Go with the Alzheimer’s Disease evidence

This 2021 study investigated gut microbiota differences between 100 AD patients and 71 age- and gender-matched controls:

“Structural changes in fecal microbiota were evident in Chinese AD patients, with decreased alpha-diversity indices and altered beta-diversity ones, evidence of structurally dysbiotic AD microbiota.

Interestingly, traditionally beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium and Akkermansia, increase in these AD patients while Faecalibacterium and Roseburia decrease significantly. Different species of Bifidobacterium may have different effects that can explain why Bifidobacterium spp. are commonly associated with healthy and diverse microbiota but sometimes also isolated in other conditions. We needed to re-examine the therapeutic potential of Bifidobacterium in terms of maintaining cognitive function and treating dementia.

Surprisingly, our data indicate that Akkermansia was among the most abundant genera in AD-associated fecal microbiota. Similar to Bifidobacterium, Akkermansia was negatively correlated with clinical indicators of AD, such as MMSE, WAIS, and Barthel, and anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IFN-γ.

Based on our present observations, Akkermansia cannot always be considered a potentially beneficial bacterium. It might be harmful for the gut–brain axis in the context of AD development in the elderly.

Aging is associated with an over-stimulation of both innate and adaptive immune systems, resulting in a low-grade, chronic state of inflammation defined as inflammaging. This can increase gut permeability and bacterial translocation.

Characteristics of AD microbial profiles changed from butyrate producers, such as Faecalibacterium, into lactate producers, such as Bifidobacterium. These alterations contributed to shifts in metabolic pathways from butyrate to lactate, which might have participated in pathogenesis of AD. Specific roles of AD-associated signatures and their functions should be explored in further studies.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2020.634069/full “Structural and Functional Dysbiosis of Fecal Microbiota in Chinese Patients With Alzheimer’s Disease”

The control group’s 73-year-olds were better off than AD patients. How were they compared with their previous life stages?

Since we’re all aging, how do we each prepare ourselves? I’ll return to evidence including 2020 A rejuvenation therapy and sulforaphane, recently amplified in Part 2 of Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway:

“A link between inflammation and aging is the finding that inflammatory and stress responses activate NF-κB in the hypothalamus and induce a signaling pathway that reduces production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) by neurons.

The case is particularly interesting when we realize that the aging phenotype can only be maintained by continuous activation of NF-κB. So here we have a multi-level interaction:

  1. Activation of NF-κB leads to
  2. Cellular aging, leading to
  3. Diminished production of GnRH, which then
  4. Acts (through cells with a receptor for it, or indirectly as a result of changes to GnRH-receptor-possessing cells) to decrease lifespan.

Cell energetics is not the solution, and will never lead to a solution because it makes the assumption that cells age. Cells take on the age-phenotype the body gives them.

Aging is not a defect – it’s a programmed progressive process, a continuation of development with the body doing more to kill itself with advancing years. Progressive life-states where each succeeding life-stage has a higher mortality (there are rare exceptions).

Cellular aging is externally controlled (cell non-autonomous). None of those remedies that slow ‘cell aging’ (basically all anti-aging medicines) can significantly extend anything but old age.

For change at the epigenomic/cellular level to travel up the biological hierarchy from cells to organ systems seems to take time. But the process can be repeated indefinitely (so far as we know).”

We may express concern about others. But each of us should also take responsibility for our own one precious life.

Week 8 of Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts

To follow up Week 7 of Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts:

1. I changed practices per Enhancing sulforaphane content. After microwaving to achieve 60°C, I now transfer broccoli sprouts to a strainer, and allow further myrosinase hydrolization of glucoraphanin and other glucosinolates into sulforaphane and other healthy compounds. I previously cooled them immediately.

They taste better, and I stopped putting mustard in them to make them more palatable. What does letting 3-day-old broccoli sprouts cool down by themselves to increase sulforaphane do that makes them more agreeable?

Despite improving yields two weeks ago, 3-day-old broccoli sprouts started from two tablespoons of broccoli seeds still fit into a Corning Ware 16 fl. oz. / 473 ml container:

2. I made a worst-case estimate in Estimating daily consumption of broccoli sprout compounds of 52 mg sulforaphane with microwaving 3-day-old broccoli sprouts. This exceeds:

“The daily SFN [sulforaphane] dose found to achieve beneficial outcomes in most of the available clinical trials is around 20-40 mg.”

The post’s point was: how can a person guide their actions with evidence when a broccoli cultivated variety’s beneficial characteristics aren’t known? I’ll repeat a sulforaphane yields graphic from the 3-day-old broccoli sprouts have the optimal yields study for examples of unknowns:

A. If sulforaphane content was a consumer’s overriding concern. the above evidence suggests that it would be better to always eat the seeds of an unknown cultivar. A tablespoon seems like a good choice, but be sure to chew the broccoli seeds thoroughly (try for five minutes) to release myrosinase and glucoraphanin.

The first minute goes alright. Sometime after that, your mouth and the back of your throat starts to burn. That will be a reminder of an evolved function that protects plants from predators.

I haven’t successfully swallowed a mouthful of thoroughly chewed broccoli seeds without also eating something else or drinking more than just water. That might not go along with your plan for a snack or eating before bedtime.

B. The study recommended consuming 3-day-old sprouts because:

Although germination reduces SF [sulforaphane] yield to some extent, it is beneficial to the formation and accumulation of total phenol and flavonoids, ensuring the health properties of sprouts.”

Fine, but if your unknown cultivar’s sulforaphane characteristics look like the third cultivar’s 3-day-old sprouts, you’ll have a 53% reduction in the sulforaphane weight. Should you take a 1-in-6 chance with Day 5 sprouts? Or stick with Day 3, guessing that they may still yield more sulforaphane than 3 of the 5 other cultivars’ Day 3 broccoli sprouts?

C. What if you can’t stomach the appearance of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts per the above photo, and you prefer microgreens? Should you wait until Day 7, and take a 1-in-6 chance that your unknown cultivar’s characteristics are like the highest Day 7 of the fourth cultivar? When you roll the die, does it come up 4?

Broccoli seed bulk suppliers aren’t providing evidence for their products and educating customers. Their marketing strategy depends more on buzzwords and price.

3. I compared lab reports of 3 broccoli sprouts’ cultivars in Lab analyses of broccoli sprout compounds to see if they helped rationally deal with these unknowns. It turned out that not much could be accurately inferred from lab reports, past knowing that broccoli sprouts of one cultivar produced more sulforaphane than another.

I haven’t found studies of cultivar characteristics for items I could actually purchase in bulk. I contacted five small US and Canadian suppliers to ask “Do you sell broccoli seeds that have lab evidence of the cultivar’s sulforaphane content?” Two said no so far. I contacted another supplier for the home garden business who has two dozen cultivars listed for sale and asked them the same question.

None of the broccoli seed bulk suppliers specified the cultivar on their offering. When pressed on Amazon they at best said Calabrese, which has described hundreds of cultivars. Such as two in this study, Iron Man and Marathon, which are also named Calabrese Iron Man F1 and Calabrese Marathon F1.

4. I’ve had only sporadic inflammation, and I’m tempted to write anecdotes of positive things. But self-reports are better evidence for emotions than for other internal events.

See Week 9 of Changing to a youthful phenotype with broccoli sprouts for follow ups.

Week 3 of Changing an inflammatory phenotype with broccoli sprouts

To follow up Week 2 of Changing an inflammatory phenotype with broccoli sprouts:

1. I intend to follow the model clinical trial [1] and pause eating broccoli sprouts after ten weeks. The clinical trial subjects experienced benefits after stopping at Day 70, as measured at Day 90 and Day 160.

Sprouting broccoli seeds takes time and care every day. I may not have that time when everyone gets back to work.

Then again, I live in a state headed by Governor Klan Robes Blackface. Here’s his 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook entry, 16 years after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated:

He has no empathy for people like the young black man – laid off for four weeks now – who was severely burned as a child, and who was enthusiastically working at Dunkin Donuts. Or the older lady who was trying to get her life back together at Hair Cuttery, still closed.

Who knows when or if people around here will get their jobs back? Politics are a magnet for the worst.

2. I’ve started to see encouraging signs. Over the last few years, I’ve tried to avoid walking long distances where the surface was tilted to my right in order to not overpronate my left foot and aggravate problems mentioned in Week 1.

That was neither an immediate concern during six-mile-long beach walks yesterday and today, nor have I felt any inflammation afterwards!

3. I have Mason jars for sprouting per many YouTube videos, but don’t use them. They’re unsuited for broccoli seeds, which don’t handle extra moisture well.

I’ve had good results with Russian-doll glass bowls. I use a strainer for Round 1, transfer them to a bowl, and wick out extra moisture with a paper towel during Round 2 before putting them back on a pantry shelf. It would be hard to maneuver a paper towel inside a Mason jar.

The bowl at the top left has been replaced by the next size larger than the bowl at the bottom left. Day 3 broccoli sprouts were too crowded to dry in the small bowl.

4. I had heartburn Friday and Saturday after eating 60 grams of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts in 100 ml of water processed with a 1000 W microwave on full power for 35 seconds. Today I removed a thousand spent broccoli seed coats before microwaving, and didn’t have heartburn afterwards. More experiments are required.

[1] 2018 Effects of long-term consumption of broccoli sprouts on inflammatory markers in overweight subjects curated in How much sulforaphane is suitable for healthy people?

Do early experiences of hunger affect our behavior, thoughts, and feelings today?

Reposted from five years ago.

A 2015 worldwide human study Hunger promotes acquisition of nonfood objects found that people’s current degree of hungriness affected their propensity to acquire nonfood items.

The researchers admitted that they didn’t demonstrate cause and effect with the five experiments they performed, although the findings had merit. News articles poked good-natured fun at the findings with headlines such as “Why Hungry People Want More Binder Clips.”

The research caught my eye with these statements:

“Hunger’s influence extends beyond food consumption to the acquisition of nonfood items that cannot satisfy the underlying need.

We conclude that a basic biologically based motivation can affect substantively unrelated behaviors that cannot satisfy the motivation.

The concept of the quotes relates to a principle of Dr. Arthur Janov’s Primal Therapy – symbolic satisfaction of needs. Two fundamentals of Primal Therapy:

  1. The physiological impacts of our early unmet needs drive our behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
  2. The painful impacts of our unfulfilled needs impel us to be constantly vigilant for some way to fulfill them.

Corollary principles of Primal Therapy:

  • Our present efforts to fulfill our early unmet needs will seldom be satisfying. It’s too late.
  • We acquire substitutes now for what we really needed back then.
  • Acquiring these symbols of our early unmet needs may – at best – temporarily satisfy derivative needs.

But the symbolic satisfaction of derived needs – the symptoms – never resolves the impacts of early unfulfilled needs – the motivating causes:

  • We repeat the acquisition behavior, and get caught in a circle of acting out our feelings and impulses driven by these conditions.
  • The unconscious act-outs become sources of misery both to us and to the people around us.

As this study’s findings showed, there’s every reason for us to want researchers to provide a factual blueprint of causes for our hunger sensation effects, such as “unrelated behaviors that cannot satisfy the motivation.

Hunger research objectives could include answering:

  • What enduring physiological changes occurred as a result of past hunger?
  • How do these changes affect the subjects’ present behaviors, thoughts, and feelings?

Hunger research causal evidence for the effect of why people acquire items that cannot satisfy the underlying needmay include studying where to start the timelines for the impacts of hunger. The impacts potentially go back at least to infancy when we were completely dependent on our caregivers.

Infants can’t get up to go to the refrigerator to satisfy their hunger. All a hungry infant can do is call attention to their need, and feel pain from the deprivation of their need.

Is infancy far back enough, though, to understand the beginnings of potential impacts of hunger?

May you be the hero who solves your own problems

This 2019 Germany/US review subject was the failure of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy:

“Each mental disorder raises its own host of issues. However, recent evidence across multiple meta-analyses on key mental disorders provides an overarching picture of limited benefits for both psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

Some differences for specific disorders are not strong enough to weaken the overall impression that a dead end has been reached in the treatment of mental disorders. For this reason, a paradigm shift seems to be required.”

Investigate the above linked Primal Therapy category to figure out what you could do for yourself. Follow the below review link for reasons to avoid treatments that waste your one precious life.

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/toward-a-paradigm-shift-in-treatment-and-research-of-mental-disorders/FDE68FF26E946276A334FA90ACE28D9F/core-reader “Toward a paradigm shift in treatment and research of mental disorders”

Would you return a lost wallet?

The researchers in this 2019 Swiss/US study intentionally “lost” > 17,000 wallets under experimental conditions:

“We conducted field experiments in 40 countries to examine whether people act more dishonestly when they have a greater economic incentive to do so, and we found the opposite to be true. Citizens were more likely to return wallets that contained relatively larger amounts of money. Neither nonexperts nor professional economists were able to predict this result.

When people stand to heavily profit from engaging in dishonest behavior, the desire to cheat increases but so do the psychological costs of viewing oneself as a thief.”

The study did well in some aspects, including publicity. However:

1. The researchers admitted in the final paragraph:

“Using average reporting rates across countries, we find substantial variation in rates of civic honesty, ranging from 14 to 76%. This variation largely persists even when controlling for a country’s gross domestic product, suggesting that other factors besides a country’s wealth are also at play.”

Yet the paper’s first page contained the above graphic, which used each country’s GDP as a dependent variable! Wasn’t a behavioral economics study of honesty required to present their data honestly, and use factors that were experimentally significant?

2. “Other factors..at play” were relegated to the supplementary materials. The paper was only three-and-a-half pages long, so there was room for further explanations.

Here’s one comment on cultural differences from a Chinese PhD student:

“Biased design. In China (and Asian countries), people seldom use email, and our merit is to leave things untouched (“路不拾遗“:no one picks up lost articles in the street (idiom)).”

3. The study design had nothing to do with avoiding taxes, but three of the four sentences in the paper’s first paragraph did. This impressed as pointless.

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6448/70 “Civic honesty around the globe” (not freely available)

A mid-year selection of epigenetic topics

Here are the most popular of the 65 posts I’ve made so far in 2018, starting from the earliest:

The pain societies instill into children

DNA methylation and childhood adversity

Epigenetic mechanisms of muscle memory

Sex-specific impacts of childhood trauma

Sleep and adult brain neurogenesis

This dietary supplement is better for depression symptoms than placebo

The epigenetic clock theory of aging

A flying human tethered to a monkey

Immune memory in the brain

The lack of oxygen’s epigenetic effects on a fetus

Resiliency in stress responses

This 2018 US Veterans Administration review subject was resiliency and stress responses:

Neurobiological and behavioral responses to stress are highly variable. Exposure to a similar stressor can lead to heterogeneous outcomes — manifesting psychopathology in one individual, but having minimal effect, or even enhancing resilience, in another.

We highlight aspects of stress response modulation related to early life development and epigenetics, selected neurobiological and neurochemical systems, and a number of emotional, cognitive, psychosocial, and behavioral factors important in resilience.”

The review cited studies I’ve previously curated:

There were two things I didn’t understand about this review. The first was why the paper isn’t freely available. It’s completely paid for by the US taxpayer, and no copyright is claimed. I recommend contacting the authors for a copy.

The second was why the VA hasn’t participated in either animal or human follow-on studies to the 2015 Northwestern University GABAergic mechanisms regulated by miR-33 encode state-dependent fear. That study’s relevance to PTSD, this review’s subject, and the VA’s mission is too important to ignore. For example:

“Fear-inducing memories can be state dependent, meaning that they can best be retrieved if the brain states at encoding and retrieval are similar.

“It’s difficult for therapists to help these patients,” Radulovic said, “because the patients themselves can’t remember their traumatic experiences that are the root cause of their symptoms.”

The findings imply that in response to traumatic stress, some individuals, instead of activating the glutamate system to store memories, activate the extra-synaptic GABA system and form inaccessible traumatic memories.”

I curated the research in A study that provided evidence for basic principles of Primal Therapy. These researchers have published several papers since then. Here are the abstracts from three of them:

Experimental Methods for Functional Studies of microRNAs in Animal Models of Psychiatric Disorders

“Pharmacological treatments for psychiatric illnesses are often unsuccessful. This is largely due to the poor understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these disorders. We are particularly interested in elucidating the mechanism of affective disorders rooted in traumatic experiences.

To date, the research of mental disorders in general has focused on the causal role of individual genes and proteins, an approach that is inconsistent with the proposed polygenetic nature of these disorders. We recently took an alternative direction, by establishing the role of miRNAs in the coding of stress-related, fear-provoking memories.

Here we describe in detail our work on the role of miR-33 in state-dependent learning, a process implicated in dissociative amnesia, wherein memories formed in a certain brain state can best be retrieved if the brain is in the same state. We present the specific experimental approaches we apply to study the role of miRNAs in this model and demonstrate that miR-33 regulates the susceptibility to state-dependent learning induced by inhibitory neurotransmission.”

Neurobiological mechanisms of state-dependent learning

“State-dependent learning (SDL) is a phenomenon relating to information storage and retrieval restricted to discrete states. While extensively studied using psychopharmacological approaches, SDL has not been subjected to rigorous neuroscientific study.

Here we present an overview of approaches historically used to induce SDL, and highlight some of the known neurobiological mechanisms, in particular those related to inhibitory neurotransmission and its regulation by microRNAs (miR).

We also propose novel cellular and circuit mechanisms as contributing factors. Lastly, we discuss the implications of advancing our knowledge on SDL, both for most fundamental processes of learning and memory as well as for development and maintenance of psychopathology.”

Neurobiological correlates of state-dependent context fear

“Retrieval of fear memories can be state-dependent, meaning that they are best retrieved if the brain states at encoding and retrieval are similar. Such states can be induced by activating extrasynaptic γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABAAR) with the broad α-subunit activator gaboxadol. However, the circuit mechanisms and specific subunits underlying gaboxadol’s effects are not well understood.

Here we show that gaboxadol induces profound changes of local and network oscillatory activity, indicative of discoordinated hippocampal-cortical activity, that were accompanied by robust and long-lasting state-dependent conditioned fear. Episodic memories typically are hippocampus-dependent for a limited period after learning, but become cortex-dependent with the passage of time.

In contrast, state-dependent memories continued to rely on hippocampal GABAergic mechanisms for memory retrieval. Pharmacological approaches with α- subunit-specific agonists targeting the hippocampus implicated the prototypic extrasynaptic subunits (α4) as the mediator of state-dependent conditioned fear.

Together, our findings suggest that continued dependence on hippocampal rather than cortical mechanisms could be an important feature of state-dependent memories that contributes to their conditional retrieval.”

Here’s an independent 2017 Netherlands/UC San Diego review that should bring these researchers’ efforts to the VA’s attention:

MicroRNAs in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

“Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can develop following exposure to or witnessing of a (potentially) threatening event. A critical issue is to pinpoint the (neuro)biological mechanisms underlying the susceptibility to stress-related disorder such as PTSD, which develops in the minority of ~15% of individuals exposed to trauma.

Over the last few years, a first wave of epigenetic studies has been performed in an attempt to identify the molecular underpinnings of the long-lasting behavioral and mental effects of trauma exposure. The potential roles of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) such as microRNAs (miRNAs) in moderating or mediating the impact of severe stress and trauma are increasingly gaining attention. To date, most studies focusing on the roles of miRNAs in PTSD have, however, been completed in animals, using cross-sectional study designs and focusing almost exclusively on subjects with susceptible phenotypes.

Therefore, there is a strong need for new research comprising translational and cross-species approaches that use longitudinal designs for studying trajectories of change contrasting susceptible and resilient subjects. The present review offers a comprehensive overview of available studies of miRNAs in PTSD and discusses the current challenges, pitfalls, and future perspectives of this field.”

Here’s a 2017 Netherlands human study that similarly merits the US Veterans Administration’s attention:

Circulating miRNA associated with posttraumatic stress disorder in a cohort of military combat veterans

“Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many returning combat veterans, but underlying biological mechanisms remain unclear. In order to compare circulating micro RNA (miRNA) of combat veterans with and without PTSD, peripheral blood from 24 subjects was collected following deployment, and isolated miRNA was sequenced.

PTSD was associated with 8 differentially expressed miRNA. Pathway analysis shows that PTSD is related to the axon guidance and Wnt signaling pathways, which work together to support neuronal development through regulation of growth cones. PTSD is associated with miRNAs that regulate biological functions including neuronal activities, suggesting that they play a role in PTSD symptomatology.”

See the below comments for reasons why I downgraded this review’s rating.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11920-018-0887-x “Stress Response Modulation Underlying the Psychobiology of Resilience” (not freely available)

Are there epigenetic causes for sexual orientation and gender identity?

This US 2018 review lead author was a gynecologic oncologist in private practice:

“Sexual orientation is biologically conferred in the first trimester of pregnancy. Gender identity is biologically conferred during the middle trimester of pregnancy.

Since the genitals differentiate in the first trimester, and the brain becomes imprinted in the latter half of gestation, it is possible for the fetal brain to be imprinted differently than the genitals. As children mature, this innate imprinting expresses as genital anatomy, gender identity, sexual orientation and other physiologic capabilities and natural preferences along a continuum, between masculine and feminine.

The evidence shows that both orientation and identity are biologic features that co-vary with a very large number of other biologic sexually dimorphic traits.”

1. A fetus’ development is influenced by survival reactions to their environment. Although fetal and placental responses to environmental stressors are relevant to sexual orientation and gender identity, the reviewers didn’t explore the subject.

2. Epigenetic adaptations to the prenatal environment involving microRNA were mentioned in a small subsection. But the reviewers didn’t cite relevant studies involving DNA methylation, chromatin and histone modifications for epigenetic causes of and effects on sexual orientation and gender identity.

3. The reviewers included a half-dozen anecdotal quotations from personal correspondence that promoted their narrative. These impressed as appeals to authority rather than evidence for scientific understanding of the subject.

It was insufficient for the review to note “a continuum between masculine and feminine” without also exploring evidence for an individual’s placement on the continuum. The question of possible epigenetic causes for sexual orientation and gender identity remains.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S009082581731510X “Biological origins of sexual orientation and gender identity: Impact on health” (not freely available)

DNA methylation and childhood adversity

This 2017 Georgia human review covered:

“Recent studies, primarily focused on the findings from human studies, to indicate the role of DNA methylation in the associations between childhood adversity and cardiometabolic disease in adulthood. In particular, we focused on DNA methylation modifications in genes regulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis as well as the immune system.”

Recommendations in the review’s Epigenetics inheritance and preadaptation theory section included:

“Twin studies offer another promising design to explore the mediation effect of DNA methylation between child adversity and cardiometabolic outcomes..which could rule out heterogeneity due to genetic and familia[l]r environmental confounding.”

As it so happened, the below 2018 study provided some evidence.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167527317352762 “The role of DNA methylation in the association between childhood adversity and cardiometabolic disease” (not freely available) Thanks to lead author Dr. Guang Hao for providing the full study.

This 2018 UK human study:

“Tested the hypothesis that victimization is associated with DNA methylation in the Environmental Risk (E-Risk) Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative 1994-1995 birth cohort of 2,232 twins born in England and Wales and assessed at ages 5, 7, 10, 12, and 18 years. Multiple forms of victimization were ascertained in childhood and adolescence (including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; neglect; exposure to intimate-partner violence; bullying; cyber-victimization; and crime).

Hypothesis-driven analyses of six candidate genes in the stress response (

  1. NR3C1 [glucocorticoid receptor],
  2. FKBP5 [a regulator of the stress hormone system],
  3. BDNF [brain-derived neurotrophic factor],
  4. AVP [arginine vasopressin],
  5. CRHR1 [corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor 1],
  6. SLC6A4 [serotonin transporter]

) did not reveal predicted associations with DNA methylation.

Epigenetic epidemiology is not yet well matched to experimental, nonhuman models in uncovering the biological embedding of stress.”

One of the sad findings was that as the types of trauma inflicted by other people on the subjects increased, so did the percentage of subjects who hurt themselves by smoking. Two-thirds of teens who reported three or more of the seven adolescent trauma types also smoked by age 18:


Self-harming behaviors other than smoking weren’t considered.

Another somber finding was:

“Childhood sexual victimization is associated with stable DNA methylation differences in whole blood in young adulthood. These associations were not observed in relation to sexual victimization in adolescence.”

The researchers guided future studies regarding the proxy measurements of peripheral blood DNA methylation:

“The vast majority of subsequent human studies, including the present one, have relied on peripheral blood. This choice is expedient, but also scientifically reasonable given the aim of detecting effects on stress-related physical health systems that include peripheral circulating processes (immune, neuroendocrine).

But whole blood is heterogeneous, and although cell-type composition can be evaluated and controlled, as in the present study, it does raise the question of whether peripheral blood is a problematic surrogate tissue for research on the epigenetics of stress.

Comparisons of methylomic variation across blood and brain suggest that blood-based EWAS may yield limited information relating to underlying pathological processes for disorders where brain is the primary tissue of interest.”

1. The comment on “epigenetic epidemiology” overstated the study’s findings because the epigenetic analysis, although thorough, was limited to peripheral blood DNA methylation. Other consequential epigenetic effects weren’t investigated, such as histone modifications and microRNA expression.

2. An unstated limitation was that the DNA methylation analyses were constrained by budgets. Studies like The primary causes of individual differences in DNA methylation are environmental factors point out restrictions in the methodology:

“A main limitation with studies using the Illumina 450 K array is that the platform only covers ~1.5 % of overall genomic CpGs, which are biased towards promoters and strongly underrepresented in distal regulatory elements, i.e., enhancers.

WGBS [whole-genome bisulfite sequencing] offers single-site resolution CpG methylation interrogation at full genomic coverage.

Another advantage of WGBS is its ability to access patterns of non-CpG methylation.”

I’d expect that in the future, researchers with larger budgets would reanalyze the study samples using other techniques.

3. The researchers started and ended the study presenting their view of human “embedding of stress” as a fact rather than a paradigm. Epigenetic effects of early life stress exposure compared and contrasted this with another substantiated view.

4. The study focused on the children’s intergenerational epigenetic effects. An outstanding opportunity to advance science was missed regarding transgenerational epigenetic inheritance:

  • Wouldn’t the parents’ blood samples and histories – derived from administering the same questionnaires their twins answered at age 18 – likely provide distant causal evidence for some of the children’s observed effects?
  • And lay the groundwork for hypotheses about aspects of future generations’ physiologies and behaviors?

https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.17060693 “Analysis of DNA Methylation in Young People: Limited Evidence for an Association Between Victimization Stress and Epigenetic Variation in Blood” (not freely available) Thanks to coauthor Dr. Helen Fisher for providing the full study.

The pain societies instill into children

The human subjects of this 2017 Swiss study had previously been intentionally traumatized by Swiss society:

“Swiss former indentured child laborers (Verdingkinder) were removed as children from their families by the authorities due to different reasons (poverty, being born out of wedlock) and were placed to live and work on farms. This was a practice applied until the 1950s and many of the Verdingkinder were subjected to childhood trauma and neglect during the indentured labor.

DNA methylation modifications indicated experiment-wide significant associations with the following complex posttraumatic symptom domains: dissociation, tension reduction behavior and dysfunctional sexual behavior.”

https://bmcresnotes.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13104-017-3082-y “A pilot investigation on DNA methylation modifications associated with complex posttraumatic symptoms in elderly traumatized in childhood”

Imagine being taken away from your family during early childhood for no other reason than your parents weren’t married.

Consider just a few of the painful feelings such a child had to deal with then and ever since:

  • I’m unloved.
  • Alone.
  • No one can help me.

Imagine some of the ways a child had to adapt during their formative years because of this undeserved punishment:

  • How fulfilling it would be to believe that they were loved, even by someone they couldn’t see, touch, or hear.
  • How fulfilling it would be to get attention from someone, anyone.
  • How a child became conditioned to do things by themself without asking for help.

The study described a minute set of measurements of the subjects’ traumatic experiences and their consequential symptoms. The researchers tried to group this tiny sample of the subjects’ symptoms into a new invented category.

Another example was provided in Is IQ an adequate measure of the quality of a young man’s life?:

“During this time period [between 1955 and 1990], because private adoptions were prohibited by Swedish law, children were taken into institutional care by the municipalities shortly after birth and adopted at a median age of 6 mo, with very few children adopted after 12 mo of age.”

Swedish society deemed local institutional care the initial destination for disenfranchised infants, regardless of whether suitable families were willing and able to adopt the infants. What happened to infants who weren’t adopted by age 1?

Did Swedish society really need any further research to know that an adoptive family’s care would be better for a child than living in an institution?

It’s hard to recognize when our own thoughts, feelings, and behavior provide evidence of childhood pain that’s still with us.

Let’s not hope and believe that the societies we live in will resolve adverse effects of childhood trauma its members caused. Other people may guide us, but each of us has to individually get our life back:

“What is the point of life if we cannot feel and love others? Without feeling, life becomes empty and sterile. It, above all, loses its meaning.

Every society has its horror stories. People who have reached some degree of honesty about their early lives and concomitant empathy for others can document these terrible circumstances and events.

Have traumatic effects on children from societal policies ceased?

On Primal Therapy with Drs. Art and France Janov

Experiential feeling therapy addressing the pain of the lack of love.

A limited study of parental transmission of anxiety/stress-reactive traits

BehavioralTraitsThis 2016 New York rodent study found:

“Parental behavioural traits can be transmitted by non-genetic mechanisms to the offspring.

We show that four anxiety/stress-reactive traits are transmitted via independent iterative-somatic and gametic epigenetic mechanisms across multiple generations.

As the individual traits/pathways each have their own generation-dependent penetrance and gender specificity, the resulting cumulative phenotype is pleiotropic. In the context of genetic diseases, it is typically assumed that this phenomenon arises from individual differences in vulnerability to the various effects of the causative gene. However, the work presented here reveals that pleiotropy can be produced by the variable distribution and segregated transmission of behavioural traits.”

A primary focus was how anxiety was transmitted from parents to offspring:

“The iterative propagation of the male-specific anxiety-like behaviour is most compatible with a model in which proinflammatory state is propagated from H [serotonin1A receptor heterozygote] F0 to F1 [children] females and in which the proinflammatory state is acquired by F1 males from their H mothers, and then by F2 [grandchildren] males from their F1 mothers.

We propose that increased levels of gestational MIP-1β [macrophage inflammatory protein 1β] in H and F1 mothers, together with additional proinflammatory cytokines and bioactive proteins, are required to produce immune system activation in their newborn offspring, which in turn promotes the development of the anxiety-like phenotype in males.

In particular, increase in the number of monocytes and their transmigration to the brain parenchyma in F1 and F2 males could be central to the development of anxiety.”

The researchers studied transmission of behavioral traits and epigenetic changes. Due to my quick take on the study title – “Behavioural traits propagate across generations..” – I had expectations of this study that weren’t born out. What could the researchers have done versus what they did?

The study design removed prenatal and postnatal parental behavioral transmission of behavioral traits and epigenetic changes as each generation’s embryos were implanted into foster wild-type (WT) mothers.

The study design substituted the foster mothers’ prenatal and postnatal parental environments for the biological parents’ environments. So we didn’t find out, for example:

  • To what extents the overly stress-reactive F1 female children’s prenatal environments and postnatal behaviors induced behaviors and/or epigenetic changes in their children; and
  • Whether the F2 grandchildren’s parental behaviors subsequently induced behaviors and/or epigenetic changes in the F3 great-grandchildren.

How did the study meet the overall goal of rodent studies: to help humans?

    1. Only a minority of humans experienced an early-life environment that included primary caregivers other than our biological parents.
    2. Very, very few of us experienced a prenatal environment other than our biological mothers.
    3. The study’s thorough removal of parental behavior was an outstanding methodology to confirm by falsifiability whether parental behavior was both an intergenerational and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance mechanism.
    4. Maybe the researchers filled in some gaps in previous rodent studies, such as determining what is or isn’t a “true transgenerational mechanism.”

As an example of a rodent study that more closely approximated human conditions, the behavior of a mother whose DNA was epigenetically changed by stress induced the same epigenetic changes to her child’s DNA when her child was stressed per One way that mothers cause fear and emotional trauma in their infants:

“Our results provide clues to understanding transmission of specific fears across generations and its dependence upon maternal induction of pups’ stress response paired with the cue to induce amygdala-dependent learning plasticity.”

How did parental behavioral transmission of behavioral traits and epigenetic changes become a subject not worth investigating? These traits and effects can be seen everyday in real-life human interactions, and in every human’s physiology.

But when investigating human correlates with behavioral epigenetic changes of rodents in the laboratory, parental behavioral transmission of behavioral traits is often treated the way this study treated it: as a confounder.

I doubt that people who have reached some degree of honesty about their early lives and concomitant empathy for others would agree with this prioritization. The papers of Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance week show the spectrum of opportunities to advance science that were intentionally missed.

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160513/ncomms11492/full/ncomms11492.html “Behavioural traits propagate across generations via segregated iterative-somatic and gametic epigenetic mechanisms”

Observing pain in others had long-lasting brain effects

This 2016 Israeli human study used whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) to study pain perception in military veterans:

Our findings demonstrate alterations in pain perception following extreme pain exposure, chart the sequence from automatic to evaluative pain processing, and emphasize the importance of considering past experiences in studying the neural response to others’ states.

Differences in brain activation to ‘pain’ and ‘no pain’ in the PCC [posterior cingulate cortex] emerged only among controls. This suggests that prior exposure to extreme pain alters the typical brain response to pain by blurring the distinction between painful and otherwise identical but nonpainful stimuli, and that this blurring of the ‘pain effect’ stems from increased responses to ‘no pain’ rather than from attenuated response to pain.”

Limitations included:

  • “The pain-exposed participants showed posttraumatic symptoms, which may also be related to the observed alterations in the brain response to pain.
  • We did not include pain threshold measurements. However, the participants’ sensitivity to experienced pain may have had an effect on the processing of observed pain.
  • The regions of interest for the examination of pain processing in the pain-exposed group were defined on the basis of the results identified in the control group.
  • We did not detect pain-related activations in additional regions typically associated with pain perception, such as the anterior insula and ACC. This may be related to differences between the MEG and fMRI neuroimaging approaches.”

The subjects self-administered oxytocin or placebo per the study’s design. However:

“We chose to focus on the placebo condition and to test group differences at baseline only, in light of the recent criticism on underpowered oxytocin administration studies, and thus all following analyses are reported for the placebo condition.”

A few questions:

  1. If observing others’ pain caused “increased responses to ‘no pain’,” wouldn’t the same effect or more be expected from experiencing one’s own pain?
  2. If there’s evidence for item 1, then why aren’t “increased responses to ‘no pain'” of affected people overtly evident in everyday life?
  3. If item 2 is often observed, then what are the neurobiological consequences for affected people’s suppression of “increased responses to ‘no pain’?”
  4. Along with the effects of item 3, what may be behavioral, emotional, and other evidence of this suppressed pain effect?
  5. What would it take for affected people to regain a normal processing of others’ “‘pain’ and ‘no pain’?”

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299546838_Prior_exposure_to_extreme_pain_alters_neural_response_to_pain_in_others “Prior exposure to extreme pain alters neural response to pain in others” Thanks to one of the authors, Ruth Feldman, for providing the full study

Empathy, value, pain, control: Psychological functions of the human striatum

This 2016 US human study found:

“A link between existing data on the anatomical and physiological characteristics of striatal regions and psychological functions.

Because we did not limit our metaanalysis to studies that specifically targeted striatal function, our results extend previous knowledge of the involvement of the striatum in reward-related decision-making tasks, and provide a detailed functional map of regional specialization for diverse psychological functions, some of which are sometimes thought of as being the exclusive domain of the PFC [prefrontal cortex].”

The analysis led to dividing the striatum into five segments:

Ventral striatum (VS):

  • Stimulus Value
  • Terms such as “reward,” “losses,” and “craving”
  • The most representative study reported that monetary and social rewards activate overlapping regions within the VS.
  • Together with the above finding of a reliable coactivation with OFC [orbitofrontal cortex] and ventromedial PFC, this finding suggests a broad involvement of this area in representing stimulus value and related stimulus-driven motivational states.

Anterior caudate (Ca) Nucleus:

  • Incentive Behavior
  • Terms such as “grasping,” “reaching,” and “reinforcement”
  • The most representative study reported a stronger blood-oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) response in this region during trials in which participants had a chance of winning or losing money in a card guessing game, in comparison to trials where participants merely received feedback about the accuracy of their guess.
  • This result suggests a role in evaluating the value of different actions, contrasting with the above role of the VS in evaluating the value of stimuli.

Posterior putamen (Pp):

  • Sensorimotor Processes
  • Terms such as “foot,” “noxious,” and “taste”
  • The most representative study reported activation of this region in response to painful stimulation at the back of the left hand and foot of participants. Anatomically, the most reliable and specific coactivation is with sensorimotor cortices, and the posterior and midinsula and operculum (secondary somatosensory cortex SII) in particular, some parts of which are specifically associated with pain.
  • Together, these findings suggest a broad involvement of this area in sensorimotor functions, including aspects of their affective qualities.

Anterior putamen (Pa):

  • Social- and Language-Related Functions
  • Terms such as “read,” “vocal,” and “empathic”
  • The most representative study partially supports a role of this area in social- and language-related functions; it reported a stronger activation of the Pa in experienced singers, but not when novices were singing.
  • It is coactivated with frontal areas anterior to the ones coactivated with the Pp, demonstrating topography in frontostriatal associations. These anterior regions have been implicated in language processes.

Posterior caudate (Cp) Nucleus:

  • Executive Functions
  • Terms such as “causality,” “rehearsal,” and “arithmetic”
  • The representative study reported this region to be part of a network that included dorsolateral PFC and ACC, which supported inhibitory control and task set-shifting.
  • These results suggest a broad, and previously underappreciated, role for the Cp in cognitive control.

The authors presented comparisons of the above striatal segments with other analyses of striatal zones.

One of the coauthors was the lead researcher of the 2015 Advance science by including emotion in research. The current study similarly used a coactivation view rather than a connectivity paradigm of:

“Inferring striatal function indirectly via psychological functions of connected cortical regions.”

Another of the coauthors was a developer of the system used by the current study and by The function of the dorsal ACC is to monitor pain in survival contexts, and he provided feedback to those authors regarding proper use of the system.

The researchers’ “unbiased, data-driven approach” had to work around the cortical biases evident in many of the 5,809 human imaging studies analyzed. The authors referred to the biases in statements such as:

“The majority of studies investigating these psychological functions report activity preferentially in cortical areas, except for studies investigating reward-related and motor functions.”

The methods and results of research with cortical biases influenced the study’s use of:

“Word frequencies of psychological terms in the full text of studies, rather than a detailed analysis of psychological tasks and statistical contrasts.”

http://www.pnas.org/content/113/7/1907.full “Regional specialization within the human striatum for diverse psychological functions”