From ScienceDaily (June 13, 2012) Normally, male California mice are surprisingly doting fathers, but new research published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology suggests that high anxiety can turn these good dads bad.
Unlike most rodents, male and female California mice pair up for life with males providing extensive parental care, helping deliver the pups, lick them clean, and keep them warm during their first few weeks of life. Experienced fathers are so paternal that they’ll even take care of pups that aren’t theirs. “If we place a male California mouse in a test cage and present it with an unknown pup, experienced fathers will quickly start to lick and huddle with it,” said Trynke de Jong, a post-doctoral researcher at University of California, Riverside.
Inexperienced males, on the other hand, aren’t always so loving. “Virgin males show more variability,” de Jong explained. “They may behave paternally, or they may ignore the pup, or even attack it. We want to understand what triggers these three behavioral responses in virgin males.”
De Jong and her colleagues thought this variability might have something to do with social status. In other species — including another rodent, Mongolian gerbils — dominant virgin males are more likely than subordinate ones to kill pups. Perhaps social status influences parenting in California mice as well.
To test this, de Jong and her colleagues paired up 12 virgin males in six enclosures, and performed several tests to see which was dominant. First was a food competition. “If a cornflake is dropped in the cage, the more dominant male will manage to eat most of it,” de Jong said. The researchers also observed each mouse’s urine marking. “Dominant males will make more, smaller, and more widespread marks than subordinate males,” said de Jong
After determining the mightier mouse in each pair, the team tested parental behavior by introducing a pup. Contrary to the hypothesis, scores on the dominance tests did not predict whether a male licked or huddled up to the pup. However, the research did turn up signs that anxiety, not status, plays a role in paternal behavior.
Males who shied away from urinating the middle of a new enclosure — a behavioral signal that a mouse is anxious — were slower to approach a pup. Further tests showed that less paternal males had higher levels of the vasopressin in their brains. Vasopressin is a hormone that is strongly associated with stress and anxiety.
“Our findings support the theory that vasopressin may alter the expression of paternal behavior depending on the emotional state of the animal,” de Jong said. She believes these results could shed light on the role of stress in paternal care in other mammals — including humans.
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Positive Psychology Coach
Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought
evidence that positive emotions exist for a reason…
evidence that evolution has selected positive emotions for specific reasons that help our species – reasons that help you in every area of your life.
Positive emotions include feelings such as awe, curiosity, gratitude, compassion, calm, love, joy, interest, passion and happiness.
Evidence is mounting to support the importance of cultivating positive emotions for success in a variety of areas in your life.
A comfy nesting bed with egg pillows
At the beginning of every session with a new client, I make a point of sharing a short, humorous video clip. One of my personal favorites is the popular Mother’s Day video by Barats and Bereta (www.BaratsAndBereta.com)…
The reason for sharing a humorous video with new clients is three-fold.
First, the funny video unlocks any negative emotions the client may be holding onto such as anger, irritability, anxiety or sadness (Fredrickson, The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions, 2004, The Royal Society).
Second, those few, fleeting moments of laughter, mirth and smiling reduce depressive symptoms and improve your well-being and satisfaction with life (Sin & Lyubomirsky, Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depressive Symptoms With Positive Psychology Interventions: Practice-Friendly Meta-Analysis, JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY: IN SESSION, 2009).
Combination stairs and slide for young ones
Third, science has known for over a decade that chronic anger, anxiety and depression put you at an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease (Suls & Bunde, Anger, Anxiety, and Depression as Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease, Psychological Bulletin, 2005). Most people go through life with the sympathetic branch of the ANS stuck in the ‘on’ position. The sympathetic branch is similar to the gas pedal in a car. Negative emotions (along with stress, exhaustion, and lack of exercise) activate the sympathetic nervous system which leads to increased heart rate, pulse and higher levels of cortisol into the blood stream. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.
On the flip side, positive emotions activate the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) which acts like the brakes on a car. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in charge of calming the body, reducing heart rate and pulse, and bringing the body back to a resting state. The extent to which you can activate your PNS predicts your emotional and physical health. It is intimately related to how well you can self-regulate your own emotions.
Lower levels of PNS activity are related to higher levels of depression (Chambers and Allen, 2002), anxiety (Friedman and Thayer, 1993), aggression (Beauchaine and others, 2007), and hostility (Virtanen and others, 2003).
On the other side, higher levels of PNS activity are associated with better psychological flexibility, health and resiliency. Individuals with higher levels of PNS activity are related to more resiliency to stress (Britton and others, 2008) as well as greater mental health in children in the face of chronic conflict between parents at home.
How do you come up with such an idea? Start with passion and curiosity
Importantly, the frequency with which you experience positive emotions is related to a more active PNS. Individuals who were shown humorous video clips demonstrated faster heart rate recover after experiencing intense negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). In addition, simply asking people to think about a time when they felt grateful activated the PNS.
Other ways to ‘turn on’ the PNS include exercise, laughter, mindfulness, massage, yoga, walking your dog and taking fish oil.
You’ve gotta’ be inspired to come up with a bedroom like this!
The success I’ve experienced with clients in my private practice is directly related to how well I can make them laugh. With laughter comes opportunity…
opportunity to unlock stale old anger,
opportunity to teach critical new skills,
opportunity to think outside the box, and
opportunity to transform your life for the better.
How do you proceed from here?
Begin to become more aware of the percentage of time you spend in a positive emotional state as compared to a negative state. This simple realization, this basic level of awareness will begin to produce massive tectonic shifts in your life. And you will reap the benefits…on a number of levels…physical, relational, and emotional.
Brene’ Brown is my new hero(ine). You must check out this fantastic talk she did at TED in 2010.
I’m currently ordering numerous copies of her recent book, The Gifts of Imperfection, for all the mothers I know for Mother’s Day.
Emminently readable, vastly significant and life-changing.
If you’d like a FREE copy of my award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, simply go to www.GuideToSelf.com, click on the yellow book icon on the left side of the page and enter your name and email address.
I have a number of angry, male, teenage clients who use ecstasy, or thizz (which is a combination of ecstasy and PHP/cocaine/meth). I’m always on the lookout for new studies that highlight the physical, cognitive and emotional effects drugs have on people. Yesterday, I found out about a brand new study from www.ScienceDaily.com.
Ecstasy (Thizz, MDMA) Seems Prevalent in Danville, CA
‘ScienceDaily (Apr. 15, 2011) Long term users of the popular recreational drug ecstasy (MDMA) risk structural brain damage, suggests preliminary research published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
Other research has suggested that people who use ecstasy develop significant memory problems, so the Dutch researchers wanted to find out if there was any clinical evidence of structural changes in the brain to back this up.
They focused on the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for long term memory.
They measured the volume of the hippocampus using MRI scans in 10 young men in their mid 20s who were long term users of ecstasy and seven of their healthy peers in their early 20s with no history of ecstasy use.
Although the ecstasy group had used more amphetamine and cocaine than their peers, both sets of young men had used similar amounts of recreational drugs, bar ecstasy, and drank alcohol regularly.
The ecstasy group had not been using on average for more than two months before the start of the study, but had taken an average of 281 ecstasy tablets over the preceding six and a half years.
The MRI scans showed that hippocampal volume in this group was 10.5% smaller than that of their peers, and the overall proportion of grey matter was on average 4.6% lower, after adjusting for total brain volume.
This indicates that the effects of ecstasy may not be restricted to the hippocampus alone, say the authors
“Taken together, these data provide preliminary evidence suggesting that ecstasy users may be prone to incurring hippocampal damage, following chronic use of this drug,” they write.
They add that their findings echo those of other researchers who have reported acute swelling and subsequent atrophy of hippocampal tissue in long term ecstasy users.
And they point out: “Hippocampal atrophy is a hallmark for diseases of progressive cognitive impairment in older patients, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”‘
It’s my deep-seated belief based on experience and a pretty good (really, just pretty good, memory is NOT my strength!) understanding of the literature that most substance use is a means to escape the emotional mind – feelings such as ennui, embarrassment, anger, frustration, anxiety, depression, loneliness, alienation, excitement, disappointment, and heartache. One of the problems with ecstasy, or MDMA, is that it changes the way in which the brain perceives pleasure. Over time, the brain loses the ability to perceive pleasure without the addition of ecstasy. Without the ability to feel pleasure, chonic ex users lose the ability to ‘approach’ things they desire and increasingly ‘avoid discomfort.’
Lacking the ability to approach things they desire means that fulfilling activities are non-existent. So goal-setting and, more importantly, goal achievement, a major source of meaning and personal satisfaction, do not happen.
On the bright side, research has shown that the brain can recover rapidly, creating new neurons and new pathways. Changes in the brain occur every minute of every day. Your brain is always growing, developing, learning, and recreating itself!
My goal is to help you realize where you are, what you are missing (the hardest part), and to take small steps in a constructive, meaningful direction.
This is done through teaching tools such as self-forgiveness, mindfulness (sounds weak but is tremendously powerful), compassion, challenging catastrophic thinking, reframing, best possible self and more. By layering these tools one atop the other, there is a cumulative, additive effect wherby my clients become less filled with negative emotions (e.g., anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness) and more open to positive emotions (e.g., curiosity, awe, hope, courage, pride, and contentment).
All the best,
John Schinnerer, Ph.D.
Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.
If you are interested in finding out more, you can download a FREE copy of John’s award-winning book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought. It is awesome! Just visit, www.GuideToSelf.com click on the picture of the yellow book on the left side of the screen and enter your name and email address in the required fields. This will also give you access to a bunch of free anger management online video classes. What could be better in this day and age of falling economies, changing breadwinner roles, and political correctness and incorrect polititicians?!