Tuesday January 28, 2020

Women Taking Oral Contraceptives have Smaller Brain Region: Study

Brain region smaller in birth control pill users

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Brain contraceptives
Researches found a smaller hypothalamus volume in women consuming oral contraceptives. Pixabay

Researchers have found that women taking oral contraceptives, commonly known as birth control pills, had significantly smaller hypothalamus volume, compared to women not taking the pill.

Located at the base of the brain above the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus produces hormones and helps regulate essential bodily functions including body temperature, mood, appetite, sex drive, sleep cycles and heart rate.

Structural effects of sex hormones, including oral contraceptive pills, on the human hypothalamus have never been reported, according to the researchers.

This may be in part because validated methods to quantitatively analyse MRI exams of the hypothalamus have not been available.

“There is a lack of research on the effects of oral contraceptives on this small but essential part of the living human brain,” said Michael L. Lipton, professor of radiology at the Gruss Magnetic Resonance Research Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in US.

Contraceptives
Structural effects of sex hormones, including oral contraceptives, on the human hypothalamus have never been reported. Pixabay

“We validated methods for assessing the volume of the hypothalamus and confirm, for the first time, that current oral contraceptive pill usage is associated with smaller hypothalamic volume,” Lipton said.

Oral contraceptives are among the most popular forms of birth control and are also used to treat a host of conditions, including irregular menstruation, cramps, acne, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.

According to a 2018 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, from 2015 to 2017 approximately 47 million women aged 15-49 in the US reported current use of contraceptives. Of those, 12.6 per cent used the pill.

For the this study, the researchers recruited a group of 50 healthy women, including 21 women who were taking oral contraceptives.

All 50 women underwent brain MRI, and a validated approach was used to measure hypothalamic volume.

“We found a dramatic difference in the size of the brain structures between women who were taking oral contraceptives and those who were not,” Lipton said.

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“This initial study shows a strong association and should motivate further investigation into the effects of oral contraceptives on brain structure and their potential impact on brain function,” Lipton added.

The study was presented at the 105th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America-RSNA 2019. (IANS)

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Horror Movies Manipulate Brain to Enhance Excitement: Study

Know why people get goosebumps while watching horror movies

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Horror Movies
Finnish researchers mapped neural activity as study participants watched horror movies, and found that our brains are continuously anticipating and preparing us for action in response to threat. Pixabay

Do you know why some people like to watch horror movies like ‘The Conjuring’ despite the scare and frequent shouting episodes? If we ask researchers, this is because scary flicks manipulate brain expertly to enhance excitement.

Finnish researchers mapped neural activity as study participants watched horror movies, and found that our brains are continuously anticipating and preparing us for action in response to threat.

“Horror movies exploit this expertly to enhance our excitement,” said researcher Matthew Hudson from University of Turku, Finland.

People found horror that was psychological in nature and based on real events the scariest, and were far more scared by things that were unseen or implied rather than what they could actually see.

Horror Movies
People found horror movies that were psychological in nature to be very interesting. Pixabay

The researchers first established the 100 best and scariest horror movies of the past century and how they made people feel.

Firstly, 72 per cent of people report watching at last one horror movie every six months, and the reasons for doing so, besides the feelings of fear and anxiety, was primarily that of excitement.

“Watching horror movies was also an excuse to socialise, with many people preferring to watch horror movies with others than on their own,” the findings showed.

While all movies have our heroes face some kind of threat to their safety or happiness, horror movies up the ante by having some kind of superhuman or supernatural threat that cannot be reasoned with or fought easily.

The research team at the University of Turku, Finland, studied why we are drawn to such things as entertainment?

People found horror that was psychological in nature and based on real events the scariest, and were far more scared by things that were unseen or implied rather than what they could actually see.

The team discovered two key findings.

“The creeping foreboding dread that occurs when one feels that something isn’t quite right, and the instinctive response we have to the sudden appearance of a monster that make us jump out of our skin,” said principal investigator Professor Lauri Nummenmaa.

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During those times when anxiety is slowly increasing, regions of the brain involved in visual and auditory perception become more active, as the need to attend for cues of threat in the environment become more important.

“After a sudden shock, brain activity is more evident in regions involved in emotion processing, threat evaluation, and decision making, enabling a rapid response,” said the researchers. (IANS)