Exploring the connection between empathy, neurohormones and aggression
Empathy is typically seen as eliciting warmth and compassion -a generally positive state that makes people do good things to others. However, empathy may also motivate aggression on behalf of the vulnerable other. Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo, examined whether assessed or elicited empathy would lead to situation-specific aggression on behalf of another person, and to explore the potential role of two neurohormones in explaining a connection between empathy and aggression. The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Design of the Study
Empathic impulses are aimed at reducing the suffering of the target of empathy. Sometimes aggression may be the response that is perceived to best address the need of the other, or best suited to end their suffering. This effect may, in part, be due in part to physiological changes that occur in the body as a result of empathy. The research focused on two neurohormones, oxytocin and vasopressin. Oxytocin has been associated with empathy in previous research, and also with protective aggression. Vasopressin has been much more commonly studied in the animal literature, but has similarly been associated with aggression to defend a mate or offspring.
The first study asked participants to write and answer questions about a time in the past 12 months where they witnessed a close other being hurt physically or emotionally by a third party other than themselves. The results illustrate that empathy, not trait aggression or perceptions of emotional threat toward the self, motivated predicted aggression of the participants.
U.S. nutrition program for mothers, infants sees falling demand
A government nutrition program for pregnant mothers and small children has not kept pace with technology and U.S. poverty experts say its paper voucher system is driving low-income women away from the program when they need it most.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, has seen a sharp drop in participation since 2010, unlike food stamps and other anti-poverty programs that ballooned during the 2007-9 recession and the economic recovery that followed, government figures show.
“WIC providers are tearing their hair, beating their chests, ‘what are they doing wrong?’” said Laurie True, California WIC Association director.
Poverty experts say the shrinking demand does not reflect less need. They are pushing for faster changes to an outdated, cumbersome distribution process they say stigmatizes recipients.
A better way to track emerging cell therapies using MRIs
Cellular therapeutics – using intact cells to treat and cure disease – is a hugely promising new approach in medicine but it is hindered by the inability of doctors and scientists to effectively track the movements, destination and persistence of these cells in patients without resorting to invasive procedures, like tissue sampling.
In a paper published September 17 in the online journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere describe the first human tests of using a perfluorocarbon (PFC) tracer in combination with non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track therapeutic immune cells injected into patients with colorectal cancer.
“Initially, we see this technique used for clinical trials that involve tests of new cell therapies,” said first author Eric T. Ahrens, PhD, professor in the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego. “Clinical development of cell therapies can be accelerated by providing feedback regarding cell motility, optimal delivery routes, individual therapeutic doses and engraftment success.”
Currently, there is no accepted way to image cells in the human body that covers a broad range of cell types and diseases. Earlier techniques have used metal ion-based vascular MRI contrast agents and radioisotopes. The former have proven difficult to differentiate in vivo; the latter raise concerns about radiation toxicity and do not provide the anatomical detail available with MRIs.
New superfoods could help key protein keep bodies healthy
A new generation of new superfoods that tackle heart disease and diabetes could be developed following research into a protein that helps keep cells in our bodies healthy.
Researchers at the University of Warwick found that the protein, called Nrf2, continually moves in and out of the nuclei of human cells to sense the cell’s health and vitality.
When Nrf2 is exposed to threats to the cell’s health it oscillates faster and activates an increase in the cell’s defence mechanism, including raising the levels of antioxidant.
The researchers, from the University’s Warwick Medical School, successfully increased the speed of Nrf2’s movement by artificially introducing health beneficial substances – potential components of new superfoods.