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Updated: 30 min 26 sec ago

Background Music May Hamper Creativity

Tue, 03/05/2019 - 1:00am

Do you enjoy playing your favorite music while working on your homework or other creative project? A new study suggests you might want to turn it off.

The findings of the U.K. study challenge the popular view that music enhances creativity, and suggests it may in fact have the opposite effect. This proved to be the case even when the music boosted the listener’s mood.

Psychologists from the University of Central Lancashire and Lancaster University (England) and the University of Gävle (Sweden) investigated the impact of background music on performance by quizzing people with verbal insight problems that are believed to tap into creativity.

They discovered that background music “significantly impaired” the participants’ ability to complete tasks testing verbal creativity, but there was no effect for background library noise.

For example, the participants were presented with a set of three words (dress, dial, flower), with the requirement being to think of a single associated word (in this case “sun”) that can be combined to make a common word or phrase (sundress, sundial and sunflower).

The research team conducted three experiments involving verbal tasks in either a quiet environment or while exposed to:

  • background music with foreign (unfamiliar) lyrics;
  • instrumental music without lyrics;
  • music with familiar lyrics.

“We found strong evidence of impaired performance when playing background music in comparison to quiet background conditions,” said researcher Dr. Neil McLatchie of Lancaster University.

Researchers suggest this may be due to the fact that music disrupts verbal working memory.

In the third scenario, exposure to music with familiar lyrics reduced creativity regardless of whether the music also boosted mood, induced a positive mood, was liked by the participants, or whether participants typically studied in the presence of music.

However, there was no significant difference in performance of the verbal tasks between the quiet and library noise conditions. The researchers say this is because library noise is a “steady state” environment which is not as disruptive.

“To conclude, the findings here challenge the popular view that music enhances creativity, and instead demonstrate that music, regardless of the presence of semantic content (no lyrics, familiar lyrics or unfamiliar lyrics), consistently disrupts creative performance in insight problem solving,” said McLatchie.

Source: Lancaster University


Commitment Readiness May Be Key to Relationship Success

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 10:57pm

New research finds that timing is everything when it comes to entering into a successful long-term relationship; finding someone who is ready to commit is a strong indicator of whether the relationship will be successful.

Purdue University investigators said being ready to enter into a relationship leads to better relational outcomes and well-being.

“When a person feels more ready, this tends to amplify the effect of psychological commitment on relationship maintenance and stability,” said Dr. Chris Agnew, a professor of psychological sciences and vice president for research at Purdue.

“The reverse is also true, based on the results from the study; when a person feels less ready for commitment while in a relationship, they are less likely to act in ways to support that relationship.”

Research findings appear in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

For the investigation, Agnew and colleagues Dr. Benjamin Hadden and graduate student Ken Tan reviewed the results from four studies and five independent samples focusing on reported readiness and commitment to an ongoing relationship.

Investigators analyzed to what degree people were willing to be involved in the day to day behaviors that help maintain a relationship. The actions were deemed to be integral to the ultimate stability of a relationship.

Initially, investigators surveyed over 400 adults in committed relationships, assessing their sense that the current time was right for the relationship (i.e., their commitment readiness), their satisfaction with the relationship, and their investments in it. They found a robust correlation between current sense of readiness and one’s commitment level.

To follow up this initial study, Agnew and colleagues ran studies with university students, first in an initial assessment with over 200 students, and then as follow-ups with some participants five and seven months later to see who was still together.

Based on their results, being “commitment-ready” was a key predictor of both success and failure. Greater readiness predicted lower likelihood of leaving a relationship. Those feeling greater readiness to commit were 25 percent less likely to break up over time.

People who reported being highly committed to their current partner but didn’t feel that the current time was best for them to be in a relationship were also more likely to end a relationship than their peers who expressed greater readiness.

And those who were commitment-ready were more likely to do the day to day work needed to maintain the relationship.
Researchers acknowledge that feeling ready to commit to a relationship at a given time is very much an individual choice.

“People’s life history, relationship history, and personal preferences all play a role. One’s culture also transmits messages that may signal that one is more or less ready to commit,” said Agnew.

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Professors’ Beliefs About Intelligence Play Role in Students’ Success

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 10:30pm

A new study has found that professors’ beliefs about intelligence play a measurable role in the success of all students, with the strongest effects for underrepresented students taking their first college-level STEM courses.

“In a university-wide sample, we found that STEM professors who believe that ability and talent are malleable have smaller racial achievement gaps in their classes,” said Dr. Elizabeth Canning, a postdoctoral researcher at Indiana University.

“All students — and black, Latino and Native American students in particular — earn significantly higher grades in STEM courses when their professors believe intelligence is a malleable quality that can be developed over time, compared to when their professors believe intelligence is a fixed trait that cannot change very much.”

For the study, Dr. Mary Murphy, a professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Canning, a postdoctoral researcher in Murphy’s lab, collected data on 150 faculty and 15,000 students over two years at a large public research university.

“What we found was that the racial achievement gap between underrepresented racial and ethnic minority students — compared to white and Asian students — was nearly twice as large in classes taught by instructors who endorsed more of a fixed mindset,” Murphy said.

Black, Latino and Native American students earned 0.19 fewer GPA points in fixed-mindset classrooms compared to white or Asian students, according to the study’s findings. This gap shrank nearly in half — to 0.10 fewer GPA points — in growth-mindset classrooms, researchers discovered.

The researchers also found that all students did better on average in classes taught by faculty who endorsed more of a growth mindset, but this relationship was much stronger for students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.

Classroom practices and behaviors that convey either a fixed or a growth mindset have been identified in previous research, according to researchers. For example, faculty who endorse fixed-mindset beliefs tend to prize flawless performance, while faculty who endorse growth-mindset beliefs tend to value and praise the process of learning, and use mistakes as learning opportunities.

“Some faculty explicitly communicate their fixed mindset, suggesting that if students do not understand the material quickly, they may not do well and should consider dropping the course,” Murphy said.

“On the other hand, some faculty communicate a growth mindset by regularly providing students feedback and opportunities to self-assess and reflect on their learning, instead of offering only a few high-stakes challenges to prove their ability.”

The study also found that students taught by faculty who endorse a growth mindset reported more positive experiences in class and greater motivation. However, they did not report that the classes were easier or less-time consuming than others.

“Students in growth-mindset classrooms reported being ‘motivated to do their best work’ and felt their instructor really cared about their learning and development in classes,” Canning said. “This isn’t about being friendlier or going easier on students. It’s about focusing on the learning process, rather than innate fixed ability.”

The study also found that faculty mindset beliefs predicted the racial achievement gaps in their classes more than any other variable, including the faculty member’s gender, race, age, tenure status, or teaching experience.

The researchers did not ask professors whether they believe intelligence is determined by students’ race or gender. Instead, faculty were asked to endorse general statements about the fixedness or malleability of intelligence, such as “To be honest, students have a certain amount of intelligence, and they really can’t do much to change it.”

“Younger and older faculty, as well as male and female professors from any racial-ethnic background, were equally likely to endorsed fixed ideas about intelligence,” Murphy said.

“We’re not going to see fixed mindsets disappear as we turn over a new generation of professors,” she continued. “We’ve got to educate faculty about how their beliefs shape students’ motivation and performance and give them tools to support students in the classroom.”

Murphy’s lab is working in with the IU Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning to create educational modules for first-time university instructors that review the influence of faculty mindset beliefs on student outcomes. It also will provide evidence-based practices that convey growth-mindset beliefs to students in the classroom.

The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

Source: Indiana University

Exercise May Be Tonic to Reduce Depression in Older Adults

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 9:50pm

Emerging research suggests that exercise stimulates muscles to release substances that could protect older individuals from depression.

The new study builds upon research in younger adults that has found physical activity can stimulate muscles to release chemicals that boost one’s mood. It is known that exercise increases the expression of certain proteins (transcription factors) that help regulate gene expression and the processing (metabolism) of tryptophan in the body.

Tryptophan is a mood-enhancing chemical closely related to serotonin, a substance that also affects mood.

Many people with depression have been found to have low levels of serotonin in the blood. Tryptophan metabolism happens almost completely through the kynurenine pathway, a “metabolic route” that has two branches: one that can protect brain tissue (neuroprotective) and one that can cause harm (neurotoxic).

The neuroprotective branch of the kynurenine pathway needs an enzyme called KAT to be able to function. The good news is that aerobic and resistance exercise have been found to increase KAT activity, thereby promoting tryptophan metabolism via the neuroprotective branch instead of the neurotoxic branch.

Researchers wanted to know if exercise by older adults could help to release positive chemicals that could improve mood and decrease risk of depression. To do this, investigators from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, studied a small group of healthy older men without history of depression.

The men, who were 65 or older, participated in a 12-week exercise trial consisting of resistance exercise (leg and shoulder presses) and high-intensity interval training on a stationary bicycle. The research team took blood and muscle samples and examined gene and protein expression in the muscles before, during and after the trial.

They found that expression of transcription factors and KAT increased significantly during the exercise trial. These results were consistent with previous research performed in younger adults.

“The significant exercise training-induced increase in the expression of skeletal muscle transcription factors and KAT in older adults is encouraging given the potential implications related to kynurenine pathway regulation.

Researchers noted that future studies are necessary to explore the impact of various exercise modalities and intensities on transient changes of such factors in depressed adults.

The study is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology.

Source: American Physiological Society

Intervention with At-Risk Infants Can Improve Behavior at Age 3

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 8:00am

Young children who suffer from abuse or neglect often develop problems with following directions and complying with the expectations of parents and other authority figures. Lack of compliance can lead to other issues, including difficulty regulating anger and academic problems.

In a new study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of a home-visiting intervention designed for parents of children referred to Child Protective Services (CPS). The results show that children whose parents who participated in the intervention demonstrated significantly better compliance than children whose parents did not, and that parents’ sensitivity also increased.

The findings are published in the journal Child Development.

“Overall, our findings demonstrate that a brief, preventive intervention in infancy can have long-lasting effects on the compliance of children referred to CPS,” according to Dr. Teresa Lind, postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Diego, and the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center in San Diego, and lead author of the study.

“The intervention helped increase parents’ sensitivity, and this change played a role in the changes in the children.”

The research team, led by Mary Dozier, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware, examined whether a 10-week home-based intervention called Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC) could enhance compliance in children whose mothers received either the intervention or a control intervention when the children were infants.

The parents of the children had been involved with CPS due to concerns related to domestic violence, parents’ substance use, homelessness, or neglect. The children were, on average, 9 months old at the beginning of the research.

The goal of ABC, designed by Dozier and her team, is to help parents increase sensitivity by following their children’s lead, nurturing children when they are distressed, and avoiding frightening behaviors (e.g., yelling) to enhance children’s self-regulation and compliance.

The control intervention also lasted 10 weeks and was similar in structure to ABC but focused on enhancing children’s motor, cognitive, and language skills.

When the children were about 3 years old, the researchers evaluated their compliance levels: while parents filled out questionnaires nearby, an experimenter told children they were allowed to read a book but were not allowed to touch the toys placed on a nearby low shelf.

The findings show that children whose parents participated in ABC demonstrated significantly better compliance than those whose parents took part in the control intervention.

Specifically, fewer children in the ABC group touched the toys than in the control group, and children in the ABC group also touched the toys for shorter periods of time and waited longer before touching the toys than children in the control group.

In addition, parents in the ABC group showed significantly higher levels of sensitivity a month after the intervention than parents who participated in the control intervention. And there was some evidence that parents’ sensitivity partially mediated the effect of the intervention on their children’s compliance at age 3.

“These results point to the enduring effects of the ABC intervention on children’s ability to control their behavior under challenging conditions,” said Dozier. “We know that controlling one’s behavior — for example, being able to sit at one’s desk and pay attention to the teacher — is critical to success in school.”

Source: Society for Research in Child Development

Resistance Training Once a Week Can Boost Health and Well-Being of Older Adults

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 8:00am

New research shows that resistance training improves the physical and mental health of people over 65 years old, with benefits occurring even when some people train just once a week.

Benefits included improvements in blood values, muscle strength, and mental well-being, according to researchers at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland.

“We found that individuals who were close to having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood glucose, or high levels of inflammation improved the most after our nine-month training program,” said Dr. Simon Walker of the university’s Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences. “Training two or three times per week didn’t provide greater benefit in these individuals.”

Most experts advocate performing resistance training at least two times a week for all ages.

And the new study did find that for maximum strength development, muscle growth, and fat loss, training more times a week was advantageous, the researchers note.

“But for other measures that are important for older people, such as the ability to perform activities of daily living, once per week seemed sufficient,” Walker said. “Muscle strength that is needed for carrying shopping bags, walking up and down the stairs and sitting down on a toilet can be improved with strength training.”

Overall well-being, tested through psychological measures, also improved over the nine-month training period, according to the study’s findings.

Similarly, there were no real differences whether individuals trained only once a week or two to three times per week.

According to the researchers, it was very important that people improved their psychological well-being and motivation for exercise during the study period as it was those people who continued training regularly even after the study ended.

“We need to remember that these individuals trained hard, and safely, when they were with us,” Walker said. “We supervised every training session closely, making sure that they used correct technique and also ensured that they always tried to improve their training loads compared with previous training sessions.”

Source: University of Jyväskylä

Child Anxiety May Factor In to Multiple School Absences

Mon, 03/04/2019 - 7:45am

Anxiety should be considered a potential factor when children and young people have poor school attendance, particularly when their absences are unexcused, according to a new U.K. study published in the journal Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

“Anxiety is a major issue that not only affects young people’s schooling, but can also lead to worse academic, social and economic outcomes throughout life,” said lead author Dr. Katie Finning from the University of Exeter Medical School in England. “It’s important that we pick up the warning signs and support our young people as early as possible.

The researchers conducted a systematic review in which they analyzed all available evidence in the field. Of 4,930 studies in the area, only 11 met the criteria to be included in the robust analysis. These studies were conducted in countries across North America, Europe and Asia.

The lack of high-quality research in this area shows that much more work is needed, particularly in studies that will follow children over time to clearly disentangle whether the anxiety leads to poor school attendance or the other way round.

The researchers categorized school attendance into the following categories: absenteeism (i.e. total absences); excused/medical absences; unexcused absences/truancy; and school refusal, where the child struggles to attend school due to emotional distress, despite awareness from parents and teachers.

Findings from eight studies suggest a surprising link between truancy and anxiety, as well as the expected link between anxiety and school refusal.

“Our research has identified a gap of high-quality studies in this area, and we urgently need to address this gap so that we best understand how to give our young people the best start in life,” said Finning.

Many types of school issues can trigger anxiety in children, and anxiety that is severe can have a major impact on children’s development.

“School staff and health professionals should be alert to the possibility that anxiety might underlie poor school attendance and can also cause lots of different physical symptoms, such as tummy and headaches,” said Professor Tamsin Ford, who was involved in the research.

“Anxiety is highly treatable and we have effective treatments. It is also important to understand that anxiety can lead to impulses to avoid the thing that makes you anxious. Although this avoidance reduces anxiety in the short term, it makes it even harder to cope with the trigger next time and so makes the problem worse.”

Source: University of Exeter

Sleep Apnea Linked to Higher Levels of Alzheimer’s Biomarker

Sun, 03/03/2019 - 3:00pm

People who are witnessed to have stopped breathing during sleep may have higher accumulations of the Alzheimer’s disease biomarker tau in an area of the brain that helps with memory, according to a new study.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that involves frequent events of stopped breathing during sleep, although an apnea may also be a single event of paused breathing during sleep, researchers explain.

“A person normally has fewer than five episodes of apnea per hour during sleep,” said study author Diego Z. Carvalho, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Bed partners are more likely to notice these episodes when people stop breathing several times per hour during sleep, raising concern for obstructive sleep apnea.

“Recent research has linked sleep apnea to an increased risk of dementia, so our study sought to investigate whether witnessed apneas during sleep may be linked to tau protein deposition in the brain.”

The study included 288 people age 65 and older who did not have cognitive impairment. Bed partners were asked whether they had witnessed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep.

Participants then had positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans to look for accumulation of tau tangles in the entorhinal cortex area of the brain, an area of the brain in the temporal lobe that is more likely to accumulate tau than some other areas, according to the researchers. This area of the brain helps manage memory, navigation, and perception of time.

Researchers identified 43 participants, 15 percent of the study group, whose bed partners witnessed apneas when they were sleeping.

The researchers found that those who had apneas had, on average, 4.5 percent higher levels of tau in the entorhinal cortex than those who did not have apneas. That was after controlling for several other factors that could affect levels of tau in the brain, such as age, sex, education, cardiovascular risk factors, and other sleep complaints, the researchers noted.

“Our research results raise the possibility that sleep apnea affects tau accumulation,” said Carvalho. “But it’s also possible that higher levels of tau in other regions may predispose a person to sleep apnea, so longer studies are now needed to solve this chicken and egg problem.”

Limitations of the study included its relatively small sample size and preliminary nature of the study, requiring future validation, the researchers note. A lack of sleep studies to confirm the presence and severity of sleep apnea and a lack of information regarding whether participants were already receiving treatment for sleep apnea is another serious limitation, they add.

The preliminary study will be presented at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Source: The American Academy of Neurology

Hundreds of Genes May Contribute to Risk for Tourette’s Syndrome

Sun, 03/03/2019 - 8:00am

A new study suggests that variants in hundreds of genes, working in combination, contribute to the development of Tourette’s syndrome (TS), a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by chronic involuntary motor and vocal tics.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, show that the condition may be part of a continuous spectrum of tic disorders, ranging from mild, sometimes transient tics to severe cases that can include psychiatric symptoms. In fact, individuals with more severe symptoms were found to have a greater number of TS-associated variants.

The study was led by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Florida and Purdue University.

“This study confirms that, for most patients, the underlying genetic basis of Tourette’s syndrome is polygenic — that is, many genes working together to cause a disease,” said Jeremiah Scharf, M.D., Ph.D., of the Psychiatric & Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine.

“This means that most people who have TS do not carry a single inactive gene but instead inherit hundreds of small DNA changes from both parents that combine to cause TS. This finding has multiple important implications, both scientifically as well as for patient advocacy and understanding of their symptoms.”

While it is well known that most of the risk for TS is inherited, the few risk-associated gene variants that have been identified account for only a small percentage of cases.

Many common gene variants working together have been linked to a higher risk for the disorder. This suggests that large-scale, genome-wide association studies (GWAS) could clarify which potential risk genes do and which do not actually contribute the development of TS.

To achieve the largest possible data set, the research team combined results from the only published GWAS study with new data from three international genetics consortia: the Tourette Association of America International Consortium for Genetics, the Gilles de la Tourette GWAS Replication Initiative, and the Tourette International Collaborative Genetics Study. That added up to a total of 4,819 individuals with TS and almost 9,500 unaffected control volunteers.

A second analysis from the Iceland-based deCode genetics study compared more than 700 TS patients to more than 450 with other tic disorders and more than 6,000 controls.

The results identified multiple gene variants associated with increased TS risk, and individuals inheriting more risk variants had more severe symptoms. However, the presence of TS-associated variants was not restricted to those with tic disorders.

“Every one of the variants that contribute to developing TS is present in a significant proportion of the general population, which means that most people with TS do not have ‘broken’ or ‘mutated’ genes,” said Scharf.

“The movements and thoughts that individuals with TS have are the same ones that all of us have, but just to a greater degree. As doctors and researchers, we know that there is nothing that separates those with TS from other children and adults, and now we’ve shown this is actually true on a genetic level.”

The findings raise the future possibility of predicting whether the symptoms of children who develop tics, which typically worsen in early adolescence, will continue to be severe or will resolve as the child matures, something that is not currently possible. Future research working with even larger groups of participants should improve this potential predictive ability.

Scharf notes that the brain regions most likely to be affected by the risk-associated variants are part of a circuit involved in motor learning, planning and selection of appropriate movements or actions, areas previously suggested to contribute to TS and other tic disorders.

“Studies of other polygenic disorders — both brain and non-brain based — have shown that even if a single gene variant plays only a small role in causing a disorder, every gene may be a candidate for understanding disease mechanisms and finding new treatments.”

“We hope that by continuing to find new TS genes, we will be able to find new treatments that are more effective without causing the significant side effects associated with existing therapies,” said Scharf.

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

Awareness of Internal Signals May Improve Body Image

Sat, 03/02/2019 - 8:00am

Self-awareness of internal body signals, such as heartbeat or breathing rate, may be a method to promote positive body image. The finding stems from a U.K. study of nearly 650 men and women between that ages 18 and 76.

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University explain that a person’s interoceptive awareness — the extent to which people are aware of internal signals given out by the body such as heartbeat or feelings of discomfort or hunger — appear to be associated with improved body image.

Their findings appear in the journal Body Image.

While previous studies on the subject have tended to recruit small groups of young women, this study included both genders among a wide age group. Investigators found that people who can sustain attention towards their internal body signals tended to report higher levels of positive body image.

It was also found that people who trust their internal body signals are more likely to hold a positive view of their own body, and be less preoccupied with being overweight.

Lead author Jenny Todd said, “Unfortunately, experiences of negative body image are extremely common, to the extent that some academics consider this a ‘normal’ experience for women in Western society.

“Our research finds associations between the awareness of internal body signals and measures of body image. This could have implications for promoting positive body image, for example modifying interoceptive awareness through mindfulness-based practices.

“However, the research, which was conducted with exclusively British participants, also demonstrates that the relationship between interoceptive awareness and body image is complex and requires further investigation.”

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

Medical Marijuana Shown to Ease Pain, Sleep Problems and More in Senior Citizens

Sat, 03/02/2019 - 7:30am

Medical marijuana may bring relief to older people who have symptoms like pain, sleep disorders, or anxiety due to chronic conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, neuropathy, spinal cord damage, and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study.

The preliminary study not only found medical marijuana may be safe and effective, it also found that one-third of participants reduced their use of opioids.

However, researchers advise the study was retrospective and relied on participants reporting whether they experienced symptom relief, so it is possible that the placebo effect may have played a role. Additional randomized, placebo-controlled studies are needed, researchers added.

“With legalization in many states, medical marijuana has become a popular treatment option among people with chronic diseases and disorders, yet there is limited research, especially in older people,” said study author Laszlo Mechtler, M.D., of Dent Neurologic Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. “Our findings are promising and can help fuel further research into medical marijuana as an additional option for this group of people who often have chronic conditions.”

The study included 204 people with an average age of 81 who were enrolled in New York State’s Medical Marijuana Program. Participants took various ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabidiol (CBD), the main active chemicals in medical marijuana, for an average of four months and had regular checkups. The medical marijuana was taken by mouth as a liquid extract tincture, capsule, or in an electronic vaporizer, according to researchers.

Initially, 34 percent of participants had side effects from the medical marijuana. After an adjustment in dosage, only 21 percent reported side effects, researchers reported. The most common side effects were sleepiness in 13 percent of patients, balance problems in 7 percent, and gastrointestinal disturbances in 7 percent. Researchers noted that 3 percent of the participants stopped taking the medical marijuana due to the side effects.

Researchers added a ratio of one-to-one THC to CBD was the most common ratio among people who reported no side effects.

Researchers found that 69 percent of participants experienced some symptom relief. Of those, the most common conditions that improved were pain, with 49 percent experiencing relief; sleep symptoms with 18 percent experiencing relief; neuropathy improving in 15 percent of participants; and anxiety improving in 10 percent.

Furthermore, opioid pain medication was reduced in 32 percent of participants.

“Our findings show that medical marijuana is well-tolerated in people age 75 and older and may improve symptoms like chronic pain and anxiety,” said Mechtler. “Future research should focus on symptoms like sleepiness and balance problems, as well as efficacy and optimal dosing.”

The preliminary study is to be presented at the 2019 American Academy of Neurology’s 71st Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

Source: American Academy of Neurology

Sleeping In on Weekends Doesn’t Reduce Risks of Chronic Sleep Loss

Sat, 03/02/2019 - 7:00am

After a full week of getting up early and losing sleep, many people try to catch up on the weekends. But can we ever truly catch up on insufficient sleep?

In a new study, researchers investigated whether extra weekend sleep is enough to reduce some of the metabolic risks associated with poor sleep and untreated sleep disorders, including obesity and diabetes. The findings show that extra weekend sleep does not reverse these risks, and in some cases, it even appears to make things worse.

“The key take-home message from this study is that ad libitum weekend recovery or catch-up sleep does not appear to be an effective countermeasure strategy to reverse sleep loss induced disruptions of metabolism,” said Dr. Kenneth Wright of the University of Colorado Boulder.

For the study, healthy young adults were randomly assigned to one of three groups. The first group was given plenty of time to sleep (9 hours) each night for 9 nights. The second had just 5 hours to sleep each night over that same period. The third group slept 5 hours for 5 days followed by a weekend in which they slept as much as they liked before returning to another 2 days of restricted sleep.

In the two sleep-restricted groups, insufficient sleep led to an increase in snacking after dinner and weight gain. During the weekend recovery sleep in the third group, participants slept an hour longer on average than they usually would. They also consumed fewer extra calories after dinner than those who got insufficient sleep.

However, when they went back to getting poor sleep after the weekend, their circadian body clock was timed later. They also ate more after dinner as their weight continued to rise.

The findings show that sleep restriction in the first group was linked to a decrease in insulin sensitivity of about 13 percent. But the group that was given a chance to sleep more on the weekend still showed less sensitivity to insulin. The insulin sensitivity of their whole bodies, liver, and muscle decreased by 9 to 27 percent after they got insufficient sleep again, once the weekend was over.

“Our findings show that muscle- and liver-specific insulin sensitivity were worse in subjects who had weekend recovery sleep,” said researcher Dr. Christopher Depner, noting that those metabolic deviations weren’t seen in the people who got less sleep all along.

“This finding was not anticipated and further shows that weekend recovery sleep is not likely [to be] an effective sleep-loss countermeasure regarding metabolic health when sleep loss is chronic.”

Wright says it’s still unclear whether weekend recovery sleep can be an effective health strategy for people who get too little sleep only occasionally; for example, only a night or two per week. They hope to investigate the fine details of these dynamics in future studies, including the influence of daytime napping and other strategies for getting more sleep.

The Sleep Research Society and American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends 7 or more hours of sleep nightly for adults, to promote optimal health.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

Source: Cell Press




Genetics May Play Role in Relationship Satisfaction

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 7:15am

A couple’s long-term happiness may be influenced by their genes, according to a new study led by Yale School of Public Health researchers.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reveal the impact of a certain genetic variation, known as the GG genotype, on relationship satisfaction. The GG genotype affects oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding.

The study involved 178 married couples ranging in age from 37 to 90 years old. Each participant completed a survey about their feelings of marital security and satisfaction, and also provided a saliva sample for genotyping.

The research team found that when at least one partner had this particular genetic variation within the oxytocin gene receptor, the couple reported significantly greater marital satisfaction and feelings of security within their marriage. Those couples had greater satisfaction compared with other couples who had different genotypes.

While the oxytocin receptor variant (OXTR rs53576) has been previously studied and linked to personality traits such as emotional stability, empathy, and sociability, the new study is believed to be the first to examine its role in marital satisfaction.

“This study shows that how we feel in our close relationships is influenced by more than just our shared experiences with our partners over time,” said lead author Joan Monin, associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “In marriage, people are also influenced by their own and their partner’s genetic predispositions.”

The results also reveal that people with the GG genotype reported less anxious attachment in their marriage, which also benefited their relationship. Anxious attachment is a style of relationship insecurity that tends to develop from past experiences with close family members and partners over the life course. It is also associated with diminished self-worth, high rejection sensitivity, and approval-seeking behavior, said Monin.

The researchers said that a person’s GG genotype and their partner’s GG genotype together account for about 4% of the variance of marital satisfaction. Although this percentage seems small, it is a significant influence considering other genetic and environmental factors to which couples are exposed.

The new findings may lead to future studies that will look at how couples’ genotypes interact to influence relationship outcomes over time. Future research may also examine how the genetic variant interacts with specific negative and positive relationship experiences to influence relationship quality over time, said Monin.

Source: Yale University

Mouse Study: Deep Sleep Helps the Brain Wash Away Toxic Proteins

Fri, 03/01/2019 - 6:30am

Deep sleep allows the brain to wash away waste and toxic proteins more efficiently, according to a new mouse study published in the journal Science Advances. The new findings shed light on previous evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease with aging and sleep deprivation.

“Sleep is critical to the function of the brain’s waste removal system and this study shows that the deeper the sleep, the better,” said Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study.

“These findings also add to the increasingly clear evidence that quality of sleep or sleep deprivation can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

The study suggests that the slow and steady brain and cardiopulmonary activity linked to deep non-REM sleep are optimal for the function of the glymphatic system, the brain’s waste removal system. The findings may also explain why some forms of anesthesia can result in cognitive dysfunction in older adults.

The previously unstudied glymphatic system was first described by Nedergaard and her colleagues in 2012. Prior to this, scientists did not fully understand how the brain, which maintains its own closed ecosystem, removed waste. The team discovered a system of plumbing which piggybacks on blood vessels and pumps cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) through brain tissue to wash away waste. Another study revealed that this system primarily works while we are sleeping.

Since toxic proteins such as beta amyloid and tau are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have wondered if the dysfunction of the glymphatic system due to disrupted sleep could be a driver of the disease. This lines up with clinical observations suggesting that poor sleep is linked to Alzheimer’s risk.

In the new study, researchers conducted experiments with mice that were anesthetized with six different anesthetic regimens. While the rodents were under anesthesia, the team tracked brain electrical activity, cardiovascular activity, and the cleansing flow of CSF through the brain.

The researchers discovered that a combination of the drugs ketamine and xylazine (K/X) most closely mimicked the slow and steady electrical activity in the brain and slow heart rate associated with deep non-REM sleep. In addition, the electrical activity in the brains of mice given K/X appeared to be optimal for function of the glymphatic system.

“The synchronized waves of neural activity during deep slow-wave sleep, specifically firing patterns that move from the front of the brain to the back, coincide with what we know about the flow of CSF in the glymphatic system,” said Lauren Hablitz, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in Nedergaard’s lab and first author of the study.

Specifically, it appears that the chemicals involved in neuron firing drive a process which helps pull the fluid through brain tissue, said Hablitz.

The study reinforces the link between sleep, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease and also demonstrates that the glymphatic system can be manipulated by enhancing sleep, a finding that may point to potential clinical approaches, such as sleep therapy or other methods to boost the quality of sleep, for at-risk populations.

The study also sheds light on the cognitive problems that older patients often experience after surgery. “Cognitive impairment after anesthesia and surgery is a major problem,” said Tuomas Lilius, MD, PhD, with the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and co-author of the study. “A significant percentage of elderly patients that undergo surgery experience a postoperative period of delirium or have a new or worsened cognitive impairment at discharge.”

This study suggests certain classes of drugs that could be used to avoid this issue, since mice in the study that were exposed to anesthetics that did not induce slow brain activity saw reduced glymphatic activity.

Source: University of Rochester Medical Center

New Approach May Improve Prediction of Young Adult Suicide Risk

Thu, 02/28/2019 - 7:30am

Although suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. among those aged 15 to 34 years, the ability to predict suicidal behavior is still only slightly better than chance. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine believe a new method may better detect those at high risk by tracking the fluctuation and severity of depressive symptoms.

The researchers believe the new strategy is much better at predicting risk of suicidal behavior in at-risk young adults than using psychiatric diagnoses alone.

Their findings, which include the description of a new Prediction Risk Score, appear in JAMA Psychiatry. Researchers believe the new tool will help clinicians better identify patients at risk for suicidal behavior and facilitate earlier intervention than the current standard.

“Predicting suicidal behavior is one of the most challenging tasks in psychiatry, but for an outcome that is so life-threatening, it is definitely not acceptable that we’re only doing slightly better than chance,” said senior author Nadine Melhem, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine.

Physicians rely heavily on psychiatric diagnoses when estimating suicide risk, but though they are quite useful, diagnoses alone don’t do a great job because they are labels that often don’t change.

Instead, Melhem wanted to develop a predictive model that would identify symptoms that can change over time because such a model, she surmised, would be more accurate at signaling the likelihood of suicidal behavior in at-risk young adults.

In the study, Melhem along with Pitt colleague David Brent, M.D., and John Mann, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, followed 663 young adults who were at high risk for suicidal behavior because their parents had been diagnosed with mood disorders.

Over 12 years, the parents and their children were periodically evaluated through standard assessments for psychiatric diagnoses and symptoms of depression, hopelessness, irritability, impulsivity, aggression and impulsive aggression.

After analyzing data for all these symptoms, the researchers found that having severe depressive symptoms and a high variability of those symptoms over time was the most accurate predictor of suicidal behavior. The severity and variability in impulsivity and aggression over time did not add to the prediction model.

The research team combined this measure of variability in depressive symptoms along with other relevant factors such as younger age, mood disorders, childhood abuse, and personal and parental history of suicide attempts to develop a Prediction Risk Score.

They concluded that a score of 3 or more of these risk factors indicated a higher risk for suicidal behavior. Using this threshold in the study population, they found the predictive test to be 87 percent sensitive, much better than currently available models.

The model has to be independently tested and replicated in different populations, and future research to include objective biological markers will be needed to make the Prediction Risk Score more accurate, said Melhem.

“Our findings suggest that when treating patients, clinicians must pay particular attention to the severity of current and past depressive symptoms and try to reduce their severity and fluctuations to decrease suicide risk,” she said.

“The Prediction Risk Score is a valuable addition to the physician’s toolkit to help predict suicide risk in high-risk individuals, and it can be done at little cost because the information needed is already being collected as part of standard evaluations.”

Source: University of Pittsburg/EurekAlert

Long Works Hours May Hike Depression Risk in Women

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 7:30am

A UK study provides new evidence that working very long hours (more than 55 hours/week) is associated with an increased risk of depression among women. Moreover, working weekends was found to be associated with an increased risk of depression in both sexes.

Investigators note that the expansion of the global economy and the expansion of gig economies (employment by independent contractors for defined time intervals) has driven the need to work outside standard office hours.

These non-traditional occupational settings have been linked to poorer physical health. However, the potential impact on mental health is less well known. And research to date has largely focused on men and/or on specific jobs, say researchers.

The study seeks to provide insight on these area with researchers using data from Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS). This tool has been tracking the health and well-being of a representative sample of 40,000 households across the UK since 2009.

Researchers focused on data for 11,215 men and 12,188 women from the second wave of the UKHLS in 2010-12 as this included information on employment. Depressive symptoms were measured using a validated general health questionnaire (GHQ-12).

Using the standard working week of 35 to 40 hours as a reference, working weeks were categorized as fewer than 35 to include part-time employees; 41-55 (long working hours); and 55 and above (extra-long working hours).

The researchers factored in several potentially influential contributors: age; marital status; parenthood; earnings and satisfaction with them; long term health conditions; job type and satisfaction with it; degree of control; and qualifications.

Investigators discovered that generally, older workers, smokers, and those who earned the least and who had the least job control were more depressed — this finding applied to both sexes.

However, gender differences in working patterns were evident.

Men tended to work longer hours than women, with almost half clocking up more than the standard quota compared with fewer than one in four women. And nearly half of the women worked part time compared with just one in seven (15 percent) men.

Married women who were also parents tended not to work longer hours, but the opposite was true of married fathers. Over two-thirds of men worked weekends compared with around half the women.

Investigators did not discover a difference in the number of depressive symptoms between men who put in fewer or more hours than the standard working week.

But weekend working was associated with significantly more depressive symptoms among men when work conditions were accounted for; among women, depressive symptoms were associated with the number of weekends worked.

And women who worked 55 or more hours a week and/or who worked most/every weekend had the worst mental health of all, with significantly more depressive symptoms than women working standard hours.

By way of an explanation, the researchers suggest that women are more likely to work longer hours in male dominated occupations, while those working weekends tend to be concentrated in low paid service sector jobs.

“Such jobs, when combined with frequent or complex interactions with the public or clients, have been linked to higher levels of depression,” they write.

“Our findings of more depressive symptoms among women working extra-long hours might also be explained by the potential double burden experienced by women when their long hours in paid work are added on their time in domestic labor,” investigators suggest.

“Previous studies have found that once unpaid housework and caring is accounted for, women work longer than men, on average, and that this has been linked to poorer physical health,” they add.

Investigators note that the findings reflect information gained from an observational study, and as such, can’t establish cause. But, the researchers nevertheless conclude:

“Our findings should encourage employers and policy makers to consider interventions aimed at reducing women’s burdens without restricting their full participation in the workforce, and at improving psychosocial work conditions.”

The study appears online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, an imprint of BMJ.

Source: BMJ/EurekAlert

Fetal Nicotine Exposure Tied to Higher Risk for ADHD

Wed, 02/27/2019 - 7:00am

Women who smoke during pregnancy may be increasing their child’s risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study conducted by the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry at the University of Turku in Finland.

For the study, the researchers measured levels of cotinine — the predominant metabolite in nicotine — in the mother’s blood during pregnancy. The findings show that higher blood levels of cotinine were tied to a greater risk for the child’s later development of ADHD.

The study is the first to link prenatal nicotine exposure and ADHD by measuring cotinine levels in maternal blood samples.

“All previous studies on the topic were based on maternal self-report of smoking that has been shown to underestimate the true rates of smoking. The disclosure of smoking is even lower among pregnant smokers,” said Adjunct Professor Roshan Chudal from the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry at the University of Turku.

For the study, cotinine was used as a biomarker for nicotine exposure. Nicotine exposure includes active smoking as well as exposure from other sources such as nicotine replacement therapy or passive smoking.

The research involved 1,079 ADHD cases and an equal number of matched controls born between 1998 and 1999. Maternal cotinine levels were measured from maternal serum specimens collected during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy and archived in Finland’s national biobank.

“In this first nationwide study using maternal cotinine levels, we report a strong association between prenatal nicotine exposure and offspring ADHD,” said Professor Andre Sourander, the leader of the research group from the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers smoking one of the main public health concerns worldwide. Despite its proven negative effects on fetal development, smoking during pregnancy remains a significant public health issue.

In 2016, 7.2 percent of women in the United States who gave birth smoked cigarettes during pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevalence of smoking during pregnancy was highest for women aged 20 to 24 (10.7 percent), followed by women ages 15 to 19 (8.5 percent) and 25 to 29 (8.2 percent).

In Finland, where the research took place, the numbers are higher. During 2017, approximately 12.5 percent of all pregnant women in Finland smoked during pregnancy and 7 percent continued to smoke throughout their pregnancy.

“Given the high prevalence of both smoking during pregnancy and ADHD among children, these findings warrant future studies on the interplay between maternal smoking and environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors,” said Sourander.

Source: University of Turku


Nearly 2 in 3 US Kids Live in ‘Asset’ Poverty

Tue, 02/26/2019 - 7:00am

When families have assets, such as homes, cars, savings accounts or investments, getting through a financial crisis is much easier. Assets offer a form of insurance against unexpected events.

A new study from Oregon State University (OSU) found that more than 63 percent of American children and 55 percent of Americans live in “asset” poverty, meaning they have few or no assets to rely on in the event of a financial shock such as a job loss, natural disaster or medical crisis.

“Recessions, natural disasters, government shutdowns … these things happen,” said Dr. David Rothwell, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences who studies poverty and its impact on families and children. “What we’re looking at is what tools families have to respond when these events take place. It’s almost like an insurance mindset.”

Research shows that asset poverty is higher than income poverty for children and families. In a 2018 study of Canadian families, researchers, including Rothwell, found that asset poverty was two to three times more common than income poverty. So even when families have adequate day-to-day funds, if they are asset-poor, they will likely struggle during a financial shock.

“This is a dimension of financial security that we don’t think about that much, and it’s pretty high. The findings highlight the extent of financial insecurity among American families. These shocks ripple through the family and down to the children,” said Rothwell.

Using data from the Luxembourg Wealth Survey, the researchers analyzed income and asset data from more than 250,000 households in the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, Finland, Italy and Norway.

The United States and Australia had the highest rates of child asset poverty, at 62.9 percent each, followed by the United Kingdom at 52.2 percent, Italy at 48.9 percent and Finland at 47.6 percent. Norway had the lowest rate, at 34.4 percent.

The findings show that in three of the six countries, more than half of all children live in asset poverty. In all the countries, children of single mothers are most at risk.

“There’s some variation between the countries, but all of them are high in asset poverty among children,” Rothwell said. “Children are in a vulnerable position.”

The study also shows that American children are more likely to live in asset poverty than similar children in other countries, even after controlling for other factors.

“In a global context, the fact of being born in the U.S. puts you at higher risk for asset poverty,” Rothwell said. “It’s especially difficult for families in the U.S. because the social safety net is so thin. Other countries have more robust health insurance systems, unemployment, housing and other social supports.”

“The prevalence of asset poverty suggests a need for innovative policies to offset short-term insecurity and promote long-term development,” Rothwell said. “The current policy demonstrations have potential to improve the life chances of children.”

Experiencing poverty in childhood can have lifetime impacts. Previous research has shown that kids who grow up in poverty are more likely to struggle in school, make less money throughout life and experience family instability as adults.

The study is published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review.

Source: Oregon State University

Skills From Same-Gender Teen Friendships Impact Later Romantic Satisfaction

Mon, 02/25/2019 - 10:02pm

In a new study, investigators discovered the skills teens learn in friendships with peers of the same gender are the strongest predictors of later romantic satisfaction, more so than experience learned from teen romance.

Although it is well-accepted that the quality of an adult’s romantic life is closely linked to both physical and mental health in adolescence, the details associated with teen relationship development have been obscure. Researchers at the University of Virginia and James Madison University sought to identify the factors in adolescence that best predicted who would and would not have a satisfying romantic life in their late 20s.

“In spite of the emphasis teens put on adolescent romantic relationships, they turn out not to be the most important predictor of future romantic success,” said Dr. Joseph P. Allen, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, who led the study.

“Instead, it’s the skills learned in friendships with peers of the same gender — skills such as stability, assertiveness, intimacy, and social competence — that correspond most closely to the skills needed for success in adult romantic relationships.”

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

Researchers interviewed and observed 165 adolescents from ages 13 to 30. Youth participants lived in suburban and urban areas in the southeastern United States and the group was racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse.

The study assessed teens’ reports of the quality of their social and romantic relationships, as well as reports by close friends. Each year across a three-year period when the subjects were in their late 20s, researchers also interviewed participants about how satisfied they were with romantic life.

The study found that progress in key social developmental tasks in adolescence predicted future romantic competence at ages 27 to 30, even though the adolescent tasks were in nonromantic areas. For example:

  • at age 13, adolescents’ abilities to establish positive expectations of relationships with their peers and to be appropriately assertive with peers were the best predictors of future romantic satisfaction;
  • at ages 15 and 16, social competence — that is, teens’ ability to establish close friendships and to manage a broad array of relationships with peers — was the best predictor;
  • and from ages 16 to 18, teens’ ability to establish and maintain close, stable friendships was the best predictor of satisfaction romantically.

These factors were more closely associated than anything related to romantic behavior in adolescence, such as how much teens dated, whether they were involved physically in romantic relationships, their sexual behavior, and their physical attractiveness, according to the study.

The researchers note that their study did not establish causal processes.

“Romantic relationships in adolescence are much more likely to be fleeting, and as such, they don’t appear to be the main way teens learn skills needed for the future,” said Rachel K. Narr, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, who coauthored the study.

Source: Society for Research and Child Development