The hypothalamus couples with the brainstem to cause migraines

This 2016 German human study with one subject found:

“The hypothalamus to be the primary generator of migraine attacks which, due to specific interactions with specific areas in the higher and lower brainstem, could alter the activity levels of the key regions of migraine pathophysiology.”

The subject underwent daily fMRI scans, and procedures to evoke brain activity. She didn’t take any medications, and suffered three migraine attacks during the 31-day experimental period.

Neuroskeptic commented:

“The dorsal pons has previously been found to be hyperactive during migraine. It’s been dubbed the brain’s ‘migraine generator.’ Schulte and May’s data suggest that this is not entirely true – rather, it looks like the hypothalamus may be the true generator of migraine, while the brainstem could be a downstream mediator of the disorder.

A hypothalamic origin of migraines would help to explain some of the symptoms of the disorder, such as changes in appetite, that often accompany the headaches.”


The above graphic looks like the result of feedback mechanisms that either didn’t exist or inadequately handled the triggering event. Other examples of the hypothalamus lacking feedback or being involved in a deviated feedback loop include:

There are many unanswered questions with a one-person study, of course. Addressing the cause of this painful condition would find out when, where, and how a person’s hypothalamus became modified to express migraine tendencies.

I’d guess that migraine tendencies may appear as early as the first trimester of pregnancy, given that a highly functional hypothalamus is needed for survival and development in our earliest lives. Gaining as much familial and historical information as possible from the person would be necessary steps in therapies that address migraine causes.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2016/05/22/pinpointing-origins-of-migraine/ “Pinpointing the Origins of Migraine in the Brain”

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Advance science by including emotion in research

This 2015 analysis of emotion studies found:

“Emotion categories [fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and happiness] are not contained within any one region or system, but are represented as configurations across multiple brain networks.

For example, among other systems, information diagnostic of emotion category was found in both large, multi-functional cortical networks and in the thalamus, a small region composed of functionally dedicated sub-nuclei.

The dataset consists of activation foci from 397 fMRI and PET [positron emission tomography] studies of emotion published between 1990 and 2011.”

From the fascinating Limitations section:

“Our analyses reflect the composition of the studies available in the literature, and are subject to testing and reporting biases on the part of authors. This is particularly true for the amygdala (e.g., the activation intensity for negative emotions may be over-represented in the amygdala given the theoretical focus on fear and related negative states). Other interesting distinctions were encoded in the thalamus and cerebellum, which have not received the theoretical attention that the amygdala has and are likely to be bias-free.

Some regions—particularly the brainstem—are likely to be much more important for understanding and diagnosing emotion than is apparent in our findings, because neuroimaging methods are only now beginning to focus on the brainstem with sufficient spatial resolution and artifact-suppression techniques.

We should not be too quick to dismiss findings in ‘sensory processing’ areas, etc., as methodological artifacts. Emotional responses may be inherently linked to changes in sensory and motor cortical processes that contribute to the emotional response.

The results we present here provide a co-activation based view of emotion representation. Much of the information processing in the brain that creates co-activation may not relate to direct neural connectivity at all, but rather to diffuse modulatory actions (e.g., dopamine and neuropeptide release, much of which is extrasynaptic and results in volume transmission). Thus, the present results do not imply direct neural connectivity, and may be related to diffuse neuromodulatory actions as well as direct neural communication.”


Why did the researchers use only 397 fMRI and PET studies? Why weren’t there hundreds or thousands of times more candidate studies from which to select?

The relative paucity of candidate emotion studies demonstrated the prevalence of other researchers’ biases for cortical brain areas. The lead researcher of the current study was a coauthor of the 2016 Empathy, value, pain, control: Psychological functions of the human striatum, whose researchers mentioned that even their analyses of 5,809 human imaging studies was hampered by other imaging-studies researchers’ cortical biases.

Functional MRI signals depend on the changes in blood flow that follow changes in brain activity. Study designers intentionally limit their findings when they scan brain areas and circuits that are possibly activated by human emotions, yet exclude emotional content that may activate these areas and circuits.

Here are a few examples of limited designs that led to limited findings when there was the potential for so much more:

It’s well past time to change these practices now that we’re in 2016.


This study provided many methodological tests that should be helpful for research that includes emotion. It showed that there aren’t impenetrable barriers – other than popular memes, beliefs, and ingrained dogmas – to including emotional content in studies.

Including emotional content may often be appropriate and informative, with the resultant findings advancing science. Here are a few recent studies that did so:

http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pcbi.1004066 “A Bayesian Model of Category-Specific Emotional Brain Responses”

A problematic study of beliefs and dopamine

This 2015 Virginia Tech human study found:

“Dopamine fluctuations encode an integration of RPEs [reward prediction errors, the difference between actual and expected outcomes] with counterfactual prediction errors, the latter defined by how much better or worse the experienced outcome could have been.

How dopamine fluctuations combine the actual and counterfactual is unknown.”

From the study’s news coverage:

“The idea that “what could have been” is part of how people evaluate actual outcomes is not new. But no one expected that dopamine would be doing the job of combining this information in the human brain.”

Some caveats applied:

  • Measurements of dopamine were taken only from basal ganglia areas. These may not act the same as dopamine processes in other brain and nervous system areas.
  • The number of subjects was small (17), they all had Parkinson’s disease, and the experiment’s electrodes accompanied deep brain stimulation implantations.
  • Because there was no control group, findings of a study performed on a sample of people who all had dysfunctional brains and who were all being treated for neurodegenerative disease may not apply to a population of people who weren’t similarly afflicted.

The researchers didn’t provide evidence for the Significance section statement:

“The observed compositional encoding of “actual” and “possible” is consistent with how one should “feel” and may be one example of how the human brain translates computations over experience to embodied states of subjective feeling.”

The subjects weren’t asked for corroborating evidence about their feelings. Evidence for “embodied states of subjective feeling” wasn’t otherwise measured in studied brain areas. The primary argument for “embodied states of subjective feeling” was the second paragraph of the Discussion section where the researchers talked about their model and how they thought it incorporated what people should feel.

The study’s experimental evidence didn’t support the researchers’ assertion – allowed by the reviewer – that the study demonstrated something about “states of subjective feeling.” That the model inferred such “findings” along with the researchers’ statement that it “is consistent with how one should “feel” reminded me of a warning in The function of the dorsal ACC is to monitor pain in survival contexts:

“The more general message you should take away from this is that it’s probably a bad idea to infer any particular process on the basis of observed activity.”


The same researcher who hyped An agenda-driven study on beliefs, smoking and addiction that found nothing of substance was back again with statements such as:

“These precise, real-time measurements of dopamine-encoded events in the living human brain will help us understand the mechanisms of decision-making in health and disease.”

It’s likely that repeated hubris is one way researchers respond to their own history and feelings, such as their need to feel important as mentioned on my Welcome page.

The Parkinson’s patients were willing to become lab rats with extra electrodes that accompanied brain implantations to relieve their symptoms. Findings based on their playing a stock market game didn’t inform us about “mechanisms of decision-making in health and disease” in unafflicted humans. As one counter example, what evidence did the study provide that’s relevant to healthy humans’ decisions to remain healthy by taking actions to prevent disease?

The unwarranted extrapolations revealed a belief that the goal of research should be to explain human actions by explaining the actions of molecules. One problem caused by the preconceptions of this widespread belief is that it leads to study designs and models that omit relevant etiologic evidence embedded in each of the subjects’ historical experiences.

This belief may have factored into why the subjects weren’t asked about their feelings. Why didn’t the study’s design consider as relevant subject-provided evidence for feelings? Because the model already contrived explanations for feelings underlying the subjects’ actions.

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/1/200.full “Subsecond dopamine fluctuations in human striatum encode superposed error signals about actual and counterfactual reward”

Trapped, suffocating, unable to move – a Primal imprint

“The malady of needing to move constantly: organizing trips, making reasons to go here and there, and in general, keeping on the move..below all that movement is a giant, silent scream.

The price we pay is never knowing our feelings or where they come from.

We have the mechanism for our own liberation inside of us, if we only knew it.

When we see the constant motion we understand, but we never see the agony. Why no agony? Because it is busy being acted-out to relieve the agony before it is fully felt.

http://cigognenews.blogspot.com/2015/11/epigenetics-and-primal-therapy-cure-for_30.html “The Miracle of Memory – Epigenetics and Primal Therapy: The Cure for Neurosis (Part 13/20)”

Leaky gates, anxiety, and grocery store trips without buying list items

An interview with Jeff Link, the editor of Dr. Arthur Janov’s 2011 book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” with Ken Rose:

Even further confirmation for some of the views of Janov, that maybe weren’t widely accepted for a time, it’s new research now being done into memory and what a lot of scientist are seeing, a lot of different studies is that memory reactivates the same neuroimpulses that were initially firing off when the event happened.

So a traumatic event when you remember it, the act of remembering it is actually creating a neuromirror of what went on initially.

In a lot of ways that is what Primal Therapy is attempting to do; is to go back to that place and reconnect, or as it’s sometimes referred to, reconsolidate the brain state so that real healing can take place.

Transcript (part 4 of 6): http://cigognenews.blogspot.com/2015/09/ken-rose-on-life-before-birth-part-46.html

MP3: http://www.pantedmonkey.org/podcastgen/download.php?filename=2011-12-15_1300_what_now_jeff_link.mp3

Emotionless brain research that didn’t deal with human reality

Are the tasks you do at work and home never influenced by emotional content or contexts?

Does your ability to focus on a task always have nothing to do with your emotional state?

The researchers who designed this 2015 Boston human study acted as if both of your answers to the above questions were “Yes” by stripping out any emotional content from their experiments. As a result, the study which purported to:

“Have the potential to provide additional insights into how inhibitory control may break down in a wide variety of individuals with neurological or psychiatric difficulties”

couldn’t achieve anything near this goal.

This study included fMRI scans of the subjects’ entire brains. Limbic system areas were in 3 of the 5 modules, and lower brain areas were in one.

Functional MRI signals depend on the changes in blood flow that follow changes in brain activity. Given this study’s goal, did it make sense for the researchers to design experiments that didn’t actively engage the scanned areas of the subjects’ brains?

It wasn’t all that difficult to include emotional content that could potentially contribute to the purported goal. This 1996 summary study described studies that developed varieties of emotional content with the same test type (Stroop) used in the current study. Presumably these approaches had made progress since 1996 incorporating emotional content in Stroop tests given to normal people, who were the subjects of this study.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/32/10020.full “Flexible brain network reconfiguration supporting inhibitory control”

Are a child’s genes the causes for their anxiety?

This 2015 Wisconsin macaque study was another attempt to justify the school’s continuing captivity of thousands of monkeys. The researchers performed a study that, if its experimental design was truly informative for helping humans, could have been done with humans.

A problem I saw in the news coverage was that the finding of:

“35 percent of variation in anxiety-like tendencies is explained by family history”

was attributed to genetics, with headlines such as “Anxious Brains Are Inherited, Study Finds.” The lead researcher encouraged this misinterpretation with statements such as:

“Over-activity of these three brain regions are inherited brain alterations that are directly linked to the later life risk to develop anxiety and depression.”

However, the researchers produced this finding by running numbers on family trees, not by studying genetic samples to assess the contributions of genetic and epigenetic factors. The study’s “family history” correlation was therefore different than finding an inherited genetic causation that wasn’t influenced by the subjects’ caged environments.

The study found:

“Metabolism within a tripartite prefrontal-limbic-midbrain circuit mediates some of the inborn risk for developing anxiety and depression.

The brain circuit that was genetically correlated with individual differences in early-life anxiety involved three survival-related brain regions. These regions were located in the brain stem, the most primitive part of the brain; the amygdala, the limbic brain fear center; and the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for higher-level reasoning and is fully developed only in humans and their primate cousins.”


The 592 subjects were the human-equivalent ages of 3 to 12 years old. Primate brainstems and limbic systems are fully developed before these ages.

The researchers thus skipped over potential evidence for the important contributions of epigenetic factors to “the later life risk to develop anxiety and depression” that change the studied brain areas during womb-life, infancy, and early childhood. Studies such as:

show, for example, that:

  • A developing fetus adapts to being constantly stressed by an anxious mother.
  • When these adaptations persist after birth, they may present as physiological and behavioral maladaptations of the infant and young child to a non-stressful environment.
  • Later in life, these enduring changes may be among the causes of symptoms

such as the anxious overreactions this study found.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/29/9118.full “Intergenerational neural mediators of early-life anxious temperament”