The Source of Racial Awareness and Racism in the Human Brain?





 

A new study links a primitive area of the brain to the development of racial awareness, and perhaps racism as well.


 

THE SOURCE OF RACIAL AWARENESS AND RACISM IN THE HUMAN BRAIN?

It has often been observed that young children seem to be oblivious to racial differences, whereas an awareness of racial differences, and negative perceptions towards people from other races, becomes common by adulthood.  Because the prevalence of racism is so high among adults from all racial backgrounds, this striking difference in racial awareness between children and adults has led some experts to speculate whether racial awareness and racism are learned traits or the result of biological factors within the brain (or both).

The amygdala is an almond-shaped paired organ deep within the brain, and it exerts a powerful emotional influence on our experiences and memories.  In particular, the amygdala has been implicated in fear, anger and avoidance responses to threatening or frightening experiences, and electrical stimulation of the amygdala in mammals has been shown to induce aggression and hypersexual behavior.  The amygdala also appears to be intimately involved in the storage and processing of memories associated with emotion-laden events.

As part of the brain’s limbic system, the amygdala plays an important role in attaching a layer of emotional content to both memories and physical stimuli (such as noxious physical or psychological experiences, for example).  Now, a newly published clinical research study suggests that the amygdala may also play a significant role in the development of racial awareness, and negative views towards people of other races, as the brains of children mature during adolescence.  This new research study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

In this study, a special magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, functional MRI imaging, was used to monitor the activity of the amygdala in young volunteers between the ages of 4 and 16 years.  In this study, 32 of these young volunteers viewed photographs of African American and European American faces while undergoing functional MRI imaging, and two very important findings were identified.

First, as most of us parents already know, there was no evidence of any conscious racial awareness, or negative race-based perceptions, among the younger children who participated in this novel study; and specifically, there was no difference in activity levels within the amygdala of these young children when they viewed the photographs of people from varying racial backgrounds.  On the other hand, when teenaged subjects viewed photographs of people of other races, significant, measurable differences in the activity of the amygdala were identified by the functional MRI scan.

Secondly, the older volunteers who had been exposed to greater racial diversity throughout their lives were noted to have a much less intense reaction in the amygdala when viewing photos of people of other races, when compared to the subjects who had experienced more limited diversity in their lives.

Taken together, the findings of this innovative little study suggest that racial awareness develops over time, and first becomes physiologically apparent around the time of adolescence.  Specifically, the amygdala, an area of the brain associated with particularly strong and often negative emotions, appears to be the primary site in the brain associated with the development of racial awareness during adolescence, and perhaps with negative perceptions towards people of other races as well.  Unquestionably, however, the most important finding of this small study was that adolescents with exposure to more racial diversity during childhood appeared to experience significantly less intense activity in the amygdala when they viewed photos of people from other racial groups.  Therefore, the findings of this functional brain imaging study fit very well with countless previous observations that distinct racial awareness is rarely present in young children, and that people who grow up in more racially diverse environments tend to have fewer negative impressions of people from other racial backgrounds as they grow older.  The observation, in this study, that a tiny but powerful area of the brain which exerts so much control over the emotions of fear and aggression also appears to be directly involved in racial awareness, and negative perceptions of people from dissimilar races, is, simultaneously, both fascinating and not very surprising.


A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 2,058,157 pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.



 




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Oxytocin May Deter Men From Starting Extramarital Affairs






 

A new study finds that oxytocin may reduce men’s interest in other women outside of their monogamous relationships.


 

 

OXYTOCIN MAY DETER MEN FROM STARTING EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIRS

As I noted in a previous column (Oxytocin & Human Kindness), oxytocin is a hormone that appears to have a variety of important functions in humans.  For example, in new mothers, oxytocin stimulates milk secretion from the breast in response to suckling.  Oxytocin is also sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” as it is believed to contribute to those enchanting feelings of attraction, contentment, happiness, and bonding that occur in new romantic relationships. Oxytocin has also been linked to feelings of empathy and sensitivity towards others, while low levels of oxytocin in the brain have been associated with narcissistic, manipulative, and even sociopathic behavior.

Recent revelations of marital infidelity by retired general David Petraeus, the former Director of the CIA, have focused attention on the perennial topic of married men and their predilection towards having affairs with “other” women.  Now, a new prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical research study asks (and potentially answers) the question, “Can oxytocin help to sustain monogamous attachment in men?”  This new study appears in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

In this study, male volunteers who were involved in monogamous heterosexual relationships were administered either intranasal oxytocin or a placebo nose spray that contained no oxytocin.  These male volunteers were “blinded” with respect to which nasal spray they received.  Then, two novel experiments were performed.  In the first experiment, these male volunteers were approached by other men, and by “attractive women.”  The male volunteers were observed during these staged encounters.  Intriguingly, the males who had secretly received the oxytocin nasal spray maintained a significantly greater distance from the women when compared to the men who had received the placebo nasal spray.  (There was no difference between the two groups of male volunteers when it came to approaching other males in this study.)  A second part of this novel study placed photographs of attractive women before all of the male volunteers.  Once again, the men who had been secretly administered oxytocin were significantly more reluctant to approach the photos of attractive women when compared to the men who had received the placebo nasal spray.

To summarize the provocative findings of this unusual clinical study, men involved in a monogamous relationship, and who received a placebo nasal spray, approached unfamiliar attractive women as intently as unattached single men did.  On the other hand, men similarly involved in monogamous relationships, and who secretly received an intranasal oxytocin spray, consistently kept a greater distance from unfamiliar attractive women.  The authors of this study conclude that when “…[oxytocin] release is stimulated during a monogamous relationship, it may additionally promote its maintenance by making men avoid signaling romantic interest to other women through close-approach behavior during social encounters. In this way, [oxytocin] may help to promote fidelity within monogamous human relationships.”

Whether or not retired general David Petraeus, or other men who have engaged in affairs outside of their monogamous relationships, might have made different choices had their oxytocin levels been higher is a matter of speculation.  However, the findings of this novel clinical research study, which builds upon prior studies of the bonding and “commitment” effects of oxytocin in both men and women, suggest that boosting oxytocin levels in men may potentially reduce their inclination towards striking up new relationships with women outside of their current monogamous relationships.  It also suggests that men who have engaged in serial infidelities outside of their marriage, and who wish to change this pattern of behavior, might benefit from intranasal oxytocin, although more clinical research should be performed before offering men intranasal oxytocin as a potential treatment for serial infidelity.


A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1



At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  Over the past 12 months, 2,017,594 pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious readers.  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 



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Statin Drugs May Reduce the Risk of Death Due to Cancer





 

A new study suggests that cholesterol lowering statin drugs may reduce the risk of dying of cancer.


 

 

STATIN DRUGS MAY REDUCE THE RISK OF DEATH DUE TO CANCER

As I discuss in my bestselling book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race, cholesterol-reducing statin drugs can significantly reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease in people with high cholesterol levels, and may also reduce the risk of cancer-related death.  However, the potential role of statins in preventing cancer, and cancer-associated death, remains unclear at this time, as much of the research evidence in this area, to date, has been contradictory.  At the same time, some of the known biological actions of statin drugs could conceivably play a role in reducing the risk of cancer, and reducing death rates due to cancer, through their anti-inflammatory and cholesterol reducing effects.

Now, a newly published Danish public health study, which appears in the current issue of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, strongly suggests that the use of statin drugs may significantly decrease the risk of death due to cancer.  In this study, the medical records of all Danish citizens diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2007 were reviewed.  Altogether, clinical data was available for a whopping 295,025 patients diagnosed with cancer over this 12-year period.

When the authors of this study looked at death rates due to all causes, the use of varying daily doses of statin drugs reduced the risk of death from any cause by 13 to 18 percent, when compared to death rates among patients who did not take statins.  At the same time, varying daily statin doses were also observed to reduce cancer-associated death rates by 13 to 17 percent, when compared to patients who did not take statin drugs.

In summary, the findings of this enormous public health study suggest that statin drugs may significantly decrease not only the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, but also the risk of dying from cancer as well.  Fortunately, there are more than a dozen randomized prospective clinical research trials underway at this time that are evaluating the appropriate role of statin drugs in the management of multiple types of cancer.


 

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 



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American Surgeons in Crisis: Implications for Healthcare






 

A new study finds that more than half of surgeons are experiencing work-home conflicts that threaten their personal and professional wellbeing.


 

AMERICAN SURGEONS IN CRISIS:  IMPLICATIONS FOR HEALTHCARE

As I have discussed in previous columns (The Silent Epidemic of Surgeon Burnout and DepressionEpidemic of Alcohol Abuse Among Surgeons), there are quiet and evolving, and disturbing, developments within the community of American surgeons, and these developments may portend of significant potential future problems for surgeons, and for patients who require surgical care.  Now, a newly published research study, which appears in the current issue of the Archives of Surgery, further suggests that the epidemic of surgeon burnout and depression is indeed real, and has serious potential implications for both surgeons and their patients.

In this study, 7,197 active surgeons were surveyed, electronically, by the American College of Surgeons, using questions from validated surveys that assess for career burnout, depression, quality of life, alcohol use, and other measures of satisfaction with both personal and professional life attributes.

When asked if they had experienced any significant conflicts between their “work lives” and their “home lives” within the previous three weeks, an astounding 53 percent of the queried surgeons replied, “Yes.”  Thus, more than half of all surgeons who participated in this confidential survey reported substantial and distressing conflicts between their professional lives and their home lives within the preceding three weeks.

When the study’s authors analyzed the personal and professional factors that were most closely associated with “work-home conflicts,” and with both personal and professional dissatisfaction, a clearer picture emerged.  For example, the number of hours worked per week, having children, the surgeon’s gender, and the type of surgical practice were all closely linked with work-home conflicts, and with lower levels of personal and professional satisfaction.  For example, surgeons who practiced at Veterans Administration hospitals were 91 percent more likely to report work-home conflicts when compared to surgeons in private practice, while surgeons who practiced at an academic medical center were 19 percent more likely to report such conflicts when compared to private practice surgeons.  Not surprisingly, having children at home was associated with a 65 percent greater likelihood of work-home conflict when compared to surgeons without children at home.  Working more hours per week and being younger were also factors associated with a higher likelihood of work-home conflict, as was being a female surgeon (i.e., when compared to male surgeons).  Surgeon specialty was also significantly linked to work-home conflicts and overall lower satisfaction levels, with broadly practicing general surgeons being twice as likely to report work-home conflicts as surgeons in other specialties (e.g., breast surgeons, heart surgeons, neurosurgeons, and other subspecialist surgeons).

The high level of work-home conflicts identified among surgeons is an issue of great concern to all of us, as such conflicts were significantly associated with career burnout, exhaustion, decreased quality of life, depression, relationship difficulties, alcohol abuse, and overall career dissatisfaction by scientifically validated surveys.  Surgeons reporting recent work-home conflicts were also substantially less likely to recommend surgery as a career option to their children.

In addition to higher levels of burnout, depression, alcohol abuse, relationship difficulties, and career dissatisfaction, surgeons who reported recent work-home conflicts were also 77 percent more likely to be planning to reduce their clinical work hours, and71 percent more likely to be planning to leave their surgical practices for reasons other than planned retirement.

At a time when the demand for some types of surgical care is already outstripping the supply of experienced, competent surgeons in many areas of the country, the findings of this study are cause for considerable concern.  For example, looking into the near future, our population is aging, and many acute and chronic diseases that require surgical treatment are more common in elderly patients.  Therefore, there is real concern that an increasingly burned-out surgeon workforce, and a declining interest in the more challenging surgical specialties (like general surgery) by today’s medical students, will someday soon leave the United States with an inadequate number of experienced surgeons to meet our nation’s healthcare needs.

All of the above noted adverse factors within the American surgeon community, once again, raise the concern that adequate levels of surgical care may not be available in the not too distant future if significant changes in surgical training and surgical practice are not considered and implemented, particularly in the workhorse specialty of general surgery.  The surgical community has been, admittedly, slow to appreciate or embrace generational changes in perceptions about work-life balance, and has only grudgingly (and recently) acquiesced to external pressures to treat its surgeons-in-training in a more considerate and supportive manner, compared to the conditions that surgery interns and residents toiled under during my era of training, as well as previous generations of surgical trainees.  (When I was a surgical intern, in the late 1980s, there were no limitations on the number of hours that interns and residents were expected to work in the hospital, including the number of nights spent on call for emergencies within the hospital, and it was not uncommon for us to spend 100 to 120 hours inside the hospital each and every week.)  Regardless of how more senior surgeons feel about it, it must be acknowledged that the current generation of medical students and young surgeons, both male and female, are much more concerned about work-life balance, and overall quality of life issues, than was typical for my generation of surgeons.

On a brighter note, the American College of Surgeons’ sponsorship of this research study, and others like it, suggests that the older generation of surgeons who currently serve as senior leaders and mentors for young surgeons and surgical trainees may, finally, be coming to grips with the rather dramatic shift in attitudes and priorities among their young charges. Hopefully, it is not too late to make meaningful structural changes in surgical training and surgical practice conditions before there are widespread adverse public health consequences to the ongoing crisis among the community of surgeons in the United States….

 

A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race is now available in both printed and digital formats from all major bookstores.  Get your copy now, and begin living an evidence-based cancer prevention lifestyle!


Dr. Wascher’s latest video:

Dark as Night, Part 1


Dark as Night, Part 1

Dark as Night, Part 1


At this time, more than 8 percent of Americans are unemployed.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty between September 2001 and December 2011 is now more than 12 percent.  A new website, Veterans in Healthcare, seeks to connect veterans with potential employers.  If you are a veteran who works in the healthcare field, or if you are an employer who is looking for physicians, advanced practice professionals, nurses, corpsmen/medics, or other healthcare professionals, then please take a look at Veterans in Healthcare. As a retired veteran of the U.S. Army, I would also like to personally urge you to hire a veteran whenever possible.


For a groundbreaking overview of cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my bestselling book, “A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-A-MillionVroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores!

Within one week of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was ranked #6 among all cancer-related books on the Amazon.com “Top 100 Bestseller’s List” for Kindle e-books. Within three months of publication, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race was the #1 book on the Amazon.comTop 100 New Book Releases in Cancer” list.




Disclaimer:  As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity


 

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, professor of surgery, cancer researcher, oncology consultant, and a widely published author


 

I and the staff of Weekly Health Update would again like to take this opportunity to thank the more than 100,000 health-conscious people from around the world who visit this premier global health information website every month.  (More than 1.3 million pages of high-quality medical research findings were served to the worldwide audience of health-conscious people who visited Weekly Health Update in 2011!)  As always, we enjoy receiving your stimulating feedback and questions, and I will continue to try and personally answer as many of your inquiries as I possibly can.


 





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