Psych Central News Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday. 2016-07-23T13:00:28Z http://psychcentral.com/news/feed/atom Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Poor Sleep in Childhood Ups Risk of Later Depression, Anxiety]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107578 2016-07-23T12:34:59Z 2016-07-23T13:00:28Z h-Children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are at greater risk for developing depression and anxiety disorders later in life, according to a new study by researchers at the University […]]]> h-

Children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are at greater risk for developing depression and anxiety disorders later in life, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Houston.

Study leader Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate psychology professor at the University of Houston, is conducting the study to better understand how poor sleeping patterns during childhood contribute to emotional disorders in later years. The research was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

“In particular, we are interested in understanding how children appraise, express, regulate and later recall emotional experiences, both when sleep is adequate and when it is inadequate,” said Alfano, who is also director of the Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston (SACH).

“We focus on childhood, because similar to problems with anxiety and depression, sleep habits and patterns develop early in life and can be enduring.”

Alfano and co-investigator Cara Palmer, who is a postdoctoral fellow at SACH, are identifying distinct emotional processes that, when disrupted by poor sleep, make children vulnerable to developing anxiety and depression.

To pinpoint these cognitive, behavioral and physiological patterns of emotional risk, they are temporarily restricting sleep in 50 pre-adolescent children between the ages of 7 to 11.

The findings reveal that inadequate sleep impacts children’s emotional health in two basic ways: it creates more negative emotions and also alters positive emotional experiences. For example, after just two nights of poor sleep, children derive less pleasure from positive things, are less reactive to them and less likely to recall details about these positive experiences later.

When the children get adequate sleep, however, these emotional effects are less apparent.

“Healthy sleep is critical for children’s psychological well-being,” Alfano said. “Continually experiencing inadequate sleep can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and other types of emotional problems.”

“Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene and physical activity. If your child has problems waking up in the morning or is sleepy during the day, then their nighttime sleep is probably inadequate. This can result for several reasons, such as a bedtime that is too late, non-restful sleep during the night or an inconsistent sleep schedule.”

Studying the link between poor sleep and maladaptive emotional processing in childhood is essential, says Alfano, because that’s when sleep and emotion regulatory systems are developing.

The increased need for sleep and greater brain plasticity during childhood suggests this to be a critical window of opportunity for early intervention.

Alfano and Palmer authored a recent article in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews in which they reviewed the scientific literature on sleep and emotion regulation, partly to inform the methods of their new study.

In the article, they point out that without adequate sleep, people are less likely to seek out positive or rewarding experiences if they require effort, such as social or leisure activities. Over time, they say, these behavioral changes can elevate risk for depression and an overall poorer quality of life.

“There are multiple emotional processes that seem to be disrupted by poor sleep,” Alfano said. “For example, our ability to self-monitor, pick up on others’ nonverbal cues and accurately identify others’ emotions diminishes when sleep is inadequate. Combine this with less impulse control, a hallmark feature of the teenage years, and sleep deprivation can create a ‘perfect storm’ for experiencing negative emotions and consequences.”

Source: University of Houston

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Janice Wood <![CDATA[Mice Study Shows Cinnamon Can Boost Learning]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107538 2016-07-23T12:05:03Z 2016-07-23T12:15:57Z Mice Study Shows Cinnamon Can Boost LearningNew research has found that cinnamon turns poor learners into good ones — at least among mice. Dr. Kalipada Pahan, a researcher at Rush University and the Jesse Brown Veterans […]]]> Mice Study Shows Cinnamon Can Boost Learning

New research has found that cinnamon turns poor learners into good ones — at least among mice.

Dr. Kalipada Pahan, a researcher at Rush University and the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Chicago, hopes the same will hold true for people.

“The increase in learning in poor-learning mice after cinnamon treatment was significant,” said Pahan. “For example, poor-learning mice took about 150 seconds to find the right hole in the Barnes maze test. On the other hand, after one month of cinnamon treatment, poor-learning mice were finding the right hole within 60 seconds.”

Pahan’s research shows that the effect appears to be due mainly to sodium benzoate, a chemical produced as cinnamon is broken down in the body.

If that chemical sounds familiar, you may have noticed it on the ingredient labels of many processed foods. Food makers use a synthetic form of it as a preservative. It is also an FDA-approved drug used to treat hyperammonemia, which is too much ammonia in the blood.

Cinnamon acts as a slow-release form of sodium benzoate, according to Pahan.

His lab studies show that different compounds within cinnamon, including cinnamaldehyde, which gives the spice is distinctive flavor and aroma, are “metabolized into sodium benzoate in the liver. Sodium benzoate then becomes the active compound, which readily enters the brain and stimulates hippocampal plasticity.”

Changes in the hippocampus, the brain’s main memory center, appear to be the mechanism by which cinnamon and sodium benzoate exert their benefits, according to the researcher.

In the study, Pahan’s researchers first tested mice in mazes to separate the good and poor learners. Good learners made fewer wrong turns and took less time to find food.

In analyzing baseline disparities between the good and poor learners, the researchers found differences in two brain proteins. The gap was all but erased when cinnamon was given, according to the study’s findings.

“Little is known about the changes that occur in the brains of poor learners,” he said, noting molecular differences related to neurotransmission. “Interestingly, these particular changes were reversed by one month of cinnamon treatment.”

The researchers also examined brain cells taken from the mice. They found that sodium benzoate enhanced the structural integrity of the cells, including in the dendrites, the tree-like extensions of neurons that enable them to communicate with other brain cells.

Cinnamon, like many spices, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a centuries-long history of medicinal use around the world.

But the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that “high-quality clinical evidence to support the use of cinnamon for any medical condition is generally lacking.”

Most of the clinical trials that have taken place have focused on the spice’s possible effect on blood sugar for people with diabetes. Little, if any, clinical research has been done on the spice’s possible brain-boosting properties.

Pahan hopes to change that. Based on the promising results from the preclinical studies, he believes that “besides general memory improvement, cinnamon may target Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment [a precursor to Alzheimer’s], and Parkinson’s disease as well.”

He is now talking with neurologists about planning a clinical trial on Alzheimer’s.

However, before you start heaping cinnamon on your oatmeal, keep a few caveats in mind, he advises.

First, most cinnamon found in the store is the Chinese variety, which contains a compound called coumarin that may be toxic to the liver in high amounts. A person would likely have to eat tons of cinnamon to run into a problem, but just the same, Pahan recommends the Ceylon or Sri Lanka type, which is coumarin-free.

Even then, don’t overdo it. “Anything in excess is toxic,” he said.

What about simply inhaling the spice? Will that benefit the brain?

“Simply smelling the spice may not help because cinnamaldehyde should be metabolized into cinnamic acid and then sodium benzoate,” he said. “For metabolism [to occur], cinnamaldehyde should be within the cell.”

Pahan added he takes about a teaspoonful of cinnamon powder mixed with honey as a supplement every night.

Should the research on cinnamon continue to move forward, he envisions a similar remedy being adopted by struggling students worldwide.

“Individual differences in learning and educational performance is a global issue,” he said. “In many cases, we find two students of the same background studying in the same class, and one turns out to be a poor learner and does worse than the other academically. Now we need to find a way to test this approach in poor learners.

“If these results are replicated in poor-learning students, it would be a remarkable advance. At present, we are not using any other spice or natural substance.”

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.

Source: Veteran’s Administration
 
Photo: In mouse experiments, Dr. Kalipada Pahan’s lab has been studying the effects of cinnamon on learning and brain plasticity. Credit: Jerry Daliege.

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Janice Wood <![CDATA[Should Trust Your Gut or Carefully Analyze the Situation?]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107532 2016-07-23T11:26:01Z 2016-07-23T11:30:17Z Should Trust Your Gut or Carefully Analyze the Situation?Is empathy the result of gut intuition or careful reasoning? A new study suggests that, contrary to popular belief, trusting your gut is not always the best approach. “Cultivating successful […]]]> Should Trust Your Gut or Carefully Analyze the Situation?

Is empathy the result of gut intuition or careful reasoning?

A new study suggests that, contrary to popular belief, trusting your gut is not always the best approach.

“Cultivating successful personal and professional relationships requires the ability to accurately infer the feelings of others — that is, to be empathically accurate. Some are better at this than others, a difference that may be explained in part by mode of thought,” said Jennifer Lerner, PhD, of Harvard University, a co-author of the study. “Until now, however, little was known about which mode of thought, intuitive versus systematic, offers better accuracy in perceiving another’s feelings.”

People process information and make decisions in different ways, according to Lerner. Some choose to follow their instincts and go with what feels right to them — intuitive — while others plan carefully and analyze the information available to them before deciding — systematic.

Lerner and her co-author, Christine Ma-Kellams, PhD, of the University of La Verne, conducted four studies, involving more than 900 participants, to examine the relationship between the two modes of thought and empathetic accuracy.

The first study determined that most people believe that intuition is a better guide than systematic thinking to accurately infer another’s thoughts and feelings. The other three studies found that the opposite is true, according to the researchers.

“Importantly, three out of the four studies presented here relied on actual professionals and managers. This sample represents a highly relevant group for which to test empathic accuracy, given the importance of empathic accuracy for a host of workplace outcomes, including negotiations, worker satisfaction and workplace performance,” said Ma-Kellams.

These findings show that commonly held assumptions about what makes someone a good emotional mind reader may be wrong, said Lerner.

“The many settings in which the value of intuition is extolled — for example a job interview — may need to be reassessed with a more nuanced perspective,” she said.

The study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Source: American Psychological Association

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Warning: Elevated Psychological Distress Among 7-12th Grade Students]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107504 2016-07-22T14:36:11Z 2016-07-22T13:30:11Z Warning: Elevated Psychological Distress Among 7-12th Grade StudentsA new survey discovers more than a third of Ontario students in grades seven-to-12 report moderate-to-serious psychological distress. The finding is ominous as this means 328,000 adolescents in the province […]]]> Warning: Elevated Psychological Distress Among 7-12th Grade Students

A new survey discovers more than a third of Ontario students in grades seven-to-12 report moderate-to-serious psychological distress.

The finding is ominous as this means 328,000 adolescents in the province of Ontario are experiencing psychological stress. Canadian researchers also found that girls are twice as likely as boys to experience psychological distress.

“This is a significant number of young people, especially girls, who are experiencing high levels of psychological distress,” says Dr. Robert Mann, senior scientist at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and co-lead investigator of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS).

A total of 10,426 students from across Ontario participated in the 2015 OSDUHS, the longest-running school survey of adolescents in Canada, and one of the longest-running surveys in the world.

“We were also surprised to see this number increase to 34 percent in 2015 from 24 percent in 2013. That is a 10 percent jump in reported psychological distress in just two years,” said Dr. Mann.

Psychological distress is defined as symptoms of depression and anxiety and is measured using a six-item screening tool. Students are asked how often they felt nervous, hopeless or worthless, among others indicators, in the last four weeks.

Forty-six percent of girls indicated high levels of distress compared to 23 percent of boys.

Levels of distress also increase significantly in the later teens, to an average of over 40 percent of students in grades 11 and 12. One in five students (21 percent) reported visiting a mental health professional at least once during the last year, a marked increase from 12 percent in 1999.

“While we can’t say for certain what is causing this distress, it’s important for parents, schools, and health care providers to be aware of what young people are telling us about their mental health,” said Dr. Mann.

“Our research indicates that the later teen years into the twenties is the peak period of stress for many people.”

Although cause and effect cannot be assumed, a correlation does exist between escalating stress and increased screen time, social media use, and a rise in problem gaming.

Survey results also showed that in 2015, almost two thirds (63 percent) of students spent three hours or more per day of their free time in front of a TV or tablet/computer. The percentage of students who are screen-time sedentary has increased from 57 percent since 2009, the first year of monitoring this behavior.

At the same time, while the majority of students rate their health as excellent or very good (66 percent), only 22 percent of students met the recommended daily physical activity guideline, defined as a total of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, during the past seven days.

Additionally, 86 percent of students visit social media sites daily and about 16 percent spend five hours or more on social media per day.

“We know that the more time spent on social media sites, the greater the risk of cyberbullying and related mental health issues,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, scientist with CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research and co-lead investigator on the OSDUHS.

“Combined with low levels of physical activity across this age group, we are seeing clear priority areas where we can work with youth to improve health.”

An estimated 122,600 students in Ontario (13 percent) report symptoms of a video gaming problem which includes preoccupation, loss of control, withdrawal, and disregard for consequences.

The percentage of students indicating a video gaming problem rose to 13 per cent in 2015 from nine percent in 2007, the first year of monitoring. Problem video gaming is especially prevalent among boys in this age group, with 20 percent reporting problematic symptoms compared with five percent of girls.

“The reality is that it’s not possible to be technology-abstinent in 2016,” said Lisa Pont, social worker with CAMH’s Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario, who helps youth and parents better manage technology use.

“But it is possible to have good ‘cyber health’, to balance screen time with other activities and to prevent technology from having serious negative consequences on the rest of your life.”

Noticing an increase in young people struggling with gaming and other forms of tech use, Pont helped develop CAMH’s clinical programming on technology misuse and also trains other health professionals in this emerging area.

“At CAMH we see young people who are on the more severe end of problem tech use, many of whom have pre-existing depression and anxiety,” said Pont.

“Many youth are heavy users of technology and are able to keep good balance in their lives. But for those who develop problems, it is important that the underlying and concurrent issues are addressed so that healthier tech use is achievable.”

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Imaging Study Traces Brain Activity Associated with Problem-Solving]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107508 2016-07-22T14:28:40Z 2016-07-22T12:45:47Z Imaging Study Traces Brain Activity Associated with Problem-SolvingA new research approach using neuroimaging data reveals that the brain progresses through distinct phases as an individual solves challenging problems. By combining two analytical strategies, researchers were able to […]]]> Imaging Study Traces Brain Activity Associated with Problem-Solving

A new research approach using neuroimaging data reveals that the brain progresses through distinct phases as an individual solves challenging problems.

By combining two analytical strategies, researchers were able to use functional MRI data to identify patterns of brain activity that accompany four distinct stages of problem solving.

“How students were solving these kinds of problems was a total mystery to us until we applied these techniques,” says psychological scientist John Anderson of Carnegie Mellon University, lead researcher on the study.

“Now, when students are sitting there thinking hard, we can tell what they are thinking each second.”

Insights from this work may eventually be applied to the design of more effective classroom instruction, says Anderson.

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

The research emerges from an ongoing line of investigation that uses brain imaging to understand the sequence of processes that underlie thinking. While neuroimaging research has provided a window into various aspects of cognition, how these pieces fit together into a coherent whole, as people complete real tasks in real time, is not clearly understood.

Anderson wondered whether two analytical approaches — multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) and hidden semi-Markov models (HSMM) — could be combined to shed light on the different stages of thinking.

MVPA has typically been used to identify momentary patterns of activation; adding HSMM, Anderson hypothesized, would yield information about how these patterns play out over time.

Anderson and colleagues Aryn A. Pike and Jon M. Fincham decided to apply this combined approach to neuroimaging data collected from participants as they solved specific types of math problems.

To gauge whether the stages that were identified mapped on to actual stages of thinking, the researchers manipulated different features of the math problems. To do this, they created some problems that required more effort in coming up with an appropriate solution plan and others that required more effort in executing the solution.

The aim was to test whether these manipulations had the specific effects one would expect on the durations of the different stages.

The researchers brought 80 participants to the lab — after practicing using specific strategies to solve the math problems, the participants then answered a series of target problems while in the scanner. They received feedback for each problem, with answers turning green if they were correct and red if they were incorrect.

Using the HSMM-MVPA method to analyze the neuroimaging data, Anderson and colleagues identified four stages of cognition: encoding, planning, solving, and responding.

The results showed that the planning stage tended to be longer when the problem required more planning, and the solution stage tended to be longer when the solution was more difficult to execute, indicating that the method mapped onto real stages of cognition that were differentially affected by various features of the problems.

“Typically, researchers have looked at the total time to complete a task as evidence of the stages involved in performing that task and how they are related,” says Anderson. “The methods in this paper allow us to measure the stages directly.”

Although the study focused specifically on mathematical problem solving, the method holds promise for broader application, the researchers argue.

Using the same method with brain imaging techniques that have greater temporal resolution, such as EEG, could reveal even more detailed information about the various stages of cognitive processing.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Never too Late to Rekindle Passion]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107519 2016-07-22T14:26:13Z 2016-07-22T12:00:21Z Never to Late to Rekindle PassionIt is not uncommon for couples to experience a decline in sexual desire over time. New research suggest, however, that there are ways to restore responsiveness and enhance intimacy. “Our […]]]> Never to Late to Rekindle Passion

It is not uncommon for couples to experience a decline in sexual desire over time. New research suggest, however, that there are ways to restore responsiveness and enhance intimacy.

“Our research shows that partners who are responsive to each other outside the bedroom are able to maintain their sexual desire,” says Gurit Birnbaum, psychology professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel.

Birnbaum and her coauthors also found that women’s desire is more strongly affected by their partner’s responsiveness than men’s desire — although men report a boost, as well.

The concept of responsiveness — which is a type of intimacy — is important as it signals that one is really concerned with the welfare of the other, but in a way that is truly open and informed about what the other cares about and wants, says Birnbaum.

Responsive partners are willing to invest resources in the relationship, and show understanding at a deep level. They make the relationship feel special — that their relationship is unique — which is, at least in Western societies, what people seek from their romantic relationships.

The new study was prompted, in part by a concept psychologists know as the “intimacy-desire paradox.”

The core of the paradox lies in the contradiction between intimate and familiar relationships that many people strive for, and the limitations of such bonds for facilitating desire.

Some scholars have argued that long-term intimacy may actually inhibit rather than increase sexual desire. For example, the need for security may clash with the sense of novelty and uncertainty that can often fuel desire.

But previous research has not provided conclusive evidence for whether increased sense of intimacy actually promotes or undermines sexual desire.

The study, by Birnbaum and coauthor Harry Reis, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, appears in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

They believe their findings suggests that, under certain circumstances, there may not be a paradox.

That is, what determines whether intimacy prompts or inhibits desire is not its mere existence, but its meaning in the larger context of a relationship. The authors believe responsiveness is most likely to encourage desire. That’s because it conveys the impression that the partner is worth pursuing and thus engaging in sex with such a desirable partner is likely to promote an already valuable relationship.

As part of the study, the researchers conducted three experiments, one of which consisted of 100 couples who kept a diary for six weeks. Both partners reported on their own level of sexual desire each day as well as their perceptions of their partner’s responsiveness. They also reported their own levels of feeling special and perceptions of their partner’s mate value.

The results indicated that when men and women perceive their partners as responsive, they feel special and think of their partner as a valuable mate, which boosted sexual desirability.

Birnbaum notes that partner responsiveness had a significantly stronger effect on women’s perceptions of themselves and others. This suggests that women experienced higher levels of desire for their responsive partner because they were more likely than men to feel special and value their partner as a result of the partner’s responsiveness.

“‘Being nice’ and things like that are not necessarily based on who the partner is and what the partner really wants,” Birnbaum says. “When a mate is truly responsive, the relationship feels special and unique and he or she is perceived as valued and desirable.

“Sexual desire thrives on increasing intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time; better than any pyrotechnic sex,” Birnbaum says.

Source: University of Rochester

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Bragging is a Big Turn-Off in Online Dating]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107514 2016-07-22T14:23:04Z 2016-07-22T11:15:53Z Bragging is a Big Turn-Off in Online DatingNow that more and more singles are turning to online dating to meet prospective mates, scholars have become curious as to what makes a dating profile successful or unsuccessful, attractive […]]]> Bragging is a Big Turn-Off in Online Dating

Now that more and more singles are turning to online dating to meet prospective mates, scholars have become curious as to what makes a dating profile successful or unsuccessful, attractive or unattractive? Do the same factors that attract people in face-to-face encounters also apply online?

Researchers Crystal D. Wotipka and Andrew C. High at the University of Iowa asked 316 online daters what they thought of particular profiles. Their goal was to find out how specific types of content in online dating profiles affect viewers’ impressions of the profile owner. They also wanted to know what makes a person take the next step and contact a person of interest.

Their findings are published in the National Communication Association’s journal Communication Monographs.

For the study, participants were presented with one of four sample online dating profiles that exhibited different types of content. The researchers looked specifically at the effects of two concepts: selective-self presentation and warranting.

Selective self-presentation is people’s ability to highlight their most flattering qualities. In the context of online dating, where the goal is to attract a partner, people are motivated to present a lot of positive information about themselves while minimizing negative information — or in other words, to brag a little.

People can “warrant” their online dating profiles, explain the authors, by providing access to corroborating sites — for example, a link to a professional biography page or the name of a blog to which they regularly contribute.

The researchers investigated how online dating profiles that contain high or low selective self-presentation and high or low warranting align with impressions of social attraction and trust from profile viewers. Wotipka and High also analyzed whether impressions of trust and social attraction influenced a profile viewer’s intention to contact and date the profile owner.

The findings show that online daters judged people who bragged excessively about themselves, their looks, or their accomplishments as less trustworthy and less socially attractive, thereby lessening viewer’s intentions to date or contact those profile owners.

To develop profiles with high warranting value, the researchers included links to external sites that could support their identity, such as a link to a professional biography page maintained by the profile creator’s employer. This strategy helped viewers to verify content in a profile, which ultimately increased trust in the information on the profile, but only when people bragged less.

When combined, low selective self-presentation and high warranting made people “seem honest as well as humble and approachable,” wrote the authors. On the other hand, profiles exhibiting both high self-selective presentation and high warranting were viewed as arrogant or immodest, which lessened viewers’ intention to contact them. In other words, braggers don’t get dates.

“Daters should strive to present themselves as humble, ‘real’ people,” said the authors, especially if their goal is to establish a long-term relationship based on trust.

Source: Taylor & Francis

 

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Humble Prominent People are More Generous]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107522 2016-07-22T14:19:13Z 2016-07-22T10:30:16Z Humble Prominent People are More GenerousNew research discovers that people who believe they “earned” their high social status are often less generous than influential people who accredited their prominent position to other factors. In fact, […]]]> Humble Prominent People are More Generous

New research discovers that people who believe they “earned” their high social status are often less generous than influential people who accredited their prominent position to other factors.

In fact, people who were generous on their path to high social status, may become less generous once they accomplish their prominence.

Michigan State University scholar Nicholas Hays, led a series of six scientific studies and found that people with high social status who didn’t believe they earned that status, were much more generous than high-status people who felt they deserved the respect and admiration of others.

Prominent people who don’t feel their status is fair and equitable become more generous with others to alleviate that sense of inequity, he explained.

“The effects of social status on generosity are contingent on deservingness, meaning that high-ranking people don’t always behave selfishly, as a significant amount of research suggests, but do indeed care about whether or not they deserve their position,” said Hays, assistant professor of management.

The findings are published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

In separate studies with more than 1,200 total participants, Hays and Steven Blader, professor at New York University, examined the effects of social status on generosity.

In one study they surveyed 255 MBA students organized into 51 teams twice during a six-month project on the students’ willingness to help their teammates and on their perceptions of their own and their teammates’ social status.

The research project is one of the first of its kind.

Previous studies have looked at the effects of power — which is defined as control over resources, whereas status is about being respected by others — and found that powerful people tend to become more selfish regardless of fairness or equity.

But Hays and Blader, in all six studies, found that while high-status people who felt worthy of their rank were indeed less generous, high-status people who felt unworthy were actually more generous.

Prior research has also found that generosity often leads to high social status.

The current study takes that a step further by considering what happens after people have attained high status.

“We demonstrate that generosity may not persist once people achieve that high status,” Hays said. “It depends on whether they feel that status is deserved.”

Source: Michigan State University

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Traci Pedersen <![CDATA[Dogs Can Ease Stress in Families with Autistic Child]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107454 2016-07-21T13:29:00Z 2016-07-21T13:30:05Z Dogs Can Ease Stress in Families with Autistic ChildA pet dog can act as a significant stress reducer for families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study at the University of […]]]> Dogs Can Ease Stress in Families with Autistic Child

A pet dog can act as a significant stress reducer for families who have a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new study at the University of Lincoln, UK.

The findings show a reduction in the number of dysfunctional interactions between parent and child among families who own a dog, and these anti-stress benefits appear to get stronger over time.

“Parents of children with autism can experience increased anxiety and stress, and now we have strong scientific evidence to show that pets can have positive effects on these quality-of-life issues. Families with an autistic child should consider pet ownership as a way to improve family harmony,” said Steven Feldman, Executive Director at the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation.

The project, which focused specifically on how pet dogs affect families with ASD children, is one of the first of several research projects funded by HABRI investigating the effects of companion animals on human health.

“While there‭ ‬is‭ ‬growing‭ ‬evidence ‬that ‬animal-assisted‭ ‬therapy‭ ‬can aid in ‬the‭ ‬treatment‭ ‬of‭ children with ‬autism‭ ‬spectrum‭ ‬disorders, this study is one of the first to examine how‭ ‬pet‭ ‬dog‭ ‬ownership‭ ‬can also ‬improve‭ ‬the‭ ‬lives‭ ‬of‭ ‬those‭ ‬more widely affected‭ ‬by‭ ‬autism,” said study leader Dr. Daniel Mills, professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln.

“Researchers have previously focused on the positive effects that assistance dogs can have on the child’s well-being and have passed over the impact they might also have on close relatives, but our results show that owning a pet dog (rather than a specifically trained assistance dog) can considerably improve the function of the whole family unit.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬”

“We found a significant, positive‭ ‬relationship‭ ‬between‭ ‬parenting‭ ‬stress‭ ‬of‭ ‬the child‭’‬s‭ ‬main‭ ‬caregiver‭ ‬and‭ ‬their‭ ‬attachment‭ ‬to‭ ‬the‭ family dog. This highlights the importance of the bond between the carer and their dog in the benefits they‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ gain.”‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The research involved families with an autistic child who had also been participating in an earlier study on the short-term effects of dog ownership. The researchers followed up with the families two and a half years later in order to determine the long-term benefits of having a pet dog.

The findings show that initial results of reduced family difficulties lasted years beyond the early stages of acquiring a dog, and that stress levels continued to experience a steady decline.

“Stress associated with parenting a child with autism continued to decrease among dog owners over time, but we did not see the same reductions in families without a dog,” added Mills.

“This long-term follow-up study highlights the potential benefits of pet ownership in bringing long-term improvements to the lives of families living with a child with autism.”

The findings are published in the American Journal of Veterinary Behavior.

Source: University of Lincoln

 

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Nearly Half of Women with ADHD Mull Suicide]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107465 2016-07-21T13:25:30Z 2016-07-21T12:45:40Z Nearly Half of Women with ADHD Mull SuicideA new study suggests women with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are much more likely to have a wide range of mental and physical health problems in comparison to women […]]]> Nearly Half of Women with ADHD Mull Suicide

A new study suggests women with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are much more likely to have a wide range of mental and physical health problems in comparison to women without ADHD.

Researchers at the University of Toronto were surprised by the various health issues — including suicidal ideation — which women with ADHD evidently experience.

“The prevalence of mental illness among women with ADHD was disturbingly high with 46 percent having seriously considered suicide, 36 percent having generalized anxiety disorder, 31 percent having major depressive disorder, and 39 percent having substance abuse problems at some point in their life,” reported Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, Faculty of Social Work and Director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging.

“These rates are much higher than among women without ADHD, ranging from more than four times the odds of suicidal thoughts and generalized anxiety disorders to more than twice the odds of major depressive disorder and substance abuse.” said Fuller-Thomson.

Investigators examined a representative sample of 3,908 Canadian women aged 20 to 39 of whom 107 reported that they had been diagnosed with ADHD. Data was drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

“We were surprised at the high levels of physical health problems that the women were experiencing,” said Danielle A. Lewis, co-author of the study.

“More than one in four (28 percent) of these relatively young women said that physical pain prohibited some of their activities, which was much higher than the nine percent of their peers without ADHD who had disabling pain.

Insomnia was also more prevalent in the women with ADHD in comparison to those without ADHD (43.9 percent vs 12.2 percent) as was smoking (41 percent vs 22 percent),” stated Lewis.

“Unfortunately, our study does not provide insight into why women with ADHD are so vulnerable. It is possible that some of the mental health problems may be caused by and/or contributing to financial stress,” Fuller-Thomson suggested.

The study also found, one in three of the women (37 percent) with ADHD reported they had difficulty meeting basic expenses such as food, shelter and clothing due to their inadequate household income. For women without ADHD, only 13 percent had this shortfall.

“Many people think of ADHD as primarily a boys’ disorder which has little relevance for girls and women. Our findings suggest, to the contrary, that a large portion of women with ADHD are struggling with mental illness, physical health concerns, and poverty,” said Fuller-Thomson.

Source: University of Toronto/EurekAlert

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Mindfulness Skills Show Promise in Treating Kids’ Anxiety]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107470 2016-07-21T13:21:39Z 2016-07-21T12:00:08Z Mindfulness Skills Show Promise in Treating Kids' AnxietyAnxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions for children and teens. While antidepressants are frequently used to treat youth with anxiety disorders, sometimes, antidepressants may be poorly tolerated […]]]> Mindfulness Skills Show Promise in Treating Kids' Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are among the most common psychiatric conditions for children and teens. While antidepressants are frequently used to treat youth with anxiety disorders, sometimes, antidepressants may be poorly tolerated in children who are at high risk of developing bipolar disorder.

A new study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) explores how cognitive therapy that uses mindfulness techniques such as meditation, quiet reflection, and facilitator-led discussion, may serve as an adjunct to pharmacological treatments.

The study, published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, looked at brain imaging in youth before and after mindfulness-based therapy and saw changes in brain regions that control emotional processing.

The review is part of a larger study by co-principal investigators Melissa DelBello, M.D., and Sian Cotton, Ph.D., looking at the effectiveness of mindfulness-based therapy.

In a small group of youth identified with anxiety disorders (generalized, social, and/or separation anxiety) and who have a parent with bipolar disorder, researchers evaluated the neurophysiology of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in children who are considered at-risk for developing bipolar disorder.

“Our preliminary observation that the mindfulness therapy increases activity in the part of the brain known as the cingulate, which processes cognitive and emotional information, is noteworthy,” says Jeffrey Strawn, M.D., a co-principal investigator on the study.

“This study, taken together with previous research, raises the possibility that treatment-related increases in brain activity [of the anterior cingulate cortex] during emotional processing may improve emotional processing in anxious youth who are at risk for developing bipolar disorder.”

The study’s findings in regard to increases in activity in the part of the brain known as the insula, are of high interest, Strawn said. This is because the insula is the part of the brain responsible for monitoring and responding to the physiological condition of the body.

In this pilot trial, nine participants ages nine to 16 years, underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while performing continuous performance tasks with emotional and neutral distractors prior to and following 12 weeks of mindful-based cognitive therapy.

“Mindfulness-based therapeutic interventions promote the use of meditative practices to increase present-moment awareness of conscious thoughts, feelings, and body sensations in an effort to manage negative experiences more effectively,” said Cotton.

“These integrative approaches expand traditional treatments and offer new strategies for coping with psychological distress.”

Researchers discovered multiple benefits from the mindfulness intervention. Cotton explains that clinician-rated anxiety and youth-rated trait anxiety were significantly reduced following treatment. Further, the increases in mindfulness were associated with decreases in anxiety.

Increasingly, patients and families are asking for additional therapeutic options, in addition to traditional medication-based treatments, that have proven effectiveness for improved symptom reduction. Mindfulness-based therapies for mood disorders is one such example with promising evidence being studied and implemented at University of Cincinnati, said Cotton.

“The path from an initial understanding of the effects of psychotherapy on brain activity to the identification of markers of treatment response is a challenging one, and will require additional studies of specific aspects of emotional processing circuits,” Strawn said.

Source: University of Cincinnati

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Selective Memory May Portend Memory Loss in Old Age]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107473 2016-07-21T13:18:21Z 2016-07-21T11:15:42Z Selective Memory May Portend Memory Loss in Old AgeA new study found that people who recalled positive information over neutral and negative information performed worse on memory tests. Neurobiologists at the University of California, Irvine, believe the results […]]]> Selective Memory May Portend Memory Loss in Old Age

A new study found that people who recalled positive information over neutral and negative information performed worse on memory tests.

Neurobiologists at the University of California, Irvine, believe the results suggest that this discriminating remembrance may be a marker for early stages of memory loss in the elderly.

Michael Yassa, associate professor of neurobiology and behavior, and neurology, and colleagues designed and employed a test that assessed participants’ recall of stories with differing emotional content. The study was designed to identify memory deficits and decline, particularly in the context of aging and Alzheimer’s disease.

Thirty-two older adults (21 females and 11 males with a mean age of 74.8) took part in the study.

After each story was read aloud, they were asked to recite all the details they could remember. The task was repeated after 20 minutes and one week later. This allowed the neurobiologists to observe how story recall varied as time passed.

The research will appear in the journal Learning & Memory.

The study team included Dr. Stephanie Leal, who recently earned a doctorate at University of California, Irvine, and Jessica Noche, a clinical research specialist in the Yassa lab.

“We were interested in seeing how emotional memory changes over time, so we developed a test to detect the subtle changes that occur with different types of emotional memory in older adults,” Noche said.

“We specifically compared responses to positive, negative, and neutral stories to learn whether emotional valence had a role in the way stories were remembered over time.”

Study subjects also took a verbal learning exam to gauge general memory performance. This served to distinguish between individuals who were high performers and those who were low performers (i.e., showing subtle memory deficits).

Researchers believe it is importantly to note that none of the participants suffered from overt memory problems severe enough for a clinical diagnosis.

Analyzing the results, researchers found that low-performing older adults exhibited a large “positivity effect,” or propensity to remember positive information. However, this came at the expense of retaining neutral material.

On the other hand, high-performing older adults could recall more from neutral stories at the expense of retaining positive details.

“We suggest that this bias toward positive retention may be a compensatory mechanism that masks the effects of memory loss in the elderly, although this remains speculative,” Yassa said.

“It’s possible that selectively remembering positive information may be related to changes in the brain networks supporting memory, emotional valence, and reward value.

Future studies using brain imaging techniques will be essential in understanding the mechanisms underlying this effect.”

Since all study participants at the time of testing had no memory complaints, researchers believe that the exam they created, called the Emotional Logical Memory Test, may tap into subtle changes in emotional memory abilities prior to obvious symptoms of cognitive decline.

Further work will be necessary to establish whether subjects expressing the positivity effect are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. If so, the test could prove to be a valuable tool in the early detection of Alzheimer’s susceptibility.

Source: University of California, Irvine

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Brain Stimulation Can Reduce High-Carb Food Cravings]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107461 2016-07-21T13:13:00Z 2016-07-21T10:30:54Z Brain Stimulation Can Reduce High-Carb Food CravingsEmerging research suggests that noninvasive stimulation of a specific brain area can reduce food cravings. Peter A. Hall, Ph.D., of University of Waterloo in Canada, and colleagues performed a literature […]]]> Brain Stimulation Can Reduce High-Carb Food Cravings

Emerging research suggests that noninvasive stimulation of a specific brain area can reduce food cravings.

Peter A. Hall, Ph.D., of University of Waterloo in Canada, and colleagues performed a literature review and discovered brain stimulation is effective for reducing cravings for high-calorie, “appetitive” foods. Nevertheless, investigators say additional research is necessary to establish if brain stimulation can reduce actual food consumption.

Study findings appear in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

The researchers analyzed previous studies evaluating the effects of noninvasive brain stimulation on food cravings and food consumption. Findings suggest stimulation of a specific brain region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), appears to play a role in the “conscious regulation of food craving and consumption of calorie-dense foods.”

The review identified eleven studies evaluating the effects of DLPFC stimulation on food cravings and/or consumption. The studies included human volunteers in laboratory settings — most often women who reported “strong and frequent” cravings for high-calorie snack foods. All studies used an appropriate sham (inactive) stimulation procedure.

Of eight studies providing data on food cravings, all but one showed a significant effect of brain stimulation. Meta-analysis of pooled data from these studies suggested a “moderate-sized effect” of DLPFC stimulation on food cravings — roughly half a point on a four-point self-rated scale.

Interestingly, just one of the two types of stimulation studied had a significant effect on food cravings — a technique called repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The other technique evaluated, transcranial direct current stimulation, did not significantly affect cravings.

In contrast, the results of nine studies providing data on actual food consumption were inconsistent. The pooled data analysis suggested no significant effect of brain stimulation.

Another two studies evaluated the effects of treatment using repeated sessions of DLPFC stimulation. Findings were mixed as one study found a significant reduction in total food intake after daily stimulation, while the other did not.

However, there was some evidence that stimulation specifically reduced consumption of carbohydrates — for example, cookies, cakes, and soda.

Researchers believe this is an important insight because calorie-dense snack foods are often implicated in the development of obesity.

One reason it’s so difficult to lose weight by dieting is that the person has to overcome the “natural preferences” for these types of appetitive foods. It’s not entirely clear how DLPFC works to reduce food cravings, but evidence suggests possible effects on the “reward center” of the brain and/or enhanced cognitive control over cravings.

Researchers believe the available data support the conclusion that DLPFC stimulation does reduce food cravings. “These effects seem to be strongest for rTMS neuromodulation methods and are moderate in magnitude,” they write.

While so far there’s “no reliable effect” of brain stimulation in reducing overall food consumption, studies do suggest a possible effect on intake of carbohydrates.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health/EurekAlert

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Call For Research Coupling Genetics And Cognitive Bias]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107417 2016-07-20T13:32:52Z 2016-07-20T14:15:54Z Call For Research Coupling Genetics And Cognitive BiasNew research suggests the same genes that make us prone to depression could also make us prone to positivity, depending on environmental factors. Professors Elaine Fox, from Oxford University, and […]]]> Call For Research Coupling Genetics And Cognitive Bias

New research suggests the same genes that make us prone to depression could also make us prone to positivity, depending on environmental factors.

Professors Elaine Fox, from Oxford University, and Chris Beevers from the University of Texas at Austin say studies in cognitive bias and genetics must be brought together to better understand how best to tackle mental ill health.

The researchers reviewed a number of studies for their paper in Molecular Psychiatry.

They say that there is a need to combine studies in mental health genetics with those that look at cognitive biases.

“Cognitive biases are when people consistently interpret situations though particular mental ‘filters’. When people have a cognitive bias that emphasizes negative aspects or thoughts, they are more at risk of mental health disorders,” said Beevers.

“There is a lot of research about these biases, and a lot of research about genes that may make people susceptible to mental ill health. However, we suggest that it could make more sense to bring together these two areas of research.”

According to Fox, “If you take a gene that is linked to mental illness, and compare people who have the same genetic variant, it becomes clear that what happens to their mental health is based on their environment. We suggest that while no gene ’causes’ mental ill health, some genes can make people more sensitive to the effects of their environment — for better and for worse.”

Therefore, a combination of genetic predilection plus the environment influences a person’s mental health.

“If you have those genes and are in a negative environment, you are likely to develop the negative cognitive biases that lead to mental disorders. If you have those genes but are in a supportive environment, you are likely to develop positive cognitive biases that increase your mental resilience.”

Fox is currently carrying out further research into this combined genetic and environmental effect on our mental filters, which she has dubbed the “CogBIAS” project.

She intends to see how sets of genes may affect mental health outcomes and how these are moderated by people’s environments.

The hope is that such research may enable us to understand people’s underlying genetic sensitivity and deliver more tailored support to deliver the best possible mental resilience and health for each person.

Source: University of Oxford

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Rick Nauert PhD <![CDATA[Use of Multiple Antipsychotic Drugs after Hospital Discharge Persists]]> http://psychcentral.com/news/?p=107405 2016-07-20T14:07:00Z 2016-07-20T13:30:46Z Use of Multiple Antipsychotic Drugs after Hospital Discharge PersistsAlthough legislation has been introduced to limit the number of antipsychotic drugs used for patients with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses, the practice of prescribing multiple drugs remains an […]]]> Use of Multiple Antipsychotic Drugs after Hospital Discharge Persists

Although legislation has been introduced to limit the number of antipsychotic drugs used for patients with schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses, the practice of prescribing multiple drugs remains an issue.

New research finds that at least 12 percent of patients are still prescribed multiple antipsychotics after an inpatient stay at a state psychiatric hospitals.

“Antipsychotic polypharmacy continues at a high enough rate to impact nearly 10,000 patients with a diagnosis of schizophrenia each year in state psychiatric inpatient hospitals,” explains Glorimar Ortiz, Vera Hollen, and Lucille Schacht, of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors Research Institute (NRI).

The study appears in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice®.

The results “provide insights into quality initiatives that could help further reduce the use of antipsychotic polypharmacy and reduce practices that are not consistent with best-practice guidelines,” the researchers write.

The investigators reviewed data on more than 86,000 adult patients discharged from 160 state psychiatric inpatient hospitals during 2011. Data were obtained from the Behavioral Healthcare Performance Measurement System — a comprehensive proprietary national database maintained by the NRI, representing 80 percent of all US state psychiatric hospitals.

Most schizophrenia treatment guidelines recommend against using antipsychotic polypharmacy, or using it only as a last resort.

Experts contend that taking more than one antipsychotic can increase the risk for complications — including drug interactions, medication side effects, and metabolic disorders — without improving outcomes.

More complex medication regimens may also increase the risk that patients won’t follow their prescribed treatment.

In 2011, the Joint Commission introduced performance measures to reduce antipsychotic polypharmacy. The standards attempted to be balanced and defined situations where using more than one antipsychotic is validated.

For instance, use of multiple medications were acknowledged to be appropriate if an individual has experienced multiple failed attempts at single-drug treatment, if the physician is adjusting doses to work toward single-drug therapy, or if the medication is used augment the effects of the antipsychotic drug clozapine.

The data showed that 12 percent of patients were discharged with a prescription for multiple antipsychotic drugs. Of the discharged patients who were prescribed at least one antipsychotic medication, 18 percent were prescribed more than one antipsychotic.

The most common reason for antipsychotic polypharmacy was to “reduce symptoms” — cited for 37 percent of patients. Meanwhile, only 36 percent met one of the three criteria established by the Joint Commission for appropriate use of multiple antipsychotics.

Two factors were identified as strong predictors of antipsychotic polypharmacy: a diagnosis of schizophrenia and an inpatient stay of 90 days or more.

The researchers note that 40 percent of patients at state psychiatric inpatient hospitals have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, while nearly 20 percent experience a longer hospital stay –“suggesting a high-risk population needing special attention.”

The results highlight the need for continued efforts to reduce the rate of antipsychotic polypharmacy.

“Low percentages for the three appropriate justifications suggest that implementation of the proposed best practices are taking place at a low rate,” Ms. Ortiz and coauthors write.

They believe their findings suggest that need for revised standards and definitions that are more appropriate for psychiatric inpatient hospitals.

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health/EurekAlert

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