Psych Central News Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday.2016-02-07T14:07:28Z http://psychcentral.com/news/feed/atom Janice Wood <![CDATA[Lack of Sleep Tied to Compulsively Checking Facebook]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98720 2016-02-07T14:07:28Z 2016-02-07T14:00:58Z Lack of Sleep Tied to Compulsively Checking FacebookNew research shows that a lack of sleep leads to more frequent online activity, such as incessantly checking Facebook. “When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” said […]]]> Lack of Sleep Tied to Compulsively Checking Facebook

New research shows that a lack of sleep leads to more frequent online activity, such as incessantly checking Facebook.

“When you get less sleep, you’re more prone to distraction,” said lead researcher Gloria Mark, an informatics professor at the University of California Irvine (UCI). “If you’re being distracted, what do you do? You go to Facebook. It’s lightweight, it’s easy, and you’re tired.”

While there have been lots of studies on how human-computer interaction affects sleep, the UCI researchers say they did the opposite.

“We looked at how sleep duration influences IT usage,” said Mark.

She and her colleagues collected data from 76 UCI undergraduates — 34 males and 42 females — for seven days during the spring 2014 quarter. The study controlled for students’ gender, age, course load, and deadlines and relied on sensors to objectively gauge their behavior, activities, and stress levels, the researcher explained.

Students’ computers and smartphones were equipped with logging software, and time stamps recorded when they switched from one application window to another and when they spoke on the phone or texted. The students also were asked to fill out a sleep survey each morning and an end-of-day survey at night.

They also filled out a general questionnaire and sat for an exit interview. Periodically throughout the week, they received probing questions from researchers regarding their mood, the perceived difficulty of whatever task was at hand, and their level of engagement in their work.

Central to the study was a concept known as “sleep debt,” the accumulated difference between the amount of sleep needed and the amount experienced, the researchers noted.

Mark said the study’s findings show a direct connection among chronic lack of sleep, worsening mood, and greater reliance on Facebook browsing.

She also found that the less sleep people have, the more frequently their attention shifts among different computer screens, suggesting heightened distractibility.

Source: University of California, Irvine
 
PHOTO: Gloria Mark, a UCI informatics professor,. Credit: Steve Zylius / UCI .

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Meditation Shown to Ease Chronic Pain in Veterans]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98744 2016-02-07T13:18:58Z 2016-02-07T13:15:49Z Meditation Shown to Ease Chronic Pain in VeteransThe practice of meditation may help veterans reduce chronic physical pain, according to a new pilot study conducted at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The findings show that […]]]> Meditation Shown to Ease Chronic Pain in Veterans

The practice of meditation may help veterans reduce chronic physical pain, according to a new pilot study conducted at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The findings show that meditation helps an individual accept and respond to pain with less stress and negative emotion, which significantly increases coping skills.

Many veterans return home with multiple types of trauma and suffer from one of the highest rates of chronic pain of any population in the United States. Musculoskeletal pain conditions are the most frequently diagnosed medical issue among U.S. veterans, exceeding any other medical and psychological concern.

Chronic pain is also found in most combat veterans who sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

A major challenge for health care providers is helping veterans safely alleviate long-term pain. Opioid medications, which are often given to individuals in severe pain, have been found to carry very negative side effects when taken long-term. Alternative practices, such as meditation, may be a light at the end of the tunnel for many patients in chronic pain.

The new findings show that veterans who practiced meditation reported a 20 percent reduction in pain intensity (how bad pain hurts) as well as pain interference (how pain interferes with everyday aspects of life, such as sleep, mood, work). The reductions were consistent across several methods by which doctors commonly measure pain in patients.

“Meditation allows a person to accept pain and to respond to pain with less stress and emotional reactivity. Our theory is that this process increases coping skills, which in turn can help veterans to self-manage their chronic pain,” said Thomas Nassif, Ph.D., lecturer in American University’s Department of Health Studies and researcher at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The form of mindfulness meditation used in the study, Integrative Restoration Yoga Nidra, or iRest, is used at Veterans Health Administration medical centers and active-duty military facilities nationwide. The Army surgeon general’s Pain Management Task Force has cited iRest as a Tier I intervention for managing pain in military and veteran populations.

The pilot study involved a total of nine male veterans, four who received iRest meditation treatment, and five who did not. All study participants served in combat and returned to the U.S. with chronic pain and moderate TBI.

The veterans attended meditation sessions twice weekly at the D.C. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and were given iRest recordings to engage in self-practice as well. By the end of eight weeks, the study participants had acquired useful mindfulness skills that empowered them to use meditation as a tool to help manage their pain, Nassif said.

“In many cases, primary care physicians are the ones expected to help individuals overcome their chronic pain,” Nassif said. “One of the most commonly used tools we have in our toolbox is opioids. Veterans in this study, and many who come to meditation sessions, find that opioid medication is a short-term solution. Meditation could be a useful tool to help veterans manage their pain over the long term.”

The findings are published in the journal Military Behavioral Health.

Source: American University

 

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Janice Wood <![CDATA[Study Shows How Mindfulness Meditation Can Improve Health]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98722 2016-02-07T12:36:59Z 2016-02-07T12:30:28Z Study Shows How Mindfulness Meditation Can Improve HealthNew research shows that mindfulness meditation training reduces interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed adults. The biological health-related benefits occur because mindfulness meditation training alters brain network functional […]]]> Study Shows How Mindfulness Meditation Can Improve Health

New research shows that mindfulness meditation training reduces interleukin-6, an inflammatory health biomarker, in high-stress, unemployed adults.

The biological health-related benefits occur because mindfulness meditation training alters brain network functional connectivity patterns, according to the study, which was published in Biological Psychiatry.

“We’ve now seen that mindfulness meditation training can reduce inflammatory biomarkers in several initial studies, and this new work sheds light into what mindfulness training is doing to the brain to produce these inflammatory health benefits,” said Dr. David Creswell, lead author and associate professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon University.

For the study, 35 job-seeking, stressed adults were exposed to either an intensive three-day mindfulness meditation retreat program or a well-matched relaxation retreat program that did not have a mindfulness component.

All participants completed a five-minute resting state brain scan before and after the three-day program. They also provided blood samples right before the intervention began and at a four-month follow-up.

The brain scans showed that mindfulness meditation training increased the functional connectivity of the participants’ resting default mode network in areas important to attention and executive control, namely the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, according to the researchers.

Participants who received the relaxation training did not show these brain changes.

Those who completed the mindfulness meditation program also had reduced IL-6 levels, the researchers said, noting the changes in brain functional connectivity coupling accounted for the lower inflammation levels.

“We think that these brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience, such that mindfulness meditation training improves your brain’s ability to help you manage stress, and these changes improve a broad range of stress-related health outcomes, such as your inflammatory health,” Creswell said.

Source: Carnegie Mellon University

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Janice Wood <![CDATA[Autistic Kids More Likely to Wander Away From Adults]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98716 2016-02-06T15:45:03Z 2016-02-06T14:45:45Z Autistic Kids More Likely to Wander Away From AdultsA new study suggests that more than one-quarter million school-age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disorders wander away from adult supervision each year. According to researchers […]]]> Autistic Kids More Likely to Wander Away From Adults

A new study suggests that more than one-quarter million school-age children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental disorders wander away from adult supervision each year.

According to researchers at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York (CCMC), more than 26 percent of children with special needs in the study had wandered away from a safe environment within the past 12 months.

Children are more likely to wander from public places, the researchers noted.

Children between the ages of six to 11 were more likely to wander than those ages 12 to 17, they added.

“Wandering has become a greater concern,” said Andrew Adesman, M.D., chief of developmental pediatrics at CCMC and senior investigator of the study. “Not only does it pose a significant risk to the safety and well-being of children with developmental disabilities, but fear of wandering can be a daily source of stress and anxiety for parents of affected children.”

“As the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the United States continues to rise, there is a need to better understand the behaviors that may compromise the safety and well-being of these children,” said Bridget Kiely, a research assistant in the division of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at CCMC and principal investigator in the study.

Using data from a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of parents and guardians of more than 4,000 children ages six to 17 with special health care needs, researchers divided the children into three groups: Those with ASD only; ASD with an Intellectual Disability (ID) and/or Developmental Delay (DD); and just ID and/or DD.

Researchers found that children with ASD (with or without associated cognitive delays) were more likely to wander off than children with cognitive impairment but no ASD.

Across all groups, wanderers were more likely to not realize when they are in danger, to have difficulty distinguishing between strangers and familiar people, to show sudden mood changes, to over-react to situations and people, to get angry quickly, and to panic in new situations or if change occurs, according to the study’s findings.

“The kids who are most likely to wander are the kids who are least likely to respond appropriately to police or rescue personnel — potentially further jeopardizing their safety,” said Adesman. “First responders need to recognize that children or young adults with an autism spectrum disorder may over-react to some well-intentioned interventions and may be unresponsive to simple commands or questions”

In terms of prevention strategies, the researchers found that caregivers of children with ASD and ID/DD were more likely than those in the other two groups to use fences, locks, alarms, electronic tracking devices, or other measures to prevent wandering.

The study was published in the online scientific journal PLOS ONE. 

Source: North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System
 
Boy wandering in the snow photo by shutterstock.

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Janice Wood <![CDATA[Better Care May Cut Risk of Death From Painkillers]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98718 2016-02-06T15:42:37Z 2016-02-06T14:00:16Z Better Care May Cut Risk of Death From PainkillersBetter quality of care may reduce the risk of death for patients who are prescribed opioid painkillers for chronic pain, according to new research. The new study, from researchers at […]]]> Better Care May Cut Risk of Death From Painkillers

Better quality of care may reduce the risk of death for patients who are prescribed opioid painkillers for chronic pain, according to new research.

The new study, from researchers at Yale University, encourages physicians to connect these patients with mental health services and substance abuse treatment. It also advises avoiding co-prescriptions for sedatives.

The researchers note that medical societies such as the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine have developed guidelines for treating patients prescribed opioid painkillers, such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, for 90 days or more.

However, physicians frequently do not follow these recommendations, in part because there has been little evidence to support their use, the Yale scientists note.

Guidelines include recommendations related to patient monitoring, including follow-up visits; testing; and multi-disciplinary care, such as mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and physical rehabilitation.

To investigate the impact of “guideline-concordant” care — care that adheres to the guidelines — the researchers reviewed and analyzed the records of more than 17,000 Veterans Affairs patients treated with long-term opioid therapy for pain.

These patients initiated opioid therapy between 2000 and 2010, and outcomes were assessed one year later.

The researchers found that after one year, more than 1,000 — or six percent — of patients had died, but that guideline-concordant care had an impact.

“Those who received mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and physical rehabilitation were less likely to die within the first six months of starting opioids,” said Dr. Julie R. Gaither, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale School of Medicine and the study’s first author. “Patients who received mental health care were 50 percent less likely to die.”

However, patients who received benzodiazepines, or sedatives, in addition to opioids were approximately 1.5 times more likely to die, while patients who did not receive treatment for substance abuse were 2.5 times more likely to die, according to the study’s findings.

The researchers added they found no difference in mortality for patients who received recommended follow-up visits or urine drug testing.

“Opioids are addictive, and patients who have substance use disorder are at great risk,” said Gaither. “Physicians should manage these patients with addiction specialists and mental heath providers.”

She also stressed that care needs to be taken with prescribing sedatives in combination with opioids because of the potential for adverse events.

“Patients who receive care that is closer to what is recommended by the guidelines do better and are less likely to die,” Gaither concluded.

The study was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Source: Yale University
 
Patient treatment team photo by shutterstock.

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Emergency Visits In Canada on the Rise for Youth with Addiction, Mental Health Issues]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98751 2016-02-06T15:33:28Z 2016-02-06T13:15:50Z Emergency Visits In Canada on the Rise for Youth with Addiction, Mental Health IssuesCanadian youths seeking help for mental health problems and addictions has been steadily increasing over the last several years, with the biggest growth being felt in hospital emergency departments (ED), […]]]> Emergency Visits In Canada on the Rise for Youth with Addiction, Mental Health Issues

Canadian youths seeking help for mental health problems and addictions has been steadily increasing over the last several years, with the biggest growth being felt in hospital emergency departments (ED), according to a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

“Overall, we found a one-third rise in ED visits over six years for children and youth presenting with mental health and addictions problems, with anxiety being the most common driver of need,” says senior author Dr. Paul Kurdyak, director of health systems research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

“However, this growth was not limited to emergency care. We also saw a significant increase in hospitalizations and in office-based services, particularly by family doctors, for child and youth mental health.”

For the study, the researchers looked at anonymized patient records for all Ontario children and youth aged 10 to 24 years from 2006 to 2011. They identified mental health and addiction-related outpatient visits, emergency department visits and hospitalizations, examining the results by physician specialty and diagnostic categories.

They found that mental health-related ED visits increased by 32.5 percent and that hospitalizations increased by 53.7 percent.

They also found that anxiety disorders were the most common reason for ED visits, and these accounted for 47 percent of the total increase in mental health-related ED visits. Office-based physician visits also increased by 15.8 percent with family doctors accounting for the majority of these visits at 28.7 per 1,000 people.

The researchers say that further investigation is needed to fully understand how a lack of access to outpatient care may be driving this growth in ED visits.

“If a family has trouble getting mental health or addictions care for their children in a community-based setting such as a family doctor’s office or specialty clinic, they likely have no other option but to head to their local emergency department when they need care,” said Kurdyak, who sees this need firsthand as an emergency department psychiatrist at CAMH.

“Some of the ED visits we observed were likely unavoidable mental health emergencies, but the overall increase in ED visits likely reflects a problem with access to care in community settings.”

“We hope that by quantifying this growth and looking for patterns, our research will provide health planners with the evidence they need to better coordinate child and youth mental health care across Ontario, so that kids can get the care they need when and where they need it,” he said.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

 
Teenager in ED photo by shutterstock.

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Viewing Positive, Uplifting Media Linked to Altruistic Behavior]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98747 2016-02-06T15:31:13Z 2016-02-06T12:30:24Z Viewing Positive, Uplifting Media Linked to Altruistic BehaviorAfter viewing meaningful entertainment — shows that provide the viewer with a warm, uplifting feeling — people appear more likely to lend a hand to those they consider different, according to a […]]]> Viewing Positive, Uplifting Media Linked to Altruistic Behavior

After viewing meaningful entertainment — shows that provide the viewer with a warm, uplifting feeling — people appear more likely to lend a hand to those they consider different, according to a new study at Pennsylvania State.

These positive and meaningful shows evoke “elevated” feelings in the viewer which in turn lead to these altruistic actions, say the researchers, who report their findings in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media.

“Elevation is characterized as a moral emotion. Scholars have defined it as a warm, uplifting emotion that people experience when they see acts of human kindness or compassion, for example,” said researcher Erica Bailey, a doctoral student in mass communication at Pennsylvania State.

The findings suggest that media — which is often studied for its role in negative events, such as violence and prejudice — can have a positive influence on people’s lives as well.

“As a media researcher, this study was a little refreshing,” said Bailey. “Media does get a bad rap, and often rightfully so, but this seems to show that media isn’t all bad.”

The findings show that, after watching a meaningful clip from a television show, participants were more likely to help someone from a different age and race than they were people in their own age and racial groups.

“Previous research has shown that people tend to be more altruistic after they watch a movie or television program that they consider more meaningful, but this study suggests that not only are they more altruistic, but they are more willing to offer help to people from different groups outside of their own,” said Bailey.

The researchers recruited 106 college-age participants for the study. The students were divided into two groups and asked to watch a video clip from the television show “Rescue Me” and fill out subsequent questionnaires. One group watched a more emotional, more meaningful clip, while the other group saw a light-hearted, less meaningful clip.

The more meaningful clip showed the main characte, a firefighter, reflecting on his divorce and the loss of his cousin during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The light-hearted clip showed the main character and other firefighters playing practical jokes on each other.

After watching the clip, the participants were randomly assigned the option to help either a younger white researcher from the university where the study was conducted, or an older black researcher from a rival university. About 77 percent of the participants were white, 10 percent were Asian, five percent were Hispanic and five percent registered as other.

People who watched the more meaningful clip were more likely to help the different researcher than they were to assist the similar researcher, according to Bailey, who worked with Bartosz W. Wojdynski, Ph.D., assistant professor of journalism and mass communication and director of the Digital Media Attention and Cognition Lab, University of Georgia.

Bailey said the next step for the research would be to better understand how the meaningful clips prompt this behavior and to determine which differences prompt the biggest response.

Source: Pennsylvania State

 
Helping people photo by shutterstock.

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Teen Gambling Linked to Risky Behaviors]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98702 2016-02-05T14:46:09Z 2016-02-05T14:30:10Z Teen Gambling Linked to Risky BehaviorsResearchers have determined that teen gambling is often associated with increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. Gambling experiences included video poker, online betting, and “scratch-and-win” cards (such as lottery […]]]> Teen Gambling Linked to Risky Behaviors

Researchers have determined that teen gambling is often associated with increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, or marijuana. Gambling experiences included video poker, online betting, and “scratch-and-win” cards (such as lottery tickets).

The high prevalence of gambling and its association with substance use “provides further evidence of the need for a greater awareness of gambling behavior in early adolescence,” explains Dr. Alessandra Buja of University of Padova, Italy.

The research appears in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Researchers surveyed 1,325 sixth- to eighth-graders from Italian schools participating in a program for the prevention of underage substance abuse.

In surveys, the students answered questions about their experience with certain types of gambling: video poker, online betting, and “scratch-and-win” cards (such as lottery tickets).

The students were also asked about their use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and energy drinks. (Use of energy drinks, which contain stimulants, has been linked to substance use and other risk-taking behaviors.)

From the responses researchers evaluated associations between gambling and substance abuse while adjusting for a wide range of other factors.

The results suggested a high rate of gambling in this group of children and young teens. Among eighth-graders, about 46 percent of boys and 35 percent of girls said they had engaged in at least one sort of gambling. Scratch cards were the most common type of gambling.

Children who had experience with gambling were also more likely to report substance use. Gambling was reported by 60 percent of children who smoked cigarettes, 73 percent of those who used alcohol, and 63 percent of those who used marijuana.

Gambling remained significantly associated with substance use and other risk-taking behaviors, after adjustment for demographic, family, peer, personality, and behavioral characteristics previously linked to substance abuse in young people.

Previous studies in older adolescents have linked gambling to substance use disorders. “Today’s youth are the first generation for whom gambling opportunities are as close as the neighborhood corner store and as easily accessible as the Internet,” says Dr. Buja.

The new findings are consistent with previous reports suggesting that many adolescents and even younger children are involved in gambling, despite legal age limits. Parents may see gambling as a harmless activity — rather than restricting or warning against it, they may even initiate their children into betting and gambling.

“Our data show that a history of gambling is associated with risk-taking behavior relating to the use of other substances in very young adolescents,” Dr. Buja and coauthors write.

However, they note that the direction of the relationship remains open to debate: “Impulsiveness may be an important common denominator linking gambling with substance abuse in adolescence.”

The high rate of gambling and its association with substance use highlights the need for effective strategies to prevent gambling in early adolescence, say the researchers.

Investigators believe the study findings will help to inform stakeholders of the extent of the behavior.

They conclude, “It is important for healthcare professionals, teachers, and parents to recognize this problem and take it seriously.”

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health/EurekAlert
 
Teen gambling online photo by shutterstock.

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Extreme Passion Toward a Sport May Lead to Use of Illegal Substances]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98696 2016-02-05T14:44:19Z 2016-02-05T13:45:52Z Extreme Passion Toward a Sport May Lead to Use of Illegal SubstancesA common characteristic of a star athlete is a unique drive or passion for his/her sport. In addition to talent, the innate love for the sport and the willingness to […]]]> Extreme Passion Toward a Sport May Lead to Use of Illegal Substances

A common characteristic of a star athlete is a unique drive or passion for his/her sport. In addition to talent, the innate love for the sport and the willingness to spend countless hours practicing is often what sets them apart from others.

Now, a new Canadian study finds that among college athletes, the more of a certain kind of passion an athlete may have for their sport, the more favorable their attitudes towards the use of performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.

Published in the Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, the paper is the first to show that passion levels can help predict a collegiate athlete’s attitude towards performance enhancing drugs.

Previous research has indicated that there are two types of passion involved with leisure activities. Harmonious passion involves feelings of enjoyment, and the activity blends with the athlete’s life. Obsessive passion involves an inability to disengage from an activity, or feelings of guilt from not participating.

“Passion is often associated with positive words, such as love and dedication, but research suggests that it can control us as well,” said Wade Wilson, lead author on the paper and lecturer in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo.

“Awareness of the motivations and thought processes that may contribute to negative behavior is important, and has the potential to lead to effective interventions and informative workshops for athletes.”

As part of the research, investigators had nearly 600 male and female athletes at the varsity or all-star level at four different Ontario universities complete a series of surveys.

“We found that regardless of gender, athletes who reported higher obsessive passion indicated more lenient attitudes towards PEDs, while athletes who reported higher harmonious passion held more conservative attitudes towards them,” said Wilson.

“These results suggest that the closer an activity or sport is linked to our identity, there is an increased possibility we might do anything to maintain that identity.”

Researchers believe their findings will provide coaches and supervisors guidance on how to better mentor their athletes. They hope the study will help coaches and administrators see the link between passion and attitudes towards PEDs, to better identify athletes at risk of using prohibited substances.

The study also recommends that coaches remain mindful of the central role competitive sports can have in the lives and identities of athletes, and attempt to create or maintain cultures that allow athletes to derive enjoyment and perspective from participation, while moving away from a mentality of winning at all cost.

Source: University of Waterloo

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Future Blood Test to Gauge Risk for PTSD?]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98691 2016-02-05T14:41:05Z 2016-02-05T13:00:30Z Future Blood Test to Gauge Risk for PTSD?The way your body responds to stress helps determine your overall coping skills and ability to “move on” after a stressful or traumatic event. Poor recovery after trauma can trigger […]]]> Future Blood Test to Gauge Risk for PTSD?

The way your body responds to stress helps determine your overall coping skills and ability to “move on” after a stressful or traumatic event. Poor recovery after trauma can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, pain, or fatigue in some people.

Research has shown that we have a “personal profile” of resilience to stress. Our profile is based on our brain’s ability to regulate stress combined with molecular elements.

In a new study, researchers at Tel Aviv University (TAU) closely analyzed what happens in the body after a stressful experience — from cellular changes to brain function, emotional responses, and behavior. The new findings may lead to a future blood test that would facilitate preventive or early intervention in professions prone to high stress or trauma, such as combat soldiers or police officers.

“We all need to react to stress; it’s healthy to react to something considered a challenge or a threat,” said Professor Talma Hendler of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and the Director of the Functional Brain Center at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center.

“The problem is when you don’t recover in a day, or a week, or more. This indicates your brain and/or body do not regulate properly and have a hard time returning to homeostasis (i.e., a balanced baseline). We found that this recovery involves both neural and epigenetic/cellular mechanisms, together contributing to our subjective experience of the stress.”

“This is perhaps the first study to induce stress in the lab and look at resulting changes to three levels of the stress response — neural (seen in brain imaging), cellular (measured through epigenetics), and experience (assessed through behavioral report).”

The study involved 49 healthy young male adults. Researchers integrated the analysis of fMRI images of brain function during an acute social stress task and also measured levels of microRNAs — small RNAs that exert powerful regulatory effects — obtained in a blood test before and three hours after the induced stress.

“We found that vulnerability to stress is not only related to a predisposition due to a certain gene,” said Dr. Noam Shomron of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and Sackler School of Medicine. “The relevant gene can be expressed or not expressed according to a person’s experience, environment, and many other context-related factors.

“This type of interaction between the environment and our genome has been conceptualized lately as the ‘epigenetic process.’ It has become clear that these processes are of an utmost importance to our health and well being, and are probably, in some cases, above and beyond our predispositions.”

The researchers found that twenty minutes after the stress drill had ended, there were basically two groups: the recovered (those no longer stressed) and the sustainers (those still stressed) . The sustainers either didn’t go back to baseline or took much longer to do so.

“If you can identify through a simple blood test those likely to develop maladaptive responses to stress, you can offer a helpful prevention or early intervention,” said Shomron.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: American Friends of Tel Aviv University

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Early Poverty Disrupts Hunger Signs and Can Lead to Weight Problems]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98700 2016-02-05T14:47:08Z 2016-02-05T12:15:07Z Early Poverty Disrupts Hunger Signs Can Lead to Weight ProblemsIt is well known that emotional eating is a bane for many weight-conscious individuals. A new study suggest another element may influence why you eat when you’re not really hungry […]]]> Early Poverty Disrupts Hunger Signs Can Lead to Weight Problems

It is well known that emotional eating is a bane for many weight-conscious individuals. A new study suggest another element may influence why you eat when you’re not really hungry — how well off your family was when you were a child.

“Our research shows that growing up poor promotes eating in the absence of hunger in adulthood, regardless of one’s wealth in adulthood,” explains psychological scientist Sarah Hill of Texas Christian University.

“These findings are important because they suggest that a person’s developmental history may play a key role in their relationship with food and weight management.”

The research appears in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Prior studies have established that childhood poverty is a risk factor for obesity, but the mechanisms driving this relationship are not completely clear. The lack of access to healthy foods and safe places to play, are frequently used as an explanation for why the poor are often obese.

While these factors are certainty influential, researchers have believed that additional influences are at work. Therefore, Hill and colleagues wondered whether early experiences might become biologically embedded in ways that shape how individuals regulate energy needs throughout the lifespan.

This biological blueprint would help children survive in impoverished environments, leading them to seek out food whenever it is available, and would continue to drive their behavior as they aged, regardless of whether their access to food had improved.

In one study, Hill and colleagues recruited 31 undergraduate women to participate in what was purportedly a consumer research study. To rule out the potential effects of obesity and specific medical conditions, only women who had a body mass index of less than 30 and those who did not have food allergies or diabetes were eligible to participate.

The students received a bowl of chocolate chip cookies and a bowl of pretzels and were told to sample and rate each product. After completing their ratings, they were told that they were free to eat the leftovers while they waited for the next part of the study to begin.

They then completed a survey in which they were asked to think about their childhood before age 12 and rate their level of agreement with three statements: “My family had enough money for things growing up,” “I grew up in a relatively wealthy neighborhood,” “I felt relatively wealthy compared to others my age.”

After they finished, the researchers calculated how much the participants had eaten based on the food that remained in the two bowls.

Looking at the data for students who reported feeling relatively hungry, the researchers found no observable difference in calories consumed between those who grew up in more impoverished environments and those who grew in relatively abundant environments.

But childhood environment did seem to make a difference in how much people ate when they weren’t actually hungry: Students from relatively impoverished environments ate more of the pretzels and cookies, and more calories overall, than did those who came from wealthier backgrounds.

Hill and colleagues found that actual energy need didn’t seem to play a role in determining how much participants from impoverished backgrounds ate.

In another experiment, the researchers varied energy need by providing some participants who had fasted with a full-calorie soda and others with zero-calorie sparkling water. Thus, some participants received a calorie boost to fill their energy need, while others did not.

Again, the researchers found that childhood environment made a difference in how much participants consumed, but only when their energy need was low.

These findings were replicated in a third study that directly measured blood glucose levels in both male and female participants.

“We were surprised by the lasting impact that one’s childhood environment plays in guiding food intake in adulthood,” says Hill.

“We were also surprised by the fact that one’s level of wealth in adulthood had almost no impact on patterns of food intake.”

The researchers caution that these findings do not establish a direct causal relationship between childhood poverty and eating in the absence of energy need. However, they do suggest that early environmental experiences may influence how individuals regulate their energy needs.

“Our research suggests that people who grew up in relatively impoverished environments may have a harder time controlling food intake and managing their body weight than those who grew up in wealthier environments,” explains Hill.

Source: Association for Psychological Science
 
Poor child eating bread photo by shutterstock.

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[BMI Does Not Indicate a Person’s Health]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98693 2016-02-05T14:34:40Z 2016-02-05T11:30:28Z BMI Does Not Indicate a Person’s HealthDuring the last few years many government policymakers and employers have started to use a person’s body mass index (BMI) as a defacto method to project if a person is […]]]> BMI Does Not Indicate a Person’s Health

During the last few years many government policymakers and employers have started to use a person’s body mass index (BMI) as a defacto method to project if a person is heathy or unhealthy.

BMI is the ratio of a person’s height and weight, which replaced impractical height weight charts that would list an average or ideal weight based on a person’s height. BMI’s were considered a better metric of body fatness and thus health.

As such, an emerging trend is for U.S. companies to use their employees’ BMIs as a factor in determining workers’ health care costs. And people with higher BMIs could soon have to pay higher health insurance premiums, if a rule proposed in April by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is adopted.

Now, a new study led by University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) psychologists has found that using BMI to gauge health incorrectly labels more than 54 million Americans as “unhealthy,” even though they are not.

The researchers’ findings are published online in the International Journal of Obesity.

“Many people see obesity as a death sentence,” said A. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor of psychology in the UCLA College and the study’s lead author. “But the data show there are tens of millions of people who are overweight and obese and are perfectly healthy.”

The scientists analyzed the link between BMI — which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in meters — and several health markers, including blood pressure and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Investigators used data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that close to half of Americans who are considered “overweight” by virtue of their BMIs (47.4 percent, or 34.4 million people) are healthy, as are 19.8 million who are considered “obese.”

Given their health readings other than BMI, the people in both of those groups would be unlikely to incur higher medical expenses, and it would be unfair to charge them more for health care premiums, Tomiyama said.

Among the other findings:

  • More than 30 percent of those with BMIs in the “normal” range — about 20.7 million people — are actually unhealthy based on their other health data.
  • More than two million people who are considered “very obese” by virtue of having a BMI of 35 or higher are actually healthy. That’s about 15 percent of Americans who are classified as very obese.

Tomiyama, who directs UCLA’s Dieting, Stress and Health laboratory, also called DiSH, found in previous research that there was no clear connection between weight loss and health improvements related to hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

She said she was surprised at the magnitude of the numbers in the latest study.

“There are healthy people who could be penalized based on a faulty health measure, while the unhealthy people of normal weight will fly under the radar and won’t get charged more for their health insurance,” she said.

“Employers, policy makers, and insurance companies should focus on actual health markers.”

Jeffrey Hunger, a co-author of the paper and a doctoral candidate at University of California, Santa Barbara, said the research shows that BMI is a deeply flawed measure of health. “This should be the final nail in the coffin for BMI,” he said.

Hunger recommends that people focus on eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, rather than obsessing about their weight, and strongly opposes stigmatizing people who are overweight.

The proposed EEOC rule would allow employers to charge higher insurance rates to people whose BMI is 25 or higher. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.99 is considered normal, but the study emphasizes that normal BMI should not be the primary goal for maintaining good health.

Tomiyama is planning a new study of people with high BMIs who are very healthy. Prospective participants may contact her laboratory for more information.

Source: UCLA

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Depressed Parent May Hinder Child’s School Performance]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98642 2016-02-04T14:50:18Z 2016-02-04T14:30:13Z Depressed Parent May Hinder Child’s School PerformanceNew research suggests that when parents are diagnosed with depression, it can have a significant negative impact on their children’s performance at school. Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, along […]]]> Depressed Parent May Hinder Child’s School Performance

New research suggests that when parents are diagnosed with depression, it can have a significant negative impact on their children’s performance at school.

Researchers at Drexel University in Philadelphia, along with faculty from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and the University of Bristol in England, studied more than a million children born from 1984 until 1994 in Sweden.

Using computerized data registers, the scientists linked parents’ depression diagnoses with their children’s final grades at age 16, when compulsory schooling ends in Sweden.

Investigators discovered that children whose mothers had been diagnosed with depression are likely to achieve grades that are 4.5 percentage points lower than peers whose mothers had not been diagnosed with depression. For children whose fathers were diagnosed with depression, the difference is a negative four percentage points.

Put into other terms, when compared with a student who achieved a 90 percent, a student whose mother or father had been diagnosed with depression would be more likely to achieve a score in the 85-86 percent range.

Researchers discovered the social economic status of a family did make a difference although the effect occurred in all households and was smaller that the level of a parent’s education (especially the mother).

Overall, the difference among family incomes lowered scores by 3.6 percentage points while low maternal education was associated with a 16.2 percentage points reduction.

How well a student does in school has a large bearing on future job and income opportunities, which has heavy public health implications, said Félice Lê-Scherban, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health.

On average in the United States, she said, an adult without a high school degree earns half as much as one of their peers with a college degree and also has a life expectancy that is about 10 years lower.

“Anything that creates an uneven playing field for children in terms of their education can potentially have strong implications for health inequities down the road,” Lê-Scherban said.

Some gender differences were observed in the study. Although results were largely similar for maternal and paternal depression, analysis found that episodes of depression in mothers when their children were 11-16 years old appeared to have a larger effect on girls than boys.

Girls scored 5.1 percentage points lower than their peers on final grades at 16 years old when that factor was taken into account. Boys, meanwhile, only scored 3.4 percentage points lower.

Brian Lee, Ph.D., associate professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, said there were gender differences in the study’s numbers, but didn’t want to lose focus of the problem parental depression presents as a whole.

“Our study, as well as many others, supports that both maternal and paternal depression may independently and negatively influence child development,” Lee said.

“There are many notable sex differences in depression, but, rather than comparing maternal versus paternal depression, we should recognize that parental depression can have adverse consequences not just for the parents but also for their children.”

In summary, researchers discovered a depression diagnosis in a parent at any time during the child’s first 16 years would affect the child’s school performance.

Even diagnoses of depression that came before the child’s birth were linked to poorer school performance. Researchers theorize that this could be attributed to parents and children sharing the same genes and the possibility of passing on a predisposition for depression.

Source: Drexel University
 
Mother with depression photo by shutterstock.

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Lung Disease Ups Risk of Anxiety Disorder]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98646 2016-02-04T14:47:44Z 2016-02-04T13:45:51Z Lung Disease Ups Risk of Anxiety DisorderNew research discovers older adults with lung disease experience generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) on a much greater level than older adults without the disease. Specifically, the prevalence of GAD for […]]]> Lung Disease Ups Risk of Anxiety Disorder

New research discovers older adults with lung disease experience generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) on a much greater level than older adults without the disease.

Specifically, the prevalence of GAD for adults aged 50 and older with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is much higher compared to older adults without COPD (5.8 percent vs 1.7 percent).

University of Toronto researchers have published their findings in COPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. The investigators found that individuals with COPD were three as likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder compared to those without.

COPD is an umbrella term for several chronic lung diseases including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Individuals with COPD frequently exhibit sleep problems, chronic pain, and functional limitations.

The symptoms can partially explain some of the excess risk for anxiety among those with COPD compared although additional factors may be at play.

“Even after accounting for 18 possible risk factors for GAD, individuals with COPD still had 70 percent higher odds of GAD compared to those without COPD,” said lead author Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson.

The study was based upon a representative sample of 11,163 Canadians aged 50 and over drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey. More than 700 of these older adults reported that they had been diagnosed by a health professional with COPD. COPD is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

The study also investigated predictors of generalized anxiety disorders specifically among the older adults in the sample who had COPD. Key risk factors for GAD among those with COPD included lack of social support and exposure to parental domestic violence during the older adults’ childhood.

Social support is a significant aid as older adults who do not have a confidant available for important decisions had more than seven times the odds of having anxiety in comparison to those with a confidant.

Co-author and doctoral student Ashley Lacombe-Duncan said, “Our findings suggest that screening for anxiety may be particularly important for patients who lack a strong social network. Individuals with COPD may be prone to social isolation, particularly if they also experience functional limitations that impair mobility.”

Exposure to parental domestic violence in childhood also seems to play a key factor.

Older adults with COPD who were exposed in childhood to parental domestic violence on more than 10 occasions had five times the odds of generalized anxiety disorders in comparison to those with COPD who had not experienced this early adversity.

Lacombe-Duncan said, “the chronic chaotic and violent home environment may have predisposed individuals to anxiety.

“Further research is needed to understand the pathways through which witnessing chronic parental domestic violence during the respondent’s childhood may increase the prevalence of anxiety disorders among older adults with COPD.”

Fuller-Thomson added that this study “highlights how health care providers can play a significant role in identifying and providing promising interventions to reduce anxiety for individuals with COPD, in particular by screening for and addressing pain and functional limitations and targeting those most at risk.”

Source: University of Toronto
 
Doctor talking with patient about lung disease photo by shutterstock.

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Mid-Life Falls May Be Linked to Later Parkinson’s]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=98648 2016-02-04T14:46:12Z 2016-02-04T13:00:29Z Mid-Life Falls May Be Linked to Later Parkinson'sNew research finds that Parkinson’s patients have a higher risk of injuries and hip fractures from falls up to 26 years before being diagnosed with the disease. Swedish researchers believe the […]]]> Mid-Life Falls May Be Linked to Later Parkinson's

New research finds that Parkinson’s patients have a higher risk of injuries and hip fractures from falls up to 26 years before being diagnosed with the disease.

Swedish researchers believe the higher proportion of fall-related injuries can partly be explained by reduced balance, which could be a significant early sign of illness.

Study results appear in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Researchers at Umeå University had previously used a cohort study to investigate if male patients with Parkinson’s disease had low muscle strength in the arms already at the time of military enrolment in early adulthood. The study found a reduced muscular strength in the arms on average already 30 years prior to Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Based on these results, researchers wondered if this reduced muscular strength also could be associated with an increased risk of injurious falls and hip fractures.

The new study results show that early changes manifested in a reduced muscular strength also seem to result in an increased risk of injurious falls and fractures several years before diagnosis.

The correlation also shows signs of the gradual dysfunctional balance reactions and impaired mobility being present at a much earlier stage of Parkinson. Scientists have previously thought these changes occurred in relatively late stages of Parkinson’s.

“We asked ourselves if fall-related injuries at an early age could be a warning sign of the deteriorating balance that is characteristic to Parkinson’s disease,” said Helena Nyström, a doctoral student at the Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation and co-author of the article.

In the current study, researchers examined health data from all Swedes 50 years or older in 2005. Out of these, 24.412 were diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the period of 1988-2012, and these individuals were matched against 10 people each in the control group. Researchers found that 18 percent of all Parkinson’s patients (before diagnosis) and 11.5 per cent of controls had at least one fall-related injury.

“By investigating health data from registers, we could see a correlation between individuals who were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s and who were more often involved in injurious falls. It was also shown that the higher risk of hip fractures could be measured more than two decades before the diagnosis,” Nyström said.

Falls are a serious health risk and hip fractures are a common contributing factor to early death among the older population. The risk of hip fractures are especially high in people with Parkinson’s, something which is likely caused by reduced balance and lessened ability to rotate the body in the event of a fall in order to protect the hip.

Parkinson’s disease is usually diagnosed around the age of 70. The disease has an insidious onset and at first mostly affects mobility and balance.

Previous research has shown that the disease manifests itself early in various ways. Balance and muscular strength is negatively affected at a later stage.

Source: Umea University/EurekAlert
 
Man with a knee injury photo by shutterstock.

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