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Updated: 43 min 34 sec ago

Poor Sleep Tied to Poor Nutrition

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 6:00am

Many Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep, and many do not get the recommended amounts of important vitamins and minerals. A new study suggests the two factors may be connected.

Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, the researchers discovered that people who got fewer than seven hours of sleep a night consumed lower amounts of vitamins A, D, and B1, as well as magnesium, niacin, calcium, zinc, and phosphorus.

The study also found a greater number of nutrients were associated with poor sleep in women than in men. This number was reduced if women took dietary supplements, suggesting that supplements can help fill the gaps when a person’s diet is not providing the necessary nutrients, researchers said.

“This work adds to the body of growing evidence associating specific nutrient intakes with sleep outcomes,” said lead study author Chioma Ikonte, director of nutrition science at Pharmavite, a company that sells dietary supplements. “Our findings suggest that individuals with short sleep duration might benefit from improving their intake of these nutrients through diet and supplementation.”

In addition to the findings on sleep duration, the research suggests a lack of nutrients may also play a role in sleep disorders, poor sleep quality and trouble falling asleep.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that our bodies require but do not produce. As a result, they must come from our diet. Globally, billions of people suffer from at least one micronutrient deficiency, according to the researchers.

Previous studies have demonstrated important roles for micronutrients in growth and development, disease prevention and healing, and normal bodily functions, including sleep. Magnesium, for example, helps the body produce melatonin and other compounds involved in sleep. Some studies suggest zinc plays a role in sleep regulation.

The researchers caution that the study was a retrospective analysis, not a randomized controlled study, so it cannot prove cause and effect.

“Whether chronic short sleep causes nutrient insufficiency or the nutrient insufficiency causes short sleep still needs to be determined,” said Ikonte. “A clinical study that investigates the impacts of supplementation with these nutrients on sleep outcomes is needed to demonstrate cause and effect.”

The research was presented at Nutrition 2019, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition.

Source: American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

Early Life Adversity Can Affect Kids’ Brain Chemistry

Sun, 06/09/2019 - 8:00am

A new study shows that adversity early in life affects a child’s executive function skills, such as their ability to focus or organize tasks.

Experiences such as poverty, residential instability, parental divorce, or substance abuse can lead to changes in a child’s brain chemistry, muting the effects of stress hormones. These hormones rise to help us face challenges, stress or to simply “get up and go,” researchers at the University of Washington explain.

These impacts to executive function and stress hormones create a snowball effect, adding to social and emotional challenges that can continue through childhood, researchers add.

“This study shows how adversity is affecting multiple systems inside a child,” said Dr. Liliana Lengua, a UW professor of psychology and director of the Center for Child and Family Well-Being, as well as the study’s lead author. “The disruption of multiple systems of self-control, both intentional planning efforts and automatic stress-hormone responses, sets off a cascade of neurobiological effects that starts early and continues through childhood.”

For the study, researchers evaluated 306 children at intervals over more than two years, starting when the children were around 3 years old, up to age 5 ½. Children were from a range of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, with 57 percent considered lower income or near poverty.

Income was a key marker for adversity, according to the study’s finding.

In addition, the children’s mothers were surveyed about other risk factors that have been linked to poor health and behavior outcomes in children, including family transitions, residential instability, and negative life events such as abuse or the incarceration of a parent.

The researchers then tested children’s executive function skills with a series of activities and, through saliva samples, a stress-response hormone called diurnal cortisol.

Diurnal cortisol is the hormone that “helps us rise to a challenge,” according to Lengua.

Diurnal cortisol tends to follow a daily, or diurnal, pattern: It increases early in the morning, helping us to wake up. It is highest in the morning and then starts to fall throughout the day. But the pattern is different among children and adults who face constant stress, Lengua said.

“What we see in individuals experiencing chronic adversity is that their morning levels are quite low and flat through the day, every day. When someone is faced with high levels of stress all the time, the cortisol response becomes immune, and the system stops responding,” she said. “That means they’re not having the cortisol levels they need to be alert and awake and emotionally ready to meet the challenges of the day.”

To assess executive function, researchers chose preschool-friendly activities that measured each child’s ability to follow directions, pay attention, and take actions contrary to impulse. For instance, in a game called “Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders,” children are told to do the opposite of what a researcher tells them to do — if the researcher says “touch your head,” the child is supposed to touch their toes. In another activity, children interact with two puppets, a monkey and a dragon, but are supposed to follow only the instructions given by the monkey.

When children are better at following instructions in these and similar activities, they tend to have better social skills and manage their emotions when stressed, according to the researchers. Children who did well on these tasks also tended to have more typical patterns of diurnal cortisol, the study discovered.

But children who were in families that had lower income and higher adversity tended to have both lower executive function and an atypical diurnal cortisol pattern, according to the study’s findings. Each of those contributed to more behavior problems and lower social-emotional competence in children when they were about to start kindergarten, the researchers reported.

According to Lengua, the study shows that not only do low income and adversity affect children’s adjustment, but they also impact these self-regulation systems that then add to children’s adjustment problems.

“Taken all together, it’s like a snowball effect, with adverse effects adding together,” she said.

While past research has pointed to the effects of adversity on executive function, and to the specific relationship between cortisol and executive function, this new study shows the additive effects over time, she added.

“Executive function is an indicator that shows the functioning of cognitive regulation,” she said. “Cortisol is the neuroendocrine response, an automatic response, and the two consistently emerge as being related to each other and impacting behavior in children.”

The study was published in Development and Psychopathology.

Source: University of Washington

Severe Injuries from Violence May Hike Risk for Depression, PTSD

Sun, 06/09/2019 - 7:30am

Many individuals who are hospitalized for a serious injury are at greater risk for developing post-injury depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A new study finds that these post-injury mental health risks are even higher among patients whose injuries stem from a violent event or among those who had experienced previous life adversity.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) observed more than 600 urban black men who had been hospitalized for severe injuries. The team followed the men for three months after hospital discharge to assess for mental health symptoms.

For the patients in the study, some of whom experienced previous trauma, childhood adversity and neighborhood disadvantage, acute post-injury stress responses were found to be exacerbated. Almost one half of study participants met the diagnostic criteria for depression and/or PTSD at follow-up.

The researchers found that participants with violent injuries (as compared to those with non-violent injuries) had more severe post-injury mental health symptoms.

In addition, the study shows the importance of taking into consideration prior life experiences, such as adverse childhood experiences, neighborhood disadvantage, pre-injury health and psychological resources in addition to acute stress responses to an injury event, in order to identify injured patients at greater risk for poor post-injury mental health outcomes.

“The intersection of prior trauma and adversity, prior exposure to challenging neighborhood disadvantage, and poorer preinjury health and functioning should not be overlooked in the midst of acute injury care when assessing for the risk of postinjury mental health symptoms,” said lead-investigator Therese S. Richmond, Ph.D., CRNP, FAAN, the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing, and Associate Dean for Research & Innovation.

The new findings appear in the journal JAMA Surgery.

“This study takes a life-trajectory approach, helps inform potential points of intervention to improve outcomes, and adds to understanding both risk and protective factors across the life trajectory in an understudied group at high risk for injury,” said Richmond.

“We must integrate psychological care into the very essence of trauma care if we are to improve outcomes from serious injuries. Because symptoms develop after hospital discharge, further developing and using screening instruments designed to predict the future development of postinjury mental health problems is warranted to focus services on those patients at highest risk.”

But although addressing the psychological effects of injury can improve health and reduce negative outcomes, a national survey shows that only seven percent of trauma centers incorporate routine screening for PTSD symptoms.

The new findings appear in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing



Dogs Tend to Mirror Owners’ Stress Levels, Not Vice Versa

Sun, 06/09/2019 - 7:14am

A new Swedish study, involving 58 herding dogs and their female owners, suggests that the dogs tend to mirror their owners’ stress levels, rather than vice versa.

Previous research has shown that individuals can mirror each others’ emotional states — for example, there is a correlation between long-term stress in children and their mothers.

In the new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Linköping University (LiU) investigated whether similar mirroring of stress levels over long time periods can also arise between separate species, such as between the domesticated dog and humans.

The study involved 25 border collies and 33 Shetland sheepdogs, all owned by women. The team evaluated stress levels over several months by measuring the concentration of the stress hormone, cortisol, in a few centimeters of hair from the dog and its owner. The owners and the dogs provided hair samples on two occasions separated by a few months.

“We found that the levels of long-term cortisol in the dog and its owner were synchronised, such that owners with high cortisol levels have dogs with high cortisol levels, while owners with low cortisol levels have dogs with low levels,” said Dr. Ann-Sofie Sundman of the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM) at LiU, principal author of the study and newly promoted doctor of ethology.

Since physical activity can increase cortisol levels, the researchers also wanted to compare companion dogs with dogs that competed in obedience or agility. The physical activity levels of the dogs were therefore recorded for a week using an activity collar.

Previous work has shown that levels of short-term cortisol in saliva rise in a synchronous manner in both the dog and its owner when they compete together. In contrast, however, the new study found that physical activity in dogs does not affect the long-term cortisol in their hair.

On the other hand, the stress level of competing dogs seems to be linked more strongly with that of the owner. The scientists speculate that this may be associated with a higher degree of active interaction between the owner and the dog when they train and compete together.

The researchers also explored whether stress levels are correlated with personality traits. To do this, the dog owners were asked to complete two questionnaires to report their own and their dog’s personalities.

“Surprisingly enough, we found no major effect of the dog’s personality on long-term stress. The personality of the owner, on the other hand, had a strong effect. This has led us to suggest that the dog mirrors its owner’s stress,” said senior lecturer Dr. Lina Roth, also at IFM, and principal investigator for the study.

The findings suggest that the match between an owner and a dog primarily has an impact on the dog’s stress levels. Still, further studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn regarding the cause of the correlation.

The researchers are now planning to study other breeds. Both the border collie and the Shetland sheepdog are herding dogs, which have been bred to collaborate well with humans and respond accurately and quickly to signals. The team is planning to explore whether a similar synchronization takes place between dogs and humans in, for example, hunting dogs, which have been trained to be independent. Another line of research will look at whether the sex of the owner plays a role.

“If we learn more about how different types of dog are influenced by humans, it will be possible to match dog and owner in a way that is better for both, from a stress-management point of view. It may be that certain breeds are not so deeply affected if their owner has a high stress level,” said Roth.

Source: Linköping University


Autism Tied to Less Empathy – And That May Be OK

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 10:07am

New research shows that people with autistic traits show less empathy and reduced understanding of other people’s feelings.

While autism is often associated with social difficulties, there has been debate in recent years about whether those in the autistic community experience difficulties in processing emotion and the exact form this takes, according to researchers from the University of Bath and King’s College London in the UK.

The debate was centered on difficulties in measuring empathy, but also on the complicating factor that many autistic people also experience alexithymia, a condition known as “emotional blindness.” People with alexithymia face difficulties in understanding their own and others’ emotions, researchers said. Yet previous research did not make it clear whether autistic people without alexithymia faced the same challenge.

For the new study, researchers addressed limitations in previous research. Across two large-scale surveys, sampling more than 650 adults from the general population, they measured the links between autistic tendencies, alexithymia, and scored individuals on a detailed empathy test.

The results found that having more autistic tendencies was linked to lower empathy, even after factoring in alexithymia.

Using computerized simulations, autism was the more dominant and statistically important link to empathy when compared to alexithymia, the researchers reported. These simulations showed that the results would be found around 90 percent of the time. The results were found in two studies and held after factoring in both participants’ age and gender, the researchers added.

“These findings provide some of the strongest evidence to date that autism is linked to lower empathy in the general population,” said lead researcher Dr. Punit Shah from Bath’s Department of Psychology.

“Although many have associated autism with poor social skills, prior to this study the association with empathy was much less clear. By drawing on large samples and using advanced statistical techniques we hope these robust results can help settle a long-standing debate and will make an important contribution for future autism support.”

“Autism being linked with lower empathy is not necessarily a negative thing,” added study co-author Lucy Livingston of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. “Empathy is useful in social situations, but it can be a mentally tiring exercise. It is also thought that selective empathy, such as understanding some people’s feelings while ignoring others, can lead to negative behaviors, such as excluding some groups from society. It may be that lower empathy for those with autism actually has unforeseen benefits that we do not fully understand yet.”

The researchers said they hope their results will be used to improve understanding and acceptance of people with autistic tendencies and diagnosed autism. They add it is important for policymakers, clinicians, and educators to be aware of such behaviors in order to create more autism-friendly environments.

The study was published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Source: University of Bath

Teens Get More Sleep, Feel More Engaged When School Starts Later

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 10:01am

A new study adds to the growing evidence that students experience several benefits from later school start times.

The findings reveal that, after a Colorado school district changed to later start times, students in middle and high school got more sleep at night, were less likely to feel too sleepy to do homework and were much more engaged with their work.

“Biological changes in the circadian rhythm, or internal clock, during puberty prevents teens from falling asleep early enough to get sufficient sleep when faced with early school start times,” said principal investigator Lisa J. Meltzer, Ph.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado.

“This study provides additional support that delaying middle and high school start times results in increased sleep duration for adolescents due to later wake times.”

For the study, the researchers observed students from Cherry Creek School District in Greenwood Village, Colorado. In fall 2017, the district delayed school start times for middle school by 50 minutes (changing from 8 a.m. to 8:50 a.m.) and for high school by 70 minutes (changing from 7:10 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.).

Results show that one year after the change, self-reported sleep on school nights was 31 minutes longer among middle school students and 48 minutes longer among high school students.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that middle schools and high schools should start at 8:30 a.m. or later to support student health, alertness and safety. However, a previous data analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 14% of high schools and 19% of middle schools started at 8:30 a.m. or later.

The study involved more than 15,000 students in grades 6-11 who completed online surveys during school hours before the start time change in spring 2017 and after the start time change in spring 2018. The survey included questions asking about weekday and weekend bedtime, wake time and total sleep time; sleepiness during homework; and academic engagement.

The researchers found that the percentage of students who reported feeling too sleepy to do their homework declined after the school start time delay from 46% to 35% among middle school students and from 71% to 56% among high school students.

Scores on a measure of academic engagement were significantly higher after the start time change for both middle school and high school students.

“The study findings are important because getting enough sleep is critical for adolescent development, physical health, mood, and academic success,” said Meltzer.

CCSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried said that the study supports firsthand feedback he’s received from students across the 108-square-mile district.

“I don’t know how many of our high school students have come up to me and said, ‘This has changed my life for the better.’ They’ve told me they’re getting up to an hour of additional sleep before school starts,” Siegfried said.

“That extra sleep makes a real difference in terms of health and wellness. The input from our students and the numbers from this landmark study point to the same conclusion: The change in our start times has been a positive step and benefited our students’ everyday routines.”

The research abstract appears in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented in San Antonio at SLEEP 2019, the 33rd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Parents of Depressed Teens May Benefit From Treatment Too

Sat, 06/08/2019 - 6:30am

Teen depression can have a significant impact on the whole family, and now a new study suggests that parents of depressed teens may also benefit from seeking treatment.

“Families are interactive, fragile ecosystems, and a shift in a teenager’s mood can undoubtedly alter the family’s balance, negatively or positively,” said first author Kelsey Howard, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The findings show that while depressed teens were involved in active treatment, parents’ marriages and parent-child conflict remained stable. But once the teens’ treatment had finished, the parents’ marital relationships slightly worsened.

“Families might be putting their own issues on the back burner while their teen gets help. Once the treatment ends, they’re forced to face issues in their marriage or family that might have been simmering while their depressed teen was being treated,” said Howard.

To address this, the researchers recommend that parents of teens who are depressed also have a check-in for their marital relationship.

The findings, published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, show that parents of teens who had higher depressive symptoms at the end of their treatment experienced more marital problems and more parent-child conflict at later study visits. Conversely, parents whose kids showed fewer depressive symptoms at the end of treatment saw an improvement in later parent-child conflict.

“This study is important in that very little research has examined the effect of treating teens, with medication or psychotherapy, on family relationships,” said Dr. Mark A. Reinecke, chief of psychology in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg. “Findings in this area have been inconsistent, and the effects can be subtle.

“The take-home message — that teen depression can affect families, and that parents of depressed teens may need support — is entirely sensible. It’s something we should all keep in mind.”

The study was a secondary analysis of data from 322 clinically depressed youths who participated in the 2007 Treatment for Adolescents with Depression Study, a landmark study on treating adolescent depression. As part of this study, adolescents’ depression was measured during the treatment period, which lasted 36 weeks, and for one year afterward.

Source: Northwestern University

Childhood Adversity Linked to Premature Brain Development and Mental Illness

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 7:30am

New research shows that growing up in poverty and experiencing traumatic events such as a bad accident or sexual assault can negatively impact brain development and behavior in children and young adults.

According to a new study, low socioeconomic status (L-SES) and experiencing traumatic stressful events (TSEs) were linked to accelerated puberty and brain maturation, abnormal brain development, and greater mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

“The findings underscore the need to pay attention to the environment in which the child grows. Poverty and trauma have strong associations with behavior and brain development, and the effects are much more pervasive than previously believed,” said the study’s lead author, Raquel E. Gur, MD, PhD, a professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of the Lifespan Brain Institute.

The researchers acknowledge that parents and educators are split into opposing camps regarding the question of how childhood adversity affects development into mature, healthy adulthood.

Views differ from “spare the rod and spoil the child” to concerns that any stressful condition, such as bullying, will have harmful and lasting effects.

Psychologists and social scientists have documented lasting effects of growing up in poverty on cognitive functioning, and clinicians observed effects of childhood trauma on several disorders, though mostly in the context of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).

There are also anecdotal observations, supported by some research, that adversity accelerates maturation, the researchers noted. Children become young adults faster, physically and mentally.

Neuroscientists, who are aware of the complexity of changes that the brain must undergo as it transitions from childhood to young adulthood, suspected that childhood adversity affects important measures of brain structure and function.

The new study was the first to compare the effects of poverty (L-SES) to those who experienced TSEs in the same sample set, according to the Penn researchers.

The researchers analyzed data from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, which included 9,498 participants between the ages of 8 and 21. The racially and economically diverse cohort includes data on SES, TSEs, neurocognitive performance, and in a subsample, multimodal neuroimaging taken via MRI.

The researchers found specific associations of SES and TSE with psychiatric symptoms, cognitive performance, and several brain structure abnormalities.

The findings revealed that poverty was associated with small elevation in severity of psychiatric symptoms, including mood and anxiety, phobias, externalizing behavior, such as conduct disorder and ADHD, and psychosis, as compared to individuals who did not experience poverty.

The magnitude of the effects of TSEs on psychiatric symptom severity was unexpectedly large, the researchers discovered.
TSEs were mostly associated with PTSD, but the researchers also found that even a single TSE was associated with a moderate increase in severity for all psychiatric symptoms analyzed. Two or more TSEs showed large increases, especially in mood and anxiety and in psychosis.

Additionally, the study’s findings showed that these effects were larger in females than in males.

With neurocognitive functioning, the case was reversed: Poverty was found to be associated with moderate to large cognitive deficits, especially in executive functioning — mental flexibility, attention, and working memory — and in complex reasoning, the researchers report.

TSEs were found to have very subtle effects, with individuals who experienced two or more TSEs showing a mild deficit in complex cognition, but demonstrating slightly better memory performance, according to the study’s findings.

Both poverty and TSEs were associated with abnormalities across measures of brain anatomy, physiology, and connectivity, the researchers discovered.

Poverty associations were widespread, while TSEs were associated with more focused differences in the limbic and fronto-parietal regions of the brain, which processes emotions, memory, executive functions and complex reasoning.
The researchers also found evidence that adversity is associated with earlier onset of puberty.

Both poverty and experiencing TSEs are associated with the child physically maturing at an earlier age. The researchers also found the same effects on the brain, with findings revealing that a higher proportion of children who experienced adversity had characteristics of adult brains. This affects development, as the careful layering of the structural and functional connectivity in the brain requires time, and early maturity could prevent the necessary honing of skills, the researchers explained.

“Altogether our study shows no evidence to support the ‘spare the rod’ approach, to the contrary we have seen unexpectedly strong effects of TSEs on psychiatric symptoms and of poverty on neurocognitive functioning, and both are associated with brain abnormalities,” Gur said.

“The study suggests that it makes sense for parents and anyone involved in raising a child to try and shield or protect the child from exposure to adversity. And for those dealing with children who were already exposed to adversity — as is sadly the case today with refugees around the world — expect an increase in symptoms and consider cognitive remediation, a type of rehabilitation treatment which aims to improve attention, memory, and other cognitive functions.”

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Genetic Liability for Major Depression Ups Risk of Suicide Attempts

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 7:00am

A new study has discovered that a genetic predisposition for major depression also increases an individual’s risk for a suicide attempt. The finding of a shared genetic link between suicide attempt and major depression comes from the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) to date on suicide attempts.

Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that a genetic liability for major depression increases an individual’s risk for suicide attempts regardless of an individual’s mental health diagnosis.

Moreover, suicide attempters with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or a schizophrenia diagnosis carry a greater genetic liability for major depression than non-attempters.

Their findings appear in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Suicide is a worldwide public health problem, with more than 800,000 deaths due to suicide each year. Suicide and suicide attempts take an emotional toll on families and friends of those who died, as well as on attempt survivors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that suicide costs the US economy $51 billion per year in medical costs for individuals and families, lost income for families, and lost productivity for employers.

These stark figures highlight the urgent need for improved prevention and treatment, yet progress has been hampered by the lack of reliable methods for predicting suicidality and a poor understanding of its biological etiology.

“Like many psychiatric disorders, suicide attempt is known to have a partially genetic underpinning and genetic studies can provide invaluable insights into the underlying biology,” says Niamh Mullins, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychiatric Genomics.

“Through the collective efforts of many researchers, we analyzed the genomes of suicide attempters and non-attempters across three major psychiatric disorders.

Our data showed that suicide attempters with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or a schizophrenia diagnosis carry a greater genetic liability for major depression than non-attempters.”

Specifically, the current study compared the genomes of 6,569 suicide attempters and 17,232 non-attempters with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, an international collaboration for conducting large-scale genetic studies of psychiatric disorders.

Samples were combined across 46 individual cohorts from Europe, the United States, and Australia. Using polygenic risk scores, which summarize an individual’s genetic liability to a disease based on the results of an independent genetic study, the research team showed that suicide attempters carry an increased genetic liability for depression, regardless of the psychiatric disorder they are affected by.

“These results indicate the existence of a shared genetic etiology between suicide attempt and major depression that is common to suicide attempt in different psychiatric disorders,” says Dr. Mullins.

“Our study is the first consortium-based GWAS on suicide attempt and makes significant progress in increasing numbers by combining samples across clinical cohorts. However, further collaborative efforts to amass samples on an even larger scale will be essential to identify specific genetic variants which play a role in increasing risk of suicide attempt.”

Researchers believe the findings reveal the biological mechanisms underlying suicidality. This knowledge will hopefully lead to the development of new treatments and preventions.

Suicide is a tragic event — learning more about the origin and the innate risk some individuals possess help to reduce its associated burden on patients, families and healthcare systems.

Source: Mount Sinai

Study: OCD Research Needs to Focus on the Patients Themselves

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 6:00am

In a new paper published in the journal, Clinical Psychology Review, psychology researchers assert that scientific research into obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has become further and further removed from the people these studies are supposed to help: OCD patients and the therapists who treat them.

On one hand, cognitive science has been extremely beneficial in furthering our understanding of mental health disorders. The interdisciplinary study of the mind and its processes embraces elements of psychology, philosophy, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and others topics. The field is rife with areas of exploration for researchers, and it has contributed enormously to the study of debilitating disorders such as OCD.

But for those living with OCD, research into their condition is not an abstract concept — it should have profound real-life implications.

Adam Radomsky, a professor in the department of psychology and the Concordia University Research Chair in Anxiety and Related Disorders, worries that for all its fascinating studies, cognitive science is becoming further and further removed from OCD patients and their therapists.

Radomsky and two of his former PhD students, Allison Ouimet and Andrea Ashbaugh, both now associate professors at the University of Ottawa, reviewed recent OCD research and found that, as interesting as it was, it did not necessarily translate into real benefits for treatment.

As Radomsky explains it, there are two hallmark symptoms of OCD.

“Obsessions are horrible intrusive thoughts people have over and over in their minds,” he explains. “Compulsions are things people do over and over again, like checking you’ve completed a task, or washing and cleaning.”

A commonly held belief among researchers suggests that memory has something to do with OCD behavior. “People are not sure if something is safe or clean or locked,” he says. An old theory was that the problem may have been cognitive in nature, or perhaps neurological.

Over the years, researchers have conducted countless studies on people with the disorder. However, after reviewing the literature, Radomsky says the overall results are equivocal.

“Research into memory, neurobiological and attention deficits probably have not helped therapists or clinicians and probably have not improved therapy,” he says.

The research did prove beneficial in another area though, that of the individual’s beliefs in their own cognitive functioning.

“It’s not that people with OCD have a memory deficit. It’s that they believe they have a memory deficit. It is not their ability to pay attention that is the problem; it is that they do not believe they can focus,” he says. “In the clinic, we can work with what people believe.”

As both an academic researcher and practicing psychologist, Radomsky says he hopes his review will be of help to colleagues inside and outside the lab.

“We think the review will help therapists focus on areas that will be of use, and hopefully help cognitive scientists look at domains that could be useful to clinicians,” he says.

Radomsky would like to see cognitive scientists and practitioners working closer together with the goal of providing better treatment for people living with OCD.

“We learn a lot from the science that researchers are doing, but we also learn a lot from clients and patients,” he says.

“In fact, in some ways, patients are the better instructors because they are living with these problems. I suspect we are going to increasingly follow their lead, because when they voice a particular concern or doubt in themselves, those are often the best ideas to take into the lab.”

Source: Concordia University

Poor Nights Sleep May Increase BP, Linked to Cardiovascular Health

Fri, 06/07/2019 - 5:30am

A new study from the University of Arizona suggests a connection between a bad night’s sleep and elevated cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers discovered a sleepless night may result in a spike in blood pressure that night and the following day.

The investigation offers one possible explanation for why sleep problems have been shown to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and even death from cardiovascular disease. The good news is that cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI) is gaining acceptance as a method to make meaningful behavioral changes to improve sleep.

Study results will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine.

The link between poor sleep and cardiovascular health problems is increasingly well-established in scientific literature, but the reason for the relationship is less understood.

In the new study, researchers set out to learn more about the connection in a study of 300 men and women, ages 21 to 70, with no history of heart problems.

Participants wore portable blood pressure cuffs for two consecutive days. The cuffs randomly took participants’ blood pressure during 45-minute intervals throughout each day and also overnight.

At night, participants wore actigraphy monitors — wristwatch-like devices that measure movement — to help determine their “sleep efficiency,” or the amount of time in bed spent sleeping soundly.

Overall, those who had lower sleep efficiency showed an increase in blood pressure during that restless night. They also had higher systolic blood pressure, the top number in a patient’s blood pressure reading, the next day.

Experts agree that more research is needed to understand why poor sleep raises blood pressure and what it could mean long-term for people with chronic sleep issues.

Nevertheless, these latest findings may be an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding the pathway through which sleep impacts overall cardiovascular health.

“Blood pressure is one of the best predictors of cardiovascular health,” said lead study author Caroline Doyle, a graduate student in the University of Arizona Department of Psychology.

“There is a lot of literature out there that shows sleep has some kind of impact on mortality and on cardiovascular disease, which is the number one killer of people in the country. We wanted to see if we could try to get a piece of that story — how sleep might be impacting disease through blood pressure.”

The study reinforces just how important a good night’s sleep can be. It’s not just the amount of time you spend in bed, but the quality of sleep you’re getting, said study co-author John Ruiz, University of Arizona associate professor of psychology.
Improving sleep quality can start with making simple changes and being proactive, Ruiz said.

“Keep the phone in a different room,” he suggested. “If your bedroom window faces the east, pull the shades. For anything that’s going to cause you to waken, think ahead about what you can do to mitigate those effects.”

For those with chronic sleep troubles, Doyle advocates cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBTI, which focuses on making behavioral changes to improve sleep health. CBTI is slowly gaining traction in the medical field and is recommended by both the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as the first line of treatment for insomnia.

Doyle and Ruiz say they hope their findings showing the impact even one fitful night’s rest can have on the body will help illuminate just how critical sleep is for heart health.

“This study stands on the shoulders of a broad literature looking at sleep and cardiovascular health,” Doyle said. “This is one more study that shows something is going on with sleep and our heart health. Sleep is important, so whatever you can do to improve your sleep, it’s worth prioritizing.”

Source: University of Arizona/EurekAlert

Poor Fitness & Strength Tied to Depression, Anxiety in Middle-Aged Women

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 7:04am

Although physical fitness has been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease and enhancing well-being, a new study appears to bolster the mental health benefits of staying in shape, especially staying strong, among midlife women.

Physical fitness is a well-known predictor of physical and mental health among men and women. Benefits of staying fit include improved cardiovascular health, enhanced cognition, reduced morbidity and a better quality of life.

In the study, researchers from Singapore determined physical performance is linked to mental health and emotions. Specifically, their findings suggest that weak upper and lower body fitness can cause more serious depression and anxiety in midlife women.

Although several studies have previously linked depression in midlife women with self-reported low physical activity, the new study is unique. The investigation is the first to evaluate objective measures of physical performance (strength, upper/lower body fitness) in relation to depression and anxiety in premenopausal, perimenopausal, and postmenopausal women.

The study appears online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).

Depression and anxiety are prevalent symptoms experienced by midlife women. This latest study of more than 1,100 women aged 45 to 69 years found, in fact, that 15 percent of participants, especially those of younger age, reported depression and/or anxiety.

As depression can cause disability, reduced quality of life, mortality, and heart disease, the researchers believed it was important to identify potentially modifiable risk factors that could reduce morbidity and mortality.

The investigators observed significant associations of objective physical performance measures with depression and anxiety.

Specifically, they found that weak upper body strength (hand grip strength) and poor lower body strength (longer duration to complete the repeated chair stand test) were associated with elevated depression and/or anxiety symptoms.

Scientists note that future trials are necessary to determine whether strengthening exercises that improve physical performance might similarly help reduce depression and anxiety in midlife women.

“Strength training has been shown to lead to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

“Both strength training and aerobic exercise appear to improve depression, possibly as a result of increased blood flow to the brain or improved coping with stress from the release of endorphins such as norepinephrine and dopamine.”

Source: The North America Menopause Society/EurekAlert

By Age 9, Many Kids Stop Exercising for Fun

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 6:30am

Around age 9, many children stop engaging in physical activity just for the fun of it, according to a new Swiss study published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, followed 1,200 Geneva students ages 8 to 12 for two years. The team discovered that from the age of 9, the more positive, internally-driven reasons for exercising — it’s fun and good for your health — begin to get replaced with outside incentives: to get a good grade or improve one’s image with other people.

Society today is characterized by an increasingly sedentary way of life and a decline in physical activity, which is reflected in the growing number of overweight children (16 percent of children aged 6 to 12 in Switzerland).

Previous research has shown that cardio-respiratory capacity in children has dropped by 25 percent in the last two decades. There are multiple reasons for this: The lure of new technologies; the social environment (such as parents being more fearful of letting their children play outside); fewer play areas in neighborhoods; and a more academic approach towards teaching physical education.

In an earlier UNIGE study, researchers noted that the recommendations issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the amount of exercise undertaken by school-age children were not being met.

The WHO guidelines suggest that children should be active for at least 50 percent of the time devoted to physical education lessons in primary school. In reality, they move on average only 38 percent of the time. And as children grow older, the percentage drops.

For the new study, the researchers tracked 1,200 Geneva students ages 8 to 12 for two years. The children had to complete a questionnaire every six months to measure their motivation levels according to a seven-point scale based on different motivational controls related (or not) to practicing the actual activity: enjoyment, learning, health, grades, satisfying other people, integration, avoiding guilt or shame, and so forth.

“Our results showed for the first time that there is a sharp drop in positive motivations for physical activity (with good motivational qualities), such as pleasure or health, over a child’s time at primary school from age 9 onwards,” said Dr. Julien Chanal, a psychology researcher in UNIGE’s Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences (FPSE). “And we’ve never observed this decline at such a young age.”

In fact, motivations considered counterproductive (with poor motivational qualities), such as engaging in the activity to get a good grade or to send a positive image to one’s classmates, increase as a child gets older.

“It’s true that harmful motivations do also mean that a child is physically active but these motivational qualities are only positive in the short term, which is counterproductive for a child’s physical development.

“In fact, we know that if children are motivated by good reasons when they’re young, then they’ll remain active when they’re adults.”

Given that age 9 is a crucial time to establish good, healthy and long term physical activity, the way PE is taught at primary school needs to be analyzed, since compulsory education is the only place where every child can be reached, say the researchers.

“In recent decades,” said Chanal, “PE teaching has changed enormously. Classes are more academic, with children learning about rules, motor functioning, mutual support, etc.”

But this approach has a direct cost for the child since it reduces the actual time dedicated to moderate to vigorous physical activity, which is already rare outside school.

The UNIGE researchers are now working with the Haute École Pédagogique in the canton of Vaud (HEP Vaud) on teaching physical education in primary classes. The aim is to develop autonomy and cooperation among pupils, and to work on the curriculum, course structure and teacher involvement to help them keep or boost their positive motivations for physical education.

“Now that children don’t move as much as before outside school, it’s vital that the periods earmarked for PE maximize the time they spend moving,” said Chanal.

Source: University of Geneva

How Chronic Inflammation May Hinder Dopamine, Motivation

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 6:00am

Research has shown that the brain’s dopamine system, which drives motivation, is directly affected by chronic, low-grade inflammation. Now, researchers at Emory University have proposed a theory as to how this might work.

Writing in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, the researchers propose that this association between dopamine, effort and the inflammatory response may be an adaptive mechanism to help the body conserve energy.

“When your body is fighting an infection or healing a wound, your brain needs a mechanism to recalibrate your motivation to do other things so you don’t use up too much of your energy,” said corresponding author Dr. Michael Treadway, an associate professor in Emory’s Department of Psychology, who studies the relationship between motivation and mental illness.

“We now have strong evidence suggesting that the immune system disrupts the dopamine system to help the brain perform this recalibration.”

The authors also developed a computational method to experimentally test their theory. The computational method will allow scientists to measure the effects of chronic inflammation on energy availability and effort-based decision-making.

In particular, the method may yield new insights into how chronic, low-grade inflammation contributes to motivational impairments in some cases of depression, schizophrenia and other medical disorders.

“If our theory is correct, then it could have a tremendous impact on treating cases of depression and other behavioral disorders that may be driven by inflammation,” said co-author Dr. Andrew Miller, William P. Timmie Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences in Emory’s School of Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute.

“It would open up opportunities for the development of therapies that target energy utilization by immune cells, which would be something completely new in our field.”

Miller is a leader in this field and is pioneering the development of immunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Co-author Dr. Jessica Cooper, a postdoctoral fellow in Treadway’s lab, led the development of the computational model.

The researchers built on previous research showing that inflammatory cytokines — signaling molecules used by the immune system — impact the dopamine reward system. And recent research has revealed more insights into how immune cells can shift their metabolic states differently from most other cells.

An immune-system mechanism to help regulate the use of energy resources during times of acute stress was likely adaptive in our ancestral environments, when life was full of pathogens and predators.

In modern environments, however, many people are less physically active and may have low-grade inflammation due to factors such as chronic stress, obesity, metabolic syndrome, aging and other factors. Under these conditions, the same mechanism to conserve energy for the immune system could become problematic, the authors theorize.

Research by Miller and other scientists have provided evidence of an association between an elevated immune system, reduced levels of dopamine and motivation, and some diagnoses of depression, schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

“We’re not proposing that inflammation causes these disorders,” Treadway says. “The idea is that a subset of people with these disorders may have a particular sensitivity to the effects of the immune system and this sensitivity could contribute to the motivational impairments they are experiencing.”

Source: Emory Health Sciences

DNA Evidence Links Gum Disease to Alzheimer’s

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 10:10pm

A Norwegian study discovers a DNA-based connection between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers suspect the bacteria responsible for gum disease can move to the brain. The bacteria can then produce a protein that destroys nerve cells in the brain, which in turn leads to loss of memory and ultimately, Alzheimer´s.

“We discovered DNA-based proof that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain,” said researcher Dr. Piotr Mydel. Mydel is a researcher at Broegelmanns Laboratory, Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB).

Mydel points out that the bacteria is not causing Alzheimer´s alone, but the presence of these bacteria raise the risk for developing the disease substantially and are also implicated in a more rapid progression of the disease.

However, the good news is that this study shows that there are some things you can do yourself to slow down Alzheimer’s.

“Brush your teeth and use floss.” Mydel said it is important, if you have established gingivitis and have Alzheimer’s in your family, to go to your dentist regularly and clean your teeth properly.

Researchers have previously discovered that the bacteria causing gingivitis can move from the mouth to the brain where the harmful enzymes they excrete can destroy the nerve cells in the brain.

The new research provides (for the first time) DNA evidence for this process from human brains.

Mydel and his colleagues examined 53 persons with Alzheimer’s and discovered the enzyme in 96 per cent of the cases. According to Mydel, this knowledge gives researchers a possible new approach for attacking Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have managed to develop a drug that blocks the harmful enzymes from the bacteria, postponing the development of Alzheimer’s. We are planning to test this drug later this year,” said Mydel.

Mydel explains that the bacteria which attacks gum tissues and causes gingivitis is common.

Some common facts regarding gingivitis include:

• the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.gingivalis) is one of the main causes to infection in the gums;
• the bacteria causes chronic infection in the gums, but can move to the brain where it can damage nerve cells in the brain;
• about 50 percent of the population have this bacteria in one or another form;
• about 10 percent of the ones having this bacteria will develop serious gum disease, loose teeth, and have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease;
• in addition to Alzheimer’s, the bacteria is linked to rheumatism, COPD and esophageal cancer.

Source: University of Bergen

Classifying Autism Based on Co-Occurring Disorders May Be Beneficial

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:30am

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have co-occurring conditions, such as epilepsy, immune disorders, gastrointestinal problems and developmental delays.

In a new study, published in the journal Autism Research, a team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute demonstrates that creating a classification system for ASD based on co-occurring conditions could provide useful insights into the underlying mechanics of ASD and these conditions.

The researchers analyzed administrative claims data for thousands of children with and without ASD over five years. Their results suggest the presence of three subgroups within the 3,278 children with autism.

The first group, around 25 percent of the children, exhibit high rates of co-occurring condition diagnoses. The second cluster, also about 25 percent of the children, had high rates of developmental delays, specifically. The third group, which included the remaining 50 percent, had the lowest rates of co-occurring condition diagnoses — only slightly higher than the group of 279,693 children without ASD.

These findings may lay the groundwork for creating a sub-classification system within ASD.

“This could potentially be a blueprint for looking at the subtypes of autism. I’m not saying it’s the only way to do it but I think it’s an important step in that direction,” said study leader Dr. Juergen Hahn, a professor of biomedical engineering.

The analysis also revealed that certain conditions like gastrointestinal and immune disorders, and seizure and sleep disorders often co-occurred at similar points in time in children with autism. Hahn said those findings could prompt further investigation by other researchers.

“Once you know which conditions happen together, then you can look at if there is some commonality among the underlying mechanisms. Maybe you find that if there’s intersection of the mechanism that causes one problem or the other,” Hahn said.

This study built upon earlier research published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, where the Rensselaer researchers looked at gastrointestinal problems and antibiotic use in both children with autism and without.

Those findings revealed that gastrointestinal symptoms are twice as common in children with autism, but that antibiotics don’t increase those symptoms in children with ASD any more than they do in children without.

“I think that’s important because it’s basically a question a lot of parents have when they go to the doctor,” Hahn said.

Based on their most recent studies, the team was able to map over time when children were diagnosed with co-occurring conditions. Those timelines show that, at certain ages, diagnosis rates diverge between children with autism and children without.

These maps may help doctors better determine at what age they should start screening children with autism for various co-occurring conditions. But even more importantly, these findings raise more questions to be explored, said Hahn.

“That tells you that something must be causing this, and so we have to figure out what’s going on in the body at this point in time that might either cause or contribute to these divergences somehow,” he said.

Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute



Poor Sleep Habits Can Impact Teens’ Long-Term Health

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 6:00am

In a new study, University of British Columbia researchers found that poor-quality sleep can affect long-term health in teens, and parents are right to insist on sleep schedules and perhaps limit late-night screen use.

“Chronic, low-quality sleep was associated with poorer health outcomes among young B.C. students,” said study author Dr. Annalijn Conklin, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at UBC and a scientist with the Centre for Health Evaluations and Outcome Sciences.

“Kids who regularly had trouble falling or staying asleep were almost 2-1/2 times as likely to report sub-optimal or less than excellent health, compared to those who did not.”

The study assessed 3,104 students in British Columbia aged 13 to 17 over a period of two years. Findings appear in the journal Preventive Medicine.

“Even if these teens had difficulty falling asleep just one night a week, if that was a regular occurrence over two years, it really seemed to affect their overall health,” added Conklin.

“What was particularly interesting was that the relationship between chronic, poor-quality sleep and health outcome was stronger in the boys than it was in the girls.”

However, the research found no relationship between poor health outcomes and those who chronically had less than eight hours sleep a night.

As an observational study, this research does not look into cause and effect, but the researchers say the findings signal that cumulative sleep problems matter for the health of young people.

“It shows that there’s definitely a link between poor health and chronic poor-quality sleep, which may be gender-specific, and I’m looking forward to seeing more research explore that connection,” said Conklin.

She added that the findings highlight the need for parents to work on the many recommendations about sleep hygiene practices.

“Other studies have specifically shown that late-night screen use and caffeine consumption have harmful consequences for falling sleep. Young people’s health may benefit from parents enforcing sleep schedules and placing restrictions on screen time,” Conklin said.

Source: University of British Columbia

Do Violent Video Games Affect Kids’ Behavior With Real Guns?

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 6:00am

A new lab study finds that children who had recently been exposed to a violent video game were more likely to point and “shoot” a real (disabled) gun toward themselves or another child after discovering it in a cabinet, compared to kids who had played a nonviolent game.

For the study, children ages 8 to 12 were paired up and assigned to one of three versions of the popular video game Minecraft: violent with guns used to kill monsters; violent with swords used to kill monsters ; or nonviolent with no weapons or monsters.

After 20 minutes of game-play, the children played with other toys in separate room that included a cabinet with two disabled handguns.

A total of 220 children had found the gun while playing. The findings show that nearly 62 percent of the 76 children who played the video game with gun violence touched a handgun; about 57 percent of the 74 kids who played the game with sword violence touched a gun, and about 44 percent of 70 kids who played the nonviolent version touched a gun. The differences across these groups were not considered statistically significant.

However, kids who were exposed to violent versions of the video game were more likely to engage in the dangerous behavior of pulling the trigger at themselves or their partner than children exposed to the nonviolent version.

The findings held even after accounting for other mitigating factors (sex, age, trait aggressiveness, exposure to violent media, attitudes toward guns, presence of firearms in the home, interest in firearms and whether the child had taken a firearm safety course).

The other outcomes (time spent holding a gun and total trigger pulls) weren’t statistically significant.

Self-reported consumption of violent media was also a risk for total trigger pulls and trigger pulls at self or partner. The study is limited by the artificial setting of a university laboratory and Minecraft is not a very violent game with no blood and gore (researchers could not ethically expose children to a more violent, age-inappropriate game).

In conclusion, the authors encourage gun owners to secure their firearms and reduce children’s exposure to violent video games.

The findings are published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Source: JAMA Network Open



Teaching Kids the Hows and Whys of Giving

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 9:41pm

While financial education stresses the importance of earning and saving, new research shows that one of the most valuable lessons parents can teach their children about money is how to appropriately give it away.

Led by University of Arizona researcher Ashley LeBaron, the study looks at how financial-giving habits are passed down through generations, and how early life lessons in giving may contribute to personal and financial well-being later on.

Existing research has established that children learn more about finances from their parents than any other source. In previous work, LeBaron highlighted how important it is for parents to give their children hands-on experience with money, in addition to having discussions with them about money and presenting a good financial example.

But the new study suggests that hands-on experience with giving may be particularly important, according to LeBaron.

For the study, LeBaron’s research team interviewed 115 participants, including college students, parents, and grandparents, about what they learned about money from their parents.

The parents and grandparents also were asked what they taught their children about the topic, ultimately providing a picture of how financial lessons are shared across four generations, according to the researchers.

Participants were not asked to talk about financial giving directly, yet nearly 83 percent of them brought it up as an important part of the financial education they gave or received, the researchers discovered.

“When you think about money and what kids learn about money from their parents, most of us wouldn’t think about giving as one of the basic principles of finance,” said LeBaron, a doctoral student in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We tend to think more in terms of budgeting and saving and things like that, so it was surprising, but really cool, to see that giving was so prevalent.”

Participants described different motivations for teaching their children about giving, including a sense of religious duty, a desire to help others, and a desire to give back.

They generally talked about three different types of giving:

  1. Charitable donations. This encompasses monetary gifts to religious or charitable organizations.
  2. Acts of kindness. This includes donations, gifts, or acts of service provided more directly to people in need. Examples might include providing meals for the  homeless or purchasing Christmas gifts for neighboring families in need.
  3. Investments in family. This category encompasses financial decisions made by parents to benefit their children or family. For example, some parents might make financial sacrifices in order to enroll a child in sports or music lessons, or to plan a family vacation.

Teaching kids to give is important for several reasons, LeBaron said.

From a practical standpoint, it can be a good way for children to learn financial basics, like budgeting and saving. For example, some study participants talked about having money jars from a young age, with one jar dedicated to money they would save, another for money they would spend, and one for money they would give.

“If a certain percentage of your money goes toward giving, that’s the start of a budget right there,” LeBaron said.

Lessons in giving may also help set the stage for a happier, healthier future, she said.

“People who are generous tend to be happier and have healthier relationships, so this is shaping not only kids’ finances, but aspects of their health and well-being,” LeBaron said.

Parents who already make it a habit to give financially should make it a point to let their children witness that behavior, she said. Or even better, they should consider involving their children directly in giving activities.

The researchers also found that just as parents can influence their kids’ financial behaviors so, too, can kids influence their parents.

“Parents and grandparents report that they have this awareness that their kids are learning financial attitudes and values from them, so sometimes they were more giving because they knew that their children were watching them, and they wanted to set that good example,” she said.

LeBaron said she was inspired by how many people in the study stressed the importance of giving and caring for others. She said it could have implications for not only how parents talk to their kids about money, but also how educators discuss the topic.

“In finance classes, we never talk about giving,” LeBaron said. “But we learned that giving is maybe one of the more important facets of financial socialization, so we need to be paying more attention to how it is taught.”

The study was published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues.

Source: University of Arizona

Ecstasy Shows Promise for Treating PTSD

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 8:52pm

A new study has found that MDMA, also known as ecstasy, may be helpful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study demonstrated substantial improvements in individuals who had not responded to prior treatments, according to University of British Columbia Associate Professor of Psychology Zach Walsh.

“PTSD symptoms decreased after one session of MDMA together with psychotherapy,” said Walsh, a study co-author.

He added that 54 percent of participants no longer met PTSD criteria after two sessions and that there was also improvement in their symptoms of depression.

During the study, the response to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy was compared to patients who received small doses of the drug or non-drug psychotherapy.

“These findings are promising and indicate the needed for larger studies,” Walsh said. “Too many people with PTSD struggle to find effective treatment, and use of MDMA in a supportive environment with trained mental health professionals could be an important addition to our treatment options.”

Nearly 4 percent of all people worldwide will suffer from PTSD during their lifetime. PTSD can be a debilitating disorder, with symptoms such as intrusive thoughts and memories, negative effects on thinking and mood, depression, hyperarousal and reactivity, and avoidance. People with PTSD can experience much lower quality of life and relationships, related mental health conditions and suicidal tendencies.

Ecstasy, also known as Molly, is the nickname for MDMA, a synthetic drug made from a combination of methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. It is a controlled, illegal drug in Canada classified as a stimulant with hallucinogenic properties.

For the study, Walsh, as well as researchers in the United States, Switzerland, and Israel, examined the results from six clinical trials involving 103 people. Trial participants included men and women with chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD from a wide variety of causes.

Based on these results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted breakthrough therapy designation to MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD, acknowledging that it “may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies” and agreeing to expedite its development and review.

The first of two more in-depth clinical trials of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD began enrolling participants in November 2018, and aims to have 100 to 150 volunteers across 15 sites in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. The second trial will take place after an interim analysis of the data from the first trial, and will include an additional 100 to 150 participants. European trials are planned to start in the near future, the researchers report.

The study was published in Psychopharmacology.

Source: University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus

Photo: Zach Walsh is an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. Credit: UBCO.