Study Identifies Social Connection as the Strongest Protective Factor for Depression

Active social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression, a new study reports. Additionally, reducing sedentary activities such as watching TV or taking a nap can also help lower depression risk.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have identified a set of modifiable factors from a field of over 100 that could represent valuable targets for preventing depression in adults. In a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the team named social connection as the strongest protective factor for depression, and suggested that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help lower the risk of depression.

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Researchers Discover a Specific Brain Circuit Damaged by Social Isolation During Childhood

Findings suggest medial prefrontal cortex neurons required for sociability are profoundly affected by social isolation at a young age.

Social isolation experienced during childhood has an impact on adult brain function and behavior. Following two weeks of social isolation immediately following weaning in male mice, researchers noticed a failure in activation of medial prefrontal cortex neurons projecting to the posterior paraventricular thalamus during social exposure in adulthood. Findings suggest medial prefrontal cortex neurons required for sociability are profoundly affected by social isolation at a young age.

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Evolution of genetic networks for human creativity

The genetic basis for the emergence of creativity in modern humans remains a mystery despite sequencing the genomes of himpanzees and Neanderthals, our closest hominid relatives. Data-driven methods allowed us to uncover networks of genes distinguishing the three major systems of modern human personality and adaptability: emotional reactivity, self-control, and self-awareness. Now we have identified which of these genes are present in chimpanzees and Neanderthals. We replicated our findings in separate analyses of three high-coverage genomes of Neanderthals. We found that Neanderthals had nearly the same genes for emotional reactivity as chimpanzees, and they were intermediate between modern humans and chimpanzees in their numbers of genes for both self-control and self-awareness. 95% of the 267 genes we found only in modern humans were not protein-coding, including many long-non-coding RNAs in the self-awareness network. These genes may have arisen by positive selection for the characteristics of human well-being and behavioral modernity, including creativity, prosocial behavior, and healthy longevity. The genes that cluster in association with those found only in modern humans are over-expressed in brain regions involved in human self-awareness and creativity, including late-myelinating and phylogenetically recent regions of neocortex for autobiographical memory in frontal, parietal, and temporal regions, as well as related components of cortico-thalamo-ponto-cerebellar-cortical and cortico-striato-cortical loops. We conclude that modern humans have more than 200 unique non-protein-coding genes regulating co-expression of many more proteincoding genes in coordinated networks that underlie their capacities for self-awareness, creativity, prosocial behavior, and healthy longevity, which are not found in chimpanzees or Neanderthals.

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The future of work after COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted labor markets globally during 2020. The short-term consequences were sudden and often severe: Millions of people were furloughed or lost jobs, and others rapidly adjusted to working from home as offices closed. Many other workers were deemed essential and continued to work in hospitals and grocery stores, on garbage trucks and in warehouses, yet under new protocols to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This report on the future of work after COVID-19 is the first of three MGI reports that examine aspects of the postpandemic economy. The others look at the pandemic’s long-term influence on consumption and the potential for a broad recovery led by enhanced productivity and innovation. Here, we assess the lasting impact of the pandemic on labor demand, the mix of occupations, and the workforce skills required in eight countries with diverse economic and labor market models: China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Together, these eight countries account for almost half the global population and 62 percent of GDP.

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When will the COVID-19 pandemic end?

This article updates our perspectives on when the coronavirus pandemic will end to reflect the latest information on vaccine rollout, variants of concern, and disease progression. In the United Kingdom and the United States, we see progress toward a transition to normalcy during the second quarter of 2021. The new wave of cases in the European Union means that a similar transition is likely to come later there, in the late second or third quarter. Improved vaccine availability makes herd immunity most likely in the third quarter for the United Kingdom and the United States and in the fourth quarter for the European Union, but risks threaten that timeline. The timeline in other countries will depend on seven crucial variables. And when herd immunity is reached, the risks will not vanish; herd immunity may prove temporary or be limited to regions in a country.

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Loneliness alters your brain’s social network

Loneliness alters how the brain represents relationships, a new study reports.

Social media sites aren’t the only things that keep track of your social network — your brain does, too. But loneliness alters how the brain represents relationships, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.

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How Does Your Brain Process Emotions? Answer Could Help Address Loneliness Epidemic

Specific brain regions respond in opposing ways when exposed to emotional stimuli associated with loneliness and wisdom.

Research over the last decade has shown that loneliness is an important determinant of health. It is associated with considerable physical and mental health risks and increased mortality. Previous studies have also shown that wisdom could serve as a protective factor against loneliness. This inverse relationship between loneliness and wisdom may be based in different brain processes.

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Midlife Loneliness Is a Risk Factor for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Those who report feeling consistently lonely and socially isolated between the ages of 45 and 64 have an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. However, the risk can be reversed if people embark on activities to expand their social lives and become less lonely.

Loneliness is a subjective feeling resulting from a perceived discrepancy between desired and actual social relationships. Although loneliness does not itself have the status of a clinical disease, it is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, and stroke.

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Generosity and selfishness: A neural dance

Unique signatures of neural synchrony reflect whether pro-social or anti-social decisions are made. Brain regions, including the cingulate gyrus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex, are highly synchronized when pro-social behavior is exhibited but decreases in the presence of anti-social behavior.

Why do some people almost always drop $10 in the Salvation Army bucket and others routinely walk by? One answer may be found in an intricate and rhythmic neuronal dance between two specific brain regions, finds a new Yale University study

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Mindfulness Can Make You Selfish

Often touted as helping to improve personal mental states, a new study reveals mindfulness can actually make people more selfish. Those who consider themselves to be more independent-minded, rather than having a pluralistic mindset, demonstrate a decrease in prosocial behavior following mindful meditation.

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