“Complaining Shrinks the Hippocampus” – the study that doesn’t exist

gray739-emphasizing-hippocampus

The “complaining is bad for your brain” trope is making the rounds again. In How Complaining Rewires Your Brain For Negativity, Dr. Travis Bradberry (“Author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and president of TalentSmart, world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence”) claims:

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus—an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s.

What is this compelling research from Stanford? A link to an article in Fast Company, Why Complaining May Be Dangerous To Your Health (1/12/15):

A half hour of complaining every day physically damages a person’s brain, according to research from Stanford University. Whether you’re the one griping or you’re the one listening, exposure to negativity peels back neurons in the hippocampus—the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive function. Over time, complaining becomes a habit. If you’re surrounded by complainers, then you’re more likely become one.

The research on “peeling back neurons in the hippocampus” is a link to a non-existent article in iaap-hq.org. Pulling up the extinct page in archive.org yields this gem, Complaining Hurts Your Brain (3/27/14):

Scientific research from Stanford’s medical school revealed that exposure to 30 minutes of negativity every day (including negative news on TV) can physically damage the brain. It damages the neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive functioning. This is significant because research also shows that in Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage.

Now let’s look for a study where the participants had their brains scanned, watched 30 minutes of negative news every day for three months, then had their brains scanned again. For good measure, we should assign half of the participants to a control condition, where they are forbidden to watch negative news for three months. Then we can compare hippocampal volumes in the two groups.

You know where this is going. The peeling hippocampus study does not exist. It’s completely fictional.

Further Googling pulls up a 2012 article from the Community Corner section of the Carlsbad Patch, Stress and Negativity May Change Size and Function of the Brain:

Robert Sapolsky is a professor and researcher in the field of stress and the effect it has on health. For the past three decades Sapolsky has been studying how the mind and body handle stress. In an interview with Stanford Report, he said:

It’s becoming clear that in the hippocampus, the part of the brain most susceptible to stress hormones, you see atrophy in people with post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. … There’s a ton of very exciting, very contentious work as to whether stress is causing that part of the brain to atrophy, and if so, is it reversible. Or does having a small hippocampus make you more vulnerable to stress-related traumas? There’s evidence for both sides.

Ah ha, Robert Sapolsky, a famous professor at Stanford. He’s best known for his research on the negative effects of stress in baboons, who generally do not watch TV, neither in the wild nor in captivity. Here’s a 2000 review article on Glucocorticoids and Hippocampal Atrophy in Neuropsychiatric Disorders (cited over 1,000 times):

An extensive literature stretching back decades has shown that prolonged stress or prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids—the adrenal steroids secreted during stress—can have adverse effects on the rodent hippocampus.

Yes indeed, the invasive studies that examine actual neurons in the hippocampus are in rodents.

Sapolsky continues:

More recent findings suggest a similar phenomenon in the human hippocampus associated with many neuropsychiatric disorders. This review examines the evidence for hippocampal atrophy in (1) Cushing syndrome, which is characterized by a pathologic oversecretion of glucocorticoids; (2) episodes of repeated and severe major depression, which is often associated with hypersecretion of glucocorticoids; and (3) posttraumatic stress disorder. Key questions that will be examined include whether the hippocampal atrophy arises from the neuropsychiatric disorder, or precedes and predisposes toward it…

Notice that both here and in his 2007 Stanford News quote above, he questions the direction of causality.

So where did the complaining and negative news come from? The Carlsbad Patch article 1 also linked to Listening to Complainers Is Bad for Your Brain (8/12/12):

Do you hate it when people complain? It turns out there’s a good reason: Listening to too much complaining is bad for your brain in multiple ways, according to Trevor Blake, a serial entrepreneur and author of Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life. In the book, he describes how neuroscientists have learned to measure brain activity when faced with various stimuli, including a long gripe session.

“The brain works more like a muscle than we thought,” Blake says. “So if you’re pinned in a corner for too long listening to someone being negative, you’re more likely to behave that way as well.”

Even worse, being exposed to too much complaining can actually make you dumb. Research shows that exposure to 30 minutes or more of negativity–including viewing such material on TV–actually peels away neurons in the brain’s hippocampus. “That’s the part of your brain you need for problem solving,” he says. “Basically, it turns your brain to mush.”

Ah ha, so we can finally blame serial entrepreneur Trevor Blake, who made up the whole thing. Or at the very least, extrapolated wildly from studies in monkeys and rodents. From Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life:

like-watching-fearful-news

[so Mr. Blake actually used the more accurate “pruning back” not “peeling back”]

What about complainers? 2

chronic-complainers

Oh no!! This blog post is increasing the rate of cell death in my hippocampus!

But think about it… reading Donald J. Trump‘s toxic and negative (and horrifying) tweets is raising our anxiety. Does complaining about them make it any worse?

 

link to HuffPo via Neuroskeptic

 

Footnotes

1 The Carlsbad Patch article by is actually the best of the lot.

2 The unclear origins of this claim were also discussed by the skeptics at Stack Exchange.

Slogans for Liberals in the Trump Era

slogans_small signs of normality.png
quote from Autocracy: Rules for Survival, by Masha Gessen.

My previous post on October 27 featured the Inflammatory Essays of Jenny Holzer (1979-1982).

REJOICE! OUR TIMES ARE INTOLERABLE

FEAR IS THE MOST ELEGANT WEAPON

THE END OF THE U.S.A.

Then the unthinkable happened. Some of these scenarios actually came true on November 8, 2016. Trump is appointing white nationalists and right wing hard-liners to key posts in his administration. Like many others, I’m still in a state of shock.

Inspired by Holzer’s Truisms (1978-1983), Canadian writer and visual artist Douglas Coupland created Slogans for the 21st Century (2011-2014).

i-miss-my-pre-internet-brain

These were featured in a show at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which I wrote about in my main blog (Welcome to Douglas Coupland’s Brain).

The recent ugly turn of events has inspired me to create Slogans for Liberals in the Trump Era, based on Coupland’s designs. Some of the slogans were made up by me, others taken from recent news stories and credited as such.

slogans_NOSTALGIA BUSH.png

Steve Bannon is truly scary:

‘Darkness is good’

Washington (CNN). Steve Bannon has no regrets.

The ex-Breitbart executive, who serves as Trump’s chief strategist for the new administration, told The Hollywood Reporter that “darkness is good.”
“Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they’re blind to who we are and what we’re doing,” he said in an interview published Friday, his first outside of Breitbart since the election.


slogans_how do you like your disruption.png
quote from Silicon Valley Helped Create Trump, and That’s Bad for It, by Noam Cohen.

slogans_identity liberalism.png
quote from The End of Identity Liberalism, by Mark Lilla. I do not agree and thought it was a terrible essay.

slogans_identity politics1.png

slogans_identity politics2.png

Trump doesn’t seem to like the NIH, which is very alarming to scientists:

…I can tell you, because I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.

slogans_NIH.png
Feel free to use this sign on social media and around the lab (along with any of the others).  Proper credit would be appreciated.

slogans_NOSTALGIA REAGAN.png

FORCE ANXIETY TO EXCRUCIATING LEVELS OR GENTLY UNDERMINE THE PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

“Fear is the most elegant weapon, your hands are never messy”

Many people are familiar with Jenny Holzer‘s Truisms (1978-1983), but fewer know about her Inflammatory Essays (1979-1982). Amid the surreal reality show that is the 2016 US Presidential election, Holzer’s words from 35 years ago ring true today.

REJOICE! OUR TIMES ARE INTOLERABLE.

[no title] 1979-82 by Jenny Holzer born 1950 [no title] 1979–82

 

[no title] 1979-82 by Jenny Holzer born 1950 [no title] 1979–82

 

MEANINGLESS PLATITUDES WILL BE PULLED FROM TONGUES AND MINDS

[no title] 1979-82 by Jenny Holzer born 1950 [no title] 1979–82

 

THE END OF THE U.S.A.

[no title] 1979-82 by Jenny Holzer born 1950[no title] 1979–82

Dinosaurs and Humans Walked the Earth Together! Peer Reviewed!

“He is Who that created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days, and He is established on the Throne of Power [1].”

-opening sentence of Dinosaurs: Extinct or Traumatized? [PDF], by Mohammad Ghannaee Arani in Journal of Trauma & Treatment

Much to the dismay of those who run reputable open access journals, some of the material published under the rubric of “open access” (i.e., vanity publishing or pay-to-publish or “predatory publishing“) is less than stellar. On a few select occasions, however, one can find absolute howlers like a religious treatise on the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs.

The Journal of Trauma & Treatment is published by OMICS Group, which has been noted for its questionable practices:

Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, described OMICS Publishing Group as a predatory Open Access publisher. “Having a large number of titles, as does the OMICS Publishing Group, is typical of predatory Open-Access publishers,” he wrote. “Also typical is each journal’s broad coverage. By offering 68 titles each with a broad coverage, this publisher is tacitly saying it will publish anything.”

Is Beall’s characterisation of OMICS fair? Founder and managing director of OMICS Dr Srinu Babu Gedela insists it is not. “We believe the peer review process is very important … I am confident about the quality of the review process used in OMICS’ journals.”

Dr Srinubabu Gedela may want to reconsider that statement in light of the traumatized dinosaur paper, which I will quote below at length.

Abstract
Scientifically and evidently speaking, there is no doubt about, and disagreement in, the sudden disappearance of dinosaurs’ species sometimes within the span of time. Paleontologists’ estimate for the dinosaurs’ life time does not match with the time given theologically for the creation of the earth. Anyhow, this study is targeted at relating dinosaur extinction to some blunt or penetrating traumatic events. The author is to provide evidences for the events weather naturally or due to an intentional act of God that were responsible for the nature- or God-induced traumatization of the species. Whatever the reason, there lies this certain fact that human race would not survive on the earth safe and sound if dinosaurs with their giant and custom-made bodies had not gone extinct. Thanks God for this naturally justified traumatization for the benefit of mankind.

Thanks God!!

jesus riding a small dinosaur

Coexistence or Not

Humanity was given dominion over all the lower creatures of the earth [6].

Numerous explanations have turned up to put in plain words the coexistence of man and dinosaur and to elucidate the mechanism of the species’ dying out.

. . .

Theologically speaking, in the Bible we are encountered with this account that land creatures including dinosaurs were all created on the same day as the human being and walked this earth in concert with him both coexisting [9], but dinosaurs and man probably lived in their own, separate areas, just like people and large, wild animals do today [10]. According to the holy Qur’an, process of formation of the universe is presented in brief:

“Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then we clove them asunder and we got every living thing out of the water? Will they not then believe [11]?”

Jesus confirmed that mankind has existed “from the beginning of the creation”, so all kinds of living things were brought into existence in the same initial creation days which are six as Moses confirms as well [12]; and thus, this hypothesis that “the earth was peopled by oviparous quadrupeds of a most appealing magnitude, and reptiles were ‘Lords of the Creation’ before the existence of human race” [13] seems to be of a kind neither logical nor verifiable.

And of course, we get the confident assertion that Evolution is Wrong. In a “peer reviewed scientific journal.”

What is understood from the contentions above is that despite breakthroughs claimed have been made in the so-called science territory, no definite and unchanging speculation is still accepted by all firstly concerning the exact process of evolution and secondly regarding coexistence of human and dinosaurs. Most of the claims are still pending and dependent on verifications to be done some day because the science seems to be still unable to support fully its theories in its own language.

Anyone who is on the Editorial Board of Journal of Trauma & Treatment might want to reconsider your membership, in light of the potential harm to your reputation.

Received December 26, 2012; Accepted January 22, 2013; Published January 24, 2013

Citation: Arani MG (2013) Dinosaurs: Extinct or Traumatized? J Trauma Treat 2:156. doi: 10.4172/2167-1222.1000156

Copyright: © 2013 Arani MG. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

image credits: Dinosaurs and the Biblical Flood and 10 Epic Portraits of Jesus and Dinosaurs.


UPDATE 5/17/13:  OMICS has unceremoniously removed this paper from the J Trauma Treatment website without any sort of retraction notice, which seems odd for a publisher that wants to be taken seriously… So seriously, in fact, that they’ve threatened to sue a blogger for a tidy sum of $1 billion:

A publisher in India called OMICS Publishing Group has threatened to sue a blogger named Jeffrey Beal, who runs a blog called Scholarly Open Access. Beal critiques open-access publishing venues, and and ran a post asserting that OMICS engages in spamming and bait-and-switch. OMICS’ threat would be mundane, except that its lawyer, Ashok Ram Kumar of the Indian firm IP Markets, has chosen to be so very ridiculous. He’s threatening to sue for $1 billion, and to seek criminal penalties in India.

Several days ago I posted a comment on a ScienceInsider story, asking the OMICS Group Managing Director about how the dinosaur paper had passed through genuine peer review. I can only guess that this comment, or perhaps this blog post, led to the unannounced removal of the paper.

But don’t fret, you can still read it here.

The Melancholia of Kirsten Dunst and Lars von Trier

Melancholia_gray_wool_dunst

“Gray wool, clinging to my legs, it’s heavy to carry along”

The disastrous wedding reception of the severely depressed Justine precedes the end of the world, depicted as a highly stylized and artistic event feared by some but welcomed by others. Kirsten Dunst plays the role of von Trier‘s own melancholia, which was the inspiration for his film.

The image above occurred out of context, at the very beginning, during the bombastic Wagnerian apocalyptic prelude to Part One, “Justine” and Part 2, “Claire.” We don’t hear Justine say those words until later, when she had lost the ability to care for herself. “She should be hospitalized,” I thought at the time, and wondered why no one was getting her psychiatric help. But then we wouldn’t have a movie that deals with internal struggle and suffering.

Melancholia is also the name of the giant blue planet that destroys the Earth.

Melancholia_the_planet

A beautiful movie about the end of the world

DIRECTORS STATEMENT

It was like waking from a dream: my producer showed me a suggestion for a poster. “What is that?” I ask. ”It’s a film you’ve made!” she replies. ”I hope not,” I stammer. Trailers are shown … stills … it looks like shit. I’m shaken.

Don’t get me wrong … I’ve worked on the film for two years. With great pleasure. But perhaps I’ve deceived myself. Let myself be tempted. Not that anyone has done anything wrong … on the contrary, everybody has worked loyally and with talent toward the goal defined by me alone. But when my producer presents me with the cold facts, a shiver runs down my spine.

This is cream on cream. A woman’s film! I feel ready to reject the film like a wrongly transplanted organ.

But what was it I wanted? With a state of mind as my starting point, I desired to dive headlong into the abyss of German romanticism. Wagner in spades. That much I know. But is that not just another way of expressing defeat? Defeat to the lowest of cinematic common denominators? Romance is abused in all sorts of endlessly dull ways in mainstream products.

Lars von Trier, Copenhagen, April 13, 2011.

 

Melancholia_movie_poster

Your Brain in 1492 Pieces

The_human_brain_in1492_pieces

The Human Brain in 1492 Pieces

Structure, Vasculature, and Tracts

$349.99

 

He would look down and laugh at the thought of a crash
Hear the engine moan disintegrate and move on…
Some day look down and see me still trying to escape
 

-Scrawl

In a million pieces the chance of having certain moments increases

-Scrawl, Story Musgrave

 

Discover the New World of Neuroanatomy!

“With this incredible software you hold the future in your hands.”–Dr. Anne G. Osborn

“A wonderful product representing the future of brain atlases. Interactive, accurate, and easy to use, this atlas sets a new standard in both neuroeducation and operative planning.”–Dr. Albert L. Rhoton, Jr.

Synthesizing science and art, The Human Brain in 1492 Pieces: Structure, Vasculature, and Tracts will allow clinicians, educators, and researchers in neuroradiology, neurosurgery, neurology, or neuroscience to explore, understand, and teach the intricacies of the human brain.

 

Keep on burning till the end, the very end

1975: go-go dancers w/ powder blue knee length business suits. Bryan Ferry in an eye patch…   

Both Ends Burning
   ——Roxy Music

Please don’t ever let me down
‘Cause you know I’m not so sure
Do I have the speed to carry on
Burn you out of my mind, I know


Oh will it never end?
Put your foot around the bend
Drive me crazy to an early grave
Tell me what is there to save tonight
Both ends burning
Burning
Burn
Keep on burning till the end, until the end
Keep on burning till the end, the very end