Rick Nauert PhD – Psych Central News https://psychcentral.com/news Psychology, psychiatry and mental health news and research findings, every weekday. Mon, 26 Jun 2017 15:06:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 111842359 Is It OK to Share Bed with Pets and Kids? https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/26/is-it-ok-to-share-bed-with-pets-and-kids/122452.html Mon, 26 Jun 2017 12:00:34 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122452 Is It OK to Share Bed with Pets and Kids?New research suggests the concern over negative repercussions from sharing a bed with a pet, or even kids, is a Western belief without substance. Despite the cultural apprehension, about half […]]]> Is It OK to Share Bed with Pets and Kids?

New research suggests the concern over negative repercussions from sharing a bed with a pet, or even kids, is a Western belief without substance.

Despite the cultural apprehension, about half of all pet owners share their beds or bedrooms with their pets at night. Although this has been the case through the ages, remarkably few studies have been done about the benefits and drawbacks of this practice.

Studies about co-sleeping are limited to the bedtime arrangements of adults, or parents and their children.

In an article in the journal Human Nature, the authors argue that society regards both human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping with the same unnecessary trepidation.

These concerns should, however, be set aside because both practices have their benefits, said lead author Dr. Bradley Smith of Central Queensland University in Australia.

Sleeping arrangements between humans have evolved over time and across cultures.

In medieval Europe, for instance, sleep was a public and communal affair. It was not uncommon to receive visitors in the bedroom, or for many people to sleep in the same bed. Sleeping with others was a way to increase personal security, conserve resources, and generate warmth.

Sleeping with children from birth is still the norm in many cultures, for instance in Egypt and among indigenous cultures in unindustrialized populations. Intergenerational co-sleeping is generally more prevalent in collectivist Asian countries than in contemporary, individualistic, or industrialized Western cultures.

In the West, sleep is nowadays regarded as an individual and private experience that helps the body and mind to optimally rest and recuperate.

The normative shift from sleep as a public and social affair to a private one arose through a complex “civilizing” process starting in the Victorian era.

Social norms and rules began to dictate that each person should sleep in a single bed, in a private place away from public view, and wear appropriate sleeping attire. This gradually introduced the concept of the private bedroom and private sleep to many social classes.

In their paper, Smith and his co-authors use dogs as an example of human-animal co-sleeping.

They compare human-canine sleeping with adult-child co-sleeping and argue that both forms of co-sleeping share common factors for establishment and maintenance, and have similar advantages and disadvantages.

According to the Australian researchers, current apprehension about human-animal co-sleeping and bed sharing between parents and their children focuses too much on possible negative aspects or consequences, such as poor health, impaired functioning, the development of problematic behavior, and even sexual dysfunction.

“Apart from its clear reproductive function for the survival of the species, as well as physiological support for the quality and quantity of sleep that are essential to individual health and well-being, co-sleeping fulfills basic psychological needs and reinforces and maintains social relations,” Smith said.

“Throughout history, humans have shared their sleeping spaces with other humans and other animals.”

“We propose that human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping should be approached as legitimate and socially relevant forms of co-sleeping,” he said. Smith believes that more research should be done on human-animal co-sleeping practices.

“Moreover, a comprehensive understanding of human-animal co-sleeping has significant implications for human sleep, human-animal relations, and animal welfare.”

Source: Springer

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Starting School Early May Impair Child’s Mental Health https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/26/starting-school-early-may-impair-childs-mental-health/122462.html Mon, 26 Jun 2017 11:15:25 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122462 Starting School Early May Impair Child’s Mental HealthFor parents of children born in late summer or early fall, a common dilemma is when to start the child in school. Is it best for the child to be […]]]> Starting School Early May Impair Child’s Mental Health

For parents of children born in late summer or early fall, a common dilemma is when to start the child in school. Is it best for the child to be the youngest or the oldest in their class cohort for the next 13 or so years?

New research now suggests that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

Starting school young is an exciting concept for children and their families as many see this as an opportunity to stand out. However, starting young maybe a challenging milestone for children and their families. Some children will be nearing their fifth birthday as they enter kindergarten classes while others will be just four.

Now, in a U.K. study that investigated more than 2,000 children across 80 primary schools in Devon, researchers are sharing concerns about early introduction into the school system.

Investigators from the University of Exeter Medical School discovered children who are younger than their peers when they start school are more likely to develop poorer mental health, as rated by parents and teachers.

A higher score on a measure of poor mental health would indicate that children are more likely to experience common negative emotions such as worry and fear, they may have poorer relationships with their peers and be more likely to encounter issues with behavior and concentration.

Overall the effect was small, but researchers believe the additional stress of keeping up with older peers could prove a “tipping point” for vulnerable children, such as those with learning difficulties or who were born prematurely.

The research team was supported by the National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme and the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South West Peninsula (NIHR PenCLAHRC).

The research, published in the journal Child Care, Health and Development, could have implications on parents’ decisions on whether to defer their child’s school entry for a school year.

The findings could also influence how teachers interact with younger children, particularly those with additional complex needs in the class, and on assessments and teaching and support structures within classrooms.

Anna Price, of the University of Exeter Medical School, was motivated to study the issue after home schooling her own April-born son, who has pre-existing learning difficulties, and was not ready to start school aged five.

She said, “Using such a large dataset was a chance to explore what’s really happening in practice for children who start school at a young age. We found that children who started younger had slightly worse well-being — however, this effect was very small and unlikely to make a difference for most.

“The challenge to well-being of being young for your school year might however be one struggle too many for children who face other challenges to their mental health. Our findings can help guide parents and teachers in making decisions that best support the child.”

The researchers also explored the impact of starting school early on the child’s happiness levels and behavior.

In contrast to previous research, they found no significant impact on either. The research paper noted that the schools in the study had strong support in place, such as small group learning, which may have helped improve happiness and behavior overall.

Professor Tamsin Ford, of the University of Exeter Medical School, oversaw the research. Ford, a practicing child psychiatrist, said: “Being relatively younger could be the tipping point for some, but certainly not all, children.

“For most it would just be something for teacher’s to be aware of but for children with other needs or who were born prematurely this difference could be significant. Awareness of this issue among teachers and educators means measures can be put in place that could help to mitigate this effect and get the best outcome for children.”

Source: University of Exeter

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Smartphone May Cause Brain Drain https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/26/smartphone-may-cause-brain-drain/122456.html Mon, 26 Jun 2017 10:30:43 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122456 Smartphone May Cause Brain DrainA new study suggest the mere presence of a smartphone reduces a person’s cognitive ability. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin determined cognitive capacity is reduced if a […]]]> Smartphone May Cause Brain Drain

A new study suggest the mere presence of a smartphone reduces a person’s cognitive ability.

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin determined cognitive capacity is reduced if a smartphone is within reach, even if it’s off.

Business professor Dr. Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well.

The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cognitive capacity; that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time.

Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

The study appears in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Researchers believe the findings suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.

“We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said.

“Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

In another experiment, researchers looked at how a person’s self-reported smartphone dependence — or how strongly a person feels he or she needs to have a smartphone in order to get through a typical day — affected cognitive capacity.

Participants performed the same series of computer-based tests as the first group and were randomly assigned to keep their smartphones either in sight on the desk face up, in a pocket or bag, or in another room. In this experiment, some participants were also instructed to turn off their phones.

The researchers found that participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”

Source: The University of Texas, Austin/Newswise

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Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Sleep Can Provide Buffer https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/23/work-stress-can-lead-to-overeating-but-good-seep-can-provide-buffer/122325.html Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:45:55 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122325 Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Seep Can Provide BufferInsightful new research confirms that work stress can indeed lead to an unhealthy diet. However, investigators also discovered that a good night’s sleep can help improve healthy habits. Michigan State […]]]> Work Stress Can Lead to Overeating But Good Seep Can Provide Buffer

Insightful new research confirms that work stress can indeed lead to an unhealthy diet. However, investigators also discovered that a good night’s sleep can help improve healthy habits.

Michigan State (MSU) researchers explain that the study is one of the first to investigate how psychological experiences at work shape eating behaviors.

Investigators discovered work day stress can lead to overeating and unhealthy food choices at dinnertime. But, they also found that a good night’s sleep can serve as a protecting factor between job stress and unhealthy eating in the evening.

The study appears online in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

“We found that employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and opting for more junk food instead of healthy food,” said Chu-Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, MSU associate professor of psychology and study co-author.

“However, another key finding showed how sleep helped people deal with their stressful eating after work,” she added.

“When workers slept better the night before, they tended to eat better when they experienced stress the next day.”

The research involved two studies of 235 total workers in China.

One study dealt with information-technology employees who regularly experienced high workload and felt there was never enough time in the workday. The second study involved call-center workers who often got stressed from having to deal with rude and demanding customers.

In both cases, workday stress was linked to employees’ negative mood while on the job, which in turn was linked to unhealthy eating in the evening, said Yihao Liu, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Illinois.

The study proposed two potential explanations, Liu said.

“First, eating is sometimes used as an activity to relieve and regulate one’s negative mood, because individuals instinctually avoid aversive feelings and approach desire feelings,” he said.

“Second, unhealthy eating can also be a consequence of diminished self-control. When feeling stressed out by work, individuals usually experience inadequacy in exerting effective control over their cognitions and behaviors to be aligned with personal goals and social norms.”

Chang said the finding that sleep protects against unhealthy eating following workday stress shows how the health behaviors are related.

“A good night’s sleep can make workers replenished and feel vigorous again, which may make them better able to deal with stress at work the next day and less vulnerable to unhealthy eating,” she said.

To address the problem, companies should emphasize the importance of health management for their employees and consider sleep-awareness training and flexible scheduling.

Companies should also reconsider the value of food-related job perks, which have become very common.

“Food-related perks may only serve as temporary mood-altering remedies for stressed employees,” Chang said, “and failure to address the sources of the work stress may have potential long-term detrimental effects on employee health.”

Source: Michigan State University

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Researchers Learn How Ketamine Acts on the Brain https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/23/researchers-learn-how-ketamine-acts-on-the-brain/122329.html Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:00:28 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122329 Researchers Learn How Ketamine Acts on the BrainKetamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia although it has also been used to provide rapid relief of treatment resistant depression. The ability to rapidly stabilize severely depressed patients […]]]> Researchers Learn How Ketamine Acts on the Brain

Ketamine is a medication mainly used for starting and maintaining anesthesia although it has also been used to provide rapid relief of treatment resistant depression.

The ability to rapidly stabilize severely depressed patients has been demonstrated in several studies and has led researchers to search for the exact mechanism by which ketamine works.

The effort is important as ketamine is sometimes illicitly used for its psychedelic properties and could also impede memory and other brain functions.

The multiple actions of ketamine has spurred scientists to identify new drugs that would safely replicate its antidepressant response without the unwanted side effects.

Now, emerging research from University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center scientists has identified a key protein that helps trigger ketamine’s rapid antidepressant effects in the brain. This is a crucial step to developing alternative treatments to the controversial drug being dispensed in a growing number of clinics across the country.

Researchers from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute have now answered a question vital to guiding future research: What proteins in the brain does ketamine target to achieve its effects?

“Now that we have a target in place, we can study the pathway and develop drugs that safely induce the antidepressant effect,” said Dr. Lisa Monteggia, Professor of Neuroscience at UT Southwestern’s O’Donnell Brain Institute.

The study published in Nature shows that ketamine blocks a protein responsible for a range of normal brain functions. The blocking of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor creates the initial antidepressant reaction, and a metabolite of ketamine is responsible for extending the duration of the effect.

The blocking of the receptor also induces many of ketamine’s hallucinogenic responses. The drug — used for decades as an anesthetic — can distort the senses and impair coordination.

But if taken with proper medical care, ketamine may help severely depressed or suicidal patients in need of a quick, effective treatment, Dr. Monteggia said.

Studies have shown ketamine can stabilize patients within a couple of hours, compared to other antidepressants that often take a few weeks to produce a response — if a response is induced at all.

“Patients are demanding ketamine, and they are willing to take the risk of potential side effects just to feel better,” Dr. Monteggia said.

“This demand is overriding all the questions we still have about ketamine. How often can you have an infusion? How long can it last? There are a lot of aspects regarding how ketamine acts that are still unclear.”

Researchers will work to answer these questions as they plan two clinical trials with ketamine, including an effort to administer the drug through a nasal spray as opposed to intravenous infusions.

The results of these trials will have major implications for the millions of depressed patients seeking help, in particular those who have yet to find a medication that works.

A major national study UT Southwestern led more than a decade ago (STAR*D) yielded insight into the prevalence of the problem: Up to a third of depressed patients don’t improve upon taking their first medication, and about 40 percent of people who start taking antidepressants stop taking them within three months.

Ketamine, due to the potential side effects, is mainly being explored as a treatment only after other antidepressants have failed. But for patients on the brink of giving up, waiting weeks to months to find the right therapy may not be an option.

“Ketamine opens the door to understanding how to achieve rapid action and to stabilize people quickly. Because the (NMDA) receptor that is the target of ketamine is not involved in how other classical serotonin-based antidepressants work, our study opens up a new avenue of drug discovery,” said Dr. Monteggia.

Source: UT-Southwestern

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Moderate-Intensity Exercise to Reduce Alzheimer Risk https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/23/moderate-intensity-exercise-to-reduce-alzheimer-risk/122343.html Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:15:01 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122343 New research suggests moderate intensity exercise is best format of physical activity to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators found that for people at risk […]]]>

New research suggests moderate intensity exercise is best format of physical activity to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

University of Wisconsin-Madison investigators found that for people at risk for Alzheimer’s, moderate-intensity exercise is better than light-intensity because the intensity level is linked to healthier patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain.

The investigation was led by senior author Dr. Ozioma Okonkwo, an assistant professor of medicine at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. First author Ryan Dougherty is a graduate student studying under the direction of Dr. Dane B. Cook, professor of kinesiology and a co-author of the study, and Dr. Okonkwo.

The research involved 93 members of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP), which with more than 1,500 registrants is the largest parental history Alzheimer’s risk study group in the world.

Investigators used accelerometers to measure the daily physical activity of participants, all of whom are in late middle-age and at high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but presently show no cognitive impairment.

Activity levels were measured for one week, quantified, and analyzed. This approach allowed scientists to determine the amount of time each subject spent engaged in light, moderate, and vigorous levels of physical activity.

Light physical activity is equivalent to walking slowly, while moderate is equivalent to a brisk walk and vigorous a strenuous run. Data on the intensities of physical activity were then statistically analyzed to determine how they corresponded with glucose metabolism.

Glucose metabolism is a measure of neuronal (nerve cell) health and activity in areas of the brain known to have depressed glucose metabolism in people with Alzheimer’s disease. To measure brain glucose metabolism, researchers used a specialized imaging technique called 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET).

Researchers discovered moderate physical activity was associated with healthier (greater levels of) glucose metabolism in all brain regions analyzed.

Interestingly, investigators noted a step-wise benefit: subjects who spent at least 68 minutes per day engaged in moderate physical activity showed better glucose metabolism profiles than those who spent less time.

“This study has implications for guiding exercise ‘prescriptions’ that could help protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dougherty.

“While many people become discouraged about Alzheimer’s disease because they feel there’s little they can do to protect against it, these results suggest that engaging in moderate physical activity may slow down the progression of the disease.”

“Seeing a quantifiable connection between moderate physical activity and brain health is an exciting first step,” said Okonkwo.

He explained that ongoing research is focusing on better elucidating the neuroprotective effect of exercise against Alzheimer’s disease.

Source: University of Wisconsin/EurekAlert
 
Photo: People at risk for Alzheimer’s disease who do more moderate-intensity physical activity, but not light-intensity physical activity, are more likely to have healthy patterns of glucose metabolism in their brain, according to a new UW-Madison study. Credit: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Teens’ Poor Body Image Tied to More Drinking, Smoking https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/22/teens-poor-body-image-tied-to-more-drinking-smoking/122287.html Thu, 22 Jun 2017 12:45:58 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122287 Teens' Poor Body Image Tied To More Drinking, SmokingNew research finds that the way a teen feels about their appearance can significantly impact their health and wellness. In the study, Dr. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, a body image expert […]]]> Teens' Poor Body Image Tied To More Drinking, Smoking

New research finds that the way a teen feels about their appearance can significantly impact their health and wellness.

In the study, Dr. Virginia Ramseyer Winter, a body image expert and an assistant professor in the University of Missouri’s School of Social Work, found negative body image is associated with increased tobacco and alcohol use, with implications for both young men and women.

The finding supports prior work that discovered people with negative body image are more likely to develop eating disorders and are more likely to suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

“We know alcohol and tobacco can have detrimental health effects, especially for teenagers,” Ramseyer Winter said.

“I wanted to see if the perception of being overweight and negative body image leads to engaging in unhealthy or risky substance use behaviors. Understanding the relationship means that interventions and policies aimed at improving body image among teenage populations might improve overall health.”

Ramseyer Winter and her co-authors, Andrea Kennedy and Elizabeth O’Neill, used data from a national survey of American teenagers to determine the associations between perceived size and weight, perceived attractiveness, and levels of alcohol and tobacco use.

Their study appears in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Substance Abuse. Kennedy is a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California and O’Neill is a doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas.

The researchers discovered that perceived size and attractiveness were significantly related to substance use. Adolescent girls who perceived their body size to be too fat were more likely to use alcohol and tobacco.

Boys who thought they were too skinny were more likely to smoke, and boys who considered themselves fat were more likely to binge drink.

“While poor body image disproportionately affects females, our findings indicate that body image also impacts young males,” Ramseyer Winter said.

“For example, it’s possible that boys who identified their bodies as too thin use tobacco to maintain body size, putting their health at risk.”

In addition to body size, the researchers looked at the connection between perceived attractiveness and substance use.

Investigators discovered girls who thought they were not at all good-looking were more likely to smoke. Conversely, girls who thought they were very good-looking were more likely to binge drink.

Investigators believe this occurs because attractiveness is often associated with popularity, which is related to increased alcohol use.

To improve body image awareness, Ramseyer Winter suggested that parents, schools and health providers need to be aware of body shaming language and correct such behavior to help children identify with positive body image messages.

Body shaming language can affect teenagers who have both positive and negative perceptions of themselves.

Source: University of Missouri

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Biking to Work Can Help Reduce Stress https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/22/biking-to-work-can-help-reduce-stress/122290.html Thu, 22 Jun 2017 12:00:15 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122290 Biking to Work Can Help Reduce StressA new study finds that in addition to cardiovascular and physical health benefits, pedaling to work can help reduce stress and improve work performance. Researchers from Concordia’s John Molson School […]]]> Biking to Work Can Help Reduce Stress

A new study finds that in addition to cardiovascular and physical health benefits, pedaling to work can help reduce stress and improve work performance.

Researchers from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business (JMSB) compared how different modes of commuting — cycling, driving a car, and taking public transport — affected stress and mood at work.

Drs. Stéphane Brutus and Alexandra Panaccio, and Roshan Javadian, M.Sc., discovered cycling to work is a good way to have a good day. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who traveled by car,” said Brutus, the lead author.

Interestingly, the study did not find that riding to work made any difference on mood.

The research appears the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

For the study, investigators collected data from 123 employees at Autodesk, an information technology company in Old Montreal, using a web-based survey. Respondents replied to questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress, and mode of travel.

The survey differentiated between perceived stress and mood, a more transient state affected by personality traits and emotions.

The study only assessed answers from respondents who had completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work. This was done to get a more “in-the-moment” assessment of employees’ stress and mood.

Brutus notes that this time specification was the study’s major innovation.

“Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day,” he said. “They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted, and acted upon for the rest of the day.”

He adds that the time specification ensured a more precise picture of stress upon arrival at work. Retrospective assessments can be colored by stressors that occur later in the workday.

“There are relatively few studies that compare the affective experiences of cyclists with those of car and public transport users,” said Brutus, an avid cyclist himself. “Our study was an attempt to address that gap.”

At the same time, the team confirmed previous research that found that cyclists perceived their commute as being less stressful than those who traveled by car.

Cycling has been shown to be a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation and a good form of physical activity.

A 2015 study from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found that cycling could help reduce CO2 emissions from urban passenger transportation by 11 percent by 2050. It could also save society US $24 trillion globally between 2015 and 2050.

Brutus pointed out that only around six percent of Americans or Canadians cycled to work, although the number is growing. However, the countries still significantly lag behind many European countries.

There is potential for public policymakers to seize on this, he said.

“With growing concerns about traffic congestion and pollution, governments are increasingly promoting non-motorized alternative modes of transport, such as walking and cycling. I can only hope that further studies will follow our lead and develop more precise and deliberate research into this phenomenon.”

Source: Concordia University

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Brain Inflammation Linked to OCD https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/22/brain-inflammation-linked-to-ocd/122277.html Thu, 22 Jun 2017 11:15:30 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122277 Brain Inflammation Linked to OCDA new Canadian brain imaging study finds that brain inflammation is more than 30 percent higher in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition. Researchers at […]]]> Brain Inflammation Linked to OCD

A new Canadian brain imaging study finds that brain inflammation is more than 30 percent higher in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition.

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto believe the finding may represent one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.

OCD is an anxiety disorder which can be debilitating for people who experience it. About one to two per cent of adolescents and adults suffer from OCD, an anxiety disorder in which people have intrusive or worrisome thoughts that recur and can be hard to ignore.

“Our research showed a strong relationship between brain inflammation and OCD, particularly in the parts of the brain known to function differently in OCD,” said Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, senior author of the study and Head of the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute.

“This finding represents one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the biology of OCD, and may lead to the development of new treatments.”

Inflammation or swelling is the body’s response to infection or injury, and helps the body to heal. But, in some cases, this immune-system response can also be harmful, Meyer said.

Dampening the harmful effects of inflammation and promoting its curative effects, through new medications or other innovative approaches, could prove to be a new way to treat OCD.

In an earlier study, Meyer discovered that brain inflammation is elevated in people with depression, an illness that can go hand in hand with OCD in some people.

A novel direction for developing treatments is important, since current medications don’t work for nearly one in three people with OCD.

The study included 20 people with OCD and a comparison group of 20 people without the disorder. Doctoral student Sophia Attwells was first author of the study. The researchers used a type of brain imaging called positron emission tomography (PET) that was adapted with special technology at CAMH to see inflammation in the brain.

A chemical dye measured the activity of immune cells called microglia, which are active in inflammation, in six brain areas that play a role in OCD. In people with OCD, inflammation was 32 percent higher on average in these regions.

Inflammation was greater in some people with OCD as compared to others, which could reflect variability in the biology of the illness.

Additional investigations are under way to find low-cost blood markers and symptom measures that could identify which individuals with OCD have the greatest level of inflammation and could benefit the most from treatment targeting inflammation.

Another notable finding from the current study — a connection between resisting compulsions and brain inflammation — provides one indicator. At least nine out of 10 people with OCD carry out compulsions, the actions or rituals that people do to try to reduce their obsessions.

In the study, people who experienced the greatest stress or anxiety when they tried to avoid acting out their compulsions also had the highest levels of inflammation in one brain area. This stress response could also help pinpoint who may best benefit from this type of treatment.

The discovery opens different options for developing treatments.

“Medications developed to target brain inflammation in other disorders could be useful in treating OCD,” said Meyer.

“Work needs to be done to uncover the specific factors that contribute to brain inflammation, but finding a way to reduce inflammation’s harmful effects and increase its helpful effects could enable us to develop a new treatment much more quickly.”

Study findings appear in JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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Night Owls May Find It Harder to Control OCD https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/21/night-owls-may-find-it-harder-to-control-ocd/122233.html Wed, 21 Jun 2017 12:45:11 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122233 Night Owls May Find It Harder to Control OCDNew research finds the time a person goes to bed can influence their perceived ability to control obsessive thoughts. Investigators from Binghamton University, State University of New York, monitored 20 individuals […]]]> Night Owls May Find It Harder to Control OCD

New research finds the time a person goes to bed can influence their perceived ability to control obsessive thoughts.

Investigators from Binghamton University, State University of New York, monitored 20 individuals diagnosed with OCD and 10 endorsing sub-threshold OCD symptoms during one week of sleep.

The research was led by Dr. Meredith E. Coles and former graduate student Jessica Schubert (now at University of Michigan Medical School).

Participants completed sleep diaries and daily ratings of perceived degree of control over obsessive thoughts and ritualized behaviors.

The researchers found that previous night’s bedtime significantly predicted participants’ perceived ability to control their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior on the subsequent day.

“We’re really interested in how this kind of unusual timing of sleep might affect cognitive functioning,” said Schubert.

“One possibility is impulse control. It might be that something about shifting the timing of your sleep might reduce your ability to control your thoughts and your behaviors, so it might make it more likely that you’re going to have a hard time dismissing intrusive thoughts characteristic of obsessions, and it might make it more difficult for you to refrain from compulsive behaviors that are designed to reduce the anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts.”

The average bedtime for participants in the study was around 12:30 a.m. Patients who met criteria for delayed sleep phase disorder, about 40 percent of the sample, went to bed around 3:00 a.m.

“I always knew you were supposed to get eight hours of sleep, but I was never told it matters when you do it,” said Coles.

“It’s been striking to me that this difference seems to be very specific to the circadian component of when you sleep. That we find that there are specific negative consequences of sleeping at the wrong times, that’s something to educate the public about.”

The researchers are interested in exploring this phenomenon further. Coles plans on collecting pilot data using lightboxes to shift people’s bedtimes.

“It’s one of our first efforts to actually shift their bedtimes and see if it reduces their OCD symptoms, and if this improves their ability to resist those intrusive thoughts and not develop compulsions in response to them.”

Source: Binghamton University

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New Tool Helps Predict Cognitive Deficits in Parkinson’s https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/21/new-tool-helps-predict-cognitive-deficits-in-parkinsons/122241.html Wed, 21 Jun 2017 11:15:07 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122241 New Tool Helps Predict Cognitive Deficits in Parkinson’sAlthough Parkinson’s disease (PD) is typically thought of as a movement disorder, approximately 25 percent of patients also experience cognitive deficits. A newly developed research tool may help predict a patient’s […]]]> New Tool Helps Predict Cognitive Deficits in Parkinson’s

Although Parkinson’s disease (PD) is typically thought of as a movement disorder, approximately 25 percent of patients also experience cognitive deficits.

A newly developed research tool may help predict a patient’s risk for developing dementia and could enable clinical trials aimed at finding treatments to prevent the cognitive effects of the disease.

Investigators at Harvard Medical School and the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital spearheaded development of the computer-based risk calculator.

The research appears in Lancet Neurology.

“By allowing clinical researchers to identify and select only patients at high risk for developing dementia, this tool could help in the design of ‘smarter’ trials that require a manageable number of participating patients,” said corresponding author Clemens Scherzer, M.D., head of the Neurogenomics Lab and Parkinson Personalized Medicine Program.

For the study, the research team combined data from 3,200 people with PD, representing more than 25,000 individual clinical assessments and evaluated seven known clinical and genetic risk factors associated with developing dementia.

From this information, they built the risk calculator that may predict the chance that an individual with PD will develop cognitive deficits.

“This study includes both genetic and clinical assessments from multiple groups of patients, and it represents a significant step forward in our ability to effectively model one of the most troublesome non-motor aspects of Parkinson’s disease,” said researcher Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D.

Currently available medications are effective in improving motor deficits caused by the disease. However, the loss of cognitive abilities severely affects an individual’s quality of life and independence.

One barrier to developing treatments for the cognitive effects of PD is the considerable variability among patients. As a result, researchers must enroll several hundred patients when designing clinical trials to test treatments.

Scherzer and team also noted that a patient’s education appeared to have a powerful impact on the risk of memory loss. The more years of formal education patients in the study had, the greater was their protection against cognitive decline.

“This fits with the theory that education might provide your brain with a ‘cognitive reserve,’ which is the capacity to potentially compensate for some of the disease-related effects,” said Scherzer.

“I hope researchers will take a closer look at this. It would be amazing, if this simple observation could be turned into a useful therapeutic intervention.”

Moving forward, Scherzer and his colleagues from the International Genetics of Parkinson’s Disease Progression (IGPP) Consortium plan to further improve the cognitive risk score calculator.

The team is scanning the genome of PD patients to hunt for new progression genes. Ultimately, it is their hope that the tool can be used in the clinic in addition to helping with clinical trial design. However, considerable research remains to be done before that will be possible.

One complication for the use of this calculator in the clinic is the lack of available treatments for PD-related cognitive deficits. Doctors face ethical issues concerning whether patients should be informed of their risk when there is little available to help them.

It is hoped that by improving clinical trial design, the risk calculator can first aid in the discovery of new PD treatments and determine which patients would benefit most from the new treatments.

“Prediction is the first step,” said Scherzer. “Prevention is the ultimate goal, preventing a dismal prognosis from ever happening.”

Source: Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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Teaching Kids Mental Health Skills Can Ease Anxiety, Suicidal Thoughts https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/21/teaching-kids-mental-health-skills-can-ease-anxiety-suicidal-thoughts/122237.html Wed, 21 Jun 2017 10:30:52 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122237 Teaching Kids Mental Health Skills Can Ease Anxiety, Suicidal ThoughtsA new Canadian pilot program designed to promote mental health skills in youth significantly lessened cases of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. University of Alberta researchers led the EMPATHY program […]]]> Teaching Kids Mental Health Skills Can Ease Anxiety, Suicidal Thoughts

A new Canadian pilot program designed to promote mental health skills in youth significantly lessened cases of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

University of Alberta researchers led the EMPATHY program in a local school district from 2013 to 2015. The program was offered to more than 6,000 youth in grades six through 12.

A follow-up study conducted 15 months after the program ended found the percentage of the total school population who were actively suicidal decreased from 4.4 percent to 2.8 percent.

Moreover, rates of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm also saw significant declines.

“With the school board’s active participation, we switched some of the health classes to mental health training and resiliency classes,” said Dr. Peter Silverstone, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.

“What this shows is that if you put this program into schools, you change kids fundamentally. And these changes last well over a year.”

Youth in middle school were offered courses in mental health training, while those in high school had access to professional help if they were identified as having severe depression or suicidal thoughts.

After first having their parents notified, the youth were offered supervised online interventions with trained therapists. If further help was needed, families were then referred to external specialists in mental health.

The program was introduced following a rash of suicides among youth in the Red Deer school district during the 2013-2014 school year.

Superintendent Stu Henry said that within a year and a half of the program’s start, dramatic improvements could already be seen. He believes the results show there is a need for mental health training among youth.

“I think our world is more complicated than it has ever been and it is hard on kids,” said Henry. “We see more and more of them presenting with complex mental health issues. So for us to be able to address that issue and tackle it with a really comprehensive approach, is powerful.”

Along with lower rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, Silverstone said the use of drugs, alcohol, and incidents of bullying also decreased among youth following participation in the program.

EMPATHY was discontinued after a loss of funding in 2015, but Silverstone believes it can act as a key tool in the prevention of mental health problems in youth before they get out of hand.

“Most psychiatric conditions start in the late teens and early 20s,” said Silverstone. “If you can prevent that, or give kids tools to help deal with it, you can have a major impact on the individuals and on society.”

Henry agrees. Despite seeing the program end, Red Deer Public Schools has continued to use elements of EMPATHY. Mental health training is still taught in its middle school health classes and the school district has kept an active relationship with Alberta Health, Primary Care Networks and other agencies in order to pro-actively offer help to kids in need.

Starting next year, Red Deer Public Schools will also have several mental health therapists housed in its schools as part of a new pilot project.

“It is very much modeled on the pieces that we really thought made a difference during the EMPATHY project,” said Henry.

“If we can normalize talk about mental health and have somebody that the kids know at the school who has got that level of training and support who can help them at the school level, then we will greatly reduce emergency issues.”

“These sorts of programs can be transformative for vast numbers of kids in a way that almost nothing else can be,” said Silverstone.

“And that translates to a huge positive for society as a whole. Reduced crime, reduced dropouts, higher graduation rates — all of these things we believe are linked to these kinds of interventions.”

Source: University of Alberta/EurekAlert

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Study: 2 of 3 Moms of Young Kids ‘Shamed’ about Parenting Skills https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/20/study-2-of-3-moms-of-young-kids-shamed-about-parenting-skills/122180.html Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:45:15 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122180 Study: 2 of 3 Moms of Young Kids ‘Shamed’ about Parenting SkillsA new study finds that nearly two-thirds of mothers of young children have been criticized about their parenting skills, often by someone within their own family. Researchers say such disapproval […]]]> Study: 2 of 3 Moms of Young Kids ‘Shamed’ about Parenting Skills

A new study finds that nearly two-thirds of mothers of young children have been criticized about their parenting skills, often by someone within their own family.

Researchers say such disapproval may limit the time a mom and her child spend with her own family and that moms need support, not ridicule.

The new report comes from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan. Researchers discovered six in 10 mothers of children ages zero to five say they have been criticized about parenting, on everything from discipline to breast feeding.

The report is based on responses from a national sample of 475 mothers with at least one child between ages zero to five.

Celebrity moms are not immune from the bashing: Actress Reese Witherspoon was recently food-shamed for feeding her toddler cinnamon buns for breakfast; critics were quick to judge model Coco Rocho for giving her baby formula.

But the problem doesn’t only affect the famous. Such “shaming” is a familiar burden for many common moms.

“Our findings tap into the tensions moms face when parenting advice leads to more stress than reassurance and makes them feel more criticized than supported,” said poll co-director Sarah Clark, M.P.H.

“Mothers can get overwhelmed by so many conflicting views on the ‘best’ way to raise a child,” she adds. “Unsolicited advice — especially from the people closest to her child — can be perceived as meaning she’s not doing a good job as a mother. That can be hurtful.”

Interesting, parenting complaints often come from a mother’s own parents. Thirty-seven percent of poll respondents have felt second-guessed by their mother or father.

That tally was followed by a spouse or their child’s other parent (36 percent) and in-laws (31 percent.) Mothers report far less criticism from friends, other mothers they encounter in public, social media commenters, their child’s doctor, and child care provider.

Discipline is the most frequent topic of criticism, reported by 70 percent of mothers who felt shamed. Other areas of concern are diet and nutrition (52 percent), sleep (46 percent), breast- vs. bottle-feeding (39 percent), safety (20 percent), and child care (16 percent).

Clark notes that the subject of discipline is especially controversial. Opposing views and cultural differences are common — spanking versus time-outs, for instance — or strict adherence to rules instead of allowing space for a child to explore.

New information about child health and safety also often challenge long-held parenting practices that other family members used themselves or have grown up with.

“Family members should respect that mothers of young children may have more updated information about child health and safety,” Clark said, “and ‘what we used to do’ may no longer be the best advice.”

Although 42 percent of mothers say the criticism has made them feel unsure about their parenting choices, it has also pushed them to be proactive.

Many of the mothers in the Mott poll said that they have responded to “shamers” by consulting a health care provider for advice. In some cases, new information prompted mothers to make a change in their parenting but other times, research validated a parenting choice.

Mothers in the Mott Poll were much less likely to report being criticized by their child’s health care provider than by family members.

“This indicates that most mothers view their child’s health care provider as a trusted source of accurate information and advice, not as a critic,” Clark said.

“Child health providers can help by encouraging mothers to ask questions about any parenting uncertainties, and offer reassurance and practical advice that helps boost mothers’ confidence and reduce anxiety around choices.”

Sixty-two percent of moms in the Mott poll say they get a lot of unhelpful advice from other people, while 56 percent believe moms get too much blame and not enough credit for their children’s behavior. And half of those surveyed said they simply avoid people who are too critical.

“It’s unfortunate when a mother feels criticized to the point where she limits the amount of time she and her child will spend with a family member or friend,” she says.

“To guard against that situation, advice to mothers of young children should be given with empathy and encouragement.”

Source: University of Michigan

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Healthy Diet Plus Mental and Physical Exercise Can Reduce Elder Frailty https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/20/healthy-diet-plus-mental-and-physical-exercise-can-reduce-elder-frailty/122184.html Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:00:35 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122184 Healthy Diet Plus Mental and Physical Exercise Can Reduce Elder FrailtyAging is often accompanied by weakness, difficulty walking, and declining cognition. This frailty results in adverse health outcomes including disability, hospitalization, and mortality. A new study from the National University […]]]> Healthy Diet Plus Mental and Physical Exercise Can Reduce Elder Frailty

Aging is often accompanied by weakness, difficulty walking, and declining cognition. This frailty results in adverse health outcomes including disability, hospitalization, and mortality.

A new study from the National University of Singapore (NUS) finds that among frail elders, good nutrition, physical training, and mental exercises can reverse many of the physical challenges associated with aging and improve cognition.

Associate Professor Ng Tze Pin, from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, led the research team. The study adds to earlier findings that physically frail elderly persons are eight times as likely to be cognitive impaired at the same time compared to their robust counterparts.

And, if a physically frail individual is not cognitively impaired, they are more than five times at risk of becoming cognitively impaired on follow up three years later.

“In addition, physically frail elderly persons are two to 10 times as likely to become functionally disabled on daily living activities, hospitalized, and die earlier than their robust counterparts. When physical frailty and cognitive impairment are present together in the same individual, he or she is more than 20 times as likely to become disabled, hospitalized, or die earlier,” said Ng.

Accordingly, if it is possible to reduce or even reverse physical frailty in the elderly, we could greatly improve their quality of life, he said.

The researchers conducted a four-year trial between 2010 and 2013, involving 250 community-living older persons in Singapore who were 65 years old and above and who showed signs of frailty.

“Our study shows that it is feasible to identify pre-frail and frail older persons in the community and primary care settings and provide them with lifestyle interventions to reverse frailty. We found that better nutrition, physical training, and mental exercises can reverse frailty, enhance muscle strength and gait speed, reduce depressive symptoms, and improve cognitive functioning.

“As such, these interventions can go a long way to reducing the high prevalence of physical disability, hospitalization, and mortality in an ageing society like Singapore,” Ng added.

Participants for the trial were recruited from October 2009 to August 2012 from various senior activity centers in Singapore. They were randomly allocated to receive lifestyle interventions in one of five groups for a period of six months.

Three groups of participants were provided with either physical training, nutritional enhancement, or cognitive training, while the fourth group received a combination of all three interventions. The last group was a control group which did not receive any intervention. The trial was conducted in collaboration with Khoo Teck Puat and St Luke’s hospitals in Singapore.

Assessment of the participants’ frailty and other outcomes were made before the start of intervention. During the six-month trial, the participants’ progress were measured after three months and six months. A follow-up assessment was also conducted six months after the trial (i.e. 12 months after the start of intervention).

The NUS researchers found that the three types of intervention, as well as a combination of all three approaches, were able to reduce frailty and depressive symptoms, and improve cognitive functioning of the elderly.

Ng noted, “The important message from our studies is that frailty is not an inevitable part of ageing. There is much that older people can do for themselves to avoid becoming frail and disabled, so it is vital that they pay attention to good quality diet and nutrition, engage in physical exercise, and participate in socially and cognitively stimulating activities.”

Following the encouraging findings from the trial, the research team is working with the Geriatric Education and Research Institute (GERI) and social service organizations to develop and implement pilot frailty screening and multi-domain lifestyle intervention community programs.

They hope that such programs when successfully scaled up for mass intervention can help improve the physical, psychological, and cognitive well-being of large numbers of senior citizens.

Source: National University of Singapore

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Relationship Anxiety May Hinder Long-Term Bond https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/06/20/relationship-anxiety-may-hinder-long-term-bond/122176.html Tue, 20 Jun 2017 10:30:04 +0000 https://psychcentral.com/news/?p=122176 Relationship Anxiety May Hinder Long-Term BondEmerging research finds that uncertainty over a relationship may be detrimental to the long-term success of the relationship. While some degree of uncertainty — the “love me, love me not” […]]]> Relationship Anxiety May Hinder Long-Term Bond

Emerging research finds that uncertainty over a relationship may be detrimental to the long-term success of the relationship.

While some degree of uncertainty — the “love me, love me not” concern — is normal at the beginning of a relationship, persistent attachment anxiety is problematic.

In the study, Florida State University graduate student Ashley Cooper investigated how high levels of fluctuation in how secure an individual feels in his or her relationship may actually doom its success.

Her paper appears in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

“For people anxious in their attachments, they have anxiety as to whether the person is going to be there for them and whether they are worthy of others,” said Cooper, a second-year doctoral student in the College of Human Sciences.

“I was interested in how attachment security impacted partners’ experiences in their relationship on a daily basis. Some couples experience instability from one day to the next in their relationship, so we sought out to explore what could increase or decrease this volatility.”

Cooper and her colleagues found that individuals who experience high levels of anxiety about their partner’s commitment were likely to experience more volatility in their feelings about the relationship from one day to the next.

Researchers also discovered that when women experienced this anxiety, their male partners experienced similar volatility in their feelings about the relationship.

For the study, 157 couples were interviewed with researchers asking them a series of questions. The queries included: how the couples communicated their attachment to each other, how comfortable they were in emotionally connecting with their partners, their relationship satisfaction, and the type of conflict that existed in the relationship.

Of the sample, 74 percent of the participants were dating and nearly 50 percent of participants were in relationships of two years or less.

Investigators specifically looked at the couples in which one or both partners experienced high attachment avoidance; that is, behaviors associated with the distrust of relying on other people — and attachment anxiety, behaviors associated with fears regarding consistent care and affection.

When an individual reported high attachment avoidance, both the individual and partner reported generally low levels of relationship satisfaction or quality. When individuals reported high attachment anxiety, there tended to be increased volatility in relationship quality.

Cooper said the findings will be helpful to clinicians involved in premarital or couples counseling and for individuals who experience drastic differences in their feelings about their relationships from day to day.

“For the average person, stay attuned to what your partner is saying and avoid making assumptions that can escalate conflict,” she said.

“Trusting in your partner and your relationship is important to daily interactions and stability for your relationship.”

Other researchers who contributed to this study are Casey Totenhagen from the University of Alabama, Brandon McDaniel from Illinois State University, and Melissa Curran from the University of Arizona.

Source: Florida State University

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