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Relationship Science and Being Human | Dr. Dan Siegel

Relationship Science and Being Human | Dr. Dan Siegel | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
When I was a child, I used to marvel at the sound of the frogs in our neighborhood creek. Perched on the rocks, they would find each other and croak out an exhilarating symphony of amphibious songs. Meanwhile, their tadpole offspring swam in the cool flowing water below, their parents seemingly oblivious to their offsprings’ experience.

I wondered then, as I still do today as a physician and mental health educator, how our human lives entail our gathering together to voice our own thoughts and aspirations, intentions and emotions.
What makes us different as mammals from our amphibian and even reptilian cousins is something beyond just the hair on our bodies and the warmth of our blood.  We mammals share attachment, the need for a close relationship between parent and offspring to connect and protect, to soothe and attune.
The magic of attachment is that our children internalize our patterns of communication with them, shaping the very structure of their developing brains as they move from the safe haven of our love to set out into the world from the launching pad of home. While the tadpoles do fine without their parents’ care, as mammals, our human family shares this need for an attachment bond.  
And as a very special kind of primate, we have the unusual habit (actually more like a key feature) of our caregiving: we distribute the responsibility for the care of our young to more than just the mother.

As Sarah Hrdy beautifully describes  in Mothers and Others, we mammals have “alloparenting” or “other-parenting” in which we provide trusted others to care for our precious infants.  This cooperative child-rearing, Hrdy suggests, is the key to our adaptive nature.
We give birth to our children, share their care through collaborative communication, and then build cooperative communities that extend this interconnected way of living. Our youth grow into their adolescence, getting ready to push away from their parents and the solid home base from which they now can go out and explore the world.
Relationships are the defining feature of being human.  As Robin Dunbar suggests, the more complex our social lives, the more complex our brains.  In our Foundation for Psychocultural Research/UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, over the past decade we have been examining how the relationships we have within cultures—the repeating patterns of communication we have that link us together in families, communities, and societies—actually shape the structure and function of the brain.
These studies suggest that our experiences shape our neural architecture—and that our social relationships are one of the most important forms of experience that literally form who we are.  And the very essence of a relationship is communication. Communication is what connects one person to another, or one person to many.
You can see how this essential collaborative nature of ours would be a natural backdrop to making communication amongst members of a group so vital for the group’s survival.  If we could sense the inner state of others through verbal language and through the non-verbal signals of eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, touch, posture, and the timing and intensity of responses, we could then link our minds, connecting the core of our inner worlds, and making a more integrated whole from the sum of many individuals.
That’s likely how our relationships within groups allowed us to not only survive, but ultimately to thrive.  Moving beyond the important parent-child relationship of our mammalian history, this human feature of cooperation propelled our need for complex communication and complex brain architecture into fast forward.  The result for all of us is the centrality of relationships in human life.
Now comes another amazing twist to the story.  As our brains took on the need to connect to others, we developed the neural real estate to examine our own sense of identity.
That’s right—it appears that relationships came first, and self-reflection came next! Relationships first.
Elaborated by language and made intricate by socially-needed empathic skills to sense and comprehend the internal intentions and meanings of others, we now could examine in thought and feeling what an “I” might be, and reflect and think about what a “you” was not only in real here-and-now interactions but in concept, across time, and across contexts. I could connect to you, and you and I could form a “we.” And all of this we could reflect upon from the past, sense it in the present, and make plans for the future.
With such a centrality of relationships in forming our evolutionary history and in forming our very identity—individually and as a human species—it might not surprise you to hear (or be reminded) that of all the factors in human life that predict the best positive outcomes, supportive relationships are number one.  These research-proven findings include how long we live, the health of our bodies, the well-being of our minds, and the happiness we experience in life.
Relationships are the most important part of our having well-being in being human.  It’s that simple. And it’s that important.
As a clinician and parent and an educator, I am excited to let others know of how vitally important having supportive relationships are for our individual well-being. But there’s another aspect of relationships that is also clear from recent science: The more we connect with others and embrace the reality of our interconnected nature, the more we’ll live with meaning, compassion, equanimity, and purpose.
Recent studies led by Barbara Fredrickson even show that with such a life of what the Greek’s called eudemonia, we will even have a more optimal way that our genes will be regulated to help us fight off chronic disease.
I like to think of these factors as the way we care for our internal identity as a “me” while also embracing the reality of our interconnected identity as a “we.”  A simple way to remember this important integrated identity is thinking of ourselves as a “MWe”, a fundamentally related being that we can be proud to call human.
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Social Neuroscience Advances
Understanding ourselves and how we interact
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Maturing Brain Flips Function of Amygdala in Regulating Stress Hormones

Maturing Brain Flips Function of Amygdala in Regulating Stress Hormones | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
According to a new study, the amygdala has an inhibitory effect on cortisol during early development of nonhuman primates.
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How Self-Compassion Beats Rumination

How Self-Compassion Beats Rumination | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
“I can’t do this right,” says my patient Carla. “I know I’m going to fail. I can never do anything right.”  The most innocent wish—to walk in the park, to meet a friend for lunch, to meditate— would trigger this relentlessly harsh inner voice, 24/7.
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Stuck in neutral: Brain defect traps schizophrenics in twilight zone

Stuck in neutral: Brain defect traps schizophrenics in twilight zone | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
People with schizophrenia struggle to turn goals into actions because brain structures governing desire and emotion are less active and fail to pass goal-directed messages to cortical regions affecting human decision-making, new research reveals.
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Researchers Obtain Key Insights into How the Internal Body Clock is Tuned

Researchers Obtain Key Insights into How the Internal Body Clock is Tuned | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers discover a new way that circadian rhythm is regulated by long non-coding RNA.
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An MRI-guided brain surgery technology goes global

An MRI-guided brain surgery technology goes global | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

An MRI-guided laser system that allows surgeons to perform brain surgery on tumors and epileptic lesions in the brain is expected to become widely available to patients in need now that the technology has been acquired from Visualase Inc. by the global medical device company Medtronic, Inc., says a biomedical engineering professor from Texas A&M University who co-founded the company responsible for the technology.


The technology, says Gerard Coté, professor in the university’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and director of the Center for Remote Healthcare Technology, enables surgeons to pinpoint and destroy brain tumors and lesions with extreme precision and is a much less-invasive alternative to conventional surgery.


The advantage of this approach over other approaches for brain surgery, Coté explains, is that it can be performed while the patient is awake, requires no radiation and no skull flap (the large opening in traditional craniotomies), and is often performed in otherwise inoperable areas of the brain.


Traditional brain surgery, he explains, is usually a daylong operation that involves removing part of the skull, cutting through healthy brain matter and physically removing the problematic tissue. That procedure, he adds, can be followed by a weeklong hospital stay and prolonged recovery period. 


The technology developed by former Texas A&M students Ashok Gowda and the late Roger McNichols, conversely, can be completed in about four hours, and most patients can return home the following day, Coté says. 


Known as “Visualase,” the technology is already used in more than 45 hospitals, nationwide, including 15 pediatric hospitals. Before the surgical procedure, computer software first helps identify the targeted tissue so that it may be treated and the surrounding healthy tissue can be avoided, Coté explains. During the procedure, a small entry is made in the skull that allows a laser applicator (about the size of a pencil lead) to be inserted into the tissue. The patient is placed in the MRI, and a physician receives and reviews images to verify proper positioning of the laser applicator in the skull. The clinician then uses a laser to heat and destroy the problematic tissue while imaging the tissue being damaged in real time to ensure destruction of the problematic tissue and to avoid damaging healthy tissue. The laser applicator is then removed, and the scalp is closed with one stitch, Coté notes.



Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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How Practicing Makes Your Brain Better

How Practicing Makes Your Brain Better | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A lot of contemporary neuroscience has focused on the importance of practice when it comes to honing your talents. In general, we all understand that practice improves our ability to play the viola, hit a golf ball, prepare tasty meals, etc.
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David Hain's curator insight, August 18, 4:48 AM

"The more I practise, the luckier I get!" ~ Gary Player

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DNA methylation involved in Alzheimer's disease

DNA methylation involved in Alzheimer's disease | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new study led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Rush University Medical Center, reveals how early changes in brain DNA methylation are involved in Alzheimer's disease.
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Scientists Use Lasers to Control Mouse Brain Switchboard

Scientists Use Lasers to Control Mouse Brain Switchboard | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new optogenetics study could be a breakthrough in understanding how the TRN influences consciousness.
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Researchers identify a brain 'switchboard' important in attention and sleep

Researchers identify a brain 'switchboard' important in attention and sleep | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and elsewhere, using a mouse model, have recorded the activity of individual nerve cells in a small part of the brain that works as a "switchboard," directing signals coming from the outside world or...
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Stroke researchers link ability to self-administer medication with memory loss

Stroke researchers link ability to self-administer medication with memory loss | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Kessler stroke researchers and colleagues have identified an association between over-optimistic estimation of one's own ability to take medications accurately, and memory loss among stroke survivors.
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Depression Linked to Parkinson’s Disease

Depression Linked to Parkinson’s Disease | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new study reports that depression is under-treated in Parkinson's patients.
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Naughty or nice? The Moral Molecule

Naughty or nice? The Moral Molecule | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
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Image of the Week: Wiring of the human brain

Image of the Week: Wiring of the human brain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Spark the imagination… submit your images for the 2015 Wellcome Image Awards now! If you are a research scientist, photographer or illustrator, your images could reach a global audience. The winnin...
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The Golden Age of Neuroscience Has Arrived - Wall Street Journal

The Golden Age of Neuroscience Has Arrived - Wall Street Journal | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it


So the promise of this new revolution in neuroscience is profound, holding out the ability to someday alleviate suffering and enhance our true mental potential.

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Walking in Your Shoes

Walking in Your Shoes | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

To walk in the other person's shoes is perhaps the most important first step we can do to develop our emotional intelligence. This is called "empathy," and it is defined as the capacity to experience another person's point of view.


British philosopher Roman Krznaric who studied the topic in depth, observes that empathy includes also understanding the other's feelings, and using that understanding to guide our actions.


Via Edwin Rutsch
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Good neighbors and friendly local community may curb heart attack risk

Good neighbors and friendly local community may curb heart attack risk | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Having good neighbors and feeling connected to others in the local community may help to curb an individual's heart attack risk, concludes research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
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Targeted Brain Stimulation Aids Stroke Recovery in Mice

Targeted Brain Stimulation Aids Stroke Recovery in Mice | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Using optogenetics to stimulate mice brains five days after a stroke helped improve motor control and brain chemistry, researchers report.
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The role of lactate in boosting memory

The role of lactate in boosting memory | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
(Medical Xpress)—EPFL researchers have decoded the mechanism by which a glucose derivative activates receptors involved in memorization.
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Epigenetic Breakthrough Bolsters Understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease

Epigenetic Breakthrough Bolsters Understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new study reports people with more Alzheimer's related neuropathology in their brains had higher levels of DNA modifications within the ANK1 gene.
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High-fidelity optical reporting of neuronal electrical activity with an ultrafast fluorescent voltage sensor

High-fidelity optical reporting of neuronal electrical activity with an ultrafast fluorescent voltage sensor | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

In this technical report, St-Pierre and colleagues introduce a new genetically encoded voltage sensor called Accelerated Sensor of Action Potentials 1 (ASAP1), which consists of a circularly permuted GFP inserted in the extracellular voltage-sensing domain of a phosphatase. ASAP1 surpasses existing sensors in reliably detecting single action potentials and tracking subthreshold potentials and high-frequency spike trains. (...) -  by St-Pierre F. et al., Nature Neuroscience 17, 884–889 (2014)


Via Julien Hering, PhD
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Bypass Commands From the Brain to Legs Through a Computer

Bypass Commands From the Brain to Legs Through a Computer | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers have successfully made an artificial connection from the brain to the locomotion center in the spinal cord by bypassing with a computer interface.
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Biology of love at first sight: Study explains the mechanism of "Cupid's arrow"

Biology of love at first sight: Study explains the mechanism of "Cupid's arrow" | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Waseda university researchers have identified certain chemicals in the brain which regulate downstream reproductive hormones of males.
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Promising New Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

Promising New Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers report common anti-psychotic drugs could be effective in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis.
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Dopamine Replacement Therapy Associated with Increase in Impulse Control Disorders Among Early Parkinson’s Disease Patients

Dopamine Replacement Therapy Associated with Increase in Impulse Control Disorders Among Early Parkinson’s Disease Patients | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Anxiety and depression are more common in newly diagnosed Parkinson's patients than in the general population, a new study reports.
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The origin of laughter, smiles and tears – Michael Graziano – Aeon

The origin of laughter, smiles and tears – Michael Graziano – Aeon | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Why do laughter, smiles and tears look so similar? Perhaps because they all evolved from a single root
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