Medley

New research points to better way to treat depression

Medley Depression 2 Depression

Scientists on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered a new target for treating major depressive disorder, a disease that affects more than 16 million American adults. Their research shows that individuals with high levels of an enigmatic receptor called GPR158 may be more susceptible to depression following chronic stress.

“The next step in this process is to come up with a drug that can target this receptor”, says Kirill Martemyanov, PhD, co-chair of the TSRI Department of Neuroscience and senior author of the new study, published recently in the journal eLife.

The researchers say there is an urgent need for new drug targets in major depressive disorder. Current pharmacological treatments for depression can take a month to start working – and they don't work in all patients.

“We need to know what is happening in the brain so that we can develop more efficient therapies”, says Cesare Orlandi, PhD, senior research associate at TSRI and co-first author of the study.

The researchers zeroed in on GPR158 as a player in depression after discovering that the protein is elevated in people with major depressive disorder. To better understand GPR158's role, the scientists studied male and female mice with and without GPR158 receptors.

Read more: New research points to better way to treat depression

The Ruins of Religion

Tim Wyatt – England 

Medley The Ruins of Religion 2

Around the world millions of self-avowed religious people from every single faith tirelessly carry out good works, promote love and offer assistance to the desperate and needy. But often there is a stark disconnect between the honourable actions of these individuals and the mind-set and behaviour of the religious traditions they embrace. 

The truth is that dead letter religions increasingly make people angry. As you will note from the tone of this deliberately polemic article, I count myself among the agitated and disillusioned. And I am not alone in questioning the dark side of religious practice.

Many people find themselves caught in that No Man’s Land between atheism and religious adherence. In the West especially increasing numbers of people are choosing an alternative spiritual pathway beyond the grip of religion.

Read more: The Ruins of Religion

Impermanence

 

Medley Impermanence 2

There is no place on earth where death cannot find us – even if we constantly twist our heads about in all directions as in a dubious arid suspect land . . . If there were any way of sheltering from death's blows – I am not the man to recoil from it … But it is madness to think that you can succeed …

Read more: Impermanence

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 21

Leo Babauta – USA

Medley Focus 2

How to live a single-tasking life

It sounds nice, but how do you live a life like this? Is it as simple as saying you’re going to do it, or is it impossible? Somewhere in between, of course, and like anything worth doing, it takes practice.

Here’s what I’d recommend:

  1. Become conscious. When you start doing something, become more aware you’re starting that activity. As you do it, become aware of really doing it, and of the urge to switch to something else. Paying attention is the important first step.
  1. Clear distractions. If you’re going to read, clear everything else away, so you have nothing but you and the book. If you’re going to do email, close every other program and all browser tabs except the email tab, and just do that. If you’re going to do a work task, have nothing else open, and turn off the phone. If you’re going to eat, put away the computer and other devices and shut off the television.
  1. Choose wisely. Don’t just start doing something. Give it some thought – do you really want to turn on the TV? Do you really want to do email right now? Is this the most important work task you can be doing?
  1. Really pour yourself into it. If you’re going to make tea, do it with complete focus, complete dedication. Put everything you have into that activity. If you’re going to have a conversation, really listen, really be present. If you’re going to make your bed, do it with complete attention and to the best of your abilities.
  1. Practice. This isn’t something you’ll learn to do overnight. You can start right now, but you’re not likely to be good at it at first. Keep at it. Practice daily, throughout the day. Do nothing else, but practice.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 21

Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’

[The study challenges a growing trend that has attempted to show that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively]

Medley Why 2

New research suggests that people are not ‘born believers’

Previous studies have suggested people who hold strong religious beliefs are more intuitive and less analytical, and when they think more analytically their religious beliefs decrease.

But new research, by academics from Coventry University's Centre for Advances in Behavioral Science and neuroscientists and philosophers at Oxford University, suggests that is not the case, and that people are not ‘born believers.’

The study – which included tests on pilgrims taking part in the famous Camino de Santiago and a brain stimulation experiment – found no link between intuitive/analytical thinking, or cognitive inhibition (an ability to suppress unwanted thoughts and actions), and supernatural beliefs.

Instead, the academics conclude that other factors, such as upbringing and socio-cultural processes, are more likely to play a greater role in religious beliefs.

The study – published in Scientific Reports – was the first to challenge a growing trend among cognitive psychologists over the past 20 years that has attempted to show that believing in the supernatural is something that comes to us ‘naturally’ or intuitively.

The team started by carrying out an investigation on one of the largest pilgrimage routes in the world – the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain.

They asked pilgrims about the strength of their beliefs and the length of time spent on the pilgrimage and assessed their levels of intuitive thinking with a probability task, where participants had to decide between a logical and a ‘gut feeling’ choice.

The results suggested no link between strength of supernatural belief and intuition.

Read more: Why do we believe in gods? Religious belief ‘not linked to intuition or rational thinking’

Yoga, meditation improve brain function and energy levels, study shows

Medley Yoga 2

[Practicing brief sessions of Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation can significantly improve brain function and energy levels, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo]

The study found that practicing just 25 minutes of Hatha yoga or mindfulness meditation per day can boost the brain's executive functions, cognitive abilities linked to goal-directed behavior and the ability to control knee-jerk emotional responses, habitual thinking patterns and actions.

“Hatha yoga and mindfulness meditation both focus the brain's conscious processing power on a limited number of targets like breathing and posing, and also reduce processing of nonessential information,” said Peter Hall, associate professor in the School of Public Health & Health Systems. “These two functions might have some positive carryover effect in the near- term following the session, such that people are able to focus more easily on what they choose to attend to in everyday life.”

 

Read more: Yoga, meditation improve brain function and energy levels, study shows

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