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What comforts targets of prejudice the most Rare in history are moments like the 1960s civil rights movement, in which members of a majority group vocally support minority groups in their fight against prejudice. New research not only confirms the power of speaking up for those facing prejudice but also underlines the importance of exactly what is communicated. Looking at YouTube video messages, researchers found that homosexual youth found the most comfort in messages that both supported them and advocated social change.
Evidence of biological basis for religion in human evolution In studying the differences in brain interactions between religious and non-religious subjects, researchers conclude there must be a biological basis for the evolution of religion in human societies.
Are You Using Your Judgment or Just Being Judgmental? Being judgmental in a relationship can be disastrous because once we attach ourselves to a fixed characterization of someone, it becomes very difficult to see them differently. read more
Study reveals how ecstasy acts on brain, hints at therapeutic uses Brain imaging experiments have revealed for the first time how ecstasy produces feelings of euphoria in users.
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Gene activating drug shows promise for PTSD memories Exposure therapy and gene stimulation may be the best way to alter fear-provoking memories that are the persistent core of post-traumatic stress and anxiety disorders, a new study suggests.
Cannabis and memory loss: dude, where's my CBD? | Dana Smith Legalisation presents an opportunity to promote cannabis rich in a chemical that protects against its negative effectsIt isn't often that science and pop culture overlap, but the two fields are in agreement when it comes to the familiar trope of the forgetful stoner.A recent study published in Schizophrenia Bulletin is the latest to reveal the detrimental effects that cannabis can have on memory. The authors report that people dependent on the drug – both healthy individuals and patients with schizophrenia – show impairments in memory compared with healthy volunteers and non-smoking schizophrenia patients.Even more striking, the cannabis-using groups had significant decreases in the volume of two brain areas that are important for processing rewards, learning and working memory – the thalamus and striatum – and these changes were linked to their memory problems. There was no evidence to connect cannabis use and schizophrenia – the authors simply compare the two groups. However, previous studies have found a higher prevalence of psychosis among regular cannabis smokers.Reports of memory loss with long-term cannabis use are nothing new, and an influential paper published last year provided evidence that smoking marijuana has a deleterious effect on intelligence. In the investigation, the cognitive abilities of participants were tested several times over the course of 25 years. The researchers found that heavy cannabis users had significant decreases in intelligence and memory ability as they aged, not only compared with non-smokers, but also compared with their younger selves. Additionally, the earlier they started smoking pot, the bigger the cognitive decline.Obviously these findings are worrying, especially given the recent spate of cannabis legalisations in states across the US and in countries such as Uruguay. However, before we all start worrying about the good people of Colorado and Washington, it might be helpful to look closer at what's actually in the cannabis we're smoking nowadays, and what ingredients are contributing to these cognitive deficits.THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is what causes the subjective "high". This includes changes in perceptual sensations, a feeling of contentedness and increased appetite. However, THC is also linked to many of the potential negative consequences of cannabis use, such as dependence, psychotic symptoms, and impaired memory and cognition.Another important component, CBD (cannabidiol, which works by increasing natural cannabinoid levels in the brain) is associated with the calming, anti-anxiety effects of the drug. In addition, CBD is thought to protect against many of the potential negative effects of marijuana, including dependence, psychotic symptoms and cognitive impairments.The THC concentration in cannabis has increased by as much as 12% over the past 30 years, making the drug much stronger than it used to be. At the same time, there has been a significant depletion of CBD, sometimes to levels as low as 0.1%. "Skunk", as this new strain of high-THC/low-CBD marijuana is called, is flooding the illegal marijuana market, and it is this variety that is thought to be behind the rise in cannabis dependence diagnoses, links to schizophrenia, and cognitive deficits seen over the past decade.The changing chemical make-up of cannabis appears to be partly accidental and partly deliberate. New strains are often bred to have higher levels of THC in them, increasing the drug's potency. However, modern growing techniques have also affected these chemical levels. For example, illegal growers have turned to indoor marijuana farms to avoid detection. Growing cannabis locally in such farms also circumvents the need to import the drug, and guarantees a more reliable harvest. However, the 24-hour lighting used in these farms inadvertently reduces CBD levels in the plant. Thus, these new strains are not only bred for higher potency, with elevated THC content, they are also lacking the protection provided by CBD against the drug's negative effects.It should be noted that the majority of research into cognitive deficits and cannabis use has focused on heavy or dependent users, and there's little evidence that occasional smokers show any of the problems mentioned above. But with the recent changes in drug policy, the chances are that more people will be smoking cannabis than ever before, and the more potent and more popular high-THC/low-CBD marijuana that is available today will increase their risk of dependence.The recent legalisation of recreational and medicinal marijuana in parts of the US has the potential to reduce significantly the harms caused through incarceration or criminal records for minor drug-related offences. However, it also provides an opportunity to reduce the cognitive and psychiatric harms linked to cannabis use. With this shift in drug policy, it is now possible for states to monitor the commercial production of cannabis, regulating the levels of THC and CBD present in the drug. To facilitate this, they could force growers to use strains with higher levels of CBD, and revert to more old-fashioned farming methods that don't use round-the-clock lighting.These changes could help protect individuals from the damaging effects of the drug, prevent the development of dependence in new users, and maybe even help our favorite Hollywood stoners remember where they left their car.DrugsHuman biologyNeurosciencePsychologyCannabisDrugsDana Smiththeguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Higher vitamin D levels associated with better cognition, mood in Parkinson's disease patients A new study exploring vitamin D levels in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) opens up the possibility of a new avenue of early intervention that may delay or prevent the onset of cognitive impairment and depression.
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François Hollande's privacy plea and our relentless spirit of self-display | Josh Cohen In promoting total and permanent visibility, our culture closes down all the spaces in which the private self can flourish"Each of us in our personal lives can go through difficult periods and that is so in our case," said Franí§ois Hollande earlier this week, responding to a journalist's question as to whether his partner, Valérie Trierweiler, remained first lady of France in the light of his alleged affair with Julie Gayet. "But," the French president went on, "private matters should be dealt with privately and this is neither the time nor the place to do so."Amid the chorus of columnists, the flashguns of Closer magazine, and the high drama of Trierweiler's emotional collapse, who is listening to Hollande's solemnly understated appeals to privacy? In today's culture of permanent visibility, the plea of celebrities or politicians to respect their privacy becomes little more than an emptily ritualised scene in the unfolding farce.This is a shame, for there's something in Hollande's insistence that "private matters should be dealt with in private" that, for all its tone of evasive officiousness, is worth a little reflection. That private matters belong in private is a truism that appears to have lost its self-evidence. We live in a culture that asks us to share our deepest intimacies, from sex to grief, on social media; that encourages us to create and broadcast "lifelogs" displaying anything from our cholesterol intake and mood swings to our entire lives. The world morphs into an unending reality TV show, in which we abandon the sheltering anonymity of ordinary life for the incessant glare of the camera and its audience.To speak up for privacy in this brave new world is rather like appealing for temperance in a City wine bar – a futile attempt to convey the one message the crowd won't hear or understand. Hollande's insistence on a private life that needs to remain such makes sense only if we assume a shared notion of selfhood – essentially, that a public, perceptible face conceals a private, imperceptible self. Only, that is, if we take for granted that even when fully visible to the world, we remain at heart invisible, in the dark.In a culture of permanent visibility this version of the self is no longer a given. Individuals are reduced to the pictures we can take and the stories we can tell of them, at the cost of their singularity and complexity. Of course, you may have an inner life, but the increasingly common assumption is that it should be shared, dragged into the light. If this is my conception of the self, any claim the other makes for the shelter of privacy will in effect be meaningless, a line in a tired and cheesily predictable script. I won't recognise your feelings of intrusion, because I won't recognise that there's anything to intrude upon. If I can intuit nothing in you beyond the self you show the world, your objection to the cameras in your face, or your bedroom, is incomprehensible.Perhaps this culture of full personal disclosure heralds a new and welcome openness to self-expression, a benign antidote to the buttoned-up repression of preceding generations. In making our bodies and souls available to the world's inspection, we shine a light into the darkness of our private lives. But it's here that we stumble on a basic contradiction: exposed to the light, the private is no longer private. The more we drag private experience into public visibility, the more our emotional lives – our relationships to ourselves and to others – threaten to descend into a kind of shrill and unconvincing mimicry of real feelings. All we can see and hear in the latest political sex scandal is another compulsive repetition of the same old farce, with new actors in the old roles.The assumption underlying the drive to full disclosure of our own and others' inner lives is that we should know everything. Nothing from the near side of our lives to the furthest reaches should be kept from view. There's an unmistakable aggression lurking in this conviction that was made fully audible at the Leveson inquiry in the brutal makeshift slogan of visibility culture's unofficial spokesman, the tabloid journalist Paul McMullan: "Privacy is for paedos."What's the real object of this aggression? Perhaps what drives the unholy alliance of voyeurism and exhibitionism – the frenzied intrusions of the media as much as the relentless spirit of self-display – is the suspicion that there are places in the self where no telephoto lens or bugging device can reach. In other words, it's less the wish to know that fuels the ongoing assault of the televisual, personal or surveillance cameras than the rage against what remains unknown, in the dark. For human beings, Freud insisted, the suggestion that our knowledge of our own and others' inner lives must be scanty and uncertain can only be experienced as an enraging humiliation.There may be some explanation here as to why public protest following revelations of the scope of state and corporate surveillance has been so muted and uncertain. These offences against our privacy are all too continuous with the intrusive culture we live and breathe. It's hard to generate real outrage against a phenomenon with which we continue to be so complicit.From this perspective, the significance of the recent petition against mass surveillance by more than 500 writers lies in reminding us that the stakes of this debate are as much imaginative as legal, as much about what we are as what we own. "Surveillance is theft", the petition proclaims, referring not only to our personal data but to our rights over our inner lives.The British psychoanalyst DW Winnicott speaks of an obscure yet essential region in us that can survive only by remaining hidden, and whose natural elements are darkness and silence. This hidden spot is the source of our uniqueness and singularity, a fact authoritarian regimes know only too well, which is no doubt why they make such a priority of closing down all those spaces in which the private self can flourish. To attack privacy is to attack the very source of creative and imaginative life. In flooding us with light, in promoting our permanent and total visibility, our culture threatens to turn personal violation into an unnoticed fact of our daily lives.PrivacySurveillanceFraní§ois HollandePsychologyCelebrityFranceEuropeJosh Cohentheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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