active regions

Researchers explore why those with autism avoid eye contact

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often find it difficult to look others in the eyes. This avoidance has typically been interpreted as a sign of social and personal indifference, but reports from people with autism suggests otherwise. Many say that looking others in the eye is uncomfortable or stressful for them – some will even say that “it burns” – all of which points to a neurological cause. Now, a team of investigators based at the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital has shed light on the brain mechanisms involved in this behavior. They reported their findings in a Nature Scientific Reports paper.

“The findings demonstrate that, contrary to what has been thought, the apparent lack of interpersonal interest among people with autism is not due to a lack of concern,” says Nouchine Hadjikhani, MD, PhD, director of neurolimbic research in the Martinos Center and corresponding author of the new study. “Rather, our results show that this behavior is a way to decrease an unpleasant excessive arousal stemming from overactivation in a particular part of the brain.”

The key to this research lies in the brain’s subcortical system, which is responsible for the natural orientation toward faces seen in newborns and is important later for emotion perception. The subcortical system can be specifically activated by eye contact, and previous work by Hadjikhani and colleagues revealed that, among those with autism, it was oversensitive to effects elicited by direct gaze and emotional expression. In the present study, she took that observation further, asking what happens when those with autism are compelled to look in the eyes of faces conveying different emotions.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), Hadjikhani and colleagues measured differences in activation within the face-processing components of the subcortical system in people with autism and in control participants as they viewed faces either freely or when constrained to viewing the eye-region. While activation of these structures was similar for both groups exhibited during free viewing, overactivation was observed in participants with autism when concentrating on the eye-region. This was especially true with fearful faces, though similar effects were observed when viewing happy, angry and neutral faces.

The findings of the study support the hypothesis of an imbalance between the brain’s excitatory and inhibitory signaling networks in autism – excitatory refers to neurotransmitters that stimulate the brain, while inhibitory refers to those that calm it and provide equilibrium. Such an imbalance, likely the result of diverse genetic and environmental causes, can strengthen excitatory signaling in the subcortical circuitry involved in face perception. This in turn can result in an abnormal reaction to eye contact, an aversion to direct gaze and consequently abnormal development of the social brain.

In revealing the underlying reasons for eye-avoidance, the study also suggests more effective ways of engaging individuals with autism. “The findings indicate that forcing children with autism to look into someone’s eyes in behavioral therapy may create a lot of anxiety for them,” says Hadjikhani, an associate professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School. “An approach involving slow habituation to eye contact may help them overcome this overreaction and be able to handle eye contact in the long run, thereby avoiding the cascading effects that this eye-avoidance has on the development of the social brain.”

The researchers are already planning to follow up the research. Hadjikhani is now seeking funding for a study that will use magnetoencephalography (MEG) together with eye-tracking and other behavioral tests to probe more deeply the relationship between the subcortical system and eye contact avoidance in autism.

Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week

Need some space? 

Here are 10 perspective-building images for your computer desktop and mobile device wallpaper. 

These are all real images, sent very recently by our planetary missions throughout the solar system. 

1. Our Sun

Warm up with this view from our Solar Dynamics Observatory showing active regions on the Sun in October 2017. They were observed in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that reveals plasma heated to over a million degrees. 

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2. Jupiter Up-Close

This series of enhanced-color images shows Jupiter up close and personal, as our Juno spacecraft performed its eighth flyby of the gas giant planet on Sept. 1, 2017. 

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3. Saturn’s and Its Rings

With this mosaic from Oct. 28, 2016, our Cassini spacecraft captured one of its last looks at Saturn and its main rings from a distance. 

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4. Gale Crater on Mars

This look from our Curiosity Mars rover includes several geological layers in Gale crater to be examined by the mission, as well as the higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond. The redder rocks of the foreground are part of the Murray formation. Pale gray rocks in the middle distance of the right half of the image are in the Clay Unit. A band between those terrains is “Vera Rubin Ridge,” where the rover is working currently. The view combines six images taken with the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Jan. 24, 2017. 

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5. Sliver of Saturn

Cassini peers toward a sliver of Saturn’s sunlit atmosphere while the icy rings stretch across the foreground as a dark band on March 31, 2017. This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 7 degrees below the ring plane. 

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6. Dwarf Planet Ceres 

This image of the limb of dwarf planet Ceres shows a section of the northern hemisphere, as seen by our Dawn mission. Prominently featured is Occator Crater, home of Ceres’ intriguing “bright spots.” The latest research suggests that the bright material in this crater is comprised of salts left behind after a briny liquid emerged from below. 

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7. Martian Crater

This image from our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a crater in the region with the most impressive known gully activity in Mars’ northern hemisphere. Gullies are active in the winter due to carbon dioxide frost, but northern winters are shorter and warmer than southern winters, so there is less frost and less gully activity. 

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8. Dynamic Storm on Jupiter

A dynamic storm at the southern edge of Jupiter’s northern polar region dominates this Jovian cloudscape, courtesy of Juno. This storm is a long-lived anticyclonic oval named North North Temperate Little Red Spot 1. Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed this image using data from the JunoCam imager. 

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9. Rings Beyond Saturn’s Sunlit Horizon 

This false-color view from the Cassini spacecraft gazes toward the rings beyond Saturn’s sunlit horizon. Along the limb (the planet’s edge) at left can be seen a thin, detached haze. 

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10. Saturn’s Ocean-Bearing Moon Enceladus

Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus sinks behind the giant planet in a farewell portrait from Cassini. This view of Enceladus was taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Sept. 13, 2017. It is among the last images Cassini sent back before its mission came to an end on Sept. 15, after nearly 20 years in space. 

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Applying Wallpaper:
1. Click on the screen resolution you would like to use.
2. Right-click on the image (control-click on a Mac) and select the option ‘Set the Background’ or 'Set as Wallpaper’ (or similar).

Places to look for more of our pictures include solarsystem.nasa.gov/galleries, images.nasa.gov and www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

This insect spray contains DEET, not to be confused with DDT. DDT is outlawed in most parts of the world because it is highly toxic to wildlife and isn’t that great for people either. DEET, when used appropriately is safe. DEET is also the only effective tick repellent in people. That’s it. Citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint oil, and the rest are not effective. If you are going to be doing outdoor activities in tick infested regions (basically anywhere in the world) you need DEET. The very minor worry about adverse effects are nothing compared to the very real life threatening diseases that ticks carry. It just isn’t worth playing roulette with your health because of concerns over DEET. Ask anyone with Lyme or other tick disease and I bet they will say they wish they had worn repellent. Also note that nothing is 100%. You still must check yourself for ticks after any outdoor activity. Tick borne diseases are going to be the new pandemic especially with climate change. Protect yourself.

The Sun emitted another mid-level (M8.1) flare from the same active region (AR 2673) on Sept. 8. Solar flares are sudden outbursts of energy that dramatically enhance the X-ray region of the solar spectrum. The Geostationary Operational Environment Satellites (GOES) classifies flares based on their X-ray emission peaks (A, B, C, M or X). On each GOES satellite there are two X-Ray Sensors (XRS) which measure X-ray brightness of flares in the wavelength range of 0.5 to 3 Angstroms (black line) and 1 to 8 Angstroms (red line). You can see the measurements above. The imagery/data dropouts are due to satellite eclipses.

Recycling NGC 5291 : Following an ancient galaxy-galaxy collision 200 million light-years from Earth, debris from a gas-rich galaxy, NGC 5291, was flung far into intergalactic space. NGC 5291 and the likely interloper, also known as the Seashell galaxy, are captured near the center of this spectacular scene. The sharp, ground-based telescopic image looks toward the galaxy cluster Abell 3574 in the southern constellation Centaurus. Stretched along the 100,000 light-year long tidal tails, are clumps resembling dwarf galaxies, but lacking old stars, apparently dominated by young stars and active star forming regions. Found to be unusually rich in elements heavier than hydrogen and helium, the dwarf galaxies were likely born in intergalactic space, recycling the enriched debris from NGC 5291 itself. via NASA

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The Sun Just Released the Most Powerful Flare of this Solar Cycle

The Sun released two significant solar flares on Sept. 6, including one that clocked in as the most powerful flare of the current solar cycle.

The solar cycle is the approximately 11-year-cycle during which the Sun’s activity waxes and wanes. The current solar cycle began in December 2008 and is now decreasing in intensity and heading toward solar minimum, expected in 2019-2020. Solar minimum is a phase when solar eruptions are increasingly rare, but history has shown that they can nonetheless be intense.

Footage of the Sept. 6 X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (131 angstrom wavelength)

Our Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, which watches the Sun constantly, captured images of both X-class flares on Sept. 6.

Solar flares are classified according to their strength. X-class denotes the most intense flares, followed by M-class, while the smallest flares are labeled as A-class (near background levels) with two more levels in between. Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each of the five levels of letters represents a 10-fold increase in energy output. 

The first flare peaked at 5:10 a.m. EDT, while the second, larger flare, peaked at 8:02 a.m. EDT.

Footage of the Sept. 6 X2.2 and X9.3 solar flares captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (171 angstrom wavelength) with Earth for scale

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb Earth’s atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

Both Sept. 6 flares erupted from an active region labeled AR 2673. This area also produced a mid-level solar flare on Sept. 4, 2017. This flare peaked at 4:33 p.m. EDT, and was about a tenth the strength of X-class flares like those measured on Sept. 6.

Footage of the Sept. 4 M5.5 solar flare captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light (131 angstrom wavelength)

This active region continues to produce significant solar flares. There were two flares on the morning of Sept. 7 as well. 

For the latest updates and to see how these events may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

Follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook to keep up with all the latest in space weather research.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

anonymous asked:

Oh, so he's probably a Heinzer. (57 varieties!)

Some great names for Mutts to confuse people:

  • Heinzer/Heinz Hound/Funfundseben Hund
  • Kitchen Sink Dog
  • (adjective normally reserved for ornithology or Botany)+(lesser-known craft profession)  i.e.  Plileated Cooper, Spotted Milner, Variegated Millwright etc.
  • Un-knee-kway Dog.  When asked for the spelling, it’s U-N-I-Q-U-E
  • (region)+(suspect activity)+Dog Ex: Arizona Loitering Dog, Jersey Arson Dog, Tahiti Treason Dog.  Be sure to make up a GREAT story for WHY.
  • Son-Of-Many-Fathers
  • Small Dogs: Cat Breeds. 
  • Large Dogs: Horse Breeds
  • Weird Dogs: Python Breeds.
  • (The longest German word you can pronounce without passing out)+Hund
  • (ridiculous British name)+(improbable game)+Hunting-Dog.   Cudginton’s Elephant-Hunting-Dog, Humphrey’s Whaling Dog.
  • “What is he?” “A Dog.”  
  • Act confused when asked to elaborate. Deny that breeds exist as anything other than a social construct and that you refuse to participate in a system that discriminates based on heritage, how dare they, throw a tantrum, get kicked out of the dog park.  Never have to speak to Karen and her bratty, inbred cavalier spaniels again.

Hubble Spies the Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 4394 : Shown in this Hubble Space Telescope image, NGC 4394 is the archetypal barred spiral galaxy, with bright spiral arms emerging from the ends of a bar that cuts through the galaxys central bulge. These arms are peppered with young blue stars, dark filaments of cosmic dust, and bright, fuzzy regions of active star formation.

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Lovely Loops

The upper one of a pair of new, solar active regions that just rotated into view of SDO offered a beautiful profile view of cascading loops spiraling above it (Jan. 15-16, 2012) following a solar flare eruption. These loop structures are made of superheated plasma, just one of which is the size of several Earths. With its ability to capture the Sun in amazing detail, SDO observed it all in extreme ultraviolet light.

Credit: NASA/JPL/SDO

September 2017 Was 🔥 on the Sun

The Sun started September 2017 with flair, emitting 31 sizable solar flares and releasing several powerful coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, between Sept. 6-10.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. 

CMEs are massive clouds of solar material and magnetic fields that erupt from the Sun at incredible speeds. Depending on the direction they’re traveling in, CMEs can spark powerful geomagnetic storms in Earth’s magnetic field.

As always, we and our partners had many missions observing the Sun from both Earth and space, enabling scientists to study these events from multiple perspectives. With this integrated picture of solar activity, scientists can better track the evolution of solar eruptions and work toward improving our understanding of space weather.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-16, or GOES-16, watches the Sun’s upper atmosphere — called the corona — at six different wavelengths, allowing it to observe a wide range of solar phenomena. GOES-16 caught this footage of an X9.3 flare on Sept. 6, 2017. 

This was the most intense flare recorded during the current 11-year solar cycle. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, and so on. GOES also detected solar energetic particles associated with this activity.

Our Solar Dynamics Observatory captured these images of X2.2 and X9.3 flares on Sept. 6, 2017, in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light that shows solar material heated to over one million degrees Fahrenheit.

JAXA/NASA’s Hinode caught this video of an X8.2 flare on Sept. 10, 2017, the second largest flare of this solar cycle, with its X-ray Telescope. The instrument captures X-ray images of the corona to help scientists link changes in the Sun’s magnetic field to explosive solar events like this flare.

Key instruments aboard our Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, include a pair of coronagraphs — instruments that use a metal disk called an occulting disk to study the corona. The occulting disk blocks the Sun’s bright light, making it possible to discern the detailed features of the Sun’s outer atmosphere and track coronal mass ejections as they erupt from the Sun.

On Sept. 9, 2017, STEREO watched a CME erupt from the Sun. The next day, STEREO observed an even bigger CME. The Sept. 10 CME traveled away from the Sun at calculated speeds as high as 7 million mph, and was one of the fastest CMEs ever recorded. The CME was not Earth-directed: It side-swiped Earth’s magnetic field, and therefore did not cause significant geomagnetic activity. Mercury is in view as the bright white dot moving leftwards in the frame.

Like STEREO, ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, uses a coronagraph to track solar storms. SOHO also observed the CMEs that occurred during Sept. 9-10, 2017; multiple views provide more information for space weather models. As the CME expands beyond SOHO’s field of view, a flurry of what looks like snow floods the frame. These are high-energy particles flung out ahead of the CME at near-light speeds that struck SOHO’s imager.

Our Interface Region Imaging Spectrometer, or IRIS, captured this video on Sept. 10, 2017, showing jets of solar material swimming down toward the Sun’s surface. These structures are sometimes observed in the corona during solar flares, and this particular set was associated with the X8.2 flare of the same day.  

Our Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, or SORCE, collected the above data on total solar irradiance, the total amount of the Sun’s radiant energy, throughout Sept. 2017. While the Sun produced high levels of extreme ultraviolet light, SORCE actually detected a dip in total irradiance during the month’s intense solar activity. 

A possible explanation for this observation is that over the active regions — where solar flares originate — the darkening effect of sunspots is greater than the brightening effect of the flare’s extreme ultraviolet emissions. As a result, the total solar irradiance suddenly dropped during the flare events. 

Scientists gather long-term solar irradiance data in order to understand not only our dynamic star, but also its relationship to Earth’s environment and climate. We are ready to launch the Total Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor-1, or TSIS-1, this December to continue making total solar irradiance measurements.

The intense solar activity also sparked global aurora on Mars more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission. MAVEN studies the Martian atmosphere’s interaction with the solar wind, the constant flow of charged particles from the Sun. These images from MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph show the appearance of bright aurora on Mars during the September solar storm. The purple-white colors show the intensity of ultraviolet light on Mars’ night side before (left) and during (right) the event.

For all the latest on solar and space weather research, follow us on Twitter @NASASun or Facebook.

GOES images are courtesy of NOAA. Hinode images are courtesy of JAXA and NASA. SOHO images are courtesy of ESA and NASA. 

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This is what is happening in the sun when it is too bright to see details.

nasa The magnetic field lines between a pair of active regions formed a beautiful set of swaying arches, seen in this footage captured by our Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 24-26, 2017.
These arches, which form a connection between regions of opposite magnetic polarity, are visible in exquisite detail in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Extreme ultraviolet light is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in gold. This video covers almost two days of activity.
Credits: NASA/SDO 

Our sun is dynamic and ever-changing. On Friday, July 14, a solar flare and a coronal mass ejection erupted from the same, large active region. The coils arcing over this active region are particles spiraling along magnetic field lines.

Solar flares are explosions on the sun that send energy, light and high-speed particles into space. Such flares are often associated with solar magnetic storms known as coronal mass ejections. While these are the most common solar events, the sun can also emit streams of very fast protons – known as solar energetic particle (SEP) events – and disturbances in the solar wind known as corotating interaction regions (CIRs).

Learn more HERE.

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13 Things Anyone Who Loves A Highly Sensitive Person Should Know

Some people are just more sensitive than others, and that’s not always a bad thing. Approximately one in five people – women and men – can be classified HSP, or as a highly sensitive person, according to HSP researcher and psychologist Elaine Aron, Ph.D. That makes it highly likely you know and love someone with the personality trait.

Below are a few things to keep in mind about your highly sensitive loved ones.

1. We’re going to cry.

When we’re happy, when we’re sad and when we’re angry. That’s because highly sensitive people just naturally feel more deeply and react accordingly.

2. Not all of us are introverts.

Introversion does not equal sensitivity. In fact, according to Aron’s research, approximately 30 percent of highly sensitive people are extroverts.

3. Decisions make us nervous.

Highly sensitive individuals are notoriously bad at making choices – even if it’s just picking out where to go to dinner. This is mostly because we agonize over the possibility of making the wrong one. (What if the food is bad?!)

4. We notice that subtle change in your tone.

If you normally end each text message with an exclamation point and lately you’ve been using a period, you better believe we’ll pick up on it. Highly sensitive people are generally more intuitive when it comes to the tiny nuances of our environment and we’re more affected by shifts in other people’s moods.

5. We’re always willing to hear you vent.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to use us when you need a shoulder to lean on. Our overly-empathetic nature allows us to be excellent listeners when you need it, because when you feel pain so do we – and we want to do whatever we can to make you feel comfortable. Highly sensitive people make excellent teachers, therapists and managers for this reason.

6. Repetitive and loud noises are the worst.

Loud chewing, a barreling train, boisterous co-workers: You name it, we’re sensitive to it. That’s because chaotic or overstimulating environments have more of an influence on HSPs, according to Aron.

7. Our workplace habits are a bit atypical.

Working from home or in a quiet space is a dream for highly sensitive people – especially because it allows us to focus if we become too overwhelmed. However, don’t let our solo work ethic fool you. “Sensitive people can use their observations to their advantage … They’re going to rise to the top,” Aron previously told HuffPost. “They know how to bring ideas up without being ridiculed or scorned.” HSPs also make excellent team players due to our analytical nature and thoughtfulness for others’ ideas (just don’t force us to make the final decision on a project).

8. Don’t ask us to see that new slasher movie.

That same high empathy we experience for others combined with over-stimulation makes gory, violent films truly terrible for highly sensitive people.

9. Criticism is incredibly distressing.

As a result, we tend to avoid anything that may cause those feelings of shame. This may mean we engage in people-pleasing or self-deprecating behavior more than most of our peers. In other words, we’re far from perfect.

10. We’re constantly being told we take things too personally.

A joke at our expense sometimes just isn’t a joke to us. We know it’s a little silly to be upset, but what else are we supposed to do with all of our feelings?

11. We have a low pain tolerance.

Pass the ice, please. It doesn’t matter if it’s a broken arm or just a stubbed toe, any injury really hurts. This is because highly sensitive people are more affected by pain than others, according to Aron’s research.

12. We crave deep relationships.

According to Aron, highly sensitive people tend to get more bored in marriages than non-HSP couples, mostly due to the lack of meaningful interaction that naturally occurs as time goes on. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re dissatisfied with the relationship – we just need to find a way to have more stimulating conversations.

13. We can’t just stop being highly sensitive.

A 2014 study published in the journal Brain and Behavior found that highly sensitive people experienced more activity in regions of the brain associated with empathy and awareness when exposed to pictures of emotional individuals than the average person. In other words, we’re neurologically wired to behave the way that we do.

With that in mind, know that the best way to love us is to support us. Try not to shame us for our sensitivity. Tell us it’s okay to feel the way we do. And in return, we’ll try not to tear up over your kind words (no promises, though). (source)

Black Sun and Inverted Starfield 

Does this strange dark ball look somehow familiar? If so, that might be because it is our Sun. In the featured image from 2012, a detailed solar view was captured originally in a very specific color of red light, then rendered in black and white, and then color inverted. Once complete, the resulting image was added to a starfield, then also color inverted. Visible in the image of the Sun are long light filaments, dark active regions, prominences peeking around the edge, and a moving carpet of hot gas. The surface of our Sun can be a busy place, in particular during Solar Maximum, the time when its surface magnetic field is wound up the most. Besides an active Sun being so picturesque, the plasma expelled can also become picturesque when it impacts the Earth’s magnetosphere and creates auroras.

Credit: Jim Lafferty

The magnetic field lines between a pair of active regions formed a beautiful set of swaying arches, seen in this footage captured by our Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 24-26, 2017. 

These arches, which form a connection between regions of opposite magnetic polarity, are visible in exquisite detail in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Extreme ultraviolet light is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorized here in gold. 

Take a closer look: https://go.nasa.gov/2pGgYZt

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Less Fear: how LSD Affects the Brain

Scientists at the University of Basel have shown that LSD reduces activity in the region of the brain related to the handling of negative emotions like fear. The results, published in the scientific journal Translational Psychiatry, could affect the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.

Hallucinogens have many different effects on the psyche; among other things, they alter perception, thought, and temporal and emotional experience. After the Basel-based chemist Albert Hofmann discovered lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in the 1940s, there was a huge amount of interest in the substance, particularly in psychiatry. It was hoped, for example, that it could provide insights into the development of hallucinations, and studies were conducted on its effectiveness on illnesses such as depression or alcohol dependency. In the 1960s, LSD was declared illegal worldwide, and medical research on it came to a standstill.

In the last few years, however, interest in researching hallucinogens for medical purposes has been revived. Psychoactive substances such as LSD, particularly in combination with psychotherapies, could offer an alternative to conventional medication. It is now known that hallucinogens bind to a receptor of the neurotransmitter serotonin; how the changes of consciousness influence the activity and connectivity of the brain, however, is not yet known.

LSD alters brain activity

Researchers at the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK) and the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University Hospital Basel (USB) have now conducted a study into the acute effect of LSD on the brain. They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the brain activity of 20 healthy people after taking 100 micrograms of LSD. During the MRI scan, the participants were shown images of faces portraying different emotional states such as anger, joy or fear.

Professor Stefan Borgwardt and his team showed that the depiction of fear under LSD led to a notably lower level of activity in the amygdala – an area of the brain that is believed to be central to the processing of emotions. This observation could explain some of the changes in emotional experience that occur after taking hallucinogens.

Less fear after taking LSD

In a second step, the researchers, together with clinical pharmacologists at the University Hospital Basel, examined whether the subjective experience altered by LSD is associated with the amygdala. This appears to be the case: the lower the LSD-induced amygdala activity of a subject, the higher the subjective effect of the drug. “This ‘de-frightening’ effect could be an important factor for positive therapeutic effects,” explains Doctor Felix Müller, lead author of the study. The researchers presume that hallucinogens may cause many more changes in brain activity. Further studies will investigate this, with a particular focus on their therapeutic potential.