Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The importance of gut health for the mind





The gut transports, digests ingested material to supply nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes to the body. The gut might be even more complex organ that previously thought. A double fold of peritoneum (called the mesentery) - the lining of the abdominal cavity - holds our intestine to the wall of our abdomen. It holds all internal other organs in place and it keeps the gastrointestinal track and other organs from twisting up around. 

The gut is seeded with microbiotas right after birth. Although the composition is influenced by both host genetics and environmental factors, the gut microbiome can be remodeled throughout life. The composition of the microbial community depends on environmental factors such as dietary nutrients, fiber, use of antibiotics, gastrointestinal disease and the genetic background of the host. Fecal transplants from obese to lean mice have also triggered well recognizable neurologic complications of obesity in the receiver animals. there are indications that this causal relationship is true in humans as well. The composition of the microbiota has been linked to development of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In addition, obese subjects often show deficits in memory, learning and executive functions compared to normal weight subjects. Epidemiological studies also indicate that obesity is associated with a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety, and vice versa. Obesity-associated microbiota may contribute to the endocrine, neurochemical and inflammatory alterations. Alterations in the intestinal microbiota can also lead to metabolic diseases [type-2 diabetes], autoimmune arthritis, and psychiatric disorders. 


Gut microbes play a role in human physiology through several mechanisms, such as synthesis of vitamins, digestion of complex compounds, like polysaccharides, drugs, and others. In the past years over 800 different peptides have been identified that affect brain function and your psychology in a variety of ways. Gut microbiota is a mediating factor between the environmental pressures (e.g., diet, lifestyle) and human physiology. The gut microbiome modulates brain function, including for instance behaviors relevant to anxiety and depression. These findings indicate an existing cross-link between energy metabolism, mood and cognitive function. Gut microbes also play a role in immune cell development, and protect from colonization by pathogenic bacteria.

Gut microbiota have dramatic effects on the nature and quantity of many metabolites in multiple chemical classes in the gut and these changes are reflected in metabolites plasma levels. The changes at the level of the gut and blood are dramatically influenced by diet, exposure to antibiotics, genetic background, and others. Understanding the full set of metabolites will open new insights into how changes in the gut microbiome affect systemic metabolism and its alterations in diabetes and obesity.

Picture credit: Tvanbr


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Friday, June 8, 2018

Working memory is based on the brain's energy cycle







Although the brain can store a whole lifetime of knowledge in its trillions of connections, the number of items that humans can actively hold in their conscious awareness at once is limited, on average, to four or five items. Working memory is the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing. Retention in working memory is short-lived and bounded: When they’re no longer actively being thought about, they’re stored elsewhere or forgotten.

The reason of why working memory starts to falter at such a seemingly low threshold has been elusive. To exceed that limit causes the information to degrade, changing brain rhythms, which degrades memories. This seems to occur with an even smaller number of items in patients who have been diagnosed with neurological disorders, such as schizophrenia.

The sensory information, which is transformed into the language of oscillations in the limbic brain, activates sensory regions of the cortex. The energy requirement of activation extinguishes the energy of sensory stimulus. However, in cases of great information value, such as novel stimulus or short term memory, the energy of the stimulus flows toward the associative areas of the cortex and accumulates there. This allows conscious, rather automatic decisions to take place. Moreover, excessive sensory information or excessive short term memory overburdens the frontal cortex and breaks down timely processing. Understanding the brain’s operation during sensory processing and memory could facilitate artificial intelligence research and deep learning networks.


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Antibiotic treatment can make virus infection more dagerous




Antibiotics are drugs used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections. They may either kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses such as the common cold or influenza. Special antiviral drugs or antivirals can be used to treat or inhibit virus infections.
Recent work has shown that antibiotics can impair the development of antiviral T cell responses, which occurs as soon as 3 days after taking the drug in an oral form.


Although the outcome of flavivirus infection can vary from asymptomatic to lethal, environmental factors can greatly modulate the severity of the disease. Treatment with oral antibiotics can greatly deplete the gut microbiota and impair the development of optimal T cell responses. This leads to increased infection and immunopathology. The changes in the overall structure of the gut bacterial community can occur after only three days of treatment. This indicates that damages to the gut microbiota may increase susceptibility to virus infections. Combined antibiotic treatment dramatically reduced virus infection survival rate in mice.

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Oral Antibiotic Treatment of Mice Exacerbates the Disease Severity of Multiple Flavivirus Infections




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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cognitive Manipulation by parasites

Image result for wasps and ladybugs images free




Parasite–host interactions have been perfected over millions of years of evolution and reached surprising and even unnerving preciosity. The diversity of parasites that can manipulate behavior ranges from viruses to worms and also includes other, parasitic insects.  In some of the most fascinating manipulations, the parasite taps into the host brain neuronal circuities to manipulate hosts cognitive functions. To exert long-term behavioral manipulation of the host, parasite must secrete compounds that can modify gene expression to produce long-lasting effects. This way parasites alter the behavior of their host by hijacking of their ability to make decisions. Mind altering manipulation can occur in practically all animals, but it is most frequent and most studied in insects. Insects are capable of making a choice and carry out goal-directed behavior in a dynamic environment. For example, when presented with two very near concentrations of the same odor, fruit flies take longer to make a decision and can make mistakes. 



Suicide manipulation: 

Insect behavior can be manipulated by a fungus infection. After infecting the ant, fungal filaments feed on the host’s organs, avoiding, however, vital ones. The fungi produce chemicals that alter the navigational sense of their ant hosts, causing the ant to climb to the top of a tree or plant and clamp its mandibles around a leaf or leaf stem to stay in place, a behavior that has never been reported for uninfected ants. When the fungus is ready to produce spores, it eventually feeds on the ant’s brain and thus kills it. The spores explode and spread from the top of the tree to infect another ants and start another cycle.

In another example of parasitic infection, the Lancet liver fluke takes over the ant’s navigational skills by migrating to the ant’s head and settling near one of the cerebral ganglia. The ant is directed to climb to the tip of a blade of grass, where it is eaten by a grazing animal. The mature Lancet expels its eggs via the digesting system, allowing ants to be infected. Crickets and other terrestrial insects can fall victim to hairworms, which develop inside their bodies and lead them to commit suicide in water, enabling the exit of the parasite into an aquatic environment favorable to its reproduction.


Offspring Care:

Although solitary insects are not known to provide care and safety to their offspring, one of the most fascinating behavioral manipulations of parasites is to coerce a host to care for the parasite’s offspring. For example, a wasp stings injects her eggs into a caterpillar. The wasp larvae mature by feeding on the host, and emerge after two weeks. However, one or two larvae remain within the caterpillar. While their siblings turn to pupae, the remainder siblings cause the caterpillar to snap its upper body back and forth violently, deterring predators and protecting pupates.

The aggressive behavior of the caterpillar toward intruders is a guarding behavior that can be triggered in other insects also and even without any parasite in the host’s body. A single wasp larva develops inside the body of a ladybug and it spins a cocoon between its legs. The ladybug remains alive on top of the cocoon, twitching its body to keep the single wasp pupa safe from potential predators. It is thought that the parasite co-infests with a virus, which induces a severe neuropathy and antiviral immune response that correlates with the symptoms characterizing the motor twitches. 

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Consumption of raw fruits and vegetables might be beneficial for mental health





The old saying, “You are what you eat,” might need a new updating. A new study found that raw fruit and vegetable intake (FVI) predicted reduced depressive symptoms and lead to higher positive mood, life satisfaction, and flourishing. The top 10 raw foods related to better mental health were carrots, bananas, apples, dark leafy greens like spinach, grapefruit, lettuce, citrus fruits, fresh berries, cucumber, and kiwifruit.


The study investigated the differential associations between intake of raw fruits and vegetables, compared to processed (cooked or canned) fruits and vegetables, and mental health in young adults. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of micronutrients critical to physical and mental function. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and carotenoids might protect the body against oxidative stress. Water-soluble vitamins (vitamin C, and B vitamins), and certain minerals (calcium, magnesium, and zinc), are important for optimal cognitive and emotional functioning. The cooking and processing of FV has the potential to diminish nutrient levels, which likely limits the delivery of nutrients that are essential for optimal emotional functioning.

Picture credit: Fruit market by Diderot

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Sunday, May 13, 2018

Adapt a growth mindset by striving toward flexibility





From the Stone Age to the industrial revolution life conditions for the overwhelming majority of people were miserable; they suffered from a seasonal shortage of food, adverse temperatures, threats, and lack of proper housing. Social history, the pomp, the conquest and the culture rode on the backs of oppressed classes. Religion was the mental comfort and deep seated hope that gave meaning to life amid the grueling drudgery. 

Things cannot be more different in the beginning of the twenty first century. In most parts of the world, food, clothing and housing is a natural part of the human condition. In big, overstuffed, middle-class homes, out of season clothes are discarded like garbage. At the time when we achieved a never experienced prosperity, we are faced with an epidemic of addictions, alienation, crime and abuse. Trying to understand the root causes for this seismic social change we need to analyze several factors that had transformed society. Compared to the rigid, impassable class division of yesteryear, social mobility is open to anyone with the drive to succeed. The news is full of examples of tech billionaires and executives who started from modest beginnings. However, the comparison with the proverbial Johnsons can make every member of the society left behind at one time or another. The news, Facebook and internet can serve as a constant reminder of our failure in the rat race. To justify our perceived ineptness, we manufacture imaginary and impassable obstacles to success; theories of unfairness, conspiracies, such as far right or far left political oppression, government or alien manipulations and excess to ‘connections,’ as excuses for inaction. Spending time on these emotionally demanding fantasies drains mental energies. It wastes not only precious time, but derails attention from personal well-being and career goals. The technological developments, financial complexities and social changes demand meaningful decision making at every level. Maneuvering the stormy waters of change requires grooming our intellectual quotients. Occupation with gossip and unfounded fantasies leaves one stuck, while society is progressing with breakneck pace. Being left behind by a progressing society creates increasing anxiety, which can easily culminate into depression, addictions and acts of desperation. We are the first generation to have the ability to analyze how our emotions influence our behavior. Certain aspects of our emotional inheritance can destroy the upcoming generation’s ability to succeed. The rigid mindset of class system must be replaced by a strong belief in the ability of the self to initiate change.


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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Upcoming book on emotion regulation




Recent neuroscience and psychology data show that emotional intelligence is an important part of personal and professional success. Our relationships, our personal and professional careers depend on our ability to create and maintain emotional balance in our lives. My book defines emotions based on current scientific data by examining the correlations between physiological states with neural activities of the brain. Based on my book, 'The science of consciousness,' it is overwhelmingly clear that the energy need of negative emotions is greater than those of positive emotions. This difference makes negative emotions tiring, but negative emotions also activate hormonal pathways and other regulatory functions that push the body into a vigilant state, which damage the immune function, and lead to adverse health consequences. Chronic inflammation has been associated with a host of health problems and even early death. Malfunctioning immune system may be responsible for social deficits in numerous neurological and psychiatric disorders. Some of the diseases implicated with the immune system are cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer disease, digestive, as well as skin problems, cardiovascular disease, bone loss and others. Permanent stress may affect immune cells in the brain as well, leading to mental disorders and modifying cellular networks at the core of brain behavior.

In addition, insecurity, nagging internal doubts prompts defensive behavior, such criticism and attacks. Putting others down is like a drug that generates an instant, although fleeting, feeling of elation. Toxic relationships degrade confidence, cause emotional, mental and health problems.
Technological advancements, such as the steam engine, which dramatically transformed society, also necessitated a mental transformation. The approaching and unprecedented technological progress will require a new social and mental change. Are you going to reap the benefits of being positioned at the front of this paradigm shift?

Understanding emotions is power. It allows you to optimize mental operations in ways to inspire success, happiness and achievement. Following just one of the practices listed in the book in a systematic way you that mind can perform better, achieve more with less effort. You might begin to notice a change in as little as few days. Full transformation will probably take up to six months. It will feel like changing your car for a spaceship. When you want to reach for the stars, you do not wish to get stuck in problems. Are you ready for this mental transformation?


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