theory comes from Matthew Walker, a psychology researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. His particular interest lies in rapid eye movement, or REM. It's the time during sleep when a lot of dreaming occurs.
It's also a time when the chemistry of the brain actually changes. Levels of norepinephrine — a kind of adrenaline — drop out completely. REM sleep is the only time of day when this happens. That struck Walker as a mystery. "Why would rapid eye movement sleep suppress this neurochemical?" he asks. "Is there any function to that?"
Walker found that in healthy people, REM sleep is kind of like therapy. It's an adrenaline-free environment where the brain can process its memories while sort of stripping off their sharp, emotional edges. "You come back the next day, and it doesn't trigger that same visceral reaction that you had at the time of learning."
Emotions are useful, he says. They show us what really matters to us. "But I don't think it's adaptive to hold onto that emotional blanket around those memories forever," he says. "They've done their job at the time of learning, then it's time to hold on to the information of that memory, but let go of the emotion."
Walker's theory suggests that in people with PTSD, REM sleep is broken. The adrenaline doesn't go away like it's supposed to. The brain can't process tough memories, so it just cycles through them, again and again.


A couple of stories on mushrooms:

Your Brain On Psilocybin Might Be Less Depressed

The Man Who Studies The Fungus Among Us

An interesting interview on Fresh Air:

David Milch: Trying His 'Luck' With Horse Racing

 Some quotes from the transcript (link):

MILCH: It's an alternate reality, and the - if you'll recall the circumstances under which I first came to experience a racetrack, that was a kind of concentrated and elaborately mixed set of messages that I was receiving about what - theoretically, what I was compelled to do because of my nature and how I was going to spend my time.
And I must say that once one enters into that world, there is - your chemistry changes in the same way chemistry changes when you become a drug addict. And your - the reward systems are very different.
And the paradox is that as all of this alteration is going on, you still have the opportunities and challenges of being a human being. That's the rest of the story: how to be a human being and, really, the fascination with how these people conduct their lives is what engaged my imagination.


MILCH: But no, I didn't know anyone literally who was a stammerer. But the difficulty of communication, I think, thematically is what conjoins those two scenes that you've represented: the mysteries of language and what is or isn't meant to be understood. And that's part of the fascination and, obviously, the compelling mystery of that world.


MILCH: I was imitating my father, and the mixture of admiration and awe and fear, all of those elements cohabit, I think, in the portrayal of all of the characters, but especially the character of Dustin Hoffman in the show.
DAVIES: Yeah. Did you get caught sneaking out to the track?
MILCH: Oh, sure. I'd get whacked around a little bit on occasion. But it was also a source of great pride to my dad that I was doing it. Even as he was speaking one way, you could see in his eyes something else, and don't forget he loved the track himself.


MILCH: But, in fact, what you're - you have your finger on something which is of crucial thematic importance: the alienation of spirit that occurs in the woundings - what we can call the particulars of the upbringing of these characters - receives an opportunity to be ameliorated, to be improved by their exposure to these animals. And it's a mystery to them, but it's also a blessing and, in the deepest sense, it's their luck.


MILCH: The same thing that happens with the corruption of the symbol, I feel like the voice is like the horse. Now I know that sounds ridiculous, but what I mean is that, to the extent that I type stuff and rewrite it, I am mechanizing a process which ought to be somatic. And so I try to minimize as much as - I watch the words come up on the screen, and then I suggest a change, but I try not to use my hands in the process.

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