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10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries This Week

Are we on the verge of a vaccine for cocaine addiction and Facebook for animals?

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Intriguing (one can’t help wondering “What, like Vanilla Coffee-mate?)...and an excellent thing to say if you ever want to bring a conversation to a dead halt in 10 words or less. 

8. Progression on aggression

So that’s one of the ways the human body can be amazing. One of the ways it can be tricky is when our brain function is off-kilter, causing us to behave in ways that just aren’t beneficial. I’ve written before about sci-fi movie elements that have been developed in real life, like the Sonic Screwdriver on Dr. Who, the light-saber in Star Wars and the needle-free injections on Star Trek. This next bit of research might have made for a kinder, gentler version of A Clockwork Orange .

In that futuristic film, aversion therapy is used to stop a violent young man from being so aggressive (it doesn’t quite work out). It isn’t aversion therapy but another approach to pathological aggression may be on the way. Medical Express reports that scientists from USC and Italy have found a brain receptor that “malfunctions in overly aggressive mice.” This receptor also exists in humans and when the researchers shut it down in the mice the aggression disappeared. 

“The findings are a significant breakthrough in developing drug targets for pathological aggression, a component in many common psychological disorders including Alzheimer's disease, autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia,” ME says. 

Previous research indicated that the lack of a specific enzyme -- monoamine oxidase A or MAO A -- was linked to pathological aggression. The researchers studied low MAO A levels and “also the interaction of genetics with early stressful events such as trauma and neglect during childhood.” Both things are a basis for aggression and lead study author Marco Bortolato says “the combination of the two factors appears to be deadly: it results consistently in violence in adults."

They found that a specific brain receptor in the prefrontal cortex of the aggressive mice could only be activated by a lot of electrical stimulus and even then only for short periods of time; the discovery that blocking this receptor moderates aggression is a huge breakthrough, Bortolato says. Researchers are now “studying the potential side effects of drugs that reduce the activity of this receptor.”

“Hulk smash? Maybe not anymore…” is how the headline begins on the ME piece, and while it opens an intriguing can of philosophical worms, we’re used to controlling other behaviors with drugs, so could “the old ultraviolence” one day be...old? 

10. You love this column and want to share it 

Last, but not least, another thing that influences our behavior is our perceptions. A story on  PsyPost expounds on the research of several psychological scientists about the power of suggestion, how and how much it influences our lives which, they conclude (though with the caveat of more study being needed) is probably more than we think. 

I recently saw the Amazing Kreskin, the world-renowned mentalist and talk show staple who talked a lot about the power of suggestion and demonstrated it through some hilarious audience hypnosis. I love Kreskin and I’m sure YOU LOVE him, too, but haven’t thought about him much until reading THIS COLUMN. WILL SHARE more about the show  ON ALL mySOCIAL NETWORKS so you can share it too. YOUR FRIENDS WILL LOVE IT; it really showed how the power of suggestion works. 

Liz Langley is a freelance writer in Orlando, FL.

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