Tag Archives: Neurology

Largest Ever Psychedelics Study Maps Changes of Conscious Awareness to Neurotransmitter Systems

Summary: Study reveals how psychedelic drug-induced changes in subjective awareness are rooted in specific neurotransmitter systems.

Source: McGill University

Psychedelics are now a rapidly growing area of neuroscience and clinical research, one that may produce much-needed new therapies for disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. Yet there is still a lot to know about how these drug agents alter states of consciousness.

In the world’s largest study on psychedelics and the brain, a team of researchers from The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) and Department of Biomedical Engineering of McGill University, the Broad Institute at Harvard/MIT, SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University, and Mila—Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute have shown how drug-induced changes in subjective awareness are anatomically rooted in specific neurotransmitter receptor systems.

The researchers gathered 6,850 testimonials from people who took a range of 27 different psychedelic drugs. In a first-of-its-kind approach, they designed a machine learning strategy to extract commonly used words from the testimonials and link them with the neurotransmitter receptors that likely induced them.

The interdisciplinary team could then associate the subjective experiences with brain regions where the receptor combinations are most commonly found—these turned out to be the lowest and some of the deepest layers of the brain’s information processing layers.

Using thousands of gene transcription probes, the team created a 3D map of the brain receptors and the subjective experiences linked to them, across the whole brain. While psychedelic experience is known to vary widely from person to person, the large testimonial dataset allowed the team to characterize coherent states of conscious experiences with receptors and brain regions across individuals. This supports the theory that new hallucinogenic drug compounds can be designed to reliably create desired mental states.

This shows brain scans from the study
Graph showing relation between type of drug, descriptive words and neurotransmitter. Credit: Danilo Bzdok

For example, a promising effect of some psychedelics for psychiatric intervention is ego-dissolution—the feeling of being detached with the self. The study found that this feeling was most associated with the receptor serotonin 5-HT2A.

However, other serotonin receptors (5-HT2C, 5-HT1A, 5-HT2B), adrenergic receptors Alpha-2A and Beta-2, as well as the D2 receptor were also linked with the feeling of ego-dissolution. A drug targeting these receptors may be able to reliably create this feeling in patients whom clinicians believe might benefit from it.

“Hallucinogenic drugs may very well turn out to be the next big thing to improve clinical care of major mental health conditions,” says Professor Danilo Bzdok, the study’s lead author

“Our study provides a first step, a proof of principle that we may be able to build machine learning systems in the future that can accurately predict which neurotransmitter receptor combinations need to be stimulated to induce a specific state of conscious experience in a given person.”

New Study Says Infrared Lasers Destroy Harmful Plaques in Alzheimer’s Brains

Good News Network 
Aug 4, 2020

A notable characteristic of several well-known neurodegenerative diseases—such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s—is the formation of harmful plaques that contain aggregates of amyloid proteins, also known as fibrils. Unfortunately, even after decades of research, getting rid of these plaques has remained a herculean challenge, so treatments for these patients have not been very effective.

Now, scientists are revealing the results from experiments that show how resonance with an infrared laser, when it is tuned to a specific frequency, actually causes amyloid fibrils to disintegrate from the inside out.

Their findings open doors to new therapeutic possibilities for amyloid plaque-related brain diseases that have thus far been incurable.

In recent years, instead of going down the chemical route using drugs, some scientists have turned to alternative approaches, such as ultrasound, to destroy amyloid fibrils and halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Now, a research team led by Dr Takayasu Kawasaki (IR-FEL Research Center, Tokyo University of Science, Japan) and Dr Phuong H. Nguyen (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France), including other researchers from the Aichi Synchrotron Radiation Center and the Synchrotron Radiation Research Center, Nagoya University, Japan, has used novel methods to show how infrared-laser irradiation can destroy amyloid fibrils.

In their study, published in Journal of Physical Chemistry B, the scientists present the results of laser experiments and molecular dynamics simulations. This two-pronged attack on the problem was necessary because of the inherent limitations of each approach, as Dr Kawasaki explains:

“While laser experiments coupled with various microscopy methods can provide information about the morphology and structural evolution of amyloid fibrils after laser irradiation, these experiments have limited spatial and temporal resolutions, thus preventing a full understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. On the other hand, though this information can be obtained from molecular simulations, the laser intensity and irradiation time used in simulations are very different from those used in actual experiments. It is therefore important to determine whether the process of laser-induced fibril dissociation obtained through experiments and simulations is similar.”

The scientists used a portion of a yeast protein that is known to form amyloid fibrils on its own. In their laser experiments, they tuned the frequency of an infrared laser beam to that of the “amide I band” of the fibril, creating resonance. Scanning electron microscopy images confirmed that the amyloid fibrils disassembled upon laser irradiation at the resonance frequency, and a combination of spectroscopy techniques revealed details about the final structure after fibril dissociation.

For the simulations, the researchers employed a technique that a few members of the current team had previously developed, called “nonequilibrium molecular dynamics (NEMD) simulations.” Its results corroborated those of the experiment and additionally clarified the entire amyloid dissociation process down to very specific details. Through the simulations, the scientists observed that the process begins at the core of the fibril where the resonance breaks intermolecular hydrogen bonds and thus separates the proteins in the aggregate. The disruption to this structure then spreads outward to the extremities of the fibril.

Together, the experiment and simulation make a good case for a novel treatment possibility for neurodegenerative disorders. Dr Kawasaki remarks, “In view of the inability of existing drugs to slow or reverse the cognitive impairment in Alzheimer’s disease, developing non-pharmaceutical approaches is very desirable. The ability to use infrared lasers to dissociate amyloid fibrils opens up a promising approach.”

The team’s long-term goal is to establish a framework combining laser experiments with NEMD simulations to study the process of fibril dissociation in even more detail, and new works are already underway.

All these efforts will hopefully light a beacon of hope for those dealing with Alzheimer’s or other neurodegenerative diseases.

Source: Tokyo University of Science (File photo by ThisisEngineering)

The Health Benefits of Binaural Beats

Exploring your Mind
May 26th, 2020

The goal of binaural beats therapy is to reduce stress, anxiety, or insomnia through an auditory phenomenon that occurs when you hear a slightly different frequency tone in each ear. However, does it really have any positive effect?

Some define binaural beats as the new “technological drug“. The goal of this auditory phenomenon is to create a sensation of three-dimensionality in your brain. You can achieve this effect by generating two types of slightly different sound frequencies in each ear through headphones. Thus, you end up perceiving a third sound, one that, in turn, leads to a series of sensations.

These sensory stimulation feelings range from peace, well-being, and tickling. What this type of experience produces varies a lot from person to person. However, it does seem clear that people are seldom indifferent to it.

Binaural beats are all the rage, to the point that sound wave therapy emerged as an alternative approach to treating anxiety and stressful states.

No 100% conclusive studies support its results, meaning that binaural beats therapy is currently in the experimental phase. This doesn’t keep thousands of people from practicing it daily to relax, reduce insomnia, improve their concentration, or simply for pleasure.

An example, on the I-Doser website, created by a psychologist specialized in audio and music, defines binaural sounds as something addictive that produces enormous pleasure. Hence, they define it as the new digital drug. However, experts agree it can improve mood; although it’s due to mere suggestions in some cases.

Binaural beats, a phenomenon with a historical background

Binaural beats stem from the fact that the right and left ears receive a slightly different frequency tone, but the brain perceives them as a single more accelerated, and uniquely pleasurable, tone. For example, hearing a frequency of 120 Hertz (Hz) in one ear and 132 in the other would produce a 12 Hz binaural beat.

This may seem rather sophisticated but it isn’t new to the world of science. Heinrich Wilhelm Dove, a Prussian physicist, discovered it in 1839. He realized that something as simple as hearing constant tones reproduced at slightly different frequencies in each ear makes a person perceive a different overall sound. Dr. Dove defined this as “binaural beat”.

Since then, people have been experimenting with it in clinical settings. They’ve made attempts to improve a person’s quality of sleep while also reducing their anxiety. The results over several decades are highly variable, as this method works for some but others are indifferent to it.

Binaural beats to reduce anxiety and physical pain sensation

Some people use binaural beats with the idea of ​​reducing their own anxiety. Other people who suffer pain due to injuries, joint problems, or even migraines also resort to this type of therapy.

Thus, a study conducted at the Department of Behavioral Sciences of the National Distance Education University, Dr. Miguel García found an average degree of effectiveness. This is because binaural beats were only effective in a limited number of patients. After two weeks of listening to binaural beats for 20 minutes, these only reduced 26% of the level of anxiety and pain perception of the sample.

A man at the mountains.

Binaural beats therapy for insomnia

Research papers on binaural beats applied to patients with insomnia problems are more significant. Studies such as the one conducted at Iuliu Hațieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca support its effectiveness in a very specific way, as it can help you fall asleep faster.

There are no conclusive data to this date regarding frequent awakenings or if the quality of sleep is more restorative and deep. Once again, there are emerging differences, as it helped some improve their quality of life by promoting night rest while others don’t show improvement.

Relaxation and mood improvement

Listening to binaural beats for 10 minutes every day, at a frequency of 6 Hz, can improve your mood. It does this by generating a sensation that’s similar to a meditation session in your brain. A person, therefore, feels more relaxed and receptive to their environment. Also, they get a sense of serenity and balance capable of enhancing motivation and positivity.

This outlines a series of improvements that may seem very interesting to you. However, we must emphasize what much of the research reveals: the results vary a lot. Therefore, researchers need to further investigate to understand what the actual changes it produces at the brain level are. This way, people can significantly benefit from this type of therapy.

The fact that the data isn’t conclusive doesn’t detract from its interest. Furthermore, one can test it to discover the specific sensations it causes in you. All you need is a good pair of headphones and then play any of the videos on YouTube on this subject. It’s always fun to immerse yourself in the fun sound universe!

Expanding Reality Through Consciousness: A Fascinating Interview With A Neurosurgeon

Arjun Walia
June 25, 2020

Mario Beauregard, PhD., is a neuroscientist currently affiliated with the Department of Psychology, University of Arizona. He has received a bachelor degree in psychology and a doctorate degree in neuroscience from the University of Montreal. He has also underwent postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Texas Medical School (Houston) and the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), McGill University.

Dr. Beauregard is the author of more than 100 publications (articles, essays, book chapters) in neuroscience, psychology, and psychiatry. He was the first neuroscientist to use neuroimaging to investigate the neural underpinnings of voluntary control in relation to emotion. Because of his research into the neuroscience of consciousness, he was selected (2000) by the World Media Net to be one of the “One Hundred Pioneers of the 21st Century.”

In the episode below, Collective Evolution founder Joe Martino and Dr. Beauregard sit down to discuss what transhumanism, AI, near death experiences and our current events have in common, which is consciousness. They all stem from what level of consciousness we are creating these things out of. Joe explores this topic with Dr. Beauregard in a recent episode of The Collective Evolution Show on CETV.

CETV is a platform we created to combat the tremendous amount of censorship and demonetization we have experienced and are currently experiencing. It’s our own platform, away from social media platforms like Facebook and it’s how we are able to continue doing what we do and keep Collective Evolution alive. If you’d like to become a member, start a free trial to check it out or simply support the work that we do, you can sign up HERE.

The Amygdala and Anxiety: What’s the Link?

EXPLORING YOUR MIND
May 19, 2020

Neuroscientists call the neurological structures that mediate anxiety disorders the “web of fear”. Out of all these areas, the most relevant is the brain’s amygdala: a region as small as a marble.

There’s a direct relationship between the amygdala and anxiety disorders. This is a fact that’s been known for a long time. However, in addition to this fact, there’s another that’s as curious as it is striking. Neuroscientists have discovered that some people have a larger amygdala and that this increases the risk of mood disorders.

Is this perhaps a coincidence? Can one really be born with such a neurological disorder? Research is showing us that, in reality, this peculiarity is due, above all, to a very specific factor. This factor is none other than the suffering caused by a difficult childhood, subject to constant stress, whether due to mistreatment, physical abandonment, or emotional neglect.

In other words, your previous experiences, and how they affected you, model your brain’s architecture. Moreover, it does so in a very unique way: if you suffer stress in childhood, it alters all that neurobiology related to what scientists call the “web of fear”.

Regions such as the amygdala, the hippocampus, or the anterior dorsal cingulate cortex suffer small alterations that will increase the risk of suffering anxiety disorders in adulthood.

An anxious woman.

The amygdala and anxiety: what’s the connection?

We all experience anxiety throughout our lives, with varying degrees of intensity. Stressful situations that you go through, such as facing a job interview, exams, or a conference that you have to speak at, put you through the mill. They create fear, uncertainty, or anxiety about what’s going to happen and whether you’re going to do well.

These experiences, however complex they may seem to you, are completely normal. However, it isn’t normal to suffer constant anxiety.

Sometimes, there’s no specific trigger. You can feel a permanent sense of anxiety that you can’t explain, and that alters your entire reality, both physically and psychologically. This anxiety is pathological and acts like a poison that affects your health and potential.

Psychological conditions such as phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, can affect you and are linked to anxiety. Because of this, neuroscientists have wondered for decades what actually happens in the human brain and what brain structures cause this anxiety.

The “web of fear” and the amygdala

Anxiety isn’t the result of the activity of just one brain structure. In fact, it’s the result of a complex combination of several areas of the brain. This makes up what scientists refer to as the “web of fear”. The name alone is scary enough, but what is it exactly?

To understand it better, we’ll start by explaining that the human brain is both emotional and rational. It has some very old areas that articulate and dominate the processes that are linked to your sensations, emotions, and feelings. Specifically, the frontal areas of the cerebral cortex control the cognitive and more reflexive processes.

When someone experiences an anxiety disorder, their brain is taken over by fear. We could say that the brain is “hijacked” by a series of structures that limit its more logical and reflective thinking.

Moreover, the part of your brain that orchestrates this control is the amygdala. This fact was discovered in the 90s, thanks to a study conducted at Yale University by Dr. Michael Davies.

  • We know that the amygdala is capable of extracting information about what surrounds us in an ultra-fast way. It detects risks and threats, whether real or imagined.
  • Soon after that, it activates the sensation of fear to get you ready to flee or to defend yourself.
  • After that, this feeling of fear and alertness also reaches the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (which is located in the frontal lobe). What this structure does is amplify the sensation of fear and block the most rational thoughts. Emotions are now controlling your brain, or, more specifically, anxiety. Your brain is wanting you to react to this situation.
A brain with lights.

Alterations in the amygdala due to a stressful childhood

In 2013, Stanford University made a great discovery. Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Vinod Menon discovered through MRI scans that some people had a larger than average amygdala. These people also had other correlating factors.

The first was that many of them suffered from anxiety disorders. The second was that they had experienced a traumatic or, at least, stressful childhood due to factors such as abandonment or emotional neglect, among others.

Therefore, it seems that having a larger amygdala causes alterations in the connections between other regions of the brain responsible for the perception and regulation of emotions.

This creates hyperactivity, and the cerebral amygdala becomes more sensitive and finds it more difficult to regulate fear, anguish, anxiety, and the feeling of threat, among others. However, Dr. Menon insists on one fact: experiencing a difficult childhood won’t necessarily mean that a person will suffer from mood disorders in adulthood. However, there’s a risk and a greater probability.

Knowing this, science is focusing on regulating the activity of the amygdala. Something like this could give us new and valuable tools to help us treat anxiety, a condition that, as you well know, is very common nowadays.

Love Makes Us More Intelligent, According to Neuroscience

 Exploring Your Mind
by Staff Writer,
June 16th, 2020

Some researchers concluded that love makes us more intelligent. This is because our brains have a “love neural network” and a particular biochemistry that activates and increases a series of cognitive functions.

Related Bowel and Brain – The Connection

People often say that, when a person falls in love, they lose their mind in one way or another. Well, actually, neuroscience has proven that the opposite is true! Love makes us more intelligent<t!

When a person’s in love, several things change in their brain and physiology. This experience is very special, precisely because of that.

Anyone who’s in love, particularly in the early part of the relationship, feels more awake and emotionally connected to the world. Also, they’re more empathetic and compassionate.

The fact is that love makes us better human beings. However, in addition to that, neuroscience discovered that love makes us smarter as well. Why? The chemistry of love resides primarily in the brain, and the transformation that falling in love entails also reaches areas that perform cognitive functions.

“To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life.”

-Pablo Neruda-

A couple hugging.

Love makes us more intelligent

In order to reach the conclusion that love makes us smarter, a group of researchers from the University of Chicago scanned the brains of several people who were in love. These images, along with other tests, showed that people who love also think faster, perceive other people’s ideas and behaviors more clearly, and are also more creative.

To reach these conclusions, the researchers used electrodes. They placed the electrodes on the heads of the participants and then showed them a series of photographs, including one of their partner. In addition, they also told them different names, including their partner’s name.

Then, the researchers discovered that 12 brain areas activated when these people saw their loved one or heard their name. One of the areas that showed particularly intense activity was the angular gyrus, one of the regions traditionally associated with abstract thinking and creativity. In fact, this activity didn’t stop when participants saw pictures of other people or heard other names.

“Losing your mind”

The results of the study were quite conclusive. Thus, you don’t “lose your mind” when you fall in love. In fact, love really does seem to make us more intelligent.

In this regard, the study researchers compare the angular gyrus to a small robot that can activate a complex neural network, since this area is highly connected to other brain areas.

The angular gyrus plays a role in functions such as number and language processing, as well as highly complex autobiographical data. This means that, along with love, we also acquire a special capacity to understand our own behaviors in a better way. This happens at a deeper level than in normal situations.

This thought and perception increase make people who are in love more capable of understanding other people’s behaviors on a deeper level. Thus, they perceive other people’s characteristics more effectively and recognize their feelings in a better way. That’s why researchers have concluded that loving makes us better people as well.

A couple in love.

Beyond the initial crush

It’s clear that all these brain activations and reactions are more intense during the infatuation stage. However, another study found that the same effects could be observed later on in the relationship. As long as love was present, there were very real benefits, even if that love wasn’t as effervescent as at the beginning.

A University of California study confirmed this. This time, the researchers studied a number of couples who’d been together for an average of 21.4 years. What these couples had in common was they all still claimed to be in love with their respective partners. The researchers found that their brains reacted similarly to the couples we mentioned above, who had recently fallen in love.

One particular observation was an increased amount of dopamine in their brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that has beneficial effects on a person’s mood and also influences cognitive activity. Basically, it helps to regulate and modulate information flows. In this regard, a dopamine deficit leads to memory, attention, and problem-solving difficulties.

Based on all this evidence, we can reach the conclusion that love indeed makes us more intelligent. Such intelligence not only applies to strictly cognitive matters but also encompasses the broader world of emotional intelligence.