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Mar 4

Alzheimer’s Risk: Do You Want to Know?


By Matt McMillen , Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH
If a test could tell whether you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease someday, would you want to know? And if so, what would you do with that knowledge?

These questions are becoming more and more important as researchers close in on tools to predict your risk of Alzheimer’s disease decades before symptoms start to appear.

“Primary care physicians, in the disease’s early stages, [eventually] could be able to say, ‘It looks like there’s a problem here’ through a blood test, a saliva test, or by looking at the retina,” says Dean Hartley, PhD, director of science initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association. “But there’s no medical test now. It’s all in the research stage.”

For now, only genetic tests are available to the general public. They can spot genes linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s, such as the ApoE4 gene. But genetic tests aren’t conclusive. Not everyone whose test result says they have ApoE4 will get Alzheimer’s, and many people who don’t have that gene will get the disease.

And if you have the gene, there isn’t much you can do yet, aside from making lifestyle changes that may be preventive. “You can get the ApoE4 test at your doctor’s office, but I and many of my colleagues rarely offer it, because we don’t have any treatments to offer if we determine that patients are at higher risk,” says Alzheimer’s researcher Liana Apostolova, MD, a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Also, knowing your risk could come with a price. Seven years ago, Jamie Tyrone learned unexpectedly that she had two copies of the ApoE4 gene.

“I went into a deep, dark hole,” says Tyrone, 55, a former nurse who lives in San Diego. “This information was very anxiety-provoking, to the point that I was diagnosed with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. Knowing has done me harm.”

Tyrone says Alzheimer’s was not on her radar when she was tested for a variety of genetic disorders as part of a research study. Being unprepared for the news, she says, made her anxiety worse.
Eventually she learned to cope. She started to take better care of herself, exercising and improving her diet, meditating and doing brain-twisting puzzles purported to strengthen memory and focus. And she became involved with research into the disease. She founded B.A.B.E.S., Beating Alzheimer’s By Embracing Science, a non-profit that supports research into the disease and encourages people to get involved.

Tyrone wants others to learn from her experience.

“I’m choosing to heal by talking about it,” she says. “I don’t want people to go through what I went through.”

New Ways to Detect Alzheimer’s Disease
The biggest advance toward the early prediction of Alzheimer’s, Hartley says, is using PET scans to show the buildup of beta amyloid plaques in the brain. The plaques are a risk factor for the disease, and in the past they could be seen only during an autopsy.

“This is an opportunity to see into the live brain,” Hartley says.

The FDA has approved PET amyloid imaging for use in some clinical trials and to help diagnose dementia patients, but not to predict the development of the disease — at least not yet.

“PET imaging with amyloid will be the first way of approaching prediction,” Apostolova says. MRI will also be useful, she says, as will PET imaging for tau proteins, another sign of disease.

But, she continues, amyloid PET scans are expensive, not readily available, and they expose patients to radiation.

“What if there’s another way to get at the answer of who’s at risk?” she asks.

Research Apostolova led while at UCLA resulted in a simple blood test that picks up biomarkers — or proteins in the blood — linked to Alzheimer’s. Along with other tests, it one day may help predict the disease. She published her early findings in January in the journal Neurology.

Researchers are studying several other new tests:

A saliva test that identifies biomarkers linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
A combination of cognitive tests, MRI scans, and analysis of proteins found in cerebrospinal fluid — fluid in the brain and spinal cord that can predict mild cognitive impairment, or thinking problems, 5 years before symptoms become apparent.
Measurements of the protein neurogranin, a potential Alzheimer’s biomarker found in fluid in the brain and spinal cord.
Tests that uncover the deterioration of your sense of smell may indicate Alzheimer’s.
Eye exams that can measure beta amyloid buildup.
All of these tests remain experimental, and their effectiveness remains to be seen.

“Saliva tests, blood tests, and things like that are not ready for prime time,” Hartley says.
Knowing Your Risk
If you do learn your risk of Alzheimer’s — through a genetic test or, eventually, through one of these still-experimental tests — what can you do with that knowledge? And how would it affect you? After all, with no viable treatments available to slow, stop, or prevent the disease — only drugs that may improve symptoms in some people for a short time — there’s little doctors can offer you.

“Some people would want to know so they can plan things out, such as long-term care insurance and end-of-life decisions, while others would not want to know,” says David Salmon, PhD, of the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of California, San Diego. “It’s a personal decision. It’s hard to say what the best advice would be.”

Salmon’s research suggests that knowing you’re at risk can have bad consequences. You’re more likely to rate your memory worse and do worse on a memory test than someone with the same risk who is unaware.

“We don’t think it’s depression, but we didn’t measure anxiety and stress, so we don’t know if the disclosure increased anxiety and that it’s the anxiety that causes you to have memory problems,” Salmon says.

But other research suggests that knowing your genetic risk does not up your chances of depression, anxiety, or distress. Jason Karlawish, MD, an Alzheimer’s expert and medical ethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied middle-age adults with a family history of Alzheimer’s.

If people get their mood and well-being assessed before they get tested, “they have minimal problems with mood and well-being after learning the results,” Karlawish says. “We don’t have data from persons who are older and plausibly closer in age of onset to AD.”

Karlawish is involved in a study of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug known as solanezumab. The drug, made by Eli Lilly, targets amyloid plaques and may delay the onset of cognitive decline. It is now being tested on people who don’t have Alzheimer’s symptoms but whose PET scans have shown the presence of such plaques, a potential early warning sign of the disease.
It’s among several meds that may prevent or slow Alzheimer’s from getting worse that are being studied in people long before they show symptoms.

Karlawish’s previous research suggests that that knowledge may motivate people to change their lifestyles. That’s what Tyrone eventually began to do. She has improved her diet and her exercise habits, she’s at work on a book about her experiences, and she’s become involved in Alzheimer’s research, such as studies into new medication. That’s something she highly recommends — as does Karlawish — for people who know they’re at risk.

“Yes, it’s partially selfish, because you’re getting something as well as giving something,” she says. “You’re at the forefront of cutting-edge research.”

But if you don’t yet know? “I would ask them, why do you really want to know this information? And can you make changes without knowing that information?” Tyrone asks. “It may be anxiety provoking. Is it really healthy to know this information or is not healthy? What are you going to do with it?”

WebMD Health News

Mar 3

How to Survive a Child Custody Case


By Amy Bellows, PhD

The goal after divorce or separation should always be to find a way to create a peaceful environment for the kids. They deserve to have strong relationships and time with both parents without combating a parent’s guilt, resentment, anger or depression. While many couples are able to find a way to create this stable multi-home life, there are instances that instead create difficult child custody cases.

Going through a contested case is easily one of the most stressful situations you could face. By the time it gets to court, the fate of your children is largely out of your hands. Regardless of what you think is best or the recommendation from GALs or counselors, the final decision rests on the judge. A person that does not know you, your children or the whole story of your situation. For this reason alone, I’m firmly in the ‘don’t go to court unless absolutely necessary’ boat. It’s much easier in the long run if you can find a way to work it out with your ex without involving the children or the court system. Finding a way to compromise can be key to keeping the peace.

If you do find yourself in a heated court case, you will go through a range of emotions. I recently wrote about 4 common thoughts you may have based on a custody case I was involved in. It’s an emotional time full of stress, fear and a feeling of instability. The uncertainty and the waiting can wreck havoc on other parts of your life. It’s difficult to truly explain all of the emotions to someone who hasn’t had to go through it.

Here are a few lessons I learned on how to survive a contested child custody case:

Make sure you are doing it for the right reason. There are a lot of good reasons why a contested case moves forward, but there are also many bad ones. Are you truly doing this in the best interest of your children? Have all other options been explored? Are you still angry or emotional about your divorce or separation? It can be easy to misread a situation when emotions are running high. When you already feel betrayed, rejected or taken advantage of, it is possible to project those emotions on a situation when it isn’t warranted. Take the time to think through the situation objectively. Understand that the court process can be a long one and it will bring additional stress into your life and your children’s lives. Bringing a case to court should not be an emotional knee-jerk reaction.

Find a way to trust. A lot will be taken out of your control once you enter the court process. You need to be able to put your trust in something. It may be the court system, your lawyer or your faith. Whatever it is, having a level of trust will bring you comfort during the highs and lows of your case. The key to keeping order during this process is to find your center and to lean on it often.

Take care of yourself. When you get stressed it can be easy to overlook your own basic needs. You have to continue to take care of yourself at even the most basic level. Remember to eat, sleep and rely on your support system for help. Having the ear of an objective friend or family member is crucial. It’s easy to find people who will want to hear the gossip or talk bad about your ex and the entire process – you need a person who will not get emotional along side you. You need someone who can keep your feet firmly on the ground and offer you solid advice or observations. While custody cases are emotional, the court system is not. You need a way to convey clear facts and information without leaning on attacks or “look what this person did” rants.

Prepare yourself for every outcome. This is one of those situations where you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. If you can’t handle the worst case scenario then you need to seriously reconsider your approach or your entire case. The truth is, even if your case checks every box, the outcome may not be what you are looking for. You have to be prepared for all outcomes and you need to keep an open mind to compromises.

Be okay with the verdict. When all is said and done, you will have to accept whatever decision is made. Yes, there is an appeal process, but you have to be prepared to walk away at some point. Gaining an acceptance of your situation can be very freeing after months or years of questions and the unknown. Ensure you are able to close the book on this chapter when it ends and prepare yourself for moving forward with whatever the outcome may be. Even if you aren’t happy or feel that a mistake was made, your children need all of you. Being continually stuck in anger or disappointment will hurt them most of all.

Mar 1

10 Signs of Adult ADHD


Eileen Bailey Health Guide
ADHD was once considered a “childhood” disorder – something that went away as you reached adulthood. Today, we know different. We know that many adults continue to struggle with symptoms of ADHD, in their personal lives and in the workplace. For many, ADHD has gone undiagnosed, discovered only after their children are diagnosed. While the main symptoms of ADHD – inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – remain the same, how they show up may be different. The following are 10 signs of ADHD in adults:

Lack of Focus

The typical inattention symptom of ADHD often continues into adulthood. You may find you are always starting a project – but never finishing. You may find it difficult to follow along in conversations or find you are easily distracted. You may miss important details – or details in general.


Hyperactivity in children shows up as overly energetic and has often been described as “driven by a non-stop motor.” In adults hyperactivity appears as restlessness or feeling fidgety. You may remember being a “high-energy” child.

History of Frequent Job Changes

Frequent job changes occur for two different reasons. You may have a history of being fired – your lack of attention to detail, making mistakes, personality conflicts or impulsiveness can lead to being fired from jobs. Or, you may find yourself bored with your job and constantly searching for a more interesting job. While many adults with ADHD do end up with successful careers, it can take time to find the right job to fit your skills and personality.

Difficult Relationships

Statistics show that the divorce rate for adults with ADHD is much higher than for those without ADHD. Adults indicate that forgetting important dates and details, not listening, impulsive spending and being unreliable are some of the symptoms of ADHD that cause problems in relationships.


The opposite of lack of focus, hyperfocus is when you become completely engrossed in an activity you like that you forget everything around you. You ignore those around you, lose track of time and forget about responsibilities. While hyper-focus can be an asset and may help you sometimes, at other times it interferes with relationships.


Just as disorganization is a problem for children with ADHD it is also a problem for adults with ADHD. Procrastination, lack of time-management skills, always being late, difficulty with prioritizing tasks and clutter all are signs of disorganization.

Addiction Problems

Adults with ADHD are more likely to use alcohol or drugs than the general public. Smoking is also more common in adults with ADHD – about one-fourth of the general public smokes but for adults with ADHD that number jumps to about 40 percent. [1]

Money Problems

A number of the symptoms that cause problems in other areas of your life – disorganization, procrastination, impulsiveness – can wreak havoc on your finances. You might find yourself paying late payments because you lost the bill or simply forgot to pay it. You may make impulsive purchases and then not have enough money to pay your bills.

Anger Issues

Adults with ADHD may have trouble controlling their emotions, leading to angry outbursts where you explode over trivial issues. You may find that you are angry one moment and then, as quickly as your anger appeared, it dissipates. Your family may still be dealing with your outburst but you have moved on to the next problem leaving your partner and children confused about what happened.


You don’t just forget the unimportant details, you forget important dates, to meet your spouse or friend for lunch, where you put your keys, you name it, you forget it. Forgetfulness is a routine part of your everyday life.

It is never too late to seek help for ADHD symptoms. Remember, if you have a child with ADHD, there is a good chance that either you or your spouse has ADHD as well. That is just as true if there are siblings or any other family history of ADHD. If you are having difficulty with the previous signs, talk to your doctor about what steps you can take to be assessed for ADHD.
– See more at:

By Rick Nauert PhD

A new study examined the sexual satisfaction — or dissatisfaction — of heterosexual couples in long-term relationships. Researchers discovered sexually satisfied couples use a variety of methods to keep sexual passion alive.

The study is one of the largest studies to date to scientifically examine what contributes to a satisfying long-term sex life. Researchers discovered foreplay, setting the mood, mixing it up, and expressing love are all factors that satisfied couples said they do regularly.

“Sexual satisfaction and maintenance of passion were higher among people who had sex more frequently, received more oral sex, had more consistent orgasms, incorporated more variety of sexual acts, took the time to set a mood, and practiced effective sexual communication,” said David Frederick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University and lead author of the study.

“Almost half of satisfied and dissatisfied couples read sexual self-help books and magazine articles, but what set sexually satisfied couples apart was that they actually tried some of the ideas.”

To gauge sexual satisfaction over time, couples were asked to rate their sex satisfaction in the first six months together and then rate it for now. Dr. Frederick’s team learned that the overwhelming majority (83 percent) of people reported they were sexually satisfied in the first six months of the relationship.

Only half of people, however, reported currently being satisfied (43 percent of men and 55 percent of women), with the rest feeling neutral (16 percent of men and 18 percent of women), or dissatisfied (41 percent of men and 27 percent of women).

Another set of items addressed whether respondents believed their sexual passion was the same, less, or better now than early in their relationship.

“We looked at common romantic and sexual behaviors that are rarely assessed in the literature but are likely important contributors to sexual satisfaction,” said Dr. Frederick.

“For example, while sexual variety is deemed important for sexual satisfaction, evidence on the effectiveness of specific forms of variety — such as showering together or wearing lingerie, or use of sex toys — is lacking.”

Specifically, the research team found that sexually satisfied men and women engaged in more intimate behaviors, such as cuddling, gentle and deep kissing, and laughing together during sexual activity. Partners also incorporated more acts of sexual variety such as trying new sexual positions or acting out fantasies more frequently. Additional tactics to improve satisfaction included setting a romantic or sexual mood such as lighting candles or playing music, and using communication effectively, such as saying “I love you” during sex or sending a teasing text earlier in the day.

Researchers also found that sexually satisfied men and women gave and received more oral sex, orgasmed more frequently, and had sex more frequently.

Some key findings of the research included:

Satisfied men and women were more likely to report that their last sexual encounter with their partner was “passionate,” “loving and tender,” or “playful”. Nearly half of sexually dissatisfied women (43 percent) said that they were “just going through the motions for my partner’s sake” compared to only 13 percent of sexually dissatisfied men during their last sexual encounter. Few people reported feeling pressured into sex by their partner (two to three percent).
About half of satisfied men (49 percent) and women (45 percent) reported their last sexual encounter lasted more than 30 minutes, compared to only 26 percent of dissatisfied men and 19 percent of dissatisfied women.
Satisfied men and women were more likely than dissatisfied men and women to say they: tried a new sexual position, wore sexy lingerie, took a shower or bath together, talked about or acted out fantasies, gave or had a massage, went on a romantic getaway, tried anal stimulation, made a date night to have sex, or used a sex toy together.
Feeling desired by their partners appears to be more of a problem for men than for women. Only 59 percent of men compared to 42 percent of women reported they felt less desired by their partner now than in the beginning. In contrast, two-thirds of men compared with half of women reported feeling as much desire, or more desire, for their partner now as in the beginning of the relationship.
Most men and women reported feeling the same or more emotional closeness during sex now than in the first six months of their relationship (69 percent of men and 72 percent of women). Less than half of dissatisfied men and women, however, felt this way.
Dr. Janet Lever, a co-author on the study, stated “It was encouraging to learn that more than one-third of couples kept passion alive, even after a decade or two together. That won’t happen on auto pilot; these couples made a conscious effort to ward off routinization of sex.”

The study, called, What Keeps Passion Alive? Sexual Satisfaction is Associated with Sexual Communication, Mood Setting, Sexual Variety, Oral Sex, Orgasm, and Sex Frequency in a National U.S. Study, appears in the The Journal of Sex Research.

Researchers examined more than 38,747 married or cohabiting heterosexual men and women in the U.S. who had been with their partner for at least three years. The average age of the sample was 40 years old for women and 46 years old for men.

Source: Chapman University

Feb 24

By Traci Pedersen

Children with vision problems that are not correctable with glasses or contacts, such as color blindness or lazy eye, are more likely to present with symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

For the study, researchers looked at the data of 75,000 children ages four to 17 as part of the National Survey of Children’s Health. The findings show that more than 15 percent of children with vision impairment also had an ADHD diagnosis, compared with 8.3 percent of children with normal vision.

The researchers suggest that parents of children with both vision impairment and symptoms of ADHD should discuss these issues with their doctor.

“If a child seems to have attention problems in addition to vision problems, his or her parents may wish to discuss their child’s vision with their pediatrician and consider an eye examination as well as discussing the attention difficulties,” said lead researcher Dawn DeCarlo, O.D., Director of the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation.

The national study was carried out in response to DeCarlo’s observation that many of her patients with vision impairment also had symptoms of ADHD. As part of the study, researchers asked if the child had a vision problem not correctable with glasses or contacts. These types of vision problems might include color vision deficiency or lazy eye (amblyopia) as well as more severe types of vision impairment.

A previous paper reported an increased prevalence of ADHD among the children in her clinic.

DeCarlo cautions that just because these types of vision problems are associated with ADHD, it does not necessarily mean that one causes the other or vice versa.

“Because we do not know if the relationship is causal, we have no recommendations for prevention,” DeCarlo said. “I think it is more important that parents realize that children with vision problems may not realize they do not see as well as everyone else.”

DeCarlo says a follow-up study involving pediatricians and eye care professionals to confirm the children’s conditions would add to the findings.

In conclusion, if a child presents with both conditions, DeCarlo suggests correcting the vision problems first in case they are contributing to the ADHD symptoms. “I wouldn’t worry about their developing ADHD,” DeCarlo said. “I’d get them an eye exam and see if it fixes the problem.”

The findings are published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham

Feb 22

Young Adult Obesity Tied to Poor Memory


By Traci Pedersen

Young adults with a high body mass index (BMI) may have poorer episodic memory (the ability to recall past events) than their healthy weight peers, according to a new study at the University of Cambridge.

While only a small study, the findings add to the growing body of evidence that excess body weight may be associated with changes to the structure and function of the brain and its ability to perform certain cognitive tasks optimally.

Nearly 69 percent of U.S. adults and about 60 percent of U.K. adults are overweight or obese. Obesity increases the risk of physical health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

“Understanding what drives our consumption and how we instinctively regulate our eating behavior is becoming more and more important given the rise of obesity in society,” said Dr. Lucy Cheke.

“We know that to some extent hunger and satiety are driven by the balance of hormones in our bodies and brains, but psychological factors also play an important role — we tend to eat more when distracted by television or working, and perhaps to ‘comfort eat’ when we are sad, for example.”

In previous studies, obesity has been linked with dysfunction of the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and learning, and of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain involved in decision making, problem solving, and emotions.

Based on these associations, researchers wanted to know whether obesity could have a direct effect on memory.

“Increasingly, we’re beginning to see that memory — especially episodic memory, the kind where you mentally relive a past event — is also important. How vividly we remember a recent meal, for example today’s lunch, can make a difference to how hungry we feel and how much we are likely to reach out for that tasty chocolate bar later on,” said Cheke.

The researchers evaluated 50 participants aged 18-35, with BMIs ranging from 18 through to 51. A BMI of 18-25 is considered healthy, 25-30 is overweight, and over 30 is obese.

The participants completed a memory test known as the “Treasure-Hunt Task,” where they were asked to hide items around complex scenes (for example, a desert with palm trees) for two days. They were then asked to remember which items they had hidden, where they had hidden them, and when they were hidden.

The findings revealed a link between higher BMI and poorer performance on the tasks.

The researchers say the findings may suggest that the structural and functional changes in the brain previously found in those with higher BMI may be accompanied by a lowered ability to form and/or retrieve episodic memories.

Since the effect was demonstrated in young adults, it adds to growing body of evidence that the cognitive impairments linked to obesity may be present early in adult life.

Since this was a small, preliminary study, the researchers caution that further research is needed to fully determine whether the findings can be generalized to overweight individuals in general, and to episodic memory in everyday life rather than in experimental conditions.

“We’re not saying that overweight people are necessarily more forgetful,” Cheke said, “but if these results are generalizable to memory in everyday life, then it could be that overweight people are less able to vividly relive details of past events such as their past meals. Research on the role of memory in eating suggests that this might impair their ability to use memory to help regulate consumption.”

“In other words, it is possible that becoming overweight may make it harder to keep track of what and how much you have eaten, potentially making you more likely to overeat.”

Cheke said this work is an important step in understanding the role of psychological factors in obesity.

“The possibility that there may be episodic memory deficits in overweight individuals is of concern, especially given the growing evidence that episodic memory may have a considerable influence on feeding behaviour and appetite regulation,” she said.

The findings are published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Source: University of Cambridge

Feb 20

By Janice Wood
A new imaging study shows that intense exercise boosts two critical neurotransmitters — glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) — resulting in better mental fitness.

Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the study’s findings offer new insights into why exercise could become an important part of treating depression and other neuropsychiatric disorders linked with deficiencies in neurotransmitters, which drive communications between the brain cells that regulate physical and emotional health.

“Major depressive disorder is often characterized by depleted glutamate and GABA, which return to normal when mental health is restored,” said lead author Dr. Richard Maddock, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California Davis Health System.

“Our study shows that exercise activates the metabolic pathway that replenishes these neurotransmitters.”

The research also helps solve a question about the brain, an energy-intensive organ that consumes a lot of fuel in the form of glucose and other carbohydrates during exercise, the researcher notes.

“From a metabolic standpoint, vigorous exercise is the most demanding activity the brain encounters, much more intense than calculus or chess, but nobody knows what happens with all that energy,” Maddock said. “Apparently, one of the things it’s doing is making more neurotransmitters.”

To understand how exercise affects the brain, the team studied 38 healthy volunteers. Participants exercised on a stationary bicycle, reaching around 85 percent of their predicted maximum heart rate.

To measure glutamate and GABA, the researchers conducted a series of imaging studies using a powerful 3-tesla MRI to detect nuclear magnetic resonance spectra, which can identify several compounds based on the magnetic behavior of hydrogen atoms in molecules.

The researchers measured GABA and glutamate levels in two different parts of the brain immediately before and after three vigorous exercise sessions lasting between eight and 20 minutes. They also made similar measurements for a control group that did not exercise.

They found that glutamate or GABA levels increased in the participants who exercised, but not among the non-exercisers.

Significant increases were found in the visual cortex, which processes visual information, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps regulate heart rate, some cognitive functions, and emotion.

While these gains trailed off over time, there was some evidence of longer-lasting effects, the researchers reported.

“There was a correlation between the resting levels of glutamate in the brain and how much people exercised during the preceding week,” Maddock said. “It’s preliminary information, but it’s very encouraging.”

The findings point to the possibility that exercise could be used as an alternative therapy for depression, he added. This could be especially important for patients under age 25, who sometimes have more side effects from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-depressant medications that adjust neurotransmitter levels.

For follow-up studies, Maddock and the research team hope to test whether a less-intense activity, such as walking, offers similar brain benefits. They would also like to use their exercise-plus-imaging method on a study of patients with depression to determine the types of exercise that offer the greatest benefit.

“We are offering another view on why regular physical activity may be important to prevent or treat depression,” Maddock said.

“Not every depressed person who exercises will improve, but many will. It’s possible that we can help identify the patients who would most benefit from an exercise prescription.”

Source: University of California, Davis Health System

Feb 18

The Psychology of the Breathtakingly Stupid Mistake


New research suggests there are three distinct types of action that bring palm to face
By David Z. Hambrick

We all make stupid mistakes from time to time. History is replete with examples. Legend has it that the Trojans accepted the Greek’s “gift” of a huge wooden horse, which turned out to be hollow and filled with a crack team of Greek commandos. The Tower of Pisa started to lean even before construction was finished—and is not even the world’s farthest leaning tower. NASA taped over the original recordings of the moon landing, and operatives for Richard Nixon’s re-election committee were caught breaking into a Watergate office, setting in motion the greatest political scandal in U.S. history. More recently, the French government spent $15 billion on a fleet of new trains, only to discover that they were too wide for some 1,300 station platforms.
We readily recognize these incidents as stupid mistakes—epic blunders. On a more mundane level, we invest in get-rich-quick schemes, drive too fast, and make posts on social media that we later regret. But what, exactly, drives our perception of these actions as stupid mistakes, as opposed to bad luck? Their seeming mindlessness? The severity of the consequences? The responsibility of the people involved? Science can help us answer these questions.
In a study just published in the journal Intelligence, using search terms such as “stupid thing to do”, Balazs Aczel and his colleagues compiled a collection of stories describing stupid mistakes from sources such as The Huffington Post and TMZ. One story described a thief who broke into a house and stole a TV and later returned for the remote; another described burglars who intended to steal cell phones but instead stole GPS tracking devices that were turned on and gave police their exact location. The researchers then had a sample of university students rate each story on the responsibility of the people involved, the influence of the situation, the seriousness of the consequences, and other factors.
Analyses of the subjects’ ratings revealed three varieties of stupid mistakes. The first is when a person’s confidence outstrips their skill, as when a Pittsburgh man robbed two banks in broad daylight without wearing a disguise, believing that lemon juice he had rubbed on his face would make him invisible to security cameras. Or, in what is widely regarded as one of the top mascot failures in history, when Wild Wing of the Anaheim Ducks caught himself on fire attempting to leap over a burning wall (cheerleaders pulled him from the flames and he returned to action later in the game, unhurt). “This story of Duck a l’Orange County is no canard. A duck could get fired for this, or at least demoted to the Rotisserie League,” the New York Times reported.
The confidence-skill disconnect has been dubbed the Dunning-Kruger effect, after a study by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger. Dunning and Kruger had Cornell undergraduates perform tests of humor, logic, and grammar, and then rate how well they think they performed compared to other subjects in the study. The worst performing subjects, whose scores put them in the 12th percentile, estimated that they had performed in the 62nd percentile. Summarizing the findings, Dunning noted, “Poor performers—and we are all poor performers at some things—fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack.” When we think we are at our best is sometimes when we are at our objective worst.
As any number of political scandals illustrate, the second type of stupid mistake involves impulsive acts—when our behavior seems out of control. In the scandal that became known as Weinergate, former U.S. representative Anthony Weiner sent lewd texts and pictures of himself to women he met on Facebook. (After resigning, Weiner continued his cyber-dalliances under the nom de plume Carlos Danger, and then fell prey to the Dunning-Kruger effect when he overestimated his support in the 2013 New York City mayoral primary; he received 5% of the vote.) More recently, in Michigan, state representative Todd Courser, a Tea Party conservative, admitted to sending an anonymous email to Republican Party operatives and members of the media falsely claiming that he had been caught having sex with a male prostitute, with the aim of making expected revelations that he had an affair with fellow representative Cindy Gamrat seem like part of a smear campaign. In an audio recording of a conversation secretly made by a staff member, Courser described his self-smear strategy as a “controlled burn of me” designed to “inoculate the herd” against the as-yet-unmade allegations.
The final variety of stupid mistake involves lapses of attention—Homer Simpsonesque D’oh moments. As arguably the best example from American sports history, in the 1929 Rose Bowl, University of California star Roy Riegels recovered a fumble and returned it 65 yards the wrong way. Riegel’s blunder set up a safety for Georgia Tech, which turned out to be the deciding factor in the game. Minnesota Viking Jim Marshall, a two-time pro-bowler and team captain, duplicated the feat in a 1964 game against the San Francisco 49ers, prompting Vikings coach Norm Van Brocklin to remark after the game, “Jim, you did the most interesting thing in this game today.” Aczel and colleagues’ analyses revealed that subjects viewed this category of stupid mistake as the least stupid.
It is, of course, unrealistic to think that we could ever eliminate human error. To err will always be human. However, this research gives us a better description of our failings and foibles, and a place to start in thinking about interventions and prescriptions to help us err less. This research also reminds us of our shared human frailties. We are all prone to overestimating our abilities, to making impulsive decisions, and to lapses of attention. This simple realization makes stupid mistakes seem, perhaps, a little less stupid — and a little more human.

Feb 14

By Traci Pedersen
Despite the widely held view that narcissists have extremely high self-esteem, a new study shows that the traits of narcissism and high self-esteem are far more distinct and unrelated than conventional wisdom has led us to believe.

After reviewing the research literature, investigators from several universities discerned the following differences between narcissists and those with high self-esteem: Narcissists feel superior to others but don’t necessarily like themselves. In fact, narcissists’ feelings about themselves are entirely based on others’ opinions of them. On the contrary, those with high self-esteem don’t think of themselves as superior to others, and in fact, tend to accept themselves regardless of what others think about them.

“At first blush, narcissism and self-esteem seem one and the same, but they differ in their very nature,” says lead researcher researcher Eddie Brummelman at the University of Amsterdam (UVA). “Narcissists feel superior to others but aren’t necessarily satisfied with themselves.”

Research also shows that narcissists have little need for warm, intimate relationships. Their primary aim in life is to show others how superior they are, and they constantly crave and seek admiration from others. When narcissists receive the admiration they desire so badly, they feel proud and elated. But when they don’t get the attention they crave, they feel ashamed and may even react with anger and aggression.

People with high self-esteem, on the other hand, are satisfied with themselves and do not feel a sense of superiority over others. Instead, they perceive themselves as valuable individuals, but not more valuable than others. They desire close, intimate relationships with other people and do not need to be excessively admired. Those with high self-esteem rarely become aggressive or angry towards others.

Furthermore, aside from the differences in nature and consequences, narcissism and self-esteem have remarkably distinct childhood origins, and they develop differently over the lifespan, the authors point out.

In summary, high self-esteem is a positive, life-enhancing quality, while narcissism is an unhealthy trait that ultimately leads to unhappiness. Intervention efforts should help those with narcissistic traits develop true self-esteem.

“The distinction between narcissism and self-esteem has important implications for intervention efforts. Over the past few decades, Western youth have become increasingly narcissistic. It is therefore important to develop interventions that curb narcissism and raise self-esteem,” says Brummelman.

Brummelman conducted the research with Sander Thomaes at Utrecht University and University of Southampton and Constantine Sedikides at the University of Southampton.

Their findings are published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Source: University of Amsterdam

By Janice Wood
A new study shows that the age at which an adolescent starts using marijuana affects which parts of the brain will be affected.

Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas found that study participants who began using marijuana when they were 16 or younger had brain variations that indicate arrested brain development in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for judgment, reasoning, and complex thinking.

Those who started using after age 16 showed the opposite effect, demonstrating signs of accelerated brain aging, according to the study, which was published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience.

“Science has shown us that changes in the brain occurring during adolescence are complex. Our findings suggest that the timing of cannabis use can result in very disparate patterns of effects,” said Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., principal investigator. “Not only did age of use impact the brain changes, but the amount of cannabis used also influenced the extent of altered brain maturation.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed MRI scans of 42 heavy marijuana users; 20 participants were categorized as early onset users with a mean age of 13.18, while 22 were labeled as late onset users with a mean age of 16.9.

According to self-reports, all the participants, who ranged in age from 21 to 50, began using marijuana during adolescence and continued throughout adulthood, using at least once a week.

According to Filbey, in typical adolescent brain development, the brain prunes neurons, which results in reduced cortical thickness and greater gray and white matter contrast. Typical pruning also leads to increased gyrification, which is the addition of wrinkles or folds on the brain’s surface.

However, in this study, MRI results reveal that the more marijuana early onset users consumed, the greater their cortical thickness, the less gray and white matter contrast, and the less intricate the gyrification, as compared to late onset users.

This indicates that when participants began using marijuana before age 16, the extent of brain alteration was directly proportionate to the number of weekly marijuana use in years and grams consumed.

In contrast, those who began using marijuana after age 16 showed brain changes that would normally manifest later in life: Thinner cortical thickness, and stronger gray and white matter contrast.

“In the early onset group, we found that how many times an individual uses and the amount of marijuana used strongly relates to the degree to which brain development does not follow the normal pruning pattern,” she said.

“The effects observed were above and beyond effects related to alcohol use and age. These findings are in line with the current literature that suggest that cannabis use during adolescence can have long-term consequences.”

Source: Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas

By Traci Pedersen
People who survived the Holocaust faced a significantly greater risk for developing schizophrenia compared to those who were indirectly affected, according to a new comprehensive study conducted at the University of Haifa in Israel. Among all survivors, the highest rates of schizophrenia were found in those who had been born into the Holocaust.

“The exposure to protracted multiple maximal physical, social, and psychological adversities of the Holocaust increased the risk of survivors developing schizophrenia,” said researcher Stephen Levine, Ph.D.

Holocaust researchers have long documented how survivors were at greater risk of emotional distress and various psychiatric disorders, such as sleeping disorders. However, until now no study has examined the effect of Holocaust exposure on the risk of developing schizophrenia.

For the study, the researchers examined comprehensive population-based data on 113,932 European Jews from nations where the Holocaust occurred. The population was split into two groups.

The first group included those who were indirectly exposed to the Holocaust. Although they had immigrated to Israel before the Holocaust began in their country of origin, they still had relatives, friends, or colleagues who were exposed to it.

The second group included those who were directly exposed to the Holocaust. These individuals did not immigrate to Israel until after the end of the Second World War.

The findings reveal that individuals with direct exposure to the Holocaust had a 27 percent higher chance of developing schizophrenia than those who were not directly exposed to it.

Furthermore, within the directly exposed group, people with the highest risk of developing schizophrenia were those born during the Holocaust and who continued to experience it afterward. This group’s risk of developing schizophrenia was 41 percent higher than the group with indirect Holocaust exposure.

The researchers note that the disruption of normal neurological development in childhood most likely increased the risk of developing schizophrenia. This would support the hypothesis that neurological development in young children is a critical period for subsequent development later in life.

“The study results are not entirely intuitive, as scholars disagree as to the consequences of Holocaust exposure,” Levine said. “Some researchers claim that Holocaust survivors were stronger and healthier. Selective mortality induced by the Nazis systematically murdered more vulnerable people, leaving the fittest to survive. This school of thought would anticipate that survivors would be at a reduced risk of developing schizophrenia.

“Conversely, other scholars have argued that irrespective of the fact that the strongest survived, protracted exposure to extreme trauma made Holocaust survivors vulnerable to developing schizophrenia. This study is consistent with the latter argument.”

Source: University of Haifa

Feb 10

Long-Term Risk of Suicide Jumps After Concussion


By Traci Pedersen
The long-term risk of suicide is three times higher for adults who have suffered from a concussion during the workweek, compared to the general population, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The risk for suicide was even greater if the concussion occurred on a weekend, which may suggest people are more prone to severe concussions through recreational accidents rather than accidents at work.

“Given the quick usual resolution of symptoms, physicians may underestimate the adverse effects of concussion and its relevance in a patient’s history,” said Dr. Donald Redelmeier, senior core scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and a physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario.

“Greater attention to the long-term implications of a concussion might save lives because deaths from suicide can be prevented.”

In 2010, there were 38,364 deaths from suicide in the United States and 3,951 in Canada. Concussion is the most common brain injury in adults. Each year, there are about four million cases of concussions in the United States and about 400,000 in Canada.

“The link between concussion and suicide is not confined to professional athletes or military veterans,” said Michael Fralick, a coauthor and medical trainee at the University of Toronto.

For the study, researchers looked at anonymized records for 235,110 patients with concussion over a 20-year period in Ontario, Canada, using diagnostic codes from the health insurance database.

The investigators specifically compared concussions that occurred on a weekend or a weekday to distinguish between recreational and occupational injuries. The mean age of the patients was 41 years, about half were men, and the majority lived in cities. Most had no prior suicide attempt, hospitalization or past psychiatric disorder.

After a follow-up period of nearly nine and a half years, the researchers found that there had been 667 suicides. Patients diagnosed with a concussion on weekdays accounted for 519 suicides and an absolute suicide risk three times the population norm (29 suicides per 100,000 people a year).

Patients who had suffered from a concussion on weekends accounted for 148 suicides and an absolute suicide risk four times that of the population norm (39 per 100,000 a year).

The mean time from concussion to subsequent suicide was 5.7 years. Additional concussions were linked to a greater risk of suicide. Most of the patients had visited their family physician in the month before suicide. The most common mechanism was a drug overdose, and the average age at death was 44 years.

Previous research has shown an association between concussion and suicide. However, “no past study, to our knowledge, has focused on concussions and tested the potential difference between weekends and weekdays,” write the authors.

“The increased long-term risk of suicide observed in this study persisted among those who had no psychiatric risk factors and was distinctly larger than among patients after an ankle sprain.”

The researchers hope these findings will help doctors and patients better understand the risks of concussion and prevent possible suicides.

Source: Canadian Medical Association Journal

Feb 9

Rick Nauert PhD
For many children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), symptoms decrease as they age. For some children, however, the symptoms persist, and a new study implicates persistent parental criticism.

“Why ADHD symptoms decline in some children as they reach adolescence and not for others is an important phenomenon to be better understood. The finding here is that children with ADHD whose parents regularly expressed high levels of criticism over time were less likely to experience this decline in symptoms,” said Erica Musser, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Florida International University and lead author of the study.

The study appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

Musser and her colleagues studied a sample of 388 children with ADHD and 127 without, as well as their families, over three years. Of the children with ADHD, 69 percent were male, 79 percent were white, and 75 percent came from two-parent households.

The researchers measured change in ADHD symptoms over that period and measured the parents’ levels of criticism and emotional involvement.

Parents were asked to talk about their relationship with their child uninterrupted for five minutes. Audio recordings of these sessions were then rated by experts for levels of criticism (harsh, negative statements about the child, rather than the child’s behavior) and emotional over-involvement (overprotective feelings toward the child).

Measurements were taken on two occasions one year apart.

Only sustained parental criticism (high levels at both measurements, not just one) was associated with the continuance of ADHD symptoms in the children who had been diagnosed with ADHD.

“The novel finding here is that children with ADHD whose families continued to express high levels of criticism over time failed to experience the usual decline in symptoms with age and instead maintained persistent, high levels of ADHD symptoms,” said Musser.

While the findings indicate an association between sustained parental criticism and ADHD symptoms over time, this doesn’t mean one thing causes the other, said Musser.

“We cannot say, from our data, that criticism is the cause of the sustained symptoms,” she said. That is, a cause-and-effect relationship between a hypercritical parent and the extension of ADHD symptoms can not be inferred from the current study.

Nevertheless, improved parenting behavior as well as other interventions to reduce symptoms may be beneficial.

“Interventions to reduce parental criticism could lead to a reduction in ADHD symptoms, but other efforts to improve the severe symptoms of children with ADHD could also lead to a reduction in parental criticism, creating greater well-being in the family over time.”

Source: American Psychological Association/EurekAlert

Feb 8

Meditation + Exercise = Depression Relief


By Rick Nauert PhD
A new study has discovered that meditation and aerobic exercise together reduce depression.

The Rutgers University study found that this mind and body combination, done twice a week for only two months, reduced the symptoms for a group of students by 40 percent.

Researchers believe the study shows that an individual, personal intervention can relieve depression at any time and for no cost.

The study has been published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

“We are excited by the findings because we saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students,” said lead author Dr. Brandon Alderman, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies.

“It is the first time that both of these two behavioral therapies have been looked at together for dealing with depression.”

Researchers believe the two activities have a synergistic effect in combating depression.

Alderman and Dr. Tracey Shors, professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, discovered that a combination of mental and physical training (MAP) enabled students with major depressive disorder not to let problems or negative thoughts overwhelm them.

“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression,” said Shors. “But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”

Researchers followed men and women over an eight-week program. Participants included 22 suffering with depression and 30 mentally healthy students.

At the end of the study, group members reported fewer depressive symptoms and said they did not spend as much time worrying about negative situations taking place in their lives as they did before the study began.

This group also provided MAP training to young mothers who had been homeless but were living at a residential treatment facility when they began the study. The women exhibited severe depressive symptoms and elevated anxiety levels at the beginning of the study.

However, by the end of the eighth week, they too, reported that their depression and anxiety had eased. The women also reported feeling more motivated, and were able to focus more positively on their lives.

Depression, a debilitating disorder that affects nearly one in five Americans sometime in their lives, often occurs in adolescence or young adulthood.

Until recently, the most common treatment for depression has been psychotropic medications that influence brain chemicals involved in regulating emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy or talk therapy can also reduce depression but the intervention takes considerable time and commitment on the part of the patient.

Rutgers researchers say those who participated in the study began with 30 minutes of focused attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. They were told that if their thoughts drifted to the past or the future they should refocus on their breathing, enabling those with depression to accept moment-to-moment changes in attention.

Shors, who studies the production of new brain cells in the hippocampus — part of the brain involved in memory and learning — says even though neurogenesis cannot be monitored in humans, scientists have shown in animal models that aerobic exercise increases the number of new neurons and effortful learning keeps a significant number of those cells alive.

The idea for the human intervention came from her laboratory studies, she says, with the main goal of helping individuals acquire new skills so that they can learn to recover from stressful life events.

By learning to focus their attention and exercise, people who are fighting depression can acquire new cognitive skills that can help them process information and reduce the overwhelming recollection of memories from the past, Shors says.

“We know these therapies can be practiced over a lifetime and that they will be effective in improving mental and cognitive health,” said Alderman.

“The good news is that this intervention can be practiced by anyone at any time and at no cost.”

Source: Rutgers University

Feb 7

Sleep Apnea Takes Toll on Brain


By Janice Wood
A new study shows that people with sleep apnea show significant changes in the levels of two important brain chemicals.

This could be the reason so many people with sleep apnea — a disorder in which a person’s breathing is frequently interrupted during sleep, as many as 30 times an hour — report problems with thinking, such as poor concentration, difficulty with memory and decision-making, depression and stress.

Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles School of Nursing looked at levels of the neurotransmitters glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid, known as GABA, in a brain region called the insula. This area integrates signals from higher brain regions to regulate emotion, thinking, and physical functions, such as blood pressure and perspiration.

They found that people with sleep apnea had decreased levels of GABA and unusually high levels of glutamate.

GABA is a chemical messenger that acts as an inhibitor in the brain, which can slow things down and help keep people calm. It affects mood and helps make endorphins, researchers explain.

Glutamate, by contrast, is like an accelerator. When glutamate levels are high, the brain is working in a state of stress, and consequently doesn’t function as effectively. High levels of glutamate can also be toxic to nerves and neurons, the researchers noted.

“In previous studies, we’ve seen structural changes in the brain due to sleep apnea, but in this study we actually found substantial differences in these two chemicals that influence how the brain is working,” said Dr. Paul Macey, the lead researcher on the study and an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Nursing.

Macey said the researchers were taken aback by the differences in the GABA and glutamate levels.

“It is rare to have this size of difference in biological measures,” he said. “We expected an increase in the glutamate, because it is a chemical that causes damage in high doses and we have already seen brain damage from sleep apnea. What we were surprised to see was the drop in GABA. That made us realize that there must be a reorganization of how the brain is working.”

He added that the study’s results are actually encouraging.

“In contrast with damage, if something is working differently, we can potentially fix it,” he said.

“What comes with sleep apnea are these changes in the brain, so in addition to prescribing continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, physicians now know to pay attention to helping their patients who have these other symptoms,” he continued. “Stress, concentration, memory loss — these are the things people want fixed.”

A CPAP machine helps an individual sleep easier, and is considered the gold standard treatment for sleep disturbance.

In future studies, the researchers said they hope to determine whether treating sleep apnea using CPAP or other methods returns patients’ brain chemicals back to normal levels.

If not, they will turn to the question of what treatments could be more effective. The researchers said they are also studying the impacts of mindfulness exercises to see if they can reduce glutamate levels by calming the brain.

The study, conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles Sleep Disorder Center, was published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

Source: University of California Los Angeles

By Traci Pedersen
Around 10 percent of primary care patients who are prescribed antidepressants for depression or anxiety have undiagnosed bipolar disorder, according to a new UK study published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by strong fluctuations in a patient’s mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out everyday tasks. Approximately eight percent of the population suffers from recurring depression, and about one percent suffers from bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder can be difficult to diagnose initially as many patients tend to seek help for the troubling symptom of depression first. Patients who have experienced symptoms of mania (such as increased energy and activity, increased confidence, over-talkativeness, or being easily distracted) often don’t recognize these symptoms as significant or problematic and therefore don’t mention them to their doctor.

This often leads to inappropriate treatment, such as the prescription of antidepressants without mood-stabilizing medication. Many bipolar patients respond very poorly to antidepressants alone as they can intensify mania and worsen the disorder. When bipolar disorder is diagnosed, drug treatment should include a mood-stabilizing drug such as lithium, with or without an antidepressant.

The study, conducted by researchers from Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, involved young adult patients from general practices.

The researchers discovered that among patients aged 16-40 years who had been prescribed antidepressants for depression or anxiety, around 10 percent had unrecognized bipolar disorder. This was more common among younger patients and in those who reported more severe episodes of depression.

These findings suggest that health care professionals should review the life histories of patients with anxiety or depression, particularly younger patients and those who are not responding well to medication or treatment, for evidence of bipolar disorder.

“Bipolar disorder is a serious problem, with high levels of disability and the risk of suicide. When it is present in depressed patients it can easily be overlooked. Under-diagnosis and over-diagnosis of illnesses bring problems,” said Dr. Tom Hughes, consultant psychiatrist at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Leeds.

Hughes added that he hopes these new findings will help doctors and patients better recognize bipolar disorder, which he calls an “important and disabling condition.”

Source: University of Leeds

Feb 3

By Rick Nauert PhD
New research suggests overparenting, known as helicopter parenting, may hinder a child’s development. Investigators found this can occur when parents become too obsessed with homework, particularly in middle school and high school.

Investigators from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) followed 866 parents from three Brisbane Catholic/independent schools.

They found those who endorse overparenting beliefs tend to take more responsibility for their child doing their homework and also expect their child’s teachers to take more responsibility for it.

“There is concern this greater parental involvement in ensuring homework is completed, particularly in high school, is actually impacting the child’s ability to take responsibility for their homework or understand the consequences of their actions,” said QUT Clinical Psychologist Dr. Judith Locke.

“The irony is a helicopter parenting style with the goal of fostering academic achievement could be undermining the development of independent and resilient performance in their children.

“Parental involvement is a child’s school experience is considered an important factor in their academic success and homework is a key aspect of that.

“However it seems some parents may take the notion too far and continue to assist children at an age the child should be taking most of the responsibility for their academic work, such as the senior school years.

“Parental assistance with homework should slowly reduce as a child gets older and daily parental involvement in an adolescent’s homework would be developmentally inappropriate.

“These parents appear to not only help their child more, they also expect their child’s teachers to help them more, particularly in the middle school and senior school years.

“We know from recent research, that there may be a point where parental assistance ceases to be beneficial, especially as children reach adolescence and young adulthood, and can result in poor resilience, entitlement, and reduced sense of responsibility.”

Dr. Locke said studies in America which reported on parental over-involvement in a student’s university life found it to be extremely detrimental.

“Some parents choose their adult child’s subjects, edit, or complete their assignments and badger lecturers to improve their child’s grades,” Dr Locke said.

“When these parents are making these decisions or providing academic pressure it has been found the adult student disengages from their education and often has increased depression and decreased satisfaction with life.

“The results of this study may go some way to explain why some parents are continuing to be highly involved in their adult child’s academic life.”

The study will be published by the Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools.

Researchers used the new Locke Parenting Scale (LPS) overparenting measure to quantify parenting involvement. Participating parents completed online questionnaires about their parenting beliefs and intentions, and their attitudes associated with their child’s homework.

“Parental help can be constructive by showing interest and coaching them to complete their work, but unconstructive assistance includes telling a child the right answer or taking over from them when they are completing school tasks,” Locke said.

“Those who scored highly on the LPS measure in our study may have been reacting to greater academic difficulties of their child and without an objective measure of the child’s academic skills we cannot rule that out.

“However, this study is one of the first to indicate that overparenting may result in parenting actions and expectations of their child’s school which may not enable children to fully develop academic responsibility and self-regulation skills.”

Locke believes future research should examine whether extreme parental attitudes and reported behaviors have a negative effect on students or result in children taking more responsibility for their homework.

Source: Queensland University of Technology

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.
Happy Marriage MythsThere are many myths about what a healthy marriage looks and feels like. When we start seeing these myths as facts, we get into problematic territory. Many myths create unrealistic standards, which when we bring into our homes and apply to our relationship can hinder them. For instance, if you think you should only attend therapy when your problems are dire, you might be waiting way too long.

Below, Lena Aburdene Derhally, MS, LPC, a psychotherapist and relationship expert, shared three myths and the associated facts, along with several practical tips.

Myth: Our problems are too minor for counseling

Many of the couples Derhally sees feel shameful about going to therapy because their friends say that it means they shouldn’t be together or they’re a lost cause. But Derhally is actually a big proponent of attending therapy or a workshop early on in your relationship when issues are still minor. For instance, you might attend premarital counseling.

Most of the unmarried couples she sees find that their issues can be resolved. And when they work through them before getting married, they create a strong foundation and a renewed bond, said Derhally, a certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Washington, D.C.

“[N]o one in life teaches us how to be in a relationship, what contributes to relationship dynamics or conflict, and effective communication skills for couples.” Even couples who have good relationship skills will come in for a maintenance session or to reconnect, she said.

That’s because minor issues can evolve into big problems. “Problems in marriages can arise when we keep things under the surface for a long time because they don’t feel like something egregious or a big deal.” Addressing those feelings and concerns stops them from metastasizing.

What issues do couples typically work through? According to Derhally, these might include anything from resolving conflict in a peaceful way to appreciating each other’s differences (“instead of being triggered by them”).

When is a good time to seek therapy? For instance, seek therapy when you have trouble communicating with your partner, you keep having the same argument without any resolution, or you feel disconnected from your partner, Derhally said.

Myth: Monotony is bad for my relationship

We often hear in the media that monotony is bad for a marriage. We’re told that we must keep things fresh and exciting or our relationship will be doomed.

But while it’s important to spice things up, Derhally said, it’s more important to appreciate our spouse in the everyday. “Routines and predictability also bring a level of safety and stability in times when everything else seems chaotic.” Feeling safe and trusting our spouses are important for a healthy relationship. Plus, it’s simply impossible to sustain excitement in a relationship all the time, she said.

How can you appreciate your partner? “It may sound morbid but I tell people to try to picture your life without this person. What would your life look like and what would you really miss?” Derhally also suggested focusing on your spouse’s positives and on the good your partner brings into your life versus the negative and what your spouse isn’t doing.

Myth: I have to put my spouse first. Always.

Derhally frequently hears people say that a successful marriage involves putting your spouse first and foremost. “While it is true that your partner should be a top priority, to think that your partner will and should always be your number one partner is unrealistic.” She shared this example: You have very young children whose needs have to come first (since they can’t care for themselves). Or you have a sick parent who requires your care and attention.

Instead Derhally suggested thinking about it this way: “Your partner should always be one of your top priorities.” Maybe your spouse is “equal to the needs of the children, and sometimes external factors require your partner to be present for someone else.” The key is for couples to come back to each other and reconnect regularly.

For more, read Derhally’s piece, a response to this viral article about “how American parenting is killing the American marriage.”

“If we accept the reality that relationships can sometimes be boring, sometimes be monotonous [and] that life will throw us curveballs [which won’t] always allow our spouse to put us first…, we can find the beauty in imperfections in our relationships,” Derhally said. Because relationships are messy, and they don’t necessarily follow smooth paths. And we can refocus on the strength of our bond, she said.

Feb 1

The Three Different Types of ADHD


By W. R. Cummings
Did you know the term “ADD” is no longer used in the fields of medicine and psychology?

It’s true. ADHD is now the only term used, but it’s broken up into three different classifications. A person can have “Inattentive ADHD,” “Hyperactive ADHD,” or “Combined ADHD.”

I want to explain the differences of these to you because it’s important for people to be properly informed. The general public is still using the term “ADD,” which is no longer accurate and can cause miscommunication errors when used inappropriately. For us to fully understand the people in our lives who have ADHD, and for us to be able to help them in the way they need, we have to know what’s going on with them ,specifically.

Just because Billy has ADHD, and Susie has ADHD, and Jimmy has ADHD, that does not mean that Billy and Susie and Jimmy will all show the same symptoms of the disorder. We need to be able to distinguish between the three different types, and we have to learn not to stereotype anyone!

Each person/kid/teen with ADHD is so different.

Here are the three different types of ADHD…

According to WebMD, “Inattentive ADHD” manifests in the following ways:

— Daydreaming
— Shifting from task to task without finishing anything
— Becoming easily distracted
— Missing important details (habitually)
— Making careless mistakes in homework and tests
— Getting bored quickly
— Having trouble getting organized (for example, losing homework assignments or keeping the bedroom messy and cluttered)
— Seemingly not listening when spoken to
— Slowness to understand information
— Having trouble following instructions

* * * * * *

Contrastingly, WebMD explains that “Hyperactive ADHD” (or “Impulsive ADHD”) manifests in the following ways:

— Fidgeting (not being able to sit still)
— Seemingly not listening when spoken to
— Talking incessantly
— Trouble doing quiet tasks, such as reading
— Touching and getting into everything
— Running from place to place
— Banging into people or objects
— Acting like he or she is “driven by a motor”
— Constantly jumping or climbing (on furniture or other inappropriate places)
— Not having patience
— Blurting out comments at inappropriate times
— Interrupting conversations or speaking out of turn
— Trouble waiting for a turn or standing in line

* * * * * *

There’s also a third type of ADHD, though, which encompasses both of the previously stated branches of ADHD. It’s called “Combined ADHD,” and it manifests with the symptoms of both Inattentive ADHD and Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD.

People who have Combined ADHD have a hard time paying attention and listening to what’s being said, but they also can’t sit still or stay quiet. Whereas Inattentive ADHD kids are kind of known as the “daydreamers,” and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD kids are known as the “goers,” Combined ADHD kids are known as the “daydreaming goers.”

They have double the symptoms, and, therefore, double the obstacles when it comes to learning and functioning within society’s walls.

If someone you love has been diagnosed with Combined ADHD, and you’d like to help them live more easily, you can find helpful advice here through “Right Diagnosis.”

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Please keep in mind that all diagnoses come with varying levels of intensity/severity. Two children can be diagnosed with the same type of ADHD (Hyperactive ADHD, for example), and one child will only show hyper-activeness sometimes, while the other will show it twenty-four hours a day. Every person is different, especially if other diagnoses are added in, too, like Autism or OCD.

No two cases are ever identical so try to remember that we can’t put people in boxes. We can only spend time with them, learn who they are on a deeper level, and offer them help in the specific way they require.

* * * * * *

Do you have any questions about the three different types of ADHD? If so, feel free to comment below. We’d love to help!

Do you know someone who’s been diagnosed with one of these three branches of ADHD? Let us know about that, too! Matching up parents/families of children with ADHD is kind of our specialty.

Do you have any advice to give for any of these three types of ADHD? Throw it all our way. We love to hear practical, life-changing advice that people are actually implementing into their daily lives.

Written by Marie Ellis

The health detriments of cigarette smoking are, by now, very well known to the general public. But what about hookah smoking? Though some people believe the myth that because hookahs employ a water bowl, it makes them safer by drawing the smoke through the water, a new study unveils some shocking discoveries about just how harmful hookah smoking is.

Just one hookah session delivers 10 times the carbon monoxide of a single cigarette, prompting researchers to caution that hookah smokers are exposed to more toxicants than they likely realize.
Hookahs are water pipes from which people can smoke specially made tobacco with flavors, including apple, mint, cherry, chocolate and watermelon.

Use of the hookah – also known as narghile, argileh, shisha, hubble-bubble and goza – began centuries ago in Persia and India. It is typically used in groups, and users share the same mouthpiece as it is passed around.

Hookah cafes around the world are becoming more and more popular, with locations springing up in countries including the UK, France, the US and Russia.

Although cigarette smoking rates are beginning to fall, researchers from this latest study – published in the journal Public Health Reports – note that more people are using hookahs to smoke tobacco.

However, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers say their study shows that such smokers are taking in a large load of toxins.

Hookah delivers 10 times carbon monoxide of single cigarette
To conduct their research, the team conducted a meta-analysis, which is a mathematical summary of previously published data. The benefit of a meta-analysis is that it produces more precise estimates based on available data.

Dr. Smita Nayak, study coauthor and research scientist, says that individual studies “have reported different estimates for inhaled toxicants from cigarettes or hookahs, which made it hard to know exactly what to report to policy makers or in educational materials.”

Fast facts about hookahs
Hookahs are water pipes used to smoke specially made tobacco
They have been used for centuries, likely originating in Persia and India
Hookah smoking carries many of the same risks as cigarette smoking.

In total, the researchers reviewed 542 scientific articles that were relevant to cigarette and hookah smoking. From this, they narrowed the articles down to 17 studies with enough data to make reliable estimates on toxicants inhaled from cigarettes or hookahs.

Their research revealed that one hookah session delivers about 125 times the smoke, 25 times the tar, 2.5 times the nicotine and 10 times the carbon monoxide of a single cigarette.

Lead study author Dr. Brian A. Primack says their findings demonstrate the dangers that hookah smoking present, and he cautions that “it should be monitored more closely than it is currently.”

“For example,” he adds, “hookah smoking was not included in the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey System questionnaire, which assesses cigarette smoking, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes and many other forms of substance abuse.”

The issue of teen hookah smoking is currently being addressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They recently reported that – for the first time – past 30-day use of hookah was higher than past 30-day use of cigarettes among high school students in the US.

Because about one third of US college students have smoked tobacco for the first time from a hookah, there are concerns that the device could be a gateway to regular tobacco use.

‘Hookah smokers exposed to a lot more toxicants than they realize’
The researchers acknowledge that comparing a single hookah smoking session to smoking a single cigarette is problematic, due to smoking pattern differences.

For example, a regular cigarette smoker may smoke 20 cigarettes each day, while a regular hookah smoker may only use a hookah a few times each day.

“It’s not a perfect comparison because people smoke cigarettes and hookahs in very different ways,” says Dr. Primack. He explains that the reason they had to carry out their analysis in this way is that it is how underlying studies report their findings.

He adds:

“So, the estimates we found cannot tell us exactly what is ‘worse.’ But what they do suggest is that hookah smokers are exposed to a lot more toxicants than they probably realize. After we have more fine-grained data about usage frequencies and patterns, we will be able to combine those data with these findings and get a better sense of relative overall toxicant load.”

According to the CDC, hookah smokers may be at risk for some of the same diseases smokers face, including oral cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, reduced lung function and reduced fertility.

In 2015, Medical News Today reported that almost 20% of high school seniors report using hookahs.

Written by Marie Ellis

A research carried out with participation of the University of Granada (UGR) proves that suffering repeated traumatic experiences throughout infancy and adolescence multiplies by 7 the risk of suffering psychosis during adulthood.

Additionally, having been a heavy cannabis user (that is, smoking five times a week or more) during infancy or adolescence multiplies said risk by 6. This possibility rises a 30% for each point gained in a personality trait called neuroticism or emotional instability (emotional instability and insecurity, high level of anxiety, constant state of worry and stress, etc.).

These three associations are independent of each other and of genre, age, or the patient’s extroversion (another personality trait included in the so called Eysenck Personality Test, which the researchers used in their research).

By Rick Nauert PhD

New research suggests the practice of using benzodiazepines to treat psychiatric conditions should be abandoned as evidence suggests the drugs heighten the risk for dementia and death.

Benzodiazepines include branded prescription drugs like Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and Xanax. This class of drug received FDA approval in the 1960s and was believed to be a safer alternative to barbiturates.

Despite new psychiatric protocols, some physicians continue to prescribe benzodiazepines as a primary treatment for insomnia, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and other ailments.

“Current research is extremely clear and physicians need to partner with their patients to move them into therapies, like antidepressants, that are proven to be safer and more effective,” said Helene Alphonso, DO, a board-certified psychiatrist and Director of Osteopathic Medical Education at North Texas University Health Science Center.

“Due to a shortage of mental health professionals in rural and underserved areas, we see primary care physicians using this class of drugs to give relief to their patients with psychiatric symptoms. While compassionate, it’s important to understand that a better long-term strategy is needed.”

Alphonso will review current treatment protocols, outpatient benzodiazepine detox strategies, and alternative anxiety treatments at OMED 15, to be held October 17-21 in Orlando. OMED is the annual medical education conference of the American Osteopathic Association.

A Canadian review of 9,000 patients found those who had taken a benzodiazepine for three months or less had about the same dementia risk as those who had never taken one. Taking the drug for three to six months raised the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 32 percent, and taking it for more than six months boosted the risk by 84 percent. Similar results were found by French researchers studying more than 1,000 elderly patients.

Experts say the case for limiting the use of benzodiazepines is particularly compelling for patients 65 and older, who are more susceptible to falls, injuries, accidental overdose, and death when taking the drugs. The American Geriatric Society in 2012 labeled the drugs “inappropriate” for treating insomnia, agitation, or delirium because of those risks.

“It’s imperative to transition older patients because we’re seeing a very strong correlation between use of benzodiazepines and development of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. While correlation certainly isn’t causation, there’s ample reason to avoid this class of drugs as a first-line therapy,” Alphonso said.

Source: American Osteopathic Association/EurekAlert

Jan 27

Nerve Stimulation May Relieve Chronic PTSD Symptoms


By Rick Nauert PhD
A new University of California (UCLA) study may have found an answer for people with symptoms of PTSD that persist for years or even decades.

Researchers followed 12 individuals with persistent symptoms after an initial trauma that occurred, on average, 30 years ago. Participants reported problems with depression, anxiety, hypervigilant behavior, difficult sleeping, and a high incidence of nightmares.

The participants — survivors of rape, car accidents, domestic abuse, and other traumas — found significant relief from an unobtrusive patch on the forehead that provided mild electrical stimulation while they slept.

Electrodes are placed so as to stimulate the trigeminal nerve.

“We’re talking about patients for whom illness had almost become a way of life,” said Dr. Andrew Leuchter, the study’s senior author, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and director of the neuromodulation division at UCLA.

“Yet they were coming in and saying, ‘For the first time in years I slept through the night,’ or ‘My nightmares are gone.’ The effect was extraordinarily powerful.”

The research, which has been presented at three scholarly conferences and published in the journal Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface, revealed the first evidence that trigeminal nerve stimulation, or TNS, holds promise for treating chronic PTSD.

“Most patients with PTSD do get some benefit from existing treatments, but the great majority still have symptoms and suffer for years from those symptoms,” said Leuchter, who is also a staff psychiatrist at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.

“This could be a breakthrough for patients who have not been helped adequately by existing treatments.”

Based on the study, which was conducted primarily with civilian volunteers, the scientists are recruiting military veterans, who are at an even greater risk for PTSD, for the next phase of their research.

TNS is a new form of neuromodulation, a class of treatment in which external energy sources are used to make subtle adjustments to the brain’s electrical wiring — sometimes with devices that are implanted in the body, but increasingly with external devices.

The approach is gaining popularity for treating drug-resistant neurological and psychiatric disorders. TNS harnesses current from a 9-volt battery to power a patch that is placed on the user’s forehead.

While the person sleeps, the patch sends a low-level current to cranial nerves that run through the forehead, sending signals to parts of the brain that help regulate mood, behavior, and cognition, including the amygdala and media prefrontal cortex, as well as the autonomic nervous system.

Prior research has shown abnormal activity in those areas of the brains of PTSD sufferers.

“The chance to have an impact on debilitating diseases with this elegant and simple technology is very satisfying,” said Dr. Ian Cook, the study’s lead author.

PTSD affects approximately 3.5 percent of the U.S. population but a much higher proportion of military veterans. An estimated 17 percent of active military personnel experience symptoms, and some 30 percent of veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan have had symptoms.

Sufferers often have difficulty working with others, raising children, and maintaining healthy relationships. Many try to avoid situations that could trigger flashbacks, which makes them reluctant to socialize or venture from their homes, leaving them isolated.

People with the disorder are six times more likely than their healthy counterparts to commit suicide, and they have an increased risk for marital difficulties and dropping out of school.

For the recently completed study, the researchers recruited people with chronic PTSD and severe depression who were already being treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. While continuing their conventional treatment, the volunteers wore the patch while they slept, for eight hours a night.

Before and after the eight-week study, the study subjects completed questionnaires about the severity of their symptoms and the extent to which the disorders affected their work, parenting and socializing.

The severity of participants’ PTSD symptoms dropped by an average of more than 30 percent, and the severity of their depression dropped by an average of more than 50 percent, the study reports.

Researchers discovered that for 25 percent of the participants, their PTSD symptoms went into remission. In addition, study subjects generally said they felt more able to participate in their daily activities.

Future research will focus on a larger population of veterans who have served in the military since 9/11. For this study, half will receive real treatment and half will be given a fake TNS patch, in the way a placebo pill would be used in a drug trial. At the end of the study, subjects who were using the fake patch will have the option of undergoing treatment with an actual TNS system.

TNS treatment has been shown to be effective in treating drug-resistant epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression.

“PTSD is one of the invisible wounds of war,” Cook said. “The scars are inside but they can be just as debilitating as visible scars. So it’s tremendous to be working on a contribution that could improve the lives of so many brave and courageous people who have made sacrifices for the good of our country.”

Jan 26

How to Handle Controlling People


By Christine Hammond, MS, LMHC
Can controlling people be successfully managed? It depends on the type of behavior and the willingness to try several tactics. A controller can be a friend, neighbor, boss, co-worker, spouse, or parent. Here are several ways to effectively deal with them.

Identify the type of controlling behavior. There are many ways a person can be unscrupulous. They can tell lies about the victim’s family members or friends in an attempt to create a dependency on their opinion. They can embarrass, humiliate, or shame to make the victim feel small. Or they can deliberately set up scenarios where the victim explodes so the controller can justify their domineering behavior.
Don’t believe the lie. Controlling behavior is not about the victim, it is about them. They are the broken ones who feel the need to manipulate. A domineering person insists that the reason for their cunning behavior is because of the victim’s attitude, actions, tone, or body language. This is a lie. There are many ways to confront a person in a healthy manner without the use of serpentine behavior.
Recognize the triggers and patterns. A controller often uses the same pattern of dysfunctional behavior over and over again in a variety of environments. It is far easier for them to repeat familiar offenses than it is to discover and test out new ones. Once recognized, this becomes an easy way to identify the possible triggers. Knowing the spark, allows time to either plan an appropriate response or an escape route.
Carefully choose a response. Do not directly answer a control tactic. This is precisely what the controller wants and most likely they have planned out responses to whatever is stated. Their goal is to incite the victim to a defensive subordinate position so they can overshadow. Instead, choose from one of these responses.
Ignore and walk away. When the controller seeks out secret information about the victim and uses it later as a tool for embarrassment, this is a good moment to ignore and walk away. Indulging their historical revisionism will only increase the humiliation as the victim responds defensively. Stepping aside politely and quietly will highlight the dysfunctional behavior for anyone else who might be around.
Distract or change the subject. When hour long explanations are given for simple issues in an effort to wear the victim out, distraction is the best method. Usually the controller has an almost rehearsed speech so when interrupted, they can’t easily return to where they left off.
Ask a question. When the controller fails to see shades of grey making an issue either their way or a complete opposite extreme, this is the time to ask a question. Preferably a question which reinforces the concept that there is more than two options available. Do not ask “Why” questions however or the controller is likely to become defensive and react in a verbally aggressive manner.
Apply logic to the statement. When a guilt trip is given such as “I gave birth to you therefore you have to …,” this is a great time to apply logic. Counteract the guilt with reason, never emotion. “You taught me that I don’t ‘have to’ do anything,” is an appropriate response instead. Have a couple of statements prepared ahead of time for use.
Answer the fear. When the controller is jealous of the relationship between the victim and another friend, respond to the fear of abandonment. Actually say the words, “I hear that you are fearful I will leave you for someone else.” Then only speak about that topic, refusing to divert back to the obsessive envious comment.
Try, try again until done. When one method fails to work, try another one and if needed, another after that. But at some point the relationship might have to come to an end. As the Kenny Roger’s song The Gambler goes, “Know when to walk away, know when to run.” A controller who resorts to more extreme forms of manipulative behavior is not worth the trouble of having a relationship.

Christine Hammond is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iBooks.

Jan 3

How Cannabis Affects Bipolar Disorder


By Traci Pedersen

Cannabis use is linked to an increase in both manic and depressive symptoms in people with bipolar disorder, according to a new study by Lancaster University.

The study is the first to examine the use of cannabis in the context of daily life among people with bipolar disorder. In the U.K., where the study took place, around two percent of the population suffers from bipolar disorder, with up to 60 percent of those using cannabis at some point in their lives.

Research in this area is limited, however, and reasons for this high level of use are unclear.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Tyler of the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University led the study with Professor Steven Jones and colleagues from the University of Manchester, Professor Christine Barrowclough, Nancy Black, and Lesley-Anne Carter.

“One theory that is used to explain high levels of drug use is that people use cannabis to self-medicate their symptoms of bipolar disorder,” said Tyler.

For the study, the researchers evaluated people diagnosed with bipolar disorder who were not experiencing a depressive or manic episode during the six days the research was carried out. Each participant reported daily on their emotional state and drug use at several random points over a period of week. This enabled people to log their daily experiences in the moment before they forgot how they were feeling.

Here are a few comments from the daily reports:

“I do smoke a small amount to lift my mood and make myself slightly manic but it also lifts my mood and switches me into a different mind-set.”
“I do not use weed to manage depression as it can make it worse, making me anxious and paranoid.”
“I have found though that if I have smoked more excessively it can make me feel depressed for days afterwards.”

The researchers found that the odds of using cannabis increased when individuals were in a good mood. Cannabis use was also associated with an increase in positive mood, manic symptoms and paradoxically an increase in depressive symptoms, but not in the same individuals.

“The findings suggest that cannabis is not being used to self-medicate small changes in symptoms within the context of daily life. However, cannabis use itself may be associated with both positive and negative emotional states. We need to find out whether these relationships play out in the longer term as this may have an impact on a person’s course of bipolar disorder,” said Tyler.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: Lancaster University

Dec 31

Here’s What Alcohol Plus Cannabis Does To The Brain


Alcohol plus cannabis is one of the most frequently detected combinations of drugs in car accidents.

Alcohol and cannabis taken together may increase the effect of the cannabis, a new study finds.

This may be why, in car accidents, alcohol plus cannabis is one of the most frequently detected combinations of drugs.

Taking both drugs together significantly increases the levels of cannabis’ main psychoactive ingredient, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in comparison to taking cannabis alone.

For the research, 19 adults either took doses of cannabis or a placebo.

Both were combined with alcohol.

Tests demonstrated significantly higher levels of THC when the same amount of cannabis was taken with alcohol rather than with a placebo.

Dr Marilyn A. Huestis, the study’s first author, said:

“The significantly higher blood THC and 11-OH-THC [median maximum concentration] values with alcohol possibly explain increased performance impairment observed from cannabis-alcohol combinations.

Our results will help facilitate forensic interpretation and inform the debate on drugged driving legislation.”

The study was published in the journal Clinical Chemistry (Huestis et al., 2015).

Dec 31

5 Questions to Ask a Child Psychologist


Your child has been struggling for weeks, months, maybe even years. Maybe it’s friendship issues. Maybe it’s school stress. Maybe your child seems anxious or irritable most of the time. Maybe you’re worried about your child’s temper. Maybe your family is going through a rough transition and it seems to be hitting your child hard. You’re wondering if your child needs to talk with a psychologist.

For most parents, the idea of bringing their child to see a psychologist seems scary. What if the psychologist makes things worse, or convinces your child that he or she is “crazy,” or insists that your child has to be in therapy forever? What if the psychologist is one of those blame-the-mother people? Does having to bring your child to see a psychologist mean you’re a failure as a parent?

I’ll start with the last question first: No, having to bring your child to see a psychologist absolutely does not mean you’re a failure as a parent! In fact, getting your child the right help can be an extraordinarily loving gift that can reduce suffering, improve communication, or equip your child to cope. A child psychologist is not a parent—that role is uniquely yours. Bringing your child to see a psychologist adds to rather than replaces your relationship. A child psychologist is a combination coach, cheerleader, and fairy godmother, who also happens to have deep knowledge of child development, personal relationships, and clinical research.

Many people put off seeking help because they tell themselves the problem isn’t that bad… But if it’s not that bad, it probably won’t take that much to make things better! The right psychologist will help your child—and you—feel even more capable, not less.

The tricky thing is finding the right psychologist for your child and your family. Just like when you choose a pediatrician, there are many competent professionals out there, but you need to find someone that you can work with and trust.

Start by asking friends, your child’s pediatrician, or the school guidance counselor for suggestions of local child psychologists. Psychotherapy with kids is different than psychotherapy with adults, because kids are often reluctant participants initially, they are more concrete thinkers, and there are other people in charge of them (parents, teachers, babysitters…). You should definitely find someone who enjoys kids and has experience working with them. At least 50% of the psychologist’s practice should involve working with children.

Once you have some names, make some phone calls. Briefly describe the situation then ask questions to get a feel for what it’s like to work with that particular psychologist.

Trust your gut: no one knows your child better than you do. You are the best person to decide which psychologist is a good fit for your child and your family.
Five Questions to Ask a Child Psychologist

To help with your search, here are some questions to ask a child psychologist. As a point of reference, I’ve also included how I would answer them.
Q: How would you typically work with this type of problem?

I haven’t met your child, so I can’t answer this question specifically, but, in general, I focus on helping kids become experts on the area where they struggle and to learn useful strategies for coping with it. [This could involve learning to communicate better, to think about situations from a different perspective, to reach out to others in kind rather than silly ways, to manage frustration, to build up confidence that they can handle anxiety-provoking situations…] I also work closely with parents, to help you figure out effective ways to support your child or deal with challenging situations. My hope is that I can be a source of both practical and emotional support for your child and you.
Q: How involved are parents in therapy?

I tend to work very collaboratively with parents. The way I think about it is that I’m the expert on psychology in general, and you’re the expert on your child and your family in particular. Our job is to put our heads together and come up with ideas for helping this particular child at this particular time.

The younger the child, the more actively involved parents need to be in therapy. With very young children, in some sense, the parents are the main therapists, because you’re the one who is with your child most of the time, and you’re the one who is going to help implement whatever strategies we come up with.

But even with older kids and young teens, I think the parents’ input is very important. Kids don’t necessarily tell me what I need to know, so I generally meet with a parent for the first five or ten minutes of a session, before meeting with the child, just to hear how things have been going and if there are any new concerns. Often, I’ll have the parent come back in with the child at the end of the session, so the child can explain what we’re working on. This helps me check what the child is understanding and keeps the parent in the loop. Depending on what’s going on, I may also have sessions with the whole family or with just the parents.

I believe that therapy should not be mysterious, and that you, as a parent, have a right to know generally what we’re working on and how. On the other hand, kids also need some privacy to be able to trust me, so I’m not going to report, blow-by-blow, what your child said in a session with me. If there’s something important that I think you should know, I will encourage your child to tell you or ask your child’s permission to tell you. If there’s a serious safety issue, I will definitely tell you.
Q: How do we begin?

I like to meet with just the parent(s) initially. I do this for two reasons: First, it gives me a chance to ask a lot of questions to get to know your family, understand the history of the problem, what has or hasn’t helped so far, and also to learn about your child’s strengths. It’s just easier to get all this information without your child present. Second, this first parent meeting gives you a chance to look me over, to decide if I’m the right psychologist for your child and family.

We know from research that one of the main predictors of whether therapy works is whether the client feels connected to the therapist. At the end of the session, I’ll ask you if I seem like someone you can imagine your child connecting with. If you say no, you won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll make sure you get in with someone good. But if you say yes, that’s great. Then you can tell your child, “We met Dr. Eileen, and we think you’re going to like her.” This makes it easier for your child to come meet me.
Q: I think my child will be nervous about coming to see you. What should I say?

Sadly, very few children want to come see me at first! It’s normal for kids to be nervous about coming to see a psychologist, because they don’t know what to expect, and they’re often worried that this means they’re bad. I can almost always win them over, though! My goal in the first session is to help your child to feel comfortable and understood and to walk out with a sense of hope that we can work together so things will get better.

If your child likes the school counselor, you can say that I’m kind of like him or her.

With young children, you may want to say something along the lines of “She’s a nice lady who helps kids to feel happier and to get along better with family and friends. She also has a lot of fun toys and games in her office.”

With older kids, think about what your child wants: What problem does your child want to solve? Which areas of his or her life would your child like to improve? Setting goals that matter to your child can help your child be more receptive to therapy. (These goals may or may not overlap with your goals.)

You may also want to say, “Just try it for a few sessions, and see how it goes.”
Q: How soon should I expect improvement?

That’s hard to predict, because people change at different rates. In general, problems that are more severe, have been around a long time, or affect many areas of your child’s life take longer to change. We’ll need some time for your child to become comfortable with me and for us to figure out which strategies are most helpful. If there were a quick and easy solution, my guess is you would have done it yourself already!

Usually, I would expect to see noticeable progress by twelve weeks. We may be done sooner than that, or we may not be done at that point, depending on how complicated the situation is. I find that kids need to come regularly, on a weekly basis, for me to be enough of a presence in their lives to have a positive influence. It’s rare for me to see kids for more than a year, although some do come back after making good progress then taking a break from therapy for months or years.

Progress doesn’t tend to move in a straight line. Kids might show quick improvement and then plateau for awhile, or they might be slow to start, then take a big step forward, then hit a rough patch and slide backwards for a bit… We’ll talk regularly about how things are going to make sure we focus on the most important issues and that, overall, we’re moving in the right direction.

By Traci Pedersen
Omega 3 Strongly Linked to Behavior, Learning in ChildrenResearchers at the University of Oxford have found that a child’s blood levels of long-chain Omega-3 DHA can significantly predict how well he or she is able to concentrate and learn. The study, published in the journal PLOS One, is one of the first to evaluate blood Omega-3 levels in UK schoolchildren.

“From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child’s behavior and ability to learn,” said co-author Paul Montgomery, Ph.D., from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention.

“Higher levels of Omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers,” he said.

For the study, blood samples were taken from 493 schoolchildren, between the ages of seven and nine. All of the children were thought to have below-average reading skills, based on national assessments at the age of seven or their teachers’ current judgments.

Analyses of their blood samples revealed that, on average, just under two per cent of the children’s total blood fatty acids were Omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and 0.5 percent were Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), with a total of 2.45 percent for these long-chain Omega-3 combined. This is below the minimum of 4 percent recommended by leading scientists, with 8-12 percent regarded as optimal, the researchers reported.

Parents also reported their child’s diet, revealing to the researchers that almost nine out of ten children in the sample ate fish less than twice a week, and nearly one in ten never ate fish at all.

“’The longer term health implications of such low blood Omega-3 levels in children obviously can’t be known,” said co-author Dr Alex Richardson.

“But this study suggests that many, if not most UK children, probably aren’t getting enough of the long-chain Omega-3 we all need for a healthy brain, heart and immune system.”

“That gives serious cause for concern because we found that lower blood DHA was linked with poorer behavior and learning in these children. Most of the children we studied had blood levels of long-chain Omega-3 that in adults would indicate a high risk of heart disease.

This was consistent with their parents’ reports that most of them failed to meet current dietary guidelines for fish and seafood intake. Similarly, few took supplements or foods fortified with these Omega-3,” he said.

The findings build on previous studies conducted by the same researchers, showing that dietary supplementation with Omega-3 DHA improved both reading progress and behavior in children from the general school population who were struggling with reading.

Their earlier research has shown benefits of supplementation with long-chain omega-3 (EPA+DHA) for children with ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and related conditions.

Dec 24

Soulmates Have Worst Relationships


By Rick Nauert PhD
Provocative new research looks into the way that people think and talk about love.

Social psychologists observed that people talk and think about love in an incessant variety of ways but underlying such diversity are some common themes that frame how we think about relationships.

One popular perspective considers love as perfect unity (“made for each other,” “she’s my other half”); in another view, love is a journey (“look how far we’ve come,” “we’ve been through all these things together”).

These two ways of thinking about relationships are particularly interesting because, according to study authors Spike W. S. Lee and Norbert Schwarz, they have the power to highlight or downplay the damaging effect of conflicts on relationship evaluation.

Here’s the scoop. If two people were really made in heaven for each other, why should they have any conflicts?

“Our findings corroborate prior research showing that people who implicitly think of relationships as perfect unity between soulmates have worse relationships than people who implicitly think of relationships as a journey of growing and working things out,” says Lee.

“Apparently, different ways of talking and thinking about love relationship lead to different ways of evaluating it.”

In one experiment, Lee and Schwarz had people in long-term relationships complete a knowledge quiz that included expressions related to either unity or journey, then recall either conflicts or celebrations with their romantic partner, and finally evaluate their relationship.

As predicted, recalling conflicts leads people to feel less satisfied with their relationship — but only with the unity frame in mind, not with the journey frame in mind.

Recalling celebrations makes people satisfied with their relationship regardless of how they think about it.

In a two follow-up experiments, the study authors invoked the unity vs. journey frame in even subtler, more incidental ways.

For example, people were asked to identify pairs of geometric shapes to form a full circle (activating unity) or draw a line that gets from point A to point B through a maze (activating journey).

Such non-linguistic, merely pictorial cues were sufficient to change the way people evaluated relationships.

Again, conflicts hurt relationship satisfaction with the unity frame in mind, not with the journey frame in mind.

“Next time you and your partner have a conflict,” as Professors Lee and Schwarz would advise, think what you said at the altar, ‘I, ____, take you, ____, to be my husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward ‘till death do us part.’”

“It’s a journey,” they said. “You’ll feel better now, and you’ll do better down the road.”

The study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

Source: University of Toronto

By Traci Pedersen
Common Sleep Aid, Ambien, Intensifies Emotional, Negative MemoriesResearchers have identified the sleep mechanism that enables the brain to strengthen emotional memories.

They also found that a commonly prescribed sleep aid heightens the brain’s remembrance of and response to negative memories.

Dr. Sara Mednick from the University of Riverside and her colleagues found that a sleep condition known as sleep spindles — bursts of brain activity that last for a second or less during a specific stage of sleep — are vital for emotional memory.

In earlier research, Mednick demonstrated the vital role that sleep spindles play in transferring memories from short-term to long-term in the hippocampus.

The drug zolpidem (brand names include Ambien and others) was found to enhance the process, a discovery that could lead to new sleep therapies to improve memory for aging adults and for those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia. It was the first study to show that sleep could be manipulated with medication to improve memory.

“We know that sleep spindles are involved in declarative memory — explicit information we recall about the world, such as places, people and events,” she explained.

But until now, researchers did not know that sleep spindles were involved in emotional memory; they had been focusing on rapid eye movement (REM) sleep instead.

Using two commonly prescribed sleep aids — zolpidem and sodium oxybate (Xyrem) — the researchers were able to tease apart the effects of sleep spindles and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep on the recall of emotional memories. They determined that sleep spindles, not REM, affect emotional memory.

For the study, the researchers gave zolpidem, sodium oxybate and a placebo to 28 men and women between the ages of 18 and 39 who were normal sleepers. They waited several days between doses to allow the medications to leave their bodies.

The participants were shown images known to induce positive or negative responses for one second before and after taking supervised naps. After taking zolpidem, participants recalled more images that had negative or highly arousing content, which also suggests that the brain may lean more strongly toward consolidation of negative memories, Mednick said.

“I was surprised by the specificity of the results, that the emotional memory improvement was specifically for the negative and high-arousal memories, and the ramifications of these results for people with anxiety disorders and PTSD,” she remarked. “These are people who already have heightened memory for negative and high-arousal memories. Sleep drugs might be improving their memories for things they don’t want to remember.”

The study, published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, has implications for people suffering from insomnia related to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxiety disorders, and who are also prescribed zolpidem as a sleep aid.

Currently, the U.S. Air Force uses zolpidem as one of the prescribed “no-go pills” to help flight crews calm down after using stimulants to stay awake during long missions, the researchers noted in the study.

“In light of the present results, it would be worthwhile to investigate whether the administration of benzodiazepine-like drugs may be increasing the retention of highly arousing and negative memories, which would have a countertherapeutic effect,” they wrote. “Further research on the relationship between hypnotics and emotional mood disorders would seem to be in order.”

Source: University of California, Riverside

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