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Gut communicates with the entire brain through cross-talking neurons

Gut communicates with the entire brain through cross-talking neurons

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Credit: University of Illinois.

URBANA, Ill. – You know that feeling in your gut? We think of it as an innate intuition that sparks deep in the belly and helps guide our actions, if we let it. It’s also a metaphor for what scientists call the “gut-brain axis,” a biological reality in which the gut and its microbial inhabitants send signals to the brain, and vice versa.

It’s not a surprise that the brain responds to signals in the gut, initiating motor functions involved with digestion. Directed by the brainstem, these types of basic biological actions are largely automatic. But what if the higher brain – the thinking, emotional centers – were influenced by signals in the gut, too? New University of Illinois research in rats shows the entire brain responds to the gut, specifically the small intestine, through neuronal connections.

To map the connections, researchers inserted neuron-loving viruses in the rats’ small intestines and traced the viruses as they moved from neuron to neuron along the Vagus and spinal nerves and throughout the brain. The idea was virus movement mimicked the movement of normal signals through neurons from the gut to the brain and back.

“We saw a lot of connections in the brainstem and hindbrain regions. We knew these regions are involved in sensing and controlling the organs of the body, so there weren’t any big surprises there. But things got more interesting as the viruses moved farther up into parts of the brain that are usually considered emotional centers or learning centers, cognitive places. They have all these multifaceted functions. So thinking about how information from the small intestine might be nudging those processes a little bit is really cool,” says Coltan Parker, doctoral student in the Neuroscience Program at Illinois and lead author on a study published in Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical.

The study represents the first complete map of neuronal connections between the small intestine – what Parker and his co-authors call an “underloved” part of the digestive system – and the entire brain. The involvement of cognitive and emotional centers hints at how the thinking brain sometimes overrides our feeling of being full, provides fodder to explore relationships between depression and digestive troubles, and more.

“Now we’re actually finding the neuro-anatomy that might be involved in that ‘feeling in your gut,'” says Megan Dailey, study co-author and program administrator in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at Illinois.

In addition to showing just how extensive the connections are between the small intestine and the brain, the study uncovered a rarely documented feature of the neurons themselves.

Scientists have long assumed sensations from the gut, or anywhere in the body, traveled to the brain along one set of neurons (the sensory neurons), with instructions from the brain traveling back along a separate set of neurons (the motor neurons). But in their mapping study, Illinois researchers discovered some of the neurons – about half – were transmitting both sensory and motor signals.

They were capable of cross-talk within the same neuron.

“From the cortex to the brainstem, in pretty much every region we investigated, there was that 50% overlap of sensory-motor signals. It was throughout the brain, consistently,” says study co-author Elizabeth Davis. Davis is a 2018 graduate of the Illinois Neuroscience Program and is currently studying as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Southern California.

The same pattern – 50% of neurons having both sensory and motor signaling capabilities – had only been shown one other time, in a study mapping neuronal connections between fat tissue and the brain. The researchers point out new evidence of the same crosstalk pattern could suggest a general architecture of neuronal networks between the body and brain.

“This study shows that sensorimotor feedback loops are abundant across all levels of the brain. Up until now, it has really been unknown how information in the small intestine, about nutrients or anything else, can get up to the brain and affect cognitive-emotional processes, and then how those processes can come back down and affect the gut,” Parker says. “With more research, we may finally begin to understand how hunger makes us ‘hangry,’ or how a stressful day becomes an irritable bowel.”

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The article, “Central sensory-motor crosstalk in the neural gut-brain axis,” is published in Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical [DOI: 10.1016/j.autneu.2020.102656]. Co-authors include Coltan G. Parker, Megan J. Dailey, Heidi Phillips, and Elizabeth A. Davis. The research was supported by USDA NIFA and NIH Center for Neuroanatomy with Neurotropic Viruses. The work was completed within the Department of Animal Sciences in the College of ACES at Illinois.

Media Contact
Lauren Quinn
ldquinn@illinois.edu

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https://aces.illinois.edu/news/gut-communicates-entire-brain-through-cross-talking-neurons

Related Journal Article

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.autneu.2020.102656

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Government

Weekly investment update – The soft underbelly of hard inflation data

Warnings by the US and Chinese authorities have underscored the dilemma of conflicting inflation and growth data, with energy and tight labour markets…

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Warnings by the US and Chinese authorities have underscored the dilemma of conflicting inflation and growth data, with energy and tight labour markets pushing up producer and consumer prices amid creeping signs of softening growth. This has put global monetary policy, and markets in risky assets, in a bind.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for the seventh consecutive week last week, while the benchmark US Treasury 10-year yield hovered around 3.0% (almost double the 1.6% of a year ago). Commodity prices came under selling pressure as risk aversion among investors mounted. Safe-haven flows pushed up the US dollar, driving its trade-weighted index to near two-decade highs (see Exhibit 1).

Policy warnings…

China fanned market worries early last week, with Premier Li Keqiang warning that the domestic jobs situation was getting ‘complicated and grave’. The country’s zero-Covid policy is taking a heavy toll on the local economy with negative spillover effects globally. While Shanghai’s lockdown may be wound down soon, other major cities (including Beijing) are facing renewed restrictions.

US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell issued a warning mid-week: The Fed could not guarantee a ‘soft landing’ as it looked to get runaway inflation back to its 2% target amid a tight US labour market. The US Senate nonetheless overwhelmingly confirmed Powell for a second term, signalling monetary policy continuity.

Earlier in the week, former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke warned about the risk of stagflation in an interview with The New York Times.

Aggravated by hard inflation data…

US consumer price inflation was 8.3% YoY in April, down slightly from 8.5% in March. However, core inflation (which excludes food and energy prices), rose on the month from 0.3% to 0.6%, a level still too high for the Fed’s comfort.

Services inflation was particularly strong, rising by 0.7% MoM in April, marking the biggest monthly gain since August 1990. Underscoring continued robust consumer demand, retail sales rose by 0.9% vs the prior month, though this marks the third month in a row that the growth rate has decelerated. 

The prospects for inflation to fall back to the Fed’s 2% target anytime soon may not be good: High wage growth – hourly earnings rose at around 5% YoY – could continue to fuel inflation in the near term. We note that services inflation tends to be much stickier than other index components.

From the Fed’s perspective, these price pressures could in turn drive inflation expectations higher.

The market perceives the latest inflation report as sealing a 50bp rate rise at the June and July meetings of Fed policymakers. It also boosts the chances of the Fed persisting in its aggressive tightening stance at later meetings. A key question is the extent to which – and when – higher interest rates will hit real incomes and crimp demand growth, slowing the economy overall. 

The high services inflation data also suggests labour market tightness would have to ease significantly to bring wage growth back to levels that are acceptable to the Fed. We believe something will have to give. If not, the Fed may have to tap harder on the brakes down the line.

The ECB continues to move closer towards a hawkish policy, with the market now expecting its asset purchasing programme (APP) to end in July, to be followed by a 25bp rate rise soon after. Underpinning the ECB’s policy tightening stance is strong inflation, which rose by 7.4% YoY in April (same as in March), and falling unemployment (the jobless rate hit a record low of 6.8% in March).

The war in Ukraine has added to the upside risks to inflation via food and energy price increases and supply bottlenecks. In addition to higher inflation, the ECB also appears to be concerned about the spillover effects from wage increases. An increasing number of policymakers has spoken out recently in favour of an initial rate rise as soon as July.

And creeping signs of slower growth

Indications of weakening growth momentum have appeared, most noticeably in the UK where GDP growth contracted unexpectedly by 0.1% MoM in March.

In the eurozone, industrial production shrank by 1.8% MoM in March and manufacturing output was down by 1.6%. The main culprit was disruption caused by the war in Ukraine. The weakness was concentrated in Germany, whose supply chains are more integrated with eastern Europe. Its car sector is missing components produced in Ukraine.

Even in the US, recent data showed signs of slowing growth. Jobless claims filings showed an increase in initial claims; the May Senior Loan Officer Opinion survey recorded a drop in demand for mortgages; the University of Michigan consumer sentiment May index hit its lowest level since the start of the pandemic; and the May Empire State Manufacturing survey plunged.

China also released weak data, with industrial output, fixed-asset investment and retail sales all showing year-on-year declines. The property market’s woes deepened, with new home sales and starts falling precipitously.

Investment implications

Mr. Bernanke’s warning of stagflation underscores the dilemma facing policymakers and financial markets: Inflation and growth data are sending conflicting signals. Parts of the US yield curve are inverted, pointing to some risk of an economic recession.

The slowdown concerns are linked to inflation forcing the Fed to tighten policy into restrictive territory and turning weaker growth into a contraction.

The situation is similar in the eurozone: inflation is at its highest ever and could lead the ECB to take stronger measures, exacerbating headwinds from weak Chinese activity and a Russia-induced energy supply shock.

Against the backdrop of the continuing Ukrainian conflict and prolonged supply-chain disruptions, we do not favour sovereign bonds and European equities at this point. We prefer commodities, Japanese and emerging market equities, including Chinese stocks.


Disclaimer

Please note that articles may contain technical language. For this reason, they may not be suitable for readers without professional investment experience.

Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. The views expressed in this podcast do not in any way constitute investment advice.

The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns.

Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions). Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

Writen by Chi Lo. The post Weekly investment update – The soft underbelly of hard inflation data appeared first on Investors' Corner - The official blog of BNP Paribas Asset Management, the sustainable investor for a changing world.

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Spread & Containment

Diesel Costs Deliver Body Blow To Trucking Industry, Impacting Broader Economy

Diesel Costs Deliver Body Blow To Trucking Industry, Impacting Broader Economy

By Noi Mahoney of Freightwaves

With diesel prices remaining…

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Diesel Costs Deliver Body Blow To Trucking Industry, Impacting Broader Economy

By Noi Mahoney of Freightwaves

With diesel prices remaining elevated — forcing significant costs onto shippers and trucking companies — the impact of fuel costs on inflation could put a dent in consumer spending, according to experts.

Diesel pump prices averaged $5.61 a gallon nationwide, 51% higher than diesel prices across the country in January

Economist Anirban Basu said the elevated price of diesel fuel damages the near-term U.S. economic outlook and “renders the chance of recession in 2023 much greater.”

“These high diesel prices mean that despite the Federal Reserve’s early stage efforts to curb inflationary pressures, for now, inflationary pressures will run rampant through the economy,” Basu, CEO of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group, told FreightWaves. 

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve announced a half-percentage-point increase in interest rates, the largest hike in over two decades. The U.S. inflation rate is at 8.3%, near 40-year highs.

Basu said consumer spending remains strong, even with elevated diesel prices, but that could change as shippers and trucking companies eventually must pass higher fuel costs on to the public. 

“One of the things we’ve been seeing in the U.S., particularly on the East Coast, is that diesel fuel inventories have been shrinking, which suggests that despite all this inflationary pressure, there’s still a lot of consumer activity, still lots of trucks on the road and the supply is unable to keep up with demand,” Basu said. “The higher price of diesel fuel will become embedded in the cost of everything consumers purchase.” 

Prices of fresh produce rising

Jordan DeWart, a managing director at RedWood Mexico, based in Laredo, Texas, said the types of consumer goods that could be immediately affected by higher diesel prices include fresh produce. Redwood Mexico is part of Chicago-based Redwood Logistics.

“With produce, that’s typically more in the spot rate business, and any of those smaller trucking companies are going to be heavily impacted by fuel costs,” DeWart said.

The U.S. imported more than $15 billion in fresh produce from Mexico in 2021, including avocados, tomatoes, grapes, bell peppers and strawberries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Everything coming northbound from Mexico through Laredo, the rates have been very sustained, but fuel prices keep going up, presumably with any differences being absorbed by the trucking companies in the spot market,” DeWart said. “When we talk to asset-based truckers, especially the smaller companies, they’re really feeling the pinch.”

It’s not only cross-border operators feeling the pinch. Growers and shippers in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley are also suffering because of increased fuel costs, said Dante Galeazzi, president of the Texas International Produce Association (TIPA).

“Our growers, shippers, importers, distributors … basically our entire supply chain has been and continues to be impacted by rising fuel costs,” Galeazzi told FreightWaves. “Between one-third to one-half of the costs for fresh produce is the logistics; you can see how quickly increases in that expense category can impact the base price.”

The Rio Grande Valley is the epicenter of the Lone Star State’s fresh produce industry, stretching across the southeastern tip of Texas along the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 35 types of fruits and vegetables are grown in the valley, which contributes more than $1 billion to the state economy annually.

“More concerning is that this wave of fuel increases is in line with the statistic that our industry is paying anywhere from 70% to 150% more year-over-year for OTR shipping,” Galeazzi said. 

TIPA, which is based in Mission, Texas, represents growers, domestic shippers, import shippers, specialty shippers, distributors and material and service providers. 

Right now, Rio Grande Valley growers and shippers are absorbing higher input costs instead of passing them on to consumers, but that could soon change, Galeazzi said.

“While the fresh fruit and vegetable industry continues to experience rising input costs across the board (seed, agrochemicals, labor, fuel, packaging, etc.), we have yet to experience sufficient upstream returns associated with those expense increases,” Galeazzi said. “Our industry is citing an 18% to 22% anecdotal increase to overhead costs. Meanwhile food inflation for fresh produce is hovering around 7%. That means the costs are slowly being felt by consumers, but it’s not yet at a commensurate level with input expenses.”

Diesel fuel prices at all time highs

The cost of diesel continues to soar across the country. Diesel pump prices averaged $5.61 a gallon nationwide, according to weekly data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). That’s 51% higher than diesel prices nationwide in January. 

California averaged the highest fuel prices across the U.S., at $6 per gallon of gas and $6.56 per gallon for diesel, according to AAA. Diesel prices are also at an all-time high of $6.41 in New York.

The higher prices of diesel fuel and gasoline are being caused by a combination of factors, including surging demand and reduced refining capacity, along with the disruption to global markets caused by COVID-19, the current lockdown in China and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, said Rory Johnston, a managing director at Toronto-based research firm Price Street.

“The overarching oil market is feeling much tighter because of the Russian-Ukraine situation,” Johnston, also writer of the newsletter Commodity Context, told FreightWaves. “What we’ve seen is a larger immediate impact from the loss of Russian refined products; in addition to exporting millions and millions of barrels a day of crude oil, Russia also exported a lot of refined products, most notably middle distillates, like gasoline or diesel.”

Several refineries on the East Coast — including facilities in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada — scaled back during the early days of the pandemic, which has hurt diesel capacity, Johnston said.

“There was also a refinery in Philadelphia that exploded just prior to the COVID-19 period starting,” Johnston said. “There’s not enough refining capacity on the global level, and particularly in the West right now and particularly in the northeastern U.S.”

He said he doesn’t foresee any relief from increasing diesel prices over the next few months or more.

“Things are going to be really tight for at least the next year, barring any kind of economic recession and some kind of demand slowdown materially,” Johnston said. 

DeWart said trucking companies that don’t have a fuel surcharge component or contract in place and are depending on spot rates could be in big trouble over the next several months as diesel prices either keep rising or stay higher than average. 

“Their fuel costs keep going up, but they’re really not able to negotiate higher rates right now with a really tight spot market,” DeWart said. “It’s really impacting small trucking companies, anyone that decided to kind of play the spot market, rather than being locked in contracted rates. They’re really feeling the pain right now.”

DeWart said for trucking companies, it’s critical to get some type of fuel reimbursement program in place “just to protect themselves in case the cost of fuel goes even higher.”

Tyler Durden Wed, 05/18/2022 - 19:25

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Economics

What Is the VIX Volatility Index? Why Is It Important?

What Is the VIX and How Does It Measure Volatility?In finance, the term VIX is short for the Chicago Board of Exchange’s Volatility Index. This index…

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The VIX strives to predict market volatility through the lens of options trades.

Wavebreakmedia from Getty Images; Canva

What Is the VIX and How Does It Measure Volatility?

In finance, the term VIX is short for the Chicago Board of Exchange’s Volatility Index. This index measures S&P 500 index options and is used as an overall benchmark for volatility in the stock market. The higher the index level, the choppier the trading environment, which makes its other nickname pretty apt: the fear index.

It’s important to point out that the VIX measures implied, or theoretical, volatility. It measures the expectation of future volatility based on a snapshot of the previous 30 days’ worth of trading activity.

What Do the VIX Numbers Mean?

  • A VIX level above 20 is typically considered “high.”
  • A VIX below 12 is typically considered “low.”
  • Anything in between 12 and 20 is considered “normal.”

When there is increased activity on put options, which means that investors are selling more puts, the VIX registers a high number. Investing in a put option is like betting that the price of a stock will go down before the put contract expires because puts give investors the right to sell shares of a stock on a specific date at a specific price.

These are bearish investments, ones that can take advantage of emotions like fear. There is a saying on Wall Street that does “When the VIX is high, it’s time to buy” because the general belief is that volatility may have reached a peak, or a turning point.

When the VIX falls, that means that investors are buying more call options. Investing in a call is like betting that the price of a stock will go up before the call contract expires. In other words, a falling reading on the VIX indicates that the overall sentiment in the stock market is more optimistic, or bullish.Although the VIX isn't expressed as a percentage, it should be understood as one. A VIX of 22 translates to implied volatility of 22% on the SPX. This means that the index has a 66.7% probability (that being one standard deviation, statistically speaking) of trading within a range 22% higher than—or lower than—its current level within the next 12 months.

How Is the VIX Calculated? What Is the VIX Formula?

In a nutshell, the VIX is calculated by the Chicago Board of Options Exchange using market prices of S&P 500 put and call options with an average expiration of 30 days. It uses standard weekly SPX options and those with Friday expirations, but unlike the S&P 500 index, which contains specific stocks, the VIX is made up of a constantly changing portfolio of SPX options. The Chicago Board of Options website goes into more detail about its methodology and selection criteria.

How Do I Interpret the VIX?

There are many ways to interpret the VIX, but it’s important to note that it’s a theoretical measure and not a crystal ball. Even the sentiment it tracks, fear, is not itself measured by hard data, such as the latest Consumer Price Index. Rather, the VIX uses options prices to estimate how the market will act over a future timeframe.

It's also important to understand how much emotion can drive the stock market. For example, during earnings season, a company’s stock may report solid growth yet see shares plummet, because the company did not meet analyst expectations. So much of what goes on in the market can be summed up by feelings, like greed, as investors spot appreciation potential and place buy orders, which drive prices higher overall. Fear is evidenced when investors try to protect their investments by selling their shares, driving prices lower.

At its worst, fear-driven selling can send the market into a tailspin and lead to emotions like panic, which can result in capitulation.

But the VIX is not designed to cause panic. It is simply a gauge of volatility. In fact, some investors, especially traders, view the increased turbulence as a signal to buy, so that they make a profit either through speculation or hedging and thus capitalize on the situation.

Can the VIX Go Above 100?

Theoretically speaking, the VIX can top 100, although it has never reached that point since data collection began in 1990.

The two highest points the VIX has ever reached were the following:

  1. On October 24, 2008, at the height of the Financial Crisis, which stemmed from the global implosion of mortgage-backed securities, the VIX reached 89.53.
  2. On March 16, 2020, during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the VIX recorded a high of 82.69.

Analysts also believe that had data collection begun in the 1980s, the VIX would have topped 100 during the Black Stock Market Crash, on Monday, October 19, 1987.

This chart from FRED, the Federal Reserve’s data center, details the VIX from 1990 to 2022. Shaded areas illustrate periods of recession:

Chicago Board Options Exchange, CBOE Volatility Index: VIX [VIXCLS]

FRED

How Do I Trade the VIX? Can You Buy Options on the VIX?

Investors can’t invest directly in the VIX, but they can invest in derivatives that track the VIX, such as VIX-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs), such as ProShares VIX Mid-Term Futures ETF (VIXM), and exchange-traded notes, like the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (VXX) and the iPath Series B S&P 500 VIX Mid-Term Futures ETN (VXZ).

What Is the VIX at Today?

To view the VIX’s current reading, visit the webpage maintained by the Chicago Board of Options Exchange; it is updated daily.

What Are the VIX’s Current Volatility Predictions?

The stock market has been in choppy waters for most of 2022. Tech stocks, the Nasdaq, and stocks with high P/E ratios have taken a beating as investors worry about continued inflation, the Russia/Ukraine war’s effect on energy prices, the aggressive pace of interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, and China’s extreme “zero-COVID” policies. All of these things are causing the storm clouds to gather around the possibility of recession.

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