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Made of metaphors

By Timothy Cocks Metaphor and language, Science and the world 24 Sep 2014

Via ScienceDaily

Neurobiological basis for key symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder found by brain imaging research

In a novel brain-imaging study among trauma victims, researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have linked an opioid receptor in the brain — associated with emotions — to a narrow cluster of trauma symptoms, including sadness, emotional detachment and listlessness.

Kappa opioid receptors bind a potent natural opioid known as dynorphin, which is released by the body during times of stress to help relieve dysphoria or numbing.

Chronic exposure to stress, such as the case with PTSD, taxes kappa opioid receptors, however, causing the receptors to retract inside cells, leaving dynorphin without a place to dock. As a result, patients can experience dysphoria, characterized by feelings of hopelessness, detachment and emotional unease. (emphasis added)

What a powerful metaphorical relationship between what is happening in the brain to these kappa opioid receptors and the behavioural response. This might well be a neuroscience nugget that helps someone struggling with PTSD or other responses to chronic stress (pain?) understand and ground their experience and feelings of withdrawal from society and life.


-Tim Cocks


  1. davidbutler0noi

    Thanks Tim,
    Wow – there is therapeutic story in this. Talk about pulling your head in when you are in trouble, this is pulling your receptors in! And it appears from this, that they need to be teased/encouraged out again to power up your coping systems. What better than our threat reduction strategies. I am reminded of the lovely quote from Jamie Catto at the NOI 2010 conference “ships are safest in the harbour but that’s not what they are designed for”

    You can see Jamie’s entire, amazing keynote here

    [vimeo 11888596 w=500 h=400]

    Jamie Catto opens the NOI 2010 Conference from noigroup on Vimeo.


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