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Growing Up Poor May Double Risk of Future Psychosis

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 6:30am

Growing up in a poor urban neighborhood more than doubles the average person’s risk of developing a psychosis-spectrum disorder by middle adulthood, according to a new study led by researchers from the University of California (UC) Davis and Concordia University in Canada.

The results of the research, which followed nearly 4,000 Québec families for more than 30 years, suggest that interventions through social policies and neighborhood improvements could prevent future debilitating illnesses as well as the societal and personal costs associated with them, said the study’s authors.

“One important message to take from this study is that the stresses and chronic day-to-day challenges of living in under-resourced or impoverished communities can undermine the well-being of individuals whether they seem to have a vulnerability or not,” said Dr. Paul D. Hastings, professor in the Department of Psychology at UC Davis and the lead author of the paper.

He explains that although heredity is a major factor in predicting schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other disorders involving psychoses, the new findings show clear evidence that environmental factors experienced in childhood also affect future mental health.

The study is published in the journal Development and Psychopathology.

The origins of the Concordia Longitudinal Research Project date back to the 1970s, when the initial researchers sought to test existing theories on the roles of early adversity and children’s social traits on the development of psychiatric disorders.

The study followed families living in low-income urban communities in French-speaking parts of Montréal, Québec, comprising, in the end, nearly 11,000 individuals. Peer reports of behavior at school were used to assess children’s aggression, withdrawal and likability.

Beginning in the mid 2000s, researchers began analyzing the previous three decades of individual medical records as well as census data on neighborhood economic conditions. On average, the children were around 10 years old at the beginning of the study and were followed until they were 40. Meanwhile, their parents aged from their late 30s into their late 60s.

Residents of Québec receive government-funded health care, and the researchers were able to analyze numerically coded records of the subject families in order to identify psychiatric diagnoses. Since the researchers were able to identify parental diagnoses in the study, their analyses were able to predict the children’s future prevalence of psychiatric disorders above and beyond what would result from heredity, Hastings said.

The findings show that more than 6 percent of the children in the study had developed schizophrenia, bipolar disorder with psychosis, or other psychosis-spectrum disorders by middle-adulthood. Those who grew up in the most economically disadvantaged neighborhoods had the greatest likelihood of developing schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

In addition, childhood social behaviors were strong predictors of psychotic illnesses. In particular, children who were evaluated by their peers as both highly aggressive and highly withdrawn were likely to develop psychosis-spectrum disorders if they also grew up in more impoverished neighborhoods.

The findings suggest that interventions with young children who exhibit these complex patterns of antisocial behavior could lead to better outcomes.

“Once psychosis spectrum disorders take hold they are difficult to treat. It is kind of like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and similar illnesses,” said Hastings.

“Disorders like schizophrenia really become chronic diseases that require constant care, management, and maintenance. Reducing them by improving neighborhood conditions for all families in economically disadvantaged communities, and working directly with the families of children showing risky profiles of behavior, could improve the quality of people’s lives and markedly reduce health care costs.”

Source: University of California- Davis

 

Brief Interventions for Teen Substance Abuse Can Pay Off for Years

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 6:00am

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente health group have found long-term benefits for patients and health organizations that employ screenings, interventions, and referrals.

The new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that the benefits can last for many years and can include sustained reductions in mental health conditions.

Lead author Stacy Sterling, Dr.P.H., M.S.W., of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research in Northern California, found that adolescents with access to SBIRT — short for “screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment” — were less likely to have mental health or chronic medical conditions after 1 year.

Substance abuse is “closely associated with the top three causes of mortality and morbidity among adolescents — injuries, suicide and homicide,” write the authors. And, they note, adolescent substance use often goes hand-in-hand with other medical and mental health conditions and can lead to higher use of health care services.

Investigators found that those with access to SBIRT services had fewer psychiatry visits over 1 and 3 years, and fewer total outpatient visits at 3 years. This evidence suggests improvements in mental health leading to lower costs and utilization of health services.

“The fact that we saw a difference in substance use problems even 3 years out was surprising,” said Sterling. “It suggests that providing access to SBIRT may plant a seed for patients and their care teams, creating awareness about substance use that may help kids avoid future problems.”

The study used data from electronic health records to examine how much health care was used among adolescents with access to SBIRT services. The randomized clinical trial compared usual care to 2 other methods of delivering SBIRT in pediatric primary care, delivered by a pediatrician or by an embedded behavioral clinician.

The research was conducted at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, an integrated health care delivery organization. The sample was taken from the pediatrics department in Oakland, California, and consisted of 1,871 adolescents ages 12 to 18.

“We found that adolescents with access to SBIRT services, regardless of whether it was through their pediatrician or an embedded behavioral health clinician, were less likely to have mental health or chronic medical conditions after 1 year,” Sterling said.

“We also found that SBIRT likely leads to lower health care utilization.”

The authors suggest that pediatric primary care and adolescent medicine clinics should consider implementing SBIRT, whether through training pediatricians or embedding SBIRT-trained behavioral health clinicians (or both) into the care team.

Increased attention, training and capacity to address substance use and other behavioral health problems can have a significant impact on future health problems and health care use.

“We need to increase resources and focus on the role of behavioral health on the overall health and well-being of children and teenagers in our care,” added Sterling.

“I think more research is needed on SBIRT and these important, long-term health impacts.”

Source: Kaiser Permanente

Acupuncture May Help Ease PTSD After Natural Disaster

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 6:30am

Acupuncture may be an effective complementary treatment for improving psychological and pain symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a natural disaster, according to a new study by Italian researchers. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy that involves the insertion of needles into specific points in the body on the energetic meridians.

For the study, the researchers looked at the effects of acupuncture on the victims of a 6.0 earthquake that caused nearly 300 deaths and left 30,000 people homeless in Amatrice, Central Italy in August 2016. Earthquakes are unpredictable disasters that cause widespread devastation and can lead to severe psychiatric disorders among survivors, including anxiety, depression and PTSD.

Current first-line therapies for PTSD include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and medication; however, many patients don’t follow through with these treatments due to negative emotional reactions after therapy and/or the side effects from the medications, say the authors.

The acupuncture effort was led by two medical associations: Lombard Association of Medical Acupuncturists (ALMA) and Acupuncture in the World (AGOM).

Acupuncture treatments were performed by medical doctors who had at least 3 years of clinical experience with acupuncture. Each subject received four 20-minute acupuncture treatments over consecutive days for a total of 5 weeks, from September to October 2016.

Before the treatment began, more than 68 percent of the participants reported having both pain and psychological symptoms that could be associated with PTSD. According to the study, anxiety may include symptoms such as uncontrollable worry, restlessness and hypervigilance.

PTSD is described as anxiety symptoms that last for more than one month. A PTSD diagnosis includes symptoms from four groups: persistent re-experiencing of the traumatic event; avoidant symptoms; negative change in general responsiveness; and increased arousal and reactivity.

Depression involves a loss of pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks and is associated with sleep disorders, loss of appetite, sexual dysfunction and low levels of activity.

After the third treatment, both the pain and psychological symptom scores had improved significantly, with no serious adverse effects attributed to the treatment. The most frequently used meridian points were kidney (13 percent), followed by large intestine (12 percent), spleen (12 percent) and gall bladder (10 percent).

The findings are published in the journal Medical Acupuncture as part of a special issue on Acupuncture to Foster Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

Source: Mary Ann Liebert, INC/Genetic Engineering News

Spiritual Experiences Can Improve Long-Term Mental Health

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 6:00am

In a new survey of thousands of people who reported a personal encounter with “ultimate reality” or God, a majority say the experience led to lasting positive changes in their psychological health, life satisfaction, purpose and meaning even decades after the initial encounter.

The study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, is the first to systematically and rigorously compare reports of spontaneous God encounter experiences, including those catalyzed by psychedelic substances, such as magic mushrooms or ayahuasca.

Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Experiences that people describe as encounters with God or a representative of God have been reported for thousands of years, and they likely form the basis of many of the world’s religions,” says lead researcher Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“And although modern Western medicine doesn’t typically consider ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’ experiences as one of the tools in the arsenal against sickness, our findings suggest that these encounters often lead to improvements in mental health.”

The historic and widespread anecdotal evidence for their benefits led to the research team’s latest effort to research the value, and possible downsides, of such encounters, Griffiths says.

The researchers looked at data from 4,285 people worldwide who responded to online advertisements to complete one of two 50-minute online surveys about God encounter experiences. Of the total participants, 809 were those who responded to the non-drug survey, whereas 3,476 responded to the psychedelics survey.

The surveys asked participants to recall their single most memorable encounter experience with the “God of their understanding,” a “higher power,” “ultimate reality” or “an aspect or representative of God, such as an angel.” They also asked how respondents felt about their experience and whether and how it changed their lives.

Around 69 percent of the participants were men, and 88 percent were white. The average age was 38. Of those who reported using a psychedelic, 1,184 took psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”); 1,251 said they took LSD; 435 said they took ayahuasca (a plant-based brew originating with indigenous cultures in Latin America); and 606 said they took DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine), also a naturally occurring substance found in certain plants and animals.

Those who said they had a God encounter experience while taking a psychedelic reported that these experiences happened at age 25 on average, whereas those whose experience was spontaneous reported having it at an average age of 35.

Among other key findings:

  • Around 75 percent of participants in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups rated their “God encounter” experience as among the most meaningful and spiritually significant in their lifetime, and both groups attributed to it positive changes in life satisfaction, purpose and meaning;
  • Independent of psychedelics use, more than two-thirds of those who said they were atheists before the experience no longer identified as such afterward;
  • Most participants, in both the non-drug and psychedelics groups, reported vivid memories of the encounter experience, which frequently involved communication with some entity having the attributes of consciousness (approximately 70 percent), benevolence (approximately 75 percent), intelligence (approximately 80 percent), sacredness (approximately 75 percent) and eternal existence (approximately 70 percent);
  • Although both groups reported a decreased fear of death, 70 percent of participants in the psychedelics group reported this change, compared with 57 percent among non-drug respondents;
  • In both groups, around 15 percent of the respondents said their experience was the most psychologically challenging of their lives;
  • In the non-drug group, participants were most likely to choose “God” or “an emissary of God” (59 percent) as the best descriptor of their encounter, while the psychedelics group were most likely (55 percent) to choose “ultimate reality.”

For future research, Griffiths said his team would like to investigate what factors predispose someone to having such a memorable encounter, and they would like to see what happens in the brain during the experience.

“Continuing to explore these experiences may provide new insights into religious and spiritual beliefs that have been integral to shaping human culture since time immemorial,” says Griffiths.

In addition, says Griffiths, “We want to be clear that our study looks at personal experiences and says nothing about the existence, or nonexistence of God. We doubt that any science can definitively settle this point either way.”

Griffiths has been researching psychedelic drugs for nearly two decades. Some of his earlier studies have used psilocybin to explore mystical-type experiences and their consequences in healthy volunteers, and the therapeutic potential of the drug in helping people to quit smoking or to ease mental distress in cancer patients.

Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Participation in Sports Linked to Less Depression in Boys

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 8:47pm

New research suggests a male child is less apt to have symptoms of depression if they participate in team sports. Furthermore, participation in non-sport activities was found to have no effect on a child’s mood. The association was found only for boys.

Washington University in St. Louis investigators believe the findings, published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, suggest exercise could have antidepressant effects in adolescents.

“These interesting results provide important clues as to how exercise benefits mood in children and reveals the important role that gender plays in these effects,” said Cameron Carter, M.D., editor of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

Using brain imaging, the researchers showed that involvement in sports was associated with increased volume of the hippocampus, a brain region important for memory and response to stress, in both boys and girls.

However, hippocampal volume was associated with depressive symptoms in boys only, suggesting that in boys, hippocampal changes may play a role in the relationship between sports involvement and depressive symptoms.

The positive impact of exercise on depression, and the link with hippocampal volume, has been shown previously in adults. But the new study, which included over 4,000 children ages 9-to-11 years, is the first to connect involvement in sports with mental health and brain development in children.

“We found that these relationships were specific to participating in sports, and not to participating in other type of activities, such as clubs, arts and music, though these activities may have their own benefits that were not examined in the current study,” said first author Lisa Gorham, a senior studying cognitive neuroscience, and senior author Deanna Barch, Ph.D., both of Washington University in St. Louis.

“We also found that these relationships were particularly strong for participating in team sports or sports that involved ‘structure’, such as a school team, a non-school league or regular lessons, as compared to more informal engagement in sports.

“This raises the intriguing possibility that there is some added benefit of the team or structured component of sports, such as the social interaction or the regularity that these activities provide.”

The data do not show which one causes the other–whether participating in sports leads to the effects on brain development and depression, or if children with those characteristics are less likely to engage in sports.

“However, either of these causal relations is important and would suggest new directions for work on improving or preventing depression in children,” said Gorham and Barch.

The findings provide an important look at how exercise might impact brain development in adolescence and suggest a way for reducing or preventing depression.

Confirming the impact of sports on brain development and mood would provide strong support for encouraging children to participate in structured sports that provide both exercise and social interaction.

Source: Elsevier/EurekAlert

Study: Deep Brain Stimulation Provides Long-Term Relief from Severe Depression

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 8:42pm

In the largest study to date, a German research team has confirmed that deep brain stimulation of the brain’s reward system provides relief for treatment-resistant depression. Investigators from the University of Freiburg and their colleagues from the University Hospital Bonn discovered the technique provides acute and long-term benefits.

Researchers used thin electrodes to stimulate a deep-seated part of the reward system in the brains of 16 patients. The intervention led to a significant reduction of ratings of depression severity in all patients. Moreover, for half of the study participants depression symptoms were reduced to levels not requiring treatment.

Most of the patients experienced those positive stimulation effects within the first week, and they lasted throughout the course of the one-year study. The study appears online in the Nature journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

“The most compelling outcome from the study is the sustained efficacy in very severely ill patients. Most treatments in psychiatry cease to be efficacious after months and years, we demonstrated for the first time in demonstrating in a relatively large-scale study that deep brain stimulation is a real option for those patients suffering from treatment-resistant, severe depression,” says group leader Prof. Dr. Thomas Schläpfer.

An estimated 10 to 30 percent of all people with recurring depression do not respond to approved treatments. Deep brain stimulation could be a treatment option for some of these patients. The 16 participants in the FORSEE-II study had suffered from severe depression for 8 to 22 years and had previously undergone an average of 18 drug therapies, 20 electroconvulsive therapies, and 70 hours of psychotherapy – without success.

Prof. Dr. Volker A. Coenen, first author of the study and director of the Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery Unit at the Department of Neurosurgery of the Medical Center and his team implanted the deep brain stimulation systems in the patients medial forebrain bundle of the brain and used them to stimulate the medial forebrain bundle.

This brain region is involved in the perception and regulation of pleasure and reward and is thus also significant for motivation and the perceived quality of life.

The doctors evaluated the success of the therapy monthly with the help of the established Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS). The MADRS scores of ten study participants already decreased significantly within the first week and remained at a low level. All study participants reacted to the stimulation in the course of the study. Eight of the 16 patients had a MADRS score of under 10 points at the end of the study and thus were regarded as non-depressive. ”

Our patients had struggled with severe depression for years with no signs of improvement. Deep brain stimulation brought most of them significant relief within days, which lasted throughout the course of the therapy. Other forms of treatment like medication and psychotherapy often lose their effectiveness over the course of time. Absolutely sensational about the study data is that the effect seems to be long lasting, with the positive effects continuing for years”, says Prof. Schläpfer.

“We know from a pilot study that the stimulation of this brain region is very promising and we are delighted about the replication of these significant effects,” says Prof. Coenen.

Source: University of Freiburg/EurekAlert

Photo: The researchers implanted the deep brain stimulation systems in the patients’ medial forebrain bundle (blue) of the brain, a part of the brain’s reward system. Credit: University of Freiburg – Medical Center.

AI-Augmented Voice Analysis AI-Augmented Voice Analysis Helps Diagnose PTSDHelps Diagnose PTSD

Tue, 04/23/2019 - 6:00am

Researchers have developed a specially designed computer program that can help identify and diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans.

NYU School of Medicine investigators discovered an artificial intelligence tool can distinguish with 89 percent accuracy between the voices of those with or without PTSD. The unique approach is cost-effective and non-intrusive.

“Our findings suggest that speech-based characteristics can be used to diagnose this disease, and with further refinement and validation, may be employed in the clinic in the near future,” said senior study author Charles R. Marmar, M.D., chair of the Department of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine.

The study appears in the journal Depression and Anxiety.

Experts share that more than 70 percent of adults worldwide experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, with up to 12 percent of people in some struggling countries suffering from PTSD. Those with the condition experience strong, persistent distress when reminded of a triggering event.

The study authors say that a PTSD diagnosis is most often determined by clinical interview or a self-report assessment, both inherently prone to biases. This has led to efforts to develop objective, measurable, physical markers of PTSD progression, much like laboratory values for medical conditions, but progress has been slow.

In the current study, the research team used a statistical/machine learning technique, called random forests, that has the ability to “learn” how to classify individuals based on examples. Such AI programs build “decision” rules and mathematical models that enable decision-making with increasing accuracy as the amount of training data grows.

The researchers first recorded standard, hours-long diagnostic interviews, called Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale, or CAPS, of 53 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with military-service-related PTSD, as well as those of 78 veterans without the disease.

The recordings were then fed into voice software from SRI International, the institute that also invented Siri, to yield a total of 40,526 speech-based features captured in short spurts of talk, which the team’s AI program sifted through for patterns.

The random forest program linked patterns of specific voice features with PTSD, including less clear speech and a lifeless, metallic tone, both of which had long been reported anecdotally as helpful in diagnosis.

Although the current study did not explore the disease mechanisms behind PTSD, the theory is that traumatic events change brain circuits that process emotion and muscle tone, which affects a person’s voice.

The next step is for the research team to train the AI voice tool with more data. They will then further validate the approach on an independent sample, and apply for government approval to use the instrument clinically.

“Speech is an attractive candidate for use in an automated diagnostic system, perhaps as part of a future PTSD smartphone app, because it can be measured cheaply, remotely, and non-intrusively,” says lead author Adam Brown, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

“The speech analysis technology used in the current study on PTSD detection falls into the range of capabilities included in our speech analytics platform called SenSay Analytics,” said Dimitra Vergyri, director of SRI International’s Speech Technology and Research (STAR) Laboratory.

“The software analyzes words — in combination with frequency, rhythm, tone, and articulatory characteristics of speech — to infer the state of the speaker, including emotion, sentiment, cognition, health, mental health and communication quality. The technology has been involved in a series of industry applications visible in startups like Oto, Ambit and Decoded Health.”

Source: NYU/EurekAlert

Behavioral Disorders in Autistic Kids Linked to Reduced Brain Connectivity

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 10:00am

More than a quarter of children with autism spectrum disorder are also diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorders.

Now, researchers at Yale University have identified a possible biological cause, finding that a key mechanism that regulates emotion functions differently in the brains of the children who exhibit disruptive behavior.

“Disruptive behaviors such as aggression, irritability, and noncompliance are common in children with autism, and are among the main reasons for psychiatric treatment and even hospitalization,” said Denis Sukhodolsky, senior author and an associate professor in the Yale Child Study Center. “Yet, little is known about the biological underpinnings of behavioral problems in children with autism.”

The study used fMRI scans conducted during an emotion perception task to compare the brain activity of autistic children, some who exhibit disruptive behaviors and some who do not.

While in the scanner, the children were asked to look at pictures of human faces that displayed calm or fearful expressions.

During the task, the researchers found reduced connectivity between the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex — a pathway critical to the regulation of emotion — in the brains of children who exhibit disruptive behavior.

“Reduced amygdala-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex functional connectivity was uniquely associated with disruptive behavior, but not with severity of social deficits or anxiety, suggesting a distinct brain network that could be separate from core autism symptoms,” said Dr. Karim Ibrahim, first author and a postdoctoral fellow in the Sukhodolsky lab.

“This finding points to a brain mechanism of emotion dysregulation in children with autism and offers a potential biomarker for developing targeted treatments for irritability and aggression in autism.”

The study was published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

Source: Yale University

Canadian Study: One in Five Kids May Have a Mental Disorder

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 8:00am

One in five children and teens in Ontario has a mental disorder, but less than one-third have had contact with a mental health care provider, according to the findings of the latest Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS).

The large-scale survey, called the 2014 OCHS for when data collection started, included 10,802 children and youth ages 4 to 17 in 6,537 families. It replicated and expanded on the landmark 1983 Ontario Child Health Study of 3,290 children in 1,869 families.

“This is a very robust study we feel represents the situation in Canada,” said Dr. Michael Boyle, co-principal investigator of the study. “That means there are more than a million Canadian children and youth with a mental health problem. This needs to be addressed.”

Overall, hyperactivity disorder in boys ages 4 to 11 jumped dramatically from 9 percent in the 1983 OCHS to 16 percent in the 2014 OCHS, and there was also a steep increase in anxiety and depression among both males and females, from 9 to 13 percent. However, disruptive behavior among males ages 12 to 16 saw a substantial drop, from 10 to 3 percent.

At the same time, there was a significant increase in perceptions of need for professional help with mental health disorders, rising from 7 percent in the 1983 OCHS to 19 percent in the 2014 OCHS. However, the authors say it is difficult to estimate whether this is tied to the rise in anti-stigma and mental health awareness campaigns over the past three decades.

In 30 years, the prevalence of any disorder increased in smaller communities with a population of 1,000 to 100,000, rather than large urban areas. There is also strong evidence that poor children are more likely to have a disorder if they live in a more violent neighborhood.

The research also found that in the past year more than 8 percent of youth thought about suicide, and 4 percent reported a suicide attempt.

“This study underscores the continued need for effective prevention and intervention programs,” said co-principal investigator Dr. Kathy Georgiades.

The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has simultaneously published eight papers on different aspects of the 2014 OCHS results. According to the authors, the new findings represent an important advance in the understanding of child and youth mental health issues in Ontario, and it is very likely that many of the results can be generalized to other Canadian settings.

Source: McMaster University

 

Study: To Curb Teens’ Junk Food Urge, Expose Marketers’ Motives

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 7:30am

A new study finds that reframing how teens see food-marketing campaigns can spur them, particularly boys, to make healthier daily dietary choices for an extended period of time.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, show that when teens are exposed to the idea that corporations are trying to hook them on addictive junk food for financial gain, the teens opt for healthier foods.

The method works in part by tapping into teens’ natural desire to rebel against authority, or “stick it to the man,” say the researchers.

“Food marketing is deliberately designed to create positive emotional associations with junk food, to connect it with feelings of happiness and fun,” said researcher Christopher J. Bryan from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“What we’ve done is turn that around on the food marketers by exposing this manipulation to teenagers, triggering their natural strong aversion to being controlled by adults. If we could make more kids aware of that, it might make a real difference.”

In 2016, the researchers conducted a preliminary study with eighth graders at a Texas middle school. One group of students read a fact-based, exposé-style article on big food companies. The article framed the corporations as manipulative marketers trying to hook consumers on addictive junk food for financial gain. The articles also described deceptive product labels and advertising practices that target vulnerable populations, including very young children and the poor.

A separate, control group of students read traditional material from existing health education programs about the benefits of healthy eating. The findings show that the group that read the exposés chose fewer junk food snacks and selected water over sugary sodas the next day.

In the new study, teens first read the marketing exposé material, and then did an activity called “Make It True,” designed to reinforce the negative portrayal of food marketing. The students received images of food advertisements on iPads with instructions to write or draw on the ads — graffiti style — to transform the ads from false to true.

Importantly, the effects of the marketing exposé intervention lasted for the rest of the school year — a full three months. The impact was particularly significant among boys, who reduced their daily purchases of unhealthy drinks and snacks in the school cafeteria by 31 percent, compared with the control group.

“One of the most exciting things is that we got kids to have a more negative immediate gut reaction to junk food and junk food marketing, and a more positive immediate gut reaction to healthy foods,” said Bryan.

Appealing to teenagers’ natural impulse to “stick it to the man” and their developmentally heightened sense of fairness may finally provide a way for the public-health community to compete against dramatically-better-funded junk food marketers.

This brief, inexpensive, and easily scalable intervention appears to provide lasting protection against the enticing power of junk food marketing, and to change eating habits for the better.

“This study shows it’s possible to change behavior during adolescence using a light-touch intervention,” said David S. Yeager from the University of Texas at Austin.

“Adolescence is a developmental stage when even the lengthiest health promotion approaches have had virtually no effect. Because so many social problems, from education to risky behavior, have their roots in the teen years, this study paves the way for solutions to some of the thorniest challenges for promoting global public health.”

Source: University of Chicago Booth School of Business

New Assessment Aims to Gauge Unpredictability of Domestic Violence

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 7:00am

Tragically, one in three American women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) at some point in their lifetime; but perhaps one of IPV’s worst traits is its unpredictable nature.

In fact, a new study finds that not knowing what will come next can sometimes be a stronger predictor of a woman’s health outcomes than violence frequency and severity.

“We expect severity and frequency to be the major driver to patient outcomes, but in some cases it isn’t,” said David Katerndahl, M.D., professor of family and community medicine at the University of Texas (UT) Health San Antonio.

“The nonlinearity, or unpredictability, of the violence is much more of a driver.”

In a new paper, published in the journal Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders, the research team presents a 10-item scale called the Violence Nonlinearity Dynamics scale which is designed to reliably estimate violence unpredictability.

The scale may be a useful research tool in future studies of intimate partner violence, said Katerndahl. Researchers currently face the hurdle of obtaining sufficient valid data to measure nonlinearity, he said.

The study enrolled 143 women who had recently experienced violence. The research was advertised as a family stress study at six San Antonio family medicine clinics. Non-pregnant women ages 18 to 64 were screened in exam rooms while waiting for appointments. If husbands accompanied them, they were not screened.

Participants were asked about the abusive behavior they faced and the violent environment around them. Other assessments looked at their levels of hope and coping mechanisms. These evaluations, coupled with self-reports of the women over the eight-week study period, informed development of the Violence Nonlinearity Dynamics Scale.

Family therapist Johanna Becho, M.S., L.M.F.T., interacted with the women on a weekly basis. “My role was to receive phone calls from each woman to track day-to-day events occurring in her life: the loss of a job, birth of a baby or loss of a child, and other things of that nature that can impact the dynamics of a relationship,” Becho said.

“I also helped them to process their emotions after an incident occurred,” she said. “It was very delicate dialogue, not something one shares with just anybody. It has to be with a trusted confidant, and that’s what I became over the course of the eight weeks.”

A certain level of unpredictability was actually healthier for women than having their days uniform and tightly controlled. “Women who have what we call ‘optimal nonlinearity,’ which means they have some nonlinearity but it’s not extreme, actually did better in the study in general,” Katerndahl said.

“Some spontaneity allows us to mine for solutions,” Becho said. “Whereas one woman might be open to counseling, another might be open to legal action, and another might be ready to start thinking about steps to exit the relationship. Leaving is a process.”

Participant safety was the highest priority during the study. “We were able to set up safety measures that are not typical in everyday life, at least not in the life of a woman experiencing violence,” Becho said. “For example, if a woman missed a phone call, we would place an outbound phone call to a safe number to try to reach her. Part of the study entry criteria was to provide a safe number for us to call if she couldn’t reach us.”

Enrollment also included a safety assessment.

“If a woman was in an extremely violent relationship, we just thought it was too risky for her to try to be in the study,” Katerndahl said. “If there was a gun in the house, or he previously caused her to be hospitalized because of the violence, or another situation like that was occurring, we considered it to be too risky.”

Rather, these women were referred to community resources such as the Bexar County Family Justice Center, the Battered Women’s Shelter and local community counseling.

Of the 143 participants, analysis was conducted only with the 120 women who spoke English. These women included 94 Hispanics and 80 with at least a high school education. Sixty-two reported a household income of less than $20,000 annually. The mean duration of their relationships was 13.8 years and the mean duration of violence was 9.7 years.

Source: UT Health San Antonio

Logic Can Suffer When it Comes to Political Beliefs

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 6:00am

New research has found that, regardless of political affiliation, tribal instincts kick in and people’s ability to think logically suffers when it comes to arguments related to their political belief systems.

But when confronted with the unsound reasoning of opposing groups, people become better able to identify flawed logic, according to researchers, who conducted two studies.

In the first study, the researchers studied ideological belief bias — the tendency to judge logical arguments based on the believability of their conclusions rather than whether or not the arguments’ premises support the conclusions — among 924 liberals and conservatives from YourMorals.org.

Visitors to the site evaluated the logical soundness of classically structured logical syllogisms supporting liberal or conservative beliefs. Of 16 syllogisms, half were structured as sound arguments and half unsound, according to the researchers.

On average, participants correctly judged 73 percent of the syllogisms, the study found. But their ability to judge correctly depended on their political views, researchers noted.

“Liberals were better at identifying flawed arguments supporting conservative beliefs and conservatives were better at identifying flawed arguments supporting liberal beliefs,” said Anup Gampa of the University of Virginia, a lead coauthor of the paper.

In the second study, researchers observed ideological belief bias effects among 1,489 participants from ProjectImplicit.org. The participants in this study were trained in logical reasoning before evaluating political syllogisms using language similar to what they might encounter in popular media.

Even with the training, the ability to analyze arguments fell into the same patterns, the researchers discovered. They found similar patterns of bias in a nationally representative sample of 1,109 liberals and conservatives.

In the era of fake news, these logical fallacies can be even more potent, the researchers warn.

“When two sides don’t share a common view of even seemingly objective facts, these differences become embedded in our collective reasoning ability,” said Sean Wojcik, Ph.D., of the University of California, Irvine, a lead coauthor of the paper. “Our biases drive us apart not only in our disagreements about political and ideological world views, but also in our understanding of logic itself.”

The researchers note that when it comes to politics, “we might not be as vigilant as we think” about the logical grounding of our own beliefs and “we might be unreasonably harsh about the logical grounding of the belief of those we disagree with.”

Despite this, being able to hear the other side can open us to our own flawed arguments, the researchers conclude.

The study was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Source: Society for Personality and Social Psychology

Social Support Key To Easing Suicidal Thoughts Among Chronic Pain Patients

Sun, 04/21/2019 - 7:00am

Although suicidal thoughts are not uncommon among individuals with chronic and disabling pain, research has lagged on how to improve resiliency and promote recovery. Now, a nationally representative study from the University of Toronto discovers that social support plays a major role in promoting recovery.

Investigators found that almost two-thirds of formerly suicidal Canadians (63 percent) with chronic pain were free from suicidal thoughts in the past year. “Social support played a key role in remission,” said lead author Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging. “The biggest factor in recovery from suicidal thoughts was having a confidant, defined as having at least one close relationship that provide the person in chronic pain a sense of emotional security and well-being.

“Even when a wide range of other characteristics such as age, gender and mental health history were taken into account, those with a confidant had 87 percent higher odds of being in remission from suicidal thoughts compared to those with no close relationships,” she said.

Fuller-Thomson said there is a need for targeted efforts to decrease social isolation and loneliness among those experiencing chronic pain. Study participants reported that pain prevented some or most of their activities, so they were particularly vulnerable to social isolation.

“More awareness by the general public that mobility limitations associated with chronic pain can make it difficult for individuals to socialize outside the household, could encourage friends and family to visit and phone more and thereby decrease loneliness,” she said.

“In our study, individuals living in poverty and those struggling to meet basic living expenses were more likely to still have suicidal thoughts. Living in poverty may also limit access to needed resources to alleviate pain symptoms, and increase hopelessness that symptoms could improve, thereby presenting poverty as a barrier to suicide remission.”

This study was conducted in Canada where free and universal health care is available, and thus health care costs should not have been burdensome. Researchers  hypothesized that the negative association between poverty and remission from suicidal thoughts might be even stronger in countries without universal health care, such as the USA, according to co-author Lyndsey D. Kotchapaw, M.S.W.

Data were drawn from the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.

“This study’s findings that individuals with chronic pain with a history of depression and anxiety disorders were less likely to remit from suicidal ideation, is consistent with literature on mood disorders and suicidality in the general population. Previous research indicates that individuals with chronic pain take longer to recover from depression compared to those without chronic pain. A barrier to suicide remission may be difficulties in problem solving, which is a common symptom of affective disorders,” said Kotchapaw.

Researchers discovered some common characteristics among chronic pain sufferers who were in remission from suicidal thoughts. They were significantly more likely to be older, female, white, better educated, and more likely to use spirituality to cope with daily difficulties.

The study, published online in the Journal of Pain, was based on a nationally representative sample of 635 Canadians who reported that they had ever “seriously thought about committing suicide or taking (their) own life” who also reported that they currently had chronic pain which prevented some or most of their activities.

“With close to two-thirds of formerly suicidal Canadians in chronic pain free of any suicidal thoughts, these findings provide a hopeful message of resilience and recovery in the context of disabling pain and help to improve targeted outreach to those most at risk for unremitting suicidality,” said Fuller-Thomson.

Source: University of Toronto/EurekAlert

Repeated Exposure to Media Coverage of Traumas Can Fuel Distress

Sun, 04/21/2019 - 6:30am

Repeated exposure to media coverage of collective traumas, such as mass shootings or natural disasters, can fuel a cycle of distress, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that individuals can become more emotionally responsive to news reports of subsequent incidents, resulting in heightened anxiety and worry about future occurrences.

“It’s natural for people to experience feelings of concern and uncertainty when a terrorist attack or a devastating hurricane occurs,” said senior author Dr. Roxane Cohen Silver, a UCI professor of psychological science.

“Media coverage of these events, fueled by the 24-hour news cycle and proliferation of mobile technologies, is often repetitious and can contain graphic images, video, and sensationalized stories, extending the impact to populations beyond those directly involved.”

Earlier research has shown that turning to media coverage of a collective trauma is a rational response for individuals seeking information as a way to mitigate their apprehension and cope with their stress, researchers note. However, this strategy may backfire.

According to the new study, repeated exposure to explicit content may exacerbate fear about future occurrences, which promotes future media consumption and greater anxiety when they do occur. There is an even greater risk of falling into this pattern for those who have experienced violence in their lives or have been diagnosed with mental health ailments, according to the researchers.

“The cycle of media exposure and distress appears to have downstream implications for public health as well,” said Dr. Rebecca R. Thompson, a UCI postdoctoral scholar in psychological science and lead author of the report. “Repeated exposure to news coverage of collective traumas has been linked to poor mental health consequences,  such as flashbacks  in the immediate aftermath and post-traumatic stress responses and physical health problems over time, even among individuals who did not directly experience the event.”

The national study of more than 4,000 U.S. residents was conducted by the researchers over a three-year period following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Participants were surveyed four times, which allowed the researchers to capture responses to both tragedies and examine how responses to the first incident affected reactions to news coverage of the second.

“Our findings suggest that media organizations should seek to balance the sensationalistic aspects of their coverage, such as providing more informational accounts as opposed to lengthy descriptions of carnage, as they work to inform the public about breaking news events,” Silver said.

“This may lessen the impact of exposure to one event, reducing the likelihood of increased worry and media-seeking behavior for subsequent events.”

The study was published in Science Advances.

Source: University of California, Irvine

Video: Media exposure to mass violence events can fuel a cycle of distress, repeated media consumption and subsequent distress. Credit: Narration by Rebecca R. Thompson, Ph.D.; Artwork by Sofya Ogunseitan.

Mood, Anxiety Interventions May Offer Lasting Benefit to Teens and Young Adults

Sat, 04/20/2019 - 7:00am

Emerging research from the U.K. suggests early intervention programs for youth with mood and anxiety disorders provide a variety of benefits. Investigators discovered that treatment at the First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program (FEMAP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) lead to improvements in patients’ symptoms and functioning, access to psychiatric care in the most appropriate settings and fewer visits to the emergency department (ED).

FEMAP is a novel outpatient mental health program that provides treatment to emerging adults, ages 16 to 25, with emotional concerns that fall into the categories of mood and anxiety symptoms. Treatment at FEMAP takes a patient-centered approach in a youth-friendly setting where patients receive care from a multidisciplinary team.

Researchers discovered a wide appreciation for the services offered by FEMAP. Individual outcomes improved significantly and costs were reduced. Kirstie Leedham, a former patient and research participant comments:

“FEMAP helped me to understand that there wasn’t something wrong with me and that I wasn’t alone in the way that I felt. I learned to cope and deal with things in more constructive ways that made things so much easier. Before entering the program, I had trouble finishing school, no job prospects and couldn’t hold down a relationship. Now, three years out of the program, I have a great job, am married and own a house, which are things I never thought would be possible.”

In a recent study published in the journal Psychiatric Services, researchers found that treatment at FEMAP leads to improved patient outcomes. The study included 370 youth eligible for FEMAP services. Before beginning treatment at FEMAP, they were, on average, experiencing moderate depression, moderate anxiety and low satisfaction with their quality of health. They also reported poor functioning an average of 4.3 days per week.

Of 370 youth eligible for treatment at FEMAP, 322 attended a clinical assessment. Seventy-one disengaged from treatment either before or immediately following the clinical assessment. The research team found that those who disengaged early had less severe symptoms than those who stayed engaged.

Follow-up questionnaires were completed by 174 youth approximately six months into treatment. The research team discovered significant improvements in patient outcomes, including reduction in mood and anxiety symptoms, improved functioning and a higher quality of health satisfaction.

“These results demonstrate the effectiveness of early intervention programs offering personalized treatment that adjusts to patient’s needs and wishes. The data suggests our model is successful in helping patients manage their mood and anxiety disorders,” says Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, Medical Director at FEMAP.

Another study by the team, published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that FEMAP improves patients’ access to care. The team analyzed de-identified public health data from 2009 to 2014. They discovered patients treated at FEMAP were three times more likely to see a psychiatrist, had more rapid access to care and lower rates of ED visits when compared to patients treated elsewhere in the same geographic region.

“Our results suggest FEMAP provides access to mental health care in the most appropriate settings by preventing ED visits, demonstrating the health system potential of this novel treatment program,” said Dr. Kelly Anderson.

The research team is also investigating FEMAP’s impact on costs to the health system. In a study published in Early Intervention in Psychiatry, they examined de-identified public health data from 2009 to 2015 to compare 366 FEMAP patients to a control group of 660 patients who received care elsewhere in the geographic region.

They found that over the course of one year, FEMAP patients cost the health system significantly less money for inpatient hospital services, ambulatory services and drug benefit claims, and significantly more money for physician services. Overall the cost of FEMAP was less, but the difference was not statistically significant.

“While the total cost difference was not found to be significant, these results might represent FEMAP patients accessing care in settings most appropriate to their needs,” said Dr. Ava John-Baptiste.

“Increased use of physician services combined with access to a broader range of treatments, including psychology, counseling and social services, may make FEMAP a worthwhile investment.”

Source: Lawson Health Research Center

Australian Study: Top 10 Percent of Heaviest Drinkers Consume More Than Half of Country’s Alcohol

Sat, 04/20/2019 - 6:30am

The heaviest drinking 10 percent of Australians down more than half of all the alcohol consumed in Australia, drinking an average of six standard drinks per day, according to a new study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. These heavy drinkers are also more likely to consume cheap alcohol, such as beer and cask wine.

The study was led by La Trobe’s Centre for Alcohol Policy and Research (CAPR) and funded by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

“We found that the heaviest drinking 10 percent of Australians drink 54.4 percent of all alcohol consumed in Australia,” said lead author Dr. Michael Livingston of La Trobe University in Melbourne.

He added that this group is drinking well above the low-risk drinking guidelines of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), “which not only jeopardizes their health, but has negative flow-on effects for families and communities.”

The findings show that heavy drinkers are more likely to be middle-aged men living in rural and regional areas.

“We know that rural areas have disproportionately high levels of consumption and alcohol-related harm compared to metropolitan areas,” said Livingston. “We found that 16 percent of this heavy-drinking subset live in outer regional and remote areas, compared with 10 percent of other drinkers.”

Significantly, cheap alcohol was the standout common factor among Australia’s heaviest drinkers. They were more likely to drink cask wine and beer as their main drinks, and they were more likely to drink at home.

“Surprisingly, we found drinking patterns didn’t correlate strongly with other socio-demographic factors such as employment status and neighbourhood disadvantage,” Livingston said.

Importantly, the alcohol industry maximizes profits through packaged liquor sales which includes discounting, special offers and other point-of-sale promotions.

“The trend towards packaged liquor sales continues apace, with more than 80 percent of the alcohol consumed in Australia now sold as packaged liquor,” said Michael Thorn, FARE Chief Executive.

Thorn said the superstore model enables chains such as Woolworths to sell as much alcohol as possible, as cheaply as possible, to the most vulnerable people in the country.

“An earlier study found that each additional chain outlet is associated with a 35.3 percent increase in intentional injuries (including assaults, stabbing, or shooting) and a 22 percent increase in unintentional injuries (including falls, crashes, or being struck by an object),” said Thorn.

The new findings further support the government overseeing or considering introducing a floor price on alcohol, which is one of the reforms underway in some areas.

“Clearly government has a responsibility to address the problem of cheap alcohol by fixing the way alcohol is taxed, introducing floor prices and halting the proliferation of harm-causing packaged alcohol sales,” Thorn said.

Data for the study came from the 2016 National Drug Strategy Household Survey and the 2013 International Alcohol Control Study.

Source: La Trobe University

Victims of School Bullying Face Greater Risk of Mental Illness, Unemployment at Age 25

Sat, 04/20/2019 - 6:00am

Victims of middle or high school bullying are significantly more likely to experience mental health problems and/or unemployment in later life, according to a new study led by researchers at Lancaster University Management School in England.

The researchers analyzed confidential data on more than 7,000 students ages 14 to 16 from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England. The students were interviewed at regular intervals until they were 21 and then again at age 25.

The findings show that around half of the students had experienced some type of bullying. Overall, being bullied in school increased the extent of mental health problems at age 25 by 40 percent. It also increased the probability of being unemployed at age 25 by about 35 percent; and for those in work, it reduced their income by around 2 percent.

“Bullying is widespread in schools, and many studies document a negative relationship between bullying and educational outcomes,” said co-author Dr. Emma Gorman from the Lancaster University Department of Economics. “Bullying is also an important policy issue because of concern that in addition to educational outcomes, being bullied may lead to negative impacts on young people’s lives in the long-term, such as low self-esteem, mental health conditions and poorer job prospects.”

“Our research shows that being bullied has negative impact on important long-term outcomes, especially unemployment, income and ill-health. Being bullied causes detrimental effects on children’s lives not just in the short-term, but for many years after. These are more pronounced among pupils who experience persistent bullying, or violent types of bullying.”

“Our findings suggest that a more targeted approach to reduce the most extreme forms of bullying may be warranted.”

The data, which was reported by both the child and parents, recorded how frequently the children were bullied, and what type of bullying they experienced. Examples of bullying within the study include being called names; being excluded from social groups; being threatened with violence; and experiencing violence.

In addition to the harmful consequences later in life, the research shows bullying affects the academic achievement of the victims while they are in school, and beyond into further and higher education.

The research was presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Warwick.

Source: Lancaster University

Study IDs Brain Activity Tied to Angry Emotions in Dreams

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 6:15am

An international team of researchers has identified a pattern of brain activity that correlates with angry emotions experienced during dreaming. The study, published in the journal JNeurosci, sheds new light on the neural basis of the emotional content of nightmares, a symptom of various mental and sleep disorders.

Emotional experiences are central not only to our waking life but also to the dreams we have during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. However, few studies have looked at the brain mechanisms underlying the emotional aspects of dreams.

Now, study author Pilleriin Sikka, from the Department of Psychology and Turku Brain and Mind Center at the University of Turku in Finland, and colleagues from the University of Skövde in Sweden and the University of Cambridge in the U.K. discovered a shared emotional mechanism between our waking and dreaming states.

A total of 17 participants (10 women) underwent electroencephalography (EEG) recordings during two separate nights in a sleep laboratory. After five-minute bouts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the researchers woke the participants and asked them to describe their dream and to rate their emotional experiences during the dream.

The researchers also analyzed two-minute pre-awakening EEG segments, as well as 8-minute resting wakefulness segments during their evening pre-sleep and morning post-sleep.

The findings show that participants who displayed greater alpha-band brain activity in the right — as compared to the left — frontal cortex during evening wakefulness and during REM sleep experienced more anger in their dreams. This suggests that people with greater alpha power in the right frontal hemisphere may be less able to regulate, or inhibit, strong emotional states while dreaming.

This neural signature — called frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) — has been linked to anger and self-regulation during wakefulness. Together, these results suggest FAA may reflect a universal indicator of emotion regulation.

An estimated 50 to 80 percent of adults report having the occasional nightmare, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Around 2 to 8 percent of people have nightmares that can affect their sleep quality.

Previous research has shown frequent nightmares to be tied to low income, insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing symptoms, neuroticism and being female. People who suffer from nightmares are also five times more likely to have a psychiatric disorder.

Source: Society for Neuroscience

Mouse Study: Why Heart Failure Patients Often Struggle With Depression, Impaired Thinking

Fri, 04/19/2019 - 5:30am

Heart failure patients often struggle with neurological issues, including depression and thinking problems, but the reasons for this have remained unclear. In a new paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, Canadian researchers from the University of Guelph (U of G) use a mouse model to explain how the circadian rhythm may play a role in this heart-brain connection.

“Neurosurgeons always look in the brain; cardiologists always look in the heart. This new study looked at both,” said Tami Martino, a professor in U of G’s department of biomedical sciences and director of the Centre for Cardiovascular Investigations.

Human patients with heart failure often have neurological problems such as cognitive impairment and depression, said Martino. She suspected the heart-brain connection may involve the circadian mechanism molecule, called “clock.”

Circadian rhythms in humans and other organisms follow Earth’s 24-hour cycle of light and darkness, signaling when to sleep and when to be awake. Martino’s previous research showed how disrupting circadian rhythms — as with shift workers, jet-lagged travelers and patients disturbed in intensive-care units — can trigger changes that worsen heart disease and impair overall health and well-being.

In the new study, the researchers compared normal mice with mice carrying a mutation in their circadian mechanism (called “clock mice”). They found that the mutation impacted the structure of neurons in brain areas important for cognition and mood. Working with University of Toronto colleagues, the team also found differences in clock regulation of blood vessels in the brains of the clock mice.

After inducing heart failure in mice to simulate human heart failure, they identified key genes in the brain that were altered in neural growth, stress and metabolism pathways. The results show that the circadian mechanism influences neural effects of heart failure, said Martino. Pointing out that no cure exists for the heart condition, she said understanding how the circadian mechanism works in the brain may lead to new strategies to improve patients’ quality of life.

For example, patients recovering from heart attacks often experience disturbed circadian rhythms from light, noise and interactions with hospital staff at night. “Maintaining circadian rhythms especially for patients with heart disease could lead to better health outcomes,” said Martino.

The study also points to potential health benefits for people in general. Avoiding shift work for individuals with underlying heart conditions or sleep disorders, reducing light at night or avoiding social jet lag (going to bed late and waking up later than usual on weekends) could all help reduce neurobiological impairments.

These problems — and potential solutions — involve not just hearts but brains, she said. “If we’re not yet able to cure heart failure, we should at least be focusing on how we can improve quality of life for patients.”

Source: University of Guelph

Interparental Aggression Often Co-Occurs With Aggression Toward Kids

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 7:00am

Parents who engage in psychologically or physically aggressive arguments tend to be aggressive with their children as well, according to a new study at Penn State.

The findings, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, show that this “spillover” of aggression toward children causes kids to show greater fear during future episodes of interparental aggression, regardless of the severity of those future incidents, compared to kids who do not experience this spillover effect.

“Our study is the first to examine how aggression toward a child and aggression toward a parenting partner unfold at the same time,” said Amy Marshall, associate professor of psychology.

The study also found that spillover-exposed children are more likely to engage in their parents’ more severe aggressive conflicts by trying to solve the problem or by making peace between their parents than non-spillover-exposed children.

“Our findings suggest that children may fear for their own safety because of their history of having had aggression directed toward them during incidents of interparental aggression,” said Marshall.

“Previously, researchers thought that kids reacted negatively to interparental violence because it threatened their security within the family unit. For example, it was assumed that children were afraid that their parents would divorce. This study shows that kids may also be afraid of what might happen directly to them.”

The researchers conducted four telephone interviews with 203 parents (109 women and 94 men) from 111 heterosexual couples whose first-born child was 2 to 3 years old at the start of the study. At the end of each interview, parents were provided individualized motivation, assistance and resources for preventing future acts of aggression.

Based on their responses, the researchers analyzed the occurrence, unfolding, and context of episodes of psychological and physical family aggression — both interparental and parent-child aggression.

The study defined aggression as non-playful behaviors that are threatening or forceful in nature. Physical aggression included behaviors such as pinching, slapping, hitting and kicking, whereas psychological aggression included behaviors such as insulting, screaming and threatening harm.

Across all participants, the researchers selected 463 incidents of relatively more severe interparental aggression reported by 73 families. They found that children were present during 163 of these incidents. Of these 163 incidents, 40 included parent-child aggression.

This was not the full extent of parent-child aggression recorded by the researchers, however. The findings revealed that parent-child aggression occurred much more frequently on its own than it did in association with interparental aggression.

“We know that parents who perpetrate aggression toward each other are also very likely to perpetrate aggression toward their children,” said Marshall. “But until now, we didn’t know how that happens — if it happens on different days for different reasons, or if it happens at the same point in time. This is the first study to look at how those two types of aggression happen at the same point in time.”

According to Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development with the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center, the research can be used to plan future studies looking at family aggression in higher risk samples and ultimately to develop preventive interventions to address family profiles of aggression.

“Our existing public health programs so far are not very good at preventing the occurrence of family violence, which is more widespread in society than we usually assume,” said Feinberg.

“One reason is that, until now, we have had no way of examining how these aggressive incidents unfold. With this new interview method, we can unpack the different ways aggressive incidents play out and develop tailored approaches for different patterns of aggression.”

Source: Penn State