Monday, August 21, 2017

Brain and Affirmations

Knowing what to say to build self-esteem and avoid encouraging the development of narcissism in yourself, in children, and in other adults can be a challenge. Since human beings tend to speak to others the way they talk to themselves, to paraphrase: The language of affirmation begins at home—with you. Since you can only role-model what you know, if your parents and care-providers were unable to use affirmations because they had never developed that skill or chose not to, your brain will need to develop this skill on your own—and it can be learned, just as EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) can be learned and raised. As you learn to affirm yourself in a healthy manner using effective self-talk styles and programming your brain for success, it becomes easier to use a ‘similar language’ when speaking with others. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

NPD and Your Energy

Dealing with NPD can be exhausting and can negatively impact your energy. What type of interactions exhaust your brain? People to talk nonstop about their problems but respond with ‘that won’t work’ every time you make a helpful suggestion? How is your energy level after spending a relationship encounter with them? Do you feel drained or energized? It’s one thing to voluntarily do a random act of kindness, it’s another to spend your time dancing to someone else’s needy tune. No relationship is 100% functional and affirming all the time. Sometimes you give more, sometimes they do, especially when it ‘rains’ on your parade. There needs to be a balance, however, over time. If you are your friend’s primary resource or they get your attention through bad behavior or unwise choices, rethink the relationship. Relationships that are not healthy and reciprocal are like a mild headache. You grow accustomed to the pain and accept it as ‘normal’ over time, failing to recognize the increasing painful headache, sometimes until it produces a 'brain tumor,' metaphorically. Remember: nutritious food gives you energy; so does a nutritious relationship.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dealing with NPD Behaviors

What can you do when confronted by a person exhibiting symptoms characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder? First, recognize that it involves their self-absorption, inability to manage anger, low self-esteem, low levels of Emotional Intelligence, failure to be empathetic, tendency to blame others, learned styles of coping (or not coping) with the ups and downs of life, low motivation for improvement, and so on. Refuse to accept blame or responsibility when it isn’t yours. When I encounter narcissistic behaviors I ask myself: will this matter in 12 months? If the answer is no, I simply get through that one encounter as soon as possible and find something for which to be grateful. If the answer is yes, then I address the issue functionally. Meaning, I set and implement appropriate boundaries to protect myself. When the narcissist is an adult family member, you can still choose to limit your exposure, set and implement appropriate protective boundaries, and avoid taking their narcissistic behaviors personally. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recognizing NPD

You can only know what you know, therefore, recognizing patterns of behavior quickly can help you protect yourself and/or get help if you recognize the symptoms in yourself. Self-esteem is compromised in NPD, so in order to feel adequate these brains need to find others as incompetent and put them down (e.g., complain, criticize, gossip, show contempt). There is a lack compassion for others because they don’t recognize their own mistakes. In fact, to be okay they often try to believe they do not make mistakes. Typically they do everything in their power to avoid being held accountable. It is so much easier to blame, trying to displace some of their discomfort onto someone else. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Parenting Style, 3

The Brummelman study reportedly identified that greater child-rated parental warmth, predicted higher self-esteem six months later, but not greater narcissism. This was measured by comments such as “I know my parents love me. My mother (or father) tells me she (or he) loves me.” By comparison, parental overvaluation predicted greater narcissism six months later, but not higher self-esteem. This was measured by comments indicating the child felt more special than others and comments by the parent(s) that indicated their child was more special than other children. On the other hand, I’ve heard parents say, “You are very special to me,” and “I am so glad you are my child,” or “I am happy to spend time with you.” This falls in the healthier emotional warmth category in my opinion. At a kids picnic not long ago, I heard a child say to an adult, “I’m special. I hit that ball really good.” The adult response was, “Yes, you did hit the ball well. Remember, every child is special is his or her own way, you included.” That grouped the child with others rather than singling the child out above the others. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Parenting Style, 2

A child who may be developing narcissistic characteristics not only may want to be in the spotlight all the time but may care about being admired and thought special more than developing genuine friendships. As they brag and demand attention and admiration, they may seem oblivious to how that may make other children around them feel. And, as with adults, these children often have very fragile self-esteem. At quite a young age they may become aggressive, angry, and lash out at parents or others if anything happens that makes them feel humiliated, criticized, teased, not special, or rejected in any way. Parents need to develop rhetoric that works for them, the idea being to let children know that the parents love and cherish them and enjoy seeing them do well, without overtly comparing the children to others by telling them continually how special they are. I heard one father tell his son not long ago, “I enjoyed watching you play the game. You are gaining skills and improving. I’m glad you are my son.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parenting Style

It is important to understand that most people do the best they can at the time with what they know. If a parent grew up being told he or she was special, that parent may replicate that style with their own child(ren)—or go 180 degrees opposite. And, as I so often point out, 180 degrees from dysfunctional is simply a different type of dysfunction. It’s cute when a child of three or four tells his parents: “Watch me do this!” As one teacher explained, this likely represents an age-appropriate desire for the child to obtain parental approval for having learned a new skill. By the time a child is around age seven (give or take a year or two), the child is beginning to compare his/her competence and skill levels with that of other children. Acknowledge and rewarding a child’s skill level is one thing; teaching the child he is “more special” than anyone else is quite another thing. Continual pleas to "Watch me, watch me," is no longer cute in a seven-year old who always wants to hold center stage and be in the spotlight. Some counselors point out that a child is not ‘bad’ or ‘good,’ although behaviors can be positive or negative. A child needs to feel loved and accepted by his/her parents, period; and assisted to develop behaviors that give them positive outcomes, but that do not lead them to believe they are ‘more special’ than anyone else.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

NPD Study Comments, Cont’d

Eddie Brummelman thinks the study conclusions suggest a practical way of helping parents. Parents can be coached on how to express affection and appreciation toward children without telling them that they are superior to others or entitled to special privileges.

An earlier study by the same authors reported something I found especially interesting. The researchers asked the parents whether their children knew about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.” Both of these were concocted by the researchers. Some of the parents in the study claimed their children knew all about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.” Brummelman, study pointed out that parents who tended to overvalue their child(ren) also tended to claim that their child had knowledge of many different topics, including even these nonexistent ones that had been made up by the researchers. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NPD Study Comments

The contributors to narcissism are complex. Overvaluing children appears to be one of the causes but there are also genetic and other environmental factors at play that also need to be studied. Some children appear to be are more vulnerable to overvaluing parenting styles. Professor Brad Bushman, one of the study’s authors, indicated that the study had changed his parenting style. Before he began this research in the 1990s, he used to think his children should be treated like they were extra-special. He is careful to avoid doing that now because children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others, which may not be good for them or for society. Rather than overvaluing the child, concentrating on being emotionally warm towards children was linked with better levels of self-esteem, not narcissism. It is important to express emotional warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

NPD Study Good News

The good news about the study is that their findings uncovered early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism and, therefore, this suggests interventions at an early age that may prevent or curtail narcissistic development. This could be very helpful in assisting parents to provide balanced, effective parenting strategies—because in adulthood, dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorders can be challenging. If NPD is not dealt with appropriately and treated, complications may include: depression, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts or behavior. The brain’s subconscious Reptilian and Mammalian layers seem to be involved with NPD. Individuals with NPD seem surface friendly but no one really knows themalthough they primarily talk about self and want the emphasis on themselves. They are often charismatic but very secretive. They aim to be successful at whatever the cost (e.g., may lie, exhibit addictive behaviors, throw you “under the bus”).

Monday, August 7, 2017

NPD Study, 3

In pointing out the significance of the study, the researchers commented that narcissistic individuals tend to feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently. Knowledge about the origins of narcissism is important for designing interventions to curtail narcissistic development. They believe this study demonstrated that narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation as the parents believe their child to be more special and more entitled than others. In contrast, high levels of self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth, as parents express their affection and appreciation toward their child. These findings show that narcissism is partly rooted in early socialization experiences, and suggest that parent-training interventions can help curtail narcissistic development and reduce its costs for society. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

NPD Study, 2

Results of the NPD study “Origins of Narcissism in Children” support social learning theory and contradict psychoanalytic theory:

  • Narcissism was predicted by parental overvaluation
  • Narcissism was not predicted by lack of parental warmth.
The children seemed to acquire narcissism, in part, by internalizing their parents’ inflated views of them (e.g., “I am superior to others” and “I am entitled to privileges”).

Attesting to the specificity of this finding:

·         Self-esteem was predicted by parental warmth
·         Self-esteem was not predicted by parental overvaluation.

These findings identified early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism. More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

NPD Study

The report of a study entitled “Origins of Narcissism in Children,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). It was conducted though the Research Institute of Child Development and Education, Department of Educational Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1001 NG, The Netherlands. According to researchers led by Eddie Brummelman, narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth. This personality disorder contributes to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism have not been well understood. To their knowledge, this was the first prospective longitudinal study to provide evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. Researchers compared two perspectives:

  • Social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation)
  • Psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth).
 Their goal was to discover whether parenting styles could be linked with the development of narcissism in biologically vulnerable children. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NPD Criteria, Cont’d

  • Expecting to receive special favors 
  • Expecting unquestioning compliance with expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get personal desired met
  • Showing an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
  • Coming across as exceedingly confident or over-confident
Note, this persona of confidence or projection of over-confidence likely does not reflect genuine competency confidence. Rather is appears to reflect thinking so highly of oneself that the person puts him or herself on such a high level that the person values the self much more than he or she values others. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

NPD Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Its criteria are used to diagnose mental conditions as well as used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include (somewhat paraphrased):
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • An expectation to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant that
  • A tendency to exaggerate achievements and talents
  • A preoccupation with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Needing constant admiration
  • A sense of entitlement

The list continues tomorrow.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Teenage Brain and NPD

As mentioned earlier, the still-in-process teenage brain is rather narcissistic in its approach to life and living. The process of maturing the teenage brain is designed to move it away from narcissistic behavior to more balanced behaviors. This involves a learning process and the teenage brain either learns it or not. If the teenagers fail to mature and move to more balanced behaviors, they tend to become narcissistic adults. While narcissists are able to feel most emotions as strongly as do others, they seem to lack the essential ability to perceive or understand the feelings of others. As Martha Stout PhD has put it, narcissism is a failure not of conscience but of empathy. Emotionally speaking, narcissists don’t seem to see past their own nose, sometimes flying into narcissistic rages and then lacking the skills to get back on the good side of people they love. That’s exactly what had happened in the interactions between parents and their ‘adult’ son. He had flown into a narcissistic rage when things has not turned out exactly as he expected or wanted on his visit, which had fractured their relationship, yet again. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Aphorisms, 11

  • If it ain't broke, leave it alone and stop trying to fix it
  • If you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got
  • If you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas
  • If you snooze while you’re awake, you lose
  • Ignorance is bliss—until someone smarter comes along
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery unless you are imitating stupidity
  • Keep your head above water unless you really know how to swim
  • Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it
  • Keep your nose to the grindstone—if you want to ruin your nose
  • Keep your powder dry and your arrow sharp—which takes brains

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Age-Related NPD

The brain matures more slowly than the body that houses it. Consequently, immature brains are definitely not ‘done’ yet and are innately rather narcissistic, “It’s all about me.” The process of maturing is designed to move these brain to more balanced behaviors. It is believed less of a genetic process and more of a learning process that is either learned or not. If the brain does not learn and mature and move to more balanced behaviors, the brain may become narcissistic. The bad news in terms of relationships is that an antisocial narcissistic adult (whose brain did not learn and move toward more balanced behaviors) may eventually exhibit sociopathic behaviors. What else might you observe? These individuals may have serial sexual affairs saying, “If you’d paid me more attention I wouldn’t have had to go looking for it.” (Blaming) They want to avoid accountability saying, “I’ve made mistakes but I don’t want to talk about any of them, I just want to start from here.” A big question is whether narcissism is treatable. I have heard psychiatrist say, “Yes, some narcissism is treatable,” especially if the individual recognizes their behaviors and wants to become more balanced. If they are in the habit of exhibiting angry narcissistic rages, however, and are unwilling to seek help to view themselves and their behaviors more objectively and course correct, there may be no recovery. More next week.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

NPD Prevalence

Prevalence is the estimated population of people who are managing Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) at any given time in a given general population group. Jean M. Twenge PhD and W. Keith Campbell PhD, authors of the 2009 book The Narcissism Epidemic, estimated the prevalence of NPD in the United States at 6.2% in the general population: 7.7% for males and 4.8% for females. Reportedly, NPD is more prevalent among separated, divorced, widowed, and never married adults. Hispanic females and African Americans may be at higher risk. It comes as no surprise NPD can cause problems in many areas of life including home, school, work, and in all types of relationships and collaborative efforts. This personality disorder is also characterized by a belief that they deserve admiration and special favors in all environments. When they do not receive this at the level expected, they can become disappointed and unhappy. Naturally, they tend to find relationships rather unfulfilling and cannot seem to understand why others to not seek them out and want to be around them. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Brain & NPD, 2

Based on, I’m guessing, some of the ‘news items’ lately, I’ve been asked more questions about narcissism recently, including any role parenting might play in its development. A Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is one of several types of personality disorders, which are mental conditions characterized by traits that cause them to feel and behave in socially distressing ways (a Mayo Clinic puts it). No surprise, this limits their ability to function effectively and successfully in relationships both personally and professionally. These individuals tend to have an inflated sense of their own importance, which includes a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. Their exhibited persona is that of ultra-confident behavior, but at its core it contains an extremely fragile sense of self-worth or self-esteem, which makes them vulnerable to the slightest perceived criticismreal or imagined—no matter how mild or deserving. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Brain & Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Narcissism and the Brain

Several times I’ve been asked to speak on the topic of “Difficult Brains—Toxic Behaviors.” The goal, of course, is to help people recognize undesirable behaviors quickly. If it involves their own behaviors, they can choose to course correct. If it involve the behaviors of others, they can self-select strategies to protect themselves from at least some of the negative consequences. A parent contacted me and described his emotional pain related to a visit from his adult son. On the surface at least, what the father described fell into the category of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and the reported behaviors were pretty ugly. The son stated, among other things, "I do not have a happy life and it is all your fault. After all, you had me and I did not ask to be born, period. Certainly I did not ask to be born into this family!" It can be tough when the narcissist you know is a member of your own family or, for that matter, yourself. In the latter case, you do have the choice to course correct. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dementia and Music

As with AIDS when it was discovered that dementia appeared to result when the HIV attacked glial cells in the brain (which then failed to care for the neurons that died from neglect), Alzheimer’s may be the outcome of an attack on the mitochondria. It is going to be interesting following this line of research. Recently, a friend of mine shared a youtube item about a 95 year old man who had developed dementia and had to be placed in a facility for individuals whose brains were damaged at that level. Although Alzheimer and other forms of dementia are believed to be a type of neurological brain disease, apparently they doesn’t necessarily wipe out all skills and abilities. This man was still able to play jazz! You may want to take a couple minutes and watch this. It brought tears to my heart . . .

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Alzheimer’s and Mitochondria, 2

As with almost anything in the human brain and body, the mitochondria can become damaged, which can result in their failing to create sufficient ATP. Studies have found that mitochondria damage and dysfunction can contribute to a host of human diseases including: include epilepsy, stroke, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, plus a variety of neurological diseases such as autism, dementia—and now it appears, Alzheimer’s. So the tangles and other identified abnormalities may be linked with mitochondrial dysfunction that sets up cells in some brains for Alzheimer’s (rather than being the result of Alzheimer’s disease itself). More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Alzheimer’s and Mitochondria

Enter the mitochondria. Referred to as ‘organelles,’ mitochondria are oblong or oval in shape and have a double membrane. Found in both animal and plant calls, the numbers of each within a cell varies. For example, mature red blood cells contain no mitochondria at all, likely because red blood cells need all the room possible in the cytoplasm (all the material inside a given cell outside the nucleus) for hemoglobin molecules that transport oxygen to the brain and body. Muscle cells may contain hundreds or thousands of mitochondria. Think of mitochondria as energy factories or energy generating plans, generating energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) a coenzyme that cells use for energy storage. Without sufficient ATP the brain and body tend to malfunction in some way or other. More tomorrow. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Alzheimer’s – Type 3 Diabetes

According to Samuel Cohen, here’s the bottom line: Alzheimer’s does not reflect normal aging. For most people it is not inevitable and the studies are encouraging. And what of the disease being called type 3 diabetes? A research study reported several years ago concluded that the term “type 3 diabetes” accurately reflects the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease or AD represents a form of diabetes that selectively involves the brain and has molecular and biochemical features that overlap with both type 1 diabetes mellitus and diabetes type 2. It appears to involve a form of insulin dysfunction. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Alzheimer’s – a Disease

Recently I watched a TED talk by Samuel Cohen. He mentioned several things I found interesting. The term itself dates back 114 years to 1906 when a German physician and neuropathologist by the name of Dr. Alois Alzheimer presented a case history before a medical meeting. He discussed a 51-year-old woman (Auguste Deter) who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A brain autopsy identified the plaques and tangles that today characterize Alzheimer's disease. Currently 40 million people around the world are believed to have Alzheimer’s and by 2050 it is estimated that 150 million people worldwide will have that diagnoses. It is the most expensive disease currently, without hard data on how to prevent, cure, or slow down its progress. Good news comes from findings at the University of Cambridge, where scientists have been studying Alzheimer’s for the past ten years. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Aphorisms, 10

  • Possession is nine-tenths of the law
  • Winners never quit and quitters never win
  • You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar
  • Knowledge is power—if you’re smart enough to apply it
  • You can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but never all the people all the time
  • You may kill a person, but never an idea
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot force it to drink
  • You may take the boy out of the country, but not the country out of the boy
  • Fight city hall? Are you nuts?
  • You get what you pay for

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, 4

A New York Post article “Why Losers Have Delusions of Grandeur” (May 23, 2010), indicated that identification of the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome derived from the cognitive bias evident in a criminal case. McArthur Wheeler reportedly robbed banks with his face covered with lemon juice because he believed lemon juice would make his face invisible to the surveillance cameras. His incompetence was based on his mistaken ideas of the chemical properties of lemon juice, thinking that it formed a type of invisible ink. Much of the incorrect self-assessment of competence may result from a person's ignorance of the standards of performance of a given activity. In addition, in comparison with high performer, poor performers do not seem to learn from feedback that suggests a need for them to improve. Too bad!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, 3

David Dunning in his book Self-insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself. Psychology Press, 2005 (p. 14–15) pointed out in essence that you only know what you know. He referred to the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome as "the Anosognosia of everyday life,” referring to a condition in which a disabled person either denies or seems unaware of his or her physical incapacity. Dunning said: "If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent. . . . The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.” The pattern of overestimation of competence appeared in studies of reading comprehension, of the practice of medicine, of motor-vehicle operation, and the playing of games such as chess and tennis. Dunning and Kruger's research also indicated that training in a task, such as solving a logic puzzle, increases one’s ability to accurately evaluate how good they are at that task. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, 2

The corollary to the Dunning–Kruger effect indicates that persons of high ability tend to underestimate their relative competence, and erroneously presume that tasks that are easy for them to perform also are easy for other people to perform. According to an article by Dunning and Kruger, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments" published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology [77 (6): 1121–34]: the cognitive bias of illusory superiority results from an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability; that is, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Dunning-Kruger Syndrome and the Brain

The Dunning-Kruger effect or syndrome can be described as a cognitive bias. David Dunning and Justin Kruger of Cornell University experimentally observed this effect in 1999. Wikipedia has pointed out that although the Dunning–Kruger effect was formulated in 1999, the cognitive bias of illusory superiority has been referred to in literature throughout history. For example, Confucius (551–479 BC) reportedly said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” And William Shakespeare (1564–1616) wrote in As You Like It, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” The Dunning-Kruger Syndrome is said to occur when relatively unskilled or incompetent individuals suffer from illusory superiority. They mistakenly assess their ability to be much higher than is accurate. More tomorrow.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Brain & Dehydration, 5

Dehydration tends to be even more problematic for the very young and the elderly (some estimated that the average person over age 55 is dehydrated). Dehydration can contribute to problems such as: Acid-alkaline imbalance, Constipation, High blood pressure, Immune suppression, Weight gain, and Wrinkling of skin and internal body organs. By the time you feel thirsty, you are likely already dehydrated, so drinking to thirst is likely not your best bet. How much water do you need on a daily basis? That will depend on factors such as: Some are now advocating that instead of counting out eight glasses of water, a better formula is to take in enough water to pea one or two pale urines per day. (Discuss with your physician or healthcare provider if you a condition that must limit water intake.) Of the six categories of essential nutrients, staying hydrated may be the one I track most closely

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Brain & Dehydration, 4

1% level of dehydration is said to correlate with a 5% decrease in cognitive function (e.g., fuzzy thinking, math confusion, forgetfulness, and lack of ability to focus). Some of the cognitive malfunction may result from shrinkage of brain tissue (e.g., as dehydration sets in, brain tissue begins to pull away from the skull), a potential contributor to the development of dementia. Losing only 1-2% of your body’s water weight can result in weakness and fatigue. The movement of water in and out of the cells functions much like a hydroelectric plant to create energy. When water levels fall, the production of energy also falls. Losing 10% of your body’s water can lead to life-threatening heat stroke. Fruit juices, sodas, soft drinks, and other sugary beverages promote dehydration—as the body uses water to process them. Ethanol (alcohol) depresses the level of anti-diuretic hormone, increasing urine volume to the extent where more fluid is lost in urine than is gained in the drink. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Dunning-Kruger Syndrome, 3

David Dunning in his book Self-insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself. Psychology Press, 2005 (p. 14–15) pointed out in essence that you only know what you know. He referred to the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome as "the anosognosia of everyday life.” This term refers to a condition in which an individual with some type of disability either denies or seems unaware of his or her physical incapacity. Dunning said: "If you're incompetent, you can't know you're incompetent. . . . The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.” The pattern of overestimation of competence appeared in studies of reading comprehension, of the practice of medicine, of motor-vehicle operation, and the playing of games such as chess and tennis. Dunning and Kruger's research also indicated that training in a task, such as solving a logic puzzle, increases one’s ability to accurately evaluate how good they are at that task.

Brain & Dehydration, 3

You can survive much longer without food than you can without water. Humans have been known to survive up to 8 weeks without food IF they have water. Survival without water may be 3-7 days (100 hours at an average temperature outdoors). Normally there’s more water inside cells than outside; dehydration reverses that ratio. The duration of survival depends on body weight, genetic variation, level of health, and the presence or absence of dehydration. In presence of dehydration, the stress response is triggered and brain areas related to anger, fear, and alertness are activated. You lose water every time you exhale, when you sweat, when you discharge urine and feces, and if you vomit or throw up. This water must be replaced. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Brain & Dehydration, 2

A nutrient can be defined as a substance that provides nourishment that is essential for the maintenance of life and for growth. An essential nutrient is one that the body cannot synthesize on its own or not to an adequate amount—must be taken into the body from the outside in order for the brain and body to function properly. There are six major categories of nutrients: Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats, Vitamins, Minerals, and Water. No surprise, water is considered the most essential nutrient because it is required for all body processes. The body is basically a solution of about 70% water. Within the body, estimated percentages vary based on the type of tissue. For example: Blood 83%, Bones 22%, Brain 75%, Brain cells 85%, Heart 79%, Kidneys 83%, Liver 86%, Muscles 75%, and so on. More tomorrow.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Brain & Dehydration

Several have asked about the impact of dehydration on the brain, especially in light of the unusually high temperatures that recently have been occurring in various parts of the world. Estimates are that this planet is approximately 75% water and 25% solid matter and many individuals recognize the potential dangers that may result when that ratio is altered by severe weather. The human body consists of approximately the same ratio—but many people do not seem as cognizant of what happens when that ratio is altered. Personally, I find the topic of dehydration very interesting. It may be the ultimate stressor for the human brain. The brain is the first body system to recognize a stressor and it responds with nanosecond speed to trigger the stress response. More tomorrow.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Aphorisms, 9

  • Eat to live, don't live to eat.
  • Forgive but remember the lesson and avoid similar problems in the future
  • Frailty, thy name is woman—fortunately muscle power isn’t everything
  • From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
  • Gather rosebuds while you may.
  • The one who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.
  • If you hesitate all may be lost
  • Forgive them, for they are clueless
  • Here today, gone tomorrow—only memories persist
  • History repeats itself—generation after generation

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Practical Application

Researchers of the mouse study found that a disruption in maternal care could trigger genetic changes that set the groundwork for depression in adulthood when confronted by periods of stress. It also suggested that the priming could be undone by appropriate intervention at the right time (although specifics were not provided). My brain’s opinion is that if you uncover your personal history in terms of what happened to you in childhood, especially related to disruption of maternal care, it may be possible to reduce one’s risk for adult stress-related depression. However, you only know what you know and can only do something about what you know. In my experience, Family-of-Origin work has been invaluable in helping me better understand early stressors in my life and take steps to develop valuable management strategies to minimize the occurrence of depression. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Stress-Depression Link, 3

Researchers found that disrupting maternal care of mice produced changes in levels of hundreds of genes regulated by the transcription factor orthodenticle homeobox 2 (OTX2) in the VTA brain reward center. The good news was that although early stress could establish the groundwork for later depression, that priming could be undone by intervention at the right moment. Professor Eric J. Nestler, who led the mouse study, explained that this “mouse paradigm will be useful for understanding the molecular correlates of increased risk of depression resulting from early life stress and could pave the way to look for such sensitive windows in human studies. The ultimate translational goal of this research is to aid treatment discoveries relevant to individuals who experienced childhood stress and trauma.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Stress-Depression Link, 2

According to the abstract of a recent study on mice, stress early in life increased a risk for depression in adulthood. Researchers established what they labelled a two-hit stress model in mice. Baby mice that were subjected to stress during a specific postnatal period showed increased susceptibility to adult social-defeat stress. This appeared to result from long-lasting transcriptional alterations that primed a brain reward area known as the VTA or ventral tegmental area to be in a depression-like state. The VTA encoded a lifelong, latent susceptibility to depression that was revealed only after the now-adult mice encountered additional stress. Although early childhood stress could establish the groundwork for later depression, the good news was that this priming could be undone by intervention. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Stress-Depression Link

People often ask: “Tell me the reason you believe that Family-of-Origin (FOO) work is worth doing.” I can give you my brain’s opinion. First, childhood stress, dysfunction, trauma, and abuse can bang around in one’s head for a lifetime, negatively impacting relationships, overall success, and so on. Linking early-in-life stress with adult behaviors is complex. Dr. Eric J. Nestler along with Dr Catherine Peña and colleagues studied mice and childhood stress. They isolated a time period in early development when mice are especially susceptible to stress. They also identified a molecular basis for stress during a sensitive developmental window that programmed a mouse’s response to stress in adulthood. More tomorrow.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 5

“The way the brain processes this kind of information (facial encoding and recognition) doesn’t have to be a black box,” said Le Chang. “Although there are many steps of computations between the image we see and the responses of face cells, the code of these face cells turned out to be quite simple once we found the proper axes.” If you’re interested in reading more about this and want to see pictures showing eight different real faces that were presented to a monkey, together with reconstructions made by analyzing electrical activity from 205 neurons recorded while the monkey was viewing the faces, try the URL below.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 4

Researchers discovered that axes within a multidimensional space, now known as the “face space” can combine in different ways to create every possible face. In other words, there is no Jennifer Aniston neuron. Senior author Doris Tsao, a professor of biology and biological engineering at the California Institute of Technology reported: “We’ve discovered that this code is extremely simple. We can now reconstruct a face that a monkey is seeing by monitoring the electrical activity of only 205 neurons in the monkey’s brain. One can imagine applications in forensics where one could reconstruct the face of a criminal by analyzing a witness’s brain activity.” More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 3

Primates recognize complex objects such as faces with remarkable speed and reliability. Experiments in macaques demonstrated an extraordinarily simple transformation between faces and responses of cells in face patches. Six general areas of the primate and human brain that are responsible for recognizing faces were identified. Labelled ‘face patches,’ all six face patches were located in the inferior temporal (IT) cortex. Researchers found that these areas are packed with specific nerve cells that activate much more strongly when seeing faces than when seeing other objects. They called these neurons “face cells.” Rather than representing a specific identity, each face cell represents a specific axis within a multidimensional space, which researchers called the “face space.” More tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding, 2

In a paper published June 1, 2017 in the journal Cell, researchers Le Chang and Doris Y. Tsao reported that they have deciphered how faces are encoded in the brain—at least in primates. Previously, some experts in the field believed that each face cell (a.k.a. “grandmother cell“) in the brain represents a specific face. This presented a paradox, according to Doris Y. Tsao, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. “You could potentially recognize 6 billion people, but you don’t have 6 billion face cells in the IT or inferior temporal cortex. There had to be some other solution.” It turns out there was. More tomorrow.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Brain & Facial Encoding/Recognition

Earlier this year I mentioned the “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” so called, which led some to believe that the representation of an entire face may be filed in a single neuron. They reportedly touched a single neuron inside a person’s brain and the patient reported seeing Jennifer Aniston’s face. That flew in the face of previous beliefs that memory for faces was somewhat diffuse throughout the brain and that the hippocampus might play a role in searching for pieces to assemble a ‘face’ much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. A new study was recently released that provided some specifics related to facial encoding in a primate brain. That’s what it so exciting about brain-function research—new information is released quite regularly! More tomorrow.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Aphorisms, 8

  • Life is short, art is long
  • Lightning never strikes twice in the same place—well, rarely, anyway
  • Little strokes fell great oaks
  • Live and learn—so you can stop making the same mistakes your whole life
  • Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration
  • Give people fish and they eat for one meal; teach them how and they eat for life
  • Give them an inch and they'll demand a mile
  • Little pitchers have big ears
  • If you’re not with me you’re against me or you’re standing alone
  • Give him enough rope and he'll hang himself

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pratfall Effect, 4

To recap: the pratfall effect is a psychological phenomenon that says your likability actually increases when you make mistakes! Competent people appear more likeable and attractive when they make a mistake than when they are perceived as perfect and flawless. No surprise, it is named after an American expression or slang word for falling on your behind or keister. In one study, psychologist Elliot Aronson asked research participants to listen to recordings of people answering a quiz. Select recordings included the sound of the person knocking over a cup of coffee. When study participants were asked to rate the quizzers on likability, the coffee-spill group came out on top. This means that being real—acknowledging when you make a mistake, apologizing as indicated, and moving on—may make you look better than an individual who seems quite flawless due to being perceived as not being as human. Indeed, mistakes are simply a validation that one is human. Everyone makes mistakes; not everyone learns from them. Therein lies the rub.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pratfall Effect, 3

There appear to be some male-female differences in terms of the pratfall effect. This from studies by K. Deaux: “To err is humanizing: But sex makes a difference” Representative Research in Social Psychology, p 3, 20-28, 1972).
In general:
  • The effects of pratfall are most directly applicable to males
  • Females tend to prefer the non-blunderer regardless of gender
  • Neither males nor females preferred the mediocre blunderer
Aronson studied a person’s attractiveness as related to his or her making a blunder. His research found that a perceived ‘able’ individual’s attractiveness increased after a blunder in comparison to the control group; while attractiveness decreased in a person perceived as less ‘able.’ (Attractiveness was defined as a combination of liking and respect.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Pratfall Effect, 2

There appear to be some male-female differences in terms of the pratfall effect. This from studies by K. Deaux: “To err is humanizing: But sex makes a difference” Representative Research in Social Psychology, p 3, 20-28, 1972). 
In general:

  • The effects of pratfall are most directly applicable to males
  • Females tend to prefer the non-blunderer regardless of gender
  • Neither males nor females preferred the mediocre blunderer
Aronson studied a person's relative attractiveness as related to his or her making a blunder. His research found that a perceived 'able' individual's attractiveness increased after a blunder in comparison to the control group; while attractiveness decreased in a person perceived as less 'able.' (Attractiveness was defined as a combination of liking and respect.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pratfall Effect

The “pratfall effect appears to be well established in popular culture. It can be described as the tendency for a person’s attractiveness to increase or decrease after he or she makes a mistake, depending on the individual's perceived ability to perform well in a general sense. For example, an individual who is perceived as highly-competent would be, on average, more likable after committing a blunder. The individual would tend to be less likable after making a mistake or faux pas if he or she was perceived as an average person. The pratfall effect was described by Elliot Aronson in 1966. Since then, a plethora of studies have been conducted in an attempt to isolate the impact of self-esteem levels, gender, and the severity of the blunder on perceived changes in attractiveness or likability. The pratfall effect is also referred to as the blemishing effect when it is used as a form of marketing. More tomorrow.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Spotlight Effect, 4

What is the bottom line here? Other people are not paying attention to you nearly as much as you may think they are. Knowing this can give you permission to be yourself, help you feel less embarrassed in public when something untoward happens, and take it a bit easier when you do make a mistake. Kenneth Savitsky put it like this: "You can’t completely eliminate the embarrassment you feel when you commit a faux pas, but it helps to know how much you’re exaggerating its impact.” Studies have shown empirically that a drastic over-estimation of one's effect on others is widely common. Once you know about the spotlight effect, you can choose to become more realistic in terms of how much you believe you really are the center of attention and in a social spotlight. The perception of being under constant scrutiny is a mind construct, and the self-doubt you feel after making a mistake appears not to truly reflect reality. That’s good news! 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Spotlight Effect, 3

An article by Gilovich, et al, entitled: “The spotlight effect in social judgment: An egocentric bias in estimates of the salience of one's own actions and appearance,” (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(02), 211–222), pointed out that aspects of social judgment are impacted by the spotlight effect. That is, people routinely overestimate the extent to which their contributions make an impact on those around them, especially the significance of one’s ideas and contributions within a group. Researchers found that in a group setting, contributions by an individual are perceived by that individual as being more significant than the contributions of their group members. No surprise, the other members in the group believe the same thing about their own individual contributions. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Spotlight Effect, 2

Thomas Gilovich and Kenneth Savitsky reportedly coined the term “spotlight effect,” in 1999, although behaviors related to this phenomenon had been described earlier than that. What are some of those behaviors? When individuals are anxious about something they tend to overestimate the extent to which their anxiety is obvious to onlookers. When an individual is embarrassed by something (e.g., a run in one’s stocking, a tear in one’s shirt), the likelihood of the spotlight effect rearing its head is increased. The timing of the incident also plays a part. Immediate exposure increases the spotlight effect, while delayed exposure decreases it. Psychologists at Cornell University reportedly asked study participants to wear an embarrassing T-shirt and then estimate how many people noticed what they were wearing. The participant estimates were twice as high as the actual number. More tomorrow.