Fear

medicine

Scientists identify brain cells that help drive bodily reaction to fear, anxiety — ScienceDaily

Strong emotions such as fear and anxiety tend to be accompanied and reinforced by measurable bodily changes including increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, and dilation of the eyes’ pupils. These so-called “physiological arousal responses” are often abnormally high or low in psychiatric illnesses such as anxiety disorders and depression. Now scientists at the UNC School of Medicine have identified a population of brain cells whose activity appears to drive such arousal responses.

The scientists, whose study is published in Cell Reports, found that artificially forcing the activity of these brain cells in mice produced an arousal response in the form of dilated pupils and faster heart rate, and worsened anxiety-like behaviors.

The finding helps illuminate the neural roots of emotions, and point to the possibility that the human-brain counterpart of the newly identified population of arousal-related neurons might be a target of future treatments for anxiety disorders and other illnesses involving abnormal arousal responses.

“Focusing on arousal responses might offer a new way to intervene in psychiatric disorders,” said first author Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera, PhD, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Psychiatry and member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, and co-director of the Carolina Stress Initiative at the UNC School of Medicine.

Rodríguez-Romaguera and co-first author Randall Ung, PhD, an MD-PhD student and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, led this study when they were members of the UNC laboratory of Garret Stuber, PhD, who is now at the University of Washington.

“This work not only identifies a new population of neurons implicated in arousal and anxiety, but also opens the door for future experiments to systematically examine how molecularly defined cell types contribute to complex emotional and physiological states,” Stuber said. “This will be critical going forward for developing new treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.”

Anxiety disorders, depression, and other disorders featuring abnormally high or low arousal responses affect a large fraction of the human population, including tens of millions of adults in the United States alone. Treatments may alleviate symptoms, but many have adverse side effects, and the root causes of these disorders generally remain obscure.

Untangling these roots amid the complexity of the brain has been an enormous challenge, one that laboratory technology has only recently begun to surmount.

Rodríguez-Romaguera, Ung, Stuber and colleagues examined a brain region within the amygdala called the BNST (bed nucleus of the stria terminalis), which has been linked in prior research to fear and anxiety-like behaviors in mice.

Increasingly, scientists view this region as a promising target for future psychiatric drugs. In this case, the researchers zeroed in on a set of BNST neurons that express a neurotransmitter gene, Pnoc, known to be linked to pain sensitivity and more recently to motivation.

The team used a relatively new technique called two-photon microscopy to directly image BNST Pnoc neurons in the brains of mice while the mice were presented with noxious or appealing odors — stimuli that reliably induce fear/anxiety and reward behaviors, respectively, along with the appropriate

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health

Third of staff ‘fear catching Covid at work’

workers
workers

More than a third of workers are concerned about catching coronavirus on the job, according to a study by the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The poorest paid are particularly worried, the research found, but also the least likely to speak up about it.

Younger workers are also less likely to raise a complaint, the Resolution Foundation said.

The widespread concerns come despite government advice on making workplaces Covid-secure, researchers said.

Lindsay Judge, research director at the Resolution Foundation, said: “More than one-in-three workers are worried about catching coronavirus on the job, despite the extensive steps employers have taken to make workplaces Covid-secure.

“Given many workers’ limited ability to get employers to address Covid concerns, the UK needs a strong enforcement regime to ensure that workplaces are as safe as can be.

“But instead health and safety resources have been cut, inspections have been slow, and Covid-related enforcement notices are few and far between.”

Funding question

The researchers said they were also concerned about the reduction in funding at the Health and Safety Executive.

The HSE’s funding for each site it has the right to inspect has shrunk from £224 a decade ago to £100 for the current financial year, according to the report.

“The Foundation says policy makers should overturn the current view that health and safety is a ‘brake on business’ and take a more proactive approach to enforcement in the face of the pandemic,” it said.

A government spokesman said £14m of funding was given to the HSE to combat coronavirus earlier this year.

An HSE spokesperson said: “We thank the Resolution Foundation for its report, and with our partners across government we will examine its findings. We welcome the acknowledgement of our increased activity and share the commitment to ensure all employees have a voice.

“Making sure Great Britain’s workplaces are Covid-Secure is our priority; this effort will not be affected by recent additional restrictions announced across England, Scotland and Wales. We will work with stakeholders to deliver workplace health and safety during this coronavirus pandemic.

“Inspection and putting duty holders on the spot is just one part of a wide ranging regulatory approach. We use a number of different ways to gather intelligence and reach out to businesses with a combination of site visits, phone calls and through collection of supporting visual evidence such as photos and video footage.”

While a new lockdown in England is planned from Thursday, up to half of workers could still be going to work in jobs such as essential retail, education and health, Resolution said.

The research used an online YouGov survey of 6,061 adults across the UK.

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fitness

Tonawanda’s Aquatic and Fitness Center swims in red ink; members fear for its future | Local News

Many have newer equipment and offer cheaper rates, particularly for people who don’t want to swim, he said.

In response, the town in the last year or two began offering patrons the chance to pay separately for the use of the pool or the gym .

The facility’s financial problems predate the Covid-19 pandemic.

Revenues from membership fees, pool rentals and other sources have slipped slightly since 2016, to $1 million in the town’s 2020 adopted budget, while expenses to run the facility have risen to more than $1.4 million in the current year’s budget.

But that figure doesn’t include benefits paid to Aquatic and Fitness Center employees. Taking into account this and other costs such as pool chemicals, town officials said, the annual deficit approaches $600,000.

“The losses are just getting too high for us to sustain,” Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger said.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the facility had six full-time and 186 part-time workers. Today, while the gym remains closed, the venue has two full-time and 91 part-time workers.

The town, following state public health guidelines, closed the facility in March. The town reopened the pool on Oct. 1 – without the whirlpool, steam room and sauna – but opted to keep the gym closed.

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health

How much bias is too much to become a police officer? Experts fear policing law might backfire

An ambitious new law in California taking aim at potential biases of prospective officers has raised questions and concerns among police officers and experts who fear that if implemented inadequately, the law could undermine its own mission to change policing and culture of law enforcement.



a person holding a sign: A billboard in the town of Marysville, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post/file)


© Melina Mara/The Washington Post
A billboard in the town of Marysville, Calif., on Saturday, June 20, 2020. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post/file)

The law, which was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 30, will expand the present screening requirements by mandating all law enforcement agencies to conduct mental evaluations of peace officer candidates to identify both implicit and explicit biases against race, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation in order to exclude unfit recruits.

While experts, police unions and lawmakers agree on the value of identifying whether those who aspire to become officers carry considerable degrees of biases, it is the lack of clarity on what tools and measures will be used to look for implicit biases that is raising concerns and prompting questions.

“If police departments start to reject applicants because they have implicit biases there will be no one left to hire,” said Laurie Fridell, professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida and founder of the Fair and Impartial Policing program, one of the most popular implicit bias awareness trainings in the country.

Under the new law, the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) will review and develop new regulations and screening materials to identify these potential explicit and implicit biases. It will be up to each agency in the state to determine how to administrate them.

POST information officer Meagan Catafi would not say whether implicit bias tests will be part of the new screenings, arguing “it is too premature at this point to know what will be assessed and used in our materials.”

Catafi said POST will be working with psychologists and law enforcement experts to incorporate these new required items to the current psychological screening manual and have until January 2022 to complete the process.

The law comes amid a moment of social upheaval where police departments across the country are facing scrutiny and increasing calls for accountability over cases of slayings of unarmed civilians and excessive use of force that predominantly affects minorities.

This has prompted many agencies to ramp up efforts to identify racist and other discriminatory beliefs that could lead to destructive behavior, mostly by incorporating bias, diversity and inclusion training programs for active officers.

None of the experts interviewed by The Washington Post claimed to know of law enforcement agencies that screen for unconscious biases — those that people are unwilling or unable to identify — as a hiring standard. All of them, however, are either wary of such approach or advice against it.

“This is a tough one. What do you do if someone tests positive for racism?” Do you train them again? Do you fire them? There are a lot of unknowns about how this

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health

Fear and anxiety spike in virus hot spots across US

Preslie Paur breaks down in tears when she thinks of her state’s refusal to mandate face masks.

The South Salt Lake City, Utah, woman can’t work at her special education job due to an autoimmune disease. Her husband, also a special ed teacher, recently quit because his school district would not allow him to work remotely to protect her and their 5-year-old son, who has asthma.

“I feel forgotten,” Paur said. “We’re living in a world we no longer fit in. We did everything right. We went to college, we got jobs, we tried to give back to our community, and now our community is not giving back to us. And I’m very scared.”


As President Donald Trump barnstorms the swing states, often downplaying the coronavirus pandemic before largely unmasked crowds, the nation continues to lurch toward what his opponent Joe Biden, citing health experts, warned will be a “dark winter” of disease and death.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday that “we’re not going to control the pandemic.” Asked why, he said it’s “because it is a contagious virus just like the flu.”

Vice President Mike Pence will continue campaigning despite his chief of staff testing positive for COVID-19. His office said Pence and his wife both tested negative for the virus Sunday.

About half of U.S. states have seen their highest daily infection numbers so far at some point in October, and the country as a whole came very close to back-to-back record daily infection rates on Friday and Saturday.

Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that 83,718 new cases were reported Saturday, just shy of the 83,757 infections reported Friday. Before that, the most cases reported in the United States on a single day had been 77,362, on July 16.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which federal health officials have used as a source for their pandemic projections, currently forecasts that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll could exceed 318,000 by Jan. 1.

As of Sunday, there were nearly 8.6 million confirmed infections in the U.S., with 224,906 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

At least seven states — Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma — saw record high infection levels Saturday. And some Northeastern states hit hard in the spring are seeing numbers bounce back; New Jersey’s toll of 1,909 new infections Saturday was the most it had seen in a day since early May.

The virus also is surging in the Mountain West, especially Idaho and Utah.

In Twin Falls, Idaho, new data suggest that 1 in 24 residents has contracted the coronavirus, said Dr. Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs at St. Luke’s Magic Valley Medical Center. Amid a crush of new cases, the hospital brought in nurses from Boise, scaled back elective surgery and, as of Friday, stopped admitting pediatric patients.

“It’s gotten kind of out of hand,” Kern told The Associated Press. “We’ve had

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