Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study: Two brain systems regulate how we call for help

08.03.2005


The willingness to call out in distress to get help from others appears to be regulated by two brain systems with very different responsibilities, according to a study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.



"These findings have far-reaching implications because they help clarify how a balance of two important brain systems can influence an individual’s behavior and emotional expression in times of need," says Ned Kalin, senior author on the study and chair of psychiatry at UW Medical School. "The findings suggest that how open an individual is willing to be in asking for help may depend more than we thought on how secure that individual feels at any given time in a supportive relationship."

The brain systems found to be involved were the amygdala, which is important in detecting and responding to threats, and the right prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in reaching goals and attaching to others.


The study will appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Online Early Edition during the week of March 7-11.

In monkeys and humans, it’s natural to seek help from supportive individuals during trying times. Indeed, calling for help can be crucial to survival, says Kalin, a psychiatrist who has studied fear and social attachment in monkeys for two decades in an attempt to better understand anxiety and depression in humans.

However, since a cry for help also signals vulnerability - and, in the animal world, may attract the attention of predators - safety may depend on being careful about when to call out for help. The UW researchers wanted to know what brain systems determine why one individual is very comfortable expressing a need for help while another is much more restrained.

The brain-imaging study involved 25 rhesus monkeys that were separated from their cage mates for 30 minutes and made "coo calls," which function to recruit others for social support. Researchers measured the frequency with which each monkey called out, and then scanned each animal’s brain with a special animal PET (positron emission tomography) scanner at UW-Madison’s Waisman Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior. The high-resolution scans revealed metabolic activity in precise areas of the animals’ small brains.

The scans showed that animals that called the most had more activity in the right prefrontal cortex and less in the amygdala. In contrast, those monkeys that called less frequently had less prefrontal cortex activity and more amygdala activity. "Simply measuring brain activity in these two regions allowed us to predict with nearly 80 percent accuracy how much each individual monkey called for help," says Kalin.

The researchers were somewhat surprised to find reduced activity in the amygdalas of the most vocal animals, since increased amygdala activity is associated with fear and stressful states. It would be logical to expect that the animals that were most vocal would also be the most frightened. "But in our earlier research, we showed that some monkeys will become inhibited and freeze when they’re frightened, especially when a predator is nearby and the monkey believes that it hasn’t yet been discovered by the predator," Kalin says. "We observed that the greater the fear, the less likely it was that animals would call for help, at least under certain circumstances. If you haven’t been discovered by a predator lurking nearby, it’s not a good idea to draw attention to yourself by crying out for help."

The situation may be very similar for humans, Kalin says, and may provide a framework for understanding differences in emotional expressivity. "People who are less secure and more sensitive to potential threat are likely to have increased amygdala activity that may inhibit their urge to ask for help, which is related to right prefrontal cortex activity," he says.

On the other hand, he adds, "When a person feels safe enough in a relationship to express his or her vulnerabilities, this appears to be associated with a decrease in amygdala activity and an increase in prefrontal cortex activity. As relationships become more secure for the people involved, it’s likely that changes in amygdala and prefrontal cortex activity may be responsible for the accompanying increase in sharing of intimate feelings."

Kalin believes that the degree to which a person may be willing to call for help probably depends on a variety of factors, including how frightened or threatened the person feels, what his or her general temperament is, the person’s past experiences and what kind of social support system may be in place.

Dian Land | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.hosp.wisc.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Strathclyde-led research develops world's highest gain high-power laser amplifier

The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.

The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New insights into the ancestors of all complex life

29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences

New photocatalyst speeds up the conversion of carbon dioxide into chemical resources

29.05.2017 | Life Sciences

NASA's SDO sees partial eclipse in space

29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>