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Via AP, USA Today displays some pretty intriguing timing and publishes an article with some, dare-I-say-it?, pertinent, contemporary political applications. That is, assuming they're not ALREADY being used... More after the visual speed bump...

I dunno about you, but I'm certain there are plenty of folks who feel pretty beaten-down by ShrubCo's evil antics, their "dance with the devil in the pale moonlight." We fret and fuss here about how the sheeple (AKA "the Silent Majority") can't seem to see and hear what we all see and hear. Lauran Neergaard, who has way too many vowels in her name, has the story:
Bullied mice show brain reacts to stress By Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press WASHINGTON -- Any bully's victim knows the experience can cause lingering fear. Now scientists watching big mice intimidate small ones have discovered the stress spurs genetic changes in the brain -- a finding that may help research into depression and other mental illnesses. The experiment suggests a part of the brain linked to addiction also plays a previously unsuspected role in illnesses characterized by chronic anxiety and social withdrawal, Texas researchers report Thursday in the journal Science.
Neuroscientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center wanted to test the role of the brain's "reward pathway" in depression-like behavior. This brain circuitry is involved in emotional learning, and recognizing pleasure, and thus has a role in addiction. But people with major depression become almost numb, unable to experience pleasure, suggesting another role for the reward pathway. Enter the mice, normally sociable creatures who quickly determine their pecking order, steering clear of aggressors in favor of friendlier company. The Texas researchers subjected some small brown mice to intimidation more intense than they'd face in the wild: Each was placed for five minutes in the cage of a particularly aggressive, large white mouse, who battled the little one into a corner. Then, researchers divided the cage with a perforated, plexiglass divider for 24 hours -- so the little mouse was in no physical danger, but saw and smelled the aggressor. For 10 days, each little mouse met a new bully. The bullied mice emerged drastically cowed. Four weeks later, they still fearfully withdrew from even presumably friendly little mice.
))prune -- not Danish, you cartoon-obsessed dorks)) Lauren then goes on and talks about how this one chemical in proper levels in one's mesolimbic dopamine debenture actuarial infrastructure...well you get the idea. Read the damn article if you MUST know. Painfully, she doesn't explain how to get people -- I mean, mice/meeses -- OUT of being forever cowed.
"The ability of stress to induce (the chemical) in this reward circuitry is probably a good thing" from an evolutionary standpoint, Dr. Eric Nestler, UT Southwestern's psychiatry chairman, said. "If you're constantly subjected to something bad like being beaten up, it makes sense to avoid what's beating you up." But extreme stress can throw that normally protective system into overdrive, he explained. That's similar to what can happen in people, when someone genetically predisposed to depression experiences a first bout after an emotionally stressful event. (My emphasis)
Maybe Shrub's right: "9/11 changed everything."

Originally posted to Newton Snookers on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 11:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "too many vowels in her name" (none)
    Hm.  Culturally biased, are you?


    Every revolution carries within it the seeds of its own destruction.

    by Page van der Linden on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 11:29:49 PM PST

    •  (damn)... (none)
      ...Uh, NO, Miss Page!! I didn't know you were, uh, awake! But, now that I check my world clock, I see it's friggin' 9:44 a.m. (I think) in PageLand... I have no truck with the Scandinavian Empire at all. In fact, I actually sold pretty costly Danish furniture (and NOT cartoons!!!) in one of my very many previous employment incarnations, and enjoyed every minute of foisting Hundevad and Muurami upon unsuspecting Yuppies back in the 80s.

      "...and the ones that are lucky ones come home on the day after tomorrow..." -- Tom Waits

      by Newton Snookers on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 11:47:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  That is probably what has happened to some (none)
    elected dems and what Bush would like to have happen to his critics.  However, as Coretta Kings funeral shows, at some point some of us get even.
    •  I REALLY... (none)
      ...want to belive that what goes around, comes around, but being patient is definitely NOT my strong suit. I see that Shrub's Pappy now is lecturing Black America on how they should conduct funerals. ALSO the gov't. just did a test to see if they can withstand an internets attack via hacking. Included in this was a war game that included "disinformation" by blogs. Yep. BLOGS.

      "...and the ones that are lucky ones come home on the day after tomorrow..." -- Tom Waits

      by Newton Snookers on Fri Feb 10, 2006 at 11:59:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  of mice and men and women (4.00)
    This is directly related to, and explains much about, the righties' attitudes about many things, notably SEX.

    First of all, the research showed that mice exposed to fear-inducing stimuli developed changes in their brain that biased them toward fear.  

    This generalizes to:  mammals exposed to stimuli that induce a particular emotional state, eventually develop changes in their brain that bias them toward that state.

    So here's how to cure your scared mice: saturate them with pleasure in social contexts.  Give them every pleasurable sensation a mouse could ever want, particularly pleasurable sensations in the context of social contact with other mice (for example sex).  For that matter give them pleasure-inducing drugs that are not addictive and don't have withdrawal symptoms if used in moderation: notably marijuana.  (And yes, I'm deadly serious about this.)

    Here's how to set up your experimental design:  Take the mice that have been fear-biased, and expose half of them to the pleasure regimen and the other half to no treatment (control).  After that, measure their social responses.  Prediction: the pleasure-saturated mice will bounce back to normal; the control mice won't, or will do so more slowly.

    Implications for humans:

    Exposing someone to chronic intimidation, threats, violence, and so on, will tend to make them chronically fearful.  Exposing  them to pleasure, particularly in a social context, will tend to undo the fear responses.

    Okay, Winston Smith, how many fingers am I holding up...? (if you don't know that one, it's a 1984 reference)

    Who benefits from people being in a state of chronic fear?   Right:  Authoritarian leaders of all kinds.  Whether in politics, the workplace, religion, school, family, or anywhere else.  Fearful subjects make the authoritarian's "job" easier.  Fearful subjects are easier to control and manipulate.  

    And when people are not in a state of chronic fear, who benefits and who loses?   The authoritarian rulers lose, because their "job" becomes harder; and the people who the authoritarians try to rule over, benefit from being less fearful and by implication more able to assert themselves.  

    So, what does pleasure in a social context consist of?  At the most visceral level, sex, and non-sexual physical affection.  Also certain types of drug-induced states, for example from marijuana use (in moderation).  Examples of non-sexual physical affection can include instances where there isn't even direct physical contact between people, but only physical movement through space combined with positive peer reinforcement: for example, in highschool athletics or other nonprofessional sports.  Also includes activities such as dance, climbing trees, and so on:  physical activity with pleasurable results, preferably done in social settings with peers, friends who are equals.  

    So now we see why the righties are so anti-sex and anti- anything that's pleasurable, from dance to marijuana.  The answer is, those things undo the neurological damage that authoritarians count on to manipulate people more easily.  (Note, I am not a "proponent" of marijuana -or of sexual promiscuity for that matter- though my libertarian streak says that the government has no right to forbid something that's done in private unless there is a truly compelling state interest at stake.)

    See also "Bodily Pleasure and the Origins of Violence" by Prescott, available online (put the author and title into a keyword search and it should come up quickly).  This study shows a -1.0 correlation between physical affection and violence across a large number of cultures:  the more affection, the less violence; and the less affection, the more violence.  

    Note, I am not making the claim that exposure to pleasure is sufficient to undo chronic stress, chronic anxiety, or chronic depression: after all there are other things that can cause a person's brain to get miswired in those ways, and in some cases the miswiring requires medical intervention (e.g. taking prescribed medications) and/or lengthy counseling to undo.  

    I am making the claim that some cases are of the type that are helped by pleasure.  I am also making the claim that at a broad societal level, a society with lots of healthy physical pleasure will have less fear and be less susceptible to authoritarian control.  And I am making the claim that the righties, and control freaks of all stripes know this, and it factors into puritanical attitudes toward sex and so on.  It also factors into the issue of politicians who get and keep and expand power by promoting fear: does this remind you of anyone you know of...?

    So now the question: what to do about this?  For one thing, take reasonable steps to integrate these findings into public school education.  Notably, bring back phys ed and athletics at all levels from K through 12.  Teach kids how to use their senses, i.e. how to observe and pay attention; because sensory stimuli are by nature often intrinsically pleasurable: whether contemplating the subtle colors of a leaf on a tree, or of a brick in a building, the sounds of birds on a suburban lawn or crowds of people on a city street; the key here is to know how to pay attention in such a way that the experience is pleasurable.  Raising kids to experience their senses as sources of pleasure can be done in all kinds of conservatively traditional ways such as art, athletics, and on; there is no need to "bring back the 1960s" to achieve results here.  

    Also, we need to absolutely crack down on bullying at all levels.  In fact the word "bullying" is a sick euphemism for what should really be called assault and in some cases battery.  Schools need to take an absolutely zero-tolerance attitude toward all forms of bullying.  There is no excuse for "boys will be boys."  Bullies should be shunted into counseling to fix their attitudes, and if they can't be fixed, bullies should be kept away from other kids.  Ditto for the workplace and other settings.  Ditto for colleges and universities: don't forget fraternity "hazing" rituals, another sick euphemism for systematic traumatization and physical abuse (with a social darwinist element as well: those who "make it" through that crap gain access to privileged social circles).  

    And as far as fighting the righties in the trenches is concerned: the war is between fear and pleasure, and the righties ought to be called out on this at every turn: "Look, see the pattern?, the righties are always promoting fear and they're always against pleasure."  Once people notice what's going on, once they see the pattern, they won't forget it.  And that, we have to hope, will translate to changes in voting patterns.  

  •  Good News (none)
    It's true, but it doesn't last to long, atleast in human politics.  This was largely the effect in Latin America in the late 80s and through the 90s, and it's 'flowering of democracy'.  In the 40s,50s,60s,70s, there would be elections, the wrong people would win, the military would stage a coup, horrible, bloody repression would ensue, mass suffering and such.  If we think 9/11 was traumatic, imagine what happened to people's minds in places like El Salvador with wholesale butchery and eradications of whole villages and towns an almost random executions of those not in the upper class(oh yeah, ask kos).  Then there would be another election.  Wrong people elected again.  Another coup, another bloodbath, more death squads.  Then another election.  This time, all the military would have to do is say 'we like candidate A', and candidate A would win.  That's why throughout this 'golden age' of Latin American democracy you had populations freely electing these rightwing criminals.  The current president of Brazil, 'Lulu' de Silva, probably should of been elected president in the early 90s, but all that was necessary were anonymous reports in the newspapers about the military being 'concerned' about his election, and the US ambassador acknowledging the military's 'concern', and people wouldn't vote for Lulu, fearing a military coup.  But now, as we see leftist politicians winning all over Latin America, the big scare is not working anymore.

    Hopefully, we can follow their lead soon, and hopefully, it's before our own rightwing nutjobs do too much damage.

    •  You're right... (none)
      ...about the Central and South America examples, of course. It's difficult, perhaps useless, to compare and contrast examples of butchery such as we speak, isn't it? We can be one sick species, can't we?

      "...and the ones that are lucky ones come home on the day after tomorrow..." -- Tom Waits

      by Newton Snookers on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 07:22:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm against animal testing. It's cruel. (none)
    Do we really need mice to teach us these obvious things?
    •  I guess I should say I'm against (none)
      animal testing AND experiments.
      •  I'm betting... (none) mean experiments on animals, right? I'm not Catholic, but it's kinda fun sometimes to think of St. Francis of Assisi re-appearing and going around bitch-slapping scientists who mistreat animals.

        "...and the ones that are lucky ones come home on the day after tomorrow..." -- Tom Waits

        by Newton Snookers on Sat Feb 11, 2006 at 07:27:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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