Breakthrough study offers ray of hope to those suffering from anxiety.

Neuroscientists just pinpointed the physical source of anxiety in our brains — and it could lead to a breakthrough treatment.

Using mice. And light rays.

Experiments have located so-called "anxiety cells" located in the hippocampus of mice brains. Using a ray of light, researchers found they could literally turn down the level of anxiety in these cells.


“This is exciting because it represents a direct, rapid pathway in the brain that lets animals respond to anxiety-provoking places without needing to go through higher-order brain regions,” said Mazen Kheirbek, assistant professor of psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco, and a lead investigator on the joint study conducted by UCSF and Columbia University.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans has experienced an anxiety disorder.

Photo by Alexander Mils/​Unsplash.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31% of U.S. adults will experience an anxiety disorder in at some point in their lives.

And celebrities are not immune either. Public figures like Kristen Bell, Lady Gaga, and journalist Dan Harris have shared their own difficulties in navigating a mental illness that can seem invisible to everyone else.

The most common treatments typically involve a combination of therapy and medications. Antidepressents, or SSRI drugs, have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, with critics arguing they are often over-prescribed and in less severe cases may even mask symptoms that could be otherwise treated through different approaches.

A ray of hope. Seriously.

Image via Lab of Rene Hen, Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

That's what makes this new study so compelling. If there's an alternative approach to treating anxiety that is both more precise and less invasive, it could be a legitimate breakthrough approach to treating anxiety disorders.

Using rays of light, the researchers were able to track the brain activity in freely moving mice, getting real-time feedback about whether the "anxiety neurons" in their brains were activated during stressful situations:

"They found that suppressing the anxiety neuron pathway made animals more comfortable spending time in environments that usually frighten them, while stimulating the same neural connections made mice behave with anxiety even in safely enclosed spaces."

"Now that we’ve found these cells in the hippocampus, it opens up new areas for exploring treatment ideas that we didn’t know existed before," said Jessica Jimenez, lead author of the joint study.

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde/Unsplash.

There's still a lot more work to be done.

Even though the study offers a ton of potential, experiments on mice don't always perfectly translate to trials on humans.

Even though he calls the initial results "tremendous progress," NIMH director Joshua Gordon said we're still far from a solution. "You can think of this paper as one brick in a big wall," he told NPR.

Still, there's no denying the promise and potential for the millions of people living with anxiety disorders and the countless others affected by such challenges.

Family

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture