Cambridge University: I’m Hungry I’ll hurt you

Filed Under (The HELL You Say!) by admin on 20-09-2011

Researchers from Cambridge University have concluded that when the chemical serotonin reaches low levels in the brain, our brains have a much greater difficulty in controlling anger. Serotonin levels were found to drop when someone hasn’t eaten or becomes stressed. These chemical changes affect brain regions that enable people to control or regulate their anger. In previous studies, there have been definite links to aggressive behavior as a direct result of lowered levels of serotonin. These findings, which were published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry, are hoped to aid in the research for new treatments for psychiatric disorders, where violence and aggression are the primary symptoms. During the study, serotonin levels were measured in the brains of healthy volunteers. Then, these levels were altered by manipulating their diet and food intake. On the days when the serotonin was depleted, the volunteers were given a mixture of amino acids that lacked tryptophan – which is the primary building block for serotonin. On the days when a placebo was administered, they were given the same mixture, but with a normal amount of tryptophan.

The volunteers then underwent brain scans using fMRIs – or “functional magnetic resonance imaging”. This was done as researchers studied facial expressions exhibiting anger, sadness, and neutral expressions. These scans enabled the researchers to measure how different regions of the brain reacted and communicated with one another when the volunteers saw angry faces as opposed to sad or neutral faces.

The subsequent results clearly demonstrated that low levels of brain serotonin made communication between specific regions of the emotional limbic system of the brain, and the frontal lobes. The communication between these two areas of the brain was significantly weaker compared to when serotonin levels are normal.

To further aid in the accuracy of the study, researchers had the volunteers complete personality questionnaires. This helped the researchers to base line which of the volunteers already had pre-existing natural tendencies to behave aggressively. In the volunteers that were naturally aggressive, communications between the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex of the brain was even weaker when serotonin levels were depleted.

” Although these results came from healthy volunteers, they are also relevant for a broad range of psychiatric disorders.” , said Luca Passamonti, who worked on the research at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit of the Medical Research Council in Cambridge.

Passamonti noted, that patients with a condition known as ” intermittent explosive disorder” or IED, typically have intense and uncontrollable outbursts of violence, which could be triggered by certain external cues like a facial expression of anger.

Passamonti went on to say,” we are hopeful that our research will lead to improved diagnostics as well as better treatments for this and other conditions.”

Which leads me to a conclusion:  As the world’s financial stability continues to erode away at an alarming rate – and as social conditions here and around the globe continue to deteriorate, because of joblessness and poverty, I see our world becoming a far more dangerous place – rapidly!

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