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Updated: 1 hour 5 min ago

High LDL Cholesterol Linked to Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 8:45am

New research has found a link between high LDL cholesterol levels and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The results could help doctors understand how the disease develops and what the possible causes are, including genetic variation, according to researchers with the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Emory University.

According to Dr. Thomas Wingo, a neurologist and researcher with the Atlanta VA and Emory University, the results show that LDL cholesterol levels may play a causal role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

“The big question is whether there is a causal link between cholesterol levels in the blood and Alzheimer’s disease risk,” said Wingo, lead author of the study. “The existing data have been murky on this point.

“One interpretation of our current data is that LDL cholesterol does play a causal role. If that is the case, we might need to revise targets for LDL cholesterol to help reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Our work now is focused on testing whether there is a causal link.”

High cholesterol levels have been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. This risk may be due to genetic factors tied to cholesterol, researchers believe.

Past research has shown that a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is a specific mutation in a gene referred to as APOE. It is the largest known single genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. This APOE variant, called APOE E4, is known to raise levels of circulating cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This type of cholesterol is sometimes referred to as “bad cholesterol” because high LDL levels can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in the arteries, the researchers explain.

While late-onset Alzheimer’s — the most common form of the disease — appears to be linked to cholesterol, little research has been done on a possible connection between cholesterol levels and early-onset Alzheimer’s risk, according to the researchers.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is a relatively rare form of the condition, appearing before the age of 65. About 10 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases are early-onset. Past research has shown that the condition is largely genetics-based, meaning it is likely to be inherited if a parent has it, according to the scientists.

Three specific gene variants — APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2 — are known to be related to early-onset Alzheimer’s. APOE E4 is also a risk factor in this form of the disease. These gene variants explain only about 10 percent of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease cases, meaning that 90 percent of cases are unexplained, the researchers noted.

To test whether early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is linked to cholesterol and identify the genetic variants that might underlie this possible association, the researchers sequenced specific genomic regions of 2,125 people, 654 of whom had early-onset Alzheimer’s and 1,471 who didn’t. They also tested blood samples of 267 participants to measure the amount of LDL cholesterol.

They found that APOE E4 explained about 10 percent of early-onset Alzheimer’s, which is similar to estimates in late-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers also tested for APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2. About 3 percent of early-onset Alzheimer’s cases had at least one of these known early-onset Alzheimer’s risk factors, the study discovered.

After testing blood samples, the researchers found that participants with elevated LDL levels were more likely to have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, compared with patients with lower cholesterol levels. This was true even after the researchers controlled for cases with the APOE mutation, meaning cholesterol could be an independent risk factor for the disease, regardless of whether the problematic APOE gene variant is present, the researchers explained.

The researchers did not find a link between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and early-onset Alzheimer’s, and only a very slight association between the disease and triglyceride levels.

The researchers report they also found a new possible genetic risk factor for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s cases were higher in participants with a rare variant of a gene called APOB. This gene encodes a protein that is involved in the metabolism of lipids, or fats, including cholesterol.

The finding suggests a direct link between the rare APOB mutation and Alzheimer’s disease risk, according to the researchers.

However, the link between LDL-C level and early-onset Alzheimer’s was not fully explained by APOE or APOB, suggesting that other genes and mechanisms also increase disease risk, the researchers said.

Researchers say that more research is needed to fully explain the connection between the disease and cholesterol. The relative rarity of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease presents a challenge in finding enough samples to perform large genetic studies on the condition, they add.

The study was published in JAMA Neurology.

Source: Veterans Affairs

Photo: Drs. Thomas Wingo and Aliza Wingo (foreground) lead a lab at the Atlanta VA and Emory University dedicated to understanding the genetic basis of Alzheimer’s disease and psychological well-being and resilience. Credit: Lisa Pessin.

Depressive Symptoms May Hike Women’s Risk for Other Chronic Illnesses

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 8:30am

Women who experience symptoms of depression, even without a clinical diagnosis, are at greater risk of developing multiple chronic diseases, according to a new Australian study led by The University of Queensland (UQ).

“These days, many people suffer from multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer,” said researcher Xiaolin Xu, Ph.D., from the UQ School of Public Health. “We looked at how women progress in the development of these chronic diseases before and after the onset of depressive symptoms.”

The researchers analyzed data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health which followed healthy, middle-aged women with no previous diagnosis of depression or chronic illness for more than 20 years.

The findings show that 43.2 percent of women experienced heightened symptoms of depression and just under half the group reported they were diagnosed or taking treatment for depression.

Women from the depressed group were 1.8 times more likely to have multiple chronic health conditions before they first experienced depressive symptoms.

“Experiencing depressive symptoms appeared to amplify the risk of chronic illness,” Xu said. “After women started experiencing these symptoms, they were 2.4 times more likely to suffer from multiple chronic conditions compared to women without depressive symptoms.”

The study suggests depression and chronic diseases share a similar genetic or biological pathway.

“Inflammation in the body has been linked to the development of both depression and chronic physical diseases,” said Xu. “Chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, are also commonly associated with depression.”

The findings also help strengthen health care professionals’ understanding of mental and physical health.

“Health care professionals need to know that clinical and sub-clinical depression (elevated depressive symptoms) can be linked to other chronic physical conditions,” said Xu. “When treating patients for these symptoms, health care professionals must realise these people are at risk of developing further chronic illness.”

Women with both conditions were more likely to come from low-income households, be overweight and inactive, smoke tobacco and drink alcohol.

“Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and reducing harmful behaviors could help prevent and slow the progression of multiple chronic diseases,” said Xu.

Source: University of Queensland


Can Cannabinoids Help Treat OCD?

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 8:04am

In a new review published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the authors explore the potential for targeting the body’s endocannabinoid system to hep relieve symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and related disorders such as anxiety, tic and impulse control disorders. The researchers also offer recommendations for the future direction of this line of research.

OCD is a complex psychological condition in which the patient suffers from persistent unwanted thoughts and high levels of anxiety.  The disorder can lead to a severe reduction in one’s quality of life. Up to 30 percent of adult OCD patients have also experienced current or past tics.

Currently, most patients with OCD are treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and antidepressants, but recovery rates are still low.

The body’s endocannabinoid system plays a critical role in regulating neurotransmitter signaling and has been an enticing target for drug development against disorders associated with anxiety, stress and repetitive behaviors, such as OCD. Research has shown that medical cannabis oil is effective in other neurological conditions, as it can reduce seizures in children with epilepsy and relieve symptoms in autism.

In the review, the researchers present evidence linking the endocannabinoid system to the pathology underlying OCD. They also include an extensive overview of cannabinoids made by the body, as well as those from outside the body, including phytocannabinoids found in the marijuana plant and synthetic cannabinoids.

Based on both animal study data showing anti-anxiety and anti-compulsive effects of cannabinoid agents and on preliminary human clinical trial data, the authors suggest that continued drug development is warranted.

Which cannabinoid agents to test and how to measure their effects will be among the important questions to consider in designing future studies.

“Is there a place for cannabinoid-based medicines in psychiatry?” asks Editor-in-Chief Daniele Piomelli, Ph.D., University of California-Irvine, School of Medicine.

“Evidence from animal and human studies points to the endocannabinoid system as an important regulator of emotionality, but how can we exploit this knowledge for therapy? This review article offers a critical assessment of the evidence, focused on obsessive compulsive disorder, and clues to future research.”

According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that one to three percent of the U.S. population suffers from OCD, and approximately one in 200 children has the disorder.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./ Genetic Engineering News




Racism Tied to Chronic Inflammation in African-Americans

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 10:45pm

Racist experiences may increase inflammation, raising the risk of chronic illness, according to a new study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

“We know discrimination is linked to health outcomes, but no one was sure exactly how it harmed health,” said Dr. April Thames, associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at University of Southern California (USC) Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“I looked at it as a chronic stressor. Our results showed that racial discrimination appears to trigger an inflammatory response among cs at the cellular level.”

The survival of all living things depends on their ability to respond to infections, stresses and injuries, according to researchers. Such threats trigger an immune system response to fend off pathogens and repair damaged tissues. A select group of genes are key to this defense mechanism, and inflammation is a sign that those genes are working to counter the threat or repair the damage.

Inflammation serves to protect an organism from a health threat. But if someone feels under threat for long periods of time, their health may suffer significantly with chronic inflammation.

“If those genes remain active for an extended period of time, that can promote heart attacks, neurodegenerative diseases, and metastatic cancer,” said co-author Dr. Steve Cole from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In previous studies, Cole discovered that inflammatory responses are higher among people in socially-marginalized, isolated groups. “We’ve seen this before in chronic loneliness, poverty, PTSD, and other types of adversity,” he said. “But until now, nobody had looked at the effects of discrimination.”

For the new study, the team focused on a group of 71 participants: two-thirds of the group were African-Americans; the others were white.

In addition, 38 of the participants were positive for HIV. Their participation gave scientists a chance to study the effects of racism independently from the effects of the disease.

The researchers extracted RNA from the participants’ cells and measured molecules that trigger inflammation, as well as those involved in antiviral responses. Their results revealed greater levels of the inflammatory molecules in African-American participants.

The findings also indicate that racism may account for as much as 50 percent of the heightened inflammation among African-Americans, including those who were positive for HIV.

The team made sure that all the participants had similar socioeconomic background to account for financial stressors, which eliminated poverty as a potential factor for chronic inflammation.

“Racial discrimination is a different type of chronic stressor than poverty,” Thames said. “People navigate poverty on a day-to-day basis and are aware that it is happening. They might even be able to address financial stressors through job changes, changes in earnings and financial management. But with discrimination, you don’t always realize that it’s happening.”

A person’s’ decisions or lifestyle can reduce the ill effects of some stressors, but racial discrimination is a chronic stressor that people have no control over. “You can’t change your skin color,” she says.

Thames notes that the sample size in this study was small, but the results suggest that researchers should repeat the study with a larger sample to fully determine the inflammatory effects of racism on people of color.

Source: University of Southern California



Mouse Study Probes Gut-Brain Link in Autism

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 7:57am

A new mouse study, which builds on findings from a previously unpublished study in humans, suggests that gene mutations found in both the brain and the gut could be the reason why so many people with autism suffer from gut issues.

The study, published in the journal Autism Research, confirms the existence of a suspected gut-brain nervous system link in autism and suggests a potential new target for treatments that might ease the behavioral issues commonly found in the disorder.

Chief Investigator Associate Professor Elisa Hill-Yardin from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Australia, said that autism researchers have long been looking at the brain, and have only recently begun to look at the gut.

“We know the brain and gut share many of the same neurons and now for the first time we’ve confirmed that they also share autism-related gene mutations,” Hill-Yardin said. “Up to 90 percent of people with autism suffer from gut issues, which can have a significant impact on daily life for them and their families.”

“Our findings suggest these gastrointestinal problems may stem from the same mutations in genes that are responsible for brain and behavioural issues in autism. It’s a whole new way of thinking about it — for clinicians, families and researchers — and it broadens our horizons in the search for treatments to improve the quality of life for people with autism.”

The study reveals that a gene mutation that affects neuron communication in the brain — and was first identified as a cause of autism — also causes dysfunction in the gut.

The new research builds on previously unpublished clinical work from a landmark 2003 study of two brothers with autism, led by Swedish researchers and a French geneticist. The 2003 study was the first to identify a specific gene mutation as a cause of the neurodevelopmental disorder. The study had shown that this gene mutation affected communication by altering the “velcro” between neurons that keeps them in close contact.

Researchers in the Gut-Brain Axis team at RMIT have built on this clinical work with a series of studies on the function and structure of the gut in mice that have the same “velcro” gene mutation.

They team found this mutation affects:

  • gut contractions;
  • the number of neurons in the small intestine;
  • the speed that food moves through the small intestine;
  • responses to a critical neurotransmitter important in autism (well known in the brain but not previously identified to play any major role in the gut).

Collaborator Associate Professor Ashley Franks (La Trobe University) also found significant differences in the gut microbes of mice with the mutation and those without it, even though both groups were kept in identical environments.

While this specific “velcro” mutation is rare, it is one of more than 150 autism-related gene mutations that alter neuronal connections, Hill-Yardin said. “The link we’ve confirmed suggests a broader mechanism, indicating that the mutations that affect connections between neurons could be behind the gut problems in many patients.”

Source: RMIT University

Napping May Benefit Older Kids Too

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 7:50am

Napping is practically essential for preschool-age children, but now a new study published in the journal SLEEP shows that older kids ages 10 to 12 can also benefit significantly from taking naps.

A research team from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Irvine, evaluated nearly 3,000 Chinese students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade and found a link between midday napping and greater happiness, self-control, and grit; fewer behavioral problems; and higher IQ, the latter particularly for the sixth graders.

The most robust findings were associated with academic achievement, said co-author Dr. Adrian Raine, a Penn neurocriminologist.

“Children who napped three or more times per week benefit from a 7.6 percent increase in academic performance in Grade 6,” he says. “How many kids at school would not want their scores to go up by 7.6 points out of 100?”

Sleep deficiency and daytime drowsiness are surprisingly widespread, with drowsiness affecting up to 20 percent of all children, said lead author Dr. Jianghong Liu, a Penn associate professor of nursing and public health.

The negative cognitive, emotional, and physical effects of poor sleep habits are well-established, and yet most previous research has focused on preschool age and younger. That’s partially because in places like the United States, napping stops altogether as children get older. In China, however, the practice is included in daily life, continuing through elementary and middle school, even into adulthood.

So, Liu and Raine, with Penn biostatistician Rui Feng, UC Irvine sleep researcher Sara Mednick and others, turned to the China Jintan Cohort Study, established in 2004, to follow 2,928 participants from toddlerhood through adolescence.

The researchers collected data about napping frequency and duration once the children hit Grades 4 through 6, as well as outcome data when they reached Grade 6, including psychological measures like grit and happiness and physical measures such as body mass index and glucose levels. Teachers were also asked to provide behavioral and academic information about each student.

The researchers then analyzed associations between each outcome and napping, adjusting for sex, grade, school location, parental education, and nightly time in bed.

It was the first comprehensive study of its kind, Mednick said.

“Many lab studies across all ages have demonstrated that naps can show the same magnitude of improvement as a full night of sleep on discrete cognitive tasks. Here, we had the chance to ask real-world, adolescent schoolchildren questions across a wide range of behavioral, academic, social, and physiological measures,” Mednick said.

Predictably, she added, “the more students sleep during the day, the greater the benefit of naps on many of these measures.”

Though the findings don’t prove cause-and-effect, the researchers said they may offer an alternative to the outcry from pediatricians and public health officials for later school start times.

“The midday nap is easily implemented, and it costs nothing,” said Liu, particularly if accompanied by a slightly later end to the day, to avoid cutting into educational time. “Not only will this help the kids, but it also takes away time for screen use, which is related to a lot of mixed outcomes.”

Source: University of Pennsylvania

fMRI Detects Brain Imbalance Linked to Future Teen Depression

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 7:30am

A new study suggests an imbalance of functioning in attention-related brain systems may help forecast the course of teen depression.

Researchers discovered faulty connections between frontal and insular brain networks were associated with development of severe depression among teens. Moreover, researchers discovered the abnormal connection patterns predicted increased depressive symptoms two weeks later.

Proper coordination of frontoinsular brain networks help us regulate our attention between external goals and self-focused or emotional thinking.

“The teen years are a time of remarkable growth and opportunity, as young people forge new relationships, learn how to navigate intense emotions, and make the transition to independence. However, it is also during adolescence that a high and growing number of teens experience clinical depression and related mood problems for the first time,” said first author Roselinde Kaiser, PhD, University of Colorado Boulder.

The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

“Our challenge as clinicians, scientists, and parents, is: how do we predict which teens will experience mood problems in the near future?”

Dr. Kaiser and colleagues tested the idea of using fMRI to predict future mood health. They measured the activity of frontoinsular networks while adolescents played a difficult computer game involving emotional images. Current prediction tools mostly use self-reporting, which can be unreliable in teens.

“Our results showed that adolescents who showed imbalanced coordination across brain systems — that is, lower coordination among areas involved in goal-directed attention, and higher coordination among areas involved in self-focused thought — went on to report bigger increases in depression two weeks later, bigger mood swings, and higher intensity of negative mood in daily life,” said Dr. Kaiser.

Network functioning provided a better prediction of future mood health beyond current symptoms — a critical distinction, the authors write, as it suggests that frontoinsular network functioning could predict who might develop more severe depression between two teens with the same current symptoms.

“This very interesting study highlights the important role that frontoinsular circuits, measured using fMRI during the processing of emotional stimuli, may play in regulating our mood, and how impairment in the function of this network may underlie present and ongoing negative mood states,” said Cameron Carter, MD, Editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

Although the study assessed mood health at only two weeks later, the findings indicate that frontoinsular network functioning may be useful to predict future mood health in teens.

Investigators explain that if their findings are confirmed in longer clinical studies, fMRI scans could provide a neurobiological risk predictor to help guide interventions to prevent severe depression.

Source: Elsevier

CBT May Benefit Mental Health of Kids with Long-Term Conditions

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 7:00am

A new U.K. analysis finds that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help improve the mental health of children and young people with long-term physical conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain and epilepsy.

“Children and young people with long-term health conditions face enormous challenges. As well as their physical illness, many of these young people suffer from mental health problems as a consequence of their condition,” said Fiona Lockhart, co-investigator from the Biomedical Research Centre Patient & Public Involvement Group at University College London.

CBT is a type of psychotherapy in which negative thought patterns are challenged in order to treat mood disorders or alter unwanted behavior patterns.

Research has shown that children who struggle with long term health conditions are four times more likely to experience feelings of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues than those who are physically healthy.

“The two things that are needed alongside managing a medical condition like this are something to help the family manage and something to help with the children’s emotional problems that so often go alongside these medical conditions,” said consultant pediatrician Professor Stuart Logan.

The team also found that parenting programs offered some benefit in reducing behavioral problems in children with acquired brain injury and/or cerebral palsy.

Some studies in the review showed that the children valued treatments that addressed a range of needs rather than just their mental health. The opportunity to meet and build a supportive relationship with people who are managing their long term condition was also seen to help some young people by providing them with a sense of hope for the future and skills to manage their physical and mental health.

“As well as looking at whether treatments worked for these children, we also included studies that explored the experiences of people giving and receiving the treatments,” said study author Dr. Liz Shaw from the University of Exeter Medical School in England.

“These studies highlighted the benefits of building good relationships and providing treatments in what feels like a ‘safe space’.”

Throughout the study, the team worked with a group of children and young people who provided a real-world perspective on the issues they face. They were particularly disappointed in the lack of available research and urge researchers to do something about it.

“The mental health of children and young people is important and offering the best response is vital,” said study author Dr. Michael Nunns from the University of Exeter Medical School.

“When we set out to do this research we were hoping to make recommendations about what works to support children and young people with long term conditions who are also having difficulties with their mental health. However, we were disappointed in the lack of good quality evidence available to guide treatment decisions for these children.”

The systematic review is published in the journal Health Technology Assessment.

“The exciting thing about this project is that it provides researchers with a roadmap for what to do next — we need to work sensibly with parents and children to carefully design treatments and test them in a way that helps us understand whether they actually work,” said Logan.

Source: University of Exeter

Study: Antisocial Teens May Have Brain Connection Issue

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 6:30am

A new international study discovered reduced brain activity and a weaker connection between brain regions among teenage girls with problematic social behavior. Investigators believe faulty neural wiring is a possible explanation for social deficits, including problems with emotion regulation.

The study, led by University of Zurich researchers, provides an explanation for why some girls have trouble controlling their emotions. Moreover, the neurobiological explanation is encouraging as it suggests indications for possible therapy approaches.

Investigators note that becoming a teenager means going through a variety of physical and behavioral changes in the context of heightened emotionality. For everyday social functioning, as well as for personal physical and mental well-being, it is important that teenagers are able to recognize, process and control these emotions.

For young people who are diagnosed with conduct disorder, this process is difficult and may lead to antisocial or aggressive reactions that clearly lie outside the age-appropriate norms, e.g. swearing, hitting, stealing and lying.

Researchers from Switzerland, Germany and England used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to discover that these behavioral difficulties are reflected in brain activity.

The study involved close to 60 female teenagers between 15 and 18 years old who were asked to try to actively regulate their emotions while the researchers measured their brain activity.

Half of the group had previously been diagnosed with conduct disorder, while the other half showed typical social development for their age.

In the girls with problematic social behavior, less activity was seen in the prefrontal and temporal cortex, where the brain regions responsible for cognitive control processes are located. In addition, these regions were less connected to other brain regions relevant for emotion processing and cognitive control.

“Our results offer the first neural explanation for deficits in emotion regulation in teenage girls,” says first author Professor Nora Raschle of the University of Zurich.

“The difference in the neural activities between the two test groups could indicate fundamental differences in emotion regulation. However, it could also be due to delayed brain development in participants with conduct disorders.”

Treatment for young people diagnosed with conduct disorders may target several levels: Helping them to recognize, process and express their emotions, as well as learning emotion regulation skills. “Our findings indicate that an increased focus on emotion regulation skills may be beneficial,” says Raschle.

Future studies will also look at the efficacy of specific therapy programs: “We will investigate cognitive-behavioral intervention programs that aim to enhance emotion regulation in girls with conduct disorder and see whether brain function and behavior may change accordingly,” explains Christina Stadler of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Center in Basel.

It has not yet been investigated whether male teenagers with conduct disorder show similar brain activity during emotion regulation. According to the authors, there are several indicators that the neural characteristics of conduct disorders may be gender-specific.

“However, most studies — unlike ours — focus on young men, for which reason the neuro-biological understanding established up to now is mainly related to males,” says Raschle.

Source: University of Zurich

Early Life Exposure to Air Pollution May Be Linked to Cognitive Problems

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 6:00am

A new Spanish study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that air pollution exposure in early childhood may be linked to cognitive dysfunction.

Researchers from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) discovered that children who were exposed to small particulate matter in the womb and during the first years of life were at greater risk of poorer working memory (link appeared in boys only) and reduced executive attention (in both boys and girls).

The objective of the study, which was conducted as part of the BREATHE project, was to build on the knowledge generated by previous research from the same team, which found lower levels of cognitive development in children attending schools with higher levels of traffic-related air pollution.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, involved 2,221 children (ages 7 to 10) attending schools in the city of Barcelona. The children’s cognitive abilities were evaluated via various computerized tests. Exposure to air pollution at home during pregnancy and throughout childhood was estimated with a mathematical model using real measurements.

The researchers found that greater PM2.5 (particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 μm) exposure from pregnancy until age 7 years was associated with lower working memory scores on cognitive tests taken between the ages of 7 and 10 years — but only in boys. Working memory is responsible for temporarily holding information for further use. It plays a fundamental role in learning, reasoning, problem-solving and language comprehension.

“As yet, we don’t understand what causes these differences, but there are various hormonal and genetic mechanisms that could lead to girls having a better response to inflammatory processes triggered by fine particulate matter and being less susceptible to the toxicity of these particles,” commented Ioar Rivas, ISGlobal researcher and lead author of the study.

The findings suggest that exposure to fine particulate matter throughout the study period had a cumulative effect, although the associations were stronger when the most recent years of exposure were taken into account.

The study also found that higher exposure to particulate matter was associated with a reduction in executive attention in both boys and girls. Executive attention is one of the three networks that make up a person’s attention capacity. It is involved in high-level forms of attention, error detection, response inhibition, and the regulation of thoughts and feelings.

Whereas previous studies in the BREATHE project analyzed exposure to air pollution at schools over the course of a year, this study assessed exposures at the participants’ homes over a much longer time: from the prenatal period to 7 years of age.

“This study reinforces our previous findings and confirms that exposure to air pollution at the beginning of life and throughout childhood is a threat to neurodevelopment and an obstacle that prevents children from reaching their full potential,” said Jordi Sunyer, Childhood and Environment Programme Coordinator at ISGlobal and last author of the study.

Source: Barcelona Institute for Global Health

Doubts About What We Know Motivate Us to Learn More

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 5:30am

A new study shows that our doubts about what we know pique our curiosity and can motivate us to learn more.

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley say the findings challenge a popular belief that curiosity in general is the prime driver of learning. They also give new meaning to the Montessori approach to learning readiness, which encourages children to follow their own natural inquisitiveness.

“It’s very in vogue to talk about curiosity as a strategy to increase learning, but it’s unclear how to engage people’s curiosity,” said study senior author Celeste Kidd, an assistant professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. “Our study suggests it’s the uncertainty — when you think you know something and discover you don’t — that leads to the most curiosity and learning.”

Practical applications include tailoring classroom learning to students’ misconceptions about what they know, according to the researchers.

“Asking students to explain how things work can be an effective learning intervention because it makes them aware of what they don’t know and curious about what they need to know,” said study co-lead author Shirlene Wade, a visiting PhD scholar in Kidd’s psychology lab at UC Berkeley.

For example, if students are quizzed on what causes climate change, how a bicycle works, or about the U.S. constitutional separation of powers and realize they only have a partial understanding of how these things work their curiosity is stimulated, and they’re more open to learning, if only to get it right the next time, the researchers explain.

Meanwhile, subjects we know nothing — or too much — about, can prompt disinterest or even boredom.

Take “Game of Thrones,” the blockbuster medieval fantasy TV series. If you’re a super fan and predicted, wrongly, that Sansa would end up on the Iron Throne, you’re more likely to review all the show’s characters and plot twists to see what you missed.

If you were involved in the show, on the other hand, you’d have no reason to be curious. And if you sat out the entire eight seasons, you just wouldn’t care.

“Curiosity is the gatekeeper of the knowledge we choose to absorb, and that includes information about ‘Game of Thrones,'” Kidd said.

For the study, 87 adults from across the country, recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk, a crowdsourcing platform, were quizzed online for about an hour on 100 trivia questions.

In the learning phase of the experiment, each participant gave their best guess in response to each trivia question, and whether they thought their answer was correct.

They also rated on a scale of 1 to 7 how close they thought their answers were to being accurate and how curious they were to find out the correct answer. Participants were then shown the answer to the trivia question for five seconds and asked to rate their level of surprise.

They then entered the testing phase of the experiment, answering the same trivia questions, except for the ones they had gotten right in the learning phase.

Once all the answers were submitted, independent evaluators used objective measures to calculate how close each answer was to being accurate and measured the gap between what each participant thought the answer was relative to what it actually was.

On average, participants got 18 answers right in the learning phase and 69 correct in the testing phase. Their curiosity levels reflected high and low interest, depending on the question topic. Overall, those who believed their initial best guess was close to the correct answer showed the most curiosity, according to the study’s findings.

“Those who were more curious were better at guessing correctly in the testing phase, which suggests they were more inspired to learn,” Wade said.

In addition to revealing the specific kind of curiosity that promotes learning, the results could serve to advance the theories of Maria Montessori, whose child-centered approach to learning readiness in the late 1800s is practiced to this day, the researchers note.

“Maria Montessori said you should present children with something they are ready to learn, but she didn’t talk a lot about what being ready meant,” Kidd said. “Our findings expand on the idea of readiness by showing that what children think they know, but don’t know, can boost their curiosity and motivate learning.”

The study was published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Source: University of California-Berkeley

CBT Shown to Ease Menopausal Symptoms

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 7:00pm

New research finds a nonpharmacological solution to relief of menopausal symptoms may be cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Although a small study, investigators discovered CBT can help to manage many physical and emotional symptoms associated with menopause.

Currently, use of hormone therapy (HT) is the typical treatment for menopause symptoms although research is ongoing for alternatives, especially nonpharmacologic options.

Cognitive behavior therapy has previously been proposed as a low-risk treatment for hot flashes, but the new study suggests it may also effectively manage other menopause symptoms.

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

Experts note that women today have more options than ever before when it comes to the treatment of common menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, depression, sleep disturbances, and sexual function.

Because of its proven effectiveness, HT still leads a long list of available treatment options. However, controversies regarding the adverse effects of HT have prompted some women to seek other options.

Alternative treatments such as antidepressants have proven effective in treating menopause-related depression and, to a lesser extent, hot flashes. But these options can also have adverse effects.

Cognitive behavior therapy is a type of psychotherapy that teaches patients how to modify dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts and to develop personal coping strategies. It has proven effective in multiple studies in the treatment of various mental health difficulties such as depression and anxiety.

Previous studies relative to menopause symptoms, however, have focused only on its ability to manage hot flashes. The new study is the first of its kind to address a broad range of common physical and psychological menopause symptoms.

Investigators found cognitive behavior therapy significantly improved hot flashes, depression, sleep disturbances, and sexual concerns, although little improvement was seen in anxiety. Moreover, the improvements were maintained for at least 3 months posttreatment.

Researchers comment that although the study sample was small, the positive results lay the foundation for future research focused on how various psychological treatments may help the millions of women who suffer with menopause symptoms.

“This small study is in line with other studies of menopausal women showing a benefit of cognitive behavior therapy in improving hot flashes. It additionally demonstrated an improvement in depression, sleep, and sexual function,” said Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director.

“Larger trials comparing cognitive behavior therapy to other active treatments will help us to better understand how effective this therapy will be in highly symptomatic women.”

Source: The North America Menopause Society

Extroverts May Enjoy Workplace Advantages

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 6:47pm

New research suggests extroverts enjoy four distinct advantages in achieving workplace success. For the study, University of Toronto investigators performed a comprehensive review of published literature on extraversion and introversion and were able to extract the specific benefits gained from extroversion.

Scientists also explain that introverts should not interpret these findings to suggest they will be at an inevitable disadvantage, as few people can be defined purely as an introvert or extrovert. Indeed, everyone displays a range of extroverted and introverted behaviors.

“There’s been much debate in popular culture recently about the advantages and disadvantages extroverts have in the workplace, but it often overlooks the scientific literature,” said Dr. Michael Wilmot, a postdoc in the Department of Management at U of T Scarborough.

“We wanted to delve into this research to find out how and to what extent extroversion relates to things relevant to success in the workplace across the lifespan of people.”

A prototypical extrovert can be defined as talkative, outgoing, prefers taking charge, expresses positive emotion and enjoys seeking out new experiences, said Wilmot.

By comparison, a prototypical introvert is quiet, emotionally reserved, less energetic, and harder to get to know.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, offers the most comprehensive review of existing research. Investigators analyzed 91 meta-analyses relating to extroversion including a multitude of work-related variables (165 in total).

The variables captured items such as motivation, work-life balance, emotional well-being and performance. Supporting data was taken from studies across multiple countries, from different occupations and across different career moments including education, job application, and on the job evaluations.

Wilmot and his co-authors at the University of Minnesota found that higher extroversion was desirable for 90 percent of variables, which suggests a small, persistent advantage in the workplace. However, it was in four categories that extroverts enjoy a distinct advantage; motivational, emotional, interpersonal and performance-related.

“These four appear to really capture the strongest positive effects of extroversion at work,” said Wilmot, whose research looks at how organizations use personality measures to solve workplace challenges.

Wilmot says extroversion is linked with a greater motivation to achieve positive goals – in this case as a desired reward through work. It’s also closely associated with experiencing positive emotions more regularly.

As he points out, a happy employee is not only more satisfied with life, they also tend to work harder and are perceived as a better leader as a result. Positive emotions also act as a buffer against stress or adverse experiences at work.

Since extroverts like to be around other people, the third advantage has to do with socializing. By virtue of stronger communication skills, extroverts tend to adapt better to different social situations and are adept at persuasion, which is also a strong leadership skill.

The fourth advantage is in job performance. “This was a real surprise,” said Wilmot, who points to past research that has found out of the big five personality traits, only conscientiousness and emotional stability generally predicted performance across different occupations.

He says the reason for better performance likely appears to come from a combination of the three previous advantages.

“If you’re motivated to achieve a goal at work, if you’re feeling positive and you’re good at dealing with people, you’re probably going to perform better on the job,” he said. “These advantages appear to have a cumulative effect over the span of one’s career.”

Nevertheless, all is not loss for introverts. Wilmot noted that few people can be defined purely as an introvert or extrovert, and everyone displays a range of extroverted and introverted behaviors.

There are also numerous other characteristics that contribute to workplace success, including cognitive ability, conscientiousness and the ability to regulate negative emotions.

A limitation of the study is that it only looked at extroversion and work-related variables. Wilmot adds there are many jobs (computer programming, for instance) where introverted characteristics like listening skills or the ability to focus would be more beneficial.

“You might be more introverted, but if you’re intelligent, work hard and bring other things to the table, you’re probably going to do well,” he said.

“At the same time, if you’re more extroverted, but lack the cognitive ability or work ethic, you’re probably not going to be as successful.”

Source: University of Toronto

Digging for Answers to Stress & Anxiety – In Dirt

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 6:00am

In a new study, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have identified an anti-inflammatory fat in a soil-dwelling bacterium, called Mycobacterium vaccae, that may have the ability to ward off stress and anxiety.

The finding, published in the journal Psychopharmacology, may help explain why exposure to microorganisms seem to benefit health, a phenomenon known as the “hygiene hypothesis.” It also brings the researchers one step closer to developing a microbe-based “stress vaccine.”

“We think there is a special sauce driving the protective effects in this bacterium, and this fat is one of the main ingredients in that special sauce,” said senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry.

British scientist David Strachan first proposed the controversial “hygiene hypothesis” in 1989, suggesting that in our modern, sterile world, lack of exposure to microorganisms in childhood was leading to impaired immune systems and higher rates of allergies and asthma.

Researchers have since refined that theory, suggesting that it is not the lack of exposure to disease-causing germs at play, but rather the reduced exposure to “old friends” like beneficial microbes in soil and the environment, and that mental health is also impacted.

“The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation,” said Lowry, who prefers the phrases “old friends hypothesis” or “farm effect.”

“That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders.”

Lowry has published numerous studies demonstrating a link between exposure to healthy bacteria and mental health. One of these studies shows that children raised in a rural environment, surrounded by animals and bacteria-laden dust, grow up to have more stress-resilient immune systems and may be at lower risk of mental illness than pet-free city dwellers.

Other studies have shown that when Mycobacterium vaccae is injected into rodents, it alters the animals’ behavior in a way similar to that of antidepressants and has long-lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain.

Research suggests that exaggerated inflammation boosts the risk of trauma- and stressor-related disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

One recent Lowry-authored study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2017, showed that injections of M. vaccae prior to a stressful event could prevent a “PTSD-like” syndrome in mice, fending off stress-induced colitis and making the animals act less anxious when stressed again later.

“We knew it worked, but we didn’t know why,” said Lowry. “This new paper helps clarify that.”

For the new study, the research team identified, isolated and chemically synthesized a novel lipid, or fatty acid, called 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid found in Mycobacterium vaccae and used next-generation sequencing techniques to study how it interacted with macrophages, or immune cells, when the cells were stimulated.

They discovered that inside cells, the fatty acid acted like a key in a lock, binding to a specific receptor and inhibiting a host of key pathways which drive inflammation. They also discovered that when cells were pre-treated with the fatty acid they were more resistant to inflammation when stimulated.

“It seems that these bacteria we co-evolved with have a trick up their sleeve,” said Lowry. “When they get taken up by immune cells, they release these lipids that bind to this receptor and shut off the inflammatory cascade.”

Lowry has long envisioned developing a “stress vaccine” from M. vaccae, which could be given to first responders, soldiers and others in high-stress jobs to help them fend off the psychological damage of stress.

“This is a huge step forward for us because it identifies an active component of the bacteria and the receptor for this active component in the host,” he said.

Source: University of Colorado at Boulder

UK Study: Low-Income Minority Kids Get Less Vigorous Physical Activity

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 7:00am

Disadvantaged children from certain ethnic minority backgrounds, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi, get fewer minutes of vigorous physical activity per day, according to a new U.K. study from the University of Cambridge.

Previous evidence has shown that, by age 11, U.K. children from disadvantaged families are three times more likely to be obese than more advantaged children. There are also stark ethnic and racial differences in levels of childhood obesity, with higher rates of obesity within certain ethnic minorities including children from Black African, Black Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds.

Research has also shown that more vigorous physical activity, such as running or swimming, is more strongly linked with reduced waist circumference and body fat than moderate intensity activity. International guidelines say that children should engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity for at least 60 minutes per day.

“When we look at overall physical activity we don’t see clear differences between children from different backgrounds despite clear inequalities in obesity,” said Rebecca Love, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge.

“To investigate this further, we looked at whether overall physical activity was hiding inequalities in the intensity with which that activity is performed that might explain these patterns.”

The researchers looked at data from almost 5,200 children (age 7) who were part of the Millennium Cohort Study, a longitudinal study of children born in the U.K. between September 2000 and January 2002. The children were given accelerometers and their activity as measured for a minimum of ten hours for three days.

The results reveal that the higher the level of education attained by the mother, the more minutes of vigorous intensity activity her child was likely to have, accounting for time spent in moderate physical activity.

Children with highly-educated mothers accumulated three minutes more vigorous activity per day than those with low levels of education. Similarly, the team found significantly more time spent in vigorous intensity activity incrementally with increasing household income.

Intensity differences were also apparent by ethnicity. White British children perform on average more than three minutes more daily vigorous physical activity in comparison to children from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds. Children from ‘other ethnic groups’ also accumulated 2.2 minutes fewer daily vigorous intensity activity overall.

It is suggested these differences are relevant on a population level and changes to reduce differences in vigorous physical activity could have population implications for the weight inequalities in U.K. children. The differences were consistent in both boys and girls.

“There are clear differences in the amount of vigorous physical activity a child does depending on their socioeconomic and ethnic background,” said senior author Dr. Esther van Sluijs.

“Although individually, these differences are small, at a population level they are likely to make a difference. Changes to reduce existing gaps in vigorous intensity activity could help reduce existing inequalities in levels of obesity in children.”

There are several factors that might explain the differences, say the researchers, including access to or the cost of participating in sports activities, and a parent working longer, inconsistent work hours within a low-income job. There may also be differences in home and family support for physical activity between ethnic groups.

“Children from different backgrounds can face a number of barriers preventing them from participating in sports or other types of vigorous physical activity,” said Dr. Jean Adams. “We need to find more ways to provide opportunities for all children to get involved in vigorous activity.”

Over the past four decades, the global prevalence of childhood obesity has increased tenfold. Obesity in childhood is associated with illness and early death in adulthood, so tackling childhood obesity is increasingly a public health priority for governments.

The findings are published in the journal BMJ Open.

Source: University of Cambridge

Without Offline Help, Stress May Lead to Social Media Addiction

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 6:30am

New research from Germany finds the need for offline support is critical to avoid addiction to social networking sites.

The study, lead by Dr. Julia Brailovskaia and team of investigators at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) Mental Health Research and Treatment Center, discovered that stressed users are at risk of developing a pathological dependence on the social networking site — the so-called “Facebook addiction.”

Addiction symptoms include, for example, users spending more and more time on Facebook, being preoccupied with Facebook all the time and feeling uneasy when they can’t engage with the network online.

The study findings appear in the journal Psychiatric Research.

In the study, researchers evaluated the results from an online survey that had been taken by 309 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 56.

“We have specifically invited students to participate in the survey, as they often experience a high level of stress for a number of reasons,” said Brailovskaia.

Students are often put under pressure to succeed. Moreover, many leave their family home and the social network there; they have to run a household for the first time, are busy building new relationships.

The research questions were designed to determine an individual’s stress level, and to capture the amount of social support a participant received offline and online. Moreover, the users were asked how much time they spend on Facebook daily and how they feel if they can’t be online.

Investigators discovered the higher the stress level, the deeper an individual engaged with Facebook.

“Our findings have shown that there is a positive relationship between the severity of daily stress, the intensity of Facebook engagement, and the tendency to develop a pathological addiction to the social networking site,” Brailovskaia said.

At the same time, this effect is reduced if users get support from family and friends in real life. Individuals who don’t experience much support offline are most at risk of developing a Facebook addiction.

Sadly, the research implies that a feedback loop may occur if online support is the only method used to reduce stress.

The pathological behavior, in turn, affects their life offline and may trap them in a vicious circle.

“This aspect has to be taken into consideration when treating a person with a pathological addiction — or suspected pathological addiction — to Facebook,” Brailovskaia said.

Source: Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Many Anorexia Patients Recover Over Time

Wed, 05/29/2019 - 6:00am

A long-term Swedish study of around 50 people who struggled with anorexia nervosa in their teens shows that the majority were healthy 30 years later, though some still dealt with persistent eating disorders.

The study, published in The British Journal of Psychiatry, was conducted by researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by weight loss or the lack of appropriate weight gain in growing children. Many anorexia patients struggle with a distorted body image. In general, patients severely restrict the number of calories and the types of foods they eat. Some also exercise compulsively, purge via vomiting and laxatives, and/or binge eat.

Of children and adolescents in Sweden, approximately 1 percent of girls and 0.1 percent of boys develop anorexia. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, aimed at changing the victims’ eating behaviors and helping them cope with their problematic emotions.

The study was initiated in Gothenburg in 1985. Every child in the eighth grade of compulsory school (born 1970) was screened for anorexia nervosa. As a result, 24 adolescents with the disorder were identified and given the opportunity of inclusion in the study. A further 27 adolescents with anorexia born in the early 1970s, who had attracted the attention of the school health services, were added.

Of the resulting total, 48 were women and 3 men. The study was supplemented with an equal number of matched healthy controls, bringing the total number of subjects to 102.

Thirty years after the study began, the researchers contacted the anorexic participants and the healthy controls again. All but four were included in the follow-up.

“Since the study’s partly population-based and includes only people who developed anorexia in their teens, we thought initially that our study participants should be doing better than people in clinical long-term follow-ups, in which the participants were recruited through the care services,” said researcher Dr. Elisabet Wentz, Professor at Sahlgrenska Academy.

“In our study we see no deaths, which unfortunately occur in clinical studies. But as for full recovery from eating disorders, the outcome is the same as in other long-term studies. In line with other studies, 30 of the 47 respondents in the follow-up part of the study have fully recovered.”

One key purpose of the study was to identify factors tied to greater risk for developing anorexia nervosa. The findings indicate that age is one such factor: teens who were slightly older at onset had a better chance of regaining their health.

Other research has shown that perfectionist personality traits are a risk factor for developing anorexia; but in this study, perfectionism before the onset proved to be a factor that enhanced recovery prospects too.

“Perfectionism has two faces, and seems able to serve both harmful and beneficial purposes when it comes to teenage anorexia. Perhaps the fact is that the perfectionism that drove the disease was transformed during the recovery of health, becoming a driver for not falling ill again,” Wentz said.

Importantly, at the 18-year follow up, only 6 of the 51 participants had eating disorders. Twelve years later, the researchers were astonished to find that the proportion with disorders had risen.

“Our expectation was that 30 years after first falling ill, the proportion with eating disorders would show a continued decline. But instead, we see a small increase,” Wentz said.

Source: University of Gothenburg


Psychiatrist in Urban Pediatric Clinic Improves Access to Psychiatric Care for Latinos

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 6:30am

Embedding child psychiatrists in urban pediatric clinics may be a feasible and a promising way to improve access to psychiatric care among a primarily Latino population, according to a new study from Boston Medical Center.

The study, published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, is the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of this intervention, which could have important implications for minority populations that experience disparities in psychiatric care.

Nearly 20 percent of U.S. children suffer from a mental illness, and of these, only one in five receive treatment. Barriers to care, including long wait times, high costs and limited availability of specialists, impact access among all families, but disproportionately impact vulnerable communities and people of color.

Mental illness that remains untreated is tied to a range of health, developmental, social and educational risks for children, and improved access to psychiatric care should be a high priority among health and policy leaders.

The study began in 2013, when pediatricians at an urban pediatrics primary care clinic that served a largely Latino and non-English speaking population started referring patients to a child psychiatrist embedded in the practice for evaluation and short-term treatment, with the goal of transferring care back to the primary care setting in the long-term.

During the two-year study period, 211 referrals were made to the embedded psychiatrist, at a rate of approximately two to three per week. Of those who were referred, 74 percent completed an evaluation. Younger kids and those with a history of therapy were more likely to complete an evaluation.

The researchers also found that children with more severe symptoms and higher levels of psychiatric comorbidity attended more follow-up appointments with the psychiatrist.

“While preliminary, these results are very encouraging as we look to increase access to mental health care for children, especially among underserved communities,” said lead author Andrea Spencer, M.D., a psychiatrist at Boston Medical Center and assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine.

“We believe this model of embedding a child psychiatrist in a primary care practice could reduce stigma for families, improve convenience, and remove other barriers to care.”

Most patients involved in this study attended fewer than four visits with the psychiatrist, which is consistent with previous reports on the duration of mental health treatment in this population, and fitting in the design of the model as a short-term intervention.

The researchers note that transferring care back to the primary care setting should be studied longer, along with what factors best engage families of younger versus older children in an initial psychiatric evaluation.

The researchers say the new findings support the intervention model, with particularly important implications for Latino and non-English speaking populations, and suggest continued research into clinical outcomes, provider and patient satisfaction, and cost of integrated child psychiatry.

Source: Boston Medical Center


Personality Traits May Affect Susceptibility to Persuasion

Tue, 05/28/2019 - 6:00am

A new multi-institutional study has identified specific personality traits which seem to make people more (or less) susceptible to persuasion. The findings are published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

For the study, researchers from Edge Hill University in England, along with academics from Ulster University in Ireland and the University of New England in Australia, analyzed the responses of 316 people who completed online questionnaires designed to reveal their personality traits and how easily they might be persuaded.

From this information, the researchers identified three primary personality profiles:

  • fearful: shy, socially inhibited and anxious;
  • malevolent: extroverted, self-orientated and manipulative;
  • socially apt: agreeable, extroverted and conscientiousness.

The researchers found that Fearful people were more likely to follow the crowd and be persuaded to do something by people in authority. Those with a Malevolent profile were less likely to be influenced by authority figures, less willing to return a favor and more likely to be persuaded if something was only available for a limited time.

Finally, the researchers found that Socially Apt people were more likely to be persuaded to do something if it helped maintain their commitment to something they’d done before.

Dr. Linda Kaye, a senior lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University, said rather than looking at personality traits in isolation, the study combined several different personality scales to gain their results. “This helped us create more accurate personality profiles, so we could then predict a person’s likelihood to do something and how easily they could be persuaded.”

The study results  can be applied to various scenarios and psychological disciplines. For example, each member of the research team can use the findings to enhance their specific line of study.

Researcher Dr. Helen Wall, a senior lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University focuses on ways to encourage proactive approaches to children’s mental health and wellbeing.

“From this research I’d like to develop a program of research which utilizes personalised persuasive approaches encouraging young children to be proactive towards their own well-being,” said Wall.

“Adopting a personalised approach that ‘nudges’ people towards taking positive action, I believe, is very important.”

Dr. Andy Levy, a reader in psychology at Edge Hill University, studies how personality and individual differences can promote rehabilitation recovery, physical activity and prevent the misuse of performance enhancing substances. He believes that a better understanding of the link between personality and persuasion has the potential to shed light on the effectiveness of psychological interventions.

“Our study sheds some light on how combining personality characteristics can influence human persuasion,” said Levy. “We are now in a position to further explore how our findings can benefit the health, well-being and behavior for many people across varied contexts in society.”

The team is interested in exploring these findings further to determine whether the results can be replicated.

Source: Edge Hill University


Passion Plays Predominant Role for Sex in Relationships

Mon, 05/27/2019 - 2:22pm

New research shows that two factors are decisive in how often women initiate sex with their partners in a long-term relationship.

The first is women’s attitudes to casual sex, which may seem strange at first glance when talking about sex in long-term relationships.

“This measure describes how much women distinguish between the sexual aspects of a relationship and its relational and emotional aspects,” said Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Women who tend to be more open to casual sexual relationships differentiate between positive, physical aspects of sex and relational and emotional aspects of a relationship. That means a quarrel about the dishes or who vacuumed last may not be as crucial to whether the couple has intercourse, the researchers said.

Often, whether a couple has sex or not is a compromise between the parties, and women who differentiate between sex and other aspects are probably more willing to compromise, he notes. Men are ready to have sex to a much greater extent, regardless of attitudes.

The other factor — passion — is much more important, according to the study’s findings.

“Passion in the relationship is of great importance for intercourse frequency,” said postdoctoral fellow Dr. Trond Viggo Grøntvedt at the Department of Psychology, who is the first author of the study, which was published in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences.

For their study, the researchers considered several factors, such as how happy people are in their relationship, how committed they feel to their partner, how intimate they are, how much they trust each other, and the love between them.

Of all these factors, passion was the only one that could help predict the frequency of sex.

“Passion is actually the only one of these factors that matters. We didn’t find any association between any of the other aspects and how often people have sex in couple relationships,” Grøntvedt said.

The study included 92 couples between the ages of 19 and 30. Relationships varied in length from one month to nine years, with an average of just under two years. The couples had sex two to three times a week on average.

The longer the relationship had lasted, the less often the couples had sex, the study discovered. And one other factor, in particular, reduces the frequency, they say.

“Love is a commitment mechanism, and there is less passion and desire in a relationship if a partner is more interested in others,” Kennair said.

“Strong sexual fantasies about others than the partner don’t mix well with passion in the relationship,” added Associate Professor Mons Bendixen, also at the Department of Psychology.

“The most remarkable finding is, perhaps, that it’s only the woman’s attitudes to casual sex that affect the frequency of sexual intercourse,” said Kennair.

The findings may not apply to all cultures, Bendixen notes. They primarily apply to societies with more gender equality and female sexual control.

Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology