prefrontal cortex

Researchers identify specific neurons that distinguish between reality and imagination

New Western University research shows that neurons in the part of the brain found to be abnormal in psychosis are also important in helping people distinguish between reality and imagination.

The researchers, Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo, principal investigator and professor at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Dr. Diego Mendoza-Halliday, postdoctoral researcher at M.I.T., investigated how the brain codes visual information in reality versus abstract information in our working memory and how those differences are distributed across neurons in the lateral prefrontal cortex region of the brain. The results were published in Nature Communications.

“You can look at my shirt, and then if I move out of your vision, even with your eyes open you can still see the colour of my shirt in your mind,” explained Martinez-Trujillo, based at the Brain and Mind Institute and Robarts Research Institute at Western University. “That is what we call working memory representations or short-term memory representations – they are abstract, they are imaginary and they don’t exist in reality, but in our minds. Real objects in our visual field, we call perceptual representations. We are trying to determine whether there are neurons in the brain that can signal to a person whether a representation is real or imaginary.”

By having subjects perform two tasks – one where they had to report the direction of movement of a cloud of dots they could see on a computer screen, and one where they had to report the cloud direction a few seconds after it disappeared based on a memory of the image – they found that neurons in the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex encoded perceived and memorized information to various degrees and in different combinations of strength.

“We might have expected that the neurons that are active when we perceive a visual object are the same ones that memorize it; or, on the contrary, that one group of neurons perceives the object and a completely different group memorizes it; but instead, we found that all of the above are true to a certain extent,” said Mendoza-Halliday, first author on the study. “We have perception neurons, memory neurons, and also neurons that do both things.”

The Lateral Prefrontal Cortex has been shown to be dysfunctional in individuals with schizophrenia, who have hallucinations or delusions. However, so far, researchers have not been able to pinpoint the source of this dysfunction.

Using machine-learning, the researchers created a computer algorithm that could read out the pattern of neurons firing in the Prefrontal Cortex and reliably determine whether a subject was perceiving a cloud of dots or remembering one they had seen before. Martinez-Trujillo hopes that by pinpointing the specific neurons responsible for distinguishing between reality and imagination, they might be better able to treat disorders like schizophrenia that cause patients to confuse what’s real and what isn’t.

“I would argue that schizophrenia is not a neurochemical disorder of the whole brain,” said Martinez-Trujillo. “It is only a neurochemical disorder in specific parts of the brain.”

Currently, pharmacological treatments for these disorders change the neurochemistry in the entire brain, often causing unintended side-effects. By targeting only the specific neurons responsible for these disturbances, Martinez-Trujillo hopes they may be able to minimize these side-effects.

Why Completing Tasks is so Difficult and Exhausting

“When a ‘normal’ person is given a task to complete and her brain is scanned as she does it, the prefrontal cortex lights up, showing that it is actively processing the information necessary to complete the task. The rest of the brain stays more or less inactive. When such a test is done with a person who has ADHD, the prefrontal cortex does not light up in the same way, indicating it’s inactive. However, several other regions of the brain do light up, indicating that the ADHDer uses areas of the brain other than the prefrontal cortex to complete the task. In other words, the brain compensates for what the prefrontal cortex in the ADHDer is unable to do. While the person may complete the task, he or she may feel overwhelmed, because the part of the brain doing the work isn’t designed to do so.”

-Alicia R. Maher

From Scattered to Centered : Understanding and Overcoming ADHD

Headcanon, Danny has ADHD

Okay, maybe it’s because I have ADHD and I like seeing fictional characters that are like me, but hear me out here.

-He has mild inattentive type, more commonly known as just ADD, (no hyperactivity)
-It’s mild, so he doesn’t NEED medication, but maybe he should. He’s not going to though. I’ll bet he hasn’t even been diagnosed.
-Absent-mindedly touching the inside of a high voltage broken machine while walking in? That’s something I would do.
-Hyper focus would definitely help him while fighting.
-He’s really smart but gets bad grades, even when he studies. He finds studying subjects he doesn’t like to be really hard. See: Teacher of the year
-He seems to overreact to some things and has pretty strong emotions. This doesn’t happen with everyone that has ADHD, but it can be an effect. He screams a lot even when he should be used to what is happening. Call me crazy, but it feels like Tucker and Sam are a lot less vocal in battle than he is.
-I don’t think he means to let Sam and Tucker take a lot of blows and let them take the blame. I think he just has slightly less impulse control than the average person and isn’t good at thinking consequences through.
-ADHD can be hereditary and if you think there is absolutely no possible way that Jack has ADHD or a similar illness then I don’t understand your logic.
-Also there’s that theory floating around that ectoplasm is mildly radioactive and/or Maddie being around it while pregnant could have some kind of effects on her kids. This could have led to Danny having a slightly underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, which is what causes ADHD.
-He’s bad at dodging. I too have spaced out during situations where I should have been dodging and either saw the thing coming at me and for some reason didn’t move or just didn’t think about it and got hit. However, when I’m having a good day I’m really good at it. That’s how Danny can honestly say he’s “a whiz at dodgeball” and still get hit as much as he does.
-He’s really smart but misses obvious things. He also thinks out loud a lot. This is something my brother and a few other people I know who also have ADHD do as well.
-A lot of people with inattentive type (including myself) have a hard time making and keeping friends. Will often have either no friends and a few acquaintances or one or two really close ones.
-If you believe the trans Danny headcanons, that can explain why he hasn’t gotten help yet. It’s a lot harder to recognize and diagnose ADHD in girls and people that were socialized as girls.
-He comes up with puns and insults on the spot. Neurotypicals can do that too, but when you have ADHD, your brain often makes seemingly random connections a lot faster than the average person. This helps with making spur of the moment puns and solving mysteries. Remember how he figured out Spectra was a ghost?

So, yeah. That’s my reasoning. I just honestly think that him having ADHD clears up a lot of things about his character. But, I’m not a psychiatrist. I’m just one guy that has ADD. This is just me speculating.
interesting facts about bpd
  • A number of neuroimaging studies in BPD have reported findings of reductions in regions of the brain involved in the regulation of stress responses and emotion, affecting the hippocampus, the orbitofrontal cortex, and the amygdala, amongst other areas.
  • The hippocampus tends to be smaller in people with BPD, as it is in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, in BPD, unlike PTSD, the amygdala also tends to be smaller.
  • The amygdalae are smaller and more active in people with BPD.
  • One study has found unusually strong activity in the left amygdalas of people with BPD when they experience and view displays of negative emotions.
  • The prefrontal cortex tends to be less active in people with BPD, especially when recalling memories of abandonment.
  • Cortisol production tends to be elevated in people with BPD.
  • A 2003 study found that women’s BPD symptoms were predicted by changes in estrogen levels throughout their menstrual cycles, an effect that remained significant when the results were controlled for a general increase in negative affect.
  • Adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD) showed excessive emotional reactions when looking at words with unpleasant meanings compared to healthy people during an emotionally stimulating task, according to NIMH-funded researchers.
  • Are often found thyroid antibodies and generally low levels of vitamin B12 in BPD patients.
  • Psychiatrist Harold W. Koenigsberg about the brain activity in BPD people: “These patients can not use the same parts of their brains as the healthy people when they need to regulate their emotions, which may explain why their emotional reactions are so extreme”.

Think better before saying someone with BPD is just being dramatic.

Why Embracing Emotional Distress is the Best Medicine Sometimes

Much of our mental suffering is caused by our overwhelming attempt to avoid it. We think experiencing any sort of anxiety is a threat to our existing, but psychology studies have proven that one learns from struggle. One becomes a better human being through heartache. Let us explain with the science behind this theory..

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let's talk about Bucky’s brain

I dunno if anyone’s done this before but whatever. Specifically, I want to talk about Bucky’s brain in relation to the cannibalized MRI thing they strapped on his noggin in CA:TWS. Like what the hell is that thing, how old is it, what are you trying to do HYDRA, is this one of those weird dryer things you stick your whole head in at the hairdresser’s? They have had 70 years to perfect this technology and it looks like a high schooler’s science fair project. There aren’t even any electrodes. Seriously there should be electrodes not only because they’re kind of necessary for this sort of thing but also because who would object to Bucky Barnes looking totally punk rock with a partially-shaved head? No one, that’s who.

But I guess let’s just assume the plate things themselves are in contact with his head and transmitting the charge themselves. Okay. That’s a big area they cover and approximately zero opportunity for finesse, so they can’t localize the damage at all. And there’s still all that hair in the way. But whatever, I’ll shut up about the hair.

So the plate things are basically concentrated on the prefrontal cortex, which is at the very front of the brain, behind the forehead where the plates are located. I mean there looks like there are plates going around around the back of the head but if it only goes as deep as the cerebrum they don’t want to damage anything back there because it’s all motor skills and balance and sensory perception and language centers, all of which were vital in the Winter Soldier’s functioning. 

So yeah, the prefrontal cortex seems to be what they’re targeting, and the prefrontal cortex is for short term memory and decision making. However, it would be indescribably stupid to damage short term memory retention, so I don’t think they’d just fry the entire prefrontal cortex. Especially if it could compromise his ability to make quick, logical decisions in the field because the prefrontal cortex is important for logic and impulse control. So I would assume that they’re targeting the connections between the short term and long term memory storage systems rather than taking away his short term memory altogether. 

Basically, recalling a memory that’s stored in long-term is just the brain returning it to the short-term memory center, or the working memory, concentrated in the prefrontal cortex. From there your brain literally refires all the neurons that fired during that experience, without compromising awareness of current circumstances. So severing those connections between long and short term memory would not only stop him retaining new memories, it would stop him recalling old ones.

They could be messing with his long term memory, except there are no intracranial bits and bobs that could actually penetrate deeper than the cerebrum without frying everything in between, and the hippocampus and amygdala where long term memory is stored are in there deep. 

This picture doesn’t do justice to how deep in the brain the hippocampus and amygdala are, but it works well enough as a visual aid. You don’t want to damage the amygdala in a super soldier at any rate because that’s where the survival instincts are kicking around. Also, damaging the hippocampus on both sides of the brain would turn him into a potato, unable to retain any information at all, not even how to discharge his weapon, so you’d basically have to retrain him anew for every mission. And this contraption has clearly no finesse at all, as stated above, so I really don’t think they’d be able to destroy anything only partially or make any localized alterations.

And sure, maybe they actually opened up his head at some point in the past to get at long term memory storage, and the cryofreeze might stop that from healing, but I think the understanding of the brain was so ridiculously limited at that time that they didn’t really even know how to avoid excessive damage, and I don’t think they would have risked rendering one of their best assets brain dead. Honestly, I think the most likely thing they did was supplement the physical stuff with more traditional brainwashing and conditioning techniques.

So really, all Bucky needs to do is repair the connections between his long term and short term memory. Even with all this damage, the brain is adaptable even in normal humans. When certain parts are damaged, other parts can take over functioning in their stead. Although in this case, if the connections between long and short term memory were cut every time he went into the cryogenic chamber, he never would have stored any of the information gleaned as the Winter Soldier past the short term unless he managed to catch enough sleep to transfer those memories into long term storage before he got zapped or frozen again. So he would potentially remember everything about being Bucky Barnes fairly quickly, assuming his super soldier healing could repair those pathways or create new ones to compensate, and he would never remember most of his time as the Winter Soldier except what they wanted him to remember and let him encode before they took out those connections again. So basically, his combat training, his obedience training, and all that hydra indoctrination crap.

His old memories as Bucky would remain relatively pristine, because the more we view a memory the more current circumstances during the recollection alter it, and what you remember becomes less and less similar to what you actually experienced at the time. So instead of memories slowly changing and evolving as the person themself changes, which is what normally happens as we revisit memories and subtly alter them over time through new perception, Bucky would have this huge, disorienting, sickening divide between the well-preserved, untouched old memories of how he used to be and any new ones he managed to create as the Winter Soldier. The Winter Soldier memories will be less fleshed out, have more holes, be generally more ghost-like because of how they fucked with his brain and memories, so it would be easy for him to dissociate with them and to ignore them, but in order to ignore them Bucky would also have to ignore their consequences. He would be denying a part of himself. And he wouldn’t be able to deal well with their fallout, with the ways those experiences changed him, because he wouldn’t let himself examine them.

Honestly this is horrifying in its own way. All the fic I’ve read talks about how horrible it must be for the Winter Soldier to forget Bucky Barnes, but very little touches on how horrible it would be for Bucky to be all there and have a stranger in his head that he has few, dissociated memories of, but still retains a lot of that conditioning and finds himself acting like someone he doesn’t even remember being. He would feel betrayed by his own body and his own mind, doing things without knowing why he was doing them. I feel like not being the same Bucky as the one who went off to war would be so frustrating to him. Fics paint it as Steve being frustrated by the fact that Bucky’s no longer the same person, but I think Bucky himself would be far more frustrated by that fact than Steve. I think the fact that he’s not the same would bother him more than Steve’s longing for him to be the same, because he would understand that longing, share it even. I think he would dissociate from the foreign Winter Soldier part of himself, would try to bury it or force it out instead of facing it, would hate whatever memories he did retain from that time, because the Winter Soldier terrifies everyone but I think he would terrify Bucky most of all. And it would make sense, too. After all, the winter soldier was always supposed to be a ghost, the unseen threat, the silent killer, and I think, rather than inhabiting Bucky, the Soldier would haunt him, something he can’t prepare for or fight unless he’s willing to look through the dark to find it and confront it.

(All images blatantly stolen)

Does anyone else constantly change their mind about where they’re going in life like one second it’s so set in stone and well thought out like “I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna live here. I’m gonna be this.” and then a second later you see a picture that brings another idea to mind, and suddenly everything comes crashing down like “wait maybe I wanna do that” like JEEZ my prefrontal cortex better hurry up because I’m beginning to get frustrated with my inability to properly plan my life

Shaladins are probably having a field day right trying to justify their shitty ships, so here’s your local nonbinary’s stance on this.

So even if Keith is 18, there’s still a 7 year age gap between Shiro and Keith. It’s still not okay. There’s still a power imbalance. I did some explaining here. 

I’ll restate what was said: Your prefrontal cortex is not done developing until you’re 25-26. K/L/H/P’s prefrontal cortices are still developing. AKA the thing that controls executive function, decision making, etc. This is why teenagers/young adults tend to base their decisions more on emotion. Their limbic system (controls emotions) is done developing. Shiro’s brain is fully developed. Even if unintentional, he would be taking advantage of Keith or the other paladins. They cannot consent to a relationship in the same way. They are at different mental stages in life.

Also he’s probably turning 18 and is 17 right now? That’s how I interpret this.

Before you say Klance is abusive for Keith (even if he is?) being 18 and Lance being 17: there’s a one year age gap. 

I’d like to end this post with: 

“Autistic brain as the extreme Homo sapiens brain” hypothesis by me, an autistic biology undergrad
(oh boy will this get long and controversial)

To help you understand this hypothesis, first let me break down some evolutionary concepts. Let’s talk about speciation.

New species appears when two things happen: there is a new trait that gives a population better chances of passing on their genes through procreation in a certain environment (apomorphy: a new, derived trait), and there is reproductive isolation from individuals without that trait. New traits appear through random mutations and most of them are harmful. Useful traits get more and more common with every generation until a population separates and can no longer create fertile offspring with those most closely related to them. Wham, speciation.

This is hard to understand if you aren’t into biology so example. There’s a fish which has more muscle in its fins than all other fishes. That trait is new, it’s extreme and rare. However it allows the fish to move better in shallow water, where it has less competition and more food. It produces a lot of offspring, some of which has the same trait. They continue to live in shallow water and they meet other fish that also live in shallow water. Repeat that many many times and you get a new species of Sarcopterigii (muscle fins! technically that’s us). Apomorohy: more muscle in fins; new environment: shallow water; reproductive isolation: geographical.

Now back to humans. Apomorphies of the genus Homo were things like bipedal locomotion, use of tools, language, and so on, and our new territory was the savanna (as opposed to forests). However we still aren’t a sure what defines our species, Homo sapiens, and where to draw the line between hominids and us. My anthropology professor always laughs when talking about Homo species like habilis or erectus because he doesn’t know whether he should call them “males and females” or “men and women”. We just don’t know what is our defining trait(s).

But we do know that there was something about sapiens that allowed us to outlive all other Homo species, including Neanderthals and Denisovans, and it is obvious that we have a difference. Well I am here to present a thrilling new hypothesis: we will realize what that trait is if we study autistic people, because the autistic brain is the extreme Homo sapiens brain. Just like the fins of fish continued to develop to help it navigate land, human brain continued to develop to adapt to our lifestyle, and that adaptation is autism.

Looking at some common autism traits we notice that a lot of them are neurotypical behaviors taken to extreme. Stimming is extreme fidgeting, special interests are extreme hobbies/interests, routines are extreme schedules/planning habits, sensory processing disorder is extreme sensory perception. Hence the intense world hypothesis.

Looking further, we notice that there are other characteristically human traits that autism takes to extreme: like noticing patterns, memory and imagination. Even further, if we look at developing baby brains, we see that if a child’s prefrontal cortex is growing faster and is bigger than typical, that child is more likely to be later diagnosed as autistic. And prefrontal cortex is the most characteristically human part of our brain!

So what I see is that a lot of autistic traits are Homo sapiens traits taken to the next level, and it might come from increased prefrontal cortex growth as well as more local connections between neurons. So arguably a lot of things that were Homo sapiens apomorphies just went further to better suit our new society with all the tool making, hunting, gathering, agriculture, art, science and religion.

Now I hear you saying “but Mattie, humans are very social and autism is a social disability!”. Well yeah, you’re right: social interaction problems are major autism criteria. However I’d like to talk about why that is the case. Autistics struggle with social protocol, which is supposedly a set of unspoken rules of existing in human society that relies on ability to read certain cues like facial expressions, body language, tone of voice and so on. And yes the majority of autistics suck at that.

But you know what? So do allistics! I know it sounds counterintuitive but social protocol is shit. It is constantly changing, imprecise, highly dependent on time and culture and impossible to define. It’s just sloppy. Allistics think they are masters of reading social cues but in reality they are making a ton of guesses. Research shows that cognitive empathy (subconscious guesses based on all that body language and stuff) is worse than conscious analyses, meaning that I, an autistic person who has to use conscious analyses to understand others, is technically better at it than an allistic person who uses cognitive empathy.

Allistics get away with this because they are the majority. When everyone’s bad at something together, there’s no way of telling you’re bad at it. They are flexible and go with the flow and they don’t see how illogical and sloppy social protocol is. But still, miscommunication is the most common comedy trope and there’s always so much misunderstanding in society, which means it is not perfect.

Autistics however seek structure, predictability and order. Sloppy and illogical isn’t good enough for us. Our brains just can’t find patterns in that mess of social cues. So if we were the majority, we would not get away with hints and subsequent miscommunication. I think we would develop a much more structured and well-defined social protocol which would leave much less room for misinterpretation and ensure better communication. Maybe we would have a system of gestures and hand signs to communicate different things, maybe we would use technology, maybe our language would change to accommodate it. Either way, if we were the majority, there would be no social disability.

Now you may ask, well if autistics are extreme humans, why haven’t we replaced allistics as a phenotype more suited for life in our environment? Well, civilization happened and natural selection went to hell. Now we don’t change to fit the environment, we change the environment to fit us. And because the autistic neurotype was still that extreme, rare, “weird fish with muscly fins” population, we got screwed over. Allistics - the majority - built a world which was great for them and incredibly bad for us. It became especially prominent from the rise of industrial revolution, and even more prominent in the last hundred years, which is when it was described for the first time and is now diagnosed in like 1-2% of the population.

I don’t think autism has a chance to become more common now, because due to ableism and other reasons we are less likely to procreate. Autistics aren’t gonna create a new species either because we have no reproductive isolation now. The only thing we can do is to change the environment through education and accommodation to make it better for us, and maybe autism will stop being a disability some day.

However I think it is important to study autism, and not with a purpose of preventing us from being born, but because it may reveal the truth about the nature of humanity and show us what might have happened to our species if it wasn’t for civilization. In my opinion it is just fascinating and it might finally prove why we need accommodation for autism and how to do it the best. Until then, these are just random thoughts of a nerd obsessed with biology.

If you have any thoughts about this, please let me know.

“Flashing Lights” by Caitlin M. Vander Weele, Tye Lab,  MIT. Interstellate Volume 1.

When neurons are activated, calcium rushes into the cell. We can visualize calcium fluctuations within a cell as a means to examine activity in hundreds of individual neurons across many days using calcium imaging techniques. To achieve this, we can use a genetically-encoded fluorescent calcium indicator (green) within neurons which causes them to transiently “light up” when calcium is present -  reminiscent  of a lightening storm. These fast calcium events can be detected with a small, head-mounted mini-microscope  (Inscopix) so we can examine neuronal activity in unrestrained animals while they perform various behavioral tasks. Here, the calcium indicator is expressed in neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex. The DNA in cell nuclei are stained with DAPI (blue).

Dear Younger Students,

I completed the last of my semester coursework yesterday and made an interesting observation that might assuage some of your worries.

I used to be a procrastinator. I was the kid who started their science project at 9pm the night before it was due. I was the kid who cranked out 20-page AP lit essays the day before it was due. I was the kid who did the reading for my next class in the class I was currently in. I was a hard core procrastinator until sometime during my MSc (around age 22-23). 

Slowly, I started doing my work earlier. Studying earlier, reading earlier, drafting earlier. Then I started finishing a week early, getting classmates to proofread my work, and writing 2nd and 3rd drafts (I used to just turn in my first). At times when I would’ve blown off my work, I started to sit down for a couple of hours and hack away at it. Fast forward four years and I managed to get 2 critique papers, 2 presentations, a final draft of a mock dissertation proposal, a stats homework, and a stats paper asking a novel causal question all done within the past two weeks (when they were assigned), and I got them all completed early.

I’ve thought for a while how weird my transformation was. Procrastination felt like a pretty embedded psychological trait of mine, so how was I completing my work early during the hardest semester of my academic career?

1) Maturity. It’s worth recognizing that my 26-year-old brain is more developed than my 15-year-old brain or my 20-year-old brain. At those time points, my prefrontal cortex was still developing, so naturally I had less discipline than I do now. It’s also had a lot more practice regulating my behavior in a variety of settings. 

2) Practice. People tend to cite perfectionism as a reason for procrastination, and I think that’s true, but I also think it comes down to practice. I’ve been doing academic work since I was a wee toddler, and I’ve been writing hefty (~20 page) academic pieces since high school (thank you Mr. H!). So after roughly 10 years of practice, I know how long it takes me to read information, synthesize an argument, draft it, and edit it. More to the point, it isn’t painful. It isn’t always fun, either, but the mechanics themselves are pretty fluid.

3) Enjoying the topic. Like most people, I do my best work when I like the topic. I was a procrastinator for years because I just didn’t enjoy spending that much time on the topics. I loved reading and debating ideas, but I didn’t like them so much that I wanted to write about them for days, especially when the prompt only wanted regurgitation and not unique thought. Only when I hit my MSc in Forensic Psychology did I think, “Yes, now this is REALLY cool.” Because they did want novel ideas and critical thinking. I did really well in that program because I didn’t just copy ideas and parrot them back; I took heaps of literature and gave them something new, or at least gave them nuance, and they loved it. I have enough practice now that I don’t need to enjoy the topic so much to perform at par, but I still do my best work when I do.

I’m addressing this to younger students so that you know that if you’re dissatisfied with your current study habits and discipline, you can change. And to some extent, if you’re in an environment that demands better habits and discipline, some of this change will occur naturally; be patient. Don’t get stuck in the mindset of “This is how I am and this is how I always will be.” Because it isn’t true. Keep practicing. You’ll get there.

How Stress Affects the Brain

Are you sleeping restlessly, feeling irritable or moody, forgetting little things, and feeling overwhelmed and isolated? Don’t worry. We’ve all been there. You’re probably just stressed out. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, like when you’re playing a competitive sport, or have to speak in public. But when its continuous, the kind most of us face day in and day out, it actually begins to change your brain. Chronic stress, like being overworked or having arguments at home, can affect brain size, its structure, and how it functions, right down to the level of your genes.

Stress begins with something called the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, series of interactions between endocrine glands in the brain and on the kidney, which controls your body’s reaction to stress. When your brain detects a stressful situation, your HPA axis is instantly activated and releases a hormone called cortisol, which primes your body for instant action. But high levels of cortisol over long periods of time wreak havoc on your brain. For example, chronic stress increases the activity level and number of neural connections in the amygdala, your brain’s fear center. And as levels of cortisol rise, electric signals in your hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with learning, memories, and stress control, deteriorate.

The hippocampus also inhibits the activity of the HPA axis, so when it weakens, so does your ability to control your stress. That’s not all, though. Cortisol can literally cause your brain to shrink in size.

Too much of it results in the loss of synaptic connections between neurons and the shrinking of your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain the regulates behaviors like concentration, decision-making, judgement, and social interaction. It also leads to fewer new brain cells being made in the hippocampus. This means chronic stress might make it harder for you to learn and remember things, and also set the stage for more serious mental problems, like depression and eventually Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s not all bad news, though. There are many ways to reverse what cortisol does to your stressed brain. The most powerful weapons are exercise and meditation, which involves breathing deeply and being aware and focused on your surroundings. Both of these activities decrease your stress and increase the size of the hippocampus, thereby improving your memory.

So don’t feel defeated by the pressures of daily life. Get in control of your stress before it takes control of you.

From the TED-Ed Lesson How stress affects your brain - Madhumita Murgia

Animation by Andrew Zimbelman

A Kingsman and Statesman Affair

Pairing/Characters: Eggsy Unwin/“Galahad” x Reader/“Moonshine”, Merlin, Statesmen, OFC “Cheska Aragon”, OFC “Senator Ascott”
Warnings: Beginning of smut but no explicit smut, blood, violence, angst, assumed character death, kidnapping
Summary: When a Statesman and Kingsman work together, all seems to be a success but when a mission fails and a Statesman goes down, one Kingsman feels like he loses everything.
Word Count: 2.4k+


Originally posted by trycreativitybitch

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iciitearz  asked:

3/5 + Chanyeol (☁️🔥) haha i can’t wait to see what you’ll do with this

  DRABBLE! 3/5 X CHANYEOL☁️🔥 (smut warning)
Woo second Drabble! Hope you like it hun! -M
(Also a little context before we begin, this is based at uni and I’m from the UK and in the UK when you go to uni you share an apartment complex with like 8 other random people so that’s kinda the situation here okay thanks bye)

Your eyes struggled to stay open as you flicked through the text book that layed open on the kitchen counter. The whole apartment complex had fallen asleep by now, and you probably should have aswell. By the numerous cups of coffee you had endulged in, trying to keep yourself from passing out, you should probably be bouncing off the walls by now. But the countless sleepless nights you were having, it seemed as if nothing would work.

Your eyes looked up to the clock that hung above your shared fridge and felt your motivation plumet. A long exasperated groan left your mouth and you rested your head on the table, twiddling your blunt pencil between your fingers. It was currently 2:54AM and your psychology exam started in less than nine hours. 

You never usually left everything to the last minute. If this were a different exam at a different time, you would have probably been speaking this case study of the amygdala part of the brain controlling impulsive emotions. But now, wasn’t like that. Exam week had crawled up behind you on all fours, bearing its teeth and chasing you right down an ally to fail. 

Revision cards seemed to cloud your vision and it probably didn’t help that you were resting your head on - what now - seemed like the most comfiest text book ever, that your breathing became slower and everything started to fade away.


Your head shot up stright away. Panic over came you as soon as your eyes had opened: was it morning already? Had you missed your exam? You weren’t ready yet, it couldn’t be morning already!

Your head scanned the room, spinning left to right, to gather your surroundings. Your cups of coffee was still there, your text book was opened on the exact same page as you had left it.

It’s like three in the morning, what are you doing up?” The groggy voice spoke again and instantly, a wave of relief washed over you; you still had nine hours left. You relaxed back into your seat and looked up to see the voice who had woken you up.

You were met with heavy eyes and a very tall figure who wore a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a black hoodie. You recognised the guy as Chanyeol as he stood rubbing his face roughly with his hands. Chanyeol was one of your roomates that you’ve lived with for around eight or so months now. If you were honest, you never saw much of him as he was barely at the flat and you two studied completely different things, but everytime the two of you were both at the apartment at those rare moments, there was always sexual tension. Maybe it was just because from the very moment you found out you would be living with this man, your mind couldn’t help but wonder, but it was still there, and considering his cheekiness around you, you couldn’t help but believe it was two-sided.

Breaking your thought process, Chanyeol came to join you at the counter next to you and looked at your books. Honestly, this was probably the most awake you’d felt in a week. His strong manly scent washed over you, and you coudn’t help but stare at the forming stubble around his jaw.

“Psychology. I have a psychology exam tomorrow, so I’m revising.” You explained to him slowly and watched as a small smirk started to form on his lips.

“Didn’t look like you were revising to me.” Chanyeol looked at you and raised an eyebrow. You couldn’t deny how hot he looked right now and quickly looked away from him and back to your text book.

“Well I have been, just nothing seems to be working.” You gathered all of your revision cards and put them in a pile, but Chanyeol grabbed them as soon as you had placed them back down onto the counter, turning towards you and leaning an elbow on the surface.

“I’ll test you.” His voice was still croaky from his previous sleeping state, even though you probably didn’t sound much different. You were too tired to object or question him and watched as he flicked through the cards.

“Is the amygdala involved in the enhancement of all types of memory, or just emotional memory?… wait, what the fuck is an amygdala?” You couldn’t help but let out a small, tired laugh at how he mispronounced the part of the brain.

“It’s a part of the brain that controls emotions like fear and anger.” You explain to him and his frown just gets bigger. “It just effects emotional memory.” You say to move on with the cards. You watch as he flips the piece of paper over and smiles.

“You were right.” His hand comes up to ruffle your hair and you can already feel your cheeks heat up. At this rate, you’re unsure if this is going to help you, or make everything worse.

Why are you helping me?” You ask him before he continues, because honestly you thought he would just nod, grab a glass of water then go back to his room.

“Because you were literally asleep in a pile of your own regret about leaving revision to the last minute?” He laughs and shakes his head. You could feel one of his large hands rest on your bare lower thigh, just above your knee. You swallowed, suddenly feeling a little exposed in your pajama shorts, but before you could say anything, he continued.

“Okay next one…” Chanyeol clears his throat with a strong cough, “How stable is activation in the amygdala and prefrontal cortext in adolesence?”

You mind instantly went blank. You were raking your brain, trying to picture what was on the back of that card. Your teeth began to grind and you began to look everywhere and anywhere. You mind was trying so hard to focus, until you could feel little circles begin to draw themselves on your leg.

Your heart began thudding and you desperately wanted to both get the answer right, and never let this end.

“The amygdala and prefrontal cortex both fluctuate their activation stability depending on the age and environment of the subject during the adolescence.” You were squeezing you eyes a shut as they would go, and let out a long breath  right after you gave the answer. You opened your eyes to see Chanyeol looking at the back of the card, his smirk returning.

“See, you’re smarter than you think.” He moves his chair closer to you, causing his hand to slide further up your leg. You tuck a piece of hair behind your ear that had fell in front of your face when your eyes were closed and tried to just focus on revising. Now really wasn’t the time to be thinking about fucking your really hot roomate on the counter eight and a half hours before your exam.

“How about this one, name all six ways you can avoid triggering the amygdala.”

You looked up at him and your heart dropped. This was the goddamn question you could never answer, you could only ever get up to at most three, let alone six. 

“Um…” You bit the inside of your cheek as you thought. “Attend meditation classes?” Chanyeol nodded and hummed, his hand beginning to stroke your leg back and fourth. You took a breath. 

“You could… create lists for everything to increase the feeling of control and stability!”

He nodded again and you could see the corners of his mouth tug into a grin as he placed the cards down on the counter, and placed both of his legs on your thighs, looking right at you. “Good girl.”

Maybe it was just the coffee finally kicking in, or maybe it was the fact that he just called you a ‘good girl’, but you started to feel extremely awake right now.

“Keep going y/n, you still have four left.”

Your eyes scanned his face and you became desperate to impress him.

“Um, you could improve your diet by increasing your iron intake which would give you more rational thoughts during the day!”

“You’re really getting the hang of this now, aren’t you baby?” His hands pulled you closer to him by your thighs, slightly spreading them and resting them  on his own. His hands traced closer and closer to your core until you could feel his thumb rub over your clit through the thin material of you shorts, making you gasp and involentarily buck your hips slightly, causing him to chuckle lowly. “Don’t get too distracted now, y/n, the more answers you get right, the more prizes you’ll get.”

You closed you eyes and bit your lip behind your hair, trying to hide your pleasure. His thumb continued to tease you as his other hand rubbed your leg comfortingly. 

“Y-you could create rou-routines to decrease anxiety.” You instinctively grasped a hold of his shoulder as he sliped his hand underneath your shorts and felt his fingers against your bare core. He naturally kissed the side of your jaw when you leaned your head to the side. 

“You’re doing great baby, only two more now.” He continued to leave wet and sloppy kisses all over your neck as he teased your entrance and clit with his long fingers.

You couldn’t focus and you have no idea why he thought you would be able to. But maybe it was the motication to finally feel his fingers stretch you and get you to your high that you were trying your oh-so hardest to recall all the information you read in the past six hours. 

“Isn’t getting at least t-twelve h-hours sleep one of th-them?” You hands flew to his hair as you felt two of his fingers stretch you and curl upwards against your walls. “Fuck Chanyeol.” Chanyeol bit your earlobe and chuckled as he began to move his fingers.

“I must admit, hearing you same my name like that really turns me on princess, but I need to hear that one last answer come out of those pretty lips of yours first.” Chanyeol didn’t waste time to go back to your neck and move his fingers at a faster pace, making you slowly start to grind them against his hand.

“Um…” Your mind had gone totally blank. It wasn’t helping that Chanyeol had now used the other hand to abuse your clit as his fingers worked their magic. “Chany-yeol I really d-don’t know.” You rested your forehead on his shoulder as the force of his hand, now increasing it’s spead, made you move back and fourth against his legs.

“That’s not good enough y/n. Do you want to cum?” His agonisingly sexy voice was still croaky, which only made things harder for you.

“Yes! Yes Chanyeol please!” You were fully aware of how pathetic you sounded, but you were exhausted, sexually frustrated and blatantly didn’t know the answer.

“Then you better give me an answer.” You felt Chanyeol add another finger, stretching your walls around his fingers more, making you moans against his shoulder. 

“Okay, okay! You c-coul… you c-could…” Your breath was becoming uncontrollable, and so was the rythm of his fingers. “ You could take an MRI scan to get a 3D perspective of the nerves in the amygdala to see if there has been any disruptions in the synapses.” You let out quite possibly the biggest breath of your life as Chanyeol hooked your legs and bent them at the knees so he could have a better angle. 

“C’mon baby, you can let go now.” His teeth nibbled your ear and his stubble slightly scraped at your neck giving you the most euphoric feeling, and within a minute your whole body was shaking and you were clenching around his fingers as they roughly pounded into you, helping you ride out your high.

You were lefting, panting and more exhausted than you were before, if that were even possible. Chanyeol was back to stroking your legs and resting his head on his hand which was leaning on the counter.

“You think you’ll remember all that now?” Chanyeol smirked as he tucked a piece of hair behind your ear. You nodded lazily and looke up at him. 

“Thanks for the help…” You thanked him because it was polite but it didn’t sound any less weird than you’d hoped.

Chanyeol stood up and ran a hand through his hair, smirking triumphantly. “Just wait until you pass that test.”

(This wasn’t quite as fluffy as I wanted it to be but it was sure smutty enough ;) it is just a drabble which is why I didn’t go full out fucking like rabbits smut but i hope you liked it anyway! Thanks for requesting, i had loads of fun writing this! - M)

Vampires In Love
A Great Big Pile of Leaves
Vampires In Love

I’m in outer-space,
I’m in outer-space.
Haven’t felt awake since the Hardware City days,
Why’d they have to close that place?

We could eat spaghetti together.

We could have a picnic,
Are you into sandwiches?
I’ll be sure to bring a blanket,
It will be the coziest, it will.

I’m a zombie,
I’m a zombie.
Convinced I have been since the age of twenty,
I have no personality.

We could eat spaghetti together,
Doesn’t it sound so lovely?
And play vampires until the sun comes up,
If you’re comfortable being the dessert.

You can be mine, and I can be yours,
I can be your leftovers.

Why psychopathic brains overvalue immediate rewards

Joshua Buckholtz wants to change the way you think about psychopaths — and he’s willing to go to prison to do it.

An associate professor of psychology at Harvard, Buckholtz is the senior author of a study that relies on brain scans of nearly 50 prison inmates to help explain why psychopaths make poor decisions that often lead to violence or other anti-social behavior.

What they found, he said, is that psychopaths’ brains are wired in a way that leads them to overvalue immediate rewards and neglect the future consequences of potentially dangerous or immoral actions. The study is described in a July 5 paper in Neuron.

“For years, we have been focused on the idea that psychopaths are people who cannot generate emotion and that’s why they do all these terrible things,” Buckholtz said. “But what we care about with psychopaths is not the feelings they have or don’t have, it’s the choices they make. Psychopaths commit an astonishing amount of crime, and this crime is both devastating to victims and astronomically costly to society as a whole.”

“And even though psychopaths are often portrayed as cold-blooded, almost alien predators, we have been showing that their emotional deficits may not actually be the primary driver of these bad choices. Because it’s the choices of psychopaths that cause so much trouble, we’ve been trying to understand what goes on in their brains when they make decisions that involve trade-offs between the costs and benefits of action,” he continued. “In this most recent paper … we are able to look at brain-based measures of reward and value and the communication between different brain regions that are involved in decision-making.”

Obtaining the scans used in the study, however, was no easy feat — where most studies face an uphill battle in bringing subjects into the lab, Buckholtz’s challenge was in bringing the scanner to his subjects.

The solution came in form of a “mobile” scanner transported in a tractor-trailer. The scanner is typically used for cancer screenings in rural areas. After trucking the equipment to two medium-security prisons in Wisconsin, the team, which included collaborators at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the University of New Mexico, would spend days calibrating the scanner, and then work to scan as many volunteers as possible as quickly as possible.

“It was a huge undertaking,” he said. “Most MRI scanners, they’re not going anywhere, but in this case, we’re driving this inside a prison and then in very quick succession we have to assess and scan the inmates.”

The team ultimately scanned the brains of 49 inmates over two hours as they took part in a delayed gratification test that asked them to choose between two options: receive a smaller amount of money immediately, or a larger amount at a later time. The results of the tests were then fit to a model that allowed researchers not only to measure how impulsive each participant’s behavior was, but to identify brain regions that played a role in assessing the relative value of such choices.

What they found, Buckholtz said, was people who scored high for psychopathy showed greater activity in a region called the ventral striatum — known to be involved in evaluating the subjective reward — for the more immediate choice.

“So the more psychopathic a person is, the greater the magnitude of that striatal response,” Buckholtz said. “That suggests that the way they are calculating the value rewards is dysregulated — they may overrepresent the value of immediate reward.”

When Buckholtz and colleagues began mapping which brain regions were connected to the ventral striatum, it became clear why.

“We mapped the connections between the ventral striatum and other regions known to be involved in decision-making, specifically regions of the prefrontal cortex known to regulate striatal response,” he said. “When we did that, we found that connections between the striatum and the ventral medial prefrontal cortex were much weaker in people with psychopathy.

That lack of connection is important, Buckholtz said, because this portion of the prefrontal cortex is thought to be important for “mental time-travel” — envisioning the future consequences of actions. There is increasing evidence that the prefrontal cortex uses the outcome of this process to change how strongly the striatum responds to rewards. With that prefrontal modulating influence weakened, the value of the more immediate choice may become dramatically overrepresented.

“The striatum assigns values to different actions without much temporal context,” he said. “We need the prefrontal cortex to make prospective judgements how an action will affect us in the future — ‘If I do this, then this bad thing will happen.’ The way we think of it is if you break that connection in anyone, they’re going to start making bad choices because they won’t have the information that would otherwise guide their decision-making to more adaptive ends.”

The effect was so pronounced, Buckholtz said, that researchers were able to use the degree of connection between the striatum and the prefrontal cortex to accurately predict how many times inmates had been convicted of crimes.

Ultimately, Buckholtz said, his goal is to erase the popular image of psychopaths as incomprehensible, cold-blooded monsters and see them for what they are — human beings whose brains are simply wired differently.

“They’re not aliens, they’re people who make bad decisions,” he said. “The same kind of short-sighted, impulsive decision-making that we see in psychopathic individuals has also been noted in compulsive overeaters and substance abusers. If we can put this back into the domain of rigorous scientific analysis, we can see psychopaths aren’t inhuman, they’re exactly what you would expect from humans who have this particular kind of brain wiring dysfunction.”

Musical Training Creates New Brain Connections in Children

Taking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children and may be useful in treating autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to a study being presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

(Image caption: Fibers belonging to the greater forceps pre-musical training are observed (A, B, C). Fibers belonging to the same patients after 9 months of musical training are observed below (a, b, c))

“It’s been known that musical instruction benefits children with these disorders,” said Pilar Dies-Suarez, M.D., chief radiologist at the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City, “but this study has given us a better understanding of exactly how the brain changes and where these new fiber connections are occurring.”

The researchers studied 23 healthy children between the ages of five and six years old. All of the children were right handed and had no history of sensory, perception or neurological disorders. None of the children had been trained in any artistic discipline in the past.

The study participants underwent pre- and post-musical-training evaluation with diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain. DTI is an advanced MRI technique, which identifies microstructural changes in the brain’s white matter.

“Experiencing music at an early age can contribute to better brain development, optimizing the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating the existing brain tracts,” Dr. Dies-Suarez said.

The brain’s white matter is composed of millions of nerve fibers called axons that act like communication cables connecting various regions of the brain. Diffusion tensor imaging produces a measurement, called fractional anisotropy (FA), of the movement of extracellular water molecules along axons. In healthy white matter, the direction of extracellular water molecules is fairly uniform and measures high in fractional anisotropy. When water movement is more random, FA values decrease, suggesting abnormalities.

Over the course of life, the maturation of brain tracts and connections between motor, auditory and other areas allow the development of numerous cognitive abilities, including musical skills. Previous studies have linked autism spectrum and ADHD with decreases in volume, fiber connections and FA in the minor and lower forceps, tracts located in the frontal cortex of the brain. This suggests that low connectivity in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain involved in complex cognitive processes, is a biomarker of these disorders.

After the children in the study completed nine months of musical instruction using Boomwhackers—percussion tubes cut to the exact length to create pitches in a diatonic scale, DTI results showed an increase in FA and axon fiber length in different areas of the brain, most notably in the minor forceps.

“When a child receives musical instruction, their brains are asked to complete certain tasks,” Dr. Dies-Suarez said. “These tasks involve hearing, motor, cognition, emotion and social skills, which seem to activate these different brain areas. These results may have occurred because of the need to create more connections between the two hemispheres of the brain.”

The researchers believe that the results of this study could aid in creating targeted strategies for intervention in treating disorders like autism and ADHD.