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World events, time change and anger piling on pandemic pressures

World events, time change and anger piling on pandemic pressures

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris

Don’t care much for the constant mid-March ritual of moving our clocks ahead one hour? According to Beth Ann Malow, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University, 63% of Americans would like to see it eliminated.

The thing is, daylight saving time represents much more than a disruption to daily routines. Given the stresses heaped upon us in our world of uncertainties, it could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Beyond simple inconvenience,” writes Malow on, “Researchers are discovering that ‘springing ahead’ each March is connected with serious negative health effects.”

“In a 2020 commentary for the journal JAMA Neurology, my co-authors and I reviewed the evidence linking the annual transition to daylight saving time to increased strokes, heart attacks and teen sleep deprivation,” she says.

A separate post on co-authored by Deepa Burman, co-director of the Pediatric Sleep Evaluation Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and Hiren Muzumdar, director of the Pediatric Sleep Evaluation Center, notes that sleep deprivation can result in increases of workplace injuries and automobile accidents. One individual’s sleep deprivation can affect an entire family.

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“You may notice more frequent meltdowns, irritability and loss of attention and focus,” they say.

I wonder, could uncontrolled anger be far behind?

Now, watching a devastating war unfold on social media is also hammering away at our collective mental health. We’re all being heightened by graphic and disturbing images that fill our feeds, writes Time magazine reporter Jamie Ducharme.

“Tracking up-to-the-minute developments can come at a cost. … Footage and photos from Ukraine flooding social media and misinformation spreading rampantly (has) implications for public health,” she reports.

It has long been the responsibility of traditional media outlets for editors to decide which content is too graphic to show, or to label disturbing images with warnings. As pointed out by Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychological science at the University of California, Irvine, today anyone “can take pictures and videos and immediately distribute that (on social media) without warning, potentially without thinking about it.”

Jason Steinhauer, founder of the History Communication Institute, says, “Russia has been waging a social media and misinformation war for the past 10 to 12 years.” This has only gotten worse since its invasion of Ukraine.

We should not be surprised at all that studies now suggest that news coverage of the pandemic has contributed to our mental distress. “Adding yet another difficult topic to the mix can worsen those feelings,” Cohen Silver says.

Yet the war is hardly the only attack on our senses. At a time when we are most vulnerable, the Federal Trade Commission reports that predatory fraudsters bilked consumers of an estimated $5.8 billion last year. According to the agency, it represents a 70% increase over 2020. “Almost 2.8 million people filed a fraud complaint, an annual record” and “the highest number on record dating back to 2001,” reports the FTC. “Imposter scams were most prevalent, but investment scams cost the typical victim the most money.”

“Those figures also don’t include reports of identity theft and other categories,” the report points out. “More than 1.4 million Americans also reported being a victim of identity theft in 2021; another 1.5 million filed complaints related to ‘other’ categories (including credit reporting companies failing to investigate disputed information, or debt collectors falsely representing the amount or status of debt).”

The mounting stresses placed upon us are now posing a threat to not just our mental and financial health but our physical well-being.

According to a working paper from researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School and the University of Pennsylvania, “In 2020, the risk of outdoor street crimes initially rose by more than 40% and was consistently between 10-15% higher than it had been in 2019 through the remainder of the year.” Researchers also believe that the finding “points to the potential for other crimes to surge the way homicides have as cities reopen and people return to the streets,” says the report.

Adds Megan McArdle commenting on the report in an op-ed for the Washington Post, “community trust in the police might have plummeted, possibly making people more likely to settle scores on their own. Or police might have reacted to public anger by pulling back from active policing, creating more opportunities for crime.”

Hans Steiner is a professor emeritus of Stanford’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences who has logged decades of work studying anger and aggression. In an interview posted on the Stanford University website, he says he believes that “the coronavirus pandemic, with its extreme disruption of normal daily life and uncertainty for the future, compounded by several other crises (economic distress, racial tension, social inequities, political and ideological conflicts) puts us all to the test: we find ourselves immersed in a pool of negative emotions: fear, sadness, contempt, and yes, anger. What do we do with this forceful emotion?”

“Anger signals that we are being threatened, injured, deprived, robbed of rewards and expectancies,” Steiner says. It should be “one of our adaptive tools to deal with the most difficult circumstances. Sometimes it becomes an obstacle to our struggles, especially when it derails into aggression and even violence.”

Anger problems are now spilling over into record accounts of hate crimes. It seems that today’s circumstances, with anger management and rule of law seemingly at an all-time low, have caused many individuals to become ticking time bombs. Reports CBS News, “the total number of hate crimes nationwide has increased every year but one since 2014, according to FBI data, which includes statistics through 2020.”

Steiner says that “maladaptive anger and aggression has the following characteristics: 1. It arises without any trigger, seemingly out of the blue; 2. it is disproportionate to its trigger in its frequency, intensity, duration and strength; 3. it does not subside after the offending person has apologized; 4. it occurs in a social context which does not sanction anger and aggression.”

Who among us has not seen or maybe even experienced some, maybe all, of these behavior characteristics?

“In such conflicts we need to remind ourselves that diatribes, lies and accusations will not move us forward; compassion, empathy and the reminder that we are all in this horrible situation together (needs to) inspire us,” Steiner advises.

Write to Chuck Norris at with questions about health and fitness.

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Clinic marks Health Wagon’s return to larger public events

Clinic marks Health Wagon’s return to larger public events

WISE — Zion Family Ministries’ activity and kitchen spaces were busy on Wednesday as the Health Wagon got back to business with its annual late winter free clinics in Wise and Clintwood.

Health Wagon President and Executive Director Dr. Teresa Tyson said Wednesday’s event marks a pair of shifts for the more than four-decade-old organization that got its start as a small mobile exam van based in Dickenson County.

Wednesday’s clinic was the first of the late winter events since 2019, when COVID-19 forced Health Wagon staff to stop mass events for fear of the disease’s spread, Tyson said.

While the organization continued with smaller community visits and appointments at its Wise and new Clintwood main offices, she said the past two years have been a balance between public safety and continuing to serve a region facing a range of health care challenges.

Tyson said the clinic’s new name — Move Mountains Medical Mission — also marks a rebranding after two decades working with Tennessee-based Remote Area Medical on annual summer free clinics in Wise County. RAM officials in 2019 acknowledged that the Health Wagon had developed a range of partnerships and regional support allowing RAM to support other health care efforts across the U.S.

COVID-19 screening was the first step for patients at Zion Family Ministries on Wednesday, but Tyson said that was not the only stage for dealing with the disease.

“One of the many things we’re doing is giving COVID shots and boosters and flu shots,” Tyson said. “The Coeburn Economic Development Authority gave us $500, and we’re using that to incentivize people to get vaccinated by putting their names in a drawing for cash prizes. That really helps because vaccinations are our best defense against the virus.”

Even though Tyson and her staff felt the pandemic situation had become safe enough to resume mass clinics like Wednesday’s event, the clinic and Thursday’s event in Clintwood were advertised as appointment-only by calls to the Health Wagon’s Wise and Clintwood offices. Tyson said the new system has helped spread out people onsite for health and safety.

While a pre-pandemic clinic would draw 150 to 200 people for services including physical exams, chest X-rays, pap smears, regular vaccinations, ultrasounds, prescription services, Medicare enrollment help and health education, Wednesday’s clinic still saw more than 100 patients.

Local attorney Brett Hall, working as a volunteer runner at Wednesday’s clinic, said he owed it to Move Mountains because Health Wagon medical staff probably saved his life when he contracted COVID-19 a second time despite being vaccinated.

“They were able to give me monoclonal antibodies when I showed symptoms and I was much better the next day,” Hall said.

Dr. Joe Frank Smiddy, who has operated the Health Wagon’s radiology van and provided chest X-ray services for its events, said COVID-19 has added an extra dimension to what had been a longtime focus on helping diagnose the region’s residents with COPD and black lung.

“Before COVID we were dealing with coal workers, COPD and asthma, people with lung fungus and smoking,” said Smiddy. “Immediately, when COVID hit, we knew that some of the COVID patients would have underlying lung disease and we started doing chest X-rays. If we could improve their lung health, they could deal with COVID better if they got it.”

Smiddy said “long COVID” — symptoms that infected patients face after recovering from the disease — pose another challenge for Health Wagon staff and other health care providers. While some long COVID symptoms can be neurological, Smiddy said some symptoms can be treated medically or by exercise and good health practices.

The Health Wagon’s X-ray and lung services can help patients determine if they can return to work or if they may be medically eligible for services such as Medicaid or Social Security disability, Smiddy added.Smiddy and Tyson said that Move Mountains Medical Mission’s partnership with the Virginia Dental Foundation’s Mission of Mercy dental care events in Southwest Virginia will continue. Tyson said the Health Wagon has applied to participate in a summer program where armed forces medical teams practice emergency deployments by offering human medical care and veterinary services for pets. She said the 2019 program was a success, with people coming to get pets treated and vaccinated leading to many getting needed medical care for themselves too.

“We’re excited about what we can do, we’re excited that it’s free health care, and we’re excited that it’s the Health Wagon,” said Smiddy.

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Biological events occurring during puberty trigger sex differences in learning and memory

Biological events occurring during puberty trigger sex differences in learning and memory

New research from the University of California, Irvine reveals that sex differences in learning and memory mechanisms are triggered by biological events occurring during puberty. Findings show prepubescent female rodents have much better hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) and spatial learning than same-age males, but puberty has opposite consequences for synaptic plasticity in the two sexes.

The study, titled “Prepubescent female rodents have enhanced hippocampal LTP and learning relative to males, reversing in adulthood as inhibition increases” was recently published in Nature Neuroscience.

Since the late 19th century, the general consensus in the scientific community has been that men outperform women on spatial tasks, while women excel in learning tasks involving verbal material, while the general debate has been about why there is a difference.

The surprising conclusion from our results is that the polarization of sex differences in hippocampal synapses and related learning reverses in females and males from before to after puberty. This occurs because of distinct developmental changes. Thresholds for plasticity and encoding spatial information increase in females and decease in males.”

Christine Gall, PhD, co-corresponding author, and distinguished professor and chair of anatomy and neurobiology at the UCI School of Medicine

Puberty is a critical landmark in brain maturation and results in a wide variety of sex differences in behavior, but little is known about how it affects the substrates for memory encoding. Researchers identified a female-specific mechanism that increases the LTP threshold and decreases spatial memory from before to after puberty. Sex differences were demonstrated for hippocampus-dependent processes and driven by different underlying mechanisms.

In females only, inhibitory synapses in the CA1 field of the hippocampus exhibit an increase in levels of GABAA receptors containing the α5 subunit; this increase is associated with greater inhibition of synaptic activity critical for synaptic plasticity and memory. The α5 receptors have been linked to anxiety which also undergoes changes at the onset of the estrous cycle. Researchers found that pharmacological suppression of α5-GABAA receptors restored LTP and memory encoding in females to levels observed before puberty.

“Our team proposes that the emergent female pattern may favor learning in complex circumstances while the emergent male pattern favors rapid acquisition of simpler material. This idea suggests that optimal teaching strategies need to reflect previously unsuspected brain differences between the sexes and how these are dramatically adjusted during puberty,” Gall said. “The vast majority of studies have begun with analyses of young adult male rodents. Females use somewhat different memory mechanisms than do males and therefore may respond differently to drugs and gene mutations. This new research demonstrates the need for new sexually differentiated approaches for the development of therapeutic treatments and their applications at different life stages.”

Further research will be conducted to determine if the sex-specific LTP threshold changes identified in hippocampus during the transition to postpubertal life are evident in other brain areas and influence the encoding of different types of memories.


Journal reference:

Le, A.A., et al. (2022) Prepubescent female rodents have enhanced hippocampal LTP and learning relative to males, reversing in adulthood as inhibition increases. Nature Neuroscience.