Nitrous Oxide May bring quick relief from PTSD

Nitrous Oxide May bring quick relief from PTSD

For this new study, three veterans with PTSD were asked to inhale a single one-hour dose of 50% nitrous oxide and 50% oxygen through a face mask. Within hours after breathing nitrous oxide, two of the patients reported a marked improvement in their PTSD symptoms. This improvement lasted one week for one of the patients, while the other patient’s symptoms gradually returned over the week.

#ptsd #relief #nitrousoxide

https://www.psychiatrist.com/JCP/article/Pages/2020/v81/20l13393.aspx

Andrea Varias, Peter van Roessel, Maryam Parsiani, Maria Filippou-Frye, Thomas C. Neylan, Peter Nagele, Jerome Yesavage, J. David Clark, Carolyn I. Rodriguez. Does Nitrous Oxide Help Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder? A Case Series. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2020; 81 (4) DOI: 10.4088/JCP.20l13393

Resveratrol may have powerful Anti-depressant and Anti-anxiety effects

Resveratrol may have powerful Anti-depressant and Anti-anxiety effects

Resveratrol displayed neuroprotective effects against corticosterone by inhibiting the expression of PDE4. The research lays the groundwork for the use of the compound in novel antidepressants.

Xia Zhu, Wenhua Li, Yongkun Li, Wenhua Xu, Yirong Yuan, Victor Zheng, Hanting Zhang, James M. O’Donnell, Ying Xu, Xiaoxing Yin. The antidepressant- and anxiolytic-like effects of resveratrol: Involvement of phosphodiesterase-4D inhibition. Neuropharmacology, 2019; 153: 20 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2019.04.022

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190729094553.htm

Resveratrol, pde4, phosphodiesterase, antidepressant, anxiolytic, anxiety, depression, cyclic adenosine monophosphate, antidepressant, Corticosterone, stress, antistress, neuroprotective, enzyme

Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression

Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression

Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression

The objective of this study is to determine which foods are the most nutrient dense sources of nutrients demonstrated by human studies published in the current scientific literature to play a role in the prevention and promotion of recovery from depressive disorders.

LaChance LR, Ramsey D. Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World J Psychiatry 2018; 8(3): 97-104

Depression linked to low blood levels of acetyl-L-carnitine

Depression linked to low blood levels of acetyl-L-carnitine

Depression linked to low blood levels of acetyl-L-carnitine

In the latest study, the scientists measured levels of LAC (acetyl-L-carnitine) in blood samples taken from people diagnosed with MDD. They found that levels were significantly decreased in these patients, as compared to age-matched individuals without depression. Additional analysis revealed that patients with very low LAC exhibited more severe depression and were more likely to develop MDD early in life. Finally, the researchers found that decreased LAC was associated with having a history of childhood trauma and treatment-resistant depression, particularly in women.

#acetyl-l-carnitine #depression #supplement

Carla Nasca, Benedetta Bigio, Francis S. Lee, Sarah P. Young, Marin M. Kautz, Ashly Albright, James Beasley, David S. Millington, Aleksander A. Mathé, James H. Kocsis, James W. Murrough, Bruce S. McEwen, Natalie Rasgon. Acetyl-l-carnitine deficiency in patients with major depressive disorder. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018; 201801609 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1801609115

Lifespan greatly enhanced with Synbiotics

Lifespan greatly enhanced with Synbiotics

Lifespan greatly enhanced with Synbiotics

Scientists fed fruit flies with a combination of probiotics and an herbal supplement called Triphala that was able to prolong the flies’ longevity by 60 % and protect them against chronic diseases associated with aging.

Susan Westfall, Nikita Lomis, Satya Prakash. Longevity extension in Drosophila through gut-brain communication. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-25382-z

Raw Foods result in Greater Happiness then Processed Foods

Raw Foods result in Greater Happiness then Processed Foods

Raw Foods result in Greater Happiness then Processed Foods

“Our research has highlighted that the consumption of fruit and vegetables in their ‘unmodified’ state is more strongly associated with better mental health compared to cooked/canned/processed fruit and vegetables,”

Citation: Intake of Raw Fruits and Vegetables Is Associated With Better Mental Health Than Intake of Processed Fruits and Vegetables. Frontiers in Psychology, 2018; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00487

Grape compounds may promote resilience against depression and stress

Grape compounds may promote resilience against depression and stress

Study results indicate that these natural compounds derived from grapes may attenuate depression by targeting a newly discovered underlying mechanisms of the disease.

Citation: Epigenetic modulation of inflammation and synaptic plasticity promotes resilience against stress in mice DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02794-5

Rubella vaccine used in experiments to induce depression and behavior problems in young children

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000;917:478-87.
Illness, cytokines, and depression

EEV: Full study is currently on evesdrift.com. It will have four of the missing graphs added to it later on today..

Based on analysis of levels of antibodies to rubella, subjects were divided into two groups: an experimental group, consisting of subjects who were initially seronegative and were infected following vaccination; and a control group, consisting of subjects who were already immune to rubella before vaccination. Compared to control subjects and to their own baseline, subjects from low, but not middle or high, socioeconomic status (SES) within the experimental group exhibited more severe depressed mood, as well as more social and attention problems and delinquent behavior (see FIGURE 1).13 The particular vulnerability to immunization-induced depression may be associated with several characteristics of low SES, including higher incidence of stressful life events and fewer sources of social support, which modulate the responsiveness to immune challenges. Thus, even a mild viral infection can produce a prolonged increase in depressive symptomatology in vulnerable individuals.
          rub2                                         

Illness, Cytokines, and Depression

  1. YIRMIYA,a,b Y. POLLAK,a M. MORAG,a A. REICHENBERG,a O. BARAK,a
  2. AVITSUR,a Y. SHAVIT,a H. OVADIA,c J. WEIDENFELD,c A. MORAG,d

M.E. NEWMAN,e AND T. POLLMÄCHERf

Departments of aPsychology, cNeurology, dClinical Virology, and ePsychiatry, The Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital, Jerusalem, Israel fMax Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Munich, Germany

ABSTRACT: Various medical conditions that involve activation of the immune system are associated with psychological and neuroendocrine changes that resemble the characteristics of depression. In this review we present our recent studies, designed to investigate the relationship between the behavioral effects of immune activation and depressive symptomatology. In the first set of experiments, we used a double-blind prospective design to investigate the psychological consequences of illness in two models: (1) vaccination of teenage girls with live attenuated rubella virus, and (2) lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration in healthy male volunteers. In the rubella study, we demonstrated that, compared to control group subjects and to their own baseline, a subgroup of vulnerable individuals (girls from low socioeconomic status) showed a significant virus-induced increase in depressed mood up to 10 weeks after vaccination. In an ongoing study on the effects of LPS, we demonstrated significant LPSinduced elevation in the levels of depression and anxiety as well as memory deficits. These psychological effects were highly correlated with the levels of LPS-induced cytokine secretion. In parallel experiments, we demonstrated in rodents that immune activation with various acute and chronic immune challenges induces a depressive-like syndrome, characterized by anhedonia, anorexia, body weight loss, and reduced locomotor, exploratory, and social behavior. Chronic treatment with antidepressants (imipramine or fluoxetine) attenuated many of the behavioral effects of LPS, as well as LPS-induced changes in body temperature, adrenocortical activation, hypothalamic serotonin release, and the expression of splenic TNF- mRNA. Taken together, these findings suggest that cytokines are involved in the etiology and symptomatology of illness-associated depression.

INTRODUCTION

Depression is a common, disturbing concomitant of medical conditions. The reported prevalence of major depression episodes in physically ill patients varies from 5% to more than 40%. However, because depression is often unrecognized and undertreated in sick patients, the prevalence reported in most studies is probably underestimated.1 The high prevalence of depression in various medical conditions is

bAddress for correspondence: Professor Raz Yirmiya, Department of Psychology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel. Voice: 972-25883695; fax: 972-2-5881159. msrazy@mscc.huji.ac.il

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YIRMIYA et al.

reflected by the special psychiatric diagnostic entity “depression due to a general medical condition.”2 To make a diagnosis of this condition “the clinician should establish the presence of a general medical condition, and determine that the depression is etiologically related to the general medical condition through a physiological mechanism” (see Ref. 2, p. 367). Several lines of evidence suggest that this physiological mechanism involves the immune system—that is, the depression associated with various medical conditions is not merely a reaction to the incapacitation, pain, and losses that accompany the physical disease process, but may be directly caused by activation of the immune system.3

The physiological and psychological effects of immune activation (collectively termed sickness behavior) are mediated by cytokines derived from activated immune and other cells.4–6 Most immune challenges produce their initial effects in the periphery, but information regarding their presence is almost immediately transmitted to the brain, in a sensory-like process. Within the brain, this immune-related information activates several areas, and induces glia cells and neurons to release cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), which serve as neurotransmitters and neuroregulators.4,5 The aim of the present review is to present the current knowledge on the role of cytokines in mediating the depressive-like symptoms that accompany various medical conditions in humans and experimental models of these conditions in animals.

DEPRESSION ASSOCIATED WITH INFECTIOUS AND NONINFECTIOUS DISEASES IN HUMANS

Infectious illnesses are often associated with a range of depressive symptoms, including fatigue, psychomotor retardation, anorexia, somnolence, lethargy, muscle aches, cognitive disturbances, and depressed mood.7 The evidence for these alterations is mainly anecdotal, and only few studies examined these symptoms systematically. Experimentally induced viral infections (e.g., common cold, influenza),8,9 as well as natural occurrence of upper respiratory tract illness or influenza,10–12 produce depressed mood and other depressive symptoms, as well as various neuropsychological impairments. Similar disturbances have also been reported following chronic infections with herpesvirus, cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, gastroenteritis, Borna disease virus and HIV.

Many noninfectious conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, stroke, trauma, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases, are also associated with chronic activation of the immune system and secretion of cytokines. High incidence of depression has been demonstrated in patients afflicted with many of these conditions, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, allergy, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.3,6 When studied, immune dysregulation was found to precede the development of depression, suggesting that rather than being a psychological reaction to the medical condition per se, illness-associated depression is causally related to immune activation.

We have recently used a double-blind prospective design to investigate the immediate and prolonged psychological and physiological effects of a specific viral infection in humans.13 Subjects were teenage girls who were vaccinated with live Continue reading “Rubella vaccine used in experiments to induce depression and behavior problems in young children”

Yale team discovers how stress and depression can shrink the brain

Public release date: 12-Aug-2012 [

Contact: Bill Hathaway william.hathaway@yale.edu 203-432-1322 Yale University

Yale team discovers how stress and depression can shrink the brain

Major depression or chronic stress can cause the loss of brain volume, a condition that contributes to both emotional and cognitive impairment. Now a team of researchers led by Yale scientists has discovered one reason why this occurs — a single genetic switch that triggers loss of brain connections in humans and depression in animal models.

The findings, reported in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Nature Medicine, show that the genetic switch known as a transcription factor represses the expression of several genes that are necessary for the formation of synaptic connections between brain cells, which in turn could contribute to loss of brain mass in the prefrontal cortex.

“We wanted to test the idea that stress causes a loss of brain synapses in humans,” said senior author Ronald Duman, the Elizabeth Mears and House Jameson Professor of Psychiatry and professor of neurobiology and of pharmacology. “We show that circuits normally involved in emotion, as well as cognition, are disrupted when this single transcription factor is activated.”

The research team analyzed tissue of depressed and non-depressed patients donated from a brain bank and looked for different patterns of gene activation. The brains of patients who had been depressed exhibited lower levels of expression in genes that are required for the function and structure of brain synapses. Lead author and postdoctoral researcher H.J. Kang discovered that at least five of these genes could be regulated by a single transcription factor called GATA1. When the transcription factor was activated, rodents exhibited depressive-like symptoms, suggesting GATA1 plays a role not only in the loss of connections between neurons but also in symptoms of depression.

Duman theorizes that genetic variations in GATA1 may one day help identify people at high risk for major depression or sensitivity to stress.

“We hope that by enhancing synaptic connections, either with novel medications or behavioral therapy, we can develop more effective antidepressant therapies,” Duman said.

###

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Other Yale authors of the paper are Bhavya Voleti, Pawel Licznerski, Ashley Lepack, and Mounira Banasr

Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan, offers a scathing critique of the mental-health establishment and pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of incorrectly classifying millions as mentally ill out of self-interest and greed.

SPIEGEL Interview with Jerome Kagan 2 AUG 2012

Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan is one of the world’s leading experts in child development. In a SPIEGEL interview, he offers a scathing critique of the mental-health establishment and pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of incorrectly classifying millions as mentally ill out of self-interest and greed.

Jerome Kagan can look back on a brilliant career as a researcher in psychology. Still, when he contemplates his field today, he is overcome with melancholy and unease. He compares it with a wonderful antique wooden chest: Once, as a student, he had taken it upon himself to restore the chest with his colleagues.

He took one of its drawers home himself and spent his entire professional life whittling, shaping and sanding it. Finally, he wanted to return the drawer to the chest, only to realize that the piece of furniture had rotted in the meantime.

If anyone has the professional expertise and moral authority to compare psychology to a rotten piece of furniture, it is Kagan. A ranking of the 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century published by a group of US academics in 2002 put Kagan in 22nd place, even above Carl Jung (23rd), the founder of analytical psychology, and Ivan Pavlov (24th), who discovered the reflex bearing his name.

Kagan has been studying developmental psychology at Harvard University for his entire professional career. He has spent decades observing how babies and small children grow, measuring them, testing their reactions and, later, once they’ve learned to speak, questioning them over and over again. For him, the major questions are: How does personality emerge? What traits are we born with, and which ones develop over time? What determines whether someone will be happy or mentally ill over the course of his or her life?

In his research, Kagan has determined that how we are shaped in our early childhood is not as irreversible as has long been assumed. He says that even children who suffer from massive privations in the first months of life can develop normally as long as they are later raised in a more favorable environment. Likewise, he has studied how people become human in a certain programmatic way in the second year of life: Their vocabulary suddenly grows in leaps and bounds, and they develop a sense of empathy, a moral sensibility and an awareness of the self.

But Kagan’s most significant contribution to developmental research has come through his examination of innate temperaments. As early as four months old, he has found, some 20 percent of all babies already have skittish reactions to new situations, objects and individuals. He calls these babies “high reactives” and says they tend to develop into anxious children and adults. Forty percent of babies, or what he calls the “low reactives,” behave in the opposite manner: They are relaxed, easy to care for and curious. In later life, they are also not so easily ruffled.

Kagan could have reacted to his finding in a “low-reactive” way by kicking back and letting subsequent generations of researchers marvel at his findings. Instead, he has attacked his own profession in his recently published book “Psychology’s Ghost: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back.” In it, he warns that this crisis has had disastrous consequences for millions of people who have been incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from mental illness.


SPIEGEL: Professor Kagan, you’ve been studying the development of children for more than 50 years. During this period, has their mental health gotten better or worse?

Kagan: Let’s say it has changed. Particularly in poorer families, among immigrants and minorities, mental health issues have increased. Objectively speaking, adolescents in these groups have more opportunities today than they did 50 years ago, but they are still anxious and frustrated because inequality in society has increased. The number of diagnosed cases of attention-deficit disorders and depression has increased among the poor…

SPIEGEL: … you could also say skyrocketed. In the 1960s, mental disorders were virtually unknown among children. Today, official sources claim that one child in eight in the United States is mentally ill.

Kagan: That’s true, but it is primarily due to fuzzy diagnostic practices. Let’s go back 50 years. We have a 7-year-old child who is bored in school and disrupts classes. Back then, he was called lazy. Today, he is said to suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). That’s why the numbers have soared.

SPIEGEL: Experts speak of 5.4 million American children who display the symptoms typical of ADHD. Are you saying that this mental disorder is just an invention?

Kagan: That’s correct; it is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.

SPIEGEL: So the alleged health crisis among children is actually nothing but a bugaboo?

Kagan: We could get philosophical and ask ourselves: “What does mental illness mean?” If you do interviews with children and adolescents aged 12 to 19, then 40 percent can be categorized as anxious or depressed. But if you take a closer look and ask how many of them are seriously impaired by this, the number shrinks to 8 percent. Describing every child who is depressed or anxious as being mentally ill is ridiculous. Adolescents are anxious, that’s normal. They don’t know what college to go to. Their boyfriend or girlfriend just stood them up. Being sad or anxious is just as much a part of life as anger or sexual frustration.

SPIEGEL: What does it mean if millions of American children are wrongly being declared mentally ill?

Kagan: Well, most of all, it means more money for the pharmaceutical industry and more money for psychiatrists and people doing research.

SPIEGEL: And what does it mean for the children concerned?

Kagan: For them, it is a sign that something is wrong with them — and that can be debilitating. I’m not the only psychologist to say this. But we’re up against an enormously powerful alliance: pharmaceutical companies that are making billions, and a profession that is self-interested.

SPIEGEL: You once wrote that you yourself often suffered from inner restlessness as a child. If you were born again in the present era, would you belong to the 13 percent of all children who are said to be mentally ill?

Kagan: Probably. When I was five, I started stuttering. But my mother said: “There’s nothing wrong with you. Your mind is working faster than your tongue.” And I thought: “Gee, that’s great, I’m only stuttering because I’m so smart.”

SPIEGEL: In addition to ADHD, a second epidemic is rampant among children: depression. In 1987, one in 400 American adolescents was treated with anti-depressants; by 2002, it was already one on 40. Starting at what age is it possible to speak of depression in children?

Kagan: That’s not an easy question to answer. In adults, depression either implies a serious loss, a sense of guilt or a feeling that you are unable to achieve a goal that you really wanted to reach. Infants are obviously not yet capable of these emotions. But, after the age of three or four, a child can develop something like a feeling of guilt, and if it loses its mother at that age, it will be sad for a while. So, from then on, mild depression can occur. But the feeling of not being able to achieve a vital goal in life and seeing no alternative only starts becoming important from puberty on. And that is also the age at which the incidence of depression increases dramatically.

SPIEGEL: The fact is that younger children are also increasingly being treated with antidepressants.

Kagan: Yes, simply because the pills are available.

SPIEGEL: So would you completely abolish the diagnosis of depression among children?

Kagan: No, I wouldn’t go as far as that. But if a mother sees a doctor with her young daughter and says the girl used to be much more cheerful, the doctor should first of all find out what the problem is. He should see the girl on her own, perhaps carry out a few tests before prescribing drugs (and) certainly order an EEG. From studies, we know that people with greater activity in the right frontal lobe respond poorly to antidepressants.

Part 2: ‘Psychiatrists Should Ask What the Causes Are’

SPIEGEL: Should one just wait to see whether depression will go away by itself?

Kagan: That depends on the circumstances. Take my own case: About 35 years ago, I was working on a book summarizing a major research project. I wanted to say something truly important, but I wasn’t being very successful. So I went into a textbook-type depression. I was unable to sleep, and I met all the other clinical criteria, too. But I knew what the cause was, so I didn’t see a psychiatrist. And what do you know? Six months later, the depression had gone.

SPIEGEL: In a case like that, does it even make sense to speak of mental illness?

Kagan: Psychiatrists would say I was mentally ill. But what had happened? I had set myself a standard that was too high and failed to meet that standard. So I did what most people would do in this situation: I went into a depression for a while. Most depressions like that blow over. But there are also people with a genetic vulnerability to depression in whom the symptoms do not pass by themselves. These people are chronically depressed; they are mentally ill. So it is important to look not just at the symptoms, but also at the causes. Psychiatry is the only medical profession in which the illnesses are only based on symptoms …

SPIEGEL: … and it seems to discover more and more new disorders in the process. Bipolar disorders, for example, virtually never used to occur among children. Today, almost a million Americans under the age of 19 are said to suffer from it.

Kagan: We seem to have passed the cusp of that wave. A group of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital just started calling kids who had temper tantrums bipolar. They shouldn’t have done that. But the drug companies loved it because drugs against bipolar disorders are expensive. That’s how the trend was started. It’s a little like in the 15th century, when people started thinking someone could be possessed by the devil or hexed by a witch.

SPIEGEL: Are you comparing modern psychiatry to fighting witches’ hexes in the Middle Ages?

Kagan: Doctors are making mistakes all the time — despite their best intentions. They are not evil; they are fallible. Take Egas Moniz, who cut the frontal lobes of schizophrenics because he thought that would cure them …

SPIEGEL: … and received a Nobel Prize for it in 1949.

Kagan: Yes, indeed. Within a few years, thousands of schizophrenics had their frontal lobes cut — until it turned out that it was a terrible mistake. If you think of all the people who had their frontal lobes cut, being called bipolar is comparatively harmless.

SPIEGEL: It’s not entirely harmless either, though. After all, children with this diagnosis are being subjected to a systematic change in their brain chemistry through psychoactive substances.

Kagan: I share your unhappiness. But that is the history of humanity: Those in authority believe they’re doing the right thing, and they harm those who have no power.

SPIEGEL: That sounds very cynical. Are there any alternatives to giving psychoactive drugs to children with behavioral abnormalities?

Kagan: Certainly. Tutoring, for example. Who’s being diagnosed with ADHD? Children who aren’t doing well in school. It never happens to children who are doing well in school. So what about tutoring instead of pills?

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that mental illnesses are simply an invention of the pharmaceutical industry.

Kagan: No, that would be a crazy assertion. Of course there are people who suffer from schizophrenia, who hear their great-grandfather’s voice, for example, or who believe the Russians are shooting laser beams into their eyes. These are mentally ill people who need help. A person who buys two cars in a single day and the next day is unable to get out of bed has a bipolar disorder. And someone who cannot eat a bite in a restaurant because strangers could be watching them has a social phobia. There are people who, either for prenatal or inherited reasons, have serious vulnerabilities in their central nervous system that predispose them to schizophrenia, bipolar disease, social anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders. We should distinguish these people from all the others who are anxious or depressed because of poverty, rejection, loss or failure. The symptoms may look similar, but the causes are completely different.

SPIEGEL: But how are you going to distinguish between them in a concrete case?

Kagan: Psychiatrists should begin to make diagnoses the way other doctors do: They should ask what the causes are.

SPIEGEL: The problems you describe are not new. Why do you believe psychiatry is in a crisis at this specific time?

Kagan: It’s a matter of the degree. Epidemiological studies are saying that one person in four is mentally ill. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta recently announced that one in 88 American children has autism. That’s absurd. It means that psychiatrists are calling any child who is socially awkward autistic. If you claim that anyone who can’t walk a mile in 10 minutes has a serious locomotor disability, then you will trigger an epidemic of serious locomotor disabilities among older people. It may sound funny, but that’s exactly what’s going on in psychiatry today.

SPIEGEL: Do you sometimes feel ashamed of belonging to a profession that you think wrongly declares large parts of society to be mentally ill?

Kagan: I feel sad, not ashamed … but maybe a little ashamed, too.

SPIEGEL: Over 60 years ago, when you decided to become a psychologist, you wanted “to improve social conditions so that fewer people might experience the shame of school failure … and the psychic pain of depression,” as you once put it. How far did you get?

Kagan: Not very far, unfortunately, because I had the wrong idea. I thought family circumstances were crucial to being successful in life. I thought that, if we could help parents do a better job, we could solve all these problems. That’s why I chose to be a child psychologist. I didn’t recognize the bigger forces: culture, social standing, but also neurobiology. I really thought that everything was decided in the family, and that biology was irrelevant.

SPIEGEL: Over time, you’ve come to realize that the bond between a mother and her child is not so important after all.

Kagan: That’s right, though one must remember that the mother’s role was not emphasized until quite recently. Sixteenth-century commentators even wrote that mothers were not suited to looking after children: too emotional, overprotective. But when the bourgeoisie increased in the 19th century, women didn’t have to go out and work anymore. They had a lot of time on their hands. So society gave them an assignment and said: “You are now the sculptress of this child.” At the same time, middle-class children didn’t have to contribute to their family the way peasants’ children did. They were not needed and therefore ran the risk of feeling worthless. But when a child doesn’t feel needed, it needs another sign. So love suddenly became important. And who gives love? Women. Eventually, John Bowlby came along and romanticized maternal attachment.

SPIEGEL: Bowlby, the British psychiatrist, was one of the fathers of attachment theory. Do you consider his hypotheses to be wrong?

Kagan: People wanted simple answers, and they longed for a gentler conception of humanity, especially after the horrors of World War II. This fit the idea that only children who are able to trust their mothers from birth are able to lead a happy life.

SPIEGEL: Anxieties over whether raising children in day care centers could harm them persist to this day.

Kagan: Unfortunately, even though we already disproved this in the 1970s. Nixon was president at the time, and Congress was toying with the idea of national day care centers. Along with two colleagues, I got a big grant to study the effect of day care on a group of infants. The children in the control group were looked after at home by their mothers. At the end of 30 months, we found that there was no difference between the two groups. Nonetheless, to this day, 40 years later, people are still claiming that day care centers are bad for children. In 2012.

SPIEGEL: Professor Kagan, we thank you for this conversation.

Interview conducted by Johann Grolle and Samiha Shafy