Before I was licensed I was the director of a Rape Trauma program and initially trained in what was called “Immersion Therapy” – Trauma survivors were suppose to tell and retell and retell their trauma experience until the trauma had “lost” it’s emotional impact. After only a few sessions, watching clients get worse, I knew there needed to be a better way so I studied alternate treatments that did not re-tramautize people.
This experience was invaluable to both me professionally and the people who came to see me during my psychotherapy career. I successfully treated people with all manners of traumatic experiences from being in airplane crashes to buried alive. Although I’m no longer in practice, trauma research still interests me.
Reading this study about how it might be better NOT to sleep after a traumatic event got my attention. (jw)
Sleeping after a traumatic event might lock in bad memories and emotions.
“Researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst asked more than 100 healthy adults to rate their emotional responses to a series of images, some depicting unsettling scenes. Twelve hours later, they rated the images again. The difference: Half of the subjects slept during the break; the other half did not.”
“Not only did sleep protect the memory, but it also protected the emotional reaction,” said Rebecca Spencer, a neuroscientist at UMass Amherst and co-author of the study that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Study subjects who stayed awake for 12 hours had a weaker emotional response to the unsettling images the second time around, suggesting sleep serves to preserve and even amplify negative emotions. Their memories were also weaker than those of their well-rested counterparts, as they struggled to remember whether they had seen the images before.
“It’s true that ‘sleeping on it’ is usually a good thing to do,” said Spencer, citing evidence that sleep boosts memory and other cognitive functions. “It’s just when something truly traumatic or out of the ordinary happens that you might want to stay awake.”
Spencer said people often find it difficult to sleep after a traumatic event.
“This study suggests the biological response we have after trauma might actually be a healthy,“ she said. “Perhaps letting people go through a period of insomnia before feeding them sleeping meds is actually beneficial.”
While the findings may have implications for post traumatic stress disorder, Spencer emphasized that daily emotional ups and downs are not grounds for sleep deprivation.”
“Just because we have a bad day doesn’t mean we should stay awake,” she said. “We need to maintain some memories and emotional context to know what to avoid. We do learn something from them.”
Although sleep gives the body some much-needed rest, the brain stays active. Spencer used polysomnography to monitor brain activity in some sleeping subjects.
“REM sleep in particular was associated with a change in how emotional you found something,” she said. “We think there are parts of the brain being activated during sleep that allow us to process those emotions more than during day.”
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the UMass Amherst Commonwealth Honors College.
This was of personal interest to me given that the last several days I wasn’t feeling very optimistic. Seems my brain’s left inferior frontal gyrus was not gyrating. (jw)
P.S. Be patient while the video loads. If you don’t like what Tali says you will like how she looks (certainly not like a stereo-type neuroscientist).
“Optimism bias is the belief that the future will be better, much better, than the past or present. And most of us display this bias. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot wants to know why: What is it about our brains that makes us overestimate the positive?
Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain.
In the book, Sharot reviewed findings from both social science and neuroscience that point to an interesting conclusion: “Our brains aren’t just stamped by the past. They are constantly being shaped by the future.”
In her own work, Sharot is interested in how our natural optimism actually shapes what we remember, and her interesting range of papers encompasses behavioral research (how likely we are to misremember major events) as well as medical findings — like searching for the places in the brain where optimism lives. Sharot is a faculty member of the Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences at University College London.”
We’re excited to let you know that we are compiling all the Happiness Hacks we’ve posted. For this “hack” every single one of you has all the equipment you need:
A pair of healthy lungs and an unclogged nose.
Slow, deep breathing hacks your brain’s chemistry, resets the autonomic nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system that calms and relaxes the body.
Nasal Breathing – Inhale and exhale through your nose*
- Inhale deeply for a count of four,
- Exhale for a count of four
- Repeat 4 times
(Can’t get easier than this IF you know how to breathe and count to 4)
*Nasal breathing is better than mouth breathing: Your lungs extract oxygen from the air and the absorption of oxygen happens mostly on exhalation. Exhaling through the nose (because it’s smaller than your mouth) creates greater air pressure and therefore a slower exhalation. Your lungs get extra time to extract a greater amount of oxygen.
Inhale . . . . . . . . . . . Exhale. . . . . . . by Peggy
Diaphragmatic breathing is the best known and one of the most powerful breath exercises to reduce the stress response, get oxygen flowing to your brain and in your body. Here’s how:
Longer, deeper breaths into your abdomen, slows your heart rate and activates the calming, parasympathetic nervous system.
- To feel your diaphragm move as you breathe place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribs.
- Take slow, full breaths
(your hand moves in and out with each breath).
- Inhale slowly through your nose, expanding your diaphragm
- Exhale slowly through your nose (or mouth) and tighten your diaphragm
(just like squeezing a lemon to get all the juice out)
- The hand on your upper chest should remain as still as possible throughout.
It may take you a bit of effort at first to do this cuz it ain’t the usual way you breathe.
With continued practice, diaphragmatic breathing AND HAPPINESS will become easier, Easier, EASIER.
After you get the hang of it, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing and feeling HAPPY . . . without using your hand. (You can do this anywhere, anytime – lying down, sitting at the opera, standing in a check-out line . . . ).
Love potions have been a plot point in fairytales for centuries.
Now, thanks to dramatic advances in our understanding of the neuroscience behind love, they’re close enough to reality to be studied by Oxford University researchers. Anders Sandberg, a neuroethicist at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, He says that while we can’t buy romance pills yet, it’s only a matter of years before they exist. His work combines neuroscience and philosophy to unpack the ethical consequences of such pills, and just how they’ll fit into our lives.
“All our emotions are built on the foundations of neuroscience,” Sandberg says—whether that’s fear or anger or love. Recently, neuroscientists have begun to map out just what happens in the brain when we’re in love, bringing us closer to artificially recreating those neurochemical processes. “While there’s still not anything you can find in the supermarket or approved, we’re getting towards the point where they probably will show up,” he says.
Images of the brain show that love is, well, extremely complicated. Different parts are involved in the initial lustful attraction, the rush of falling in love, and the commitment and affection of long-term love. Romance drugs are most likely to focus on the last, long term part.
Different from the love potion of song that you drink, then fall in love with the next person you see.Ethically it would be worrisome for that to happen. A love drug may come to be something you take with someone, to keep or enhance your love.
Oxytocin is key
The brain system which determines long term commitment was discovered first in prairie voles. One species is monogamous and another closely related one is promiscuous. It turns out that the differences in their oxytocin systems is behind the different behaviors. Oxytocin helps couples stay together. Not just in voles, as neuroimaging studies in humans who say they are in love also show that oxytocin is the key element.
Drugs are already available to release oxytocin, (some are not legal), and experimentation of new substances such as MDMA and ayahuasca, an Amazonian hallucinogenic. Sandberg says “Ecstasy is not implausible.”
Sandberg thinks the drugs we have now do not last long enough to be effective at improving romance. “You probably want to teach your brain to produce oxytocin when you actually meet your partner,” he explains. “You want to teach the brain: This is the person I’m together with.”
We also need to ask ourselves if we want to fool with love? Maybe fading love is telling us something important that we need to pay attention to.
In some senses,though, we already interfere with the pathways of long-term love, argues Sandberg.
- “Should people having trouble in a relationship go to a marriage counselor?” he asks.
- “Shouldn’t a marriage just fall apart naturally?…
- If someone goes away on a romantic holiday that costs a lot of money and comes back with a better marriage, we’d probably say, ‘Yeah, that’s great.’”
“But surely there’s a clear line between medicalization and other means of improving a marriage, just as in sports there’s a difference between physical training and using drugs to boost performance? Well, the key concern in the sporting analogy is cheating, says Sandberg. Cheating in how you fall in love doesn’t make much sense: “Could you look at a married couple and say, ‘They cheated”?” he asks. “‘They’re deeply in love but they got to that state in the wrong way. Ha, those losers.’”
The question is would these drugs be good to have. Romantic love can be wonderful, but it isn’t always positive. In fact, maybe drugs that inhibit romantic love would be useful, for example, in letting people leave an abusive relationship.Or even just to ease that heartbreak of a failed relationship.
“Beyond the requisite drug trials and safety questions, these ethical concerns are likely to delay the introduction of love drugs. “I think in many ways, the drugs might be the easy part,” Sandberg says. “Figuring out how they actually fit into our lives is going to be the great challenge.”’
“Love drugs” will soon be a reality. But should we take them?