Brain and Behavior Articles

5 New Theories on the Cause of Depression

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

depression-brainI grew up thinking depression was as simple as one little transmitter getting lost somewhere on his way from one neuron to the other, much like I do when I venture farther than five miles from home. It’s an easy explanation — a chemical imbalance in the brain — one that pharmaceutical companies have adopted to craft creative commercials like the Zoloft egg not chasing the butterfly.

But depression is so much more complex than that.

Prevention: 2 Ways to Stop Schizophrenia Before it Starts

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Prevention: 2 Ways to Stop Schizophrenia Before it Starts

Over the past week, I’ve come across two very different approaches to schizophrenia prevention. I know to some that may sound like an incredulous possibility. But I believe it’s something that’s achievable within our lifetime.

Schizophrenia is uniquely situated to be acted upon by prevention methods. We know it has a larger genetic component than virtually any other mental disorder today. And unlike many other mental health concerns, it has a list of symptoms to watch out for (prodromal symptoms, they’re called) before it turns into full-blown schizophrenia.

Here’s how we may be able to prevent schizophrenia in the future.

Secrets of Adulthood: Nothing Is More Exhausting Than the Task That’s Never Started.

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

NothingIsAsExhaustingTask_124869Agree, disagree?

For the research for my forthcoming book about habit change, Better Than Before, I asked people about …

7 Tips to Make Healthy Eating Habits Easier

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

7 Tips to Make Healthy Eating Habits EasierMany people were very intrigued by my interview with behavioral scientist Brian Wansink and his ideas. He studies eating behavior and consumer habits, and has a book that just came out: Slim By Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life.

I asked him for some of his top tips, and he gave me these excellent suggestions to “Help your kitchen make you slim.”

How a Schedule Can Help You Sleep Better

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

How a Schedule Can Help You Sleep BetterThe fancy digital, pedometer-bracelet thingy around my wrist tells me I slept six hours and 25 minutes with four interruptions. As I struggle to awake, my body can tell you, that isn’t nearly enough.

An estimated 70 million Americans are sleep-deprived, according to the National Sleep Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many nights, I am among them.

Aside from the health risks associated with inadequate sleep, such as depression, memory and attention issues, mood disorders, and the higher risk of physical illness, researchers at the University of Oxford now believe a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality may also contribute to brain shrinkage. That thought alone might keep you up at night.

The Benefits of Being Scared

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Benefits of Being ScaredBeing scared isn’t always a negative. You can be scared in many different ways.

There is the “scary movie” kind of scared, where you don’t know what’s going to pop out on the screen. There’s the jumping out of a plane kind of scared, where you fear real death and your adrenaline is pumping loudly. Lastly, there is the taking a chance kind of scared, where you have to address someone or something that’s anxiety-producing and you don’t know if the outcome will be favorable.

It Helps to Focus on the Positive Stuff

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

It Helps to Focus on the Positive StuffThings are OK as they are. That’s the one fact I’ve been struggling with recently.

I have this image in my mind as to how I want things to be. I want to make lots of money, I want a house in the mountains, I want to get married. All of this I worry about on a near-daily basis. These are also the things that drive me to work, to be better, and to achieve more things.

What Drives a Person to Suicide?

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

What Drives a Person to Suicide?Each of us has swings in our mood or has highs and lows in our emotional feelings. If these swings are within a certain normal range, we remain self-governed and functional. But when they become extreme, they can lead us into the poles of mania and depression. In some cases if the manias become extremely high, the depressions can become extremely low.

Similar, but other forms of these manias and depressions can be fantasies and nightmares or extreme degrees of pride and shame. When we are up, manic and elated, our brain can become flooded by increased releasing of dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, enkephalins and serotonin. When we are depressed the reverse can occur and cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, dihydrotestosterone, substance P and other neurotransmitters can surge.

Reflect & Reframe

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Reflect and ReframeWe all know people who are well-educated but somehow aren’t very smart. We also know people without much formal education who are quite wise. So, it’s obvious that it’s not just what we learn in school that makes us smart. It’s more about how we use our mind and live our life.

To live life with a high degree of competence, it’s essential to frequently reflect and reframe.

‘Discardia’: How to Indulge Moderately

Friday, October 17th, 2014

'Discardia': How to Indulge ModeratelyI recently read Delia Ephron’s very amusing and thought-provoking book of essays, Sister Mother Husband Dog: (Etc.).

In her essay “Bakeries,” she describes visiting her favorite bakeries and eating her favorite pastries — granola cookies, pizza bread, pain au chocolat, chocolate chip cookies with walnuts, pistachio donuts — all around New York City.

As I was reading, I was thinking, “Zoikes, how can she be eating all these pastries all the time, without bad health effects?”

Interesting Person, Boring Life

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Interesting Person, Boring LifeYou might think that if you are a person who has interesting ideas and inspired imagination, you would be living an exciting life. Sorry, it’s not necessarily so.

Why not?

There may be an abundance of reasons, but the one that wins the prize for robbing you of that exciting, inspiring, interesting life you could have is (drum roll, please) an abundance of fear.

The Solitude Dilemma

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

The Solitude DilemmaThis week The Atlantic shared a video in its Editor’s Picks series called ‘The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain.’ It followed a young man named Leif Haugen, a Forest Service firefighter in Montana. For three months out of the year, Leif lives alone at the lookout on top of a mountain.

Watching the video, I couldn’t help but feel a rather fervent mix of desire and fear.

Living in solitude like that, with no one to talk to and nothing to distract you but books and chores seems like a dream to me. At the same time, though, it made me wonder if, were I to live like that, I would get lonely.

Recent Comments
  • Lisa: Thank you for sharing what’s worked for you in this situation; it’s a difficult one that we all go...
  • sheepwolf2004: the emotional abuse is still going on. it’s like my parents don’t care about how what they...
  • Melinda: Thank you for this article. I will share it with those that struggle with food issues. Great advice!
  • Mina: Many people here in the comments, both male and female, are responding to this article in such a way that...
  • Mina: I think it’s actually a myth that women really want to do everything on their own. It took me more than...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code